Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Success Secrets - Develop Your Strengths

Great post in LifeDev on developing your strengths as opposed to "fixing" your weaknesses. As I mentioned in a recent post about Doug Newburg, successful people get that way by "digging deep" into the details of a field they love. But we have to eliminate a lot of other activites to do that. As the LifeDev post explains:

If you’re going to be productive, you have to concentrate on your strengths. If you spend all of your time trying to improve your weakness, your strengths will decrease, and your weaknesses will probably become mediocre. So you’ll be all around mediocre.

A great therapist once explained to me that we have to give up the youthful "fantasies of omnipotence" in order to get on with a productive life.

Maturity comes with accepting that we are all specialists; that each of us benefits from the special gifts of others, and that we contribute most to all in the few areas we have developed the most.


Success Book Reviews - "The Success Effect" Part 2

This is part 2 of my review of John Eckberg’s The Success Effect: Uncommon Conversations With America's Business Trailblazers. I was so impressed with one of the people in the latter half of the book, Doug Newburg, that I created a separate post about him here. But many of the business pros in the second half of the book are distinguished by their capacity as self-starters who found a need, and passionately set out to fill it. Here are a few examples woven together in Eckberg’s extensive collection of business luminaries:

Ron DeLyons, already a successful investment manager, realized that there was a need for smaller minority-owned firms to consolidate so they could compete for contracts from corporate giants like Toyota and P&G. He formed his own boutique investment bank to do just that.

Doug Hall of the Eureka Institute saw a need to move market research from the “hocus pocus” of focus groups, to a quantified, computer base “game of probabilities”. Once a product, or set of products, can be evaluated in this way, it opens the door for much better risk-management in a very demanding field, where lots of money can be lost if you launch the wrong product.

Ex-NBA rebounding great Tyrone Hill realized that school kids were being ill-served by school food, and now his All-Star Vending brings healthy snacks to the school hallways while also helping out with scholarship programs.

Robert Robinson Sr. of KaiVac revolutionized janitorial work with powerful machines that radically raised the dignity of janitorial workers.

None of these paths were easy paths to take, and many of these entrepreneurs would have been much “safer” in their previous jobs. But their initiative, creativity, and persistence enabled them to create whole new businesses where none was before. One of the many upsides to such creativity, is that the new niche they find is often uncrowded, so, if the user of the product can be educated as to the new product's benefits, there is very ittle competition. And the barriers to entry, especially the detailed knowledge needed to explore such niches, are daunting enough so that, hopefully, competition can stay scare for a while.

These stories are excellent templates for success for the rest of us, and especially welcome when we need some inspiration, and validation, that others can do it…and so can we.

Part 1 of this review


Success Secrets - Doug Newburg Interview

As I was reading John Eckberg’s remarkable The Success Effect: Uncommon Conversations With America's Business Trailblazers, I came across his chapter on Doug Newburg, and expert on high-performance, successful people. The newspaper article which was the original source of the chapter is here.

Newberg’s research rings true to me, and provides an understanding of the kind of questions that I have often pondered regarding personal achievement:

  • Why did I find my list of highly detailed goals so difficult to look at?

  • Why did more general, “intentional” visualizations work better for me?

  • Why did I get such a “high”, working at my old career till all hours of the night, and, similarly, why was I so fascinated with my new career that I could write computer code for 14 hours at a stretch, sometimes forgetting to eat several meals?

  • Why do rich, successful executives keep working, when they could easily retire to Palm Springs and play golf the rest of their lives?

As I understand Newburg’s work, truly successful people experience a “resonance”. What they love to do inspires them to get better at what they do, and to continue to do more of what they do. A “virtuous cycle”. This is analogous to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of "flow" . I mentioned a similar state in my post on obsession.

The truly successful go where their talent tells them to go. And they do it in their own way: they don’t necessarily micromanage their disciplines and habits, and Newburg’s research suggests that too much rigidity and organization can actually hurt progress.

Success can involve ongoing positive results,(money, recognition, etc.) of course, but Newburg uses the term “profound esthetic happiness” to describe the state of a fully engaged, successful person. They like to win, they hate to lose, but they are really in it “for the love of the game”.

