Posts Categorized: Book of the Month

Book of the Month: The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive

Book of the Month: May

The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive

by Patrick Lencioni

Like every Patrick Lencioni book I’ve read, The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive takes the form of a fable to impart Lencioni’s unique take on leadership. The crux of Lencioni’s message is that organizations attain their greatest health, and by extension, profitability, when the leaders of those organizations simplify, streamlining those areas to which they devote their attention and efforts, almost to an extreme degree. He identifies four key disciplines which warrant the focus of extraordinary executives:

1. Build and Maintain a Cohesive Leadership Team – Among other things, this involves creating a culture of vigorous debate to ensure that leadership teams do not suffer from their own insulation. Too often, debate is viewed as a sign of conflict, rather than what it really can be–a critical part of the decision-making process, necessary to ensure that issues are viewed holistically and approached strategically.

2. Create Organizational Clarity – Organizational clarity can be defined through establishing answers to the following six questions:

1. Why does this company exist?
2. How should we behave?
3. What do we do?
4. How will we succeed?
5. What is most important right now?
6. Who must do what?

Answers are intended to be succinct. Lencioni does not speak of mission statements, but for many companies the answers to these questions would be an extension of mission, vision and value statements.

3. Over-Communicate Organizational Clarity – According to Lencioni, the extraordinary executive ensures that answers to the above questions pervade the organization such that whether it be the CFO or the mail room attendant, each team member can clearly understand and espouse what amounts to the company’s most fundamental tenets, mission, and methods. This is how organizational unity and cohesion take root.

4. Reinforce Organizational Clarity Through Human Systems – This is where the rubber meets the road. Processes must be established to ensure that new employees are never hired without strong alignment to the organization’s fundamental values. Onboarding these new employees must occur in a systematic way to ensure that the organization’s learned culture is conveyed and absorbed most effectively. Performance review and feedback processes will help to keep individuals accountable to the company’s values and mission.

Executives manage so many aspects of their businesses, that the prospect of devoting focus to as few as four areas might at first seem impractical, if not altogether irresponsible. However, Lencioni makes a strong case that actually the opposite is true. By focusing on these four areas, executives can avoid becoming spread too thin or distracted, and instead devote the lion’s share of their energy to only those areas that will have the most dramatic impact on their company’s health, and by extension, the bottom line.

Clint Hardison

Reviewed by Clint Hardison

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Book Of The Month: Getting Naked

Getting Naked Book ReviewGetting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding The Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty by Patrick Lencioni

Without a question, this is the best business book I have read all year (the title is pretty catchy too), and is a must read for anyone in business providing sales or service to another organization.

Put simply, in a very understandable, widely applicable type of way, Patrick highlights how and why vulnerability (described as being “naked” with clients) is the best client strategy around. He describes how most “consultants” “service providers” “vendors” etc. spend so much of their time selling, vs. just rolling up their sleeves and focusing on how to help the client from the first interaction forward. His basic premise is that by focusing on selling, rather than just serving, consultants miss the key part of their job-consulting-and therefore lose out on valuable long-term client relationships.

In a recent interview about the book, the author Patrick stated: “People spend most of their lives trying to avoid awkward and painful situations –which is why it is no surprise that we are all susceptible to the three fears that sabotage client loyalty.”

He describes these three fears are the primary fears that service providers wrestle with that keep them from being vulnerable and rob all their effectiveness and power in relationships with their clients. They are:

1) Fear of Losing the Business – No service provider wants to lose clients or revenue. Interestingly, it is this very notion that prevents many service providers from having the difficult conversations that actually build greater loyalty and trust. Clients want to know that their service providers are more interested in helping succeed in business than protecting their revenue source.

2) Fear of Being Embarrassed – This fear is rooted in pride. No one likes to publicly make mistakes, endure scrutiny or be embarrassed. Naked service providers are willing to ask questions and make suggestions even if those questions and suggestions turn out to be laughably wrong. Clients trust naked service providers because they know that they will not hold back their ideas, hide their mistakes, or edit themselves to save face.

