Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
All three of the book’s editors — David Bryce Yaden, Theo D. McCall, and J. Harold Ellens — attended the Canterbury conclave. They also describe experiencing callings in their essays. Yaden, a psychologist who serves as the lead editor, awoke in his college dorm to a feeling of warmth in his chest that spread throughout his body and became an “experience of boundless unity” — an overwhelming sense of oneness with the world. As he thought about that experience in the weeks that followed, an inner voice directed him to become a “scriptor” — a Latin word meaning author or scribe, which he had to look up. McCall says that his vocation as an Anglican priest seemed obvious to people around him and inevitable as early as his mid-teens. Ellens reports a half-dozen numinous experiences that contributed to a “sense of destiny” and led him to the ministry.
But the essays in this accessible collection don’t just focus on the pulpit. Finding your calling — and following its dictates in order to live an authentic life — has become a popular work-life topic in recent years ...read the rest here
Monday, November 2, 2015
What a Character!by Theodore Kinni
Illustration by Gérard DuBois
David Brooks, The Road to Character (Random House, 2015)
Fred Kiel, Return on Character: The Real Reason Leaders and Their Companies Win (Harvard Business Review Press, 2015)
Jeffrey Pfeffer, Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time(HarperBusiness, 2015)
In 1859, as Great Britain’s Victorian era steamed into its third decade, a Scotsman named Samuel Smiles published a book titled Self-Help; with Illustrations of Character and Conduct. In it, Smiles preached “the practice of the virtues of industry, frugality, temperance, and honesty,” copiously illustrating its transformative power with “the instances of men, in this and other countries, who, by dint of persevering application and energy, have raised themselves from the humblest ranks of industry to eminent positions of usefulness and influence in society.”
Friday, October 23, 2015
by Theodore Kinni
strategy+business, October 7, 2015
Prosperity is a theme that runs through Roger Martin’s work in a continuous and unwavering line. Ranked third on the Thinkers50 biannual ranking of the most influential global business thinkers, Martin has served as a director and cohead of Monitor Company, dean and Premier’s Research Chair in Productivity and Competitiveness at University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, and, starting in 2013, institute director of the Martin Prosperity Institute. Throughout, he has sought to illuminate the ways and means of economic success for individuals, corporations, and nations.
A prolific writer, Martin has authored numerous books and articles detailing his findings. In The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win through Integrative Thinking,(Harvard Business Review Press, 2007), he explains how the ability to hold two conflicting ideas in constructive tension can enable leaders to make better decisions and produce superior ideas. In The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking Is the Next Competitive Advantage (Harvard Business Review Press, 2009) and Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works (with A.G. Lafley; Harvard Business Review Press, 2013), Martin explains how to enhance corporate success through innovation and strategic thinking.
Curious about the underpinnings of his own success, I asked Martin about the books that most influenced him in his professional journey. He offered up the following three titles... read the rest here.
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Sunday, September 6, 2015
Good to see my book, No Substitute for Victory: Lessons in Strategy and Leadership from General Douglas MacArthur (FT Press, 2005), pop up in IBD
Douglas MacArthur, A Triumphant Warrior And Statesman
Wednesday, September 2, 2015
My latest post on s+b Blogs:
I was one of those toddlers whose first word — if you choose to believe my mother — was an emphatic “No,” so I’ve always found it hard to believe that people need disobedience instruction. Then I read the stories in Ira Chaleff’s new book, Intelligent Disobedience: Doing Right When What You’re Told to Do Is Wrong (Berrett-Koehler, 2015).
The manager agreed and, following the officer’s directions over the phone, stripped the crying woman and searched her clothing in a locked storeroom. When the manager told the officer that she had to go back to work, the officer asked if she could call her husband to watch the woman until the police arrived. Instead, the unmarried manager called her boyfriend, who proceeded to follow the officer’s increasingly sexually abusive instructions (with the manager checking in on occasion). Four hours after the call began, the officer told the manager to bring another man into the room, and she found a handyman who was in the restaurant. The handyman refused to participate, at which point the manager began to act on her own misgivings and eventually allowed the woman to dress and leave the restaurant.
