Thursday, February 13, 2020

Coach in a Box

Career Rehab: Rebuild Your Personal Brand and Rethink the Way You Work - Kanika Tolver (Entrepreneur Press)

It used to be you’d choose a career path; go out and get the tools you need, (education, training, etc) and set about applying for jobs with either an application or a resume. Once you landed a job, you would settle in and spend the next 40 years working your way to that fateful day when you would either reach retirement or drop dead from the career stress if you weren’t.

To say that things have changed is a complete understatement. Today careers take a completely different look; while job hopping was once viewed dimly, now people in charge of hiring start to wonder about you if you hang around one place for too long. Marketing has become a skillset that every job seeker needs to have in their toolkit and the product you market, is you. If you tell someone from a prior generation that you have hired a job/career coach, you’d likely have to explain exactly what that is and what they do.


No matter where you are in your career arc and are considering utilizing the skills of career coach, I’d like to recommend that a good first step is grabbing a copy of Kanika Tolver’s new book Career Rehab: Rebuild Your Personal Brand and Rethink the Way You Work. Served up in useful, digestible chunks, Career Rehab offers easy action steps that you can implement today.

Tolver truly helps you to reexamine the entire process of having, growing and may I say enjoying your career. She helps you to treat your career like it’s a product not your whole existence. In one of the best sections of the book, Tolver actually discusses...wait for it...MONEY. Yep, getting paid, one of those things the old school says you should not talk about. Tolver tackles this by helping you to understand your value and actually get paid what you are worth.

Career Rehab isn’t one of those books you have to read cover to cover; it’s set you so you can pick and choose those sections that help you tackle the issue(s) you are facing today and need to tackle tomorrow. You don’t need to hire a coach, you literally got a coach in a box, in the palm of your hand.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Well Brewed Advice


The Coffee Bean: A Simple Lesson to Create Positive Change - Jon Gordon and Damon West - (Wiley)

Bestselling leadership and personal development author Jon Gordon teamed with talented newcomer Damon west to serve up a handy, little, book version of West’s presentation The Coffee Bean, which details the challenges and stresses faced by a young student named Abe.

A teacher gives Ab a life-defining insight which asks the simple, if albeit confusing question; are you a carrot, and egg or a coffee bean? Without giving away too much of the story; think about those times when you feel like life is on full boil and how you react to those situations. Now think about what happens to a carrot, and egg and a coffee bean when they are brought to a boil. The analogy, while a first is not obvious, soon becomes striking in its simplicity.

At 112 pages, with illustrations, The Coffee Bean, is a quick read – think of it as a kicked up Powerpoint in a handy to access format. Some may squabble over the brevity or the perceived lack of depth in delving into the subject or it being too simplistic in its approach. While I would never quibble with your right to complain, I think in this case you’re missing the point.


The Coffee Bean, parable is really based on guiding the reader/student – in the book, the character Abe – to see that there are three paths that you can choose in life. The goal in my estimation is not to smooth all of the bumps in those paths, but to help you better understand what goes into the choices we all make and the outcomes or consequences of the choices we make.

In the end, isn’t that a message that is suitable to anyone at any age or personal/career development level? The fact that Abe is a student signals that basic fact. I am not sure how seriously I would take a book that somehow promises a one size fits all solution.

The Coffee Bean, for me, is one of those go to books I like to keep within reach and share with family, friends, mentees, clients, and colleagues who may be struggling with difficult questions or challenges, that can offer clarity, a sense of direction or purpose.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

A Lifeline for the Overwhelmed

Free to Focus - A Total Productivity System to Achieve More by Doing Less - Michael Hyatt (Baker Books)

If you are anything like me, then you on a seemingly never ending quest (no, quest is not too strong a word) for the right system to organize your schedule, collect your important notes and research, and your big ideas.

I have a leaning tower of of notebooks, journals, planners and binders in a variety of shapes and sizes teetering on the corner of my desk; each chock full of brilliance. Be it great research, winning ideas, and tons of executable plans all in search of a direction. On the floor next to the desk is the oversized, multi-pocketed, back pack that I need to haul it all around.

What's missing is a coherent way to organize and focus all of the myriad stuff into a real plan and EXECUTE on this stuff. One of the biggest issues is often actually finding what is where. The leadership stuff in in one black journal, book research is in an identical book, then there is the marketing stuff in the leather bound notebook and the communications plans in the Moleskinne. Oh, and I am drafting this review in the green canvas bound journal. In short, a mess.



