I have really enjoyed reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. (I am presenting my synopsis of this book at our First Friday Book Synopsis this Friday). It is a terrific book, reminding us that nearly half of the people around us are introverts — many of them “faking” a little extroversion, because such extroversion is so expected and demanded in an extroversion heavy world.
Ms. Cain argues persuasively that we need to let introverts be a little more like introverts in the workplace. I was especially struck by her description of the rise of Dale Carnegie (the person, and then his still-prominent “industry,” found in the the Dale Carnegie books and courses. Take a look:
Dale observes that the students who win campus speaking contests are seen as leaders, and he resolves to be one of them. He signs up for every contest and rushes home at night to practice.
The new economy calls for a new kind of man—a salesman, a social operator, someone with a ready smile, a masterful handshake, and the ability to get along with colleagues while simultaneously outshining them. Dale joins the swelling ranks of salesmen, heading out on the road with few possessions but his silver tongue. Dale’s last name is Carnegie (Carnagey, actually; he changes the spelling later, likely to evoke Andrew, the great industrialist).
…the class is an overnight sensation, and Carnegie goes on to found the Dale Carnegie Institute.
“In the days when pianos and bathrooms were luxuries,” Carnegie writes, “men regarded ability in speaking as a peculiar gift, needed only by the lawyer, clergyman, or statesman. Today we have come to realize that it is the indispensable weapon of those who would forge ahead in the keen competition of business.”
Carnegie’s metamorphosis from farmboy to salesman to public-speaking icon is also the story of the rise of the Extrovert Ideal.
It’s this line that is so telling:
The new economy calls for a new kind of man—a salesman, a social operator, someone with a ready smile, a masterful handshake, and the ability to get along with colleagues while simultaneously outshining them.
Dale Carnegie rose to the opportunity and circumstances of his new era. He became more extroverted personally, and in the process helped many others, for decades to come, also become more extroverted. But in so doing, he set in motion a set of expectations that, to this day, leave us just a little “out-of-balance.” And, partly with Susan Cain’s help, we are learning that there is a great need for the Quiet, the reflective, the solitary worker, to work in his/her “natural zone” to get some serious work done. Even for the extroverts among us (yes, I fall pretty far toward the extroversion end of the spectrum), we need some “quiet disciplines.” We need the introverts to help us get our work done, in business and in life.
If you are an introvert, and/or if you work with some introverts, or are married to one, read this book. It will help you understand, and work better with, those who fit at that introversion end of the spectrum.
If you are in the DFW area, come join us for this is synopsis. (Click here to register).
Here is a brief excerpt from an article written by George Dohrmann and published in Sports Illustrated magazine (March 5, 2012).
As I began to read the article, I was reminded of a poem, Ozmandias, written by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822 ) and first published in 1818:
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
Here is the excerpt from Dohrmann’s article. To read all of it, please click here.
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This story appears in the March 5, 2012 issue of Sports Illustrated. Buy the digital version of the magazine here.
On the evening of Nov. 6, 2007, legendary former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden (1910-2010) spoke to about 600 Bruins student-athletes and coaches. The occasion was the debut of The Wooden Academy, a seminar series in which former UCLA athletes and coaches returned to campus to describe how the tenets from Wooden’s Pyramid of Success had helped them in college or life.
Wooden was 97 years old at the time. He spoke while seated in a padded chair on a small stage just off the baseline of the basketball court at Pauley Pavilion. To his left was a microphone stand with a long arm attached, which positioned the microphone so that Wooden could sit back in his seat.
Wooden talked about some of the players he had coached, and recited the 15 blocks in his Pyramid, which include cooperation, self-control, team spirit and intentness. Wooden also used a metaphor that will ring familiar to readers of his books. Think of a team as a train, he said, and its star player as the locomotive. There is much more to a train than just that engine. If any part of a train fails, if just one nut or bolt gives away, the whole chain of cars can derail.
At the time of Wooden’s talk, UCLA’s basketball program was one of the smoothest-running trains in the country. The Bruins had made consecutive Final Fours and would reach a third in 2008 behind freshman Kevin Love, the team’s new locomotive, who was in the audience that November evening. UCLA coach Ben Howland would join Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski as the only active coaches to lead teams to three straight Final Fours. Howland’s reputation for teaching defense and instilling discipline made him appear to be cut from Wooden’s cloth.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
As Ozmandias exemplifies, few pyramids survive that were built to commemorate pride and arrogance.
