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When was the last time a business book made you smile? I believe this book will put a smile on the face of even the most discouraged business person. It’s a fable about a group of penguins whose iceberg may or may not be melting. If it melts it will break apart and leave the group homeless, and many penguins would die. Only Fred can see the potential disaster, but he’s a nobody in the penguin colony. Fred finally gets an audience with Alice, one of the leaders, and he shows her the fissures and other symptoms of melting. Alice is amazed that she had managed to ignore the signs, and she takes the problem to the leadership council.
The leaders have a variety of reactions, like leaders in all organizations. Some of them debate the validity of Fred’s statistics. One falls asleep. Another nods at everything because he is uncomfortable with numbers, but doesn’t understand a thing. In desperation, Fred constructs a model of their iceberg that shows the problem, but even he cannot guarantee 100% that the iceberg is melting, only that it appears to be. The head penguins realize that they need to tell the rest of the colony about this potential disaster. They call a general meeting, with the purpose of reducing complacency and increasing urgency.
One of my favorite things about coaching people on their 360 feedback results is talking to them about their strengths. Invariably, when managers have studied their reports before talking with me, they are very clear about what they see as their weaknesses. They almost never notice or take stock of their strengths, which are just as obvious to me as their weaknesses are to them. So we spend some time identifying their strengths and talking about how these can be leveraged to manage weaker areas that might be impacting their performance and slowing their careers. People are usually grateful for these insights, which they might not have gotten on their own.
I was interested in reading this book because I hoped it would be one I could recommend to people when they receive their feedback reports or who are learning to lead and manage others. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my hopes, even though it has some useful information. Let me address the book’s strengths first.
Don’t mistake this Covey with his father, author of the “7 Habits” series. He is his own person, and has written a book that could revolutionize our view of trust in organizations. I highly recommend this book; it is deep and thorough and not to be read in a few evenings. The information and wisdom it possesses should be savored, pondered, and integrated slowly for the greatest impact. When corporate scandals, terrorist threats, and betrayal by our leaders have created low trust on nearly every front, Covey maintains that the ability to establish, grow, extend, and restore trust with all stakeholders is the key leadership competency of the new global economy.
Trust is defined as having confidence. When you trust people, you have confidence in them – in their integrity and their abilities. When you distrust people, you are suspicious of them. Covey cites a study showing that total return to shareholders in high-trust organizations is almost three times higher than the return in low-trust organizations. On a personal level, high-trust individuals are more likely to be promoted, make more money, receive the best opportunities, and have more fulfilling and joyful relationships.
Dr. Goldsmith is one of corporate America’s preeminent executive coaches. He charges a lot for his services, and his clients enthusiastically assert that he’s worth it. But if you don’t have the money to hire him personally, you will get a flavor for his work by reading this fine book. And you might see yourself in its pages.
This book is designed to help successful people become even more successful by identifying an interpersonal problem that they need to stop. Goldsmith discusses the twenty habits that often cause successful people problems. These include: winning too much (the behavior that encompasses many of the other problems), adding too much value, making destructive comments, speaking when angry, withholding information, and not listening.
Goldsmith’s solution to these interpersonal career stoppers is to understand what you need to change and then move through his formula for making lasting change. The most daunting step is deciding what needs to change. Goldsmith warns us not to undertake changing more than one item on the list at a time. To help you choose, Goldsmith strongly recommends getting feedback from those who see you regularly.