He advises keeping a journal for a couple of weeks, primarily for the purpose of noting down what activities truly engage you even for a moment. The highly successful people respond strongly to that feeling of engagement. They worry less about failing and spend more energy focusing, with great fascination, on what they love to do. They “get lost” in an ongoing stream of attention, punctuated by positive feedback from the results of their actions.

Now, in the interview, Eckberg raises the question, “what if you’re not good about what you ‘resonate’ from?” And, it’s true, there are a lot of lousy golfers and garage-band musicians. But that doesn’t necessarily invalidate Newburg’s thesis that you will probably be most satisfied pursuing activities that you resonate with. Your unconscious leads you to them, because it “knows” you are good at them, or could be good at them. You are going to tend to stick with activities that provide some kind of positive feedback loop.

Newburg’s thesis pulls together a lot of what I have posted before regarding the unconscious (here, and here), affirmations (here and here) and the concept of obsession (here). The model that is emerging is:

  • Keep aware of what engages you, if only for a moment

  • Experiment with pursuing that area, or related areas

  • See if you continue to feel good about the possibilities and/or immediate feedback

  • Don’t get to stuck in overly-detailed goals and procedures

  • Keep in mind generalized “future pictures”

  • Don’t be afraid to work intensively and for extended periods as your interests dictate. Forget about “balance”.

In my life I have indeed experienced several moments of Newburg’s “profound esthetic happiness”. They were not necessarily connected with the highest-paying job, or the most profitable day. These experiences were a feeling of “rightness”, or what Newburg calls a “low buzz of energy”. I strongly feel that such a response is “hard-wired” into us, and that it can be a supreme guide for the direction of our lives.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Success Secrets - The Unconscious Mind Part 2

Is science beginning to validate many long-felt beliefs about unconscious creativity and decision making? Consider the following anecdotes (or imagine your own):

We write written affirmations about future success, and they come true over time without detailed plans being formulated.

Detailed plans seem to get “stale” and awkward quickly, while our focused “intentions” seem to take us where we want to go more gracefully, surprisingly, and naturally.

We “sleep on” a problem and wake up with a feeling of certainty about a solution.

We’ve made lengthy lists of “pros and cons”about a decision but we don’t “feel right” about the answer.

A creative director is known for his tendency to wait patiently for a great idea, never forcing it, and brilliant, “out of the box” solutions ensue.

Mozart, in spite of the appearance of rapid composition, actually claimed he was “studying’ his composition during such activities as an evening of billiards.

Scientific progress is often associated with “happy accidents” in which unexpected findings are later perceived to be the answer to a problem under investigation, or perhaps even the door to an unexpected innovation.

In a recent post, I alluded to a fascinating PDF by psychologist Ap Dijksterhuis entitled “A Theory Of Unconscious Thought”, which detailed an exquisite set of experiments he conducted (along with others) to parse out glimpses of the unconscious mind in action. In this research he also tentatively formulated some principles that seem to characterize unconscious thought.

It appears that science is beginning to study seriously these anecdotes about unconscious thought, and is validating claims that the unconscious truly does have awesome information-processing capacity. Furthermore, apparently, in certain areas, this capacity dwarfs the capacity of the conscious mind. I find this research encouraging since the results seem to feel much more "true” or “natural” than the point of view that conscious decision making has all the answers. After all…if I had to use my conscious mind every morning, I might never make it to the coffee pot!

Here are just a few tantalizing concepts that Dijksterhuis has presented in this fascinating research paper:

  • The capacity principle: the more variables in the problem, the better-suited the decision task is for the unconscious.

  • The conscious mind likes to work from “schema” and therefore tends to pick a single, “most valid” path upon which to build further decisions,. As Dijksterjuis puts it: “During conscious thought we quickly create our own guide to further thought, while “unconscious thought uses information in a (relatively) unbiased way and slowly integrates this into an objective summary.”

