Book Review: Elevate

elevate

by Rich Horwath

Every leader and manager in business wants to be known as strategic and be able to execute good strategy. However, more than half of all companies say that strategic thinking is the skill their senior leaders most need to improve. In Elevate, strategy expert Rich Horwath provides leaders and managers an approach that will drive results for both the short- and long-term. This book is now available as a Soundview Executive Book Summary.

As Horwath writes, “Using the lens of new value on the ideas, projects, initiatives and tactics proposed each day provides a powerful filter for eliminating meaningless activities. It forces you to more closely examine why things are being proposed and pursued instead of just what is to be done.” Horwath shares with leaders a powerful framework called the Three Disciplines of Advanced Strategic Thinking. His three-discipline approach breaks strategy down into its fundamentals: Coalesce, Compete and Champion. The first discipline coalesce means leaders must have the ability to blend together strategic insights into meaningful differentiated value. The second discipline, compete, which helps leaders gain motivation to try harder. Champion, the third discipline, means leaders have managed time, influenced others, and continually developed new skills, all critical to success. With this approach, you will gain a new way to strategic thinking that will elevate you from your competition.

You will also learn how to use a concrete framework to keep your career vital through innovation and inspiration. Most leaders think strategy and innovation are separate ideas, but when you combine them together you have a powerful tool to conquer any challenge. Your career depends on being strategic. With Elevate, executives will be able to practice strategic thinking daily to guide their business.

Nine Principles and Practices to Create a Wide-Awake and Productive Workplace

BRINGING FREUD BACK INTO THE WORKPLACE

The pendulum, according to Freudian psychologist Shelley Reciniello, has swung too far. So much emphasis is based on behavioral psychology – solving problems by changing behavior – that we have forgotten the impact that our subconscious can have on the world of work. In The Conscious Leader, Reciniello describes in detail that impact – and how leaders can overcome the damage that the subconscious can sometimes wreak when we least expect it.

Sabotage from the Subconscious

Why do the best-laid plans sometimes go unexpectedly wrong? Reciniello describes an investment bank that convinced a competitors’ leading trader to join its ranks. Unfortunately, the former ace was not just a failure at bringing in new business, but also proved to be a divisive influence.

What happened? For the head of the sales and trading division in the first example, she writes, “his unacknowledged fantasy was to relive his own younger, glory days through the ace.” Not satisfied with the caution and judgment of his team, he brings in a narcissistic and reckless individual who creates havoc instead of success.

Psychological Principles

To combat the insidious destruction of hidden feelings and motivations, Reciniello identifies in The Conscious Leader nine psychological phenomena, presented as psychological principles, that, like termites in the foundation of a home, can quietly undermine the best intentioned people, projects and actions and send everything suddenly crashing to the ground.

The first principle is that, Reciniello writes, “human beings are not rational, and every day their illogical unconscious minds are walking into offices with hidden agendas.” People have hidden agendas and secret motivations. This is the first and overarching phenomenon in the workplace: the subconscious exists and will create problems. The antidote to the negative impact of the “unconscious life of your company,” in Reciniello’s terms, is to “make the unconscious conscious, and build a culture of conscious awareness” by looking behind the curtain (what you see is not what you get); listening deeply; becoming comfortable with not knowing; asking “why” even if it makes you feel vulnerable; and letting other people ask “why” without retribution.

After looking at the organization as a whole, Reciniello then focuses on the leader. Her second psychological principle is, “Self-delusion is the single biggest trap for a leader.” While leaders may be willing to believe that others in the organization are probably dealing with psychological issues that are impeding their success, Reciniello has found that these same leaders are blind to their own Achilles heels.

Another important principle is summarized as, “Everyone has preconceived notions of others, and these are largely unconscious.” Be aware of prejudices – and not only your own but also, as Reciniello demonstrates through stunning stories of prejudice and sabotage, the people in your organization charged with promoting diversity. A woman tasked with increasing the presence of women in a company’s executive ranks had actually, she writes, “made a career of being ‘the only woman’ and wanted to keep it that way.” While the other women in her company soon realized that she would do everything to stop their careers, the executives, all men, had no inkling of what was going on.

