Andrew B. Clancy

When you consider the setting in which decisions are made in an organization, it’s easy to picture a conference room table. The CEO sits at the head of the table and a council of vice presidents and executives line either side. Bob Frisch, author of “Who’s in the Room? How Great Leaders Structure and Manage the Teams Around Them,” argues that some of the most critical decisions in an organization are made before the door to the conference room swings open. In this interview, he discusses the power of the “kitchen cabinet,” the problem with team-building exercises and the question every senior management team should answer.

Let’s start with the basic premise of the book: What leads members of an executive team to come to the CEO and ask, ‘Why wasn’t I in the room?’

The group goes by a variety of different names, but it could basically be called the boss and the boss’s direct reports. Officially speaking, this is the senior decision-making body of the company. Everybody knows that this is the boss and his or her team. They get together every week or every month, and they make the big momentous decisions.

The reality for the people that sit on those teams is that most of the major decisions are made by a smaller group before that team ever gets together. The boss makes decisions with the same handful of people around him or her time after time. It’s an informal ‘kitchen cabinet’ that makes the major decisions and the larger group has to discuss it, modify, communicate it, implement it, etc. The senior group doesn’t actually make the decisions of the organization and that gap between the myth and reality causes problems.

Many companies that experience this type of issue with decision-making think the solution lies in hiring a consultant or someone who tries team-buildin’ exercises. What is actually the result of this solution?

Bosses figure that if the team can communicate better, the frustrations caused by the decision-making process will go away.

The root cause of the problem isn’t psychological. It’s not behavioral. It’s not a communication problem. The root cause is, for example, the different people around the table have different political power. The root cause could also be that the boss doesn’t want to have 12 or 14 people around him every time he wants to make a decision. Bosses want the flexibility, latitude and intimate feeling that they get from having only two or three people around them when making decisions.

A central point for anyone reading this book is to move from ‘Should we do this?’ to ‘How do we do this?’ What starts the process of shifting a company from the former to the latter?

The business case goes in front of senior management teams or executive committees for approval. Usually the group comes into the conference room, the lights go down, they show the business case, the lights go up and things get passed through. We asked numerous groups, ‘In what percent of businesses cases is the case either turned down or significantly changed at the level of executive team approval?’

The typical answer we received was that it was changed at this level in less than 10 percent of cases. Usually what people said is that one or two cases were changed in the past few years. This is a kabuki, ritualistic approval process that is in almost every process flow of almost every business case. The ‘best-practice’ companies don’t say, ‘Should we go ahead and do this planned expansion?’ That’s a foregone conclusion. The question that these companies ask is: ‘Are the various parts of the organization around the table prepared to do what they need to do to support the successful implementation of the initiative described in this business case?’

“Who’s in the Room?”

By Bob Frisch

Jossey-Bass, 193 pages, $29.95

About the book: “Who’s in the Room” is author and consultant Bob Frisch’s examination of the organizational decision-making process. Based on years of research and intense interviews with a wide range of CEOs and their teams, Frisch guides leaders through a process to empower their senior management group. He redirects the senior management team’s focus and spreads decision-making power across the organization.

The author: Bob Frisch is managing partner of The Strategic Offsites Group and has worked with organizations ranging from Fortune 500 companies to German mittelstand family businesses to the U.S. State Department. Frisch’s work has been featured in the Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Businessweek and Fortune.

Why you should read it: Making decisions causes internal tension in organizations. The biggest problem is that this tension often goes unspoken and unresolved. Frisch provides one of the more captivating examinations of the decision-making process. He also explains the reasons that traditional solutions such as team-building exercises and corporate psychologists fail to produce results related to decision-making.

Why it’s different: Frisch makes a critical distinction to which leaders should pay attention. He titles one chapter “Move from ‘Should We Do This?’ to ‘How Do We Do This?’” and he gives interesting evidence to support the belief that the former question is rarely answered by the senior management team. By restructuring the priorities of the senior management team, Frisch takes his readers away from traditional thinking that inevitably forces people to try to make the best of a broken situation.

Can’t miss: “Best Practices: Design an Organization That Delivers the Outcomes You Need.” In this chapter, Frisch teaches readers about the “Three Centers of Gravity.” Despite arguing for the dissolving of as many organizational teams as possible, Frisch help executives revitalize and strengthen the three teams that generally exist in most organizations. The chapter provides a push to an outcomes-based approach that is certain to help organizations be more effective.

To share or not to share: Executives will want their team members to read this book. It’s an inexpensive investment that will prevent needless spending on team-building consultants. “Who’s In the Room” also negates the root cause of the hurt feelings that result from feeling left out.

How to reach: Bob Frisch was a recent guest on Soundview Live, Soundview’s exclusive webinar series. To hear the complete broadcast, visit

Tuesday, 31 January 2012 19:00

Figure it out

Managers often spend a tremendous amount of energy attempting to answer the question, “What do my employees really want?” It can be a difficult question to answer and has stumped many well-educated leaders. In their new book, “The Invisible Spotlight: Why Managers Can’t Hide,” authors and management consultants Craig Wasserman and Doug Katz tackle this conundrum. The duo advises managers to carefully weigh their own actions in determining a solution. In this interview, the pair discuss the danger of managing on automatic pilot, the importance of the internal dialogue and how to handle the aftermath of a tough conversation.

You refer at the outset of the book to the state of automatic pilot under which so many managers operate. To what do you attribute this state?

Doug Katz: It is the grind of everyday operations and maybe something more fundamental. It’s the idea that a remarkable number of managers come to the job of managing assuming, not always consciously, that how they are naturally — their personality, their character — defines how they should manage. What’s remarkable about that is that there is an enormous number of organizational and relationship skills that are required of a manager. Who would assume that they would come to one naturally? The analogy is one of playing a role in a play and assuming you could walk up onstage without knowing the script.

What about the concept of the ‘Internal Dialogue?’ How does it help reduce drama in the manager/employee relationship?

Craig Wasserman: One of the biggest myths with which managers live is that good managers are able to think quickly on their feet.

