Archive for the 'Reviews & Recommendations' Category
Thursday, April 6th, 2017
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Blankson, author of The Future of Happiness, 5 Modern Strategies for Balancing Productivity and Well-Being in the Digital Age.
Happiness may be the root of everything we seek out in life.
We want to be happy in our family, our job and any other aspect of our lives. In fact the US Declaration of Independence states that, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” are unalienable rights when declaring independence from Great Britain.
Happiness probably means a lot of things to a lot of people — to me it means satisfaction.
However rates of depression, divorce and suicide are all on the rise. I am sure we can all think of someone in our own life that takes antidepressants to help them cope with their days.
This is all happening in the backdrop of some of the highest rates of wealth, longer life spans and access to greater technology than any generation before. Why is this?
Amy Blankson seeks to answer this question and others in her new book.
A little backdrop on Amy; she is passionate, kind and curious. If you google her you will find that she has a well regarded Ted talk, is an alum of both Harvard and Yale, and runs a company with her brother studying the topics raised in this book.
I had the opportunity to interview her for this post and it was a real pleasure speaking with her. Our conversation ranged from what her influences are to parenting tips in the modern age. We share some things in common; she has three daughters as I will soon, she resides in Texas near my family, and she continues to ask ‘why’ everyday.
The book begins with three burning questions in the digital era, where are we heading? Would we be better without tech? What will happiness look like?
Now, before you think this book is something that advocates that you forsake all worldly goods and begin churning butter in the countryside, it’s not that at all.
Amy recognizes that for many of us we are the first generation to transcend two eras. The analog, with house phones and encyclopedias, to the digital age, where we have a phone in our pocket that can access every book ever written in the history of the world.
We are all different ages but we can all look at the moment when technology enabled us to have every answer at our fingertips, but also the ability to never truly break away.
Amy addresses the fact that work days seem to never end, with email always a buzz away. High school friends who you probably have nothing in common with are still keeping you up to date with the latest post.
But at the same time the person you share your bed with may be further away as you are both absorbed in your own screens.
These are scenarios that we all have to deal with on a daily basis and need to learn how to manage them.
This book is not another lifestyle book that promises to change your life in 30 days or your money back.
What Amy has accomplished is doing all the homework for you. She utilized hundreds of apps, used numerous wearables and tried all sorts of methods to figure out the best way to manage all the tech that we are surrounded with.
She provides very practical steps on how to declutter our lives in simple ways. For example, do you have a pile of old laptops and cords lying around somewhere in your house? Mine are about three feet away from me, the laptops will never be used but I have old pics that I want. My solution is to just store them and have them take up space. Amy’s solution is to take those laptops in, retrieve the data and purge the hardware. This is a simple process and it clears your life.
Do you ever feel overwhelmed with the technology that is surrounding you? In the spirit of transparency, I am in my early 30’s, I work for a technology company and I feel overwhelmed. I feel that I must read every day to keep up with what is new. This is not age specific, it affects all of us. Amy addresses this and clarifies how we can manage our time.
This book is more than a simple help, it’s like you are listening to your friend that you trust. Amy is kind, thoughtful and funny both in her writing and in person. On a personal note I learned a lot from my brief conversation with Amy. She is a mother of three daughters and it was great to glean some wisdom from her experiences raising them.
I walked into this book with no previous knowledge of Amy and was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. She does a great job of showcasing practical steps, analyzes the topics from the standpoint of a social scientist and maintains the curiosity of the eternally inquisitive. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has thought that there must be a better way to live this life.
I asked Amy what her one takeaway would be from someone who reads her book.
She said it would be that our life is our own and we can make our choices. We are in control and we should not let technology dictate or overwhelm us.
This book is for the young professional, the parent or the student who would like to set a firm foundation moving forward.
Amy’s book will go on sale April 11th, you can pre-order or find it at your local retailer.
Image credit: Amazon
Thursday, October 27th, 2016
I read Tracy Kidder’s Pulitzer winning Soul of a New Machine, when it came out 30 years ago and still remember it. He is a superb researcher and writer and an excellent storyteller. This is one book I definitely plan to read (it’s on order from my library).
SNM is a story of hardware, namely the computer that emerged from Data General’s skunkworks, and it’s still worth reading; I highly recommend it.
