Sunday, July 31, 2011

Book Summary: "Leadership and Self-Deception, Getting Out of the Box" by the Arbinger Institute

Intrigued by the title for some time, this book came highly recommended by my colleague Pete Cracovaner of Pinnacle Resource Group. The only leadership book that I am aware of with this particular focus, the authors write that self-deception "determines one's experience in every aspect of life"...quite a contention.

Written as a parable, this book explores how we all view and treat others as objects to help us accomplish our goals (termed being "in the box") as opposed to viewing others as people, with their own hopes and dreams (being "out of the box"). Being "in the box" limits our ability to reach our full potential and betrays the basic obligation that we each have to see others as they are, as people. "Self-betrayal", an act contrary to what our sense is of what is appropriate and how we should be toward others, is the basis of self-deception. And when we are self-deceived, we 1) inflate others' faults, 2) inflate our own virtue, 3) inflate the value of things that justify our self-betrayal, and 4) blame others. "Self-betrayal is the germ that creates the disease of self-deception."

When we are "in the box" we see things in terms of the self-justifying images that we've created. We see people who challenge these images as threats and those who reinforce these images as allies. But regardless, we view others merely as objects, not as people. When applying these concepts to the workplace, it must be in the context of the point of all our efforts at work: to achieve results. Simply, we can't truly focus on results if we are "in the box" and focused on ourselves...we're too busy trying to get only our own results, not accomplishing what's best for the organization as a whole. Problems with being "in the box" include: lack of commitment, conflict, stress, poor teamwork, lack of trust, lack of accountability and communication issues.

To get out of the box, we should do our best to help others succeed and achieve results, whether personally or professionally. Success as a leader depends on being free of self-betrayal and creating an environment of openness, trust and teamwork, where people work hard for the collective good, not individual accomplishments. Like the authors write: "We can't really achieve results like we otherwise could if we're in the box." So, how often are you "in the box" toward others? And what critical few things can you work on right away that will help you achieve improved results?

JFD Performance Solutions ( )
As a business coaching and consulting firm, we specialize in helping individuals to reach more of their potential, companies to achieve greater results, and teams to work better together. We help our clients implement sustainable change and be more successful.

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Book Summary: "Vital Factors" by Lee Froschheiser and Paul Chutkow

Subtitled "The Secret to Transforming Your Business - and Your Life," this book came highly recommended by my friend Markus Isenrich, president of the private equity firm Ferro Management Group. Vital Factors describes and promotes the use of the MAP (Management Action Programs) system to guide the transformation of a business or organization.

MAP is a detailed, comprehensive plan of action, designed to perform six critical missions simultaneously:

1. Teach business fundamentals

2. Pinpoint a company's Vital Factors

3. Ensure proper measurement and management of these Vital Factors

4. Establish a top-to-bottom system of goals and controls

5. Catalyze positive, ongoing changes throughout the company

6. Instill those virtues that turn good companies into market leaders

Vital Factors are "the critical elements that would either hold the company back or propel it to success" and enable the processes and tools to execute in the six basic functions of management: Leading, Communicating, Planning, Organizing, Staffing, and Controlling. Vital Factors are related to the Vital Few, the key drivers of the business and should be utilized based on an important MAP mantra: "The more tightly you control your people, the more you sap their power to succeed." One way to measure this is via a tool the author's term the Empowerment Pendulum where the organization rates itself on a scale where 1 represents High Control and 10 represents High Empowerment. How would your organization rate?

The authors also delineate some important lessons as related to an organization's Vital Factors:

Gathering accurate and timely financial information is critical.Teaching all levels of staff to understand - and manage - their Vital Factor financial information is also critical.It is essential for key management to agree on the financial Vital Factors to focus on and then to set monthly goals related to them.Holding monthly meetings to review the financial Vital Factors is also essential (although that is a discipline that many companies fail to maintain).

As you can see, an organization's Vital Factors are a critical element in every aspect of the MAP system. To better comprehend this it is important to review the three phases to MAP:

1. The Mechanics Phase. This is the how phase, when you and your team are just learning how to use the MAP system and tools. You are discovering the answers to questions like these: What is a Vital Factor? What is a goal and what is a corrective action? How do I prepare for my monthly Vital Factor Meeting? This phase is probably the most difficult, because everything is new, including MAP concepts and terminology.

