Find the Sideways Path to Success

It takes 10 years of hard work and persistence to become an overnight success. Or so says the conventional wisdom. But if you’re going to insist on paying your dues, writes Shane Snow in the book Smartcuts, move to the slow lane because there are people who are going to pass you by. In his book, New York-based journalist Snow insists that the smartest people are the ones who refuse to follow the traditional paths to success. Snow uses examples from a wide range of domains, including entertainment, medicine, sports, politics and history, to prove that anyone can propel their way to success in a fraction of the time that others will take.

The secret of Smartcuts (which Snow explains lead to “sustainable success achieved quickly” not the “rapid but short-term gains” of shortcuts) is lateral thinking: knowing how to scramble sideways rather than steadily climbing the ladder of success. Even most presidents of the United States didn’t become president by slowly moving up from political offices to more important political offices until they reached the most powerful political office in the world. Instead, it often took just a couple of bounces from careers in such non-political arenas as acting (Ronald Reagan), the military (Dwight Eisenhower) or academia (Woodrow Wilson) to reach the White House.

Shorten, Leverage or Soar

In his book, Snow identifies nine patterns of lateral thinking, which he divides into three classes evocatively entitled: “shorten,” “leverage” and “soar.”

Instead of gamely following the prescribed path to a destination, some people deliberately shorten the path.

There are, Snow explains in the first part of the book, three ways to do so: “hacking the ladder,” which involves climbing a career ladder in unconventional ways; “training with masters,” which requires developing deep relationship with mentors; and “rapid feedback,” through which ambitious people constantly receive and act on feedback to what they are doing.

Leverage, as the name implies, is the process of using some tool or mechanism to propel yourself toward your goals.The three leverage tools that Snow features are “platforms,” which, as with physical platforms, make you stand out and above the rest of the crowds; “waves,” which, if you place yourself in the right location, can be caught and ridden, much as champion surfers know to which spot they should paddle to catch the best next wave; and “superconnectors,” which involves both getting help from the right people but then offering help once you’ve made it.

Snow’s final category of lateral thinking is to soar, which involves finding the way to keep “momentum”; striving for “simplicity” (a surprising element of sustainable success is the ability to focus on what’s important and simplify the rest; even President Obama has suits in only two colors, explaining to one interviewer that he had enough decisions to make); and 10x thinking — a goal that, unlike the incremental 10 percent improvement thinking, requires starting over doing something completely different.

Nearly every page of this book tells another compelling and inspirational story of someone who has been able to smartcut his or her way to phenomenal success. This is a book for anyone who feels that they are not where they want to be — and don’t have the patience (and perhaps the time) to slowly climb the ladder rung-by-rung.

Book Review: Thanks for the Feedback

by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen

by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen

We receive feedback every day, but often times we resist or dismiss it. Using feedback is crucial for healthy relationships and professional development. In Thanks for the Feedback, Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen explain why getting feedback is important and offer a powerful framework for interpreting comments, annual evaluations, and unsolicited advice that will enable effective learning. This book is now available as a Soundview Executive Book Summary.

“Understanding our triggers and sorting out what set them off are the keys to managing our reactions and engaging in feedback conversations with skill,” write Stone and Heen. They identify three triggers that block learning and lead us to become confused or flustered. The first trigger is truth, which is set off by the substance of the feedback. Relationship triggers are the second trigger, which is tripped by the giver of the feedback leading us to switch our focus on the person delivering the message than the feedback. The third trigger is identity, which is when we feel overwhelmed or threatened because feedback has caused our identity to come undone. If you learn to overcome these triggers, you will be able to receive feedback well and use it constructively rather than discard it.

Beyond learning how to effectively receive and use feedback, you will learn how to dismantle distortions and draw boundaries in the face of unrelenting criticism. Furthermore, you will learn how to uncover blind spots so that you can continue to grow with valuable feedback. With Thanks for the Feedback, any professional can develop their career filled with valuable learning to progress to the next level.

How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

START WITH WHY

THE QUESTION TO ASK
Inspiration comes in a variety of forms, but the root of it grows from a fundamental question asked by those who are able to inspire others. The most important question of all, according to leadership expert Simon Sinek, is: Why do we do what we do? Asking this question can mean the difference between a company that makes a profit over the short term and a company that creates long-term financial success. Asking “why” also helps us draw others to us because we all want to understand why things are the way they are.

In Start With Why, Sinek explains that those who remember to answer that question are better able to attract others to their cause and create the inspiration people need to stay loyal and committed. When organizations explore why they exist, they are more likely to inspire their employees to join in their efforts and better able to attract customers to their products.

‘The Golden Circle’
After examining the ways manipulative leaders motivate their people, such as playing the price game, selling through promotions, using fear tactics, playing on insecurities and applying peer pressure, Sinek describes a better path to inspiration: a leadership model he calls “The Golden Circle.”

The Golden Circle is a series of three concentric circles that starts with a circle in the middle that represents why. The next circle represents how, and the outside circle represents what. Sinek writes that every company knows what it does because what simply represents the product or service that the company sells or the job function an employee performs to sell that product or service. How explains how the company is different from other companies. But the why is the most important core that needs to be explored to find inspiration. Sinek explains that the most inspired companies and leaders think, act and communicate from the inside of the Golden Circle and work their way outward.

