Tracy Concise but definitely not Tracy Light
I have read all of Brian Tracy’s books and reviewed most of them. In my opinion, he is among the most thoughtful and, when appropriate, thought-provoking business thinkers. He is also an especially pragmatic person who is intrigued by what works, what doesn’t, and why. What we have in his latest book is a consolidation of insights from previous books, articles, keynote and wrap-up speeches, and seminar/workshop material. Two of this book’s greatest virtues are that, first, it offers an excellent introduction to an author of more than 50 books that, collectively, cover just about every dimension of the contemporary business world; also, he shares his most valuable insights concerning an especially important — and difficult — leadership challenge: “One of the things we know is that you cannot motivate other people, but you can remove the obstacles that stop them from motivating themselves. All motivation is self-motivation.” I agree. However different the greatest leaders throughout history may be in most respects, all of them possessed (invoking a gardening metaphor) a “green thumb” for “growing” other people by inspiring them to motivate themselves.
Here in Dallas near the downtown area, we have a Farmer’s Market at which several merchants offer slices of fresh fruit as samples. In that spirit, I now offer a few “slices” from Tracy’s book. First, two suggestions to improve participative management (Page 33):
“Take the time to actively engage employees in their work by sharing, discussing, and encouraging each employee to participate with you in determining the best way to perform the given task or achieve the given goal.”
“Seek every way to have employees accept personal ownership of the job by asking questions, encouraging them, and listening to them when they want to talk. The more they can discuss the work with you, the more committed they will be to doing the job and doing it well.”
Next, The Seven Parts of the Brainstorming Process (Pages 89-91):
1. Choose an optimum group size: The ideal group size is 4-7 people.
2. Select both a leader for the table and a recorder: The leader keeps the discussion moving on track; the recorder documents the discussion.
3. Set a specific time limit for the session: Preferably, 15-45 minutes.
4. Define one specific problem to solve or one question to answer: Then focus on doing that.
5. Focus initially on the quantity rather than the quality of ideas: Prune and refine later.
6. Suspend all judgment: Concentrate on generating ideas, period.
7. Gather all ideas for evaluation later: Eliminate duplications; treat all other ideas equally.
In this small but substantial book, experienced managers will find dozens of helpful reminders; less experienced managers and those preparing for a business career will find valuable information, insights, and advice that will help them to improve their own performance as well as another’s.
Invaluable advice from 73 sales mentors
Ivan R. Misner and Don Morgan have co-authored several books, including Masters of Success as well as this one in which 73 “masters of sales” share their secrets. What soon became obvious to me as I worked my way through this book is that I was exploring a paradox: peak performers in sales share much in common (persistence, rigorous preparation, a positive mental attitude, sharp focus, a high energy level, people skills, a thick skin, etc.) and yet each possesses a unique “something” that cannot be duplicated, or even quantified with any precision. Bill George calls it a person’s “true north, the internal compass that guides you as a human being at your deepest level. It is your orienting point – your fixed point in a spinning world – that helps you stay on track as a leader. Your True North is based on what is most important to you in terms of your most cherished values, your passions and motivations, the sources of satisfaction in your life. Just as a compass points toward a magnetic field, your True North pulls you toward the purpose of your leadership.”
The subtitle of this book at least implies that by learning various secrets from top sales professionals, the reader will be transformed into “a world class salesperson.” That is, of course, nonsense and Misner and Morgan presumably know better. What their book offers, rather, is a rare opportunity to share insights from dozens of successful people, conveniently assembled within in a single source and presented sequentially in eleven chapters, each of which assigned a central theme. For example, “The Master of Sales Attitude: Aligning Your Inner Self with Your Outside Personal Image” in the first chapter and “Closing the Customer: It’s in the WOW Factor” in the final chapter.
Most of the contributors were unfamiliar to me but I greatly appreciate what they shared. Of course, Misner and Morgan include essays by “the usual suspects” such as Jay Conrad Levinson, Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy, Anthony Robbins, and Harvey Mackay. There are at least two reasons why all of them are generally considered “super stars” in sales: first, they sell lots of their own stuff (i.e. books, CDs and DVDs, seminars and workshops); also, they have successfully trained thousands of others (who bought their stuff) to sell whatever their respective companies offer. But again I wish to stress that Zig Ziglar, for example, does not clone himself. His objective is to inform but also to ignite those with whom he has contact, directly in person or indirectly via his books and tapes. He urges those in sales to master basic skills, of course, but constantly stresses the importance of formulating or adopting strategies and tactics that are most appropriate to their own needs and interests.
