First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Book Titles That Deliberately Inhibit Sales – It’s a Bad Idea!

What kind of sales strategy allows a title of a book to inhibit sales?

You may be all in favor of “telling it like it is,” but shouldn’t that be confined to the pages inside, and not on the spine?

I remember delivering a synopsis several years ago at the First Friday Book Synopsis of a book entitled The No Asshole Rule by Dr. Robert Sutton (Business Plus, 2007) .   It actually came NoAssholeRuleCoverfrom an article the author wrote for the Harvard Business Review.  It is the correct term.  The book, and all of its advice, was clearly about one of them.  I always thought the book was really good.  It’s not the kind of title, however, you would carry with you during the day, or display on your shelf.  You probably wouldn’t want people to know you are reading it.  The Park City Club, where we hold the First Friday Book Synopsis,  would not even publish the title in its advance publicity in its monthly magazine.   People asked me in advance how I would handle the term.  I said, I would only say, “A_H_,” and hope I would not slip up.  I never did, especially at client sites, and I never have.  That took concentration and focus.   Why a good book would deliberately cut sales because of an unsavory title is strange to me.
MoodyBitches cover

 

So, here’s another one, released on March 3, 2015.  It’s called Moody Bitches, by Dr. Judy Holland (Penguin Press).  It’s all about what happens to women when they go off their medications.  Do you really want to carry that book around with you?

These aren’t the only ones.  I can’t possibly reproduce these titles here.  We would lose our license.  But, if you will click here, you will see 40 more titles and book covers that will make you wonder how the titles ever got through the planning stage by any marketing professionals.  I have to admit that as I went through this site, I gasped and laughed.  You will too.

But, how does this happen?  Why deliberately inhibit sales by offending consumers, or making them afraid to show others they own the book?

I have to admit this is one reason to read a book on your tablet or phone.  No one knows what you’re reading!

Overall, deliberately cutting sales so you can have an offending title is not too bright of an idea in my view.

Friday, March 27, 2015 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Have Change Covered for You – Our Three Public Workshops: November 12-13

No matter what your circumstances, you WILL deal with change in any organization, and no matter how you want to work with it, we have you covered….

Please spread the word about our November 12-13 public workshops on change.   We hold these three workshops at the Richardson Civic Center, and to facilitate interaction among the participants, we limit seating to the first twenty persons registered for each program.   See additional discounts at the bottom of this blog.

Our schedule and details follow:

Wednesday, November 12 – 8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

MANAGING CHANGE                                      Facilitator:  Randy Mayeux

In the midst of ever-increasing change, the ability to manage your own effectiveness is now required for virtually every position in an organization.  In this program, learn how to turn change into a powerful competitive advantage, and into a friend, rather than an enemy.  Register for this program if you want to:

  • cope with change you must implement
  • work in a change-friendly environment
  • reduce personal anxiety about change
  • produce an environment of freedom
  • look for positive changes to implement
  • use change as a tool to boost productivity and effectiveness

Price:  $695.00 per person,* which includes breakfast, manual, and “work-with’s”

Wednesday, November 12 – 1:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION FROM CREATIVE AND INNOVATIVE EXPERTS              Facilitator:  Randy Mayeux

Randy will brief you on four separate business books on creativity and innovation, and build on the transferable principles from these books.  Each participant receives a copy of all four books.

Part 1:  Think Creatively 

  • Identify strategies to actively seek out and hire people with diverse backgrounds and thinking styles
  • Explore steps to effectively manage resistance to novel or experimental proposals

Part 2:  Demonstrate How to Develop Processes, Products, and Services

  • Describe how to evaluate new opportunities unconstrained by existing paradigms but keeping an eye towards organizational goals
  • Identify and describe steps to maintain the organization’s competitive edge with breakthrough solutions and disciplined risks

The four books are:  (1) The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, (2) The Ten Steps of Innovation by Tom Kelley, (3) Weird Ideas That Work by Robert Sutton, and (4) Creativity, Inc., by Jeff Mauzy and Richard Harriman

Price:  $775.00 per person,* which includes lunch, manual, four books, and “work-with’s”

Thursday, November 13 –    8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

LEADING CHANGE                                         Facilitator:  Karl J. Krayer, Ph.D.

