Here are two important business success issues:
#1 — how do I successfully get people to listen to my message?
#2 — how do I find, and get rid of, whatever is slowing us down in our company?
Solve these 2 issues, and your path to business success becomes a little clearer.
At the August 3 First Friday Book Synopsis, Karl Krayer will present his synopsis of the book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt. (Thomas Nelson. 2012). This book is designed to help you develop specific steps to clarify your message, refine your message, and get your message heard.
I am going to present the business classic The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox. (North River Pr. — 3rd Revised edition: July 2004). We normally only present “new” books at the First Friday Book Synopsis, but we have occasionally presented books that fit in the category of “business book classics.” A few years ago, I presented my synopsis of Servant Leadership by Robert Greenleaf. Greenleaf coined the phrase “servant leadership,” a concept that has stood the test of time. I believe his work should be discovered and rediscovered by every generation of business leadership.
The Goal is apparently that kind of book.
I was prompted to make this selection by an article in Slate.com by Seth Stevenson. His article started with this:
When I began to gather information for this Slate series on operations management, I asked a few business-school professors to recommend books I might read on the topic. I expected I’d be pointed toward textbooks and manuals—perhaps written by the professors themselves, or by celebrity CEOs. Instead, I was urged to read a novel by a dead Israeli physicist.
And I blogged about the book in this post: “The Fat Kid Is The Bottleneck!” – (Eli Goldratt’s The Goal, And A Thought About Expertise).
This will be a valuable session as you try to find out just what it is that is slowing you down now, and then how to develop the kind of powers of observation to always be on the lookout for what will slow you down once this current “bottleneck” is unclogged.
If you are in the DFW area, please join us for the August 3 First Friday Book Synopsis. (You will be able to register soon from our home page). Great networking; a terrific, full-service omelet bar/full buffet breakfast; and good challenging content. It is a great way to spend an early Friday morning. (By the way, we have presented two books a month, every month, since April, 1998 — over 14 years!).
Come join us.
A while back, I spoke for the wonderful folks at The Dallas Foundation. Here is their tag line:
Here for Good.
It is a great tag line. And the phrase, “Here for Good,” should become some kind of mantra for many more companies and organizations.
I thought about this, again, as I pondered the current state of affairs. This blog post is a reflection about two or three different aspects of the modern business environment.
#1 – there are a lot of “bottom 10%ers” (the Jack Welch term), or “deadwood” employees (this is a term I heard from a very sharp and insightful man just this week), and they drag entire departments and organizations down. Maybe because the average “10%er” is just showing up at his/her job. Work is “just a job” to such a person.
#2 – There seem to be a fair number of companies/organizations (maybe some entire industries) which have slipped a little, or a lot, in the ethics department. These companies seem to have little concern about treating people in an ethical manner. And we find example after example in multiple industries, like NFL Football (bounties on players), to Wall Street firms (one firm: some customers are viewed as and defined as, and treated like, “muppets”), and education (teachers and administrators cheating on standardized tests).
It certainly seems like an era of ethical deficiencies.
Why? A comprehensive look at the why (the whys) is much beyond the scope of this brief article. But I think this question might help us think a little about this:
Do you have a job, a career, or a calling?
If you have a job, your vision for work is pretty narrow. Yes, there are plenty of people with a job who are hard-working, good, upright and honest people. But if all you have is a “job,” you care little about the success of the organization (beyond the ability to “keep your job”). You show up to get your pay check, and that may be about all that matters.
If you have a career, then you view your current job as a piece of the bigger puzzle of building a successful career. The subtle danger here is that you are concerned about you – your own success, not the success of others, even the success of your customers, or the others in your organization.
Yes, I know that one way to aim for success for yourself is to aim for the success of others. But to aim for the success of others in order to be successful yourself, well…that is a little on the self-centered side. You know, a little bit of the whole “greed is good” idea.
I think that if you are focused on yourself, building your career, then you might just be open to cutting a few ethical corners to get there.
But if you have a calling, then you view your work as “for the other.” You view work as a means to do what you were born to do, which is to live a life that is helpful and useful to others. A calling is not something you “do,” or “build” or “endure.” It is who you are, not what you do.
Maybe we need to find a way to lift our vision of work, past that of “just a job,” or “building a career,” to “fulfilling a calling.” This might help us lift ethical standards just a little higher.
