Soundview Executive Book Summaries


The Importance of Storytelling in Business

 Jesus was having a discussion with a religious leader. When told that he might enter eternal life if he loved God and loved his neighbor, the man sought to justify himself by asking Jesus who his neighbor was. Jesus replied with the parable (story) of the Good Samaritan. Even though this conversation took place over 2,000 years ago, this story has become one of the best known stories of the last two centuries, even among those that have never read the New Testament. Jesus knew the power of the story.

Stories have always been a part of business communication, but in the last several years a trend has developed around the power of storytelling in business. I found over a dozen business books written in the past decade that specifically teach the importance of storytelling in organizations, whether to improve leadership, to help focus meetings, to sell more effectively, or to build strong teams. There is even a National Storytelling Network.

Robert McKee put it this way in the Harvard Business Review: “A big part of a CEO’s job is to motivate people to reach certain goals. To do that, he or she must engage their emotions, and the key to their hearts is story.”

Storytelling is no longer just for CEOs, but the key truth is still the same – storytelling engages the emotions, assisting the speaker in communicating his or her point effectively. In Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences, Nancy Duarte expands this point. Information is static; stories are dynamic – they help an audience visualize what you do or what you believe.

Patrick Lencioni has perfected the art of storytelling in his series of business books, including The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Three Signs of a Miserable Job, Silos, Politics and Turf Wars and Getting Naked. Lencioni uses the fable as a way to engage the minds of his readers, communicating the business truths through the characters of the fable.

In The Story Factor, Annette Simmons introduces six story goals:

  • “Who I am” stories – stories that reveal something about how you are.
  • “Why I am here” stories – to reassure the audience about your intentions.
  • “The Vision” story – to transform your vision into the audience’s vision.
  • “Teaching” stories – to communicate certain skills you want others to have.
  • “Values in action” stories – story lets you instill values in a way that keeps people thinking for themselves.
  • “I know what you are thinking” stories – in a story you can identify potential objections and disarm the audience as you build credibility.

Perhaps it’s time to develop your own storytelling skills. The resources above will help and you can read more in our Executive Edge newsletter Learn the Art of Storytelling.

Advertisements


Success Awaits with Three New Summaries

Executives are constantly fighting a battle on two fronts. There is the desire to improve the organization month by month and quarter by quarter. However, personal progress cannot be neglected in the pursuit of organizational excellence. After all, to make a better company, you need to be at your best. This month Soundview Executive Book Summaries features three summaries that will help you improve the performance of yourself, your team and your organization.

by Claudio Feser

Serial Innovators by Claudio Feser: The typical life expectancy of a company is estimated to be about 15 years. What does it take to exist beyond that average? A company must be able to keep up with changing markets. It has to learn what elements are slowing down its ability to adapt. A company must be able to continuously reinvent itself to stay relevant. Serial Innovators is a guide for how to build a company that is adaptive, innovative and can survive well into the future.

 

 

 

 

by Les McKeown

The Synergist by Les McKeown: A successful team includes bold dreamers (Visionaries), pragmatic realists (Operators), and systems designers (Processors) but it takes a Synergist to blend the motivations and goals of the three types and get everyone to work together effectively. The Synergist puts aside his or her own agenda and captures the best input from each team member. Anyone can learn to be the Synergist and fill this critical role in teamwork improvement. The Synergist reveals a proven method to build highly successful teams while stimulating personal and organizational growth.

 

 

 

by Robert I. Sutton

Good Boss, Bad Boss by Robert I. Sutton: How a boss wields his or her power over an employee is bound to result in feelings that might include resentment, confusion or possibly comfort. If you are a boss, are you attuned to how your words and actions affect your employees? Good Boss, Bad Boss is for bosses and those who have bosses. It details how to adopt the characteristics of a good boss and survive the flaws of a bad boss. Dr. Sutton uses real-life case studies and behavioral science research to reveal exactly what the best bosses do.

 

 

 

 

To download your copies in any of Soundview’s multiple digital formats, visit Soundview’s Web site, Summary.com.



The Covey Family Business

We just booked Sean Covey and Chris McChesney, authors of The 4 Disciplines of Execution, for an upcoming webinar in July, and as I was reviewing the book and information about the development of their execution training, I was reminded of the Covey business legacy.