Why sit in the passenger’s seat for the next change initiative in your organization?  Instead, sit in the driver’s seat and lead it!  Your organization can maintain productivity and achieve results while in the midst of change by following three key principles to make the initiative you lead to be:  (1) inclusive, (2) systemic, and (3) systematic.  Register for this workshop if you want to:Organizing Change cover

  • take a proactive approach to an issue, problem, or opportunity
  • gain commitment by influencing others affected by a change
  • measure and evaluate the effectiveness of a change initiative
  • design a change initiative that you can implement in an inclusive, systemic, and systematic way
  • boost the positive impact of a change initiative that you organize

Each participant receives a copy of Karl’s book, Organizing Change.

Price:  $1,370 per person,* which includes breakfast and lunch, manual, CDROM template, book, and “work-with’s”

———————————————-

*SPECIAL DISCOUNTS

Both MANAGING CHANGE and CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION FROM CREATIVE AND INNOVATIVE EXPERTS for $1,200 (save $270)

Either MANAGING CHANGE or CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION FROM CREATIVE AND INNOVATIVE EXPERTS and LEADING CHANGE for $1,770 (save $375)

Best value – all three workshops for $2,200 (save $540)

We offer discounts for multiple registrants from the same organization with a single payment:

  • 2nd person – receives 10% discount from the per-person price
  • 3rd person – receives 15% discount from the per-person price
  • 4th person – receives 20% discount from the per-person price
  • 5th person – receives 25% discount from the per-person price

————————————————

REGISTRATION AND CONTACT INFORMATION

You can use this registration form and return it to us.   Simply click on the image below and you will see a full, printable page.

If you prefer, we can also mail, fax, or e-Mail this registration form to you.

We are glad to answer questions from you, so please call or send an e-Mail.  The number is (972) 980-0383.  The e-Mail is:info@creativecommnet.com

We look forward to hearing from you.

Click here for full image

Click here for full image

 

Monday, October 13, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Have Change Covered For You – Three Great Public Workshops in November

No matter what your circumstances, you WILL deal with change in any organization, and no matter how you want to work with it, we have you covered….

Please spread the word about our November 12-13 public workshops on change.   We hold these three workshops at the Richardson Civic Center, and to facilitate interaction among the participants, we limit seating to the first twenty persons registered for each program.  We offer an early-bird discount of 10% for all registrations paid on or before October 20.  See additional discounts at the bottom of this blog.

Our schedule and details follow:

Wednesday, November 12 – 8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

MANAGING CHANGE                                      Facilitator:  Randy Mayeux

In the midst of ever-increasing change, the ability to manage your own effectiveness is now required for virtually every position in an organization.  In this program, learn how to turn change into a powerful competitive advantage, and into a friend, rather than an enemy.  Register for this program if you want to:

  • cope with change you must implement
  • work in a change-friendly environment
  • reduce personal anxiety about change
  • produce an environment of freedom
  • look for positive changes to implement
  • use change as a tool to boost productivity and effectiveness

Price:  $695.00 per person,* which includes breakfast, manual, and “work-with’s”

Wednesday, November 12 – 1:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION FROM CREATIVE AND INNOVATIVE EXPERTS              Facilitator:  Randy Mayeux

Randy will brief you on four separate business books on creativity and innovation, and build on the transferable principles from these books.  Each participant receives a copy of all four books.

Part 1:  Think Creatively 

  • Identify strategies to actively seek out and hire people with diverse backgrounds and thinking styles
  • Explore steps to effectively manage resistance to novel or experimental proposals

Part 2:  Demonstrate How to Develop Processes, Products, and Services

  • Describe how to evaluate new opportunities unconstrained by existing paradigms but keeping an eye towards organizational goals
  • Identify and describe steps to maintain the organization’s competitive edge with breakthrough solutions and disciplined risks

The four books are:  (1) The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, (2) The Ten Steps of Innovation by Tom Kelley, (3) Weird Ideas That Work by Robert Sutton, and (4) Creativity, Inc., by Jeff Mauzy and Richard Harriman

Price:  $775.00 per person,* which includes lunch, manual, four books, and “work-with’s”

Thursday, November 13 –    8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

LEADING CHANGE                                         Facilitator:  Karl J. Krayer, Ph.D.

Why sit in the passenger’s seat for the next change initiative in your organization?  Instead, sit in the driver’s seat and lead it!  Your organization can maintain productivity and achieve results while in the midst of change by following three key principles to make the initiative you lead to be:  (1) inclusive, (2) systemic, and (3) systematic.  Register for this workshop if you want to:Organizing Change cover

  • take a proactive approach to an issue, problem, or opportunity
  • gain commitment by influencing others affected by a change
  • measure and evaluate the effectiveness of a change initiative
  • design a change initiative that you can implement in an inclusive, systemic, and systematic way
  • boost the positive impact of a change initiative that you organize

Each participant receives a copy of Karl’s book, Organizing Change.

