The Book Corner

Faculty Members Review the Latest Business Books

2007 Volume 10 Issue 3

Featured in this issue:

How to Talk to Customers: Create a Great Impression Every Time with MAGIC

By Diane Berenbaum and Tom Larkin
Jossey-Bass, 2007

Recommended by William H. Bleuel, PhD, Professor of Decision Sciences

How to Talk to Customers is a very easy read; with a little effort, it can be finished in an evening. The book’s novel layout mixes topic content with examples from real life, using both positive and negative experiences to illustrate points. Each chapter ends with a point-by-point listing of key concepts.

Berenbaum and Larkin have created a useful acronym, MAGIC, which stands for Make A Great Impression on the Customer. As the authors move from one area of customer communication to another, this mantra remains the central focus.

How to Talk to Customers does a good job of organizing the basic concepts of customer contact. Considerable time is spent on everything from word usage, listening, how to leave a voice mail message for someone, and how to create your own voice mail message. One of the strengths of the book is the check lists provided for each type of customer contact, for example, incoming calls, outgoing calls, face-to-face, incoming calls in relationship selling, and collection and default negotiations.

The references used throughout the book are appropriate, however, many of them are a bit dated; some date back to the 1970s and 1980s. There has been a great deal of research in the last 10 years that could have enhanced the book’s content.

Aimed at the lower level of customer contact personnel, most people who have been in customer service for several years will find nothing new in the book. Still, How to Talk is worthwhile as a reminder of the basics of customer contact or as a primer for personnel new to the customer contact side of the business.

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True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership

By Bill George with Peter Sims
Jossey-Bass, 2007

Recommended by Sam Farry, MBA, Adjunct Faculty of Applied Behavioral Science and Class Advisor, Executive MBA Program

Professor George’s recent, enthusiastically received visit to the Graziadio School reminded us once again of the country’s increasing need for ethical, distinguished, and “authentic leaders.”

In this crisply written and carefully researched book, True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership, Bill George and co-author Peter Sims provide a penetrating and inspiring picture of the meaning and significance of authentic leadership. They also offer any aspiring leader a detailed guide for self-examination and for preparing of an integrated personal leadership development plan.

We are treated here with a rare opportunity to meet with the real thing: 125 proven leaders of varying ethnicities and genders, ranging in age from 23 to 93, offering intimate perceptions of their own unique, leadership development challenges, successes, missteps, redirections, and transformations. Included, for example, are Chairmen and CEOs Anne Mulcahy of Xerox; N. R. Narayana Murthy of Infosys; Howard Schultz of Starbucks; and Kevin Sharer of Amgen.

The book builds on George’s earlier book, Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value. There, he convincingly made the case for a renewed understanding of the value of ethical and grounded leadership based largely on his own 12 years of experience as CEO and then Chairman of Medtronics, a top ranking medical technology company.

Here he takes the next step to offer us a straightforward model of authentic leadership. He spells out and illustrates in depth, based on the life and career histories of key executives, how each unique individual develops himself or herself.

The emphasis is not on over-valued, cardboard-cutout, quick-fix, defensive, and isolated hero images, but on leaders who, through dedication, have remained true to their own life stories.

They have examined and reframed these stories to know where they want and need to go and how their talents, passions, values, motives, and relationships can propel them and others. On their life journey, they have intentionally confronted challenges and have learned how to work with and empower others in their organization.

Their notion of leadership is that they must follow their own course, their “True North,” and integrate it with the course of their organization. In the process, they work with and influence the people, direction, circumstances, and capabilities of their organization. Likewise, they maintain close and mutually supportive relationships with their family, friends, professional groups, and community. They also make room for themselves and for their religious and spiritual enrichment.

The book is not only well worth the read, but one to which a developing leader can return again and again to reflect on and guide his or her life and career.

