Tag: Read (page 1 of 2)

Leadership is an Art

Inspiring others, stoking a fire of passion in others, is an art that cannot be understated. To inspire others to follow you, embrace your dream as their own, and work towards making that dream come true, is a phenomenal though poorly understood concept that paradoxically remains of the utmost significance in the professional world, yet fails to be taught. How does an entrepreneur teach others to be the best of themselves? How does a leader cultivate ambition while retaining top talent? How does a CEO gain the loyalty of his/her workers and not encourage stagnancy?

Such are but a few of the many questions that Max Depree’s Leadership is an Art explores with versatile accuracy. Acknowledging the multitude of prevailing beliefs that currently characterize the ‘right way’ to lead, Depree concisely but comprehensively answers many of the questions that plague modern leadership. He teaches many lessons, and so I have chosen to list a few of my favorite just below:

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say ‘Thank you.’ In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor.

In developing any capitalistic enterprise, the leader must understand expectation and articulate what is considered success and what is failure. In achieving such, the leader must do whatever they can to produce what he or she said would be produced, be that a product or service. Yet, even when acting as a “servant,” the leader must understand they are always doing so for a price, thus acting as a “debtor.”

“Leaders don’t inflict pain; they bear pain.”

The harsh reality of running a business is that there is sacrifice. There is burden. There is pain. However, even in the face of difficulty, a leader cannot bend to the stress. To bend to the stress, to take your stress and displace it onto others, namely other employees, is to discourage those you’re supposed to encourage. In order to secure the best possible productivity from your workers, you must set a stellar example they can model. While it is hard to not internalize stress, leaders must strive to remain relaxed. Otherwise, said internalized stress will manifest in other ways, hurtful ways.

“Participative management is not democratic. Having a say differs from having a vote.”

An important though subjective distinction, it is significant to let your employees know they have a voice in the organization and where it’s going. However, an effective leader must also realize that, ultimately, the final decision is up to him or her. Moreover, employees themselves must realize this. They must understand that while their input is appreciated, it is not necessarily, or by any means really, the end all be all. Depree delves into detail on this vague idea and provides insightful advice on how to approach and implement this philosophy.

The truth is that leadership is a dynamic skill, changing with the tides and altering with the current state of the company. What leadership requires a year ago may be different today. What leadership requires at one company may differ considerably from what leadership requires at a different company. Leadership is malleable, flexible, but strong. It is an art top business executives must learn and must always continue to learn; and Depree helps do just that.

The Zigzag Principle

In the startup industry, there is a widespread ‘get it done’ mentality, through which entrepreneurs are urged to push forward to their goal at all costs. Rich Christiansen challenges this mentality in The ZIgzag Principle, in which he postulates that forging a straight path toward a goal does not produce lasting results. Instead, Christiansen advocates for taking time to raise money, acquire resources, scale, and learn to fail. By following a select set of ‘zigzag’ principles, he asserts that a business will become profitable and surpass its initial startup stage.

The Zigzag principleThe zigzag principle stemmed from a skiing session that Christiansen had one winter with his son. The two were beginners, and accidentally ended up on the most difficult slope. Instead of attempting to ski straight down the hill, which was very dangerous at their level, Christiansen decided he and his son should zigzag down the hill until they reached the bottom. This allowed them to get safely off of the slope without injury. Christiansen says the same mentality should be applied to life and business – while shooting straight toward a goal may get you to that goal faster, there is more chance of sustaining lasting repercussions along the way.

The zigzag principle starts at the very beginning of forming a business. Christiansen challenges his readers to look at their internal motivation, rather than focus on mission statements. He believes that the motivation behind beginning a company will help determine if the company is sustainable to its founder, and therefore if the mission statement should even be written.

The first ‘zig’ principle focuses on making money. The book guides its reader through a process to determine how to make a business profitable. Far too many startups do not focus on profitability at the beginning, which increases their chance of failing. The second ‘zag’ principle is all about additional resources. Once a new business becomes profitable, it can focus on adding more people and capital to expand. The third and final ‘zag’ principle involves scaling in a big way. Christiansen guides readers through deciding how large they want to make their business, and through determining how they will get there.

The rest of the book helps its readers navigate how to deal with a creative team and how to track progress. Christiansen also includes demonstrative success stories from himself and other companies.

This book is a must-read resource for all people looking to start a new business. Christiansen’s zigzag principle is a revolutionary approach to starting a business that can guarantee lasting success.

The Power of Habit

THe Power of HabitA large portion of success depends on habit. What we do on a day to day basis and how we do it can determine how much we get done. Adopting beneficial habits can boost productivity but, unfortunately, bad habits run rampant as well, and these are hard to change.

