Book Reviews

May 15, 2012



Three Signs of a Miserable Job

The Three Signs of a Miserable Job
A Fable for Managers (and Their Employees)

by Patrick Lencioni

Review by Soundview Executive Book Alert



Great pay. Interesting work. A fancy title and an assistant. These are the elements that make for a truly great job, right? One where the person lucky enough to have it is happy, content and eager to go into work each day. Meanwhile, those people unlucky enough to be stuck in low-paying, less glamorous jobs, like waitresses, garbage men and editorial assistants, are bound to be miserable and plagued by those “Sunday Blues,” even on a Wednesday.

Not so, according to Patrick Lencioni, author of The Three Signs of a Miserable Job: A Fable for Managers (And Their Employees). Fascinated with why people stay in demoralizing, unfulfilling positions since watching his father trudge off to his own miserable job day after day, Lencioni has paid close attention to the work world, continually refining his theories about job satisfaction.

At first, he too fell for the misconception that well-paying, interesting work is all that is necessary for job satisfaction. He even changed his own career based on this theory. But then, Lencioni says, “… I met more and more people with supposedly great jobs who, like me, dreaded going to work… The theory crumbled completely when I came across other people with less obviously attractive jobs who seemed to find fulfillment in their work… And so it became apparent to me that there must be more to job fulfillment than I had thought.”

In The Three Signs of a Miserable Job, Lencioni explores the overlooked, and actually simple and obvious, causes of job misery in the hope that addressing these causes will not only minimize high turnover rates affecting many businesses, but, more importantly, end the suffering that job misery causes for many.

Once Upon a Time…

The author frames his theories as a fable, telling the story of Brian Bailey, a man who “love[s] being a manager.” Bailey, a recently retired CEO, begins the tale thinking that he and his wife will be moving to Lake Tahoe to enjoy a life of leisure; but only weeks into his retirement, his managerial instincts are challenged by a less-than-stellar experience ordering takeout from a neighborhood pizzeria. Bailey wonders why the pizzeria’s employees seem so miserable, particularly in comparison to their counterparts at other area restaurants, and soon seizes the opportunity to become the pizzeria’s weekend manager in order to investigate the cause of the staff’s misery and how to alleviate it. The reader journeys with Bailey as he works to increase the staff’s job fulfillment, discovering along the way a no-nonsense method for transforming a miserable job into a great one.

Defeating Immeasurability, Anonymity and Irrelevance

Lencioni’s fable utilizes the microcosm of the pizzeria, with its small staff and stakes, to illustrate the three elements that can make any job miserable: immeasurability, anonymity and irrelevance. In order to experience true job fulfillment, employees must be able to measure their progress and level of contribution in a way that does not depend on the whims or subjective views of their managers. According to Lencioni, they must also feel “understood and appreciated for their unique qualities by someone in a position of authority… People who see themselves as invisible, generic or anonymous cannot love their jobs, no matter what they are doing.”

Finally, employees must have a clear idea that their work matters, that it has relevance for others. Lencioni provides vivid, relatable examples of each of these misery-causing factors in his depiction of the pizzeria’s employees and their situation when Brian Bailey enters their lives.

The story of how Bailey then turns this miserable situation around provides a blueprint for any organization — regardless of size or industry — to increase job fulfillment for its staff. The reader watches Bailey develop his theory of job fulfillment and combat feelings of immeasurability, anonymity and irrelevance among his staff. Lencioni presents his readers with a simple, straightforward cure that depends upon effective, empathetic management, and offers hope for everyone affected by job misery. Ultimately, Lencioni’s business-fiction format keeps his work from being relegated to the dry, academic realm of the textbook, but still provides readers with valuable theories.



REPEATABILITY: Build Enduring Businesses for a World of Constant Change

by Chris Zook and James Allen

Book review from Soundview Executive Book Alert


In 2001’s Profit from the Core, Chris Zook, the head of Bain’s Strategy practice, and independent consultant James Allen urged companies to stick to one or two well-defined dominant core businesses. Zook’s follow-up book, Beyond the Core, showed how these core businesses could be leveraged for growth, while his third book, Unstoppable, focused on renewing the core through hidden assets. Repeatability, a new collaboration between Zook and Allen, is a how-to manual on creating the business model that will achieve the “focus-expand-redefine” core-based strategies described in the three previous books.

As reflected in the title, core-based strategies depend on a “repeatable business model” that allows the company to adapt quickly to change without succumbing to what the authors call, “the silent killer of growth strategies”: complexity. That complexity, according to the authors, comes in many forms, from “complexity of organizations layered with constant new initiatives and systems” and “complexity of messages throughout the organization” to the “complexity of implementation across different markets.”

