Previously I talked about playing to your strengths. This doesn’t mean being complacent and not growing yourself. Hardly, it says rather than focusing solely on being super humanoids, let’s look at what we do best and leverage the heck out of it.
Among all the self-help business books out there is one which focuses on this – helping you identify your strengths and how to use them to your advantage. StrengthsFinder 2.0 is from the Gallup Organization. It is the second edition of a book which came out from the poll people in 1998. This book was recommended to me by John R. Dallas, Jr., a good friend and renown business leader, and I bought my own copy of the book.
StrengthsFinder 2.0 comes with a single-use code for an accompanying Web site. The main feature of the site is the assessment. It is a survey which takes about a half hour to respond to all questions, and upon completion it gives you a list of your top 5 strengths, which come from a pre-defined list of 34. I took the assessment test first then read the book, upon John’s recommendation, rather than reading the book first. He recommends this approach so that the person who takes the assessment will have no preconceived notions of what the results will be.
After taking the Web-based assessment, here’s my top 5 strengths:
The above photo is of the cover of the book, where you can write your strengths after removing the dust jacket. If you don’t see the photo, my top 5 strengths are: Activator, Adaptability, Relator, Connectedness, and Responsibility.
After I got my results from the assessment, I sat back and took a look at the 5 words given to me. At first glance, they were not a complete shock or surprise to me. I like to think I know myself pretty well, and coupled with what others have said to me about me, these were in line with what I would expect from such an assessment. That being said, I did not know specifically these would come up as my top 5 strengths, so it was a good use of my time.
I then went to the book, reading the opening then the write-ups on my top 5 strengths. For each, there is a brief discussion on it, quotes from a selected people who have the same strength, “ideas for action” on how to leverage this strength, and tips for working with someone else with the same strength. Following reading on my top strengths I read through the remaining 29 strengths defined in the book. After reviewing the entire list and reflecting on all of it, there certainly are others strengths defined which would apply to me, but I am not discounting the top 5 selected as it is a good list to work with.
My takeaway from StrengthsFinder 2.0 is the overall experience that is the book, from the assessment to the discussion on all strengths identified. Although I don’t consider myself an expert at assessing people, I do consider myself a decent judge of character and how to get the most out of people whom I work with. As Gallup is the expert at surveying, this was a great process to see how the questions in the assessment derived this list. The Web site has other tools, including one which allows you to make a poster of your strengths. I have this posted in my office, and glance at as a reminder on occasion.
I recommend StrengthsFinder 2.0 to anyone who is interested in playing to their strengths. It was not a complete life-changing experience for me, rather a good reaffirmation of who I am and what I can do. I do recommend getting a new copy of the book so you can get the code to take the assessment and get the full effect of the book.Book Take-Aways • Business • Strategize • (2) Comments • Permalink
Before leaving on a recent trip I went to the shelf at home to grab a few books to read. As I perused the collection put together by myself and my wife, one caught my eye – Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. I had heard of the book, but never read it. I remember playing a song in elementary school band based on the book (why I remember that today, I have no idea!). It was my wife’s book, and a small one, so I saw it as a quick read to add to my list for this year.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull is the story of a seagull who likes to fly, rather than flying as a means to eat as all of the other seagulls believe. As a result, he is an outcast, and is banished from the society of all other seagulls. Where this upsets him, he feels the collective is wrong and continues to work on and improve his flying skills. The story continues with others realizing he is not wrong, but different, and their interactions with Jonathan.
So could I possibly have takeaways on a fictional story about pesky birds? Actually, when compared to many of the books I have read throughout the years and wrote about here at The Hot Iron I most certainly have! And here are my takeaways from this book of prose and photos.
In the end, you have to live with yourself – You may be wrong or you may be right. However in the end, you are the primary person who has to deal with you. If you believe doing or believing in something is the right thing to do, then you must do it, and be prepared to deal with those who don’t agree with you or any circumstances.
What some may consider fringe behavior may not really be – It seems no matter the decision we make, someone will come out and say it is not “normal” or acceptable. We are considered outliers as a result. But getting beyond your closest critics, you will find some who see your actions or decisions to be not so unusual or outside of the norm. Where getting a second or third opinion is always recommended, you may simply need to be surrounding yourself with other likeminded people.
You won’t know if you don’t try – Whether it’s flying from heights no other seagull has flown before or starting your own business, you won’t know if you can or can’t until you try. What some consider taking a great risk may not be that great of a risk at all. The idea of a going outside of your comfort zone may not be that great of a leap of faith at all. Take a look inside of you and you may see something you haven’t seen before.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a quick read, and an inspiring one. This book from the 70’s is timeless, and I recommend it to everyone.Book Take-Aways • Thrive • (2) Comments • Permalink
Even if there was such a thing as a silver bullet for the success of a business, it would still need to be properly fired. This would require a silver gun and people who could fire the gun accurately to the exact target, whatever that target is, of course. As ideal as that would be, it doesn’t exist and I takes work to get your business to where you want it.