Managers aren’t expected to have an instant answer. Problems need to be thought out. They have to be choreographed. It’s not easy to tell someone that you’re disappointed that his or her work is coming in late. But if you anticipate that he or she is going to blame it on one thing or another, what’s your response going to be? This internal dialogue becomes a tool that managers need to perfect before every conversation.

Katz: It might be useful for managers to keep in mind how disrespectful it is to come to a critical meeting about an employee’s work or his or her future without any preparation, without any choreography. What tends to happen, even to the best of us, is that our focus gets diffused. We start talking about other irrelevancies instead of coming to the point. Coming to the point does not happen naturally. It comes from having the respect for the human being across from whom you’ll be sitting to think in advance about what is it that you need to say.

Many managers struggle with what to do after an intense exchange with an employee. Is there an advantage to providing a little space?

Wasserman: Managers have to remember, again, that your people are thinking about you all the time. They will relive aspects of that conversation that they had with you. That time is their healing process. They will go through all sorts of rationalizations and reconciliations with themselves. ‘That wasn’t fair. He’s just picking on me. Maybe he does have a good point,’ etc.

The next day, that person is going to come through the door and be a bit distant. The manager has to live through the employee’s distance. You have to let people have their major ‘Aha!’ experiences when they are alone. We encourage managers during the days following the initial recovery period to engage the employee. Get his or her feedback about an unrelated issue. Get them in the game. Make them realize that the relationship between the manager and the employee is long term.

“The Invisible Spotlight: Why Managers Can’t Hide”

By Craig Wasserman and Doug Katz

CreateSpace, 154 pages, $15.95

About the book “The Invisible Spotlight” provides powerful perspective on the unique role of a manager in his or her organization. It is a job title that many professionals will hold during their career, but one for which many will be ill-prepared. Veteran management consultants Craig Wasserman and Doug Katz argue that managers are under constant scrutiny that has little to do with an annual performance review or quarterly earnings report. Their book offers a critical examination of the relationships, moments and trials that can make a manager’s career successful.

The authors Craig Wasserman, Ph.D., and Doug Katz are co-founders of Wasserman/Katz and share more than 35 years of experience as management consultants, trainers and lecturers. Their organization helps managers explore their ultimate responsibility for making critical organizational relationships work.

Why you should read it Regardless of your confidence level about your abilities as a manager, you should take a fresh look at the impact you have on the lives of your employees. “The Invisible Spotlight” dissects the make-or-break moments of which you may not even be aware. It removes the veil of mystery that occasionally cloaks the reasons why employees react in certain ways.

Why it’s different Wasserman and Katz remind readers from the outset that management is work, and it’s constant, difficult work. The authors instruct managers to both think from the perspective of employees and call upon the manager’s own experiences during his or her rise up the corporate ladder. Their book is among the best to bridge the gap between employer and employee to create a shared vision whose goal is to get the job done. If you’re in a results-oriented environment, “The Invisible Spotlight” is a must-read title.

Can’t miss “The Internal Dialog.” Wasserman and Katz recognize that a fatal flaw of managers is the desire to avoid uncomfortable conversations. This chapter provides critical steps to handle the tough, closed-door sessions with employees.

To share or not to share “The Invisible Spotlight” is a book that many of your competitors will miss, and it’s to their disadvantage. Make sure this book makes it onto the reading list of your management team.

How to reach For more information on this book, visit

How many pages would it take for you to script your personal leadership philosophy? If you were to advise the next generation of leaders about the principles by which you live and work, would it fill a book? According to author and leadership development expert Mike Figliuolo, your leadership maxims should fit comfortably in an 8.5-by-11-inch frame. In this interview, the author of “One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership,” details the cause of today’s leadership haze, why maxims trigger behavior change and how to share your philosophy with the people that matter most to you.

Why has leadership become overly complex?

You have a bunch of Type A personalities who are continuing to try to get ahead. They look at the leaders ahead of them and they start emulating those behaviors. When you combine all those factors, there’s a mindset of, ‘I need to look more sophisticated than I am. I need to be acting at that next level. I need to put off a perception that I have capabilities that I may not have yet.’ To do so, what happens is buzzwords start creeping in. We start talking about more leadership and management frameworks, and it becomes more and more complex. In the process of that, we lose ourselves as leaders.

The solution you offer is the leadership maxims approach. How are maxims used in leadership?

A maxim is nothing more than a trigger. It’s something to remind you of strong emotions. It’s something that will resonate for you. It should remind you of a story or an example from your personal past or experience. The method is designed such that when you read your own maxim, it triggers all those feelings inside of you and those feelings are what are going to get you to behave differently. It’s very easy for me to ignore a platitude like, ‘Be the best that I can be.’ But when I tap into something much more emotional, much more personal, it’s a lot harder to ignore, and it will change my behavior.

Can you cite one of your personal maxims?

[There is] a quote from Ernest Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea.’ I read the book when I was in ninth grade. You’re not exactly the most intellectually deep person as a 15-year-old male. However, I read the book and came across a line in the book that said, ‘But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.’ I remember rereading that line 10 or 15 times. It ended up being my senior quote in the yearbook because those words spoke to me. Over the years, during times that have been really difficult and dark for me, that Hemingway quote has been a touchstone for me to say, ‘I can’t give up. I can’t be defeated.’

Once a leader is able to create his or her set of leadership maxims, what are the most effective ways to communicate this to others?

You can’t just send that paper out and have people understand what that means. My suggestion is to sit down with the members of your team, your boss, your colleagues or even your family members and share what the maxims are, but then share the stories behind them. Tell people why that story is important and personally meaningful to you. Tell them how it is going to affect your behavior. Once everyone around you has that understanding, then it is incumbent upon you to live those maxims on a regular basis. Some leaders like to give their team members permission to call them out. I’ve always given my staff permission to call me out when they see me not living a maxim, and there’s nothing that tastes worse than your own medicine.

