Timothy Johnson Photo in Header

Fifty Shades of GRRR

50ShadesofGreyCoverArtLet's be clear: I've never read the book, Fifty Shades of Grey. I don't plan on seeing the movie by the same name. But the title does make excellent pun-fodder for me to post a list (in no particular order) of some of my top project management pet peeves:

  1. Indecisive decision-makers
  2. Passive-aggressive business analysts
  3. Developers who don’t follow requirements and specifications
  4. Project stakeholders who throw people under the bus
  5. The buses that keep hitting project stakeholders, thus requiring risks be written if this event happens.
  6. Status reports that read like stereo instructions
  7. Methodologies (outside of common sense and experience)
  8. Methodologists who act like Cubicle Pharisees
  9. People who drive slow in the passing lane (I’m sure there’s a project tie-in somewhere)
  10. Quality assurance analysts who refuse to log defects
  11. “Well, it’s technically done…”
  12. Micromanaging executives
  13. People who accuse without adequate fact-checking
  14. “Oh, I’m sorry, did I leave you off that distribution list on that message affecting your project?”
  15. Blatant incompetence
  16. Posers who are more interested in climbing than doing
  17. No clear scope statement… and no desire to research it either
  18. No compelling rationale for the project
  19. Passionless projects
  20. Forgetting a stakeholder
  21. Making assumptions with no valid basis
  22. Not documenting the assumptions made
  23. Those who wish to make estimating an exact science
  24. Executives who hold teams exactly to their estimates
  25. No time to plan properly
  26. Not providing the correct resources to develop the plan
  27. Not providing the correct resources to execute the plan
  28. Turning a lessons learned session into a witch hunt
  29. Inability to prioritize (especially where the triple constraint is involved)
  30. Holding a meeting only because it’s Tuesday at 9:00 AM
  31. Scheduling a meeting for Friday at 4:00 PM
  32. Leaders who can’t facilitate a meeting
  33. Blatant, unchecked dysfunctionality
  34. People who talk too much in meetings
  35. Forgetting to say “thank you”
  36. Lacking a sense of humor
  37. Fill-in-the-blank templates… where half the blanks are required but irrelevant
  38. Executive temper tantrums
  39. The genetic cross of the Peter Principle and Weebles: they’ve hit their point of incompetence but keep bouncing back
  40. “Not my job”
  41. “We can’t do that”
  42. “We’ve always done it that way”
  43. Those who equate project management with filling in blanks on a project plan
  44. Those who don’t consider project initiation and planning to be “real work”
  45. “That person” in meetings
  46. Conference callers who don’t know the difference between “on hold” and “mute”
  47. Those who have more stupid answers than intelligent questions
  48. Overabundance of ego
  49. Dog haters… I don’t mind if you love cats, but if you hate dogs, take your Gantt chart and move along
  50. Those who don’t understand project management skills are universal; you can put a seasoned project manager into any well-adjusted team in any industry/environment/organization and they will thrive

What forms of torture would you add to the list?

Attention: Book Clubs and Training Leaders

Final_CoverAs I've been preparing for my next business book in the coming months, I've been contemplating combining it with my existing books and coming out with a single hard-cover edition with all four stories. Doing this allows me to create some continuity among the three existing books and possibly add in some arching story-lines.

CoverIn order to do that, I need to lower my current inventory, so I'm going to make an insanely great deal for the next couple of months. I'm going to sell sets of three (Race Through The Forest, GUST, and SWAT) together for $25/set (includes shipping to the lower 48 states). The minimum required to get this price is four sets (or I'd get nothing else done but fulfill little one and two orders). This is approximately a 50% savings from what you would pay with Amazon.

RTTF_2nd_EdAlso, if you'd like only sets of either Race through the Forest (Project Management) or SWAT (systems thinking and accomplishment design), I'll extend the offer for these books (basically, a set of twelve copies for $100, shipping included).

For higher bulk orders (over 20 sets), ask me about coupling a Q&A phone call or even speaking with your group.

This is perfect for book clubs or for training managers trying to creatively work within year-end budget constraints. Contact me to find out how to make this happen.

Your Next Assignment

BrainI once attended a talk given by famous composer, Twyla Tharp. For those who don't know, she's also an outstanding author and I've used both her books in my graduate classes. At one point in her presentation, she called a college student up on stage and gave her a simple instruction: to sit on stage with her head down on her knees and no peaking. The young woman overthought it and kept peeking, believing something was going on she should know about, each time being chastised by Ms. Tharp. After about the third time, the frustrated choreographer simply stated:

"Once again, your education is getting in the way of your learning."

Out of an amazing speech, this phrase is the one that stuck with me. For one, it is typical Tharp (for anyone who has ever read her books), and two, it is exactly the criticism I have of much of modern education and why I teach the way I do. I would rather my students learn than be educated.

This month, HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of graduates received diplomas, proving they have been educated. But NOW is when their learning begins. I received my undergrad degree around a quarter century ago, and I thought about the books I've read SINCE graduating... the ones NOT assigned by some professor but ones I'd picked up on my own.

So, graduates, here is your next reading. Your assignment is life; more specifically, using your life to make a positive mark on this twirling sphere. Here are the books (in no particular order) which have changed my life (note, you can just click on the title and the link will lead you to the book purchase):

Thank You For Arguing (Heinrichs): We live in a world of argument and disagreement. Now, more than ever, it pays to know how to argue INTELLIGENTLY. Heinrichs does an oustanding job of dissecting the art and science of rhetoric. Read this book and you will be light years beyond your future colleagues.

The Radical Leap Re-Energized (Farber): I've read and assigned many books on leadership over my career. I can honestly say, this is the ONLY book to motivate its readers to DO SOMETHING. Using an engaging story format, Farber cuts past the theoretical crap of leadership to its core. You will not be the same person after reading this book.

Dear Office Politics (James): You're all going to be embroiled in political games at work. You may as well learn to identify it and deal with it effectively. James manages the globally popular site, www.officepolitics.com and leverages the wisdom of her advisors to share workable strategies for handling the underbelly of cubicle-world.

Outliers (Gladwell): Virtually anything written by Malcolm Gladwell is worth reading, but this is his "magnum opus" primarily because it cuts to the heart of a concept every graduate should know and understand: cause and effect. If you can understand the true root causes of everything from greatness to disaster, you can harness that knowledge to do amazing things.

Simple (Siegel and Etzkorn): This is a newcomer (just released last month), but I fell in love with it immediately. Our world is overly complex. From government to healthcare to [insert your business here], we've added countless layers of complexity. This tome identifies the complexity, calls it out for what it is, and provides a simple three-pronged strategy for dealing with it. Simple is not easy, but if you want to add value to your new employer, graduates, this is a great way to do it.

The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs (Gallo): You WILL be giving presentations throughout the rest of your life. If you have serious hang-ups about speaking in front of an audience, get over it now. The late Steve Jobs is the undisputed master of effective presentations. Gallo dissects his presentation style and points the reader to countless YouTube videos to prove his point. If you're going to learn to speak well, this is the best resource I've seen.

Accomplishment Trifecta: Race Through The Forest, GUST, SWAT (Yours Truly): I've made a life and a brand out of accomplishment. I'd be remiss if I didn't include my own books in this mix (not because of more book sales, but simply wanting to share what I've learned). Knowing how to design, sell, and implement your accomplishments will be key to your success. In a world where "you're only as good as your last project," you'd better make darn sure your last project ISN'T your LAST project.

Certainly these are not the ONLY books I'd recommend you read. Walden by Thoreau, Seven Habits by Covey, Whack on the Side of the Head by von Oech, anything by the Heath brothers... all great reads. But if you truly want to get out of the starting gate head and shoulders above your peers, this is your starting point.

The Summer Reading Assignment

Greatgatsby-cover“It is invariably saddening to look through new eyes at things upon which you have expended your own powers of adjustment.” F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby

I knew my wife was right. I really needed to just hunker down and do it. At first, I gritted my teeth and stared at it from across the table. If a book could taunt a person, this one was thumbing its nose and sticking out its tongue at me. I wasn't to be bested by an inanimate object. So I grabbed it and started reading.

I have a confession to make: for the most part, I have avoided "great literature" all my life. I'm an avid reader, mind you, but my interests fall mainly with business books. I enjoy the occasional bout with fiction. However, in my almost 46 years on the planet, I had averted many of the big names unless unavoidable as curriculum in a required class. Both in high school and in college, lit instructors had a nasty reputation of "Read this and then tell me what I think it means or get a bad grade." Those who know me best know that I have never liked being told what to think. So good grade or bad, I wasn't about to "play the game." Hence, my reading stayed with business books and whatever else tripped my trigger.

That's almost unconsciable to a high school literature teacher, and through whatever twist of fate, that is the profession I married. Instead of going off to the East Coast to learn about the lives of the Transcendentalists or the writings of Ben Franklin, she decided to make ME her summer professional development project. She gave me The Great Gatsby, and the only condition she stipulated was we would discuss it when I was done.

So I picked it up. I had heard her talk about on numerous occasions as she taught it, so I had the most general of ideas of the plot and characters (the same tip of the iceberg understanding I'd developed about many of the greats I'd never read). I had never seen any of the prior movie releases either, so I couldn't cheat (nor would I).

A few nights later, around 11 PM, I closed the book.


I didn't let her down. I told her I thought it was rather presumptive that most people thought the eyeglass billboard of Dr. Eckleburg was the omniscient yet detached god watching over the characters, when it was clearly Nick Carroway himself playing that role - narrating, judging, positioning, observing - yet never really intervening until it was too late. I countered that Meyer Wolfsheim was his satanic counterpart,  who set up Gatsby during his lifetime in a counterfeit house of cards yet stated he didn't have use for the man after he was dead. I talked about looking up what the name Myrtle meant, and finding out it was an evergreen bough that was actually a symbol of love in mythology. Perfect for the woman who was "ever green" - vibrant among the Valley of the Ashes, yet was merely a symbol of love for both Tom and her husband. I agreed with the obvious assessment that Daisy, more than any other character, was the villainess, yet no character was really likeable.

"You should have been a lit instructor," she enthused, thrilled that I had taken so much away from my first foray in many years.

I countered: "No, I'm still not overly 'fond' of literature yet. And the only people who read Gatsby these days are English teachers who have read it a zillion times before and literature students who are generally too young to really understand human nature. I'm seeing it through the fresh eyes of a 45-year-old's life experiences."

And thus we get to the crux of this post: Who's reviewing your accomplishments? Are you giving them to the old and jaded of your own profession to look over and provide the same stale feedback from their commoditized ilk? Or are your accomplishments being judged by the young and inexperienced, performing it only as a function of duty?

Or are you seeking out that sweet spot combination of fresh eyes AND valuable outside experience?

Accomplishing great things is only part of the equation; finding the right people to give you the best feedback is the rest of the equation. A few years ago, I quit active networking with other project managers. (Don't worry, I still count some of them among my best friends.) I just decided that we all spoke the same language already. I started hanging out with marketing and branding and public relations people. I hung out with social media geeks and technologists and musicians and fitness hounds. And I learned from them. I learned about them. I learned with them. But the most valuable thing is I learned what they could teach me about what I thought I already knew.

