Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Go To Guide To Life

Tools of Titans: the Tactics, Routines and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World Class Performers – Tim Ferriss (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

To put things in the proper perspective; while I am familiar with Tim Ferriss based on articles and reviews regarding his prior books and his podcast, I have not read his previous books and have never listened to the podcast. So you can say that I bring a different perspective to the table than the average raving fan or Ferriss-head when it comes to my thoughts on this book.

That being said and knowing I put a premium on usefulness when it comes to business and personal development books; I found Tools of Titans: the Tactics, Routines and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World Class Performers to be a highly engaging and useful toolbox of tactics and a collection of ideas that caused me to learn more about the people Ferriss interacts with on the podcast.
Folks familiar with Ferriss’ work may find this to be kind of like a greatest hits CD from a favorite band; familiar territory repackaged and re-released. I found it a great entry point for delving into his thoughts and it allowed me to wade into the podcast for areas that I was most interested in, rather than having to go at it in stops and starts, I could cut to the chase.

This is a true reference book; if you think by reading these brief segments that you will have all of the answers, or even some of the answers, you will be sadly disappointed. If you are looking for a starting point for a massive array of topics, this is a book for you; perfect to whet your appetite and build upon.

A great example is, I had read Jocko Willink’s book Extreme Ownership, and garnered some knowledge and insight into his approach, but with a brief piece from Ferriss, I became engaged enough to seek out not on his podcast with Willink, but moved over to Jocko podcast to delve even deeper. This is very useful stuff.

Topping out at over 700 pages, some may find this book a bit overwhelming and the fluid approach to organization may throw some off, but I liked the ability to bounce around and be selective in what interested me most and then move on from there. Ferriss also does an nice job of trying to draw together similarities and ties between the thought processes of many of the folks profiled in the book. This one is HIGHLY useful and certainly can find a place on your go to shelf.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


Leading the Unleadable: How to Manage Mavericks, Cynics, Divas, and Other Difficult People – Alan Willet (AMACOM)

Show of hands, how many of you can relate to this, from the preface of Leading the Unleadable: “Too often leaders ignore their people problems for too long because they’re afraid of conflict or, if they do act, handle the situations poorly because of inexperience or not knowing what to do.” And “Not acting can damage everyone around the difficult people, leading others to leave before the difficult people themselves quit.”

Not only could I relate to those thoughts, I have lived them recently. Alan Willet, a leadership development and organizational cultural change guru has penned a terrific new leadership development book, Leading the Unleadable: How to Manage Mavericks, Cynics, Divas, and Other Difficult People, which deserves a place in leaders toolbox, no matter what your level of experience.

For those starting out it offers workable solutions for problems that I can almost say with a level of certainty that you will be confronted with as you move through your career. For those veterans of leadership, the book will serve as a healthy reminder of the options available to you when t comes to dealing with the difficult members of your team.

All too often organizations don’t do a great job of developing the next generations of great leaders; instead elevating those good or great worker bees to the next level and allowing them to sink or swim on their own, without providing the tools of leadership. Willet puts out the rallying cry that those moving into leadership need to accept the clarion call of being exceptional leaders.

The exceptional leader understand that like all walks of life you will at times be confronted by folks who are difficult to deal with and that the answer is not always to involve HR and move those folks to the exit. Often times it is the difficult people that challenge leaders to play at a higher level because they bring skillsets to the table that are necessary to the success of the business. Willet loads up your tool belt with tips and ideas on how to manage and maximize these folks and to minimize any negative impact they may cause.  

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Leadership 101

Why Leaders Fail – and 7 Prescriptions for Success – Peter B. Stark, CSP, AS, and Mary C. Kelly, PhD, CSP, Commander, U.S. Navy (Ret) – (Bentley Press)

A quick visit to the business section of any well stocked bookstore and you will encounter countless books on leadership that will offer up a myriad of thoughts on how to be a successful leader. These books will detail the prerequisites needed to guide a wide variety of business sectors; some very narrow cast for specific business, others a more broad based, and general in their approach.

Very few, if any of these books will highlight what it is that leaders do wrong and what causes them to derail and fail. Why Leaders Fail – and 7 Prescriptions for Success by Peter B. Stark and Mary C. Kelly, by leadership experts, bestselling authors and leadership development trainers tackles leadership from that perspective. While they focus on the traits of failed leaders, they also back into the prescriptive to dos that can either help leaders avoid these issues or take the corrective action needed to be a successful leader.

Stark and Kelly take a very nuts and bolts approach and don’t get bogged down in a lot of leadership theory or fantastical programs that readers will need to follow. This isn’t brain surgery; it’s what should be a common sense way to approach being a successful leader and build a high quality organization and team. As I read worked my way through the book I noticed I was creating a list of my former leaders who could have benefited greatly from Stark and Kelly’s straight forward guidance. The question becomes do I want to deliver a few anonymous gifts to these folks?