Among the other nine principles explored in this book are principles related to group thinking and gang rule; the family baggage that is brought to the workplace; the importance of dealing with conflict, anger and power; the recognition of defense mechanisms, the psychological impact of change; and the hard work and unrelenting focus needed to prevent bad habits from taking over again.

Don’t Forget Freud

Reciniello does not discount the contributions of behavioral psychology. Nor does she expect leaders to become psychoanalysts. “I am not asking you to psychoanalyze your employees,” she writes in a chapter on defense mechanisms. “You shouldn’t. But hopefully, you will begin to recognize defense mechanisms and target issues in yourself and in others, and how they may interact.” The greatest contribution of The Conscious Leader is this call to awareness, to become emotionally intelligent but on two the subconscious.

Book Review: The Purpose Economy

the_purpose_economy

by Aaron Hurst

Over the past decade in the American economy, many people have been turning their innovative ideas into big businesses. Millennials have been ignoring conventional career paths to start their own companies, freelance, or help our local communities. From these ventures, millennials feel a great deal of purpose in their careers. In The Purpose Economy, entrepreneur Aaron Hurst, points out that purpose is the new driver in the American economy. This book is now available as a Soundview Executive Book Summary.

As Hurst writes, “The Purpose Economy describes the new context and set of ways in which people and organizations are focused on creating value, and it defines the organizing principle for innovation and growth. It is an economy where value lies in establishing purpose for employees and customers — through serving needs greater than their own, enabling personal growth and building community.” Hurst presents to us the three types of purpose that represent the needs the Purpose Economy addresses: personal purpose, social purpose, and societal purpose.

The Purpose Economy also offers insight on how to achieve and manage purpose for yourself and your organization. Hurst writes that before you can create purpose, you must first be self-aware. The first approach to maintaining purpose is task-focused purpose, meaning that you first need to overcome task-related challenges. The other approaches include impact-focused by seeing how your work impacts others, focus on your own identity, and financial drivers of purpose. Readers will also learn how other companies are creating value and purpose within their businesses. The Purpose Economy will help not only build a successful organization but also human-centered markets to create purpose for employees and customers alike.

How to Think Like an Entrepreneur and Thrive in an Unpredictable Economy

OWN YOUR FUTURE

Don’t Have a Career Plan!
In the past, long-standing, respected, industry-leading companies might disappear due to competition from nimble upstarts; today, as author Paul Brown describes in the early pages of Own Your Future, it is entire industries that keep unexpectedly and jarringly disappearing: “Been to a music store lately? Drop off any photos to be processed? Used a pay phone? … Used a travel agent to book a routine vacation? Probably not.”

What does this mean for building careers? It means, according to Brown, that career plans are often useless. If you were an associate marketing manager for TomTom and had a plan to work up to regional manager and, some day, director of marketing, those plans ended when the unthinkable happened to the stand-alone GPS market: car manufacturers started including them in their cars. The same holds true for the ambitious low-level manager at Blockbuster.

The bottom line, according to Brown, is simple: don’t have a career plan! Brown has a better idea for dealing with the uncertainty of today’s world: a methodology known as ALBR.

What Serial Entrepreneurs Do

Nobody knows more about uncertainty, writes Brown, than serial entrepreneurs. Launching a company is always an exercise in terrifying uncertainty: Will my products or services attract customers? Will they be willing to pay the price that I need them to pay? Serial entrepreneurs – those who are always looking for the next business to start -thrive on such uncertainty. And for that reason, he writes, thinking like a serial entrepreneur is the best way to succeed in an uncertain economy.

Writing with Charles Kiefer and Leonard Schlesinger, his collaborators on his previous book Just Start, Brown describes in Own Your Future the path that serial entrepreneurs take as they launch their latest business.

