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Review – The Leadership Campaign: 10 Political Strategies to Win at Your Career and Propel Your Business to Victory

the-leadership-campaignThis review first ran in the Aug. 29 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

The Leadership Campaign: 10 Political Strategies to Win at Your Career and Propel Your Business to Victory

By Scott Miller and David Morey

Career Press


Who’s the boss?

Here’s hoping it’s not you.

We already have boatloads of bosses.

What we need instead are leaders who think, act and talk like insurgent candidates campaigning all out against incumbent politicians.

We need you to bust-up bureaucracy, shake up the status quo and double down on disruption. We need you to call out what’s tried but no longer true in our organizations and remind us that we face the stark choice of change or be changed.

“If you want to become a leader today, whether you are leading a short-term project, a start-up or a global corporation, we already have the theme of your campaign for leadership. The theme will be change,” say Scott Miller and David Morey, authors of The Leadership Campaign.

“If you are not transforming the markets you’re in, then someone else is doing it, and soon you will be playing by their rules.”

Miller and Morey were top-tier political consultants when Steve Jobs came calling in 1984 and asked if they could apply their political campaigning expertise to leadership, marketing and communications in business.

“Disrupting markets. Disrupting the status quo. These are the specialities of the insurgent political leader and the insurgent political campaign. Steven Jobs did not steer us wrong. For over 30 years now, we’ve found that insurgent political model to be as effective in business as it is in politics.”

If you aspire to be an insurgent leader, here’s the seven-question test you need to ace.  “These are not seven potential questions,” say Miller and Morey. “They are the seven bet-your-ass-and-career definitions you must control and communicate if you are going to have a shot at a successful campaign.”

  1. This is who I am. “You must clearly and compellingly define yourself, or others will be happy to the job for you.” And repeat after Miller and Morey. “What can be known will be known. You may think you have one little secret that nobody knows and nobody can possibly know. But somebody, somewhere, somehow knows it or can know it.”
  2. These are my target voters. Among any group of employees you’ll have hard opposition (they hate you and will never support you), soft opposition (they aren’t fans but their knives aren’t out), undecideds, soft support (they like you but have yet to commit) and hard support (they love you and will do whatever it takes to help you win). Focus on your hard and soft support.
  3. This is the win, this is success. Tell us what we’re trying to achieve. Define our metrics of success. Give us the number we’re trying to reach. Tell us when we’ll reach it (think of it as our Election Day). How will we feel, think and behave when we win?
  4. These are the stakes and this is what’s in it for you and us. “All you have to do is find out what your constituents really, really want and figure out how you are going to deliver it to them.”
  5. Why should I give you money or tie my future success to you? “The primary reason to support you is that you are going to win. You persuade these supporters that you will win big by winning smaller battles along the way.”
  6. This is the enemy of our mutual win. “What stands between you, your team and victory? What is the obstacle you must go over, under or through? Defining an enemy is key to defining victory.” Chances are, your organization’s enemy is the status quo, bureaucratic red tape and complacency.
  7. This is the future I want to lead us to. “Define an optimistic and personally appealing future. Give everybody a stake in that future and they’ll move the world to enable you to lead them there.”

Most organizations have a surplus of bosses and a critical shortage of visionary, insurgent leaders, according to Miller and Morey. These boss-heavy organizations are also hamstrung by a lack of focus and urgency – something you won’t find in winning insurgent political campaigns.

“We keep hearing that innovation is the thing that all businesses (and government) need most today. But you never unlock the potential for innovation without great leadership.”

Miller and Morey show how it’s done in a highly recommended manual for insurgent leaders looking to win and hold onto the support of their employees.

Jay Robb serves as director of communications for Mohawk College, has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999 and lives in Hamilton.

Review: O Great One! A Little Story About The Awesome Power of Recognition by David Novak

o-great-one-by-david-novak-and-christina-bourgThis review first ran in the Aug. 15 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

O Great One! A Little Story About The Awesome Power of Recognition

By David Novak

Portfolio / Penguin


It costs nothing to say thank you.

But an inability or unwillingness to give thanks should cost clueless senior managers their jobs, according to David Novak.

“I wanted to tell this story because I’ve seen how impactful recognition can be,” says Novak, author of O Great One! and the cofounder, former chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands – one of the world’s largest restaurant companies with more than 1.5 million employees in 125 countries.

“I’ve also witnessed how devastating it can be when it’s absent from the life of an individual, a team and even a large organization. Considering that recognition can have such a hugely positive effect, it’s amazing to me that it’s still vastly underused in business, and also in life. I think that’s a crime.”

You don’t delegate recognition to Human Resources or pawn it off on a task force that’ll spend a year dreaming up mandatory and standardized ways to have fun on the job.

Recognition is your responsibility and first priority as a leader, says Novak who’s been named CEO of the Year by Chief Executive, one of the 30 best CEOs by Barron’s, one of the top people in business by Fortune and one of the 100 best performing CEOs in the world by Harvard Business Review (add mensch to the list, as Novak is donating 100 per cent of the profits from his book to the Wendy Novak Diabetes Center).

As a leader, you cast a long shadow across your organization. If you want people to continue doing their jobs well then you need to recognize a job well done.

“You have the power to use recognition to make a difference in people’s lives each and every day. You have the power to show people that someone is watching, that someone cares and that what they do really matters. You have the power to help individuals, teams and organizations reach their potential.

