Review: #AskGaryVee by Gary Vaynerchuk

#AskGaryVeeGary Vaynerchuk is the prototypical social-media business success. The son of a wine shop owner, Vaynerchuk started a video blog called Wine Library TV — a quirky discussion about wine by a young man who loved the Jets and spoke about which wines fit best with Lucky Charms. Ten years later, Vaynerchuk is a highly successful social-media entrepreneur and, through his firm VaynerMedia, a sought-after consultant advising Fortune 500 companies. He is also a New York Times best-selling author. And since 2014, he is the host of #AskGaryVee, another YouTube show that, this time, is focused on helping his listeners succeed as entrepreneurs.

He brings that same mandate to his latest book, #AskGaryVee. Based on questions from his viewers, #AskGaryVee is a highly valuable primer on what works in social-media entrepreneurialism and in entrepreneurialism in general. For example, his advice to worry about the top line and not the bottom line when building a business (which aligns with his advice to solopreneurs that “cash is oxygen”) is compelling given Vaynerchuk’s meteoric rise to riches.

Of course, Vaynerchuk is first and foremost a social-media expert, and his concise overview of all the important social-media platforms that exist today is alone worth the price of the book. Another typically illuminating chapter is entitled “Content and Context,” in which he answers questions related to building compelling content and gaining exposure for that content.

For example, one viewer asked him how to get people to engage in a new and small channel. The answer: quality and hustle. “That’s all you can do: put out great content, engage with your tiny audience, and go out and try to get exposure for your content by collaborating or getting press or guest posting on someone else’s platform,” he writes. Many of the questions are quite specific. One viewer asks, for example, if he should avoid doing podcasts or videos because he has an accent. Vaynerchuk points to Google co-founder Sergey Brin and replies that accents should not stop the questioner (adding that if he doesn’t get an audience, it isn’t because of the accent). Another questioner asks whether short or long videos are better; Vaynerchuk answers that it doesn’t matter. He himself broke the commonly accepted “shorter-is-better” rule when he launched WLTV, which consisted of 40-minute videos.

Every chapter in #AskGaryVee is filled with this type of clear-cut, specific advice generated by the questions from his fans.

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Review: The Go-Giver Leader by Bob Burg and John David Mann

TheGo-GiverLeaderAt first glance, the setup for Bob Burg and John David Mann’s fable, The Go-Giver Leader, seems to be only tangentially about leadership. The main protagonist, Ben, is trying to close an M&A deal: He has been charged by his company to persuade the leaders of an acquisition target — a manufacturer of high-quality chairs — to let his firm buy the company.

While Ben is not in a leadership position, the authors convincingly demonstrate that Ben’s assignment requires him to do what leaders must do if they are to be successful: convince others to take action because they want to. By not having the power over those he’s trying to convince, Ben’s situation accurately reflects the current state of leadership today: Your title doesn’t buy you respect, and a command-and-control leadership style leads to the disengagement of those you lead — and eventual failure as a leader.

When he first arrives on the scene, Ben is convinced that his success depends on “take, take, take”: taking control, taking charge of the situation, taking command.

As the book advances, Ben meets the four company executives he must convince to sell. These four executives are each portrayed as successful leaders who inspire their employees and managers. Each of these four also represents four different facets of leadership.

Allen, one of two brothers who co-founded the company, represents vision. Through his conversation with Allen, Ben learns that the challenge is not to have a vision but to keep people focused on the vision — what Allen describes as “holding the vision.” This facet of leadership is summarized as leading from the mind.

Augustine, the other brother, represents empathy, or leading from the heart. One of the key lessons Ben learns is that pull is more effective than push. Counterintuitively, the more you yield, the more power you have.

Frank, the VP of production who has been with the company since its founding, represents grounding — that is, getting the job done. The best leaders, Ben learns, are people who can actually do the work. The key attribute here is to lead from the gut.

Finally, Karen, the VP of Finance and Personnel, represents the soul of the company. Karen is very supportive of employees undergoing life-changing, personal challenges. Through Karen, Ben learns the importance of leading with your soul.

