Reviewed by Zak Vaudo
There is a force in life that can shape regular men and women into great leaders, if accessed and understood properly. If harnessed properly, it can inspire confidence and trust in customers and fellow employees alike. If ignored, it can bring down entire corporations. This force is energy, and Bruce D. Schneider wants to help you understand it and use it to your full advantage with his book, Energy Leadership: Transforming Your Workplace and Your Life from the Core. Schneider’s book aims to serve as a guide to the struggling leader-to-be by steering him or her along the path of positive energy work, teaching the seven energy levels and four blockades of energy movement, and revealing helpful techniques for shifting the energy levels of co-workers and customers.
Schneider speaks to the reader through a recounting of his real-life interactions with Richard, the C.E.O of O’Connell Consulting. The company is in drastic need of help: the company is floundering, the employees’ attitudes are underwhelming at best, and all seems lost for the company’s future. Enter Schneider, who tells Richard (and, by default, the reader) that the key to this turnaround simply lies in the energy of the company and those involved. Schneider explains that there are varying levels of energy (seven, to be precise) that an individual can operate on, and that one must guide his or her self towards higher levels to be more efficient, functional, and influential.
Schneider’s seven energy levels can best be described as levels of self: feelings, thoughts and actions embodied into increasing levels of energy. An individual operating at Level 1 (i.e. Richard’s secretary Christina) tends to feel and act victimized, apathetic and generally uncaring. An individual at Level 7 feels absolute passion for his or her job/task and is in prime position to create non-judgmentally. These seven levels are grouped into three major sections: Level 1 and 2 under “self” (concerned primarily with themselves), Levels 3 through 5 “self-mastery” (moving beyond the self and concerned about those around them), and Levels 6 and 7 “self-transcendence” (no self, no others, only the idea that all are working towards).
There are, as always, stumbling blocks to prevent people from traversing levels. Schneider believes that these blocks are predominately internal. One’s limited beliefs, false assumptions, false interpretations, and “inner critic” can prevent even the most determined individual from progressing forward. Once the blocks have been identified, in Schneider’s words, they can be easily removed and development can continue.
Transcending the energy levels allows for better connection between persons at work. An individual moves from complete self-absorption to an understanding of his or her co-workers and clients, onward to an almost Emersonian “oversoul” level of understanding. When one can harness their energy and move between the levels effectively, a powerful leader can be created that can guide others towards success, as was the case with Richard and O’Connell Consulting. By the book’s end, Schneider has demonstrated the successful transformation of O’Connell Consulting and its employees from struggling to strong, all by knowing their energy and working with it.
Energy Leadership takes an interesting approach to leadership and management, blending organization and self-empowerment with the New Age concept of energy as a unifying constant that can be controlled and aimed for one’s own purposes. Taking this angle makes Schneider’s book refreshing in the midst of other leadership books, many of which seem to be simply clones of each other. Attitude is extremely important in leading and persuading others, so Schneider hits on a vital point: how can someone influence or lead people if he or she doesn’t even know where their own energies lie? While there’s no telling if Schneider’s model is the perfect representation, it is most certainly a good starting point. Schneider’s model encompasses many common management aspects (collaborative management, Total Quality Management and “New” Management models) as examples of how an organization operating efficiently within their energy levels can function. Schnieder’s book assumes that the quality of the individual person directly relates to and affects the quality of the company, which in turn relates to and affects the quality of the product. Under Total Quality Management, one must anticipate the needs of the customer, and this is difficult without leveling oneself first. Through this and collaborative “New” management (which includes, but is not limited to, employees working in smaller groups) one can tap the mid-levels of energy—concerning themselves with those around them, moving towards the common idea.
