“What they have done has worked for them”…and can work for us as well.
I read this book when it was first published more than a year ago and have since purchased several dozen copies to give as gifts to family members and friends as well as to clients who have (you guessed it) serious “people problems” in the workplace. This review is overdue. Others have shared their reasons for hold this book in such high regard. Here are three of mine. First, its author, Michael O’Malley, is exceptionally well-qualified – as a social psychologist, management consultant, executive editor for Yale University Press, and avid beekeeper — to suggest what lessons can be learned from bees and their culture. He identifies and then discusses 24, devoting a separate chapter to each. They range from “Protect the Future” (#1) to “Create Beautiful, Functional Spaces” (#24). Those who wish to strengthen their leadership and management skills will appreciate the precision and eloquence of O’Malley’s observations, insights, and counsel.
I also appreciate how skillfully he anchors each of his key points in an authentic context, the world of bees. He enables his reader to become almost (not quite) as fascinated as he is with “the regularity of their behavior…[The fact that they] live in colonies with overlapping generations and do all the things we do: provide shelter, care for their young, eat, work, and sleep. In addition, they have developed a [production] system that rivals ours in complexity and surpasses it in efficiency.” As I worked my way through the lively narrative, O’Malley helped me to understand and appreciate “the wisdom of bees” for reasons that have absolutely nothing and yet – paradoxically — everything to do with its relevance to the human workplace.
Finally, I greatly appreciate the fact that O’Malley immediately establishes and then sustains a direct rapport with his reader. I felt as if I were right there with him as he tended to his own bees while providing a running monologue on what was happening…and why. Then later, as if sitting on a porch nearby, his monologue continues with a combination of delight, amazement, and appreciation of what the culture of honeybees reveals about “the twists and turns they make in their struggles. What they have done has worked for them”…and can work for us as well.
If You Are Too Busy To Plan, You Are Too Busy! – Dan Weston Really Can Help You Plan for a Profitable, Successful 2012
How busy are you?
If you are like me, you are so busy doing your job that you practically never have time to think about doing your job better.
We do not save time for planning, for coming up with a new and or improved strategy. To actually go through such a process could be the very best use of our time. But, I suspect, most of us don’t even have a workable process for planning. So, we need to plan, but we don’t take the time to plan, and we don’t have a process to help us plan. We are planning deficient in every way.
We’re so busy: too many fires to put out, too many distractions. And, we have our actual work to do, every day, always demanding our attention. And so, we just plod through, day after day, and make few of the changes that would help us be more productive.
2012 is right around the corner. I think a full day to think about 2012, to plan for 2012, would be a really valuable day – don’t you?
Dan Weston has the workshop we need. Based on the Verne Harnish book and principles/habits, the Mastering the Rockefeller Habits Workshop is just the right mix of a little content, a little prodding, a little coaching, and a lot of time to work through your own plan for 2012. Dan Weston, a Certified Emeritus Gazelles Coach, is a master at leading you in your own planning session. He guides, you work. It really is a day worth your time and investment.
You could do this on your own – by yourself. But you probably won’t. (Did you take a day last year, to plan for 2011?)
Dan will “make” you plan for 2012. In fact, without a day like this, 2012 will just happen to you. And, at the end of the year, you’ll say I should have planned better. Don’t let that happen! This way, you have a shot at being proactive, more “in charge” of your 2012.
So, reserve your spot, carve out your entire day, bring your key team members, and plan to plan for a profitable growth year in 2012.
Click here for all the details.
Here’s what Dan Weston promises for his workshop:
Learn how to accelerate profitable growth using the Rockefeller Habits.
You will learn these principles for growth and build the following areas of your One-Page Strategic Plan for 2012:
> Core Values & Purpose: Enliven your identity and energize your employees
> Ideal Customer & Brand Promise: Develop clarity on your “who” and on your unique, targeted and measurable differentiator
> Growth Targets & One-Year Plan: Set your strategic targets for the next 3-5 years and your measurable, one-year goals and priorities for 2012
> Priorities & Metrics: Make your most critical short-term decisions for your 13-week race by setting quarterly and personal priorities and metrics
> Communication Rhythms: Develop practical and efficient regular meeting rhythms to keep meetings short and effective
> Top Talent: Learn to identify, hire and retain A performers who will accelerate your growth
> Clarity & Accountability: Ensure everyone in your company is clear on accountabilities and has a roadmap for growth
All participants will receive a FREE copy of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits!
