First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Emily Bennington: An interview by Bob Morris

Bennington bannerEmily Bennington specializes in two distinct forms of career transition: college students entering the workforce and women leaders entering executive management. Her work deep dives into what Stephen Covey famously referred to as “the space” between stimulus and response where she challenges executives to choose mindful, values-centered action. Emily is the author of Who Says It’s a Man’s World: The Girls’ Guide to Corporate Domination and the coauthor of Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out, and Move Up at Your First Real Job, a book she wrote with her first boss and mentor Skip Lineberg. Emily has led training programs for numerous Fortune 500 companies and has been featured in business press ranging from CNN, ABC, and Fox to the Wall Street Journal, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan. She is also a contributing writer for and a featured blogger for Forbes Woman.

Here’s an excerpt from my interview of her. To read the complete interview, please click here.

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Morris: Before discussing Who Says It’s a Man’s World, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest impact on your professional development? How so?

Bennington: Definitely my first boss and Effective Immediately co-author Skip Lineberg. At the beginning of my career, Skip really spent a lot of time coaching and challenging me to be better. One example I’ll never forget was when I had my first performance review and asked for a raise, Skip made me “demonstrate I was worth it” by successfully completing a series of projects ranging from writing a review of How to Win Friends and Influence People to finding a logistical “problem” in the office and solving it using TQM processes. At the time, a lot of my friends and family were puzzled by this, wondering why he didn’t just give me the raise I’d already earned, but I knew better. I saw Skip’s challenge as an opportunity to prove to him that I was not only worth more money, but more responsibility as well. Since then, our relationship has evolved into more of a partnership than a mentor / student connection, but I’m so blessed that we’re still able to work together after all these years.

Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.

Bennington: My personal and professional growth under Skip’s leadership made me want to offer a similar experience to others in their career. It truly was the turning point that set the stage for everything I do now.

Morris: What do you know about the business world that you wish you knew when you when to work full-time for the first time? Why?

Bennington: I wasted a lot of time in my 20s “looking for the path.” I was constantly planning for a life that would begin 2-4 years in the future when I lived in a particular city, had a particular credential, and achieved particular things. Looking back, I wish I had recognized earlier that I was already on the path. We all are.

Morris: Now please shift your attention to Who Says It’s a Man’s World. When and why did you decide to write it?

Bennington: It all started with dirty Tupperware. Years ago when I was promoted to a director-level position for a corporate accounting firm, I found myself with an assistant for the first time in my career. And I remember being nervous about delegating assignments because she had been with the company for about 15 years and I didn’t want to come off as the bossy new kid. So the first time I went to pass her the baton on a job, I noticed she had some dirty Tupperware from lunch sitting on the corner of her desk. In a flash I reverted back to my waitress days in college. I picked up a few pieces and said, “Can I take this for you?” Turns out, I was SO worried about coming across as too assertive that I overcompensated and made myself look weak. After that, I started thinking about all the “little” ways I was undermining my power at work and I created the survey to see if others were experiencing the same thing. The survey became the foundation for Who Says It’s a Man’s World.

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

Bennington: My first book, Effective Immediately, is full of really prescriptive advice on things you should DO if you want to stand out at work. I assumed this book would follow that same path but – literally in the middle of writing it – I realized that success actually starts with how you THINK. I ended up rearranging a lot of the text, but the end result is definitely stronger for it.

Morris: When formulating questions for this interview, I rejected the phrase “working women” because all of the women in my life since childhood were working…but few were paid — [begin italics] and usually under-paid [end italics] — as was my mother, a single parent. So I use the term “employed women.” Do you have a problem with that? Please explain.

Bennington: I have two young sons so I agree that it’s all work – just some jobs pay better than others. That said, I believe that every woman should have a way to support herself and I learned this first-hand through the hardships of my mother. She never had a career and, as a result, she hasn’t always had the freedom to walk away from situations and relationships that weren’t serving her. I teach career success because I want all women to have the safety – and I mean that literally – that financial independence provides.