Price:  $1,370 per person,* which includes breakfast and lunch, manual, CDROM template, book, and “work-with’s”

———————————————-

*SPECIAL DISCOUNTS

Take 10% off the listed price for all registrations received by October 20

Both MANAGING CHANGE and CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION FROM CREATIVE AND INNOVATIVE EXPERTS for $1,200 (save $270)

Either MANAGING CHANGE or CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION FROM CREATIVE AND INNOVATIVE EXPERTS and LEADING CHANGE for $1,770 (save $375)

Best value – all three workshops for $2,200 (save $540)

We offer discounts for multiple registrants from the same organization with a single payment:

  • 2nd person – receives 10% discount from the per-person price
  • 3rd person – receives 15% discount from the per-person price
  • 4th person – receives 20% discount from the per-person price
  • 5th person – receives 25% discount from the per-person price

————————————————

Registration and Contact Information:

We can mail, fax, or e-Mail a registration form to you.  We are glad to answer questions from you, so please call or send an e-Mail.  The number is (972) 980-0383.  The e-Mail is: info@creativecommnet.com

We look forward to hearing from  you.

Monday, October 6, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Liz Wiseman on Good and Bad “Multipliers” in the Workplace Environment

Wiseman, LizIn Multipliers, written with Greg McKeown, Liz Wiseman juxtaposes two quite different types of persons whom she characterizes as the “Multiplier” and the “Diminisher.” Although she refers to them as leaders, suggesting they have supervisory responsibilities, they could also be direct reports at the management level or workers at the “shop floor” level. Multipliers “extract full capability,” their own as well as others’, and demonstrate five disciplines: Talent Magnet, Liberator, Challenger, Debate Maker, and Investor. Diminishers underutilize talent and resources, their own as well as others, and also demonstrate five disciplines: Empire Builder, Tyrant, Know-It-All, Decision Maker, and Micro Manager. Wiseman devotes a separate chapter to each of the five Multiplier leadership roles and juxtaposes each with its Diminisher counterpart.

As with Jim Collins’ Good to Great and misunderstandings about getting people on and off a “bus,” whether or not to be a “hedgehog” or a “fox,” and keeping a “fly wheel” moving and in the right direction, there are apparently some misunderstandings about “Multipliers” and “Diminishers” in Wiseman’s Multipliers. As indicated in the first paragraph (above), she is quite specific about what she means but given human nature, people will abuse as well as use the two terms. For example, suggesting that a person is either a Multiplier or a Diminisher. That is, of course, rubbish.

In his most recently published book, Good Boss, Bad Boss, Robert Sutton offers clearer distinctions when defining terms. I acknowledge my debt to him when suggesting the following:

1. Good Multipliers increase health, happiness, understanding, productivity, profitability, etc.; Bad Diminishers reduce them.

2. Bad Multipliers increase illness, misery, ignorance, waste, insolvency, etc.; Good Diminishers reduce them.

3. Good Multipliers increase the number of Good Diminishers.

4. Good Diminishers reduce the number of Bad Multipliers.

* * *

Liz Wiseman is president of The Wiseman Group, a leadership research and development center headquartered in Silicon Valley. She advises senior executives and leads strategy and leadership forums for executive teams worldwide. A former executive at Oracle Corporation, she worked as the Vice President of Oracle University and as the global leader for Human Resource Development for 17 years. Liz is the author of Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter.You are welcome to check out my review of Wiseman’s book.

Saturday, January 19, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blogging on Business Update from Bob Morris (Week of 11/26/12)

BOB Banner

I hope that at least a few of these recent posts will be of interest to you:

BOOK REVIEWS

The Complete Executive
Karen Wright

Harder Than I Thought
Robert D. Austin, Richard L. Nolan, and Shannon O’Donnell

HR Strategic Project Management SPOMP
Leon M. Hielkema

INTERVIEWS

Matthew E. May: Second Interview, Part 1, by Bob Morris

Sandra L. Kurtzig (Kenandy) in “The Corner Office”
Adam Bryant
New York Times

Matthew E. May: Second Interview, Part 2, by Bob Morris

Holly Weeks: A second interview, by Bob Morris

Erika Andersen: An interview by Bob Morris

COMMENTARIES

“Your Most Pressing Management Concerns: What You’ve Told Us”
Andrea Ovans
HBR

“The Indispensable, Unlikely Leadership of Abraham Lincoln”
Gautam Mukunda
HBR

“Best Business Books of 2012″
strategy+business magazine

“Leadership and the art of plate spinning”
Colin Price
The McKinsey Quarterly

“Surviving Disruption”
Maxwell Wessel and Clayton M. Christensen
HBR

“The Essential CIO: Insights from IBM’s Global Chief Information Officer Study (2011)”
IBM Institute for Business Value