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The Future of Management

By Gary Hamel (with Bill Breen)
Harvard Business School Press, October, 2007

Recommended by Robert Fulmer, PhD, Distinguished Visiting Professor

Upon first meeting Gary Hamel in 1999, I asked, “Since you were an inventor of ‘strategic intent,’ what is your personal statement of strategic intent?” Without hesitation, he responded, “I want to be to innovation what Ed Deming was to quality.” In his new book, The Future of Management, the bestselling author of Leading the Revolution and Competing for the Future (with C. K. Prahalad), moves a step closer to achieving this career objective.

In my opinion, the title may be somewhat misleading: The book is less about the future of management and more about the importance of “reinventing the concept of management” by being innovative.

Chapter two is largely spent on recognizing the limitations of traditional management. Much of this is old news. In 1977, Abraham Zaleznic published a classic essay outlining key differences between the historic emphasis on management and an emerging need for the qualities of leadership. Of course, Hamel is building the case that innovation is more important than the budgeting and controls associated with traditional management. This is clearly true, but hardly an “innovative” insight. To be fair, Gary Hamel (with Bill Breen) writes creatively and shows an enviable ability to present familiar concepts in unique and interesting ways.

The book’s second section, “Management Innovation in Action,” presents three case chapters that showcase companies considered to be true management innovators. Whole Foods is described as having “the most engaged employees of any major retailer.” W. L. Gore has been called the world’s most innovative company, and has one of the most effective organizations to be found. Though young and untested, Google has developed a management system that values adaptability above everything else. As Hamel points out, “these companies aren’t perfect or invincible, but they are heralds of a new management order-ongoing experiments in management innovation from which we can learn lessons both salutary and cautionary.”

Section three outlines “The Principles of Management Innovation.” Key chapters include:

  • Escaping the Shackles: How can leaders challenge long-standing management orthodoxies that constrain creative thinking?
  • Embracing New Principles: What principles can be discovered by looking at insights from the life sciences, market economies, democracies, religious faith, and dynamic cities?
  • Learning from the Fringe: What lessons can be learned by listening to “positive deviants and looking for people and practices that are eccentric yet effective”?

The book’s final section is about getting started on the process of becoming a management innovator and building a new future of management. For me, the key insight was the importance of “working from the future backwards.” This is not a new concept, but it is an important aspect of thinking strategically and being innovative.

No one is better than Gary Hamel at saying things that are challenging, provocative, and creative. He is able to see what everyone else sees and then to think about it in new and intriguing ways. He is insightful, articulate, and an exemplar of innovative questioning.

This is an important book. In my opinion, The Future of Management is better than Hamel’s Leading the Revolution, but not quite to the standard of Competing for the Future-still one of my favorite management books of all time. Neither he nor C.K. Prahalad have written as well independently as they did together. Yet, they both continue to make significant contributions to the understanding of strategic thinking.

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Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism, and the Economics of Growth and Prosperity

By William J. Baumol, Robert E. Litan, and Carl J. Schramm
Yale University Press, 2007

Recommended by Sean D. Jasso, PhD, Practitioner Faculty of Economics

Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism is the result of the collaboration of three eminent economists who all argue that the economic growth and wealth of nations relies on the degree to which the entrepreneurial economy is developed, nurtured, and protected.

The authors, all experts and advocates of entrepreneurship, point to the entrepreneur as the essential factor of production-that is, the innovator and risk-taker willing to put their capital on the line to bring innovative products, concepts, ideas, and skills to the global marketplace.

The book discusses four types of capitalism that later serve as the foundation for why the authors believe certain economies succeed or fail. These are: state-guided capitalism, oligarchic capitalism, big-firm capitalism, and entrepreneurial capitalism. The authors’ well-sourced arguments on the positive and negative attributes of each type lead to the conclusion that the combination of entrepreneurial and big-firm capitalism is the recipe for the good or most prosperous capitalistic society.

The authors also discuss the pre-conditions required to care and maintain such growth. Not withstanding the political, economic, and social institutions necessary to support any growth-driven society, the pre-conditions are: adequate incentives for productive entrepreneurship; disincentives for unproductive entrepreneurship; and continued rivalry and innovation among large firms.

Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism is essential reading not only because of the authors’ theoretical contributions, but, more importantly, because the book offers the student of management and society an important journey into the vast economic, political, and philosophical history behind the growth or decline of nations. To the serious reader, I recommend exploring the bibliography to inspire further reading of the countless classic and important works of our time. The authors are also adept at putting economic and political terminology into plain, simple language meant to teach and inspire, not to bewilder and assume.

Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism is an important book that should be required reading among students, life-long learners, and serious practitioners, whose competitive advantage is not only boosted by the knowledge of economics, politics, management, and society gained, but moreover, by understanding and developing their entrepreneurship-the core component of growth, prosperity, and the good life.

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Great Employees Only: How Gifted Bosses Hire andDe-Hire Their Way to Success

By Dale Dauten
Wiley, 2006

Recommended by Paul Olmsted, Adjunct Instructor of Economics

In case you missed the April 23 Business Week cover article, “Fear of Firing,” let me assure you that the lawful handling of terminations is an important subject to employer and employee alike.

While Great Employees Only should not replace a team of good labor attorneys, I do recommend that future managers and current business executives take the time to glean some important information from Dale Dauten.

When an organization becomes focused on helping its employees, leadership becomes less imposing and more effortless. As Dauten observes, “The best people in HR are those who understand the mind of the star employee and seek to find ways to reward that person.”

Unfortunately, so many people in leadership roles find a way to de-motivate employees rather than get out of the way of the truly remarkable people already on their teams. Numerous examples from hundreds of executives the author has met provide ample support for the concepts we are urged to follow.

For example, rather than treating employees as costs to be minimized, find a way to use good employees to make better employees. Better people make better products and provide better services to the customer. Happy customers continue to buy the goods and services provided. In the final analysis, the manager is better off when she turns the employee into an ally.

If your role models are “Chain Saw” Al Dunlap of Sunbeam and Scott Paper, who gained notoriety by slashing his workforce while pocketing hundreds of millions of dollars, and Stanley Gault, the hard-driving, egocentric CEO of Rubbermaid who proudly admitted to being a “sincere tyrant” then don’t read this book.

However, the next time an employee comes into your office, ask yourself this question: Do you want him or her to see your copy of Rambo in Pinstripes by Al Dunlap prominently displayed on your desk?

Invest in a copy of Dale Dauten’s book and learn the art of hiring and firing. Along the way, both you and your allies will feel the good tidings.

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Getting Your Way Every Day: Mastering the Lost Art of Pure Persuasion

By Alan Axelrod
AMACOM, 2007

Recommended by Jeffrey Schieberl, JD, MBA, Practitioner Faculty of Business Law

Alan Axelrod, in his book Getting Your Way Every Day, asserts that when one becomes capable of persuading others one then “speaks the language of business.”

These secrets of persuasion have been available for 2,500 years, according to Axelrod. Getting Your Way is intended to take what the Greeks and Romans-in the persons of Aristotle and Cicero-developed, and streamline those efforts into a form suitable for 21st Century business professionals and utilizing academic, real world, case-by-case examples.

The author explores the notion of “rhetoric” as a practical, effective way to be persuasive. He discusses the finer points of how to construct and present an argument, urging readers to be reasonable, ethical, and to avoid fallacies. Interestingly, he also recommends readers incorporate emotion into their arguments in a manner that elicits empathy. He acknowledges, however, that business leaders often state that emotions do not enter into their decision making.

After the reader becomes acquainted with the notion of rhetoric and how to construct as well as put forth an argument, the book transitions to the practical application of the tools and tactics of classical rhetoric. The focus then becomes how to utilize rhetoric in written and oral business communications-specifically how to draft effective cover letters, “ace” job interviews, communicate with your boss, inspire your staff, motivate colleagues, as well as how to effectively persuade vendors and customers.

Some readers may find this book simplistic, however, I expect the majority will easily recognize the value presented by Axelrod’s refreshing contemporary re-statement of the notion of rhetoric.

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About the Author(s)

Graziadio Business Review, is an online journal that delivers relevant business information and analysis for business, government, and non-profit managers. From accounting and finance to ethics and work/life balance, the Graziadio Business Review extends current business debates in new directions that you can use to advance your business and professional career.

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