Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Up, Down, or Sideways: How to Succeed When Times Are Good, Bad, or In Between

Title:  Up, Down, or Sideways:  How to Succeed When Times Are Good, Bad, or In Between

Author:  Mark Sanborn

Publisher:  Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Rating:  Good

Reason for Reading:  I have heard Mr. Sanborn speak many times, and enjoyed his newsletter and blog post about leadership at http://www.marksanborn.com/.  I was greatly attracted to the premise of what success principles work under such different economic conditions.

Format:  E-Book, read on my Nook Simple Touch

Summary:  In Up, Down, or Sideways, Mark Sanborn describes success principles that work in all economic conditions, addressing what leaders should see, how they should think, and what they should do.  The author wrote the book while recovering from surgery following a cancer diagnosis, laying out what he describes as “good shoulds”, the actions that produce successful results independently from the circumstances in which they are performed.

Under the section titled See, Sanborn encourages leaders to focus on the things one can control, and looking beyond the abundance of information available to everyone to the actions that make the downs easier and ups bigger.  In Think, Mark challenges the reader to examine the metrics they use to measure success, to appreciate the benefits of a positive disposition, and to adopt an approach of persistent learning.  In Do, Sanborn espouses the benefits of maintaining a healthy supply of the things you do that are most valuable and the valuable persons you associate with.  Finally, the author describes the constant need to innovate and engage what you do with creativity, and for successful persons to maintain a spirit of gratitude and embrace discipline.

Review:  A book that describes in comfortable language the simple principles behind personal success is perhaps my favorite kind of book.  I would put Up, Down, or Sideways squarely in that category.  Much of what you’ll read in it will have you nodding your heading in agreement about how these basic tenets of personal power have worked for you or against you in the past, based on the choices you make.  For the balance, the author is providing for you a greater understanding of how these principles work, by citing relevant research and providing descriptive examples of them in action.

For anyone wanting an enjoyable read about the meaningful subject of what they can do to improve their business, relationships, and life, Up, Down, or Sideways should be on your reading list.


Other resources: http://www.marksanborn.com/

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The 360° Leader by John C. Maxwell

Title: The 360° Leader

Author: John C. Maxwell

Rating: Good

Reason for Reading:  Of all of Maxwell’s many books on leadership, this one perhaps speaks most directly to my position, as I am a leader in the middle of my organization.  When the BookSneeze® program offered this book, I requested a copy to review.

Format:  Softcover

Summary:  The 360° Leader is divided into six sections, as Maxwell walks the reader through the concept of leading from anywhere within an organization to the practical steps of maximizing your influence.  First, Maxwell challenges the myth that only the persons at the very top of the organization chart can be true leaders.  The author describes in detail how those within the middle of the organization have a unique and valuable opportunity to lead and influence others that the top leaders do not.

Then, Maxwell identifies the challenges of leading from the middle, describing how the approach of the 360° leader has to be different from the top executive.  The author then dedicates a section to how the 360° leader exercises influence in all three possible directions:
Ø      Leading Up:  How to lead your leaders
Ø      Leading Across:  How to lead your peers and equals, and
Ø      Leading Down:  How to lead your subordinates and reports.
Finally, Maxwell describes how vital to the success of an organization the leadership skills of those in the middle are.  As an example, he cites General Tommy Franks description of the United States Army as dependent on strength of its non-commissioned officers.  Franks says that “sergeants are the backbone of the Army”.

This copy also included a workbook printed as an appendix, that the reader can use to develop the leadership skills Maxwell advocates for 360° leaders.  The book also includes access to additional resources online at http://www.360degreeleader.com/

Review:  I find that this book fills a critical niche in the leadership library that has been much overlooked.  There are numerous books about exercising leadership from the very top of an organization.  However, materials dedicated specifically at those in “middle management” have been much harder to find.  Because those in the position of being both leader and follower have a much different point of view, this book is valuable to someone conforming theoretical leadership concepts into their day-to-day jobs.

As usual, Maxwell lays out in easy-to-follow sections and lists the specifics of his concept of 360° leaders.  Maxwell also completes the picture with vivid and relatable stories to illustrate his points, making it easy for the reader to translate the concepts into concrete action steps.

I heartily recommend this as an important read for anyone who finds themselves in the middle of their organization and wants to maximize their influence over their portion of it and its entirety.


Other resources:

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://booksneeze®.com/> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Too much Martha and not enough Mary?

In the Gospel of Luke, it is recorded that Jesus visited the home of two sisters, Martha and Mary.  From the time he arrived, Martha was distracted with preparations things to do to care for her guest, while Mary simply sits at the Lord's feet.  Martha is upset at having to do all the work on her own and tells Jesus to tell Mary to help her. Luke records that Jesus's response is that Martha is worried about and focusing on all the wrong things, while Mary is solely focused on what is truly important, her relationship with Christ.  Evidently Martha understood His words because she, Mary, and their brother Lazarus would go on to become close friends of Jesus.

In his new book Beautiful Outlaw, John Eldredge (@johneldredge) describes Jesus's response to Martha as disruptively honest but mercifully gracious.  Martha apparently wanted a relationship with Jesus, as she invited Him to her house.  But, then she is too distracted to enjoy His company.  Perhaps Martha's love language is acts of service, and she feels she is expressing affection for the Lord by doing so many things.  Or perhaps, like many people, she is uncomfortable without having something to do, preferring the exhaustion of business to the peace of a more narrow focus.

For some, being hyper-occupied to the point of overwhelm with things to do and places to go is a way to gain social status.  We are impressed by those who can multitask or who put in long hours of labor, though it may sacrifice their health or relationships.  For others, busyness is a way to avoid something painful or uncomfortable, because with so wide a focus, no one thing can have much impact on them.  They quickly move on to something else to think about, often leaving a problem to fester or issue to remain unresolved.

Mary, in contrast, seems to easily be able to turn off or turn away from all the other potential distractions from their guest and give Him all her attention.  And Jesus believes this to be the higher honor, because he cares more about Mary and Martha's hearts, their spirits, more than their meal they'll share or how clean the house is.  How easy it is for Mary and Jesus to come into a relationship when they are focused on each other and what is truly important.

I was recently challenged by my most trusted adviser that I have had too much Martha in me recently, and not enough Mary.  Focusing too much on things to do, places to go, other voices to listen too, I've been distracted away from those things most important to me.  I've forgotten that not everyone is impressed with busyness, and sometimes the most loving thing you can do for someone is to make them the sole focus of your attention.

Question:  How do you keep from becoming too much of a Martha?