“Fighting the Fears that Block Creativity”
Tom Kelley and David Kelley
HBR

“Does Management Really Work?”
Nicholas Bloom, Raffaella Sadun, and John Van Reenen
HBR

“Resilience Quotations: Part 2″
BOB

“Innovation lessons from Pixar: A conversation with Oscar-winning director Brad Bird”
Hayagreeva Rao, Robert Sutton, and Allen P. Webb
The McKinsey Quarterly

“Expanding the Use of Assessments”
Mollie Lombardi
Talent Management magazine

“Seth Kahan on getting change and innovation right”
BOB

“What’s your training schedule?”
Josh Linkner

“How Children Succeed: A conversation with author Paul Tough”
Emily Huizenga

“Three Ways to Stop Procrastination”
Management Tip of the Day
HBR

“Valuable business lessons about talent management to be learned from George Bradt and Mary Vonnegut”
BOB

* * *

To check out these resources and other content, please click here.

To subscribe via RSS Reader, please click here.

Sunday, December 2, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Charles S. Jacobs: A second interview by Bob Morris

Charles S. Jacobs

Charles S. Jacobs is founder and managing partner of 180 Partners, and the author of Management Rewired: Why Feedback Doesn’t Work and Other Surprising Lessons from the Latest Brain Science. For over two decades, he has helped the leadership of corporations around the world improve the performance of their businesses. He numbers among his clients fifty of the Fortune 100, and has worked in Europe, Asia, South America, and the U.S.

His unique approach enables managers to use our new understanding of the brain to comprehensively rethink their businesses, creating more robust competitive strategies and the performance-oriented organizations needed to implement them. His work provides the key to overcome the number one obstacle to meaningful improvement in business performance—the rapid and effective management of change.

His writing has appeared in numerous business publications and he is sought after for print and broadcast interviews. His seminars and speeches offer an overview of the stunning discoveries of brain science and the direct, practical application of those discoveries to management. He completed his B.A., M.A., and PhD work at the University of Michigan.

Here is an excerpt from my second interview of Charles. To read the complete interview, please click here.

To read the first interview, please click here.

*     *     *

Morris: Much has (and hasn’t) happened in the business world since our last conversation. In your opinion, which change has been most significant? Why?

Jacobs: The key development for me has been the rise of self-managed, leaderless groups, fueled by technology and social media. We saw it with the Arab spring, and with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Regardless of how you might feel about the aims and tactics of such movements, they have been wildly successful in attracting both membership and attention, and they’ve done it with a speed that is dizzying.

I recently asked a client of mine that runs a highly successful business how she managed the fifteen thousand millennial software engineers. She told me she didn’t. She went on to describe a self-managed team with an internal social networking site as its hub.

Increasingly over the last year, I’ve noticed my work has been focused on building self-managing organizations. They’re much more productive, people prefer them, and managers are freed up to focus outward on customers and market trends. I think we are seeing a redefinition of leadership for the wired age.

Morris: For those who have not as yet read Management Rewired, what prompted you to write it?

Jacobs: I’ve always been fascinated by how the mind works. When I started working in the business world, I was struck by how most of our management practices, based on behavioral science, weren’t terribly effective. I found that better results came from focusing on the thinking that drives the behavior.

When I sold my first business, I had an opportunity to study the latest research in brain science and I found it really exciting. The invention of the fMRI allowed us to see the brain at work for the first time, and what we learning had more in common with Eastern philosophy and quantum mechanics than behavioral science.

Not only were the discoveries fascinating in their own right, they explained much of what I had observed in my work. They also suggested a better way to improve business performance, even though it might seem counterintuitive. My book is my attempt to communicate the excitement of these discoveries and their practical application.

Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing it?

Jacobs: There were really two for me that were game-changing. The first is that the brain doesn’t faithfully record our experience of the world, as much as it creates it. Our sense data are processed in the brain with input from the areas associated with our goals, emotions, and beliefs.