Whether you are aspiring to leadership and looking for a road map to being successful in that endeavor or a veteran of the C-Suite, Why Leaders Fail, is one of those handy tools you can keep within reach as a reminder of not only the things to do, but the things to avoid. If you are one of those folks who set out with the best of intentions and buy books on leadership to improve or advance your skillsets, but then find your interest waning as you get bogged down in the minutiae, at just over 150 pages, Why Leaders Fail, cuts out the fluff and cuts to the chase. These are actionable steps you can implement today.  

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Strategic Planning for Students

The Growth Mindset Coach: A Teacher’s Month-by-Month Handbook for Empowering Students to Achieve – Annie Brock and Heather Hundley (Ulysses Press)

Growing up, my Father regularly extolled the line “you get out what you put in,” stressing to me that hard work and effort paid off. While researching student perceptions and attitudes, Dr. Carol Dweck coined the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset. Students with fixed mindsets had a tendency to self-limit their ability to succeed while student with a growth mindset, seemed to understand that their potential was limitless. Hence good old Dad and the virtues of effort.

Now, teachers; Annie Brock and Heather Hundley have developed a series of tools to help teachers cultivate and coach students to have a growth mindset. In The Growth Mindset Coach: A Teacher’s Month-by-Month Handbook for Empowering Students to Achieve, Brock and Hundley have collected practical tips, classroom anecdotes, executable lesson plans and strategies to help teachers guide students through the process and become higher achievers.

The theory is great, but this is much more of a rubber meets the road, actionable guide that teacher and even parents can put into play quickly and easily. With so much chatter and focus on education and improving results and an outcry for a more business-like approach to the education process, this really strikes me as a strategic plan for student.

While theories can sound great they can easily slip off into the weeds never to return. That is not the case with The Growth Mindset Coach, which has a much more plug and play feel to it and has a real bias towards action.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Get Down to Business

Summer is winding to its inevitable Labor Day close and school is back in session, so it’s time to put away the books for the beach and turn our attention back to getting down to business.

Visibility Marketing – David Arvin (Career Press)

Marketing guru David Arvin is a popular business consultant/coach and keynote speaker who is widely recognized as the Visibility Coach. Arvin’s new book, Visibility Marketing, will be an eye opening for both marketers and business owners alike.

While so many marketing books espouse the latest trick, trend or gimmick to supposedly help your business standout from the pack, Arvin takes a dramatically different approach by helping businesses and marketers alike to do a better job of identify what competitive advantages they have that are the starting point to build upon.

From that cornerstone Arvin will guide you through the process of developing and honing effective messaging and the tactics to get those messages heard and seen. He illustrates both effective and failed approaches for a wide array of business categories which makes this book more relatable to a range of businesses.

I am always a fan of business and leadership books that give you useful tools that you can put to work today, and Arvin delivers with Visibility Marketing.

75 Ways for Managers to Hire, Develop and Keep Great Employees – Paul Falcone (AMACOM)

My day job is in the healthcare field and aside from the ever-changing regulatory challenges the number one issue facing hospitals, physician practices and healthcare delivery is STAFFING. The need for competent providers far exceeds the available talent pool so it is incumbent upon those managers in the field to develop and implement a strategic approach to finding and almost more importantly holding onto great employees.

For business owners if you don’t think that having and keeping great staff, and turnover comes with a great cost, don’t worry, you won’t be in business much longer to have the concern. If you, like many folks are looking for tools and resources to help you identify, hire, develop and hang onto great employees, then Paul Falcone’s new book, 75 Ways for Managers to Hire, Develop and Keep Great Employees, will go a long way towards giving you strategies that you can put to work today to help you over the HR hump.

Falcone hits it on the head when he talks about the hiring process being as much, if not more about you and your company’s brand as it is about salary and benefits when it comes to hiring. Things like measuring and improving employee engagement, effective communication and yes even accountability make a HUGE difference in the process.

Falcone makes a strong case that every manager, not just the HR manager play an important role in the hiring and onboarding process and even one glitch can impact the results of recruitment and retention of great staff. This is stuff that can have an impact on your bottom line and your ultimate success or failure.

Hiring & Firing (The Brian Tracy Success Library) – Brian Tracy (AMACOM)

I’ve got to say, I have loved the opportunity to read, review an utilize the books in the Brain Tracy Success Library series. Tracy, a nationally recognized business and leadership development professional has authored dozens of books on a wide array of business and leadership success topics and this series of handy guides have distilled the topics of leadership, management, creativity, marketing and more into useful editions that business leaders can reach for to get ideas, inspiration and useful guidance as the need arises.