Why Nike Beat Reebok

A repeatable business model, write the authors, cuts through the complexity because it focuses on a few core principles or imperatives. Nike, for example, has a business model that is built on “four core interlocking capabilities”: 1) brand management, 2) athlete partnerships, 3) award-winning design and use of new materials, and 4) an efficient supply chain to Asia. In 1989, the authors note, Nike and chief rival Reebok were comparable in size, profitability and brand recognition. Since then, however, Reebok has been bouncing around from one “idée du jour” to another, while Nike used its core capabilities to redefine and dominate its industry. Vanguard, Tetra Pak and Apple are some of the other companies cited by the authors that have created a repeatable business model that allows them to adapt to change and improve continuously without succumbing to complexity or inconsistency.

Three Design Principles

Using the rich research resources of Bain, including a multi-year study of 200 companies and a survey of 377 executives, the authors identified three “design principles” that are at the heart of all “Great Repeatable Models.”

The first principle is a strong, well-differentiated core. Companies with Great Repeatable Models, write the authors, have “unique assets, deep competencies and capabilities” translated into behaviors and product features that fundamentally differentiate the company from its competitors. These core activities not only produce differential profits, but also drive learning, change and improvement.

The second principle is what the authors summarize as clear nonnegotiables, which refer to the behaviors and mindset required by the strategy. The issue here is one of alignment. Management and employees must have the same understanding and commitment to the organization’s strategy. Clear nonnegotiables reduce the “distance” between senior management and the front lines.

The third principle is well-developed systems for closed-loop learning. Rigorous feedback is essential for continuous learning and the ability to adapt to change, according to the authors. Great Repeatable Models have the systems that allow management to stay in constant contact and communication with customers and front-line employees. These same feedback and learning systems are essential when, as described in Clayton Christenen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma, the industry is transformed by a new technology and product.

In the three major chapters of the book, Zook and Allen, now a fellow Bain partner and co-director of the firm’s Strategy practice, illustrate in detail these three core principles. Another chapter deals with the important leadership issues tied to the three principles — the importance of defining a broad strategy and grand vision versus a narrow strategy, for example. As a book, Repeatability, in essence, reflects the attributes of the business models it advocates: The authors, using clear language, selected charts and numerous in-depth case studies, cut through the complexity of management and strategy to reveal a deep and adaptable core methodology for business success.


Passion and Purpose

PASSION AND PURPOSEStories from the Best and Brightest Young Business Leaders

by John Coleman, Daniel Gulati and W. Oliver Segovia


Business, in the hands of today’s young, innovative leaders, is a force for good and the hope of the future, according to the authors of Passion and Purpose. In this book from the Harvard Business Review Press, the authors seek to prove their optimism through the collected first-person essays of more than 25 recently minted Harvard Business School MBAs facing a variety of challenges and opportunities early in their careers. Among the leaders that readers meet are:

  • Chris Maloney, a management consultant specializing in public and private sector projects in Africa. Writing about his experiences in Rwanda, Maloney describes how business can yield not just an economic return, but a “social return” as well — but only once the social context of a project is clearly understood.
  • Andrew Goodman, who spent 18 months in Qatar helping to reform its education system through the introduction of standards of open discussion, critical thinking and civic engagement. “By working with students in a relatively small country, we genuinely had the potential to change the way those young people will think about the world in the future, for better or for worse,” Goodman writes.
  • Alexa Leigh Marie Von Tobel, CEO of LearnVest Inc. Von Tobel took a leave of absence from Harvard Business School to launch LearnVest, a financial literacy firm.
  • Valerie Bockstette, a consultant specializing in shared value strategies. Bockstette explains: “Companies that view sustainability as a necessary evil of appeasing loud activists, or as a ‘tick the box’ effort to fill out a perceived necessary reporting framework, or as simply reducing their footprint may be missing out on huge opportunities for value creation.”

Six Priorities

The essays are grouped into six core issues, of which sustainability is one. Young, global MBAs themselves, the three authors — American John Coleman, Australian Daniel Gulati and Filipino W. Oliver Segovia — began the project of this book with a survey of more than 500 current and recent students of top business schools. From this survey, as well as their own experiences in school and the workplace, and conversations with friends, professors and colleagues, the authors identified six themes that summarize the priorities and core issues that guide today’s young leaders. These six core issues are:

  1. Convergence. The public, private and nonprofit sectors no longer have distinct and separate goals. Social obligation is part of private business, and business models guide public and non-profit organizations.
  2. Globalization. Globalization is not about unfair competition, but rather about the opportunity for collaboration, cooperation and learning.
  3. People. Diversity is not seen as an impediment or a challenge to be overcome but rather as an opportunity to be embraced.
  4. Sustainability. A focus on sustainability leads to more cost-effective and energy-efficient businesses.
  5. Technology. Today’s young business leaders are the first generation to come of age in a connected society, and they expect more technology-led changes in the ways organizations do business.
  6. Learning. This generation recognizes the importance of education in building future leaders, but is also wary about current learning models, especially in business school.