Rather than being objective, the world we experience is a unique product of our aspirations, feelings and expectations. To be effective in our interactions with others, we need to appreciate the story they tell themselves, and most likely it is very different than the one we tell ourselves.

The second is that our decision-making is driven more by emotions than logic and we make better decisions as a result. If we get too caught up in the objective data, we lose access to our gut feelings, which in reality are the product of the accumulated experience of our lifetime. We then make worse decisions, even in supposedly objective areas like finance. The data is important, but the feelings put it into context.

Both of these revelations challenge our conventional wisdom about management and give rise to new, more effective approaches.

Morris: To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ from what you originally envisioned?

Jacobs: The original draft was about twice as long and far more academic. I had a wonderful editor at Portfolio who taught me that an author, just like a business organization, needs to be focused on the customer.

Managers are busy, so a business book needs to be engaging, concise, and immediately applicable. The best ideas in the world will die an obscure death if they’re not presented in a way that compels people to attend to them. I think the same constraint applies to a manager’s communication.

Morris: If you were updating the book (and you may yet), what would be the most significant revisions (if any) in the new edition?

Jacobs: Even in the short time since the book was written, there have been even more substantial advances in cognitive neuroscience, so of course I would want to include those. The same is true of technology.

For example, smartphones are keeping us more connected and speeding up the pace of business. At the same time, there’s less face-to-face human contact, which has been the basis of our relationships for hundreds of thousand of years. Managing in an environment with different rates of evolution for technology and the human brain is a huge challenge.

I would also add more of the view from the trenches. I am fascinated by ideas–they change the brain, the mind, and our behavior. But managers don’t have the time or the bandwidth to answer the “so what?” More war stories illustrating direct applications would help them utilize the power of the latest brain research.

*     *     *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

To read the first interview, please click here.

Charles Jacobs cordially invites you to check out these websites:

Managementrewired.com

180Partners.com


Thursday, February 9, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Set-Up-To-Fail Syndrome: A book review by Bob Morris

The Set-Up-To-Fail Syndrome: How Good Managers Cause Great People to Fail
Jean-Francois Manzoni (Author), Jean-Louis Barsoux
Harvard Business Press (2002)

The Negative Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Note: I recently re-read this book while preparing questions for an interview and was amazed, frankly, how relevant the key insights in this book are to those in other books published yeas later, notably Jean-Lipman-Blumen’s The Allure of Toxic Leaders: Why We Follow Destructive Bosses and Corrupt Politicians–and How We Can Survive Them (2006) and The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World (2009) co-authored by Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky as well as Robert Sutton’s Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best… and Learn from the Worst (2010).

Jean-Francois Manzoni and Jean-Louis Barsoux’s book is based on more than fifteen years of extended and combined research whose primary objective was to reveal the reasons why so many in positions of authority, especially bosses, are so ineffective when managing their subordinates, especially their perceived weaker performers. That is to say, supervisors are often unaware of the fact that they are “complicit in an employee’s lack of success. How? By creating and reinforcing a dynamic that essentially sets up perceived weaker performers to fail.” Hence the title of the  book. The authors explain the causes and effects of that “dynamic” (see “Set-Up-to-Fail Syndrome,” Chapter 3) and also explain how to avoid it (“Preventing the Set-Up-to-Fail Syndrome: Lessons from the Syndrome Busters,” Chapter 9). One of this book’s most valuable contributions is comprised of a series of “Tables” that organize and summarize key points. For example:

Table 2-1: “How Bosses See Their Behavior toward Subordinates” contrasts tendencies of bosses in relationships with weaker and stronger performers.
Table 5-1: “Taking Sides”presents two views of the same supervisor’s observed behavior either as a “great boss” or as an “impossible boss.”
Table 7-2: “Taking Responsibility Away from an Employee” juxtaposes a supervisor’s thoughts and feelings about a subordinate with direct interaction

Manzoni and Barsoux assert that the set-up-to-fail syndrome is “both self-fulfilling and self-reinforcing, which obscures the boss’s responsibility in the process as well as some of the key psychological and social mechanisms involved.” My own experience suggests an often great discrepancy exists between modes of behavior determined by conscious and unconscious mindsets. That is to say, many supervisors would vehemently deny that they are “complicit in an employee’s lack of success….[by] creating and reinforcing a dynamic that essentially sets up perceived weaker performers to fail.” Nonetheless they are. Were they to read this book, they would probably agree that there is such a syndrome and then lament how unfair it is to subordinates who are victimized by it.