“One Piece of Paper”

By Mike Figliuolo

Jossey-Bass, 238 pages, $27.95

About the book: “One Piece of Paper” is a deceptively simple concept with an abundance of power. Author and leadership development expert Mike Figliuolo strips away the pretension that defines much of today’s leadership philosophy. He demonstrates a method to fit your entire leadership philosophy onto one piece of paper. Readers learn how to replace buzzwords and hollow statements with maxims that continuously inspire the individual leader and provide a guide for his or her behavior.

The author: Mike Figliuolo is the founder and managing director of thoughtLEADERS LLC, a professional services firm specializing in leadership development, and is a nationally recognized speaker and blogger on the topic of leadership. An Honor Graduate from West Point, Figliuolo served in the U.S. Army as a combat arms officer.

Why you should read it: Figliuolo presents a challenge to leaders that will force you to go on a journey of self-discovery. His leadership maxims approach will test your ability to be honest with yourself. When creating your personal list of leadership maxims, you cannot trade on management go-to phrases like “live our values” and “give 110 percent.” You will be given the unique opportunity to assess the guiding principles of your past as well as the ideas that motivate you in your current job.

Why it’s different: “One Piece of Paper” pulls where other business books push. Figliuolo engages readers in a manner that led General John Galvin, the retired former Supreme Allied Commander Europe, to comment, “The book feels like a conversation between two old friends, one of them being you

Can’t miss: “Making It Real.” Divided into two chapters, “Living Your Maxims” and “Sharing,” this section is the practical payoff for the reader’s soul-searching efforts. Figliuolo supports his theory that maxims do not need to be etched in stone. They are the epitome of the “living, breathing document” that companies tend to miscall their mission statement.

To share or not to share: As Figliuolo has discovered during his leadership coaching sessions, the ideas in “One Piece of Paper” can spread rapidly through an organization. It is a book that could help your staff members see you, and each other, in an exciting new light.

Mike Figliuolo was a recent guest on Soundview Live, Soundview’s exclusive webinar series. To hear the complete broadcast, visit

How to reach: For more information on this book, visit

Saturday, 31 December 2011 20:01

Keep looking ahead

In difficult economic times, many companies take a management approach that forces their focus to change from quarter to quarter to month to month. The demands of stakeholders to grow the customer base and increase profits can undercut an organization’s efforts to live beyond today. In “Escape Velocity,” author and tech strategist Geoffrey A. Moore provides some much-needed accelerant to smash through the barrier presented by the past. In this interview, he discusses the importance of secular growth, the skewed dialogue concerning innovation and why it’s so important to continue looking forward.

Describe the difference between cyclical and secular growth and why the latter is critical to the strategy of any organization.

The established businesses that are cash cows for most companies have been around for a decade, two decades, maybe longer. Cyclical growth is extremely normal in any established business. The people that have bought [from you] are buying again, but you’re not getting a lot of net new customers. Secular growth happens whenever a new category comes onto the economic scene. Think about the tablets from Apple or smartphones or the kinds of things in high tech that are very obvious examples. All of a sudden, a whole bunch of net new customers come into the category. It’s a one-time only event.

You argue that companies need to take an investor’s view of their organization. Why do so many companies fail to take an investor’s view?

I think what happens is when you get involved in running anything, the day-to-day responsibilities of what’s going on are overwhelming. Whether it’s the supplier in China that didn’t do what it said it was going to do to an angry employee that’s making claims about harassment, there’s so much to do right in the moment that it’s very difficult to get outside of that. Maybe once each year people go to a strategy off-site meeting or something, but even then, it’s very hard to integrate those perceptions [from the off-site] back into the flow of things.

Is there a way for a business to identify if it is pursuing a declining category and not cling to the past?

This is where this issue of having to confront the need to invest in power as well as deliver performance, which is the underlying theme of the book, really comes to a head. In the short term, there’s this temptation to continually extract short-term performance gains from a category that’s declining. The risk there, of course, is that every quarter you have to produce more gains and the category is becoming capable of producing less and less. What the book strongly advocates is that you divest yourself of those categories early on to, potentially, a private-equity investor who actually has the right setup in order to harvest the remaining returns without being punished by the public stock market.

Innovation is a term that so many companies overuse. Do you think there’s a misplaced definition of what innovation is and what it means to a business?

There’s really three outcomes of innovation and we tend to only talk about one, which is massive differentiation. This is the kind of innovation we love to celebrate when it comes to a company like Apple. But a lot of innovation is centered around what we call neutralization. This means keeping up with the category, keeping up with your competitor. This allows your existing customer base to continually support you. The third outcome of innovation is productivity improvements. These don’t really affect your competitive footprint but certainly affect your return-on-investment capital.

The dialogue around innovation has been way too skewed toward differentiation, as if that were the only problem to solve and the answer to all problems, which just isn’t true.

“Escape Velocity: Free Your Company’s Future from the Pull of the Past”

By Geoffrey A. Moore

Harper Business, 213 pages, $27.99

About the book: “Escape Velocity” provides a workable answer to one of the most frustrating questions faced by today’s businesses: How can we find next-generation success when we’re expected to deliver quarterly results? Moore explores the danger of staying obedient to past success methods and provides a “framework of frameworks” to rocket your company into its next era of greatness.

The author: Geoffrey A. Moore is chairman emeritus of three consulting firms: The Chasm Group, Chasm Institute and TCG Advisors. He is also a venture partner with Mohr Davidow Ventures, a California-based venture capital firm specializing in specific technology markets, including e-commerce, Internet, enterprise software, networking and semiconductors. His previous books include the best-sellers “Dealing with Darwin” and “Crossing the Chasm.”

Why you should read it: Many businesses, particularly public companies, are so focused on quarter-to-quarter growth that they are unable to make the necessary moves to secure the long-term future of their business. Rather than leave valuable opportunities lying on the table where they can be snapped up by start-ups (or worse, current competitors), Moore provides businesses with a manageable method to align the company’s priorities and carry it forward without sacrificing current gains.

