More of the Best Business Books of 2015

Leading a business is difficult. We’re in an era when technological breakthroughs are changing whole markets overnight, and where the expectations of employees are much different than in past decades.

Our summaries for this month speak to the challenges of leading in this ever-changing environment.

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The High-Speed Company

Creating Urgency and Growth in a Nanosecond Culture

by Jason Jennings & Laurence Haughton

Jason Jennings shares strategies and practices demonstrated by businesses with proven records of creating cultures with strong purpose, trust and follow-through. Jennings details the key traits of these high-speed companies and how they outperform others, ultimately showing how to build and sustain one of your own.

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Make It Matter

How Managers Can Motivate by Creating Meaning

by Scott Mautz

Scott Mautz reveals that fostering meaning at work by giving workers a greater sense of significance is the key to motivation and engagement. By making work matter, people become more committed to their jobs, which positively influences productivity, products and personal satisfaction. Mautz offers tools and plans to create meaning in and at work.

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The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

by Ben Horowitz

Ben Horowitz tells it straight as he shares insights gained from developing, managing, selling, buying investing in and supervising technology companies. He offers techniques for navigating the struggle of being a leader and explains why you should take care of the people, the products and the profits, in that order.

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 leader skills.

 

 

 

 

Creating Behavior That Lasts –– Becoming the Person You Want to Be

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Do you ever find that you are not the patient, compassionate problem solver you believe yourself to be? Are you surprised at how irritated or flustered the normally unflappable you becomes in the presence of a specific colleague at work? Have you ever felt your temper accelerate from zero to sixty when another driver cuts you off in traffic?

As Marshall Goldsmith points out in Triggers, our reactions don’t occur in a vacuum. They are usually the result of unappreciated triggers in our environment — the people and situations that lure us into behaving in a manner diametrically opposed to the colleague, partner, parent or friend we imagine ourselves to be. So often, the environment seems to be outside our control.

Even if that is true, as Goldsmith points out, we have a choice in how we respond. In Triggers, Goldsmith shows how we can overcome the trigger points in our lives and enact meaningful and lasting change. Goldsmith offers a simple “magic bullet” solution in the form of daily self-monitoring, hinging around what he calls “active” questions, six “engaging questions” that can help us take responsibility for our efforts to improve and help us recognize when we fall short.

With these and other strategies, Triggers can help us to achieve change in our lives, make it stick and become the person we want to be.

IN THIS SUMMARY, YOU WILL LEARN:

• The most common belief triggers that keep us from changing.

• To identify your triggers and use active questions to counter them.

• The power of the environment to influence behavior and the importance of structure to change behavior.

• Why a “good enough” attitude can harm interpersonal relationships.

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.

 

Five Timeless Lessons From Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs

THE STRATEGIC RULES OF THREE GIANTS

Bill Gates, Andy Grove and Steve Jobs have been the subjects of many books, and Gates and Grove have even written their own bestselling books. Strategy Rules, a new book coauthored by Harvard Business School professor David Yoffie and MIT Sloan School of Management professor Michael Cusumano, offers a new take on these three giants of entrepreneurship and technology by bringing them together into one how-to guide on strategy. According to Yoffie and Cusumano, the three men, although vastly different in personalities, followed the same five rules for strategy and execution:

