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Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas)
5.0 out of 5 stars
How and why “low confidence is the result of failure but the source of success”, Oct. 23 2013
In this thoughtful and thought-provoking book, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic observes, "The main difference between people who lack confidence and those who don't is that the former are unable (or unwilling) to distort reality in their favor. That's right, the successful distortion of reality is the chief underlying reason so many people don't experience low confidence when they should. Whereas pessimism leads to realism, optimism promotes the fabrication of alternative realities -- lying, not to others, but to themselves."
In this context, I am reminded of Bud Tribble's comments about Steve Jobs, quoted by Walter Isaacson in his biography of the insanely great innovator: "Steve has a reality distortion field. In his presence, reality is malleable. He can convince anyone of practically anything. It wears off when he's not around, but it makes it hard to have realistic schedules." According to Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak, "His reality distortion is when he has an illogical vision of the future, such as telling me that I could design the BREAKOUT game in just a few days. You realize that it can't be true, but he somehow makes it true." Debi Coleman recalls, "He reminded me of Rasputin. He laser-beamed in on you and didn't blink. It didn't matter if he was serving purple Kool-Aid. You drank it." Isaacson adds, "At the root of the reality distortion field was Jobs's belief that the rules didn't apply to him." In this and in countless other respects, Steve Jobs was indeed one-of-a-kind.
For most of us, Chamorro-Premuzic asserts -- and I agree -- that we should not aspire to have high confidence, but to have high competence. If we focus on achievement, it will increase self-confidence naturally diminishing low self-esteem, insecurity, and self-doubt. Presumably Chamorro-Premuzic agrees with Henry Ford about the importance of attitude: ""Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're probably right." Presumably, Ford would agree with him about the importance of competence. Let's add Thomas Edison to the discussion. He observed, "Vision without execution is hallucination." Confidence based on competence, on achievement, is no delusion. It has been earned through productive effort. In an important sense, competence speaks for itself...especially to those who gain it.
These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Chamorro-Premuzic's coverage.
o Most Confident People Are Deluded, and, Ignorance Ain't Bliss (Pages 12-15 and 15-19)
o The Confidence -- Competence Grid (28-34)
o You Can Benefit from Insecurities (35-40)
o Successful People Are Rarely Themselves (53-56)
o If Character Is Destiny, Reputation Is Fate (64-70)
o Everyone's A Psychologist (73-77)
o Three Things That Top Performers Do Better (102-112)
o How to Master Interpersonal Relations (117-120)
o The Toxicity of High Social Confidence (124-126)
o The Adaptive Side of Lower Social Conscience (126-132)
o Influencing Others (141-147)
o The Unhealthy Side of High Confidence (183-197)
o All You Need Is a Bit of Willpower & Low Confidence (207-210)
o Success Is the Best Medicine for Your Insecurities (211-214)
o A More Competent, Less Confident World (217-220)
Chamorro-Premuzic urges his readers to aspire not to have high confidence, but to have high competence. He show them "how to make that happen" in this book. I commend him on his skillful use of reader-friendly devices as he explains why people should aspire not to have high confidence, but to have high competence. They include relevant and thought-provoking quotations throughout the narrative; bullet point and numeric checklists of key points, dates, sequence steps, etc.; strategic placement of subheads (e.g. "Self-Knowledge Matters More Than Self-Belief" on Page 84 and "Embracing Low Confidence" on Page 211; and a "Using It" section at the conclusion of Chapters 1-7 to facilitate effective application of relevant information, insights, and counsel.
In his final paragraph, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic observes cites and then responds to an observation: "According to Alfred Adler, 'To be human is to feel inferior.' Perhaps, but competence gains relieve our natural feelings of inferiority, at least temporarily. Indeed, inferiority [begin italics] motivates [end italics] us to try to achieve things. The more weaknesses you perceive in yourself, the more you will be motivated to improve, and the harder [and smarter] you will work. Low confidence is the result of failure but the source of success."
5.0 out of 5 stars
How and why "deep and often invisible natural programming" can affect the strategy execution of an organization, Oct. 22 2013
Kai Hammerich and Richard Lewis have selected and rigorously explored a subject of great interest to me: the dynamics of interaction between and among cultural values that are sometimes incompatible or at least resistant to compromise, accommodation, and consensus. Cultural differences almost inevitably result in cultural confrontations. They help to explain why many (if not most) mergers and acquisitions either fail or fall far short of original expectations. They also help to explain civil wars, tribal feuds, and dysfunctional families.