Schneider’s book is highly recommended for managers who want a different approach to helping their organizations thrive, as well as individuals who simply wish to become valuable leaders. Schneider’s terminology is clearly laid out for the reader to understand, key points are phrased simply and repeated throughout the book for clarity and reaffirmation. Energy Leadership even includes personal exercises to practice and links to a handful of very valuable leadership videos that the reader can watch as supplemental material, making this book more of an interactive experience than a simple read-through. While the energy idea may be difficult to grasp for some, the concept is still clear and key: you must first master yourself, then focus on your surroundings, then the common idea of the company/corporation as a whole. Forget efficiency charts and expensive counseling: energy is the key to success, and harnessing it properly will bring about positive change in any organization.
Reviewed by Michael DeLuca
In the book The Upside of the Downturn Geoff Colvin delves into a variety of different management strategies for companies to survive the recession and thrive coming out of it. It was just published in 2009 so it is relevant to the issues that are happening in the economy and consumer marketplace right now. He offers up numerous examples of companies and how they have reacted to the recession. Using these examples he portrays which companies are making wise decisions by relating them to his managerial suggestions. Colvin also shows examples of companies whose behavior during the recession has hurt them in the short-term and will continue to in the long-term after the downturn has ended.
The first thing Colvin suggests a company should do during the recession is to reset priorities. Assess your financial strength and competitive advantage. Think of how government intervention changes how you will run your company. Recognize the state of your customers and how it may have changed since the recession started. Acquire an accurate account of your current reputation as seen by the public. Exactly how does the public perceive you and why? Prepare for the risk in every decision you make and when doing so consider scenarios which may even be outside of your control.
Colvin thinks it is imperative to protect your most valuable asset. To him that is human capital. In today’s world economy, that is ever more focused on information and knowledge, the human being has become more important than any physical capital. He says that now is a great time to develop and train your human capital. Once the recession ends, your employees will be better equipped to be productive workers for your company. Colvin says one of the worst things you could do at this point is have huge layoffs. There are so many short and long term costs of layoffs that money saved is negligible in comparison.
A company should ask itself “What is our core?” to determine what one thing they do best or are known for, then improve upon it. Management needs to realize how the recession is changing their customers and their behavior. They also need to ask themselves if the recession will cause a large-scale restructuring in their industry. Examining all of these things will be helpful in moving your company forward in a positive direction.
Managing for value is important for a company. Try to determine the best way to maximize value in the most efficient ways. There are ways to increase the actual net worth of a company that are superficial and do not necessarily mean it is being run well. For instance, Apple and AOL-Time Warner are both worth around $100 billion. The difference is that Apple only put in $5 billion to acquire that wealth while AOL-Time Warner put in $142 billion. Companies must find the means which best suit their company to efficiently produce value.
Colvin advises companies to not mark their prices down during the recession. Price cuts rarely pay for themselves. Cutting prices is a lot riskier than companies usually think. You can destroy your brand equity which took years to build and may take years to restore. After hard times are over and the price goes back up, people may not want to buy your product anymore with the increased price. Consumers have a “reference price” which is the lowest price they remember paying for a product. Customers hate price increases more than they like price cuts.
Geoff Colvin’s insights on managing a company in a recession are thoughtful ways for a company to become more efficient and more productive. Another positive is that these steps taken now to help stabilize a company in a time of trouble can be applied to help sustain success in the future. They can help in becoming more prepared and immune to the effects of bad economic times in the future.
His logic coincides with a lot of the same fundamentals of TQM. Anticipating the needs of the consumer. Translating those needs into a useful and dependable product. After that finding a means to create and maintain a system that can produce this commodity at the lowest possible price. The result should be a good value to the consumer and profits for the company. TQM also relies on statistics to eliminate variations in production by anticipating when these variations will occur. Colvin talks about the same thing in predicting and creating scenarios so your company is prepared to adapt to issues accordingly. Doing this puts a company at a huge advantage compared to its competitors who may not be thinking ahead.
TQM is also similar to Colvin in their acknowledgement of the importance of human capital. Deming urged managers to harness the know-how of employees, to focus on raising standards of excellence. Colvin talks about investing in your employees, developing and training them, thus making them more valuable to the company. This premium on human capital is imperative in a business world which is continually relying more on the knowledge and creativity of its employees.