2. The Enlightenment Phase. This is when your people get the hang of the process and it all starts coming together. They no longer ask, "How do I do that?" Now they ask, "Why?" In this phase your people push the process themselves and ask, "Why don't we measure this Vital Factor or focus on that fundamental; it directly affects profitability."

3. The Internalization Phase. This is the fun part, the who phase. This occurs when your team has totally internalized the MAP philosophy and operating system, accepting as ritual key elements such as Vital Factor Meetings, goals and controls, accountability and discipline, group brainstorming, strategic alignment, managing to your values, empowering your people, practicing candor, and instilling passion in your people.

In addition to business applications, MAP is a comprehensive system that can be applied at home and in the community. The authors write about applications in areas such as transforming the family business, improving your relationships, improving your parenting, grooming your successors, and many more.

As is often the case, an important step in achieving constant improvement and terrific results is to identify a system that works for you or your business. And if you want dramatic results, a system like MAP may be right for you.

JFD Performance Solutions (

As a business coaching and consulting firm, we specialize in helping individuals to reach more of their potential, companies to achieve greater results, and teams to work better together. We help our clients implement sustainable change and be more successful.

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Book Summary: "Death by Meeting" by Patrick Lencioni

The book's subtitle is "A Leadership Fable" and it tells the story of a talented and fairly successful CEO who also runs terribly ineffective meetings, negatively impacting the business' performance and results. Lencioni, best-selling author of "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team," doesn't mince words about meetings, writing that "Bad meetings, and what they indicate and provoke in an organization, generate real human suffering in the form of anger, lethargy, and cynicism." That's a strong statement...but accurate from my experience. Think about how often you have stated "Wow. That was an awesome meeting!"

Likely far fewer than the number of times you have thought "That meeting was..." (fill in the blank: so awful, so boring, such a waste of time, etc.).

Meetings are frequently the antithesis of the compelling, productive, and fun activities that they need to be and should be, and the author contends that "bad meetings start with the attitudes and approaches of the people who lead and take part in them." To begin to make improvements we must understand that the real problem with meetings is two-fold: they are boring and they are ineffective.

First, meetings are boring because they lack drama, or conflict (the one element that is required to make any human activity interesting). Most leaders of meetings tend to focus on avoiding tension, strictly following the agenda (if there is one), and ending on time. Constructive conflict occurs only when subjects of impact are addressed and debated, allowing for varying opinions and perspectives to be expressed. A meeting leader must seek out and uncover any important issues about which the team members do not agree. Unless there is conflict and drama, the topics that are most important cannot effectively be evaluated. Employees are looking for a reason to care and the meeting leader needs to provide that. Lencioni writes that "the only thing more painful than confronting an uncomfortable topic is pretending it doesn't exist." How true!

Second, meetings are ineffective because they lack "contextual structure." Like a bad stew with too many random ingredients, every topic imaginable is typically fair-game for weekly staff meetings (for example). So with no clarity around what topics are appropriate to cover, there is no clear context for the various discussions that take place. Ineffective and unsatisfying meetings result. In the end, the author writes, "little is decided because participants have a hard time figuring out whether they're supposed to be debating, voting, brainstorming, weighing in, or just listening." To combat this, he recommends that the following "Four Meeting" structure be instituted around team meetings:

Meeting Type

Time Required

Purpose & Format

Keys to Success

Daily Check-In

5 - 10 minutes

Share daily schedules and activities.

Don't sit down.
Keep it administrative.
Don't cancel even when some people can't be there.

Weekly Tactical

45 - 90 minutes

Review weekly activities and metrics, and resolve tactical obstacles and issues.

Don't set agenda until after initial reporting.
Postpone strategic discussions.

Monthly Strategic
(or Ad Hoc Strategic)

2 - 4 hours

Discuss, analyze, brainstorm, and decide upon critical issues affecting long-term success.

Limit to one to two topics.
Prepare and do research.
Engage in good conflict.

Quarterly Off-Site Review

1 - 2 days

Review strategy, industry trends, competitive landscape, key personnel, team development.

Get out of the office.
Focus on work; limit social activities.
Don't over structure or overburden the schedule.

We typically complain about how much time we spend in meetings, but the real issue is that the meetings normally aren't very effective. When properly utilized, meetings can actually be time savers.

