Book Review: Hacking Leadership

Blind spots can produce a dangerous set of circumstances for any organization and its leaders. Mike Myatt, CEO of N2growth and the author of the best-seller Leadership Matters, calls these blind spots “gaps.” In Hacking Leadership, he helps executives tackle 11 gaps that can be detrimental to any leader. This book is now available as a Soundview Executive Book Summary.

The best leaders, according to Myatt, have the ability to check their egos and elevate their level of self-awareness. It requires an understanding of three critical gaps described in the book: development, influence and reality. From this starting point, Hacking Leadership then guides executives through each of the 11 gaps. The gaps range from anticipated subjects such as knowledge and talent to less explored areas such as mediocrity and expectation.

Within each of the overarching gaps, Myatt focuses on individual aspects that could be termed “component gaps.” For example, the chapter on hacking the culture gap includes an examination of how to handle the courage gap. Even in areas in which executives may feel that their own organization has a minimal, or nonexistent, gap, Myatt’s insight deserves consideration. He writes, “Culture shouldn’t be imposed upon people — as co-creators of the culture, the people are the culture.” It is a simple declaration but should cause leaders to question whether their organizations truly embody the principle Myatt describes.

Hacking Leadership makes the point that “hacking” is a method of innovating that requires leaders to “innovate around best practices in pursuit of next practices.” Myatt provides numerous sparks to light the fires of innovation for any leader that reads this book.

How to Get That Person to Listen to You

Breakthrough Communication

By Harrison Monarth

Success depends in large part on how to “break through” to the right people, writes leadership coach Harrison Monarth in his new book, Breakthrough Communication. To break through, you need to communicate effectively so that you can be noticed and supported by the people whose attention you seek. The goal is that they will listen to you and take action based on what you communicate.

The process of breaking through can be as short as an instant — asking a colleague for help on a project, for instance — or as long as months or years. Successfully implementing new policy can be a long and arduous process of persistent communication. However, no matter what timeframe might be involved, breakthrough communication still rests on four steps, according to Monarth.

Getting on the Radar

The first of these steps, Monarth writes, is to get on the radar. Before anyone will listen to you, they must notice you. Being noticed (in a positive light, of course) begins by making the right impression when you have the opportunity to be before influential people. Monarth offers a variety of suggestions for making an impression, from looking your best to cultivating a reputation for expertise.

Monarth also emphasizes the importance of managing your status — that is, how do the people you want to influence see you? Monarth suggests creating a chart or list, starting with the people who will have the most impact on your success at the top. Impact includes interest; in other words, if you work for a Fortune 500 company, it’s possible that the CEO or the Chairman of the Board will never know your name. Although they are powerful, they are not a high priority in terms of your success. Once you have a prioritized list of people, you must carefully manage your status with them, ensuring a continuing dialogue so that they have the right impression of you.

Salience and Meaning

The second step in breakthrough communication is what the author calls “salience-agenda.” This means that you are the one who knows what is salient — what is most important to discuss and consider. You are, in essence, setting the agenda. One way to set the agenda, writes the author, is to take advantage of “focusing events.” Focusing events are major, usually unexpected events that grab the attention of most people — a hurricane or an oil spill, for example. These events are opportunities to focus attention on the agenda that matters to you; thus pollution control activists would leverage an oil spill to bring attention to the policies they advocate.

There are, of course, much less dramatic opportunities to set the agenda. Imagine that corporate leaders want to reorganize the departments in your unit; now is the opportunity to advocate the creation of that specific department you’ve been thinking about. Even running into the CEO in an elevator, Monarth writes, can be an opportunity to set the agenda.

Setting the agenda is not enough to ensure success in your communication. Equally important is the next of Monarth’s four steps: creating meaning. The goal in this step, in short, is to put your spin on the agenda item. The Newtown tragedy was a focusing event for gun legislation, yet both sides of the issue drew different meaning from the massacre. While gun control lobbyists argued for stronger legislation, the NRA and others — including a mother of six who, Monarth notes, wrote that gun control was “sexist and antifeminist” because guns empowered women — infused the shooting with a different meaning. One of the most powerful tools to create the meaning you want to create, according to Monarth, is storytelling.

Monarth’s final step is to “spark the action you want to see.” Having people take the action you want them to take is, after all, the ultimate goal of communication. Monarth emphasizes that breakthrough communication requires persuading people, which is emotional and practical — not convincing people, which is rational and abstract. Fear and ambivalence are two major barriers to persuasion, although there are many other barriers, including failing to understand the audience, failing to engage the audience, or simply not being likeable.

Through nudging and other techniques, Monarth shows how to overcome resistance and spark people to action in the final section of this practical and engaging manual on communication.

Three New Summaries to Unlock the Door to More Success

The barrier between standard and extraordinary leadership can be symbolized by a door. At a certain point in your career, particularly if you’ve acquired a degree of success, you’ll find yourself trying to unlock the door with the skills you’ve developed. Soundview now offers three new book summaries that can help sharpen your abilities and blend them into a single key that can open the door to greatness.

by Mike Myatt

by Mike Myatt

Hacking Leadership by Mike Myatt. In Hacking Leadership, Mike Myatt identifies 11 leadership gaps that can be holding leaders back and affecting their performance. The gaps are found in areas of leadership, purpose, future, mediocrity, culture, talent, knowledge, innovation, expectation, complexity and failure. Myatt provides actionable leadership and management “hacks” to bridge the gaps in order to create a culture of leadership within organizations and help leaders drive exceptional results.