It was, of course, a sadistic hoax. The caller, an off-duty prison guard in Florida, had been making similar calls to fast-food restaurants throughout the U.S. Incredibly, he had been able to convince the managers of nearly 70 other restaurants in 30 states to illegally detain and search employees — and the employees themselves had obeyed their managers’ outrageous instructions.
If you are familiar with the experiments of Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo, who wrote the foreword to Intelligent Disobedience, you already know that most people have been conditioned to obey orders given by authority figures, including orders that violate moral, ethical, and legal norms. “It is part of the socialization process in any human culture to teach our young to obey,” writes Chaleff. But he goes on to argue that teaching employees to disobey orders is an essential organizational safeguard — that nurses are protecting patients and their employers by questioning doctors’ orders that fly in the face of their training, and that accountants can prevent massive frauds by refusing to execute orders that violate their professional standards.
The problem, Chaleff points out, is that we receive little or no counter-conditioning to our obedience-focused upbringing. Unless you are a natural-born naysayer, it is likely that you find it difficult to stand up to authority. And even if you are, like me, one of those pains in the organizational neck, you probably don’t know how to disobey in constructive and effective ways.
Chaleff found the solution to this human problem in canines. Service dogs, like those that guide people with sight impairments, are taught “intelligent disobedience.” They learn how to identify and disobey orders that might cause harm to their charges. A service dog that is ordered forward will use its body to stop its owner from stepping off a curb if there is a potential danger, such as a quiet electric car; it will turn right or left to protect its owner from a low-hanging tree limb on a walk in the woods. “We can use the guide dog,” writes Chaleff, “as a memorable symbol for the capacity to which we aspire: to do the right thing when what we are told to do is wrong.”
Typically, humans want dogs to act more like people. (Sit! Stay!) Chaleff effectively suggests that people act more like these dogs. But the training required to do so doesn’t involve biscuits or rolled-up newspapers that can be wielded as rewards and punishment. Rather, we can short-circuit the ingrained habit of employees to automatically obey orders by teaching them to follow a formula that Chaleff distills as so... read the rest here
Thursday, August 27, 2015
My latest book post on the strategy+business blogs:
In his latest book, Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time (Harper Business, 2015), Pfeffer delivers a powerful indictment of the leadership industry, whose teachings, he says, undermine the overall state of leadership because they are “based more on hope than reality, on wishes rather than data, on beliefs instead of science.” Curious to learn where we might go for better information, I asked him what books he would recommend for aspiring and existing leaders.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
My latest book post on the strategy+business blogs:
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Harry Kraemer’s Required Reading
Since stepping down as chairman and CEO of Baxter International in 2004, Kraemer has been a leading advocate of values-based leadership, which he says is supported by four principles: self-reflection, balance, true self-confidence, and genuine humility. He has written books exploring those principles, including Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2011), which includes that favorite line. Currently, Kraemer serves as a clinical professor of strategy at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, where he was named Professor of the Year in 2008, and as an executive partner at Madison Dearborn Partners, a private equity firm.
Other people’s books have played an important role in Kraemer’s career. “Values-based leadership starts within, developing the self-awareness and self-knowledge that allows you to become your best self. As your best self, you are better able to relate to and influence others, which is the essence of leadership,” he explained to me. “Although the process is highly personal, I have always found insight and inspiration in the thoughts and experiences of others.” Kraemer called out the following three books as especially notable for having “helped me look more deeply at my own actions and behaviors, and how I can become my best self.”
“A classic of philosophical and religious thought, this book presents a compelling argument for the existence of moral law that governs the behaviors of all people. I read it for the first time many years ago when I attended my first silent retreat at the invitation of my future father-in-law. I was immediately taken by Lewis’s conversion from nonbeliever to believer, because he kept an open mind as he explored the beliefs and opinions of others. In addition to guiding my spiritual journey, Mere Christianity influenced my leadership by providing examples of values-based leadership principles, especially balance (listening to a variety of opinions to gain a broad perspective) and genuine humility (knowing that everyone is important and no one has all the answers).”