The last installment in the series is Hiring & Firing, offers guidance into two of the most critical skills when it comes to the success of your business. They are two critical skills that many of us struggle with the most. As always, Tracy offers up nuts and bolts things like how to write accurate job descriptions (ENOUGH WITH THE OTHERS DUTIES AS ASSIGNED STUFF ALREADY!) how to develop a set of strong interview questions, how to dig deep into references an prior job experience and results and the negotiation process.

I look upon this series as a go to resource for tested and proven tools that I can use every day. Any business owner will be better with these books within reach.

The Effective Manager – Mark Horstman (Wiley)

Mark Horstman is a management consultant and the co-founder of Manager Tools, which produces one of the most often downloaded business/ management podcasts in the world, with over a staggering quarter of a billion downloads.

Horstman gathers the collective research from hands on business encounters and countless interactions during training sessions and seminars in, The Effective Manager, a book that is a solid read for those new to the realm of management or a well seasoned veteran. Horstman quite literally serves up tips and tricks based on the collected experience and offers downloadable forms to assist in the implementation of these tactics.

I read with great interest Horstman’s thoughts on what he dubs O3s, one on one meetings. He outlines what regularly scheduled sessions with your direct reports means and how to make this time more effective so it doesn’t become a dreaded part of both your and their week.

It is the added structure to the management process that will help newbies get started and increase the impact of veterans in being more effective.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Wanna Get Busy? Then Get Scrappy

Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small – Nick Westergaard – (AMACOM)

It seems like about every couple months somebody will jump up and down and wave their arms and proclaim “You HAVE to have a ____________.” Fill in the blank; Facebook page, Twitter account, Instagram, Pintrest, blog, Snapchat and the list goes on and on. My response always goes something like this…Okay, great…what are you gonna say? Post? Oh and why?

It’s what I call “running around the room” as business owners scramble from one thing to the next trying to latch on to the next big thing. I laughed when I read Nick Westergaard label this as “shiny new things.” That nails it! All too often businesses big and small fall under the siren call of these shiny new things and because some whiz bang guru said we have to have it, it must be true!

In Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small, Westergaard, a marketing whiz in his own right, makes the case that smart marketing starts not with building a Facebook page, but with doing some heavy lifting like defining your brand…and NO! that doesn’t mean creating a nifty logo or cool business card.

Get Scrappy is a great primer not just for digital marketing, but also for developing your overall plan, strategy and then the tactics to achieve your goals. It really doesn’t make sense to be on Facebook (or anything other site for that matter) if your customers aren’t there. Westergaard makes the case that you really have to understand who you customers/audience are and then develop the best strategy/vehicles to help you reach the people you want to talk to.

For any business/marketing book to be worth the investment it has to deliver actionable steps that you can put into play today and Get Scrappy knocks it out of the ballpark with loads of things you can jump into out of the box. Don’t be surprised if you copy quickly becomes a highlighted, sticky-noted mess pretty quickly and land on your shelf of go to resources.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Business Bonanza

Inspired by reading David Ogilvy’s classic book Confessions of an Ad Man, I have been spending quite a bit of time lately delving into a combination of what I will call classic advertising and marketing books as well as some more recent titles that may soon find their way on to the must reads list.

The Art of Client Service: The Classic Guide, Update for Today’s Marketers and Advertisers – Robert Solomon (Wiley)

Client service; it is a topic that can be a slippery and hard to wrap your arms around as a well-greased pig. You could ask ten seasoned professionals for their take and you’d like be met with a wide variety of takes and responses. Over the course of time there has been deemed one go to guide for delivering top flight client services; Robert Solomon’s The Art of Client Service.

Solomon’s classic title has been updated and enhanced to account for the changing market dynamics of today’s advertising and marketing business landscape with the latest edition dubbed; The Art of Client Service: The Classic Guide, Update for Today’s Marketers and Advertisers.

As I have professed here before, I am a huge fan of books that provide actionable steps that you can put into play and model in your business directly. Needless to say, Solomon not only defines the process of client service, but delivers a road map for implementing or improving your process for client service. This is one of those indispensible books that you can turn to again and again for useful guidance.

#AskGaryVee: One Entrpreneur’s Take on Leadership, Social Media and Self-Awareness – Gary Vaynerchuk (Harper Business)

There is just something about this guy…Gary Vaynerchuk or in this case Gary Vee has a palpable level of energy that you can’t help but swept up in as he imparts ideas, life lessons based on his experience and does it in a way that shows he doesn’t take himself too seriously.