30 years later Kidder wanted to do something similar only focused on software and asked serial entrepreneur and Kayak founder Paul English, whom he knew, for help.
The book Kidder ended up writing is quite different from the one he set out to do.
The book that emerges, A Truck Full of Money: One Man’s Quest to Recover from Great Success, may disappoint those looking for a nuts-and-bolts breakdown of coding or of Kayak’s innovations in user interface. But it will reward readers open to its philosophic nature and collage-like structure. It is at once a portrait of a precocious programmer and entrepreneur, and of his team of life-long collaborators; a meditation on mania and the peculiar mindset behind computer coding; and a look at men driven to create and build, make a lot of money, and then give it all away.
SNM provided a fascinating backstory to the philosophy, people and intangibles of tech and it seems Kidder has done that again.
It’s a somewhat rare, in-depth look at the humanity that exists in the tech world.
I sincerely hope A Truck Full of Money wins Kidder another Pulitzer.
And that you enjoy it.
Thursday, December 11th, 2014
KG Charles-Harris is once again attending the Lean Startup Conference and sharing his impressions and what he’s learning with you.
It was especially interesting to listen to Mikkel Svane’s talk about Zendesk’s story, because I had read a pre-publication copy of his book Startup Land.
The book was the basis of the talk, I found Mr. Svane to be enlightening, honest and real and all that carried over in his book.
Startup Land was an enjoyable read from a strong entrepreneur, with real stories about the struggle of starting, moving and growing a technology company.
The fact that they started as entrepreneurs in Denmark and moved an embryonic company to the US only increased the complexity and challenges that the three founders had to traverse in making the company a success.
Not only were the founders outside the normal Silicon Valley entrepreneurial eco-system, but they were also in a different country with little access to the information or thinking patterns common in the US. It is a testament to the tenacity and determination, and even more so to the “hustling mentality” of the founders – they were willing to take significant risks and stay completely focused on two things — building a great product and getting immediate revenue on this product.
The author rightly credits the Scandinavian social system for their ability to take some of the risks that they were able to assume — they knew they would never end up on the street homeless, but could suffer a temporary reduction in living standards if they failed. This is radically different than the case in the US and many other countries where startup failure can lead to destitution.
Regardless, the ingenuity and determination displayed during the process of bringing Zendesk from birth to maturity was an inspiration. I’m a serial entrepreneur with international background myself, and I know how much effort is required to make that kind of move.
The major challenge, however, comes with adjusting to the new mindset and culture in your host country. Startup Land discusses this to some extent, but it would have been interesting to get some more insight about it.
Mr. Svane does a good job of synthesizing his experience into practical advice, summarized in special sections at the end of each chapter. As such, the book can be a practical guide to such things as what to consider when hiring team members or how to think about particular aspects of the business.
Also, some of the most interesting, and sometimes funny, parts of the book are found in how the three founders interacted based on their particular personalities and proclivities.
Considering that founder dynamics is one of the most prevalent reasons for startup failure, this information should be studied closely. The difficulties and required tolerance for navigating these issues is core, especially the sensitivity required by the Founder/CEO.
In short, the book is well worth reading — it’s a quick and easy read with practical insights and a good dose of humor.
Monday, September 22nd, 2014
Does your company have soul?
Or is it so focused on profit that there is no room for anything else?
What does it mean for a company to have soul?
That question is addressed by a Belgium, Frederic Laloux, who quit McKinsey when he found himself miserable and out of touch with his clients.
“The work I had loved so much was work I simply couldn’t do any longer. I came to the realization that I was in a very different place than the executive teams of the large corporations with whom I had been working. I just couldn’t work with these big organizations anymore. They felt too soulless and unhealthy to me, too trapped in a rat race of just trying to eke out more profits.”
Wondering what gave a company soul fueled two years of research that resulted in Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness.
Not surprisingly, Laloux found that trust ranked at the top of managerial attitudes that create soul.
Trust, Mr. Laloux found, is perhaps the most powerful common denominator in the companies he studied. “If you view people with mistrust and subject them to all sorts of controls, rules and punishments,” he writes, “they will try to game the system, and you will feel your thinking is validated. Meet people with practices based on trust, and they will return your trust with responsible behavior. Again, you will feel your assumptions were validated.”