In this volume, Hammerich and Lewis focus on these specific phenomena:
o How values, beliefs, and assumptions are embedded in an organization by its founder(s) and leaders
o The "Lewis Model" that triangulates national cultures (i.e. linear-active, multi-active, and reactive national)
o The defining traits of key nations (e.g. France, Italy, Great Britain, and USA)
o The "Cultural Dynamics Model" ® and the concept of a cultural dynamic
o Lifecycle periods (e.g. organizational, such as those discussed by Ichak Adizes in Corporate Lifecycles: How and Why Corporations Grow and Die and What to Do About It)
o The growth period during which companies expand the nature and extent of their operations
o The maturity period with its phases of efficiency, scale, and in some instances consolidation
o "Whither the West" in terms of the impact of what Tom Friedman characterizes as a "flat world" has on western nations as they compete globally
o An existential crisis whose details are best revealed within the narrative, in context
How can business leaders "see the water that surrounds them," water that may be red with ferocious competition, white with uncertainty, or blue (as W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne suggest) with opportunity? Hammerich and Lewis recommend a five-step framework:
1. Determine the main dimensions of the [given] company's strategy and cultural alignment using the Cultural Dynamics Model ®
2. Classify the national type that reflects the embedded national values using the Lewis model
3. Identify where the company is in its lifecycle
4. Establish how national culture may have enabled and/or derailed success at the most recent transformation point and could impact the organization at the next
5. Diagnose signs of a potential crisis that could accentuate a cultural dynamic and create a life-threatening situation for the company
Hammerich and Lewis explain how to prepare for, implement, and then sustain -- rather than complete -- a process of constant adjustment, one prescribed by Charles Darwin more than 150 years ago: "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change." It was true then and is even truer now when change is the only constant and it occurs faster and with greater impact than at any prior time that I can recall.
Confident that the world will become multicultural but one in which differences are respected and diversity is appreciated. Kai Hammerich and Richard Lewis conclude, "Organizational culture is the result of all the decisions made and actions taken in an organization over time. Culture is behaviour and behaviour defines culture. Culture is man-made and therefore can be directed by man. Thus, whichever direction the world takes, we can only point the finger in one direction -- toward ourselves. And herein lies our biggest opportunity!"
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars
Ignore the title and subtitle and focus instead on how this book could perhaps help you achieve your goals, Oct. 19 2013
I have read and reviewed many of Brian Tracy's previously published books (including those that focus on salesmanship, such as Advanced Selling Strategies and Be a Sales Superstar) and thus have a different perspective on this book than would someone who shares Tracy's thoughts about sales success for the first time.
There are no head-snapping revelations nor any breakthrough insights. Anyone in need of those should seek them elsewhere. The same is also true for those who have little (if any) direct contact with consumers, other than electronically. Therefore, the information, insights, and counsel that the Tracys provide in this volume will probably be of greatest value to those who (a) have not read any if the prior books, (b) have relatively little experience in relationship sales, (c) need to understand the basics, and (d) also need an uncomplicated but sound system within which to manage their resources, especially their time and energy.
These are among the dozens of cultivation and solicitation fundamentals that the Tracys cover.
o Seven Steps to Mental Fitness (Pages 16-17)
o Key Result Areas (40-44)
o Characteristics of a Good Prospect (56-60)
o Recognize Poor Prospects (60-64)
o Customer Analysis (66-68)
o The Golden Triangle of Selling (76-77)
o The New Model of Selling (90-97)
Comment: Actually, it is somewhat updated to accommodate a "new" marketplace.
o Create Your Positioning (112-113)
o Three Forms of Reciprocity (135-136)
o Presentation Methods (155-160)
o Dealing with Price Objections, and, Dealing wit Price on the Phone (174-176 and 177-178)
o Why Closing Is Difficult, and, The New Model of Selling (187-189)
o The "Let me think it over" Close (199-201)
o The Second Sale (208-210)
o The Ultimate Question (219-221)
o Three Key Activities (228-229)
o The Seven Secrets to Success in Selling (243-247)
Comment: They are "secrets" only to those who are learning about them for the first time.
