Thursday, August 27, 2015

The professor of power talks books

My latest book post on the strategy+business blogs:

In a time when ideology often trumps reality, Jeffery Pfeffer is an unrepentant Machiavellian. Like Niccolò Machiavelli, Pfeffer, who is the Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, studies and teaches the ways and means of power. And he, too, is convinced that a clear-eyed understanding of the world and how it works is an essential prerequisite of leadership effectiveness.

Most of Pfeffer’s 14 books are devoted to bolstering this effectiveness. In Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management (Harvard Business Review Press, 2006), Pfeffer and coauthor Robert Suttonshowed that conventional management wisdom was rife with fallacies and argued for a more scientific approach that presaged the current interest in data science. In Power: Why Some People Have It — and Others Don’t (Harper Business, 2010), which stemmed from his popular course at Stanford, “The Paths to Power,” Pfeffer argued that the ability to attain and wield power was an indispensable trait of leadership success.

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.

Influence: Science and Practice, 5th Edition, by Robert B. Cialdini (Pearson, 2008). “Influence is both well-written and profoundly insightful about human behavior. It demonstrates that business books can be rigorous and accessible at the same time. If you want to understand the use of power, you need to begin with Bob Cialdini’s seven principles of influence.”

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis (W.W. Norton, 2003). “The thing that attracts me to Moneyball and why it such a wonderful book, aside from Lewis’s engaging and inspirational writing, is that it did a better job of explaining evidence-based management than Bob Sutton and I did in our book. It is a book that speaks to the power of analysis and critical thinking — of asking tough questions and using data to answer those questions, and how that can improve decision making and business performance. Moneyball shows why CEOs cannot push off data science to the IT department.”

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, by Robert A. Caro (Knopf, 1974). “This Pulitzer Prize–winner is a brilliant biography of a transformative figure of the 20th century that does not mythologize or sugarcoat who and what Robert Moses was. It’s also a history of New York and the policies of urban renewal that exist to this day, as well as a tremendous study of power and power dynamics. Caro’s ambivalence about power is reflective of what I see in students and other people. On the one hand, we admire power for its capacity to get things done (Moses basically reconstructed New York City) — and on the other, we are horrified by the tactics and the strategies needed to actually make big things happen. In a very explicit way,The Power Broker examines the tradeoff between means and ends.”

The Reckoning, by David Halberstam (William Morrow, 1986). “When I first read The Reckoning, I thought it was going to be about the fall of the U.S. auto industry, which of course it is. It also turned out to be a fabulous study of business cultures and management told through the story of Robert McNamara and the so-called Whiz Kids. Halberstam tracks the rise of the modern management ethos in the U.S. — which focuses on numbers and returning money to shareholders, and which claims that a good leader can run anything from General Motors to the Department of Defense — versus the very different ethos we see in countries such as Japan and Germany. The Reckoning is an important book because it speaks to the implicit and sometimes explicit assumptions we have about what leaders and managers do and how they ought to think about their jobs. These are issues that we are still struggling with today.”

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Audacity of Holacracy

My latest book post on the strategy+business blogs:

These days, utopianism is rife in the business world. Perhaps it presages an evolutionary leap to a brave new paradigm. Perhaps the proliferation of pie-in-the-sky thinking is a reaction to the unsettled times, driven by environmental threats, shifts in the global power structure, technological disruption, and economic disparity. Perhaps it’s a cyclical outbreak — an overly exuberant bubble of dissatisfaction with business as usual that will naturally deflate over time. In any case, there seems to be a notable increase in proposals aimed at transforming business from a heartless profit mechanism into a force for good that empowers people and enriches lives.
One of the most radical of these proposals has been put forth by Brian J. Robertson, computer programmer, entrepreneur, and, most recently, management messiah. In Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World (Henry Holt, 2015), Robertson, without a shadow of doubt and with little due diligence, calls for a fundamental revamping of how businesses are run.
You’ve probably heard of holacracy by now. The controversial management concept has received a lot of media attention because Tony Hsieh has been adopting it at Zappos for the past couple of years. Back in April, almost 15 percent of the online shoe-retailing company’s then-1,500 employees took a live-it-or-leave-it buyout offer rather than stay the course and commit to holacracy. That’s a pretty notable number because Zappos is known for its culture of empowerment and its highly engaged employees.
However, most of the Zappos coverage doesn’t really get to the radical and utopian nature of holacracy. For that, you need Robertson’s book.
It’s a sneaky read. One minute, you’re immersed in the minutia of vocabulary and etiquette that governs this alternative “social technology.” The next, you realize that Robertson’s rules of order are intended to do nothing less than completely replace the hierarchy of managerial power and authority on which all large companies are the rest here

