Top Business Books: Career Edition

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Reading time: 1

Following up my post about classic business books for an Insightful Leader, here are my picks for excellent sources of career inspiration. These help one get over the main, faulty assumptions about jobs and careers that strangle would-be pursuers of their passions and life work.

  • What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles. This perennial is popular for a very good reason: it gives practical, current, and hopeful advice and tools to find a job, change or grow your career, or start a business. Best part: the Flower, a powerful exercise for discovering your career passion, calling, or life’s work.
  • Zen and the Art of Making a Living by Laurence Boldt. Pick up this book, scan it. Pause anywhere and dive in. You’ll come out with insights into most every aspect of your career development. Zen is deep and yin where Color is direct and yang. Use these two books together for best effect. Best part of Zen: the quotes from the world’s philosophers and leaders that invite needed personal reflection in uncovering mission, values, passions, skills, etc.

Life mission: example

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Reading time: 1

Here’s a quote from William Henry Channing who lived in the heart of the 19th century. Funny how some things still resonate decades–even more than a century–later.

To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly, to listen to the stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart; to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never. In a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconsicous, grow up through the common. This is to be my symphony.

And that is not a bad manifesto, I’d say.

Classics in Insightful Leadership

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Reading time: 4 min.

Bookstores have many great books about business and leadership. All shine a strong light on ways to be a better leader, run a more effective business, or play a stronger game personally and professionally. I read many of the books that hit these shelves because, as Tim Sanders (author of a couple of good books himself, including Love is The Killer App) says, “books should be your (knowledge) diet’s staple.” Each one usually has something of value to teach and that I can pass on to others. Yet time and again, I return to a small set of books that cover the issues so well. Listed below, in no particular order, are my top 10. Many are long-time popular titles that still sell well, even many years after publication. Others are lesser-known gems. These ten I recommend whole heartedly to all Insightful Leaders. (more…)

Set your (personal) mission (a.k.a. We goofy consultants)

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Reading time: 3 min.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cited this “fact” to my clients: in a study of Yale graduates tracked over the decades, the most successful (the top 3%) had one thing in common: they all set their goals. Turns out I should have done my homework. A recent article in Fast Company shows that this study never happened. Just goes to show how silly we consultants can be.

This debunking notwithstanding, goal setting has its place. You benefit from simply going through a goal setting exercise. Pausing to take stock, question assumptions, and look freshly at things in your world leads to helpful insights. Your biggest insights are those that highlight your purpose(s) in life. (more…)

The First Obstacle to Leadership

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Reading time: 6 min.

What’s your reaction to this idea?

As a leader, you may be Overvaluing Your Individual Contribution.

You may cringe, shrug, or have a different reaction. If you cringe, you may face this obstacle in leadership. If not, read on; you may know and need to help someone who must overcome this obstacle. (more…)

Success with Driving types

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Reading time: 5 min.

You know the type. Driven, demanding, forceful. Perhaps these types of people are easy for your to work with…maybe you are one yourself. Or maybe you find these types of people to be among the most difficult to work with. No matter; here’s a method for successfully dealing with driven bosses, peers, and staff in your work world. It’s called the “D Package” and takes its name from the behavioral style know as “D” or “Dominance” in the DISC style language. The “D Package” is a way of delivering your message so that this driven, demanding, forceful type person will hear and respond to you productively.

Let’s start with an example situation to illustrate the “D Package”. Your company needs to hire a new VP of Sales and the driven, demanding, forceful (a.k.a. “high D”) CEO has found a stellar candidate. As VP of Operations, you see trouble. This candidate is an experienced heavy-hitter who would be perfect…if only the company itself was ready. The company is poised for new growth and needs to make some difficult decisions about target markets, product design, and the supply chain. Without making these decisions, hiring this candidate would likely be a disaster. The company would have to make some big promises to attract this person and tough changes to keep her. You also have the impression that the CEO is frustrated with the company’s progress and position and looks to the new Sales VP to spark the changes needed.

As VP of Operations, you find certain encounters with the high-D CEO to be uncomfortable, to say the least. They can seem like conflicts, not discussions. You and others walk away from some of these encounters feeling personally attacked though “attacked” might be too strong a word. So how do you proceed? If you do nothing, your company will likely experience real damage. If you’re tempted to raise and discuss your concerns with the CEO, you’ll likely not succeed because a high-D CEO may subconsciously misread your intent and interpret your overture as a waste of time, complaint, or even insubordination.