One final point. Countless research studies of face-to-face communication have arrived at essentially the same conclusion: Body language creates 60-75% of the impact, tone of voice 15-20%, and content (i.e. what is actually said) only 10-15%. (Percentages vary among major global research studies but only slightly.) With the publication of this book, Manzoni and Barsoux have made a substantial contribution to our understanding of a widespread but, until now, neglected cause of human dysfunction in the workplace. Whether intentionally or not, a supervisor can sometimes create irreparable damage, especially to those who already feel insecure, by a negative and demeaning “message” which need not be expressed in words but comes through loud and clear nonetheless.

 

Thursday, August 18, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Heidi Grant Halvorson: An interview by Bob Morris

Heidi Grant Halvorson

Heidi Grant Halvorson, PhD, is a motivational psychologist, researcher, and consultant. She writes about the scientifically-tested strategies we can use to be more effective reaching our goals at work and in our personal lives. Her new book is Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals (Hudson Street Press). Heidi serves on the Board of Advisors to Columbia Business School’s Motivation Science Center. She is also the co-editor of the academic handbook, The Psychology of Goals, a regular contributor to the BBC World Service’s “Business Daily,” and an expert blogger for Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Fast Company, SmartBrief, Huffington Post and Psychology Today. Her website is www.heidigranthalvorson.com.

*     *     *

Morris: Was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) in your life that set your career on the course you continue to follow? Please explain.

Halvorson:  I started college, believe it or not, as a chemistry major.  I’ve always loved science, probably because I have always wanted to solve mysteries like Sherlock Holmes, and science is essentially about problem-solving and figuring out what’s really going on beneath the surface.

I took a psychology class my junior year, just to fulfill a course requirement, and discovered that not only was it a science, but it was the best possible kind – a science about people, why they do the things they do, and how to change what they do for the better. What is more interesting than that?  Or more useful?  That course changed my life, and put me on a path to using the methods of science (testing, objectivity, etc.) in order to help people lead happier, more effective lives.  Succeed is my attempt to take the scientific findings, and break them down into easy-to-implement steps (in plain English), so that people can find the solutions they need.

Morris: You have written countless articles and a few books in which you share what you have learned about human achievement. More specifically, about why people tend to blame their failures on the wrong reasons. For example?

Halvorson:  There is a strong tendency, especially in the U.S. but in Western cultures more generally, to attribute our successes and failures to ability.  And by that we usually mean some innate quality or aptitude.  So you either win the DNA lottery and end up with lots of intelligence, or creativity, or willpower – and are therefore successful – or you don’t, and you fail.

This explanation is wrong in two very important ways.  First, ability simply doesn’t work that way.  No matter which ability you’re talking about – whether it’s intelligence, creativity, athletic prowess, conscientiousness, or self-control – research shows them to be profoundly malleable.  In other words, no matter what you start with, what you end up with has everything to do with experience, learning, and effort.  If you want to be smarter, you can get smarter.  If you want to have more self-control, you can build your willpower “muscle.”  But when we think of our abilities as fixed and innate, we give up on ourselves when we encounter difficultly, and resign ourselves to failure (“I guess I’m not just good at this sort of thing.”)

The second way in which this explanation is wrong is that no matter how much ability you have, successfully reaching a goal has everything to do the actions you take (or don’t take) along the way.  Effort, strategy choice, help-seeking, mindset, motivation, confidence, planning, and monitoring of progress are the true keys to achievement, and they are much more powerful than “ability” or “aptitude” when it comes to predicting who will ultimately succeed.  But until we start rejecting explanations like “I’m just not smart enough” or “I don’t have what it takes,” we won’t start looking in the right places for the real problems, and figuring out solutions.

Morris: Are there any “right” reasons to explain failure? Please explain.

Halvorson:  Absolutely – we need to look to our actions, rather than our abilities.  We need to think about the aspects of our performance that are under our direct control:  the effort we put in, the strategies we used, the critical steps we may have neglected to take, whether or not we considered the obstacles to success and made plans for how to deal with them, etc.  Succeed is, more than anything else, a guide to diagnosing where you went wrong, and putting you back on the right path.

Morris: The term “success” seems so subjective. Is there a definition that seems to have universal applications? If so, what is it? If not, why not?

