Soundview Executive Book Summaries


Meetings: The Bane of Our Existence…Or Not

Meetings – we can’t live with them and we can’t live without them. They are a necessary evil of business life. If this is the way you feel about meetings, then read on.

There was a great article in the Wall St Journal on June 16th titled Meet the Meeting Killers. In the article we are introduced to five meeting killers; the Jokester, the Dominator, the Naysayer, the Rambler and the Quiet Plotter. Each of these types of people has their own way of making meetings difficult, if not impossible. Thankfully, the writer rates these meeting killers as to their level of nuisance, and provides ways to circumvent their negative effects.

For those of us who run meetings there are techniques to making a meeting run more smoothly such as having a “no-device” policy or having periodic “tech breaks” for people to catch up on communications. Stand up meeting can quicken the pace and keep people on task, and some issues can be dealt with in advance if a leader knows the people and their concerns well.

But there are also other types of people who can make meetings difficult, whose intentions are not to sabotage, but who simply have a different perspective on business issues. Les Mckeown introduces three such types in his book The Synergist.

The Visionary – the bold dreamer, this person has big ideas but little interest in execution.

The Processor – the pragmatic realist, they want to put every detail through a system.

The Operator – the systems designer, this person’s main focus is to get the meeting over with so they can get back to the “real work”.

Mckeown offer a solution in the form of a fourth type of person – the Synergist. Their job is to take the strengths of the other three types of people and knit them into a dynamic, well-rounded team. Because businesses need all three of these types to be successful, the challenge is how to get them to play well together. The synergist has the skills to make this happen and the good news is that anyone can learn how to be a synergist, recognizing the vital signs of ineffective teamwork and making the right interventions at those pivotal moments.

Les McKeown will be joining us on May 31st to explain in-depth the skills and techniques of the Synergist, and how they can harness the skills of the personalities in the room to become an effective and productive team. Lead Your Team to Predictable Success is a Free webinar open to everyone. Join us and learn how to transform your meetings.



Age Profiling in the Workplace

In my blog post back on April 11th, I wrote about the need for companies to develop a work ethic among Generation Y employees as part of my coverage of our webinar with Eric Chester. But as I was writing, I couldn’t help but think of several young adults I know who have a very strong work ethic. Is it fair to toss them in with the rest of Gen Y?

Over the past decade a host of books have been published on the differences between the generations of workers, with labels like Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, Millennials and so on. As you read books like The 2020 Workplace, Bridging the Boomer-Xer Gap, Generations at Work and similar titles, the authors use the differences between the generations to talk about their skills and weaknesses as groups, and how to take advantage of the skills and overcome the weaknesses.

These are very helpful books in dealing with the big picture of the mixed bag which is our employee pool. These authors answer the important question of how we make the most of each generation’s abilities and also smooth over the wrinkles that appear as these generations mix in the workplace.

But at the same time we must recognize that not every individual of a certain age-range is going to be the same as their peers, and that there is a great overlap between these generations. Also, other factors come to bear in what makes people different including other demographic factors and upbringing.

Mary Anne Osborne, in a guest blog for Sage HR, warns us of the risks of age profiling. She states “But of key concern here is not letting externally perceived notions of generational tendencies cloud judgment of character.” The danger of making assumptions about a person based solely on their generational group can lead to costly mistakes in hiring and training.

Osborne give the example of Generation Y, which some characterize as needy, disloyal and self-entitled. And yet this generation has brought us Groupon, Facebook, Tumblr and foursquare.

The key lesson here is to make use of what we know about the general characteristics of each generation while always giving each individual the benefit of the doubt. The old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” applies here. Don’t judge a person by their “generational cover” – give them a chance to show their true merits.



Is There Fear Within the Walls of Your Company?

“A company’s worst enemy is not always the competition. Sometimes it’s the fear that lives within its own walls.”

This is a very ominous quote from the author of Breaking the Fear Barrier, Tom Rieger. As Senior Practice Expert for Gallup, Rieger draws on the company’s global research across a dozen countries spanning six continents to identify the “fear barrier” and to show how and why fear destroys companies.