And that was one assignment I'm glad I undertook.

Dying To Tell

It's been a year already.

One year ago today, my mom passed away following a battle with cancer.

It's been a year of reflection. A year of tears. A year of memory-induced smiles. A year of frustrations. And a year of love.

In the past year, I was reminded of true friendship. In the past year, I was able to crystalize my priorities. In the past year, I was able to refocus and realign and repair.

And in the past year, I was able to heal and prepare to give back.

Adversity can bring people together in really unexpected ways. Months before Mom's passing, I learned that friend and fellow-blogger, Karen Putz, was going through a similar journey with her dad. Through many tweets, Facebook posts and text messages of encouragement, we shared a lot to help each other make it through those final months.

What came out of those messages was a lot of wisdom and insight. Right before our parents died (her dad passed away the morning of Mom's funeral), I asked Karen what she thought of sharing our journey with others. This is a project we've been tackling at our own speed over the past year. We've now created a book, tentatively titled: "Dying To Tell - A Guide for End-of-Life caregivers." Our goal was to provide others with practical advice through five different phases:

  1. Diagnosis
  2. Treatment
  3. Nearing the end
  4. Death and funeral
  5. Aftermath

Through short anecdotes and succinct bullet lists, we've written our best thoughts, advice, how-to's, and memories to help others. Little time savers, dealing with well-meaning but difficult bystanders, making early preparations, handling the funeral home, etc. - all were noteworthy in our world. We're still making some final tweaks as well as shopping for a publisher, but we believe we've crafted an easy-to-digest guide to help others through their end-of-life journey.

We'll keep you posted as we get closer to completion and release.

Our parents will continue to live on in our memories. Their legacy, even in death, will continue to help others. Our plan is to donate profits from the book to hospice organizations.

To all my friends and family who have had a positive role in helping me through the grieving process this past year, I thank you deeply and sincerely. You took my hand to get me through an incredible year.

Totally Radical

Radical_Leap_ReenergizedMy buddy, Steve Farber, has been at it again. He's recently re-released his first two books, Radical Leap and Radical Edge, into a single book: The Radical Leap Re-Energized - Doing what you love in the service of those who love what you do.

The basic content of both books is still there. Farber's writing is unparallelled. Even if you are not a fan of the "business fable" genre, I double-dog dare you to read Farber's stuff and not be a changed person by the time you reach the last page.

I've been using Farber's books in my class for almost five years. I can honestly state first-hand that after 17 years of adjunct instructing, no other author has had as much of a real impact on my students than Farber. I've taught Farber to approximately 200 students, and here are some of the RESULTS:

  • Approximately 1/3 of the students have switched employers (or in some cases, switched career paths altogether) because they were totally convicted by Farber's message
  • At least 15% of all my students who have read Farber found the courage to relocate to a different city/state so they can "do what they love in the service of those who love what they do"
  • Virtually all of my students have described Farber's work as "life-changing" in some way

As for me? I completely believe in the message in this book. I probably wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now without the Love-Energy-Audacity-Proof formula it takes to change the world... or at least my small corner of it.

As you are making plans and resolutions for 2012, add Farber to your list. It may be just the thing to create a New Year where YOU can change the world.

Weekend Mashup Book Reviews

I've had a little extra time for reading this summer, and being a blogger helps feed my reading addiction, as I usually have a small cadre of publishers and publicists pushing their wares. I think I've mentioned before that I will never even mention a book or product if I don't like it and don't believe it warrants mention to my readers.

We_First_Mainwaring Simon Mainwaring's book, We First - How Brands & Consumers Use Social Media to Build a Better World, is a good reminder for all of us about why we got into this thing called social media. He takes a page from Hillary Clinton's "It Takes a Village" playbook and applies it to the ever-evolving world drama that plays out in real time every minute on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other media. I liked this book for a couple of reasons:

  1. Mainwaring provides applicable anecdotes thoughout to drive home his points, making it crystal clear why mutual sharing is the best way to do business
  2. He balances current universal political themes - capitalism and sustainability - to show that if we play our social media cards right, we can have our cake and eat it, too... and continue to have that cake around for a long, long time.

It's a meaty read that you won't tackle in one sitting, but it's worth the perusal all the same. I know of some "social media superstars" who could stand a refresher course in humility, starting with this book.

Nothing_to_Lose_Everything_to_Gain_Blair A while back, I received an advance copy of Ryan Blair's Nothing to Lose, Everything to gain - How I went from Gang Member to Multimillionaire Entrepreneur (with Don Yaeger). The first part of this book is autobiographical, followed by an expounded list of business lessons. I'm going to be blunt and tell you not to buy this book for the lessons (they're all sound and good reminders of how business should be run). The true value of this book is, again, twofold:

  1. Blair is an outstanding story-teller, and his personal journey is one that needs to be shared. Many people lead very sheltered lives, and reminders of personal perseverence are helpful
  2. Blair understands systems thinking, and his bridge between life events and lessons are embedded in the relationship between inputs and outputs.

I think we too often get lost in the fallacy of a book that has to provide all the answers or it has no value. Blair's book provides answers, but he's going to motivate you to think for yourself to find them. I can respect that.

And finally, on the occasional project, you are thrown into the task of performing "due diligence" to determine whether a decision (usually to purchase or do business with another company) is a solid decision.

AMA's Handbook of Due Diligence takes away a lot of that angst, providing forms and templates and processes to help everyone from the due diligence novice to the expert make it through the process with less pain than if they'd try to go it alone. It's a good investment if you're in that mode, and the proven track record of AMA assures you it will be a good product.

So that's all from this side of the world... happy reading!

Calling Your Bookie

Stack_of_books Books.

More books.

And even more books.

Looks like Age of Conversation 3 is out and released so Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton can finally start breathing again.  Remember, all the proceeds from this book go to charity, and you won't find a more useful collection of social media essays ANYWHERE (well, unless you include Age of Conversations 1 and 2).  And by buying Age of Conversation 3, you'll find out the REAL reasons why I think social media ROCKS.

Speaking of books, my friend Jim Bouchard released his latest on Amazon.  This is a guy who has it all together.  It's hard to find that right combination of engaging, smart, and good looking (he sports the same "haircut" I do).  If you want to learn how to apply the concepts of martial arts to step up your business game (and life in general) a few quantum leaps, then invest in Think Like a Blackbelt.

And finally, the perpetually beautiful (inside and out) Rosa Say wrote a wonderful piece reviewing SWAT - Seize the Accomplishment.  What I truly love about Rosa is she is the consumate systems thinker... and she lives this stuff.  To receive praise from her is high praise indeed.  Mahalo, Rosa!

Finally, I'm a bit saddened to learn that Rita Mulcahy passed away recently following a battle with cancer.  Those in the project management community know firsthand the legacy this pioneer left on our profession.  She basically wrote the book (literally) on passing the PMP certification exam.  I've been honored that her subsidiary, The Project Management Bookstore, carries all three of my titles (Race Through The Forest, GUST, and SWAT).  Project management has lost a passionate beacon.

I think I'll curl up with a chapter of Walden tonight to finish up the week.  Nothing like a little Thoreau to cap things off:

"A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting."

Think Like a (Real) Blackbelt

Jimbouchard I love meeting new people on my journey through social media.  Many of them have the same drive for accomplishment I do, but they have a slightly different take on it.  One such individual is Jim Bouchard.

Jim's brand is about learning to "think like a Black Belt" - and no, I'm not talking the wimpy little Six Sigma type, either.  Jim is a real, honest-to-goodness martial arts stud, semi-pro-football player, and all-around leadership sherpa.  He applies his passions to business and helps other leaders learn to apply the principals of martial arts to their careers and organizations.

Jim and I had a chance to converse on his PowerPod - we talked about his book and about our philosophies of life and accomplishment.  Check it out.  But more importantly, check Jim out.  You won't be disappointed in the least.

By the way, Jim has a new book coming out soon.  I highly recommend you keep your radar up for it... promises to be every bit as amazing as Jim himself is.

Actor In A Supporting Role

DearOP_axiom_500 (Despite my last post's attempt at humor...) I love to write.  The blog has been a wonderful tool for meeting people.  It's been fun and rewarding to author three books.  Another rewarding facet has been as a contributing author for other books.

Last year, Franke James published an outstanding book on office politics based on experiences from the site she owns and edits. Dear Office Politics has been a smash success, and it's my pleasure to congratulate Franke on winning a bronze medal at the Axiom Awards in the HR/Employee Training category. You can read more details about the award and the book here.  It is fun to be able to be on a winning team.  And whenever Franke is at the helm, you can pretty much rest assured that the team will be a winning one!  Way to go, Franke!  (And congratulations to my fellow contributors as well.)

AoC3-231x300 And while we're talking about contributing to books, Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaston have been up to their old tricks again... third time around for Age of Conversation.  So Age of Conversation 3:  It's Time to Get Busy is nearing completion and publication.  And again, I get to play in the sandbox of some wickedly smart people.  There are going to be some amazing contributors and essays in this book (just as in the past two), and again, the proceeds go to charity.  Nobody connected with the book (not even the publishers) are making a dime of profit.  Here are the giving souls who are contributing:

Adam Joseph

Priyanka Sachar

Mark Earls

Cory Coley-Christakos

Stefan Erschwendner

Paul Hebert

Jeff De Cagna

Thomas Clifford

Phil Gerbyshak

Jon Burg

Toby Bloomberg

Shambhu Neil Vineberg

Joseph Jaffe

Uwe Hook

Steve Roesler

Michael E. Rubin

anibal casso

Steve Woodruff

Steve Sponder

Becky Carroll

Tim Tyler

Chris Wilson

Beth Harte

Tinu Abayomi-Paul

Dan Schawbel

Carol Bodensteiner

Trey Pennington

David Weinfeld

Dan Sitter

Vanessa DiMauro

Ed Brenegar

David Zinger

Brett T. T. Macfarlane

Efrain Mendicuti

Deb Brown

Brian Reich

Gaurav Mishra

Dennis Deery

C.B. Whittemore

Gordon Whitehead

Heather Rast

Cam Beck

Hajj E. Flemings

Joan Endicott

Cathryn Hrudicka

Jeroen Verkroost

Karen D. Swim

Christopher Morris

Joe Pulizzi

Leah Otto

Corentin Monot

Karalee Evans

Leigh Durst

David Berkowitz

Kevin Jessop

Lesley Lambert

Duane Brown

Peter Korchnak

Mark Price

Dustin Jacobsen

Piet Wulleman

Mike Maddaloni

Ernie Mosteller

Scott Townsend

Nick Burcher

Frank Stiefler

Steve Olenski

Rich Nadworny

John Rosen

Tim Jackson

Suzanne Hull

Len Kendall

Amber Naslund

Wayne Buckhanan

Mark McGuinness

Caroline Melberg

Andy Drish

Oleksandr Skorokhod

Claire Grinton

Angela Maiers

Paul Williams

Gary Cohen

Armando Alves

Sam Ismail

Gautam Ramdurai

B.J. Smith

Tamera Kremer

Eaon Pritchard

Brendan Tripp

Adelino de Almeida

Jacob Morgan

Casey Hibbard

Andy Hunter

Julian Cole

Debra Helwig

Anjali Ramachandran

Jye Smith

Drew McLellan

Craig Wilson

Karin Hermans

Emily Reed

David Petherick

Katie Harris

Gavin Heaton

Dennis Price

Mark Levy

George Jenkins

Doug Mitchell

Mark W. Schaefer

Helge Tenno

Douglas Hanna

Marshall Sponder

James Stevens

Ian Lurie

Ryan Hanser

Jenny Meade

Jeff Larche

Sacha Tueni and Katherine Maher

David Svet

Jessica Hagy

Simon Payn

Joanne Austin-Olsen

Mark Avnet

Stanley Johnson

Marilyn Pratt

Mark Hancock

Steve Kellogg

Michelle Beckham-Corbin

Michelle Chmielewski

Amy Mengel

Veronique Rabuteau

Peter Komendowski

Andrea Vascellari

Timothy L Johnson

Phil Osborne

Beth Wampler

Amy Jussel

Rick Liebling

Eric Brody

Arun Rajagopal

Dr Letitia Wright

Hugh de Winton

David Koopmans

Aki Spicer

Jeff Wallace

Don Frederiksen

Charles Sipe

Katie McIntyre

James G Lindberg & Sandra Renshaw

David Reich

Lynae Johnson

Jasmin Tragas

Deborah Chaddock Brown

Mike O'Toole

Jeanne Dininni

Iqbal Mohammed

Morriss M. Partee

Katie Chatfield

Jeff Cutler

Pete Jones

Riku Vassinen

Jeff Garrison

Kevin Dugan

Tiphereth Gloria

Mike Sansone

Lori Magno

Valerie Simon

Nettie Hartsock

Mark Goren

Peter Salvitti

Great Minds (Systems) Think Alike

200910A (8) I've met so many amazing people on my blogospheric journey of the past four years.  Two of the smartest guys in the social media sandbox are Eric Brown and John Koetsier.  Great senses of humor AND brains AND articulation make them both amazing individuals.  I feel lucky enough just to be on their radar screen, but to have each of them blog about my latest book on the same day through sheer coincidence is JUST FLIPPIN' AWESOME.

Eric had given me a "heads up" that his review was coming, and he didn't disappoint:

I’ve read quite a few systems thinking books but nothing as entertaining as this.   While this isn’t nearly as comprehensive as Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization, Timothy Johnson’s put together a great little book that can help to introduce the systems thinking concepts quickly and easily.

But then John does his Olympic detox (yeah, he's been knee-deep in the Olympics the past two weeks up in his home in Vancouver) by choosing to write about my book.  How utterly cool is that?

Systems thinking is not natural for most people. In today’s complex business processes, inputs and outputs are widely separated in space and time … often by continents and months, if not years. So inefficiency and worse, ineffectiveness are hard to spot and harder to fix.... 

Since systems aren’t things and can’t easily be visualized, it helps when SWAT makes the system come alive. Embedding the information in an engaging story is something that makes the teaching transparent and the learning effortless. Plus, the book is brief and to the point: perfect for busy people.

Thanks to both of you!  You both gave my workweek the needed inputs to start on a high note!

SWAT All Over The Place!

200805 SWAT Training (0086) It's been a fun month since the book release!

For those of you who own a Kindle (use a Kindle, and embrace a Kindle), I have great news!  SWAT - Seize the Accomplishment is now available on Kindle.  Now you can use Amazon's handy-dandy little e-reader to peruse the pages of your favorite business fiction about accomplishment and flash-bangs!

Delaney Kirk, former professor extraordinaire, wrote a nice piece about my book (and me).  It's great to have such a great friend and mentor, and she certainly created the model for the relationship I try to forge with my students.

Oh, Canada!  Reg Nordman of Vancouver (you know, that place where this thing called the Olympics is going on), gave a happy nod toward SWAT!  Sure beats curling.

On the opposite end of the continent, the little brother I never had, Stephen Smith, gave SWAT its first video blog review.  It's no wonder that Mom likes him best!

And a little closer to home, Mr. PM Student himself, Josh Nankivel, wrote a stellar review of my latest book, creating the case beyond a reasonable doubt why EVERYBODY needs systems thinking to accomplish something great.

Thanks for all the wonderful press... the most rewarding thing about writing a book is when readers find it useful AND entertaining.

Carpe Factum!

Good Ink

It has been refreshing to read the feedback coming in on SWAT - Seize the Accomplishment, and I'm very appreciative of those who have taken the time to read it and share their thoughts.

Scot Herrick gave a great overview of the book, and he summed up nicely WHY systems thinking is so critical in this day and age:

In the Great Recession, the need for good Systems Thinking has never been more needed. As companies have lopped off divisions, pared back operations, changed credit policies and laid off millions of workers, what were inputs and outputs to systems have significantly changed. I doubt management has had enough time to really analyze what the company’s processes are now, much less if they have Systems Working All Together. As an employee, you are paying the price.

Timothy’s book is a timely reminder that we can’t really improve our businesses (or job satisfaction) until we embrace Systems Thinking into our work. Without it, all we do is solve one problem — and cause two more.

Thanks, Scot!  It was this message that compelled me to get SWAT published.  Kevin Eikenberry enjoyed the book so much, he's willing to offer an extra incentive for those who order it:

I like this book enough to give you an extra incentive to order a copy.

Last Fall Timothy was our invited expert during one of our Remarkable Leadership Learning System Guest Conversations. When you buy a copy of the book from Amazon, email us a copy of your order confirmation number. When you do, we’ll send you links for both the recording and transcript of this excellent one-hour conversation.

Closer to home, Claire Celsi gave a glowing review with her slant on why systems thinking is so important for today's professional:

I encourage anyone who interacts with medium or large corporation, or complex government agencies, to read this book. Communicators need to learn how to be at the table when big decisions are being made. One way to gain the respect and trust of the executives in your organization is to speak their language and realize that complex decisions sometime muddle the message coming out to employees and stakeholders. Encourage leaders in your organization to put the complexity aside after a decision has been made. The final decisions need to be communicated clearly and without management speak.

Big HUGE Carpe Factum THANKS to Scot, Kevin, and Claire.  It is awesome to be able to know such amazing people.

To top it all off, I received some nice press from Lynn Hicks in the Des Moines Register today.

I also want to thank Michael Libbie for a super radio interview last week (even if I was befuddled by the chair), and I'm looking forward to another interview today with J. Mac McKoy.  Check out the podcast below from my discussion with Michael:

Watch live streaming video from desmoineslocallive at livestream.com

Gratitude Without Handcuffs or Flashbangs

Life_is_good I made a decision many months ago that when my book launched, I wanted to say thanks to the Suburban Emergency Reponse Team (SERT) for allowing me to tag along to all of their training sessions over the past three years, for allowing me to pester them with seemingly trivial questions about SWAT work, for taking me on patrol ride-alongs, for letting me be an occasional role player so I can hone all of my bad-guy tendancies in a safe environment, and for asking me to be their training photographer.

Hence, my official book signing launch event is coming up this Saturday afternoon at Jake's Journey in the West Glen Shopping Center.  I'll be there from about 1:30-4:30 signing copies of SWAT - Seize the Accomplishment (and will probably have some copies of GUST and Race Through The Forest as well).  For every copy of SWAT purchased, ten dollars will be donated back to the SERT for them to purchase equipment or safety supplies or training needs.  I hope to sell a whole lot of books because (and I can't speak for you) I want my SWAT team as well equipped as possible to handle whatever our uncertain world throws their way.

And why Jake's Journey and not a traditional book store?  Well, after working on this project for five years, after putting in countless hours wrestling with characters and plot lines, after agonizing over the best chart/graph/picture for conveying the principles, after editing (and re-editing ad infinitum), after being cuffed, flash-banged, and tackled by camo-clad testosterone, after sorting through 15,000 photos to find the right one for the cover, after seeing systems and inputs and outputs in my sleep, after sending out numerous copies to bloggers and other media outlets, I can honestly say, LIFE IS GOOD!

See you Saturday!

How Binary Of Me

SWAT Background 01.10.10 (Hey, that's today)


It seems like a lifetime ago when I wrote my first post about my experience with the SWAT team.  Who knew so much of that would find its way into these pages?  (OK, well, I did.)

Got some great reviews starting to come in on SWAT, so you can see what others are saying.  Brett Trout, Franke James, and Tim Milburn have already posted reviews, as well as what Robert Stanke wrote last month.  Thanks to each of them for getting the word out.  One of Tim's comments especially hit on what I love to see from my readers: "I read it in one sitting. But I've been thinking about it all day."  I've heard that comment from a couple of other people, and I'm hoping that this book really flash-bangs your thinking into some new paradigms.  This is a book that I hope will "haunt and taunt" you long after you've read it.

This week, I'll be writing posts about what you'll find inside the cover of SWAT, some of the characters and how they evolved, and what you as a professional will take away from reading this book.

So get your game on... it's flash-bang time!

Book Release Eve

I've learned a lot in the past four years of being an author.  One thing I learned about blogging is to "pay it forward" to other authors.  When I released GUST almost three years ago, I reviewed a book right before the release.  On the eve of SWAT's release, it's time to talk about a few other people's work and show some nods to other people who have seized the accomplishment through writing.

Studentlinc The first big nod goes to a guy I've met through Twitter and through mutual social media friends.  I hope someday to meet him in person, because he sounds exactly like the type of person I enjoy hanging around:  an adventurous, accomplished, principled leader whose goal is to pull others up.  His name is Tim Milburn out of Boise, Idaho and his work with Studentlinc is amazing.  He's written a great book called Core Leadership Training, and it's designed to help student leaders succeed in their roles.  Those of us who have been in offices and cubicles for years already know how hard leadership is.  Tim provides those who haven't even yet earned their stripes through the obstacle course of leadership through their roles in student organizations.  If you are a sponsor of a student group, be it a sports league, fraternity/sorority, student government, whatever... this is a must read... and Tim is somebody you need to get to know.

We_feel_fine_book The second book nod I'm giving came about in the most unusual way.  I had just finished creating a blog post about my relationship with my daughter, when I received an email.  It seems these two guys, Sep Kamvar and Jonathan Harris, were creating a compilation of people's feelings.  They had harvested about every derivation of the verb "to feel" from the blogosphere and had amassed a HUGE compilation of people's feelings, aptly titled, We Feel Fine, An Almanac of Human Emotion.  This album of photos and snippets was constructed, designed, and executed so brilliantly, it should be on every desk and coffee table book in the nation (and I'm not just saying that because Lauren's baby picture is in there).