Many organizations seem to value “servant leadership.” So, what is servant leadership? From Robert Greenleaf, who coined the term:
“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.“
View your work as that of fulfilling a calling; try to work for a servant leader, who is a servant first… As you “rise up the ladder,” you will become a servant leader yourself. You will serve others first, and always. Then you will be here, and at work, for good.
So, here’s the request that came in an e-mail:
We are going on a cruise in September and I want to load my Kindle with three books. What are the three best books you would recommend for my reading? The request came from a very sharp, keen-minded, successful, independent business consultant. He attends one of our book synopsis events. This is my attempt to answer his question.
I am tempted to simply list some of my all time favorite reads (not necessarily the best books I’ve ever read, although they are close — but definitely books that I am very glad I have read), like: The Doorbell Rang, one of my favorite Nero Wolfe mysteries, by Rex Stout; and The Powers That Be and The Reckoning by the truly great David Halberstam; and Defining a Nation, edited by the same Halberstam.
And then there is this: what are the business books from the last few years (and even a little longer ago) that should be on your “I’ve definitely read that book” list? I would certainly include Good to Great by Jim Collins; something Gladwell (it’s tough to choose — probably Outliers); Servant Leadership by Robert Greenleaf and The Leadership Engine by Noel Tichy; almost anything, but definitely at least one thing, by Peter Drucker. Add to this The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley, and a major personal favorite, The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp.
But – I still have not answered the question. If I had but three books to load on my Kindle for a September cruise, what titles would I choose? Here’s a list of five; you will have to narrow it down to the three that most interest you.
Choice #1: Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond. Diamond, a Pulitzer Prize winner with his earlier book Guns, Germs, and Steel, has written a tour de force in Collapse, sweeping us through the societies that collapsed, and providing warnings regarding the decisions societies make. An important book!
Choice #2: Inside the Kingdom: My Life in Saudi Arabia by Carmen Bin Laden, or, The Looming Tower: Al-Queda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright. Of course, the Wright book is the heftier of the two; it won the Pulitzer, and provides an amazing education about the rise of Al-Queda, what went into their thinking, and especially their animosity toward the West. But there is a personal tone and a very personal take on life in the strict Muslim world of Saudi Arabia in Carmen Bin Laden’s book — the former wife of Yeslam, one of the brothers of Osama Bin Laden. It is a captivating read, and noticeably shorter than The Looming Tower. (You can tell, from this response, that I think we ought to seek to understand this “other” culture that is so foreign to our own).
Choice #3: OK, which two business books to put on the list? Not necessarily which books to read for enjoyment, but which books provide the most important and useful information? I list two choices. I would put The Other 90%: How to Unlock Your Vast Untapped Potential for Leadership and Life by Robert Cooper, because everyone would benefit from reading an occasional “let’s aim high, and take things higher” book. Unfortunately,this book is not available for the Kindle. (Yes, I checked on all the others). So, for this category of business book, I recommend The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. (I haven’t yet read the new Schwartz book, The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working: The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance, which could be a better choice). And, for the other business book, I would have to go with The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande, just because I think it deals with the complexity of this age and provides really valuable suggestions. (And, it gives every patient going in to surgery an important question to ask his or her surgeon: “do you use a checklist?”).
And you will notice that there are no novels on my list. I read about a novel a decade (except for my relatively frequent re-reading of the Nero Wolfe mysteries). But I have actually bought a novel – in the past week. It is: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. I might actually read it – one of these days soon.
Two personal footnotes:
#1 – thanks, Tom, for providing a great idea for a blog post. I apologize for answering you in this fashion.
#2 — And, it would be interesting to have Bob Morris give his list of “only three” in response to this request? I’m pretty sure he would have different titles – all absolutely worth the investment of a Kindle purchase and a few hours of reading. So many books… so little time!
update: I definitely should have put The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis into the mix — as the book I would recommend to help you understand the financial meltdown of the last couple of years. So now I am up to six to choose from, to then narrow down to three. Sorry about that.
We had a wonderful gathering of book lovers and serious learners at the First Friday Book Synopsis this morning – a surprisingly good attendance for a 2nd Friday of July morning.
Next month, Karl Krayer will present a synopsis of the new, important book, Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements by Tom Rath, Ph.D. and James K. Harter (Gallup Press, 2010). (You can read Bob Morris’ review of this book on our blog book here).