 

by Bob Rosen

by Bob Rosen

Grounded by Bob Rosen. Internationally renowned CEO advisor Bob Rosen proposes a new approach to leadership in Grounded in which leaders at every level can become more self-aware, develop their untapped potential, and drive better results for themselves, their teams and their organizations. Rosen’s Healthy Leader model highlights six personal dimensions that any leader can master: physical, emotional, intellectual, social, vocational and spiritual health.

 

 

by Jim Burkett

by Jim Burkett

The Learned Disciplines of Management by Jim Burkett. In The Learned Disciplines of Management, Jim Burkett presents a framework of individual disciplines that form a self-reinforcing management system for making the right things happen. These include planning, organizing, measuring performance, executing, following up, real-time reporting and problem solving. Practicing these will reveal what effective management can do.

Know Your Talent Better Than You Know Your Customers

THE DECODED COMPANY

Using Big Data in Human Resources

What if companies knew as much about their employees as they knew about their customers? That is the provocative question at the heart of The Decoded Company — a book written by a group of entrepreneurs connected to a technology-driven health care marketing agency called Klick Health. Klick Health CEO Leerom Segal and his co-authors are great believers in the potential of big data — the myriad of information that is quietly and continuously collected from you as you go about your business as a consumer. Surprisingly, while companies have near-unanimously embraced the use of big data technology for their customers, very few attempt to find out more about their employees.

Three Principles

Using their own experiences as leaders of a fast-growing technology company, the authors describe in their book three fundamental principles for decoding your organization — that is, truly understanding in real time the individual skills, motivations and successes of employees, recognizing the challenges they face, and supporting each individual or groups of individuals as needed.

  • Principle 1: Technology as a Coach and a Trainer. According to the authors, most organizations use technology as a referee rather than as a coach. Technology allows companies to monitor what employees are doing and to whistle the fouls when they fall behind or fail. In decoded companies, technology is a      trainer and coach — preparing employees for the game (to continue the metaphor), then watching from the sidelines and jumping in to coach as      needed. One coaching idea proposed by the authors is the hiring of a “concierge” — someone who might use some of the traditional HR tools, such as career counseling or performance reviews, but whose one and only goal is to design a customized solution for each employee that helps them perform and grow. Technology as a trainer, the authors explain, means using “data and systems to watch blind spots, identify teachable moments, and proactively intervene with just-in-time training.”

 

  • Principle 2: Informed Intuition. The second principle is that technology does not replace but rather augments the intuition of leaders born from their      experience and knowledge, thus allowing them to make better decisions. The      capture of ambient data — ongoing information about what employees are doing or saying — is vital. (One example of the creation of ambient data is your Facebook activity. Facebook tracks with whom you communicate on their site, how often, from where and through which method, such as posting or chat message. This ambient data determines which Facebook friends end up on your newsfeed.) After analyzing a combination of ambient data and selected self-reported data, such as performance self-evaluations or monthly results, managers in decoded companies use their intuition to seek solutions to employee challenges. Bank of America discovered that the performance of call-center employees improved based on whom they talked to  during overlapping lunches. The bank thus decided to create more opportunities for employee conversations by changing a policy that had restricted overlapping breaks.

 

  • Principle 3: Engineered Ecosystems. The third principle is to use data to set up the culture and the environment that enables employees to work at their highest levels. Engineered ecosystems are both data-driven and talent-centric. For example, the authors describe how Google — which, as the company that tested 41 shades of blue for one of its toolbars, is notoriously data-driven — launched a major initiative to identify the most important traits for its managers. The results seemed at first less than earth-shattering: The eight identified traits included not micromanaging, expressing interest in employees’ success, having a vision and a strategy, and having the technical skills to advise the team. The data, however, not only identified the traits but also ranked their importance, and this is where Google’s leaders uncovered a truth about its culture that was contrary to everything they believed: technical expertise, once thought to be the keystone of a great Google manager, is the least important trait that a manager can have. Everything else comes first.

While Segal and his co-authors use Google and numerous other companies in a variety of industries as examples, it is their own success at Klick Healthcare that make The Decoded Company an authoritative, balanced and real-world exploration of the human resources potential of big data.

Book Review: Platform

by Michael Hyatt

by Michael Hyatt

Trying to get the message of your company or brand heard in today’s social media environment is equivalent to trying to hear an ant’s footsteps while seated next to a jet turbine. The secret, according to author, blogger and publishing executive Michael Hyatt, is to build the virtual stage from which you address your carefully cultivated following. In Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, Hyatt gives executives a thorough method to connect and build your business.

Hyatt didn’t acquire more than 200,000 Twitter followers without providing a mountain of bankable advice. Platform gives readers the best of the best in a jam-packed read that should sit close at hand on an executive’s desk or digital reader. He begins with the observation that too many social media books overlook: start by creating a great product. Fortunately, Hyatt’s advice about product creation covers everything from how to be compelling to how to create a memorable name.

Once a company has its outstanding product, Hyatt takes readers through the steps to prepare for launch, build a strong strategy, expand your reach and stay actively engaged with your followers. The section on building your home base is can’t-miss reading. In an era when litigators are fielding more and more questions about intellectual property, Hyatt’s tips to protect oneself are well-considered.

Of the utmost importance to executives is Hyatt’s staunchly realistic reminder about how a great platform is built. For any leader who considers platform creation a task that can be farmed out to what Hyatt calls a “babysitter,” he provides the following advice. “Take a long look in the mirror. The person you are looking at is your new chief marketing officer,” he writes. Executives can lead the charge to be heard and Platform is the book to help them do it.