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Books and highlights - Week of 4 December 2017

Books opened week of Monday, 4 December 2017
  • Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
  • The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues
  • The Advantage, Enhanced Edition: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business
  • The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization
  • The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable
  • Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization
  • Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
  • High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way

Select highlights

From: The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable

“Didn’t they run out of things to talk about? Ninety minutes is a long time.”
“He wanted people to run out of things to talk about. Because that was when they would start talking about the important things.”

One of the keys to successful communication, I remind them, is getting used to saying the same things again and again, to different audiences, and in slightly different ways. Whether they are bored with those messages is not the issue; whether employees understand and embrace them is.

There is no substitute for discipline. No amount of intellectual prowess or personal charisma can make up for an inability to identify a few simple things and stick to them over time.

If this is so powerful, then why don’t all executives create clarity in their organizations? Because many of them overemphasize the value of flexibility. Wanting their organizations to be “nimble,” they hesitate to articulate their direction clearly, or do so in a less than thorough manner, thus giving themselves the deceptively dangerous luxury of changing plans in midstream. Ironically, truly nimble organizations dare to create clarity at all times, even when they are not completely certain about whether it is correct. And if they later see a need to change course, they do so without hesitation or apology, and thus create clarity around the new idea or answer.

From: Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

Insisting that people have passion for their job can place unnecessary pressure on both boss and employee. I struggled with this at Google, where we were hiring people right out of college to do dull customer-support work.
One young woman who’d studied philosophy in college, called BS immediately. “Look, the job is a little boring,” she said. “Let’s just admit that. It’s OK. Plutarch laid bricks. Spinoza ground lenses. Tedium is part of life.”
Your job is not to provide purpose but instead to get to know each of your direct reports well enough to understand how each one derives meaning from their work.

Performance is not a permanent label. No person is always an “excellent performer.” They just performed excellently last quarter.

From: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

As John Maxwell has written, “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”

To embrace the essence of Essentialism requires we replace these false assumptions with three core truths: “I choose to,” “Only a few things really matter,” and “I can do anything but not everything.”

A senior vice president at a major global technology company told me he spends thirty-five hours every week in meetings. He is so consumed with these meetings he cannot find even an hour a month to strategize about his own career, let alone how to take his organization to the next level.