Halvorson:  You’re right, “success” is very subjective. In the book, I typically use it to mean reaching whatever goal you’ve set for yourself, so “success” will look very different from person to person depending on what they want out of life. There do, however, seem to be goals that are more likely than others to lead to lasting happiness and well-being, because they satisfy three universal human needs: relatedness, competence, and autonomy.  In other words, pursuing goals that make us feel connected to others, help us to master skills and acquire knowledge, and allow us to engage in activities that reflect our personal values, will lead to the kind of life satisfaction that we can probably all agree constitutes “success.”

Morris: In Denial of Death, a book published two months after his death, Ernest Becker said physical death is inevitable but another form of death could be denied: that which occurs when we become wholly preoccupied with fulfilling others’ expectations of us. What do you think?

Halvorson:   When we think about our goals in terms of seeking validation and approval from others (wanting to prove that we are smart, likable, and worthy – or what I call trying to “be good”), it has several very unfortunate consequences.  First, it diminishes our interest and enjoyment, because we are too focused on the final performance rather than the process of getting there. We can’t savor the experience of the journey, because we are too worried about the destination.

It also increases the tendency to see our performance as a measure or reflection of our ability or self-worth. When things get difficult, it creates anxiety and withdrawal – two very powerful goal saboteurs.  People who seek validation are more likely to give up on themselves too soon, and suffer from longer, deeper episodes of depression.

If instead, we look at our pursuits as opportunities to learn and develop – to seek growth, rather than validation – a very different pattern emerges.  I call this kind of goal a “get better” goal, because it’s more about progress.  It’s about getting smarter, rather than proving that you already are smart.  When we frame our goals this way, studies show that we enjoy what we do more, feel less threatened by challenges, and persist longer when the going gets rougher.  We are less concerned with making mistakes, and consequently we make fewer of them.  We’re less likely to be anxious or depressed, and more likely to experience lasting well-being.    Switching from the be good to the get better mindset is the subject of a full chapter in Succeed because it has been shown to have so many life-altering benefits.

Morris: You believe that there is a “science” of success. How so?

Halvorson:  Absolutely!  Success isn’t random or accidental – there are reliable principles involved, ones that have been uncovered through hundreds and hundreds of studies over the last 50+ years.  We know a great deal about why some people reach their goals and others don’t – and why otherwise successful people still end up having goals that give them trouble.

We know which strategies work, and which ones don’t.  And we know why some intuitions about success are spot on, and why others are dead wrong.  It can be very difficult (actually, it’s impossible) to look at your own behavior objectively and figure out what you did right or wrong, but the picture becomes clearer when we step back and look large groups of people striving for the same goal.  We can identify more easily the key elements that bring about success, and feel more confident that we’re on the right track.

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To read the complete interview, please click here.

Saturday, July 30, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Beware the Busy Manager

Heike Bruch

Here is an excerpt from an article co-authored by Heike Bruch and Sumantra Ghoshal 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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If you listen to executives, they’ll tell you that the resource they lack most is time. Every minute is spent grappling with strategic issues, focusing on cost reduction, devising creative approaches to new markets, beating new competitors. But if you watch them, here’s what you’ll see: They rush from meeting to meeting, check their e-mail constantly, extinguish fire after fire, and make countless phone calls. In short, you’ll see an astonishing amount of fast-moving activity that allows almost no time for reflection.

Sumantra Ghoshal

No doubt, executives are under incredible pressure to perform, and they have far too much to do, even when they work 12-hour days. But the fact is, very few managers use their time as effectively as they could. They think they’re attending to pressing matters, but they’re really just spinning their wheels.

The awareness that unproductive busyness—what we call “active nonaction”—is a hazard for managers is not new. Managers themselves bemoan the problem, and researchers such as Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton have examined it (see “The Smart-Talk Trap,” HBR May–June 1999). [Note: They later developed their insights in a book, The Knowing-Doing Gap, published by Harvard Business School Press in 2000.] But the underlying dynamics of the behavior are less well understood.

For the past ten years, we have studied the behavior of busy managers in nearly a dozen large companies, including Sony, LG Electronics, and Lufthansa. The managers at Lufthansa were especially interesting to us because in the last decade, the company underwent a complete transformation—from teetering on the brink of bankruptcy in the early 1990s to earning a record profit of DM 2.5 billion in 2000, thanks in part to the leadership of its managers. We interviewed and observed some 200 managers at Lufthansa, each of whom was involved in at least one of the 130 projects launched to restore the company’s exalted status as one of Europe’s business icons.

Our findings on managerial behavior should frighten you: Fully 90% of managers squander their time in all sorts of ineffective activities. In other words, a mere 10% of managers spend their time in a committed, purposeful, and reflective manner. This article will help you identify which managers in your organization are making a real difference and which just look or sound busy. Moreover, it will show you how to improve the effectiveness of all your managers—and maybe even your own.