To describe how inspirational people and companies lead, Sinek holds up examples such as the Wright brothers, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Apple Inc.
A prime example of an innovative company that inspires its employees and customers by starting with why is Apple. Sinek shows how the marketing message that Apple uses to create value begins with an explanation of the underlying differentiator that separates the company from its competitors. Sure, it makes computers, but that message comes after the company states that it believes in challenging the status quo and thinking differently.

Orville and Wilbur Wright
Similarly, Sinek writes, the Wright brothers were able to become the first people to pilot their own flying machine before experts with more resources at their disposal. The Wright brothers started with the passion for flight, which was a far more effective why than the mere ambition for achievement that compelled the Smithsonian’s Samuel Pierpont Langley and his shop of well-educated experts who also strove to be the first to fly. Other people joined Orville and Wilbur Wright’s team because they were inspired by their belief that people could fly. This belief helped the Wright brothers excite their team members to do the hard work that got them off the ground before anyone else in the world.

Stories like this demonstrate Sinek’s theory about the importance of inspiration when leading others. Through lively historical examples that captivate while inspiring, Sinek offers readers a wealth of role models to help them find the inspiration to reach their own goals.

New Summaries to Be Successful in Any Role

We have to be responsible for our own learning and be able to use and apply this newly found knowledge as a competitive advantage. Whether it’s change, feedback, or an innovative mindset, we need to be able to have a process or framework to overcome these everyday challenges to drive success and business. Soundview has three new Soundview Executive Book Summaries that help you effectively learn to be successful in any role.

by Josh Linkner

by Josh Linkner

The Road to Reinvention by Josh Linkner

The most successful companies, brands, and individuals constantly are reinventing as a part of their business strategies. Change is inevitable, but it’s up to you to either ignore it or use it to your advantage. In The Road to Reinvention, Josh Linkner identifies six elements in any business that are ready for reinvention and shares examples, methods, and step-by-step techniques for creating deliberate, productive disruption.

 

ThanksfortheFeedback

by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen

Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen

When we are constantly receiving feedback, it’s easy to dismiss it. However, feedback is essential for healthy relationships and professional development. Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen explain why getting feedback is so crucial yet challenging in Thanks for the Feedback. The authors offer a powerful framework for interpreting comments, evaluations, and unsolicited advice in ways that enable effective learning.

 

by G. Shawn Hunter

by G. Shawn Hunter

Out Think by G. Shawn Hunter

Creativity and innovation are important for competitive advantage in business. In each chapter of Out Think, a key component is presented and techniques are described to show how the idea can be implemented to ultimately drive the change that leaders want in their organizations. G. Shawn Hunter encourages readers to develop innovative practices that make a difference.

How Organizations, Teams, and Communities Raise Performance

FROM SCHOOLS TO BEER AND MUCH MORE

Emotional and spiritual uplift, write authors Andy Hargreaves, Alan Boyle and Alma Harris in Uplifting Leadership, is at the heart of effective leadership. “It raises people’s hopes, stirs up their passions, and stimulates their intellect and imagination,” they write. But there’s also a social and community component to uplifting people – helping people to rise above difficult circumstances, to raise their prospects, the authors write. And combining all this emotional, spiritual and social power, uplifting leaders can help people improve their performance and results, inspiring them to do better than ever before and outperform their opponents.

Both Soft and Hard

According to the authors, the process of uplifting leadership involves six interrelated factors. “Each of these factors,” the authors explain, “also exhibits some inner tensions between what people conventionally consider to be “soft” and “hard” parts of leadership and management.”

Dreaming with Determination. The uplifting journey begins by defining a dream, but that depends on determination to overcome the inevitable setbacks.

Creativity and Counterflow. Uplifting leadership inspires creativity that often goes against the mainstream.

Collaboration with Competition. Part of the counterintuitive approach of uplifting leadership is the willingness to collaborate with actual and potential competitors.

Pushing and Pulling. Team members are going to push each to accomplish more, to meet above-normal expectations. But they will also support each other, helping those who have fallen down or behind, as they are all united by a common purpose.

Measuring with Meaning. As the authors write, “Uplifting leadership makes extensive use of data to manage and monitor progress but also uses data intelligently in ways that fit the values of the organization – and that are meaningful to and genuinely owned by the people who work there.”

Sustainable Success. Uplifting leaders are focused on success, but at the same time they want that success to be sustainable.

The authors are academics and consultants in the field of education policy, and several examples involve the amazing turnaround of school districts and education systems in the U.S., U.K. and Finland. For example, the school district of Hackney, a northeast London borough and one of the most disadvantaged communities in England, makes a compelling case for the power of collaboration with competitors. Taken over by a nonprofit company, the district is divided into the U.K. equivalent of charter schools. The charter schools are not independent islands, however, but work closely together so that students in all schools succeed. The authors detail how the experience of one successful principal taking over a second school that was failing evolved into a system of school-to-school networks called federations.

The authors move beyond education for most of the detailed case studies that pack their chapters. One example is of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, one of the most successful craft breweries in the U.S. Dogfish exemplifies counterintuitive creativity through its decision to put ingredients in its ales that, write the authors, “were inconceivable in mainstream beers.” The brewery also collaborated with one of its major competitors to create an alternative beer. Finally, Dogfish illustrates the foresight of sustainable success, having refused venture capital to avoid too much debt.

The authors present an inspiring picture of leadership. It all starts with a dream, but success is built on hard work, determination and the courage to do the unexpected.

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