Why it’s different: Despite being based in the technology field, Moore’s work is applicable to a variety of industries. His examination of the hierarchy of powers forces executives to drop the day-to-day and take an investor’s view of their organization. By redirecting this focus, Moore does an excellent job of connecting the realities faced by many businesses with the hard truth about what it takes to grow, rather than endure in a changing market. He is not afraid to point out that some of today’s most successful companies would be labeled a risk if evaluated on their long-term focus. Moore defines what will propel tomorrow’s great companies then provides the fuel to get today’s organizations into that rarified air.

Can’t miss: “Company Power.” One reason businesses are unable to pursue next-generation opportunities is that they lack clarity. Part of this problem stems from a complete misidentification of a company’s competitive set. In this chapter, Moore provides companies with much-needed direction and gives examples of companies that completely missed the mark on defining their own business architecture and, therefore, their true competitors.

To share or not to share: This book is critical reading for executives but doesn’t need to be distributed throughout an organization.

How to reach: For more information on this book, visit

Wednesday, 30 November 2011 20:01

Do your homework

For all the pride a company may feel once it achieves success in a chosen market, there is also a serious risk of stagnation. The pursuit of new markets can keep a company operating at its highest level of profitability and productivity, but the path can be deadly for the uninformed. Author, entrepreneur and strategy consultant Stephen Wunker provides a steady course to success in his book, “Capturing New Markets: How Smart Companies Create Opportunities Others Don’t.” In this interview, he discusses the fall of industry giants, why failing smart means failing fast (and cheap) and why your company needs to do its homework before attempting to break ground in India and China.

Is there a company that serves as a good cautionary tale for the perils of ignoring new markets?

Blockbuster had a wonderful business. It was minting money and had great cash flow. It had thousands of branches throughout the United States, and while it was enjoying this terrific situation, this company called Netflix took root. Blockbuster ignored what Netflix was doing until pretty late in the game. It tried to copy it, but it did it in a halfhearted way. The Blockbuster online rental program never caught on.

It was the same story with Blockbuster and Redbox. Again, Redbox did phenomenally well, and Blockbuster copied it too late. Ultimately, Blockbuster got caught in this death spiral of having a lot of the most attractive renters be taken from it by these other competitors, and yet it was stuck with all these high-cost locations. As it shuttered the high-cost locations, it also lost most of its renters and had a very difficult time making ends meet.

Tell us about some of the factors that lead businesses to ignore new markets. Is this often the result of a desire to continue appeasing shareholders by focusing solely on dominance in one market?

You want to know what your core competencies are. But if you stick solely to what those competencies are, it’s like driving by only looking in the rearview mirror. The politics in a larger-sized company tend to get people to stick to what they know. They don’t want to get caught out taking bold risks that turn out not to pay back the investment. But they also just don’t want failure.

Ironically, that is completely ignoring the lessons that venture capitalists would teach you. VCs, on average, earn about 25 percent higher returns on their investments than public companies. That’s even adjusting for the type of industries in which VCs tend to operate. Yet, they fail far more frequently than the average public company. In an average VC portfolio, out of every 10 investments, six or seven are going to be total write-offs. The secret to VC’s success is that they fail very quickly and very cheaply.

You cite in the book that the World Bank has China ranked 79th and India 134th in terms of ease of doing business. What are some of the potential problems of which businesses may be unaware?

Try to find companies that have really made significant profits by expanding in those countries. It’s a very short list. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be there. It’s critical to be there and understand these two countries, both from an opportunity perspective, as well as from a defensive perspective because a lot of your future competitors are going to be coming from those two countries. But if you really want to make a go in emerging markets, going to China and India is like saying you want to start playing basketball and your first step is to try to join the NBA. It’s a very tough place to get your start.

If you look at companies that have really been successful in emerging markets, Walmart is a good one. They cut their teeth in places like Mexico, and they’re now in South Africa.

“Capturing New Markets: How Smart Companies Create Opportunities Others Don’t”

By Stephen Wunker

McGraw Hill, 260 pages, $30

About the book “Capturing New Markets” breaks down longstanding methods of attempting to succeed in a new marketplace. The pace of today’s markets requires a unique approach that leans on collaboration rather than competition. The book combines extensive research with multiple case studies and the author’s own experiences as a successful entrepreneur and consultant.

The author Stephen Wunker is an entrepreneur and widely published strategy consultant who has created successful ventures for his own companies and clients across six continents. He is the managing director of New Markets Advisors, a firm dedicated to helping companies find, enter and win in new markets.

Why you should read it Without the right amount of preparation, research, strategy and timing, businesses face a steep uphill climb when attempting to enter new markets. “Capturing New Markets” is a compact guide from a successful entrepreneur that offers new ideas tailored for today’s global, high-speed marketplace. Wunker outlines the challenges a business will face and offers the best methods to overcome them in bold, yet simple, moves. His recounting of the missteps of other organizations provides critical reminders of the importance of understanding new markets before a company attempts to enter them.

Why it’s different Wunker breaks down business models and rebuilds them in memorable, effective ways. He does an excellent job of balancing the technical details with the real-world examples that cross a variety of industries. The book is a welcome change from the stream of titles that rephrase the same message of “Be more like Apple.” Wunker’s advice on the Indian and Chinese markets will be eye-opening for many organizations who assume that a large population translates into more money from a smaller percentage of market penetration.

Can’t miss “Entering at the Right Time.” In this chapter, Wunker provides information on the single most difficult challenge faced by any business attempting to enter a new market: when to make an entrance. Arrive too early and your company’s mistakes can be your competitors’ new selling points. Arrive too late, and you’ll risk being too far behind to catch the leader.

To share or not to share While “Capturing New Markets” should be on every entrepreneur’s reading list, its impact will likely be best felt in the C-suite. For the occupant of a company’s corner office, it’s a can’t-miss title.

How to reach For more information on this book, visit

Monday, 31 October 2011 21:01

Is that professional?

