Have you ever experienced this? You’re part of a team made up of the most qualified or talented people in their particular area…and the team can’t get a darn thing done.

I always wondered how the original “Dream Team,” the 1992 United States men’s Olympic basketball team, was able to win the gold medal considering it was loaded with active NBA players and the giant egos that come along with them. I’d assumed it was due to superior coaching by Chuck Daly who kept their egos in check. Thanks to insights Simon Sinek provides in his book, Start with Why, it’s clear that because the team believed in a “bigger why” they were able to achieve. It was more important to bring home the gold for the US than to win individual accolades. Team triumphed over ego.

Companies would do well to remember this lesson when they choose to pay mega-salaries to get the best talent. That type of person is working for themselves—they’ve not bought into the mission or vision of your business. So when push comes to shove it’s unlikely that they’ll go the extra mile without additional incentives.

When creating your ideal team concentrate on creating an environment that fosters great ideas and set a North Star for the team to work toward. Recruit for the like-minded who share the company’s values and believe in your mission. Not only is it likely that the team will surprise you with their thinking, you’ll have less managing to do.

Conscious Business Book Cover Conscious Business
Fred Kofman
Business & Economics
2013
325

Review: I loved this book! Don’t be put off by the title—this is not a “New Age” tome. Fred Kofman makes a compelling case for consciousness as key to organizational greatness. "Conscious business” he says, means finding your passion and expressing your essential values through your work. By promoting the intelligent pursuit of happiness among all stakeholders, conscious business produces sustainable, exceptional performance.

Kofman is a great teacher and his conversational style works particularly well in the audio version of this book. He seeks to engage you in the conversation and show you his thinking—unlike so many authors he doesn’t pretend to have all the answers which makes his wisdom even more impactful.

It’s hard to characterize this book—it’s a business book with powerful strategies for individuals. It will help you become a better leader and person. It’s practical and idealistic. It references real-world situations and gives you tools for looking at things differently enabling new solutions. He cautions that while the concepts he teaches are simple on the surface, they are initially difficult to implement. However, he makes a compelling case for the benefits of trying.

 

 

Lean in Book Cover Lean in
Sheryl Sandberg
Biography & Autobiography
Alfred a Knopf Incorporated
2013
228

Review: All women should read this book. People that have used the author’s biography as a way to dismiss the book’s content are missing the point. Sure she is talented, had a lot of support, and seems to have always been at the right place at the right time. That doesn’t mean what she has to say isn’t relevant and worth reading. Gloria Steinem had it right when she said (speaking about the book) "Only in women is success viewed as a barrier to giving advice.”

The fact that this book is so polarizing proves Ms. Sandberg’s point. The workplace is not a level playing field. The book is full of examples of how men and women in management are viewed differently. Best of all, it contains practical information for how to handle these situations. The reality, she concludes, is that if the workplace is going to change for the better, we’re going to have to change the attitudes of ourselves and others. It’s our responsibility.

One offhand comment from the book that has stayed with me was “what could the feminist movement achieved if Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem worked together instead of competing?” Good food for thought.

All Marketers Are Liars Book Cover All Marketers Are Liars
Seth Godin
Business & Economics
Portfolio Trade
2012
220

Review: This is a book about storytelling in marketing. Why recommend it? Well, because all of us use marketing (whether we know it or not) in the workplace. Selling products through the use of compelling, attention-getting stories is not new. However, Seth Godin provides a good rationale for why focusing communication through story is particularly important now. Substitute “yourself/your career” for “products/services” and you’ll see how applicable this book can be in communicating your point-of-difference at work.

Key ideas include:

Stories make people believe in product superiority—Godin gives the example of the Porshe Cayenne vs VW Touareg which are the essentially the same car at vastly different price points. Similarly I believe that telling compelling stories—to be clear, I don’t mean lies, I mean creating a narrative so your contribution is evident—makes the difference in who gets ahead at work.

"Frame" your story in a way that makes sense to people so it breaks through the clutter and fits the audiences’ worldview. You can’t change how people see things, you have to choose a different audience if you’re not connecting to them with your story.

The amount of information and complexity of the marketplace makes it virtually impossible to communicate a product’s positioning in one sentence. So too for you—create a story so people can get a sense of who you are and what you can contribute.