Stephen R. Covey first broke onto the business scene back in 1989 when he published The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The audio-book of this title later became the first non-fiction audio-book to sell more than a million copies, and the book has sold over 25 million copies.

The elder Covey has followed up his 7 Habits book with The 8th Habit, Principle-Centered Leadership, and recently The 3rd Alternative, along with various versions of the 7 Habits book and additional titles he co-authored. His highly successful Covey Leadership Center eventually merged with Franklin Quest to become FranklinCovey.

His son Stephen M.R. Covey joined the family business, moving up through the ranks to become CEO of Covey Leadership Center. He later started his own company CoveyLink with friend Greg Link. Together they wrote The Speed of Trust and recently followed this up with Smart Trust.

Another son of the elder Stephen, Sean Covey, is Executive Vice President of Global Solutions and Partnerships for FranklinCovey. He followed up his father’s 7 Habits book with The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens and just last month released The 4 Disciplines of Execution, based on research and training programs developed through FranklinCovey.

Even the in-laws are part of the business. A.Roger Merrill and Rebecca Merrill co-authored First Things First with Covey in 1994, and later wrote the follow-up title Life Matters.  I wouldn’t be surprised if more Coveys appear on the business scene in the coming years, since Dr. Covey has 9 children and 52 grandchildren.

The real legacy that the Coveys will leave is a laser-focused emphasis on bringing what’s important in life into business. Family values, ethical and moral values, and spiritual life all play a part in his writing and teaching. If we all could integrate our life inside and outside of work into a coherent whole, we would be saved from many of the troubling issues that currently haunt corporate America.



The Myth of Multitasking

Recently, I was on a conference call with my office and on the other line was a room full of people. As I listened, my email alert popped up and I clicked over to see what it was about. A minute later I realized that I hadn’t heard what was being said on the call. I quickly focused back on the meeting, only to be distracted again by the headline of the Wall St Journal lying open on my desk.

Then the dreaded question could be heard on the other side of the phone, “What do you think about that?” Oh, they’re talking to me and I have no idea what was just said. With a quick “I didn’t quite catch that last part, can you repeat it?”, I caught back up with the conversation while moving the newspaper out of view.

Multitasking is a myth for most of humanity. Our minds are designed to focus on only one thing at a time, and what most of us refer to as multitasking is actually linear-tasking, moving our focus quickly back-and-forth between several tasks. But our mind is focused on only one at a time.

A Utah researcher found that only about 2.5% of the population can actually multitask, a rare group of “super-taskers.” The rest of us can only truly multitask with activities that don’t require our mind to be fully engaged, such as knitting or working out. Such automatic tasks allow us to focus our mind on something else like reading or watching TV.

In The Age of Speed, Vince Poscente says that multitasking can actually slow us down. He points out that brain scans reveal that if we do two tasks at the same time, we have only half of the usual brain power devoted to each. Can we really afford to be only half there for an important activity?

Poscente believes that we should embrace speed. What he is suggesting is that we should use every technology at our disposal to speed up the unimportant tasks of our lives – the minutiae that we just need to get through. Then we can take our time with the important tasks, those things that really matter to us.

What does this look like in daily life? Well, it means that we must always be making evaluations of the tasks we’re performing. Is this a task I just need to get through as quickly as possible, and if so how can I make it more efficient? And on the other hand, if a task is important and valuable, how can I hold back the interruptions so that this time has my full attention?

An example that most of us can identify with is setting a rule of no mobile devices at the dinner table. Interaction with our family is essential and should not be interrupted by anyone’s cell phone. We draw a line here – this is not the time for speed.

In the corporate world, this concept is leading to what is called a “values-based time model.” Poscente uses the example of Best Buy and its Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE). This initiative has led to a 35% increase in productivity.

So the bottom line is that multitasking is not the solution to our time pressures. Instead we need to make value-based decisions about what to focus our attention on and what to speed up with the technologies at our disposal. So when I’m on the phone with the main office I need to put aside the distractions!



Are College Graduates Prepared for the Job Market?

College graduations are coming up quickly, and as graduates prepare for final exams and exiting college life, they are also scurrying to find work.

I recently ran across a new website targeting recent graduates at Gradspring.com. This site focuses on entry-level jobs only, with a college degree requirement but 2 years or less work experience. They match graduates’ skills with the right job at no charge.

