First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Executive Intelligence: A book review by Bob Morris

Executive Intelligence: What All Great Leaders Have
Justin Menkes
HarperBusiness (2005)

A rigorous and eloquent examination of “the single biggest driver of executive performance”

There are significant differences between information and knowledge. The former consists of raw data; the latter is what results from an evaluation of the data to increase one’s knowledge and understanding of the given subject. Hence the importance of judgment when making decisions based on that understanding. Also, there are differences between what can be learned from formal training (e.g. reading, reasoning, and writing skills) and what cannot (e.g. character). Finally, as Howard Gardner and countless others have asserted, there are many different forms of intelligence that are frequently viewed as aptitudes.

For example, in Five Minds for the Future, Gardner identifies and then explains five separate but related combinations of cognitive abilities that are needed to “thrive in the world during eras to come…[cognitive abilities] which we should develop in the future.” Gardner refers to them as “minds” but they are really mindsets. Mastery of each enables a person:

1. to know how to work steadily over time to improve skill and understanding;

2. to take information from disparate sources and make sense of it by understanding and evaluating that information objectively;

3. by building on discipline and synthesis, to break new ground;

4. by “recognizing that nowadays one can no longer remain within one’s shell or one’s home territory,” to note and welcome differences between human individuals and between human groups so as to understand them and work effectively with them;

5. and finally, “proceeding on a level more abstract than the respectful mind,” to reflect on the nature of one’s work and the needs and desires of the society in which one lives.

Gardner notes that the five “minds” he examines in this book are different from the eight or nine human intelligences that he examines in his earlier works. “Rather than being distinct computational capabilities, they are better thought of as broad uses of the mind that we can cultivate at school, in professions, or at the workplace.”

In this volume, Justin Mendes explains that Executive Intelligence(tm) (or ExI) “is the single biggest driver of executive performance” and claims that it is overlooked by current assessment practices. Through his work with some of the most effective executives in the world, Menkes, co-founder of Executive Intelligence Group, sought to understand the qualities of star performers. He found that success could be attributed to intelligence but not to, for example, the academic IQ required for admission into top universities. Instead, Menkes has identified specific patterns of “intelligent executive behavior.” He distilled this behavioral pattern of success and, over three years, designed an assessment methodology to measure it. This is the Executive Intelligence Evaluation. What does this evaluation involve? I visited and located this explanation:

“Structured as a one-on-one interview, the Executive Intelligence Evaluation quantifies and benchmarks an executive on the unique cognitive skills that are essential for leadership excellence. Instead of simply asking an executive about their capabilities, the methodology requires a candidate to demonstrate their skills. To accomplish this, the ExI Evaluation utilizes job relevant scenarios that necessitate: decision making and information gathering, managing the activities of others, and evaluating/adapting one’s own thinking and behavior – in other words, the central responsibilities of any executive. What’s more, a candidate’s capabilities are evaluated in the real-time verbal format in which they must be demonstrated on the job. The interview takes about one-and-a-half hours and is conducted by a highly trained expert. Scores have been shown to have no adverse impact in terms of race, gender, language, or country of origin.”

This brilliant book can be of immense value to C-level executives in any organization (regardless of its size or nature) who have or share primary responsibility in one or more of these areas:

Identifying their organization’s leadership and management needs
Locating, interviewing, and selecting those to fill those needs
Supervising assignment and development of executive talent
Measuring executives’ performance
Determining their compensation
Deciding on promotions, probations, and terminations

Those who share my high regard for Executive Intelligence are urged to check out Menkes’ recently published book, Better Under Pressure: How Great Leaders Bring Out the Best in Themselves and Others (Harvard Business Review Press, 2011). Also, any of Howard Gardner’s books (including the aforementioned Five Minds for the Future), Daniel Goleman’s Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships, Noel Tichy and Warren Bennis’ Judgment: How Winning leaders Make Great Calls, Steven Feinberg’s The Advantage-Makers: How Exceptional Leaders Win by Creating Opportunities Others Don’t, and Launching a Leadership Revolution: Mastering the Five Levels of Influence co-authored by Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Learn From Failure, And The Lesson Learned Can Be Monumental – (From The Desert In Iran In 1980, To The Death Of Bin Laden)

We learn from the failures that we decide we will learn from.

We don’t learn from all failure.  In fact, I would guess we don’t learn from most failure.  And/or, most of us don’t actually learn from failure.

We have to decide that we will learn from a failure after we fail.

If we don’t learn, the failure is wasted.

If we do learn, the possibilities are amazing…and endless.