  • The subconscious weights different decision factors better than conscious thought. Dijksterhuis: “Conscious thought leads people to put disproportionate weight on attributes that are accessible, plausible, and easy to verbalize”.

  • Longer periods of unconscious thought appear to produce even better solutions than short periods.

  • Unconscious thought is less focused and tends to be more “divergent” than conscious thought. This leads often to a wider range of alternatives and solutions.

  • In tasks with many variables, conscious thought seems to lead to less-satisfying solutions than unconscious thought.

All of this data is not intended to marginalize the conscious mind. Dijksterjuis’ research stresses that conscious thought is absolutely necessary for “encoding” the data from which decisions are made: you acquire as much data as you can, before submitting the decision to unconscious thought. He postulates that this "encoding" is one of the reasons that “intuition” and split-second decisions by experts is so accurate: if you have had a lifetime of experience in a field, you have, in effect , consciously “encoded” a large store of information that your unconscious has access to in weighting decisions and producing answers.

One tantalizing conclusion that Dijksterjuis suggests is that the unconscious only produces these results when it has been “encoded” with a goal. Many of his experimental results vanish if his subjects are explicitly told, in effect “there won’t be a quiz”.

But I am wondering if there are many other implications of this theory. Consider the high proportion of Asian and Jewish kids that go on to professional careers after a lifetime of “dinner table talk” about becoming a doctor, say, or concert violinist. Such talk might include references to the achievements of relatives, family friends, etc. Could this “dinner table talk” be encoding a goal orientation into these children such that they integrate incoming experience and data towards achieving those goals, which were set at such an early and impressionable age?

Do self-confidence, or even athletic ability manifest themselves in response to “encoded” childhood goals? And, as adults, can we use the power of “intention” and “affirmations” to encode our subconscious to produce the results we want currently and in the future?

I am no scientist, but it seems to me that we can envision the physical strata of the subconscious as a “neural net” in which the slow buildup of various “voltage potentials” play off each other until a threshold value is reached, which triggers the “solution notifier” neuron, which tells us the answer is in. (I warned you I was not a scientist).

Whatever the physical model, I find that Dijksterjuis’ research encourages me to appreciate the unconscious’ capacity for generating outcomes. After all, I trust my unconscious to tell me when I’m hungry, sleepy, fearful, etc. I trust it to make me move (relatively) gracefully. I trust it to help me program in code that it would be impossible to look up every day…and it seems we are at the “tip of the iceberg” in uncovering unconscious capabilities. My prediction: even more astounding results will come in, including remote cognition and precognition.

Just an “unconscious” guess.

Related Posts :

My Success With Written Affirmations

Scott Adams on Written Affirmations


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Success Podcasts - Ed Oakley

Management consultant Ed Oakley is interviewed for an hour on Wayne Hurlbert’s Blog Business Success. Oakley is the author of Leadership Made Simple, and the penetrating techniques he reveals in this interview should apply equally well to personal or business success. Oakley has produced huge results in large corporations worldwide, but it seems to me that any business of any size, or any person for that matter, could instantly apply his techniques on an ongoing basis. Here is a short review of some key questions he suggests we ask in our management process:

What is already working?
- - Where do we agree
- - What are our successes

What Made it Work?
Analyze your successes instead of failures

What do we want to accomplish?
-- Vision
-- Target

-- Goal
-- Focus

What is the benefit to each stakeholder?
-- Customers
-- Employees
-- Bosses

What can we do more of, better, or differently to move closer to our objective?

Who will do what by when?

Review: What worked ?
- - (Cycle continues)

One of the many advantages of this process, is the emotional benefit of starting with a focus on the positive (what worked). This can lift the spirits of a problem-solving team and create a "template" to keep thnings focused forward...another great principle advocated by Oakley. Thanks to Wayne for a tremendous, in-depth podcast.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Success Secrets - The Unconscious Mind Part 1

I have posted in the past about my experience with written affirmations and of my occasional frustration with more explicit and “rational” goal-setting. It is very interesting to note that scientists are now seriously exploring and testing the results achieved by the unconscious mind.