With the help of a mysterious mentor — the friend of a friend whom he meets for daily lunches in a local restaurant, Ben is able to develop his four keys to legendary leadership:

1) Hold the Vision, 2) Build Your People, 3) Do the Work and 4) Stand for Something. Ben, however, learns the fifth and decisive key to leadership — Practice Giving Leadership — on his own (with a little help from his mentor) at the turning-point moment in the book. Giving leadership is based on the philosophy that great leadership is never about the leader. You are not the “deal,” which is, in fact, the reverse of “lead.” At the climax, Ben discovers that, indeed, “the best way to increase your influence is to give it away.” Burg and Mann, authors of the best-seller The Go-Giver Leader, have written a compelling fable that succeeds as both a thought-provoking learning tool and, rather surprisingly, as a work of fiction with an unexpected plot twist at the end

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Review: How to Have a Good Day by Caroline Webb

When someone would tell comedian George Carlin to “have a nice day,” Carlin would react angrily: “What if I don’t want to have a nice day?” Unlike Carlin, most of us would prefer to have nice days, but in our overworked, over-stressed and overbooked lives, it is not always easy. A new book by former McKinsey consultant Caroline Webb promises to come to our rescue. Entitled How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life, it uses the advances in behavioral science, psychology and neuroscience to help us overcome or mitigate all of the stresses, setbacks and mishaps that create the many bad days or bad moments we endure.

The Essential Sciences

Webb begins her book with a quick look at three scientific advances that are key to understanding how we will be able to create a good day:
• The two-system brain. Our brains run two opposing systems in parallel, she explains. The deliberate system is our conscious thinking, slow and rational. The automatic system is subconscious, fast and instinctive. The deliberate system calculates a 15 percent tip; the automatic system makes us jump back before we are hit by a car.
• The mind-body loop. The mind and body are interconnected in ways we never realized. We knew happiness leads to a smile, but we did not know smiling (no matter how we feel) will make us happier.
• The discover-defend axis. We are constantly moving along an axis, anchored on one end by a defensive outlook, expecting attack at any moment, while anchored on the other end by a discovery mood, seeking out rewarding experiences.

 

Having laid the scientific groundwork,Webb then covers her seven building blocks of a good day:

Priorities: setting the intentional direction of the day.
Productivity: making the most of the hours of the day. Relationships: having positive, productive interactions.
Thinking: making wise choices, being creative and smart. Influence: maximizing the impact of what we say and do.
Resilience: overcoming setbacks and annoyances.
Energy: boosting enthusiasm and enjoyment.

Webb offers clear guidelines for each of the building blocks. Thus, for example, the section of the book on productivity includes chapters on single-tasking, planning deliberate down time, overcoming overload and beating procrastination. The chapters related to influence cover getting through their filters, making things happen and conveying confidence. Throughout the book, Webb carefully links the science introduced at the beginning to her directives. Down time increases productivity, for example, not only because a brain needs to rest but also because neuroscientists have discovered that the subconscious brain keeps working even when the conscious brain is at rest.

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Review: Dealstorming by Tim Sanders

CZ2YTDQVAAEn3p2Effective sales methodologies are usually based on a disciplined step by-step process that moves the relationship between buyer and seller from contact to close. The concept of brainstorming — the freewheeling, ad-hoc practice of putting a diverse group of people in a room and letting them throw out ideas without constraints or criticism — seems to be a poor fit for the discipline and focus of the sales deal. Former Yahoo! sales executive Tim Sanders disagrees. He acknowledges that advocates of brainstorming can overstate its effectiveness — recent studies have shown weaknesses in solutions emerging from brainstorming sessions. However, he argues, the brainstorming process also offers certain strengths — the power of collaboration among a wide group of stakeholders and contributors, the openness to innovative ideas — that can be missing in the traditional sales process.

Collaboration is vital: The enduring myth of the individual super-salesperson cutting amazing deals is highly unrealistic in an age of highly complex business-to-business sales. Even those organizations that boast about their sales teams are still probably dealing in sales silos that incorporate little input from other areas of the company. Thus, Sanders has been a long-time practitioner and proponent of what he calls “dealstorming” — a problem-solving methodology that combines the collaborative and inclusive features of brainstorming with the linear discipline of the sales account-management process.

In his fifth book, Dealstorming: The Secret Weapon That Can Solve Your Toughest Sales Challenge, Sanders provides a detailed description of the dealstorming sales process — specifically designed to help salespeople stuck in a deal with an intractable problem. From the sales perspective, the path to innovative solutions for the client is often blocked by other functions of the company that insist that the innovations can’t be developed or implemented, or will be unworkable or ineffective. Frustrated by the resistance, sales professionals refer to these other functions as “the land of no.”

 

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Review: Under New Management by David Burkus

Speed Review: Under New Management“Management,” declares business school professor and author David Burkus in the introduction to his new book, “needs new management.” According to Burkus, too many companies are clinging to old assumptions, old processes and old habits that have grown obsolete. In Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual, he introduces a number of modern, sometimes surprising, approaches to management that directly challenge past practices and attitudes.

