Saturday, August 21, 2010

Guilty Pleasures - 10 Good for You Vices

Thanks to Lou Adler for pointing out this CNN article today entitled: America's Healthiest Pleasures: 10 'Vices' That are Good for You (original article here on 

Balance is really important in being effective at work, so if these "guilty pleasures" can keep me in balance, I'm all for it!  A healthy mind, body, and high emotional IQ make people more productive.  So, engage those brain chemicals and make them work for you!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My 3 Most Important Books

There are several books that I would consider to have been life-changing for me. Here are the 3 most powerful books I've ever read, and the lessons I learned from them.

3. The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success – by Deepak Chopra. I read this book in the mid 90's, when life was pretty intense. It seemed like an easy-going self help book, UNTIL I got to the most shocking thing I've read in the last 20 years – a chapter called The Law of Detachment From Results. The very title of the chapter knocked me back in my chair. Detachment from Results? Un-American! We have to be driven to results, right? This chapter came right after The Law of Intention and Desire. When I read the two together, I got it: All your thoughts and actions must be in alignment with what you want to have happen, then when you have done everything you can do, whatever happens, happens. This allows me to be in the present, and greatly reduced my anxiety level. It is hard to do – I don't say that following this is easy, but it is totally worth it. It is the serenity prayer: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. When you can live this, you can have peace in your life.

2. Man's Search For Meaning – by Viktor Frankl. Written in 1946, this book is the chronicle of Frankl's experience in concentration camps. He was incredibly lucky, and went through absolute hell, losing most of his family. Frankl was a Psychiatrist, on par with Freud, and reopened his practice after the war, mostly counseling other victims, who were hard pressed to find meaning in their lives after the horrors of the holocaust. I read this book in the late 70's, and it taught me forgiveness and tolerance of other's foibles. Nobody is perfect, and it is a blessing to see everybody as perfect just the way they are. Learning to fully accept people as they are, warts and all, is one of the greatest gifts I have ever gotten. Again, this is hard to do, but I try every day to be better at it. I'll never be perfect, but who is?

1. Tao Te Ching – by Lao Tzu. The basic philosophy (not religion) of Taoism. This book is about 2500 years old, and is attributed to an author that we don't even know truly existed. It is 5000 Chinese Characters, 81 chapters, and you can read it in an hour. It is the most important book I've ever read. I own many translations, including a beautiful poetic one by Ursula LeGuin, but if you are just starting out, the Stephen Mitchell translation is good, even though scholars say it deviates from the original too much. The Tao teaches balance, the concept of Yin/Yang. You cannot understand beauty without understanding ugliness. You cannot understand good without evil. We can sometimes get as much done by doing no-thing as some-thing. The Tao is exquisitely simple – even simpler than Zen, but very hard to embody. I try to give a pocket copy of this book to everyone I know well, because it has brought so much comfort and meaning to me.

Well, there they are. Who am I to pontificate about these books? Just a seeker who found brilliant lights on the path along the way.

Drucker’s Most Important Lesson

If you read my newsletter, you know that I have written in the past about valuable lessons from Peter Drucker.

I got an e-mail today from, which has really good articles, written by Dr. William Cohen, one of Peter Drucker's earliest students, and an expert and author on Drucker. Cohen's article, just published yesterday is entitled Uncovering Drucker's Most Valuable Lesson. This terrific article points out a number of Drucker's key teachings, like doing the right thing, not overpaying executives, focusing on customer perceptions of value, staffing for key strengths (not assuming "well-roundedness" about execs). Ultimately, Cohen answers the question: What was Drucker's most valuable lesson? He taught us to think and ask questions.

I love reading about Drucker, because he was a common-sense visionary, and his ideas are timeless. Cohen has many articles and books about Drucker. Take a peek at some of Drucker's ideas, and I am sure you will find something that you can apply this very day.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Employee Recognition and Motivation Week (not actually a real holiday)

I received an e-mail promo with this heading, and thought, gee, wasn't that in March? It isn't actually about a real holiday week. The promo is for a Training Course by Workplace Training Center, and they are simply calling the week-long course by this name. This made me think, it isn't such a bad idea for employers to be thinking about recognition and training more than one-week per year!
There are detailed descriptions of each day's program. Just reading about the individual one-hour daily courses is enough to increase your awareness:
  • Is your Employee Recognition Program working?
  • The Levity Effect: Why It Pays to Lighten Up
  • Why You Want to Be Known as a Great Place to Work
  • Motivating a Demoralized Workforce: Getting to the Source of TRUE Motivation
  • Bud to Boss: How to Motivate the People Who Used to Be Your Colleagues
WTC is offering this on CD and Live, next week. I have no idea how good the course is, and I'm not specifically endorsing it, but if you do visit their site, whether you take the course or not, you will remind yourself what you need to be doing every day to keep your employees productive, happy, loyal and motivated.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Interview Mindset – “The Customer Visit”

One of the many tips I give to executive level candidates going on job interviews is to have a customer visit mindset. When people think to themselves "I'm going on an INTERVIEW," they become more humble, modest, respectful, etc. They speak when spoken to, and accept the one-down hierarchical aspect of the interview setting. This is highly counterproductive.

On the other hand, executives who visit customers are proactive, engaging, and on an equal footing with the customer. They ask lots of questions, and understand the value of an "incremental close" – getting small agreements that the product or service they offer is being "bought." This approach works wonders in an interview.

Position yourself to be an equal to the interviewer, not one step down. Engage in an active discussion, but remember to let the interviewer set the pace of the discussion. Proactively show the employer how you can do the job (how the product meets their needs) by making sure you discover the objectives for the position, then offer illustrations of how your experience fulfills those objectives.

You are the "VP of Sales & Marketing" for the "YOU" company, and "YOU" are also the product. Find out what benefits the customer needs from the product, and then make sure they are convinced that your "product features" will meet their needs. At the end, "ask for the order", by determining if the employer feels you are a fit for the job.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Justification vs. Rationalization

True Story: As Freshmen in Architectural school, we had practicing NY Architects come in weekly to critique our work. These brilliant, talented and egocentric people weren't professors teaching us how to design; they just commented on work in progress - what we had already designed.

One of my classmates was enduring a particular brutal critique ("Why did you do this? Why is this here?") as the Architect slammed the pinned up blueprint with the back of his hand. My classmate tried to explain.  Then, this frightening genius of a man gave us all one of my life's most valuable lessons. He stopped his criticism, and said, "I want you all to go to a library tonight and look up in a big dictionary the definitions of justification and rationalization. Never rationalize what you create."

Of course, we all ran after class to look this up, and there were lots of discussions over the next week. A justification is a solid reason in advance to do something. It propels what you do in the right direction. Even after you've taken action, the justification holds up. A rationalization is an explanation after the fact that usually amounts to an excuse. You are coming up with reasons that don't justify the action you took, but seek to explain it away. The two words often get mixed up, and are considered synonyms, but if you get the meaning behind this piece of teaching, that is what is important.

If you find yourself explaining away what you've done, and it isn't resonating with the listener, than what you did wasn't justified. This includes partial and inadequate apologies for errors big and small. Justifications make the listener feel ennobled about what you've done. Rationalizations make people feel diminished.
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