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Kellogg strategy prof recommends 3 books for aspiring leaders

Harry Kraemer’s Required Reading

by Theodore Kinni
One of my favorite lines from a business book was written by Harry Kraemer: “Throughout my career, up to and including when I was CEO, I benefited from the fact that I worked with a number of amazing people who were willing to prevent me from doing things that did not make sense.” Oh, the humility!

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.”
Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis (HarperCollins, 1952)
“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

The top executive coach calls out 4 must-read books

Marshall Goldsmith’s Required Reading

by Theodore Kinni

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

Write your own story

What’s Your (Leadership) Story?

Posted by & filed under Business, leadership, management, managing yourself.

By Theodore Kinni

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. the rest here

Monday, June 22, 2015

The vagaries of innovation

My new book post on s+b Blogs

The Wright Stuff

What if you demonstrated a world-changing invention and nobody noticed? For years, that was the fate of the two self-taught men who pioneered a quantum leap in human transportation.

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

Lessons from yesterday's titans

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

Are you fit to lead?

Phys Ed for Managers

Posted by
& filed under Business, careers, health, leadership, management, managing yourself, Personal Development.
By Theodore Kinni
Theodore Kinni has written, ghosted, or edited more than 20 business books. He was book review editor for strategy+business for 7 years.
“In order for man to succeed in life, God provided him with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together.” Plato wrote that about 400 years before the birth of Christ. I have no idea if the Greek philosopher pursued physical fitness, but it’s said that  he died peacefully in his bed at the age of 81—which I assume was considered a ripe old age in those days.

It’s not a bad life span these days either. After all, the average life expectancy in the U.S. is just under 79 years. The only problem, according the founder of The Leadership Academy of Barcelona, executive coach, and b-school professor Steven P. MacGregor, is that a career in business is not exactly conducive to a long life. “As we advance through a career, we tend to increasingly live our lives on a purely mental level, with all of our emails and strategies and meetings and metrics, forgetting we have a body until something goes wrong with it!” he explains in the opening chapter of his book, Sustaining Executive Performance: How the New Self-Management Drives Innovation, Leadership, and a More Resilient World (Pearson FT Press, 2014).
Happily, MacGregor has a solution—a program designed specifically to help business people become physically as well as mentally fit. Its five elements are Move, Recover, Focus, Fuel, and the rest here

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How companies kill innovation

My new book post on Safari is up:

Why So Few Innovation Efforts Pay Off and What You Can Do About It

By Theodore Kinni
Theodore Kinni has written, ghosted, or edited more than 20 business books. He was book review editor for strategy+business for 7 years.
Companies spend a lot of money on innovation. According to an annual study by PwC Strategy&, the top 1000 corporate R&D spenders invested $647 billion in their quest for innovation in 2014. That’s more than the individual GDPs of all but the 30 most prosperous countries in the world.
Given this level of spending, I assumed that these companies—the so-called Global Innovation
1000—were getting a pretty hefty return on their investment. But I was wrong about that: Year after year, Strategy& reports that there is “no statistically significant relationship between sustained financial performance and R&D spending” among these enterprises.