Charles Duhigg, a reporter for the New York Times, takes a business approach to the concept of habit in his book The Power of Habit, which explores the psychology behind forming habits, and how to break the bad ones. His insight is based on years of reading scientific research and interviewing scientists. He chronicles his findings in an interesting way, which makes this book an authority on habits for everyday readers.

Duhigg wrote the book with the idea that people can change what about themselves they understand. He believed that recognizing the science behind forming habits would be able to help not only individuals, but also entire companies. Changing personal habits can influence group changes and lead even companies that struggle the most down a successful road.

His focus in the book is three-pronged – the psychological formation of habits, how habits are used in and by companies, and how habits have sparked social movement. He refers to habit formation as ‘The Habit Loop.’ Habits, he reports, are formed based on repetition until they become routine. One trigger from the environment can lead to a constant behavior that is connected to a reward. This is true for all habits; even ones detrimental to our health or productivity are associated with rewards. Additionally, our habits take up almost half of our daily operating.

Duhigg spends the first section of the book emphasizing how prevalent habits are in our daily lives and how every habit, no matter how small it may seem, can drastically affect our performance. In the second section of the book, he approaches habit formation from a company standpoint. More specifically, he writes about a feedback system to help instill habits in others. This system involves making a reward at the end of an action known and desirable, to making the action itself routine. Entire corporations have been altered by this feedback system. Creating habits based on company values instills a company culture based on value of the company and respect for its work.

The third and final section of the book, and arguably the most important, describes why habits change, and therefore how a change can be made. Duhigg writes that recognizing and addressing a specific habit’s cue is all a person, or a company, needs to change that habit entirely. He uses this part of the book to investigate how entire social movements were influenced by habit. Leaders of such movements initiate habits that are followed by others, which is how a small routine can become a societal change. Habits instilled by leaders become a part of an individual’s identity, and it is there that they thrive and endure.

This book is an important read for anyone looking to become more productive, or to boost the productivity of their team. Duhigg has written an invaluable resource that, if heeded, will surely lead to success.


Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Succes. No, that’s not a typo. Succes, or SUCCES, is the acronym used by brothers Chip and Dan Heath, the latter a Duke University professor and the former a professor at Made to Stick - Chip and Dan HeathStanford Graduate School of Business, in their bestselling book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (2007). For two years, Made to Stick was on the bestseller list for BusinessWeek which makes it not very surprising if you have heard of this great book by now.

What does SUCCES stand for? It stands for six principles or traits that the Heath brothers have identified as essential to making an idea “stick.”

Sticky ideas have these traits – sticky ideas are remembered, easily understood, and they also change something. The recommendation is, that by using these six traits, or most of them at least, when communicating ideas and strategies, one can make those ideas “stick.”

Simple – Strip the idea to its core

Unexpected – Getting attention and keeping it

Concrete – Easy to accept

Credible – Creating credibility without having authority

Emotional – Making people care

Stories – Telling it like a story

Dan and Chip Heath use a combination of funny, fictional stories/urban legends and case studies, some of which cover memorable events, figures and companies in recent history. Through this, they show how certain principles were employed in their respective moment and how the reader can do something similar.

One of the many tips and tricks that the authors provide is the idea of using people’s own memories to pitch ideas. These “memory schemas” could be used by Hollywood movie producers, for example, when they pitch ideas by putting the new idea in perspective with a hit movie that already came out. When pitching the idea for the 1979 sci-fi thriller, Alien, a producer could say “Alien will be Jaws on a spaceship,” which came out 4 years prior to Alien.

A big takeaway from this book is that a person who is sharing an idea, be it a CEO, manager, or politician, has to consider that they already possess knowledge that their audience does not. The audience is unable to frame the issue in the same way that the idea sharer can. In all, this is where making ideas sticky comes into play.

Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success

In business, how does one create more value for themselves and for society as a whole? In Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, Adam Grant argues that there are 3 kinds of people in the workplace and one of adam-grant-give-and-takethose types is the one bound to readily find more success down the line. If the name Adam Grant sounds familiar, it’s because this isn’t the first time this blog has mentioned him. Just some weeks ago, we covered some of his recommendations for your 2015 fall reading list. Adam happens to be the youngest tenured professor (at 34) at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, one of America’s finest business schools.

Adam Grant’s cutting edge research, which has given him a lot of notoriety aside from also being Wharton’s highest rated professor, covers success, motivation, and other social behaviors as they relate to economics and the workplace. In Give and Take, Grant dives into 3 types of personalities in the workplace and how they relate to success, which is increasingly dependent on how we interact with others – not just on skills or experience.

The three types of people that Grant points out are:

  1. Takers – Takers make the attempt to take as much from others as possible without having to take time to return favors if they can get away with it.
  2. Matchers – Matchers try to trade equally, matching the work someone does for them with the work that they will do for that person in return.
  3. Givers – Givers are more selfless and willing to go beyond to perform favors for a coworker, sometimes never expecting anything in return.

