Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time


After participating in a leadership program, a slightly inebriated participant approached Stanford Business School professor Jeffrey Pfeffer and berated him for not being inspirational. For Pfeffer, who has written numerous books on leadership, the comment hits at the core of what is wrong with leadership training and consulting today. People want the wrong things, consultants are happy to give it to them and nothing is working.

Pfeffer signals the tone of his new book with its title: Leadership BS.  The leadership industry is a massive and lucrative industry involving books, articles, speeches and consulting contracts, keeping many people busy … and wealthy. The problem, according to Pfeffer, is that after thousands of books and speeches by hundreds of consultants and other leadership experts, our leaders are not getting any better, and our employees are not getting any happier. Many leaders are still being fired after failing to achieve their goals. Many employees want nothing more than to get away from their bosses and supervisors.

If leaders aren’t getting better, one major reason is that, as exemplified by the seminar participant above, the industry is focused on pushing inspirational leadership instead of making a scientific effort to find out what really works. Pushing inspiration, writes Pfeffer, does not work, and any attempt to measure the results of inspirational leadership training would demonstrate that fact clearly.

However, the problem is that there is no real measurement of leadership training and consulting. When a consultant develops a fancy seminar on leadership, how does he or she know whether it was successful? Not by developing a rigorous metric for measuring workplace results by participants. Instead, the measurement for whether a leadership seminar has been successful is based on asking participants if they liked it.

Another major problem that Pfeffer sees with the leadership industry is the low barrier to entry. Any person, with or without serious credentials, can start a blog, write a book or give speeches on leadership. In fact, according to Pfeffer, many so-called leadership experts have never been in a leadership position, or have been in a leadership position and failed, or are proponents of a leadership style that is very different from the way they behaved when they were in leadership positions.

The leadership industry is also saddled with a paradox that most people ignore: What is good for the company may not be good for the leader, and vice-versa.


By laying out some of the major problems with today’s leadership industry, Pfeffer also sets up some solutions, such as more attention to metrics and accountability, more attention to credentials and acknowledging the different interests of leaders and their companies.This is only the beginning, however.

After thoroughly scorching the usual suspects of leadership prescriptions — including inspiration, modesty, authenticity, trust and servant leadership — Pfeffer summarizes in this provocative, must-read book the way to fix leadership, with a twist on a famous movie line: “You can handle the truth.” If we want the best leaders running our companies and organizations, then it’s time, writes Pfeffer, to face “the reality of organizational life.” Forget what should be, and focus on what is. Pay attention to actions, not words. Acknowledge that “there are occasions when you have to do bad things to achieve good results.” Recognize that one size does not fit all.

The Connection Between Culture and Performance

In Primed to Perform, Neel Doshi and Lindsay McGregor explain the counter-intuitive science behind great cultures, building on over a century of academic thinking. They share the simple, highly predictive new measurement tool—the total motivation (ToMo) Factor—that enables you to measure the strength of your culture, and track improvements over time. The authors’ original research demonstrates how total motivation leads to higher performance in iconic companies, from Apple to Starbucks to Southwest Airlines. Most importantly, they teach you to build great cultures, using a systematic and sustainable approach.

High performing cultures can’t be left to chance. Organizations must create systems that shape and maintain them. Whether you’re a five-person team or a startup, a school, a nonprofit or a mega-institution, Primed to Perform shows you how.

Here is how Doshi and McGregor connect the dots between culture and performance:

  1. What is performance at its best?

There are two types of performance, both important yet mutually opposed. Most organizations manage tactical performance—the ability to execute the plan. We’ve all seen performance dashboards and rubrics tracking easy-to-measure outcomes. But adaptive performance—the ability to diverge from a plan—is just as important but much harder to understand and measure, until now.

Organizations must balance tactical with adaptive performance to reach the highest levels of customer experience, innovation, ethics and sales.

  1. What is the psychology of high performance?

To build a high performing culture you must first understand what drives peak performance in individuals. The answer sounds deceptively simple: why you work determines how well you work.

