Here’s the path. You read, you learn, you do, you tweak.
First, you get the information. You get it in your head, you ponder it, you experiment with it – you try it. And then, after you try it, you do stuff — and after you do, you tweak, and make it better. And then you tweak some more, and make it even better.
But, it really can all start with reading.
That is the underlying message in the list of books that the Wall Street Journal compiled in this article by Michael Gerber: The Best Advice Around, From Those Who Took It: We asked entrepreneurs which self-help books helped them get their businesses off the ground or run them more smoothly.
“The E-Myth” by Michael E. Gerber
“Who: The A Method for Hiring” by Geoff Smart and Randy Street
“Start With Why” by Simon Sinek
“The Art of the Start” by Guy Kawasaki
“Little Bets” by Peter Sims
“Mastering the Rockefeller Habits” by Verne Harnish
“Street Smarts: An All-Purpose Tool Kit for Entrepreneurs” by Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham
I have read three of these, presented synopses of two of them, and feel like I know one more (The Sinek book – through his TED talk). Here’s an observation or three: if you don’t yet have an “idea,” then read Little Bets. If you know where to start, but haven’t actually started yet, then read The Art of the Start (this is the book for anyone starting– in any definition of “starting”). And when you start, and you need to establish the disciplines of actually running a company (and you do!), be sure to read Mastering the Rockefeller Habits – it will help you establish your rhythm (“rhythm” — a big word in this highly practical and useful book).
You can purchase my synopses of The Art of the Start and Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, with audio + handout, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
The multi-dimensional “why” of initiative and fulfillment for organizations as well as for individuals
I selected my review’s title because, in his latest book, John Baldoni focuses on how and why having (or not having) a sense of purpose determines whether (or not) success is (or isn’t) achieved by individuals, groups, organizations, and even entire societies. This is precisely what other authors affirm in their books, notably Dave and Wendy Ulrich in The Why of Work, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer in The Progress Principle, Simon Sinek in Start with Why, and Dan Pink in DRiVE.
Baldoni is convinced (and I wholly agree) that the healthiest organizations are those in which there is a shared sense of purpose. It is business leaders’ privilege (yes, privilege) as well as challenge to establish and then sustain a culture in which a common purpose guides and informs all initiatives, at all levels and in all areas throughout the given enterprise. In essence, great leaders inspire others to believe in themselves, to take pride in what they do and how they do it, and to be nourished by mutual trust and respect among everyone involved.
With meticulous care, Baldoni organizes his material within seven chapters. He provides a wealth of information, insights, and advice generated during a study of more than 1,100 purposeful leaders selected from the American Management Association’s vast database. (Note: He includes the complete “2010 Leadership Survey Results” in the Appendix and also identifies 15 experts who were interviewed and whom he frequently cites throughout his narrative.) In the Introduction, Baldoni provides a framework of seven separate but interdependent core commitments that leaders in any organization must make:
1. Make purpose a central focus
2. Instill purpose in others
3. Make employees comfortable with ambiguity
4. Turn good intentions into great results
5. Make it safe to fail (as well as prevail)
6. Develop the next generation
7. Prepare yourself
He devotes a separate chapter to each, thoroughly explain HOW to achieve the given objective(s). Together, these chapters suggest a process by which organizations as well as their leaders and those who follow them can be purpose-driven to achieve sustainable success (however defined).
Readers will appreciate Baldoni’s skillful use of recurring devices that include boxed portions of survey results that are relevant to the given chapter in which they appear; also, sets of “Leadership Questions” and “Leadership Directives” that serve two important purposes: they challenge the reader to conduct a self-audit that reveals areas in which improvement is needed, and, they suggest actions that must be taken to achieve the given objective(s). Baldoni is obviously an empiricist whose recommendations are research-driven. He is also a pragmatist with an insatiable curiosity to understand what works, what doesn’t, and why. And he is an evangelist whose own purpose is to share what he has learned with as many other people as possible in his several books and countless articles for various business journals, notably HBR.
The final chapter, “Action Planner,” will be invaluable after someone has read and then (hopefully) re-read the first seven chapters and is ready to plan and execute initiatives for driving purpose throughout her or his organization. Baldoni shares eight “lessons,” most of which reiterate the aforementioned core commitments. The last and eighth “lesson” urges the reader to become a leader with purpose, one who makes a positive difference and inspires others to do so, also. If that isn’t a purpose worthy of admiration, I don’t know what is.
Here is one of the posts by Simon Sinek (on July 27, 2011) at his blog, Re:Focus (Simple Ideas to Help You Thrive). Once you read it, I doubt if you will soon forget it…if ever. To check out Simon’s other resources, please click here and you may also wish to visit here.