Bottom Line: For those organizations that can make the leap from painful meetings to productive ones, the rewards are enormous. Higher morale, faster and better decisions, and inevitably, greater results.

JFD Performance Solutions (

As a business coaching and consulting firm, we specialize in helping individuals to reach more of their potential, companies to achieve greater results, and teams to work better together. We help our clients implement sustainable change and be more successful.

View the original article here

Book Summary: "Thank God It's Monday" by Roxanne Emmerich

The author's subtitle to her book is "How to Create a Workplace You and Your Customers Love", and she addresses topics such as visioning, driving change, upping enthusiasm, and eliminating gossip. Emmerich's premise is that there are actually places where people wake up after a weekend and say "Thank God it's Monday", but that before these work places were great, most were quite awful.

The author contends that it all starts with people (doesn't it always!?). For a workplace to become great, the people have to want it to be great. I love her thought that "Most people spend their entire lives in unquestioned routines, never hearing the calling of how great they could be if only they refocused on making a profound difference through their work." While you go about your day, observe businesses with which you come in contact. Can you sense the teamwork and enthusiasm, or lack thereof? Usually it's noticeable...good or bad. What about your environment? What changes can you make that can have a positive impact? Imagine your workplace as one to which everyone is eager to come. List out three things that, if you were in charge, you would change. Then set about doing all you can to change those things. The author writes that "Leadership is not a position - it is a way of being. It's about being determined to make big things happen regardless of your position."

Many businesses have a vision, however, "the turning point for a vision is when everyone sees it, gets it, and buys into participating to make it happen." Vision statements are meant to provide a compelling picture of future success. Does every employee "get" your company's vision, live it, and strive toward it everyday? Your vision is your commitment to your employees, your customers, your investors, your community. Has every employee internalized the vision in this manner and do they know exactly how their efforts align with the vision and the key objectives of the business? The author challenges us to always ask ourselves, "Am I making the highest and best use of my time?" She suggests identifying the bottom 80% of your activities and replacing them with new activities. What a change that would be!

Emmerich offers that each employee should "lavish" praise on others at least five times a day, because gratitude and appreciation are the drivers of productivity. One way she recommends to promote these celebrations and to foster this type of culture is to create a Hoopla Team comprised of one executive and 6 to 9 high performers from around the organization. Their objective is to sustain and accelerate breakthroughs in performance and to get the culture change to generate from a grassroots level. Enthusiasm is a hard thing to fake, so get people on the Hoopla Team who really want to participate and make a difference. The ideas that a team like this can help identify are endless.

Companies thrive when employees appreciate one another's contributions and treat each other with respect. To help achieve this, the author suggests this code for how to treat one another: "No gossip. No excuses. No stories. No blaming." Fully adhering to this requires a culture of positive attitudes, openness, and willingness to change. As an example of how to enact this, the author takes a hard stance on gossip (rightfully so) and recommends the following steps to stop it: 1) Tell the people around you that you have zero tolerance for gossip. 2) If anyone starts to gossip, politely interrupt them and say, "Sounds like you need to have a conversation with..." 3) If you begin to gossip you need to stop yourself, go to the other person and say, "I apologize for hurting you by sharing something that was inappropriate. It won't happen again." Success is typically the culmination of thousands of acts such as this.

Although a fair amount of the author's ideas have been addressed in other books, she writes in an easy-to-read manner and includes suggestions and tips that are practical and well-supported by her first-hand experience. A key takeaway is that regardless of your current work environment and situation, there is hope. You can help turn a lousy situation into one where employees are truly glad to be at work and produce at a high level. TGIM!

JFD Performance Solutions (

As a business coaching and consulting firm, we specialize in helping individuals to reach more of their potential, companies to achieve greater results, and teams to work better together. We help our clients implement sustainable change and be more successful.

View the original article here

Book Summary: "Mr Shmooze - The Art and Science of Selling," by Richard Abraham

This book has been on my reading list for awhile. Then, its recent endorsement by commercial real estate broker-extraordinaire Peter Pessetto prompted me to act. "Mr. Shmooze" is the story of a man who lives his life and performs as a salesperson with the conviction that selling is not about "taking" or "persuading," but about "giving." Sometimes shmoozing (or schmoozing) has a negative connotation, as when a person acts kindly toward someone else in order to take advantage of them in some way.

