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Organizational & Employee Development


Applying Advanced Analytics to HR Management Decisions

Applying Advanced Analytics to HR Management Decisions
By James C. Sesil
Pearson Education Inc., 2014
156 pages
List price: $59.99
ISBN: 978-0-13-306460-5

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We don’t make decisions rationally, says author James C. Sesil. Our biases play a strong role, and business decisions are no exception. In Applying Advanced Analytics to HR Management Decisions, Sesil shows how bias works, then discusses the myth that people are naturally self-centered—a myth that he says has damaged our ability to be cooperative and collaborative at work.

But through the right combination of learning, economics and psychology, managers can eliminate bias in decision-making, get better performance results and reduce discrimination. Sesil demonstrates how the science of “advanced analytics” can improve decisions.

What prevents us from making the best possible choices? Sesil, who currently is developing HR software to support decision-making, describes the problem of relying on intuition and biases when making human capital management decisions.

Sesil delves into what makes collaboration work so well, and why people are not as motivated by selfishness as we think. He covers the types of organizations that benefit from collaboration, the bottom-line advantages of participative decision-making and models of collaboration in business. Analytics can improve choices by predicting outcomes more accurately, mapping individual and team performance, and evaluating the impact of planned changes. Employers can learn to use human capital data better, and Sesil demonstrates how research data can contain biases that HR and management must be aware of.

How do you model “ideal HR practice choices”? Sesil provides ideas on optimal practices. He also introduces readers to specific software packages that can help with talent analytics, enterprise resource planning, talent management and more.

Selection and promotion decisions can be particularly prone to biases, so a more analytical approach yields more-objective choices. Tools include a “biographical survey” that uses a candidate’s personal history as an indicator of potential job performance.

Incentives and motivation are other areas where more science and fewer assumptions could create more-effective systems. Sesil explains why collaboration does not work with competitive compensation and reward systems that pit employees against each other and create mistrust.

The author outlines the usefulness of performance management tools based on analytics, including expert systems, predictive modeling, artificial intelligence and econometrics tools. He also describes how analytics can help with specific incentive issues, including incentives for executives; for low-skill, low-wage employees; and for specific job groups such as teachers and physicians.

(Forget a Mentor) Find a Sponsor(Forget a Mentor) Find a Sponsor
By Sylvia Ann Hewlett
Harvard Business Review Press, 2013
List price: $20
224 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4221-8716-6 

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Mentors matter and you need them, but they are “not your ticket to the top,” author Sylvia Ann Hewlett tells readers in (Forget a Mentor) Find a Sponsor.

Mentors counsel, listen and offer advice altruistically—to help. But sponsors are influential people who further your career as an investment in their own careers, Hewlett explains. Sponsors invest in you while expecting a payoff eventually, and if you play your part, you get advancement out of the relationship. Hewlett’s book guides employees on how to find a sponsor and advance both your careers.

She also covers how women and minorities in particular can benefit from sponsorship—and why mentoring programs have not done enough to help those employees, while white men have benefited most from real sponsorship over the years.

Hewlett notes differences between sponsors and role models, mentors and other supporters. Sponsors are senior leaders with the ability to affect your pay raises, your assignments and your promotions. A sponsor believes in you and goes out on limb, taking risks on your behalf. She advocates for your next promotion and, importantly, she provides “air cover” for you to take risks. Sponsors also connect you to other senior leaders and promote your visibility.

The protégé has to “deliver high-octane support” for the sponsor. A protégé must have high performance and deep loyalty to the sponsor and the organization. Hewlett says protégés must cover their sponsor’s back, help build the sponsor’s team and “burnish the brand” of the sponsor in the organization.

Guidance includes:

  • Figuring out what you really need and have to offer. Hewlett gives readers questions to ask themselves about their own dreams, drives, accomplishments and brand, and she advises working with a mentor at this stage to do self-assessment.
  • Finding and connecting with a sponsor. Get tips on identifying possible sponsors, what makes a person a good bet as a sponsor, and how to approach that person to show you’re a good investment. Learn why a role model is not necessarily a good sponsor, and why your boss may not be one either. Line up a second sponsor, too, because “in this economy, your sponsor is vulnerable to churn” and might not be there when you need him most.
  •  Increasing your visibility. Hewlett’s tactics include leading an internal network (such as a women’s group or black executives’ group), leading a company philanthropic project, asking for mentorship or asking for introductions to senior leaders.
  • Ensuring that your sponsor knows you are exceptional. Ask for help before you’re in trouble. Take on work outside your job description. Don’t wait to be asked to make things happen for your sponsor. A protégé must come through for the sponsor on performance and loyalty every time.
  • Setting yourself apart. Make sure your bosses and your sponsor know your talents. (You speak Spanish? Volunteer to help out on the initiative to establish new locations in Mexico). Learn on your own. Help your sponsor by using your skills that he or she doesn’t have (like the employee who was an Internet whiz and helped a not-so-tech-savvy boss).
  • Avoiding pitfalls. The appearance of a possible sexual relationship can undermine both parties’ careers. Hewlett provides tips for ensuring the protégé-sponsor relationship is clearly professional for all to see. Another pitfall for minority professionals is the problem of “downplaying their differences” yet being “made invisible by their conformity.” She adds that “would-be sponsors of color … hesitate or outright avoid allying themselves with minority up-and-comers” too often, while those minority up-and-comers often distrust potential sponsors to reward them fairly.
  • Exhibiting “executive presence.” Hewlett describes how action (gravitas), communication and appearance contribute to a protégé’s success and how you can develop those attributes.

 The Talent Equation
By Matt Ferguson, Lorin Hitt and Prasanna Tambe
McGraw-Hill Education, 2014
List price: $28
234 pages
ISBN: 978-0-07-182712-6 

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CareerBuilder CEO Matt Ferguson and his co-authors use their extensive study of employers and resumes to find links among education, market performance and employee tenure.

The Talent Equation opens with a discussion of why HR needs “big data,” the kind of large-scale human capital research on which the book is based. Predictive analytics can help employers make choices about locations, markets and competitive hiring practices. It can also help HR contribute at an executive level.

The book examines today’s labor market and the skills gap that employers and employees currently face. Topics include what the gap really means, the roles played in the gap by compensation and lack of training and education, and how employers can handle the “short-term effects of job vacancies for skilled positions.”

The writers delve into why people with less education struggle in today’s labor market and how earnings change by education level, college major, occupation and more. They look at education among managers, IT workers and manufacturing workers and conclude that “rising education attainment” generally benefits both careers and employers. But they also note that education isn’t the only measure of an employee’s value and ability, and they examine how job tenure affects market performance.

Employers can’t understand retention, turnover or career progression without understanding how tenure adds value in some positions but not necessarily in others, the book notes. Readers learn why average tenure is rising, why young professionals have lower tenure rates and what that means for employers, and the effect tenure has on an organization’s business success.

In particular, the studies find some unexpected connections between tenure and the value employees add in specific fields. For example, there is “no significant value-added effect” for keeping sales workers, manufacturing workers or management for more than five years. But in IT jobs and in customer service jobs, longer tenure creates higher value.

Recruitment and talent management issues include training and “reskilling,” continuous recruitment practices, and retention trends. A case study looks at how one employer’s effort to hire more veterans and reskill them could be a template for other employers trying to find and train workers—veterans or not.

The authors also raise a red flag: Training programs for most employers are either “a) non-existent or have been downsized … or b) primarily used to train workers only for basic on-the-job procedures.” Training in the United States does not mean “We hire people and teach them new skills”; instead, it means employers believe that the responsibility for skill-building belongs with would-be employees. But the authors hold that if companies aren’t finding employees with the right skill sets, the time has come for employers to start making hires and then “grooming” them as needed.

A section on job candidates advises employers on making the job hunt more attractive. Forty-eight percent of HR managers and 74 percent of hiring managers say they do not think their companies have a definable “employment brand”—despite years of “branding” as a chief topic in management books. Employers need to do better at giving candidates a strong brand and a good experience. The book shows how negative candidate experiences end up costing employers money and how employers can use five resources to communicate their brand effectively.

Other topics include the following:

  • Using technology tools for recruiting, enabling “continuous recruitment” and matching jobs to candidates.
  • Holding onto talent. The book explains why retention is HR’s top challenge, why employees say they leave and why some employees choose to stay.
  • Using big data to identify skills shortages and their causes, and to determine how the HR department can become a “strategic consulting operation.”

Untapped TalentUntapped Talent
By Dani Monroe
Palgrave Macmillan, 2013
List price: $30
180 pages
ISBN: 978-1-137-28222-4 

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A hidden workforce lurks inside your organization—inside the very employees you think you know. These are your acceptable workers, the ones who get good assignments but not career-building ones. Some of them are above-average employees who have advanced well but seem to be stalled. All are employees whose managers figure that as long as things are going OK, there’s no need to get overexcited and start lighting a fire under anyone.

The hidden workforce tends to be underutilized, disengaged—and not using its talents. Author Dani Monroe wants employers to start tapping this source of potential to find great workers who are already on the payroll.

Monroe outlines why talent goes untapped. An employee might lack access, meaning he doesn’t get exposure to leaders other than his immediate boss and the boss doesn’t give meaningful feedback. Or her talents don’t fit with the organization so she’s seen as an outlier. Or he has skills that could have different applications from what he is currently doing. Or the employee just does not look like a traditional, mainstream leader in age, gender or race.

Monroe points out the unconscious biases that keep people from recognizing the talents of others and provides exercises for identifying and reducing those biases. Then she focuses on how to tap the potential of your workforce and get past unconscious bias: “Managers locked in a mental model of what a successful team member is or will be become committed to that model,” she says, and will decide on hiring, development and promotion based on that model.

Employers need to build a culture of “talent stewardship,” Monroe says, where leaders invest enough time to know the talent already in their organization. These leaders seek out untapped talent in different business lines, different locations and different functions and look several levels down and across their organizations. They take the risk of creating stretch assignments and ensure that they offer nonmonetary rewards such as challenging work and development opportunities.

Employees who are reservoirs of untapped talent may fall into the hidden workforce because they aren’t good at, or haven’t uncovered, the soft skills vital to success. Those skills include interpersonal skills (building relationships), cultural competence (accepting different views as legitimate) and political savvy (reading others and the organization well and reacting as needed). Monroe urges leaders and managers to improve soft skills in team members who might be untapped talents.

Monroe shows how the characteristics of resourcefulness, resilience and resolve often are present in the hidden workforce but aren’t drawn out by their work.

Leaders and managers can tap into resourcefulness in employees by challenging them to take risks and possibly fail; showing them the long-term big picture so they see where they fit in the organization; ensuring that they have access to resources and especially people who can help and challenge them; and giving them learning experiences, including ones that aren’t necessarily related to their current assignments.

Monroe guides leaders on how to spot employees’ resilience skills and build those skills by gradually pushing performance goals to keep challenging employees. Building resolve in employees includes focusing on the process and not just the results—letting employees know that working their hardest and best demonstrates real resolve.

Changing People Who Don't Want to Change
By Reut Schwartz-Hebron
Real House Press, 2012
230 pages
List price: $27.95
ISBN: 978-097993943-3

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While 81 percent of professionals "say 'yes' to change," only 10 percent of them take actions to support change, reports author Reut Schwartz-Hebron. Her goal in this book is to "change how you incorporate change" so that employees—specifically, those on teams—can embrace it.

Schwartz-Hebron offers new techniques, based on organizational psychology and advances in neuroscience, for getting people to change. She shows how brain research, applied practically in the workplace, unlocks ways to improve people's acceptance and processing of change.

The core of the book is an examination of five types of problem teams. In each team, people operate based on rules they've developed from their own experiences. When those personal rules (called strategies here) impede a team's success, how do leaders help teams replace them with strategies that optimize productivity and emphasize the team's strengths?

For example, one team's members are analytical but don't use synthesis to see the larger picture. They believe that if one option is right, other options are automatically wrong. The book describes how those ideas damage productivity, then shows readers ways to lead that team past resistance and change its behavior.

For each of the five team types, readers get a checklist to help them identify if similar teams exist in their organizations. Readers also get a summary of the kinds of strategies with which leaders should equip each team.