I will present a synopsis of the business book classic, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do to Increase the Value of Your Growing Firm, by Verne Harnish (Select Books, 2002). This is a rare choice for us, to present a book that has been around a while. We have only done this a couple of times. The first business book classic we presented was Servant Leadership by Robert Greenleaf. There are a few books that stand the test of time so well – books that either came out before we began the First Friday Book Synopsis in April 1998, or, a book we just happened to miss. Such selections are ones that we feel that we need to include for the value they bring. So, for August, I will present this immensely practical book by Verne Harnish. (You can read Bob Morris’ review of this book on our blog here).
Mark your calendars now, and plan to join us on the first Friday of August, August 6.
I was revisiting Servant Leadership by Robert Greenleaf this week. It is a true classic. The phrase “Servant Leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, an essay that he first published in 1970. The book develops his thoughts more fully, and provides the true and sure foundation from which all succeeding writings on “servant leadership” flow.
Here are some thoughts, with quotes from the book
He wrote the definitive line about servant leadership:
The servant leader is servant first. “It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first.” The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types.
And then he established the agenda for a servant leader’s life and career:
The best test is: do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?
And then he reminded us of the scope of the servant leader’s influence:
And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will they benefit, or, at least, not be further deprived?
And he understood that leadership is leadership of real, “flawed” people:
Acceptance of the person requires a tolerance of imperfection. Anybody could lead perfect people — if there were any. It is part of the enigma of human nature that the “typical” person – immature, stumbling, inept, lazy – is capable of great dedication and heroism if wisely led.
As I revisited this classic work, it dawned on me that we have a genuine shortage of servant leaders at this moment. And with a shortage of such leaders, there is a pretty good chance that this shortage will be perpetuated. Not good!
This is what I think. We all have a tendency to become like the people we follow. Oh for more true servant leaders to follow….
Here is the definition page of “Servant Leadership” from the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership web site.
In Leading Change, John Kotter states that some organizations try to implement a change program which is then likely to be “overmanaged and underled.” In The Leadership Pipeline: How to Build the Leadership-Powered Company by Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter, and James Noel, that theme is more broadly developed. They write:
Because of the new business realities, including ever increasing and unpredictable complexity; AND, because businesses “dramatically reduced their investment in talent development, greatly reducing or even eliminating training programs, development assignments, and time for coaching,” the famine for leaders is acute.
1. The need for leaders has grown exponentially.
2. There are not enough leaders to meet the demand.
3. There is not enough “talent” from which to develop enough leaders.
4. The inevitable consequence is that many (most?) companies are at least partly underled, thus underperforming.
Other authors, almost too numerous to mention, echo such sentiments. Now comes The Best Leadership Is Good Management: Too many so-called leaders fancy themselves above the messy, but crucial, work of managing by Henry Mintzberg in the latest Business Week (published on-line on Aug. 6, 2009). Mr. Mintzberg argues that the opposite is true. He states:
Corporate America has had too much of fancy leadership disconnected from plain old management.
We’re overled and undermanaged. As someone who teaches, writes, and advises about management, I hear stories about this every day: about CEOs who don’t manage so much as deem—pronouncing performance targets, for instance, that are supposed to be met by whoever is doing the real managing.
So – which is it? I suggest that it is both. I think there has been a failure in management. This is the point of such books as Execution and Six Disciplines Execution Revolution. Execution is all about management processes, actually getting the job done, well, and on time. But I think we also face a failure of leadership. It is leadership failure that keeps companies from facing an uncertain future with a strategy to survive and thrive. How many have said that General Motors should have seen the changing landscape far before it did? Leadership is about seeing the big picture, setting the direction—and then making sure that the job gets done.
So – I agree that we’ve got to get a whole lot better at management. But we’ve also got to get a whole lot better at leadership.
Robert Greenleaf nailed this years ago in Servant Leadership. He described two kinds of leaders. His terms were different: Conceptualizers and Operators. But the two roles are the same – an organization needs leaders to help them see the future (conceptualizers), and leaders who can make that future happen (operators).
So, here’s Randy weighing in on the debate. I think Mr. Mintzberg is both right and wrong. He is right – we are undermanaged. But he is wrong – we are not overled. Too many American organizations are, sadly, both undermanaged and underled.