Living the Passion

Once the core issues had been identified, the authors “crowd-sourced” most of the eventual content of the book by putting out a call to young business leaders for submissions of stories. Looking for the most compelling, inspirational and interesting stories, they whittled down 100 essay submissions to the ones that appear in the book. The selection process ensured that the reader receives the most beneficial information from the best minds. Each of the sections of the book devoted to a theme ends with an interview of a senior leader. The stars of the book, however, are the young leaders whose active “passion and purpose” make a compelling case for the connection between business success and building a better world.


We Are All Weird

WE ARE ALL WEIRD by Seth Godin


Seth Godin’s latest book, We Are All Weird, describes the end of the era of “mass” and the ascendancy of the “weird.”

Navigating the Bell Curve

The distribution of any population will usually be shaped as a bell curve, Godin explains. Traditionally, the vast majority of people are grouped in the tall hump of the curve in the middle of the chart. Only a scattering of people would be found in front of the sharp rise of the curve or lagging behind the sharp drop of the curve. According to Godin, all of business, from production to distribution to marketing, was traditionally aimed at the middle hump of the bell curve because that’s where the vast majority of the people resided and that’s how money was made.

But today, writes Godin, the bell curve is flattening and widening. There are less people crammed into the center of the chart, all buying or thinking or doing the same thing. There are more people on the edge.

Take bread, for example, Godin writes. At one point, the vast majority of people in the United States bought Wonder Bread or its equivalent. Wonder Bread was average bread for average people, he explains. Then the bell curve flattened and spread out, and instead of a vast majority of people buying the mass-produced, mass-marketed and widely distributed bread, more and more people are buying a variety of different breads.

Facing the Four Forces

The world is moving from the dominance of the normal to the growing influence of the weird for four reasons, or “forces,” according to Godin. These are:

Force one: Creation is amplified. Today, not only can anyone be a creator, but through the free, simple and instant worldwide connections of the Internet, your creation can be seen and appreciated by fans. “Anyone, anywhere can publish to the world,” Godin explains.

Force two: Rich allows us to do what we want and we want to be weird. In Godin’s terms, rich does not mean a large accumulation of wealth, but simply having enough wealth to be able to choose. Most people no longer have to focus on survival.

Force three: Marketing is far more efficient at reaching the weird. Marketers, writes Godin, are willing to try to reach “particular pockets of weird people with stuff they’re obsessed with.”

Force four: Tribes are better connected. People who share the same unique obsessions or interests are no longer isolated. They can connect and interact very easily through the Internet.

In sum, Godin argues in this deceptively short but insightful manifesto, thanks to today’s technology, the weird are no longer isolated or no longer ignored by marketers and companies. And thanks to the wealth offered by the productivity of the past industrial age, most of them have the time, money and confidence to choose to be weird.

The bottom line for business, in Godin’s words: “If you cater to the normal, you will disappoint the weird. And as the world gets weirder, that’s a dumb strategy.”

Once again, the inimitable Godin, master of the descriptive phrase (remember “the purple cow”?) has produced a deceptively small sliver of a book that is packed with original insight.

LEAD WITH PURPOSE:  Giving Your Organization a Reason to Believe in Itself   by John Baldoni

Ask any leader: What would you give to have an entire company full of committed employees willing to go the extra mile?

For all your people to work together as a unified force, knowing exactly what they do, and why they do it?

Featuring illuminating stories, interviews, and profiles of leaders from a variety of fields, Lead with Purpose shows readers how to take their organizations to the next level with renewed focus and improved direction.

When an organization succeeds it is because they know what they do and why they do it. We say they have purpose.

Lead With Purpose: Giving Your Organization a Reason to Believe in Itself provides time-tested methods for ways leaders can unleash the power of their employees to achieve sustainable business results.

Lead With Purpose provides a path for those who seek to provide clarity to their organization so that individuals have the desire and the freedom to create, engage and innovate.

Lead With Purpose is shaped by first-person interviews with thought leaders and CEOs in multiple disciplines. It also features survey research of managers and employees conducted especially for the book.

Reading Lead With Purpose will provide managers with a “pick-me up” in the form of fast acting advice they need to face the challenges of everyday leadership.

