Sunday, January 27, 2008

Book Review: 12: The Elements of Great Managing

Book Review of 12: The Elements of Great Managing

Following up on the success of First Break all the Rules, "12", by Rodd Wagner and James Harter is a fantastic read. The title represents the 12 elements of work life help explain workers' motivations and productivity.

Without giving away the specifics, these elements include understanding your job and what is expected of you, having the opportunity to success, receiving acknowledgement of a job well done. having friends at work that foster your growth and honestly care about your well being, and having the chance to grow as a professional

All the insights provided in the book are backed with empirical evidence and case studies. The science of the book is well explained for the layman and the focus of the book expands beyond North America into and incorporates international perspectives.

Each of the 12 chapters in the book begins with a case study correlating to one of the Elements. The chapters then follow through with solution or realization of the Elements in action. The massive research undertaking by Gallup is well represented and factual with ties into the modern workplace.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Book Review: Made to Stick

Book review of Made to Stick

Providing warmly entertaining blend of case studies and startling research, Chip and Dan Heath define and enlighten us with the decisive elements of a sticky idea:
  1. Simple
  2. Unexpected
  3. Concrete
  4. Credible
  5. Emotional
  6. Stories
Time and time again, the authors drive home their point using these very techniques. Drawing from real world examples, such as Subway's Jared campaign, JFK's Man on the Moon speech, Disney's Cast Members, and Sony's quest for a "Pockatable Radio", their writing style provides ample opportunity to stop and ponder how to make your next great idea "stick".

While these six elements seem like common sense, they are rarely applied in business communication. For example, on an almost daily basis, countless executives sit through hours of presentations, only to retain exactly nothing. Compare this to the drama of a Steve Jobs keynote.

Well researched, easy to read and hard to forget, strongly recommended!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Book Review: Raving Fans

Side Reading: Raving Fans

While not part of the Personal MBA reading list, I recently attended a conference, hosted by my company, which focused primarily on Professional Services. As part of the theme of the event, all attendees received a copy of "Raving Fans" by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles.

This book might spark a few ideas for your business, however don't expect too much because the authors unfortunately fail dive deeply into any one topic. The book can be distilled down into 3 interrelated points:
  • Decide what you want: Define your vision of your company's relationship with the customer.
  • Discover what your customer wants: Figure out what your customer really wants
  • Deliver the vision, plus 1 percent: You customer needs are most likely not static, so you need to consistently improve to maintain your lead
This is all fairly elementary, however it is the kind of stuff that we often take for granted. While I would not necessarily recommend this book to a friend, I would recommend as part of an introduction to the service business course.

Personally, I would have been disappointed overall, however our week long conference ended with a guest speaker from Ken Blanchard's consulting company which really let the material become more personal.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Book Review: First, Break All the Rules

Book review of First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently

This was the first book that I picked up as part of the Personal MBA program. Well actually, this was one of the many books that I had sitting on the shelf. After discovering the Personal MBA, I look over at my bookshelf and it was just sitting there staring at me.

My only regret is that I did not read this book sooner, this was an outstandingly researched book, Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman tell a great story and it really hit home with me. Buckingham and Coffman base their findings on 25 years of data collected by the Gallup Organization. Their data samples 80 thousand managers and over a million employees from 400 companies. The concepts are well explained and presented.

The book can be summarized into the discovery of the 4 keys of great managers:

1. Select for talent - the authors define talent as "recurring patterns of behavior" and state that great managers find the match between talents and roles.

2. Define the right outcomes - managers needs to turn talent into performance. This can be done by defining the right outcomes and letting people find their own route toward the outcomes.

3. Focus on strengths - managers need to concentrate on strengths and not on weaknesses.

4. Find the Right Fit - managers need to assign roles to employees that give the employees the greatest chance of success.