However, in "Mr. Shmooze," it is the act of asking questions and listening in order to understand what people really need (not just in business, but in life) and then giving of yourself to help them. Energizing others, making them feel special, and adding value to people's day-to-day lives is what Mr. Shmooze is all about. He is constantly giving people special gifts and otherwise letting people know that he is thinking of them and cares about them. He gives more than he takes and has come to learn that, when he does this, he gets plenty back in return, both personally and professionally.

Since Mr. Shmooze is a very successful salesperson, there are numerous ideas and suggestions in the book of how to apply these concepts in sales. It shouldn't be surprising that Mr. Shmooze says "Most successful service providers succeed because of their ability to build relationships" and also that "it's all about adding value through your relationships." Mr. Shmooze contends that the only way to win in sales is to establish an intimate, personal relationship with the buyer and to be able to clearly explain how your product and service will benefit her. These are not new ideas. However, there is benefit in reading about these concepts in the context of how Mr. Shmooze applies them.

Mr. Shmooze believes strongly in the benefits of a positive attitude; imploring us to elicit positive emotion from others and to always end each "encounter" on a high note. Mr. Shmooze also believes that people base most of their decisions on two basic sensations: pleasure and pain. If others associate you with pleasure, you win! If they associate you with pain..."

As a sales manager, Mr. Shmooze states that "I want passion, guts, drive and enthusiasm. And I want someone who is in love with life, who loves people and who laughs hard and often." Someone who is truly optimistic and who really lives. Living is comprised of actions and behaviors, which are driven by feelings and emotions. So, ask yourself: since feelings and emotions are contagious, are mine worth catching? Mr. Shmooze pushes us all to do better in this regard.

His mission statement is that "the happier I can make myself, the happier I can make other people." An enviable perspective to have there, Mr. Shmooze.

JFD Performance Solutions (
As a business coaching and consulting firm, we specialize in helping individuals to reach more of their potential, companies to achieve greater results, and teams to work better together. We help our clients implement sustainable change and be more successful.

View the original article here

Book Summary: "The "It" Factor" by Mark Wiskup

After more than a few folks recommended this book to me, I placed my Amazon order. In this book, Wiskup defines the "It" factor as "the remarkable ability to instantly create honest and powerful connections, in every meeting and every social interaction, every day." Quite a lofty goal! Not simply charm or the ability to say the right thing, having the "it" factor is about building connections...and it will pay dividends for you at work and at home.

To help build these connections, Wiskup recommends developing an agenda for every conversation. Part of that agenda entails making the effort to describe why others should care about what it is you have to say. Often, we gloss over this and take it for our own detriment. Those with "it" explain the purpose of their words, the reason for their communication. It's often not about being right, but about convincing others that you are worth listening to.

Wiskup includes many recommendations, such as being direct (but not abrupt), not rushing through your words and messages, and painting a picture with your words to help make your communications more poignant and descriptive. He also recommends dumping industry jargon, which often confuses and frustrates those not "in the know" and makes you look not like an expert "but an aspiring wannabe."

Wiskup details some common communication habits that really bug him as the killer Eight Deadly Sins:

1. Misuse of the word "Certainly". Don't say "We certainly are glad to be here today."

2. Use of the phrase "I don't see why not." This is neither direct nor strong, and will not assist in building strong relationships.

3. Use of "More than Happy" is more than creepy. Being happy is sufficient.

4. Saying "I am sorry" when you are not sorry.

5. Telling others you are being "honest." Such as: "Honestly...", "To tell you the truth...", and "Frankly...".

6. "I'm just saying..." means "I'm just criticizing you." Don't be critical but pretend you're not. Don't posture: if you have a something critical to say, say it directly and professionally.

7. Repeat often, just never point out that you are repeating. "As I said before" insinuates that they weren't listening. And maybe they weren't, if you haven't connected with them in a meaningful way.

8. "Basically" kills every sentence it touches. It's a worthless word that diminishes the weight and value of whatever you say that follows it.