In other words, bosses (like most others) get what they expect.
While trust can’t be faked, it is trust a function of individual bosses, from the most junior all the way up to the CEO.
That means that even if you are working in a soulless situation you can run your own organization with trust, integrity and soul.
Flickr image credit: Lars Plougmann
Monday, September 12th, 2011
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Roy F. Baumeister’s research showing how decision fatigue affects hiring, self-control and is tied to ego-depletion.
Self-control and will power aren’t traits you as much about as you did when I was a kid; these days the focus is on instant gratification, whether it’s a child demanding a treat, an adult looking for a new job or you-name-it.
The question really boils down to whether self-control really offers significant long-term benefits?
Benefits that are substantial enough to stand up to the embarrassing tantrum your child pitches when she doesn’t get what she wants?
In experiments beginning in the late 1960s, the psychologist Walter Mischel tormented preschoolers with the agonizing choice of one marshmallow now or two marshmallows 15 minutes from now. When he followed up decades later, he found that the 4-year-olds who waited for two marshmallows turned into adults who were better adjusted, were less likely to abuse drugs, had higher self-esteem, had better relationships, were better at handling stress, obtained higher degrees and earned more money.
Impressive; certainly enough to at least get parents to think about showing some backbone and helping their kids learn self-control.
But what about those of us who are Millennials, Gen Xers and Boomers? Is our situation hopeless? Are we destined/doomed to careen through life without those benefits if we don’t already have them?
Fear not. According to other research by Baumeister your self-control, AKA, will power, can be toned by exercising it, just like any other muscle—and he wrote a book about it.
In recent years the psychologist Roy F. Baumeister has shown that the force metaphor has a kernel of neurobiological reality. In “Willpower,” he has teamed up with the irreverent New York Times science columnist John Tierney to explain this ingenious research and show how it can enhance our lives.
Wow; buff self-control.
How cool is that?
UPDATE: I just read this article about SpongeBob, which adds an interesting kicker to the research.
In another test, measuring self-control and impulsiveness, kids were rated on how long they could wait before eating snacks presented when the researcher left the room. “SpongeBob” kids waited about 2 1/2 minutes on average, versus at least four minutes for the other two groups.
Image credit: Kirkus Reviews
Monday, May 9th, 2011
I’m There For You, Baby, is the first volume in Neil Senturia’s The Entrepreneurs Guide to the Galaxy.
“Huh, if this is about entrepreneurs, why is it Monday’s post in stead of Thursday’s?” I’ll let Neil answer that,
Today everyone needs to think like an entrepreneur whether it’s in your own business, a large company or a non-profit.
I would add that you need to think like an entrepreneur if you are working for others, raising kids or just trying to function in the 21st Century.
Other reasons I’m reviewing it on a Monday.
- It’s hilarious and a great read at only 215 pages. (Disclaimer: some of the language may be a bit blue, but no more so than real life.)
- It’s autobiographical, so it’s very real; not as told to blah blah.
- It includes a great deal of the bare-ass truth about entrepreneurs that is usually glossed over.
For those of you who don’t recognize Neil’s name, he is CEO of Blackbird Ventures; he moved from writing for television sit-coms to doing real estate deals to technology entrepreneur; like me, he is older than dirt, but at least a billion times richer.
I’m There For You, Baby includes some 400-odd rules, most of which you don’t have to memorize, but there are a few you would be wise to not only memorize, but implement as well, such as Rule #1: Return every phone call and every email.
Most of the rules are a function of common sense, good manners and a belief in the ethical treatment of fellow human beings—not the most prevalent attitudes in these go-go meme days, so maybe they do need to be memorized.
I’m There For You, Baby offers enormous value and no preaching; instead of how-tos it provides how-dids along with an unvarnished view of what worked, what didn’t and why.
I highly recommend it and would love to hear your thoughts here after you read it.
Image credit: I’m There For You, Baby
Monday, October 25th, 2010
I’m backed up on my reading and reviews, so I thought I’d cover two today, one with my own brief review and the other linked to a review by Jim Stroup.
