Last week, Marshall Goldsmith was in town for our private LeaveSmarter event, sponsored by BMO Harris and Whyte Hirschboek Dudek. Marshall delivered a moving hour-long talk on effecting positive change through proven methods. As Dr. Goldsmith puts it, the key to improvement is not simply knowing what to do. The key is simply doing what we already know we should do.
May 8, 2013
April 23, 2013
Bad management—chances are we have either worked under bad management or we know someone who has. The harmful effects of a bad manager often extend as far as the private lives of staff, but the more obvious effects can be seen inside the workplace. Sadly, bad bosses are not all that uncommon. But there is hope. There is a trend toward doing good, and smart companies are finding this out quickly. In the hyper-connected world, there is no hiding bad behavior. Successful companies are the ones that do good work, and do it in a way that’s good for all involved. Managers are part of this equation. This is the focus of Peter Shankman’s new book, Nice Companies Finish First.
The fundamental principle that drives Nice Companies Finish First is the idea that goodness begins at the top. It’s difficult for a company to see pervasive goodness if the managers are not modeling the kind of behavior that creates success. Shankman leads with a list of 9 ‘do-nots’, which he calls ‘The 9 Warning Signs of a Hopeless Jerk’. The list is a sequence of ‘I’ve seen that before’ traits, but maybe the most commonly witnessed is this one:
Know-It-All-Dictator: The top dog doesn’t leave room for disagreements out of a sense of personal insecurity, arrogance, or both. The loyalty of the few cronies he or she has is built on fear, and so isn’t authentic friendship. [...] This often results in a dulled level of commitment and enthusiasm on the part of other employees and partners who may stop telling the truth, or even start lying just to avoid the boss’s wrath.
This list of hopelessly jerky behaviors is a nice starting point. If you’re a manager, you’ll likely find it impossible not to check your own management style against the list. But that’s only the beginning. Shankman follows this with nine chapters that delineate behaviors antonymous to the nine jerky behaviors.
Leading the ‘guide’ on management behavior is “Enlightened Self-Interest”, which Shankman describes as the underpinning of successful leadership:
…the act of doing something that benefits you and your constituents, whoever they may be. It’s such a crucial concept because it represents the ultimate combination of human nature and strategic thinking.
Shankman follows this with additional traits, like “Strategic Listening” and another crucial one: “Gives a Damn.” The interesting thing about Shankman’s list of positive behaviors is that much of what appears to make up a good manager also happens to be worthwhile behavior for any human being, in almost any kind of relationship. And this brings us back to that all-encompassing strategy that defines the future: be good. Of course it takes a lot of experience and deep knowledge of your market in order to lead a company, but equally important are those traits that make a person good. Turn yourself into that kind of manager, and watch all of your staff inject that positivity into every corner of your company.
The point of the book is driven home by what might seem like an unlikely example: the singer Tony Bennett. Shankman shares his experience with Bennett and the impact it’s had on his professional career, and then asks, “What to these anecdotes have to do with leadership and success?” But after a brief re-cap of the singer’s career, Shankman reminds us of what has been perhaps one of the most important aspects of his success: “Tony Bennett is a nice person.” Of course his music is well-loved, but his good character is what has opened the door. Of course, you might be thinking, “Well that’s simple enough. Why do I need a book to tell me to be nice?” And maybe you don’t. But if it were that simple, why are they still publishing management books?
April 3, 2013
Lee Cockerell’s new book, The Customer Rules, is a modest-looking volume of 39 ‘rules’ for providing outstanding customer service. Despite the book’s apparent simplicity, The Customer Rules offers readers essential advice ranging from the general—be nice—to the specific—never ever argue with a customer. While reading this book, I often found myself thinking, “Of course; this is a fundamental rule. Who doesn’t know this?” I then immediately had two additional thoughts. The first is that I feel fairly certain that there are millions of people who could benefit from reading this book. I’ve been on the receiving end of sub-par customer service more times than I care to remember, and my general feeling is usually something along the lines of, “I wish I had gone elsewhere.” Even if you’re at your favorite restaurant or shop, if the wait staff or clerk is doing a bad job, it ruins the experience. Perhaps it’s a bad attitude, or simply inexperience. Whatever the case, reading The Customer Rules can give under-performing service staff a chance to model great customer service.
