First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

The Invisible Truth – until Now

Cheryl offers: I’m reading a darn good book these days; it’s called Wander Woman: How High Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction by Marcia Reynolds. I’ve known Marcia for several years now and she’s quite the fireball.  She caught my attention when I read “Generally women aren’t trying to prove they can do something difficult in spite of their gender; being a woman factors very little into their reasons for proving their worth.”  As I thought back over my life when I tackled some pretty interesting challenges myself, in my case I knew she was right on target.

I started my college education at Southern Methodist University when my last child left for college. That was a challenge because I was in the Executive MBA program with no undergraduate degree. They let a few in now and then and I was one of the lucky ones. I always wanted to go to college and never had the stars align until then. I never gave being a woman a thought as I considered getting that degree; I just knew I wanted it.  I moved to Zurich Switzerland a few years later on an international assignment with IBM to lead a major transformation effort. I didn’t agree to be away from my family for a year and take on that assignment because I was a woman; it was because it was so darn challenging and it sounded like the most fun imaginable. Later as I left IBM and retired to become an entrepreneur, I embraced that new life without ever thinking I might be leaping from corporate America to entrepreneur-land because I was a woman. It was because I was ready for a new way of life.

Marcia has managed to see women as few others in my humble opinion. There are a lot more books these days being written about women. Marcia has managed to capture insights and perspectives no one else has possibly imagined; and yet, when you read her words, you quickly realize how they are exactly what you’ve known but were never quite able to describe.

Thursday, October 21, 2010 Posted by | Cheryl's blog entries | , , , | Leave a comment

Rules for being a “heroic” leader

Henry Mintzberg

Henry Mintzberg is the author of 16 books, including one of my personal favorites,  Managers Not MBAs: A Hard Look at the Soft Practice of Managing and Management Development (published by FT/Prentice Hall in 2004). In it, he indicates his disdain for “heroic” leaders by suggesting the rules they seem to follow.

• Look out, not in. Ignore the existing business as much as possible, since anything established takes timer to fix if broken. Leave that to whoever was not downsized.

• Be dramatic. Do the deal and promise the world, to catch the attention of the investment community. In particular, merge like mad; go after other established businesses – the devils you don’t know.

• Focus on the present. The past is gone, dead, and the future is distant. Do that dramatic deal now.

• Inside the company, favor outsiders over insiders; anyone who knows the business is suspect. Bring in a whole new “top team.” Rely especially on consultants – they appreciate heroic leaders.

• To drive the insiders, use the numbers. That way you do not have to manage performance so much as deem it.

• Promote the changing of everything all the time. In particular, reorganize constantly; it keeps everyone on their toes (instead of planned on their feet). Refuse to change this behavior no matter what the consequences.

• Be a risk taker. Your golden parachute will protect you.

• Above all, get that stock price up. Then cash in and run. Heroes are in great demand.

I highly recommend any book Mintzberg has written, especially Managers Not MBAs and his most recent, Management? It’s Not What You Think! published by AMACOM (2010). I also highly recommend Bob Sutton’s latest, Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best… and Learn from the Worst, published by Business Plus (2010).

Thursday, October 21, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Multipliers – Multiple Good & Useful Ideas; Now the Trailer!

Some books are filled with multiple key thoughts and concepts — many important and useful teachings and concepts and ideas.  Multipliers:  How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman (with Greg McKeown) is one such book.  The book is good.  The over-all concept is great.  And the implications just keep coming.

A Multiplier is a leader who actually makes people smarter, more effective.  A Diminsher is a person in a leadership position, but is not a true leader at all.  In fact, a Diminisher is the opposite of a leader.  Such a person shrinks the person’s, and the organization’s, capacity.

Bob Morris and I have both posted about ideas in, or prompted by, this book, in the following posts:

Good Multipliers and Diminishers…Bad Multipliers and Diminishers
Self-Deprecating – Good! Other-Deprecating – Not So Good!
Here It Is — The Number One Barrier to Personal Success at Work (and in Life)
Can A Diminisher Become A Multiplier?
and Bob’s review of the book:
Book Review: Multipliers.

But I just discovered the book’s trailer on youtube.  (No, I have never seen a trailer for a book before.  Cool!).  It is quite creative, and absolutely worth a look.  In fact, the trailer is almost as good as the book!  So – take a look.