  1. Look Forward, Reason Back. The first rule was to look forward into the future and then reason back to the actions required today. A vision of what the world could be was only the beginning for these three men, however. Perhaps even more important was the ability of all three to determine — in detail — what needed to happen immediately to turn vision into reality.
  2. Make Big Bets, Without Betting the Company. Gates, Grove and Jobs were bold leaders, but they were not reckless, write Yoffie and Cusumano. They knew how to time or diversify their big bets so that even huge strategic bets were not irreversible.
  3. Build Platforms AND Ecosystems. Another important rule, the authors write, was to build platforms and ecosystems, as opposed to pursuing a product strategy. Build Platforms AND Ecosystems. Most industries think in terms of products. Technology companies, however, succeed when they build industry platforms, not stand-alone products. Bill Gates would not be among the world’s richest men and Microsoft would not be the dominant company it became if Gates had sold his product — the DOS operating system — to the client that had requested it: IBM. Instead, in exchange for a much lower payment from IBM, Gates kept the right to license the system to other companies. The rest is history.
  4. Exploit Leverage AND Power. All three men, according to the authors, could play Judo and Sumo. Judo requires using the opponent’s strength. Gates, Grove and Jobs could each find a way to turn the strengths of their opponents into weaknesses. One notable example was Jobs’ successful negotiation with the music companies for a license to their music. Paying little attention to the tiny company (only 2 percent market share in its own industry!), the music companies negotiated an agreement highly favorable to Apple and which would be the foundation of the iTunes revolution. At the same time, the three did not hesitate to freely use their power, once they had it, to dominate their competitors, just as a Sumo wrestler uses his pure strength to dominate his opponent.
  5. Shape the Company Around Your Personal Anchor. Personally, the three men had vastly different strengths and interests. Gates was the software coding genius, Grove a precise engineer and Jobs a wizard at design. The companies they built reflected these strengths.

At their peaks, Microsoft, Apple and Intel were collectively worth $1.5 trillion. More than just business behemoths, however, these three companies and their founders changed the world, and our lives, in dramatic ways. Whether an entrepreneur dreaming of creating the next life-changing company or the manager of a multi-billion global company, any business leader should explore and adapt the lessons offered by the business practices of these three extraordinary business leaders.

Getting to Yes with Yourself

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NEGOTIATE BY ACCESSING YOUR INNER SELF

In the 35 years since he co-authored the seminal bestseller on negotiation, Getting to Yes, William Ury eventually realized that it needed a prequel that describes the mandatory preliminary step to any negotiation: Negotiators have to negotiate with themselves on what they truly need and want first before they can successfully negotiate an agreement with others.

As Ury describes in his new book, Getting to Yes with Yourself, most negotiators sabotage their own interests because they are wrapped up in the anger and tension of the situation. Obsessed with the negative, they are distrustful at best, bitter and entrenched in their positions at worst.

For example, Ury opens the first chapter with the story of prominent Brazilian businessman Abilio Diniz, who had built up, with his father, Brazil’s leading supermarket retailer. Diniz had been in a nearly three-year, no-holds-barred battle with a foreign business partner over control of the company — a dispute the Financial Times called “one of the biggest cross-continental boardroom showdowns in history.” The mediations and lawsuits threatened to continue for years. Ury helped Diniz discover that his seething, resenting and anger were clouding what was more important to him: the freedom to do as he chose and the time to spend with his family. Armed with this new insight, Diniz would eventually reach an agreement with the partner and extract himself from the battle. It was not easy or quick (shortly after his discussions with Ury, Diniz gave a magazine interview in which he mentioned his opponent 38 times), but a turning point, according to Ury, was the moment that Diniz had successfully negotiated with himself first.

Putting Yourself in Your Own Shoes

The story of Diniz exemplifies the first of six steps in Ury’s Inner Yes methodology at the heart of his book: putting yourself in your own shoes. This sounds a bit strange at first: We know what we want; it’s putting yourself in other people’s shoes that is the challenge. In truth, as the story of Diniz illustrates, negative emotions in a conflict blind us to what is most important to us and, instead, lead us to work against our own interests.

The Inner BATNA

The second step, according to Ury, is to develop your inner BATNA — the “best alternative to a negotiated agreement.” If negotiations fail, there will be an acceptable alternative; surprisingly, recognizing this alternative often frees the negotiator from the negative emotions and inner constraints that destroy negotiations, thus leading to resolutions. Ury tells the story of a mother whose 13-year-old son had been battling her at every turn since the age of seven. Ury helped this distraught and frustrated mother by guiding her to her BATNA: If the relationship with her son was never resolved, she had at least had loving relationships with her other two children. The mother finally “let go” of the battle, refusing to pour all of her energy and anxiety into the broken relationship. Ironically, letting go proved to be the first small step toward an eventual reconciliation with her recalcitrant son.

These first two steps represent the first phase — saying yes to self — of Ury’s methodology. But it is only the beginning. To achieve what Ury calls the “inner yes,” you must also say yes to life in the next two steps: Reframe your picture by developing positive starting assumptions about life and the world, and stay in the zone, living in the present rather than focusing on resenting the past or fearing the future. Finally, you are in a position to say yes to others, which requires you to respect them –– even if it is to answer the rejection and personal attacks of difficult people with respect — and to give and receive, that is, to give first before taking.

