The Best Place to Work

How much thought do you give to your surroundings at work? And how much do you think that influences how you feel about your employer?

Apparently the above, who you're seated next to and in what type of arrangement; how you're praised, allowed to do your work, and communicated to; and much more all influence how you feel about the place you work, as Ron Friedman shares is his book The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace.

Ron shares many fascinating studies and anecdotes and I recommend all leaders and aspiring leaders read this book. 

And as we learn at the end of the book, all these lessons can be broken down into three overarching themes:
  1. psychological needs are at the heart of employee engagement—namely, employees need to experience autonomy, competence, and relatedness on a daily basis.
  2. organizations are more successful when they address the limits of the mind and body—due to our limited mental bandwidth, we need breaks and opportunities to recharge to keep performing.
  3. integrating work and family life improves the quality of both—work-life balance does not exist so allow life to infringe work since work infringes on life.
If employers can't be convinced to do this for the right reasons—wanting staff that are happy to come to work—they should do this since happy staff lead to more profitable companies, as Ron states at the end of his book:
When we fulfill employees' needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness, when we allow them to leverage the full breadth of their mental  capacity, when we provide them with the flexibility to succeed in both their personal and professional lives, we achieve more than any extraordinary workplace.
We create an organization that performs its very best. 
Is your workplace fulfilling the three overarching needs?  

Review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have to admit that I wouldn't usually pick up a book with profanity in its title. But I kept reading great reviews about this book so finally bought it and am very glad I did so.

Although the profanity continues throughout the book, that and the irreverence works with the author's style and message, which is that we have to choose what we care about. If we care (or as the author calls it, "give a f*k") about everything, we really don't care about anything, nor will we get anywhere.

Some of his messages that really resonate with me are that happiness comes from solving problems, failure and pain are part of the process and the way forward, learn to say no, and choose your values carefully since your beliefs create your reality.

It's a quick and very thought-provoking read that I believe will resonate with most people at some level. I highly recommend it.


Elle Luna published an article on the crossroads between should and must, watched it go viral, and then decided to rewrite the article into a book called The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion. 

If you have ever felt torn between what you thought was the right thing to do and what you wish you could do, then read this book. And if you haven't, please let me know your secret.

Elle does not recommend we neglect our obligations or follow our passions into poverty; instead, she recommends we discover what our calling is—the thing we must do—and start small. Find ten minutes today and take that step, and then build on it. 

Our Must is the thing we were born to do, the thing that makes us uniquely who we are, and the thing we need to do to become our best. 

I found the book so inspiring and am still feeling the repercussions of its message. And therefore I hate to admit that I don't know what my Must is. 

I know what my strengths are and I know what I enjoy doing. I even know what I would do if money were no issue and the causes I'd fight for if I were the activist type. But where among all those is my calling? 

Elle does offer tips on how to find this, including asking your mom what you enjoyed most as a child, asking yourself questions to pinpoint the things you enjoy, and looking for patterns among activities and answers. 

Do you know what your calling is?

Rebrand Your Value

In her first book, Knowing Your Value, Mika Brzesinski taught women how to figure out their value and ask for what they're worth. In her second book, Grow Your Value: Living and Working to Your Full Potential she addresses an equally difficult topic: finding and growing your value both professionally and personally.

As Mika herself has had to learn, and as shared by the successful women whose words and stories she includes, when mothers succeed, they often feel guilty for neglecting their family and children. This trade-off is often at the expense of their personal value and many handle this with differing degrees of success.

Ultimately what Mika learned is that it's equally important to grow your personal value, find time to recharge, and find a way to integrate both personas so that neither is starved. Instead of pretending to be always on and upbeat for her family, she now takes the time to truly connect and even disconnect with them.

Mika also has a chapter specifically geared towards Millennial and entrepreneurial woman and their unique challenges, and then another on rebranding and starting a second career.

I found the latter chapter really interesting. Mika includes stories of how successful women have used hardships, layoffs, and their passions to find their callings or a new career that was an even better fit for who they had become. Given my own period of transition, I needed to read these words of wisdom and their underlying message.

As one of the women interviewed explained, she realized one of the things she was really good at—motivating staff and speaking to people at all levels—was not evident on her resume. Once she became aware of this and was able to frame her experience from that context, opportunities began presenting themselves.

Have you had to rebrand yourself? How did you go about it?

Human Talent in an Age of Robots

Since I'm in career transition, I've been giving talents and skills a lot of thought. 

I recently read and loved Geoff Colvin's Humans Are Underrated: Proving Your Value in the Age of Brilliant Technology. His premise is that eventually it won't be the "hard skills" so valued today that will keep our jobs safe, but the soft ones that make us uniquely human. So there will be a lot fewer programmers, doctors, and lawyers and those still viable will be great at developing human ties with others: the ones with high EQ. Women will finally have an advantage when that day comes. 

But that day is still some time away, and in the interim, I envy those that have a talent or skill that allows them to excel, be fulfilled, and in demand. I just finished reading Kym Gold's Golden Standard on how she founded the True Religion brand, and this perfectly demonstrates what I mean. 

Kym had a knack for fashion everyone recognized and she realized this was something she could turn into a career. With each business that she founded and that didn't succeed, she learned what to do better the next time. And even when ousted from her own successful businesses, she was always able to start over since her talent was so valuable and distinctive.

That type of talent is precious. At one point I thought writing was my talent. Story ideas would present themselves all the time and I loved putting them to paper and seeing how the characters and plot evolved. Ironically majoring in creative writing dried out my inspiration. I've since discovered that I have certain strengths and try to apply them where I can, but that's not the same as talent. 

I still enjoy some types of writing (obviously) and believe I have a minor talent for teaching, but neither of these are things I'm driven to do all the time or that make me stand out. The "strengths" I've discovered on the job can be deemed as minor talents as well. 

Perhaps my talent is learning and evolving in addition to teaching. Maybe not the most distinctive or glamorous of talents, but perhaps more useful. And thankfully there will come a day when my soft skills will be more valued.

Do you know what your talents and strengths are? How often do you use them?