The story:

We failed in the desert in 1980, in Iran. 
Then, we learned. 
Then, we got Bin Laden in 2011.

The book, about to be released is this:  Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure by Tim Hartford.

These thoughts were prompted by this paragraph from Andrew Exum (which Andrew Sullivan highlighted):

You are witnessing the late stages of an evolutionary process that began in a cold desert base in Iran some three decades ago. You cannot understand why the U.S. military was able to execute this extraordinary operation deep in the heart of Pakistan without first understanding the failures of Iran in 1980. I’ve got Tim Harford’s new book Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure on my desk right now, and I’m thinking Tim should add our special operations forces as a case study in time for the paperback.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , , | Leave a comment

How Top CEOs Cope with Constant Stress

Justin Menkes

Justin Menkes, author of recently published Better Under Pressure, explains why today’s leaders need realistic optimism, subservience to purpose, and the ability to find order in chaos.

The Harvard Business Review blog now features an interview of him that I highly recommend. To see this video, please click here.

Justin Menkes, author of recently published Better Under Pressure, explains why today’s leaders need realistic optimism, subservience to purpose, and the ability to find order in chaos.

Menkes wrote an article for HBR worthy of your attention. Please click here.

He will soon complete my second interview of him. To read the first, please click here.

To read my review of his brilliant book, Executive Intelligence, please click here.

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Justin Menkes is a leading expert in the field of evaluating C-suite executives and preparing individuals for the CEO position. His research led him to the discovery of Executive Intelligence and the creation of a methodology to measure it. He is an active member of Spencer Stuart’s Board Services Practice and Executive Assessment Services, and has been advising boards about their chief executives since 2002. During his doctoral work at Claremont Graduate University, he studied under the late Peter Drucker. Previously, he graduated with honors from Haverford College and received his M.A. in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. Menkes holds a Ph.D. in organizational behavior from Claremont Graduate University.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

They Tried To Ban That Book? — Amazing

We may be a nation based on free speech, but that doesn’t stop people from objecting to certain books and attempting to get them banned–so you and your children can’t read them.
Each year the American Library Association releases a list of the top 10 books that generated the most controversy, naming them the most “challenged” books in public schools and libraries.
(from the article with the most recent list).

We see this list every year.  This year’s list includes some titles that I don’t know, and a couple that I do know.  (Brave New World is on the list).

But the biggest surprise to me was the Barbara Ehrenreich book, Nickel and Dimed:  On Not Getting By in America.  I have presented my synopsis of this modern classic a few times.

Barbara Ehrenreich, a woman with a Ph.D in cellular biology from Rockefeller University, went deep undercover, working as a server in a restaurant, a house cleaner in a motel; she worked at Walmart.  In the book, she recounts these experiences, with special emphasis on the financial challenges of living on the wages paid in such jobs. Here’s a quote from the book:

Something is wrong, very wrong, when a single person in good health, a person who in addition possesses a working car, can barely support herself by the sweat of her brow.  You don’t need a degree in economics to see that wages are too low and rents too high.

Why would people object to this book?  Maybe they feel too ashamed to know what the people who work all around us do for such a low return for their efforts…

When I was a boy, I remember my mother telling me that in the Soviet Union, people could go to jail for what they write.  She told me that in this country, you can write what you want – and speak your mind.  I suspect that was deeply ingrained in me.  And I’m glad it was.

Anyway, I’m not much of a fan of attempts to ban books.  If you disagree with a book, don’t read it – or, better yet, write a book to make your case.

Here’s the list, with the reasons they were challenged:

The top 10 most challenged books of 2010:

1. “And Tango Makes Three,” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson Reasons: Homosexuality, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
2. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie The top 10 most challenged books of 2010:
1. “And Tango Makes Three,” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson Reasons: Homosexuality, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
2. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
3. “Brave New World,” by Aldous Huxley Reasons: Insensitivity, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit
4. “Crank,” by Ellen Hopkins Reasons: Drugs, offensive language, sexually explicit
5. “The Hunger Games,” by Suzanne Collins Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
6. “Lush,” by Natasha Friend Reasons: Drugs, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
7. “What My Mother Doesn’t Know,” by Sonya Sones Reasons: Sexism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
8. “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America,” by Barbara Ehrenreich Reasons: Drugs, inaccurate, offensive language, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint
9. “Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology,” edited by Amy Sonnie Reasons: Homosexuality, sexually explicit
10. “Twilight,” by Stephenie Meyer Reasons: Religious viewpoint, violenceReasons: Offensive language, racism, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence

Tuesday, May 3, 2011 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , , | Leave a comment

Solitude and Leadership

William Deresiewicz

Here is an excerpt from an article written by William Deresiewicz for his “All Points” column that is featured online by The American Scholar website.