In “Sales 101: What Every Sales Professional Needs to Know” (Pages 15-19), Ziglar makes several basic points of indisputable validity – citing ten highly desirable habits that he has found to be “extremely useful” in all aspects of his life — but this advice will be of little (if any value) unless and until another person grasps, indeed embraces its meaning and significance, then applies effectively what she or he has learned from Ziglar. The same is true of advice offered by other successful men and women who, like those who contributed to this book, share the lessons they have learned, especially from their failures.
My guess (only a guess) is that this book will be of greatest value if the Contents section is checked out first so that each reader can then determine which themes – and which selections clustered with each theme – are of greatest interest. (Caveat: It would be a mistake to ignore contributions by those who are unfamiliar.) I presume to suggest that there are three basic questions that each person in sales must be well-prepared to answer when in contact with a prospective buyer. The first two pose no significant challenges (or at least shouldn’t) but success or failure almost always depends on the response to the third. Here they are:
Explicit: Who are you?
Implicit: Are you honest? Do you know what you’re talking about? Have you made an effort to understand my business? Will you protect my best interests? Are you and your organization reliable? Can I trust you?
Explicit: What do you do?
Implicit: Which specific products and services do you offer that I need? Can you answer my questions? Can you help solve my problems? Will you “go the extra mile” when that is necessary?
Explicit: Why should I care?
Implicit: What differentiates you from other sales people? What differentiates your products and services from what competitors offer? What unique value-added benefits do you offer? Will doing business with you strengthen my own customer relationships?
Credit Misner and Morton with carefully selecting and then brilliantly presenting a wealth of material that can help to answer both explicit and implicit questions such as these. Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out the aforementioned Masters of Success also co-edited by Misner and Morgan as well as two books by Tom Butler-Bowdon: 50 Success Classics and 50 Self-Help Classics.
“Why are some companies more successful and more profitable than others?”
It is at least theoretically possible for an organization to have full engagement of its workforce and that any one of those involved is always fully engaged. That said, I view full engagement as an on-going process to achieve a strategic objective rather than as a destination that, once reached, ends the process. Presumably Brian Tracy agrees. As with the outstanding business books, this one answers a very important question: “Why are some companies more successful and more profitable than others?” As is also true of most of Tracy’s other books, this one offers observations, insights, and recommendations that are research-driven, with experience including Tracy’s wide and deep associations with hundreds (thousands?) of all manner of organizations. Also, he quickly identifies the “what” of full engagement, then devotes most of his attention to the “why” and “how” of initiatives to help those who read it to “inspire, motivate, and bring out the best in [their] people.”
Note: I wholly agree that supervisors can inspire those for whom they are responsible but I concluded long ago that motivation must be self-generated.
Credit Tracy with skillful use of reader-friendly devices that consolidate and highlight key points. For example, the provision of an “Action Exercises” at the conclusion of each chapter to facilitate adoption. Also, these…all included within the first four chapters:
• Twenty-five Ideas to Create a Peak Performance/Happy Work
• Environment (Pages 12-24)
• Four Ways to Change (24-25)
• How to Build Companies That Inspire Self-Ideal (53-56)
• Three Essentials of a Peak Performance Workplace (64-66)
• Four Keys to Effective Listening (91-93)
Tracy is obviously a world-class empiricist and diehard pragmatist, almost totally obsessed with understanding what works, what doesn’t, and why…then sharing it with various audiences. His approach is informal but highly-disciplined. His role is that of a personal mentor/coach to each reader. Tracy would be the first to agree, however, that it would be a fool’s errand for any reader to attempt to accept – without scrutiny — all of his assertions, and, to attempt to adopt all of his recommendations – without modification.
After having read and reviewed so many business books, I now share brief comments about what I consider to be the 25 most valuable business insights and the books in which they are either introduced or (one man’s opinion) best explained. Here are 16-20.