In a previous post, here, I mentioned the online availability of Harvard Business Review’s “Breakthrough Ideas for 2007”. One of the mini-summaries included the work of Dutch Psychologist Ap Dijksterhuis who has done experimental work on the use of the unconscious mind in decision-making. His findings indicate that there may be provable scientific confirmation of the unconscious mind’s power to solve problems and even produce superior results to conscious thought. He posed problems to his test subjects and gave them the choice to decide the answer immediately, to think about it consciously, or to let the subjects’ unconscious minds work on the problems. His results.:

“… the unconscious thinkers ….. made better decisions, almost without exception, than the subjects who decided immediately or those who consciously deliberated.”

The article goes onto suggest that the conscious mind actually has very little processing power compared to the unconscious, and its main use should be for acquiring the data, not processing it.

In that vein, I have always wondered if I had a “screw loose”, because I often found answers to my problems in a “flash” of inspiration, but very rarely achieved good results from attempting to sit down and think through a problem. This article encourages me to use my conscious mind for hunting for valuable inputs (such a s my work on this blog) and then allowing my unconscious mind to craft some of the solutions. This was standard practise in my previous career, a creative field where I naturally came to solutions through “flahes of inspiration”, and now I see that the possibilities for achieving results in less obviously creative pursuits are also there.

Dijksterhuis has also written a paper, entitled “A Theory of Unconscious Thought”, which is available here.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Success tools - HBR Breakthrough Ideas

The Harvard Business Review Online has published its Breakthrough Ideas for 2007. Even this non-subscription version has 20 stimulating mini-essays, one for each topic. Ideas discussed include new uses for old algorithms, studies of “influentials”, the function of networks, and “accountabalism”.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Success Book Reviews - "The Success Effect" Part 1

Cincinnati business reporter John Eckberg has interviewed dozens of business luminaries in The Success Effect: Uncommon Conversations With America's Business Trailblazers. This is Part 1 of this review. Since I focus on success books and strategies, this book is a goldmine for me. Now, since these people are superstars and often very colorful, the challenge is to examine these short interviews to see if there are any common factors that the rest of us can apply to imptove the odds of our success.

In the first part of the book I would extract three key characteristics:

People-centric priorities
Think Long term


To succeed, you need to know what you are going for. It can’t be vague. While visualizations are great, the things you work on, day-to-day, must be well-defined, and have a time-limit component.

David Pelz had to virtually invent the science of golf measurement. As a trained physicist, he had to focus first on just what he wanted to measure, then how he wanted to measure it, and then he had to booked equipment that would aid in skill-development. This is focus.

Similarly, Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis established very clear dates and milestones for player progress. Without clarity, you have no compass or measurement scale for success.


Some of the best advice I have received over the years was related to surrounding myself with the right people. The most brilliant initiative can be short-circuited by one negative staff member. But motivated people, encouraged and supported, can accomplish anything, and they don’t need to be micromanaged, either.

Sam Zell runs his huge organization as a meritocracy. Neither age nor rank matter to him as much as results.

Larry Bossidy of Allied Signal and Honeywell says having the right people is the most important ant thing in business; without that, he tells us nothing else matters.

Pelz mentions example after example of champion golfers who were not inordinately gifted athletes: it was their drive as individuals, their willingness to work hard and practice “the right things” that gave them the edge.

Long-term Thinking

Success at a major level is a marathon, not a sprint. Long-lasting success is not an overnight phenomenon, but a “compounding” effect.

It has long been theorized that long-term thinking 10, 20, even 100 years out, is what creates the best results. Tami Longaberger, of the billion-dollar Longaberger basket company mentions that consistent profitability did not come until 1992, although the company began in 1976.

Another billionaire, Sam Zell, says “the long-term investor always wins”.

This concept is a difficult for most of us because we are giving up gratification “now” for reward “out there in the future”. What we don’t realize is that the compounding effect gices us not 1:1 rewards but more often 10:1 or 100:1 rewards. This is why we need to listen to the voices of successful people. People who have traveled that road. People we can believe and reference when we had a slow quarter, a bad day, or a failed plan. These people stayed focused, believed in and “grew” the right people, and “hung in” to see their success blossom.