I would most likely recommend this book to fellow PR students. The author is very reputable and works for Fortune magazine and appears very well informed. His analysis is thorough and relates all his topics to recent events in business. His suggestions seem credible because he backs them up with concrete examples. The book is relevant because it is so current. He discusses issues that businesses are dealing with right now in this damaged economy. One major reason I would recommend this book to my fellow PR students is because we are all getting ready to enter into the workforce during this uncertain economy. Learning about these concepts and ideas could give you a head start on evolving with the new business landscape. Even though many will likely not start off in a managerial position, one day you might find yourself in that position. A problem with many companies who find themselves struggling now is they got stuck in conventional thinking and were unwilling to take risks and change. Reading a book such as this one could help prepare a recently graduated college student to be effective in management when the time comes.
Reviewed by Claire Frost
Rather than focusing simply on the leader and pathways to success, 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork shifts the attention of a leader to that of the entire group. While a leader is essential, he or she is nothing without the people who willingly follow. In order to make sure that the followers remain loyal and dedicated to the project, the leader or manager must keep certain details and attitudes in mind and be able to convey those in the rest of the group as well.
The first of the laws, the Law of Significance, touches on the natural human quality of the ego and that we must fight against it when working in a group so that one does not try to overshadow the rest. Although each member is important, one is too small a number to accomplish anything on their own. Everyone needs help and team to stand behind them and support them. The Law of the Big Picture ties in with the first with its focus on the end goal of the group rather than the smaller agendas and roles of the team members. This again forces ego aside for the greater good of the group. While the focus of each member can never be solely their own roles or plans, the job of the leader includes helping each see their specific strength and purpose within the group in what Maxwell calls the Law of the Niche. Exercising the power of this Law also means that a leader or manager must know and understand their team members’ strengths and the team situation. Based upon the understanding of the team’s situation and goal, the Law of Mount Everest encourages managers to base the organization and roles of the members around the dream. As the challenge changes so too the manager must be willing to change the group to be most productive in the new atmosphere.
Maxwell also describes the Law of the Chain, meaning that even if all but one member is strong and productive; one weak member can cause major problems. It is a manager’s responsibility to note this and then take appropriate steps to encourage and strengthen that member. This moves into his Law of the Catalyst. Every team needs these people, the ones who get it all done and then go the extra mile for the good of the team. But where would all these great efforts go without good direction? Much like the Law of Mount Everest, the Law of the Compass makes sure that a team has a clear and understood vision between all members. This vision is also made up of the moral fiber of the team, or a code of conduct. These are crucial if all are to work loyally for the team’s goals.
One of the largest pitfalls in any group or team is a rotten attitude, talked about in Maxwell’s Law of the Bad Apple. Whether it is negativity, resurgence of the ego, constant competition between everyone, lack of the ability to admit mistakes or a number of other ruinous factors and traits, a horrible outlook and behavior can bring everyone down. This ties into his next law, the Law of Countability. As the title suggests, if each member does not feel that they can trust the others, the group begins to falter and the power of one begins to emerge again. It is on the manager’s shoulders to ensure trust is established and sustained early within the group. Another major reason for failure in a group is the neglect of the inevitable price that the members must pay for the team’s success, referenced in the Law of the Price Tag. Late nights, sacrifices, personal development and forgetting personal desires and agendas are all part of what we must give to the group in addition to a great attitude and good ideas. As with any team, knowing where the team stands amongst its competitors or other constraints is also important, and helps assess if adjustments need to be made. Maxwell calls this the Law of the Scoreboard, and it is the duty of the manager to pay attention to the scores and make sure everything on his or her team is ready and adequate for the goals to be met.