My own opinion is that, if anything, Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is stronger today than ever before. He formulated it before his first season of coaching basketball at Dayton High School in Kentucky in 1932. FYI, he was a three-time All-State and All-American in high school and a three-time All-American at Purdue in college. The high school teams he coached had a combined record of 218-42 and the college teams he coached had a combined record of 664-162. Moreover, UCLA won ten NCAA championships, including nine consecutively (1963-1973).
He never measured “success” in terms of games won, even championship games. For Coach Wooden “success” could only be measured in terms of one’s qualities of character.
- Helping people stay well by helping them take steps to prevent cancer or detect it early, when it’s most treatable
- Helping people get wellby being in their corner around the clock to guide them through every step of their cancer experience
- Finding curesby funding groundbreaking research that helps us understand cancer’s causes, determine how best to prevent it and discover new ways to cure it
- Fighting back by working with lawmakers to pass laws to defeat cancer and rally communities worldwide to join the fight
Here is an excerpt from another excellent article in Jeff Haden‘s “Owner’s Manual” series for Inc. magazine. To read the complete article, check out other online resources, and obtain information, please click here.
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Forget about raises and better benefits. Those are important — but this is what your staff really wants.
Getting a raise is like buying a bigger house; soon, more becomes the new normal.
Higher wages won’t cause employees to automatically perform at a higher level. Commitment, work ethic, and motivation are not based on pay.
To truly care about your business, your employees need these eight things—and they need them from you.
[Actually, here are three of the eight. To read the complete article, please click here.]
1. Freedom. Best practices can create excellence, but every task doesn’t deserve a best practice or a micro-managed approach. (Yes, even you, fast food industry.)
Autonomy and latitude breed engagement and satisfaction. Latitude also breeds innovation. Even manufacturing and heavily process-oriented positions have room for different approaches.
Whenever possible, give your employees the freedom to work they way they work best.
2. Targets. Goals are fun. Everyone—yes, even you—is at least a little competitive, if only with themselves. Targets create a sense of purpose and add a little meaning to even the most repetitive tasks.
Without a goal to shoot for, work is just work. And work sucks.
3. Mission. We all like to feel a part of something bigger. Striving to be worthy of words like “best” or “largest” or “fastest” or “highest quality” provides a sense of purpose.
Let employees know what you want to achieve, for your business, for customers, and even your community. And if you can, let them create a few missions of their own.
Caring starts with knowing what to care about—and why. Employees will care about your business when you care about them first.
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Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Andreas Kluth for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, and sign up for a subscription to HBR email alerts, please click here.
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Something odd and interesting happens to a lot of people who become very successful. Once the initial thrill wears off, they come to perceive their success as “a catastrophe” and even as “a kind of death,” as the playwright Tennessee Williams famously put it, after The Glass Menagerie became a smash hit in 1944. Athletes, scientists, generals, entrepreneurs, executives, performers, and politicians have expressed this paradox in different words. Paul Samuelson, an economist who won the Nobel Prize in 1970, later concluded that, “After winners receive the award and adulation, they wither away into vainglorious sterility.”
Understanding this bizarre inversion, or perversion, of success is one of the things that I set out to do in my book, Hannibal and Me: What History’s Greatest Military Strategist Can Teach Us About Success and Failure, inspired by a famous line in a Rudyard Kipling poem: “Meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two Impostors just the same.”
The idea that disaster, or failure, can be an impostor is in some ways more intuitive. In places such as Silicon Valley, it has become almost fashionable to fail fast, early, and often — in a sense, to fail into success and call it innovation. Even in our wider society, a lot of people are discovering that their personal disasters paradoxically liberated them to start anew, to live the life they actually wanted but needed an excuse to start living.
The other impostor — triumph, or success — can be the more sinister and cunning of the pair. Success adjusts its weapon to its victim. Some people succumb to hubris, the arrogant overconfidence that often follows success (think Tiger Woods or Eliot Spitzer). Others fall prey to less spectacular but more insidious manifestations of the impostor, such as distraction or paranoia.
But perhaps the subtlest ruse of success, and the one I will focus on in this post, is its way of imprisoning its owner. Specifically, it seems to be the successful person’s imagination that is taken captive.