Review: Rock Bottom to Rock Star: Lessons from the Business School of Hard Knocks

Rock Bottom to Rock Star: Lessons from the Business School of Hard Knocks Rock Bottom to Rock Star: Lessons from the Business School of Hard Knocks by Ryan Blair
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read Ryan Blair's original book, Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain a while back and enjoyed it, so picked up his latest, Rock Bottom to Rock Star. It did not disappoint.

In his second book, Ryan teaches us all what he's learned through trial and error, so that we can all become "rock stars" in our own lives and careers. Each chapter is a different tip, told in his very readable and down-to-earth tone and with anecdotes showing either how he learned the tip and/or applied it. And although some of the lessons are more obvious than others, they're all valuable. Tips include knowing your superpower, working backwards, funding first, what weakens strengthens you, wrong type of success, and many others.

A quick enjoyable read that I'd recommend for anyone interested in learning what it takes to become a business "rock star."

Review: Persuadable: How Great Leaders Change Their Minds to Change the World

Persuadable: How Great Leaders Change Their Minds to Change the World Persuadable: How Great Leaders Change Their Minds to Change the World by Al Pittampalli
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are many leadership books and I've read a good chunk of them. I've read about what it takes to be a leader, what to do and not to do, how to inspire, etc. Phrases like "analysis paralysis" and "be decisive" come up often, but Al's take on leadership is different.

We all agree that not being able to decide (aka, analysis paralysis) is bad. Most of us agree that leaders need to be good at making the tough calls. Al argues that being too decisive and sure of yourself is just as bad as the alternative. With great stories to back this up, he shows us how the greatest leaders were not afraid to be proven wrong and/or take other people's opinions. No one person can know it all and true leaders are not afraid to get advice and input from others.

This attribute is what he refers to as "persuadibility" and to get there, one must be able to "consider the opposite," "kill your darlings," "take others perspective," and "take on your own tribe," among others.

So if you are a leader, aspire to be one, or just want the mindset for success, read this book.

Review: The Cheat Code: Going Off Script to Get More, Go Faster, and Shortcut Your Way to Success

The Cheat Code: Going Off Script to Get More, Go Faster, and Shortcut Your Way to Success The Cheat Code: Going Off Script to Get More, Go Faster, and Shortcut Your Way to Success by Brian Wong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brian Wong, author of The Cheat Code: Going Off Script to Get More, Go Faster, and Shortcut your Way to Success is a young entrepreneurial genius. He graduated college at age 18 and started Kiip, his current company, at age 19. Not only has his company revolutionized mobile advertising, but he was one of the youngest to receive VC funding.

This book—written in a lighthearted tone and with many short chapters—is Brian's attempt to share his "cheat code" to success. It includes tips like:
  • get in over your head
  • find the action
  • don't ask—announce
  • screw the MBA
  • never learn the rules
  • know when to let go
  • get a trademark haircut
  • focus on what won't change
And many more.

One of my favorites is "know your superpower." Brian defines this as something you're so good at and enjoy doing, that you can't help but do all the time. For him, it's getting others excited about his passions and pursuits (including Kiip). His point is that it's important to know your superpower and use this as often as possible at work and otherwise. First off, why not since it's what you do best and enjoy; and second, it will only get better as you practice. He asks every potential employee what their superpower is.

A great read with lots of food for thought and highly recommended, whether you have entrepreneurial aspirations or not.

Review: The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook

The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook by Ben Mezrich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Facebook is something most of us use and many of us barely remember a world before. I had read the story behind the founding of Twitter and enjoyed it, so picked up Ben Mezrich's retelling of the start of Facebook, hoping for more entertaining reading. I was not disappointed.

Not only does this read like a soap opera (and it's been made into a movie too), but it's a super quick, well written founder story that you won't want to put down. Really interesting view of how Facebook started, its other founders no one knows about, and what it took for it to become the platform that revolutionized how we socially interact.

Definitely recommend it, whether you usually read business books or not.

What Is Efficiency?

Efficiency and effectiveness are something we all know to aspire to, but have you ever stopped to think what the word "efficiency" really means? Or better yet, what does an efficient process look like?

If you've read my earlier posts on recharging, you know that I read and walk to recharge. I somehow managed to pull something in my right upper hamstring so walking has been a bit painful the last few days. And even as it's improved and I've forced myself to take walks, albeit more slowly and painfully, it's still been less efficient. 

After using "inefficient" to explain why the walk took more out of me, it got me thinking. Walking efficiently means that everything is in alignment and walking is the effortless motion it should be. It generally does not take a lot of effort for me to maintain a fast pace and pass most people since I've been speed walking for years. And since my muscles and body are generally so efficient at this, I can let my mind wander. That is why walking usually recharges me like few other activities will.

So if you extrapolate the above to a process or system at work, what would make it efficient? Basically, it would have to make sense, have seamless handoffs, not require much thought or work to get it to work, and free up time or mental bandwidth to take care of other activities. At the end of the day, efficiency has to make something work more smoothly, faster, or better to be truly "efficient."

Is that how you define efficiency? Do you have efficient processes?

Review: Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a world with so much noise and so many options, everyone needs to understand what makes certain products and services catch on and others not. Nir Eyal explains this in his book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.

After much study, Nir formed his "Hook Model" to help founders and designers create better products and the book takes us through each stage, illustrated with great examples from modern companies. And since this type of mind-altering power can be used for ill, he's shared a matrix to help decide whether building a certain product is morally correct or not.

Even if you are not working on a product nor intend to do so, this book is worth reading to better understand why you're addicted to certain sites and/or products.

I highly recommend this informative and very readable book.

Review: Good Authority: How to Become the Leader Your Team Is Waiting for

Good Authority: How to Become the Leader Your Team Is Waiting for Good Authority: How to Become the Leader Your Team Is Waiting for by Jonathan Raymond
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Leadership is a topic near to my heart and one I spend a lot of time reading, writing, thinking about, and discussing. Due to this it's rare when I come across a leadership book that has something really new and memorable to say, but Good Authority does that and more.

Jonathan Raymond, who has plenty of hands-on leadership experience himself, explains that to be the type of leader your team needs, you need to give them the room to find their own answers. Leaders who practice good authority lead with questions. They understand that their job is not to know all the answers or do all the work themselves; instead, their job is to support their team and guide them with the right questions, then get out of their way so that they can learn and grow.