Drawing upon his years of experience as a top leadership consultant and executive coach, author John Baldoni explores:

  • How defined purpose can help your team thrive and achieve
  • Ways to make people your first priority
  • How to turn good intentions into great results
  • How to make employees “comfortable with the uncomfortable” (i.e. ambiguity)
  • How make it safe to fail (and prevail)
  • How to create your legacy with emerging leaders
  • Contains a handbook for creating an action plan for achieving purposeful results

THE IDEA HUNTER – How to Find the Best Ideas and Make them Happen
by Andy Boynton and Bill Fischer


Walt Disney dreamed of creating a family theme park that would be significantly different from the seedy amusement parks of the era with their bad food and surly employees.  While on vacation in Copenhagen, Disney discovered Tivoli Gardens, a calm, clean amusement park with flowers, tame rides and a joyous family atmosphere.  He immediately began taking scores of notes and, a few years later, the innovative Disneyland park opened in California.

This story is told in the opening chapter.  In this intriguing book, the authors argue that creative ideas are not imagined, they are found — they don’t emerge from the brilliant minds of innately creative people, but rather, they already exist in the world and only need to be discovered.


How, then, does one go about becoming “idea-active”?  The answer, according to the authors, lies in the acronym IDEA, which summarizes the four core principles of idea hunting.

The first principle is to be interested in the world around you. “Those who excel at the Hunt understand that almost anyone can hand them an incredible idea, which they are generally free to use,” write the authors.  In 1912, Clarence Birdseye set out on a four-year fur trading expedition in Canada, during which he noticed that the locals kept meat and vegetables fresh and tasty by burying them in the snow for conservation.  Birdseye’s interest in the practice would lead to the creation of the frozen foods industry.

The second principle is diversification, to recognize that parts of a single idea can come from many places.  To invent the phonograph, Thomas Edison and his engineers blended ideas from products that they had developed for the telegraph, telephone and electric motor industries.

The third principle, write the authors, is to exercise the “idea muscles” every day — that is, to always be on the hunt for new ideas. When Scott Cook sat at the kitchen table with his wife one day in 1982, he wasn’t looking for a great idea. But when she mentioned the drudgery of paying bills, the future founder of Intuit immediately wondered if there were not some way to “quicken” the process. (Intuit released Quicken in the mid-1980s.)

The fourth principle is, as the authors write, “the need to be agile in your handling of ideas.”  An idea rarely comes fully constructed and packaged, ready to be taken to market.  W.L. Gore engineer Dave Myers’s path to developing Gore’s guitar strings, for example, was a sinuous one. An avid mountain biker, Myers was working on a coating for artificial arteries when he adapted the material to bicycle gear cables for a smoother shift.  For the bicycle research, Myers had used guitar strings as a prototype, and instead of throwing the strings out, he asked some amateur guitar players whether they might want them.  As it turns out, the strings not only felt smooth to the touch, they kept their tone longer than conventional strings.  Thus, a new market-leading product was born.

The Idea Hunger is filled with stories, from the well-known to the unfamiliar, as well as guidelines and advice to help readers apply the authors’ principles and methodology.  Boynton, Dean of the Carroll School of Management at Boston College and a former professor at the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Switzerland, and Fischer, a professor at IMD, have offered a valuable blueprint to any manager or entrepreneur who is looking for the next big idea.

THE BLAME GAME – How the Hidden Rules of Credit and Blame Determine Our Success or Failure
by Ben Dattner with Darren Dahl



Consultant and executive coach Ben Dattner tells the story of one of his clients, a retailer who had traditionally placed its stores in malls but was expanding to free-standing locations. An eight-member team was put together to choose and open the new locations. However, infighting, the duplication of work and the inability to make decisions were sinking the team. Finally, one of the more experienced team members, whose suggestions had been constantly shot down, moved ahead on her own. Beth started making offers on locations and hiring architects. When the other team members learned of her actions, they united in blaming her for “mishandling” the search, as they told their boss. Unhappy about being scapegoated, Beth, who had done more in fulfilling the team’s mandate than any other member, left the company.

As Dattner carefully outlines in The Blame Game, the scapegoating and blaming that goes on in the corporate world is not an accident. In fact, our brains are hardwired for self-serving biases — and that means taking personal credit when things go right and looking for others to blame when things go wrong.

The Overpraised Generation

The roots of the blame game are not only found in nature, but also in nurture. As children, Dattner explains, we develop our sense of self largely on the basis of blame and credit. Most children not only seek credit constantly, but also believe that they deserve that credit. Conversely, children also believe that they are being unfairly blamed most of the time.