The second thought is that even if you’re already providing excellent service, you very well might need a ‘refresher’. Much like a student of a religious text will read and reread the text in order to deepen his understanding and continue applying key principles, the quality of your customer service will benefit from periodical reminders. Page through The Customer Rules, pick a rule and task yourself with applying it consciously. This book is a tool for experienced service staff too, something to help keep your level of service at its very best.
Below are Lee’s responses to five questions inspired by reading The Customer Rules and by Lee’s reputation for leadership and excellence. Thanks, Lee, for taking the time to share these insights with us!
When I wrote Creating Magic I had just spent sixteen years as the senior executive of operations for Walt Disney World. When I first went to Disney in 1993, I was not satisfied with the leadership messaging for all of our leaders and potential leaders, so I developed a document titled Disney Great Leader Strategies. It became the bible for training and developing the 7000 leaders at Walt Disney World. This document had a powerful impact on the managers, helping them understand our expectations for world class leadership. The Disney Great Leader Strategies became the foundation for my book Creating Magic. While it was meant for leaders, it became quite popular at all levels of the organization, and especially with those who wanted to become managers and leaders in the future.
Creating Magic became very popular. It is now in thirteen languages around the world and continues to sell well. One day I was talking to Talia Krohn, my editor at Random House, and she suggested I write a second book on customer service, since that is what I had focused on for 41 years with Hilton Hotels, Marriott International and The Walt Disney Company. At first I did not want to write another book because it is a lot of hard work, and I am retired after all. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had some great experience behind me and that I could help a lot of organizations. So I said, “Let’s do it,” and I began putting into writing what I had learned about delivering sensational service from my experience in my four decades with three world-class organizations. The Customer Rules can help everyone from top executives down to the front line employees who face the customer every day. Since the customer truly rules, everyone in every organization had better know the rules for serving them.
The new book leads with the admonition: be nice. Great advice! Is there a particular reason why you feel it bears mentioning?
I was talking to my 13 year old granddaughter one day as I was about to start writing this book. I said to her, “Margot, I am about to write a new book titled The Customer Rules. What do you think are the most important rules for customer service?” Without a second hesitation she said, “Well Papi, the first rule is ‘be nice.’” Children don’t have any problem getting right to the point. They are not over thinking everything. They get right down to the basics when you ask them a question. Clarity comes naturally to children. I have found out in my own career that if you are nice to people which means being friendly, polite, pleasant, appealing, kind, considerate, well mannered, and refined that they will give you the benefit of the doubt and forgive you if you don’t know something or don’t execute service for them perfectly. Even my granddaughter can tell you that!
There is a growing conversation in the world of business and economics about a shift to a largely service-oriented economy. Do you think companies are ready for this shift? Do you think the average level of service is good now, and where do you see it going in the future?
As the middle class continues to expand around the world there is a natural decline of manufacturing as businesses move their factories to where the wages and cost of business are lower. What’s left is a large middle class population with money to spend so there is more and more demand for service related businesses. It happens in country after country. What is interesting is that the use of robots and automated manufacturing is starting to become cheaper than human labor so we are seeing the first signs of some factory production returning to the US because the cost per hour of a robot is about the same as an hourly wage in China. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. This is a concerning trend as it will leave many less-educated hands-on workers with no jobs. This will mean that we must solve the education problem in America or unemployment will continue to stay high since the majority of future jobs will be in the service or technical fields where a higher level of education will be required to perform the work.
I don’t believe most companies are giving the level of service it will take to keep their customers. Most companies don’t understand the steps necessary to having a customer-centric culture and many don’t keep their CEOs long enough to develop and implement a customer-centric organization. It can’t be done overnight. Excellence takes time and effort. Most companies just focus on their products and not on their culture. You will see many of them bite the dust or be acquired in the next five years.
The book offers 39 rules for great customer service. If you had to pick just one of these rules to communicate to businesses worldwide, which would it be? What advice do businesses most need to hear, and of course—why?