There are six basic reasons why people work—and they aren’t created equal. Play, purpose, and potential strengthen adaptive performance while emotional pressure, economic pressure and inertia weaken it. In environments that maximize the first three and minimize the last three, individuals exhibit those hard-to-measure but highly coveted adaptive traits of creativity, problem-solving, persistence and collaboration. This phenomenon is what we call total motivation, or ToMo for short.

  1. How does culture drive that psychology?

The highest performing cultures build upon the psychology of total motivation. They train leaders, design jobs, shape performance management systems, and structure their teams to enhance play, purpose, and potential and eliminate emotional pressure, economic pressure, and inertia. The result: higher sales, more loyal customers, and more passionate employees.

Soundview has arranged a special FREE webinar with Neel and Lindsay for you to hear more about this culture of high performance, and to ask your questions about how this concept can be applied in your organization. Join us on November 3rd for How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures.

Why Effective Leaders Use Stories To Train Others

Our guest blogger today is Dr. Paul White, author of Sync or Swim.

Most leaders focus on data and factual information.  And accurate data is important for making good decisions.  But throughout history, communicating facts has not been the most utilized method for developing leadership qualities.  Stories have been used more than any other form of verbal expression.

Let me show you the power of stories and the incredible staying power they have in our lives.

    • Do you remember the Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare?  Briefly, in your mind, outline the gist of the story.  What is the main principle this story communicates?
    • How about the Back to the Future series of movies where Alex (Michael Fox) and Professor Brown are constantly trying to correct changes that occurred in the “space – time continuum”?  What key life principle are these stories communicating (indirectly, but powerfully) to the viewer?2

Why Stories Are So Powerful

 *Stories involve different parts of our brain, which makes learning (and remembering) more effective.  Stories obviously involve words, but stories also bring up visual images and pictures in our mind.  Also, the most effective stories involve emotionally-charged situations: challenges, risks and adventure.

*Stories are non-threatening, which keep people from not putting up their defenses. Stories are usually framed in the context of someone else (either the storyteller themselves, or the fictional characters of the story).  Since the story is not about me and usually communicated in an informal style, then most listeners start out with an “open” mindset

 *We often identify with one or more of the characters and we can easily relate to their experiences and reactions.  We “see” ourselves in the story and actually vicariously see ourselves experiencing the same challenges and emotions the characters are feeling.

 *We see characters that represent people in our lives (which gives us insight to them and why we react to them the way we do.)  Some stories have characters with whom we don’t personally relate, but they remind us of others in our lives.  The characters’ reactions then provide us insights into why they do what they do, and show us the strengths associated with character qualities that we may find irritating.

 *We are able to learn from others’ experiences and can observe different options for handling challenging situations and people.  One of the core benefits of stories is that they allow us to learn from others vicariously, rather than having to experience difficult situations ourselves.  We also are given examples of different ways to handle situations (both positively and poorly.)

 *Stories are easier to remember and communicate to others than facts and principles. Because of their use of imagery, we are able to remember the general gist of a story more easily than remembering pure factual information.   Additionally, we can quickly communicate the main points of a story and the lesson it teaches.

Watch and observe effective leaders and influencers.  They often are excellent at communicating through stories.  Think about life experiences that have impacted you, and start to tell stories to teach important lessons to those you are leading.

To learn more about communication at work, join Soundview and Dr. White for our webinar: Communicating Effectively Through Change.

A Power Tool for Creative Thinking

thefourlensesofinnovationEver wonder where big, breakthrough ideas come from? How do innovators manage to spot the opportunities for industry revolution that everyone else seems to miss? Contrary to popular belief, innovation is not some mystical art that’s forbidden to mere mortals. The Four Lenses of Innovation thoroughly debunks this pervasive myth by delivering what we’ve long been hoping for: the news that innovation is systematic, it’s methodical and we can all achieve it.