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 the rest here

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Jeff Bezos way

Leadership Lessons from Jeff Bezos and Amazon
Posted May 12, 2015 by & filed under Amazon, Business, Content - Highlights and Reviews, culture, leadership, management, strategy.
By Theodore Kinni
Theodore Kinni has written, ghosted, or edited more than 20 business books. He was book review editor for strategy+business for 7 years.
I’ve been waiting for Amazon—with its annual sales of almost $90 billion in 2014—to crash and burn for a long time. There was no way that a public company could continue to operate almost entirely without profit year after year—Amazon lost $241 million in 2014. I was positive that a reckoning was just around the corner. Now, 20 years down the road, and before Jeff Bezos dispatches a fleet of delivery drones to bombard me with the company’s ubiquitous shipping cartons, I hereby publicly and unconditionally surrender. Never again will I mutter—even under my breath—about the company’s prospects.

No matter what you think of Amazon, it is clear that it is a juggernaut of a company—and that its leaders play a big role in its ability to generate topline growth. That’s why it’s worth reading The Amazon Way: 14 Leadership Principles Behind the World’s Most Disruptive Company by John Rossman. Rossman, who was formerly Amazon’s director of enterprise services and now serves as managing director of professional services firm Alvarez & Marsal, says that the principles he describes in the book were embedded in the corporate culture by founder Bezos and remain the “core tenets on which company leaders are rigorously rated during their annual performance reviews and self-evaluations.” Here are a few that are especially notable—not so much for their commonsensical nature, but for the diligence with which the company pursues them:
Obsess Over the Customer: Not surprisingly from a company that rewrote the book on retailing (driving myriad competitors in segments such as books and music out of business altogether), Amazon’s first leadership tenet dictates an intense focus on the customer. Rossman writes that Bezos has always maintained that the “best customer service is no customer service.” This koan-like statement means that Amazon seeks to always give its customers exactly what they want the first time around, which eliminates a whole bunch of problems—and costs—from the get go. That’s why the company instituted policies like the then-innovative free shipping on orders over $100 program, “Look Inside the Book” previews, and Amazon Prime, which has become a major revenue generator in its own the rest here

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Goleman's contributions to the literature of leadership

Why You Should Read Daniel Goleman

Posted by & filed under Business, Content - Highlights and Reviews, emotional intelligence, leadership, management, managing people, managing yourself.

By Theodore Kinni
Theodore Kinni has written, ghosted, or edited more than 20 business books. He was book review editor for strategy+business for 7 years.

It’s hard to imagine anyone who has influenced the discipline of leadership to a greater degree over the past 20 years than psychologist, consultant, and author Daniel Goleman. Goleman is best known for popularizing the concept of emotional intelligence (EI) with his book of the same name, which was published in 1995. Since then he’s been exploring a set of learnable capabilities relating to “how well we manage ourselves and our relationships” that can be developed to enhance personal and organizational performance.

There is no better place to get an introduction or refresher course in Goleman’s oeuvre than What Makes a Leader: Why Emotional Intelligence Matters (More Than Sound, 2013). It is a collection of seven of his most important and relevant articles, originally published in Harvard Business Review and elsewhere, each with a new postscript by the author. The result is a useful combination of the theoretical and practical, all packaged into one quick read that offers aspiring leaders a great return on their time.

The collection is bookended by Goleman’s most important concepts. It starts with the HBR article in which Goleman introduced EI to business leaders. In it, he explained that while above-average intelligence and relevant technical skills were “entry-level requirements for executive positions,” research showed that the four components of EI were what makes or breaks a leader.

Self-awareness, which “shows itself as candor and an ability to assess oneself realistically,” is the first component. Goleman says that self-aware leaders are able to “speak accurately and openly…about their emotions and the impact they have on their work.” For instance, self-aware leaders realize how deadlines affect them and are able to communicate that information to their teams to ensure positive results.

Self-management—the ability to control your own moods, feelings, and emotions by acknowledging and channeling them productively—is the second component of EI. Unsurprisingly, thoughtful reflection and a passion for success turn out to be more productive for leaders than temper tantrums and sulking.

