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Posts from the ‘Book reviews’ Category

Review: That’s What She Said – What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together by Joanne Lipman

she saidThis review first ran in the Feb. 24 edition of the Hamilton Spectator.

That’s What She Said: What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together

By Joanne Lipman

William Morrow

$35.99

I can’t afford to wait 170 years.

That’s how long the World Economic Forum predicts it will take women and men to reach economic parity worldwide.

But I need the gap closed by the time my daughter’s done school and launches her career.

Parents want what’s best for our kids. We also want what’s right. And gender equality is a fundamental human right. My daughter deserves the same opportunities that will be afforded to my son.

To close the gap between women and men, all of us dads, husbands, brothers and sons need to man up.

So what’s stopping us? Journalist Joanne Lipman says there’s real fear of how both our male and female colleagues will respond if we join the fight. “Plenty of other men would be happy to join the conversation,” says Lipman, author of That’s What She Said. “They’re just terrified of saying something wrong.”

A non-profit focused on working women asked men what would undermine their support for gender equality. “A stunning 74 per cent cited fear – fear of loss of status, fear of other men’s disapproval, and most telling of all, fear of making a mistake. Men are walking around on eggshells.”

Yet Lipman says women will only solve 50 per cent of the problem if they just talk amongst themselves.

“We need men to join the conversation, to be our partners. And as for the men, most of them aren’t anywhere near villains. They don’t need beating up with a two-by-four. They’d like to see an equitable workplace, they just can’t figure out what they’re supposed to do about it.”

So here are some of Lipman’s suggestions on what men can do to help level the gender playing field at work.

Interrupt the interrupters. Don’t allow your male co-workers to interrupt and talk over female colleagues.

Diversify the interviewers, not just the applicants. It’s not enough to bring in female job applicants, says Lipman. “If the interviewers aren’t diverse – if, say, all the interviewers are white men – they are less likely to see her as a ‘cultural fit’ while she may also feel so uncomfortable that she rejects the job even if offered.”

Stop dishing compliments that belittle your female colleagues. “Would you say it to man? If not, you probably should not say it to a woman, either.”

Quit making decisions for women who are raising children. Do they want to travel, relocate or take on extra hours? “Don’t assume. Ask her. Even if she declines, present the next opportunity, and the one after that.”

Give women raises and promotions before they ask or think they’re ready for it. Research shows men are four times more likely than women to ask for a raise and a bigger job. “Make sure qualified women are in the mix, whether they have put up their hands or not. Be prepared to twist a few arms.”

And start respecting women by eliminating slights large and small. Researchers have found that men get more respect than women even if they hold the exact same position. The subtle digs and lack of respect are wearying, difficult to fight and the steady drumbeat can be debilitating, says Lipman.

“For real change to happen, if we are to transform a culture that has long been molded by and for men, it will take individuals, one at a time, taking a stand, reaching across the gender divide. The wins will come from the accumulation of small, everyday interactions of both women and men. When men and women both reach across the gender divide, we actually will have a shot at closing the gap.”

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

5 Ways to Derail Your Career & 2 Questions to Keep it on Track (review)

right stuffThis review was first published in the Jan. 29 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

The Right and Wrong Stuff: How Brilliant Careers are Made and Unmade

By Carter Cast

Public Affairs

$36.50

A lousy annual performance review is a gift that few of us will ever get in our careers.

Most of us work for bosses who shy away from tough conversations, believe only in accentuating the positive or dismiss reviews as a time-wasting unnecessary evil.

They do us no favours. What’s left unsaid in performance reviews will eventually trip us up. Our blind spots will get us fired, demoted or passed over for promotion.

“Sooner or later, unaddressed developmental needs will limit the career progress of good people,” says Carter Cast, author of The Right and Wrong Stuff, a professor at Northwestern University and a former executive with Walmart, Blue Nile, Electronic Arts and PepsiCo.

Career derailment is in the cards for up to 80 per cent of us, warns Cast. Based on his research, a lack of self-awareness and difficulty in working with others are the leading causes of career derailment. He says that careers stall more from having the wrong stuff than from lacking the right stuff.