By asking how the world’s top innovators came up with their game-changing ideas, best-selling author Rowan Gibson identifies four key business perspectives that will enable you to discover groundbreaking opportunities for innovation and growth: Challenging Orthodoxies, Harnessing Trends, Leveraging Resources and Understanding Needs.

Other books promise the keys to innovation — this one delivers them. With thought-provoking examples and features like the Eight-Step Model for Building a Breakthrough, The Four Lenses of Innovation will teach you how to reverse-engineer creative genius and make radical business innovation an everyday reality inside your organization.


• How innovators from the Renaissance through the present have used the Four Lenses of Innovation.

• Why patterns are fundamental to innovation.

• The skills required for seeing the future in the present.

• The difference between insights and ideas.

• To apply the Four Lenses systematically to your organization.

Not a Soundview Executive Book Summaries subscriber? Then click on the title to purchase and download it right now to begin learning these critical business skills.



How Introverts and Extroverts Achieve Extraordinary Results Together

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards created the music of the Rolling Stones. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniack built Apple. Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe brought us iconic musicals, including Camelot and My Fair Lady. Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were America’s most popular movie critics. All of these famously productive partnerships had one thing in common: They brought together an introvert and an extrovert.

The common wisdom is that introverts and extroverts do not work well together. The common wisdom, as author Jennifer Kahnweiler makes clear in her new book, The Genius of Opposites, is absolutely correct in the sense that the collaboration is often going to be contentious and difficult, filled with battles and miscommunications and sometimes deliberate sabotage. Somehow, however, the introvert/extrovert partnerships such as those cited above, as well as the many unknown partnerships that fill Kahnweiler’s book, produced extraordinary results. The key to such success, according to Kahnweiler, is the five-step process at the heart of her book.

The ABCDEs of Collaboration

The first step, Kahnweiler argues, is to accept the alien. If introverted and extroverted people want to partner, they have to realize that they will never change the personality of the other person. Instead, each partner has to make a conscious effort to understand the other.

The second step is to bring on the battle. Kahnweiler explains that battles don’t have to be avoided (unless, of course, they destroy the partnership). Instead, they can be the means through which each partner is challenged by the other, resulting in solutions that are better than those that might have been developed individually.

The third of Kahnweiler’s steps is to cast the character. Because there are two very different personalities in the partnership, partners should take on the roles that best fit their unique personalities.

Kahnweiler’s fourth step is to destroy the dislike. It’s easy for two people with such clashing personalities to develop deep animosity toward each other. They must work, instead, on learning to respect and like each other as much as possible.

The fifth and final step is that each can’t offer everything. Introvert/extrovert consulting partnerships are often powerful because neither partner could offer clients all they want — but the two partners working together are able to present a much more diverse but complementary product or service.

For each step of her ABCDE methodology, Kahnweiler covers why that particular step is important, the pitfalls that can break down the step and the solutions that ensure success. Bring on the battles, for example, is important because the energy and creativity that emerge from constructive conflicts are best for the organization and lead to better solutions. Also, Kahnweiler writes, a major conflict can actually be a turning point in the relationship, paving the way to a productive collaboration.

Kahnweiler warns, however, that battles can also deal fatal blows to introvert/extrovert collaboration, for example, if one partner considers him- or herself more important. Hiding your concerns is another way that battles can be fatal, according to Kahnweiler. If partners don’t bring out the “elephant in the room,” the result — passive-aggressive behavior from the extrovert and internalized resentment from the introvert — can eventually destroy the partnership.

Battles can be productive, however, with a little work from each partner. Clear communication, bringing in a third party to break through an impasse and taking time-outs will help conflicts from degenerating.

Kahnweiler doesn’t gloss over the difficulties in making extrovert/introvert partnerships work. The Genius of Opposites is filled with stories of conflicts, most resolved through an effort at communication and a foundation of respect. Not all stories have a happy ending. Kahnweiler reports that in his memoir, Lerner believes he and his partner Loewe could have written more wonderful musicals if they could have gotten along. “In the end we were a little like the couple being discussed in one of Noel Coward’s plays. ‘Do they fight?,’ says one. ‘Oh, no, said the other. They’re much too unhappy to fight.”

