Book Review: Humanize

I received a copy of Humanize from the authors.  I don’t recall there being a request for me to review the book…but I feel obligated to do so…especially since it is one of the best books on ‘social’ and ‘business’ that I’ve read.

Humanize Book cover

The full title of this book is Humanize – How people-centric organizations succeed in a social world (amazon affiliate link). And…that’s the best description of a book in a title I’ve ever seen.

That also should give you a real good idea what the entire book is like. Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant (and their editorial team) not only created a powerful title – but they delivered on that title. And I mean delivered.

Danny Brown called this book “one of the best social media books you’ll read this year, if not the best“. If you follow the social space at all then you know who Danny is…if you don’t…you should start following him instead of some of the other ‘gurus’.

This is a business book about being social…not a social media book. Its not a ‘do this and your dreams will come true’ book or a ‘get clients now’ book.  Its a book about people.

Its a book that will require you to read. It will require you to comprehend.  It will require you to think.

Unlike other social media books, you won’t lend this one out to your buddies…because if you really read it and ‘get it’…this book will be more valuable to you than a warm coat in the North Pole.

Why is this such a good book?

Simple…it hits you in the face that being ‘social’ is nothing more than being human. This book is about bringing the people back into your organization. Its about treating your employees, your customers and your partners as people rather than resource or a number.

Sure…this book is about social media…but its not a starry-eyed treatise written by a couple of ‘gurus’.   You won’t find a bunch of warm & fuzzy stuff or empty words here.  Instead, in this book, you’ll find a wonderfully written, engaging and thoughful book on how to make your business more human – and thus more social.

Unlike many other books in the space, this book isn’t written by a couple of ‘rock stars’, ‘ninjas’ or ‘gurus’.  This book is written by people who’ve been in the trenches and implemented.  This book is written by people who have been doing rather than talking about doing.

This book is for you.Buy it. Read it. Read it again…and then read it again.  It is that good.

The Little Black Book of Leadership – a book review

Last week the author of The Little Black Book of Leadership, Todd Dewett Ph.D., contacted me to say hello, complement me on my work here and offer up an electronic copy of his book.

I receive variants of this type of email quite often.  Most are from agents and PR folks trying to get a review of their clients book.  I’ve started stepping back from accepting offers of books to review, mainly due to time constraints on my side.

So, normally, when i receive these types of emails, I polity decline.  But…this time…I couldn’t decline.


A few reasons:

  • 1.) Todd made the note personal.
  • 2.) Todd made the note about me and not his book.
  • 3.) Todd included a funny little photo (see below photo) that caught my eye and got me interested in learning more about him, his services and his book.

Photo from Todd Dewett's email

So…I promptly said I’d take a look at the book.  I’m boy am I glad I did.

While scanning the book, I saw a passage that jumped out at me…and caused me to stop scanning and start reading.

That passage is:

It is a big lie that “managers” and “leaders” are different things! Managers deal with the present. Leaders deal with the future.

Simple statement but powerful.  Think about all the commentary out there in acadamia, the interwebz and in books about ‘leadership’ vs ‘management’.  Sure…the concepts are different….but at the end of the day, a good leader is one who can manage well…and vice versa….or at least it should be that way.

I’ve known good ‘managers’ who couldn’t lead their teams to save their lives.  I’ve also known good ‘leaders’ who could get people focused and moving in the right direction…but the most successful people I know are those who could do both roles at the same time.  They can lead and manage extremely well.

I read through the book twice….once while scanning and again with more focus on the content and I have to say this is a pretty darn good little book.

Is there anything in the book that’s groundbreaking?  Nope. Nothing new either….but the way that Dr. Dewett presents the material is golden.  This book isn’t something you read once and put on the shelf…its a checklist and reference guide combined.  Its something that you can use at any stage of your career to become a great leader.  The book has some great little nuggets of knowledge that will make it worth your time.

Check out Todd’s Fuel for Leaders website and pick up a copy of his book in his shop.  I think you’ll be happy you did,.

Recommended books for the CIO / IT Leaders for 2011

Photo By babblingdweeb on flickr

We are quickly coming up to the end of 2010.  Most people are winding down for the holidays….perfect time to grab a few good books during the down time.

Below are some books that I think would be perfect reading for everyone in IT, IT Leadership roles and any/all CIO’s. Heck…most would be good reading for anyone.

Some are IT / CIO related. Some have to do with Social Media while others are marketing related.  A few others are provided as a way to make us all think.