Dan Weston, and his Mastering the Rockefeller Habits Workshop, sponsored the September First Friday Book Synopsis. But, I can speak personally, Dan Weston is the real deal, and this day would be an invaluable day for you and your company.
Gail McMeekin loves to inspire people to envision and then achieve their personal and professional goals. She is a licensed psychotherapist who became fascinated with the concept of “why so many people hate their jobs.” She then shifted her focus to a passion for helping people to find their own Creative Success, which is the name of her coaching/mentoring/writing business in Boston. As her own creative renaissance unfolded, she started painting, writing, and studying the lives of creative men and women. She then became outraged that there were not more positive, viable role models for modern-day, sane, creative women, so she wrote her first book, The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women: A Portable Mentor (Conari Press, 2000), In 2001, Conari Press published her second book, The Power of Positive Choices. Her most recent book is The 12 Secrets of Highly Successful Women: A Portable Life Coach for Creative Women (RedWheelWeiser/Conari) and a new book, The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women Journal, will be published in November to celebrate the 10th anniversary edition of her first book.
McMeekin now coaches and mentors men and woman all over the world to help them to turn their best ideas into successful heartfelt businesses and creative products and services. She earned a B.A. degree from Connecticut College, an M.S.W. from Boston University, and a certificate in Human Resource Management from Bentley College, and completed the coursework for the Coaches Training Institute.
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Morris: Before discussing your two 12 Secrets books, a few general questions. First, other than a family member, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth?
McMeekin: I have been blessed to have many wonderful mentors and insightful friends, but I have to credit a very special woman, Andrea Szmyt, formerly of Cambridge, MA, who died unexpectedly several years ago, with helping me to get on the path of creativity and personal empowerment. Andrea ran entrepreneur groups and taught prosperity workshops and her work impacted many people, some of whom I am still in touch with. In fact, one woman I met through Andrea, Marilyn Veltrop of Pathfinders, Inc. in CA, is my daily email partner to do this day.
Morris: On your professional development?
McMeekin: Again, I have had many teachers and mentors and a rich life of learning and stimulation. Two of my major mentors, who I interviewed for my new book The 12 Secrets of Highly Successful Women, are Ali Brown and Baeth Davis. Both of these women are both spiritual and businesses leaders and profound teachers and they have inspired me to keep thinking about taking my visions to the next step, in alignment with self-care and prosperity.
Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course that you continue to follow? Please explain.
McMeekin: When I was 35, I came down with what was then a mysterious illness, CFS, and I had to stop living my life the way I had been and I totally shifted my energies and priorities. I got married, left corporate training, released burdensome clients and non-mutual relationships, and started writing again, which had been a lifetime dream, and doing expressive arts and many forms of healing. When you have less energy, you get very clear on how you want to use it and preserve it. This set me on the path to writing my first book on successful creative women and pondering how to best live that kind of expressive life and not fall into the starving artist trap.
Morris: To what extent has your formal education proven invaluable to the success of your career thus far?
McMeekin: My educational background has been a solid foundation for the work that I do today as my knowledge of psychology, human development, creativity, and career development serves me everyday. But I am always learning and taking personal and professional development courses and I am currently learning the complex art of Scientific Hand Analysis to help people quickly discover their life purpose and their special gifts, as well as their life lesson, which can sabotage their dreams.
Morris: What do you know now about business that you wish you knew when you launched the “Guided Growth” career consulting and organizational workshops and projects in 1982?
McMeekin: I am very intuitive and right-brained in my thinking and I test out in the 99th percentile of Ideaphoria, which is a rapid flow of ideas, and I always have way more ideas than time to pursue them. So I have had to learn to be ruthless in focusing my time and energy. It is interesting that I come from a family of MBA’s who are great at running the numbers and very strategic in their evaluation of ROI and financial analysis. While I have a great business sense in terms of people and their empowerment, I am now learning to focus more on metrics and have hired new staff to help me to track efforts and their effectiveness in terms of money and results. I have plans to start a Foundation for Successful Creatives and I need to generate additional resources to do that. Do I wish I had gotten an MBA? No — but a stronger business partner who has the analytics down would have been helpful earlier on.
Morris: To what extent has Guided Growth’s original mission since changed, perhaps after the firm was renamed “Creative Success”?
McMeekin: Guided Growth is still an underlying concept to Creative Success. But as my own thinking progressed, I wanted creativity to be a central concept of my business, as people came to me wanting help with a change in their lives as well as a longing to bring into being something new. Success simply means a positive outcome or result and my mission is to help people to develop a clear vision of what they truly want in their hearts and souls and then be able to plow through the obstacles and bring that vision into being. My partnerships with clients and readers certainly involves guidance and stimulants for growth and mentoring, but the coaching part of the work I do keeps people accountable, provides feedback and challenges as needed, and encourages people to keep their promises to themselves.