Success often comes from a feat of freedom by somebody’s “impudent” imagination (Albert Einstein’s word). Consider Pablo Picasso circa 1907. How did this young man (in his twenties) have the outrageous idea to draw a group of prostitutes in a brothel as though their faces were primitive African masks and their limbs disembodied cubes? Nothing of the sort had ever been done before. It was a leap of the imagination, a shocking transgression, an idea that required his imagination to burst out of all restrictions. And then it became a painting, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, which was Picasso’s triumph.
Or take a similar feat of free imagination in a military context. In 218 BCE, the Carthaginian general Hannibal decided to attack the Roman empire. Hannibal was also in his twenties, and he too had an outrageous idea. He would invade Italy by marching a huge army, including war elephants, through Spain and France and then across the uncharted and terrifying Alps in the snow of winter. This was considered physically impossible. Reasonable people, such as the Romans, did not “allow” it as a strategy, and thus did not plan for it. But that’s what Hannibal did. And then, in Italy, he routed and slaughtered the much larger Roman armies three times, killing about a quarter of Italian men in the process.
Often, nothing much happens at first. Many successful people do not crash and burn. In Hannibal’s case, he stayed in Italy for sixteen years in total, undefeated the entire time. Well into his middle age, he was still considered invincible. Nor, however, was he able to produce more triumphs to build on his early ones to achieve the end toward which his successes were supposed to be means, that end being the defeat of Rome. As we know today (just by looking around at the Roman columns on our government buildings), Rome would eventually win this war.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
Andreas Kluth has been writing for The Economist since 1997. He is currently the magazine’s U.S. West Coast correspondent, covering politics, society, and economy in California and the western states. A dual citizen of Germany and America, Kluth is a graduate of Williams College and the London School of Economics.
The Catastrophe of Success, Andreas Kluth, Harvard Business Review blog, HBR email alerts, Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie Paul Samuelson, Hannibal and Me: What History’s Greatest Military Strategist Can Teach Us About Success and Failure, Rudyard Kipling, Albert Einstein’s, Pablo Picasso Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, The Economist, Williams College, London School of Economics
A 21st century version of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave
In his comments in the “Editor’s Note” section that precedes the Introduction, Warren Bennis acknowledges that he was fascinated by Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan’s “gutsy aspiration to integrate an interdisciplinary slew of disciplines as disparate as brain science, linguistics, organizational theory, and complex adaptive systems with a few fundamental laws of human and organization behavior that could lead to palpable and profound change in both domains.” Frankly, I had no idea what to expect when I began to read this book but soon realized that Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan would be focusing on an especially serious challenge that most people face every day: How to develop the ability to “rewrite the future”? That is, “rewrite what people know will happen.” In this brilliant book, they explain how Three Laws of Performance can help their reader to complete a natural shift “from disengaged to proactive, from resigned to inspired, from frustrated to innovative.” Part I (Chapters 1-3) “takes these laws one at a time, and shows how to apply them” and answers the question “Why do people do what they do?; then Part II (Chapters 4 and 5) “looks at leadership in light of the Three Laws” and answers the question “What are the interrelationships between language and occurrence?”; and finally, Part 3 (Chapters 6-8), “is about the personal face of leadership” and answers the question “How does future-based language transform how situations occur to people?”
Note: “What exactly does [the word] occur mean? We mean something beyond perception and descriptive experience. We mean the reality that arises within and from your perspective on the situation. In fact, your perspective is itself part of the way in which the world occurs to you. `How a situation occurs’ includes your view of the past (why things are the way they are) and the future (where all this is going”). Indeed, they assert, “None of us sees how things are. We see how things occur to us.”
Throughout their narrative, Zaffron and Logan urge their reader to keep in mind that the Three Laws of Performance really are laws, not rules, tips, stages, or steps. Each of the three “distinguishes the moving parts at play behind an observable phenomenon. A law is invariable. Whether you believe in gravity or not doesn’t lessen its effect on you.” Nor does any of the three lessen its effect on performance. The challenge is to understand them, to understand how there are interactions and even interdependences between and among them, and most important of all, how to apply them effectively, productively, and consistently.