I highly recommend “First, Break All the Rules” to any current or future manager. The great thing about this book is that after reading it, I participated in a similar survey (StrengthFinder 2.0). I can’t wait to read additional books based on the Gallup surveys and these authors.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Book Review: All Marketers Are Liars


Review of "All Marketers Are Liars"

I just finished reading All Marketers Are Liars, as part of my quest for a Personal MBA. In this book Seth Godin paints an excellent depiction of what works and what fails in modern marketing. The premise of the book is that if you can craft a compelling and honest story, you can market your product (or service).

Successful marketers don't talk about features or benefits, they tell a story. While this story might only appeal to a particular segment of the market, to this market the story is believable and genuine and ultimately will make your product sell.

This was a wonderful read, you can now officially color me a fan of Godin.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Book Review: Strengths Finder 2.0


I recently read StrengthsFinder 2.0, by Tom Wrath, and completed the online assessment. While the specifics of my top themes (Adaptability, Futuristic, Activator, Relator and Self-Assurance) were insightful, I did not find the book to be particularly enlightening. However, there is value in this book if you study it.

This is not a book that you read in the traditional sense, rather one that you review periodically to refocus yourself and devise plans for personal growth.

When I first revised my personal Strengths Discovery, I thought “that’s not me”. However the after several weeks, things started to hit home.

  • Adaptability – “Now” people that discover the future one day at a time.
  • Futuristic – People inspired by the future and what could be.
  • Activator – People talented at turning thought into action.
  • Relator – People that enjoy close relationships with others.
  • Self-Assurance – People that feel comfort in managing their own lives.

From this top 5 list, Futuristic, Activator and Self-Assurance were dead-on depictions of my persona. However Adaptability and Relator stuck out as somewhat incorrect for me.

Reading further, the Relator theme does indeed describes me, while I don’t have a large group of friends, the ones that I have are very close to me. Similarly, Adaptability – Flexibility, dealing with the day’s challenges as they unfold, making decisions without being required to seek approval from others.

So it seems that my profile is indeed accurate.

Now what to do with this knowledge? In a future post, I will review “First Break All the Rules”, in my case I happened to read this book first and the planets are starting to align. This particular book is based on the same Gallop research as StrengthFinder, for me the order of reading with great First Break All the Rules set up numerous examples of how great leaders focus on their strengths to success in their profession, now that StrengthFinder help me identify mind I can start taking action.

Over the coming weeks and months, I will strive to refine these talents and see where things take me…

Thursday, January 10, 2008

New Year and a New Goal



January is always a good time to look back at the previous year and ponder self-improvement. The trouble is that by the end of January, all those resolutions have gone out the window.

This year I want to make a change that sticks!

I have been pondering an MBA for many years and I came to the conclusion that a traditional MBA program was probably not in the cards for me. So in December I started researching a number of Executive MBA programs (nights and weekends) as well as some of the online.

Perhaps one of these options might accommodate my educational desires and help keep balanced at home.

Unfortunately, the commitment to an eMBA or an online MBA still seemed too restrictive. Managing my career, maintaining a healthy marriage and helping raise twin coupled with a a 1-2 year MBA program seemed impossible. In all cases I really just could not justify putting my consulting career "on hold" while pursuing academics.

Still, my chosen profession and current career level often expose some of my educational weaknesses.

My story might ring true with you as well. I have been in the software consulting business for 15 years and managed to "climb the ladders" without any formal post graduate study. I am currently a Services VP, managing a team 100 spread across the globe. I love my job, but find it difficult to perform some of the basics, like deciphering financial reports and writing contracts, without a lot of research and Googleing.

Then, in early January, I stumbled across Josh Kaufman' s Personal MBA and timeliness was downright uncanny. I am optimistic that the Personal MBA will help me guide my career and help me to the next level.

After reviewing the Personal MBA Manifesto, I took the bull by the horns and have already plowed through 3 of the recommended readings in no particular order (First, Break All the Rules, Strengths Finder 2.0 and The Little Green Book of Getting Your Way). I have since order the remaining titles in the "quick start section" and everything in the management section.


To help keep myself on track, I resolve to stay on the program and blog my progress.

Wish me luck!