Godin’s writing style is very accessible and made it easy to think about how the concepts he covered could apply to an individual’s career. If you’re a seasoned marketer, you probably won’t learn much in the way of marketing but it’s an interesting read nonetheless.

Blue Ocean Strategy Book Cover Blue Ocean Strategy
W. Chan Kim, Renee Mauborgne,
Business & Economics
Harvard Business Press
2015-01
256

Review: This business standard is worth rereading particularly as the nature of competition continues to evolve. The seminal writings of Michael Porter (author of “What is Strategy?” an excellent HBR article) provide the framework of traditional strategic thinking. These authors attempt to take things one step further and create another way to look at strategic thinking. The title refers to their metaphor—red oceans are places where companies compete in traditional ways, taking incremental market share from each other by making minor product advancements while blue oceans are new areas of opportunities with few, if any, competitors.

The examples used to illustrate the authors’ thinking will be familiar to you and it’s interesting in hindsight to see how each of these companies was able to free itself from industry constraints. For instance, Dell decided to customize each computer to the individual consumer—completely opposite of what other manufacturers were doing at the time. This created new value for customers and added the experience of creating their new computer to the process of buying a computer. This type of “value innovation” eg examining the entirety of a company’s activities and identifying a way to create a jump in value for both customers and the company itself is the core of this book.

This is an important foundational work for any well-read executive.

The Happiness Advantage Book Cover The Happiness Advantage
Shawn Achor
Business & Economics
Broadway Business
2010
236

Review: Those familiar with the Gallup Survey know that having a best friend at work is predictive of employee “engagement” e.g. someone who is fully involved in, and enthusiastic about their work which in turn furthers their company’s goals. In "The Happiness Advantage" the author provides powerful evidence that shows that social support and nurturing relationships are major happiness factors while also sharing research supporting the positive impact of employee happiness on organizational results. In fact, he quotes research that says it takes a ratio of 2.9013-to-1 positive to negative interactions to make a team successful. To have optimal teamwork the ratio is 6-to-1. One of the examples he gives is of a mining company that increased their positive/negative interaction ratio and achieves a 40% gain in performance. This is the kind of research we need to promote to get companies to understand that suffering in the workplace is bad for business!

If you’re looking to increase your personal happiness this book is very useful. The Happiness Advantage - retrain our brains to capitalize on positivity and improve productivity and performance. It’s an entertaining summary of happiness research and suggestions on how to apply it. The seven principles covered are well proven methods for dealing with setbacks and increasing your optimism and happiness.

One casualty of our over-stimulated, stressed-out times is basic decency toward others. There is often so much pressure to achieve our work goals we don’t consider how we interact–and what our actions lead others to conclude about us. It’s all about getting things done.

How often have you been asked “how are you?” knowing that the other person didn’t even register your response? Or been in a check out line where the cashier didn’t acknowledge you other than to tell you the amount owed? Or were speaking with someone when their phone rang and they took it out and checked it without batting an eye? Do you to want to work with people who treat others this way?

Culture is changed one person at a time. If we want our workplaces to be more humane it’s up to us to make sure we’re walking the talk. Look at your own behavior. Are you letting work deliverables get in the way of common decency? Have you lost sight of what your behavior is communicating about you/your values to others? Before you speak, do you ask yourself whether your message is truthful, necessary, and kind?

Blaming others for what’s not working at work just perpetuates the problem. Be part of the solution and examine your own behavior at work first.

Drive Book Cover Drive
Daniel H. Pink
Business & Economics
Penguin
2011-04
260

Review: I really wanted to like this book because I am a Dan Pink fan and the topic is an important one. Anyone who has managed others knows that money is not a long-term motivator—here it’s almost presented as an “a ha.” He does remind us that what people really want is autonomy, purpose, and mastery…e.g. they want control over their work, to be part of something bigger, and to get better at what they do and that incentives that key into those areas will motivate people. And he shows that if you use money to get people to perform it often backfires. True but not new news to good managers.

Ultimately he draws distinctions between extrinsic/intrinsic motivations and concludes that intrinsic motivators are more powerful. When he starts making suggestions on how to apply his ideas to business the limits of his academic background become apparent. He recommends that baseline compensation be adequate and fair for everyone. Great in theory but in practice what about the people who don’t pull their weight? Should they get the same baseline compensation? This baseline is also supposed to equal what other people in similar jobs at other companies get. But if everyone is guaranteed average, no one can ever earn above average. I’m giving this a 3 because there is good information for newer managers; however, read his recommendations with a jaundiced eye.