Thinking about where your business is and where you want it to be is the idea behind the book Predictable Success by Les McKeown. I was given a copy to read by the author. In it, the reader is taken through 7 stages of the lifecycle of a business as identified by McKeown with “predictable success” being at the top of the curve, ideally where your business should be. All of McKeown’s 7 states are: Early Struggle, Fun, Whitewater, Predictable Success, Treadmill, The Big Rut and Death Rattle.
As I read Predictable Success, I had many flashbacks to all of the firms I have worked for, and of course my own Web consulting firm Dunkirk Systems, LLC. In addition to this trip down memory lane, my takeaways from the book are reflective of my experiences, and are:
It’s important to know where your business is - Whether you are joining a business or have been in one, knowing which state the business is in is important to your decision-making there. For management, knowing the state can influence decisions to improve the business. For employees, it can influence your decision to stay or leave a job.
The wrong people can hurt a business - Unfortunately I have seen this one too much personally, where key people in a firm get to a level where many people believe they are irreplaceable and position themselves as such. This can occur to the point where management will work around them to solve problems in the company, even if those people are the real problem.
Some people cannot solve their business’ problems themselves - From small to large, there are some who lead or run a business who don’t have it in to truly do what is needed to correct the problems in their business. Why? There are many reasons, from not realizing there is a problem to being mired in the day-to-day work of the business to pull themselves out to see and do what’s needed to not having the capital they need (whether people and/or money) to make it happen. I’m not trying to be a downer, only realistic. One thing this book does well is outline steps to get to predictable success – so if you have some outline of a plan, it will help you determine if you have what it takes to make things happen, or seek help to do so.
I enjoyed reading Predictable Success. It is written in a no-nonsense, down to business manner and it is, as I said previously, easy to relate to the business stages based on my previous experience, and probably would be the same for you as well. I rate Predictable Success up with The E-Myth Revisited as a guide for businesses who are in a funk, and recommend it to any business owner, even if everthing is going great for them, or so they may think!Book Take-Aways • Business • Thrive • (0) Comments • Permalink
One of the most exciting aspects of the work I do with my Web consulting firm Dunkirk Systems, LLC is bringing a business or entity to the Web for the first time. A few months back I partnered with design studio Visible Logic, Inc. to launch the Web site for the new book OUIJA – For The Record by D. Lynn Cain. I have talked about the Web site here at The Hot Iron previously, as it is both an attractive and functional Web site, blog and forum.
What was unique about this project was I did not read the book before the Web site went live. Though I knew what the book was about, I didn’t know the full story. When I finished OUIJA – For The Record, I put down a fascinating story about a family who traveled to Afghanistan in the 1960’s as the result of sessions with an Ouija board. Seriously! Where the story may be somewhat far-fetched to some, my only comment to people is to get a copy of the book for yourself, read it, and then form your own opinion.
As with all books I read, including non-fiction and novels, I have a list of takeaways from OUIJA – For The Record, including:
Tell Your Story - Most all of us have a unique story to tell. It may not be about all of our life, perhaps a small period of time. Even if it is not truly unique there will be someone else interested in what you have to say for a variety of reasons. It may be best told as a blog post or straight to a bound book. But tell it.
People Need Something to Believe In - Whether you are always on the move or live a simple life, we all want something to believe in. In the case of the family in OUIJA – For The Record, what they believed in was that they needed to go to the Middle East. Whatever that something is, it may not be even something you are necessarily looking for. What did that wise British philosopher say about not getting what you want, but what you need?
OUIJA – For The Record was a good read about a family that could be your next door neighbor, or yourself. If you like stories about every day people, or even in the paranormal as the Ouija board was a key element in these peoples’ lives, I highly recommend you get a copy of this book.Book Take-Aways • Diversions • (2) Comments • Permalink
If you are still reading this after the last sentence, thank you! I know some have strong positive or negative opinions of Beck, however I am writing this as I do about all books I read, penning my takeaways from it, which I received the book as a gift from a family member.
My greatest takeaway from the book was not from Beck's writings at all, rather from its appendix which had the full text of Thomas Paine's Common Sense, written in 1776. With this, Beck reinforces his points with the complete writings of the original pamphlet. Many authors I have read use numerous quotes to make their point, but not an entire piece. Granted it was probably easier as Paine's writings are in the public domain. But if you can, why not? It made it easier to read one set of points, then another.