Rule #3, Great Service Follows The Law of Gravity is the most important rule out of the 39, as far as I am concerned. What the boss wants gets done, and the boss is at the top of the organization. Not only do they need to want to have great service but they also must model that want in every way possible. The top person must talk about customer service relentlessly, they must support it with resources and they must constantly communicate with their customers and their employees to find out what they can do to support a customer-centric organization. The most important communication they can do is to listen intently to what their customers and employees are telling them and to get out into their businesses to find out the truth.
You have a long reputation for creating great customer experience and customer service. What has been your inspiration, in the workplace or otherwise?
I was fortunate enough to have a mother who would not stand for my brother and I doing something which we did not do well. Her favorite comment which we all have heard was, “If you are not going to do it right then don’t do it at all.” I also had a great mentor when I worked at the Waldorf Astoria in New York by the name of Gene Scanlan. He was a great role-model and teacher. He taught me about attention to detail and insisted that we always make every guest feel special as we tended to their every request and Waldorf guests demand perfection. I think one thing which drives me is that I have a very positive “can do” attitude and I am a bit compulsive so I want everything to be just right. I am also very disciplined and organized so I always have time to tend to every detail.
March 7, 2013
In the world of professional work, there is a growing conversation about how work can be done and what is most important to a company and its staff. In 2010, we selected Rework as Business Book of the Year because if offered fresh thought on everyday business operations; it gave affirmation to the companies that were saying, “the old way is not the only way.” Pragmatic companies and their leadership teams have begun to tolerate and even embrace practices like telecommuting, choosing to focus on the results, rather than the process. CultureRx founders Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler have long been engaged with this conversation. In 2008 they published Why Work Sucks, a manifesto that advocates a shift of focus from old-fashioned means of measuring work to a simpler way: look at the results. Continuing the conversation, Thompson and Ressler are back with a new book that tailors the results-oriented approach to the needs of leaders: Why Managing Sucks and How to Fix It.
Why Managing Sucks is built on the same foundation as Why Work Sucks, both of which espouse this single fundamental point: focus on the results, not the process. Ressler and Thompson introduce the book with some pretty convincing arguments, namely that people (your employees) work happier and better when they are in control of their time (and subsequently in control of their lives). The introduction presents 13 guideposts for managers to seek on their way to creating a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE). My favorite of these guideposts are:
#5 … Work isn’t a place you go; it’s something you do.
#13 … There is no judgment about how you spend your time.
When I read admonition like this, I automatically think, “Of course! This is excellent advice.” After all, an organization’s expenses and revenue are related to the results of their people’s work, not so much the time devoted to a specific job. I also know that ROWEs are a rarity in the professional world, despite the seeming trend toward more ‘flexible’ work arrangements. But as this book states early on, there is a significant difference between an organization with flexible scheduling and a ROWE.
…flexible schedule is an oxymoron. By definition, there’s nothing flexible about a schedule.
A ROWE gives each and every person complete control over their time, and not just some of it—all of it.
Managers might be hesitant to even entertain completely handing over control of employees’ time, and with good reason. Managing a ROWE is quite different from managing employee time and trying to figure out whether or not any or all of that time was well-spent or crucial to the organization’s what. But as Thompson and Ressler underscore in chapter 2, “Motivate Me”, there is intrinsic motivation for employees who are free to work when and how they prefer, and this is motivation that is otherwise hard-earned (or never earned) through more ‘traditional’ management means, whether it’s higher salary or other time-intensive activities that neither managers nor their staff enjoy.
From a management perspective, the ROWE concept reduces to one essential idea (even more essential than results): respect. Transforming your workplace to a ROWE will present an injection of respect between employees and their managers, and also between all staff and the work they’re accomplishing. A common response to ideas like ROWE would be, “Well that’s nice, but in the real world, we can’t all just show up whenever we please.” Though apathetic, there is some truth to this response. Maybe you’re a middle-manager who’d love to transform your workplace into a ROWE, but your manager (and her manager) won’t consider it. Early in the book, the authors say, “You’re either a ROWE, or you’re not. Period.” Perhaps, but if you’re aspiring toward bringing more respect to your relationships with your staff, Why Managing Sucks might still be your answer, regardless of whether or not you can go all-out ROWE. Whatever you call your new management program, you’re going to learn some important things about how to motivate your employees and how to shift focus from time spent to results.