Here’s how to proceed: use the “D Package”. The “D Package” is a way to prepare and format all oral and written communication to high-D people like your fictional CEO. Below are are the components of the “D Package”. Pay attention the tone of the example statements (your intent is to help the CEO and company with a very real problem and you’re saying “I’m here to fix it”) and note what’s NOT said (not a lot of justification, explanation, process, or method). Your job here is to be brief, be bold, and then be gone (off implementing the decisions made).


  • Issue: Create a one sentence description of the situation/problem. e.g. “We’re not ready to hire June.”
  • Impact: Create a one or two sentence description of the impact to the high-D person, in their language, of the issue. e.g. “If we bring her in before we’re ready, it’ll cost dearly in lost revenues and declining client- and associate satisfaction from the resulting turmoil.”
  • Options: Present a set of options from which the high-D person can choose to start resolving the issue. e.g. “Here are the options: 1) We can hire June right away, using her energy and experience as a catalyst to get ourselves where we need to be. 2) We can prepare ourselves before we hire June so that when she arrives, the company is poised to take advantage of her strenghts and she can hit the ground running. 3) We can do nothing.”
  • Recommendation: State which of the options you recommend and a brief description why. For example, “I recommend the second option because we, the executive team, can have an agreed upon plan in short order. The risk is we might lose June to another company so we can continue the hiring process while we develop the plan. Worse case: if we do lode June, we’ll have a solid plan and a clear idea of the kind of VP of Sales we need to attract. I don’t recommend the first option could deliver an unnecessary body-blow to the staff and clients who may jump ship. The third option is, I think you’ll agree, obviously inadequate.”
  • Decision?: Make a request that the high-D person chooses from the options.

Prepare yourself, before you deliver this “D Package”, for a detailed discussion/argument. I call this “pulling on the Teflon(r) suit and picking up the virtual 2-by-4 (for figuratively whacking the high-D between the eyes).” If you’re not a high-D person yourself, you’ll probably find this way of engaging very uncomfortable, at first. The high-D person will likely come back at you with counter arguments (because you’ve engaged him/her how s/he likes to be engaged: in a battle of ideas–not personalities–over a challenge or obstacle he/she faces), detailed questioning (because s/he want to make sure you’ve thought it through and aren’t dumping the problem in his or her lap), and even a show of angry emotion (sterness, abruptness, louder voice, etc).

In your preparation, anticipate questions (“What kind of resulting turmoil would we see if we hire June right away?”) and prepare responses . This is where you make the arguments and feed the data that you might have done in an email or memo or presentation prior to learning about the “D Pacakage.”

The first key point to remember: this assertive approach is how high-Ds like to interact with the world. Do this and they’ll respond productively.

The second key point to remember: this approach will backfire unless your intent is clearly to help the person who is high D to win.  Anything else is just arguing.  So get your intent straight before engaging.

Want to learn more or see how to present your material in a “D Package”?  Contact me.

What have been your experiences using the “D Package”? Leave your comments here!

The value of opinion

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Reading time: 1

“Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of
the world.”
— Arthur Schopenhauer

Value, seek, and hear the opinions of others. Doing so always creates a better solution. Failing to do this leads to misunderstanding, division, and ineffectiveness.

Note, I did not say “accept or attack others’ opinions.” Other people’s opinions are valuable because they help you see beyond your own limitations. They need not be accepted, raw, as your truth. Nor would you be wise to defend aginst opinions that don’t seem to match your own.

What do you want to do?

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Are you experiencing career angst? Great! Knowing what you don’t want to do is helpful. The real challenge is, of course, knowing what you want to do. The secret, I’m learning, is to connect to something bigger. Go beyond your personal preferences, desires, direction. What bold path can you tread? How can your serve but not be subservient? How can you lead powerfully by example and not by force? What talents, passions, joys reside in your good heart that our world desperately needs to have out and active, despite all fears? Listen to and follow your heart. If that sounds trite, tough! 🙂 Does it look too big to tackle? Tackle it anyway. Do you fear losing your lifestyle or your life? Place trust in yourself and goodness of others and act anyway. For so long as fear guides you, you will ache. Hint: if you’re not acting, you’re likely afraid of something–even something of which you’re not fully aware. Acknowledge your fears and act anyway.

Guess what? Leading change is really hard!

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Reading time: 3 min.

Read the cover story of the May 2005 issue of Fast Company: Change or Die. When you read that changing people’s behavior is difficult–really, really difficult–are you more shocked or are you more relieved? As a leader, do you see this as sad news or is it justification of what you’ve always known? Either way, there’s cause for excitement. Sure, the odds are against you; they are against everyone. But you can beat the odds. Here’s how.