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, by Stephen R. Covey (Simon & Schuster, 1989)
“One of the quintessential books on leadership, 7 Habits never ceases to inspire me with its depth and simplicity. Covey’s habits, including being proactive as opposed to reactive, beginning with the end in mind, and win/win thinking, are straightforward leadership lessons that can be applied at every career level. For me, these powerful practices serve as affirmations on the path of values-based leadership.”
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Simon & Schuster, 2005)
“Abraham Lincoln was one of the greatest leaders in history, and Goodwin’s book offers deep insights into his leadership approach. Lincoln knew that he needed to bring together a team of the absolutely best people after he was elected president in 1860, and as he led the nation through the Civil War and the abolition of slavery. And he did exactly that — no matter that those people held very different views or even that they disliked him personally and had opposed his presidency. (Three of Lincoln’s cabinet members had run against him in the 1860 election, including Secretary of State William Seward.) I can’t think of a more powerful role model for bridging differences of opinion and using diversity of perspectives to lead more effectively.”
p.s. Harry Kramer's new book, Becoming the Best: Build a World-Class Organization Through Values-Based Leadership (Wiley, 2015), is also well worth a read.
Sunday, July 19, 2015
Marshall Goldsmith’s Required Reading
The other day I was reading about a CEO who had a near-fatal skiing accident, which caused him to embrace a more humanist approach to leadership that is now transforming his company. Marshall Goldsmith would call the accident a trigger, which he defines as “any major or minor stimulus that reshapes our thoughts and actions.” In his new book, Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts — Becoming the Person You Want to Be (Crown, 2015), he explores the role that such stimuli play in behavior change.
Helping leaders achieve positive, lasting behavior change has been Goldsmith’s life work. A top-rated executive coach, he has worked with more than 150 CEOs of major companies and their management teams. Among many recognitions and awards he has received, Goldsmith has been ranked among the 15 most influential business thinkers in the world in the biannual Thinker50 list since 2009. He teaches executive education at Dartmouth’s Tuck School and has been a volunteer teacher for U.S. Army generals, Navy admirals, Girl Scout executives, and International and American Red Cross leaders.
Goldsmith has written more than 30 books, including What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful (Hachette, 2007) and MOJO: How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back If You Lose It (Hachette, 2010), winner of the Harold Longman Award for Business Book of the Year. When I asked him to name a few books that could serve as triggers for leaders who are intent on enhancing their performance, he recommended the following titles.
Hesselbein on Leadership, by Frances Hesselbein (Jossey-Bass, 2013)
“Of all of the great leaders that I have had the honor to coach, Frances Hesselbein, the former CEO of the Girl Scouts of America and a winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the U.S., stands out as one of the few from whom I learned far more than I taught. Peter Drucker said that she was the most effective executive that he had ever met, and after having served on the Drucker Foundation Advisory Board for 10 years, I can assure you that he was no easy grader! In Hesselbein on Leadership, Frances shares her philosophy on leadership and life. If you take nothing else away from it except the importance of leading by example, reading it will be time well spent.”
The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations, by James Kouzes and Barry Posner (5th ed., Jossey-Bass, 2012)
“This book, first published more than 25 years ago, in 1987, is still the gold standard on leadership. The five leadership practices that it details are based on extensive research, and they add up to the most comprehensive and thoughtful analysis of what it takes to be a great leader that I have ever seen. And I love the stories and examples because they are immediately applicable by leaders at all levels — not just CEOs.”
Management of Organizational Behavior: Leading Human Resources, by Paul Hersey, Kenneth Blanchard, and Dewey Johnson (10th ed., Prentice Hall, 2013)
“The development of the situational leadership theory by Paul and Ken in the 1970s gave us the first practical model for analyzing situations and determining which leadership style work best in each. Since then, I have taught this model to thousands of leaders. The ideas in this textbook can seem like common sense, but they are far from common practice.”