“It is often hubris – not lack of talent – that causes people on the rise to fall. Prior to failing, people who derail where successful and considered talented up-and-comers. Derailment often afflicts talented managers who are either unaware of a debilitating weakness or interpersonal blind spot or arrogant enough to believe that development feedback doesn’t apply to them.”

We’re headed for the fall if any of Cast’s five archetypes sound all too familiar:

Captain Fantastics lose friends and make enemies thanks to unbridled egos, an inability to listen and an “I-me-mine” mantra.

The solo flier is a strong individual contributor who fails to realize that you can’t build or lead a team by micromanaging or doing all the work yourself.

Version 1.0 is comfortable with routine and resistant to change. “Their attitude of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ will not serve them well over time and eventually their dinosaur-like tendencies may lead to extinction,” says

One-trick ponies consistently do one thing really well. But this overspecialization makes them one-dimensional and unpromotable. And what they’ve been good at in the past may not be what the organization needs them to start doing now or in the future.

Unfocused whirling dervishes overcommit and underdeliver, with weak planning and organizational skills to implement any of the creative ideas “spewing out of their brains like a hyperactive geyser.”

Avoiding career derailment is a DIY project, says Cast. “Most bosses are too worried about their own hide to take the time to worry about yours. There’s one person out there who really wants to help you get ahead – there’s one person who’s truly interested in your success and well-being – you.”

Start shoring up your weaknesses by asking two questions. Do I have the right strengths in my current position relative to people doing similar work? And do I have the right strengths around which to build my career in the future?

Now take the initiative for your professional and personal development. Be aware of your weaknesses. Seek out challenging assignments that will build your strengths. Routinely solicit honest feedback and act on what you hear. Build and maintain positive relationships with others. Recruit mentors and create a learning circle to share ideas, perspectives and lessons learned with industry peers outside your organization.

If you’re a boss, make developing others a genuine priority and adopt Cast’s three-strike rule. Hold three meetings with an underperforming employee.

Have the tough but necessary conversation in your first meeting and come up with a game plan to improve performance. Measure improvement or the lack of it in your second meeting. In your third meeting, either congratulate the employee for getting their career back on the track or wish them well in their future endeavours.

“All too often companies ignore the topic of derailment until it’s too late, but their employees cannot afford to do so,” says Cast. “Of course it’s important to focus on developing your strengths, but towering strengths cannot overcome debilitating weaknesses. We all need to understand and mitigate our career-limiting vulnerabilities.”

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

Review: Impromptu – Leading in the Moment by Judith Humphrey

impromptuThis review ran in the Jan. 15 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

Impromptu: Leading in the Moment

By Judith Humphrey

Wiley

$36

Something remarkable happened at work.

We went to a town hall meeting and a conversation broke out.

Here’s how it happened.

Senior leaders stepped out from behind the lectern, left the stage and went into the audience.

They didn’t have prepared remarks or PowerPoint slides. They hadn’t gone to a dress rehearsal and some had no idea they were about to be called on.

Senior leaders started off by giving spontaneous answers to real questions that staff had written on cue cards at the start of the town hall.

This in turn prompted other staff to put up their hands and ask even more questions.

The conversation continued for more than 90 minutes. The town hall ended with a round of applause. Senior leaders were grateful for the questions. Staff appreciated the authentic, candid, off the cuff answers.

The town hall was unlike any I had attended over my 25-year career with four organizations.

Judith Humphrey, author of Impromptu, says that leadership communications is undergoing a transformation. We’re moving from one-off formal speeches on the big stage to continuous impromptu speaking on smaller stages.

“More than ever, those who lead must find their authentic voice. Impromptu speaking provides a way to connect, inspire and lead in the 21st century world,” says Humphrey. “Scripted speeches, PowerPoint presentations, dog and pony shows, and marketing hype are being replaced by the conversations that leaders have every day with their followers. These conversations will change minds, hearts and organizations.”

Don’t confuse impromptu speaking with winging it. You won’t inspire others if you can’t stop talking and don’t make any sense.

You can mitigate this risk by using a four-part script template used by Humphrey’s leadership communications firm.