One of the things I like about this book is that the interviewees seem real, up-close, and human. This is a gift that Eckberg has of bringing us “right into the room” with these amazing achievers.

More in Part 2 of this review.

Tech Tags:

Friday, February 16, 2007

Success Secrets - Generating Sales Referrals

Paul McCord is a highly successful sales trainer, and a deep student of the selling process. He is the author of Creating a Million-Dollar-a-Year Sales Income: Sales Success through Client Referrals. His website is an excellent showcase of his many activities including coaching, corporate training, and seminars.

He also maintains a blog which answers real-world sales questions. Recent topics included “How to handle a Renegade” (salesperson), and a “Required Reading List” for sales reps. This blog looks to be an excellent ongoing reference for sales reps and managers.

This blog is a great example of the kind of high-quality, expert knowledge that is coming online from experienced professionals: the kind of knowledge that can greatly accelerate anyone’s learning curve. From personal development, to finance, to business strategy, to sales, the materials now available online can compress decades of effort into mere months.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Success Secrets - Customer Manufacturing

What if a customer was as much a “product” of a business as a .. well... a product? Peter Drucker said as much when he said “The purpose of a business is to create a customer”. But Mitchell GoozĂ© and Ralph Mroz argue in a changethis.com manifesto entitled http://www.changethis.com/31.05.CompetitiveAdvantage that businesses really don’t “manufacture” customers with the same business rigor that they apply to other manufacturing processes.

They draw an excellent analogy: when your assembly line is not producing widgets to spec, you don’t go yell at the production manager, you open your Deming textbook on process control, or your copy of Goldratt’s The Goal (Theory of Constraints) and you solve the process problems that are slowing you down. However, when you call center is not producing enough sales, do you just give longer pep talk? Or do you focus on process-type “inputs” to the “work cell”? As the authors elaborate in a related White Paper called “Process Management in Marketing and Sales” , you might examine the “inputs” to the call center processes: Who is buying your product? Are you calling the right people? What time of the year do they buy? Are you expecting to sell from the first call? Is that expectation measurable?

The authors aim to take the marketing process from the realm of the luck of the “gifted individual” and place it into the realm of a repeatable, measurable process. Their website has an extensive list of clients who have worked with the authors, as well as a large selection of other White Papers.

Another idea that occurred to me from reading this is, how many of our personal success areas could benefit from process-management thinking?

Tech Tags:

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Success Book Reviews - "Crucial Conversations" Part 3

This is Part 3 of my review of Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High, a landmark book on using dialogue to solve “high stakes’ and “high tension” problems between people. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.

The authors use the concept of “Path to Action” to describe the route from what we see and hear to the eventual emotions and actions we associate with an event. In the later part of the book, after encouraging us to explore our own paths, they encourage us to explore how others got from “what they saw” through “what they felt” to “what they did.

The authors guide us carefully through this “crucial” phase of delicately uncovering other peoples’ emotional response strategies. To navigate this perilous journey, the authors supply a host of tested strategies:

The other person has to know we have the right motives .
They have to know we really care .
They may need a bit of “priming” (as in “priming the pump”) so THEY know that YOU are ready to listen .

Once everything is out in the open, the authors suggest ways to compare divergent views, and they move on to discuss varieties of “deciding” on action once all views have been aired. When do you “command”, when do you “vote”, when do you use “consensus”?

Later in the book, the authors generously provide over a dozen “mini-case studies” of how to conduct some “crucial conversation” work with friends, children, employees, etc, as well as a variety of hints on how to begin embedding the skills into your life. One of their techniques, “think about the rewards”, is a time-tested rule that the best motivators have used for decades. If you concentrate on how good the changes can be once your dialogue skills are upgraded, the incentive to change is heightened.

I find the methods in this book so compelling I may go ahead and sign up for a training course. I strongly recommend this book.