But providing new strategies is about more than telling team members how to behave. People need to define through experience which strategies will meet their goals—so that their brains will learn to default to those strategies. Schwartz-Hebron guides leaders through the stages, from identifying goals to identifying strategies and then providing the experience and reinforcement that makes those strategies the brain's default setting

The book also dissects the following myths about workplace change:

  • People's personalities are fixed, and they won't change. People can change if the strategy is right.
  • Giving people more information about change and logical reasons for change will convince them accept it. Research shows that this just isn't true: People base their reactions to change on their experiences, not on knowledge.
  • People will accept change if they trust the change agent. This myth gets things backward: The change itself should create trust, Schwartz-Hebron says.

Upgrade Now: 9 Advanced Leadership SkillsUpgrade Now: 9 Advanced Leadership Skills
By Giselle Kovary and Adwoa K. Buahene
n-gen, 2012
194 pages
List price: $25
ISBN: 978-1-77084-198-7

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Upgrading means building on what’s already there—trying to “enhance, improve and refine,” as this book puts it. An upgrade doesn’t toss out the past, but it does re-evaluate it.

Authors Giselle Kovary and Adwoa K. Buahene offer practical tips to help you upgrade your leadership skills, with special emphasis on tailoring leadership to meet the needs of multiple generations at work.

Based on the authors’ decade of work with more than 50,000 leaders, managers and employees, Upgrade Now builds on Kovary and Buahene’s previous research on how to engage a multigenerational workforce. This volume identifies nine key skills leaders should upgrade, and its pithy chapters outline what to learn about each skill and how to apply it in your workplace now. Upgraded skills include the following:

  • Improve the work environment. The single biggest positive influence a leader can have in engaging employees is improving the work environment. The book covers how collaborative leadership, empowerment, team building and especially flexibility all contribute to a better environment. Readers get a questionnaire to help them uncover their own personal attitudes and approaches to work style and workplace culture and to think through how they can improve their work environment today.
  • Facilitate career development. Employees often crave real developmental opportunities, and good development practices help keep good employees onboard. Readers learn about the four typical types of career paths as well as the various individual patterns careers can take—one employee might need specialized formal education for an expert occupation, while another employee might need an “entrepreneurial pattern” with frequent moves.
  • Empowering employees through selective delegation. Many leaders don’t delegate or aren’t sure how to delegate effectively. Yet delegation not only empowers employees, it also frees the leader or manager to do other tasks.

The book shows what empowerment at work means (increasing employee accountability, allowing employees to direct their own work, supporting their decisions). It outlines how to delegate work, from identifying the appropriate tasks or projects to ensuring that resources are available to communicating well with employees. And the authors give leaders responses to the many potential objections they might feel about delegation, such as “I can do it myself” and “If I let someone else do it, I’ll lose control.”

Kovary and Buahene walk managers through a three-step process for delegating work to employees successfully.

Upgrade Now gives the same brief but detailed treatment to other leadership skills including leading virtual teams, leading and managing change, and leveraging social media.

The First 90 DaysThe First 90 Days
By Michael D. Watkins
Harvard Business Review Press, 2013
278 pages
List price: $29
ISBN: 978-1-4221-8861-3

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The first three months are crucial for leaders moving into new roles. Senior HR leaders say that those initial days are both the most challenging period for a new leader and a strong predictor of the leader’s ultimate success or failure in the job, according to author Michael D. Watkins.

Do well at the start and you’ll probably do well overall. Flop at the outset and you’ll find recovery difficult.

In The First 90 Days, Watkins guides readers on avoiding failed transitions and starting strongly in their new jobs, whether those jobs result from promotions, reassignments or positions with new organizations. This edition updates the original 2003 best-seller with new advice about managing career changes.

Watkins points out avoidable “transition traps,” actions by new leaders that undermine them at the start. Trying to take some kind of early action—any kind—to make a mark is one trap that can backfire and create resistance among staffers. Another trap is arriving in an organization as a savior bearing “the” answer to its problems, which can alienate employees.

Transition failures stem from problematic interactions between the new leader and the new role, Watkins notes. All the failed leaders he studied had had successes in the past. But when they misunderstood a new job situation, weren’t flexible enough to adapt to it or tried to repeat success with earlier tactics, they crashed.

The First 90 Days, based on a decade of research, shows readers how to reduce that risk of early failure and how to be effective in a new position faster. Methods include the following:

  • Prepare yourself. “Perhaps the biggest pitfall you face is assuming that what has made you successful to this point will continue to do so,” Watkins says. Sticking with what has worked for you elsewhere could backfire and create resistance.
  • Secure early wins. You need to build credibility quickly. The book shows how to find opportunities for early wins during your first 90 days on the job.
  • Negotiate success. Plan and prepare for crucial conversations with your new boss—the person most important to your success.
  • Build your team. Did you inherit a team? You might need to make personnel changes and restructure the team to fit your needs.
  • Keep your perspective. Transitions can isolate you and throw you off balance. Ensure that you have a good “advice-and-counsel network” to help you make good decisions.
  • Remember that everyone else is in transition, too. Accelerate your staff’s transitions and figure out where they are at risk of transition failure and how to support them so they succeed.

Along with the new edition of the book, publisher Harvard Business Review Press is releasing a customizable app for iOS and Android devices, with daily alerts, exercises, interactive tools and videos featuring Watkins.


Manager 3.0

Manager 3.0: A Millennial’s Guide to Rewriting the Rules of Management
By Brad Karsh and Courtney Templin
AMACOM, 2013
List price: $17.95
235 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8144-3289-1

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Like many books, Manager 3.0 looks at how to manage multiple generations in the workplace. What sets this book apart is its target audience: the youngest of the generations in today’s workplace—the Millennial generation.

Millennials are the more than 75 million Americans born between 1981 and 2000. The oldest of them, now in their 30s, are becoming managers. How do they manage Baby Boomers, Traditionalists and members of Generation X—the generations ahead of their own?

Authors Brad Karsh and Courtney Templin begin with a look at what defines Millennials: They’re achievers whose parents swooped in to help them through tough situations, so they enter the workplace “a little sheltered.” They’re goal-oriented, collaborative and used to working on teams. They crave feedback and structure.

As managers, Millennials may clash with Baby Boomers (who often live to work) and with members of Generation X (who more often work to live). But Baby Boomers’ strong work ethic and drive, and Generation X’s creativity and independent spirit, can be managed to everyone’s benefit.

Using examples from companies including Southwest Airlines, Google, Zappos, Groupon and more, Karsh and Templin guide Millennial managers through a host of topics, including:

-- Why explaining requests and directions matters, and why “because I told you to” is not acceptable (especially to members of Generation X).

-- Why they need to move away from thinking of themselves as individual contributors, who want to know what the organization can do for them, and toward thinking of what they can do for the organization.

-- How to establish expectations, set goals and provide constructive feedback.

-- Why theirs will be the generation that finally “tears down the career ladder,” and how to rewrite traditional rules.

-- How they can connect with their employees, find their own leadership values and turn those values into concrete actions.

-- How they can hold themselves accountable for their work—an important idea, because Millennials often blame outside forces for problems they encounter.

-- How to stay on top of daily tasks, customize communication styles to fit the audience, and adjust management style to better meet employees’ needs.

-- Why they might fear negotiation and how they can change that attitude.

-- How to foster more collaboration by matching responsibilities to the right people, collaborating flexibly even when they don’t agree with someone, and ensuring that they know how to draw the line between being a friend and being a manager.

-- Why they need to learn to be the boss and not the buddy, how they build personal credibility as a manager, and more.


Quiet InfluenceQuiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference
By Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, Ph.D.
Berrett-Koehler, 2013
List price: $17.95
176 pages
ISBN: 978-1-60994-562-6

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Introverts in the workplace often find themselves being told to speak up more, to participate more vigorously and visibly, or simply to be something they’re not: extroverts.

But writer and executive coach Jennifer B. Kahnweiler says introverts are often “quiet influencers” who bring particular skills to the workplace. In this book, she sets out to help these employees hone the skills and strengths that come naturally to them.

Kahnweiler identifies six strengths that introverts bring to organizations:

-- Ability to maintain focus and approach problems creatively. Introverts often are good at using quiet time to think through issues. Tips for readers include ways to create and protect the solitude they need to think. Kahnweiler also examines the potential pitfalls of too much solitude, such as failing to share ideas with others.

-- Preparation. Introverts take time to gather facts, know how to involve the right people in their preparations and sometimes practice presentations more than their extroverted counterparts do. Quiet influencers need to watch out for the downsides, though: Overpreparation can sap energy, and too much analysis and study can lead to “analysis paralysis.”

-- Engaged listening. Introverted employees often are good at listening empathetically, which builds trust and engagement. These listeners also are able to get others to talk about themselves freely—which can be a benefit during job interviews. The author offers tips on how introverts can use their listening skills to influence others.

-- Ability to have focused conversations. Introverts’ preference for interacting one-on-one can lead to talks that provide encouragement or address conflict. Kahnweiler suggests specific tactics introverts can use to make their conversations more productive.

-- Written skills. Because they also tend to prepare well and take quiet time to mull over ideas, introverted workers can be good at writing effectively and persuasively. To improve writing skills, introverts can adapt their writing to their audiences and learn more about the craft of writing. The book also warns about problems with using written communications to the point that the writer loses personal connections with others.

-- Social media skills. Social media can let introverts “organize their thoughts at their own speed” while using their other strengths of listening, focused conversations and writing. Social media also can help introverted employees gain a higher profile and put their ideas forward for others to see.

For every chapter, Kahnweiler provides a “next steps” section summarizing key points and questions to guide readers as they apply the book’s ideas to their own work lives.


By Chip and Dan Heath
Crown Business, 2013
362 pages
List price: $26
ISBN: 978-0-307-95639-2

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Face it: You make decisions based on your biases. You’re irrational and overconfident, and you prefer data that tell you what you want to hear. In other words, you’re human.

Even the most self-aware people make choices that are influenced by their unconscious biases. In Decisive, Chip and Dan Heath ask how we can do better and be better as decision-makers.

The Heath brothers first look at how human weaknesses create flawed decisions. Then they lay out a process to help readers learn to get past their flaws: “Why a process? Because understanding our shortcomings is not enough to fix them,” they write. This book examines why we make biased choices but mostly guides readers on how to reach better, less biased decisions.

People typically make decisions in four stages: encountering a choice, analyzing options, making the choice and then living with it. But the book shows how each stage has a villain lurking within it. For example, we fail to see possible options. Or our analysis is based on self-serving information—what we want to hear, not what we need to hear. Or our choices can be wrong if emotion drives them. Or we are overconfident about how our choices will turn out.

The Heaths show how to defeat the four pitfalls:

  • Widen your options. Discover ways to see more possibilities. Techniques include the “vanishing options test” (what if all the options you’re considering dried up?) and the “opportunity cost test” (how much does this option really cost you?). Learn to weigh more than one option at a time. Get tips on how to locate others who have faced similar decisions and how to learn from their choices. Learn how to make and use checklists to prompt more-thorough decision-making.
  • “Reality-test” your assumptions. Consider the opposite of what you instinctively want to choose, and encourage some “constructive disagreement” in the organization to root out any biases. Learn how to get an outside perspective on your problem so you can see how others might interpret it.
  • Attain distance before deciding. The Heaths teach specific strategies for separating your emotions from your decision-making. They also advocate establishing core principles so that you can refer to those principles for guidance when decisions become emotionally charged.
  • Prepare to be wrong. Consider the full range of possible outcomes for decisions—not just the outcomes you wish would happen. Learn to anticipate problems and prepare for them. Use deadlines and limits—such as “We won’t spend more than X on this project”—to prevent you from escalating potentially poor choices.

To Sell Is HumanTo Sell Is Human
By Daniel H. Pink
Riverhead Books, 2012
260 pages
List price: $26.95
ISBN: 978-1-59448-715-6

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One in nine U.S. workers is in sales, earning a living by persuading others to buy things. And the other eight of nine don’t know it, but they’re all selling, too—selling themselves, their ideas or their work product.

In To Sell Is Human, author Daniel H. Pink examines why sales and selling are changing and how we all came to be salespeople. He outlines ways to improve your ability to sell what you have to offer, whether that’s an item in retail, an idea to your boss or your influence to your employees.

Pink looks at why today’s economy is more about salesmanship than ever before:

  • Some studies show that 30 percent of the U.S. workforce now works alone. By 2020, independent entrepreneurs could become the majority of the workforce. The rise of entrepreneurship also means the rise of sales because entrepreneurs have to sell themselves.
  • Pink cites “elasticity” as another driver of a sales mindset. As workers increasingly perform diverse tasks instead of just one function at work, they need to be able to influence others.
  • The old idea of “buyer beware” is now “seller beware” because customers are well-informed about what they’re seeking and know they have many other options if the seller isn’t working with them.