“Creating your script is an important aspect of impromptu speaking,” says Humphrey. “It will keep you from blathering on as so many people do. In every situation it’s important to collect your thoughts rather than spew out whatever comes in your head. With a clear and persuasive structure, you will influence and inspire your listeners. There is no more critical a skill for impromptu speaking than this ability to structure your thoughts.”

Humphrey’s template has you leading off with a grabber that connects you with your audience and builds rapport. “If you speak without reaching out to them and engaging them, it’s likely nobody will listen to you. Think of your grabber as a verbal handshake.”

You then deliver your key message. A good message is limited to one idea that’s communicated in a single, short sentence. Your message should engage the hearts and minds of your audience, carry your convictions and be positive.

You then make a compelling case for your key message with a handful of reinforcing proof points. “Stating your message is rarely sufficient. You need evidence that encourages listeners to buy into that point of view. So after presenting what you believe, share why you believe it.”

The script ends with you making a call to action to your audience. Be explicit. What do you want them to start, stop or continue doing?  Like the grabber at the start of the script, your call to action needs to engage your audience. “It gives legs to your message by transforming an idea into actionable steps. In doing so, it makes your script an act of motivational leadership.”

Humphrey shows how we can use her script templates to effectively communicate in a host of situations, from meetings, job interviews, toasts and tributes to elevator pitches, question and answer sessions and speeches.

“Few skills are more important today for leaders and aspiring leaders than the ability to speak well in impromptu situations,” says Humphrey. “The day when executives could deliver the big speech and then retreat to their offices is long gone. Constant, spontaneous interactions with colleagues, senior executives, clients and stakeholders has become the norm. The new world of leadership is full of conversation, collaboration and charisma. Make the most of these opportunities.”

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

Five great ideas to carry over into your business or organization in 2018

Drawing from some of the best business books I read and reviewed last year for the Hamilton Spectator, here are five great ideas  to carry over into 2018.

no egoAdd an accountability filter to your 2018 employee engagement survey. Add questions that will let you separate out answers from two very different kinds of employees. Pay close attention to what high-accountable employees are telling you. They’re the high performers who’ll suggest ways to make your organization better for customers, clients, patients or students. Don’t waste time, money or effort in trying to shore up satisfaction scores of low-accountable employees who will only give you a list of demands on how to make their lives easier. “If we really want our engagement surveys to drive workplace results, then we need to be honest,” says Cy Wakeman, author of No Ego – How Leaders Can Cut the Cost of Workplace Drama, End Entitlement and Drive Big Results. “Not all employees contribute equally, and the feedback they offer isn’t equal either. Treating all feedback equally is crazy.” So too is holding managers accountable for driving up satisfaction scores among employees who contribute little or nothing to the organization.

egiHelp yourself by helping others first. Adopt what Ryan Holiday calls the canvas strategy. “Find canvasses for others to paint on,” says Holiday in Ego is the Enemy. “Whereas everyone else wants to get credit and be respected, you can forget credit. You can forget it so hard that you’re glad when others get it instead of you – that was your aim after all. Let the others take the credit on credit, while you defer and earn interest on the principle.” This is one way to keep your ego in check in 2018 and not allow a false sense of superiority to exceed the bounds of confidence and talent.

radicalStart practicing radical candor. Care personally and challenge directly in 2018. Find the courage to deliver difficult yet necessary feedback, make tough calls and set a high bar for results. At the same time, let people know that you care them. “When people trust you and believe you care about them, they are much more likely to accept and act on your praise and criticism,” says Kim Scott in Radical Candor – Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity. You do yourself and the people around you no favours when you put being liked ahead of saying and doing what needs to be said and done.

MomentsPick an event that your organization runs every year and shake up the status quo. Don’t settle for what Chip and Dan Heath call the soul-sucking force of reasonableness. Invest the time and extra money to create a stand-out experience in 2018 that everyone in the room will remember and everyone else will wish they had attended. “Moments matter,” say the Heaths in The Power of Moments“And what an opportunity we miss when we leave them to chance. Teachers can inspire, caregivers can comfort, service workers can delight, politicians can unite and managers can motivate. All it takes is a bit of insight and forethought. We can be the designers of moments that deliver elevation and insight and pride and connection.”

powerMake sure everyone in your organization has the same answers to two fundamental questions. What do we stand for? And what do we want to be known for? The answers will define your organization’s culture in 2018. Average organizations have mission statements. Great organizations have people who are on a mission. The difference comes down to culture. “Your most important job as a leader is to drive the culture,” says Jon Gordon in The Power of Positive Leadership. “You must create a positive culture that energizes and encourages people, fosters connected relationships and great teamwork, empowers and enables people to do their best work.”