Those are just a couple of the things that have hit my radar screen in recent months which deserve some special highlighting of their own.  I wish all three amazing success with their book projects.

For me, tomorrow is coming... and I'm at peace...

In the Wilds of the Amazon

Final_Cover Another one of those great milestones as an author... I know it probably shouldn't excite me as much as it does, but OK, I'm still a kid at heart:  SWAT - Seize the Accomplishment is now available for pre-order on Amazon.  True, the release date is still 6 weeks away... but nothing like ordering dozens hundreds thousands of copies for your friends and neighbors.

Getting close to the finish line on this one, folks!

Um.... Um.... Um.... NOT!

Book_presentation_secrets_Steve_Jobs I'm currently wrapping up the semester at Drake, which means I'm listening to a plethora of student presentations.  I have to say, most of my students do an admirable job of presenting their thoughts, but there are always those one or two who are just not comfortable in front of an audience.  That's a shame, too, given how critical public speaking skills are.  At the beginning of the semester in almost every class, I ask my students how many of them are in sales.  I get the obligatory one or two whose job title includes "sales" who raise their hands.  After explaining to them all semester how they are constantly being assessed by those around them, and how their ideas are being weighed for acceptance, by the end of the semester they all raise their hand when asked how many of them are in sales.

That's why I was so excited when I received a copy of Carmine Gallo's new book, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs:  How to be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience (McGraw Hill).  There's one caveat I must share before going on.  I receive an avalanche of requests to review books on my blog (which I find flattering).  Because of this, I have to be pretty selective before I agree to review anything, and I use the title test as my first hurdle for deciding what to review.  After all, if the name by which the book is branded doesn't get my attention, the promises for the content itself do not bode well.

I have to thank Gallo and his publicist for their patience on this review.  When a book makes that kind of promise, I decided I didn't just want to read it and review it; I wanted to kick the tires and take it out for a test spin.  And that I did, as I've been preparing to deliver the material around my own next book, Gallo helped me channel my own inner Steve Jobs.  Obviously, Gallo's research was solid.  As a writer for businessweek.com, he's had the opportunity to see Jobs firsthand at numerous keynotes, press conferences, and product launches.  He leverages all of that, as well as countless hours of Youtube videos to provide relevant and practical examples of the charismatic master at his best.

There were times this past weekend when I longed to introduce students to this book (and when I say introduce, I mean strap them to a table and through a process of brainwashing osmosis, indoctrinate them through force to the ways of meaningful presentations... but I digress).  While one student was meandering aimlessly through countless points, I thought of Jobs' rule of doing everything in three's (and why Goldilocks did not meet four bears).  While another student struggled to find a central theme, I inwardly smiled about Gallo's admonition to find a Twitter-worthy focus for your presentations (and why it's important to sum up your thoughts in 140 characters or less).

Overall, the book is organized brilliantly, supported by practical tips that anybody from a seasoned professional to an elementary school student could use to wow their respective audiences.  Gallo uses relevant examples and tools of today (with numerous references to Youtube and Twitter).  He actually lays out the entire book like a stage performance in three acts, inviting you into Jobs' world, mind, and skill.  You're on your own for the black turtleneck.

As for me, I have completely retooled my upcoming presentations on SWAT - Seize the Accomplishment, and I'm looking forward to delivering the first formal keynotes on the topic early next year.  There are a lot of books out there on how to be a better speaker.  If you decide to invest in only one to help you in this arena, you can't go wrong by learning from the master.  (And I'm passing along this review to the professor who teaches presentation skills and personal branding at Drake.  Hint!  Hint!)

SWAT Under Cover


All this talk about a new book.  Well, SWAT - Seize the Accomplishment is now at the printer.  The cover has been designed.  And we now have a release date:


More details to follow, but it's exciting that the book project is almost complete.

Who knew accomplishment and systems thinking could be this much fun?

I Hate People

I-hate-people "I love mankind.  It's people I can't stand." -Charles M. Schulz

In the past five years, I've read and researched and digested a lot of books about office politics in order to write my own.  There have been some great ones and a few miserable ones.  From a branding perspective, you have to appreciate authors who cut right to the chase and say what many are already thinking.

Jonathan Littman and Marc Hershon have created a masterpiece of office human relations:  I Hate People:  Kick Loose from the Overbearing and Underhanded Jerks at Work and Get What You Want Out of Your Job.

This is a fast read, filled with all of the pithy snarkiness (I mean that as the highest compliment) you would expect from two people of their credentials.  They start out the book identifying the 10 least wanted individuals in the workplace and giving specific examples and strategies for each.  These include:

  • The Stop Sign - those wet blankets of progress
  • Flim flam - the manipulator
  • Bulldozer - resistance is futile
  • Smiley Face - if you're happy and you know it... run!
  • Liar Liar - self explanatory
  • Switchblade - when you least expect it
  • Minute Man - time stealer extraordinaire
  • Know-It-None - they used Cliff Clavin from Cheers in the book; he's the benchmark
  • Spreadsheet - they make obsessive compulsive look sloppy
  • Sheeple - zombie followers

The great thing about this book is the authors crank through the problem identification and race right to meaningful solutions.  My favorite was learning about the Soloist.  Our office society has pushed so much team (Together Everyone Annoys Me) stuff onto us, that we've forgotten how to be the rugged individualist of the Teddy Roosevelt era.

Many people are "stuck" in jobs they hate right now because of the economy or other personal situations.  I'd put I Hate People at the top of your reading list (OK, maybe after GUST), for handling difficult office situations.  Because I never use my own books as required reading for classes, I've already decided that this book will be the new de facto text for my Drake Office Politics class.

Filled with brutal honesty, amusing anecdotes, and helpful strategies you can immediately employ, add this to your reading list.  By learning how to hate people, you make actually start to like them again.

Book'em Danno

First published in April 2006

Book library My first book hits the shelves in three weeks.  My publisher and I currently talk almost daily as last- minute marketing and distribution issues are being discussed and resolved.  It still all seems a little surreal.  To list the emotions of being published for the first time would take a year's worth of blogging.  The only thing to which I can reasonably compare it is the birth of a child.  I watched both of my children enter the world, and it is a truly humbling experience.  To see a being that you helped to create breathe her first breath, make her first sound, and start interacting with the world around her is frightening and amazing and exciting.  I put my heart into Race Through The Forest over the past two years.  My blog-master, Mike Sansone, suggested I write a few posts providing some background on how this book came to be.

For starters, I've maintained a love-hate relationship with business fables over the years.  They are great mind candy for when I want a fast nugget of wisdom that doesn't require a lot of mental digestion.  (However, I'm generally a person who loves to wrestle with what he's reading.)  My future as an author came into focus over a weekend in May, 2004.  My wife was teaching a satellite graduate class for our alma mater, Drake University, and had asked me to escort her for the weekend (she recognized that I needed a change of scenery).  Having recently purchased Raving Fans, that would be enough reading material to get me through a short weekend away.  It's really hard to argue with the premise of the book.  Blanchard and Bowles are right:  Differentiating oneself in the marketplace through exemplary customer vision and focus is key in today's world.  It was the whole "fairy godmother" thing that made me shrug my shoulders.  And the concepts were right out of Common Sense 101.

(Of course, I've had a bone to pick with Ken Blanchard for years.  One Minute Manager.  Yeah, right.  When somebody publishes the One Minute Neurosurgeon and the One Minute Class Action Attorney, maybe I'll bother to take the One Minute Manager seriously.  Yo, Ken, it's a LIFETIME JOURNEY.  I also take offense at some of the "For Dummies" books, but I digress.)

As a project manager, I began wondering why somebody didn't write a decent business fable on project management.  At least then there would be a business fable that people could read and then go back to their desks and actually use.  Then the light bulb flashed.  Why don't I write a decent business fable on project management?  And Race Through the Forest was conceived.

Lessons Learned:  With what are you currently dissatisfied?  Why are you dissatisfied?  What can you do to change it?  What change of scenery do you need to view the problem in a new light?  Any other first time authors out there care to comment?

Author's Footnote:  It's been three years and I still feel the same about business fables.  Steve Farber is about the only one I've read who can really write one that is engaging, challenging, and entertaining.  And even though it's the second time around for this book, I still have the same level of excitement and emotion.  July 1 is the release date, and the new link is up!

Continuing the Race...

RTTF_2nd_Ed It's almost here.  Today, the second edition of Race Through The Forest - A Project Management Fable heads to the printer.  So by Independence Day, you should be able to order it on Amazon (and you local folks should be able to purchase it at the same book stores as always).

For those who have been asking where and how to order, I'll get my site updated as soon as the new Amazon listing is up.

This week, I will re-run some of the same posts I did back in 2006 when the book was first released.  I'll also put up some new material that the second edition has which the first edition did not:

  • How to write a status report

  • How to create a project plan

  • How to distinguish between red, yellow, and green status colors

  • How to create and issues and risks log

  • And many other useful and fun little nuggets along the way.

I'd like to take a moment and thank everyone who made the first release enjoyable, who shared how the book has helped them, and who just encouraged me along my own race.  I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

The Best Part of April Fools Day are the Fools

Ignorance_is_blitz Ok, this has nothing really to do with business...

It's even marginal as an accomplishment...

But if you need a good belly-laugh on April Fools Day, pick up a copy of Ignorance is Blitz (formerly published as Non Campus Mentis).  It is the entire history of the world as told through college term paper bloopers.  Professor Anders Henriksson is utterly brilliant for compiling such a mixed up mess of muddledom.

A few examples:

There was Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt.  Lower Egypt was actually farther up than Upper Egypt, which was, of course, lower down than the upper part.

Cesar inspired his men by stating, "I came, I saw, I went."  When he was assinated, he is reported to have said, "Me too, Brutus!"

During the Dark Ages it was mostly dark.

Machiavelli, who was often unemployed, wrote The Prince to get a job with Richard Nixon.

It was the Enlightenment of the 18th Century that contributed most to the 17th Century.

I haven't laughed this hard in ages.  Sort of reminded me of my freshman year of college, when I would type others' term papers for them.  My favorite title was the paper on "Mid-Evil Christianity."  Hmmm... think my pastor missed that one.

Sometimes laughter is a great accomplishment.  Happy April Fools Day!

It's Farber... Need I Say More

Greater_than_yourself Steve's latest book, Greater Than Yourself, was released today.  Contrary to popular belief, I'm not going to give a flowery hoo-ha about how amazing of a writer Steve Farber is or how he's captured the essence of leadership common sense.  Reading Farber is a journey you need to take for yourself.  So what if there are hundreds of people in central Iowa who are now Farber fans because of me... a few hundred more would only make the workplace much more bearable.  That's probably the best endorsement any author could hope for.  Suffice it to say, JUST BUY THE BOOK ALREADY!