Burkus describes, for example, how some companies let employees take as much time off as they want. There is no allocation and monitoring of vacation days: If you want to take a vacation, take a vacation. Burkus also describes the concept of paying employees to quit. The longer you’ve worked at a company, the more cash you will get paid for quitting (up to a certain threshold).

A sample of the other new management approaches covered in the book includes:
• Banning emails
• Eliminating managers
• Making salaries transparent
• Abandoning open-office layouts
• Putting customers second.

Although they may sound counter-intuitive, if not fanciful in some cases, all of the new approaches presented by Burkus have been successfully implemented. The concept of paying employees to quit, for example, was made famous by Zappos, which will pay $4,000 in cash if new employees quit their jobs. Amazon has pushed the concept even further, offering cash for quitting once a year (the offer is a one-off at Zappos). The first year, employees are offered $2,000 to quit, and the offer goes up $1,000 every year after that until it reaches $5,000. The annual offer then stays at the $5,000 level.

Eliminating managers is one of the more surprising concepts in the book, yet it has also been successfully implemented. Burkus describes how new employees at Valve Software, an online gaming development firm estimated to be valued at $3 to $4 billion, have to get used to the fact that no one will tell them what to do.

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Review: Presence by Amy Cuddy

 In 2012, Harvard Business School professor and social psychologist Amy Cuddy presented a TED talk on power poses and how the body impacts the mind. Viewed by tens of millions of people, Cuddy’s TED talk is the second most-viewed talk in TED’s history. Her book is Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. That Cuddy’s research resonates so broadly is not surprising, as it addresses head-on the anxiety and sense of powerlessness that most of us feel in the face of daunting challenges or high-pressure situations.

The desire for “do-overs,” for example, is an experience that most people have shared. They wish they could go back into the job interview room and convey, through much better words, why they are the best candidate; they wish they could have a second chance to pitch their venture to a panel of potential investors; they wish they could erase the reaction they had to a senior leader’s proposal and replace it with a reaction that would be impressive and memorable.

We’ve all been there. Even 18th-century French philosopher and writer Denis Diderot experienced that emotion, which is why he coined the phase “l’esprit d’escalier” — staircase wit or, in an updated version, elevator wit. It refers to those perfect words that come to us only after we’ve left the meeting and are on our way out of the building. What happens, explains Cuddy, is we recover the presence that we lost under the pressure of the situation.

Presence, writes Cuddy, “is the state of being attuned to and able to comfortably express our true thoughts, feelings, values and potential.” Cuddy is not asking us to embark on a journey of self-discovery to the Peruvian mountains; she is simply helping us to succeed in that meeting, so that the wit occurs in the conference room and not on the staircase. The key to presence, writes Cuddy, is to feel personally powerful. Even social power — being in a position to control situations — will not overcome personal powerlessness. Personal power requires knowing our values and being true to our values. It requires an alignment of the various parts of ourselves: our thoughts, our feelings, our behaviors. Cuddy calls this “synchrony.”

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Review: The Storyteller’s Secret by Carmine Gallo

TheStorytellersSecretYour Story Is Your Most Valuable Asset

One day in Pakistan, Taliban enforcers boarded a school bus, found the young girl they were seeking and shot her, leaving her for dead. But Malala Yousafzai refused to die, and her story would become a rallying cry for women’s rights around the world. Yousafzai, explains communications author Carmine Gallo, is not just a survivor; she is a storyteller. She grew up in a family of storytellers — people would walk for miles to listen to the sermons of her grandfather — and through her speeches and her best-selling book, I Am Malala, Yousafzai continues to inspire and lead a global cause for justice.

The Storyteller’s Secret, the eighth book by the prolific Gallo, is, not surprisingly, filled with compelling stories but equally filled with specific tools for communicating more effectively. The book is divided into five parts, focusing on storytellers who “ignite our fire,” “educate,” “simplify,” “motivate” and “launch movements.” Each chapter within each part focuses on a specific tool, with stories or speeches by two or three speakers used as examples. The featured communicators run the gamut from the very famous (Steve Jobs, Bill Gates) to the not so famous (civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson, entrepreneur Charles Michael Yim), all of whom have a story to tell.

For example, although Steve Jobs is recognized for his innovative genius and intense personality, the Jobs in this book (Gallo has written two books about Jobs) is first and foremost a superb communicator. In one of the most iconic speeches given by a businessperson, Jobs introduced “three new products” that would revolutionize the world: an iPod, a phone and an Internet communicator. These three products, the audience soon discovered, were actually one product, the iPhone.

Another Jobs example demonstrates that a story doesn’t have to be long to be effective. Jobs took just one sentence to tell a story that John Scully, the Pepsi Company CEO Jobs was trying to recruit, could not resist: “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?” Each chapter begins with a story, followed by a section that focuses on “The Storyteller’s Tools,” before closing with “The Storyteller’s Secret,” which recaps the core lesson of the chapter.

