Soundview Executive Book Summaries


Who Are the Real Decision-Makers in Your Company?

When a major decision is being made in your company, who’s in the room? Is it the boss and a group of his or her confidants? Or is it the boss and his senior management team?

Bob Frisch contends that in many companies, it’s a group of the boss’s confidants, a “team with no name” that exists outside formal processes. And, surprisingly, he makes the case that this is the way it ought to be.

Frisch explains, “Senior teams have undeniable strengths, and they are in a unique position to do things that no other group in the organization can do as well. Making big decisions isn’t one of them—for very good reasons that will be dissected here. Unless the senior team’s limitations are understood and its genuine strengths put to work, the blame and frustration on all sides will continue.”

This is quite a stance to take, but it comes from Frisch’s many years of consulting with top companies. His stated goal is “that by understanding the nature of executive decision-making, executives and the members of their senior teams can stop beating up themselves and each other.”

Perhaps you’re in that senior management category, or you’re the boss that’s trying to make the best decisions and are drawing flack from management. If so then you’ll benefit from our upcoming webinar with Bob Frisch entitled Transforming Decision-Making.

Grab your lunch and your management team, and join us on February 9th to see how you can improve your decision-making process, while helping top management understand where they fit in as well.

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The Decision to Trust

I ran across a 2010 article by the Pew Research Center entitled Distrust, Discontent, Anger and Partisan Rancor. Some of the numbers were surprising and discouraging. We are currently at our lowest level of trust in government since before 1978. Barack Obama has the lowest trust rating of any president over the past eight administrations, including Richard Nixon.

And this isn’t just a trend in our view of the government. The Pew research also shows a low rating of trust in banks, large corporations, national news media, the entertainment industry and labor unions. Those organizations in which we have high trust include colleges & universities, churches, small businesses, and technology companies.

I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised then that there is a new trend in business books around the topic of trust. Stephen M.R. Covey just released his second book on trust called SmartTrust. Other recent books include Liars and Outliers by Bruce Schneier, Trust Agents by Chris Brogan & Julien Smith, and The Decision to Trust by Robert Hurley.

Hurley’s book is especially interesting in that he not only makes a strong case for the importance of trust in organizations, he also provides the steps to building trust at all levels. Here is what Hurley promises that we can learn and do about trust:

•Make better decisions concerning who to trust, to avoid harm and increase pressure on untrustworthy agents to reform themselves.

• Allocate your trust building energy better by appreciating how different people approach the trust decision.

• Identify the root cause of trust issues based on 10 trust factors.

• Offer concrete interventions and reforms that can enhance trust in each of the 10 trust

factors.

• Clarify in which situations building and repairing trust can work and those where it

may not work.

• Provide a method for enhancing trust at different levels: with a person, within teams,

across teams, across national cultures, within organizations, and in leadership.

If you found yourself nodding with agreement at the lack of trust in your organization, then you might benefit from our upcoming Soundview Live webinar with Robert Hurley, How to Create a High-Trust Organization. Hurley will discuss the trust crisis in detail and, more importantly, tell us how to turn things around.



Can Apple Help Business Books?

The press is all abuzz about Thursday’s Apple announcement at the Guggenheim museum in New York. While rumors have been circulating for weeks, two reports seem to have an inside scoop worth noting.

The Wall St Journal reported yesterday that Apple is working with education publishers to transform textbooks, and of course this will happen on the iPad. But ars technica added a twist to the story by releasing information about a “garage-band for e-books”, software that will be available for any author or publisher to use to create interactive textbooks.

This new development, if true, could indeed transform the textbook industry and the educational process. Not only will these new “iTextbooks” allow students to interact with the content, they will also open the way to social engagement around the information. Students will be able to add content, links and notes, and share this information with fellow-students and teachers. Each textbook will thus become a platform for learning rather than a one-dimensional text.

We’ll all get the scoop on this new innovation tomorrow, but in the mean time this has me thinking about the possible implications for business books. Up to this point, business book authors have had limitations as to how they could innovate with their books. Some authors have connected the printed text to websites where interactivity can take place.

But imagine instead that this interaction can now take place right in the book itself. There’s no reason that this “garage-band for e-books” can’t be applied to business information as well. Imagine that you’re reading The Performance Pipeline by Stephen Drotter and you want to implement his concepts to move work more efficiently through your company. Managers at each level could have a copy of the iTextbook, and as they read through it they could take notes and share them with other managers. The book could also provide a framework for implementation that could be filled in by the managers as a plan takes shape.

This could make any business book transformational within a company or organization, as the ideas take on life within the company. And for personal success titles, tools could be provided to help an individual learn and implement the principles in their daily life.

At Soundview we’re already on our way to implementing this type of learning environment with our iPad book summary that includes text, audio and video components. But we too could use that next step of software to help with the interactive piece. Let’s see what Apple can deliver.



The Benefits of Webinars

When searching on “business webinars” in Google recently, I found 126,000,000 results. It would seem that every organization hosts webinars within their field of focus.

For some companies, webinars are used for lead generation. By hosting free webinars that highlight their expertise, they hope to get attendees to then sign up for their newsletters, test a service or purchase a product.

Other companies use webinars as part of their product. Customers pay to attend webinars either individually or as part of a package of content. The webinars are a means of communicating their knowledge and helping their customers.

Webinars really began to see a rise in popularity after 9/11. For some months companies were not sending their employees to as many conferences and seminars. And as companies have tightened their belts over the last decade, webinars have continued to take hold.