Morris: In your opinion, what are the “must-have trade-offs” for employed mothers?

Bennington: For starters, go for the “big money.” In other words, what can you do that will be the most important, the most visible, and have the most impact? When it comes to prioritizing time, your kids aren’t all that different from your boss in this respect. If they are old enough – just ask them. Say something like “I can only make one event this month – either the lunch or the assembly. Which one would you prefer I attend?” The fact that they have a voice in the decision will help them feel better about it – not to mention they’re learning a valuable lesson in time management too. Also, if you’re on a crazy air-tight schedule, don’t allow yourself to get talked into anything behind-the-scenes. You may get a gold star from the PTA for selling the most raffle tickets, but your daughter probably couldn’t care less. So before you commit to anything, think about whether she will notice. If the answer is no, well, there’s your answer.

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To read the complete interview, please click here.

Emily cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

Wednesday, April 10, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tony Schwartz on “The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time”

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Tony Schwartz 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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Why is it that between 25% and 50% of people report feeling overwhelmed or burned out at work?

It’s not just the number of hours we’re working, but also the fact that we spend too many continuous hours juggling too many things at the same time.

What we’ve lost, above all, are stopping points, finish lines and boundaries. Technology has blurred them beyond recognition. Wherever we go, our work follows us, on our digital devices, ever insistent and intrusive. It’s like an itch we can’t resist scratching, even though scratching invariably makes it worse.

Tell the truth: Do you answer email during conference calls (and sometimes even during calls with one other person)? Do you bring your laptop to meetings and then pretend you’re taking notes while you surf the net? Do you eat lunch at your desk? Do you make calls while you’re driving, and even send the occasional text, even though you know you shouldn’t?

The biggest cost — assuming you don’t crash — is to your productivity. In part, that’s a simple consequence of splitting your attention, so that you’re partially engaged in multiple activities but rarely fully engaged in any one. In part, it’s because when you switch away from a primary task to do something else, you’re increasing the time it takes to finish that task by an average of 25 per cent.

But most insidiously, it’s because if you’re always doing something, you’re relentlessly burning down your available reservoir of energy over the course of every day, so you have less available with every passing hour.

I know this from my own experience. I get two to three times as much writing accomplished when I focus without interruption for a designated period of time and then take a real break, away from my desk. The best way for an organization to fuel higher productivity and more innovative thinking is to strongly encourage finite periods of absorbed focus, as well as shorter periods of real renewal.

If you’re a manager, here [is one of] three policies worth promoting:

1. Maintain meeting discipline. Schedule meetings for 45 minutes, rather than an hour or longer, so participants can stay focused, take time afterward to reflect on what’s been discussed, and recover before the next obligation. Start all meetings at a precise time, end at a precise time, and insist that all digital devices be turned off throughout the meeting.

It’s also up to individuals to set their own boundaries. Consider [the first of] these three behaviors for yourself:

1. Do the most important thing first in the morning, preferably without interruption, for 60 to 90 minutes, with a clear start and stop time. If possible, work in a private space during this period, or with sound-reducing earphones. Finally, resist every impulse to distraction, knowing that you have a designated stopping point. The more absorbed you can get, the more productive you’ll be. When you’re done, take at least a few minutes to renew. three behaviors for yourself:

*     *     *

A single principle lies at the heart of all these suggestions. When you’re engaged at work, fully engage, for defined periods of time. When you’re renewing, truly renew. Make waves. Stop living your life in the gray zone.

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To read the complete article, please click here.

Tony Schwartz is the president and CEO of The Energy Project and the author of Be Excellent at Anything. Become a fan of The Energy Project on Facebook and connect with Tony at and To check out Tony’s blog posts, please click here.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rosabeth Moss Kanter on four strategies for coping with disruption

Here is an excerpt from article written by Rosabeth Moss Kanter for the Harvard Business blog. To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Daily Alerts, please visit

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Surprise! Four Strategies for Coping with Disruptions

Surprises are the new normal, and they are not fun. I was about to write a joyous paean to Earth Day and the glories of celebrating the great outdoors, when volcanic ash closed European airports. My flights to a global health summit were cancelled, making me cranky about nature instead. I had just returned from Brazil, where floods disrupted travel in Rio, and mudslides destroyed neighborhoods, following earthquakes in Chile and Haiti. But volcanic ash? Would any company’s scenario planners have imagined a blanket of gray silicate particles covering Europe?