Morris: Of all the women throughout history, which five would you invite to a private dinner party? Please explain your reasons for each selection.
McMeekin: As a child I was fascinated with women of courage. Two in particular were Joan of Arc and Mary Queen of Scots who were willing to die for what they believed in. I would also invite Princess Diana who overcome the horrors of bulimia, the scorn of the Royal family, and an unloving husband and became an ambassador of peace and healing in the world. Her ability to hold those children with AIDS in her arms is something I will never forget. I would invite Oprah as I think she too overcame abuse and went on to promote truthfulness, literacy, and healing and became a spiritual leader. I would also invite Meryl Streep who is my favorite actress and I so admire her ability to play so many different characters and I would like to hear what she has learned from that.
Morris: Opinions are divided, sometimes sharply divided, about the nature and extent of progress that women in business have achieved since (let’s say) 1984 when Geraldine Ferraro was selected by Fritz Mondale to join him as candidate for vice president on the presidential ticket. What are your own thoughts about this subject of “progress”?
McMeekin: Certainly as one looks out over the US Senate and Congress, women are grossly underrepresented and their interests are way down on the priority list in today’s political climate and the introduction of new legislation. Women are still only making 80 cents on the dollar at work and many Boardrooms only have one token woman or none. Many women have dropped out of corporate America and are starting their own businesses to escape the sexist games and workaholic hours that are non-family friendly. Certainly there are more women as sole breadwinners so they are pursuing educational opportunities and striving to have more influence and affluence.
Morris: In your opinion, what is the single greatest challenge today that women face who aspire to become a CEO of a Fortune 500 company? Any advice?
McMeekin: They have to have a vision that is multi-faceted and financially viable, as well as humane, and are able to lead from that vision.
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To read the complete interview, please click here.
Gail McMeekin cordially invites you to check out the resources at her website by clicking here.
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.
(paraphrased from Charles Darwin)
Do you remember the TV show All In The Family? In the episode Gloria and the Riddle, Gloria stumps Archie with a classic riddle:
A man and a son were in a car accident. The son was rushed into the emergency room. The doctor announced “I can’t operate on him. He’s my son.” The doctor was not the boy’s father. Why couldn’t the doctor operate?
Archie Bunker never could figure it out – but Edith did, and Archie did not like the answer! It aired on October 7, 1972 (the year I graduated from college), and it seems utterly amazing that an entire show could be built around a riddle that stumped everyone then, and would stump no one today.
Our oldest son is a first year medical school student. At his opening (very impressive) White Coat Ceremony, one of the speakers commented on how he remembered, years earlier, when women made up fewer than 8% of the class. They did not announce this year’s percentage, but my brother and I began our unofficial tally when it became obvious – this year’s class was clearly more than 50% female.
I thought of all this as I read about this upcoming debate. If I could be in New York next Tuesday (September 20, 2011), I would definitely want to attend the debate: Men Are Finished: the live Slate/Intelligence Squared debate on Sept. 20 at NYU. (Details here).
One of the two speakers for the motion is Hanna Rosin, author of the recent article The End of Men for The Atlantic. Here are some paragraphs from an interview in Slate with Ms. Rosin. I bolded some portions for emphasis:
Why are men finished, exactly? Rosin says they’ve failed to adapt to a modern, postindustrial economy that demands a more traditionally—and stereotypically—feminine skill set (read: communication skills, social intelligence, empathy, consensus-building, and flexibility). Statistics show they’re rapidly falling behind their female counterparts at school, work, and home. For every two men who receive a college degree, three women will. Of the 15 fastest-growing professions during the next decade, women dominate all but two. Meanwhile, men are even languishing in movies and on television: They’re portrayed as deadbeats and morons alongside their sardonic and successful female co-stars.
The question I always have to respond to (after her The Atlantic article) is, ‘[if women are taking over] why are there so many more men in power?’ If you look at Hollywood, or you look at the Fortune 500 list, or you look at politics, there’s a disproportionate number of men in the higher positions of power.
(Slate: Why is that, then?)