The Miracle of Mindfulness: A Manual on Meditation, by Thich Nhat Hanh (Beacon Press, 1999)
“I have been a philosophical Buddhist for many years and have read more than 400 books on Buddhism, but no other Buddhist author has influenced my thinking as much as Thich Nhat Hanh. His work is simple and profound at the same time. What, for instance, could be more powerful a leadership mind-set than to approach every task as an opportunity to enhance your awareness of the world? Many of the elements of my coaching process, such as feedforward, have been derived from this Vietnamese monk’s work.”
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
What’s Your (Leadership) Story?
Theodore Kinni has written, ghosted, or edited more than 20 business books. He was book review editor for strategy+business for 7 years.
There’s been a lot written about the power of storytelling in business. In fact, the concept has become mainstream enough that one company recently hired a bestselling novelist as its chief storytelling officer.
Stories can be used for lots of purposes in business. Annette Simmons calls out six of them in Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins: How to Use Your Own Stories to Communicate with Power and Impact : “who am I” stories; “why I’m here” stories; “vision” stories; “values in action” stories; “teaching” stories; and “I know what you’re thinking” stories.
As a leader, you can pick and choose among these different types of stories, but in Your Leadership Story: Use Your Story to Energize, Inspire, and Motivate, Timothy J. Tobin, Marriott International’s vice president of global learning and leadership development, makes a pretty compelling argument that you should always start with a story that is about yourself. Crafting such a story is as much about clarifying how you view your self and your situation as it is about communicating who you are to others.
Tobin sees your own story as an amalgam of several of Simmons’ story types, including who am I, why I’m here, and vision and values stories. “Your leadership story communicates the message of identity: who you are as a leader, what you believe in, what drives you and defines you as a leader, and how you act,” writes Tobin.
Why do you need to tell this story about yourself? “If you do not take primary authorship of your story, it will be crafted exclusively through the perceptions of others,” explains Tobin. “And… others’ interpretations may not be accurate. Or worse, their motivations may not support your story.”
Crafting your leadership story is a lot like writing a novel: It includes plot, characters, conflict, theme, and setting. ...read the rest here
Monday, June 22, 2015
My new book post on s+b Blogs
On December 17, 1903, on the windy Outer Banks of North Carolina, Wilbur and Orville Wright made four short flights in a crude flying machine that they had built in their bicycle shop back in Dayton, Ohio. Totaling less than 1,500 feet and witnessed by only five men (three of them from a nearby life-saving station in Kitty Hawk), the flights were a signal achievement in human history. “Their flights that morning were the first ever in which a piloted machine took off under its own power into the air in full flight, sailed forward with no loss of speed, and landed at a point as high as that from which it started,” writes David McCullough in his new biography The Wright Brothers (Simon & Schuster, 2015).
The story of how the Wright Brothers mastered the challenge of powered flight is a fascinating one, and as you might expect from a writer and historian of McCullough’s stature, it is told well and in detail. McCullough, the dean of popular historians and the author of landmark books on engineering feats such as the Brooklyn Bridge and the Panama Canal, describes how the brothers constructed their planes by trial and error — hand-shaping the propellers and the wings, and, with the help of Charlie Taylor, their sole employee at the bicycle shop, machining a simple gas engine from a block purchased from the Aluminum Company of America (now Alcoa). They then taught themselves to fly. They never flew together, lest they both die in a crash and fail in their quest.
It’s a story of human ingenuity that I remember reading as a boy, and it is no less inspiring decades later. But, as McCullough pointed out in a talk he gave in Kitty Hawk last fall, the really odd thing about it is that for years after those first flights in 1903, no one appeared to notice or care that two bicycle mechanics had actually achieved the age-old dream of flight (and on a shoestring budget of less than US$1,000). Certainly aviation was newsworthy: from 1898 to 1903, the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Department of War had sunk $50,000 into a failed effort at powered flight, and several European governments were also pursuing aviation projects. But even though the newspapers picked up the story (from a telegram the brothers sent home to their father and sister), the world did not beat a path to their door.