Bennis and the others have their own reasons for thinking so highly of this book. Here are two of mine. First, Zaffron and Logan’s ideas about “rewriting the future” may at first seem (as Bennis’ suggests) “astonishing” but not after understanding exactly what they mean by it. Specifically, to “rewrite” is to overcome the quite normal tendencies of not seeing and hearing what is but, rather, only what we expect based on past “occurrences”; of protecting and defending what James O’Toole so aptly describes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom;” of encouraging and, if necessary, forcing others to accept our determinations of what is and is not real; and of using descriptive language (i.e. that which accurately depicts the world as it once was or is now) rather than future-based language (also called generative language) to “craft vision, and to eliminate the blinders that are preventing people from seeing possibilities.” In essence, “rewriting the future” involves using future-based language that projects a new future that replaces what conventional thinking predicts, once a process of “blanking the canvas” has been completed. Zaffron and Logan explain that process on Pages 74-81. I also suggest re-reading the discussion of “Rackets” on Pages 45-47.
Another reason why I think so highly of this book is that, in Chapter 6 (“Who or What Is Leading Your Life?”) Zaffron and Logan share some especially interesting insights about “taking on some deep work – the kind of work that needs to be done for us to be leaders in our lives. And we really mean being a leader in all respects of our lives, including at work, in relationships, with family, with community, even with all of society.” As I worked my way through this chapter, much of the material resonated with material in another book that I also highly admire, Alan Watts’s The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are. With regard to the subtitle, Watts explains that there is no need for a new religion or a new bible. “We need a new experience — a new feeling of what it is to be `I.’ The lowdown (which is, of course, the secret and profound view) on life is that our normal sensation of self is a hoax, or, at best, a temporary role that we are playing, or have been conned into playing — with our own tacit consent, just as every hypnotized person is basically willing to be hypnotized. The most strongly enforced of all known taboos is the taboo against knowing who or what you really are behind the mask of your apparently separate, independent, and isolated ego.”
This is precisely what Zaffron and Logan have in mind when stressing that each individual must first understand and then be guided and informed by the Three Laws before attempting to transform others. In the final chapter, they urge their readers to take on and then sustain seven commitments that, when made with integrity, will break the “performance barrier” in various conversation, first with one’s self and then with others. For example, commit to creating a new game by declaring that something is important. “That is what you are putting at stake, and it is what you are holding yourself accountable to. When others commit to the [new] game with you, they join you on the field.”
This what Jim Collins and Jerry Porras have in mind when advocating that an organization commit to what they call a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. As they explain in Built to Last, it is “a huge and daunting goal — like a big mountain to climb. It is clear, compelling, and people `get it’ right away. A BHAG serves as a unifying focal point, galvanizing people and creating team spirit as people strive toward a finish line…a BHAG captures the imagination and grabs people in the gut…Indeed, when you combine quiet understanding of the three circles with the audacity of a BHAG, you get a powerful, almost magical mix.”
Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan are world-class pragmatists. They have no illusions or delusions about how difficult the challenges will be for those who make the seven commitments. However, they offer this strong reassurance to their reader: “There are no circumstances in business or in life that you can’t handle with the Three Laws. No matter what hurdles you have to jump, challenges have to face, unfamiliar territory you have to cross, you’re ready for it. Play the game passionately, intensely, and fearlessly. But don’t make it significant. It’s just a game.”
How and why simplifying operations, sharpening focus, and liberating energy can be an antidote to escalating complexity
As Chris Zook and James Allen indicate in the Introduction, they share an interest in why so few companies (i.e. less than 10%) “have been able to achieve more than a modest level of sustained and profitable growth over the course of the last decade.” They cite three ways in which the nature of strategy is changing (see Pages 2-3) and then offer to explain how “the enduringly successful companies maintain a form of simplicity at their core. They have done so by creating what we call Great Repeatable Models that adhere to a consistent set of principles.” Actually, there are three: (1) a strong, well-defined core, (2) clear nonnegotiables, and (3) systems for closed-loop learning.
That is to say, Great Repeatable Models stay ahead because they compress the distance between management and the front line, enable better decisions to be made faster, and facilitate, indeed expedite continuous improvement. Although Zook and Allen carefully identify the “what” of building enduring businesses for a world of constant change, they devote most of their attention to explain HOW. This is consistent with the approach they take in Profit from the Core (Updated Edition, 2010). They thoroughly explain the three principles, devoting a separate chapter to each, then shift their attention – and their reader’s – to an especially important consideration, entropy, and how business leaders must avoid or respond and then eliminate it with behaviors that will help their companies to sustain and adapt their repeatable models “to fight the natural forces of entropy that seek to stop them.”