3) Fear of Being Inferior – Similar to the previous fear, this one is rooted in ego. Fear of being inferior is not about being intellectually wrong (as in Fear of being Embarrassed) it is about preserving social standing with the client. Naked service providers are able to overcome the need to feel important in the eyes of their client and basically do whatever a client needs to help the client improve – even if that.

I highly encourage anyone trying to develop and build long term client relationships to read this book.

Upwards and Onwards.

Jonathan Keyser

Reviewed by Jonathan Keyser

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Book of the Month: Drive

Drive by Daniel Pink

Daniel Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us is one of those books that has us wondering when current management techniques are going to wake up to modern reality. According to Pink (and years of scientific research) autonomy, mastery and purpose, not external rewards, is what motivates.

After receiving a book recommendation from a former colleague, I picked up a copy of the 2011 paperback version and couldn’t put it down. As one who has had the responsibility of motivating employees, students, and my own kids, Pink made it clear that some type of work just can’t be effectively managed with the old carrots and sticks approach. What seemed so straight forward for years – that rewards like money or good grades and punishment like fines or shame would shape behavior in the desired direction – is just dead wrong.

Check out pages 50-51 where day-care parents actually increased their tardy behavior when issued a punitive fine for late arrival, or page 45 where women in Gothenburg, Sweden “donated” less blood when they were paid to do so. Pink claims that a few mundane tasks may still benefit from such incentives but for creative ones, incentives can have a limiting effect.

So, while money and shame don’t actually motive like we thought they would, apparently autonomy, mastery and purpose do. Autonomy, even if it is perceived control, Pink says, is an important component of one’s happiness. Mastery is a mindset. It’s one that chooses the tough, sometimes impossible challenge (like becoming a perfect golfer) yet sticks with it day after day. I saw this in students who, with simple grit and determination just kept trying until they eventually surpassed their “gifted” peers academically.

Finally, purpose as a motivator seems intuitive, yet I would suggest that Pink does a good job of pointing to the “intrinsic aspirations” component of this factor – that is, feeling better by helping others improve their lives. Pink shares that “people who’d had purpose goals and felt they were attaining them reported higher levels of satisfaction and subjective well-being.”

For anyone who works with children, manages adults, or just wants to retire that old carrot and stick, Pink’s Drive is a must-read!

Jeffrey Houser

Reviewed by Jeffrey Houser

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Book of the Month: Give and Take

GiveandTake

Give and Take by Adam Grant

This is an extraordinarily visionary book that for the first time provides the thoroughly researched and well-vetted business case for success through service. The fundamental premise of the book is that people fall into three general categories, namely: Givers, Matchers and Takers. Givers are exactly what they sound like…people that give selflessly of their time and resources to help others and are consistently looking for ways to be of service to others regardless of what comes back to them in return. Matchers look to “trade” acts of service like referrals with others and will only continue in the giving or sharing if the other person reciprocates. Most people in the world fall into this category at one level or another. The last group, Takers, are described as people who look out just for themselves and try to maximize their personal gain at the expense of everyone around them.

The most interesting thing about this book to me is that it describes how Givers are at both the very top and the very bottom of the monetary success scale, which is a very interesting phenomenon and begs the question: “why?”. The answer, while somewhat intuitive, is quite profound and solves this dilemma using real case studies and 20 years of research. The basic conclusion is that strategic givers that look for maximum impact opportunities with their service and are very intentional about it are the top of the success ladder, and the bleeding hearts that can never say no to a request end up wasting their opportunity for real impact by being pulled in every different direction without purpose, intentionality or focus on impact.

All in all, it is a very good book and has helped me to put a verbal framework around the business model that Keyser was built upon that for me was just intuitive. This book is a must read for anyone looking to create or transform a business through selfless service.

Upwards and Onwards.

Jonathan Keyser

Reviewed by Jonathan Keyser

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Book of the Month: Think and Grow Rich

ThinkGrowRich

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

This book taught me that I can do anything. That my, and anyone’s, potential is only limited by our own minds. Napoleon Hill teaches through the examples of ordinary men who have set their minds to doing extraordinary things. The real secret taught in “Think and Grow Rich” is that they actually go and do the things they set their minds to, regardless of any and all obstacles.