Office Politics For Sale... CHEAP

I was doing some house-cleaning today and ran across numerous copies of GUST from a first-run printing.  The printer had mistakenly left the color off of the cover (black and white and shades of gray, rather than the nice blue cover) and printed the pages on gloss paper instead of regular.  Other than that, the content of the books is exactly the same as what you could buy on Amazon or in the book store.  We had sent most of the print run back, but had kept a few boxes for me to send out as promotional copies.  Since I still have three full boxes of these lying around, I would like to offload the "color-less" copies quickly, so here is your chance to educate all of your friends and family on office politics at a steal of a price.

I'm going to offer a special rate of three (3) copies of GUST for $20 (which includes shipping at media rates).  This is an ideal opportunity for a book club or a departmental or divisional team building/discussion.  At the risk of sounding like one of those cheesy infomercials, if you purchase nine books ($60), I'll throw in the 10th for free.  That's $6 a book for one that normal retails for $14.95.

So if you want to help the people in your life manage their office politics more proactively, here is a great opportunity.

(Note - please be prepared to purchase three copies at a time... I really just want to deplete the inventory quickly, so I ask there be no negotiating for orders not divisible by three).

Here is the paypal link.  Make payments to transact (AT) carpefactum (DOT) com and include your name and mailing address in the comment box.

While supplies last...

Oh yeah, tell your friends about it, too.  Thanks!

OK, So 237 Yaks Walk Into a Room...

Yak_conversationIt sort of feels like "Oscar Night" around here... OK without the red carpet, gawdy fashions, little statues, and over plasticized celebrities... but the excitement and anticipation are definitely there.  We're getting closer and closer to launching "Age of Conversation 2 - Why Don't People Get It?" and I know Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton are working their tails off to make sure all 237 authors have their voices herd... er... um... heard.

Besides "yours truly" I'm surrounded by a crowd of amazing conversationalists, each putting in their 400 word essays to spur readers to excellence and to action... and all in the name of charity (no author makes a dime off of this project).  I had the honor of using the first Age of Conversation book as part of the required reading list for my students, and it served as a superb springboard for discussing issues like communication, social media, and personal branding.  I can only imagine how many ways the second book can be used.  I talked to Drew last week, and they are still targeting a late August release.

Without further ado, let me introduce you to the other authors:

Here they are:

Adrian Ho, Aki Spicer, Alex Henault, Amy Jussel, Andrew Odom, Andy Nulman, Andy Sernovitz, Andy Whitlock, Angela Maiers, Ann Handley, Anna Farmery, Armando Alves, Arun Rajagopal, Asi Sharabi, Becky Carroll, Becky McCray, Bernie Scheffler, Bill Gammell, Bob LeDrew, Brad Shorr, Brandon Murphy, Branislav Peric, Brent Dixon, Brett Macfarlane, Brian Reich, C.C. Chapman, Cam Beck, Casper Willer, Cathleen Rittereiser, Cathryn Hrudicka, Cedric Giorgi, Charles Sipe, Chris Kieff, Chris Cree, Chris Wilson, Christina Kerley (CK), C.B. Whittemore, Chris Brown, Connie Bensen, Connie Reece, Corentin Monot, Craig Wilson, Daniel Honigman, Dan Schawbel, Dan Sitter, Daria Radota Rasmussen, Darren Herman, Dave Davison, David Armano, David Berkowitz, David Koopmans, David Meerman Scott, David Petherick, David Reich, David Weinfeld, David Zinger, Deanna Gernert, Deborah Brown, Dennis Price, Derrick Kwa, Dino Demopoulos, Doug Haslam, Doug Meacham, Doug Mitchell, Douglas Hanna, Douglas Karr, Drew McLellan, Duane Brown, Dustin Jacobsen, Dylan Viner, Ed Brenegar, Ed Cotton, Efrain Mendicuti, Ellen Weber, Eric Peterson, Eric Nehrlich, Ernie Mosteller, Faris Yakob, Fernanda Romano, Francis Anderson, Gareth Kay, Gary Cohen, Gaurav Mishra, Gavin Heaton, Geert Desager, George Jenkins, G.L. Hoffman, Gianandrea Facchini, Gordon Whitehead, Greg Verdino, Gretel Going & Kathryn Fleming, Hillel Cooperman, Hugh Weber, J. Erik Potter, James Gordon-Macintosh, Jamey Shiels, Jasmin Tragas, Jason Oke, Jay Ehret, Jeanne Dininni, Jeff De Cagna, Jeff Gwynne & Todd Cabral, Jeff Noble, Jeff Wallace, Jennifer Warwick, Jenny Meade, Jeremy Fuksa, Jeremy Heilpern, Jeroen Verkroost, Jessica Hagy, Joanna Young, Joe Pulizzi, John Herrington, John Moore, John Rosen, John Todor, Jon Burg, Jon Swanson, Jonathan Trenn, Jordan Behan, Julie Fleischer, Justin Foster, Karl Turley, Kate Trgovac, Katie Chatfield, Katie Konrath, Kenny Lauer, Keri Willenborg, Kevin Jessop, Kristin Gorski, Lewis Green, Lois Kelly, Lori Magno, Louise Manning, Luc Debaisieux, Mario Vellandi, Mark Blair, Mark Earls, Mark Goren, Mark Hancock, Mark Lewis, Mark McGuinness, Matt Dickman, Matt J. McDonald, Matt Moore, Michael Karnjanaprakorn, Michelle Lamar, Mike Arauz, Mike McAllen, Mike Sansone, Mitch Joel, Neil Perkin, Nettie Hartsock, Nick Rice, Oleksandr Skorokhod, Ozgur Alaz, Paul Chaney, Paul Hebert, Paul Isakson, Paul McEnany, Paul Tedesco, Paul Williams, Pet Campbell, Pete Deutschman, Peter Corbett, Phil Gerbyshak, Phil Lewis, Phil Soden, Piet Wulleman, Rachel Steiner, Sreeraj Menon, Reginald Adkins, Richard Huntington, Rishi Desai, Robert Hruzek, Roberta Rosenberg, Robyn McMaster, Roger von Oech, Rohit Bhargava, Ron Shevlin, Ryan Barrett, Ryan Karpeles, Ryan Rasmussen, Sam Huleatt, Sandy Renshaw, Scott Goodson, Scott Monty, Scott Townsend, Scott White, Sean Howard, Sean Scott, Seni Thomas, Seth Gaffney, Shama Hyder, Sheila Scarborough, Sheryl Steadman, Simon Payn, Sonia Simone, Spike Jones, Stanley Johnson, Stephen Collins, Stephen Landau, Stephen Smith, Steve Bannister, Steve Hardy, Steve Portigal, Steve Roesler, Steven Verbruggen, Steve Woodruff, Sue Edworthy, Susan Bird, Susan Gunelius, Susan Heywood, Tammy Lenski, Terrell Meek, Thomas Clifford, Thomas Knoll, Tim Brunelle, Tim Connor, Tim Jackson, Tim Mannveille, Tim Tyler, Timothy Johnson, Tinu Abayomi-Paul, Toby Bloomberg, Todd Andrlik, Troy Rutter, Troy Worman, Uwe Hook, Valeria Maltoni, Vandana Ahuja, Vanessa DiMauro, Veronique Rabuteau, Wayne Buckhanan, William Azaroff, Yves Van Landeghem

A Friendly Chat In Pamplona

Runwithbulls_1I'm just coming out of an 8-month-long coma known as teaching-full-time-while-maintaining-a-consulting-practice-and-writing-a-third-book-while-maintaining-a-relationship-with-my-family-and-friends-and-attempting-to-keep-up-my-personal-health.  Nothing serious, but now that equilibrium is being restored to the universe, I rewarded myself by reading a book.

Not just any book, but a book that has been sitting on my desk for about a year, taunting me, teasing me, just DARING me to read it.  "I don't have time" was my excuse.  Well, I owe Tim Irwin an apology.  His book, Run With The Bulls Without Getting Trampled, should have reached the top of my list sooner.  It was a refreshingly frank read with common sense values presented in a new light.  As a matter of fact, it didn't even feel like I was reading a book as much as it felt like I was chatting with a colleague at a sidewalk cafe.  Dr. Irwin is just that conversational with his approach

Dr. Irwin takes his lessons learned from running with the bulls in Pamplona to basic life events.  With great anecdotal synthesis, he weaves together some very proactive thoughts that should get any professional examining what makes him or her tick.  What struck me with this book is that he ties everything back to core values, something I wish more people would address.  Dr. Irwin doesn't preach; he challenges.  I've had many of these same discussions with my friends and clients, so reading his book was more affirming for me.  Even in the midst of my previously mentioned insanity, I recognized the lack of equilibrium in my life and knew that there was an end in sight.  Unfortunately, I know too many professionals who don't allow an end in sight.  They chase after the wrong things and don't do a course correction.

So... are you one of these people who is perpetually too busy to read "that values stuff"?  Make a date with yourself, carve out 2-3 hours at a coffee shop, and run with the bulls and with Dr. Irwin.  He'll give you a thing or two to think about (and many practical tools to help you take action on those thoughts) as you avoid being gored by the stampede of life events that can trample you the second you re-engage with the rest of the world.

Age of Conversation (x 275)

Shrug_thumbWhy don't people get it?

That's a loaded question.  It's also the question that 275 bloggers will be attempting to answer in the upcoming book, Age of Conversation 2.  Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton are at it again.  Their first book, Age of Conversation, pulled together 103 bloggers to talk about talking... with each other.  This book takes the conversation to a new level... with all of this talking going on, why isn't more of it sinking in?

So here's a nod to my fellow authors in the Age of Conversation 2:

Adam Crowe, Adrian Ho, Aki Spicer, Alex Henault, Amy Jussel, Andrew Odom, Andy Nulman, Andy Sernovitz, Andy Whitlock, Angela Maiers, Ann Handley, Anna Farmery, Armando Alves, Arun Rajagopal, Asi Sharabi, Becky Carroll, Becky McCray, Bernie Scheffler, Bill Gammell, Bob Carlton, Bob LeDrew, Brad Shorr, Bradley Spitzer, Brandon Murphy, Branislav Peric, Brent Dixon, Brett Macfarlane, Brian Reich, C.C. Chapman, Cam Beck, Casper Willer, Cathleen Rittereiser, Cathryn Hrudicka, Cedric Giorgi, Charles Sipe, Chris Kieff, Chris Cree, Chris Wilson, Christina Kerley (CK), C.B. Whittemore, Clay Parker Jones, Chris Brown, Colin McKay, Connie Bensen, Connie Reece, Cord Silverstein, Corentin Monot, Craig Wilson, Daniel Honigman, Dan Goldstein, Dan Schawbel, Dana VanDen Heuvel, Dan Sitter, Daria Radota Rasmussen, Darren Herman, Darryl Patterson, Dave Davison, Dave Origano, David Armano, David Bausola, David Berkowitz, David Brazeal, David Koopmans, David Meerman Scott, David Petherick, David Reich, David Weinfeld, David Zinger, Deanna Gernert, Deborah Brown, Dennis Price, Derrick Kwa, Dino Demopoulos, Doug Haslam, Doug Meacham, Doug Mitchell, Douglas Hanna, Douglas Karr, Drew McLellan, Duane Brown, Dustin Jacobsen, Dylan Viner, Ed Brenegar, Ed Cotton, Efrain Mendicuti, Ellen Weber, Emily Reed, Eric Peterson, Eric Nehrlich, Ernie Mosteller, Faris Yakob, Fernanda Romano, Francis Anderson, G. Kofi Annan, Gareth Kay, Gary Cohen, Gaurav Mishra, Gavin Heaton, Geert Desager, George Jenkins, G.L. Hoffman, Gianandrea Facchini, Gordon Whitehead, Graham Hill, Greg Verdino, Gretel Going & Kathryn Fleming, Hillel Cooperman, Hugh Weber, J. Erik Potter, J.C. Hutchins, James Gordon-Macintosh, Jamey Shiels, Jasmin Tragas, Jason Oke, Jay Ehret, Jeanne Dininni, Jeff De Cagna, Jeff Gwynne, Jeff Noble, Jeff Wallace, Jennifer Warwick, Jenny Meade, Jeremy Fuksa, Jeremy Heilpern, Jeremy Middleton, Jeroen Verkroost, Jessica Hagy, Joanna Young, Joe Pulizzi, Joe Talbott, John Herrington, John Jantsch, John Moore, John Rosen, John Todor, Jon Burg, Jon Swanson, Jonathan Trenn, Jordan Behan, Julie Fleischer, Justin Flowers, Justin Foster, Karl Turley, Kate Trgovac, Katie Chatfield, Katie Konrath, Kenny Lauer, Keri Willenborg, Kevin Jessop, Kris Hoet, Krishna De, Kristin Gorski, Laura Fitton, Laurence Helene Borei, Lewis Green, Lois Kelly, Lori Magno, Louise Barnes-Johnston, Louise Mangan, Louise Manning, Luc Debaisieux, Marcus Brown, Mario Vellandi, Mark Blair, Mark Earls, Mark Goren, Mark Hancock, Mark Lewis, Mark McGuinness, Mark McSpadden, Matt Dickman, Matt J. McDonald, Matt Moore, Michael Hawkins, Michael Karnjanaprakorn, Michelle Lamar, Mike Arauz, Mike McAllen, Mike Sansone, Mitch Joel, Monica Wright, Nathan Gilliatt, Nathan Snell, Neil Perkin, Nettie Hartsock, Nick Rice, Oleksandr Skorokhod, Ozgur Alaz, Paul Chaney, Paul Hebert, Paul Isakson, Paul Marobella, Paul McEnany, Paul Tedesco, Paul Williams, Pet Campbell, Pete Deutschman, Peter Corbett, Phil Gerbyshak, Phil Lewis, Phil Soden, Piet Wulleman, Rachel Steiner, Sreeraj Menon, Reginald Adkins, Richard Huntington, Rishi Desai, Beeker Northam, Rob Mortimer, Robert Hruzek, Roberta Rosenberg, Robyn McMaster, Roger von Oech, Rohit Bhargava, Ron Shevlin, Ryan Barrett, Ryan Karpeles, Ryan Rasmussen, Sam Huleatt, Sandy Renshaw, Scott Goodson, Scott Monty, Scott Townsend, Scott White, Sean Howard, Sean Scott, Seni Thomas, Seth Gaffney, Shama Hyder, Sheila Scarborough, Sheryl Steadman, Simon Payn, Sonia Simone, Spike Jones, Stanley Johnson, Stephen Collins, Stephen Cribbett, Stephen Landau, Stephen Smith, Steve Bannister, Steve Hardy, Steve Portigal, Steve Roesler, Steven Verbruggen, Steve Woodruff, Sue Edworthy, Susan Bird, Susan Gunelius, Susan Heywood, Tammy Lenski, Terrell Meek, Thomas Clifford, Thomas Knoll, Tiffany Kenyon, Tim Brunelle, Tim Buesing, Tim Connor, Tim Jackson, Tim Longhurst, Tim Mannveille, Tim Tyler, Timothy Johnson, Tinu Abayomi-Paul, Toby Bloomberg, Todd Andrlik, Troy Rutter, Troy Worman, Uwe Hook, Valeria Maltoni, Vandana Ahuja, Vanessa DiMauro, Veronique Rabuteau, Wayne Buckhanan, William Azaroff, Yves Van Landeghem

Quite the list, isn't it?  I can only imagine what these minds will create.  Should be an awesome book.

SWAT This!!!

Swat_doneI've been playing with the concept for the better part of three years.  I've been living the concept throughout most of my consulting career, with successful engagements at multiple clients.  I've been researching the plot and characters for about the last 18 months.  The active writing started around eight months ago.  As my new year's resolution, I set February 6 at my target date for completing the first manuscript.

Last night (February 6) at 11:02 PM, I typed the last word of the Epilogue of SWAT (Systems Working All Together) into my laptop.  Of course, that was just the first draft.  Now I have months of editing, reviewing, revising, critiquing, second-guessing, buzz-building, marketing, speaking, and blogging about my next book before its release early next year.  But for now, I'm going to enjoy this one milestone.  Because it's a big one.  I remember when I reached it with Race Through The Forest, and I recall the feeling when GUST's final word was typed.

I really have to thank the Suburban Emergency Response Team (SERT), especially the guys from Urbandale and West Des Moines.  Their input into the world of SWAT operations and their encouragement have meant the world to me.

It feels great to be this far.  It feels better to know I've had wonderful people behind me the whole way.

Carpe Factum!

Jibber Jobber Likes GUST

CoverSpecial thanks to Jason Alba over at Jibber-Jobber for his great review of GUST the other day.  While the "uneasiness" Jason felt while reading the book was not an intended side effect, I am glad he felt the pain of the characters in the book so vividly.  (Jason, I took the worst of my cubicle-dwelling years to create those people... they really do exist.)  In his words, here's how he described his initial impressions:

My first impression as I’m reading this book is “man, this office setting is so draining that there is no way I would work here!” But then I remembered how long I stayed at my draining job. No matter how bad things got (and they got bad), I always thought they would get better.  I think a lot of people put up with bad jobs for a variety of reasons - fear of the job search, is the grass really greener on the other side (pretty sad thought, if all jobs suck as bad as “this one”), worried about tarnishing resume, worried about not returning any loyalty that you felt from your company (training, transfer, etc.), worried about letting your boss or coworkers down (either because you respect them or because of peer pressure), concern about a bad employment market (will I be able to land again), etc.

But he doesn't leave his readers hanging for long as he wraps up the review with some very complimentary accolades:

Timothy L. Johnson does a great job of making my stomach churn, while giving me tool after tool, technique after technique, and arming me to prepare with office politics.

Thanks, Jason, for the awesome review.  While Andy Sernovitz didn't write a review, he was kind enough to send me an email the other day with a "well done" on the book... always appreciated from a talented guy like him.

Check out both Jason's and Andy's blogs.  These are two guys who can help you further your career and seize your accomplishments.

A Lawyer In My Pocket

Cyber_lawBrett Trout has done it again.  Less than a year ago, I reviewed his prior book and now he has cranked out another useful reference... this time it is Cyber Law:  A Legal Arsenal For Online Business.

Why should you care about a resource on Cyber Law?  Well, let's put it this way... how many of your projects have some on-line component... a web-page, a blog, email interfaces?  Oh... say... ALL of them?  (Unless you're living back in the 20th Century and doing everything paper-based.)

This is not a sit-down and read cover-to-cover book, although you could if you wanted to.  This is intended as a reference guide.  As I mentioned before, Brett is a "real person's attorney" - gone is the legal jargon that baffles the rest of us; in its place is easy-to-understand terminology and examples.  His book is logically organized with useful appendices and an easy-to-find index at the back.

In the first chapter, Brett makes the compelling case for why you should care about the internet's impact:

Change is, of course, the most important factor to consider when analyzing the Internet.  The resources you accessed last week may not be available today.  New resources will develop tomorrow, supplanting resources you considered earlier.

Barely_legalBrett seamlessly covers things like blogs, social media, and intellectual property laws (darn those copyrights!).  He also covers that pesky topic that no blogger likes to think about:  balancing freedom of speech with responsibility and accountability for one's actions and words.  With nods to topics like email privacy in the workplace and online scams, this book serves as a complete 360 for the novice to today's legal internet environment.

So before the words "legal action" come out of your mouth or somebody else's, be proactive and buy Brett's book.  It may save your tail.

I've Been Booked

Book_libraryWhen a former professor and a current student both tag me with the same meme, then I know that it's time I answer their questions or risk wrath.

The Protocol: Answer 5 questions. Tag 5 booklovers.
The Questions:
1) How many books do you own?
2) What was the last book you read?
3) What was the last book you purchased?
4) What five books are most meaningful to you?
5) What is your most obscure favorite book? Or, favorite most obscure book?

So, here are my answers:

1) Around 300-400... I've seriously lost count and they are spread over a wide variety of locations.

2) Outside of re-reading what was required for class this semester, Remarkable Leadership by Kevin Eikenberry

3) The Joy of Digital Photography by Jeff Wignall (I think I want to be a photographer when I grow up)

4) The Bible; The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey; Radical Leap by Steve Farber; The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp; My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers (note, these were the most influential and meaningful to me to read... obviously writing two books of my own has had significant meaning to me personally).

5) Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani

And whom am I tagging?  Bob McIlree, Erika Andersen, Franke James, Derrick Sorles, and Claire Celsi.

Poetry and Prosen

KisstheorygoodbyeI remember the goosebumps I got when I heard JK Rowling read the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on the night of its release.  It was similar to the feeling I got when I watched a live performance of Movin' Out after reading Twyla Tharp's Book, The Creative Habit.  There's just something magical when you can connect the author to their creation.  It becomes real.  They become real.  Sometimes the event becomes a little surreal, and you have to pinch yourself to make sure you didn't dream it all.

Prosen1Such was the case yesterday.  Bob Prosen, author of the highly acclaimed book, Kiss Theory Good Bye, was in town yesterday.  His publicist had sent me his book this past spring with a request that I write a book review on it.  I read the book months ago, and actually did one better than wrote a review... I made it required reading for my students in my Drake MBA leadership class.  Then something truly amazing happened:  Phil Gerbyshak (who, of course, knows everybody) introduced me to Bob.  During one of our conversations, it was revealed that Bob would be in Des Moines... on the very day I had scheduled in the syllabus for my leadership classes to be discussing his book.  The "university gods" don't smile on a professor that often, so we made arrangements for Bob to be present in my class last night to share his insights with my students.  Even better than that, I was able to watch Bob in action Wednesday morning, as he single-handedly "tackled" about a dozen CEOs, providing them with tools to achieve results-based performance.  Later after class, Bob and I were able to enjoy a nice dinner at the Drake Diner (a Des Moines institution), where our waitress, Molly, matched her sales prowess against Bob's abilities (I'm still not sure who came out on top).  All in all, it was a great day.