February 26, 2013
Leadership on its own is hard work. Leaders require many skills, but one particularly important ability successful leaders must have is vision. Despite being clichés of success, companies like Amazon and Apple are time and again exemplary largely because their leaders have been able to visualize the future and steer their followers—employees and customers—toward this vision of the future. As important as vision is, a leader’s vision is almost useless if that leader can’t communicate her vision to her team. This is where David Sibbet’s new book Visual Leaders enters the scene. How do we as leaders communicate with the people responsible for the multitude of different operations that amount to the larger function of moving our organization forward? As Sibbet demonstrates, there is a new trend in leadership communication, and it dovetails beautifully with the very idea of vision.
Sibbet kicks the book off with a kind of overview, “Seven Essential Tools for Visual Leaders”. This includes more basic principles such as metaphors and models, but it also holds specific tools, such as video and virtual visualization via digital media. The underlying idea is, of course, that communication that goes beyond simple text will create a better learning experience. Certain cognition theory reinforces this; there is a benefit to using symbols or images in conjunction with text, and Sibbet’s tools all stem from this fundamental idea.
The book offers HeathEast Care System in St. Paul, Minnesota as a case study. Over the course of two years, two of HeathEast’s mid-level managers created what they call a ‘Quality Vision’, a clear and highly visual description of the direction of their organization. This was then shared with staff and the visualization has helped HeathEast focus on the big-picture goals, turning those goals into more than nebulous ideas or business-speak.
Visual Leaders delivers on its promise, offering actual tools for visually communicating and documenting ideas, as well as the tools to roll these ideas into powerful visualizations that can be shared both inside and outside the walls of your organization. Sibbet offers an understanding of mental models, and this connection helps to propel the implementation of the more template-oriented content in the book. If you’ve been bumping your head against a wall in search of new ways to help your management communicate with each other and the rest of your organization, Visual Leaders might just be the book you’ve been looking for.
February 15, 2013
January 25, 2013
Sarah Miller Caldicott is the author of three books, Innovate Like Edison, the e-book Inventing the Future, and her newest, Midnight Lunch: The 4 Phases of Team Collaboration Success from Thomas Edison’s Lab.
CEO of the innovation consulting company, Power Patterns, and a great grandniece of Thomas Edison, Sarah is committed to translating the innovative methods of Edison for the digital age. In Midnight Lunch, she focuses on contemporizing Edison’s collaboration process, and offering a concrete methodology for implementation. Listen below as she makes an urgent and convincing call for organizations to commit to a collaborative environment and teaches us that Edison was not only a innovator by profession, but also an innovative leader.
Play the interview below
Visit Sarah’s site here to learn more about your chance to win a FREE Midnight Lunch™ Collaboration Experience! Sarah describes the opportunity like this:
To celebrate the launch of my new book Midnight Lunch, I’m counting down the days until Edison’s birthday on Feb. 11th…when I’m offering a free webinar on how you can create your own midnight lunch experience. Watch the countdown on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook!
Share collaboration resources with your team, including free one-page worksheets your team can use while reading the book together.
I’m also giving away a FREE Midnight Lunch™ experience to 5 companies in 2013. Winners receive a free keynote speech plus a live 4-hour midnight lunch collaboration experience – a $20,000 value!
Thanks again to Sarah for sharing her time and insights with us! You can read our full Jack Covert Selects review of Midnight Lunch here. Also keep up with Sarah and the innovation ideas she shares on her Facebook page.
December 28, 2012
December 19, 2012
The Advantage is a smart, quiet book. The valedictorian of the business book class of 2012 whose extracurricular is the chess club rather than debate or pep. The title and cover are straightforward. The message isn’t about making millions of dollars, turning the ship around, inspiring innovative excellence, breaking all the rules. Instead, the message is about prevention, about laying a solid groundwork of internal health to avoid the extremes mentioned above. To venture into a different metaphor, The Advantage is about eating your veggies, sharing a dessert rather than eating the entire slice, and taking a walk around the neighborhood each morning, rather than auditioning for The Biggest Loser to make a drastic and last-ditch change.
The single greatest advantage any company can achieve is organizational health. Yet it is ignored by most leaders even though it is simple, free, and available to anyone who wants it.