Using his own research, Grant demonstrates that Givers end up achieving more success across several types of industries. Of course, many Givers do get exploited by fellow coworkers (Takers, perhaps?), but in all their willingness to cooperate and help others leads to higher levels of success. In a way, this makes a lot of sense because Matchers, for examples, although not exhibiting selfishness like Takers, are more likely to just coast on by and doing just enough to get the work done.

The book contains several useful tips on how to be more like the more successful type as well as how to deal with the other types. For Givers, for example, Give and Take shows how one can be charitable with their time and skills yet not come to regret it after (get taken advantage of).

Man’s Search for Meaning

Between 1942 and 1945, Viktor E. Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, labored throughout four different Nazi concentration camps while his family and Des Hague Book Review - Man's Search for Meaningpregnant wife did the same elsewhere. Despite his grueling existence throughout those years, with his entirely family perishing, Frankl lays out in his famous book, Man’s Search for Meaning (1946) (German: …trotzdem Ja zum Leben sagen: Ein Psychologe erlebt das Konzentrationslager), how he had managed to survive the Nazi death camps by developing and applying his theories on finding meaning in all forms of existence.

Man’s Search for Meaning is based on Frankl’s own experience as an inmate in Nazi concentration camps as well as the experiences of survivors that he later went on to treat in his practice once the Nazi’s had been defeated in the Second World War. Man’s Search for Meaning is considered, by the Library of Congress, as one of the top ten most influential books in the United States. Frankl’s ideas and experiences gave rise to what is now called Logotherapy, which differentiates itself from the methods of other famous Austrian psychiatrists, Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler, by its doctrine of will to meaning.

According to his theory, a prisoner’s longevity or ability to survive the suffering inflicted on them was affected by how the prisoner imagined their future. Frankl’s conclusion is that the meaning of life can be found within every moment we live, even when faced with suffering or imminent death. In Frankl’s own experience, he describes how he and other prisoners were marching one bitterly cold morning back to camp (Auschwitz), with guards abusing them on the way, and the image of his wife was something that would keep him moving.

The title of this book in German is interesting and a translation of it is: ..Nevertheless say ‘yes’ to life: A psychologist experiences the concentration camps. The meaning that I have taken from this book, which is something that has stuck with me throughout the years, is that one thing we need to focus on is simply doing good things. Doing things that have meaning for ourselves, more so than for others. Now, when you do something that has meaning to you, that you thoroughly enjoy, you are likely to find success.

As I state in part six of my Speaker Series, Leading Through Adversity,  don’t chase success. Do things that have meaning to you, do good things, and success will chase you. This is something I quickly realized after reading Man’s Search for Meaning, which makes me wish I had read it decades earlier.

Des Hague Discusses His "Why's" in the 7th Installment of "Leading Through adversity from Des Hague on Vimeo.

4 Books Worth Reading This Fall

The books that have been reviewed on this website, so far, have all been books for which the authors incorporate great data driven discussions and ideas. These books can be extremely beneficial to anyone, regardless of what stage of their career may be.

The following 4 books come highly recommended by Adam Grant, a professor at the prestigious Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. At 34 years old, Adam Grant is recognized as the youngest tenured professor at Wharton as well as being its most highly rated professor. Therefore, a book recommendation from him is certainly a recommendation to take serious.

As Adam wrote in his original LinkedIn post:  “Here’s a preview of the exciting new books on work and psychology. Instead of just spouting their opinions, these authors bring us real data”

1. Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to your Biggest Challenges (Amy Cuddy, December 29)

Presence, by Harvard University professor Amy Cuddy, covers some of the most challenges situations people often finds themselves in in the work world. This book is built upon Cuddy’s popular TED talk about “power posing” and explains how changing the way we carry ourselves can help us achieve new levels of success.

2. Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family(Anne-Marie Slaughter, September 29):

Equality in the workplace for men and women has been found to be very beneficial for a business. Anne-Marie Slaughter happens to be the first woman in charge of direct policy planning for the State Department. Already well known for her submission on why women still can’t have it all that was published in the Atlantic, Slaughter uses Unfinished Business to discuss how equality in the workplace and at home can be created through efforts by both individuals and policymakers.

3. Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction (Philip Tetlock, September 29)

If you could only known the future of your business or career? Years of research have led Philip Tetlock, a Wharton professor as well, to co-create the Good Judgment Project (GJP). Bringing together thousands of volunteers across several fields as varied as entertainment to plumbing, GJP works to harness the collective wisdom of the volunteers to forecast world events – so far they have been rather successful. In Superforecasting, Tetlock and co-author Dan Gardner, seek to arm the reader with the tools to turn them into “superforecasters” like the group of volunteers that the GJP has assembled since 2011.