Prosen2Now, about Bob's book.  It really wouldn't be fair for me to review it, because you already know enough that I would not assign it to my students if I were not wowed by it.  Hence, I'll let some of their comments speak for the value of the book.  (Disclaimer:  my students know that they have license to disagree with me and that they do not have to speak favorably about the book.  There were a few dissenters, but they were very rare.  Most of the criticism actually centered around the core value of Bob's book:  He has packaged "common sense" very well... what makes this book valuable is that he demonstrates that the sense isn't all that common.)  So, here are my students' comments about Kiss Theory Good Bye:

  • "Packs quite a lot of advice into the last five chapters... I like the fact that he repeatedly makes reference to the ideas he poses in the book being common sense but asks if they are common practice."
  • "I really identified with the accountability aspect of this book."
  • "Kiss Theory Good Bye is one of those books that I kept getting the sense I had already read.  It must have been Prosen's consistent flow throughout the book.... This stuff makes perfect sense.... The daily check list went up in my work cube one day after reading the book."
  • "I can picture myself looking back at this book many years from now and using it as a leadership guide."
  • "Kiss Theory Good Bye was a great read full of insight on how to get extraordinary results.  The characteristics of ... superior leadership, sales effectiveness, operational excellence, financial managment, and customer loyalty... I will definitely use now at my current position and when I run my own business."

My students have very strong "crap filters" and they bombarded Bob with tough, honest, pressing questions for the better part of an hour last night.  As they left, many genuinely expressed their gratitude to Bob for coming to class.  If your organization is seeing more excuses than execution, more whining than winning, more "get over it" than "git'r done" then you should invest in Prosen's book.  If nothing else, you'll know that the man behind the book is also the real thing.

Kevin Eikenberry Has Some Problems

RemarkableKevin Eikenberry has poor timing.

And he cuts in line.

And, oh yeah, he makes you think.

This may sound like a really odd way to start a book review, especially a very positive one.  I received Kevin's book, Remarkable Leadership - Unleashing Your Leadership Potential One Skill At a Time, late last week.  I wish he'd been a little earlier.  I would have changed my reading list for the new leadership class I'm teaching this fall (hence, the poor timing).

He's also going to annoy some other authors and publicists whose books have been waiting in my queue for a review... some for weeks or months... because somehow his book floated to the very top of the list.  It's all his fault for writing something so darn useful and interesting.  I picked it up just to thumb through it and couldn't put it back down (ergo, the cutting in line comment).

Writing about leadership... and doing it really, really well... is truly where art collides with science.  We talk a lot in my MBA classes about what it takes to make a great leader.  Kevin does more than talk about it.  He demonstrates it.  The pages of his book just leap with relevant anecdotes (both personal and third person).  Rather than simply recapping some key points at the end of each chapter, Kevin wedges in application throughout the book by giving his readers "Now Steps" (i.e. "Here's what you can do right now to...") and "Remarkable Principles."  He sends his readers elsewhere for even more resources that wouldn't fit into the book with his "Bonus Bytes" and "Remarkable Resources."

But where I was truly impressed is that Kevin created a succinct yet complete 360 degree review of the topic.  He meets readers where they are on the concept of leadership... fears... myths... concerns... misconceptions (including the "I don't have time for this stuff - I have a job to do" complaint) and he guides them through almost every topic imaginable:

  • Continual learning
  • Championing change
  • Devloping others
  • Innovative thinking and acting
  • Problem solving
  • Project management (wow... does he win my heart on this chapter)

...among other issues like communication, adding value, customer focus, accountability and responsibility.  Kevin and I exchanged a few emails prior to his book arriving, and he struck me as very genuine, humble, and passionate just through the tone of those few brief communications.  Reading his book reinforced that.  He's not preachy; he's conversational.  You can read with a certainty that the same words, the same ideas, and the same stories would be coming out of his mouth if he were sitting across from you.  He's very clearly a systems thinker, with a strong sense of cause-and-effect.

The emphasis of his book really is about setting the reader apart as a remarkable leader.  If you don't want to reach for being the best leader (or the best human) possible, don't bother with this book.  Kevin has woven a masterful synthesis within these covers that will leave you with a burning challenge at the pit of your gut.  Yeah, he's too late to make it into my fall reading list for my students, but you can bet I'll be referencing his book a lot throughout the semester.

Speaking of being remarkable, Kevin wants his book to unseat Harry Potter's domination of the literary genre.  Now that's what I call a great goal (and I'm a HUGE Harry Potter fan, too).

P.S.  You know that I like to read multiple books simultaneously or in close proximity.  I'd recommend completing the self assessment in Tom Rath's Strengths Finder 2.0 prior to diving into Kevin's book.  I think you'll find it a very enriching experience to do so, as having a strong sense of your existing strengths will heighten the context of leadership tremendously.

Shelf Esteem

Because a lot of you have emailed and asked, I thought I'd share just a few notes today about how GUST - The "Tale" Wind of Office Politics has been doing.

There have been some wonderful and very flattering blog reviews in the past few days by some highly esteemed professionals:

All three gave their own personal takes on the book and all three gave it a rousing thumbs up, for which I am grateful and honored.  Thanks to each of you!

I have been invited to my next book signing on Friday, July 6, at Beaverdale Books from 6-8 PM as they celebrate their first anniversary in business with a wine and cheese event.  Even if you don't come out to buy a copy of GUST, come out to tell Alice "Congratulations!" on her first year of business.  Starting a bookstore isn't easy, and she has found a wonderful market in the Beaverdale area and is flourishing.

As if all of this isn't exciting enough, Borders in Des Moines has sold out of GUST not once, but twice.  We are starting talks about taking it to other Borders stores outside of the Des Moines area.  Stay tuned for more news about that.

I've been overwhelmed by all of the wonderful feedback I've received from people who have read the book and found it a valuable resource in helping them deal with their office politics situations or have purchased it for or recommended it to a friend who is experiencing office politics challenges.

Thanks for helping to make it a success.

Turn The Page!

Book20dog"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend.  Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."  -Groucho Marx.

That's one of my favorite quotes of all time.  I have a dog, and I have books.  If my dog is curled up napping on my stomach while I'm reading a book, I'm in heaven.  Summer is my favorite time to get caught up on reading.  The pace slows down, and the stack of books that beckons throughout the frantic pace of fall-winter-spring is finally given the attention it so rightly deserves.  Besides a couple of enjoyable novels, I tend to pick a "theme" for my professional reading list each summer.  Last summer, I indulged in books about story-telling because I wanted to become a better story-teller.  We all tell stories, whether we know it or not.  Every time we lead a PowerPoint presentation (if we're doing it right), we're telling a story.

This year, the chosen theme is workplace civility and organizational culture.  Having just released a book on office politics, it seemed only fitting.  Another thing about me that you should know is that I never just read one book at a time.  I like to read concurrently two or three books which complement each other.  Then I play off the authors' words in my mind, as if they were in the room with me having a conversation.  My first two books for this summer's list are two sides of the same coin:

The No Asshole Rule by Robert Sutton, PhD

The Power of Nice by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval

Wow!  If the three of them ever went on a speaking circuit together, I could only imagine the number of workplaces and lives they could transform.  The basic premise of both of their books is the same:  "Mean people suck, so why not be genuinely nice?"  (Notice the adverb I added; I've not forgotten my earlier post on the subject.)  Both books do a wonderful job of mixing personal anecdotal evidence with scientific studies, with a healthy side of stories of media stars to support their approaches.

There were some recurring themes that permeated both books that deserve highlighting:

  • Power is not a dictator of treatment.  Dr. Sutton uses power in his definition of assholes, stating that to qualify as one, the "alleged asshole aims his or her venom at people who are less powerful."  Ms. Kaplan Thaler and Ms. Koval share, among six principles of being nice, that #2 is "you never know."  Those who are less powerful today may be more powerful tomorrow.  Given the flattening of power and rank by social media, that holds especially true in this day and age.  I like Liz Strauss's only rule on her Tuesday open mic nights:  Be nice.  It doesn't matter how popular your blog is; in her eyes, we're all equals.
  • Cooperation beats competition any day.  Both books mention the prisoners' dilemma, which states that over the long haul, it always pays to cooperate with your fellow prisoners than to cheat on them and rat them out.  It's certainly been true of the blogosphere.  Where Technorati makes it very hard not to pay attention to your "authority" and your "rank" among the tens of millions of blogs out there, almost all of the bloggers I've met have been warm, caring, and helpful people.  It's almost overwhelming how much bloggers help each other.  I feel like I've been blessed by dozens of "fairy god-bloggers" looking over my shoulder to grant my wish, and I feel privileged to return the favor to them whenever they ask and however I'm able.
  • "Asshole" and "Nice" are both contageous.  Acts of kindness and acts of cruelty both seem to perpetuate throughout an organization.  A smile or nice note or hug can make somebody's day, giving them to energy to share that kindness with others.  An insult, being flipped off in traffic, or a flaming email drains energy and makes people more prone to treat others poorly.
  • We're all still human.  All three of them do a wonderful job of sharing their personal triumphs and pitfalls on their continuum journey.  It's something I work on as well, as I'm sure you do.

There are many other gems and nuggets resting in the pages of both books, and I'll let you discover them for yourself.  Each book stands alone in its merits and either one is a good investment of your time; however, reading these two books TOGETHER is a great experience I would recommend to anyone.  And to be genuinely nice by sharing some link love, I need to thank Bob McIlree for recommending Sutton's book to me, and I give a nod to Franke James for indirectly introducing me to Linda Kaplan Thaler.

Last Call

Just a quick reminder... the Brit Lit Wit contest ends in about an hour.  If any of you night owls want to compete against the creatively talented EM Sky, Mike Sansone, or Tom Haskins... here's your chance.

Brit Lit Wit

PenswordBefore my first book, Race Through The Forest, was published last year, a colleague gave me a good-natured ribbing by telling me that I would not be considered a real author until I had been panned by some snooty British critic.  Well, I guess I've become a real author.

John Naish of the UK-based "newspaper" The Times wrote a rather scathing (albeit highly amusing) review of GUST - The "Tale" Wind of Office Politics.  What makes it amusing is that his only premise of criticism is the animal comparisons that I make (snake, ostrich, bear), which altogether comprise less than 5% of the content of the book.  While I would never come right out and accuse Mr. Naish or The Times of lacking the journalistic integrity it takes to read a book before reviewing it (my wife's high school students know better than that, so I'm assuming a so-called journalist would as well), he certainly leaves open the perception that he merely Googled the Register article and thought he could turn around a quick writing assignment without much effort.

But enough of his writing and researching skills, I really enjoyed his snarky ramblings about using animals to prove a point.  I'm sure he'll be picking on George Orwell or Beatrix Potter next.  Imagine their nerve, using whole entire animal farms and cute little bunny rabbits to drive home the moral of the story.  As Mr. Naish deftly points out:

It’s a shame he stops at three. How about the corporate flatfish? They’re usually beige, floundering, with eyes extremely close together. It’s easy to walk on them without even knowing. Or the workplace llama. Cute-looking, apparently harmless and very woolly, they are equipped with three sets of fighting teeth designed to rip off rivals’ genitals when things get rough.

