I am often asked at this time of year, what I consider the BEST business book published in the past twelve months.
We presented my selection for 2016 in August. You can buy the synopsis at 15MinuteBusinessBooks.com.
My choice is The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks by Joshua Cooper Ramo (New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 2016). Perhaps I am biased, since I have taught courses in “Communication Networks in Small Groups and Organizations” in MBA classes. However, I did so without this book.
Even today, the book is in the top 10 in three business categories on Amazon.com.
Ramo is a very eclectic guy. He is the author of the bestseller, The Age of the Unthinkable. He is co-chief executive officer and vice chairman of Kissinger Associates and a member of the board of directors of FedEx and Starbucks. His first book, No Visible Horizon, chronicled his experiences as a competitive aerobatic pilot.
The book is amazing. It’s real focus is on encouraging the reader to see the world in a different way. The book includes references and stories to many contemporary successful leaders perceive in their environment. The emphasis is on using networks, but not just from the Internet. He introduces DNA networks, political networks, and financial networks. The book is not simply descriptive, it also has many practical and implementable elements.
This post is not the book’s first critical acclaim. It has received high marks from reviewers at respected sources such as Financial Times, The New York Times, New Yorker, and San Francisco Chronicle.
A leader has so much to think about: Keeping the profits up; increasing productivity; cutting unnecessary costs; the list is endless.
When a leader (of a team, a company, an organization, a nation) makes the right call, the ripple effects are wonderful. When a leader makes the wrong call, the leader may be in trouble, but so are the people he/she leads. The wrong call can cost people safety, income, a job, a future.
As I keep thinking about this challenge of leadership, I slowly come to a simple thought: first impulse reveals so much. A person’s first impulse can dictate behavior in such a powerful way.
Is the leader’s first impulse something like this:
• how can I advance my career even further?
• how can I add to my power?
Or, is it something like this:
• how can I help the people I lead get better, do better – in this job, in their career, in their lives?
You can flesh this out with countless other questions. But this is worth asking: if you are a leader, what are your first impulses? As you serve a leader, what are his/her first impulses?
If you are in a leadership position of any kind, leading well is your calling. And whatever your position, choosing your leaders well may be an important survival tactic in a very difficult time.
Last Friday, I presented my synopsis of the book Power by Jeffery Pfeffer. I referred to Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. As I thought about these books, I thought about a skill that is so front and center obvious. In these, and many other books, it is taken for granted, but it probably should be mentioned, and reinforced often: the skill of being a good conversationalist really is the starting place for everything else that follows.
Are you good at the art of conversation? If you are, consider yourself lucky. If not – you’ve got some work to do.
Years ago I heard this definiton (I forget where I heard this, or who said it – my apology to the source):
What is a conversation? The first person speaks while the second person listens. Then the second person speaks while the first person listens. This is called turn-taking.
This is so simple – yet profound. When the other person is speaking, it is your job to listen. It is not your job to be thinking about what you will say next, what you will say in response… but it is your job to listen. If you take your turn at listening, with sincerity and respect and focus, then you have a better chance at being heard when it us your turn to speak.
Anything less than this “listen-speak” turn-taking is not quite a true conversation.
I have not read this book, but I have put it in my “one of these days” stack (so many books – so little time): The Art of Conversation: A Guided Tour of a Neglected Pleasure by Catherine Blyth. Here are a few lines from the book (thanks to Amazon “first pages”)”
All communication is dialogue…
Don’t talk to strangers” Don’t speak until spoken to?
Forget it. Inhibition is useless. How do you start a conversation? Simple: Say hi. It’s easy to say.
And here are three of her five maxims:
Think before you speak.
Listen more than speak.
So, here is your assignment for the week. Have some good conversations. Starting today…
Nearly 120 gathered this morning for the January, 2011 First Friday Book Synopsis. Karl Krayer and I have been presenting these synopses/briefings on best-selling business books every month since April, 1998. This morning, Karl presented Buy-in by John Kotter, and I presented Power by Jeffrey Pfeffer. They were both practical, useful, important books. (Note: Karl’s handout had a terrific, valuable breakdown of the major objections, and solutions to meet these objections, for those seeking to get their ideas across).
You will be able to purchase our synopses, with audio + handout, in a couple of weeks on our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com. (Many other book presentations are available on the site).
For next month, Friday, February 4, Karl will present a synopsis of The Orange Revolution: How One Great Team Can Transform an Entire Organization by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton. (Free Press. 2010). You can read Bob Morris’ review of this book on our blog by clicking here.
I will present a synopsis of All the Devils Are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis by Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera. (Portfolio Hardcover. 2010). This book is currently #1 on the New York Times Hardcover Business Best-Sellers list, and is considered by many to be the top book regarding the financial crisis of 2008. (Note: one of the other top best sellers regarding this crisis is The Big Short by Michael Lewis. You can also purchase my synopsis of this book at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com).