A quick scan of today’s headlines tends to send up red flags about the amount of trust individuals place in businesses. Author and management consultant Bill Wiersma theorizes the root cause of this state of distrust is a lack of professionalism. In his book, “The Power of Professionalism,” Wiersma explores the definition of being a true professional. In this interview, he discusses how companies can encourage professionalism from the point of hiring, why success should not be achieved “by any means necessary” and the critical importance of being a part of something bigger.

One of the main arguments you make in the book is that people don’t perceive themselves as professionals. How have we gotten to this point?

It’s a little ironic when you think about all the professional development that occurs in organizations and associations. I’ve just found that people haven’t really adopted being a professional as part of their identity. They certainly identify with their title. They certainly identify with their education or degree or if they have a prestigious license of some type. But in terms of being a professional, it’s just not emphasized very much.

The book discusses the point that business education has become overly focused on technical expertise and less on character. What can businesses do to reverse this trend during the hiring process?

It’s important for the company to look well beyond the individual’s technical expertise and focus more on his or her human characteristics, such as character and judgment. In terms of running an organization, I would be emphasizing to new hires during orientation that the company is committed to running its operation as a professional organization and that each person is a part of that goal. We expect you to be professionals, and we will work with you to develop you as professionals. The employer needs to make sure that the employee has this as an expectation. A lot of new hires will have this idea as an implicit expectation. But higher education, as well as many corporations, haven’t been explicit about what it really means to be a professional.

You wrote, ‘You can have consistency without trust, but you cannot have trust without consistency.’ How can leaders demonstrate trustworthiness?

I argue that one of the simplest ways to generate trust is to have a foundation based on professional ideals. These ideals, by default, build trust in an organization. If you have centered your culture and your values around professional ideals, a lot of the work takes care of itself. However, I’m not suggesting that this is easy to accomplish. The gaining and maintenance of trust challenges us. Having a culture built around professional values means you’re able to approach a colleague about a subject to which he or she is sensitive. It’s about going the extra mile when you’re already fatigued. It involves doing the jobs that aren’t much fun, but define how a professional ‘shows up.’

Taking those actions builds trust in an organization.

One of your ‘Seven Mindsets of Trusted Professionals’ is that professionals have a bias for results. There may be executives who misinterpret this as, ‘by any means necessary.’ Tell us the true qualities that make a bias for results.

[Author and human resources consultant] Dave Ulrich discusses the importance of not only getting results, but getting results the right way. We’ve all seen organizations that get results and have a bottom line that looks good, at least, for a short season. But they’ve either cut corners or haven’t been completely transparent and they inevitably take a hit. You need to ensure that your organization achieves its gains in a way that builds trust and is unassailable by others, be they competitors, customers or internal resources.

“The Power of Professionalism: The Seven Mind-Sets that Drive Performance and Build Trust”

By Bill Wiersma

Ravel, 350 pages, $32.95

About the book: “The Power of Professionalism” provides readers with author Bill Wiersma’s seven mindsets to increase trust and drive workplace performance. The book emphasizes the importance of developing and maintaining values on a personal and organizational level. Featuring insight and interviews with leaders such as former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard B. Myers, Vanguard Group founder John Bogle and global management authority Marshall Goldsmith, Wiersma’s book is a critical step in righting the wrongs of the past decade in business ethics.

The author: Bill Wiersma is the founder and principal of Wiersma and Associates LLC, a management consulting and training firm providing services to Fortune 500 companies and to the professional services sector. He previously held executive responsibilities as a director in a Fortune 200 company.

Why you should read it: Wiersma’s book provides needed reminders of the basics of business ethics, but more important, it demonstrates the positive results that a commitment to values, transparency and credibility generates.

Why it’s different: Wiersma assembled a panel of contributors that avoids the usual suspects from the technology and academic circles. A great example is his inclusion of Kathy Ireland. Though many readers will recall her days as a model, Ireland founded Kathy Ireland WorldWide, a design and marketing firm with an estimated $1.5 billion in annual sales. Ireland had to fight through several business failures and constant preconceived notions about her abilities as a businessperson. Wiersma uses her experiences to demonstrate one of his seven mindsets, “Professionals Know Things Get Better When They Get Better.” Wiersma’s strength as an author is the ability to balance great stories from his contributors with his own thoughts on professionalism.

Can’t miss: “Mind-Set 2: Professionals Realize (and Act Like) They’re Part of Something Bigger than Themselves.” Readers would be amazed to discover the amount of isolation felt by many workers. Leaders have an opportunity to generate a more solid organization, but only if they’re first able to help themselves see their role in a greater cause.

To share or not to share: “The Power of Professionalism” should not be placed on a shelf. Its message of transparency and credibility make it a book that should be required reading for entire teams and organizations.

How to reach: For more information on this book, visit

Friday, 30 September 2011 21:01

Are you a healthy business?

Business books come and go, but often not as fast as businesses themselves. Since the publication of two landmark books, “In Search of Excellence” by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman and “Built to Last,” by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, 20 percent of the companies profiled in the books no longer exist and 46 percent are struggling to regain their former positions in the marketplace. Clearly, it’s a tough world out there, and it’s not getting easier to find sustained success.

A new book by researchers Scott Keller and Colin Price called “Beyond Performance” tackles this topic by looking at what is done by companies that have found ways to endure. In this interview with Smart Business, Keller and Price discuss the businesses that continue to be high performers and the reason that organizational health lies at the heart of longevity.

From your research into the subject, why have companies been so inclined to ignore organizational health? Is it simply a need to appease investors and shareholders or is it too much focus on short-term goals?

Colin Price: We are in no way saying that shareholder value is a bad thing. The focus of our work is performance and health, not performance or health. A very strong focus on performance and shareholder value is a very good thing. But it was so emphasized that businesses lost connection with what created not just performance and shareholder value in this month or this quarter but what created a great institution. That was most dramatically seen in the financial sector. The notorious failures all across the world were where organizations and banks were driving for short-term performance without a focus on longer-term institutional excellence. But it wasn’t just constrained to banks.

