I have spent 13 years reading business books and presenting synopses of these books to folks ready and willing to learn. It took a while (I’m not all that sharp!), but I think I am beginning to learn some things myself. In fact, I think I am ready to state, for certain, that there are 2 ways to guarantee mediocrity (if not outright failure):
1) Have a poor work ethic
2) Don’t have regular (team/executive team) meetings.
#1: Have a poor work ethic.
The sources are too many, but let’s start with the 10,000 hour rule (popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers). I summarize it this way in my presentation:
…centerpiece to this book is the 10,000 hour rule… — with much intentional practice!
“Practicing: that is, purposefully and single-mindedly playing their instruments with the intent to get better” (Outliers).
Or, to put it another way, putting in 10,000 hours does not guarantee that you will reach the pinnacle of success; but, not putting in the time practically guarantees that you won’t reach that pinnacle.
In other words, to remind us all of the obvious, it takes work, hard work, to be successful.
#2: Don’t have regular (team, management, executive team) meetings.
This is the one that has most captivated me. I am looking for this everywhere I speak, in every book I read, and everywhere else I can.
The insight hit home after reading the Verne Harnish book Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, but it took a while to see it in action. Now I am looking for it, and finding it, everywhere I look.
The Rockefeller “habits” are Priorities, Data, and Rhythm: an effective rhythm of daily; weekly; monthly; quarterly; annual meetings to maintain alignment and drive accountability (“until your people are mocking you, you’ve not repeated your message enough”).
In the book, Harnish points to this:
Mastering the Daily and Weekly Executive Meeting
(Structure meetings to enhance executive team performance).
• meetings overview:
• daily & weekly – execution
• monthly – learning
• quarterly and annual – setting strategy}.
This is the discipline, the habit, that I am looking for, paying attention to, and have become convinced is a (maybe the) critical key to genuine success. Assuming that a company or organization has hired competent, passionate people (admittedly, this is a big assumption), then it is imperative that these people get together in regular meetings to tackle those key goals/priorities for the organization. I wrote about this as practiced at Mighty Fine Burgers (see this post), and here is a clue from Zappos, from this article:
For instance, Zappos.com, the shoes and clothing e-retailer now owned by Amazon.com Inc., No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, has agents meet about once a week for hour-long, one-on-one coaching sessions in which a supervisor and agent each take a call. The two then discuss what the agent did well and what could be improved the next time around.
Of course, you need to pay attention to what occurs in such meetings, but don’t miss what comes first: weekly meetings! The rhythm of weekly, regular meetings!
As I said, I am asking around about this a lot. I find absolute consistency – excellent teams, excellent organizations, spend intentional, regular times in meetings. They do not skip those meetings. It is part of their routine, their ritual, their “rhythm.”
Yes, yes , I know… a lot of people sit through a lot of bad meetings. And that is a problem. So, yes, learn to run your meetings well. If you are a leader, learning to run a good meeting may be the next important skill for you to master. And, always, don’t forget to have an agenda, with something important to discuss/work on/accomplish. The most successful organizations meet about the same thing over and over and over again. It takes that kind of “long haul” attention to get really good at anything.
But if you want a sure fire path to mediocrity (or outright failure) just try getting by with no meetings. That is a guaranteed path to failure.
You accomplish what you meet about! Yes, you do!
We had a wonderful gathering this morning for the September First Friday Book Synosis. Karl Krayer presented the best-seller, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh (of Zappos fame). I presented the provocative book The Great Reset: How New Ways of Living and Working Drive Post-Crash Prosperity by Richard Florida. Both of these synopses will be up soon on our companion web-site (with audio + handout) at 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
For next month, October 1 (the First Friday of October), we have chosen these two books:
The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working: The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance by Tony Schwartz, Jean Gomes, Catherine McCarthy Ph.D. (synopsis to be presented by Karl Krayer).
The Power of Positive Deviance: How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World’s Toughest Problems by Richard Pascale, Jerry Sternin, Monique Sternin. (I will present this synopsis).
In his review of the Schwartz book on our blog (read his full review here), Bob Morris wrote this:
Schwartz suggests that there are four categories of energy needs that must be accommodated for people to work at their best: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Only by fulfilling these generic needs can we fulfill corresponding needs: sustainability, security, self-expression, and significance. The illustration of all this on Page 9 bears at least some resemblance to Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs.”