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Recently, a 9-year-old girl named Rachel Beckwith died in a pileup on I-90 in Washington state. Her spinal chord was severed and there was nothing the doctors could do to save her life.
June 12th was her last birthday and for her birthday Rachel told everyone that she didn’t want any presents and she didn’t want a party. Instead, she wanted her friends to donate $9 to Charity Water. “Her big crazy goal,” said her pastor, “was to raise $300 so that 15 kids in Africa would have safe, clean water.” At the time of her death, she was $80 short of her goal.
Inspired by her generosity, Rachel’s church publicized her goal on their website…and the donations started rolling in.
When last I logged on, Rachel had raised over $300,000. And her wish to help 15 people will now help over 15,000 people. [I just checked and the current total raised thus far is $1, 243, 223.]
Rachel Beckwith may be the most inspiring 9 year old I know and I’m proud to support her in her dream to give.
If you’re interested in helping Rachel’s cause, visit My Charity Water.
If you’d like to donate to help her parents pay the medical bills, you can visit here to donate.
May we all raise our children to think of others before themselves.
May we all raise our children to by like Rachel Beckwith.
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Simon Sinek teaches leaders and companies around the world how to inspire people. From members of Congress to foreign ambassadors, from small businesses to corporations like Microsoft and American Express, from Hollywood to the Pentagon, he has presented his ideas about the power of why. He is quoted frequently by national publications and is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and BrandWeek. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action is his first book. To check several of his video presentations, please click here.
According to Stan Slap, the material in this book is based on what he and his research associates learned from “10,000 managers from seventy countries, at various levels, in different countries and lines of business. Put them in twenty-person panic rooms for a couple of days where they can say what’s really on their minds and in their hearts. What do you get? Savagely ravaged muffin trays and the absolute truth.” They didn’t bury their hearts in these conference rooms…they bared them. Slap continues: “Amid the intensity of those sessions some statistics clamored noisily for attention.” He then reveals that “an overwhelming number of managers” identified (a) what was most important to them personally and (b) what was under the most pressure for them to change in order “to do their jobs successfully” were the same:
This is the “problem” to which Slap devoted ten years developing what he is certain is the “answer”: creating circumstances in which managers are not only willing and able but indeed eager to make an emotional commitment to what they do, to their associates, and to their organization.
As recent research conducted by highly reputable firms such as Gallup and Towers Perrin clearly indicates, at least 70% of those who comprise a workforce in the U.S. are either passively engaged or actively disengaged. Presumably a significant percentage of them feel like “savagely ravaged muffin trays” because pressures at work to produce “morebetterfastercheaper” have threatened (if not compromised) their devotion to family and/or their personal integrity.
What to do? Slap wrote this book in response to that question. He offers the “Enterprise Leadership Competency Model” but first, those who lead an organization must understand the absolute necessity of creating the highest level of sustaining motivation for its management culture. He notes, “Without emotional commitment from managers a company can’t ever realize the dream of being a self-structuring, self-protective system.” Hence the importance of the Enterprise Leadership Competency Model (ELCM) “that will reliably allow managers to live their values at work without the company having to constantly facilitate the process. A self-sustaining model that is safe and a healthy choice for both the company and the managers.” C-level executives deny their own humanity when preventing other managers to live their values at work. As Slap brilliantly explains, they nourish their own humanity by nourishing others’ and, meanwhile, nourishing their organization’s core values.
Slap is a world-class pragmatist, determined to understand what works, what doesn’t, and why. He also possesses what Ernest Hemingway once characterized as a “built-in, shock-proof crap detector.” The ELCM he recommends is philosophically sound but, more to the point, fully accommodates the realities of an increasingly more challenging competitive environment. It will help this reader to achieve a number of highly-desirable objectives that include these:
1. Drive results of enterprise initiatives
2. Formulate and then execute an appropriate business strategy
3. Promote an enterprise culture of candor and transparency
4. Cause necessary change
5. Attract “top talent”
6. Develop personal accountability enterprise-wide
7. Establish and sustain a “dynamic” workplace
8. Maximize individual and organizational performance
9. Align strategic objectives with managers’ personal values
10. Align rewards with levels of performance (i.e. creation of value”)
Individual and organizational development should occur simultaneously and, in fact, be interdependent and mutually-supportive. Moreover, such development is in fact a combination of never-ending processes. For that reason, Slap organizes and presents information, insights, and recommendations in this book within a multi-dimensional process that is best viewed as a journey. It begins with selecting or recognizing the values that are most important. Next, translate those values in attitude and behavior to create and then sustain what Slap characterizes as a “Better Place.” (He offers a four-step process to define it on Pages 117-142.) Meanwhile, provide the leadership needed “by focusing on what is sure to be most deeply satisfying” to associates and protect the credibility of that leadership when values and vision are under attack, as they are certain to be. (See Pages 99-102.) It is easy enough to identify the “what” of emotionally committed management. Credit Stan Slap with explaining, with rigor and eloquence, the “how” of accomplishing it.