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

Review: Weird in a World That’s Not – A Career Guide for Misfits, F*ckups and Failures by Jennifer Romolini

weirdThis review first ran in the Dec. 18th edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

Weird in a World That’s Not: A Career Guide for Misfits, F*ckups and Failures

By Jennifer Romolini

Harper Business

$34.99

Ziplining at Mount Tremblant brought back bad memories of team-building with a telephone pole.

I kept reassuring my skeptical wife that the zip line and treetop obstacle course would be fun for the whole family. And it was until it suddently wasn’t. We were about halfway through the course and past the point of no return when the course became an endurance test that I was failing.

I was sore, cranky and no longer thinking straight when I finally got to the highest and longest zip line. Forgetting the cardinal rule of ziplining, I put my ungloved hand in front of the pulley and slid off the platform. The pulley jammed into the web of flesh between my thumb and index finger and left me dangling in a cold sweat.

I eventually unstuck myself and then failed to reach out and grab the loop at the end of the zip line that pulls you onto the next platform.

Instead, I snagged the loop with my left foot while sliding back towards the middle of the zip line. I was now stretched out and stuck as the families waiting behind me and watching from below shouted out words of encouragement. I’m not proud of what I shouted back.

And that’s when I had a flashback to a team-building retreat at another resort that also left me stuck in a high place. I had to strap on a harness tied to a rope, climb a telephone pole, stand on a Frisbee nailed to the top of the pole and then jump off while I trusted coworkers to slowly let out the rope.

Everyone on the ground shouted at me to keep going while I perched frozen at the top of the swaying pole with one foot on the Frisbee.

Jennifer Romolini also had to climb a telephone pole at an employee retreat, with the same results and reaction. “It was an absurd situation, one made even more so because the people around me seemed to be having a good time – they were into it and having fun. I felt out of place, awkward and exposed, a Woman Who Fell to Earth If Earth Was A Contrived Corporate Retreat.”

Romolini survived the retreat, stayed with the company for six years and was promoted four times.  She’s now the chief content officer at Shondaland.com and author of Weird in a World That’s Not.

At 27, Romolin was a divorced and broke college drop-out living with her parents. She went to 23 job interviews before landing her first gig with a New York media company.

“For a long time, I was pretty sure I would never make it in the world, that I would never become successful in the way that successful people are,” says Romolini. ”The reason I would never do this was because I was too intense, too socially clumsy, too sensitive.”

Romolini eventually figured out that her weirdness was an asset. She didn’t need to fake it to make it. She’s now sharing her hard-earned advice for other struggling misfits who’ve yet to find their way.

“Follow your bad feelings. Ultimately, the process for finding the vocation I wanted and would excel at wasn’t soft or calm. It wasn’t worksheets or matching my personality type against a series of careers to see what lined up. How I found the colour of my parachute was by force, taking a hard and honest look at my sadness and insecurity, what made me the most pissed off and envious, the things I wanted to be so badly that I seethed.”

Weird in a World That’s Not is part memoir and part career advice column for the introverted and socially awkward.  She tells how to write resumes and cover letters, what to say in job interviews and during meetings, what not to do at office parties and on social media, how to make small talk at networking events, how to get promoted and be a good leader and how to know that it’s time to go and move on to a new job.

There’s also a timely chapter on her one regret of not standing up to a demeaning and inappropriate male boss. “I urge you not to play along, not to act like it’s cool, like it’s cute ever, not when you’re 23 or not when you’re 53. I urge you because enough already; women deserve to be treated equally and respectfully at workplaces and other places, now and forever, the end.”