His latest book, #AskGaryVee: One Entrpreneur’s Take on Leadership, Social Media and Self-Awareness, is a project spawned by his YouTube web show of the same name. Now you can certainly slog through the 150 plus episodes (average run time about 15-20 minutes) or you can take a more economical approach, time-wise, and pick up the book. It actually serves not only as a useful tool itself, but a guide to the web show, so you can check out the episodes you want to delve a little deeper into. I found myself dialing up the show, while I worked through the book.

Living up to one of his own cornerstone tenants, “Be extraordinarily useful” Vaynerchuk serves up useful, step by step techniques that will make things happen and keep the ball moving forward. I am even willing to look past his shortcomings of being a Jets fan.

The Leadership Campaign – 10 Political Strategies to Win at Your Career and Propel Your Business to Victory – Scott Miller and David Morey (Career Press)

For years there has been a rallying cry that what we really need is a business man (or women) to be the President and run the country like a business; you know the kind of person who has signed checks on the front! Well we may be on the precipice of having just that happen this fall. But what if we reversed the roles and brought a dose of politics to business. I know what you’re thinking; there isn’t a business or workplace anywhere that doesn’t have the baggage of politics.

What I am talking about an what Scott Miller and David Morey write about in their new book The Leadership Campaign – 10 Political Strategies to Win at Your Career and Propel Your Business to Victory, is utilizing political campaign strategies, a campaign model to leadership and change leadership in particular. Miller and Morey brought their years of political experience to apple at the request of Steve Jobs and they built the “Campaign Model” which has been adapted for countless other businesses.

By breaking things into ten defined strategies or steps, Miller and Morey break things down into easily digestible and implementable chunks.

The 10 strategies are:
1. Decide to run – actually commit. Go all in.
2. Think, plan and act like an insurgent – Incumbents try to protect what is, Insurgents are all about change.
3. Build a Kitchen Cabinet – surround yourself with trusted, capable advisors.
4. Prepare your campaign, inside-out. Get the inner game figured out first.
5. Announce – Let everyone know your aim/goals
6. Define Everything –
7. Control the Dialogue – if you don’t someone else will
8. Gain momentum – momentum is king – others will get on the bandwagon.
9. Exploit Crisis
10. Leadership – learn and implement steps 1 – 9

It doesn’t matter if you work for a large corporation or if you are an entrepreneur the advice doled out here are things that you can start to put in place today and will help take you to the next level.

You Don’t Have to Be a Shark – Creating Your Own Success – Robert Herjavec (St. Martin’s Press)

A couple of years back bestselling author Daniel Pink delivered the book, To Sell is Human. Pink claimed that while about 1 in 9 people earn their living by selling; in reality everybody is selling something, even if it’s pitching a new idea to co-workers. Now Robert Herjavec, the so-called “nice Shark” from the runaway television hit Shark Tank, is out with his third book, You Don’t Have to Be a Shark – Creating Your Own Success, in which he offers insights into the secrets of effective and successful selling.

Not so much a bio, not so much a business book; You Don’t Have to Be a Shark, reveals some of Herjavec’s personal journey in an effort to put a human face on the techniques and advice he offers along the way and how you can put them into practice.
Again, practical and actionable are the watch words of the day here. While some of this stuff may come up as pretty basic and straight forward thinking; often Herjavecs best advice come in the form of how you can erase self-doubt and better focus your efforts and drive for success.

Quench Your Own Thirst: Business Lessons Learned Over a Beer or Two – Jim Koch (Flatiron Books)

Full disclosure upfront: I have been known to sip one or two of Mr. Koch’s fine beverages on occasion, but that quaffing played no role or influence in my thoughts about this book.

Jim Koch, the down to Earth, seemingly easy going guy who founded The Boston Beer Company, the brewer of Samuel Adams beers offers up his take on not only the story of the founding his company, which his really in the end, his story, but also serves up some practical advice for fellow travelers with and entrepreneurial streak in his book, Quench Your Own Thirst: Business Lessons Learned Over a Beer or Two.

Koch is a pretty much what you see is what you get kind of guy and his storytelling style is described by the folks at Kirkus Reviews as “chatty” and to be honest I couldn’t come up with a better way to put it and it really works to describe the next door neighbor quality of his tale.

The underlying theme Koch carries through the book really brews down to how to turn your passion into your business and how to make your business great. Lots of folks have offered up their thoughts on how to get there from here and Koch makes a solid case and his success is a testament to the fact that if you focus on delivering quality products, whatever they may be, there is a track record of success that can be pointed to. My advice is more basic; pop a cold one and dive right into Koch’s story.

TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking – Chris Anderson (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

In its earliest days Technology, Entertainment, Design or as its better known TED Talks, catered to the nerd horde and served up the musings of little known, professorial types in a much more private environment. As TED Talks evolved they become a widely trafficked and massively successful vehicle for not only testing out or showcasing ideas, but actually having a major societal impact.