Based on rigorous and extensive research on happiness in the workplace, Jessica Pryce-Jones and her associates at iOpener (an Oxford-based consultancy) identified what she characterizes as “Ten Top tips for work goals.” She discusses each of them in her book Happiness at Work: Maximizing Your Psychological Capital for Success, recently published by Wiley-Blackwell.
Here they are, supplemented by a few brief comments by me.
1. Make sure your goals are realistic and appropriate for you.
Comment: This presupposes you know who you are what you really want.
2. Ensure you have the right personal resources.
Comment: Fitness should be high on the list but seldom is.
3. Develop appropriate strategies for accessing other resources you also need.
Comment: For example, identify those who can provide the best (i.e. both knowledgeable and candid) advice, who have the best network of contacts, and who are both willing and able to be your “evangelists.”
4. Make your goals concrete rather than abstract.
Comment: Focus on specifically what you will do and set deadlines, rather on what you will think about, discuss with others, etc.
5. Eliminate distractions.
Comment: Distractions are most attractive when we must complete a difficult and/or unpleasant task. Much of what peak performers do involves what others would rather not do.
6. Make a consistent effort.
Comment: Be a Bunsen burner, not a sparkler.
7. Find the right environment in which to achieve your goals.
Comment: To paraphrase Teresa Amabile, know what you really enjoy doing and then locate where, with whom, and under what conditions you can do it.
8. Make certain that you do not have conflicting goals.
Comment: I highly recommend that career goals be thoroughly discussed with members of the immediate family so that (a) they understand what the goals are and (b) they are thus better prepared to support efforts to achieve them.
9. Keep in mind that time, energy, and effort must be invested to achieve the meaningful happiness you seek.
Comment: Also keep in mind advice from Tony Schwartz that effective management of energy is most important. Sufficient sleep, relaxation, and exercise are needed to renew it.
10. The journey toward each goal is often more important than achieving it.
Comment: I agree that the process is best viewed as a “journey” and for many “pilgrims,” its greatest value is derived from what they learn about themselves en route.
* * *
I highly recommend Pryce-Jones’s book as well as Arlene Johnson’s Success Mapping: Achieve What You Want…Right Now!, Simon Sinek’s Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, and The Why of Work: How Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations That Win, co-authored by Dave Ulrich and Wendy Ulrich.
Marshall Goldsmith wrote a book in which he asserts “What got you here won’t get you there.” In this book, written with Jean Gomes and Catherine McCarthy, Tony Schwartz takes that insight a step further, asserting “What got you here won’t keep you here, much less get you there.” He insists, and I wholeheartedly agree, that with very few exceptions – such as the companies that are annually ranked the most admired, the best to work for, etc. – most companies have a workplace that is dysfunctional and perhaps even toxic. He cites the results of a recent global workforce study by Towers Perrin (90,000 employees in 18 countries in 2007-2008) that are comparable with the results of recent research by the Gallup Organization: on average, less than 20% of a workforce are actively and productively engaged, about 40% are capable but not fully committed, and a similar percentage are disenchanted or actively disengaged.
Schwartz cites research conducted by Anders Ericsson and his associates at Florida State University to explain the relationship between natural talent and superior performance. “Great performers, Ericsson’s study suggests, work more intensely than most of us do but also recover more deeply. Solo practice undertaken with high concentration is especially exhausting, The best violinists figured out, intuitively, that they generated the highest value by working intensely, without interruption, for no more than ninety minutes and no more than 4 hours a day.”
This revelation has profound implications for increasing productivity wherever people are involved (e.g. workplace, schools, colleges, universities). Schwartz suggests that there are four categories of energy needs that must be accommodated for people to work at their best: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Only by fulfilling these generic needs can we fulfill corresponding needs: sustainability, security, self-expression, and significance. The illustration of all this on Page 9 bears at least some resemblance to Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs.”
The challenge for work supervisors as well as for those for whom they are responsible is to collaborate on establishing and then sustaining an energy-efficient, productive, and enjoyable workplace, one that is purpose-driven to achieve more than sales and profits. Re this last point, that is precisely what Dave and Wendy Ulrich so eloquently recommend in The Why of Work: How Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations That Win as does Simon Sinek in Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.