How do people sell themselves and their ideas in a changing workplace that is increasingly a marketplace? Pink starts with the ABCs of selling, long known as “Always Be Closing.” That outdated formula gets a remake here as “Attunement, Buoyancy, Clarity.” For each of these attributes, Pink offers a detailed case study.

Attunement is about observing others and bringing your “actions and outlook into harmony with other people and with the context you’re in.” Readers learn about approaching interactions as if they have less power than other participants, as a way to help them see the other person’s perspective. Pink also coaches readers on using subtle mimicry to make others more comfortable (and more susceptible to a sale).

Buoyancy keeps your outlook positive while readying you to take on your task. Readers learn how to practice interrogative self-talk, asking, “Can I do this? Can I make this pitch? Can I persuade this person?” Asking questions helps bring out your reasons for doing things and reminds you how you prepared. Pink also covers how to explain why your “sale” did or didn’t succeed. Those who see rejection as temporary and based on specific circumstances tend to be better at persuading others, Pink notes.

Clarity means seeing things as they really are. Learn to identify the problems that need solving. Try reframing what you have to offer others; how can you contrast your offering with what others have to sell? Try getting a new angle by doing something unfamiliar. And when you want people to take an action, be clear about what they need to do.

Pink also looks at the sales pitch in a world where everyone pitches, all the time. The classic “elevator speech” summarizing what you can do for someone else isn’t the peak of pitching any more. Readers get a tutorial in pitches shaped as tweets on Twitter; subject lines on e-mails; a single, provocative question; and even a single word.

Manager’s Guide to Employee Engagement
By Scott Carbonara
McGraw-Hill, 2013
269 pages
List price: $17
ISBN: 978-0-07-179950-8

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This guide offers practical, how-to tips for improving employee engagement quickly and specifically. The target audience is the manager who needs to make the business case for engagement and who wants to make engagement work, starting today. Author Scott Carbonara:

  • Argues that engagement improves productivity and relationships with customers, and keeps good workers from leaving.
  • Explains the difference between genuine engagement—being dedicated and committed, and willing to expend discretionary effort on the job—and mere “job satisfaction.”
  • Provides checklists to help managers identify employees who currently are and aren’t engaged.
  • Guides managers in self-assessment activities to discover their management style and whether they are merely managing or truly leading their employees. Carbonara offers specific actions to take to become the “best boss ever.”
  • Examines why employees do what they do and why clear expectations and effective consequences can build trust and improve performance. Carbonara dissects how different reactions to employees—praising, ignoring, punishing, etc.—affect engagement. He explains positive and negative reinforcement and how each works in an office environment.
  • Shows ways to get employees to act like entrepreneurs by accepting risks, being creative, being empowered and focusing on realistic solutions.
  • Explains how to align goals, vision and mission and get beyond mere mission statements. Readers learn what makes a good mission statement, how turning values into a brand can help employees understand why their work matters, and what to consider if an employee’s mission and the organization’s mission don’t match.
  • Outlines how a manager can get to know each employee, one on one. Personal knowledge lets the manager tap into workers’ individual preferences, passions and strengths to build their engagement. Tools include questions to help managers inventory employees’ interests and guidelines for asking personal questions appropriately.
  • Looks at how humor at work can increase engagement and how managers can use humor effectively and without offense.

Manager’s Guide to Employee Engagement is part of a series called “Briefcase Books” from publisher McGraw-Hill. As a Briefcase Book, this volume includes short, easy-to-locate sidebars on topics such as specific ideas, warnings about possible pitfalls, definitions of key terms and more.


SHRM 2012-2013 Human Capital Benchmarking
SHRM 2012-2013 Human Capital Benchmarking
SHRM, 2012
136 pages
List price: $800
ISBN: 978-1-586-44327-6

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“Measure everything if you want to prove the business worth of human capital.” That’s what HR professionals hear in meetings, magazines and books. But where can you go to find the right data on other companies like yours, in your geographic area? Where can you get dollar amounts for organizational revenue per full-time equivalent employee, or the HR-to-employee ratio, or the average annual salary increase for employees in your industry?

Finding these data to use as benchmarks for your own company’s numbers can be tough—unless you examine SHRM’s Human Capital Benchmarking surveys.

These data charts report information by industry, number of employees and region. The book provides more than 40 metrics, including compensation data, HR department and expense data, employment data, and expectations for revenue and organizational hiring. A glossary gives readers detailed descriptions of each metric.

The source of the data is SHRM’s benchmarking database, which contains data from a random sample of SHRM members in the United States in varying industry sectors. Those sectors include for-profit and not-for-profit enterprises, finance, government, health care, high-tech, and durable and nondurable goods manufacturing.

Organizational data include revenues per FTE. HR department data includes total HR staff number; HR expenses; the HR-to-employee ratio; and the percentages of HR staff in supervisory, professional/technical or administrative support roles. Other data cover the types of HR positions organizations expected to fill in 2012.

Compensation data cover annual salary increases, salaries as a percentage of operating expenses, target bonuses for nonexecutives and executives, and reimbursements for tuition. Employment facts include time-to-fill, cost-per-hire, number of positions filled in 2011, annual turnover rates and more.

The book’s guidelines state that any deviation between the data in the book and the reader’s own figures for the same human capital measures is not necessarily favorable or unfavorable. Deviations only mean the reader needs to do more analysis. The guidelines also note that human capital measures specific to the reader’s own industry and business size “are more descriptive and meaningful” than generic data.

Social Gravity
By Joe Gerstandt and Jason Lauritsen
Talent Anarchy, 2012
151 pages
List price: $14.95
ISBN: 978-0-61558-787-5

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This book aims to help any reader at any level increase his or her social capital—defined here as “The resources available through personal and business relationships.” How those relationships form, how to look at them analytically, and how to create new and valuable connections are all part of this guide.

What’s the true value of a social connection? Social Gravity authors Joe Gerstandt and Jason Lauritsen demonstrate how to evaluate a person’s reach or connections to others; a person’s power or ability to influence others; and staff diversity or differences from yourself. Reach, power and diversity mean a contact has plenty to offer you, including new perspectives and the opportunity to connect with others in the contact’s own circle.

Gerstandt and Lauritsen condense their advice into six rules, larding each with checklists, questionnaires and tools to help readers personalize the advice:

  • “Invest in connecting” with others. Put the time and the effort into building relationships. This includes figuring out your goals and the priority of each goal, so you know where to put your networking efforts: If your goal is to ascend in your company, work on relationships there, but if the goal is to start your own business, work on relationships outside the office.
  • “Be open to connections.” This isn’t simple. Human nature tends toward making faulty assumptions about people, relying on stereotypes, and embracing biases. The book guides readers on recognizing those roadblocks. Then it covers how to put yourself out there—being more available by phone, taking more opportunities to meet others in person, using social media and e-mail more effectively, and even moving workspace to be closer to those who matter most to your network.
  • “Be authentic.” If you follow your real interests and express your real goals, you’re more likely to connect with those who share them and can help you. Learn how to write a personal manifesto that clarifies what is meaningful for you and what you want to accomplish. Assess your gifts, talents, skills and knowledge and how they might help an organization someday.
  • “Get involved in meaningful activity.” Directly related to being authentic, this rule urges taking action that matters to you personally and, through it, meeting like-minded people. Still, the authors recognize that formal networking events—though ineffective and “cosmetic”—do take place, and they offer tips on how to make the most of such events and how to start a connection, even where there is no shared, meaningful activity.
  • “Use karma to turbocharge your network.” This is about reciprocity: Do things for others and they’ll do things for you. It’s “social currency” between contacts, the authors note, and it means being generous with your help because eventually someone will help you, too. Promoting your talents and skills via your online profiles and in other ways will let people see the ways in which you can help them.
  • “Stay in touch.” Learn techniques for maintaining connections with appropriate, consistent and relevant communications with those in your network. The book looks at how social media tools have made connections far easier but also harder to manage meaningfully as they balloon into the hundreds and beyond. Tips on leveraging technology include subjects such as writing effective e-mails, using social sites, knowing when to use phone calls and in-person contact, and more.

While social media aren’t the book’s focus, they do get attention as tools people should use effectively. Just joining sites isn’t enough, the authors caution. You need to blog, update, post and otherwise keep content fresh. The idea of personal branding, both in person and online, is important, too, because it is “packaging who you are for the online community … to help the right people find you online.”

Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go
By Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2012
126 pages
List price: $17.95
ISBN: 978-1-60994-632-6

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There is a term that “strikes fear into managers’ hearts,” authors Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni write, and that term is “career development.” Managers often dislike the idea of career development programs or developmental assignments that take away their employees. But to Kaye and Giulioni, career development simply means helping others grow—and managers can achieve that through conversations.

Kaye and Giulioni dissect the myths that immobilize managers, such as the myth that there’s no time for career conversations amid everyday tasks or the belief that employees “need to own their careers” and are entirely responsible for their own development, with no need for managerial help.

But career development does not have to consist of a formal program, or even a single, lengthy planning session between manager and employee. Kaye and Giulioni emphasize the power of short conversations and an ongoing dialogue, all year long.

Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go offers tools to help managers start and maintain those ongoing conversations:

Learn to look backward, forward and inward. Conversations can focus on hindsight, or looking backward to see what the employee is good at and loves; foresight, or viewing the big picture of organizational needs and how they change; and insight, where the manager and the employee look at actions toward career objectives. Managers learn how to guide conversations to uncover employees’ skills, strengths, values, interests, dislikes, preferences and weaknesses. A detailed conversation guide, complete with specific questions to ask, walks managers through a typical talk to review an employee’s past experiences, jobs and positions.

Feed your employees—they’re starving. Performance feedback through formal channels is important, but most employees are still hungry for ongoing feedback about their abilities, their blind spots and the conditions under which they perform best. The book provides practices for delivering specific, candid and constructive feedback.

Keep employees aware of the big picture. Help them develop foresight and learn how to track external business challenges and changes. Managers learn how to guide employees’ research into industry trends and forecasts and how to help workers connect those larger trends to their own company, department and career goals.

Understand that career moves can be sideways or down temporarily. Advancement doesn’t always mean moving up a traditional career ladder. Kaye and Giulioni give managers questions to guide employees who need to reassess what career success really means.

Help employees “grow in place.” Moving employees into different positions for career development isn’t always possible in today’s trimmer organizations. The writers note, “You may have little influence over getting an employee transferred or promoted, but you are completely in charge of what goes on in your own backyard.” A self-assessment helps managers decide if they are overlooking opportunities to help employees grow in place. Conversational tips let managers and employees think about the skills, information and experiences employees need, as well as how to meet those needs.

Make developmental opportunities happen. Education, exposure and experience provide development opportunities, and managers can work with employees to determine what combination of those three things work best. Kaye and Giulioni add that whatever the employee and manager decide on, the plan should be documented, linked to the organization’s business needs, aligned with the employee’s work goals and bought into by the employee.

The Pin Drop PrincipleThe Pin Drop Principle
By David Lewis and G. Riley Mills
Jossey-Bass, 2012
255 pages
List price: $25.95
ISBN: 978-1-118-28919-8

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Drawing on methods used by actors, The Pin Drop Principle teaches readers how to become more confident and effective communicators, no matter what audience they are addressing or what topic they are covering.

The techniques here are for anyone who needs to communicate—managers or employees who need to make presentations to groups, give one-on-one feedback, persuade others or hold difficult conversations at work. Readers first learn how to define their objective (what they want) and their intention (how they’re going to get what they want).

Readers then can work through the whole book from start to finish for a complete course, or dip into it for immediate help with their most pressing communication issues, including the following:

  • Telling effective stories. Good storytellers are born, not made—or so many people believe. But authors David Lewis and G. Riley Mills say anyone can be taught to tell a good story, and they supply a “story map” formula for structuring stories well, plus exercises for trying out the formula.
  • Structuring a framework that supports the message. Learn how to assess the audience and its expectations; identify a core theme for a presentation; prepare transitions using your body, props, expressions and more; and structure a talk, from an opening that grabs attention, through the main topics, to a closing that both summarizes the talk and energizes the listeners.
  • Preparing, managing nerves and controlling anxiety. Over-preparation is a myth. You can’t know your material too well, Lewis and Mills note. They offer stages of preparation, cover techniques for overcoming stage fright and describe how to warm up before a presentation.
  • Communicating nonverbally to express confidence. Posture, eye contact, facial expression, gestures and other nonverbal cues give audiences a snap impression that can work for or against you. Techniques show how and when to use gestures, experiment with facial expressions, and more.
  • Speaking off the cuff. Impromptu speaking panics many people, but everyone does it all the time—talking casually with co-workers, brainstorming at work, or participating in a meeting or conference call. Tips for mastering impromptu speaking include slowing down, framing the message before speaking, using your own experience, sticking to topics with which you’re comfortable and being brief.
  • Answering questions. Lewis and Mills tie this to the idea of controlling the audience and keeping it engaged. They give warning signs that an audience isn’t engaged (asking irrelevant questions, fidgeting, being silent or talking too much) and offer ways to interrupt the pattern if people grow complacent, as well as specific tips for addressing questions clearly and confidently.
  • Being persuasive and assertive. Know the difference between assertive and aggressive communicators. Learn how to get commitment from listeners by asking questions, suggesting alternatives and demonstrating your own passion for a topic.