First off is a new offering from Stanford’s Bob Sutton whose first book, The No Asshole Rule, loudly and publicly said what we all know—the workplace is no place for assholes (AKA jerks). Sutton’s new book, Good Boss, Bad Boss loudly proclaims another truth—boss quality matters or, as Sutton says, “people do not quit organizations, they quit bad bosses.” Jim already said everything in my mind, so read his excellent review and then read the book, you won’t be disappointed.
Second is The Orange Revolution by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton. I reviewed their previous books, The Carrot Principle and The Levity Effect and The Daily Carrot Principle (which makes a great gift).
The Orange Revolution is about the power of teams, but instead of typically anecdotal evidence, it’s based on a 350,000-person study done by the Best Places to Work folks and other global studies, as well as their own experience over 20 years.
They found six traits that all successful teams share, sharing a dream or a vision, believing in your ability to realize that dream, willingness to take prudent risks, appropriate metrics, perseverance, and a narrative or story-line that captures people’s imaginations and drives extraordinary efforts.
You may have heard this before, but solid research and good presentation makes a big difference. The book isn’t geared just to managers and positional leaders, if you work with a group, even a dysfunctional one, reading the book will benefit you.
I think both these books belong in your personal library and they would make great presents to friends—or anonymously to bosses who need them.
Image credit: Simon & Schuster and Work Matters
Friday, April 16th, 2010
I am a fan of Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton; I reviewed both The Carrot Principle and The Levity Effect and highly recommend them. The books feel like fast reads, but digesting and using the (unconventional to some) wisdom found in each takes a bit longer.
The Daily Carrot Principle is the size of a desk calendar and offers much of that wisdom in bite-sized pieces by addressing one idea each day of the year, explaining it and providing a short description of the action needed to implement it.
I highly recommend The Daily Carrot Principle for yourself and for a gift—unlike a desk calendar you won’t want to get rid of it any time soon.
Many articles and books have/are being written about the Madoff scandal and dozens of other Ponzi schemes born of loose money and a wholesale ignoring of the old adage, “if it seems too good to be true it probably is.”
The most compelling book I’ve come across regarding Madoff is the inside look from Harry Markopolos detailing the eight years he spent trying to expose him and how the SEC refused to listen. Read this excerpt from How I Got the Goods on Madoff, and Why No One Would Listen to decide if it’s your cup of tea.
The message was practically the same in every one of those 14 meetings: “We have a special relationship with Mr. Madoff. He’s closed to new investors and he takes money only from us.”
When I heard that said the first time I accepted it. When I heard it the second time I began to get suspicious. And when I heard it 14 times in less than two weeks, I knew it was a Ponzi scheme. I didn’t say anything about the fact that I heard the same claim of exclusivity from several other funds. If I had, or if I had tried to warn anyone, they would have responded by dumping on me. Who was I to attack their god?
Another excerpt served up by Bloomberg Business Week offers a fascinating peek into Roger Lowenstein’s new book The End of Wall Street. Not that it is going away, but that its laissez-faire attitude may be.
The crash of 2008 put to rest the intellectual model that inspired, and to a large degree facilitated, the bubble. It spelled the end of the immodest faith in Wall Street’s ability to forecast.
Image credit: Simon & Schuster
Monday, April 5th, 2010
The first Monday of the month is the signal for another Leadership Development Carnival, but don’t be fooled, it covers management and other associated topics. It is hosted this month by Sharlyn Lauby at HR Bartender and written by some of the most talented folks in the blogsphere.
It’s an extensive selection, enough to keep you going all month.
In putting together today’s carnival, I thought it might be fun to ask how long people have been blogging – their blogging “anniversary” if you will. It was interesting to hear their answers. On one hand, blogging has been around for a long time. Dave Winer, author of Scripting News, has one of the oldest weblogs and it was established in 1997. But notice the number of posts from bloggers who have been writing two years or less. It’s very cool to see engagement from people who have been blogging for years along with the excitement of people who have been blogging for months.
10+ YearsEven if you’re not a woman or managing a non-profit, there are some classic management tips in Wild Woman Fundraising’s post Advanced Fundraising: Managing Others.
David Zinger shares his insights about engagement in Dear Leader: An Open Employee Engagement Letter.