Getting to Yes with Yourself is much more than a manual for succeeding at the negotiating table. Filled with extraordinary stories, ranging from hot and cold wars on the global stage to heart-wrenching battles in ordinary lives — including the inspirational battle of Ury’s own daughter to stay alive and positive despite life-threatening illness — Getting to Yes with Yourself should take its place along such books as Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, as a positive, life-affirming guide to success.

The New Science of What It Takes to Persevere, Flourish, Succeed

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Consultant and author Paul Stoltz has previously written extensively on adversity, developing what he calls the “Adversity Quotient,” which measures the ability to leverage setbacks and failures into success. Stoltz has more recently discovered, however, that while AQ is essential to success, it is not sufficient. As he explains in his new book, GRIT: The New Science of What It Takes to Persevere – Flourish – Succeed, “If AQ is all about how you effectively deal with ‘it’ — whatever comes at you — then GRIT is about what it takes to really go for ‘it’ — your boldest and most important goals — and make ‘it’ happen.” AQ, he writes, is your defense, but GRIT is your offense.

Stoltz uses the word “GRIT” in two ways. Although consistently in all caps, GRIT is used at the beginning of the book as a word that encapsulates the offensive counterpoint to adversity, as described above. In his second chapter, Stoltz introduces the four dimensions of GRIT, which then becomes both word and acronym. These dimensions are:

Growth. Growth refers to a mindset that is constantly looking for the new and the different. Growth, Stoltz writes, is “your propensity to seek and consider new ideas, additional alternatives, different approaches and fresh perspectives.”

Resilience. The core of Stoltz’s original research and writing, resilience is the ability not only to bounce back from adversity but, more importantly, to make constructive use of the adversity.

Instinct. The focus here, according to Stoltz, is to know instinctively which goals to pursue and how to pursue them.

Tenacity. Most quests are going to be longer and more difficult than anticipated. Tenacity separates those who succeed from those who fail.

Stoltz emphasizes that not all GRIT is good. To help readers visualize the positive and negative facets of GRIT, Stoltz presents his six-faced GRIT grid cube, with opposing faces representing good and bad, smart and dumb, and strong and weak GRIT. Stoltz explores each facet in detail. For example, bad GRIT, he writes, is evident when people relentlessly pursue goals that aim to hurt people, gain benefits at another’s expense or unintentionally pursue a damaging goal. Stoltz cites the example of a humanitarian organization that installed 10 million hand pumps in Bangladesh to help the impoverished population get access to water. Unfortunately, the water pumped up was filled with arsenic.

To exemplify good GRIT, Stoltz offers as an example his wife, Ronda Beaman, who was diagnosed with MS 24 years ago. A personal fitness trainer, Beaman was told, when diagnosed, to slow down, but refused. Twenty-four years later, she is still working out as hard as ever, despite occasional intense pain in her shoulders and weird headaches.

Stoltz offers equally compelling stories of dumb vs. smart and weak vs. strong GRIT. The ultimate goal, he writes, is to achieve “optimal GRIT” — which is, according to Stoltz, “when you consistently and reliably demonstrate your fullest, “goodest,” smartest and strongest GRIT to achieve your goals.”

This definition is expanded later in the book, as Stoltz moves readers to more advanced notions of GRIT. First, he includes what he calls the “four capacities” of GRIT: emotional, mental, physical and spiritual. GRIT must not only be smart, good and strong but also emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually balanced, Stoltz explains. GRIT must also be present in a wide variety of situations (work, school, relationships, money-related situations and more). Finally, GRIT begins with the individual but then moves up what Stoltz labels the “grit ladder,” through the relational, team, organizational and, finally, societal “rungs.”

As Stoltz expands and deepens his definition of optimal GRIT, he describes how to both gauge and grow one’s grit, offering a number of different tools for each. Stoltz is a veteran consultant, whose Adversity and GRIT techniques and tools have been used by Fortune 100 companies around the world and taught in schools as prestigious as the Harvard Business School and MIT — which is why GRIT is not a philosophical treatise but a toolbox for life.