Basic stuff? Of course...but not obvious to those who are relatively inexperienced in relationship selling. The Tracys may view the 12 steps for selling that they recommend as "simple" but, again, they're not simple for those who most need this book. To suggest otherwise is misleading. Indeed, if the steps were simple, literally anyone and everyone could sell more than they "ever thought possible." That said, it is true that self-imposed limits preclude "unlimited sales success."
Having authored or co-authored more than 60 books thus far, Brian Tracy may now have little (if anything) new to share about sales or leadership or personal growth or professional development. Recycling of at least some material may be inevitable. However, almost everything he recommends is sound and sensible. For most of those who read his books, what he recommends is also do-able.
Unlimited Sales Success is certainly not for everyone, nor can those who read the book be certain that it will enable them to have unlimited sales success. For at least some people, what Brian Tracy and Michael Tracy provide can be invaluable if (HUGE "if") the material is put to effective use. Success in any human endeavor really is that easy...and that difficult.
5.0 out of 5 stars
How to survive and then thrive by effectively managing micropolitics in the contemporary workplace, Oct. 16 2013
As I began to read this book, I was reminded of another, Jeff Pfeffer's Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don't. For those who have not as yet read it, he observes, "Over the years, I've learned a great deal about power and will now share with you what I hope you will find most interesting and, more to the point, most useful." In the Introduction, for example, he suggests that having power is related to living a longer and healthier life, that power and the visibility and stature that accompany them can produce wealth, and that power is part of leadership and necessary to get things done, whatever the nature and extent of the given objectives may be. "Power is desirable to many, albeit not all, people, for what it can provide and also a goal in and of itself."
Although Pfeffer does not invoke the core metaphor from Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" in The Republic, I think it is especially relevant to the various misconceptions about power that Pfeffer refutes. The situation in Plato's allegory is that people are located in a darkened cave watching shadows dance on a wall. (The source of light is outside the cave.) They think they are watching ultimate realities. Rather, what they observe are images, yes, but also distortions. The same is true of the "just world hypothesis" that the world is predictable, comprehensible, and therefore potentially controllable. Worse yet, it implies that "people get what they deserve; that is, that the good people are likely to be rewarded and the bad to be punished. Most important," Pfeffer adds, "the phenomenon works in reverse: if someone is seen to prosper, there is a social psychological tendency for observers to decide that the lucky person must have done something to deserve his good fortune."
I mention all this to frame my thoughts about Jack Godwin's "handbook," written for those who want to "win the game of power and politics at work." The information, insights, and counsel he provides -- in my opinion -- tend to be less theoretical, more practical than Pfeffer's but both are convinced -- and I agree -- that unless and until a person has sufficient self-control (i.e. power) and understands certain realities however painful they may be, that person is highly vulnerable to being controlled by others. Stated another way, without self-mastery, people can become enslaved (as Ernest Becker suggests in Denial of Death) to fulfilling others' expectations of them.
As a political scientist, Godwin has an insatiable curiosity to understand what works and what doesn't work during sociopolitical interaction...also why. In 1867, Otto Von Bismarck suggested, "Politics is the art of the possible." Godwin would add that politics can also be viewed as a "game" with competitors, rules, and rewards. He would also add that it usually has some scientific elements -- discussed in his book -- that can have decisive impact on the process of competition.
I was especially interested in sharing Godwin's thoughts about what he characterizes as "the gods of micropolitics," those eight political archetypes that personify "the constituent elements of the [begin italics] anthropo politicus [end italics]," the so-called political animal. Accompanied by my comments, they are:
o The Servant Leader (Pages 132-141)
Comment: Leads by example, earns respect and trust of followers; views leadership as a privilege.
o The Rebel (142-148)
Comment: Often the "devil's advocate" to any proposed idea or initiative; allergic to status quo.
o The Mentor (148-156)
Comment: Loves to learn and then share knowledge with others; influences with wisdom and sound judgment.
o The Recluse (156-162)
Comment: May often be a principled introvert rather than anti-social; definitely anti-political.
o The Judo Master (162-169)
Comment: Has mastered leverage to exploit weakness or vulnerability; highly resilient and dexterous.
o The Resister (169-174)
Comment: Also principled and conscience-driven; agreement and compliance must be earned rather than forced.
o The Opportunist (175-182)
Comment: Very alert to others' weaknesses and vulnerabilities; master of timing and exploitation.
o The Survivor (182-188)
Comment: No matter what happens to and/or around this person, this "god" or "goddess" of micropolitics will sustain loyalty and commitment.