The Heart Aroused Book Cover The Heart Aroused
David Whyte
Business & Economics
Broadway Business
1996
337

Review: David Whyte, published poet and corporate consultant (bet you’ve not heard that combo before!) uses both modern and classic poetry to show how anyone can craft a happier work experience. Unlike any other business book I’m aware of, the author gives equal—if not superior—weight to the importance of your feelings about work.

As someone who understands the workplace—warts and all—the author is able to help us see things differently through the poems he references and the way he crafts his arguments. He’s realistic yet retains his optimism about our ability to transform our workplaces.

Hot, Flat, and Crowded 2.0 Book Cover Hot, Flat, and Crowded 2.0
Thomas L. Friedman
Political Science
Picador
Tue Nov 24 2009
528

Review: This compelling manifesto weaves together globalization, over-population, and climate change showing how we got here and providing potential solutions to avoid future calamity. Essentially this reads as 2 books. The first part is Friedman’s analysis of what has gone wrong over the past 50 years; the second contains ideas for solving some of the big issues we’re facing.

Connecting democracy to the price of oil was interesting. Because oil-rich countries don’t tax their citizens to raise revenue they don’t have to listen to their citizens. When the price of oil goes down though suddenly the oil-rich countries become more reform-minded and democratic. He makes the case for energy self-sufficiency as a way toward spreading democracy.

This book definitely makes you think about the impact of daily habits and I certainly wish all politicians would read it and consider how a long-term perspective would benefit the country. It is long and quite detailed; however the first few chapters are worth the price alone.

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Taking Control of Your Career® Bootcamp Content Overview

Our Bootcamp is designed to get you back to feeling like yourself fast. To avoid overwhelm, we cover critical topics sequentially so you can make small changes quickly and experience immediate results.

1. New Beginnings

We start by creating a clear picture of your desired outcome and showing how feeling stuck can benefit you. You’ll also learn how to increase your physical and mental energy and a quick (less than 5 minutes!), easy way to improve your mood.

2. Setting Yourself Up For Success

It’s easier to succeed when your environment completely supports you. You’ll learn how to easily analyze yours and bring it into alignment. We’ll also cover techniques for viewing your work situation in a neutral, productive way–allowing you to move within it effortlessly.

3. Values & Standards

Values impact your behaviors, decisions, relationships and direction in life. Yet your values are often not aligned with your workplace. Standards are what we honor because we believe they will lead us to our goals. Logically you’d think high standards would result in a superior result but just the opposite often occurs. In this session we’ll cover how to maintain your standards when they’re not shared and how to stay true to yourself without making it an issue for others.

4. How Your Best Intentions Work Against You

If you’re like most achievers, you welcome and thrive on responsibility. Sometimes, however, your life can feel like one long “to do” list leaving little time to figure out what is working – or not – in your life. We’ll cover how to retrain your teammates, how to redefine your role and the concept of “responsibility without authority” – having one without the other makes success impossible.

5. Core Beliefs

Understanding how personal beliefs drive behavior is critical to freeing you from feeling trapped. This is a deeply personal and important aspect necessary to move into action. You’ll learn how to uncover the core belief that is out of alignment and the 5 step process you can use to replace it.

6. Who is in Control of Your Life?

Control is like catnip to high achievers – we all want it. But surprisingly few exercise control in the one area where they actually have it. This cycle of relentlessly trying to get control over an uncontrollable situation is exhausting and self–defeating. Resetting expectations so you can focus on fulfilling activities will provide the energy you need to regain your perspective and take action.

7. Setting Boundaries

If you’re surrounded by those who constantly violate your boundaries it will create conflict, drama and drain your energy. When you set and maintain appropriate boundaries you will experience an almost immediate reduction of stress. We will review the 5–step boundary setting process; discuss how to hold the line without alienating others or compromising your standards, and the implications of not being able to say “no”.

8. The Path Forward

Your work each session will have helped you uncover your personal traps and provided strategies for overcoming them. We’ll do a quick review and focus on how to use your strategic plan so you’ll never get in this situation again. We’ll also review how to appropriately take responsibility, how to manage workplace expectations and perceptions and the best habits for self–management when “overwhelm” strikes again – as it inevitably will.

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