The American Scholar is the venerable but lively quarterly magazine of public affairs, literature, science, history, and culture published by the Phi Beta Kappa Society since 1932. In recent years the magazine has won four National Magazine Awards, the industry’s highest honor, and many of its essays and articles have been selected for the yearly Best American anthologies.”

Given the recent S.E.A.L. mission in Pakistan, I think this article has even greater meaning and significance.

To read the complete article, check out other resources, sign up for email updates, and obtain subscription information, please click here.

*     *     *

If you want others to follow, learn to be alone with your thoughts.

The lecture below was delivered to the plebe class at the United States Military Academy at West Point in October of last year. mind solitude, the ability to be alone with your thoughts. And yet I submit to you that solitude is one of the most important necessities of true leadership. This lecture will be an attempt to explain why.

We need to begin by talking about what leadership really means. I just spent 10 years teaching at another institution that, like West Point, liked to talk a lot about leadership, Yale University. A school that some of you might have gone to had you not come here, that some of your friends might be going to. And if not Yale, then Harvard, Stanford, MIT, and so forth. These institutions, like West Point, also see their role as the training of leaders, constantly encourage their students, like West Point, to regard themselves as leaders among their peers and future leaders of society. Indeed, when we look around at the American elite, the people in charge of government, business, academia, and all our other major institutions—senators, judges, CEOs, college presidents, and so forth—we find that they come overwhelmingly either from the Ivy League and its peer institutions or from the service academies, especially West Point.

So I began to wonder, as I taught at Yale, what leadership really consists of. My students, like you, were energetic, accomplished, smart, and often ferociously ambitious, but was that enough to make them leaders? Most of them, as much as I liked and even admired them, certainly didn’t seem to me like  leaders. Does being a leader, I wondered, just mean being accomplished, being successful? Does getting straight As make you a leader? I didn’t think so. Great heart surgeons or great novelists or great shortstops may be terrific at what they do, but that doesn’t mean they’re leaders. Leadership and aptitude, leadership and achievement, leadership and even ex cellence have to be different things, otherwise the concept of leadership has no meaning. And it seemed to me that that had to be especially true of the kind of excellence I saw in the students around me.

See, things have changed since I went to college in the ’80s. Everything has gotten much more intense. You have to do much more now to get into a top school like Yale or West Point, and you have to start a lot earlier. We didn’t begin thinking about college until we were juniors, and maybe we each did a couple of extracurriculars. But I know what it’s like for you guys now. It’s an endless series of hoops that you have to jump through, starting from way back, maybe as early as junior high school. Classes, standardized tests, extracurriculars in school, extracurriculars outside of school. Test prep courses, admissions coaches, private tutors. I sat on the Yale College admissions committee a couple of years ago. The first thing the admissions officer would do when presenting a case to the rest of the committee was read what they call the “brag” in admissions lingo, the list of the student’s extracurriculars. Well, it turned out that a student who had six or seven extracurriculars was already in trouble. Because the students who got in—in addition to perfect grades and top scores—usually had 10 or 12.

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To read the complete article, check out other resources, sign up for email updates, and obtain subscription information, please click here.

William Deresiewicz is an essayist and critic. His book, A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter, will be published later this month. His piece in the Spring 2010 issue of the SCHOLAR, “Solitude and Leadership,” is a finalist for this year’s National Magazine Award in the category of Essays & Criticism.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Settle for One Network: Build Three

Here is another valuable Management Tip of the Day from Harvard Business Review. To sign up for a free subscription to any/all HBR newsletters, please click here.

We all know how important networks are to succeeding in business.

But most people mistakenly focus on building one network. Instead, you need to think about three separate ones:

Your operational network is comprised of the people you rely on to get work done: your peers, direct reports, bosses, and external contacts. Often times you don’t choose these folks, but you still need to cultivate them.

A developmental network is a group of individuals whom you trust and to whom you can turn to for advice. Select people who bring a diversity of perspectives.

Your strategic network helps you prepare for and succeed in the future. In this group, include people who work and live at the edge of your current world and can help you see what’s on the horizon.

Today’s Management Tip was adapted from “The Three Networks You Need” by Linda Hill & Kent Lineback.

To read that article and join the discussion, please click here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , | Leave a comment



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