Team Turnarounds
By Joe Frontiera and Daniel Leidl
Jossey-Bass, 2012
245 pages
List price: $25.95
ISBN: 978-1-118-14478-7

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What could a child care center, a small business making golf putters, Domino’s Pizza, and certain professional football and basketball teams have in common?

All struggled with problem teams, and all turned those teams around for business or sports success. In Team Turnarounds, authors Joe Frontiera and Daniel Leidl examine these and other cases for lessons to answer the question, “How can any leader work to bring a team from the bottom to the top?”

Frontiera and Leidl discovered that, whatever the type of business or size of the enterprise, the leaders who succeeded in turning teams around used the same steps. That’s how the authors identified the six common elements of a “team turnaround process” that any leader, at any level, can use.

Drawing extensively on examples from both sports and business, the book offers a Team Turnaround Workbook of guidelines, worksheets and group exercises so leaders can apply the lessons directly to their own teams.

Stage one is as low as things get—the team is failing, and customers are walking away. The leader needs to assess why performance is so bad. Once you understand what’s going wrong, you can build the case for change. The book looks at how managers of three enterprises (a pro football team, a network technology company and a firm making motorcycle trailers) investigated their companies’ problems step by step and brought “dysfunction out in the open.”

After that first, painful step, the organization or team must commit to growth. This stage is where the leader and the team work out a vision for where the team is going and a plan to get there. But vision and values can seem vague, and the authors demonstrate how real teams made those ideas concrete and specific to their workplaces.

The third stage is changing behaviors on the team. Examples show how employers got specific changes into place, how leaders can model new behaviors personally and how to reinforce change within the team.

Once the team is accepting change, it also needs to accept—even embrace—challenges and adversity. Stage four is about taking on challenges, and a key example is how Domino’s Pizza used customer service problems as an opportunity to improve.

Stage five is achieving success, but leaders can’t stop there. Success brings the question, “What next?” At this point, leaders and teams must define what success means and adapt that definition in order to keep growing. The book discusses how already successful companies can choose to pursue a “triple bottom line” of not only profits but also benefits to society and the planet, going beyond traditional ideas of business success.

Teams that turn around reach stage six, where they must maintain a culture of excellence to continue succeeding. Readers learn how organizations keep innovation going over time and how to maintain the organization’s culture and values.


What to Do When There’s Too Much to DoWhat to Do When There’s Too Much to Do
By Laura Stack
Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc., 2012
175 pages
List price: $15.95
ISBN: 978-1-60994-539-8

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Time management? Easy. Just make a schedule: Do one task from 9 until 9:30 a.m., then another task from 9:30 until 10 a.m., and so on.

That worked just fine in the 1980s and 1990s, author Laura Stack notes—until the Internet, e-mail, apps and devices bristling with smarts changed work life forever and raised expectations about what workers can do and how long it should take them to do it. How can you truly be productive when you’re inundated with information and expected to respond to all requests rapidly? What if making that schedule takes longer than doing the work?

In What to Do When There’s Too Much to Do, Stack outlines what she calls her “gospel of ruthless task reduction.” Her prescription: Re-evaluate your tasks and prune them so what you get done are the things that matter. Stop overwork.

Stack breaks her “Productivity Workflow Formula” into six steps, with examples, advice and quick tips for using the ideas immediately. Readers progress through these steps:

  • Determine what to do. Stack shows how to analyze your current to-do list and figure out where it’s bloated. Readers learn to determine which tasks are the most important; which time-wasters (such as e-mail and social media) eat their productivity; and how to create effective, tailored to-do lists.
  • Schedule time to do it. The book offers a quick primer on the best basic scheduling practices. Stack teaches how to say no and be less generous with your work time. Tips include how to spend less time in meetings.
  • Focus your attention. Learn to combat both external and internal distractions. Stack shows why multitasking is another name for distraction, and why constant connection via technology undermines efficiency.
  • Process new information. Revamp paper filing systems as well as reducing “involuntary data inflow”—primarily, those e-mails filling up inboxes. Stack provides an information handling system so users quickly “discard, delegate, do, date, drawer or deter” each piece of information they touch.
  • Close the loop. Meet deadlines and communicate well with others about tasks and goals. Stack covers how to handle bureaucratic bottlenecks, how to deal with micromanagers and how to work with teammates while sticking to your own personal work priorities.
  • Manage your capacity. Pay attention to your own mental and physical state so you don’t burn out and can stay productive. Stack examines how to improve sleep, diet and exercise to increase energy.

The Management Training Tool KitThe Management Training Tool Kit
By Alan Clardy
AMACOM, 2012
205 pages
List price: $34.95
ISBN: 978-0-8144-3114-8

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Real-world situations and genuine, tough decisions are behind the 35 case studies author Alan Clardy lays out in this set of training exercises for managers and supervisors.

Clardy doesn’t just list cases. He provides an easy structure for readers to follow so they can use this book and even adapt the cases, tailoring them to their own workplaces.

Trainees get a worksheet to help them analyze the cases by identifying the problems at hand, brainstorming, evaluating options and describing their chosen solutions. Each case in The Management Training Tool Kit includes discussion questions with answers—though Clardy notes that in many work situations, there is no single solution.

Cases also offer the possibility for role-playing exercises. Another tool is a case reporting worksheet trainees use to assess challenging situations they currently face.

Clardy’s cases, representing a wide variety of industries and workplaces, cover issues such as human resources problems, discipline, team building, termination, coaching, discrimination and much more. Some examples:

  • A supervisor, who already has performance issues, is responsible for a report that’s already late. He turns in a report copied from a professional journal. Then his boss demands that the supervisor, on the spot, perform a critical calculation he ought to know. When the supervisor can’t pass that test, he’s fired. Are there any legal issues with this firing? Was the instant test questionable? What should the boss tell the staff about this sudden firing?
  • A female employee is harassed by two contractors who are in her office to install a new computer system. She tells her boss after a day of escalating comments and an outright proposition. What should the manager do next, since no one else witnessed the harassment?
  • -A new manager at a bank decides against refunding a small fee to a customer. An employee disagrees, and soon all employees are giving the manager the cold shoulder. When the manager talks privately to the employee and notes calmly that the decision was his to make, the employee explodes and shouts that she’s quitting. What could the manager have done differently? What’s his next move with the rest of the staff? With HR? With the employee herself?
  • A manager calls a same-day meeting, and at the meeting announces he wants everyone to give him suggestions about his new pet program by the next morning. When one employee points out that it’s a problem when everyone is expected to drop their work and respond to meetings like this one, the manager shuts down. How could the manager have handled the meeting (and his favorite project) better?


Power QuestionsPower Questions
By Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas
John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2012
205 pages
List price: $22.95
ISBN: 978-1-118-11963-1

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Success isn’t about having the answers. It’s about asking the questions.

In Power Questions, authors Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas give readers questions—337 of them—that can lead to better business performance, improved relationships and greater creativity at work. The questions focus on holding an effective first meeting, understanding goals, developing a proposal and preparing to meet with a client.

Each chapter details a real-life situation or problem that someone changed by asking the right question at the right time. Then the authors expand that question so readers can apply it to their own situations: Each chapter briefly outlines when to use the question, alternative versions of it and important follow-up questions to keep the conversation moving.

Questions help redefine and reframe problems, challenge assumptions, and push people to think beyond their own traditions. The right questions can redirect a meeting that is going off the rails or halt an angry executive in his or her tracks.

A sampling of the questions this book uses:

  • "What do you think?” Just four words but potent ones, according to Sobel and Panas, because people want to feel they are being heard—and they listen and cooperate better if they’re asked what they think.
  • “Do you mind if we start over?” Tough to ask, this question can disarm someone with whom you’ve had a rough start. It can reboot an unproductive argument and let you refocus on what you should be discussing.
  • “What did you learn?” Research shows that people don’t learn from their experiences. Use this question after an interview, meeting or visit, or when mentoring or coaching someone.

Readers learn to start with questions rather than statements. At work, this can mean that when someone says, “We need more innovation,” you respond with, “Can you describe what innovation means to you?” Instead of asserting, “We need to improve customer service,” you ask employees how service currently affects their ability to keep customers.

Rather than telling, ask. Rather than being the expert, invite others to contribute

By Susan Cain
Crown Publishers, 2012
333 pages
List price: $26
ISBN: 978-0-307-35214-9

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Charisma and collaboration sound like positives in any business setting. But in Quiet, author Susan Cain argues that companies’ focus on charismatic leaders and extroverted employees is actually shortchanging those companies. They are undervaluing their introverts.

Cain examines the development of the “extrovert ideal” in American culture and business. This ideal holds that making an impression on others, being outgoing and social, and communicating constantly matter. Being introverted, working alone and preferring solitude are seen as unusual, even unproductive.

The book examines how an overemphasis on collaboration at work “kills creativity.” Cain looks at the example of the earliest days of the computing club that spawned Apple and says, “You might conclude that people who hope to be innovative should work in highly social workplaces. And you might be wrong.” Then she delves into the work done by the shy, introverted Steve Wozniak in isolated time at midnight or early in the morning. The club gave a sense of support, but the creativity came from individuals working solo.

Cain decries a “New Groupthink” that “elevates teamwork above all else.” She offers research showing that solitude can fuel creativity and is essential for the deliberate practice of skills.

She adds that the right working conditions for this kind of practice are “surprisingly hard to come by” in today’s workplaces. Office design has pushed employees together in spaces that are increasingly open and have less and less space per worker. The focus on teamwork has created peer pressure to be a team player, even if teamwork reduces creativity. Cain says decades of studies show that as working groups get larger, performance declines and the number of ideas declines, too.

The book offers readers an understanding of how introverts and extroverts differ and how introverts can better navigate a workplace that operates on extroverts’ terms. Readers learn how introverts and extroverts think and how they react to rewards and risks. Introverts tend to think more carefully and stay on task better, and extroverts tend to use a “quick-and-dirty approach to problem-solving” and focus on what’s immediately around them.

Should introverts try to be more outgoing at work? Is it even possible? Cain and the researchers she profiles say yes, people are “capable of acting like extroverts for the sake of work they consider important.” Through self-monitoring techniques and careful evaluation of a job (does it offer ways to be yourself at least some of the time?), introverts can be more extroverted at work.

Cain includes advice on how introverts and extroverts can better communicate with each other.


All InAll In
By Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton
Free Press, 2012
229 pages
List price: $25
ISBN: 978-1-4516-5982-5

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Based on a Towers Watson study of 300,000 employees at companies with strong business results, All In examines the cultures of high-performing organizations and advises managers on how to create a workplace culture that promotes performance.

A positive workplace culture needs engaged employees, but authors Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton note that engagement alone isn’t enough. Their formula adds two other elements—employees must be enabled and energized, too. Enabling employees means giving them the support they need to do their jobs, and energizing them means ensuring their physical, social and emotional well-being at work.

The book sets out to be “a manager’s practical guide to developing a robust culture where people buy in.” And to keep things practical, Gostick and Elton offer seven steps managers can take, including these:

  • Define your burning platform. What is the common challenge your workforce must meet? Why is it imperative that people buy into your strategy? The book looks at why mission, values and goals statements often fall far short of energizing employees.
  • Develop agility. Agile firms enrich customers’ lives with their products or services, know how to cooperate with other firms, are open to different organizational structures, and leverage their people well.
  • Use skilled communication to build trust. Readers learn best practices for communicating with employees. Be sincere with workers, admit problems, and demonstrate care for people.
  • Partner with your talent. Gostick and Elton offer actions managers can use to build “more of a partnership feeling” in the workplace, from integrating brainstorming and collaboration into daily work to learning how not to impose your own style on an employee’s work product.
  • Create clear accountability. Real accountability is not “heavy-handed leadership” that constantly calls employees on the carpet. Instead, healthy accountability includes clear, understandable goals; managers who are held accountable just as employees are; and honest assessments that celebrate successes and look on failures as lessons.