The Power of Branding

Daymond John epitomizes the rags-to-riches, American-dream story.

An entrepreneur in every sense of the word, Daymond John has come a long way from taking out a $100,000 mortgage on his mother’s house and moving his operation into the basement. John is CEO and Founder of FUBU, a much-celebrated global lifestyle brand, and a pioneer in the fashion industry with over $6 billion in product sales. He is an award-winning entrepreneur, and he has received over 35 awards including the Brandweek Marketer of the Year, Advertising Age Marketing 1000 Award for Outstanding Ad Campaign, and Ernst & Young’s New York Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

John also provides the means for others to find success through the Shark Tank show, The Daymond John Center for Entrepreneurship and through his two best-selling books. And what is John’s message – that you are the brand you build.

Drawing on his own experiences on the cutting edge of the fashion business, as well as on his hard-won insights developed as a sought-after marketing consultant to global trendsetters and taste-makers, John maintains that branding relationships have now seeped into every aspect of our lives, and that in order to survive and thrive in the marketplace consumers and aspiring professionals need to understand and nurture those relationships.

But don’t take my word for it. Join us on May 14th for our Soundview Live webinar with Daymond John entitled The Power of Branding. At this event you will hear John’s story and the entrepreneurial principles he has learned and developed. And you’ll have the opportunity to ask him your questions during the webinar.

 

Creating Amazing Customer Experience – Excellence Or Consistency

Today’s guest blog is from Lior Arussy, president of Strativity Group, a customer experience transformation firm, and the author of 6 books including Exceptionalize It!.

We live in challenging times. Customers’ expectations are increasing exponentially. Their tolerance for anything less than amazing is diminishing. They demand excellence or they go elsewhere. Competitors are trying harder to delight customers constantly raising the customers’ expectation bar. On the other hand, cost reduction efforts are everywhere. We try to control costs by optimizing services. We do so by creating consistency everywhere. While striving to solve the excellence question, we end up with consistency as the answer.

We often make the mistake of confusing excellence and consistency. Consistency is about optimizing services and products to be without flaws. Delivering a “consistent” product or service focuses on removing elements of dissatisfaction and achieving parity.

At best, consistency meets customer expectations. Eliminating inaccurate invoices is an example of a consistency effort. Ensuring that all your products share the same level of quality is consistency. Responding to customer inquiries in a timely manner is consistency. Consistency is heavily dependent on processes, and these processes become the primary objective of the performance; employees are merely executers of carefully managed procedures. In a consistency-driven environment, employees themselves are secondary to the process. They are subservient to the roles dictated to them by the process definition. Consistency emphasizes optimized processes and de-emphasizes the role of employees. At best, consistency reaches parity but never exceeds expectations.

Consistency is basically just doing your job. Some companies do it well; others do it in a mediocre way. Delivering consistency is nice, but it is not excellence—unless the rest of your industry is consistently awful and you stand out for being able to meet basic customer expectations. In fact, the definition of consistency is being on par with customer expectations. It is a boring, uninteresting place to settle. No one will celebrate your consistent performance.

Excellence and superiority, on the other hand, are about going above and beyond. They are about pleasantly surprising the customer. Excellence is all about exceeding the expectations, not just meeting them. By definition, this type of performance requires human intervention to set higher goals, individualize and humanize the interaction, and be authentic throughout the whole experience. At the core of the contrast between consistency and excellence is the role of people and processes. With excellence, processes are merely a means to a goal. A tool to deliver a greater solution. Employees are in charge, and use of accepted processes are subject to their judgment. If a process assists them in achieving the goal, they will use it. Otherwise, they use their discretion to get the job done and exceed expectations. With excellence, the corporate culture permits such employee discretion and provides permission to perform, as well as permission to make mistakes.

Excellence requires an emotionally engaging performance that delivers an authentic and memorable caring touch. Processes are not able to do this, only people are. So, excellence is not a matter of a better process. To achieve excellence we need to place processes in their rightful place, as tools, and give people the freedom to perform.

In times of excellence or nothing, we must exceed the consistency paradigm and focus on reaching to the excellence standard. To do so we will need to rethink the tools, information and authority we provide our employees to deliver on the ever increasing customer expectation for excellence.