16. PERFORMANCE MEASUREMENT: First, determine which tasks are most important. Then, make performance expectations crystal clear to each of those whose performance will be measured. Next, co-determine with them what the metrics for measurement will be. Third and finally, review measurement data after 45-60 days and revise (if necessary) (a) performance expectations and/or (b) the criteria by which performance is measured.
Transforming Performance Measurement
Analytics at Work
Thomas H. Davenport, Jeanne G. Harris, and Robert Morison
17. PERSUASION: This is the art and science of convincing another person or persons to agree with what they are asked to think, believe, or do. The basic requirements include eloquence, conviction, logic, and clarity as well as sufficient information to justify the given proposition or action. The most persuasive people respond effectively to a question that may only be implicit: “What’s in it for me?” One of the most effective persuasion strategies is to appeal to enlightened self-interest.
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
Robert B. Cialdini
Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High
Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler
18. POWER: This is probably one of the most difficult terms to define because it has both positive and negative connotations and can be experienced in so many different dimensions (i.e. mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual). As Thoreau, Ghandi, and then Martin Luther King, Jr. suggest, non-violent resistance can have great power; we also know what other forms of power can do in response to that resistance.
Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t
The Elements of Power: Lessons on Leadership and Influence
Terry R. Bacon
19. PRODUCTIVITY: Get the most and best results from the least consumption resources (e.g. time, energy, materials). It is imperative to know what those desired results are, first. Otherwise, Peter Drucker’s observation applies: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.” Experts recommend that, in meetings and conversations, focus on discussion of what must be done, not on what to discuss.
Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do to Increase the Value of Your Growing Firm
Now…Build a Great Business! 7 Ways to Maximize Your Profits in Any Market
Mark Thompson and Brian Tracy
20. SELLING usually requires these components: a seller, a buyer, and a product and/or service of some kind. The term is also used with regard to convincing people (getting their “buy-in”) such as during change initiatives or during a negotiation (“I’ll buy that”). Whatever the situation, the challenge to anyone selling is to possess the right information (i.e. accurate, sufficient, relevant, and verifiable) and present it effectively (i.e. convincingly).
Selling to the C-Suite: What Every Executive Wants You to Know About Successfully Selling to the Top
Nicholas-A.C.-Read and Stephen J. Bistritz
Mark Thompson and Brian Tracy focus almost entirely on the most important “what” and the most effective “how” with regard to “building” both a great business and a great career in business, doing so one step at a time. There are no head-snapping revelations among the seven “ways” to which the book’s subtitle refers, nor do Thompson and Tracy make any such claim. It is important to remember Thomas Edison’s observation, “Vision without execution is hallucination.” A separate chapter is devoted to each of the seven, explaining HOW to
• Become a great leader
• Develop a great business plan
• Surround yourself with great people
• Offer a great product or service
• Design a great marketing plan
• Perfect a great sales force
• Create a great customer experience
With all due respect to becoming “great” and achieving “greatness,” there is much to be said for the value of information, insights, and advice that will help business leaders and their companies to become better. In fact, as the Japanese word kaizen correctly suggests, improvement is a process, not a destination, and should be continuous.
Granted, all of the exemplars cited are huge global corporations but the lessons to be learned from them are relevant to any organization, whatever its size and nature may be. For example, Cuadra Boots in central Mexico that Thompson and Tracy include among exemplars because of “four essential lessons in product quality and innovation” that the Cuadra brothers and others have had to learn before mega-success [a relative term, to be sure] was possible.” They are:
1. Don’t follow the leader.
2. Create exclusivity.
3. Keep in continuous customer contact.
4. Testing takes you from good to great (or at least to better)
Thompson and Tracy make excellent use of questions throughout their narrative, offering a “checklist” at the conclusion of most chapters that challenges their reader to think about what must be done and how to get it done. They also include excellent questions posed by others, such as Peter Drucker (Pages 49-5) and Fred Reichheld (Pages 108-110) that also focus on what is most important as opposed to what is merely urgent. All effective leaders ask the right questions and they tend to remain the same. Here are five from Drucker: What is your mission? Who is your customer? What does your customer value? What results are you trying to accomplish? What is your plan?
It is easy to ask such questions but sometimes very difficult to know what the right questions to ask are. Drucker would be the first to point that seeking an answer to the wrong question is at least as foolish as “doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.” Thompson and Tracy help the business leaders who read this book to ask the right questions and then, better yet, they help them to obtain the right answers and understand how to respond effectively to them.
