Soundview Executive Book Summaries


Book Review: The Rare Find

by George Anders

This past weekend saw the annual running of the Kentucky Derby, the biggest thoroughbred race in the United States. For some companies, the process of hiring a new employee can be the same as placing a wager on a thoroughbred. Despite in-depth research, lengthy accolade-filled resumes and ringing endorsements, employers are often left in the same state as gamblers who put their hopes on a “sure thing,”: tearing their tickets up in disgust. Meanwhile, a select few back an unlikely candidate that surges past the pack and into the record books. Columnist and author George Anders takes an in-depth look at the science of recognizing talent in his new book The Rare Find: Spotting Exceptional Talent Before Everyone Else. The summary of Anders’ latest release is now available from Soundview Executive Book Summaries.

Anders tackles the question of talent discovery with writing that will keep any executive riveted to the page. He has a gift for telling a compelling story but sacrifices none of the takeaways that business book readers require in exchange for the investment of their time. By putting examples from Teach for America alongside more predictable references to Facebook and Hewlett-Packard, Anders provides a more complete picture of the talent-scouting process. Any executive who is involved in the hiring process at his or her company will want to read Anders section on “the jagged resume.” A candidate’s scattered success record used to be a one-way ticket to the discard pile. However, Anders does a masterful job of teaching readers why a potential employee with an up-and-down record could become a superstar if your company is the right setting.

To download your copy of The Rare Find in any of Soundview’s multiple digital formats, visit Soundview’s Web site Summary.com.

Special Reminder for Soundview Subscribers! This Thursday, May 10, George Anders will be our guest on Soundview Live, the exclusive weekly Webinar series that puts you in touch with today’s top business authors. If you’re a Soundview subscriber, you can attend for FREE. Just visit Summary.com and click the Webinars tab to find out how you can sign up!



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!



Spotting Exceptional Talent
May 2, 2012, 11:00 AM
Filed under: Human Resources, Soundview Live | Tags: ,

In The Rare Find, George Anders tells the story of an HR manager at Google who compiled over 300 characteristics recommended by executives as important to watch for when hiring, and compared them against the database of their employees. He found that what Google has considered important for new hires is not what actually stands out in the most successful employees.

From this study the manager began looking at resumes “upside down” – that is he started at the bottom where people list their hobbies, accomplishments and interests. From here he could get the person’s story, what motivates them. This information, considered along with the usual education, grades and the like, gave a much better picture of who might be the most successful employees.

Anders provides powerful ideas for making sure that you don’t miss that candidate with great potential, including:

  • Don’t ignore “the jagged résumé” — people whose background appears to teeter on the edge between success and failure. Such people can do spectacular work in the right settings, where their strengths are invaluable and their flaws don’t matter.
  • Look extra hard for “talent that whispers” — the obscure, out-of-the-way candidates that most scouting systems overlook.
  • Be careful with “talent that shouts” — the spectacular but brash candidates whose positive qualities might not outweigh future problems with loyalty, motivation, and team spirit.

If you would like to learn more about how to find the “stand out” employees for your company, join us on May 10th for our Soundview Live webinar Spotting Exceptional Talent with George Anders. Bring your most challenging hiring-questions for the author as well. One exceptional employee can turn a company around!



Book Review: Taking People With You

by David Novak

In terms of a memorable story from the head of one of the world’s largest brands, Yum! Brands Chairman and CEO David Novak delivers one of the best in his book Taking People With You: The Only Way to Make BIG Things Happen. Now available as a summary from Soundview Executive Book Summaries, Novak tells a story in the book’s introduction of a PepsiCo employee breaking down in tears. The employee was neither upset nor angry. His emotion stemmed from complete surprise that his co-workers regarded him as the best merchandising expert they’d ever encountered. Novak realized a twofold sense of disappointment. Here was an employee who never felt appreciated. It led Novak to wonder how many other PepsiCo employees felt the same way.

What Novak did with this experience is construct a recognition culture that powers a brand with more than $11 billion in revenues. In Taking People With You, Novak provides one of the best CEO tutorials for turning your organization into one in which every contributor feels valued. Managers at every level of a company will benefit from the advice dispensed by Novak. One can’t-miss section is the second of the book’s three parts. In this segment, Novak gives readers the building blocks to construct and improve strategy, structure,  and culture.

Novak’s emphasis that “winning together” is the essential ingredient in creating a great workplace culture should not be overlooked. He argues that too many organizations ignore the need for culture. For companies that argue they are too big (or even too small) to implement an improved workplace culture should reconsider the statement when they read about the scope of Novak’s efforts and his conviction to the idea of a shared victory.

To download your copy of the Soundview Executive Book Summary of Taking People With You, visit Soundview’s Web site Summary.com.



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.



Book Review: The Zappos Experience

by Joseph Michelli

When business book authors seek companies that exemplify superior abilities in areas such as innovation, product development and talent development, a small list of names rapidly fills the pool. If asked, readers could name the top five with little effort: Apple, Google, Amazon.com, Facebook, and Procter & Gamble. In fact, the first three, respectively, are the top three companies named on FORTUNE magazine’s 2012 list of the 50 most admired companies. When the discussion turns to customer service, a new name joins the list: Zappos.com. In The Zappos Experience: 5 Principles to Inspire, Engage and WOW best-selling author Joseph Michelli explores the wildly different way of thinking that powers one of the strongest customer service engines in today’s global marketplace. The Zappos Experience is now available in multiple digital formats as a Soundview Executive Book Summary.

Michelli’s familiarity with corporate giants is second to none. His previous books have profiled Starbucks, Ritz-Carlton Hotels, and Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market. If there is a single quality that distinguishes Michelli from his contemporaries, it’s his ability to blend elements of a company’s history with critical insight into how the company’s finer points can be replicated in the reader’s organization. Other authors get distracted by providing more biography than takeaways. Michelli’s five principles connect Zappos’ outstanding philosophy of building a great culture to a reader’s attempts to increase employee engagement, connect with customers and provide a truly exceptional service experience.

Zappos’ abilities as a service provider were a key factor in the company’s 2009 acquisition by Amazon.com. Readers will be fascinated by what Michelli discovered about the acquisition and the linchpin that helped Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh confirm the deal. Needless to say, Amazon.com’s third-place finish on FORTUNE’s most-admired list in 2012 is tied to some extent to Zappos’ service culture.

To download your copy of The Zappos Experience, visit Soundview’s Web site Summary.com.

Special Note to Soundview Subscribers! Don’t forget to listen to Soundview’s Author Insight Series featuring Joseph Michelli. He provides some additional insights about Zappos that you won’t hear anywhere else. Log in to your Soundview online library and check it out!