No, Team Leaders Should Not Behave Differently is the sage advice offered by Denise O’Berry at Intuit’s The QuickBase Blog.
Anna Farmery at The Engaging Brand Blog talks about the heart of employee engagement in Are there 3 in your relationship!
Over at Ep!c Living blog, Eric Pennington says It’s Almost Never About You and describes the dangers of making clients second and the importance of leaving “self” behind.
Janna Rust at Purposeful Leadership blog presents her take on productivity in The Productivity Paradox: Slow Down to Speed Up.
Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership Blog tells us in his post Strengths, Weaknesses, Your Team, and You that it’s not about individuals or the team. It’s about both accomplishing the mission and helping team members develop.
If you are looking for practical lessons to initiate changes smoothly, look no further than the post from Steve Roesler at All Things Workplace titled Initiating A Change? Ponder This.
Jason Seiden of Fail Spectacularly fame keeps us grounded in his post, Indispensable? I doubt it. You’re simply not that important.
Companies are looking for people who can help their bottom line. The Digerati Life gives us seven ways to show the boss what we’re made of in Hoping For a Job Promotion? How to Get Promoted at Work.
In this “relationship economy”, building lasting relationships with your customers is no longer optional. Tanmay Vora discusses the 3 Lessons in Building Great Relationships with Customers at QAspire Blog.
Miki Saxon at MAPping Company Success explains in her post, Leadership’s Future: To Hire and Hold (Millennials), that if you want a happy workforce, you need to provide the same things that make for a happy family.
At Joe and Wanda on Management, we learn the three most important words in business and how to create and environment of mutual support in the post, Checking Six.
Lisa Rosendahl reminds us there’s no place for Chicken Little when it comes to leadership in her post, If Your Sky Falls, It Won’t Be Because of Social Media.
Persistence pays! is the message by Leader Business blog. Author Karl Marlantes endeavored for 32 years to get his book published. Blogger Tom Magness asks us how hard we are willing to work toward achieving our goals.
Instead of squeezing more stuff into the day, the Monevator shares with us a new killer method for better time management in the post, Personal Time Management for Fun and Profit.
Music plays a critical role in jumping folk’s spirits. Check out EzineArticles.com’s Coping with Colleague’s Stress at Work to find out how background music can increase workplace productivity.
Our carnival leader, Dan McCarthy, just wrapped up an awesome series titled, The Little Things Make a BIG Difference as a Leader – Part 5: A Pat on the Back. Be sure to check out the entire series over at Great Leadership blog.
Mary Jo Asmus from Aspire Collaborative Services helps us create organizational change by outlining the steps to move From Resistance to Participation.
The team over at Talented Apps tells us how a diverse social network can help you not be as vulnerable to your subtle, internal biases and blind spots in How Can Your Network Help Your Inner Homer? Doh!
The very dapper host of HR Happy Hour, Steve Boese, shares with us how the best leaders are not afraid to coach and mentor their top performers in The Wisdom of Jeff Van Gundy – Part II. If you didn’t catch Part I of this post, you can check it out here.
The i4cp blog suggests succession planning is not just a flawed term but a flawed paradigm. They recommend to organizations Don’t Plan Succession, Manage It.
Michael Lee Stallard at E Pluribus Partners explains that task excellence along isn’t enough. The answer lies in The Science of Employee Engagement.
Forbes said good leaders recognize when patterns change. Anne Perschel over at Germane Insights Blog writes they were wrong. Good leaders SEE INTO the FUTURE.
In order to understand ourselves, we need to Explore Life Purpose. Mike King at Learn This takes us on the journey.
It’s a classic message. Want to become successful? Raise Your Standard of Excellence from How to Become Successful! blog.
Bob Lieberman talks about organizational survival in his post The Need for Nerve.
Being a good project manager is an important skill for the future. Take a look at the Project Management Interview Questions and Answers to see if you have what it takes to manage the important task of making sure projects are on-time, within quality standards and at budget.
A key skill for any leader is public speaking. Matt Eventoff at Communications 3.0 coaches us on effective speeches in Clash of the Titans, Public Speaking and Chris Christie. Good tips for anyone who presents information.