Instead, the brothers returned to Dayton virtually unheralded. They continued to build and sell bicycles, and invested their profits in the ongoing development of their Wright Flyer. To save money, they stopped traveling to the Outer Banks for test flights and began using a cow pasture outside Dayton, which they rented from a local banker who thought them “fools.”
In January 1905, with more than 105 flights under their belts, the brothers sent a letter offering their invention to the U.S. Department of War. They promptly received a standard letter of rejection. In October 1905, by which time they were routinely making flights of 25 miles and more, they again offered the Flyer to the War Department. Again, their offer was rejected.
It wasn’t until the end of 1905 — two years after their first powered flights — that the Wright Brothers were finally able to make a deal for their invention. A representative of a syndicate of French businessmen traveled to Dayton and agreed to purchase a Flyer as gift to the French government. “According to the agreement,” McCullough writes, “the brothers were to receive one million francs, or $200,000, for one machine, on the condition that they provided demonstration flights, during which the machine fulfilled certain requirements in altitude, distance, and speed.”
Even then, it took the Wright Brothers another two-and-a-half years to win widespread recognition for their feat. In the summer of 1908, Wilbur flew at Le Mans in order to fulfill the terms of the French contract. Suddenly, the entire world recognized the brothers’ achievement. Almost five years after their first flights, the two became celebrities overnight.
Unfortunately for aspiring entrepreneurs seeking insights on how to commercialize technological breakthroughs, that’s pretty much the end of the story for McCullough — he sums up most of the rest of the brothers’ lives in an epilogue. In 1909, they formed the Wright Company, but ended up devoting most of their energies to filing and fighting patent suits. Wilbur died of typhoid fever in 1912 at age 45, leaving an estate of approximately $300,000. Orville sold the company in 1918, just a few years after airplanes were first used by military forces in World War I. When he died in 1948, his estate was valued at just over $1 million.
“On July 20, 1969,” concludes McCullough, “when Neil Armstrong, another American born and raised in southwestern Ohio, stepped onto the moon, he carried with him, in tribute to the Wright brothers, a small swatch of the muslin from the wing of their 1903 Flyer.” That’s a nice bit of recognition. But it seems short shrift for ushering in a technological revolution that changed the world and spawned an industry that will generate about $240 billion in sales in the U.S. alone this year.
Monday, June 1, 2015
The Selfie Strategy
The photograph of the three tuxedo-clad titans of industry on the cover of Strategy Rules: Five Timeless Lessons from Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs (HarperBusiness, 2015) could have just as easily been taken in 1898 as 1998. In the only picture of the three CEOs together, Gates, Grove, and Jobs smile out at us as if from the pantheon of business. As long as you remember names like Rockefeller, Edison, and Ford, they seem to be thinking, you will remember us, too.
Rightly so. When the photo was taken, Andy Grove had just been named “Man of the Year” by Time magazine. He was getting ready to step down as the CEO of Intel, where, à la Ford, he had dominated his industry by continuously bringing cheaper, more powerful microprocessors to market. Bill Gates — the Rockefeller of his era — was the head of the world’s most powerful software company, an accused monopolist, and already the richest person on earth. Steve Jobs had returned Apple to profitability after a decade in exile, and was just beginning a run of disruptive innovation that would have made Edison envious.
Given the shelves of books that have already been written about the three CEOs who were most instrumental in shaping the personal computer era, it’s hard to imagine the need for yet another book about any of them. But the authors of this first comparative study of the three men, b-school profs David Yoffie and Michael Cusumano, are convinced otherwise: “We concluded that their approaches could help managers and entrepreneurs think more systematically about strategy, as well as execution, because they tackled key problems in similar ways.” And they know whereof they speak: Yoffie teaches international business administration at Harvard Business School and Cusumano is a management professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.