  1. Serial entrepreneurs set out to do what they want to do. Passion is a word that is sometimes overused. Indeed, not every company launched by a serial entrepreneur was based on a passion. But at the very least, there was desire: serial entrepreneurs start companies doing something they want to do.
  2. Serial entrepreneurs act. Serial entrepreneurs don’t spend decades pondering an idea. No company was thought into being. But when they do act, they take a small step toward their goal. They don’t overcommit. They don’t risk everything. And they don’t become paralyzed by thoughts of “what if ” or “what might happen.”
  3. Serial entrepreneurs learn. After taking the small step, they stop and see what they have learned from that small step. Is the market response suggesting a different course? Do they still have the desire to move forward, or do they think they would like to do something else?
  4. Serial entrepreneurs build on what they’ve learned. After taking a small step and pausing and reflecting on that small step, they use the lessons of the first step to develop the next step.
  5. With the next step, they start the process all over again. Brown summarizes the process as Act, Learn, Build, Repeat – or ALBR. According to Brown, ALBR is the methodology that serial entrepreneurs use to deal with the endless uncertainty of launching new companies, the methodology that in Just Start helped organizations deal with uncertainty and, in Own Your Future, the methodology that will help individuals build successful careers no matter what their job.

The power of ALBR is that it turns career planning on its head. Instead of imagining the perfect job of the future and then figuring out how to get there, through ALBR you slowly create your dream job. This is a vital difference for the simple fact that the perfect job of the future on which you have set your sights may suddenly disappear from the horizon.

Own Your Future is a career and success book that, unlike many others in its category, is adapted to today’s realities. Brown and his coauthors are not afraid to dispute some of the most basic advice often seen in other books. (e.g., the oft-repeated maxim that if you do what you love, the money will follow is false; the money may not follow). From overcoming obstacles and choosing between love and money to how to act entrepreneurially without starting a company, Own Your Future is packed with advice and keen insight for those looking for their next job… which should be everybody.

What the Best Leaders See

THE POWER OF NOTICING

Take Off Those Blinders and See the Truth
In many ways, The Power of Noticing, the latest book from the prolific Max Bazerman, will somewhat dishearten his readers — if not enrage them. In sometimes horrific and often damning detail, Bazerman exposes the disastrous consequences of having leaders with blinders on who fail to notice — or pretend not to notice — what is truly happening around them.

From Cheating to Tragedies

The litany of cases described by Bazerman involves many incidents barely known by the public, such as the story of a medicine whose price grew in a few years from $50 per vial to $28,000 — yes three zeroes— per vial; the Harvard professor who was faking his data; and the egregious misdirection used by politicians and marketers (and magicians) to fool the public. There are also some well-known cases:

  • Morton Thiokol and NASA scientists failed to notice the pattern of low-temperature failures of its O-rings and, as a result, went forward with a low-temperature launch of the Shuttle Challenger. Seven astronauts lost their lives in the ensuing mid-air explosion.
  • Penn State officials and staff, from the president of the university, to the famed coach of the football team, to other coaches, failed to take decisive action, not even calling the police, in the face of recurring reports of rapes of young boys by assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
  • Enron’s Board of Directors, despite specific accusations from a whistleblower and a warning from the company’s auditors that Enron was “pushing the limits” of accounting propriety, did nothing to investigate the possibility of wrongdoing.

Solutions for Ending the Madness

Although based at both the Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School, Bazerman is not an ivory-tower pundit criticizing from the sidelines. Instead, he travels the world, pushing for solutions to unethical behavior and decision-making. In this book, Bazerman offers concise suggestions for preventing the abuses and crimes he documents. Three of these suggestions include:

 

  • Ask for the data. Many decisions are made based on the data presented. Decision-makers need to determine if more data is needed and what kind, and then to request that data. NASA scientists could have received the cold-temperature test results from Morton Thiokol and prevented the loss of seven lives.
  • Attack motivated blindness. Often, leaders who look the other way in the face of wrongdoing have deep-seated motivations to do so — such as protecting their university (the Sandusky scandal) or the church (in the case of the Catholic Church scandal). The solutions are clear: leaders have the responsibility to fully notice the facts and to act when it’s appropriate. And those who fail to act on reports of wrongdoing must face clear consequences. Finally, leaders must provide decision-makers in their organizations with the incentive to speak up.
  • Systemic changes. Bazerman has been working for years to convince policy makers to reform the auditing industry, in which companies pay the auditors — thus creating an almost insurmountable incentive for auditors to please their paymasters. Industry blindness occurs in many other industries and must be equally addressed with reform.

As with most of his works, The Power of Noticing offers Bazerman’s uniquely qualified insight into how the world works and how it should work.