A webinar’s attraction is two-fold. Convenience for the consumer – I can register for a webinar through an email that I receive, place the date in my calendar, and then attend on that day with no travel time or expense. Cost-savings for the host – a company can set up a webinar with no location costs, use an inexpensive webinar service easily found online, invite a caliber of speakers that would be expensive to host in person, and set the time and day at the convenience of the company and the speaker. Webinars are a win-win for companies and consumers.

Back before the advent of webinar software, Soundview began hosting tele-conferences with top business book authors in a series called Beyond the Books. We have developed these monthly events along with advances in technology into today’s Soundview Live webinars, and last year expanded them to weekly. Our subscribers love the convenience of sitting around the conference table over lunch while interacting with their favorite business authors.

If you’ve never attended one of our webinars, you can check out our list of upcoming events. Standard online subscribers to Soundview Executive Book Summaries are invited to all webinars free, and our Premium subscribers also have access to our archive of all previous events. If you want direct access to top business authors, the Soundview Live webinars are the most economical way to go.



Is Your Leadership Credible?

“In the end, leaders don’t decide who leads. Followers do.” Jim Kouzes & Barry Posner

This statement is at the core of Kouzes & Posner’s new book Credibility, a complete revision of their 1993 best-seller The Leadership Challenge.

The authors continue, “The old organizational hierarchy just can’t generate the kind of commitment that’s required in our global society. This isn’t a call for open elections inside organizations. But managers should not kid themselves. People do vote—with their energy, with their dedication, with their loyalty, with their talent, with their actions. Don’t you put forth higher-quality effort when you believe that the people leading you are there to serve your needs and not just their own interests?”

Based on this premise, Kouzes and Posner developed a survey to collect a list of the top characteristics that a leader must have. From the 225 factors they defined, the authors produced a list of 20 traits followers admire and that will inspire them to follow.

The top three categories are:

1. Integrity (is truthful, is trustworthy, has character, has convictions)

2. Competence (is capable, is productive, is efficient)

3. Leadership (is inspiring, is decisive, provides direction)

And perhaps not surprisingly, the top characteristic by far was honesty with 85% of people putting it at the top in the 2010 survey, 88% in 2002 and 83% in 1987.

If you would like to learn more about the top characteristics of a good leader, join us on January 10th, when we’ll have Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner as our guests for our Soundview Live webinar Leading with Credibility. If you want to strengthen your leadership skills, this is the place to be next Tuesday at 12:00 noon. And since the registration is per site, you can fill the room with colleagues.



Will Your Company Be Around in 20 Years?

The pace of change in business is increasing faster than ever. Consider how long an average company from the S&P 500 stays in the index. In 1955 it was estimated to be 45 years; in 1975, 26 years; and in 2009, 17 years. At this rate, half of the companies that appeared in the 2010 S&P 500 Index are likely to have left it before 2020.

How can you guarantee staying power for your company? Scott Keller and Colin Price offer the answer in their new book Beyond Performance. They argue that what really needs to be measured and developed is the health of the organization. The authors define organizational health as “its ability to align, execute and renew itself.”

Keller and Price draw their conclusions from more than a decade of research, drawing on input from more than 600,000 executives and employees from over 500 organizations across the globe, some 900 academic books and articles, and hands-on practical work with more than 100 client organizations.

From this research they developed a process to transform company health and performance, based on what they call the “5As.”

  1. Aspire (where do we want to go?) is about setting overall performance goals and the health aspirations that will enable them to be achieved.
  2. Assess (how ready are we to make the journey?) is about determining what capabilities and shifts in underlying mindsets are needed to reach the aspirations.
  3. Architect (what do we need to do to get there?) is about developing a portfolio of initiatives to improve performance and planning how to implement them to shape the desired mindsets and behaviors.
  4. Act (how do we manage the journey?) is about adopting the right scaling-up model, using governance to ensure broad ownership, and measuring performance and health rigorously throughout.
  5. Advance (how do we keep moving forward?) is about establishing the mechanisms and building the leadership capacity to drive continuous improvement.

If you would like to learn more about how you can measure company health and guarantee the longevity of your organization, join us for our December 15th Soundview Live webinar, How to Achieve and Sustain Organizational Excellence, and bring your questions for Scott Keller.



Are You In the Spotlight?

I recently attended our local high school’s presentation of the musical Singing In the Rain. There was a line all the way down the hall so that by the time we entered the auditorium we had to sit in the back, left side, right next to a young man working a spotlight. He had a script and used his cell phone to provide enough light to watch for his cue to shine the spotlight at just the right time.

There’s something about being in the spotlight that can cause your palms to sweat, and sometimes to freeze you in your tracks, unless you’re prepared to handle the pressure. It’s this image that authors Craig Wasserman and Doug Katz draw upon in their new book The Invisible Spotlight.

Wasserman and Katz contend that managers are always in the spotlight, with their employees watching, listening to, thinking about, talking about and trying to please them. The best managers are mindful of the impact they are having, and make a conscious effort to make the most of these important relationships.

Among the recommendation they offer:

  1. Good management takes anticipation and rehearsal – just like with acting, a manager must think ahead, know his or her lines, and practice the best way to deliver them. Otherwise management becomes reactionary and much less effective.
  2. Employees watch what you do more than what you say – actions do speak louder than words, and managers must make sure that they are thoughtful in all their actions, and that they practice what they preach. Actions that are contradictory to our words make us hypocrites (a Greek term for acting/wearing a mask).
  3. Your idiosyncrasies and imperfections can undermine your effectiveness. Managers need to come to terms with and overcome those traits.

If you would like to learn more about living in the spotlight, I invite you to join us on December 8th for our Soundview Live webinar with Wasserman and Katz. They will elaborate on the methods for effective management and answer your questions.