However named, these are indeed familiar types within a workforce environment. There are important lessons to be learned from each and Godwin suggests several. It should be noted that the most effective office politicians demonstrate some of the defining characteristics of several different archetypes. Also, I agree with Godwin that "micropolitics is a combination of one-time calculation and general pattern recognition."
In a workplace as well as in a school or on a school playground, bullying generates a variety of responses from those who observe it. Here's what Jack Godwin suggests: "First, model the virtues you would have others emulate, especially emotional self-control and professional detachment, which will help you avoid excessive use of force. Second, talk about bullying and encourage others to do so. We need to create [and then sustain] a culture in which people (at least) aren't afraid to talk about bullying. Finally, when you see it, stop it. Don't assume someone else will stop it. Make it your duty. Stand up and say [begin italics] that's enough [end italics]. Repeat after me: [begin italics] That's far enough [end italics]."
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
How almost anyone can develop a creative, human-centered mindset and help achieve breakthrough innovations, Oct. 15 2013
I have read Tom Kelley's books and am well aware of David Kelley's leadership of IDEO and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design ("d.school") at Stanford University. Individually, each is among the most influential and highly regarded authorities on creative and innovative thinking. What we have in this volume is a unique and compelling collaboration on information, insights, and counsel that can help their reader to "unleash the creative potential within." They insist -- and I agree -- that literally anyone can live a more creative life, at work and elsewhere, in all situations in which they have problems to solve, questions to answer, goals to set, tasks to complete, and relationships to nourish.
The Kelleys challenge all manner of misconceptions, such as the common refrain "I'm just not creative." In fact, they suggest, "As brothers who have worked together for thirty years at the forefront of innovation, we have come to see this set of misconceptions as 'the creativity myth.' It is a myth that far too many people share. This book is about the opposite of that myth. It is about what we call 'creative confidence.' And at its foundation is the belief that we are [begin italics] all [end italics]...Creative confidence is a way of seeing that potential and your place in the world more clearly, unclouded by anxiety and doubt. We hope you'll join us on our quest to embrace creative confidence in our lives. Together, we can all make the world a better place."
Incremental innovation may sometimes be the most effective way to improve one or more aspects of one's life as well as of a company. For example, in 2004, a leadership team led by Jørgen Vig Knudstorp transformed LEGO - "brick by brick" - into one of the world's most innovative as well as most profitable and fastest growing toy companies.
These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of the Kelleys' coverage.
o Creativity Now (Pages 7-10)
o Three Key Factors to Balance (23-26)
o Design-Driven Innovation (26-28)
o Nurturing Creative Thinkers, and A Growth State of Mind (32-36)
o The Failure Paradox, and Designing for Courage (44-49)
o Permission to Fail (53-57)
o Drawing Confidence (63-67)
o Cultivate a Creative Spark (78-81)
o Empathize with Your End User (89-92)
o Do Observations in the Field (93-98)
o Reframe Challenges (103-105)
o Cultivate Creative Serendipity (109-111)
o The "Do Something" Mindset: Live in the Active Voice (119-122)
o Experiment to Learn (134-136)
o Find Your Sweet Spot (165-167)
o Strategies to Get Started With (253-260)
Here are three of several reasons why I think this is Tom Kelley's most valuable book...thus far...and why I think his collaboration with David Kelley achieves a level of excellence that neither brother could (probably) have achieved alone. First, like world-class musicians in a jazz band, they are playing the same song (let's say "All Blues" with Miles Davis) but with different instruments and with improvisation that enriches rather than detracts from the pure quality of the group's sound. The Kelleys are masters of carefully nurtured spontaneity.
Also, they are passionate advocates, indeed evangelists about helping as many people as possible to think innovatively about how they can [begin italics] live [end italics] more innovatively. The Kelleys know that developing that mindset will require courage to overcome significant -- albeit self-generated -- fear. That is why the ten strategies they recommend near the conclusion of the book take human nature (for better or worse) into full account. Although heaven knows the disruptive innovations for which IDEO is renowned are exciting, the reality is that most people have convinced themselves that they are incapable of generating them, even when in collaboration with others. They lack courage because they lack confidence.