Thursday, October 21, 2010 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Three perspectives on the manager as orchestra conductor

Whether or not you have read Roger Nierenberg’s brilliant book, Maestro: A Surprising Story About Leading by Listening, I think you will find the following three perspectives thought-provoking:

“One [analogy] for the manager is the conductor of the symphony orchestra, through whose effort, vision and leadership, instrumental parts that are so much noise by themselves, become the living whole of music. But the conductor has the composer’s score: he is only the interpreter. The manager is both composer and conductor.” Peter Drucker, The Practice Management, Harper & Row Publishers (1964)

“Before we made the study, I always thought of a chief executive as the conductor of the orchestra, standing aloof on his platform. Now I am in some respect inclined to see him as the puppet in the puppet-show with hundreds of people pulling the strings and forcing him to act in one way or another.” Sune Carlson, Executive Behavior, Stromberg (1951)

“The manager is like a symphony orchestra conductor, endeavoring to maintain a melodious performance in which the contributions of the various instruments are coordinated and sequenced, patterned and paced, while the orchestra members are having various personal difficulties, stage hands are moving music stands, alternating excessive heat and cold are creating audience and instrumental problems, and the sponsor of the concert is insisting on irrational changes in the program.” Leonard Sayles, Administration in Complex Organizations, McGraw-Hill (1964)

If there are any executives on your shopping list for the holidays, I presume to suggest that you keep Nierenberg’s book in mind. In my opinion, there is no other book published in recent years that captures the essence of leadership better than it does. And at the current Amazon price ($6.64), the hardbound edition is a steal.


Thursday, October 21, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Women in Management: Progress Has Stalled

A quick update, pointing you to this article: Women in Management: Why Progress Has Stalled, by Nanette Fondas (Author of The Custom-Fit Workplace).

A recent Government Accounting Office report found that the number of women managers increased only 1 percent between 2000 and 2007, from 39 to 40 percent. Women’s progress into management has stalled despite their equal representation in the workforce and their majority in colleges and universities.

Read the full article here.


Thursday, October 21, 2010 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , | Leave a comment

How Many Books Do You Read? – 24 A Year Might Be A Good Target (A Finding From Brad Smart)

In a recent Weekly Insights newsletter from Verne Harnish (sign up for this newsletter here), Verne included this paragraph:


A-Player Execs Read 24 Books Per Year — Brad Smart, father of the Topgrading concept, researched 6500 top executives. The difference between the A-Players and the C-Players? The A-Players were continuous learners, reading on average 24 books per year (12 fiction and 12 non-fiction). Those who don’t read barely have an advantage over those who can’t!!

Here is the key paragraph from the Brad Smart source for this info, Topgrading Tips (Vol 5, No. 14) What A Player Executives Read:

The bigger company executives read a couple of books per month, typically one fiction (for relaxation) and one good, solid non-fiction book – topics such as how international politics impacts business, best sellers such as Good to Great (Collins), and books on strategy, and finance (understanding the subtle implications of finance/accounting/M & A).  Recently Kindle and iPad have captured the imagination of only a small percentage of our sample, but they are enthusiasts!

(Brad Smart surveyed 6500+ senior executives in his research).

My observations:  first, successful leaders and managers keep learning.  Second, reading books is still a key way to keep learning.  Third, it is a good idea to read books for the purpose of learning that is specifically work-related, but it may be just as important to read fiction and other non-work related works.

To quote myself again, “the more you know, the more you know.”


15minadThere is no substitute for actually reading a book in its entirety.  But… our synopses can help you decide whether or not to read a particular book.

You can purchase our business book synopsis presentations from our companion web site,  Each synopsis comes in a zip file with audio + handout.  You can load the audio into your iPhone/iPod, or other player, or, simply listen on your computer.

Most of these are presented to a live audience, most frequently at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas.  And most audio recordings are between 15-17 minutes. Nearly 150 synopses are available, with at least 2 new titles added monthly.  Click here to visit our web site.

Thursday, October 21, 2010 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , , | 1 Comment

Work Your Strengths: A book review by Bob Morris

Work Your Strengths: A Scientific Process to Identify Your Skills and Match Them to the Best Career for You
Chuck Martin, Richard Guare, and Peg Dawson
AMACOM (2010)

Presumably many of those who have read any of Chuck Martin’s earlier books, notably Tough Management: The 7 Winning Ways to Make Tough Decisions Easier, Deliver the Numbers, and Grow the Business in Good Times and Bad (2005) and then Smarts: Are We Hardwired for Success? (2007) also co-authored with Richard Guare, and Peg Dawson, will agree with me that this latest book (also co-authored with them) is even more important because it speaks more directly and more effectively to the individual reader than did the earlier work. Invoking direct address, they explain how to

•  Determine your own strengths and weaknesses
•  Find the strengths and weaknesses of others
•  Find success and avoid failure (however defined)
•  Become a “high performer”
•  Select the right path to achieve success
•  Navigate that “path” with the right skills in the right industry
•  Select the right company and the right department for you
•  Compare and contrast your skills with others’
•  Avoid the wrong promotion, reassignment, etc.
•  Determining your fit (i.e. using the Executive Skills Map)

It will seem to the reader as if Martin, Guare, and Dawson are her or his reader’s personal mentors through the narrative as valuable information, insights, and recommendations are generously provided. They enable the reader to predetermine which position or career is the right one for them to increase the probability of success. This is obviously important for career-entry workers to know but also for those already embarked upon a career that seems stalled or is in some way unacceptable or at least unfulfilling.