Gostick and Elton offer 52 actions managers can use to improve buy-in. Ideas range from finding five unique ways to thank employees to marketing employees’ ideas to those above you in the company.

The Progress PrincipleThe Progress Principle
By Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer
Harvard Business Review Press, 2011
256 pages
List price: $25
ISBN: 978-1-4221-9857-5

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What best fosters employee engagement? Choose one: clear goals, incentive programs, recognition for good work, interpersonal support at the office, or support for making progress in their work.

When researchers Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer asked this question, hundreds of managers responded—and 95 percent of them got the answer wrong.

The chief motivator—according to employees’ private diaries of their work lives—is “making consistent, meaningful progress” in work that matters. Progress trumps incentives, pay programs and formal recognition, according to more than 30 years of research and nearly 12,000 diary entries.

In The Progress Principle, Amabile and Kramer say that the “fundamental act of good management” is managing for progress.

Through detailed case studies of business failures and successes, and deep mining of the thousands of diary entries from employees, the book teaches managers how to advance progress, remove impediments and give daily support that satisfies employees’ unspoken need to move forward in their work. Examples from the diaries and from workplaces (both successful and troubled) fill in the details.

Amabile and Kramer’s research finds a direct correlation between employees’ inner work life and job performance, with higher creativity coming on days when employees feel positive emotions about work and have positive perceptions of work.

The work diary study reveals that even small wins can have positive effects on employees’ motivation, but the authors also found that small losses can “overwhelm” the wins and loom much larger than managers realize.

How can managers tap into or gauge employees’ inner work lives when those thoughts and feelings are unobservable? The book teaches managers to manage what they can actually control—the catalysts that advance progress (and therefore boost positivity and performance) and the inhibitors that impede it. Among the actions the book covers:

  • How to remove obstacles that create setbacks.
  • How to provide “nourishers,” including recognition, rewards, opportunities to have fun and personal support.
  • How to stop negating the meaning in employees’ work by being dismissive, burying credit, giving out “grunt work” and other don’ts.
  • How to foster seven major catalysts that support employees’ progress, such as clear goals, autonomy and resources.
  • How team leaders can better promote daily progress among employees.

Managers get steps for keeping attuned to how employees are doing on a daily basis. Managers can learn to give swift and targeted support as needed, if they keep up with what employees are doing and whether progress is taking place. An “inner work life checklist” for managers helps them track whether they acted supportively, provided workplace nourishment or let roadblocks stay in place on any given workday.

By Jack Wiley and Brenda Kowske
Jossey-Bass, 2012
204 pages
List price: $40
ISBN: 978-1-118-02781-3

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Aretha Franklin: Management expert?

In RESPECT, authors Jack Wiley and Brenda Kowske use the name of the soul singer’s classic song to provide an acronym for their seven-point program for motivating employees. The book urges managers to give employees what they really want: recognition, exciting work, security, pay, education (and career growth), conditions they find amenable, and truth.

Wiley and Kowske’s plan opens with a business case for their brand of motivation, helps readers diagnose how well their organization currently is doing, and offers ideas and examples for increasing RESPECT in the workplace.

Research is a theme here, with the authors bolstering their ideas with results from extensive, international surveys of employees.

Why should employers care? RESPECT creates business benefits, the authors say. Wiley and Kowske’s research comparing companies with high amounts of RESPECT behaviors with companies with low amounts shows, for instance, that the high RESPECT firms deliver nearly 50 percent more on returns to shareholders than low RESPECT firms do.

Characteristics of RESPECT include:

Recognition. With nearly half of employees believing that they don’t get sufficient recognition at work, increasing recognition is a vital step in getting the best from people. The book looks at differences in how the Baby Boomer, Generation X and Millennial generations regard recognition. It advises on giving effective recognition by identifying employee preferences, creating clear policies for formal recognition programs, making informal recognition habitual and training managers in recognition techniques.

Exciting work. Research into what makes work exciting finds that employees associate excitement with trying new things. Employees identified cross-training, remote or expatriate work, and research and development jobs as exciting. How do employers ramp up the excitement, especially if they can’t offer expat jobs? Tips include ensuring that employees and their jobs are a good fit, designing jobs with enough autonomy and feedback to make employees feel trusted and significant, and managing expectations realistically for both employer and employee.

Security. The authors identify four ways organizations can create a feeling of security for employees, including sharing information openly (such as financial information about company health) and preparing employees for future opportunities by investing in training and development.

Pay. Learn to diagnose current pay issues and then to improve fair compensation, from creating an annual compensation review to reminding employees about useful benefits they may not realize you already provide.

Education and career growth. Career education and growth matter greatly to employees, surveys find, and affect whether they feel they should stay in their current jobs. Tips detailed here include how to provide formal support for education and training, how to initiate ongoing career planning talks with employees, how to assess your current training and education issues and needs, and ways to improve employees’ experiences with education and career development.

Becoming the Evidence-Based Manager (audio book)Becoming the Evidence-Based Manager (audio book)
By Gary P. Latham
Nicholas Brealey Publishing/SHRM, 2012
List price: $27.95
ISBN: 978-1-586-44267-5

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This popular book is now available as an audio book, with author Gary P. Latham reading his own work.

Latham, an organizational psychologist with nearly four decades of experience, says most management books focus on what he calls the art of management—managing in engaging ways and using personal experience as the benchmark—and not the science of management, which uses proven techniques that are adaptable to all industries and workplaces.

Managers get six major lessons, each of which Latham breaks down into steps and supports with research and examples:

  • Use the right tools to identify and hire high-performing employees. Throw out the unstructured interviews and “questions” like “Tell me about yourself.” These interviews discover nothing about how the candidate would behave in the job, Latham says.

He describes how to use situational interviews that present candidates with realistic work situations; patterned behavioral interviews, where you ask candidates how they behaved in the past; job simulations, or real-time tests; and realistic job previews, where candidates hear positives and negatives about the job so they can bow out if they realize it’s not for them.

  • Inspire employees to execute your strategies. If employees don’t believe in what they’re doing, they won’t commit to it. The book identifies tasks for managers, including appropriate goal-setting, staying involved with employees and aligning performance metrics with goals.
  • Develop and train to create a high-performing team. Six research-tested techniques—three to teach employees, three for managers to learn—prove that training and development don’t require a big budget, Latham says.

Managers learn to teach employees how to have internal dialogues that are positive; how to visualize specific tasks and problems and rehearse solutions mentally; and how to practice self-management, monitoring their own progress and comparing their own behavior to their goals objectively.

Managers themselves must actively support and participate in training—and also must build their organization’s culture, particularly by telling the true stories of employees who went out of their way to perform a task.

Managers must do one highly counterintuitive thing, Latham says: They must encourage employees “to make errors when mastering a complex task.” People who see mistakes as part of learning tend to be more willing to take creative risks. They also tend to be better performers than people whose focus on performance means they fear taking risks, he notes.

  • Unlock employees’ inner motivation to be top performers. Money alone is not the motivator managers think it is, Latham argues. His steps for motivation include making sure employees have high goals that are specific and attainable.

He urges managers to stop thinking about increasing employee satisfaction and focus more on employee performance. People feel satisfied when they’re good at what they do, he says. He also outlines ways managers inadvertently demotivate employees.

  • Instill resiliency in the face of setbacks. How a team handles problems and bounces back from them, or doesn’t, is vital. “Setbacks are inevitable; failure is not,” Latham says.

Managers get tips on how to help people develop accurate expectations. Managers also learn to foster workers’ self-efficacy, their sense that they know what they are doing in specific tasks. Managers can improve that sense by helping to set employees up for small successes—Latham describes how to do it—and by finding appropriate role models for employees to emulate.

  • Use coaching and appraisal for high performance. Appraisals often discourage and demotivate employees because employers choose the wrong appraisal tools, Latham says. He details how certain tools, including bottom-line assessments that look solely at numbers and trait-based scores that try to assess personality, tell nothing about what the employee should stop doing or keep doing to improve performance. He shows why appraisals based on observable behaviors work best.

The book also covers how managers can minimize their own biases in appraising workers and how feedback from multiple sources is a proven tool for lowering turnover and bolstering the bottom line. “Coach, coach, coach” and don’t just appraise, Latham adds, describing how coaching works to increase employee confidence.

Becoming the Evidence-Based Manager includes an extensive case study of two very different businesses applying these principles in very different cultures. One is a logging company in the United States. The other is a technology development center in the Middle East. Because “a manager’s life is never captured by a formula and is rarely tidy,” Latham says, he shows how his ideas operate on the ground.

The AdvantageThe Advantage
By Patrick Lencioni
Jossey-Bass, 2012
227 pages
List price: $27.95
ISBN: 978-0-470-94152-2

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Patrick Lencioni argues that “organizational health” is too often about bring-your-dog-to-work days, company-sponsored yoga classes and ergonomic furniture.

True organizational health—the kind that improves the bottom line and keeps good performers on board—isn’t about such initiatives, he says. It’s about developing five strengths: minimal politics, minimal confusion, high morale, high productivity and low turnover.

And how do you develop those healthy characteristics? The key is the leadership team.

The Advantage dissects how to bring about minimal politics and maximum productivity through four disciplines. For each discipline, the actions of the organization’s leadership team are critical.

  • “Build a cohesive leadership team.” Leaders need to give priority to the team of which they’re members—the leadership team—rather than the departmental teams they lead, Lencioni notes. He covers how to control conflict within the leadership team (and by extension, other teams); how to get real commitment at the end of meetings, so everyone leaves knowing what was decided and what actions will be taken next; and how to develop real accountability among peers.
  • “Create clarity.” Minimizing politics and confusion is really about being clear throughout the organization on what matters and what needs to be done. Lencioni discusses why “agreeing to disagree” is a huge error and why clarity isn’t wrapped up in mission statements. He lays out six critical questions for which the leadership team must have firm answers that they rally around—questions of what defines success for the organization, what has top priority and who is tasked to do what.
  • “Overcommunicate clarity.” Readers learn that there’s no such thing as too much clarity about the organization’s specific goals and tasks. Leaders get tips on how to “cascade” messages about the six critical questions out to the workforce, how to ensure that everyone knows what’s expected of them, and how to teach employees to articulate the organization’s values and goals accurately.
  • “Reinforce clarity.” Lencioni applies these ideas to recruitment, hiring, orientation, performance management, compensation, rewards and firing. Organizations need to bring consistent values and expectations to all of these areas to ensure that employees fit the organization.

The book includes a chapter focused solely on what Lencioni calls the central indicator of health—meetings. He outlines four types of meetings that leadership teams should have—from brief check-ins to overnight, off-site meetings—and he shows how to get clarity from each about what was decided and what steps to take next.


Future WorkFuture Work
By Alison Maitland and Peter Thompson
Palgrave Macmillan, 2011
168 pages
List price: $30
ISBN: 978-0-230-28422-7

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The flexible work practices HR promotes—part-time work, flexible or compressed schedules, job sharing, work at home—are mere “cosmetic arrangements,” authors Alison Maitland and Peter Thompson argue.

They say these practices do nothing to challenge the old model of work: “If you give me your time to perform a job, I will reward you per hour.”

It’s time to scrap the rewards-for-time model in favor of “future work,” in which employers reward workers for output, not for time, Maitland and Thompson say. In this book, they outline how companies can overcome resistance to change, give employees more autonomy over where and when they work, and at the same time improve the bottom line.

Why doesn’t flexible work work? It just shifts the time in which the work is performed; it doesn’t shift the notion that time equals dedication. “Instead of rewarding long hours of low productivity, why not reward shorter hours of high productivity?” the authors ask. And instead of encouraging employees to be seen at an office, why not encourage them to work wherever they are most productive?

Maitland and Thompson lay out the business case for future work and provide dozens of real-world examples of how firms already see gains such as greater productivity, better customer service, lower turnover, and savings on real estate and travel.

For future work to succeed, employers need to make it part of the business strategy, not treat it as a benefit. This means the right technologies must be in place and managers must undergo some radical adaptation, the book notes. For example, managers must be able to trust employees and to stop expecting employees’ presence in a fixed place during fixed hours, except in some occupations.