So, what is the secret to delivering a wildly successful, viral TED Talk that can’t motivate people to action? Well many folks have posited their theories and a number of books have hit the bestsellers list, but now for the first time there is a an official, TED sanctioned tome that will serve as a guidepost for delivering a successful TED or TED-like talk.
Chris Anderson, the man at the helm of TED, the organization’s curator offers up TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking. Anderson’s rallying cry is ‘ideas worth spreading” and the book will give you insights culled from his time overseeing TED. This is a true nuts and bolts approach to public speaking; offering up everything from topic development, presentation style, and even the basics of how to get comfortable with the idea of public speaking.

Anderson even offers his personal take on what it is that separates those TED presentations that blow up and get people not only watching but get them talking and telling their friends, and what falls flat. Too often when people take to public speaking they cannot overcome the urge to drop into a sales pitch; Anderson makes the case that you are there to give rather than receive, so save the pitch for the rebound, when people seek you out. All you need for solid evidence of the TED effect is to look at the folks who deliver viral performances that later delivered bestsellers. This one is a great tool to have handy as you build your content arsenal.




Sunday, May 15, 2016

Health Care Reform – David vs. Goliath

Restoring Quality Health Care – A Six-Point Plan for Comprehensive Reform at Lower Cost – Scott Atlas, M.D. (Hoover Institution Press)

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that when the Democrats in Congress passed the so-called Affordable Care Act (AKA - Obamacare) they sold the American people a bill of goods. The original bill topped out at over 2700 pages and since then the Obama administration has issued in excess of 20,000 pages of regulations to implement the clearly flawed plan.

Aside from all of the baloney about keeping your doctor and your plan and saving you money; the goal of some of those pages was an effort to improve the quality of the care delivered in the United States. While I won’t engage in an argument with idiots who think that Cuba’s health care delivery surpasses that available here in the States, as someone who’s day job is in health care, I will say that there is always room for improvement in the delivery of care. The problem is that the government and regulations are probably the worst possible vehicles for driving improvement.

In the time since Obamacare passed and was signed into law, there has been an ever shifting sands of rules and regulations that healthcare providers have been forced to address; each coming with a higher and higher price tag. Much of it boils down to additional reporting and paperwork and the manpower needed to handle it all. One unfortunate side effect is that health care providers have tried to maintain costs and larded this mountain of additional work on existing staff, which drags down their ability to actually provide care.
As if to illustrate my point about the government being the worst vehicle to drive up quality, Scott Atlas, M.D., a Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and a member of Hoover Institution’s Working Group on Health Care Policy, has served up the new book, Restoring Quality Health Care – A Six-Point Plan for Comprehensive Reform at Lower Cost. Minus the end notes and index, Dr. Atlas managed to offer up a concise and comprehensive reform plan in an easily read 99 pages.

Many of Dr. Atlas’s suggested reforms involve the streamlining of processes; process improvement is one of the cornerstones and goals of any strong health care provider, so it would make sense that a physician would bring this approach to the table. Process improvement…not a government bureaucrat’s long suit.

Dr. Atlas also suggests injecting market based reforms into the health care process, including the expansion of and incentivizing of Health Saving Accounts (HSA) for all Americans. Atlas even goes so far to suggest that HSAs be issued at birth like Social Security numbers. By beginning the process early, incentivizing people to contribute to the accounts through tax breaks, making the HSA portable, and allowing these account to pass to family members without taxation upon a patient’s passing, a deeper level of understanding and control over health care spending would become ingrained in a society. This is a clear market force that would drive up quality.

Dr. Atlas also explodes the myth of Medicare excellence. He describes Medicare as being “a disjointed and antiquated system designed for decades long passed.” Again he offers a common sense reform for streamlining the bulky, bloated and confusing systems of Parts A, B, and D which only serve to increase administrative costs and baffle the seniors the plan was designed to aide. As Atlas points out in the book, the cherry on top of this mess is the plan fact that the Medicare system is in dire financial straits.

While the government tried to “fix” health care with a lumbering, bloated, Goliath of a plan, Atlas choose to go the route of David and offer up a quick, nimble plan to reform and improve the quality of health care we all receive.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Change is Hard

One of the oldest sayings in business is, “change is hard.” Certainly that can be true, but can I be so bold as to suggest that it is momentum and attitude that are really at the root of making change hard. Much like a large seagoing vessel, once business gets moving in one direction it becomes very hard, seemingly impossible, to slow that momentum and change direction.

Equally difficult is attempting to change attitude. Those who averse to change will utilize the rallying cry “that’s not the way we do things!” Momentum and attitude have swallowed many leaders whole in a wide array of business and industry. Could that be why there are literally shelves full of books offering up advice on change leadership.