The Genius of Opposites is an important manual for partners with clashing personalities who never want to become too unhappy to fight.

Counter-Sabotage in the Workplace

In 1944, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS)—the predecessor of today’s CIA—issued the Simple Sabotage Field Manual, detailing sabotage techniques designed to demoralize the enemy. One section focused on eight incredibly subtle—and devastatingly destructive—tactics for sabotaging the decision-making processes of organizations. While the manual was written decades ago, these sabotage tactics lurk undetected in organizations today. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Insist on doing everything through channels.
  • Make speeches. Talk as frequently as possible and at great length.
  • Refer all matters to committees.
  • Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
  • Haggle over precise wordings of communications.
  • Refer back to matters already decided upon and attempt to question the advisability of that decision.
  • Advocate caution and urge fellow-conferees to avoid haste that might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.
  • Be worried about the propriety of any decision.

Everyone has been faced with someone who has used these tactics, even when they have meant well. Bob Frisch, co-author of Simple Sabotage, provides proven strategies and techniques for counter-sabotage measures to detect and reduce the impact of these eight classic sabotage tactics, to improve productivity, spur creativity, and engender better collegial relationships.

If you’re dealing with sabotage in your company or department, you’ll want to join Bob Frisch and Soundview on October 29th for our Soundview Live webinar, How to Neutralize the Behaviors that Undermine Your Workplace.

November Best Business Books

Our November issue of Soundview Executive Book Summaries includes summaries of three great titles. These three books provide guidelines to help you improve yourself and your company across the areas of innovation, design thinking and informal teams.


The Four Lenses of Innovation

A Power Tool for Creative Thinking

by Rowan Gibson

Rowan Gibson presents an innovation methodology for systematically stretching your thinking, discovering inspiring new insights and producing a portfolio of high-quality ideas and radically new growth opportunities. You will learn how to reverse-engineer creative genius and make radical business innovation an everyday reality using four key business perspectives.

The Achievement Habit

Stop Wishing, Start Doing and Take Command of Your Life

by Bernard Roth

Bernie Roth, co-founder of the Stanford, offers a guide for harnessing the power of design thinking to help meet life’s challenges and fulfill goals. Behaviors and relationships can be transformed as you become more effective at solving problems, more focused on things that matter, and more satisfied with life. Achievement is like a muscle; learn how to flex it.


Team Genius

The New Science of High-Performing Organizations

by Michael Malone & Rich Karlgaard

Rich Karlgaard and Michael S. Malone focus on the critical role of Informal teams within the core of successful companies. Combining best practices and the latest in scientific research, the authors show how to build the dynamic, robust and great teams leaders need in order to compete in today’s world.

If you’re a Soundview subscriber, check out your new titles in your online library today. And if not, click on a title to purchase it; or perhaps now is the time to Subscribe and get these great titles and much more to strengthen your business skills.