All links below are amazon affiliate links.

The Practical CIO: A Common Sense Guide for Successful IT Leadership by Jose Carlos Eiras

Management 3.0: Leading Agile Developers, Developing Agile Leaders by Jurgen Appelo

Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age by Clay Shirky

Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson

Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown and James Macanufo

Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead by Charlene Li

UnMarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging. by Scott Strahan

Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, and Transform Your Business by Josh Bernoff

The CIO Edge: Seven Leadership Skills You Need to Drive Results by Graham Waller, Karen Rubenstrunk and George Hallenbeck

The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires by Tim Wu

The Talent Masters: Why Smart Leaders Put People Before Numbers by Bill Conaty and Ram Charan

Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques (2nd Edition) by Michael Michalko

Engage: The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success in the New Web by Brian Solis

What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly

Enjoy and happy holidays.

The Next Level by Scott Eblin – Book Review

Late last week I received The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success, 2nd Edition by Scott Eblin (amazon affiliate link) from Daniel Decker of the Higher Level Group to review (thanks Daniel!).

I normally receive a few offers from agents, PR firms, and authors to review their books, and for the most part I accept those offers….and normally I’ll post a review on here.  Thankfully, I’ve enjoyed most of the books I receive…and I enjoyed this one as well.

That said, this book isn’t for everyone.

Quick Review of the book

So…what is this book about?

From the dustcover of the book:

Moving successfully to the executive level requires knowing which behaviors and beliefs to let go, as well as which new ones to pick up.  This confidence building book outlines a program for success based on frank advice from accomplished senior executives around the world on what to do and, just as important, what to avoid.

I’d say that synopsis is accurate.  The book provides a good walk-through of what skills are needed to be successful by senior level executives.

But…are these skills just for senior level executives?  Nope…anyone can pick up these skills to use in their current role…whether that role is as a consultant, senior executive, entrepreneur or student.

For example…Chapter 2 is titled:

Pick up Confidence in your Presence; Let go of Doubt in how you Contribute.

Pretty powerful statement in that title, don’t you think?  Have confidence in your abilities and push out the doubt.

Overall, this is a good book and worth picking up by anyone looking for advice / coaching on things that can be done to improve your career.

If you’ve had a good role model in your career, this book might be a repeat of what you’ve learned from your mentor and/or role model….but there might still be some good nuggets of information in here for you.

If you don’t believe in ‘ business / personal coaches’  and think you’ve got all the skills you need to be a senior level leader / manager in a large organization…move along.  This book won’t have anything of substance for you.

Of course…if you think you’ve got all the skills you need, you’re deluding yourself.  Everyone can learn something new.

A Plethora of Book Reviews

I get the occasional request to review a book or two from publishers, PR folks and authors.

Normally, I get less than one request a month for reviewing books but over the last month I’ve received quite a few more….five to be exact.

Its usually pretty easy for me to read through one additional book per month on top of all the other reading I do but lots of things got in the way over the last few months, so and I wasn’t able to get to all the books as fast as I would have liked.

That said, I finally go through all five books and, rather then write up five different posts reviewing each book, I decided to put them all together here. So…here goes…

Oh…and cover of the last book is awesome…enjoy 🙂

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter {affiliate link}

Multipliers - the bookThis is a pretty good book  by Liz Wiseman with Greg McKeown that describes the difference between two leadership styles that the authors call Multipliers and Diminshers.

A Multipler is a leader who is able to extract so much value from their direct reports, colleagues and coworkers while a Diminisher is a leader who tends to suck the energy, excitement and passion out of their direct reports and coworkers. Multipliers enhance the abilities of others while diminishers degrade the abilities of others.

While I thought the book was quite good, I found parts of it difficult to pay attention. I kept having to put it down and pick it up a day or two later.  This was due mostly to my inability to focus in sections of the book because I felt like some of the material was repetitive.

That said, this is a well written book. There are quite a few real world examples provided and some excellent discussion of leadership styles…well worth the read if you are into leadership books.

Lead Like Ike: Ten Business Strategies from the CEO of D-Day {affiliate link}

Lead Like IkeWritten by Geoff Loftus. I liked this book….but not necessarily because it offered great, actionable, ideas for leadership. I loved this book because it takes a look at the historical context around Eisenhower’s leadership styles and decisions he made.

I love history and history books and this one doesn’t disappoint.  That said, there’s not really a lot of actionable information in this book that you can’t find in every other leadership book out there.