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

 

Review: Unbranding – 100 Lessons For The Age of Disruption by Alison and Scott Stratten

31McsOaqDZL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_This review first ran in the Nov. 20 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

Unbranding: 100 Branding Lessons for the Age of Disruption

By Alison and Scott Stratten

Wiley

$30

Our family used to go to a resort in the Muskokas. We went every Thanksgiving for 10 years.

Now I go online to remind myself why we’re never going back.

Our last stay at the resort was not a good one. And it appears the resort hasn’t turned things around, judging by reviews on sites like TripAdvisor.

The customer reviews are brutal. Worst hotel ever. What a disaster. Run away. So gross we left at one in the morning. If it wasn’t for its location and reasonable price for one night I would never stay in this dump. Run by teenagers. Seen better days. I would not recommend it under any circumstances. The resort is in desperate need of an update and lots of repairs. The pool was green and the hot tub was not working. Stained carpets, peeling wallpaper and a seagull-infested beach. Disappointed upon arrival; cancelled extra night immediately. Run-down resort with no pride of ownership.

I read these reviews whenever I feel nostalgic for the family bingo nights, beach bonfires, canoe rides, forest hikes and lakeshore views. No discounts or special offers will win me back.

As Scott and Alison Stratten point out in their latest book Unbranding, you don’t have a social media problem if you’re getting destroyed in online reviews. What you have is a business problem. What you do offline drives what customers say online.

And you can’t fix this problem with a new logo, ad campaign or a hotshot social media firm with expertise in online reputation management.

According to the Strattens, you build brand loyalty by delivering in four key areas:

  • Comfort: “All the successful brands we’ve seen brought their customers from a feeling of need or want into one of comfort. Once the need has been met, customers walked away confident that in the future the company would rise to the occasion again.”
  • Cost: This isn’t about a race to the bottom with the lowest prices. “Focusing on cost really means focusing on perceived value and giving people what they paid for.” Customers should feel their money is well spent on whatever you’re selling.
  • Convergence: “Loyal customers feel their ideals line up with the companies they work with. The most successful businesses understand their customers and what they believe in, making their products and services part of the individual’s identity.”
  • Convenience: “Products and services don’t only cost the customer’s money, they also cost time. Everyone is busy, and our successful brands earned loyalty by appreciating and saving customers’ time.”

The Strattens give 100 lessons in branding done brilliantly well and also horribly and hilariously wrong by businesses big and small.  They pull no punches but also sing the praises of companies that get it right when they’ve done wrong by their customers.

Here’s one key lesson for when customers inevitably complain. Don’t ignore them, stew over what was said, punch back, lawyer up, try to bury the bad reviews, play the blame game or say it’s someone else’s problem to fix.

Instead, step up, take responsibility, respond promptly and never forget that customer service is now a spectator sport thanks to social media.

“You always have an opportunity to create a positive brand experience for your customers and you always have the opportunity to move the needle,” say the Strattens. “You just need to start by owning each and every customer’s experience as your responsibility. No matter what your business card says, we are all responsible for branding.”

While we’ve never gone back to the resort in the Muskokas, I still get my bonfire fix with annual road trips to Darien Lake with my kids. The park is spotless and family-friendly, the line-ups for rides are short, the staff and service are great and so is the value for  money. Darien Lake has earned my brand loyalty and I’ve never felt the need to check online reviews before deciding whether to book a cabin for another year.

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

Review – The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath

MomentsThis review first ran in the Nov. 6 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact

By Chip and Dan Heath

Simon & Schuster

$39

How do you get students from priority neighbourhoods to stay in school and go to college?

Yes Prep Public Schools in Houston has a great solution.

Senior Signing Day was launched in 2001. It’s modeled after the day when graduating high school football players sign letters of intent with American colleges. Staff at Yes Prep wanted to recreate the same level of excitement for their students’ academic achievements.

Last year’s Senior Signing Day was held in the Toyota Centre, home to the NBA’s Houston Rockets.

Students, family, friends, staff, alumni and supporters pack the arena for the two hour celebration. Each graduating student walks across the stage, steps up to the podium and announces what college they’re attending in the fall. Some of the students break the news by unveiling t-shirts, ball caps and pennants. The crowd goes wild. This is not a staid and somber ceremony.