Finally, the Kelleys are committed to being eager and enthusiastic collaborators with their readers as well as with their students, their colleagues and their clients. To those plagued by self-doubts, struggling with self-imposed limits, they have an emotional intelligence that provides a reassurance, anchored in reality rather than delusional PMA, that people really can believe in what is possible for them. First, they have to imagine it and then summon the courage to believe they can achieve it. Any journey of personal discovery is necessarily perilous. Tom Kelley and David Kelley are ideal companions for that journey.
5.0 out of 5 stars
"I have spent my adult life trying to see the world again as I once did as a child." Pablo Picasso, Oct. 14 2013
Alan Gregerman's core thesis is that there are 13 "gifts from childhood" that can help those who embrace them to "rediscover the keys to business growth." In this context, I am reminded of several lessons that Robert Fulghum shares in All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. "Hold hands when you cross the street," for example, and "Clean up your own mess." I selected the Picasso quotation for the title of this brief
commentary because it is directly relevant to Gregerman's and Fulghum's perspectives on what many of us have lost since childhood.
Gregerman devotes a separate chapter to each "gift" and the first is play. He inserts comments made years ago by Fred Rogers: "Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood." It is also an essential element within a healthy workplace environment, as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains during his TED program, "Flow, "the secret to happiness." Gregerman discusses this equation: childhood growth = living + exploring + belonging. With only minor modification, the same equation would be relevant to most of the companies annually ranked among the most admired and best to work for are also annually listed among those most profitable with the greatest cap value in their industry segment. Coincidence? I don't think so. Healthy, wholesome play is indeed a serious matter for "children of all ages."
These are among the dozens of Gregerman's observations of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of his coverage and, more to the point, the focus of his counsel.
To compete successfully in the future, companies will need....
o To redefine the nature and content of work and recognize the importance of play (Page 23)
o To create an even greater sense of enthusiasm and energy for their customers, employees, and shareholders. (45)
o To know where they are going and how they intend to get there. They will also need to ask the right questions along the way. (61)
o To keep their eyes on the clock. (75)
Comment: I think the most important process improvements are reductions of first pass yield and of cycle time.
o Leaders who create workplace environments in which real magic can happen. (89)
Comment: What Gregerman means by "magic" is essentially what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi means by "flow."
o To look at themselves and their world with much greater curiosity. (123)
o To ask the right questions and answer them in ways [by a process] that will thrill customers, employees, and shareholders. (139)
o To try new things and make faster and more intelligent mistakes. (153)
o To innovate consistently and skillfully in all aspects of their businesses. (167)
o To do a much better job of getting all their people to participate in ways that make a [significant] difference. (191)
o To create and nurture safe places for people and their ideas. (205
o To inspire all of their employees to accomplish [both] great and small things. (219)
During the course of his lively and eloquent narrative, Gregerman provides an abundance of information, insights, and counsel to help business leaders achieve these and other strategic objectives. It remains for each reader to determine which portions of the material and, especially, which of the "gifts" are most relevant to her or his own needs, interests, goals, objectives, resources, etc.
Recent and extensive major studies conducted by highly reputable research firms such as BlessingWhite, Gallup, and TowersWatson reveal that, on average, less than 30% of a workforce in a U.S. company are actively and productively engaged; the others are either passively engaged (i.e. "mailing it in") or actively undermining the company's efforts to succeed. For those in need of help to increase the number of those in their organization who are actively and productively engaged, Alan Gregerman's assistance would be of incalculable value. Also, I highly recommend his most recent book, The Necessity of Strangers: The Intriguing Truth About Insight, Innovation, and Success, as well as Surrounded by Geniuses: Unlocking the Brilliance in Yourself, Your Colleagues and Your Organization. All three books: All three books are brilliant and practical as well as entertaining. Great stuff!
5.0 out of 5 stars
One of the most important attributes of a great leader, Oct. 12 2013
This is the second edition of a book first published in 2005. In my review of that edition, I noted a strong recurring theme: "leaders must strive for a delicate balance of assertiveness and restraint." One challenge is to be able to do either effectively. Another, greater challenge is to know when each approach should be taken. In this context, Michael Roberto has much of value to say about great leaders as great teachers: "They prepare to decide just as teachers prepare to teach. They have a plan, but they adapt as the decision-making process unfolds. Great leaders do not have all the answers, but they remain firmly in control of the process through which their organizations discover the best answers to the toughest problems."