Like I said..great book…if you like history.  If you’re a student of military history, military leadership or leadership in general, you’ll probably like this book.  If you’re looking for leadership and strategy advice I’d say find another book.

Leading at Light Speed: Build Trust, Spark Innovation, and Create a High-Performing Organization {affiliate link}

Leading at Light Speed Written by Eric F. Douglas.  According to the PR release, this book is a leadership book for anyone wanting to build organizations that perform at high levels.

Now…I think everyone wants to build organizations that perform at high levels. So..this book is for everyone right?

The book goes into the fundamentals of leadership and then describes ten ‘quantum leaps’ to take to become a better leader. Sounds awesome right?  Quantum leaps makes you think of physics…or that television show with Scott Bakula.

Douglas’ ten quantum leaps are nothing new really.  Things like ‘align the core values’, ‘lead through others’, ‘manage decisions well’ and ‘stimulate the creative flow’ along with others.

Like I said…the ideas aren’t anything new but they are delivered in a way that’s at least interested to read.  This book is well written and, although it uses some corny terms and doesn’t really market itself well, its not a bad book.   I can’t really recommend it though…while I liked the book, I didn’t find much in it that made me think or gave me new insights.

Be Bodacious: Put Life in Your Leadership {affiliate link}

Be BodaciousWritten by Steven D. Wood. When I first received an email about reviewing this book, I took a look at the title and was intrigued. I said yes and I’m glad I did.

I expected this book to be similar to those written by Patrick Lencioni and others…it was a bit different. The author uses stories to highlight various topics…and he does a pretty good job at it.

I loved this book…very very straightforward, honest and it definitely makes you take a second to think about your leadership style and your life.

While not a perfect book, I did enjoy it immensely and I think you would too.

Now…on to the last one.

Welcome to the Company (or what it’s really like working here) {affiliate link}

Welcome to the Company (or what it's really like working here)Dear lord…I love the cover of this book. I love that suit.

Written by Eileen McVety, this book probably has the best cover ever.

This book was actually sent along with Leading at Light Speed as a ‘bonus’ and boy was it a bonus.

I have to say this is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. It’s not a prize winner, but for shear enjoyment and, at times, I found myself laughing out loud at what Eileen writes.

The book is based on a fictional company and is written to mimic a new employee on-boarding & procedures book.   Funny stuff…and for the most part its extremely true.

I’ll leave you with this quote from the flap of the book:

We’re confident you’ll find your employment experience at The Gordon Wiggins Group to be a richly satisfying one. Not overly confident, mind you. Like we wouldn’t lay money on it…but hey, it’s a job, right? So quit your griping.

Great stuff.  Highly Recommended.

Ambiguities of Experience – Book Review

The Ambiguities of Experience (Messenger Lectures) While on vacation last month, I saw a review in US Airways‘ magazine for The Ambiguities of Experience by James G. March (affiliate link).

The review was a short one but peaked my interest as it points out March’s main question presented in the book.  The question is a simple one…but has a very difficult answer.

This simple question is:

What is, or should be, the role of experience in creating intelligence, particularly in organizations?

Simple question right?

Now…I’ve always been of the mindset that experience is a good thing.  I’ve argued before that I’d normally hire someone with experience over education.  This book makes me rethink that approach in some ways. I’ll still hire for ability over experience any day though.

The book is a short one – only 120 pages of content in a 5″ by 8″ book.  While short, there’s quite a bit of ‘stuff’ in it.

As mentioned above, the main focus of this book is to question whether experience really is the best teacher.    In this book, March argues that experience can be a good teacher if that experience is used as a means to build context for stories and models of history.

The problems with ‘experience as teacher’ is that these experiences can be easily warped, misconstrued and interpreted in many ways.

March does agree that experience can be a good teacher, but isn’t always the best teacher.  Using experiences alone as a learning mechanism can lead a person / organization down the wrong path.

One of the things that I really enjoyed about this book was that there were no answers put forth by the author.  March realizes that the issue of experience as teacher is a difficult one and there is no ‘right’ answer on how to approach using experiences as learning method.

One caveat  before you run over to Amazon or your local bookseller, know that this book is a bit difficult to read.  It is written much like an academic paper and, as such, as a lot of academic language in it.    Not a bad thing…but it isn’t necessarily a book that you’ll breeze though.  You’ll have to work at reading this book.

That said, I like this book and have added it to my bookshelf to bring down and read again in the future.

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