To hear more about meeting customer expectations, join us on May 12th for our Soundview Live webinar with Lior Arussy: Stop Boring & Start Exciting Your Customers.

Why Only 13 Percent of Companies Successfully Execute Their Strategy

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In today’s corporate world, 87 percent of companies fail to successfully execute the strategy they set for a given year. CEO mentor and coach Dan Prosser shows you how to make your company one of the other 13 percent — a Thirteener. In the process, he explains that the true challenge of building a great company — one that consistently executes its strategy — is understanding the real nature of human interaction and the key to success: connectedness.

Whether you’re a successful CEO, business owner, entrepreneur or leader, or whether you’re struggling to build the business you’ve always wanted, Thirteeners will help you transform your organization’s internal connectedness so you can achieve the next level of performance you’re looking for, create a workplace environment that supports your vision and assures participation by every team member, and produce breakthrough results.

With a focus on business as a network of interrelated conversations and through groundbreaking “Best Place To Work’’ company research, Prosser demonstrates what you need to do to transform the way your employees think and act, to achieve  unprecedented levels of performance for your company.

IN THIS SUMMARY, YOU WILL LEARN:

• Why conversations control everything in your business.

• The 10 conversations that create a connected organization.

• How the Execution Virus can infect your business and how the vaccine of truth can heal it.

• Key concepts of the Breakthrough Solutions Framework.

 

 

How To Transform Your Limitations Into Advantages, and Why It’s Everyone’s Business

THE INS AND OUTS OF CONSTRAINTS

As marketing consultants Adam Morgan and Mark Barden, authors of a new book entitled A Beautiful Constraint, began their research into constraints (e.g., too little time, too little money) and how to overcome them, they divided the world into three kinds of people: victims, who lowered their ambitions when faced with constraints; neutralizers, who did not lower ambitions but instead found different ways to achieve them; and transformers, who saw constraints not as barriers but as something that could be used as opportunities. Transformers, according to the authors’ theory, even believed that constraints could be leveraged to achieve even greater ambitions. In fact, the authors identified two sub-types of transformers — the responsive transformers, who successfully responded to constraints, and the proactive transformers, who deliberately imposed constraints on themselves to spur greater creativity and ambition.

For the authors, world-class graphic designer Michael Beirut, whose clients include the New York Ties, Saks Fifth Avenue, Disney and The Clinton Foundation, represented the transformer type. However, when they interviewed Beirut, he disagreed slightly with their concept. Victims, neutralizers and transformers were not three distinct types of people, he told the authors, but three stages through which everyone goes through as they face constraints. “This was an important shift in our thinking,” the authors write. “If we have a tendency to initially react one way to the imposition of a constraint, we need not see this as fixed and final. We all have the potential to move from victim to neutralizer to transformer.”

In A Beautiful Constraint, the authors lay out a six-step methodology for progressing through the stages — a methodology that addresses mindset (do we believe it is possible?), method (do we know how to start to do it?) and motivation (how much do we really want to do it?). After discovering in the first step the potential of the transformer stage, that is, using rather than defeating constraints, step two (also focused on mindset) involves, in the authors’ terms, breaking path dependence. Most people, the authors write, eventually come to depend on certain well-trodden paths that they take to achieve their goals or commitments. Becoming a transformer requires understanding that we must break our dependence on these paths.

The next three steps deal with the method for breaking this dependence and discovering ways to use constraints. Step three is to ask propelling questions — questions that will propel us off the comfortable tried-and-true paths. Step four is to adopt a can-if mindset: instead of thinking, “we can’t because …” transformers consistently say, instead, “we can if …” Step five is to create abundance — to recognize that we inevitably have more resources than we think we have. After the three “method” steps, the authors close their methodology with the final step, linked to motivation: activating emotions, which explores the potent role that emotions — from fear to excitement — play in generating the passion and persistence required to transform constraints.

Each step is supported with multiple examples. For example, the creators of the FIFA 13 game faced the constraint of a long load time, which frustrated their gamers. A propelling question — “How can we make waiting a valued part of the experience?” led to a can-if solution: “We can turn loading time into one of the most rewarding parts of the game if we think of it as a chance to build skills and make better players.” The solution to the loading constraint was thus: skill-building games that gamers could play during the load.