I often make the mistake of limiting myself. I dream of doing great things and changing the business world through pure, selfless service. But then I think about the enormity of some of my goals and fail to take action toward achieving them. I think that my experiences are not uncommon. I think many of us know what we want to accomplish in life, yet we often fail to take the required action due to self-doubt, seemingly insurmountable odds, or even simple laziness. This book challenges the reader to take action. To believe that their potential is limitless and to act in line with that belief. To clearly define a goal, and then identify what needs to take place for that goal to come to fruition.

As one of the younger members of the team at Keyser, I am surrounded by talent and success and drive. I see people on our team living the principles taught in this book and reaping the rewards. Truly setting their minds on a goal, and doing whatever it takes to achieve it. It is refreshing to note that often the goals they are setting their minds to benefit themselves very little. They are goals to serve and lift others. I am often the beneficiary.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking to accomplish their dreams. Though it teaches and talks of success in monetary terms, the principles apply to success in any arena. This book embodies the fourth and fifth Keyser Operating Principle:

4) We always do our best, and produce more than our clients request or expect every single time. We provide the highest quality service, materials, and deliverables to our clients and partners, and nothing is ever done halfway. Everything is done to the very best of our potential.

5) We expect to win every single time. Period. We do this because we think and act as we truly are—the best in the business. No one delivers better service or representation than our team. We are the BEST and we honor ourselves, our partners & our clients by being & doing our best.

Joseph Harper

Reviewed by Joseph Harper

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Book of the Month: Team of Rivals

imgTeam of Rivals- The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln4

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

This book has altered my understanding of true leadership. Most Americans know various facts and tidbits in regards to the life of Abraham Lincoln, from his Gettysburg Address to his assassination. For many, he is regarded as one of the greatest American presidents. However, most of the stories told about Abraham Lincoln don’t capture the historical context, setting, and inner-workings of the men and women surrounding him at this time. Team of Rivals: The political Genius of Abraham Lincoln sheds light onto the true leadership of Abraham Lincoln by uncovering the varying nature (friend and foe) of those he was responsible to lead.

Many leaders surround themselves with “yes-men” who are too afraid to challenge the leader; this fear of feedback has caused the downfall of great organizations. Abraham Lincoln knew that in order to keep the Union together that he would have to select cabinet members that not only politically disagreed with him on some issues, but that were also at times openly hostile to the president. This book shows how the Union could have crumbled if it wasn’t for President Lincoln’s leadership of those who were the toughest to lead.

Is this book only important to those who are interested in American History? Absolutely not. This book is as influential and applicable as any best-selling business book. It embodies the 12th Keyser Principle, and the leadership from this book, when lived, will powerfully impact the direction of any company.

“We are 100% coachable. We do not resist feedback, we are never defensive, and we look deep within ourselves to identify where criticism could be even partially true. We find great value in the perspective of others and are fully committed to the consensus of the team.”

Blake Hardison

Reviewed by Blake Hardison

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Book of the Month: Enchantment

Kawasaki 
Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki

This book is an extraordinarily powerful book, much more so than I anticipated when I first picked it up. My favorite part of the book is that as it describes how to enchant people (or enroll them in what you are wanting to enroll them in), it was made very clear that to really be able to effectively enchant an entire marketplace, you have to be very authentic, not self-serving, and be truly passionate and fully enrolled in anything you wish to enroll anyone else in. Otherwise, people can sense the inauthenticity, and not only are they not enchanted, but now they see you for the charleton that you are.

This book was an extraordinary read for me, because it helped reinforce in my mind how powerful and necessary our mission is here at Keyser as we strive to transform our industry and the world through selfless service. It validated a great many things that we are already doing as well as gave me fresh ideas for other ways we can help to spread our mission and purpose to the world. I would recommend this book to anyone trying to accomplish something great in life, particularly if it requires other people to help you accomplish them.

Jonathan Keyser

Reviewed by Jonathan Keyser

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