Part 1

Part 2

Tech Tags:

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Success Podcasts - Matt May on Toyota

In a terrific podcast at the 800CeoRead Podcast page, Matt May author of The Elegant Solution: Toyota's Formula for Mastering Innovation describes some of the brilliance of preeminent auto manufacturer Toyota. What stands out for me in this discussion, is the author’s emphasis in the mindset he found as a consultant for the automaker. Their business planning goes far beyond “doing a job” : process improvement is in the DNA of every job and every worker. As May puts it: workers are hired to improve the work, not do the work: to make things fundamentally better.

He remarks on his experience on the production line that he was awed at the constant stream of suggestions flowing up from the line, quashing the notion that creativity comes from above.

He also outlines the deeply reflective process that characterizes the impulse driving the company. Some questions we might all ask like:

“What does perfection look like?”
“What is standing in the way?”
“What mechanisms can we put into place to define perfection?”

The podcast is inspiring as is the entire site.

Related Links:

Jack Welch

Larry Keeley


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Success Secrets - Purposive Drift

I have been reading motivational literature all my life. I have achieved success in life, and work hard to stay positive and optimistic. But one of the mysteries that has haunted my for years is “why don’t explicit goals seem to work for me?” While certain motivational habits have seemed to work: going with my strengths, keeping fit and healthy, taking time to reflect on the direction of my life, and, above all, reading and learning, have contributed enormously to the quality of my life, I personally found that explicit goals (income, body weight, weightlifting reps, etc) often did not come to pass, or even backfired by shutting out people and possibilities from my life. Sometimes, just looking at a list of last quarter’s goals would make my eyes glaze over. Why wasn’t it fun to pursue these goals? Why did I dread them? Why did affirmation, visualization, and intention seem to not only work well, but make me feel better than working on an explicit goal?

Richard Oliver has a thesis as to why this is so. He has written a brilliant essay, Purposeful Drift: Making it up as we go along. In it he reminds us that an openness and flexibility seem to mark the brightest artists,, scientists, and even corporations, because:

  • The future is impossible to predict

  • There are more possibilities than we can imagine

  • Conditions in the world are constantly changing.

Think of it: Why do we watch the Super Bowl every year? Because , even though the goals are explicit, and the rules are strictly defined, there is no way to absolutely guarantee a path to that goal. And we are talking about a highly structured environment! Our world (inner and outer) is a lot more messy!!

Not only do conditions and possibilities change, but, the very act of working on a goal generates new information that was not present when the goal was set. As Oliver says “plans goals, formal processes, and targets can … [blind] us to the valuable information that is generated by the actions we take to implement them.”

In the creative field, I can attest that creation is an iterative process. At each stage our creation-in-progress gives us feedback that changes our view of the work we are doing, and changes the outcome, as we experience the various iterations of the process.

The creative field is not unique in this respect. Drugs designed for one malady often are startlingly effective on other maladies. Thomas Schweich, in Staying Power : 30 Secrets Invincible Executives Use for Getting to the Top - and Staying There tells us that that the top tier of successful executives recommends not planning out your career in detail as it will blind you to unthought-of possibilities, as well as possibly diminish other peoples’ perception of the breadth of your potential.

Oliver suggests using one’s sense of well-being as a central “compass point”, and to use “Purposeful Drift” based on three factors: values, competency, and context. Here are a some examples that occurred to me:

Values – your sense of well-being, and what is working for you, can change. At one point of my life, I valued “pedal to the metal” success. At another point, serenity. Monitoring this inner well-being is going to change our plans, goals, and actions.

Competency – An entrepreneur builds a company, but, as it passes the billion-dollar-mark, his competency as CEO is going to be different. Perhaps he must move on, but certainly goals are going to change

Context – As Barry Diller mentioned in a recent interview here, the concept of big media as a “choke point” is over. Big media, which relied on “scarcity” for its revenues, now has to “do a 180” and find out how to prosper in an era of “plenty”.

Oliver’s thesis is only strengthened by the current conditions in our world: scarcity of capital and scarcity of information have given way to a torrent of both, thus multiplying the “possibility matrix” in as little time as it takes to go to sleep and wake up the next morning.

