Book Review: The No Asshole Rule

Despite it's brash title, Dr. Robert I. Sutton's book, The No A**hole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't, is a valuable text that effectively treads where few business authors have treaded before.Sutton makes a case for the need for insight and direction in handling Bullies, Creeps, Jerks, Tyrants, Tormentors, Despots, Backstabbers, Egomaniacs, and any other kind of workplace employees who never learned to play Sandbox 101.I found the book to be an inspiring read and found that it was full of great advice.  Two interesting management take-aways I got from reading the book were:

  1. Corporations loose money due to unbridled "jerkism" and the author suggests that the cost should be tracked in terms of a "TCA" (Total Cost of jerks) metric.

  2. Due to #1, progressive companies need to have instilled in their corporate values, policies, and hiring processes, the sentiment that being a jerk is incompatible with the corporate culture.   Interestingly enough, companies like Google actually have anti-jerk clauses in their employee handbook.

If you find yourself working with a jerk, you can do the following:

  1. Minimize your time spent with the jerk.  Don't pick projects they are on, don't attend optional meetings they are in.

  2. Another tactic is to lesson the influence the jerk has on your department and in the company in general.  Try to steer new obligations and assignments that effect you away from that individual.

I found Robert I. Sutton's book to be an interesting read.  Sorry about the title, Mom.Mike J

Book Review: The First Time Manager - 5th Edition

The First-time Manager, 5th Edition, by Loren B. Belker and Gary S. Topchick is an excellent book on management.

Although it has been titled for "The First Time Manager," there are enough gold nuggets in this book for seasoned managers as well.  Now, in it's 5th edition, you can be assured it has been refined and reality-tested.

Belker and Topchick present guidance to many areas that managers need to navigate when managing people.  From building trust, to building team spirit, to managing problem employees, to hiring and firing, and so on.

They point out that managing is not about directing people, it is about getting people to become self-directed.  They talk about personal style and communication, dealing with stress, and finally having an effective work-life balance, and a touch of class.

I would recommend this book to any manager.  It makes a great reference to consult from time to time.

Mike J Berry

Book Review: Results

I finished reading Results: Keep What's Good, Fix What's Wrong, and Unlock Great Performance, by Gary L. Neilson and Bruce A. Pasternack.

I have to admit this book seemed much like many of the other "improving business performance" books that I have read, except that this book kept me confused through most of it.

The authors discuss seven different types of organizational profiles, some functional, and some dysfunctional. After reading the book, I'm still not quite sure which was supposed to be which. I even found the diagrams in the book to be confusing.

Here and there, the authors have little nuggets of good advice. For example, they remind the reader that strategy doesn't bring results, execution does. And, that execution won't happen successfully until the right people have the right information and the right incentives.

Despite the confusing text, I can tell the book had a lot of research behind it. I wish the authors would have simply summarized all of their findings and presented the material with a "how to" model.

Unfortunately, I would not recommend spending time reading this book. I think for the time invested reading all 279 pages, there are other books in this space that will off re valuable take-aways.

Mike J Berry

Book Review: Winning

Jack Welch, together with is wife Suzy, have a Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestseller with their book titled Winning.

Following Jack Welch's direct, no-holds-barred style, he presents quite plainly the road-map to successful management.

He talks about constructing corporate values and effective mission statements.  He talks about the importance of candor, respect, and effective reward-systems.  He continues with topics on Crisis Management, Change, Strategy, Budgeting, People Management, and finally Work-Life Balance.

This book is full of take-aways and insight.  It's a real wonder to be able to take decades of Jack Welch's experiences and have them condensed into a single book.  If you haven't read this book, you should.  Soon.

Mike J Berry

Rook Review: Confessions of an Unmanager

Recently I read Debra Boggan & Anna VerSteeg's book titled Confessions Of An Unmanager: Ten Steps To Jump Start Company Performance By Getting Others To Accept Accountability.

This is an interesting book that speaks to the great "divide" in corporate America.  The divide, they say, is the distinction between how management conducts themselves in relation to their teams they manage.

The authors suggest corporations function better with a "flat model."  Their suggestions are:

  1. Leaders should never command or dictate change.

  2. Employees should always be involved from the very beginning.

  3. Executives should not get privileged parking spaces.

Well, OK, the third point was not emphasized heavily, but was mentioned.

The flat-management approach emphasized in this book relates well to Agile Development team dynamics.  In an effective Agile team, input and influence from all are needed to produce superior customer value in the software product.  In fact, this book is listed as a favorite read on the leadership reading list.

The most valuable takeaway I got from reading this book was to think in terms of how my actions, as a manager, can either emphasize or minimize the space between management and the team.  A great suggestion they gave was to hold a team meeting directly after the executive meetings, thus symbolically minimizing this divide.

I think this is a good book to read once.

Mike J Berry

Book Review: Execution - The Discipline of Getting Things Done

I just finished reading Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan.  This is an excellent book that examins the dynamics of making things happen inside of a corporation.

Bossidy and Charan make a case for needing the right people, the right strategy, and the right operations in place to successfully grow a company.  They further their case by suggesting that there is a fundamental problem in business management where executives mistakenly think execution is a tactical aspect of business, and should be delegated.  They suggest this idea is completely wrong and that executives need to shoulder the task of execution at their levels.

They suggest that every business executive team should ask themselves how the company is executing and what accounts for any gap between expectations and management's performance.

I found two very practical elements from reading this book.   The first is the importance of reality.  Good managers seek reality, and encourage their direct reports, and peers to be as realistic as possible.

The second element is an elaborate description for conducting an effective strategy review.

If your department or company is contemplating a new strategy or a new major directive, this book is a must read.

Mike J Berry

Book Review: How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere

How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere: The Secrets of Good Communication, by Larry King, is a fun, short book to read.

Larry did a service to the public by writing this book and elaborating on some guiding principles that have helped him succeed in his career of--well, talking.

Novel among his concepts is the premise that successful people are good talkers and good talkers are successful people.  I can't think of a more appropriate industry than IT to be reminded that we need to improve our speaking skills.

Larry's stories transcend many areas of life: from managing people, to interviewing for a job, to public speaking, to talking your way out of the principal's office--Larry has a story for everyone in this book.

Mike J Berry