Those who are thinking about reading this book need to keep in mind that most people prefer a “known devil” to an “unknown devil”: Their fear is really not of change but of what is unfamiliar. Most change initiatives fail because initial expectations are unrealistic (with all due respect to what Jim Collins calls “BHAGs” or Big Hairy Audacious Goals), ultimate benefits are over-sold, and those who will be most affected by the changes have little (if anything) to say about what will be changed and by what process.
Of course, Tony Schwartz is well aware of all this and wrote a book, this one, in which he offers a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost–effective/energy-efficient program in which almost everyone within a given enterprise will become and then remain actively and productively engaged. They will demonstrate what Lao-Tzu suggests in my favorite passage from his Tao Te Ching:
“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”
I agree with Simon Sinek that individuals as well as organizations must have a crystal clear sense of purpose or it will be very difficult (if not impossible) for them to decide what to do and how to do it. If they have the right purpose, it will guide and inform their decisions and, meanwhile, inspire and then sustain their efforts. Sinek suggests that the Golden Circle [i.e. beginning with WHY at the center, then proceeding to determine HOW to produce WHAT] “helps us to understand why we do what we do. [It] provides compelling evidence of how much more we can achieve if we remind ourselves to start everything we do by asking why.” In brief, here is Sinek’s explanation:
“Every single company and organization on the planet knows WHAT they do…Everyone is easily able to describe the products or services a company sells or the job function they have within that system. WHATs are easy to identify.”
Credit Sinek with a thorough coverage and brilliant analysis of issues inherent to statements such as these:
• “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.”
• “Those whom we consider great leaders all have an ability to draw us close and to command our loyalty. And we feel a strong bond with those who are also drawn to the same leaders and organizations.”
• “A WHY is just a belief. That’s all it is. HOWs are the actions you take to realize that belief. And WHATs are the results of those actions – everything you say and do: your products, services, marketing, PR, culture, and whom you hire.”
• “You have to earn trust by communicating and demonstrating that you share the same values and beliefs. You have to talk about your WHY and prove it with WHAT you do. Again, a WHY is just a belief, HOWs are the actions we take to realize that belief, and WHATs are the results of those actions. When all three are in balance, trust is built and value is perceived.”
• “Charisma has nothing to do with energy; it comes from a clarity of WHY. It comes from absolute conviction in an ideal bigger than oneself. Energy, in contrast, comes from a good night’s sleep or lots of caffeine. Energy can excite. But only charisma can inspire. Charisma commands loyalty. Energy does not”
• “What companies say and do matters. A lot. It is at the WHAT level that a cause is brought to life. It is at this level that a company speaks to the world and it is then that we can learn what the company believes.”
I hope that these brief, representative excerpts from Sinek’s narrative suggest the thrust and flavor of his thinking. Here in a single volume is just about all that any business leader needs to determine precisely what her or his organization’s WHY is…or should be. Sinek also provides a wealth of information, insights, and recommendations as the alignment and coordination of the organization’s WHAT and HOW with its WHY.
Without the right WHY, even great leaders cannot inspire everyone in the given organization to take action. Only with the right WHY can an organization develop great leadership at all levels and in all areas of its operation.
In Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action published by Portfolio/The Penguin Group (2009), Simon Sinek introduces his reader to Ben Comen who is a runner. “As with any race, in a short period of time the stronger ones will pull ahead and the weaker ones will start to fall behind. But not Ben Comen. Ben was left behind as soon as the starter gun sounded. Ben’s not the fastest runner on the team. In fact, he’s the slowest. He has never won a single race the entire time he’s been on the Hanna High School cross-country track team. Ben, you see, has cerebral palsy.”
Now it gets very interesting. “Something amazing happens after about twenty-five minutes. When everyone else is done with their race, everyone comes back to run with Ben, Ben is the only runner who, when he falls, someone else will pick him up. Ben is the only runner who, when he finishes, has a hundred people running behind him.”
Now pay very close attention to what follows. “What Ben teaches us is special. When you compete against everyone else, no one wants to help you. But when you compete against yourself, everyone wants to help you. Olympic athletes don’t help each other. They’re competitors. Ben starts every race with a very clear sense of WHY he’s running. He’s not there to beat anyone but himself. Ben never loses sight of that. His sense of WHY he’s running gives him the strength to keep going. To keep pushing. To keep getting up. And to do it again and again and again. And every day he runs, the only time Bern sets out to beat is his own.”
I offer three brief points:
1. Ben Comer and John Wooden are kindred spirits.
2. Jack Dempsey was correct: “Champions get up when they can’t.” According to the criteria by which we measure character, Ben Comen is a “champion.”
3. In their recently published book, The Why of Work, Dave and Wendy Ulrich affirm the same values that Simon Sinek does in his book…and they are the same values that Ben Comen exemplifies.