Empathy, that is, “thoughtfully considering employees’ feelings—along with other factors—in the process of making intelligent decisions,” is the third component. Goleman identifies this quality as most critical in today’s highly diverse and global business environment. And you don’t have to look much further than the headlines, which are filled with news of lawsuits between employers and employees, to see that it isn’t as common a trait as it should be.

Social skill, “friendliness with a purpose: moving people in the direction you desire,” is the fourth and final trait of EI. Leaders who cultivate this skill are good schmoozers, and while that may sound like a less-than-critical capability, Goleman finds that it is what enables us to put EI to work, making social skill “the culmination of other dimensions of emotional intelligence.” the rest here

Monday, May 4, 2015

Favorite books from the brand builder behind The North Face

Hap Klopp’s Required Reading

In 1968, a newly minted Stanford School of Business MBA named Kenneth (Hap) Klopp bought a two-year-old outdoors store in the San Francisco Bay area named The North Face. Over the next two decades, he vertically integrated the business — expanding into the manufacturing and wholesaling of high-quality outdoor apparel and gear — and laid the foundation for a brand that generated US$2.3 billion in revenues in 2014.

Klopp sold The North Face in 1989 and embarked on a new career as a consultant, teacher, and writer. Today, he serves on the boards of several high-tech companies, including data visualization firm Obscura Digital and nanotechnology materials firms Cocona and Mission Athletecare. He is also a professor of marketing at Hult International University and the author of two decidedly irreverent business books, The Adventure of Leadership: An Unorthodox Business Guide by the Man who Conquered “The North Face (with Brian Tarcy, Longmeadow Press, 1991) and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Business Management (with Brian Tarcy, Alpha Books, 1998).

I asked Klopp how he chooses business books, and he explained that he looks for books that relate to three themes: changing social values and trends; the disruptive effects of technology; and the preservation of entrepreneurial energy in mature companies — the last a challenge that he labels “turning the arrow back.” He recommended the following four books.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Why King Charles lost his head

Saumitra Jha: How Financial Innovation Helped Start the English Civil War (and Why That’s Important Today)

A Stanford scholar explains why financial mechanisms could be useful to align diverse interests.

Four chess lessons for leaders

It’s easy to see the top of the corporate ladder but successfully making the climb is an increasingly challenging undertaking. After years of rightsizing and delayering, steps leading to the top of ladder are fewer and farther apart than ever. And when you get a chance to stand on them, you better make the most of it—there are plenty of people climbing the ladder behind you.

How can you do that? Mark Miller, who since 1977 has climbed the corporate ladder from hourly team member to vice president of leadership development at Chick-fil-A, the $5 billion fast serve restaurant chain, says you have to raise your game.

“Most of us began our leadership journey utilizing an approach with striking similarities to the game of checkers, a fun, highly reactionary game often played at a frantic pace. Any strategies we employed in this style of leadership were limited, if not rudimentary,” he explains. “The opportunities in our world for leaders to play checkers and be successful are dwindling. The development game today for most leaders can better be compared to chess—a game in which strategy matters; a game in which individual pieces have unique abilities that drive unique contributions; a game in which heightened focus and a deeper level of thinking are required to win.”

In his new book, a fast-reading and accessible business novel titled Chess, Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game (Berrett-Koehler, 2015), Miller describes chess-level leadership strategies—four moves that you can use to make the most of opportunities to climb the career ladder when they present the rest here

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The new world of weed

My new book post on s+b is up:

Welcome to the Marijuana Economy

As a child of the 1960s, I can’t resist reviewing Big Weed: An Entrepreneur’s High-Stakes Adventures in the Budding Legal Marijuana Business. But I won’t stoop to snickering references to nickel bags and Cheech and Chong bits that are as passé (and culturally obsolete) as my youth. Instead, I’ll let Hageseth pick up the slack for me.

“I was baked off my ass,” recalls the self-styled “ganjaprenuer” of the time he worked his company’s booth at the 2012 High Times Medical Cannabis Cup in Denver. “Seriously, I’ve never been so high in my entire life. At one point I thought I was hallucinating.”