Jennifer V. Miller of The People Equation cautions organizations about encouraging “fearlessness”. See how leaders can stay on the “light side” of the force in her post the Boundaries of Fearlessness.
Celebrating her one year blogging anniversary is Becky Robinson at Mountain State University’s Leader Talk blog. Her post titled Are Homogeneous Groups Better? is a must-read.
Also celebrating his one year anniversary is Dr. Bret Simmons. Be sure to check out his post about Strength-Based, Individual Leadership. How Does it Affect your Team?
Rob Tucker describes the Three Barriers to Owning your Leadership Development at Reading About Leading blog.
Joshua Noerr provides us with three easy steps in Difficult Discussions. Be sure to check out his blog Personal Development, One Mind at a Time.
Dean L. Forbes discusses the powerful principles of personal growth in his posts Attitude, Aptitude & Altitude and The Natural Law of Awareness.
Over at The Bloom Blog, Lisa Ann Edwards explains leadership in terms such as Gemstones and Spark and shares wonderful stories of people who possess those qualities.
Jane Perdue, the one and only HR Goddess, gives us Advice from the Cheshire Puss on Finding Your Purpose at Life, Love & Leadership blog.
Mike Henry at Lead Change Group reminds us that our friends and the people we associate with set the boundaries of our future. He suggests socializing with high-caliber leaders to become one in his post, Your Friends and Your Future.
Confronting someone is never a favorite task, but sometimes necessary to manage performance. The Thriving Small Business blog shows us How to Confront Negative Employee Behaviors.
David Burkus from The Leader Lab explains Situational Leadership theory and why you should care about it in the post Path-Goal Theory.
The Zenger Folkman Blog tells a tale in A Monster of a Problem: How to Help Leaders Be More Inspiring.
The editor of Your Best Library shares the answer to What is the number one skill that determines the success or failure in life?
According to The SALT & Pepper Group, there are seven core leadership styles. In their series wrap up, titled The 8th Leader, they share a specific classification system of leadership.
Some of our contributors have either been blogging so long they’ve forgotten or not long enough to keep track. Regardless, their posts are worthy of a visit.
Tom Glover at Reflection Leadership tells us the best way to learn is by doing in Leadership Development: Just in Case or Just in Time.
Rodney Johnson provides some key learnings in What We Can Learn From March MADNESS.
Kevin Eikenberry shares The Five Lessons of the Eraser at Leadership & Learning blog.
MSP University’s Managed Services Blog begins an outline of the sales process in Step 1 of the 7-Step Sales Process: Strategic Preparation
And wrapping up the carnival is CMOE Consultants who channeled the wisdom of Dwight Eisenhower in their post Leadership by Leading.
Friday, March 19th, 2010
How many times have you heard it—focus on the customer blah, blah, blah?
How often does it prove to be true?
How many times have you said it— it’s about what the customer wants blah, blah, blah?
How often do you practice it?
For too many companies being customer-centric happens when it’s convenient—if it happens at all.
Enter Reorganize for Resilience: Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business by Ranjay Gulati, the Jaime and Josefina Chua Tiampo Professor of Business at Harvard Business School, who offers a comprehensive, practical and inplementable guide to creating a customer-centric business.
Utilizing an outside-in approach means focusing on delivering something of value to customers, as opposed to focusing on products and sales.
Gulati discusses 5 key levers from both “why” and “how”:
- Coordination: Connect, eradicate, or restructure silos to enable swift responses.
- Cooperation: Align all employees around the shared goal of customer solutions.
- Clout: Redistribute power to “bridge builders” and customer champions.
- Capability: Develop employees’ skills at tackling changing customer needs.
- Connection: Blend partners’ offerings with yours to provide unique customer solutions.
Gulati is blunt and his approach isn’t for those who prefer incremental change to revolutionary, but it is MAP that will stop many leaders from embracing Reorganize for Resilience—because you can’t implement that in which you don’t sincerely believe.
Since the advice to be customer-centric isn’t new, following it isn’t easy and may actually require difficult, even painful changes to your MAP, so why bother with Reorganize for Resilience?
Because it carries the biggest bottom-line payoff, both short and long-term, in any economy and for any company—from Fortune 50 to the neighborhood copy shop.
Image credit: Harvard Business Publishing
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