As adults, we are less prone to echo unhappy children by immediately proclaiming that anything we don’t like “is not fair.” However, in times of stress, people do tend to regress to childhood, Dattner writes, rejecting responsibility for problems and searching instead for someone to blame.

Another challenge is the psychological phenomenon of transference, when we transfer emotions from our childhood onto people encountered in our adult lives — including colleagues and bosses.

Punitive Personalities

In addition to nature and nurture, some personality types automatically have a greater tendency to blame others, Dattner writes. Psychologists have identified three personality categories related to blame: Extrapunitive people are always looking to blame others; impunitive types simply refuse to accept blame to an extreme degree; and intropunitive people accept blame too easily, consistently assuming that everything is their fault. Within these categories are personality types that most readers will recognize from their work or personal lives. For example, the mischievous impunitive takes risks and cuts corners but refuses to accept blame when those risks lead to trouble.

Dattner also explores the impact corporate cultures and leadership issues have on credit and blame within the organization. He ends the book with some tips on how to overcome the blame game — for example, by fighting groupthink and getting rid of people who throw others under the bus.  The Blame Game is a fascinating and learned look at a frustrating facet of corporate life. While the odds seem against blame-free companies, the best antidote, Dattner writes, is to be aware of the biases and impulses that pull us toward blame.

Best regards,

Beth Papiano


UNUSUALLY EXCELLENTThe Necessary Nine Skills Required for the Practice of Great Leadership by John Hamm

In Unusually Excellent, author John Hamm argues that leadership involves three continuously active sets of skills or attributes — what he terms “essentials” — that are in play at the same time. The first set of essentials, according to Hamm, involve the leader’s credibility, the second set covers the leader’s competence, while the third set of essentials focuses on what Hamm calls “consequence.” Credibility is a matter of character, and gives leaders the right to lead, Hamm writes. Competence is a matter of skills, and earns leaders respect. Finally, consequence is a matter of values, and it earns leaders their reputation.

Understanding leadership in the context of these three domains helps define the nine essentials of leadership — three essentials for each of the three. Hamm emphasizes that the nine essentials shouldn’t be taken as individual components of leadership. The key is to know how they work together to create consistent high-level leadership. As Hamm notes, effective leadership is not a series of successful one-off situations, but an organic attribute that, he writes, “is made manifest over the course of a career of leading people.”

Credibility and Competence
Successful leadership requires competence; however, according to Hamm, a leader must not only know how to lead, but also must have earned the right to lead through his or her credibility. Without credibility, the most competent leader will fail.

To achieve credibility, a leader must demonstrate that he or she is authentic. Authentic leaders own and learn from their failures, seek extensive and honest feedback, and have the courage to be themselves, even in times of crises. Credibility also requires that the leader be trustworthy. To be trusted, leaders must be fair, honest, and to some extent, vulnerable. Finally, credible leaders are compelling leaders who, through their vision, commitment and honesty, compel others to follow them.

The best leaders combine credibility with competence. Competence requires mastering three essentials skills: people skills, strategy skills and execution skills.

A Leader’s Legacy
After credibility and competence, the third domain of leadership presented by Hamm is consequence, in which the leader creates the legacy of his or her tenure as a leader. This legacy is built on the leader’s values, reputation and the organization culture that flows from his or her behavior as a leader, beginning with the way leaders communicate. Effective communication, writes Hamm, is about making a connection, not just talking.

Most of today’s best leadership books do not try to dramatically change the core concepts of leadership when such change is not needed. Instead, they try to clarify and focus on the issues and perspectives that guide the best leaders.

Hamm, a veteran Silicon Valley venture capitalist, former CEO and member of numerous corporate boards of directors, acknowledges that the leadership success factors he describes in his book are not new. However, his concise framework of three domains and nine essentials, supported by leadership examples at the highest levels (some of them disguised for discretion) eloquently reminds leaders of the fundamentals of leadership, and will help them implement those fundamentals.


The Leadership Challenge identifies the five leadership practices common to successful leaders.  It is a great addition to the leader’s library.

The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Pozner

I recently re-read this great book.  What makes it great is because Kouzes and Posner help identify what and how to become a better leader.  They identify what they call “five leadership practices common to successful leaders” and then suggest ten “behavioral commitments” among those leaders studied.