Two new entries in the category offer up winning guidance on how to lead change and utilize storytelling to gain the buy in you need to truly make and impactful change and they achieve it without falling into the well-worn business book trap of offering up a parable about a new location for your favorite dairy product.

The Storyteller’s Secret – From TED Speakers to Business Leaders, Why Some Ideas Catch on and Others Don’t - Carmine Gallo (St. Martin’s Press)

What is it you want to do? Is your goal to; grow a business, make more sales, educate, inspire, evolve or change a culture, lead a group or organization? Ask yourself…can storytelling help you to have an impact and achieve the goal you are seeking? I think the simple and direct answer is yes.

Now the question becomes what makes storytelling work and how do you become the kind of storyteller that can have an impact and achieve the goal(s) you are seeking? That in a nutshell is what bestselling author and communication expert Carmine Gallo sets out to help you with, in his new book, The Storyteller’s Secret – From TED Speakers to Business Leaders, Why Some Ideas Catch on and Others Don’t.

Gallo breaks down not only how to craft an effective story, but also how the delivery can up the ante on the power of persuasion. I think the case can certainly be made that some folks have the inherent ability to weave a spellbinding tale and others maybe not so much. That’s where training and practice can help. I want to be clear; this is not a book on public speaking and there is a VAST difference between speaking and storytelling.

Gallo provides a range of storytelling/teller examples throughout the book. He also offers up a storyteller’s checklist in each of the chapters that will offers not only additional insight, but also a roadmap to storytelling success that you can put to use when you develop your story and how you tell it.

Illuminate: Ignite Change Through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies and Symbols – Nancy Duarte and Patti Sanchez – (Portfolio)

Nancy Duarte, the bestselling author, communications guru and CEO of Silicon Valley design firm Duarte and her chief strategy officer Patti Sanchez offer up what I will call the third installment in Duarte’s effective communication series, Illuminate: Ignite Change Through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies and Symbols.

Illuminate, as the title suggests moves beyond just telling stories by adding a visual element to the change communication process. Duarte and Sanchez drill down the process of transformation to a five stage process and illustrate how utilizing a series of tools can help leaders through the process.

The duo also walk you through the process by showing you how other successful leaders/businesses have used these five stages and the tools to successful negotiate buy in and navigate through change successfully. Like the other books in the series, there is a real hands on feel to the narrative and adaptable action steps that would provide a blueprint no matter what the business category.

NO surprise that leaders from the design realm would bring a visual element to help bring a sharper focus and illustrate the process steps. The thing I like about the books in this set are each stand on their own individually and will bring value to your role as a leader.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Inspiration Calling

How To Be Here: Creating a Life Worth Living – Rob Bell (Harper One)

Full disclosure up front: I was not familiar with Rob Bell as a pastor, spiritual leader, speaker or New York Times bestselling author. That being said, I didn’t know what to expect when a cracked open Bell’s latest effort, How To Be Here: Creating a Life Worth Living.

While some may be disappointed that Bell doesn’t spend a lot of effort preaching, I was intrigued by his narrative style and his approach to delivering the story he sought to tell with this book. Bell utilizes the computer cursor blinking at you as the starting place of what you want to go out and create; the cursor being a metaphor for whatever path you want to take, whatever endeavor you want to launch, your starting point.

While many of us sit gazing at the flashing cursor, waiting for “magic to happen” or lightening to strike and get us moving, Bell speaks directly to the choices we make and the choices we avoid. He offers inspiration to help us over, around or through the self-manifesting roadblocks we erect that prevent us from pursuing the life we want.

While there is a level of spirituality and a touch of self-helpy-ness to How To Be Here, it never leaks over into the syrupy or the trite; remaining firmly planted in the realm of inspiration. As with all of these kinds of books, I search for bits and useful tidbits that I can plug into my own life and my role as a leader and member of the community and Rob Bell delivers.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Dale Carnegie Redux

The Art of People – 11 Simple People Skills That Will Get You Everything You Want – Dave Kerpen

80 years ago a poor farm boy from Missouri released one of the bestselling books of all time, one that remains a perennial bestseller to this day; Dale Carnegie, How To Win Friends and Influence People. Millions of people seeking self-improvement, sales and improved interpersonal skills folk to Carnegie’s books for advice, which still stands the test of time.

Now, New York Times bestselling author Dave Kerpen offers up what some have dubbed as a book similar to the Carnegie classic, only “better suited for today’s world” with, The Art of People – 11 Simple People Skills That Will Get You Everything You Want.
Kerpen offers up over fifty puzzle pieces, short chapter length essays that fit nicely in the eleven categories the title describes. Those eleven include things like Understanding Yourself and Understanding People, Reading People, Leading People and Inspiring People among others.