The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers

LESSONS FOR MASTERING SILOS One of the most disastrous examples of the “silo” effect, in which an entity’s different units are isolated and focused exclusively on themselves, is the great recession of 2008, according to financial journalist Gillian Tett, who wrote a book on the financial crisis. “Almost everywhere I looked in the financial crisis, it seemed that tunnel vision and tribalism had contributed to the disaster,” Tett writes, describing her research. “People were trapped inside their little specialist departments, social groups, teams or pockets of knowledge. Or, it might be said, inside their silos.” After finishing Fool’s Gold, her book on the financial crisis, Tett decided to explore in more detail the silo effect and its impact on all facets of our society. The result is a fascinating new book entitled The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers. It may come as a surprise to many, Tett writes, that the silo effect should be so influential in today’s interconnected world. With the technology and wide variety of instant and global communication tools available today, the idea that people, business units, institutions and agencies can be “closed off” from the rest of the world can seem anachronistic. This is what Tett calls the paradox of an interconnected world. “In some senses, we live in an age where the globe is more interlinked, as a common system, than ever before,” she writes. “But while the world is increasingly interlinked as a system, our lives remain fragmented.” Organizations are subdivided into many units that don’t talk to each other, nations are polarized along political lines, and even professions seem to become increasingly complex, their secrets open only to a small pool of experts. “People,” Tett explains, “live in separate mental and social ‘ghettos,’ talking and coexisting only with people like us.” If some of Tett’s terms, such as “mental and social ghettos” or “tribalism,” seem to be more the jargon of an anthropologist than a financial journalist, there is a reason: Before becoming a financial journalist, Tett trained as an anthropologist, earning her Ph.D. after spending months in a remote mountainous village in Soviet Tajikistan, studying a culture that maintained its ethnic, Muslim identity while embedded in a Soviet, atheistic society. The Anthropological Foundation of Silos Tett’s anthropological background is what makes The Silo Effect a unique and illuminating treatise on what can sometimes be seen as a maddening phenomenon. As Tett makes clear, the silo effect exists because that’s what people tend to do. Before launching into the case studies that form the heart of the book, she spends an entire chapter laying the anthropological foundation of silos, notably through the work of anthropologist Pierre Bourdieu, of “classification” — that is, humans’ tendency “to arrange space, people and ideas.” We create mental maps that become the cultural “habits” that govern our physical and social environment. Silos, Tett explains, are thus “cultural phenomena,” arising out of the systems we use to classify and organize the world. In the first half of the book, Tett details three cautionary stories of the damage that can be wrought by the silo effect, focusing on the once innovative Sony, left behind in the digital revolution; financial giant UBS, which was devastated more than any other bank by the subprime mortgage crisis; the world’s economists who failed to notice the global financial crisis fast approaching. However, just as Bourdieu argued that humans are not robots and can’t deprogram their mental maps, Tett insists that we can master silos rather than the other way around. The second half of the book tells positive stories of “silo-busters,” including Facebook, giant medical center Cleveland Clinic and hedge fund BlueMountain Capital. Perhaps the most engaging story in this second half is the journey of a thin, shy computer geek who joined the Chicago Police in the wake of 9/11 and would eventually be able to use his computer training to help the police break down its silos. From these stories, Tett draws the lessons of how to master silos: keeping the boundaries of teams “flexible and fluid,” with multiple opportunities for members of different teams to “collide and bond”; ensure that compensation plans discourage silos; ensure the open flow of information; encourage the questioning of the rules of the environment; and use technology to break down the silos. Insightful, engaging and practical, Tett may have written the definitive work on the silo phenomenon.

Do You Know How to Manage Your Boss?

Our guest blogger is Mary Schaefer, co-author of Character Based Leader.

Your relationship with your boss can be one of the most complicated relationships you have. It doesn’t have to be.

Whether you think you have a boss you can work with – or not – take charge making it work. After all, your boss’s opinion matters. His or her opinion has a significant impact on your earnings, your enjoyment of your work, and your future employment.

Look at the list below. Being clear on these points can be the difference between smooth sailing, or navigating rough seas with your boss.

  • Getting agreement on your work objectives and how they will be measured.
  • Knowing your boss’s hot buttons, e.g. what she always looks for, what he never asks about.
  • Addressing any proposal/concern you have in terms that influences your boss to buy-in.  In other words, make it clear what is in it for them and the organization.

So, you get your boss’s opinion. You may not agree with it. But that’s all good. You have more information now. You may conclude you need a different assignment or even a different employer. Knowledge is power. Being informed supports good decision-making.

Don’t take anything for granted.

You may find that you and your boss have experienced disconnects in the past. Looking at the list above, any one of those points could be at play, but are not being spoken or clarified. But now, using the right tools, you can get a common understanding of your job.

Depending on the kind of relationship you have with your boss, you can use the list above in any number of ways, like:

  • You can initiate a meeting. Take this list and say, “I realize these are things that I’ve taken for granted. I want to understand how you see them.”
  • You can bring up one point in particular. Your boss might keep focusing on one issue that you think you are addressing. Now that you look at this list, you might think, “You know, I bet that’s about interdependence. I ought to ask her perspective on that.”
  • You can keep these in your back pocket to bring up at an opportune moment or when you begin to observe that something is off.