“If you use recognition on a regular basis, you can inspire people to do great things. And the personal satisfaction you’ll receive as a result, when you see others reach their full potential with your help…well, that’s when the real magic kicks in.”

Novak sets out 10 guiding principles for motivating and recognizing employees:

  • People won’t care about you if you don’t care about them.
  • The best way to show people you care is to listen to them. Make the time to hear and acknowledge what they have to say.
  • A great idea can come from anywhere. “A good idea is simply a good idea no matter where it comes from, so view everyone as a potential source,” says Novak.
  • Recognize great work and great ideas whenever and wherever you see them. Don’t wait until annual performance reviews or monthly meetings.  Recognition should be spontaneous, real and from the heart.
  • Make recognition a catalyst for results. Recognize the values and behaviors that you want adopted across the organization. “Reward the right things and more of the right things will happen.” According to Novak, the only time to celebrate years of service is during retirement parties.
  • Make it fun. “Everyone will want to be involved in recognition if you create shared experiences that are fun for everyone, and not just for the person being recognized.”
  • Make it personal. Instead of handing out the usual certificate, plaque or card, personalize awards to make it more meaningful, memorable and fun.
  • Recognition is universal. Everyone wants to be recognized for a job well done.
  • Giving recognition is a privilege. “Don’t think of it as just another item on your to-do list. When exercised the right way, giving recognition is a privilege that feeds people’s souls and makes them feel great about themselves.”
  • Say thank you every chance you get.

Novak makes his case by telling a fictional story about a reluctant CEO who uses the power of recognition to win over a skeptical executive team and save a faltering family business. Given Novak’s track record as a celebrated CEO, his advice is worth heeding.

“If you give people the recognition they’ve earned, if you show genuine appreciation and acknowledge the unique things people have to offer, then you will drive real results. And at the same time, you will lift the spirits of everyone involved.”

Jay Robb serves as director of communications for Mohawk College and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.

Review: Cal Newport’s Deep Work – Rules For Focused Success in a Distracted World

deep workThis review first ran in the Aug. 2 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success in a Distracted World

By Cal Newport

Grand Central Publishing


How about we quit social media cold turkey and don’t tell a soul?

At the end of 30 days, we’ll ask ourselves two questions.

Did our professional and personal lives suffer irreparable harm because we weren’t on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram?

And did anyone care or notice that we were gone?

If we realize that we didn’t miss out on much of anything and no one was clamouring to hear what we have to say then let’s quit for good.

Walking away from social media is one way to ween ourselves off the near universal addiction to constant distraction.

That addiction makes it tough for us to do deep work, a term coined by MIT grad, Georgetown University assistant professor of computer science and author Cal Newport.

We’re at our best when we’re doing distraction-free deep work. We’re learning and mastering new skills. We’re solving big, complex problems. And the quality and speed of our work is at an elite level.

“A commitment to deep work is not a moral stance and it’s not a philosophical statement,” says Newport. “It is instead a pragmatic recognition that the ability to concentrate is a skill that gets valuable things done. “

“Deep work is necessary to wring every last drop of value out of your current intellectual capacity. To succeed, you have to produce the absolute best stuff you’re capable of producing – a task that requires depth.”

The ability to focus for a sustained stretch on deep work is increasingly rare and valuable.  That makes it the coin of the realm in today’s economy for knowledge workers. “Deep work is becoming a key currency, even if most haven’t yet recognized this reality,” says Newport.

But we spend far too much of our days keeping busy doing shallow work.  Newport calls this kind of work “non-cognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.” Shallow work also makes us easily replaceable by cheaper people or faster machines.

If a freshly minted grad could step in with little or no training and fill your shoes then there’s a good chance you’ve loaded up on shallow work.

Social media is only part of the problem. It’s a challenge to do deep work when you’re in an open concept office, your calendar’s full of standing meetings, you’re conditioned to constantly check your inbox for urgent emails demanding immediate responses and you’re expected to have an active presence on social media.

“This type of work is inevitable, but you must keep it confined to a point where it doesn’t impede your ability to take full advantage of the deeper efforts that ultimately determine your impact,” says Newport.

Along with a social media sabbatical, Newport recommends carving out blocks of time for distraction-free deep work. Aim for uninterrupted stretches of three to four hours.

Also ask your boss for a shallow work budget. Get agreement on how much of your time should be spent on shallow work.

“Obeying this budget will likely require changes to your behavior,” says Newport. “You’ll almost certainly end up forced into saying no to projects that seem infused with shallowness while also more aggressively reducing the amount of shallowness in your existing projects.”

You should also make yourself harder to reach to limit distractions. Newport leads by example. You won’t find him on social media. On his website, there’s a special-purpose email specifically for offers, opportunities or introductions that will make Newport’s life more interesting. He tells you upfront that he’ll only respond to proposals that are a good match for his schedule and interests.

“Most people easily accept the idea that you have a right to control your own incoming communication, as they would like to enjoy this same right,” says Newport. “More important, people appreciate clarity. Most are okay to not receive a response if they don’t expect one. In some cases, this expectation reset might even earn you more credit when you do respond.”

Deep work is hard work and forces us to make tough choices. We’ll need to break habits, learn new routines and get comfortable saying no. Yet Newport speaks from experience when he tells us a deep life is a good life.

Jay Robb has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999, serves as director of communications for Mohawk College and lives in Hamilton.