This is the Second Edition of an anthology first published in 2000. Marshall Goldsmith and Laurence Lyons selected, organized, and contributed to the material that is divided into four Parts: Foundations of Coaching (Chapters 1-4, Pages 3-42), Building Blocks (Chapters 5-10, Paged 45-82), Leading Change (Chapters 11-18, Pages 87-159), and Applications (Chapters 19-26, Pages 163-243). As Goldsmith and Lyons explain in the Preface, this edition “expounds a well-accepted practice, not a rapidly emerging bright idea. This book contains fourteen brand new chapters; another ten chapters have been significantly revised. We include new detailed case studies, which we know are highly valued by our leaders.”
Presumably this book will be of substantial value to those who are preparing to begin a career in leadership coaching or have recently embarked on one. I also think it will be of great value to most C-level executives and other supervisors who are determined to help develop effective leaders at all levels and in all areas of their organization. For at least some people are full-time executive coaches, much of the material in this book will probably serve as a reminder of what they already know. However, there is always room for increased knowledge as well as improved capabilities (especially information retrieval, diagnostic, and communication skills). For other readers who are primarily responsible for the performance of their direct reports, the material in Parts One and Two will probably be of greatest interest and value. In my opinion, most of the material is relevant to leadership development within any organization, regardless of its size or nature.
Here are two representative samples:
“Coaching is a sub-set of consultation. If coaching is to be successful, the coach must be able, like a consultant, to create a helping relationship with his or her client. To create such a helping relationship, it is necessary to start in the process mode, which involves the learner/client, which identifies what the real problems are that need to be worked on, which builds team in 2which both the coach and th4 client take responsibility for the outcomes.” Coaching and Consultation Revisited: Are They the Same?, Edgar H. Schein (Page 24)
“The first thing is to ask yourself the question, `Why?’ Why do you want to be an executive coach? What is your aim? What is your mission? What is your purpose? What are your goals? Why would you choose to be an executive coach rather than to do something else with your time and your life?…Identify the most important things that you have learned in your career that would be helpful to other people. You must be absolutely clear about what you are going to bring to your coaching clients based on your own knowledge and experience.” Making the Transition from Executive to Executive Coach, Brian Tracy (Page 101 & Page 102). Tracy also identifies “four key principles in strategic marketing” of executive coaching services: specialize in a particular area, “set yourself apart” (i.e. differentiate yourself from the competition), find your niche market, and focus your efforts. Tracy recommends clearly defining (in writing) the value offering, how much to charge for services, how to market those services, where services will be provided, and positioning (i.e. determining the words that describe you”).
Obviously, a C-level executive or supervisor needs to modify the advice to full-time executive coaches (such as provided in the last excerpt from Gautier and Giber’s article) but even so, as indicated previously, I think almost any C-level executive or supervisor can learn a great deal from the same advice that can be applied during opportunities each day to help direct reports to strengthen their own leadership and management skills, improve their performance, and in countless other ways add value to an organization.
All organizations need supervisors at all levels and in all areas who are constantly strengthening most of the same skills that the most effective executive coaches have. Here is probably the best single source for information and counsel about how to develop an organization can “grow” its own executive coaches. I presume to add that, when interviewing candidates, one of the major criteria should be the capacity to become an effective executive coach.
In both this volume and in 50 Self-Help Classics, Butler-Bowdon has selected and then provided a rigorous examination of carefully selected works which have had, for decades, a profound impact on those who read them and then applied the principles which their respective authors affirm. In this instance, “winning wisdom” to apply in one’s life and work. There are several reasons why I hold this volume in such high regard. Here are three.
First, Butler-Bowden has assembled excerpts and focused on key points from a wide variety of works which include (with authors listed in alphabetical order, as in the book) Horatio Alger’s Ragged Dick, Andrew Carnegie’s Autobiography, Jim Collins’ Good to Great, Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, Thomas J. Stanley’s The Millionaire Mind, Brian Tracy’s Maximum Achievement, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Sam Walton’s Made in America, and Zig Ziglar’s Meet You at the Top. Obviously, some of this material would also be appropriate for inclusion in 50 Self-Help Classics.