Another takeaway from the book was to publish what you say. i am not a regular viewer of Beck's Fox News show, but I have watched it. What I read was in line with what he says on his show.
My final takeaway from Common Sense is to be a well-informed member of society. And I'll leave it at that!
Common Sense was a quick read and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys political discussions or watches the author's show.Book Take-Aways • Strategize • Diversions • (0) Comments • Permalink
Are all ideas timeless? This question came to mind recently as I started reading Unleashing the Ideavirus by Seth Godin, a book which was released about a decade ago. I was aware of the book and I have read others of Godin’s books like Purple Cow and Meatball Sundae and found those books interesting and energetic, but what about a business and marketing book written just as all the dot-coms were failing?
As I thought about this, I kept my thoughts focused to what I do here at The Hot Iron, writing my takeaways from the book rather than an in-depth review of it. Keeping true to my theme, here are my takeaways from Ideavirus.
My greatest takeaway is on the way things have been done before – you most certainly can try to do it as before, and it may work or it may not. Display billboards may work in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, but not necessarily in Chicago. But in Chicago there is the desire by the new owners of the Cubs to have a Toyota billboard in the outfield of Wrigley Field. Is this the best way to spend money by Toyota? From the Cubs perspective it is, as it is new money, and they only have to look to Fenway Park of an example of this. Billboards won’t be going away anytime soon, but they may start to fade more where they are not as effective.
Another takeaway is on the use of hyperlinks within the book, and if you lose anything in the telling of the story when the links are no longer valid. Throughout the book there’s mention to companies who are no longer in business. There’s also links to those companies, as well as other URL links, which are no longer valid. With a move more and more to eBooks and the pervasiveness of the URL, how should this handled in telling a story? Does the story lose something when a link is broken? Or should there be a hybrid, where the link is present, but also in the story/book is a detailed mention of the Web site or page linked to and more written within its pages about the company or entity? In my opinion noting is lost with the broken links, but nothing gained from them either.
Unleashing the Ideavirus is a quick and energetic read, and you can read it for free in many formats. A PDF is still available here on Seth Godin’s Web site, as it was originally released for free. You can also read it in pieces from DailyLit, as I did. It is also available for sale, and clicking on this affiliate link to Amazon.com will allow you to buy Unleashing the Ideavirus. And even though almost 10 years own, I feel Ideavirus is relevant today, probably moreso with the proliferation of social media, which did not exist then as it does today.Book Take-Aways • Business • Strategize • (2) Comments • Permalink
As the use of jargon is more and more frowned on in the business world, taking its place are common words which express the same thoughts, just with more sincerity. When I heard of the book Fierce Leadership by Susan Scott, I wondered if “fierce” was jargon or not, as I had no idea the reason for the use of this word. As I read the book and learned about the author, it became clearer.
Fierce is actually the name of Scott’s consulting business, as well as her approach with dealing with what it seems like everything. She feels it is necessary to be brutally honest and direct in everything you do, and this is quite apparent in the stories she tells and quotes she uses throughout the book.
There are a few takeaways I had from this book. The first is to always be direct and frank in dealing with people, and to merely deal with people. Many times people skirt issues and avoid conflicts as much as they want resolution to them. Rather than let issues drag on, it is in the best interest of both parties to confront issues, as unpleasant as it may be to do so. A second takeaway is to come up with your own style and process for dealing with people. An example from the book is when Scott and her colleagues interview someone for a job and all interviewers have pens – if someone puts down a pen on the table, the interview is over. As blunt as that sounds, it doesn’t waste any more time for anyone at that table, including the interviewee. She also says anonymous feedback in employee reviews are pointless, for if someone has something to say, they should say it and people should know where it comes from.
As blunt as the ideas in Fierce Leadership are, they have apparently worked well for Scott and her firm, and like any advice, these ideas should be considered and applied as appropriate to someone’s style. I was given a copy of her book by a publicist, and I enjoyed reading it and her philosophy. If you are seeking options on how to deal with people you work with, I recommend giving this book a read.Book Take-Aways • Business • Strategize • (1) Comments • Permalink
So do you think Meriwether Lewis committed suicide or was assassinated? This question is not frequently asked as most people don’t often think of the person who was one half of the duo who explored America’s new territory over 200 years ago, and more than likely had no idea about his demise. At least I had no idea of the controversy, and I was the kid in school who liked U.S. history. This topic is explored in depth in the book The Death of Meriwether Lewis by Kira Gale and James Starrs.