Perhaps you’ve experience this in your own company. A person fears that they might lose power, control, parts of their department, etc…, so they put up barriers of bureaucracy to protect their area. These barriers then cause a slow-down in the processes of the company.

Rieger documents three types of barriers:

  • Parochialism: A tendency to force others to view the world from only one perspective or through a narrow filter, when local needs and goals are viewed as more important than broader objectives and outcomes.
  • Territorialism: Hoarding or micromanaging internal headcount, resources, or decision authority in an effort to maintain control.
  • Empire building: Attempts to assert control over people, functions, or resources in an effort to regain or enhance self-sufficiency.

As Rieger observes: “Each level of the pyramid is a defensive response, and each creates rampant bureaucracy — which in turn limits success, crushes employee engagement, and infuses a sense of futility across an organization.”

In our upcoming webinar with Tom Rieger, Breaking the Fear Barrier, he will offer a cohesive and groundbreaking process for breaking down each level of bureaucracy to remove the barriers. Then he will show that by proactively fostering courageous behavior among employees and keeping insidious “courage killers” at bay, leaders can root out fear in their organizations and establish a culture of confidence, engagement, and long-term success.

If fear and the barriers it produces are an issue in your organization, please join us on May 2nd to hear Rieger’s solutions and to ask your questions during the presentation.



What Is a Healthy Company?

Over the past few years I’ve noticed an increased reference in news articles and books to the subject of organizational health. In a Fortune article back at the end of 2010, Colin Price pointed to the demise of an emphasis solely on performance and a movement toward a more sustainable focus on the health of the organization.

But what does a healthy organization look like? Patrick Lencioni, in his latest book The Advantage, says “an organization is healthy when it is whole, consistent and complete, when its management, operations and culture are unified.” And he goes on to claim that “Healthy organizations outperform their counterparts, are free of politics and confusion and provide an environment where star performers never want to leave.”

Can you imagine an organization free from politics and confusion? But Lencioni says that it’s possible and offers four actionable steps to get there.

  1.  Build a cohesive leadership team – cohesive teams build trust, eliminate politics and increase efficiency.
  2. Create clarity – healthy organizations minimize the potential for confusion.
  3. Over-communicate clarity – healthy organizations align their employees around organizational clarity by communicating key messages.
  4. Reinforce clarity – organizations sustain their health by ensuring consistency.

This is of course only part of the picture, and Lencioni will be filling in the details at our Soundview Live webinar Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else on March 27th. Please join us and bring your questions for Pat.



Creating Ownership in Your Company

Although we place a high value on the knowledge and expertise of business gurus and authors, there is also much to be learned from executives who are out in the trenches of the business world, running companies and making decisions every day. This is the focus of our Executive Insight video series.

In a recent video, we interviewed Roseline Marston, president of A.D. Marble & Co., which provides environmental, cultural and engineering services focusing on archeological and historical structures. A.D. Marble is an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan) company, and Ms. Marston provides some excellent insight into how to create ownership in your company that goes well beyond just owning stock.

I have pulled out a few leadership principles that I culled from the interview, but you’ll want to watch the whole video:

  1. Physical presence is essential – Marston doesn’t depend on email to run her company. She regularly visits all six of their sites, and while there, works from a cubical next to other employees. She also works closely with each office manager and uses video conferencing when needed.
  2. Keep financials transparent – not only do employees see the financials on a regular basis, but they’re also trained in how to interpret them. In this way everyone knows how things are going, and are aware of crises early on.
  3. Ownership is important – knowing what is happening financially helps employees to better see how their work affects the bottom line.
  4. Feedback keeps things running smoothly – A.D. Marble solicits feedback from customers and employees about how they’re doing, and Marston applies this feedback to make improvements.
  5. Handle conflict directly – while the company has procedures in place for major breaches in behavior, all other issues are handled first at the peer-to-peer level.
  6. Leadership trumps management – Marston looks for potential leaders within the company, watching for those that demonstrate selflessness, loyalty and accountability. Leadership is not just about position, but about attitude and action.

If you’d like to watch the whole interview, or to enjoy our other Executive Insights videos, you can subscribe to Soundview Executive Book Summaries. All editions include the monthly video interviews. And we’d love to hear back about what you’re learning as well.



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.



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!