For the most part, the strategic similarities of the CEOs are unsurprising. Yoffie and Cusumano tell us that each had a long-term vision for his company, but then took the essential second step of connecting vision to action. They made big, bold bets, but stopped short of all-or-nothing wagers that risked the survival of enterprises. They developed platforms and ecosystems rather than just products and services. They deployed the considerable leverage and power at their disposal to create competitive advantage (perhaps overly so, given that each of these companies attracted the unwelcome attentions of antitrust regulators).
The final similarity shared by Gates, Grove, and Jobs, however, is one that comes with warnings. The authors call it a personal anchor: “the leader’s unique skills and business insights.” For Gates, it was programming chops and a deep understanding of software. For Grove, it was engineering excellence and discipline. And for Jobs, it was an obsessive focus on design and user experience.
Although their personal anchors were very different, each CEO used them in the same ways, according to Yoffie and Cusumano. “The anchors drove their day-to-day focus as CEOs and guided strategic thinking as well as helped them make decisions ranging from who to recruit and how to delegate authority,” they write. The values and priorities they embodied became elevated into organizational routines and competencies that remain in place even today at Microsoft, Intel, and Apple.” In other words, these three leaders built their companies in their own images — and built them to last far beyond their tenures at the helm.
Despite the profitable persistence of these three companies, I couldn’t help but be troubled by this argument. The idea that you — or any leader — should “shape the organization around your personal anchor” is a dangerous one. The authors admit that it is a double-edged sword: “We can trace many of the limitations that Microsoft, Intel, and Apple have displayed in recent years to the decisions that Gates, Grove, and Jobs made as well as to the cultures and business models that they established.” Microsoft’s focus on programming and software, for example, is one reason its forays into other markets — like search, smartphones, and social networking — have been “slow and awkward.” Intel is still tied to Moore’s Law and the PC market even as the demand for microprocessors has expanded into mobile devices and the Internet of Things. And like its founder, Apple — now the world’s largest company by market capitalization and its most valuable brand — seems unable to move beyond serial innovation and the risks that entails.
In fact, much of the discussion in the book around utilizing your personal anchor is focused on how to temper its effects. Anchors provide much-needed ballast and stability. But they also limit movement, and if they become too large, or are moved too swiftly, they can cause the ship to capsize. Just so, you need to become aware of how your personal anchor can drag you and your company down, the authors warn. You need to build a leadership team that balances its weaknesses and distributes executive power. You need to cast a wide net for information and continually test the logic behind your decisions.
Gates, Grove, and Jobs certainly possessed weighty personal anchors, and they happened to appear in the right place and time to put them to profitable use. But you should think twice before you tie your personal anchor to your company and chuck it overboard.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Posted by Safari Books Online & filed under Business, careers, health, leadership, management, managing yourself, Personal Development.
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
My new book post on Safari is up:
Why So Few Innovation Efforts Pay Off and What You Can Do About It
That didn’t make a lot of sense to me, until I realized that the lack of correlation probably wasn’t between innovation spending and corporate success as much as it was between innovation spending and innovation success. Unless your R&D spending actually generates some kind of commercially viable innovation, it’s not going to translate into financial performance, is it?
To see why companies might not be getting much of a bang for the big bucks that they spend pursuing innovation, it’s well worth taking a look at Creative People Must Be Stopped: 6 Ways We Kill Innovation (Without Even Trying) (Jossey-Bass, 2012), by David A. Owens. In the book, Owens, a professor at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management and consultant, points out that corporations often provide surprisingly unfertile fields for innovation because of six different and increasingly challenging kinds of constraints: individual, group, organizational, industry, societal, and technological. (As if the six constraints aren’t enough, there are multiple pitfalls within each category.)
Any one of the six constraints can kill innovation efforts dead, so you should get to know all of them (and you can take this survey to find out which ones you or your company might be particularly vulnerable to). But the first two—individual and group—are particularly relevant for frontline and middle managers who are trying improve the innovation results of their teams...read the rest here
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Leadership Lessons from Jeff Bezos and Amazon
Posted May 12, 2015 by Safari Books Online & filed under Amazon, Business, Content - Highlights and Reviews, culture, leadership, management, strategy.