The First Friday Book Synopsis provides a great breakfast, in a spectacular setting (the Park City Club), with great networking, and substantive, useful content – all in a fast-paced gathering. If you will be in the DFW area on February 4, come join us. Registration will be open soon – in a day, or two, just click the Register Now! sunburst on our home page.
He was the incandescent man. Phil Graham walked into a room and took it over, charming and seducing, whomever he wished, men and women alike. No one in Washington could match him at it, not even, in the days before he became President, John F. Kennedy. He was handsome and slim and when he smiled, at first shy and then bold, everything stopped…
David Halberstam, The Powers That Be, introducing Phil Graham, (the husband of Katharine Graham).
Here’s a way to propel you to a better year, a year toward success, in 2011.
Act the part – look the part!
No, I’m not talking about your wardrobe, keeping your shoes shined, “dressing for success…” (although there is plenty of evidence that this also has an impact) – I’m talking about the way you look; or, make that, I’m talking about the way people see you.
And to boil it down, it’s this: posture, eye-contact, a sense of forceful assertiveness, all really matter.
People with less power or people who didn’t feel powerful exhibited “inhibitive nonverbal behaviors,” such as shrinking in, caving in their chests, physically withdrawing, and using fewer and less forceful hand gestures… Shrinking in and not behaving in a forceful fashion causes others to attribute less power to you, reinstating a negative cycle of behavior in which you’re not treated as powerful and you further withdraw and act powerless.
So – you can start now. Sit up straight – stand up straight. Look people in the eye. Don’t be tentative. (But, beware of the danger of coming across with arrogance). Don’t run over people – but be, and be perceived as, overflowing with self-confidence.
This is something you can do. In fact, it is something you have to do, to practice, every day, in every encounter, in every meeting. Start right now. Sit up straight. Walk, stand, sit with purpose. Don’t shrink in, don’t cave in your chest, don’t physically withdraw. To be successful, it helps to look the part. And looking the part is a series of behaviors — some things that you do.
First, a comment about “politics.” I really do try to keep politics out of my blog posts, for a lot of reasons. The main reason is that so many are so strongly aligned with one side or the other that to even broach a political example runs the risk of turning off/offending/angering half of the readership of this blog. But, there are times when the arena of politics provides just the right fodder for lessons regarding business success or failure. So, at the risk of offending some, here goes…
Recently, two critics of President Obama took to the op-ed pages of the Washington Post to recommend that President Obama announce, now, that he will not seek a second term. This morning Stanford Professor and author Jeffery Pfeffer wrote quite an interesting column about why that would be a very bad idea: Why President Obama should run again in 2012 – a management perspective. Here are key excerpts:
It was a cautionary tale: A longtime partner at a Silicon Valley venture capital firm decided she would step down from her leadership role, and in an attempt to make life easier for her colleagues, she gave plenty of advance notice of her departure.
Bad idea. As soon as her end date at the company was well known, she later told me, her role at the firm changed. People stopped consulting her on hiring or investment decisions. She wasn’t invited to key meetings. Essentially, most people started freezing her out, treating her as if she’d already left.
And in a sense, she had. Her co-workers correctly anticipated that she soon would have no power to help or hurt them, so she became effectively irrelevant to their working lives.
Getting things done, whether in the private sector or in government, requires power, and having power means retaining the capacity to affect what happens to others, ensuring that those whose support you remain dependent on you. As former secretary of state and Stanford University provost Condoleezza Rice told one protege, “People may oppose you, but when they realize you can hurt them, they’ll join your side.
…you have power to the extent that others are going to depend on you in the future
Leaders need power, as well as a reputation for being powerful. Announcing that you will be out of the arena soon seems like a particularly ineffective strategy to get things done.
A while back, Bob Morris, my blogging colleague posted his review of Pfeffer’s book on our blog: Jeffrey Pfeffer’s Power: Why Some People Have It – and Others Don’t – A Book Review by Bob MorrisHere’s a key paragraph from his review:
Pfeffer insists that the world is neither just nor unjust: it is. He also challenges “leadership literature” (including his contributions to it) because celebrity CEOs who tout their own careers as models tend to “gloss over power plays they actually used to get to the top” whereas authors such as Pfeffer offer “prescriptions about how people wish the world and the powerful behaved.” Pfeffer also suggests that those aspiring to power “are often their own worst enemy, and not just in the arena of building power” because of self-handicapping, a reluctance (perhaps even a refusal) to take initiatives that may fail and thereby diminish one’s self-image. “I have come to believe that the biggest single effect I can have is to get people to try to become powerful.” Pfeffer wrote this book as an operations manual for the acquisition and retention of power. Of even greater importance, in my opinion, he reveals the ultimate realities of what power is…and isn’t…and thereby eliminates the shadows of illusion and self-deception that most people now observe in the “caves” of their own current circumstances.
I think Pfeffer’s premise is correct. It may not be the way the world should work, but it certainly is true about the way the world does work. If you are perceived as powerless, than people do not treat you as though you had power. If you are perceived as someone with power, then your input, your influence, is great indeed. The more power you have, the more you can get things done.