Men have been at this for 40,000 years. Women have been rising for something like 30 or 40 years. So of course women haven’t occupied every single [high-powered] position. How would that be possible? The rise of women is barely a generation old. But if you look at everything else, like the median, the big bulge in the middle, it’s just unbelievable what has happened: Women are more than 50 percent of the workforce, and they’re more than 50 percent of managers. It’s just extraordinary that that’s happened in basically one generation. It seems like whatever it is that this economy is demanding, whatever special ingredients, women just have them more than men do.
The overall message of the last 25 to 30 years of the economy is the manufacturing era is coming to an end, and men need to retool themselves, get a different education than the one they’ve been getting, and they’re not doing it.
One of the young guys I interviewed put it to me: “I just feel like my team is losing.” They feel like women have clocked them, and it came as a surprise to this young generation of men, so I don’t know that they can’t catch up. They might.
I wrote a piece in the Atlantic last week about the new TV season in which six different fall sitcoms are about men being surpassed by women.
I have presented synopses of a number of books on some of the difficulties/challenges women face in the workplace:
Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever
Womenomics: Write Your Own Rules for Success by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay.
Knowing Your Value: Women, Money and Getting What You’re Worth by Mika Brzezinski
(and my colleague Karl Krayer presented another Babcok and Leschever book:
Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever.
It is true that women are still underpaid, in comparison with men doing the same job/work. And it is true that men are so very dominant at the very top of the ladder(s). The glass ceiling is still quite real. Consider this quote from the Brzezinski book:
“At the top of the capitalist pyramid, there are almost no women. The areas where the real money and power reside are still occupied almost exclusively by men… How many would picture a Wall Street titan in a skirt? Most of the gain in income and productivity for the whole economy over the past decade, even the past couple of decades, is in the top one percent, and that’s where the women aren’t penetrating.” (Chrystia Freeland, Financial Times).
But, as Ms. Rosin asserts, the tide is turning in so many ways. This may be good (I’m genuinely all for equality) for women, and for society overall, but the men have some serious soul-searching to do, in my opinion. Men, according to Ms. Rosin, have been too slow to adapt (see Darwin paraphrase above), while women have adapted with breathtaking speed to the new realities.
I think this will be quite a debate on September 20.
You can purchase our synopses of three of the books listed above (Women Don’t Ask is not available), with audio + handout, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
Here is an article written by John Boudreau for Talent Management magazine. To check out all the resources and sign up for a free subscription to the TM and Chief Learning Officer magazines published by MedfiaTec, please click here.
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Employees are tired, but hard work is not to be avoided. The key is neither to push employees beyond their limits nor to demand so little you can’t compete.
We all experience the demands of the 24/7 workplaces. The opportunity to work where and when we wish often evolves into the reality of being on all the time. Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of GE, said, “There are 24 hours in a day, and you can use all of them if you want.” Technology creates massive productivity enhancements, but at what cost? Is fatigue just something each employee must deal with, or is it a legitimate focus for talent managers? Recent reports of air traffic controllers falling asleep on the job, for example, offer a vivid warning of the costs and risks that employee fatigue can cause.
So, we must ask ourselves, are work requirements that lead to stress and burnout a threat to organizational sustainability? At the Center for Effective Organizations, we are studying the factors that will shape the future of the HR profession. In our discussions with leaders across a wide array of organizations, they frequently point to the fatigue factor as one of the most important, yet most ignored, potential threats to talent management and organizational sustainability.
The answer likely isn’t that organizations should strive for a stress-free workplace — that’s impractical. Yet, it is not sufficient to just leave this issue to chance, or to continue to demand more and more from our employees. Talent managers have to find the balance.
I worked with a mining company on a project to improve its human capital planning and discovered the organization was facing a shortage of mining engineers and rising turnover among its existing engineers. The company was making do with the engineers it had, which meant giving every mine the necessary engineering attention, but nothing more. To do this, the company had to rotate engineers across the mines at a faster rate than if it were fully staffed. As a result, these engineers were constantly on the move. They were under more pressure, seeing their families less and traveling far more than if the company had a full complement of engineers available.
How could talent planning address this? We turned to another vital asset — the trucks that haul ore and other materials around the mine. Let’s say a mine needs four trucks, which allows each truck to be driven at the optimal speed, keeps wear and tear at optimal levels, and allows optimal maintenance. Truck health is measured relentlessly, including real-time speeds, lubricant deterioration, tire pressure and running hours. A mine manager could make do with only three trucks if they are run a little faster, are allowed to depreciate more and if the manager delays maintenance. This would probably even save money — in the short run. Yet, all those aforementioned measures ensure mine managers never do this. They are held accountable for optimal truck usage, not short-run expedience.