Oliver’s intriguing essay is featured on one of my newest favorite sites : changethis.com which contains numerous thought-provoking "manifestos" (their term). I look forward to exploring their content in depth.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Success Videos - Eisner and Diller

Below are links to a 5-part video interview featuring Michael Eisner and Barry Diller. Michael Eisner was Chairman and CEO of Disney and Barry Diller founded the huge internet conglomerate Interactive Corp featuring Match.Com, Ticketmaster and a host of other famous internet brands. Diller comes across to me as a flat-out visionary genius at the level of a Paley or Sarnoff. He truly “gets it” as far as the huge “stroke of luck” that the Internet represents.

He celebrates the Net’s liberation from the “old media” methods of “choke-point” distribution. He reminds the audience that in the 50s and 60s, television stations were awarded only to highly-connected prominent families, for whom a broadcast license was literally a “license to print money”.

He also demonstrates genius by not focusing on any given “path” that the future might take. He sees the explosion of prosperity and diversity that universal empowerment unleashes. This view from the “top of the mountain” is an invaluable lesson in leadership.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Related Links :

Sergei Brin

Sandy Weil

Greg Norman


Monday, February 05, 2007

Success Book Reviews - "Crucial Conversations" Part 2

This is Part 2 of my review of Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High. You can read Part 1 here. I continue to believe this is one of the finest books on interpersonal communications I have read. In particular, the authors avoid any notion of "Pop Psychology". When the stakes are high with another person, you need to show your true honesty and be totally devoid of manipulation of any kind. Those of us with low levels of Emotional Intelligence (and I count myself in this camp) desperately need a reliable guidebook through the minefield of interacting with other people in a highly-charged environment. This book is that guide.

In the middle part of the book, the authors make some crucial points.

In a Crucial Conversation, the first directive must always be “safety” i.e. the person we are talking with must feel safe about talking with you. They cannot be made to feel you are demeaning them or attempting to destroy them

Mutual Purpose means that both participants are working towards a common goal. In a corporation, that might mean a project being on track, in a relationship, a more loving interaction. The authors reiterate, if there is no mutual purpose, we cannot expect “buy in” from the other participant.

Mutual Respect needs no definition. No one will work with you willingly if you don’t show you respect them.

The authors give several brilliant techniques for “making it safe”, one of which , called “contrasting”, involves first demonstrating that you have no intention of hurting them, and then confirms your high valuation of them. Several other techniques are presented.

In another breakthrough chapter, the authors present penetrating insights on mastering our own emotions. They present a technique, "mastering our stories", that allows us to take a microscope to our own emotional responses, so we can move past our instinctive “flight or flight” impulses, to our real goals: positive outcomes for all. This involves following the history of “what made us mad” so we can let in some sunshine and rationality.

Once this technique is learned, we can engage with the other party by checking our “stories” against input from the other party. This allows for openness, respect, and additions to what the authors call the “pool of shared meaning”. Assuming we are willing to let go of our self-focused aims for the good of the relationship, the possibility of positive outcomes seems immeasurably increased. Two excellent techniques stand out for me as methods for “turning down the heat” in an engagement.

If we see someone as a “villain” we can ask ourselves: "why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person do what this person is doing?” That is not to say there are not bad people that we must deal with, but, assuming we are focused on ridding ourselves of unnecessary anger and bias, this technique will enable us to be at our best in the interaction.

Another major “defuser” in an engagement is to stay focused on the facts. For instance, if you are discussing a delicate issue with your spouse, “You cur!!! You were having an affair last night!!!” is a lot more destructive than “I noticed you came home late last night. Can we discuss this?”.

From time to time, I have had the opportunity to discuss management techniques and challenges with several executives I admire, and I have always been impressed at how they were able to rid themselves of an irrationally personal bias, enabling them to get the real job done and move forward. This book really gives me insights into how these "masters" do it.

There are a lot of books on success out there. But success truly begins inside ourselves. To make progress on this path, read this remarkable book. More in Part 3.

