Soundview Executive Book Summaries


What Are Your Competencies?

While the concept of competencies has been around for a long time, first appearing in the psychology field in the 1920’s, it has really become a focus within the business community in the past ten years. As companies seek to make the most of their employees and find any competitive edge they can, they have turned to competencies as a way to better evaluate and train workers.

In the business world, competency can best be defined as a set of abilities, skills and talents that allow a person to excel at their job. In order to succeed, a business needs to have employees who can excel. So the questions that come up in this area are how can I best evaluate my employees’ competencies, and how can I then improve their competency level in the areas where they are lacking?

Of course, a whole set of services and lingo have arisen around this field. Now there are available “competency assessments” and training to close the “competency gaps.” With a small amount of research I found companies like workitect, providing competency-based talent management, and successfactors, providing software to measure and address competency gaps.

And of course, there are plenty of business books to be purchased on the subject such as Competency Mapping by Seema Sanghi, Competency-Based Performance Reviews by Robin Kessler, HR Competencies by David Ulrich et al, and Competence At Work by Lyle Spencer, to name a few.

In response to the need for tools that match training and competencies, Soundview’s Corporate Solutions product has recently added a full set of competency filters to their corporate library. Now corporate users can click on one of the competency links and see all of the book summaries, webinars, author interviews and executive videos that cover that particular competency. And at the request of individual companies, they can also match that list of competencies to the key competencies of each company.

I guess this goes back to Soundview’s core competency, which is providing key business information in the quickest and easiest-to-digest forms possible.

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Religion and Business Part I

The Wall St Journal included a thoughtful article in the Monday edition entitled “Where Religion and Business Do Mix.”  Because this is the Wealth Advisor section of the paper, the article dealt specifically with how investment counselors consider the religious beliefs of their clients when providing investment advice. A person’s moral views can affect the types of stocks to avoid, and their outlook on giving to charity can shape their distribution of funds. The consensus of those interviewed was that the subject must be handled carefully, but if a client brings up the issue of faith then it’s open for discussion as to how their faith might affect investment decisions.

 The whole area of religion and business certainly must be handled with care, but not at the expense of avoiding it completely. For many individuals with strong beliefs, to ignore them is to ignore an integral part of the person. The challenge is of course how to bring the issue of beliefs about God and religious-based morality into business discussions without offending someone.

For a privately owned business the beliefs of the owner can be applied or not as the owner decides. A prime example is Chick-fil-A. They have been closed on Sundays since 1946 and in spite of that have become the second largest chicken restaurant chain in the country with 43 consecutive years of positive sales growth and 2010 annual sales of $3.5 billion.

As their website states, “Our founder, Truett Cathy, made the decision to close on Sundays in 1946 when he opened his first restaurant in Hapeville, Georgia. He has often shared that his decision was as much practical as spiritual. He believes that all franchised Chick-fil-A Operators and their Restaurant employees should have an opportunity to rest, spend time with family and friends, and worship if they choose to do so. That’s why all Chick-fil-A Restaurants are closed on Sundays. It’s part of our recipe for success.”

 Business Week published an informative article back in 1999 that provides a wider view of the spiritual movement in corporate America. The article refers to the first empirical study of the issue, A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America, published in October of 1999 by Jossey-Bass, which found that employees who work for organizations they consider to be spiritual are less fearful, less likely to compromise their values, and more able to throw themselves into their jobs. Author Ian I. Mitroff says ”Spirituality could be the ultimate competitive advantage.” Fully 60% of those polled for the book say they believe in the beneficial effects of spirituality in the workplace, so long as there’s no bully-pulpit promotion of traditional religion.

How does your company handle issues of faith? Do your beliefs affect the way you look at work? If you have thoughts on this issue, please post your comments. Next Wednesday we’ll look at religious views in the business book arena.



A FREE Resource You HAVE to Use!

There’s a reason I tend to conclude my posts by telling everyone to visit Soundview’s Web site, Summary.com. The site is regularly updated with information about newly released executive book summaries, book reviews (1,000 FREE reviews and growing!), upcoming Soundview Live Webinars and other great business learning resources.

I’ve got great news about another new resource available at Summary.com. How much do you think it would cost to attend an event where you hear vital business lectures from speakers such as Bill George, Patrick Lencioni, Jeffrey D. Sachs, Paul Krugman and David M. Rubenstein, among others? The event is the World Business Forum, and a ticket can cost as much as $2,500.

