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.

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.

Employee Loyalty Equals Customer Loyalty

In a previous job, I worked for a woman who cared deeply about her employees. We enjoyed having every day off that both the post office and bank had, plus we always had the week between Christmas and New Years along with a Christmas bonus, on top of our regular vacation days. If your child had an event going on at school during work hours, she would encourage you to attend, and she was always interested in how our families were doing.

Her supportiveness resulted in a very loyal group of employees, ready to do whatever was needed to make the company successful. And this was especially evident in our treatment of our customers. We would go out of our way for them, because this was part of the overall atmosphere of the company.

Although this is certainly not a novel idea, loyalty seems to have taken a back seat to survival in the past decade here in the U.S.. While there has been a strong push for customer service, the employees have not always been taken into account.

In The Loyalty Factor, Dianne Durkin connects these two groups back together. Her Loyalty Factor is “Employee loyalty drives customer loyalty, which drives brand loyalty.” Some of her suggestions as to how to encourage employee loyalty include:

  • Communicate uniquely with each generation
  • Accommodate employee differences
  • Create workplace choices
  • Be flexible in your leadership style
  • Respect competence and initiative
  • Recognize achievements
  • Reward results

If you would like to hear more about Durkin’s thoughts on loyalty, you’re in luck. We’ve invited her to join us for our next Soundview Live webinar, Building Employee, Customer and Brand Loyalty, on May 15th. Register today and bring your loyalty questions to ask during the session.

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,, 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: 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 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,’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

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!

Leading Effectively from Anywhere

In the preface to her book The Virtual Executive, Dr. Debra Benton tells a love story. A story of meeting a real-life cowboy and of learning to run her consulting company, with accounts in 19 countries, from a 550-square-foot, 75-year-old cabin on a remote high-mountain ranch with sporadic electricity.

Benton learned to be a virtual executive before it became popular and in the process brought in more money in her first year of remote leadership than in the company’s previous 15-year history. From this experience she has captured principles to teach all executives who are still learning the art of leading virtually.

In her own words Benton states that “My goal is to give you simplicity in a world of complexity.”

One part of the book that I especially appreciated is when she lists her definition of being successful. Here are her measurements of success, in brief:

  •  You are working toward, you are on the brink of, or you have achieved your dream career while you remain a solid citizen.
  • When you communicate – which you have to do all of the time with everyone in some manner or another – you are deemed impressive, memorable, credible, genuine, trusted, liked, competent, confident, comfortable, cool, calm and collected.
  • You feel broadly adequate, and you treat others as broadly adequate too. That means you expect acceptance for what you bring to the table, and you give it to others.
  • People do not care if your style is dictatorial or participative so much; they care because you have goodwill toward them.
  • You fully appreciate the Golden Online/Offline Rule: “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.”
  • You understand that when others treat you negatively, it’s because they themselves feel inadequate, do not feel “okay”, are having a bad day, or are upset, and they often attempt to transfer those feelings onto others. However, you do not let them to that to you.
  • You are equally effective in communicating these positive attributes that have contributed to your success whether you are face-to-face, talking on a phone, or e-mailing half way around the world.

Dr. Benton will be sharing her principles for effective virtual communications at our upcoming Soundview Live webinar, Becoming a Virtual Executive, on April 26th. Please join us to learn these crucial techniques for yourself.

All Play and No Work Makes Johnny Worthless

American companies are facing a workforce crisis which is commonly called Generation Y. As companies continue to demand productivity and performance from this new generation of workers, these young employees are not demonstrating the work ethic needed to meet company expectations. And this has affected morale and profitability across the country.

Eric Chester, who is an expert on this new generation, expresses the concern well in his Who’s Really Entitled list, which lays out the expectations that employers have for their workers. On the lighter side, he also communicates the broader issues in his song called The Work Ethic rap.

Chester has some sobering words for American companies: “Parents now focus most of their attention on ensuring that their kids are healthy, happy and have high self-esteem. Meanwhile, schools are facing wide-spread criticism and massive cutbacks, and are concentrating every available resource on increasing test scores and keeping students safe. Therefore, the burden of developing work ethic within the emerging workforce has shifted to employers.”

What is work ethic? In Reviving Work Ethic, Chester defines it as “knowing what to do and doing it. It is marked by an individual’s positive attitude, reliability, professionalism, initiative, respect, integrity, and gratitude.” So how do we instill this is Generation Y when they’ve grown up without it?

Chester’s solution revolves around communication. We need to communicate the knowledge of how to do a job, and then we need to communicate the values behind what we do. He emphasizes that it takes repetition to get across this information. He also makes clear that work ethic thrives best in community, not in isolation. So as workers are trained, there needs to be reinforcement of the values and knowledge from those around them.

Are you struggling with a lack of work ethic in your young workers? Then you’ll greatly benefit from our upcoming Soundview Live webinar Reviving Work Ethic in the Emerging Workforce. Eric Chester will present his experienced view of the next generation of workers and will also be taking questions from participants. Join us on April 19th and learn how to instill work ethic in your employees.

Watching Out for Blind Spots

I’m in the middle of a kitchen renovation. My job is demolition but I’m letting the professionals handle the construction. In order for everything to turn out right I have to depend on the contractor, the counter top installer, the hardware stores, and my volunteer friends to each do their part.

But sometimes people fail to meet our expectations, and when this happens our own plans can be put in jeopardy. If I just move forward as though everything is okay, without making sure everyone is on board and knows the plan and schedule, I may end up with a disaster instead of a finished kitchen.

This is not unlike the situation when a company is trying to compete in the marketplace, and is depending on other services and suppliers to produce and innovate right along with them, and these other companies don’t keep up the pace. Not being aware of this can be a blind spot that will bring a company’s own innovation to a halt.

This is the contention of Ron Adner in his book The Wide Lens. Adner suggests that we take a new perspective – a wide lens – to better assess our strategy. He introduces a new set of tools and frameworks to expose our sources of dependence so that we can make better choices and multiply our chances of success.

Among the examples he gives of companies that have been caught in this innovation blind spot are Philips Electronics with their HDTV and Sony with their e-reader. They were both ahead of their time and the other innovations needed for success were not yet available.

If your company is dependent on others for success then you’ll want to join us on April 10th to hear Ron Adner talk about this wide lens. Sign up for our Soundview Live webinar Avoiding the Innovation Blind Spot and have your questions ready for Ron.


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