So, why would a company tolerate a shortage of engineers, with the resulting pressure, stress, health issues and turnover, when it would never allow that for trucks? This is even more troubling because research in industrial psychology and human resource management has indicated measures of stress, engagement, satisfaction and intention can cause employees to leave their organizations. Such measures are seldom in the lexicon of an organization’s leaders or talent management systems, yet they provide the same early warning about the deterioration of the mining engineer as the maintenance measures provided for trucks.
Yes, employees are tired, but hard work is not to be avoided. The key is neither to push employees beyond their limits nor to demand so little you can’t compete. Equipment optimization means finding the level of usage and maintenance that is best for the truck and its role. Employee optimization means addressing the fatigue factor analytically with human capital planning and measures, not just opinions or hope.
Human beings are not trucks, but doesn’t talent deserve rigor on optimum health and productivity? Shouldn’t employee fatigue be as much the focus of leader decisions as truck depreciation?
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In my opinion, the single best source for information, insights, and recommendations on workplace fatigue is Tony Schwartz’s The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working: The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance, recently reissued as Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys To Transforming the Way We Work and Live and published by Free Press (2011).
John Boudreau is professor and research director at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business and Center for Effective Organizations, and author of Retooling HR: Using Proven Business Tools to Make Better Decisions about Talent. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Note: Perhaps 30-35 years ago, probably in an article for Harvard Business Review, Peter Drucker said something to the effect, “If you don’t think you’re in the hospitality business, then you won’t have any business. People must feel appreciated before they will buy anything from you.”
The Nature and Value of Authentic Hospitality
This book will be of great interest and even greater value if one or more of the following is relevant to you:
1. You have direct and frequent contact with customers.
2. You personally train and/or supervise those who do.
3. You need to improve your “people skills” in your business and personal relationships.
4. Your organization has problems attracting, hiring, and then keeping the people it needs to prosper.
5. Your organization has problems with others who, for whatever reasons, consistently under-perform.
It is no coincidence that many of those on Fortune magazine’s annual list of most admired companies reappear on its annual list of most profitable companies. Moreover, both customers and employees rank “feeling appreciated” among the three most important attributes of satisfaction. Now consider the total cost of a mis-hire or the departure of a peak performer: Estimates vary from six to 18 times the annual salary, including hours and dollars required by the replacement process.
Until now, I have said nothing about Danny Meyer nor about the restaurant industry so as to reassure those who read this brief commentary that, although Setting the Table does indeed provide interesting information about him and his background, the book’s greater value derives (in my opinion) from the lessons he has learned from his successes and failures thus far, both within and beyond the kitchen.
One of the most important concepts in this book is hospitality. Here’s what Meyer has to say about it: “hospitality is the foundation of my business philosophy. Virtually nothing else is as important as how one is made to feel in any business transaction. Hospitality exists when you believe the other person is on your side. The converse is just as true. Hospitality is present when something happens [begin italics] for [end italics] you. It is absent when something happens [begin italics] to [end italics] you. These two simple propositions – for and to – express it all.” According to Meyer, service is the technical delivery of a product. Hospitality is how the delivery of that product makes its recipient feel about the transaction. This is precisely what Leonard Berry has in mind when explaining what he calls “the soul of service.”
Another of the most important concepts in this book is “connecting the dots” which Meyer views as a process by which information accumulated “can make meaningful connections that can make other people feel good and give you an edge in business. Using whatever information I’ve collected to gather guests together in a shared experience is what I call connecting the dots.”
Of special interest to me are those whom Meyer characterizes as mentors to whom he has turned for sound (albeit candid) advice. For example, on one occasion he enthusiastically “showed off” to Pat Cetta (co-owner of Sparks Steakhouse) a new dish just added to the Union Street Café menu: Fried oyster Caesar salad. Cetta’s response? “This dish is nothing more than mental masturbation. You’re clearly doing it just to get noticed by Florence Fabricant [in the New York Times]. And the bad news is that she won’t even like it. I guarantee you that shit is coming off your menu within two months – and if I were you, I’d take it off in two minutes. You know better than that, luvah!” Meyer agreed and quickly retired the dish.
As indicated earlier, I think the lessons which Meyer generously shares in this book, especially those learned from errors of judgment (“the road to success is paved with mistakes well handled”) are of substantial value to managers in all organizations, regardless of size or nature. If there were a rating higher than Five Stars when I reviewed it for various Amazon websites, I would give it to this thoughtful, eloquent, and entertaining book.