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Review: Small Data By Martin Lindstrom

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The focus on big data — the aggregation and analysis of a seemingly bottomless pool of data on what we buy, what we watch, what websites we navigate and even whom we talk to on social media — is nearing “craze” proportions. Into the fray steps marketing iconoclast Martin Lindstrom, who argues that businesses need to put the databases and algorithms aside for a bit and focus instead on a different kind of data — data about the kind of magnets people have on their refrigerators, for example, or why single young men really buy Roombas (vacuum cleaning robots), or why store clerks began wearing T-shirts with Apple logos even though the store was not an Apple store.

These are all examples of what Lindstrom calls “small data,” and are taken from some of Lindstrom’s actual client projects as described in his fascinating new book, Small Data. As a branding consultant, Lindstrom spends 300 days a year traveling to people’s homes and workplaces to better understand who they are, why they do what they do and how this information — this “small data” — can help his clients serve them better. Lindstrom doesn’t just talk to his customers. He goes into their kitchens and their bedrooms, he looks through their drawers and purses (with permission), he examines the art they have on their walls — all in the hunt for the breakthrough clues that will lead to better products and services or more successful stores.

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Review: Originals by Adam Grant

Throughout history, there have been extraordinary people who, in Wharton professor Adam Grant’s elegant phrase, “moved the world.” Grant calls these people “originals” because they are nonconformists who are unimpressed with the status quo and have the creativity and courage to forge and follow their own paths. As he explains in Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, originals can be inventors, entrepreneurs, authors and painters, leaders of political movements. Martin Luther King was an original. So was Leonardo Da Vinci, and so is Bill Gates.

Originals, however, are not just world-famous people who revolutionized their domains. Grant also tells the story of originals whose names would be unknown to most: Carmen Medina, the CIA employee who battled for years to finally incorporate the digital age into intelligence sharing; Rick Ludwin, the TV executive who, despite not working in the comedy department, championed a rejected sitcom by comedian Jerry Seinfeld; Ray Dalio, the billionaire founder of a company who encouraged employees to send him memos such as the one that begins, “Ray, you deserve a ‘D’ for your performance today … It was obvious to all of us that you did not prepare at all …”

In Originals, Grant not only offers stories of great accomplishments but also dissects exactly how these accomplishments were achieved. He debunks the idea that originals are great risk-takers. Most of America’s founding fathers were reluctant revolutionaries. Martin Luther King writes that he was pushed into service as leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott before he had a chance to say “no.” Bill Gates eventually dropped out of college but only after first securing a leave of absence from the university and ensuring that his parents would support him. Originals, Grant argues, are more risk-mitigators than risk-takers.

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Review: Driven to Delight by Joseph A. Michelli

Speed Review: Driven to DelightFor most of its storied history, Mercedes-Benz has been a very product-focused company, and with good reason. The brand was built on the quality and durability of its luxury cars. In the last decade of the 20th century, however, a few upstart brands started challenging Mercedes-Benz in its luxury space.

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These luxury upstarts, such as Toyota’s Lexus and Honda’s Acura, didn’t have the history of Mercedes-Benz, but they were willing to offer something more: unbeatable customer service. For example, Lexus dealers were required to sign a covenant that included the statement, “Lexus will treat each customer as we would a guest in our home.”

When Steve Cannon moved from vice president of marketing to CEO on January 1, 2012, he decided that Mercedes-Benz USA would battle to be the best of the luxury car manufacturers in customer service. As recounted in Driven to Delight, by Joseph A. Michelli, a consultant who worked closely with the Mercedes-Benz USA leadership and author of books such as The Zappos Experience, The Starbucks Experience and the best-selling Prescription for Excellence, Mercedes-Benz USA has met the challenge. First, a Map It wasn’t, of course, an easy journey. Unlike Lexus and others who were starting from scratch, Cannon had to overcome the entrenched product-focus mindset at the heart of the company.

Another challenge, as described by Michelli, is that most of the leaders and employees who would need to buy in and implement a new customer-focused mindset were not employees of Mercedes-Benz USA; they were employees of the more than 300 Mercedes-Benz dealerships in the U.S. Part of the customer service issue, in fact, came from this structure. Customers would find excellent service in one Mercedes-Benz dealer, and then find in another dealership that, as one patron explained, employees almost expected customers to be grateful for the opportunity to buy a Mercedes-Benz. To begin moving in the direction he wanted, the company had to understand where it was and where it needed to go. Eventually, a map would be created that showed….

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