The graduating students then make it official by signing their enrollment papers.

Maybe you think this event seems like a ton of work. You could ask why Yes Prep doesn’t just list the graduating students and their future colleges in a program and instead invite an alumnus, donor or celebrity to give a speech like the one given at at every other graduation ceremony.

But then you’d be missing the point.

Senior Signing Day was engineered to be a defining moment for everyone in the arena. It’s a celebration for the graduating students. It gives families yet another reason to be proud. It reminds staff and supporters that they’re transforming lives. And it inspires the younger students who picture themselves up on stage and getting rafter-shaking roars of applause in a few more years.

Every organization can create defining moments for customers, students, patients and employees, say brothers Chip and Dan Heath and authors of The Power of Moments.

“Moments matter,” say the Heaths. “And what an opportunity we miss when we leave them to chance. Teachers can inspire, caregivers can comfort, service workers can delight, politicians can unite and managers can motivate. All it takes is a bit of insight and forethought. We can be the designers of moments that deliver elevation and insight and pride and connection.”

You don’t have to fill an NBA arena to create defining moments. The Magic Castle Hotel in Los Angeles uses a Popsicle hotline. You pick up the phone and order a free cherry, orange or grape Popsicle. A white-gloved staff member then delivers it poolside on a silver tray. It’s a peak moment that guests will remember, rave about online and talk about when they return home.

So why don’t more organizations create these peak moments? The Heaths warn that it’s easy to fall victim to the soul-sucking force of reasonableness. Creating peak moments takes a lot of effort and it’s rarely in anyone’s job description. It’s far easier to stick with the predictability and safety of the status quo.

So instead of experiencing a few unforgettable peaks, we get unrelenting flatness. Learning, working and spending money start to feel like a never-ending road trip across the Canadian Prairies.

Your first day at a new job should be a defining moment. But how many of us have spent that day memorizing the corporate policy and procedure binder at an empty desk followed by a whirlwind round of introductions that interrupt busy coworkers who had no idea we were joining the team?

Along with succumbing to reasonableness, the Heaths say organizations are preoccupied with filling lots of potholes and pay little to no attention in creating a few peaks. Yet it’s these surprising moments that make us overlook or put up other moments that fall short of expectations. “When we assess our experiences, we don’t average our minute-by-minute sensations. Rather, we tend to remember flagship moments: the peaks, the pits and the transitions.”

For inspiration, the Heaths showcase defining moments created by at all kind of organizations. The only problem with their book is that you’ll find it impossible to sit and suffer through peak-free events and experiences that stick to the same old script and settle for reasonableness.

@jayrobb serves as director of communications for Mohawk College, reviews business books for the Hamilton Spectator and lives in Hamilton.

Review – The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google by Scott Galloway

the fourThis review first ran in the Oct. 23 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google

By Scott Galloway

Portfolio / Penguin

$37

Your favourite burger joint just got caught cooking fake meat  They knew the burgers were bad but kept serving them up and making people sick.

So what do you do?

Of course, you quit eating their burgers. And you cheer when they’re shut down and run out of town.

So why are you still on Facebook?

The company knows it’s being used by troll farms to spread lies that divide us, dial up the distrust and outrage and get us marching to extremes, says Scott Galloway, a tech entrepreneur, New York University professor and author of The Four.

While fake news is bad news for our mental health and civil society, it’s great business for Facebook.

“The true believers, whether from the left or the right, click on the bait,” says  Galloway. “The posts that get the most clicks are confrontational and angry. And those clicks drive up a post’s hit rate.”

High hit rates and more time spent on site mean more money for Facebook. And making money – not giving you a way to share baby photos and cat videos — is the company’s sole mission, says Galloway. “By trashing fake news stories, Facebook would sacrifice billions of clicks and loads of revenue. Once the company’s success is measured in clicks and dollars, why favour true stories over false ones?”

This is a big problem since nearly half of us now get our news from Facebook and one in six people on the planet use it every day. Mixing together real and fake news makes Facebook even more dangerous, warns Galloway.