Not only will this type of leadership help your team become their best selves, which in itself is a win-win, but this is also the only way that you can get fully engaged employees. And from my experience—both as a leader and as an employee—I know this to be true.

The book shares so many other great anecdotes and tips and is a must-read for any current leader/manager, or anyone aspiring to these roles.

The Successful Executive's Mindset

I just finished reading Scott Eblin's The Next Level: What Insiders know About Executive Success and it's a keeper I'll be referring back to.

In addition to strategies on what executives need to pick-up and let go to be successful at this higher level, Scott also touches on the different mindset necessary.

Although the new executive needed to be a results-oriented over-achiever to get to this level, this mindset will no longer work.

The executive, unlike the senior leader, needs to be focused on the organization's success and on furthering all their agendas, sometimes at his personal agenda's expense. The executive also has to be aware that his actions and words are always being carefully monitored and will be taken much more seriously than he had intended, both for the good and bad. Scott shares an anecdote where a new executive teased a previous peer only to have him ask if he's in trouble.

Scott's point is that when you get to the executive level, you need to spend more time looking out, collaborating, directing, inspiring, and working towards the greater good with your executive peers rather than focusing on your own good. And you need to be aware you are your company's ambassador and that you are now perceived differently by all.

I love that Scott also emphasizes the value of having an executive take the time to connect with staff at all levels, ask for feedback, and be approachable. This takes effort since people tend to be suspicious and wary of anyone at the executive level.

If you're contemplating whether an executive role is something you should aspire to or not, read this book. I think anyone taking on an executive role for the first time should read this book or one like it so that they know what will be expected of them. Yes, promotions and raises are nice, but being an executive is not for everyone.

Have you had the opportunity to watch a newly-made executive transition? What made the transition a success or failure?

Review: The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future

The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future by Steve Case
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Steve Case, founder of AOL, provides his informed opinion of what is coming in The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur's Vision of the Future. As founder of AOL, he was very much at the forefront of the First Wave, helping get America Online, literally and figuratively. By the time the Second Wave came around and the Internet had gone mobile, Steve Case was a startup and social entrepreneurship investor, so still involved albeit indirectly.

Steve predicts that the Third Wave will be more similar to the First Wave, the one he knows so well, since it will involve the disruption of large entrenched industries such as education, healthcare, travel, and food. Some of his other predictions are:
  • the Third Wave will require the 3 P's—partnerships, policy, and perseverance;
  • Rise of the Rest—these disruptions will not only happen in Silicon Valley, NY, or Boston but in other hubs throughout the US—and outside of the US too;
  • Impact Investing will be a rising trend;
  • and America itself can get disrupted and lose it's lead if government doesn't make it easier for entrepreneurs to start.
The book was a really quick and interesting read that shares both what it took to get the Internet to what it is today and what could come next. I highly recommend this for anyone who is interested in how the Internet of Things or digital will continue to evolve.

Review: It's Not the How or the What but the Who

It's Not the How or the What but the Who: Succeed by Surrounding Yourself with the Best It's Not the How or the What but the Who: Succeed by Surrounding Yourself with the Best by Claudio Fernández-Aráoz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoy reading about employee engagement, culture, and related topics since I am a firm believer that the "human resources" if treated right, are a company's true competitive advantage. Luckily more startups and companies are starting to understand this and more studies and books support this.

Claudio Fernandez-Araoz in his book It's Not the How or the What but the Who: Succeed by Surrounding Yourself with the Best shows us the flip side of this. He has studies and anecdotes to demonstrate that if you figure out how to hire the best and surround yourself with these people, you will be able to succeed well beyond the average. This, he believes, is the secret behind the great CEOs such as Bezos, Jobs, Agnelli and others deemed top CEOs in terms of value they provide their shareholders.

The book helps us learn how to do this for ourselves: from recognizing internal biases that can interfere with hiring the best, to how to set-up a recruitment process that will ensure we find the best, to onboarding them correctly so that they can shine. Given the author's experience as a senior global executive search adviser, the information and advise are invaluable and also very readable.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to succeed, since you will have to learn how to surround yourself with those that can further your success.

Review: UnSelling: The New Customer Experience

UnSelling: The New Customer Experience UnSelling: The New Customer Experience by Scott Stratten
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Unselling by Scott and Alison is what a business book should be: easy to read, full of anecdotes that make the lessons come alive, and full of takeaways that you can apply to your life or business. Just reading this book will give you a better understanding of how to improve your customer experience, so that the customers are happy to return and bring others with them. It's a must read for anyone who has any contact with customers or clients, even if indirectly, which is all of us.

And I love their writing style and format so much, I've ordered two more of their books and look forward to reading them.

The Executive Difference

There is a distinct difference between being a manager, even a senior manager, and being an executive and Scott Eblin in his book The Next Level: What Insiders know About Executive Success takes us through these differences.

As Scott explains, some things that lead to the executive level need to go and other things need to be picked-up to be successful at this new level and beyond. He breaks these down into personal, team, and organizational aspects.

One main difference is that an executive can no longer do or even check all the work but has to rely on his team—and allow them—to do the work. It is the difference between relying on your functional expertise and your leadership expertise. It is also the difference between being responsible for getting the work done or accountable for ensuring it is done. A big difference which many struggle with. 

Another related difference is that instead of directing how your team does the work, you need to direct the what and trust that they will get to your desired outcome in their own way. This requires having the right people in the right roles, which Scott also discusses.

Scott interviewed many executives across industries and uses their quotes to "mentor" readers on how to make this transition. A great quote that he repeats a few times is that executives can't stay on the dance floor with their dance partner but need to get on the balcony to see the bigger picture and patterns. The executive can then return to the dance floor to execute on what he's seen.

Have you had to make this transition or worked with someone who has? What made them succeed or fail in this?

Internal Silo-Busting

After reading and writing about Gillian Tett's The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers, I got to thinking about the internal silos we all carry with us.

Gillian does mention how not revisiting classifications can lead to disasters such as the financial meltdown of 2008, but don't we all have our own labels? When was the last time you revisited what you think of yourself and your strengths?