Of special interest to me is the material provided in Appendix B. It consists of the results of a study of high-performers in business. The statistics are broken down by these categories: Top Six Industries, Executive Skills by Department (Top 10 Departments), Job Function/Title, Employees vs. Managers vs. Executives, Males vs. Females, Profit vs. Nonprofit, and Healthcare: Clinical vs. Nonclinical. The data help the reader to understand which characteristics are most important to peak performance in a given industry or position; also, they will help to provide a frame-of-reference for supervisors to evaluate those for whom they are responsible.

Thursday, October 21, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Not to Spend Your Time On

Bob Pozen

Here is an excerpt from an interview of Bob Pozen by Justin Fox for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please click here.

*     *     *

This is a fourth in a series of conversations on personal productivity between Bob Pozen, chairman emeritus of MFS Investment Management and senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, and Justin Fox, editorial director of the Harvard Business Review Group. Pozen is a lawyer, and he started out in a legal career: law professor at Georgetown and NYU, associate general counsel at the SEC, partner at a D.C. law firm, general counsel at Fidelity Investments. Then, in 1997, Fidelity chairman Edward C. Johnson put Pozen in charge of Fidelity’s giant mutual fund arm, Fidelity Management & Research Co. Since then, Pozen has developed some pretty clear ideas about how top executives should do their jobs.

Justin Fox

Fox: How do you decide what to spend your time on when you’re the boss?

Pozen: Top executives usually say they set their priorities and then figure out how to implement them. But in this process many executives make a critical mistake. I’ve noticed this when I’ve mentored new CEOs. They say, “Here are the top five priorities for the company. Who would be the best at carrying out each priority?” Then they come up with themselves as the answer in all five areas. It might be the correct answer, but it’s the wrong question.

The question is not who’s best at performing high-priority functions, but which things can you and only you as the CEO get done? If you don’t ask yourself that question, your time allocations are bound to be wrong. Lots of CEOs who have been great number twos flounder as number one because they are implicitly asking the wrong question. That happens because they usually rose to CEO by being very good at getting things done themselves.

I try to focus on the things that I and only I can do. Those may include meeting with high-level regulators, or visiting with key clients. This may mean giving speeches to certain audiences or recruiting senior executives. But you really have to hold yourself back from taking on other functions or tasks even if you might excel at performing them.

For example, when MFS CEO Rob Manning recruited me to join the firm as Chairman in 2004, we explicitly divided the high-priority functions. Although I had run the investment management group at Fidelity, Rob is a talented investment guy and natural leader and wanted to take charge of the investment group. He and I agreed that I wouldn’t run the group, and that I wouldn’t even show up on the investment floors. This agreement was necessary to avoid confusion about who was heading investments. Similarly, when there were very important meetings with regulators, Rob didn’t attend.

Fox: What about those of us who aren’t CEOs?

Pozen: The key, I’ve found, is to become messianic about the principle that everybody owns their own space. This is the human resources analogy to bottom-up investing.

Under this approach, every employee is viewed as the owner of a small business — his or her division, or subdivision or working group; the performance of this unit is his or her responsibility. As the boss, my role is to provide my reports with resources, give them guidance and help them do battle with other people in the broader organization. But they own their own unit.

I can’t emphasize this principle enough because at every level, employees need to feel they’re in charge. An effective leader not only has to set priorities but also has to mobilize the organization to implement them. But this will happen only if the employees have a true sense of owning these functions in the broadest sense. I’ve seen quite a few organizations where employees say, “I didn’t do X because it wasn’t within my job description, or no one told me to do it.” These are flagrant violations of the ownership principle.

Fox: So how do you instill this ownership principle?

Pozen: You don’t describe in detail the tasks that employees should be doing. Instead, you present a general set of priorities for the upcoming year, and let your employees formulate the specific ways to implement them. You also ask: “What are the metrics by which I should judge your success?”

When I became president of Fidelity Management & Research, we faced a major challenge because the fund business had grown so rapidly. So we created lots of small units within the company to provide many employees with the opportunity to “own” their unit. While we recognized that creating so many units would bring coordination challenges, it was worth the price to give portfolio managers more say over the activities of their own investment groups.

Thursday, October 21, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment



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