Readers will appreciate – and would be well-advised to review periodically – the “Ten Top Conclusions” that Zook and Allen share in Chapter 6 (Pages 199-202), material that compresses most of the most important insights shared in previous chapters. These conclusions “cut across different topics – how the world is changing and what it means for strategy, the power of the Great Repeatable Models, the design principles of strategies build around repeatable models, and their benefits, and of course, their limitations.”
Zook and Allen also include a “Repeatable Model Diagnostic” (Table A2-1, Pages 214-216), followed by an especially informative “Summary of Top Thirty Case Studies” (AB Inbev to Vanguard) in Appendix 3, Pages 217-228. It is important to keep in mind, when reading this book, that “complexity has become the silent killer of growth strategies” and that understanding what repeatable models are not (e.g. performance of repetitive tasks, replication everywhere of a business concept, an endless to-do list forced upon frontline employees) is perhaps at least as important as understanding what they are. It is also important to keep in mind that there are multiple Great Repeatable Models in almost any industry, and, that “performance is more about management decisions than the business [one happens] to be in.”
I think complexity resembles kudzu, at least in terms of its ability to “strangle” an organization. Chris Zook and James Allen can help to prevent or resolve that threat.
Here is an article written by Deborah Busser for Talent Management magazine. To check out all the resources and sign up for a free subscription to the TM and/or Chief Learning Officer magazines published by MedfiaTec, please click here.
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Feedback can be a double-edged sword. If delivered in the right way, it can further employee development; but if misused, it can breed defensiveness or dread.
When leveraged appropriately, feedback can be a tool to further employee development; however, in many companies, the process of delivering feedback becomes an “event” and ultimately undermines employee engagement.
In the latter instance, employees can become defensive rather than receptive; managers often dread having performance conversations; and the organization does not benefit from a potential increase in productivity or innovation that a candid, constructive dialogue might provide.
Here are [two of] five points to bear in mind when providing feedback:
1. Make it consistent. Feedback should not be an “event” that’s tied only to performance reviews, or worse, only to performance improvement plans. The leaders who are most respected are those who take the time and are involved enough with their employees to provide meaningful feedback on a regular basis. Acknowledging employees when they are doing well and quickly addressing areas that need improvement in the moment builds trust and respect in the long term because employees know they are getting the straight story in real time, and that there will not be any surprises at review time.
2. Don’t base information on impressions or assumptions; ask questions. For example, if an employee needs to be given feedback on not handling a client request well, leaders can consider asking questions about what they were hoping to accomplish in the interaction. What did they think the client was really asking for? How did they did decide on their approach? What type of outcome were they hoping to achieve? By assuming that employees’ intentions were positive, it takes them off of the defensive, allowing for a problem-solving discussion where both parties are invested in getting to a better solution or outcome.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
Deborah Busser is a partner at Essex Partners, a consultancy that specializes in senior executive and C-suite career transition. She can be reached at the firm.
I was surprised today (2/28/2012) when I received an e-Mail with Barnes & Noble’s “top picks of this week’s new books.”
The list does not contain a category for “business,” nor do I see a single business book listed.
What’s wrong with this picture? Is this just a bad week for them in the eyes of Barnes & Noble?
Like our other bloggers, I have a great appetite for business books. They have become a passion, and I eagerly anticipate the publication of the best-selling list every Saturday morning the Wall Street Journal Weekend edition.
I think that not including a single business title in the “top picks” of the week is quite strange. This is especially true when lists of top non-fiction books regularly include a number of best-selling business books.
Are you surprised that the list features “cookbooks” but no business books?
How do you interpret this omission? Does it say more about Barnes & Noble, or about the status of business books?
Let me hear from you! Let’s talk about this really soon.
Here is the list that they distributed, with categories in blue:
Hot New Fiction
Trail of the Spellmans
Cinnamon Roll Murder
Ideas and Advice for You
The Power of Habit
The Emotional Life of Your Brain
Let It Go
China’s Wings Kingdom During the Golden Age of Flight
Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith
New Biography & Memoir
House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East
The First Lady of Fleet Street
Burn Down the Ground
The Latest Romance
The Darkest Seduction
New for Kids
Penny and Her Song
The Kane Chronicles Survival Guide
New for Teens
New in Cookbooks
Alain Ducasse Nature
Joy the Baker Cookbook