We have enough to deal with in terms of financial crises, currency fluctuations, disruptive technologies, job restructurings, shortages of vital drugs, populist rebellions, possible pandemics, and terrorist threats without adding 2010’s devastating earthquakes and extraordinary weather events. Et tu, Mother Nature?

Coping with the unexpected is a leadership imperative. In every endeavor, the ability to recover quickly separates winners from losers, whether they are reacting to fumbles in a sports match or curve balls thrown by external events. I summarize the challenge of managing volatility in a simple equation: MTBS = or < MTMD. MTBS is the mean time between surprises, which is shrinking. MTMD is the mean time to make a decision, which better be fast.

Here are four strategies to speed response and minimize the impact of disruptions.

[Here’s one of the four. To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Daily Alerts, please visit]

Backup. Leaders should know the benefits of alternatives. Even if Plan B cannot always be rehearsed and ready to go, mental flexibility can prevent specifications and expectations from becoming rigid barriers to rapid redirection. Great innovators often pursue parallel development paths. Great companies stress efficiency but build in slack and cross-train their people, as Cemex does. Although the recession-stimulated tendency during the recession is to run tight, some overlap and redundancy makes it easier to respond quickly.

Similar strategies helped my colleagues deal with the volcanic ash fallout. When I reached the honcho for the global health summit about my cancelled flights, his European team was already in high resiliency mode preparing Plans B and C. He said, “Crises like this shows how innovative and creative we can be. It also allows us to show our character in service of our partners and constituents. Perhaps we can adjust schedules and open it up to a bigger audience.” They did.

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To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Daily Alerts, please visit

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Rosabeth Moss Kanter is a professor at Harvard Business School and the author of Confidence and SuperCorp. Connect with her on Facebook or at

Wednesday, April 21, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rosabeth Moss Kanter on the power of passion

Here is an excerpt from article written by Rosabeth Moss Kanter for the Harvard Business blog. To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Daily Alerts, please visit

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Does Your Passion Match Your Aspiration?

Leaders who create extraordinary new possibilities are passionate about their mission and tenacious in pursuit of it. Many people have good ideas, but many fewer are willing to put themselves on the line for them. Passion separates good intentions and opportunism from real accomplishments.

A reminder of this principle just hit the news. Dr. Donald Berwick, my colleague and friend, is being nominated by President Obama to head Medicare and Medicaid. Originally a pediatrician, Don Berwick passionately wanted to improve health outcomes for patients. He envisioned applying TQM (Total Quality Management) tools from manufacturing to health care. Entrenched interests with closed doors and minds didn’t deter him. Eventually, through the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, the small organization he founded, he reached thousands of hospitals, hundreds of thousands of practitioners, and millions of patients over two decades.

Don knew this would be a long journey against hardened resistance but never veered off course. Now, if his nomination is confirmed, he can guide an entire huge system — a high proportion of the U.S. economy — toward better health at lower cost, zero defects, and more lives saved. He exudes not just vision but personal passion for the cause.

Energy entrepreneur and green innovator Jim Gordon is equally passionate about Cape Wind. For 9 years Gordon has been fighting to get the permits for America’s first offshore wind power generator and the world’s largest offshore wind farm. In April, he will hear whether the U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issues the final approval. If so, a new source of power for the most densely populated region of North America will happen because Jim Gordon’s passion matched his aspiration.

[Note: Kanter next provides 12 questions that will help you to determine whether your passion matches your aspirations. To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Daily Alerts, please visit]

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Rosabeth Moss Kanter is a professor at Harvard Business School and the author of Confidence and SuperCorp. Connect with her on Facebook or at

Thursday, April 1, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment



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