While the term productivity can conjure the image of guys in cheap suits, with pocket protectors and a stash of red pencils all looking to chop staff; in reality-productivity is about making the best use of your time. This kind of productivity i snot about just doing stuff, but doing stuff that matters. While many folks have taken a stab at developing a productivity system, it is my belief that leadership guru Michael Hyatt and his team have clearly put time, energy and experience into the development of the Full Focus Planner. This not something that looks or feels like a first take on a planning system.

Now Hyatt has taken things to the next level with the release of Free to Focus - A Total Productivity System to Achieve More by Doing Less, which not only fleshes out how to maximize the impact of the planner, but also everything that goes on around it in both your business and personal life. This is not to say that the book wouldn't have an impact as a stand alone - without the planner.

I was struck by the amount of emphasis Hyatt rightly placed on cutting, eliminating and setting boundaries around your time and how to better hone in on only the most important stuff. Hyatt does not sugar coat the fact that for this to work to it's full potential it will take some heavy lifting. If you accept and buy into the change process at the heart of this, the results will speak for themselves.

I think that while there is some flexibility - this is clearly not a pick an choose proposition where you can take the bits you like and leave the rest. Like I said, this is a system based on experience; if it's in here it is based on proven practice. If nothing else, the system will help bring a focus to some of the roadblocks - real, imagined or self-created that are standing in the way of your success.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Inevitablity is Built In

Turning the Flywheel: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great - Jim Collins - (Harper Business)

Jim Collins' seminal bestseller, Good to Great is not what I would normally consider a traditional business/leadership book; I think it set out to expound on the elements that went into separating good companies, from great companies and along the way it drew not so much a map but a set of guideposts that companies/leaders can put to work on their journey to greatness. It is one of the few books in the category that I find myself re-reading/listening to and one that I regularly buy copies of for friends, colleagues and clients.

So picking up on this monograph was a natural step.Turning the Flywheel: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great, takes the concept of a business flywheel, first espoiused in the book, and clarified by time and practice and is expanded by the efficacy of countless proven examples of success. What once was a chapter, is now expanded to to the proper depth and breadth in the form this monograph.



Collins details some of the companies that have put the flywheel concept into successful practice. I think the clarity with which he writes about the built in inevitability that is part of a successful flywheel. It is not just a list of steps companies can take put in some random order or a circular pattern. That inevitability comes when nail a step leads naturally to the next and the next to build the momentum of success.

That success is built in the developmental stage and Collins explains the steps you can undertake to "capture your flywheel." Collins, along with the examples that lace this monograph suggests that four to six elements is a workable number and more will make things too complicated to build the momentum you need. He also makes solid suggestions on how to avoid what he dubs the "doom loop."

While I think it's perfectly clear that there is no one size fits all, plug and play flywheel that you can adapt to your business and it's unique drivers (markets/competition), I think there are certainly transferable pieces in the examples that dot the book that may make sense to put into play in your flywheel. My marked up copy has copious notes and sticky notes littering the 40 pages.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Stuff…Doesn’t Make You Happy

The Minimalist Home – A Room By Room Guide to a Decluttered, Refocused Life – Joshua Becker – (Waterbrook)

I have often said that there is a thin line between collector and hoarder. Over time I have come to believe that line between collector and compulsive gatherer is even more narrow and that we have created a way of life to feed that compulsion. The older I get the more I have come to believe that stuff and more stuff, can’t make you happy and that most of the things that we cling to because “we might need it someday” is almost certainly misguided.

With basements, garages and backyard sheds overflowing into countless and multiplying storage sheds and lockers; a new innovation/movement has sprung to life – minimalism. While minimalist acolytes come in a variety of forms and approaches; one of the leading progenitors of the movement via blogs and books is Joshua Becker. Becker sets his sights on your home space in his latest book, The Minimalist Home – A Room By Room Guide to a Decluttered, Refocused Life. Some may complain that there is nothing new here that Becker hasn’t covered in prior books/blogs or he doesn’t offer specific enough strategies.