I'm probably unusual in the amount of time I spend thinking about this and in all the personality tests I take to shed more light on this, but even I have personal classifications (aka, internal silos) I probably need to bust out of. 

The one that comes to mind is "I'm not a salesperson."

I'm not, really, but if you've read Daniel Pink's To Sell Is Human, than you understand that we all are. And I've actually held a business development role which I enjoyed more than I expected to and did far better at than I expected to. So perhaps I'm not the traditional type of salesperson that can sell just anything...but that does not mean that I cannot sell. 

And perhaps that silo has caused me to overlook opportunities in the past. Just today an opportunity to bust this silo came up and I'm considering considering a step in the right direction but more work is needed.

There is of course a fine line between internal silo-busting and forgetting one's strengths, so perhaps the answer is to widen those classifications or look at the circumstances in broader terms. Perhaps one needs to carefully weigh all the pros and cons to see if an opportunity is a bad fit or an internal silo.

Do you have internal silos that need to be busted so that you can reframe how you see yourself?

Review: Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual

Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual by David Burkus
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

David Burkus, in the afterword to his great book Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual, shares this quote from one of his interviewees: "Great leaders don't innovate the product, they innovate the factory!" And although this is definitely one of the traits shared by the leaders David profiled, I believe there is another, more critical underlying theme: trust.

David has outlined various practices that need to be upended in the new age of "knowledge workers" since as he points out, many of the old management practices were created for factory workers. Some of these practices are putting customers first, standard vacation policies, keeping salaries secret, noncompetes, performance appraisals, and inflexible org charts.

Doing away with these practices lead to more successful companies because in doing so, the leaders indicate that they trust their employees.

If you hire the right people, pay them fairly, treat them right and give them the tools and resources to succeed, you don't need to dictate how they work, how much time they can take off, or many other things that have become SOP in most companies.

This book is a must-read for anyone who manages or leads since it's a long-needed wake-up call and guide how to truly engage your staff and let them do their best work for you and your customers.

Resource Tip: Tab Snooze

If you're like me, you often have many tabs open since you're either toggling between all of them or opening interesting links as they come up. And given that they hog computer memory and become annoying, you may have tried various methods and tools to get around this.

You can save sessions. You can send links to your email and/or send them to Pocket or one of its competitors. You can also copy and paste urls to another page.

But now there's a far easier and more seamless method that allows you to address all of this with one extension: Tab Snooze.

As its name implies, you can actually snooze a tab. When you're on a given tab, just hit the moon in your Chrome extensions bar, select when it will reappear, and watch it disappear.

You can also choose the check box at the bottom of the pop-up to get a to-do tab. This tab only has room for one to-do item and can be snoozed to reappear when you'll have time to tackle it...or re-snoozed until you actually get it done.

Tab Snooze is only available on Chrome for now (both web and phone/tablet versions), but you can sign-up to be notified when it will be available on other browsers.

I now snooze everything but my Google Inbox tab since that's the only one I want open all the time. It's made my Chrome faster and me less distracted by the extra open tabs. 

Tab Snooze is also great for occasionally checking-in on things (e.g., a job board or eBay auction).

If you decide to try the extension out, please let me know what you think and if you've discovered other ways to use it.

Hyper-Efficiency Leads to Silos?

You've probably heard someone talking about breaking down silos. I actually used the term myself recently so picked-up Gillian Tett's The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers

Silos are what happens when groups within companies, either due to specialization or a bad culture, do not share or communicate with other groups. This leads to problems such as the financial meltdown of 2008 and Sony's demise. I won't go into the details (nor can I do it the justice Gillian did), but her stories on how silos lead to these and other problems is riveting reading.

The first half of the book describes these companies and how internal silos lead to their problems; the second half explains how a few companies are actively fighting the creation of silos. Facebook is an example of the latter, as is an experiment successfully run in a Chicago police station to predict and thereby lower their increasing murder rate.

At the heart of these silo-busting experiments is structuring the organization, the pay, and the physical space so that people are encouraged to collaborate. Another common theme is that by sharing data across groups not only will redundancy and internal competition be eliminated, but surprising patterns may be discovered when all the data is reviewed as a whole. 

Gillian ends the book acknowledging that in a world that is becoming more complex and specialized, and where everyone is expected to become more efficient, silo-busting may seem contrarian. She argues that although spending time talking to people and ensuring data is shared may not seem to be an effective use of time, it is well worth avoiding the potential troubles that come along with silos.

What this means for all of us is that in addition to doing your job well, it is equally important to build relationships with peers in other groups and in other functions. Efficiency and effectiveness can only get you so far, but collaboration and communication are well worth the effort. You never know what a conversation will lead to or what idea it can inspire, nor what others are working on that could be of benefit to your group.

Does your company have silos? How can you ensure a more healthy sharing of information?

Review: We-Commerce: How to Create, Collaborate, and Succeed in the Sharing Economy

We-Commerce: How to Create, Collaborate, and Succeed in the Sharing Economy We-Commerce: How to Create, Collaborate, and Succeed in the Sharing Economy by Billee Howard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you've ever wondered why some companies inspire loyalty and others do not, or why some messages just go viral, then read Billee Howard's We-Commerce: How to Create, Collaborate, and Succeed in the Sharing Economy.

Billee, an executive brand and communications consultant, noticed that commerce had shifted from a "me" focus (which was brought on by the industrial revolution) to a "we" focus. She gives us ten areas of how to apply this, with many rules, examples, and summaries to bring her points home. And unlike most business books that only bring you examples from other companies in one or two segments, Billee's examples are across industries, with companies of different sizes, and sometimes from nature and other religions.

A very informative and useful read with lots of entertaining examples.

New Occasional Feature: Resource Tips

As you may have deduced from some of my writing, I love all things to do with productivity, efficiency, and streamlining. It's one of the reasons my side business, Your Resource Coach, is about optimizing your three most important resources: people, processes, and time.

It's also why I love finding new useful apps and other resource hacks, so going forward I'll occasionally share a resource tip or productivity app. After all, making the most of your limited resources is business common sense, isn't it?

I'll start this feature by sharing a list of apps I compiled for an event I ran for and that was co-sponsored by The Women's Media Group.

You can access that list via Dropbox at

And if I've missed your favorite app, please share it in the comment section or by sending me a message.