This book highlights the full potential of print publishing: engaging graphics and illustrations and a clear design reinforce and support the insightful and inspiring lessons of A Beautiful Constraint.

Is There An iPod Equivalent In Yahoo’s Future?

Marissa Mayer knows how to throw a party. The controversial CEO of Yahoo! once threw a flannel-themed Christmas party at her Palo Alto home (she also has a penthouse apartment in the Four Seasons) that featured not only shipped-in snow but also a backyard ice-skating rink almost large enough for NHL games. At some point during the party, as recorded in Nicholas Carlson’s book Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo!, a pajama-clad Mayer climbed aboard a mini Zamboni she had rented for the occasion, and set out to smooth out the ice that had become cut up by her ice-skating guests. “It was a comical, cheerful scene, and another host might have laughed and waved at her guests as she rode the funny-looking Zamboni in her pj’s,” Carlson writes. “Not Mayer. She was very serious. Sitting on top of the big machine, she concentrated on the ice beneath her. She wanted to smooth over every inch. She was going to get the job done herself and be excellent about it.”

As Carlson describes in his book, the Christmas scene reflects the personality of Mayer: hands-on, serious and driven to excellence — which in the minds of many Yahoo employees and former employees translates, writes Carlson, into “micromanaging, bottlenecking and dictatorial.”

In many ways, the cover of this book is misleading. Despite the photograph of Mayer and her name in bigger type than the rest of the title, this is, surprisingly, more a book about Yahoo than about Mayer. After a brief prologue, readers don’t run into Mayer again until more than 130 pages later, when, in part II of his book he describes Mayer’s early life and career at Google. Part III of the book returns to the behind-the-scenes battles between activist shareholders and Yahoo executives that dominate much of the early part of the book. Marissa Mayer finally enters the Yahoo! building for the first time nearly 250 pages in, giving Carlson less than 100 pages to cover Mayer’s two years (so far) at the helm of Yahoo!

In those 100 pages, Carlson narrates in engaging detail the ups and downs of Mayer’s first two years at Yahoo! For example, Mayer sent shock waves in the progressive hi-tech industry when she abolished Yahoo’s work-at-home policy. At the same time, Mayer replaced employees’ Blackberries with more up-to-date smart phones, and, in a bid to introduce transparency, started staff meetings in which she and her executives answered questions from employees. Mayer bet heavily on mobile apps and on digital magazines, hiring Katie Couric and others to create momentum that never materialized. On a more positive note, she acquired Tumblr for $1.1 billion, a record for a social media company at the time and an acquisition that in some ways has helped keep Yahoo! relevant.

Self-Inflicted Problems

A number of Mayer’s problems seem self-inflicted, including, according to Carlson, her inability to hire effective executives and her unfeeling interactions with her subordinates. The dictatorial, micromanaging style, as many employees see it, can demoralize a workforce whose morale, according to Carlson, is already badly hit by another Mayer initiative, the quarterly performance reviews (QPRs) that have echoes of Jack Welch’s infamous rank-and-yank employee policies at GE. Inevitably pitting employee against employee, the QPRs discourage collaboration and encourage cut-throat competition: it’s better that your colleague looks bad and gets the bad reviews; otherwise it will be you.

Mayer had an enormous advantage as she began her new position as CEO: a guaranteed two years in which the company’s financial health was assured by Yahoo’s prescient stake in the groundbreaking Chinese company, Alibaba, whose anticipated IPO in the fall of 2014 netted Yahoo a cool $8.3 billion windfall. (Yahoo’s stake in Alibaba, now worth $39.5 billion, was spun off into a separate company in January 2015, after the book was published.)

The question remains whether Mayer can make Yahoo! into the dominant Internet player it once was. Marissa Mayer, Carlson writes, points to the five years that Steve Jobs took to revitalize Apple, with the creation of the iPod. Is there an iPod equivalent in Yahoo’s future? For Carlson, the verdict is still out. The outcome depends in large part on the patience of the activist shareholders who pushed out several CEOs prior to Mayer.