That’s not something that I ever imagined I’d hear a CEO say (let alone commit to print). But from Hageseth, the founder of Colorado-based Green Man Cannabis, it’s more like smart marketing than a stoner’s sketchy memories. Hageseth is on a brand-building mission that he compares to those of Ben & Jerry’s and Starbucks — two brands that got their start as alternative/counterculture businesses and have since become mainstream icons: “I wanted to win the minds, then the hearts, and finally the wallets of marijuana product and lifestyle consumers and become the most recognized brand of legal marijuana in the world.”

A couple of decades ago, such a business plan would have been written off as, um, a pipe dream. But according to Hageseth, business is booming at Green Man. The company grossed US$300,000 in 2009, the year he started it as a grower of medical marijuana. The business grew nicely, but really took off when the recreational use of marijuana became legal in Colorado in January 2014. Last year, the company grossed $4 million, mainly from two retail outlets in Denver — one of which is across the street from a Whole Foods Market. And after the Green Man Cannabis Ranch & Amphitheater, the first-ever “weedery” (think winery for weed), slated to open in the fall of 2015, has been up and running for a year, Hageseth says annual revenue will jump to $97 million.

Big Weed is an entertaining story of entrepreneurship with all the usual — and some markedly unusual — challenges. Hageseth’s company has the same talent woes as other startups: Green Man almost crashes on takeoff because he hires a master grower via Craigslist (where else?) who can’t quite comprehend the differences between growing marijuana illegally in a basement and growing it legally at scale in a 5,000-square-foot warehouse. Hageseth also has less-familiar problems: No bank wants to do business with a legal marijuana grower for fear of falling afoul of federal banking regulations. Technically, Green Man’s revenue is illegal drug money in the eyes of the feds. “Imagine having to pay huge bills in cash — amounts in the tens of thousands,” Hageseth the rest here

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Leaders don't always sport a title

How To Find the Hidden Leaders on Your Team

By Theodore Kinni
Theodore Kinni has written, ghosted, or edited more than 20 business books. He was book review editor for strategy+business for 7 years.

Everybody recognizes the importance of leadership in the C-suite, but we don’t always give it the
attention it deserves in the trenches—where execution is the name of the game. Nevertheless, there are lots of so-called “hidden leaders” on the front lines, and supervisors and middle managers who know how to find and nurture them can enhance performance in their teams and provide a great boon to their companies.

Who are these hidden leaders? “They are the people who are putting your organization’s strategy into practice, carrying out your quarterly plans, and bringing the value of your organization to life for customers every day,” says Scott Edinger, the founder of Edinger Consulting Group. “They are the employees who make the engine run.”

In Hidden Leader: Discover and Develop Greatness within Your Company (AMACOM, 2015), Edinger, along with co-author Laurie Sain, explains that these often unrecognized and, thus, underutilized employees can set the standards for performance excellence and bring energy to their teams; they serve as trustworthy sounding boards for supervisors and peers alike and are the go-to guys and gals for critical assignments. Edinger generously agreed to answer a few questions to help you harness the power of the hidden leaders on your the rest here

Thursday, April 16, 2015

How to simplify complex decisions

My new article for Stanford Business:

Conquering Complexity With Simple Rules

A Stanford professor offers a better way to make decisions.

What do burglars, Stanford’s football team, and Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen have in common?
They all use simple rules to help them navigate complex challenges, according to a new book by Stanford professor Kathleen Eisenhardt.

Many burglars follow just one rule that significantly lowers their risk of getting caught — they pass on houses where there are cars in the driveway, says the book, which Eisenhardt co-authored with Donald Sull, a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Business. Cardinal football players follow three simple dietary rules: Eat breakfast; stay hydrated; and eat as much as you want of anything that can be picked, plucked, or killed. And Yellen adopted a “mind the gap” rule which uses targets for unemployment and inflation to inform the Fed’s interest rate decisions.

Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World is counterintuitive in a time when algorithms and terabytes of data are often cited as prerequisites of decision-making. “How can people manage the complexity of the modern world?” the authors write. “Our answer, grounded in research and real-world results, is that simple rules tame complexity better than complex solutions.” the rest here

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Frontline career development

The Three Conversations that Will Help Your Employees Grow


By Theodore Kinni

Theodore Kinni has written, ghosted, or edited more than 20 business books. He was book review editor for strategy+business for 7 years.

There are plenty of plausible excuses for managers who don’t want to be bothered helping employees
enhance their careers. There’s no time. People should “own” their own careers. If I give an inch, they’ll want a mile. Career development is only for so-called high potentials.

The only problem with these excuses, according to employee development experts Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni: “Study after study confirms that best-in-class managers—the ones who consistently develop the most capable, flexible, and engaged teams able to drive exceptional business results—all share one quality: they make career development a priority.” In other words, if you are being called upon to meet ever-expanding expectations or to continuously improve quality or to deliver the next big thing (and who isn’t), you better be thinking about how to help your people help you achieve those goals.

The best way to build career development into your managerial repertoire, write Kaye and Giulioni in their book Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want (Berrett-Koehler, 2012), is by becoming an expert at holding career conversations. These are conversations that “facilitate insights and awareness, explore possibilities and opportunities, and inspire responses that drive employee-owned action” the rest here

Monday, April 13, 2015

Let them hear your body talk

My latest book post on Safari Online:

Why You Need to Work on Your Body-Language Skills

Posted April 7, 2015 by ; filed under Business, communication, influence and persuasion, management, managing yourself.

By Theodore Kinni
Theodore Kinni has written, ghosted, or edited more than 20 business books. He was book review editor for strategy+business for 7 years.

I’m usually oblivious to anything more subtle than a bonk on the head, but even I couldn’t miss the body language in a recent episode of a fair-to-middlin’ TV political drama. In it, an actress playing the U.S. Secretary of State, who is suffering from post-traumatic stress after single-handedly thwarting a coup in Iran, is meeting with an actor playing the President’s chief of staff, who wants her to make a high-stakes appearance on a national TV news program. The chief of staff presses her, asking if she is ready to do the show, and the actress, shaking her head, says, “Absolutely.” He walks away happy.

Clearly, the chief of staff has not read Body Language: It’s What You Don’t Say That Matters (Capstone, 2012) by Robert Phipps. “You’ll typically see this sort of incongruence between words and body language when people are under pressure to do something they don’t really want to do,” explains the UK-based body language expert. “It’s often accompanied by a ‘shoulder shrug,’ which generally indicates one of two things: either ‘indecision’, being caught between a ‘Yes’ and a ‘No;’ or an outright contradiction of the verbal ‘Yes’.” the rest here 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Brian Grazer on curiosity

My review for Financial Times:

Review: A Curious Mind, by Brian Grazer

by Theodore Kinni
I had expected Brian Grazer, with his phenomenal success as a producer of films including Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind, and his odd habit of hounding notable people such as scientist Jonas Salk and writer Isaac Asimov until they agree to meet him for a “curiosity conversation”, to make a fascinating subject for a book.
Maybe that is why I found A Curious Mind curiously disappointing. A book that should have given us the inside scoop on a self-made member of Hollywood’s power elite turns out to be a rather lightweight paean to the benefits of curiosity.
Grazer, supported by business book writer Charles Fishman, attributes the lion’s share of his success to a single trait: “Life isn’t about finding the answers, it’s about asking the questions.” But he finds it hard to shoehorn his own career into this reductionist frame. For instance, he quickly notes that questions are not enough; you have to listen to the answers and be willing to act on them. And then there are the curious times that he becomes “anti-curious” because he has come to a decision. “Thanks anyway,” Grazer says, “I don’t want your critique.”
A Curious Mind is punctuated by vignettes from 63-year-old Grazer’s life and career that provide far more insight the rest here