I think, in a way, this is a rediscovery of something that businesses have known for a long time. If you take any group of managers and say to them, ‘Do you believe that if you create a fundamentally healthy institution, you have a better chance of creating outstanding financial results?’ Nine times out of 10, those people will say yes. The problem is that many organizations have lost touch with that, partly driven by the short-term focus of the market, but I think it’s a bit of a cop-out for managers and leaders to say that they had to do it wrong because the market drove us that way. Leaders are employed to do the right thing for the survival and prosperity of the company, not just follow the winds of the marketplace.

There may be a temptation to look for a fix-all when setting a health aspiration. Tell us why companies need to be selective and what’s a good number of healthy organizational practices to which to aspire?

Scott Keller: It’s worth mentioning that there are, we would say, 37 practices that managers do that tend toward health or away from health. Why 37 practices? The reason is that after 10 years of research, probably the largest research effort in this area suggests that those are the right 37 practices on which to focus. It’s not that leaders or managers need to aspire to be great at all 37 practices in the same way that the gymnast has a different level of health from the body-builder, yet both can be healthy. The question is, what recipe of health is right for your organization to deliver against its strategy? As we’ve done the multi-varied analyses on this subject, it turns out the ‘magic number,’ so to speak, is to choose six practices where you will be distinctive, world-leading and better than the competition. [Your company should] be good enough at the other practices and not be in the bottom quartile relative to your competition. If you can do that, you will have a very healthy organization. The catch is that you have to choose the right six. It’s not just any six practices. It’s those six practices that, when put together in combination, actually have an impact.

“Beyond Performance: How Great Organizations Build Ultimate Competitive Advantage”

By Scott Keller and Colin Price

Wiley, 280 pages, $29.95

About the book “Beyond Performance” offers an academic examination of why so few companies are able to sustain organizational excellence over an extended period of time. After what the authors describe as possibly the largest research endeavor into this subject, Scott Keller and Colin Price provide executives with five frames to create a balanced organization that is both high-performing and healthy.

The authors Scott Keller is a director in the Southern California office of McKinsey & Co. He is also the co-founder of Digital Divide Data. Colin Price is a director in McKinsey’s London office and leads its organization practice worldwide. He is also the co-author of “Mergers” and “Vertical Take-Off.”

Why you should read it Keller and Price offer a valuable study of organizations that demonstrated more than just a survivalist’s skill set. They focus on the innovators who push their companies to the heights of profit margin and remember to bring their people along for the ride. Keller and Price provide Five Frames that leaders can apply to performance and health.

Why it’s different The massive amount of empirical research that Keller and Price undertook would crush even an experienced leader. The strength of “Beyond Performance” is in its ability to provide just the right amount of scholarship in the context of practical application.

Can’t miss “The Senior Leader’s Role” — Unlike so many business books that attempt to grab one segment of an organization’s hierarchy, “Beyond Performance” provides this critical chapter, intended for 360 degrees of a company’s leadership. For change efforts to succeed, they must be championed, embodied and modeled by the top executive. This chapter is a guide for both those who occupy the C-suite, as well as their direct reports who may be hard at work to open the eyes of a top executive.

To share or not to share The riddle of extended high performance is one that has led to a variety of answers, but few show the quality exhibited by Keller and Price’s book. It’s recommended that a company acquire several copies of this book and pass it out to all levels of leadership.

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Wednesday, 31 August 2011 21:01

Bringing people together

Author, entrepreneur and one-time Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki wants to help you make a difference in the world. In his new book, “Engagement,” Kawasaki demonstrates that changing someone’s mind requires neither a magic spell nor scare tactics of any kind. In this interview with Smart Business, he explores the power of social media and the connectedness it creates by explaining the benefits of creating an ecosystem for your cause and illustrating the power of push technology.

You actually received some interesting feedback from a reader about ecosystems. For anyone listening who feels, as she did, that this is “for high-tech, fairly big companies only,” explain why ecosystems can be used in any organization and in any industry.

Let’s take the example of a restaurant going low-tech. A restaurant’s ecosystem would include the restaurant and its staff. It would probably include the union of the employees. Hopefully, the union would support you. If you had great vendors who provided you the best fresh vegetables and fresh supplies, that’s part of the ecosystem. You could make the argument that the valet system, the people who park the cars, are probably not your employees. They might be part of a third-party valet company, but they are part of your ecosystem. You could build a community on Yelp of people who liked your restaurant and spread the word, so that’s part of your ecosystem. Something as simple as a restaurant could have an ecosystem. When all of these people, the suppliers, the valets, the customers and the union and the employees and the families of the employees (who tell their friends and family to go eat there) build all that ecosystem, it could be two or three times the number of people you actually employ. Think of all those people supporting you.

What can companies do to overcome their fear of engaging customers via push technology?

First of all, push technology usually refers to e-mail and Twitter. Those are cases where you’re controlling when the message goes out. You’re pushing it out as opposed to trying to pull people to your site. You’re pushing information at them. Take an example of Twitter.

There is a street-food vendor in Los Angeles called Kogi BBQ [a food truck that serves ‘Korean Mexican tacos, day and night,’ according to the company’s website]. It has about 60,000 followers on Twitter. Kogi BBQ has these trucks and the trucks show up at various street corners to sell tacos. Let’s imagine a world without Twitter.

How would Kogi BBQ get the word out that its truck is going to be at a certain corner at noon? Could it advertise in the L.A. Times? Not very likely. You’re only trying to get 50 to 100 people at that corner, so you’re not going to advertise in the L.A. Times, which comes out at 8 a.m. and not at noon when Kogi wants people to come eat. Who holds their L.A. Times with them so they know where Kogi will be? There are so many street corners in L.A., how would you narrow that down for the L.A. Times?

Would a radio station work? How many people listen to a radio station at work? Well, maybe more than we think, but it’s not exactly cool to have your radio blasting at your desk. So, Kogi sends out a tweet to 60,000 followers to say that their truck will be at the corner of Sepulveda and Victory at 12:00, and when the truck shows up, boom, there’s 50 people waiting to buy tacos. That’s something that could not have been done without Twitter or Facebook. I think that’s a very good example that a business as small as a street food vendor can use social media to drive sales.

“Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions”

By Guy Kawasaki

Portfolio, 211 pages, $26.95

About the book: “Enchantment” is the latest book from entrepreneurial expert and one-time Apple Chief Evangelist Guy Kawasaki. In his typical info-packed, humor-filled style, Kawasaki provides insights into how to strengthen and lengthen relationships, whether between company and customer, manager and employee or person to person.

The author: Guy Kawasaki is the co-founder of, an “online magazine rack” of popular topics. He is also the founding partner of Garage Technology Ventures and the author of 10 books, including “Reality Check,” “The Art of the Start” and “How to Drive Your Competition Crazy.” He previously served as the chief evangelist at Apple.

Why you should read it: “Enchantment” will be a game-changing read for anyone who is attempting to garner genuine support during any interaction. There are books on communication or negotiation that treat interactions as “fights” and attempt to teach readers how to “win at all costs.” Kawasaki doesn’t want his book used for nefarious purposes and the lessons in “Enchantment” are intended to help people create positive change in others’ hearts and minds. His communication techniques don’t involve coercion or subterfuge. He provides numerous examples of ways that businesses can succeed without resorting to techniques that provide temporary success but inevitably push people away in the end.

Why it’s different: Kawasaki is one of the most vocal proponents of social media. As a result, his recent books, “Enchantment” included, follow the model of what makes social media a dominant and effective platform in today’s culture. The chapters read quickly, are packed with information and examples and have the personal, conversational tone of a reader’s favorite blog or Twitter feed. Each chapter concludes with “My Personal Story,” an insight provided by a guest contributor that provides additional support for Kawasaki’s ideas.

Can’t miss: “How to Use Push Technology” and “How to Use Pull Technology.” Kawasaki’s expertise in social media is on display in these two chapters. He provides advice on how to use each of the major forms of social technology to enchant an audience. Unlike other authors who write about social media from “outside the bubble,” Kawasaki’s own Twitter feed, Facebook page and website are great examples of the concepts he discusses in “Enchantment.”

To share or not to share: The objective of “Enchantment” is to help readers change hearts, minds and actions. Handing someone a copy of this book is a great first step in the process.

Have you checked out Soundview Live, the exclusive webinar series from Soundview Executive Book Summaries? This is your chance to interact with best-selling business book authors. Visit

Monday, 01 August 2011 14:14

The next big thing

Succeeding as an entrepreneur requires both a dream and a bit of solid determination. While those two ingredients are a part of any journey to the top, start-up businesses also require detailed knowledge of the market in which they hope to succeed. One common flaw is the thought that success can only be attained through growth in every area of the business. Andy Kessler, author and entrepreneur, provides 13 rules to test one’s entrepreneurial mettle in his book “Eat People: And Other Unapologetic Rules for Game-Changing Entrepreneurs.” In this interview, he discusses where start-ups lose their way and why job displacement can be a good thing.

This book does an excellent job of answering the question of why some start-ups are successful and others crash and burn. Where do most start-ups get bogged down?

Most start-ups get bogged down on picking the market that they’re going to attack. There are a lot of great ideas, and many of them are viable but often not big enough and not grand enough to go and create a sustainable business. What I did with this book, ‘Eat People,’ which I wrote for entrepreneurs and for job seekers and even for investors, is write about how to find the next big thing.

The rule that provides the book’s title, ‘Eat People,’ is a problem for so many companies. When a company starts to grow, the automatic response is to keep adding people. Why is this a mistake?

It comes down to productivity. It’s partly internal productivity, trying to do more with less people in your company and trying to automate tasks and using information technology, which gets cheaper and cheaper every year with servers and storage and mobile devices. It can displace a lot of workers that you may have hired in the past, whether it was secretaries or administrative assistants. But even sales and marketing organizations are being replaced by search engine optimization and the like.

But it’s also a point or two for markets to go and attack. Just look in the last decade or so at jobs that have disappeared, from telephone operators to travel agents to bank tellers to stockbrokers to stock traders, all displaced by technology. So, not only can entrepreneurs use this rule inside their companies but they can use it as a filter to go and attack existing jobs. If you can find markets and you can go out there and eat people, you can go and disrupt a lot of those jobs, then I think you’re really on to something.

One key piece of advice in the book is for companies to get horizontal. How can someone in an organization convince other leaders of the necessity to leave vertical in the rearview?

IBM did everything from designing chips to wrapping plastic around it to writing code to sales and service. IBM did everything. The PC business took that model out at the knees.

What I think you have to do is say, ‘Am I duplicating a sales and distribution organization that my competitors have already created?’ If you have world-class technology and patent protection, copyright protection and other protection that you need, why not just go into licensing mode rather than hiring all these sales and marketing people? It’s really business development staff and a lot of engineers to maintain and move forward that technology, but I license it to everyone in the space. So, instead of having 15 percent market share in a market, I might have 95 percent market share of my sliver and all of my former competitors are now customers that are paying me license fees. You end up with a much higher margin business and a much more profitable company. It’s really hard to pull off, but if you do, I think you’re onto grabbing a tiger by the tail.

Eat People: and Other Unapologetic Rules for Game-Changing Entrepreneurs

By Andy Kessler

Portfolio ©2011, 256 pages, $25.95

About the book: “Eat People” is a rule book for entrepreneurs, investors and potential business partners. It helps people test their ideas to ensure that they won’t just enter a market, they’ll dominate it.

The author: Andy Kessler was co-founder and president of Velocity Capital Management, an investment firm that provided funding for private and public technology and communications companies. He left the hedge fund business to become an author. He is a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and has written for Wired, Forbes, The Weekly Standard and The American Spectator.

Why you should read it: Kessler’s expertise in evaluating entrepreneurs and their ideas is well established. He claims to have evaluated Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Dell founder Michael Dell before they became big names in the technology sphere. Kessler’s straightforward delivery of his rules for entrepreneurs removes the guesswork that can bog down the path to progress.