Despite its sensible qualities, or rather because of them, we are passionate about the importance of this book and recommend it to every manager or business owner who wishes to prevent organizational disease, rather than treat the symptoms when it’s already too late to stop the spread. We love it’s prime message of attending to the little things, so there aren’t so many BIG things to contend with. And Patrick Lencioni, one of the biggest names in business books, is the right person to show you how to attain organizational health–nay, organizational excellence–and prevent the dysfunctions that come from such internal parasites as politics, unresolved conflict, confusion. Like anything that’s valuable, an organization’s health takes some working at. The payoff? Transformation.
An organization has integrity–is healthy–when it is whole, consistent, and complete, that is, when its management, operations, strategy, and culture fit together and make sense.
Lencioni values management and so he begins his thesis with this foundational truth: management affects every aspect of a company. He explains that he learned from an early age “that some of the things that took place in the organization where I worked made sense, that others didn’t, and that it all had a very real impact on my colleagues and the customers we served.” And management’s contribution to the welfare of every person connected to the company intrigued him, leading him down the career path of writing books that offer practical solutions to solving persistent management problems.
An organization doesn’t become healthy in a linear, tidy fashion. Like building a strong marriage or family, it’s a messy process that involves doing a few things at once, and it must be maintained on an ongoing basis in order to be preserved.
The first thing companies must do to attain organizational health is decide that organizational health is worthy of their attention. Leaders “must humble themselves enough to overcome the three biases that prevent them from embracing it.”
- The Sophistication Bias: sometimes the practical is the most valuable
- The Adrenaline Bias: it’s not always the urgent that is the most critical
- The Quantification Bias: the measurable isn’t the only thing justifiable
Managers must then commit to practicing the 4 Disciplines:
- Build a Cohesive Team by building trust, mastering conflict; achieving commitment; embracing accountability; focusing on results.
- Create Clarityand achieve alignment by answering six critical questions (see the book for just what these questions are.)
- Overcommunicate Clarity through repetition of those answers to inspire belief.
- Reinforce Clarity by building systems that reinforce the answers without institutionalizing them.
Lencioni closes the book by spending some time with one of his favored topics (see his bestselling Death by Meeting): the meeting. Meetings cannot and should not be eliminated, Lencioni asserts, but they can be regulated. He suggests establishing four types of meetings–administrative, tactical, strategic, developmental–that are held at specific times or to solve specific problems. Both employees and leaders then know exactly what they are getting into and what is expected of them.
As dreaded as the “m” word is, as maligned as it has become, there is no better way to have a fundamental impact on an organization than by changing the way it does meetings.
As may now be apparent, with The Advantage Lencioni leaves his preference for fable writing (e.g. The Five Dysfuntions of a Team, The Five Temptations of a CEO, and one of our favorites, Getting Naked) behind. There are no fictional characters and narrative this time around, and while we’ll miss Lencioni’s talent for telling engaging tales, The Advantage still sings with the tenor of Lencioni’s accessible and generous voice. The book is well-stocked with straight-forward advice about getting things right in your organization before they become wrong. Because if, or rather, when, things do go wrong as they are apt to in the life of a company, the organization’s health will be strong enough to withstand and endure the assault. Therein lies The Advantage, and why we chose this book as our 2012 Book of the Year.
(To revisit this year’s book awards, as well as those from previous years, click here.)
December 18, 2012
In anticipation of announcing the winner of the 2012 800-CEO-READ Business Book of the Year tomorrow, here’s a recap of the category winners. Click on the links below to read more about these top books of 2012.
Which book is *your* pick for the top book of the year?
~General Business: PRIVATE EMPIRE | Steve Coll
~Leadership: THE COMMITMENT ENGINE | John Jansch
~Management: THE ADVANTAGE | Pat Lencioni
~Innovation & Creativity: THE ICARUS DECEPTION | Seth Godin
~Small Business & Entrepreneurship: THE $100 STARTUP | Chris Guillibeau
~Sales & Marketing: TO SELL IS HUMAN | Dan Pink
~Personal Development: SO GOOD THEY CAN’T IGNORE YOU | Cal Newport
~Finance & Economics: FINANCE & THE GOOD SOCIETY | Robert Shiller