Is future work the end of the bricks-and-mortar office? No, but the link between higher status and more space—namely, the higher the manager the bigger the office—should disappear. Readers get successful companies’ tips on how to use shared office spaces.

Readers also learn ways to help managers and employees cope with the initial insecurity and isolation some may feel about working away from an office.

Culture, both organizational and national, has a strong impact on how well companies and people will accept the future work model, Maitland and Thompson write. They examine how workplace cultures, gender differences and social expectations in different countries all influence employers’ readiness to try autonomous, results-driven work.

Future Work gives managers, executives and HR a blueprint for putting future work into place. The guidelines include the following:

--Reward output of quality work, not input of hours. This requires setting careful goals that let people work without constant supervision.

--Get the CEO’s and the board’s support for a fundamental change. A flexible work program instituted by HR isn’t the same as a top-down, pervasive culture change.

--Treat people as individuals. Find out whether individual employees work best with total autonomy or with differing levels of supervision. Among managers, this change can create fear of being seen as unfair or discriminatory. The answer, Maitland and Thompson say, is that managers have to step up and be willing to exercise judgment.

The book provides a question-and-answer section addressing managers’ chief concerns: How will I know they’re working? What happens to team spirit? Don’t we still need meetings? What happens to employment contracts? What’s in it for me?

By Marcus Buckingham
Thomas Nelson, 2011
225 pages
List price: $22.99
ISBN: 978-1-4002-0237-9

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Each person has a competitive advantage, something that makes him or her the best person for a task, project or position, according to author Marcus Buckingham.

In StandOut, Buckingham offers readers an assessment to uncover their personal advantages, called “strength roles.” The author doesn’t cram the assessment tool into the book. Instead, he directs readers to use a web version of the tool, then asks readers to return to the book with their strength role results in hand.

The book profiles each strength role. Among them:

  • Advisors react to and solve other people’s problems.
  • Connectors bring people or ideas together.
  • Creators pull things apart, see how they work and come up with new ideas.
  • Influencers can persuade others to act.
  • Providers recognize others’ feelings and give others a voice.
  • Teachers bring out the potential in others.

Buckingham goes beyond just listing characteristics for each role. He also delves into how to use those strengths to advance a career and improve an organization.

For each role, readers get these tips, tailored to their strengths as identified in the assessment:

How to describe yourself in an interview or performance review. A creator might explain that he asks “why” a lot and prefers to prepare well for things. An influencer should focus on how she gets to the point quickly and is decisive.

How to make an immediate impact using your specific strengths. That same influencer, who is probably impatient as well as decisive, can have instant impact by identifying a problem or roadblock and volunteering to tackle it. But a provider, whose focus is knowing others and feeling responsible for them, could start quite differently—by getting to know the team, figuring out who the troublemakers are and who needs help.

How to take your performance to the next level. These tips help readers hunt down opportunities to improve. For instance, an advisor should be sure her advice is valued and that she’s paid for it. She also should get any credentials she needs to be considered an expert. A teacher should be sure he is championing others and using detailed descriptions of what his students do and don’t know.

What to beware. Every strength role comes with pitfalls, too. The teacher must take care to stay in the real world and not get bogged down in theories. He also must curb the teaching instinct when he’s the new person on team, so he can focus on learning from others. The connector, who likes to link people, should remember to ask permission to make those connections and should have specific reasons for linking one person with another.

How to win as a leader, manager, salesperson or client service specialist. The book shows how to apply the strength roles in each of these positions.

Changemaking: Tactics and Resources for Managing Organizational Change
Changemaking: Tactics and Resources for Managing Organizational Change
By Richard Bevan
CreateSpace, 2011
224 pages
List price: $24.95
ISBN: 978-1-44-996998-1

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Sometime during their career, business leaders—including HR officers—can expect to plan or manage a change process of some kind. Yet, many change efforts falter—and some fail entirely. Changemaking uses short case histories to illustrate the key attributes of successful change initiatives. Chapters focus on what managers and others must do to guide change in a proactive, constructive way.

Managing change, says author Richard Bevan, requires leaders to:

  • Be clear about the purpose and process.
  • Seek input and information from those involved and affected.
  • Deploy sufficient resources to manage the transition without losing focus on day-to-day business processes.
  • Maintain an effective multidirectional flow of communication and information.

The book examines the pitfalls than can cause change efforts to get derailed and offers a detailed framework for getting things back on track. Bevan, who has worked for Towers Perrin (now Towers Watson), including five years in the firm’s Worldwide Communication Consulting practice, outlines seven core factors that summarize the conditions, resources and processes that support successful change.

They include the following:

Clarity. Be clear and unambiguous about the purpose of the change, its direction and the approach.

Engagement. Build a sense of ownership, belonging and commitment. Consult with and involve the people who will be affected.

Resources. Put the needed resources (e.g., financial, human and technical) in place to enable change.

Alignment. Ensure that systems and processes support the change.

Leadership. Guide, train and equip leaders at every level so that they display consistent commitment to change.

Communication. Facilitate an effective two-way flow of information; be aware of issues and questions, and provide timely responses.

Tracking. Establish clear goals; assess progress, and adjust and fine-tune as necessary.

The author also provides a simple series of questions that enable you to quickly assess where the project is going well and where it might need strengthening. Additional tools, templates and tactics reinforce the book’s practical approach.

Make Talent Your Business
Make Talent Your Business
By Wendy Axelrod and Jeannie Coyle
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2011
199 pages
List price: $22.95
ISBN: 978-1-60509-931-6

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“Exceptional development managers” seem to find ways to develop their employees all the time, while still getting their own work done and without always needing a specific development program to guide them.
How do these managers keep employees challenged and get them to take risks while also getting good performance out of them on their daily tasks? Authors Wendy Axelrod and Jeannie Coyle examined how exceptional development managers work and found five practices they tend to use, practices any manager can apply in his or her own organization.

Key to developing employees is the idea of “work itself as a major source of development.” Development-savvy managers don’t wait for a development initiative from above; they make development part of everyday work and have development and performance discussions all the time, not just as part of formal and required programs. The “stretch assignment” becomes an ingrained part of these managers’ toolkits as they “embrace both development and results simultaneously.”

The book looks at how to identify stretch assignments in the workplace, how to sell the idea of a challenge to the employee and how to weigh those challenges to ensure that the employee gets useful experience while not being overwhelmed.

Emotional intelligence and trust between employee and manager is another aspect of successful on-the-job development. Axelrod and Coyle cover how to help employees become more reflective about what they do (and how managers can question and guide them to think harder about it). The book also advises managers on how to help employees who are stalled by a setback and how to get employees to work outside their comfort zones.
Connecting employees with the right development partners is another vital step. The manager should have a network of other people who can teach and work with employees. The authors look at how to help employees develop their own networks, contact potential development partners and get the most out of working with them.
Axelrod and Coyle show how managers who truly want to develop employees must teach them how to navigate through organizational politics. The book explains how to identify which employees need help with political skills; how to help employees overcome their assumptions about the workplace’s politics; and how to help them prepare before entering potentially difficult situations, such as a presentation before top brass.

The book discusses how to shape the work environment so that development is constant. Examples demonstrate types of added work that is actually a development opportunity. Managers also learn how to shift work around to ensure that everyone gets the chance to develop. Axelrod and Coyle also look at how to use organizations’ existing, formal development programs effectively.

Solving Employee Performance Problems
Solving Employee Performance Problems
By Anne Bruce, Brenda Hampel and Erika Lamont
McGraw Hill, 2011
253 pages
List price: $25
ISBN: 978-0-07-176907-5

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Many performance problems stem from a lack of clearly drawn expectations, authors Anne Bruce, Brenda Hampel and Erika Lamont say. So they open this book with a focus on communicating better with employees, especially new ones. A step-by-step onboarding plan gives new employees carefully crafted expectations and early feedback.

For employees already in the workplace, the authors offer a four-step model for managing performance. Managers learn to assess how employees are doing now, set expectations, coach and correct based on those expectations, and measure performance success.

Readers get templates and tips they can use to prepare for tricky performance discussions, including:

  • Communication ideas from prominent companies such as American Express, Whole Foods, Virgin Group and Zappos. Using anecdotes, being honest effectively and keeping things conversational instead of confrontational are all discussed.
  • Detailed worksheets to help managers define, document and discuss behavior and conduct problems. These worksheets are tailored to various problems managers encounter, including inappropriate language on the job, spreading rumors or gossip, being under the influence at work, failing to follow through on assignments, providing substandard service to customers, abusing e-mail, and much more.
  • Primers on coaching, delegating, assessing teams and documenting performance.
  • Scenarios of 30 tough performance conversations and scripts for talking with employees. The book breaks down challenges ranging from conflict between employees to job abandonment to safety violations.

The authors provide managers with objectives for each conversation, such as “Explain the impact that not following the procedure has on the employee’s co-workers.” Managers then get a discussion starter, a scripted opening that leads to an action such as asking the employee for more information, creating a training plan, or working with the employee on steps to improve a problem or change behavior.

  • Discussions of three scenarios today’s managers must handle: workplace drama, multiple generations in the same workplace and remote employees.
  • A seven-step plan for improving performance quickly, starting with diagnosing the problem and moving through coaching, development and assessment.
  • Samples of detailed coaching and development plans, showing forms, documentation and language managers can use.
  • Case studies of performance measurement programs used by real employers, along with an outline of what makes a successful measurement program.

Seeing Red CarsSeeing Red Cars
By Laura Goodrich
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2011
173 pages
List price: $18.95
ISBN: 978-1-60509-727-5 

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You buy a red car—your dream car. Since you bought it, all you see are other red cars. Suddenly, red cars zip along every street and fill every parking lot. What happened?

People didn’t start buying more red cars. Your focus changed, and you see more of what you’re focused on, author Laura Goodrich says. In Seeing Red Cars, Goodrich advises readers on how to stop focusing on what they don’t want to happen and start focusing on what they want to achieve. Goodrich also goes beyond individual change and applies her ideas to companies and teams.

The book works in tandem with an online toolkit that readers can download. Readers can tailor the exercises in the toolkit to their individual needs and their organizations’ situations.

Goodrich says people focus on what they don’t want, people they want to avoid and outcomes they fear. In organizations undergoing change, the focus often is too much on getting detractors—those resisting change—to alter their views, when a better focus would be on engaging those who are leading change or who are on the fence.

Readers learn to identify their strengths and then play to them, finding and focusing on the work that brings out their best. Goodrich offers worksheets and lists to guide readers in examining their strengths.

She also advises taking charge and making positive change happen, personally and in the workplace. Learn steps to leverage technology, engage supporters, deal with doubters and handle weaknesses. Goodrich applies the take-charge idea to the business world with an example of how two employees came up with a productivity improvement idea now used by all 4,000 of their employer’s headquarters workers.

The book shows how to create personal “I want” statements that set priorities and balance work and life. Professional “I want” statements, crafted with the aid of the toolkit online and in the book, help readers assess where they are now professionally, where they want to be, and what actions they need to take to reach their goals.

The goals aren’t just for individuals’ professional development, though. Goodrich deals with how to use her tools to find out what teams want and how to keep teams on track as they move toward work goals.

Turning the positive “I see red cars” focus into concrete actions calls for visualizing goals and making plans. Tools include a yearlong, online planner linking the reader’s personal and professional wants to specific actions over time. 

The Improvisation EdgeThe Improvisation Edge
By Karen Hough
Berrett-Koehler, 2011
165 pages
List price: $19.95
ISBN: 978-1-60509-585-1

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Until you’ve had to hop and shout, “Bunny, bunny, bunny!” in front of all your co-workers, you don’t really know what trust is.

Actress and improvisational comedy performer Karen Hough says improv is all about trust—and lessons from the world of improv can help build trust in the workplace, too.

Hough, who also has years of experience as a senior sales executive under her belt, notes that everyone improvises all the time in the workplace, from the employee who gets an unexpected question from a big client to the employee who must cover for a sick colleague while also doing his own work. Her book aims to make readers more adept with that improvisation and to build collaboration and trust.

In The Improvisation Edge, Hough draws on her experiences consulting for clients from insurance companies, architecture firms and technology businesses. With examples from these clients and from her own acting background (including the bunny exercise), Hough covers what she calls her four secrets of improvisation—or four business principles, if you prefer:

Yes! space. Learn to say yes to any contribution. This isn’t the yes of commitment, as in “yes, we’ll do that”; it’s the yes of acceptance, as in “tell us more.” Then “put the critic on hold.” Listen to ideas without judgment, and don’t let your preconceptions stop you from listening. Next, make ideas public. If you like a contribution, tell the contributor. Tell the whole organization.