Why a second edition? Roberto: "This new edition includes the findings from new research by me and other scholars around the world. It also incorporates what I have learned through the development and delivery of leadership development programs at many companies around the world. You will see new examples, case studies, and research findings throughout the book." Of course, a book published eight years ago was probably written 9-12 years ago. So much has happened in the global business world since then. Also, Roberto has presumably received substantial feedback from those who have read the book as well as from others who have participated in the aforementioned leadership development programs.
Many years ago, one of Albert Einstein's Princeton colleagues playfully chided him for asking the same questions each year on his final examinations. Einstein replied, "Quite right. Each year, the answers are different." The same could be said for many of the business issues that Roberto addresses, especially now when changes in the business world today occur much faster and have much greater impact than at any prior time that I (at least) can recall.
With regard to the book's title, it refers to one of a great leader's most important attributes and lends itself to several different interpretations. My own opinion is that great leaders tend to have zero-tolerance of pandering and obsequious subordinates, of so call-called "yes men." Nor do they accept knee-jerk judgments and welcome carefully reasoned, principled dissent. Of course they will take "yes" -- as well as "no" -- for an answer if they respect the process by which it was formulated.
The original information, insights, and counsel provided in the first edition have been updated in the second edition with regard to the four separate but related parts within which Roberto presents his material:
One (Chapters 1 and 2): How to diagnose, evaluate, and improve strategic decision-making processes
Two: Chapters 3-6): How to manage conflict
Three (Chapters 7-9): How managers create and then sustain consensus within their diverse organizations
Four (Chapter 10): How the philosophy of leadership and decision making proposed in this book differs from conventional views held by many managers
These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Roberto's coverage.
o Decision-Making Myths (Pages 11-17)
o The Perils of Conflict and Dissent (25-29)
o Managerial Levers (45-65)
o Hard versus Soft Barriers (84-100)
o Pulling All the Right Levers (113-115)
o The Leader's Toolkit (115-128)
o Curbing Affective Conflict (149-167)
o The Devil's Advocate in Business (180-184)
o A Culture of Indecision (205-225)
o The Origins of Indecisive Cultures (225-228)
Comment: Re the last two passages, in Tom Davenport's latest book, Judgment Calls, he and co-author Brooke Manville offer "an antidote for the Great Man theory of decision making and organizational performance": [begin italics] organizational judgment [end italics]. That is, "the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader's direct control." I urge you to check out Judgment Calls.
o Legitimate Process (249-257)
o Divergence and Convergence (274-278)
o The Psychology of Small Wins (278-281)
o The Importance of Trust (293-297)
o Two Forms of Taking Charge (306-311)
Michael Roberto is an eloquent advocate for effective development of leadership at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise, whatever its size and nature may be. He is also among those who believe that great leaders have a "green thumb" for "growing" those for whom they are directly responsible. This is what he has in mind when concluding this book: "Great leaders, of course, behave as great teachers. They prepare to decide just as teachers prepare to teach. They have a plan, but they adapt as the decision-making process unfolds. Great leaders do not have all the answers, but they remain firmly in control of the process through which their organizations discover the best answers to the toughest question.
Meanwhile, I presume to add, great leaders still don't automatically take "yes" or "no" for an answer....
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
An insider's account of the decline and fall of a once great firm that was "greedy, but long-term greedy", Oct. 10 2013
Those who share my high regard for John Whitehead and have read his classic, A Life in Leadership: From D Day to Ground Zero, An Autobiography, were probably as excited as I was when learning that Steven Mandis had written an "insider account of the organizational drift and its unintended consequences" at Goldman Sachs, a firm with which Whitehead had been associated from 1947 after he received an MBA degree from Harvard Business School until 1984, years during which he became chairman and was serving as co-chairman and co-senior partner when he retired. After reading Whitehead's book, I wanted to work for him and with him. He plays a significant role in this book. More about that later.