I liked the fact that Becker offers an overview of minimalism, without feeling the need to drill down and tell what to do or what to chuck. Some will take minimalism to an extreme – stuffing a minimum of necessities into a duffle and lead a vagabond life in a succession of AirBNBs, worldly possessions in tow. Becker’s approach strikes me  to take a more thoughtful or thought provoking path, so you can develop your own processes and checklists.


Becker has even been slagged for assuming his readers live in houses and not apartments and injecting Christian principles into his writing. Sorry, but you have to be a nitpicky pinhead if you can’t gain value from the insight Becker offers into simplifying, downsizing and focusing on real joy in the freedom offered by minimalism. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Road To Joy

Chief Joy Officer – How Great Leaders Elevate Human Energy and Eliminate Fear – Richard Sheridan – (Portfolio)

“Joy – a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.”

So, how’s your work place/work life? If you’re a leader, what’s your perspective? What would your staff/employees say? Does the definition of joy apply? If the concept of joy and work in the say thought seems like a foreign concept, then it might be time to re-evaluate where you are at.

One starting point on the road to re-evaluation would be the guidance offered by Richard Sheridan in the form of Chief Joy Officer: How Great Leaders Elevate Human Energy and Eliminate Fear. Sheridan takes what you think might be a daunting task and boils it down to a simple, focused step by step process.



One of the best places to start is with developing a level of self-awareness as a leader. What is your purpose? If you can’t clearly articulate the answer then how can you expect your team to. The root of joy stems from leaders defining purpose, aligning people to “get real work done” by inspiring, motivating, and developing your team.

I loved Sheridan’s sentiment that joy cannot be found when people lead with fear. If you have been working for any length of time, you have likely encountered this type of “leader.” They seemed to be inordinately fixated on things that don’t move the needle other than what they deem as a hot button issue.

One of the best (worst?) examples I can think of was an over-weight, sloppy, CFO who was fixated on the company dress code of all things! The failure of leadership was compounded by a weak CEO who could have cut off the discussion to return focus to what really mattered, instead of allowing the senior leadership team to be dragged through countless hours of discussion and policy drafts only to end up with an over-long, confusing mess that the front-line staff found onerous and off-putting; it was a soul-sucking, nightmare that engendered no joy as they feared making the wrong choices.

GM CEO Mary Barra simplified things with a two word policy; “dress appropriately.” This is an example of a leader engendering trust, a building block of joy, and keeping focus on much larger and more important things. If your dress code is an issue, it may really be a people issue rather than the way you lead them.


Sheridan correctly makes the case that leaders make more leaders. It no surprise that leadership guru Tom Peters, who made that a cornerstone principle of his teaching, authored the foreward to Chief Joy Officer.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Go Your Own Way

The Bullet Journal Method – Ryder Carroll – (Portfolio)
Leaders of all stripes and leadership coaches in an array of business sectors, have almost universally endorsed the practice of journaling as a way to grow leadership skills ranging from strategic planning, communications skills, self-awareness, core values, and goal development and measurement.

Like planners, there are a multitude of journals and journaling systems that include old school pen to paper and electronic programs and apps. I have been amazed at the number of folks that I respect who have extolled the virtues and capabilities of a range of cloud based/accessible applications. Then a few short weeks or months later they return to the old, reliable pen and paper route; or as I have become fond of, pencil and paper – there’s nothing quite like the scratch of a Dixon Ticonderoga or Mirado Black Warrior. Lately I found that for some inexplicable reason – ideas flow to life with these old school tools.



Much like the multi-faceted apps, there are any number of journaling systems on the market. One of the most ballyhooed of the bunch is the Bullet Journal or BUJO. The system’s inventor Ryder Carroll posted the detail of his system on the web and things took off in a viral fashion.

Now Carroll has put together what I have dubbed the BUJO Bible in the form of the book, The Bullet Journal Method. Carroll fills in the details of the story behind the development of the concept as a way to not only address his struggles with attention deficit disorder (ADD), but also what he felt were shortcomings with other systems.

Bullet Journal always struck me as a bit on the obsessive compulsive disorder side, with its pretty intensive focus on so many moving parts. It seemed to me that I would spend so much time building out the pieces of the journal and moving journal entries around that I would miss out on doing actual work of projects.


Carroll goes a long way towards clearing up that misconception by demonstrating that BUJO gives you the freedom to take the parts of the system that work for you, to create your own system. You can get as complex or as stripped down as you need, which the brilliance of the system. If what you need is not in here, why not go out a create your own.