4. Friend and Foe: When to Cooperate, When to Compete, and How to Succeed at Both (Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer, September 29)

Not knowing how to navigate the tension between cooperation and competition can really hold us back. In Friend and Foe, researchers Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzerpresent unique research that they have conducted across several fields that can help us find this right balance. Some of this valuable research answers many longstanding questions posed by people trying their best to succeed in the business world: How do we obtain power and how do we keep it? What is the best order to go in for an interview? How do we build trust and, more importantly, repair broken trust?

Competing for the Future

Management practices that worked in the old days shouldn’t always be counted on presently. With all the changes that have gone on in the business world, and especially in the realm of leadership, a necessary skill to have is thinking about the future. The future doesn’t mean just some 5 to 10 year plan your company has in mind, it goes far beyond that.

A great book to help business leaders learn this important skill is Gary Hamel and Des Hague BusinessC.K. Prahalad’s, Competing for the Future. Hamel is the founder of Strategos, which formed in 1995 and has since been a leading consulting firm with offices worldwide. The late C.K. Prahalad was a distinguished scholar from the Stephen M. Ross School of Business in the University of Michigan but passed away in 2010. Like Hamel, Prahalad was a prevalent voice within the business world. That they wrote this together, with the share of their knowledge, makes it a great book already.

The authors themselves state that the goal of the book is to help business leaders learn how to imagine the future and then work on creating that future that they imagined. It’s not enough to just increase performance, let’s say, or restructure your company. What you ultimately learn from Competing for the Future is strategy – how to strategize and how to execute that strategy with your company’s future in mind.

Another great aspect of this book is that it isn’t just a must read for the Executives. Managers and other leaders within a company should not hesitate in picking it up. The more people within a company’s leadership team that are working and strategizing with a future in mind the better. Management teams, for example, can learn that a moving toward the future they want for a company depends a lot on just how fast the company can learn about the upcoming future in comparison to competitors.

The Dealmaker’s Ten Commandments

Sometimes, advice that can be extremely useful for your business can come from the strangest or most unexpected places. This time, advice coming from deep in the trenches of Hollywood may be just what you need to guide you on the long journey that comes with starting or owning a growing business.Unknown

The Dealmaker’s Ten Commandments: Ten Essential Tools for Business Forged in the Trenches of Hollywood, was written by Jeff B. Cohen, a former child actor and now a powerful attorney within the business side of Hollywood. To many, Jeff Cohen will always be “Chunk,” a character in Steven Spielberg’s cult classic, The Goonies. But throughout the years, it is clear that Cohen moved away from acting and focused his attention on how Hollywood does business and has found ways to apply it to business in general, not just entertainment. Cohen’s goal with this book is to share Hollywood’s applicable methodology for negotiating deals, managing time, and crisis management at the highest levels of a business.

In The Dealmaker’s Ten Commandments, what you get is Cohen’s honesty and straightforward approach to becoming a better negotiator – among other things. Being a great negotiator is an essential trait for Hollywood actors and their agents, but knowing how to negotiate is essential elsewhere as well. One useful piece of advice taken from Cohen’s book is as follows: “Take Yes for Yes and take a No for Maybe.” Being persistent is important, but another piece of advice to go with that, that is also great as well is that one must deal with the reality of the situation. Accept what the reality is and don’t get caught up in what is hoped for.

The Dealmaker’s Ten Commandments is a quick read, perfect for the summer if you are taking a small break but want to return packing great ideas and even greater motivation.

Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies

Published in 1994, Built to Last, is billed as one of the most influential books in our era. It is the outline and explanation of a 6 year research project by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, both professors of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. Their research had two primary objects. The first was to identify which characteristics were common to highly visionary companies and the second was to communicate their findings in such a way that it would be useful and influential to management across the business world.jim_collins_built_to_last

In order to figure out what companies are identified as “visionary,” 1,000 CEOs across the country were surveyed. Also, along with the survey, there were criteria set out for what could be considered a visionary company. It defined a visionary company as one that is a distinguished institution within the industry it is in, admired by a wide range of credible businesspeople, has had multiple generations of CEOs, founded prior to 1950, and has had an impact in the world along with multiple life cycles of products or services.

From this, Collins and Porras extracted a list of 18 visionary companies. Some examples include, 3M, American Express, Boeing, Citicorp/Citigroup, Disney, Ford, HP, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and General Electric. These companies and the others listed, were considered leaders in their industries, and to show how and what these companies did differently to help establish themselves as visionary, Collins and Porras compared and contrasted them to equally established competitors in their respective industries. Some of the factors that were used to compare the visionary companies to their successful competitors included how they performed in the stock market between the 1920s and 1990s. While the competitors did well, outperforming the general market by 2 times, the visionary companies listed outperformed the rest of the market by as much as 15 times. Impressive indeed.

The brilliance of Built to Last is that it brought together qualitative data from companies and how they were run to be successful with clear and understandable quantitative data.