Mandis biefly recalls how and why he joined the firm, then shares his thoughts and feelings about what happened in and to the firm during and following his years of association (1992-2004). With regard to organizational drift, it is a process whereby an organization's culture, "including its business practices, continuously and slowly moves, carried along by pressures, departing from an intended course in a way that is so incremental and gradual that it is not noticed. One reason for this is that the pursuit of organizational goals in a dynamic complex environment with limited resources and multiple, conflicting organizational goals, often produces a succession of small, everyday decisions that add up to unforeseen change."
That is precisely what happened at Goldman.
These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Mandis' coverage.
o Goldman Sachs: A Little History (Pages 15-22)
o Subtle Changes Made Obvious (34-37)
o Goldman Sachs's Shared Principles and Values (45-51)
o Devotion to Client Service (63-66)
o Productive Dissonance (83-89)
o From Partnership to LLC (101-110)
o Key Signs of Organizational Drift (123-151)
o The Effects of Wall Street Models (168-172)
o Chinese Walls (175-180)
o Conflicts of Interest (182-187)
o Communicating the Signals: Transparency at Goldman Sachs (204-206)
o Why Do Clients Stay? (223-229)
o A Sense of Higher Purpose (232-235)
o Lessons Learned (247-251)
It should be noted that John Whitehead led the formulation of Goldman's Shared Principles and Values. That was in 1979. "Whitehead had said that committing the firm's values to words on paper was his greatest contribution. More than anything else, it was a statement about the perceived power of the codified values to nourish and support the partnership culture." (Pages 45-51)
"Though the partners had strongly indicated at the time of the IPO that they didn't want to undermine the firm's core values, the changes in business practices and policies, as well as in the business mix, clearly indicate Goldman's organizational drift." According to Mandis, the key signs include representing hostile raiders, renewed involvement in asset management, advising companies in the gambling industry, changing underwriting standards, the emergence of stars and "super league" clients, rehiring people and making counteroffers, changing compensation and promotion practices, lateral partner hires, changing recruitment and hiring policies and practices, and staple financing. (Pages 45-51) None of these was sufficient to cause the decline and fall of a once great firm but together, in lethal combination....
o "Shared values, whether codified or uncodified, tie an organization together. A firm should determine its own basic set of nonnegotiable values, the minimal constraints."
o "Organizational exceptions [re nonnegotiable values] may address short-term issues but may cause long-term ones."
o "Firms must think about long-term greed and what it means. Through actions and training, leaders must explain the pressures on short-term thinking and how the form resolves the conflicts of short- and long-term goals."
o "An organization's structure, incentives, and values last longer and have more impact than those of individual leaders...It is the duty of leaders and board members to examine what is responsible, not who is responsible."
As Steven Mandis explains so well in this volume, one of the most challenging issues when guarding against organizational drift is that adaptation is critical to the survival of an organization, as well as to a species. Moreover, the difference between healthy adaptation and organizational drift -- as Goldman Sachs clearly demonstrates -- "is very, very difficult to discern." Therefore, leadership requires a "curiosity that borders on skepticism" and that "questions are answered with action." He fully understands and appreciates how difficult such scrutiny can bed, especially when short-term results are so positive. "Examining your own organization will be messy, but I hope the observations from the sociological analysis outlined in this book will provide useful guidelines and inspire the risk taking required to tackle the challenges."
5.0 out of 5 stars
How healthy is the cardiovascular system of your organization’s workforce?, Oct. 9 2013
Those who have read one of more of Mark Miller's previously published books already know that he has superb reasoning and writing skills in combination with the talents of a raconteur. What we have in this volume is a fable about today's business world. There are a setting, a cast of characters, themes, a plot, conflicts and tensions, and eventually resolution. The focus is on Blake Brown (age 28) whose career and personal life currently consist of frustrated aspirations, self-doubt, and - thus far - unfulfilled potentialities. His future at Dynastar is uncertain. He sets out on a quest to find out why "leaders are different." His mentor (Debbie Brewster) and five of his late father's associates are involved in the process. Details are best revealed within the narrative, in context. However, I am comfortable sharing a few of what I consider to be Miller's most important insights.
First, Miller is convinced - and I agree - that leaders have a certain presence that attracts interest and, over time, helps them to earn respect and trust. Call it "it," call it whatever you like. For whatever reasons, we feel something special in their presence. Now I am not talking about charisma. My own opinion (perhaps Miller agrees) is that charisma resembles an expensive fragrance. It has a pleasing aroma but should not be consumed. The leaders Miller has in mind are genuine, authentic, and consistent in terms of their affirmations and, especially, their behavior. .
