Category Archives: Books

Book & Resource Reviews

Delivering Happiness

When I get time to read again, one of the first books on my list is “Delivering Happiness”, by Zappos founder, Tony Hsieh.  Also on that list will be several of the books in the presentation below.

Maybe there’s a few here for you too.  I’ve only read some of these, so can’t vouch for them all, but anyone who is as obsessed with team and customer happiness as Tony seems to be, must be at least a better-than-average judge of on-topic reading material.


Brief Book Review: The Southwest Airlines Way – Jody Hoffer Gittell

The-Southwest-Airlines-Way-Gittell-Jody-Hoffer-9780071458276THIS IS ARGUABLY the most important text on how teams can and should be managed so as to deliver great customer service.

Author Jody Hoffer Gittell does a good job of explaining the specific practices Southwest has developed and maintains in order to consistently deliver an airline experience that’s way better than its competitors, and creates profit in an industry renown for delivering losses.  The work is detailed, almost scholarly (yet very readable), and provides a blueprint for other organizations wishing to emulate Southwest’s success.  I also found it a fascinating insight into the complexities of running an airline.

Don’t think for a moment, though, that by reading this book and implementing a few changes you’ll have your organization swinging.  As you would expect, creating the exceptional requires more than a quick fix.  If you have the will though, and the authority to implement change, I highly recommend developing a plan based on the ten principles outlined in the book, and listed below:

Ten Practices for Building High Performance Relationships:

Lead with credibility and caring

Invest in frontline leadership

Hire and train for relational competence

Use conflicts to build relationships

Bridge the work/family divide

Create boundary spanners

Measure performance broadly

Keep jobs flexible at the boundries

Make unions your partners, not adversaries

Build relationships with your suppliers

If you’ve never flown Southwest, or heard about their brand of what I call “real” service, here’s a couple videos to whet your appetite:

A great TV commercial (1 min) :

A Southwest flight attendant singing a custom version of Jingle Bells (45 sec):

An interview (10 min) with Rita Bailey, erstwhile director of Southwest’s “University for People”:

Get the book here:        Paperback         Kindle

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More good reading on the Resources Page.

Endurance- Shackleton's Incredible Voyage

Brief Book Review – Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage

In August 1914, Irishman Earnest Shackleton and his crew in the “Endurance” left England on the their “Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition“, aiming for Vahsel Bay where a team of six would commence an 1,800 mile crossing of the Antarctic continent.  This incredible journey did not come to fruition.

Earnest Shackleton

Earnest Shackleton

By 15th January, 2015 the Endurance was imprisoned in a frozen ice flow in the Weddell Sea, marking the beginning of a far more amazing journey, one that would take every ounce of the team’s own endurance, battling sub-zero conditions, dwindling supplies, open antarctic ocean, and complete isolation.

Author Alfred Lansing has written a compelling narrative, capturing not only the details of the journey, but giving real insight into the physical and spiritual hardships the crew faced, and providing an inspiring look at the leadership of Shackleton, which was truly heroic.  I could not put this book down when I read it a few years ago, and highly recommend it both for it’s own sake as a great story, and as leadership inspiration and “how to”.  Shackleton’s willingness and ability to make hard choices, and to act in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, is a lead we can all follow.

Get it here:   Paperback      Kindle

There is also a very good film adaptation, starring Kenneth Branagh.  DVD here.

Here’s a 3-minute clip – Shackleton addressing the crew and the Endurance breathing its last.

And, if you’re very keen, here’s a documentary on the full voyage (97 minutes).





Presentation Zen

Brief Book Review: Presentation Zen

SOONER or later just about everyone needs to get in front of an audience and present.

Do you commit death by power-point of do you knock ’em dead?

When you read Presentation Zen, or see Garr speak (see video below), you scratch your head and think, “yes”… so simple. And yet, simplicity is usually defined by what’s not there, rather than what is. That may be the central message of Presentation Zen.

Get it here:      Paperback        Kindle

Garr has several other books out, and plenty of great information on the Presentation Zen website.

Here’s an interview with Guy Kawasaki – Garr outlining the Presentation Zen approach.

Brief Book Review: Jim Camp’s “Start With No”

Start with No Jim CampWHETHER you’re a titled-leader or just human, you need to understand negotiation, and how to be good at it.

Almost every time you interact with others, it’s a negotiation.  From deciding where to go for dinner to closing a multi-million dollar deal, you need to negotiate.  Sure, the seriousness of outcomes is different, but the same principles apply.  And the first principle is, don’t be “needy”.

Feel like, and worse, display, that you need this deal, that you’ll never “walk away”, no matter the price, and you’ve shown your hand.  And the sharks are circling.

Jim’s tactics seem to fly in the face of today’s “win-win” mantra. Even he says so.  I don’t think so.  I don’t think any deal, any trade, gets done unless both parties feel they are winning, and each side’s responsibility is to get what they want, or walk away.  That’s a real win-win.

That doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible, can’t accommodate reasonable requests, but you don’t go into any negotiation with the other side as your primary concern.

I cannot recommend any other book on negotiation.

Get it here:       Hardback         Kindle

Economics in One Lesson Henry Hazlitt

Brief Book Review: Economics In One Lesson (Must Read!)

EVERYONE, let alone those in organizational leadership roles, should have a basic understanding of economics.  It is, after all, a field vitally important to us all: the science that identifies the principles governing the origin and growth of wealth.

There are several more academic and in-depth studies of economics available, but Henry Hazlitt’s classic delivers on its promise:  “The shortest and surest way to understand basic economics”.

You will come away wondering why economics seemed so complicated, when it’s actually quite simple.

The book’s greatest strength is the insistence that any study of economic phenomena must look at the totality, both “what is seen”, and “what is unseen”.  Failure to do so is where Keynesianism and its modern variants fall over; why today’s politicians have no hope of reversing the woeful economic trend; and why so many companies got blind-sided by the Global Economic Crisis.

Hazlitt clears this up in the first three pages, then goes on to shine light on the myriad of economic fallacies embraced by many of today’s “economists”, much to our detriment.

Writing is simple, clear, and well-illustrated.  This book can be read in a few hours, and you will come away wondering why economics seemed so complicated.  This is a must read for… well, everyone really.

Get it here:

Paperback         Kindle eBook          Free PDF Download


Calumet K Samual Merwin

Brief Book Review: Calumet K

SAMUEL Merwin’s “Calumet K” was reportedly Ayn Rand’s favorite novel.  It’s a simple story of management; how one man, protagonist Charlie Bannon, takes over project management for the construction of a grain elevator in Chicago at the turn of last century.

This is not high literature, nor is it deep in meaning or broad in scope.  But for its tight focus and simple plot line it’s well told, and gives great insight into how good leadership works, both in the sense of it’s method, and it’s efficaciousness.  It shows a man in control, rising to meet all challenges with resourcefulness, strength, and determination, and with a little romance thrown in too.

I’ve read it several times now, and each time find something new to relate to in Bannon’s approach that is both inspiring and useful.

We all need art to refuel the soul and provide inspiration.  Calumet K is not high-brow or especially sophisticated, but it fits the bill none the less.  And its a rare exception in today’s art world where businessmen and bosses are ever the bad guy, vilified and always losing in the end.  Here’s a man who loves his work, is good at it, and reaps the reward.

A free Kindle download is available here.