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.

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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.



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!



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.



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.