We greatly overestimate our ability to separate fact from fiction and Facebook is in no hurry to spend whatever’s necessary to weed out fake news, says Galloway.

“This abdication from social responsibility, enabling authoritarians and hostile actors to deftly use fake news, risks that the next big medium may, again, be cave walls.”

Along with Facebook, Galloway takes a hard look at Amazon, Apple and Google.

Amazon renders moot the living wage debate with its warehouse robots and cashier-less grab and go retail stores.

Apple has morphed into a luxury brand. “It may sell millions of iPods, iPhones, iWatches and Apple Watches but likely only one percent of the world can (rationally) afford them and that’s how Apple wants it,” says Galloway.

And while God may not answer your prayers, Google has all the answers. “Look at your recent Google search history: you reveal things to Google that you wouldn’t want anyone to know. We believe, naively, that nobody (but the Big Guy) can listen to our thoughts. But let’s be clear…Google too is listening.”

Galloway says we need to cast a more critical eye on the four tech titans as they fundamentally change how we live, work, shop and get along with each other.

“These firms are not concerned with the condition of our souls, will not take care of us in our old age, nor hold our hand,” says Galloway. “They are organizations that have aggregated enormous power. These companies avoid taxes, invade privacy, and destroy jobs to increase profits because they can.

“Are these entities the Four Horseman of god, love, sex and consumption? Or are they the Four Horseman of the apocalypse? The answer is yes to both questions.”

@jayrobb lives and works in Hamilton, has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999 and does not get his news from Facebook.

Review: Real Artists Don’t Starve – Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age by Jeff Goins

real artistsThis review first ran in the Oct. 10 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timelines Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age

By Jeff Goins

Nelson Books

$31

It’s never been easier to make a living off your creative talent.

But just don’t be too quick in quitting your day job.

John Grisham can show you how it’s done. He was a new father and a lawyer working 70-hour weeks. Writing was his hobby.

Grisham didn’t quit his Mississippi law practice. Instead, he woke up at 5 a.m. every day for three years to work on his debut novel A Time to Kill.

He repeated the routine with his second legal thriller.

“It wasn’t until he was two bestsellers into his writing career that he felt confident enough to leave his law practice and pursue writing full-time,” says Jeff Goins, entrepreneur and author of Real Artists Don’t Starve. “That’s the art of the small bet.”

Grisham’s early morning bets paid off. His books have sold more than 300 million copies worldwide, been translated into 40 languages and made into nine movies.

Goins says low-risk bets will get you the big win. “If you don’t have to go all in, don’t.”

It’s advice that’s confirmed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.  They tracked 5,000 entrepreneurs over 14 years. The cautious entrepreneurs were more successful. The risk-takers who quit their day jobs were 33 per cent more likely to fail.

“Most significant change begins with a simple step, not a giant leap,” says Goins.  No one’s born an artist. We gradually become one through these simple steps and small bets.

It’s one of 12 rules for succeeding in what Goins calls our new creative renaissance.

There’s his rule of creative theft that encourages stealing from masters and peers. “Great artists do not try to be original,” says Goins. “Creativity is not about being original; it’s about learning to rearrange what has already been in a way that brings fresh insight to old material.”

Under the rule of the patron, you need to find someone early on who will vouch for your work and open doors. “Before you can reach an audience of many, you must first reach an audience of one,” says Goins. “These people lend their resources and influence to help creative talents succeed, introducing them to opportunities they would not encounter otherwise.”

And there’s the rule of never working for free. Don’t do something for the exposure or the opportunity. “Exposure will not put food on the table,” says Goins. “Charging what you’re worth begins with the belief that you’re worth what you charge.”

Making money allows you to continue making your art. “That is the point – to keep making things. You don’t have to be rich to do that, but you can’t starve. That’s not how your best work is going to be made.”

Follow the 12 rules and you’re more likely to thrive rather than starve and struggle as an artist.

“We can, in fact, create work that matters and earn a living doing so. We can share our gift with the world without having to suffer for it. And the sooner we take advantage of this opportunity, the sooner we can get on with doing our work.”

So set your alarm clock and start making small predawn bets before heading off to your day job.