Focus and Energy

Managers are not paid to make the inevitable happen. In most organizations, the ordinary routines of business chug along without much managerial oversight. The job of managers, therefore, is to make the business do more than chug—to move it forward in innovative, surprising ways. After observing scores of managers for many years, we came to the conclusion that managers who take effective action (those who make difficult—even seemingly impossible—things happen) rely on a combination of two traits: focus and energy.

Think of focus as concentrated attention—the ability to zero in on a goal and see the task through to completion. Focused managers aren’t in reactive mode; they choose not to respond immediately to every issue that comes their way or get sidetracked from their goals by distractions like e-mail, meetings, setbacks, and unforeseen demands. Because they have a clear understanding of what they want to accomplish, they carefully weigh their options before selecting a course of action. Moreover, because they commit to only one or two key projects, they can devote their full attention to the projects they believe in.

Consider the steely focus of Thomas Sattelberger, currently Lufthansa’s executive vice president, product and service. In the late 1980s, he was convinced that a corporate university would be an invaluable asset to a company. He believed managers would enroll to learn how to challenge old paradigms and to breathe new life into the company’s operational practices, but his previous employer balked at the idea. After joining Lufthansa, Sattelberger again prepared a detailed business case that carefully aligned the goals of the university with the company’s larger organizational agenda. When he made his proposal to the executive board, he was met with strong skepticism: Many believed Lufthansa would be better served by focusing on cutting costs and improving processes. But he kept at it for another four years, chipping away at the objections. In 1998, Lufthansa School of Business became the first corporate university in Germany—and a change engine for Lufthansa.

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Heike Bruch (heike.bruch@unisg.ch) is a professor of leadership at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. She is a co-author of with Bernd Vogel of Fully Charged, published by Harvard Business Review Press (2011)

Sumantra Ghoshal is a professor of strategy and international management at the London Business School.


Monday, May 2, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rules of Thumb: A book review

Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business Without Losing Yourself
Alan M. Webber
HarperBusiness/HarperCollins (2009)

Entertaining as well as informative results from a world-class muller

Thus book is as difficult to describe as it is easy to appreciate. What we have here is a series of 52 mini-commentaries, each devoted to an insight or conviction that Alan Webber has formulated throughout his life thus far. As I worked my way through them, I was reminded of Isaac Asimov observation, “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ (I found it!) but ‘That’s odd…’”

Presumably Webber has encountered situations that struck him as odd and wondered about them, finally reaching conclusions that he characterizes as unofficial “rules” or “truths” about human nature. I suspect that are probably viewed by most people as guidelines.

Although Webber suggests that they can be applied to “winning at business without losing your self,” I think they are relevant whenever and wherever there is human interaction. After about the first 12-15, I began to connect rules to specific situations.

For example:

Rule #10: “A good question beats a good answer.” This offers excellent advice to job candidates whose questions tend to reveal more about their abilities than their responses to an interviewer’s questions do.

Rule #13: “Learn to take no as a question.” Sometimes, no means no. However, on frequent occasion, no is a tentative rather than terminal response. Politely request an explanation and be well-prepared to respond to the reasons offered.

Rule #18: “Knowing it ain’t the same as doing it.” This reminds me of a book with an eponymous title, in which Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton discuss what they call “The Knowing-Doing Gap.” Long ago, Thomas Edison said, “Vision without execution is hallucination.”

Rule #43: “Don’t confuse credentials with talent.” Make no mistake, credentials can have substantial value but (as #18 suggests) they offer evidence of nothing more than what obtaining them required.

With regard to talent, I agree with Anders Ericsson and his research associates at Florida State University that its importance also tends to be overrated. Darrell Royal once observed that “potential” means “you ain’t done it yet.” In my opinion, the best credentials are redundantly verifiable accomplishments that are relevant to the given needs.

Rule #45: “Failing isn’t failing. Failing is failing to try.” I agree, presuming to add that that failing is also failing to learn anything of value from whatever is considered a failure. Back to Edison who cherished every setback in his Menlo Park research center as a precious learning opportunity.

After you read Alan Webber’s book, he invites you to formulate your own Rule #53 and then share it with him (alan@rulesofthumbbook.com). I hope you do. Here’s the one I came up with: “You better be there when your name is called,” perhaps inspired by Woody Allen’s assertion, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

Friday, March 25, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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