Review: Zilch: The Power of Zero in Business

Zilch: The Power of Zero in Business Zilch: The Power of Zero in Business by Nancy Lublin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nancy Lublin's book is one of the best business books I've read in a while. Not only was it very readable (and even funny at times), but you learn so much: it's practically a mini-MBA in itself!

The premise of the book is that that for-profit companies could learn a thing or two from not-for-profits who make do with "zilch" budget, resources, etc, yet are able to motivate staff, innovate, achieve goals, and really make a difference despite these inherent limitations.

Nancy likes the number 11 (which correlates with aiming for 110%), so she touches on 11 key areas and ends each with 11 questions to help for-profits apply them. Although all the sections were super-informative and practical, I really enjoyed the ones on staff, storytelling, and finance. The last one touched on how you can use creative bartering of inventory, services, and even staff when budgets are tight, something, as Nancy points out, for-profits probably have never thought of.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who needs to succeed in business, whether it's a for-profit or not-for-profit, since Nancy and the other not-for-profit CEOs she interviewed will show you how.

Review: Getting There: A Book of Mentors

Getting There: A Book of Mentors Getting There: A Book of Mentors by Gillian Zoe Segal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you've ever wished that you could speak to some of the "greats" in your industry, then your wish has been answered.

Gillian Zoe Segal, in Getting There: A Book of Mentors has pulled together successful people from across industries and had them share—in their own words—how they came to be a success. Mentors include business greats such as Warren Buffet, Ian Schrager, and Sara Blakely; to nonprofit greats such as Wendy Kopp, Helen Gayle, and Nitin Nohria; to creative greats such as Matthew Weiner, Jeff Kinney, and Jeff Koons.

And it is inspiring to read how many of them came to success later in life: they too had to figure out their place in this world and weren't always right in their first—or second—attempt. But with perseverance, hard work, learning from their missteps, and sometimes with the help of others they were able to achieve success.

So it's not too late or impossible for us either.

Review: Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is about Help Not Hype

Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is about Help Not Hype Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is about Help Not Hype by Jay Baer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Marketing is something I've always wanted to learn more about, especially digital marketing. I've of course dabbled in it to get the word out for various side ventures, and I'm on several social media platforms, but that's as far as my knowledge goes.

That's why I was happy when my Online Business Book Club members voted to read and discuss Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is About Help, Not Hype by Jay Baer.

Not only is this a fast and enjoyable read, but you learn so much, all backed with great anecdotes.

Just a few highlights:

1. Whereas marketing used to be about top-of-mind or frame-of-mind awareness, in this day and age of information overload and social media, it must lead to friend-of-mine awareness to have any long-lasting impact. What this means is if you're marketing is useful to your customers, they'll remember it, share it, and turn to you when they're ready to buy.

2. To be useful, provide you customers with all the answers they need in a self-serve format and if possible, in a useful app that makes the information easy to access and relevant for their current experience. And don't look for it to lead to immediate sales.

3. Youtility (useful marketing) should be an ongoing, measured process at your company that is part of its DNA and gets all employees involved. It's also key to not only understand what your customers need and how they prefer to get that information to truly be useful, but to also then market that usefulness so that word gets out.

This is one of the best and most readable books I've read on marketing and it has totally shifted my thinking on the topic. I highly recommend it.

Review: Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE by Phil Knight
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shoe Dog is why I love what I call business memoirs: although a business book, you get caught up in the narrator's story while learning so much. And Shoe Dog is one of the best business memoirs I've read, keeping me riveted nearly from the beginning. One can't often say that they didn't want to put a business book down.

In addition to learning about how a company and brand like Nike got started, you learn how a young man with a passion for running was able to overcome export issues, cultural differences, partner sabotage, cashflow problems, legal issues, and so much more while allowing his company to continue growing at the rate that consumers demanded. A highly recommended read for anyone interested in business—or running.

Review: One Perfect Pitch: How to Sell Your Idea, Your Product, Your Business--Or Yourself

One Perfect Pitch: How to Sell Your Idea, Your Product, Your Business--Or Yourself One Perfect Pitch: How to Sell Your Idea, Your Product, Your Business--Or Yourself by Marie Perruchet
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've read quite a few communications and sales books, and One Perfect Pitch is one of my favorites.

Not only is it easy to read, well organized, and with great anecdotes, but Marie's approach is practical for all of us since as the subtitle indicates, we're all pitching something to someone.

She explains how storytelling is at the heart of a good pitch, how to break every pitch into three acts, the different types of pitches to have, how to prepare, and so much more.

This is a must read for anyone who has to sell, influence, persuade, motivate, or pitch.

Choose Happiness

How do you achieve happiness?

Have you been setting goals, milestones, or other measures of happiness, only to get there and realize you're still unhappy? If so, don't feel too bad since even Neil Pasricha, author of The Happiness Equation, fell victim to this.

It turns out that to be happy, you have to first choose to be happy and this will then lead to good work and success. Waiting for happiness won't.

And how do you choose to be happy? As per Neil, there are nine secrets:
  1. be happy first;
  2. do it for yourself;
  3. remember all that you have to be grateful for;
  4. never retire;
  5. overvalue you;
  6. create space;
  7. just do it;
  8. be you;
  9. and don't take advise.
The reason we find it so difficult to be happy first, as per Neil and the research he did, is that our brain is still in survival mode and always looking for trouble. We've also gone from a culture of enough to a culture of more. 

But there are seven quick tricks to instantly become happier:
  1. three walks a week;
  2. 20-minute replay of what you have to be grateful for;
  3. random acts of kindness to others;
  4. a complete unplug;
  5. spend time in flow;
  6. 2-minute meditation;
  7. and list five weekly gratitudes.
The book was a wonderful read that I highly recommend and that offers much more than I even touch on, but I will share a few things that resonated with me:
  1. Given that walking is my chosen form of meditation, and it is when I'm most unplugged too, I have first-hand experience that it can make one happier. And if walking is not your thing, any other physical activity or exercise will do.
  2. As someone who loves to read, learn, and keep busy, I can't imagine a true retirement and it's a good thing given that what we in Western Europe look forward to is not good for us—neither for our mind nor our happiness. To be happy, one needs purpose, challenge, and to be constantly learning. 
  3. Not only is it important to stay active, both in your body and mind, but it's important to find time to just let your mind wonder and not be actively thinking or doing. Neil calls this "space," and whether you do this in bed, the bathtub, or on the bus, these times not only allow you to mentally recharge but may be a source of inspiration.
  4. No one can be happy if they're not being authentic to themselves and therefore listen to advise but don't get too caught up in what others are telling you, just follow what resonates with your true self.
Not only was this book easy to read and inspirational, but Neil's research showing how happy people live longer, are healthier, and are more successful made me realize I need to figure out how to choose happiness for myself.