Here they are:

Practice: Challenge the process
Commitments: (1) Search for opportunities and (2) Experiment and take risks

Practice: Inspire a shared vision
Commitments: (3) Envision the future and (4) Enlist others

Practice: Enable others to act
Commitments: (5) Foster collaboration and (6) Strengthen others

Practice: Model the way to the desired objectives
Commitments: (7) Set the example and (8) Plan small wins

Practice: Encourage the heart of everyone involved
Commitments: (9) Recognize individual contribution and (10) Celebrate accomplishments

There are dozens of outstanding books on leadership and this is one of the best. I am especially impressed by the balance Kouzes and Posner maintain throughout between theory and practice. More specifically, they introduce and explain various core concepts and then draw upon real-world situations to illustrate those concepts. Obviously, “Encouraging the Heart” (Part Six) introduces ideas which Kouzes and Posner develop in much greater depth in a sequel volume which bears the same name. They conclude this book as follows: “We have said that leaders take us to places we have never been before. But there are no freeways to the future, no paved highways to unknown, unexplored destinations. There is only wilderness. If you are to step into the unknown, the place to begin is with the exploration of the inner territory.”


The Six Secrets of Change: What the Best Leaders Do to Help Their Organizations Survive and Thrive is a very relevant book for today.

The Six Secrets of Change: What the Best Leaders Do to Help Their Organizations Survive and Thrive by Michael Fullan
Some interesting thoughts about the the six secrets of change:

1. Love your employees. The key is in enabling employees to learn continuously and to find meaning in their work and in their relationship to coworkers and to the company as a whole. 2. Connect peers with purpose. The job of leaders is to provide good direction while pursuing its implementation through purposeful peer interactions and learning in relation to results.

3. Capacity building prevails. Capacity building entails leaders investing in the development of individual and collaborative efficacy of a whole group or system to accomplish significant of a whole group or system to accomplish significant improvements.

4. Learning is the work. Effective organizations see working and learning to work better as one and the same.

5. Transparency rules. Clear and continuous display of results, and clear and continuous access to practice.

6. Systems learn. People learn new things all the time, and their sense of meaning and their motivation are continually stimulated and deepened.


Perfect Phrases for Leadership Development is a book written by one of my colleagues, Wendy Mack.

 Perfect Phrases for Leadership Development by Meryl Runion and Wendy Mack  is a ‘must have’ book for all managers and leaders.

Perfect Phrases for Leadership Development provides the right phrase for every situation, every time.  It has hundreds of ready-to-use phrases for empowering others to take on leadership responsibilities regardless of their specific position in the company. You’ll find all the right words and phrases you need for:

  • Boosting employees’ sense of autonomy
  • Redirecting efforts without stifling creativity
  • Encouraging decisiveness and resourcefulness
  • Igniting energy and enthusiasm

There are a lot of books about management out there, but it is rare to find one that zooms in on exactly what a manger needs on a daily basis… “but, what should I SAY to my employees?!” This book has the perfect phrase for whatever a manager may be struggling with when communicating with his or her team – from performance management to creating a vision to championing change. A wonderful resource for managers at all levels.  I believe it’s such a valuable tool that I plan to purchase copies for my clients.


The Why of Work – How Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations That Win is an excellent book about both the why and the how of meaning at work.

The Why of Work – How Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations That Win by Dave and Wendy Ulrich.

According to studies, we all work for the same thing–and it’s not just money.  It’s meaning. Through our work, we seek a sense of purpose, contribution, connection, value and hope.  Digging down to the meaning of work taps our resilience in hard times and our passion in good times.  That’s the simple but profound premise behind this groundbreaking book by renowned management expert Dave Ulrich and psychologist Wendy Ulrich.  They’ve talked to thousands of people–from rank-and-file workers to clients and customers to top-level executives–and synthesized major disciplines to identify the “why” behind our most successful experiences.

Using the model of the “abundant organization,” they provide you with the “how” to create meaning and value in your own workplace.  You will learn how to:

  • Ask the seven questions that drive abundance
  • Understand the needs of your customers and staff
  • Personalize the work to motivate your employees
  • Build and grow your business in any economy

By following the Ulrichs’ step-by-step guidelines, you will set off a chain reaction of positive and enduring effects. Employees who find meaning in their work are more competent, committed and eager to contribute—and their contribution will result in increased customer commitment, which delivers a winning performance on the bottom line.

This book includes targeted checklists, questionnaires and other useful tools to help you turn aspirations into action. When you understand why we work, you know how to succeed.


The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything by Stephen M.R. Covey  focuses on “The Five Waves of Trust.”

There is one thing that is common to every individual, organization, nation, and civilization throughout the world–one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, and the deepest love. On the other hand, if developed and leveraged, that one thing has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life. According to the author, that one thing is trust.

The author says that “The Five Waves of Trust” define the way we establish trust and make it actionable. Understanding these waves will enable you to speak and behave in ways that establish trust, allowing you to become a leader who gets results by inspiring trust in others.