The book has 2 unique parts. It opens with the transcript of a coroner’s inquest for the exhumation of Lewis’ body. It is believed by many that Lewis did not commit suicide, as was his official cause of death, but rather was assassinated. The inquest was held several years ago to recommend whether or not to exhume his body and perform an autopsy based on evidence provided, and it was decided to do so. Within the transcript lies the evidence proving reasonable doubt to the original cause. The second half is the backstory of Lewis’ life and death, and who may have been behind his murder. It is an interesting story not only about his life after he and William Clark trekked west but detail of the journey itself I was not aware of.
So could I possibly have takeaways from what is in essence a history book? Certainly. My greatest takeaway is there is more to historical events than is commonly taught. The Death of Meriwether Lewis explores the circumstances around his death that I had no idea about, and after reading it was glad I finally knew them. As most grade-school history courses have to cover many decades if not hundreds of years, it is not possible to delve into each story in depth. This is probably why books such as this are selling well, as people are curious about their country’s history.
Another takeaway form this was the reference to Lewis being the Neil Armstrong of our day. The mention of this caught me off guard, as we don’t think of the mere concept of celebrities prior to Hollywood and TV. News traveled a little differently in the early 1800’s than it does today, but people’s curiosity was alive then as now.
A final takeaway was on the importance of knowing one’s history. Why would people over 200 years later care how someone died? It is the belief of many that Lewis was killed, and they wish to correct the journals of history where it is mentioned that he committed suicide. They feel the truth should come out, no matter how long ago it happened.
The Death of Meriwether Lewis is a good read and I recommend it for anyone who has an interest in history and politics. Gale is a historian and has also written Lewis and Clark Road Trips, a book on traveling today along the trail Lewis and Clark took so long ago. Both The Death of Meriwether Lewis and Lewis and Clark Road Trips have excellent companion Web sites – I know, as my Web consulting firm Dunkirk Systems, LLC developed them with Visible Logic, Inc. Though Gale is a client, I was not paid to say what I did about the book; it is my personal opinion that you should read it.Book Take-Aways • Thrive • (0) Comments • Permalink
Where in 2008 I had more ideas than the time to write them, this past year my overall blogging count was down. I could overanalyze this, but I chalk it up to its lower priority in my overall schedule. That being said, I am proud of what I wrote, and received many good comments on those posts. I met my goal of reading 12 books in 2009, even with Atlas Shrugged taking most of a year to do so. Despite this, I only blogged on half the number of books. Be on the lookout for those book takeaways in the next few weeks as I start my first books of 2010.
Then there was NaBloPoMo. I probably never should have signed up for this for the pure reason I never remembered how to spell it! I signed up to writing a post a day for every day last November. Well, I said I would do it, but in reality I was not really committed to the program. So I wear the “I blew it” badge pictured above, and next time will only commit to doing something that both interests me and is in line with my goals.
Here’s to a great year of blogging, and hearing from you in the comments.Blogging • Book Take-Aways • Thrive • (0) Comments • Permalink
Bring up the concept of “customer service” and you will certainly cause someone’s blood to curdle. As much as just about every company provides service and support to its customers for its products and services, so many do it so poorly to the extent many times it’s easy to swallow the loss and buy from someone else. Well, at least I have done it that way a few times.
But why is it that way? This question and more around customer service are answered extremely well in the book BAM!: Delivering Customer Service in a Self-Service World, by Barry Moltz and Mary Jane Grinstead. Within the pages of this must-read for anyone who is in business, they share many personal customer services stories – both good and bad – as well as demystifying the entire process of customer service. The term “BAM” is for “bust a myth” and it dispels various customer service myths throughout the book. I was graciously given a copy of the book by Barry, with whom I have worked with in the past. After reading it, I was reassured as to why I worked with him!
There’s a lot to take away from BAM! and here are a few of my major takeaways.
Customer service must be baked into your business - Issues with customer service being removed from the core of a company are rampant. Sometimes, they are removed so far away it is outsourced to a third-world country! Not only should customer service be within the core of your company, it should be designed into the products and services you develop. Why create a product that you can’t support? Short-term gains will only last so long.
You must want to be able to deliver good customer service as it won't just happen - The road to good fortune is paved with good intentions. If you don’t have a plan in place to offer good customer service, it just won’t happen. If you only have 1 or 2 people to handle support and you need more like 50, good luck.
Have a customer service manifesto - Want to offer good customer service? Write it down, and tell everyone.
BAM! is a great read for a round-trip flight. It is also a book you’ll want to pass along to colleagues, especially those who have responsibility for customer service in a company. It also has lists of the various myths and examples that are real and ready to use. I highly recommend BAM! to anyone in business or those thinking about starting a business, so that they are ready to offer good service to their clients and customers.Book Take-Aways • Business • Strategize • (0) Comments • Permalink