Back to Part 1


Saturday, February 03, 2007

Success Podcast - Keith Ferrazzi Interview

Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time, which I reviewed here , is interviewed on John Jantsch’s Duct Tape Marketing podcast here. The home page for the podcast is here.

This book has justifiably become an instant classic, and it provides a generous look inside the mind and process of a master business builder and networker. Since I read the book, about a year ago, Ferrazzi’s concept of “pinging” has helped me immeasurably. Here are a few of the other concepts mentioned briefly in the podcast:

  • Networking is about real friends, not empty sales relationships

  • Be real. Be yourself

  • Seek to truly make the other person a successs. This goes far beyond selling a product.

  • Be clear about what you want in life and rationally map out a plan to meet the people who can make that plan succeed.

There is so much more to the book. If you haven’t read it yet, don’t worry. It will be around for 100 years.

Tech Tags:

New on My Reading List

Success Podcasts - Small Business Expert Ron Finkelstein

Small-business owners: you must listen to this podcast. Podcaster Wayne Hurlbert has an in-depth conversation with author and management consultant Ron Finkelstein on Blog Talk Radio. Finkelstein’s fascinating 1 hour talk only serves to scratch the surface of his decades of consulting experience. Finkelstein is an expert in small-business consulting and discusses his book Celebrating Success! Fourteen Ways to a Successful Company

Finkelstein has pioneered a business networking format called the Small Business Success Mastery Advisory Board composed of business owners-helping-business owners. He has skillfully abstracted and dissected the qualities that make businesses succeed.

Some of my favorite parts of the podcast:

  • Owners, even technically-based owners can become “rainmakers" for their businesses with proper sales training

  • Clients and employees (and all of us) need to be treated how they want to be treated, not how we want to treat them (the “Platinum Rule’, first articulated by Tony Alessandra)

  • Business processes can be studied, and successful processes can be duplicated

  • Successful businesses have important factors in common. Learn those factors, and your business will succeed.

Finkelstein does coaching, consulting, speaking, writing, and also has a blog. He comes across as a deeply thoughtful student of business: results-oriented, people-focused, and concept driven.

I look forward to listening to this podcast again and again, and to reading and reviewing his book.

Tech Tags

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Success Videos - Larry Keeley on Innovation

Humanity usually gains a great deal when a science progresses from the realm of anecdote to the realm of a rigorous theory bolstered by validating research. The germ theory of disease led to innovations such as vaccination and sanitation, saving billions of lives. The progressive understanding of physics led to radio, television, the computer, and, alas, the atom bomb.

In this brilliant video by Larry Keely, president of Doblin.com, Keeley takes the emerging science of innovation from the obscure, “hit or miss” landscape of accident and luck, towards the goal of reproducible, coherent, scientific results. Indeed, his talk centers on “The Science of Innovative Effectiveness”.

What tells us we are in the “dark ages” of innovation? Simple. His vast statistical studies have determined that current innovation practices have a 95.5% failure rate. In many respects this statistic is reminiscent of the drug-discovery methods that had to be employed before people had a theory of what drugs needed to do and how they did it. Immense research needed to be done on DNA, receptor sites, etc before a coherent body of theory could be leveraged to produce faster and more accurate results.

Keeley has studied decades of innovation in all fields, on all continents, in order to build huge statistical databases of how innovation works, and how it fails. In this video he gives a riveting account of his findings.

A few of my favorite points:

  • As opposed to the “breakthrough” model of innovation, the vast majority of innovation is “sustaining”, i.e. incremental improvements.

  • Innovation, while perceived to be about “new products” actually occurs in 10 domains, all of which are rich fields for profitable advances. An innovation in a delivery method can be as profitable, or moreso, than an innovation in product design.

  • Great innovations innovate in more than one of these domains (think iPod for instance).

  • Innovation via intent will produce more focused results than innovation via brainstorming. He calls it the Innovation Discipline Model.

I plan to view this video over and over again, and to get my hands on as much of Larry Keeley’s work as possible. This is the starting gate of a new era. By the way, many of the images on the video are available on the Doblin website.

Related Links :

Jack Welch Video

John Chambers Video