Kerpen makes good on the titles promise of keeping things simple as he offers up personal anecdotes and advice for putting this guidance into play. He also adds a personal exercise, FAST – First Action Steps, a few simple steps/questions/exercises that you can quickly put into action to put what he is teaching into play.

Anyone who has spent any time working to improve themselves or their work/personal life, including Mr. Carnegies work, will find a lot of familiar themes here. While Kerpen isn’t really plowing a lot of new ground here, he has pulled together a very useful, very workable collection of things that will contribute to the positive outcome you are seeking.  

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Don’t Overlook This Piece of Your Marketing Plan

So you’ve developed your marketing plan, fully funded your budget, launched your campaigns, optimized your website, held your event, aligned your content, your ads are flawless; you are ready to go and grow. Then when your customers come through your door the wheels come off because they have a terrible experience.

While you can design a brilliant creative campaign, have all of the pieces in place, but if your team isn’t ready to deliver the best possible customer service/experience, then all of the money you put into marketing will have been wasted. It behooves you to make sure that you don’t lose focus on what can be the most critical piece in your marketing plan; customer service.

A pair of new books offer up some great advice that truly spans the business spectrum that you can put in place with your team to either improve or begin your approach to customer service/experience.

Hello! And Every Little Thing That Matters – Impactful Ideas for Treating Your Customers Right – Kate Edwards

Could it really be as simple as saying Hello, when your customer enters your business? The answer from customer service consultant Kate Edwards is YES. Edwards who consults with some of the finest dining establishments in the world is out with a step by step guide, Hello! And Every Little Thing That Matters – Impactful Ideas for Treating Your Customers Right that businesses can plug into to help improve their customer experience.

Think about the last time you visited a retail establishment, restaurant, medical office or any place of business; did the staff make you feel welcome? If they did, what did they do to make that happen? And if they didn’t, what was missing? Did it seem like your being there was a bother that the staff didn’t really want to deal with? Was the greeting your received mechanical and without feeling?

Edwards make the case that the little things, like a greeting can make a difference and set the tone for your customers experience. But it’s more than just tossing off a “Hello and welcome to XYZ widgets” it’s about how you deliver the greeting and what follows; are you making what could be a simple visit a memorable experience.

If you deliver that personalized experience, it sets you apart from your competition and gets people’s attention in a busy, overloaded world. Edwards serves up plenty of ideas that you can put in place today.

501 Ways to Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your Customers: Easy-to-Implements Ideas to Inspire Loyalty, Get New Customers and make a Lasting Impression – Donna Cutting (Career Press)

Speaking of plenty of ideas, how about 501 of them? Donna Cutting, author, keynote speaker, founder of Red-Carpet Learning Systems and customer service expert services up plug and play ideas that cut a broad swath through a variety of industries in her new book 501 Ways to Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your Customers: Easy-to-Implements Ideas to Inspire Loyalty, Get New Customers and make a Lasting Impression.

Cutting takes things a step further by offering leaders insight into how to not only develop and improve customer service plans, but how to make the transition from the white board to actual execution of these strategies. While some of the bold customer service ideas Cutting serves up are fairly industry specific. It is easy to see how many can be adapted and adopted in other industries as well.

While that first impression matters, Cutting also preaches consistency, consistency, consistency, so that your customer service is ongoing and not a one off approach. This is what will not only keep your customers coming back, but also get them advocating on your behalf; while money can’t buy word of mouth, customer service, good and bad, certainly can.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Cracking the Code

The Creator’s Code: The Six Essential Skills of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs – Amy Wilkinson (Simon and Schuster)

Imagine…you have spent countless hours accessing and interviewing some 200 successful entrepreneurs; in the process generating mountains of transcripts and information. Working your way through this mound of information you start to see trends emerge that you can boil down into an easily accessible list that aspiring entrepreneurs can put into play.

That, in a nutshell, is what Stanford lecturer and business advisor Amy Wilkinson has done with her book The Creator’s Code: The Six Essential Skills of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs.

Wilkinson’s Six Essentials list includes:

1. FIND THE GAP: By staying alert, creators spot opportunities that others don't see.
2. DRIVE FOR DAYLIGHT: Just as race-car drivers keep their eyes fixed on the road ahead, creators focus on the future.
3. FLY THE OODA LOOP: Creators continuously update their assumptions. In rapid succession, they observe, orient, decide, and act.
4. FAIL WISELY: Creator set failure ratios, place small bets to test ideas, and develop resilience. They hone the skill to turn setbacks into successes.
5. NETWORK MINDS: Creators bring together diverse brainpower to come up with breakthrough solutions.
6. GIFT SMALL GOODS: Creators unleash generosity by helping others, often by sharing information, pitching in to complete a task, or opening opportunities to colleagues.