First Wave:     Self Trust. The key principle underlying this wave is credibility.

Second Wave: Relationship Trust. The key principle underlying this wave is consistent behavior.

Third Wave:    Organizational Trust. The key principle underlying this wave, alignment, helps leaders create organizational trust.

Fourth Wave:  Market Trust. The underlying principle behind this wave is reputation.

Fifth Wave:     Societal Trust. The principle underlying this wave is contribution.

Here is a list of useful concepts I liked in the book:

Trust is the “hidden variable” in the formula for organizational success.  The traditional business formula is:  (Strategy x Execution = Results). But there is a hidden variable:  (Strategy x Execution) x Trust = Results.

Trust always affects two outcomes: speed and cost. When trust goes down, speed goes down and cost goes up. Consider the time and cost of airport security after 9/11, or costs for Sarbanes-Oxley Act compliance in response to Enron, WorldCom and other corporate scandals. When trust goes up, speed goes up and cost goes down. Warren Buffett completed the acquisition of McLane Distribution from Wal-Mart on the basis of a two-hour meeting. Because of high trust between the parties, the merger took less than a month.

In a high-trust relationship, you can say the wrong thing and people will still get your meaning. In a low-trust relationship, you can be very precise, and they’ll still misinterpret you.

If we can’t trust ourselves, we’ll have a hard time trusting others.

Who do you trust? Why do you trust this person? Now consider an even more provocative question: Who trusts you?

Extending trust leverages it to create reciprocity. Do not extend false trust by giving people responsibility, but no authority or resources to complete a task. Extend conditionally to those who are earning your trust, but extend it abundantly to those who have earned it.

Inspire trust by starting with yourself and your own credibility, and then consistently behave in trust building ways with other people.

Restoring trust within an organization may seem difficult; however, the fact that high-trust organizations outperform low-trust organizations by three times provides a strong incentive to make the effort.


Learn more about what motivates us in Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink.

Before purchasing a copy of Drive by Daniel H. Pink consider making do with just his TED talk. You won’t get the fitness plan or the conversation starters but you will get the essence of Pink’s message.

If you’re a boss or concerned about leadership, you need to become familiar with this message. The ideas are important. Pink’s rendering of them, for good or ill, will define and influence the discussion of motivation in business for quite a while.

He does get the big picture right. He says that people would prefer activities where they can pursue three things.

Autonomy: People want to have control over their work.
Mastery: People want to get better at what they do.
Purpose: People want to be part of something that is bigger than they are.

Pink is describing three things that create workplaces where intrinsic motivation happens. In most highly effective workplaces, it’s the boss that is the most important force creating an environment when intrinsic motivation can happen.

Top management sets the basic compensation and benefits structure. If that isn’t perceived as fair and consistent, natural intrinsic motivation won’t kick in.

This book won’t give you the connection from concept to workplace, but Pink does deliver many key ideas that matter.

*  There is a difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.
*  Intrinsic motivators are more powerful.
*  If you use monetary rewards to get people to perform the way you want, those rewards may have the  opposite effect.

These are important things for a boss to know, but if you only have Drive to guide you, you will get some things very wrong.

The examples that are used are heavily weighted toward academic and consulting studies. It’s not apparent that Pink talked to a single worker or frontline supervisor. The book would have been more helpful if he had.

There are some pre-requisites to having intrinsic motivation kick in. Pink mentions in passing that there needs to be fair compensation in place. That’s true, but it’s not an “oh-by-the-way” point. It’s Maslow’s Hierarchy in work clothes.

Throughout the book, Pink equates “monetary” incentives with “extrinsic motivation.” That ignores praise, promotion, preferment (in scheduling, eg), the admiration of peers, time off, and a host of other positive incentives. It also skews the discussion toward academic studies and away from the real workplace.

Pink also presents the issue as if it were intrinsic motivators (good) versus extrinsic motivators (not good). In the TED talk he even says “This is the titanic battle between these two approaches.”

That’s not how things work in the real world. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivators and their effects interact. You don’t have a simple choice of which lever to pull. You have to understand and influence a complex system.

The Bottom Line
You should learn what’s in this book because, for better or worse, it is influencing the conversation about what makes a great workplace. But because of the presentation and selective use of facts, you can’t rely on this book alone to help you do a better job as a boss.


In his book  The Stress Effect Dr. Henry Thompson discusses stress and leadership.