Also, I agree with Miller that all organizations need effective leadership at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. More to the point, Miller believes that almost anyone can become an effective leader if -- HUGE "if" -- they sustain a commitment to five essential values: a hunger for wisdom; expectations of the best and to be the best; acceptance of personal responsibility and accountability; response with courage, especially during a moral crisis; and lastly, always think of others and their welfare first.
It is important to keep in mind that the development of a "heart of leadership" is a never-ending process. The nature and extent of that will probably determine the nature and extent of one's personal growth and professional development. Although one's character may trump one's other attributes, character is not mutually exclusive with natural talent and intelligence, a superb formal education, highly developed skills, deep and deliberate practice to sustain constant improvement (i.e. the "10,000 Rule"), and serendipitous timing.
In my opinion, this is Mark Miller's most important and most valuable book...thus far. The leadership he affirms helps to define most of the companies that are annually ranked each year among the most highly regarded and best to work for. They are also annually ranked among those most profitable with the greatest cap value in the industry segment. Coincidence? I don't think so.
5.0 out of 5 stars
A brilliant response to the “enduring questions of responsible leadership” in the market-driven world in which we live and work, Oct. 8 2013
Many years ago, one of Albert Einstein's colleagues at Princeton pointed out to him that he asked the same questions every year on his final examination. "Yes, that's quite true. Every year the answers are different." I thought about that response as I began to read Joseph Badaracco's latest book. In business as in the natural sciences, many of the questions asked haven't changed much (if at all). Badaracco poses five for leaders to consider:
1. "Am I really grappling with the fundamentals?"
2. "Do I know what I am really accountable for?"
3. "How do I make critical decisions?"
4. "Do we have the right core values?"
5. "Why have I chosen this life?"
He then identifies and examines what he characterizes as "emerging answers" to these questions, answers that are best revealed within his lively and eloquent narrative, in context. However, I am comfortable when discussing why I think this is his most valuable book...thus far. In my opinion, Badaracco is among the most thoughtful business thinkers, one who is eager, indeed passionate to understand a business world in which change really is the only constant and changes occur faster than ever before, and have wider and deeper impact than ever before. This is what Richard Dawkins has in mind when observing, "Yesterday's dangerous idea is today's orthodoxy and tomorrow's cliché."
I cannot recall a prior time in U.S. business history when such occurred faster and had greater impact than it does now. Organizations and their leaders face daunting challenges of unprecedented peril. This is what Badaracco has in mind when observing that "responsible leadership is, quite often, a version of a good struggle: it is a long effort, demanding perseverance and courage, to make good on serious but profoundly fallible commitments in an uncertain and often unforgiving world...Struggle has always been central to accomplishing anything worthwhile, and this is especially true today."
These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Badaracco's coverage.
o Lessons from Entrepreneurs (Pages 4-6)
o The Enduring Questions (15-17)
o Emerging Answers (17-20)
o The Era of Big Machines (29-32)
o The New Fundamentals (32-45)
o Vertical Accountability: Boring and Brilliant (56-67)
o Market-Based Accountability and the Good Struggle (75-80)
o The Twentieth Century Template (87-91)
o The Challenge Today (91-95)
o Cathedrals and Architects (118-123)
o Consensus Values and Core Values (124-147)
o The Good Struggle (158-170)
o The Burden of Freedom (170-172)
I agree with Badaracco that responsible and accountable leadership is commitment, and, that commitment is struggle. Warren Bennis and Bob Thomas are among those who also have much of value to say about the "crucibles" that all leaders encounter but from which not all of them emerge stronger and wiser. For me, one of the most effective ways to demonstrate "the burden of leadership" is to examine a series of photographs of a U.S. president - Abraham Lincoln, for example - from when he assumed office until just before leaving it.
Joseph Badaracco's reference to the "burden of freedom" correctly suggests that it involves a commitment to, in his words, "grasping the fundamentals, defining their accountability, getting critical decisions right, making a few crucial values real and effective in an organization, and finding purpose, guidance, and solace for what is often a long, hard journey."
I congratulate him on his latest book, a brilliant achievement. Bravo!