Building blocks. Move on from yes. Add your own idea or ask a question—and be sure you aren’t always saying “Yes, but ...” That indicates you’re finding problems with others’ input and need to keep your ego in check. Finally, seek out things to do in situations where you normally don’t play a role. Hough suggests helping out an overwhelmed colleague.

Team equity. This step focuses on being engaged, using people’s strengths, and getting and giving immediate and honest feedback.

Oops to eureka. Learn to deal with the unexpected by acknowledging it, looking for the best outcome rather than the worst, and treating it as an opportunity.

Hough includes exercises readers can use right away in their own workplaces to improve trust and processes. For instance, one exercise takes the usual shout-it-out brainstorming session and gives it more focus. Another exercise role-plays conference calls to make them more useful.


How to Say It: Be Indispensable at WorkHow to Say It: Be Indispensable at Work
By Jack Griffin
Prentice Hall Press, 2011
223 pages
List price: $17.95
ISBN: 978-0-7352-0454-6

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Written for anyone who wants to keep a job, or land a new one, How to Say It offers steps for becoming more valuable at work and as a worker. Readers get ideas on how to assess and improve their current job situations, figure out their strengths, handle conflicts and demonstrate their value.

Among the steps author Jack Griffin lays out are these:

  • Assess what’s happening at your workplace right now. Are key players departing? Is the company lagging behind the rest of the industry? Does management say nothing, or say things that make no sense? Has your own boss left, or is your boss now creating a paper trail on everything, including interactions with you? All can be red flags that the organization is in trouble. Griffin outlines ways to get information about your company, industry and marketplace.
  • Assess your own skills and abilities. Learn how to translate your specific achievements and traits into business-friendly statements of your transferable job skills.
  • Set new goals for your job and your career. Figure out how to turn your current work into more satisfying work, and how to market yourself to your current boss. Learn how to create your own new job within your organization and sell the organization on your idea.
  • Watch what you say. Use language, praise, criticism and manners that build trust, and learn how to receive criticism effectively.
  • Learn to manage conflict. Friction and conflict are natural; the problem is when they become destructive, Griffin says. He discusses how to manage conflicts and choose which workplace conflicts are worth the battle.
  • Brand yourself. Are you the problem-solver? The deadline hero? The customer satisfaction guru? These traits and more are potential brands you can adopt to become known around the office.

Griffin also offers pithy ideas for improving body language; being persuasive; working with hypercritical, bumbling or picky bosses; and dealing with workplace schemers, aggressors and complainers.

Fully ChargedFully Charged
By Heike Bruch and Bernd Vogel
Harvard Business Review Press, 2011
272 pages
List price: $29.95
ISBN: 978-1-4221-2903-6

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In Fully Charged, Heike Bruch and Bernd Vogel urge organizations to ramp up their energy. Energy means the extent to which the organization uses its potential to pursue its goals. How employees think, act and feel all are key to organizational energy, Bruch and Vogel say. But how can employers harness positive energy to improve performance, while turning negative energy around?

The four steps the book teaches are assessing current organizational energy, choosing the right strategy to boost energy, avoiding common pitfalls and sustaining energy over time. With examples from companies including Lufthansa, IBM and Tata Steel, Bruch and Vogel show readers how energy works in practice.

Start with the Organizational Energy Questionnaire, the book’s tool for assessing where an organization’s energy currently stands. The authors say the questionnaire has been used by more than 250,000 people in 700 companies. The questions measure how employees perceive efficiency, enthusiasm, drive, anger and discouragement in their units, teams or companies.

The survey results create an index showing whether an organization’s energy is positive (either highly productive or at least comfortable) or negative (a state of resigned inertia or, most damaging, organizational corrosion).

Most of the book helps readers craft strategies for dealing with different states of energy. Complacency is a low-energy state that organizations can fight with two core strategies dubbed “slaying the dragon” and “winning the princess.”

Dragon-slaying means identifying a challenge or threat and mobilizing employees against it. A competitor or a tough market situation can be challenges that focus energy. Readers learn how to identify real threats without inventing them, as well as how to make the threats relevant and realistic to employees.

Winning the princess means finding new opportunities and is especially useful for companies in the state of resigned inertia, where employees may assume they will usually fail. Finding opportunities, making them appealing to employees and monitoring progress are parts of this strategy.

Other common traps also prevent organizations from using their positive energy for real performance improvements. One trap is acceleration, the tendency of companies already doing well to take on much more—too much, too quickly. Advice covers how to detect early signs of acceleration and how to stop doing tasks that don’t have priority.

How do you sustain energy over time once you’ve avoided the traps? Bruch and Vogel emphasize that rather than depending on a few individuals to keep energy high, organizations need to establish management systems that keep up a sense of urgency and processes that prevent sliding into complacency, corrosion or acceleration.

Workarounds That WorkWorkarounds That Work
By Russell Bishop
McGraw Hill, 2011
244 pages
List price: $22
ISBN: 978-0-07-175203-9

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Your team’s priorities conflict with those of another team that’s essential to your project. Or a process that once was vital now seems outdated or inefficient. Or one person needed for a key decision is away, and you can’t progress until she returns.

In any of these cases, you need a workaround.

“Workaround” is author Russell Bishop’s term for ways to accomplish tasks when the normal processes aren’t working. In Workarounds That Work, Bishop explains how to assess the roadblocks that pop up and how to get over or around them. Bishop includes ample examples of workplace workarounds, but also looks at the broader causes of roadblocks.

One cause of roadblocks is being overwhelmed with too many tasks or tasks that don’t truly matter. Bishop advises readers how to manage tasks and set priorities. Another source of roadblocks is the myopia that comes from people focusing only on their own or their unit’s performance.

Bishop looks at how communication problems get in the way, and he provides steps for setting communication responsibilities, consequences for missed deadlines, and clear definitions for milestones and desired outcomes.

Other roadblocks include:

  • The need for consensus. Waiting for consensus can paralyze decision-making. Bishop advocates doing away with consensus in favor of a process to decide who has final decision-making authority, who has the right to be consulted and who has the right to be informed of the outcome. Complete buy-in, he notes, may sound good but isn’t realistic.
  • Meetings with no value. Bishop guides readers on making meetings effective and suggests ways to work around unprepared or disengaged participants.
  • Mounds of e-mail. Learn to ask the right questions before hitting the send button, such as “Who needs to know this? What action do we expect them to take?” Reduce your own outbound e-mail, cut the frequency with which you check your inbox and pare down what’s in it by deciding what messages require action from you.
  • Bureaucratic processes. Bishop gives examples of how to let employees come up with ways to work around cumbersome, outdated processes.
  • Criticism and resistance. “Complaints can reveal hidden information,” the author notes, and readers learn ways to turn complaints into actions, finding out what complainers would prefer instead and how the organization can improve. Workarounds for handling chronic complainers include having them help fix the problem. Bishop advises on how to deal with risk aversion, “that’s not my job” syndrome and more.

Rewarding PerformanceRewarding Performance
By Robert J. Greene
Routledge, 2011
288 pages
List price: $49.95
ISBN: 978-0-415-80283-3 

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Written with HR professionals in mind, Rewarding Performance focuses on performance and rewards strategies for specific groups of employees, including executives and managers, professionals, sales personnel, teams, operating and administrative support personnel, and global workforces.

Author Robert J. Greene emphasizes customizing performance systems and rewards and ensuring that they fit well with local needs. Good fit means a rewards plan “will be viewed as equitable, competitive, appropriate and acceptable” by employees, he notes.

For instance, with professional employees, Greene looks at what makes them different from other workers, such as their knowledge-intensive work, their interdependence and project-driven jobs, and their personal focus on progressing in their fields. He examines how these traits should affect the performance and rewards systems HR helps create for these employees. The book looks at appraisal processes, salaries, variable compensation and other incentives for professionals, and discusses differences in international compensation strategies.

Greene provides an overview of principles behind rewards plans, as well as detailed strategies for different types of employees. Tools and ideas include:

  • A sample performance appraisal format for support personnel, based on the criteria most often used for those jobs.
  • A primer on pay systems for support employees, such as single rate base pay, time-based pay, merit pay programs, person-based pay (based on what the person can do, rather than what they are doing), and incentive-based pay, group incentives such as gainsharing and incentive plans based on meeting group or unit goals.
  • Details on crafting different pay packages for sales personnel, such as a variable pay only package based solely on commissions, a base pay only package, or a combination of the two.
  • A chapter on rewarding team performance. First you must understand the types of teams—process teams, project teams or task forces working on a specific job—and then you devise performance and rewards systems differently for each type.
  • Advice on structuring systems for public-sector and not-for-profit organizations, where you may not have measurements such as profits and return on investment to use when gauging performance.
  • Ideas on rewarding performance for a global workforce. Greene examines how different cultures view appraisals differently, which may mean that if an appraiser is from one culture and an employee being appraised is from another, their expectations may vary widely.  

The Orange Revolution book cover imageThe Orange Revolution
By Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton
Free Press, 2010
271 pages
List price: $25
ISBN: 978-1-4391-8245-1 

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Based on research studies covering 350,000 people, and using detailed examples from employers, The Orange Revolution unearths the behaviors that make teams successful and prescribes ways leaders can start building high-performance teams right away.

The book looks at what members of breakthrough teams do well—being competent, setting goals, visualizing their cause clearly and more—as well as what leaders do to make teams successful. Those leadership tasks include ensuring that the right people are on the teams, translating corporate goals for the team level and promoting a company culture of appreciation.

Some of the characteristics and actions that make successful teams include:

  • Finding a common cause. Having a shared purpose that everyone understands is critical, and authors Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton outline five ways teams can establish common causes. Their case study looks at how one employer slashed its turnover from 36 percent to 6 percent by getting teams on board with a shared purpose.
  • Ensuring competence. Gostick and Elton show how team members “increase their worth to each other” and establish credibility by increasing their competence. The authors note that research showed leaders who possess four characteristics—goal-setting, communication, trust and accountability—tend to get good business results. The book gives a primer on those characteristics for both leaders and team members.
  • “Cultivating” a team. Three things help forge a real team. First is the “wow” factor: Team members should ask, “How can we impress each other?” Second is the rule “No surprises.” Gostick and Elton show how respect, responsiveness, availability and acceptance of others’ ideas help cultivate teams, and advise organizations to keep vital information such as deadlines, goals and progress in clear view of everyone. The third rule is “Cheer.” This goes beyond basic corporate recognition programs that the authors say play only on people’s fear, greed and ambition. Cheering means making encouragement among team members second nature so that “pettiness and finger-pointing end.” The book offers ideas on how to foster that kind of encouragement.

A chapter on “101 Ways to Bring Your Team Together” provides ideas that can be implemented quickly. It also anticipates and addresses the many concerns people may have about changes—from “How do we handle factions within our team?” to “We get bogged down in daily demands and have trouble seeing the bigger goals.”

Employees First, Customers SecondEmployees First, Customers Second
By Vineet Nayar
Harvard Business Press, 2010
198 pages
List price: $24.95
ISBN: 978-1-4221-3906-6 

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This title is available to SHRM members for $22.95. 

When Vineet Nayar took the helm as CEO of information technology services firm HCL Technologies in 2005, he saw a traditional company that accepted gradual change and clung to a hierarchical structure. But Nayar believed that to survive, the company needed to turn that hierarchy on its head.

Nayar pushed HCL Technologies to change its focus from satisfying customers to enabling employees to make changes. How the firm did this is the story he tells in Employees First, Customers Second. Nayar shows readers how they can apply lessons he and his company learned on the way to being named India’s “best employer” just four years after the changes began.

Key to the turnaround was an initial period when Nayar met face to face with as many employees as possible, soliciting their frank feedback. He calls the process “mirror, mirror” and credits it with unveiling the company’s real issues—because line employees, those closest to customers, are the people most likely to know a firm’s real problems and how to fix them.

Nayar advises on building employee trust by being a more transparent company. When employees know that the company is open with them, they will respond with increased trust and effort, he finds.

The book shows how HCL Technologies used a unique internal system to hold functions and managers accountable to employees; how the firm got employees to take more responsibility for change; and how the firm used 360-degree surveys, employee-focused meetings and “employee first councils” organized around areas of interest.
Profit at the Bottom of the LadderProfit at the Bottom of the Ladder
By Jody Heymann with Magda Barrera
Harvard Business Press, 2010
268 pages
List price: $29.95
ISBN 978-1-4221-2311-9 

Consumers aren’t spending. Competition is tight. Businesses looking to cut expenses could ax benefits, eliminate training, put career development programs on hold, or even cut wages—especially for their lowest-paid, less-skilled workers. Keep the good stuff for those with more education, skill or seniority, right?