Fortunately, Soundview has partnered with HSM Global, producers of the World Business Forum, to bring you exclusive audio summaries of the event’s major speakers. These audio summaries are available for you to listen to for FREE!

Each audio summary is a 10-minute MP3 that features a narrated overview of the speech. The summary includes actual clips from the live speech given by the presenter at World Business Forum. If these tough economic times meant that you weren’t able to spend $2,500 on a ticket to the World Business Forum, these FREE audio summaries allow you to hear what you missed.

I need to stress here that you do NOT have to be a Soundview subscriber to listen to the World Business Forum audio summaries. These exclusive content pieces are FREE for everyone to learn from and enjoy. In fact, I’d recommend starting with Patrick Lencioni, whose latest book Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding the Three Fears that Sabotage Client Loyalty is now available as a Soundview summary!

To listen to the audio summaries from the World Business Forum, CLICK THIS LINK!



Don’t Miss These Great New Summaries!

Summer is known to be a time for blockbusters in the entertainment industry. Although the start date seems to be earlier each year, it’s generally accepted that by the middle of June, we’re well into a stretch of time that sees multiple big-budget, highly-anticipated films debuting every Friday in theaters across the nation.

I bring this up because the latest edition of Soundview Executive Book Summaries could easily be described as a summer blockbuster. We’ve got three incredible summaries for readers this month featuring some serious star-power in the author department. Let’s take a look at the titles in this exciting triple-feature:

For those who enjoy a great story as part of their learning experience, we start our latest edition with Patrick Lencioni’s Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding the Three Fears that Sabotage Client Loyalty. Lencioni, an expert at weaving fiction and strong business applications together, tells the tale of Jack, a consultant tasked with learning about a competitor his company recently acquired. Jack learns a surprising lesson about why absolute transparency can create intense loyalty in customers.

Innovation is a topic that continues to garner a great deal of interest among our subscribers. The U.S. is engaged in an ongoing race with developing nations to maintain an economic presence in the innovation arena. With this in mind, Adam Richards offers Innovation X: Why a Company’s Toughest Problems are Its Greatest Advantage. Richards offers an intriguing argument that defines a new class of business problems — X-Problems. These tough new challenges thwart conventional planning but present massive innovation opportunities.

Finally, we take a look at the building blocks of a great organization. While CEOs tend to garner attention from internal and external audiences, there are individuals in an organization who are an indispensable part of the company’s success. Marketing mastermind Seth Godin terms these individuals “linchpins” and his new book Linchpins: Are You Indispensable? helps readers understand how to exude the attributes of the linchpin employee.

Like I said, it’s a real blockbuster this month! It’s a great time to subscribe to Soundview. Also, each of the above summaries are available for individual purchase for low, low prices. The online edition of each summary is only $8.50. Depending on where you live, that’s less than the price of a movie ticket … and unlike the occasional big-budget action film, these summaries won’t disappoint.



Great Tips on How To Hire

One of the most important aspects of an executive’s arsenal of skills is the ability to make smart hiring decisions. I contacted management expert Gerry Czarnecki for more information. He provided this guest blog post with some essential tips on hiring.

How to Hire

By Gerry Czarnecki, author of Lead with Love

Most leaders know that the most important, and possibly most difficult decision they will make is also the first decision they will make: the hiring decision. Unfortunately, most leaders are also simply not well prepared to make that decision. All too often, the bright, articulate and outgoing leader will make one fatal mistake in an interview process: talking too much. In an interview, the leader should spend 5% of the time talking and 95% of the time listening. If not, you’re not interviewing, you’re making a speech.

But assuming you are listening, how do you look for the right qualities in a candidate? My most important technique is to do a behavioral interview and listen intently. I also use aggressive follow-up questions to drill down on the experiences of the candidate. Here are some qualities you want in an ideal candidate:

1)    Values – Does this person share our organizational values? If not, then he or she will eventually be a misfit.

2)    Intelligence – It makes no sense to hire somebody who does not have the intellect to understand and complete the complex task of our modern world based in technology and an expanding base of knowledge.

3)    Desire – You want someone with the drive to achieve.

4)    Communication – In an organization, all associates must possess the ability to communicate complex ideas in a simple way. I always try to distinguish people who talk from people who communicate.