Why it’s different: Kessler’s book forces readers into a more honest evaluation of their ideas. While much of the literature today suggests entering areas such as sustainability and efficiency, Kessler holds the belief that these are limitations placed on entrepreneurs. His argument is that businesses should strive to make the “pie” of the global economy as big as possible. Sustainability, according to Kessler, implies limiting a business to reallocation of what already exists. It’s a rarely heard take on today’s market that will intrigue many readers.

Can’t miss: “Be Soylent — Eat People.” As he indicated in his interview with Smart Business, Kessler puts the highest price tag on productivity. With that in mind, this chapter helps companies discover how to achieve rapid growth without carrying the baggage of added cost in the form of extra employees. This chapter, and much of Kessler’s book, suggests that people will never be the more cost-effective option when compared to technology. Readers will learn the secrets of culling the human herd and parlaying the results into market domination.

To share or not to share: With its radical approach to entrepreneurial ax-swinging, “Eat People” has secrets that executives will not want their competitors to learn. This is a book to keep within reaching distance but away from the prying eyes of others.

Have you checked out Soundview Live, the exclusive webinar series from Soundview Executive Book Summaries? This is your chance to interact with best-selling business book authors. Visit

Thursday, 14 July 2011 12:02

Quit being a follower

How do you define effectiveness for your business? Does your definition match that of your customers?

“Today, with a world that’s filled with ruthless competition, dizzying speed and exponential complexity, just doing things efficiently is no longer a formula for success,” says Josh Linkner, author and founder of the promotions company ePrize. According to Linkner, what separates successful companies from the rest is their approach to creativity.

In his new book, “Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity,” Linkner dispels the myth that creativity is something with which people are born. Below, he discusses the impact of using a borrowed idea and tells the story of the day he kidnapped his own company.

Why do so many companies get in the habit of waiting for someone else to innovate?

Society tends to reward followers. We’re taught in school to follow the rules — do what you’re told; don’t make mistakes. The problem is that if you do that today in the business environment, that’s a surefire path to mediocrity. Similarly, the companies that follow the herd are the ones that get left in the dust. What we’re seeing now is that the companies, and individuals, by the way, that are winning are the ones that forge new ground, the ones that dare to break the mold and dare to come up with something that is remarkable. [These are] people that are more interested in standing out rather than fitting in.

What’s the secret to finding and adapting a borrowed idea?

Great sculptors will often tell you that they start with a big piece of rock and they chip away the things that don’t need to be there and they reveal the artwork underneath. In other words, they don’t create it. They reveal it.

There are many ideas out there, and there are many points of inspiration. Creativity isn’t something that you’re just born with or not. In fact, it’s absolutely a learned behavior and a skill, just like doing math or some other skill. There are ways to find creativity in other places. You can borrow ideas from other industries or even nature. There’s a metalworking company, for example, that’s developing new cutting techniques for metal by studying the teeth of predatory fish like sharks and piranhas. If you can borrow these ideas and then twist them in a unique and compelling way that solves a real problem for your customers or your colleagues, that’s the type of creativity that’s still remarkable but doesn’t require a lightning bolt from above.

Tell us about how you kidnapped your company.

We had about 250 people. I wanted to share the success that we’d had, but I didn’t have that much money at the time to do it. I did the math and it turned out that I only had about $200 per person to share. Well, I figured that if I gave everybody $200 that would be kind of a nonstarter. You could pay half of your light bill and that would be it.

So, I thought it would be fun to make something more exciting. What I did was on a random Thursday afternoon, I shut off the phone system. I shut down the servers, and I said, ‘Guys, I’m kidnapping the company.’ I grabbed everybody and I took them all to the closest Best Buy, gave them each a $200 gift card and said, ‘You have to spend it right now.’ What happened was that pandemonium erupted. People were running up and down the aisles saying, ‘Are you going to get the Xbox? Are you going to get the digital camera?’ It was really a fun, cool experience. A year and a half later, people were still talking about it. Sometimes you don’t need to have more money to solve problems, you can use creativity. We applied creativity to do something that had a high impact and a low cost.

Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity

By Josh Linkner

Jossey-Bass, 256 pages, $26.95

About the book

“Disciplined Dreaming” helps individuals and organizations unlock the creative process. According to the author, creativity is a skill that can be learned and developed. The book provides a five-step methodology for the “Disciplined Dreaming” process and offers strategies to breathe fire into the creative soul of a company. Linkner proves that creativity is about far more than “brainstorming.”

The author

Josh Linkner is the founder, chairman and former CEO of ePrize, an interactive promotions agency. He is currently the CEO and managing partner of Detroit Venture Partners, a venture capital firm helping to rebuild urban areas through technology and entrepreneurship.

Why you should read it

Creativity is something that many companies label as an essential part of their organization’s culture, but they struggle to free themselves from the procedures that limit it. “Disciplined Dreaming” takes the freedom and artistry of the creative process (something which many companies dismiss as frivolous) and gives them structure and purpose. Linkner provides numerous examples to help companies empower their staff and generate creativity in an open, productive environment.

Why it’s different

Linkner, an experienced jazz guitarist, brings an artist’s touch to the realm of business thinking in “Disciplined Dreaming.” He doesn’t resort to lists of tips or case studies of the same four or five companies that are featured in the majority of the business books lining today’s shelves. There is a sense of freshness to Linkner’s process and prose that makes his ideas adaptable in an organization, regardless of the industry in which it operates.

Can’t miss

“Defining the Creativity Challenge.” This is an essential chapter because it conquers the most difficult challenge that many companies face: how to begin the creative process. Linkner provides a system to help companies define the problem that requires a creative solution, then helps companies find the right approach to solving the problem.

To share or not to share

The difficulty that most organizations experience in generating new and creative ideas can drag down everything from morale to the bottom line. There isn’t a department within an organization that doesn’t need to generate new ideas. Linkner’s book is a great accelerant to help the creative fires brightly burn.

The Soundview Corporate Solutions Program powers your staff’s development by offering a comprehensive suite of business content. Give your staff an executive education resource that can be accessed from anywhere, using any device. Visit for more information.

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