Monday, December 29, 2008

You Can't Order Change - Peter S. Cohan

Subtitled: Lessons from Jim McNerney's Turnaround at Boeing. It was destiny that I ended up with this book. Or perhaps serendipity. Either way, the publisher did me a favor in sending it along.

The content in this book is excellent. I would describe the style as a case study and Cohan's writing as analytical. While his writing style did not resonate with me, the information is first rate! I filled the pages with post-it notes and have already passed it along to my favorite COO.

Cohan does an excellent job of drawing for us a picture of Boeing as McNerny inherited it. Then he goes back to look at what McNerney did at GE and 3M to show how his decisions about Boeing were influenced by his roles in other highly visible positions in those companies.

The book is driven by a highly structured format that lends itself to logical thinkers. Cohan has a great deal of statistics, lists, summaries and conclusions that help to link ideas to more concrete and measurable data. Keeping in mind that Cohan is a consultant primarily and not a writer, I adjusted my expectations as I worked my way through the book.

I do recommend this book for anyone interested in issues of leadership. Cohan does a wonderful job in showing us a portrait of Jim McNerney as a change agent in a difficult situation. This is a timely message for all companies struggling in these difficult times. Leadership does make all the difference!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Dream Manager - Matthew Kelly

This is quite a remarkable book that was recommended to me by someone I was working with recently in Charleston, SC. Lonnie Plaster and I have known each other for several years and I admire and respect him as a real estate manager, but have not really gotten to know him well. A chance conversation over dinner brought about this book recommendation.

Initially, my interest was from a management perspective - how do you help the people with whom you are working to realize their dreams? The concept is not new to me. The person I regularly refer to as my business coach, Dennis Bruce, uses this concept with his agents as well. He did a workshop for my staff in Home Service Connections on my last day in that position. He introduced the idea of first identifying dreams and then visualizing them. He didn't call it dream management which is the term coined by Matthew Kelly in this book, but that's what it is.

I suppose because I am so focused on how Dennis helps me with my business goals, that I didn't consider that what I am working toward every day is more than just business related. He's really been a "Dream Manager" in the sense that this book is focused on - how our work relates to the dreams we have for ourselves. The author points out that there are several things that are universal to working people everywhere: to do meaningful work; to advance and make progress; and to be appreciated. That is what drives us more than any paycheck. But when an employer takes an active interest in helping their employees to identify their dreams (both short term and long term,) they are creating a culture where they are committed to doing as much for their people as they expect their people to do for the organization. In actively helping employees to identify and achieve their goals, the company benefits in decreased turnover and a more productive, engaged and loyal workforce.

Perhaps real estate sales managers recognize this more clearly because they are motivating, leading and inspiring independent contractors - which is vastly different than managing employees. When a regular paycheck is not the automatic result of simply showing up, it requires a great deal more skill to keep people focused and motivated. It makes sense that keeping them focused on their own dreams is the best way to keep them highly motivated. But that's just as true for employees, and yet few employers I know seem to have even the vaguest idea of this fact.

The book was an epiphany for me on two fronts: First was the realization that I am fortunate to have a Dream Manager who volunteered for the job and has stuck with it despite my unbelievable and baffling resistance to much of his advice; and secondly that I have settled for far too long in working for an organization with little interest in what they can do for me. I don't know why I have so stubbornly persisted in the face of such long term and evident indifference, but recognizing it for what it is has given me permission not to settle for it anymore. I don't have to settle for it.

I think this is an awesome book and whether it was luck or it was fate, it has given me an entirely new outlook in how to pursue my own dreams. I highly recommend it.