Working my way through Wilkinson’s list, it made sense that there was a level of interconnectivity between the pieces of the code puzzle. These six essentials tend to match nicely with business principles I have been a fan of for a long time; notably number one which matches well with my aspiration to Blue Ocean Strategy and creating new market space.

Is The Creator’s Code an Earth shattering business breakthrough…probably not, but it is a nice, concise volume that deserves a place on your business bookshelf.

Sweat The Small Stuff

Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends – Martin Lindstrom (St. Martin’s Press)

For years we’ve been told “don’t sweat the small stuff.” Now bestselling author and business consultant Martin Lindstrom makes the case that if you want to be a successful business owner that you should be doing the exact opposite; that you need to focus on the small things because the devil is in the details.

With his new book, Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends, the author of Buyology, makes the case that while so-called big data can tell you what people are doing, it is the small data that reveals why they are doing what they are doing.

Through his up close and personal observation of consumers in their environment, rather than in a sterile hotel conference room focus group, Lindstrom manages to drill down to the nuts and bolts of consumers and their behaviors based on methodologies that are rooted in ethnography (the scientific descriptions of people’s cultures and customs) and anthropology.

While hard core data scientists may blanch at some of Lindstrom’s gut level hunch approach to consumer science, it really is hard to argue with a guy who spends 300 nights a year traveling the globe and staying in the homes of those he observes. Consider it consumer science and marketing Airbnb- style.


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Shift to What Fits

Under New Management – How Leading Organizations are Upending Business as Usual – David Burkus (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

David Burkus’ bona fides include; business school professor, bestselling author, contributor to Harvard Business Review and Forbes, speaker and consultant to Fortune 500 companies. With his latest effort Under New Management – How Leading Organizations are Upending Business as Usual, Burkus serves up an overview of a series of paradigm shifting business practices that have been put into play at a variety of business.

As with many dynamic shifts in long held business practices, these business practices will likely be met with some serious push back because they fly squarely in the face of “how we do things.”

While Burkus gives plenty of examples of companies who have put these shifts into practice things like pay people to quit, ban email and lose the standard vacation policy have a radical ring to them. Therein lies the rub; while at places like Zappos, Amazon and tech firms these kinds of things might make sense, the reality is, most businesses aren’t like those companies, which make these changes difficult if not impossible to implement.

The trick is to find which of these management shifts that makes sense for your business and you can implement in your company. One that is an easy starting place is the hire as a team concept. Rather than centralizing the hiring process with a human resources leader, why not involve those frontline staffers who will be working side by side with the potential new hire in the selection process? It’s those folks who are best attuned to the needs of their departments and what it takes to be a part of their team.

While banning email might not work, understanding the negative impact that high volumes of email have on your productivity and working to limit how you use email might be a better fit for your business. Burkus isn’t suggesting a one size fits all approach, but rather utilizing and adapting what works best for you.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

You Can’t Teach Passion

The Power of Broke – How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget, and a Hunger for Success Can become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage – Daymond John (Crown Business)

The story has been told thousands of times. It comes in many shapes and forms and from a variety of backgrounds, but it goes something like this; an entrepreneur, an ordinary average John or Jane as an idea and wants to start a business because they think they have a product or service that people want or need. Said entrepreneur pulls themselves up by their bootstraps and scrimps, scrapes and does without, working countless hours and through hard work and perseverance they grow a successful business.

Nowadays the story goes more like this; someone thinks up an idea for a product or service and then they build a slide deck, gather a bunch of venture capitalists or angel investors in a conference room and make a pitch for cash. Once they get the cash they rent a slick office with cool office stuff and try to find ways to make it to an IPO so they can really cash in.

Shark Tank investor and entrepreneur Daymond John, who built his fortune the old fashioned way, by scrapping and scraping his way to success makes the case for dialing back the clock and telling current entrepreneurs that the hunger to succeed and hard work in not a bad thing. John makes the case in the form of his new book The Power of Broke – How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget, and a Hunger for Success Can become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage.

While everybody hopes for the rags to billions success, John says there is value to be gained from the struggle. When you grew up never hearing the word NO, it can be hard to take the first time you encounter it in the real world. Those who are accustomed to the no, work all that much harder to get to the yes. John points out that those who are in that boat, often come up with the most creative solutions to tackle those day to day business problems that most entrepreneurs face at one point or another.

By developing an early understanding of the value of hard work, many up from the bootstraps business people have a better understanding of value of success. It’s amazing how an intimate knowledge of how to do more with less can translate well to the business world. Fear is a great motivator and John makes the case that you should embrace the fear and continue to charge forward with passion.