5)    Logic – The application of logical thinking and the ability to look for root cause of results is an essential trait in today’s competitive business landscape.

If you’re hiring a manager, there is one additional, essential quality to consider: the capacity to Love. This trait is in line with my message in Lead with Love. The core concept of the book is essential to a successful leader. Leaders must see their staff as humans first and resources second. Leaders can not allow themselves to be biased by the idea of liking or disliking individuals, they must love all their staff as humans. The well-being of all associates and the ability for the organization to achieve its goals is driven by the team is what creates the jobs and keeps them viable.

With over 40 years of experience as a leader, Gerry Czarnecki has been consistently committed to sharing his experience and vision by coaching organizations to achieve peak performance. Czarnecki helps companies achieve success by teaching effective leadership, focused strategy, superior organization and sound financial management.

For more information visit Gerry online at these sites:

LeadwithLove.com

GerryCzarnecki.com

And don’t forget Soundview’s newest summaries! Click here to see what”s new.



Walking a Tightrope in HR

If you look closely at many of my posts, you’ll notice that I rarely give out any personal details. Truth be told, I’m quite a private person, despite the fact that I communicate with all of you a few times each week. I sometimes feel as though the continued dominance of social media in our lives has led people to willingly give  up their privacy with nary a second thought.

Strangely, some of the same folks who don’t mind posting photos from a company happy hour on their Facebook pages are likely to bristle at corporate requests for info for a health and wellness survey. They may not have a choice in the near future. This article from CNNMoney.com discusses the increase in Human Resource departments asking employees to fill out a health and wellness questionnaire prior to enrolling in the company’s health insurance program.

I found this article to be loaded with the type of issues that define life in today’s corporate world. The survey can ask an employee about the number of alcoholic drinks he or she consumes each week. However, it can’t ask the same employee whether or not there is a history of cancer in his or her family. This is due to a fear of lawsuits due to genetic discrimination. To help ensure employee cooperation, some companies are offering incentives such as lower insurance premiums for workers willing to participate in smoking cessation programs. Yet, companies are at risk if they bar employees coverage for not agreeing to fill out the survey.

However, I think my favorite quote from the article is this one: “Maybe you think you’ll fudge the truth? Don’t. That’s fraud, and could be grounds for dismissal.” I can almost guarantee that some people reading that statement would reply, “How will they ever know?” I suspect that these are the same folks that would thrill us with a Twitter tweet about low cigarette prices at a local gas station.

Human Resource professionals are in a bind that I, for one, do not envy. As they continue to walk a tightrope between lowering their health care expenses and breaching privacy issues, one has to wonder whether it will be employee or employer who has to make the biggest changes.

For a great read on the difficulties facing HR departments (and how to solve them), check out our summary of The HR Scorecard by Brian Becker, Mark Huselid and Dave Ulrich.



Working With “Y”

I was tempted to write a clever introduction concerning whether or not members of Generation Y (those born between 1980 and 1999) are in your midst. Then I realized something vital: this is a blog … on the Internet. There is no other generation who has lived the double-life of virtual and physical existence more than this group. Something tells me that of the numerous readers I have, a good portion of you probably count your birthday somewhere between the years listed above. So, let me start over …

This article came up from the folks at the Guardian in the United Kingdom. While I think the first sentence in the article does more than its share of negative stereotyping, it’s interesting to see that the subject of Gen Y in the workplace continues to get press. We’ve covered it ourselves, both in summaries and in reviews. We’re at a critical juncture in the history of the American work force, and it seems to me that everyone is a touch anxious over where we will go. Suffice to say, Gen Y is currently experiencing one of the roughest job markets in which to enter a work force.

One also has to appreciate the fact that Baby Boomers, the generation that in its youth shifted the focus of everyone from advertisers to political campaigners to the young, are now scratching their greying heads trying to figure out what’s going on with “these kids.” My years may be showing here, but I seem to recall coming of age in an era of economic uncertainty where foreign war made headlines and the environment, social issues and the generation gap were on the minds of many. Throw in a reference to Facebook and an e-mail address, and we’d be looking at Gen Y, wouldn’t we?

The more things change …

P.S.: I mentioned that we reviewed a book on Gen Y. To read it, and dozens of others for FREE, simply sign up at Summary.com.