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

Review: No Ego – How Leaders Can Cut the Cost of Workplace Drama, End Entitlement and Drive Big Results by Cy Wakeman

no egoThis review first ran in the Sept. 25 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

No Ego: How Leaders Can Cut the Cost of Workplace Drama, End Entitlement and Drive Big Results

By Cy Wakeman

St. Martins Press

$37.99

Survey says we’re having ice cream socials every Friday afternoon.

It’s an employee suggestion from your latest engagement survey. Free ice cream seems like a quick and easy way to buy some love and shore up engagement scores.

But a deluge of emotional waste will hit your managers starting Monday morning. They’ll be silently screaming about ice cream.

Monday morning is when they’ll start hearing from employees who can’t get make it to Friday socials even though senior management is well aware of this fact, obviously doesn’t care and is out to get them yet again.

Managers will be told to run a more inclusive event for employees who don’t like ice cream, are lactose intolerant, have sensitive teeth or prefer healthy options.

Managers will get requests to leave work a half-hour early from employees who don’t spend 30 minutes eating ice cream in the cafeteria.

Managers will get sermons on why locally sourced organic ice cream is the better, more sustainable option along with calls for employees to be consulted on whether vanilla and chocolate ice cream should be the only choices.

Managers will get complaints about the skimpy selection of toppings and how the absence of whipped cream and cherries is just one more way that senior management nickel and dimes employees.

Managers will hear about preferences for waffle bowls over plastic cups.

And someone will rat out Andy from accounting who’s rumoured to get extra scoops of ice cream because, as everyone knows, Andy is a suck-up who may, or may not, be dating the CEO’s daughter.

You can spare your managers the drama by putting an accountability filter on your next engagement survey, says Cy Wakeman, author of No Ego, consultant and founder of Reality-Based Leadership,

Ask survey questions that will differentiate responses from high and low-accountable employees.

Focus on what high-accountable employees are telling you. These are the resilient, self-aware, change-ready high performers who take full responsibility for their own optimism, energy and enthusiasm. They consistently give their best effort and continually look for ways to improve. They’ll use the engagement survey to highlight ways to better serve your clients, customers, patients or students. Free ice cream for employees likely isn’t on their list.

Low-accountable employees wear victimhood like a well-worn housecoat, says Wakeman. They blame everyone and everything for their lacklustre work, blown deadlines and sour disposition. They’ll use the survey to emotionally blackmail you into making their lives easier.

Trying to drive up engagement scores among low-accountable employees is a fool’s errand. And if you could actually pull this off, would you want an organization full of highly satisfied low-accountable employees?

“If we really want our engagement surveys to drive workplace results, then we need to be honest,” says Wakeman. “Not all employees contribute equally, and the feedback they offer isn’t equal either. Treating all feedback equally is crazy.”

Engagement without accountability leads to entitlement, warns Wakeman. That sense of entitlement causes time-wasting and productivity-killing drama and emotional waste.

Smart organizations and great leaders aren’t preoccupied with creating a workplace where everyone’s happy and comfortable. They’re not shielding employees from change, sugar-coating reality or trying to get buy-in through appeasement.

They don’t coddle, cajole or get themselves into codependent relationships.

Instead, they focus on building business readiness and instilling an organization-wide accountability mindset. They value action over opinions. They ask employees for their full commitment in exchange for full paycheques. The uncommitted get a clear choice: come up with a plan to get on the bus or find yourself another bus to ride.

“The role of leaders is to help people get clear on the fact that if they want to play on the team, buy-in is a prerequisite,” says Wakeman. “If you’re going to get great results, there can’t be an option that allows people to stay and sabotage or to stay and hate. Why would any organization tolerate an option that allows people to generate endless emotional waste?”

This may seem like tough love given the conventional wisdom around how managers should engage and inspire employees and manage change to minimize pain and disruption. Yet Wakeman makes a compelling argument for putting accountability ahead of engagement. Hold employees to a higher standard and they’ll do great work, step up to challenges, take pride in what they achieve together and become fully engaged in ways that free ice cream can’t buy.

@jayrobb serves as director of communications at Mohawk College, has reviewed business books since 1999 and lives in Hamilton.