Of course there are many other sites for job-seekers like Careerbuilder.com, Monster.com, Indeed.com, Experience.com, CareerRookie.com and CollegeGrad.com. Each has its strengths and weaknesses for the new graduate, but GradSpring.com promises to provide only jobs that have a salary commensurate with the industry standard, jobs that are truly entry-level, and jobs that have a physical workspace (no work-at-home listings).

As you or your graduate prepare for this big step out into the workforce, Soundview can also provide some resources for the new or potential employee.

This month we’re offering a special Graduation Subscription offer for Soundview Executive Book Summaries at 15% off our standard rates. In addition, gift givers can send a customized gift email to each recipient. Our business book summaries and author webinars are the perfect starter kit for anyone moving out into corporate life.

Next Thursday we’re also hosting a webinar with Eric Chester, author of Reviving Work Ethic. This will provide an eye-opening view into what employees expect from the Generation Y worker. You can register for $59, and registration is free for all Soundview subscribers.

Help the graduate in your life get off to a strong start with these resources.



Can Technology and Sanity Co-Exist?

It’s amazing how easily we’re affected by the technology around us. Do you become impatient when a website doesn’t load in less than 2 seconds? Do you become frustrated when someone doesn’t respond to your email within a minute? Does any communication that’s more than a sentence long cause you to begin scanning?

It almost makes me long for the days of rotary phones and letters that go through the mail. But of course I’m showing my age because I expect that most of you have never used a rotary phone or written a letter and sent it through the mail!

But then it struck me that the problem isn’t with technology – it’s with us. We can either allow all of our gadgets to run our lives or we can make them work for us to make our lives better. This isn’t a novel thought by any means but it’s still a reminder that I need, and perhaps you need as well.

I ran across an article in the Wall St Journal titled Employees, Measure Yourselves. The article describes a new line of software and apps that have been created to help us measure how we use our work time, collect our creative ideas, track our heart rate for stress factors, and measure a whole host of other areas of our lives. If tracking activity can reveal trends and help us to improve, then this is a good thing.

As I scanned our Soundview archive, I found a few business book summaries that demonstrate this point very well. In The Age of Speed, Vince Poscente makes the case that rather than slowing down to avoid stress and achieve balance, we should take advantage of technology to help us work more quickly and efficiently. Charlene Li, author of Open Leadership, also makes the case for using technology to our advantage to become better leaders by tapping into the power of social media.

As I think about it, the very purpose of Soundview Executive Book Summaries is to leverage technology to help executives make the best use of their time, while keeping up on the latest business thinking. It started with print book summaries mailed to subscribers, then on to audio summaries that could be listened to in the car or on the treadmill, and now we offer eight digital formats for use on any computer, smartphone, e-reader or tablet.

How are you using technology to improve your life? Give it some thought and send along your ideas for others to read through our comments box.



Building a Leadership Pipeline

Over the past decade there has been an increased interest in leadership development within companies. Organizations can’t be successful if all their top talent keeps moving on to other companies, and so there is a stronger focus on developing talent from within, providing ongoing growth opportunities and the promise of continued movement up through the organization. While this may seem obvious, developing a pipeline of leaders has not always been a top priority in the past.

A classic title on this subject is The Leadership Pipeline by Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter and James Noel. In this book the authors discuss the six critical passages a leader must navigate to fully develop their leadership skills.

Passage 1: From managing self to managing others.

Passage 2: From managing others to managing managers.

Passage 3: From managing mangers to functional manager.

Passage 4: From functional manager to business manager.

Passage 5: From business manager to group manager.

Passage 6: From group manager to enterprise manager.

But they also describe the assessments and leadership development that must take place at each passage, so that the leader builds the skills to continue growing.

Stephen Drotter has just written a follow-up to this book called The Performance Pipeline in which he looks at how the work flows from layer to layer in a company, and how top executives can measure the work of leaders at every level. Ram Charan has also built upon this work with Leaders At All Levels, describing what he calls The Apprenticeship Model of leadership development.

If you would like to pursue this topic further, I would also recommend our Executive Edge report Build a Pipeline of Leaders and this month’s Executive Insights video interview with John C. Marshall of J M & Company, Finding the Leaders Who Can Build Companies. You can access these additional resources with a Soundview Premium subscription. The summaries listed above are available individually.