Be the leader of your own career.

You own your career; no one will ever care about it as much as you do. We talk about managers and organizations creating environments of empowerment, but you have the ability to empower yourself. When I say this what I mean is for you to:

“Claim and embody your own authority, i.e. own your dreams, decisions, actions and impact.”

With the simple points in the list in this post, you can get clear now rather than pay a price later because you didn’t. Learn to show the value of your ideas and performance. Earn trust and credibility and set the stage for more opportunities.

You have a right to expect a lot from your boss, and you are not always going to get what you need. You are responsible for making the relationship work for you. You can do it.

To learn more about how to manage your boss, join our webinar with Mary Schaefer: How to Make Your Relationship With Your Boss Work For You.

The Story of the Unlikely Grassroots Movement That Saved a Beloved Business


In many ways, the story of Market Basket, a regional grocery chain in the northeast, is a familiar one: The heirs to a family business engage in a tug-of-war for control of the company. In this case, however, the community, including employees, managers and customers, responds with massive action in favor of one faction of the family over the other. They mobilize with protests, petitions (organizers of one last-minute petition hoped for a few hundred signatures; they received 40,000) and widespread boycotts by customers — not to hurt the company but to save it — making the battles of Market Basket unique in the annals of family-business history. As told engagingly in We Are Market Basket, written by marketing professor Daniel Korschun and newspaper reporter Grant Welker (who covered the contentious saga for the local Lowell Sun daily), the battle of Market Basket was not just a war between cousins but a fight between two opposing views of the purpose of business.

On one side is Arthur T. Demoulas, the son of Telemachus Demoulas, son of founders Athanasios and Efrosine Demoulas. On the other side is his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, son of George Demoulas, who is another son of the founders. At one point, brothers Telemachus and George ran the chain in harmony. There is no such harmony between their sons.

There are years of recriminations, lawsuits and board battles too complex to review here. However, for the authors, the core of the conflict is in two opposing business philosophies.

Serve the Stakeholders

For CEO Arthur T. Demoulas, the purpose of the company, write Korschun and Welker, was to serve the needs of the loyal low- to middle-income customers at the low-priced store. Following what is now known as a “stakeholder” view of business, Arthur T. ensured that the company fulfilled the needs and desires of its employees, served the communities in which its stores were located and even went the extra mile for its loyal vendors.

We Are Market Basket offers numerous stories of Arthur T.’s stakeholder philosophy. For example, Arthur T. not only empowered his employees but also took a personal interest in every employee: He once offered to pay to move a store director’s severely injured daughter to a better hospital. Instead of cutting off a vendor that had fallen on hard times, he helped the vendor restore his business.

The company also considers itself a corporate citizen and contributes millions to charities.

Or Serve the Shareholders

Arthur S. and his supporters, according to the authors, had a completely different view of the business: A company existed to make money for shareholders. Arthur S. disagreed with the large employee profit-sharing bonuses and other spending that didn’t benefit shareholders. When he gained control of the board, he and his supporters set out to fire Arthur T. and succeeded in June 2014.

The firing led to huge protests in the street, walkouts by employees and most managers and a wholesale boycott of the stores by customers — a revolt that grabbed the attention of the northeast media. In essence, all of the stakeholders that Arthur T. had supported for so many years united and shut down the company. The board finally relented; Arthur T. was restored.

Neither Arthur T. nor Arthur S. agreed to be interviewed for the book, but in some ways this only adds to the authenticity of the narrative. Many company books are written by the CEO, giving a perhaps overly simple and positive view of the company’s efforts. We Are Market Basket is written from the point of view of employees (known as “associates”), managers, vendors and customers. It is written by the “we” of the title and, for that reason, deserves to be carefully read by all managers who want to learn the secrets of a successful stakeholder strategy.