The sections on perfecting your elevator speech contain plenty of good and bad examples, focusing on four main steps:

1. Describing your business using non-jargon words

2. Focusing on how you serve your customers

3. Focusing on overcoming challenges that your clients are facing

4. Recounting a successful customer experience

To wrap up, Wiskup offers up the "It" Factor Five-Step Implementation Program:

1. Cleansing yourself of the communication sins

2. Mastering meetings and making them less dreadful and more fulfilling

3. Learning how to "wow" someone with your elevator speech

4. Making small-talk connections become second-nature

5. Delivering both a heartfelt compliment and a criticism in a natural, comfortable manner

For each of these five steps, he lists the goal, your assignment, recommended actions, and how to grade your progress.

So, are you worth listening to? If you are lacking in your ability to communicate well, connect with others, and build meaningful relationships, then I recommend working on the suggestions in this book. Do this and improve your chances of having "it."

JFD Performance Solutions (

As a business coaching and consulting firm, we specialize in helping individuals to reach more of their potential, companies to achieve greater results, and teams to work better together. We help our clients implement sustainable change and be more successful.

View the original article here

Book Summary: "Change or Die" by Alan Deutschman

Talk about a book title that grabs your attention! Quite a few friends and colleagues have recommended this book to me over the last couple of years, in part because they know that meaningful change is difficult to achieve for so many people. The basis for the title "Change or Die" is that numerous studies have found that upwards of 9 out of 10 people don't change their lifestyles and behaviors... even when their lives depend upon it.

Subtitled The Three Keys to Change at Work and in Life, the book asks the question, "Could you change when change matters most?" It is a fact that five behavioral issues drive the large majority of the health care budget in the United States. They are too much smoking, drinking, and eating. Too much stress and not enough exercise. If potentially only one out of every ten people can change our behaviors, even in a crisis, then what hope do any of us really have?

Deutschman suggests that there is a way to effect meaningful, sustainable change but, as we have pointed out, most people (groups, organizations, companies, etc.) miss the mark. People and organizations change all the time, however the author doesn't focus on how people change on their own. His main topic is "how to change when change isn't coming naturally; when the difficulties stubbornly persist. When you're stuck."

The First Key to Change

RELATE: You form a new, emotional relationship with a person or community that inspires and sustains hope. The leader or community has to sell you on yourself and make you believe you have the ability to change. They have to sell you on themselves as your partners, mentors, role models, or sources of new knowledge. And they have to sell you on the specific methods or strategies that they employ.

The Second Key to Change

REPEAT: The new relationship helps you learn, practice, and master the new habits and skills that you'll need. It takes a lot of repetition over time before new patterns of behavior become automatic and seem natural - until you act the new way without even thinking about it.

The Third Key to Change

REFRAME: The new relationship helps you learn new ways of thinking about your situation and your life. Ultimately, you look at the world in a way that would have been so foreign to you that it wouldn't have made any sense before you changed.

These are the three keys to change: relate, repeat, and reframe. New hope, new skills, and new thinking.

Why is it that even though people spend billions of dollars every year to change and improve, yet so often they still fail to realize their goals? Deutschman contends that "the reason isn't that they don't want to change or can't change but rather that they don't understand change or have the right tools to effect it."

People often make two of the most common mistakes when they try to motivate others to change their behavior: they rely on fear and facts. Fear may work; but often only for a brief time. And people are frequently in denial and can't handle the facts, even when they confront the facts and clearly understand them. Challenges abound in getting people to, first, understand that they need to change. Then to appreciate how to change (what they need to do). And finally, to actually do it. No wonder most New Year's resolutions fall by the wayside so quickly.

Enablers of Change

Deutschman discusses some important enablers of change, such as:

Our beliefs, formed through repeated experience over time, can usually be reshaped only by experience. Change needs to be experienced and short term wins achieved in order to gain the momentum required to drive more significant and lasting change.A great commitment to change. Meaningful change does not come easily. Be prepared to work hard at accomplishing your goals.The power of community and culture. Don't go it alone. Invite others into your plans and activities. Leverage their power, knowledge, support and experiences. Involve yourself with those you trust and who can help you achieve change; not those who will hinder you.

Change can occur even when you're stuck. But you must be purposeful in your approach, your attitude, and your activities. Otherwise you might end up as one of the nine in ten who don't change, even when it is imperative that you do. All the best on your journey!

JFD Performance Solutions (

As a business coaching and consulting firm, we specialize in helping individuals to reach more of their potential, companies to achieve greater results, and teams to work better together. We help our clients implement sustainable change and be more successful.

View the original article here