In Profit at the Bottom of the Ladder, Jody Heymann argues that these kinds of cuts only wound the business in the long run. Rather than keeping programs and pay for most skilled or experienced workers, employers should invest more in those lower on the ladder.

Companies that have done so have gained employee loyalty and improved productivity, and they’ve seen profitability rise too, Heymann says.

Heymann recommends five steps for “profiting together” at all levels of an organization: Employers need to “provide incentives at the bottom of the ladder,” support the lowest-level employees’ health, train employees at all levels, act on line employees’ suggestions, and “ensure companies and communities profit together” by understanding community needs and helping meet them.

The book details the experiences of employers from manufacturing plants to a bakery to Costco, using them to illustrate ideas including these:

  • Extend more flexible leave time to workers, such as manufacturing employees, whose often don’t get such leave. One manufacturer found that being more flexible with work schedules created deep loyalty among workers who needed flexibility for family issues, and giving sick time kept everyone at the facility healthier.
  • Open up stock options, 401(k)s, profit-sharing and other asset-building programs to employees at all levels. Heymann looks at how large and small firms structured profit-sharing to give all employees incentives.
  • Construct career tracks so that people at the bottom of the ladder know they aren’t stuck there. Employers often assume there is no reason to invest in career tracks for people currently in lower-level jobs, but the book outlines how employers have benefited from having career tracks for all jobs.
  • Enable employees to voice their concerns and ideas and act on good ideas. Workers will share ideas more freely, and be more engaged, if they believe their ideas are valued and will be acted upon.


Nice Teams Finish LastNice Teams Finish Last
By Brian Cole Miller
AMACOM, 2010
209 pages
List price: $17.95
ISBN: 978-0-8144-1393-7

Who wouldn’t want to hear these gung-ho positives from a team: “Our clients love us because we always find a way to say ‘yes’!” “We refrain from unnecessary conflict.” “We’re open and flexible.”

But author Brian Cole Miller says these are often myths, hiding realities no boss wants to hear and no team member wants to admit: We say yes because we’re afraid to say no. We sweep conflict under the rug and let it fester. We’re so flexible we can’t reach decisions.

Teams that play nicely all the time end up paralyzed, Miller says. Nice Teams Finish Last examines where teams go wrong and how they can operate more courageously and honestly.

Miller analyzes typical team members, from the peacemaker who wants to avoid discord, to the energizer who wants to innovate, to the individualist who wants to express himself. Miller shows how each of these members ends up not getting what they most need because they’re too busy trying to be harmonious team players.

Teams on the flip side of nice—Miller calls them fierce teams—have problems of their own. Fierce teams may pride themselves on efficiency, when they’re actually burying real interpersonal problems in the name of staying on task. Fierce teams say they’re decisive, when they may be so invested in their decisions that they can’t change their minds or rethink choices when new information comes along.

The book guides readers to a team style balanced between nice and fierce. Miller wants teams to be bold, combining the compassion and caring of nice teams with the risk-taking courage of fierce ones.

The book dissects how bold teams interact successfully. Miller outlines how teams can use four principles—giving each other the benefit of the doubt, being considerate of each other, speaking the truth to each other, and actively seeking other team members’ opinions.

A chapter on feedback demonstrates how bold teams solicit, give and receive feedback that is objective and relevant. The book also shows how to make requests of fellow team members and how to handle disagreements among team members, all with the principles of both truth and considerate behavior in mind.

Tools include an assessment test to determine if a team is too nice and an individual assessment to find out what type of team member you are.


Mojo: How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back If You Lose ItMojo: How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back If You Lose It
By Marshall Goldsmith with Mark Reiter
Hyperion, 2009
205 pages
List price: $26.99
ISBN 978-1-4013-2327-1 

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Mojo: Marshall Goldsmith calls it “that positive spirit toward what we are doing now.” That spirit that isn’t just within you; others should be able to see it too. Mojo takes responsibility rather than playing victim, is grateful instead of resentful, makes the best of things rather than just enduring things.

In both business and life, finding your mojo isn’t just a matter of luck, but something you can develop and hone, Goldsmith says.

He offers readers a “mojo scorecard” to use when they’re about to start an activity. By thinking through what they need in order to do something well, such as motivation, ability and confidence, and what the benefits of the activity are, such as reward, happiness and meaning, readers can determine which activities are highly positive for them. And if what they do is rating low on mojo, Goldsmith adds, they may need to ask, “Is this really what I should be doing?”

Developing mojo starts with four keys:

Identity. Who are you and how do you perceive yourself? Answering those questions helps you understand how you lose or gain your mojo. Specific actions to uncover identity include establishing criteria for yourself—criteria based on what matters most to you—and using those criteria to hold yourself accountable.

Achievement. What have you done lately? Goldsmith looks at both what people bring to a task and what the task gives back to them.

Reputation. Who do other people think you are, and what do they think you’ve done lately? You need to know your reputation if you want to improve it. And you need to know when to stay and when to leave a job, as well as having an exit strategy--something Goldsmith describes here.

Acceptance. Know what you have power to change and what is outside your control. Being able to let go of what you can’t control, take setbacks in stride and stop laying blame are vital to positive mojo, Goldsmith says.

Listen to Goldsmith discuss the benefits of mojo in an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer.

Compiled by Leigh Rivenbark, a freelance writer and editor in Vienna, Va.


Facilitating Project Performance ImprovementFacilitating Project Performance Improvement
By Jerry Julian
AMACOM, 2010
208 pages
List price: $29.95
ISBN: 978-0-8144-1532-0

Examining “lessons learned” once a project is over doesn’t do a thing to improve the project you just completed. Learning and applying lessons as you go is how you improve results, author and consultant Jerry Julian says.

Julian shows readers how “multi-level learning” means a group or team learns as the work occurs and uses that knowledge to help projects succeed. Any organizations that depend on projects—such as product development, information technology, consulting, research and development, and other organizations—are the target audience for this book, and readers who will find it useful are executives, project management office leaders and project managers, and organizational development specialists.

The multi-level learning approach is different from the project management approaches that use external standards and best practices drawn from other organizations’ experiences. Julian says his approach works inside the organization and its culture—and doesn’t require expensive or lengthy programs that use standards imposed from outside.

Readers of Facilitating Project Performance Improvement first get a look at what multi-level learning is, the research behind it, and the reasons why informal, on-the-fly learning during projects can lead to unpleasant surprises and doesn’t improve a project as it is happening.

Julian then details the key roles in more structured learning. He looks at the learning coach, a third party who works with teams to help them reflect on what they’re doing as they’re doing it, and who intervenes to help with communications, conflict resolution, team boundaries and other issues when needed. Another role is that of the project management office, where leaders oversee multiple project teams, and Julian examines how those leaders can be more effective at connecting different teams with management and with each other.

Step-by-step directions for multi-level learning include ways to plan for learning as part of a project, provide real-time feedback and get timely development opportunities for team members. A chapter focused on project managers and subject-matter experts shows how to engage them in using improvements across multiple projects.

Julian includes a detailed discussion of why traditional “lessons learned” reviews seldom translate into useful knowledge that improves projects.


The First-Time Trainer, Second EditionThe First-Time Trainer, Second Edition
By Tom W. Goad
AMACOM, 2010
211 pages
List price: $18.95
ISBN: 978-0-8144-1559-7

In The First-Time Trainer, HR development specialist and trainer Tom W. Goad shows managers, supervisors and new training professionals eight steps they can use to start training quickly. The techniques and advice apply, Goad says, whether you need to create a short demonstration, a multi-day workshop, an online course or many other types of training.

Goad notes that “many people are called upon to train,” including those who may have no formal background or experience in training techniques. His advice includes:

  • Facilitate learning. Trainers need to help learning happen, not try to force learning on others. Goad covers the skills trainers need and the impact of diversity and multiple generations on workplace learning.
  • Focus on training performance. Learn to identify what the organization really needs and whether training truly is what’s required. Readers get a primer on assessing needs, gathering information and identifying the right learning objectives.
  • Be prepared. Figure out the best way to deliver training. Learn to choose the appropriate learners to be trained, the right facilitators, media and training materials, locations and more. Goad looks at online learning, other computer-based training, teleconferencing, classroom learning and other delivery options.
  • Deliver effectively. This is a one-chapter course in getting up in front of a group, from improving communication and listening skills, to using media (from computer presentations to paper flip charts), to working with learners who are older or younger than the rest of the group.
  • Get feedback. Evaluate training both after it’s done and when it’s still taking place. Determine what to evaluate and learn to choose evaluation tools.
  • Other guidance includes sections on figuring out the return on investment for training, evaluating how people learn and getting professional development as a trainer.


One Page Talent ManagementOne Page Talent Management
By Marc Effron and Miriam Ort
Harvard Business Press, 2010
200 pages
List price: $29.95
ISBN: 978-1-4221-6673-4

If organizations want to build talent, finding and developing the best workers, what’s standing in their way? Plenty, according to authors Marc Effron and Miriam Ort.

Talent management tools don’t make managers’ jobs easier; instead, many managers view those tools as extra work that has little to do with their daily duties. HR departments don’t use the available academic research that could help them grow talent. And organizations seldom hold managers accountable for following practices that affect talent, such as development plans and performance feedback.

In One Page Talent Management, Effron and Ort offer a new approach to what they call talent practices. They give each of those practices—including performance management, 360-degree behavioral feedback, talent reviews and succession planning, engagement and engagement surveys, and competencies—a three-step makeover:

  • Start with the science. This initial step is where most HR departments “stumble,” the authors note. Launching another HR program or more training isn’t always the answer when management asks for help with talent. HR needs to learn more about the ample research available and how that research can help it meet its needs. Effron and Ort summarize recent research for each talent practice, to help readers get started.
  • Eliminate complexity and add value. When organizations design talent practices, they often increase complexity while failing to add enough value to make the complexity worthwhile. Readers get concrete tips on keeping things simple—from creating simpler performance rating scales to writing pithy engagement surveys to conducting effective interviews.
  • Create transparency and accountability. Learn to share information about processes and to share results of tools such as 360-degree feedback, engagement surveys and more.

Effron and Ort aim to help readers identify potential leaders more efficiently, improve succession planning, cut the time needed for managers to use talent practices and make managers more accountable for a culture that grows talent.



Reinventing Talent ManagementReinventing Talent Management
By William A. Schiemann
Society for Human Resource Management/John Wiley & Sons, 2009
288 pages
List price: $29.95
ISBN 978-0-470-45226-4

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Organizations need to measure the value that their people create, author William A. Schiemann says, and in Reinventing Talent Management he offers a framework for measuring and improving what he calls the “people equity” vital to performance and financial success.

Schiemann identifies three key elements of people equity—alignment, capabilities and engagement—and details how each one helps organizations improve performance.

Alignment is “the extent to which employees are connected to or have a line of sight to the business strategy and goals” of the organization.

Capabilities covers how you develop talent, information and resources, and use them to increase value for customers--including internal customers within the company.

Engagement, usually focused on employee satisfaction or employee commitment, gets an extra level in Schiemann’s definition: Engagement, he says, includes the “level of advocacy” employees demonstrate, their willingness to promote their organization as a great place to work, buy from or invest in.

Throughout the book, Schiemann uses “action tips” to get readers started on immediate changes they realistically can make starting now.

Schiemann explains how people equity affects financial performance and value for shareholders. Then he details how to manage people equity, looking at the critical roles of effective supervision, strong leadership actions, clear business strategies, and compelling organizational values.

Readers learn to measure and quantify people equity; how to measure and explain the return on their investments in specific initiatives; how to predict quantifiable outcomes in performance, quality, retention and more; and how to identify performance gaps. A case study uses an HR department as an example of evaluating returns on investments in initiatives such as HRIS implementation, talent selection and more.

Other topics include:

  • Aligning an organization’s culture with its business strategy.
  • Translating business vision and strategy into measurable goals.
  • Learning to assess a team’s or unit’s current capabilities and identify problems (such as poor matches of talent to requirements, weak supervision, or “silos” where parts of the organization don’t communicate with each other).
  • Measuring and boosting employee engagement.
  • Improving hiring and onboarding, and improving development opportunities that keep good workers with you.

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