Second, I appreciate the fact that Butler-Bowden also enables his readers to focus on issues of greatest interest to them by suggesting combinations of selections within these four thematic categories:
Motivation (e.g. Tom Hopkins’ The Official Guide to Success)
Fulfilling your potential (e.g. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz’s The Power of Full Engagement)
Prosperity (e.g. Russell H. Conwell’s Acres of Diamonds)
Leadership (e.g. Warren Bennis’ On Becoming a Leader)
The diversity of Butler-Bowdon’s primary sources even within the same category is indeed impressive.
Third and finally, he makes clever use of a number of reader-friendly devices throughout his narrative, such as “In a nutshell,” “Final comments,” and a brief bio of the author at the conclusion of each selection. I also appreciate the inclusion of brief quotations wherever they are most relevant.
In the Introduction, Butler-Bowdon observes that “When we think of success writing it is often the motivational classics that first come to mind, and the titles in this [volume] represent the historical development of the genre….While all of the books have been bestsellers [and many continue to be], the main criterion for their inclusion was their impact and renown, or whether they filled a niche in terms of a particular subject or person….The leaders discussed are not specific markers for your own success — it is generally not a good idea to compare yourself to other people — but their stories illustrate a `way’ of success that anyone can follow.”
I agree with Butler-Bowdon that each person seeking success (however defined and measured) must assume primary responsibility for being and doing whatever is required to achieve it. However, most of those who share or are the subjects of the success “stories” in this volume have duly acknowledged the assistance provided to them along the way by family members, friends, allies, and in several instances, benefactors.
Butler-Bowdon realizes that he is providing “only a taste of the literature (the main ideas, context, and impact of each title)” while urging his readers to “feast on the real thing.” What he offers is by no means a buffet of entrepreneurial “hors d’oeuvres.” On the contrary, the content is solid and skillfully presented effectively. I am convinced that many of those who read this book will then be encouraged to read (or re-read) “the real thing.” If Butler-Bowdon’s efforts accomplish nothing else, that will indeed be sufficient to earn the praise I think he has earned…and justly deserves.
The subtitle of this book refers to “techniques for achieving success” but in my opinion, everything depends on having a mindset for success. This is what Henry Ford meant when observing “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” Only with the right mindset will a person be motivated to identify and then master the skills and then techniques that success (however defined) can be achieved. Ivan Misner and Don Morgan have collaborated on several volumes (including this one), selecting and then assembling material from a remarkably diverse range of sources, including themselves. For example, among the 65 articles, Misner is the author of “The Fundamentals of Success”; Morgan is the author of “Subconscious and SMART Conscious Goals” and “Goal-Setting Process (GSP).” They also co-authored the Preface and a brief introduction to each of the eight chapters.
There are several different ways to read this book, including cover to cover. However, my guess (only a guess) is that most readers will check out the Contents and then cherry-pick those articles whose author and/or title catches their eye. A word of caution: with all due respect to eminences such as Brian Tracy, Anthony Robbins, Tom Hopkins, Wayne Dyer, Mark Victor Hansen and Robert Allen, and Michael Gerber, some of the most valuable material is provided by those who are generally unfamiliar. Case in point: Peter Schutz, former head of Porsche, who shares his thoughts about “a culture of success.” He differentiates success from excellence, noting that success “must come quickly and may be fleeting and fickle” whereas excellence is “lasting and dependable,” adding that “an obsession for success can burn up the manager who seeks it. Excellence will build the manager who strives for it.”
Credit Misner and Morgan with selecting 65 articles that offer diverse and thought-provoking perspectives on how to achieve “success in business and life.” At this point, I presume to include one thought of my own. First, a great deal has been said and written about the importance of “balance.” Is it possible to be a devoted spouse and parent and still have a success business career? For whatever reasons, many men and women have found that very difficult to fulfill all of their obligations in both areas. I have become convinced that a person cannot balance everything but it is possible to balance what is most important, and be willing to accept compromises, adjustments, trade-offs, etc. with regard to everything else.
It remains for each of us to decide what is most important, both in business and in life, and then maintain a proper balance of these priorities. Directly or at least indirectly, all of those who contributed material to this volume can help readers to develop the right mindset so that they can make that determination, and then maintain that balance.
Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out other works authored or co-authored by Misner and Morgan well as two books by Tom Butler-Bowdon: 50 Success Classics and 50 Self-Help Classics.