I therefore plan on starting a gratitude journal and be more aware of my mindset and how I react to events and people.

What can you do to choose happiness?

Review: The 100: The Shortest Book of Everything You Need to Build a Winning Business

The 100: The Shortest Book of Everything You Need to Build a Winning Business The 100: The Shortest Book of Everything You Need to Build a Winning Business by Tom Salonek
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A great, informative, and quick read of very useful and practical business tips. Tom includes pointers on everything from hiring to firing, employee engagement and culture, profit, meetings, and much more. Every chapter is on a different topic and every section has a takeaway reiterating the lesson learned, plus he includes tips and quotes from several other great business books.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about running a profitable business the right way.

Review: Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success

Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success by Angela Duckworth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I kept reading great reviews about Angela Duckworth's book so finally decided to pick it up, and although it wasn't a quick read, it was a very worthwhile one.

The entire premise of the book is that it's not talent or luck that brings success; instead, it's a combination of passion and perseverance—which Angela calls grit. And lucky for us, one can further develop one's grit.

All this begins with finding something you're interested in, which is helped by it having deeper meaning and/or helping others. But unless you're interested in the thing, there is much less likelihood you'll persevere through the natural ups and downs and the work required—the disciplined practice required—until you get good enough to succeed.

Angela has many first-hand anecdotes from studies and interviews, plus brings in other related theories such as Dweck's theory on a fixed versus growth mindset. She also ends off the book with how we can inspire our children, students, or employees to build more grit and how we can develop a gritty culture.

I am still thinking through all the practical applications of what Angela shared and highly recommend this to anyone who wants to succeed or help someone else succeed. And isn't that all of us?

Know Your Strengths

I've been a long-time fan of Marcus Buckingham and the Strengths-Based Movement. Reading Go Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance for my Women's Business and Leadership Book Club just reminded me of the many reasons why.

In a nutshell, we all have inherent talents—a.k.a. strengths—we're born with and to be our happiest and most fulfilled, our jobs need to play to and use them. Skills and knowledge can be taught, but our strengths are part of what make us who we are. Unlike much traditional thinking, the strength-based movement has realized the benefits of continuing to improve our strengths—becoming more of who we naturally are—instead of trying to improve our weaknesses. 

The kicker is that the more time you spend on your weaknesses, the more drained you feel whereas your strengths energize you. So you can see how important it is to be able to identify these strengths.

Marcus, in this book, gives us a handy pneumonic to do so: SIGNS
  • Success: Our strengths are the things we're naturally good at and often get complimented on. Is there something your friends and colleagues are always asking your help with? Chances are that may be your strength.
  • Instinct: Is there something you instinctively want to do, look forward to, and often look for ways to do more of? If there's something you do daily and need to do, chances are, it's a strength of yours.
  • Growth: Is there something you pick up quickly, are really in the flow when doing, and look forward to learning more about? Yup, it's a strength.
  • Needs: Is there something that fulfills an inherent need of yours, allowing you to be authentically yourself and fulfilled? That's a strength.
When your job plays to your strengths, it's a joy and not a chore so identifying your strengths is the first step towards that goal. The rest of the book helps you apply this knowledge at work, even if you're working for others.

So regardless of who you are and at what level of career you're at, being able to recognize your strengths is the key to future success and happiness.

Are you ready to know your strengths?

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

I spent this weekend skimming business books on sales, storytelling, and entrepreneurship. Surprisingly they all had a common theme: the stories we tell ourselves.

Stories are obviously important in communication, but it starts with caring about your topic since that makes you more interesting to your audience. And you of course have to believe in yourself, and have the confidence to get up in front of an audience, which directly correlates to what message—and story—you tell yourself. If you believe you can, you will.

With selling, most need to believe in what they're selling and that it will help their customers. But even then there will be more no's than yes's and how you reframe the challenge and day-to-day struggles is the difference between success and failure.

Entrepreneurs are salespeople too. They have an idea they have to believe in so strongly that it's enough to keep them going through all the tough times. Whether they do it on their own (which I've tried and is very tough and lonely), or get a team and investors behind them, it requires selling that belief and passion. So they need to have a convincing story to keep themselves going and a convincing story to get others on board.

We start our life loving stories told to us and then continue by telling stories to ourselves, our friends...then our spouses, bosses, and children. It is a part of every aspect of our lives, regardless of who we are or what we do. And the most important story in our life is the one we tell ourselves.

There will always be struggle, challenge, and change. Reframing that challenge as an opportunity to grow into our full potential is the story we should be telling ourselves.

So what story will you choose to tell yourself?

Review: How to Become a Rainmaker: The Rules for Getting and Keeping Customers and Clients

How to Become a Rainmaker: The Rules for Getting and Keeping Customers and Clients How to Become a Rainmaker: The Rules for Getting and Keeping Customers and Clients by Jeffrey J. Fox
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Rainmaker is the thing everyone in business aspires to be, whether your role is sales or not: it's the person who magically can always close a deal and generate more business. As someone who spent most of her career in operations and not in sales, and is now doing biz dev for the second time in her career, it seemed a good book to read.

Although Jeffrey Fox's book was a quick read and had interesting tips, I can't say that it taught me anything new that I hadn't read elsewhere. Nor was it enough, in my opinion, to take someone new to sales and make them a rainmaker, as the title suggests.

So although an interesting and informative read, if you're only going to read one sales book, or are looking for something unique to give you a competitive edge, this isn't that book.