Why do great leaders make catastrophic errors? Too much stress is usually the culprit, writes organizational psychologist and leadership expert Dr. Henry L. Thompson. In The Stress Effect, Thompson reveals the ways that too much pressure can shut down a leader’s emotional and cognitive intelligences. He also offers a valuable leadership program that can help anyone find better ways to handle extreme stress. This “stress resilient system” covers three important areas: stress management capacity, cognitive resilience and stress resilient emotional intelligence. By combining all three of these key personal resources, Thompson explains, business leaders at all levels can improve how they make decisions under increasing workplace pressures.

According to the latest studies, stress costs industry in the United States about $300 billion each year. It also causes absenteeism, lost productivity, accidents and medical insurance claims, Thompson points out. Between 75 and 85 percent of all industrial accidents are caused by stress, he adds, and it is linked to six of the leading causes of death.

The Human Brain Under Pressure

Presenting the latest neuroscience on the causes of stress, Thompson shows how the human brain responds to pressure. He explains that the increased levels of cortisol that stress brings to the brain shut down the brain’s cognitive abilities. Since an increase in cortisol interferes with our neurotransmitters, we lose our ability to recall old memories and produce new ones. Thompson says the worst time to make important decisions is when our minds are blanked out from the effects of too much stress.

The good news is that we can learn how to deal with stress better and minimize its negative effects. One answer to high stress environments is what Thompson calls a dominant response hierarchy that gives us layered choices of responses for times when intense pressure kicks in.

Another is the creation of what brain researcher Herbert Benson called “the relaxation response,” which puts the body into a deep state of rest. By developing the ability to relax on demand, people are better able to counter times of intense stress. This involves slowing down the heartbeat, relaxing the muscles, slowing the metabolism and decreasing blood pressure.

According to Benson, a practiced relaxation response that can be consciously triggered by the repetition of a word, sound or phrase can “reverse sustained problems in the body and mend the internal wear and tear brought on by stress.” This can be an important part of developing the stress management capacity that makes up the first part of Thompson’s stress resilient system.

Tuning in to Stress Levels and Warnings The second part of that system is developing the cognitive resilience to better face extreme stress. Beyond getting enough sleep and working to recognize any stressors that might be particularly destructive, Thompson explains that maintaining a constant awareness of your stress levels, respecting the rest and recovery cycle, and practicing over and over again the skills that it takes to deal with periods of high stress are three ways that anyone can develop cognitive resilience.

Stress resilient emotional intelligence is the third element in Thompson’s stress resilient system. Developing this antidote to stress begins with recognizing the warning signs of stress. When we know what it feels like to experience stress, including the effects it can have on the brain, body and our behavior, we can begin to use the tools we’ve developed to cope with the pressures of stress.

By monitoring our emotional sensations and physiological responses, and staying in touch with how we really feel, we can learn to evaluate our stress levels and then make better decisions about what actions we should take. In other words, when you feel your eye twitch or your upper lip starts to sweat in reaction to a stressful situation, take a moment to review your feelings before jumping into an inappropriate emotional response.

Thompson’s tips and advice are scientifically based and enjoyably delivered. Filled with the latest discoveries from brain science and the latest breakthroughs in emotional intelligence, The Stress Effect offers a fascinating look at the ways we can recognize and deal with stress before it invades our brains and plays havoc with our work.


This  book we would like to review is a must read for all managers and leades and is one of my all time favorite business books.

First Break All the Rules – What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Different? by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman.

What I like most about this book is that it exposes the fallacies of standard management thinking.  In seven chapters, the two consultants for the Gallup Organization debunk some dearly held notions about management, such as “treat people as you like to be treated”; “people are capable of almost anything”; and “a manager’s role is diminishing in today’s economy.” “Great managers are revolutionaries,” the authors write. “This book will take you inside the minds of these managers to explain why they have toppled conventional wisdom and reveal the new truths they have forged in its place.”

The authors have culled their observations from more than 80,000 interviews conducted by Gallup during the past 25 years. Quoting leaders such as basketball coach Phil Jackson, Buckingham and Coffman outline “four keys” to becoming an excellent manager: Finding the right fit for employees, focusing on strengths of employees, defining the right results, and selecting staff for talent–not just knowledge and skills.

“First, Break All the Rules” offers specific techniques for helping people perform better on the job. For instance, the authors show ways to structure a trial period for a new worker and how to create a pay plan that rewards people for their expertise instead of how fast they climb the company ladder. “The point is to focus people toward performance,” they write. “The manager is, and should be, totally responsible for this.” Written in plain English and well organized, this book tells you exactly how to improve as a manager.

Designed by Tim Sainburg from Brambling Design

Designed by Tim Sainburg from Brambling Design

Designed by Tim Sainburg from Brambling Design

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