And in his review of The Power of Positive Deviance (read his full review here), Bob Morris wrote this:
As for “positive deviance,” Richard Pasquale, Jerry Sternin, and Monique Sternin explain it as an awkward, oxymoronic term. “The concept is simple: look for outliers who succeed against all odds…The basic premise is this: (1) Solutions to seemingly intractable problems already exist, (2) they have been discovered by members of the community itself, and (3) these innovators (individual positive deviants) have succeeded even though they share the same constraints and barriers as others.”
We have a wonderful community of learners gathering on the First Friday of every month. If you are in the DFW area, come join us. (You will be able to register for this event from this web site soon).
As I have blogged about before, I believe the best list of business best-sellers is the New York Times Hardcover Business Best Sellers list. It comes out at the beginning of each month. There is a new title at the top of the list, a title that we have not yet presented at the First Friday Book Synopsis. Seldom does a book come from “nowhere,” and land at the top of the NY Times list in its first month. But… here it is: DELIVERING HAPPINESS: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, by Tony Hsieh. (Grand Central, $23.99.) Lessons from business (pizza place, worm farm, Zappos) and life. Tony Hsieh is the “visionary CEO of Zappos,” and the cover of the book looks like Zappos.
The rest of the list is what we expected, and we have presented most of these except the “finance” books (and I have presented The Big Short for a client at his request).
The list was published July 1, 2010. Here’s the list.
|1||DELIVERING HAPPINESS, by Tony Hsieh. (Grand Central, $23.99.) Lessons from business (pizza place, worm farm, Zappos) and life. (†)|
|2||THE BIG SHORT, by Michael Lewis. (Norton, $27.95.) The people who saw the real estate crash coming and made billions from their foresight.|
|3||OUTLIERS, by Malcolm Gladwell. (Little, Brown, $27.99.) Why some people succeed — it has to do with luck and opportunities as well as talent — from the author of “Blink” and “The Tipping Point.”|
|4||SWITCH, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. (Broadway Business, $26.) How everyday people can effect transformative change at work and in life. (†)|
|5||DRIVE, by Daniel H. Pink. (Riverhead, $26.95.) What really motivates people is the quest for autonomy, mastery and purpose, not external rewards.|
|6||THE 4-HOUR WORKWEEK, by Timothy Ferriss. (Crown, $22.) Reconstructing your life so that it’s not all about work. (†)|
|7*||THE TOTAL MONEY MAKEOVER, by Dave Ramsey (Thomas Nelson, $24.99.) Debt reduction and fiscal fitness for families, by the radio talk-show host. (†)|
|8||THE FACEBOOK EFFECT, by David Kirkpatrick. (Simon & Schuster, $26.) The origin of Facebook.|
|9||THE UPSIDE OF IRRATIONALITY, by Dan Ariely. (Harper/HarperCollins, $27.99.) How we can make better choices about money and relationships given the human tendency toward irrational, emotional decision-making.|
|10||SUPERFREAKONOMICS, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. (Morrow/HarperCollins, $29.99.) A scholar and a journalist apply economic thinking to everything: the sequel.|
|11||MORE MONEY THAN GOD, by Sebastian Mallaby. (Penguin Press, $29.95.) Hedge funds and how they came to be.|
|12*||CRISIS ECONOMICS, by Nouriel Roubini and Stephen Mihm. (Penguin Press, $27.95.) How the global financial system broke down in 2008, and what may happen if new regulations are not embraced.|
|13||CONQUER THE CHAOS, by Clate Mask and Scott Martineau. (Wiley, $21.95.) The way to the top for entrepreneurs over¬whelmed by a small business. (†)|
|14||STRENGTHS BASED LEADERSHIP, by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie. (Gallup, $24.95.) Three keys to being a more effective leader. (†)|
|15*||REWORK, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. (Crown Business, $22.) Counterintuitive rules for small-business success, like “Ignore the details early on” and “Good enough is fine.” (†)|
To purchase our synopses/briefing of some of these titles, with audio + handout, check out our companion site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.