Review: Rising to the Challenge: My Leadership Journey

Rising to the Challenge: My Leadership Journey Rising to the Challenge: My Leadership Journey by Carly Fiorina
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Although I could not get into Carly Fiorina's first book and have not been following her political campaigns at all, my Women's Business & Leadership Book Club voted to discuss this book, so I picked it up last night. I was very pleasantly surprised by how quick a read it was and finished it today, not wanting to put it down in between.

In this book Carly does not focus on her life at HP (although it's mentioned), but instead focuses on how she took those lessons and others life threw her way as opportunities to help others fulfill their potential, as someone had done for her back when she started out as a secretary.

Since I tend to stay away from politics, it was interesting to read about her decision to run for the California Senate seat, the challenges of campaign life, and then her turning to nonprofit work. Her opinions on politics, what's wrong with it in general and especially against women, and her opinion of current government leaders was also refreshing.

My one criticism of the book is that some chapters tended to meander, move forward and back in time sometimes confusingly, and that the end was a bit too long and preachy. But overall an interesting memoir from a CEO turned politician/activist.

Review: The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy

The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy by Chris Bailey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chris Bailey got interested in productivity as a high-school student and decided to take a year off after college to read, research, and experiment with various productivity theories. Although his blog captured his daily trials and tribulations, this book is the best of what worked and a fun way to learn how to become more productive.

Chris stresses that productivity is about accomplishment and not "efficiency" or being busy, and that in our knowledge economy it's as much about managing your energy and focus as it is about managing your time. His book is well organized and written, addressing each of these topics plus many others.

Since the book has too many tips to list, I will share the three I plan on implementing right away:
1. The rule of 3—pick 3 things to accomplish each day and at the end of the day, pick three things to accomplish the next, ensuring these are the top 3 things that will move you forward and that cannot be eliminated or delegated;
2. Keep master lists from where you take your current 3 to-do's, but also keep waiting-for lists, worry lists, and anything else you need to externalize so you free up your mental bandwidth to focus on the present;
3. Take more breaks to recharge and allow your mind to wander, which is where inspiration comes from, and be mindful about where you spend your time and on what, allowing for pauses and check-ins throughout the day so you can course direct if necessary.

I definitely recommend this book for anyone with too much on their plate and/or just trying to figure out how to be organized and more effective in what they do.

Review: It's Not What You Say: How to Sell Your Message When It Matters Most

It's Not What You Say: How to Sell Your Message When It Matters Most It's Not What You Say: How to Sell Your Message When It Matters Most by Michael Parker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Michael Parker's book is a quick read but a valuable one for anyone who needs to use words to communicate and influence—so basically, all of us.

In a short book with lots of fun images, he teaches us the basics of figuring out how to communicate effectively, prepare for it, and present it well so that we get the outcomes we want.

A few major takeaways:
1. we're always presenting and presentation always requires preparation and practise;
2. if done right, taking deep breaths and pausing actually adds to your credibility so take your time;
3. your tone of voice and body language are as important, if not more so, than what you say.

I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to communicate more effectively or get ahead in their career and life.

New Format for Most Posts

For those who have been reading my blog from the beginning, which was amazingly over a year ago, you know that most of my posts revolve around a business book without technically being a review of that book. A few posts were about business topics that resonated with me without being tied to a book, but those were few and far between.

I have to admit that one of the reasons I moved to a once a week posting was that I was finding it hard to write. I still read, both business books and occasionally fiction, but just didn't feel like writing about them, even when I enjoyed the book. The once or twice I tried, I ended up deleting my draft.

Fortunately when writing was easy and I was doing it on a regular basis, I had accumulated so many drafts that I still have 20 more I have yet to publish. But those are just 20...or 5 months' worth. I wasn't sure what I would do afterwards but feared I'd have to shut down the blog.

Goodreads has just given me a great solution. Although I give books star ratings all the time, I haven't often written an actual review and just noticed these reviews can be now linked to your blog. So going forward, unless I'm posting one of the original 20 drafts (which I will eventually), or be compelled to write a new post, I will instead post goodreads business book reviews here. 

I hope you still find them useful and continue reading, and if you've read any of the books I have or have ones to recommend, I'd love to hear from you.

Keep reading and learning,

Failure As Opportunity

I thought I had read (and written) enough about failure, but Pema Chodron, in her book fail fail again fail better proved me wrong.

Her definition of failure is not about iterating, pivoting, or even about business per se, but about life. As Pema explains and her stories relay, failures and mistakes happen to everyone. It's what you do with that experience that will make the difference.

If you embrace that feeling of rawness and vulnerability that comes with failure, not only will you become stronger and better, but the next failure will hurt less. And these moments also give us an opportunity to connect with others, to become better, and to redirect our lives.

Same concept applies to fear and other negative emotions. First recognize them for what they are and not as an indication of a personal lack, and then embrace the lesson it presents. On the other side of fear is opportunity.

As her title suggests, learn to fail better and expect to keep doing it since it's as much a part of life as breathing.

So if we redefine failure as an opportunity instead of a lack or mistake, you lose more by not trying than by "failing."

What have you feared to try? Are you ready to see what opportunity lies on the other side?

Defining Moments

Do you remember the last time you made a decision that took your life onto a new path? How did you feel and what led you to that moment?

Tess Vigeland, former radio show host and author of Leap: Leaving a Job with No Plan B to Find the Career and Life You Really Want had such a moment prior to leaving her "dream job."

Tess explains how she had been unhappy for a while but her job was still something she had worked hard to get and a "dream job." Once she finally took control of her weight and became more self-confident, she then had the courage to resign, something she knew was the right thing to do but had feared.

I've had those moments too. I've voluntarily left jobs that were making me miserable, both with and without a Plan B and both were definitely defining moments. It was me making a stand for what I believed in and what I would not be part of. And yes, both Tess and I had many moments of concern, even knowing we had done the right thing.

To write her book, Tess interviewed many other people who chose to quit without a Plan B. I just read her interview with Margie Weinstein, a woman who left a high-profile job at the Whitney Museum.

Margie explains how she originally forced herself to look for work 10 to 5 daily. A friend made her realize that instead, she should put in some time in the morning and take the opportunity in the afternoon to read, visit museums, or just do the things she wouldn't have time to once back at work.