And what of the office gazebo? Oh. Sorry, that’s a different management-book concept entirely: is your boss a well-known garden structure archetype?

Besides the animal critique, there was one other sentence in his short review which I found most entertaining of all:

Rivalry is always intense for the accolade of worst-named business book of the year, but I know which one my money’s on.

So here is where I want your input, my fun-loving readers.  I have two contests in which I would like your participation:

  1. Besides animals and garden structure archetypes, what analogy would you have used to help people understand office politics?
  2. What would you have named a business fable about office politics?

The person who can come up with the most ludicrous, most outlandish alternative idea that I could have used for my book that would have really set Mr. Naish on edge wins a free autographed copy.  One winner for each category.  Entries are due next Monday, June 4 at 11:59 PM CDT.  Mr. Naish can even play, too, if he wants.  But he's already done enough; thanks to him, I'm now a "real author."

P.S.  I did leave him a comment on the article already, thanking him for the publicity and inviting him to call me for an interview once he's had a chance to read the book.

Full Court Press

Bonnie Harris of The Des Moines Register wrote a great article about GUST - The "Tale" Wind of Office Politics.  Thanks for the kind words, Bonnnie.  You can read it here, or (if you're local) pick up a copy.

Favor for Farber

As many of you know, Steve Farber is one of my all time favorite business authors.  If you've read either of his first two books, Radical Leap or Radical Edge, it is not hard to see why.

Steve is working on his third book, and he has asked for input on the outline he has posted on his blog.  Follow the link to read what he has out there.  While it is not necessary to have read his first two books to understand the goals and premise of the third, it is helpful.

For those of you who are fans of Steve's writing and his leadership philosophy, this is an awesome investment of your time, and it's an opportunity to become "greater than yourself."

GUST Has Guts

A couple of updates:

  • FINALLY, Amazon has GUST in stock.  For those waiting for the 4-6 week back order to go away, Amazon is finally deciding to "play nice."  Now go order your copy.
  • The book signing today was a blast.  It was great to see so many friends and acquaintances show up.  Selling a few books didn't hurt either.  Thanks to those of you who dropped by or emailed your encouragement.  And John at the The Book Store is a great guy!

Have a great weekend - some really exciting stuff happening next week (but I can't tell you what just yet)!!

The Insanity Which Is Amazon

DustybookstheburdenFor those who have emailed and asked about Amazon's constant message about GUST's being backlogged 4-6 weeks, do not fear.  There is a huge shipment headed their way, which should arrive today or tomorrow.  So feel free to order books... they will be getting there quickly.

To put things in context, Amazon will not accept shipments of books unless they have requested them (i.e., there is a packing slip requesting the exact amount of books).  And... for whatever reason, they were not sending those messages requesting books to my publisher.  So finally... after a lot of back-and-forth... we were able to get them to put in an order for enough books to cover those people who were obviously ordering books and being forced to wait on them.

For those of you out there in my readership who have suppliers, keep this in mind.  Your suppliers are also your customers.  They have products that they want you to buy and, in turn, sell to your customers.  Are your systems and infrastructure in place to help them?

NOTE:  I realize that in Amazon's eyes, my books are "small potatoes."  However, in talking to other authors, it sounds like Amazon has the same customer service mindset as Henry Ford did when he told customers that "They can have any color of Model T they want as long as it's black."  In this day and age where the market players can change quickly, I hope Amazon takes note that when the competition does arise... well, you can figure out the rest.

Do You Feel Lucky?

Black_catIt's Friday the 13th...  Do you feel lucky?  If you are the "victim" of office politics, I would guess that your answer is "no, not really."  Do you want to make this your lucky day?  GUST - The "Tale" Wind of Office Politics is now available for sale.  In it, you will learn:

  • Three key things people manipulate and fight over in organizations
  • Three kinds of politicians, and how to handle each
  • Six core motivations of political behavior
  • Uses (and misuses) of influence in an organization
  • Importance of strategizing an appropriate response to YOUR political situation
  • Considerations of timing, passion, and support into your political actions
  • Executives' roles in influencing (and correcting) office politics
  • Assessments for determining how political your organization really is

Invest one hour in an entertaining story and you could be the luckiest person in your office by Monday.  Have a great weekend.

NOTE:  In light of the tragedy at Virginia Tech, the image of "Dirty Harry" sporting his gun seemed in poor taste for this post, so I opted for a black cat.  If I've offended cat lovers, well... you'll just have to deal with it.

Oh What A Tangled Web

Internetlaws_2 On the eve of my own book's release, it seems only fitting to "share the love" and review another book.  It's long overdue, and I thank the author for his patience.  Normally, I shy away from technical books, but this one actually held my interest from cover to cover.  It's called Internet Laws Affecting Your Company by Brett Trout, a Des Moines patent attorney.

With so many of our projects dealing with the internet or having some kind of web interface or impact, it's great that somebody took the time to distill the LEGAL aspects of e-commerce into a USABLE guide.  I highly recommend this book for any project team that has any web component to their project.  From email usage to copyright laws, from freedom of speech to ADA impacts, Brett covers it all.  And he masterfully does it without coming down heavily on the side of legal speak or techie-talk.

The best part about this book is it's structure.  Every topic is easy to locate.  The reader can handle it all in one sitting (budget a couple of hours) or can dice it up into whatever is relevant.  There is a comprehensive glossary and index in the back, as well as many other useful appendices.

This is relevant stuff, if your project entails any kind of web activity (and let's face it, what project doesn't have something to do with the internet these days?) then you should have your technical and legal subject matter experts reading this book.

Plus, I've met Brett... he's a no-nonsense kind of guy... an attorney who has some heart and passion about him.  He knows his stuff... and he's willing to share it with you.

It's Getting Breezy

AnemometerJust a few updates on the release of GUST - The "Tale" Wind of Office Politics:

  • The first book review has come out, thanks to Drew McLellan and The Des Moines Business Record.  According to Drew, "One of the greatest insights in the book is that office politics are not inherently bad. Every business is filled with human beings, and in some ways the book is as much a personality and psychological study as it is a business book. Being able to step back and objectively see the game being played is the first step to understanding what's creating the problems at hand. The book also examines the power of influence within an organization and all the different ways people exercise that influence."  Thanks for the kind words
  • My great appreciation to The Bookstore and to Beaverdale Books for continuing to be my enthusiastic local distributors.  The Bookstore has scheduled my first book signing for April 27 (more details to come).
  • Special thanks to Borders Books for carrying both titles.  I'm excited that my books are on your shelves.
  • Also, I have my first ever radio interview Wednesday night, April 18, with Jim Goodman on the Iowa Business Hour.

A lot of exciting things happening in the near future.  Stay tuned for more details.

Ya Gotta Know Jack

23673230_2 Well, Amazon has quit running the special price on GUST; however, Jack Covert over at 800-CEO-READ is now carrying the book at 20% off the retail price.  So... before you link over to Amazon, check out GUST - The "Tale" Wind of Office Politics at 800-CEO-READ.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by this site, if you have not already been there.  Jack has a great thing going... check it out.

It's a Breeze

It's now official:  GUST - The "Tale Wind of Office Politics is availabWindmill1le for pre-order on Amazon.  (And it's on sale right now for almost a third off the retail price.  What a great opportunity to buy a batch for your entire team... or your entire company.)

But enough shameless self-promotion...

Before you part with your hard earned money on a book that might just sit on your shelf collecting dust, I owe it to you to tell you a little bit more about it.  GUST is an acronym to describe a process of approaching office politics:

  • Game - figure out what is being manipulated and the source of friction
  • Understand - determine what is behind the players, the behaviors, and the motivations
  • Strategize - establish an approach that will get you as close to win-win as possible
  • Take Action - get your ducks in a row as you implement your political strategy

Too often, when we realize that office politics are being played on us, we simply lash out in a reactive approach.  Through dialogue among the characters as well as exercises and thought-provoking questions at the end of the book, you'll be able to diagnose your situation with a little more certainty and confidence and craft an approach that makes sense for the situation, the players involved, and the outcome you desire.

There are all types of "characters" out there, so it was impossible to address every situation.  However, many who have read the book already have attested to their ability to approach their political challenges in a different light... and with better results.

My goals as an author have stayed the same between Race Through The Forest and GUST:

  1. Distill take-back-to-your-desk application into an entertaining and informative hour-long-read (we're all busy people, after all)
  2. Create a business fable that engages the reader without condescending or insulting intelligence.

Special thanks to some of the other bloggers who were kind enough to read the manuscript and provide an advance praise:  Steve Farber, Liz Strauss, Mike Wagner, Phil Gerbyshak, Delaney Kirk, Rajesh Setty, Roger von Oech, and Franke James, just to name a few.  So... enjoy the read.  More book launch information to follow.

Just Blown In

CoverAnd as long as we're talking about books, check out the new cover for GUST - The "Tale" Wind of Office Politics.  The great folks at Lexicon have been feverishly working toward an April 13 release date (the first run is about to go to the printer).  A special thanks to Roger for some advice on the cover design.

For those who read my first book, Race Through The Forest, you'll notice that this book has a bit more edge to it.  Gone are the quirky character names (a la feedback from Steve and Phil).  What stays constant is a commitment to write a business fable with immediate, take-back-to-your-desk application.

I'll continue to write more about this book in specific as well as other office politics issues on this site.  And you can also continue to read my commentary on the subject on Franke James' Office-Politics site.

Stranger Than (Business) Fiction

OK, this is one of those odd things that I'm still scratching my head about and finding somewhat surreal.  Last year, after Race Through The Forest was released, my publisher was approached by a Korean publishing firm about releasing my book in Korean (no... seriously... there's no punchline coming).  My publishing contact got my approval, we took care of all of the international contracts, they gave us a small advance, and I subsequently forgot all about it.

Until this week.

There was a package from my publisher in my mailbox on Monday.  I opened the box and spent the next 30 minutes staring in disbelief and laughing my tail off.  Race Through The Forest is now available in Korean.  I'm officially an international author.  What a hoot!  Life sure is fun and funny.


A Time To Give Back - Part 2

I have become very fond of these three organizations.  Talking to the directors before class, watching them share their passion with my students, and listening to my students as they share their skills with the organizations - it's all been very rewarding.  As I said, these directors have invested a lot of time in my students as well, and have helped to make this semester a great learning experience.  I want some way to thank them for making this semester great.

So, here's the scoop:  For each copy of Race Through The Forest that sells on Amazon between now and the end of November, my publisher, Tiberius Publications, and I will be donating a dollar each ($2 total) that will be split among the three United Way affiliated agencies mentioned in my last post.  For those of you who are familiar with publishing and selling through Amazon and profit margins, it doesn't take a lot of math to figure out I'm not getting rich from this offer.

It's a win-win.  You get a pretty darn good airplane read on project management, and three organizations (and the hundreds of children they serve) get some great benefits.  Pass the word, OK?

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