I needed to read that but unfortunately had not applied it the last time I looked for work. I remember complaining to family and friends that for someone out of work, I had so little time. Yes, I read, wrote, worked on my side hustles, and looked for work, but it was up to me to set my hours. "Working" all hours did not bring the next opportunity sooner, nor did it mean I was being more productive. It was just me overcompensating for not having a day job and not taking advantage of the free time I had.

So defining moments, like other important moments in our life, often tiptoe quietly past us and can easily be missed if we're not paying attention. Opportunity rarely announces itself. It is up to us to be open, aware, and to connect the dots for ourselves.

It is up to us to recognize the "defining" aspect of the moment and to readjust our paths accordingly.

So when was your last defining moment?

True Customer Focus

Have you ever worked for a company that did not claim to be customer focused? Probably not since everyone has a customer of some type or other and needs to keep them happy to stay in business.

Jeanne Bliss, in her book Chief Customer Officer 2.0, explains what this truly means. 

In her five competency model, not only is there someone whose job it is to ensure that customers have a great experience, but everyone in the company and every function is also responsible for ensuring this. 

As she explains, if leadership is not aligned and if they do not work cross-functionally, breaking down silos as they go along, this effort is doomed to fail. And systems and resources need to be devoted to CX (customer experience) so that everyone can see what's working and what's not, and so that problems can be fixed before customers are lost.

Jeanne also points out how important consistent and reliable customer experiences are. It's not enough to give them a memorable experience occasionally; if they cannot rely on this, they may not come back and they definitely won't tell others about it, either in person or via social media. She shares two amazing stats: 
  • 92% of people worldwide trust friend and family recommendations better than any advertising and 
  • you can improve revenue 300% by reducing negative word of mouth rather than promoting positive buzz.
One point of Jeanne's that I really liked was that to deserve this growth, your underlying focus needs to be to improve your customers' lives or business. If this is what is at the heart of your business/service and what drives all your decisions, you will grow and deserve to do so.

We've all had experiences with companies that think they're offering a value they're not, so be sure to get actual customer input. This is where having systems set up, both to gather multiple streams of customer feedback and to measure what's working and what's not, are vital.

Have you worked for a truly customer-focused company? What did they do differently?

Slack Helps with Transitions

Laura Vanderkam in her book I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time recommends building in what she calls "slack" into your schedule. 

Instead of running from meeting to meeting or filling your schedule up to its max, build in some downtime. As she reminds us, our bodies are human and cannot go on indefinitely. Either we take intentional breaks or we will end up taking unintentional breaks. 

She calls the unintentional breaks "getting lost in transition." These are the wasted moments when something takes you so much longer than anticipated or you end up wasting half an hour on Facebook. This is our body taking over and forcing us to slow down since we have not heeded the call of nature. 

Interesting concept that made me think. We all blame ourselves on zoning out, taking too long, and/or getting lost in the new wild world of social media. But what if it's our fault, but not in the way we think? Yes, we're doing it to ourselves—by not building slack into our schedules, not because we're undisciplined. 

When I had an office job, I would try and build in slack between meetings. Now that I'm working from home, I have not, nor do I take lunch breaks, and now recognize that some of my "inefficiency" is my body's forced downtime. Going forward, I'm going to be more mindful and take conscious breaks. Can't hurt and can definitely help.

How about you? Do you need to give yourself some slack?

Startups Need to Monopolize to Succeed

Peter Thiel's Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future is a different kind of startup book giving what others would see as contrarian advise.

Peter, who co-founded PayPal and invested in Facebook and other successful startups, explains that contrary to popular belief, you should not aim to compete in an industry, but instead look to monopolize. When you try to compete, even by improving what already exists, you drive down profits for everyone. However if you come up with something new—what he calls zero to one—you have a monopoly, which not only allows you to determine prices and therefore margin, but also has more of a shelf life.

The second "contrarian" thing Peter suggests is that unless you can come up with a monopoly, you're better off joining one rather than starting your own business. As he explains, having 100% equity of a business that will either fail or just break even is less valuable than having a small equity stake of a company like Google. 

At a time when every other book seems to suggest that jobs are dying and that you have to be your own boss to have any future, I find Peter's contrarian recommendation a refreshing—and realistic—change. 

Yes, we want more rights as employees and even an equity stake so we're building a better future, but that does not mean that everyone and their brother should start a business. As someone who has tried this twice, I can tell you it's hard and that not everyone will be cut out for it. 

So if you have a great idea, first evaluate if it's a zero-to-one monopoly or not. If it is, start small, prove the concept, and then scale. If it's not, look for a monopoly to join and stay open to new ideas. Who knows, the next one may be your chance at a monopoly.

Have you tried to start your own business? Was it a monopoly? 

Invisible Persuasion as a Leadership Tool

You've heard that it's easier to catch more flies with honey than vinegar, right? Nina DiSesa, in her book Seducing the Boys Club: Uncensored Tactics from a Woman at the Top, shows how to apply similar tactics to getting ahead in business.

Nina worked her way up in the very male-dominated world of advertising, often as one of the first female creative directors at a firm. She learned to do this with what she calls S&M: seduction and manipulation, which is also called "invisible persuasion" in the advertising world.

Basically, if you make people feel good about themselves or show them that something is in their best interest, they'll go along with you. If you like them and make them look good, they'll start to like you. My husband called this "enlightened self interest."

Nina stresses that S&M should only be used for the good, as in making the man a better person and the company a better place. For example, when she started working at a company where no one got along, she'd only share the good that was relayed and even exaggerate it to get people to be more inclined to think well of each other and work together. Over time she taught macho men to show emotion and be more collaborative by practicing this herself and by showing them how it made them better as a team.

Nina shares all of this, along with many funny asides, making reading about her trials and tribulations both amusing and inspiring. Her lessons on how to protect the male ego while persuading them to do things your way, how to convert the testosterone-driven boys to be loyal followers, and how to do all of this while balancing innately feminine leadership traits while not being a pushover are something any ambitious woman should read and learn from.

And although I'm not sure that I'm either skilled or brave enough to pull off S&M quite how Nina does it, I now recognize that both humor and even the occasional flattery are leadership skills when used to help one's team through difficult situations. 

Have you ever used persuasion at work? How did you use it, for what cause, and did it work?