The Law of the Bench brings to light the idea of having depth in a team. A team without balance of talents and personalities will surely make for an idea that falls just as flat, which also happens when the Law of Identity is not strictly followed. This Law helps to bring a team together with strength of conviction in each other. Making the team unified with one name, one goal, one set of ideals will show as the team works and when they finalize and present the project. Maxwell then moves onto the Law of Communication, noting that interaction is the key to action and effectiveness as a group. When one person has a concern or suggestion, praise or compliment, a group with good communication will grow stronger when lead and encouraged by an effective leader to express those well. It is also the job of an effective manager to lead a team to success but realize too when it is time for them to step back and let others lead when others are better educated or experienced in a certain area. This comes into play with the Law of the Edge. Tying into the earlier Law of the Bad Apple is the Law of High Morale, which basically points out that when a team is in good spirits and feels confident in its success, it’s easy to get things done and done well. When things are done well, these build into the Law of Dividends. This is based on the idea that the things you do early and over time they compound into a great, efficient, productive team that is happy and joyful in the work that they are all doing. It is up to the manager to keep everything in his or her mind, appropriately choose what the keep in the minds of the team members and the appropriate times for such reminders, and then help encourage and build them up to become strong and grow in the experience.
This book offers things that every PR professional should know and most likely already does. The anecdotes that Maxwell offers could help those with a visual mind build a stronger concept of the message, but overall, these 17 laws are things that come with most learning of social graces and leadership skills. The approach in and of itself is an effective one. The message is good, encouraging and truly important to the development and maintenance of a team. However, when mixed with a rather arrogant attitude, repetition and simple style, the message becomes banal and loses much of its impact. Considering our class discussions about leadership, there are many aspects about the skill of being able to lead others that could add to the book. For example, from the Arlene Blum case study from The Leadership Moment by Michael Useem, there is a value in listening and taking in the value of others in the group. Leadership is never all about actually leading or dictating to a group. While necessary at times depending on the task and group, Blum’s case shows that Maxwell needs to add some different aspects of leading others in other ways. Based upon his attitude and style, I would recommend looking up a synopsis of this somewhere and sticking with that. The ideas are good but not worth the price of the book, and could be found in numerous other outlets for those really looking to grow their ability as a leader or manager.
The idea of teamwork is indeed a noble one and a cause worth learning more about when wanting to become a better leader or manager, or step into such a position within an organization. 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork would make a better poster than book.
Reviewed by Chelsie Wicker
“The 4th Secret of the One-Minute Manager” is part of a series written by Ken Blanchard and Margret McBride. The book focuses on how the workplace can improve when leaders admit their mistakes and apologize for their actions. The story begins with a man named Matt, who works in a corporate environment. Lately there have been problems arising and the business he works for is in trouble. Matt’s boss, the leading cause of the problems, tells him that something must be done quick or the business will have to go under. Over the weekend Matt’s assignment is to think of possible solutions. He decides to call his father’s old friend Jack, who seems to have the correct answer for everything.
Over the course of the weekend, Jack mentors Matt about leadership problems. Jack explains how there are four secrets that all managers must know, and they are the One Minute Goals, One Minute Praising, One Minute Reprimands, and lastly the One Minute Apology. For the purposes of Matt’s situation, Jack focuses on the One Minute Apology. This secret boils down to a one-minute point. The minute you realize you have made a mistake, you need to apologize. Saying it only takes a minute, but becoming completely honest with yourself and taking the responsibility for your mistakes takes longer. At the core of many problems, there is a denial for the truth. A leader must acknowledge quickly his or her mistake before the problem gets pushed under the rug and the problem starts increasing.
Over the course of the weekend, Matt hears many of Jack’s anecdotes about how the fourth secret has been applied in real life. He tells of a story about Abraham Lincoln, who handled a situation with an army general out of hand and out of character. When the army general asked for time off to attend his wife’s funeral, Lincoln, who is already in a bad mood, does not give the man any sympathy and tells him that he cannot take any time off. The next day, Lincoln acknowledges the mistake he made and apologizes to the general. His apology contained everything that the ideal apology would consist of. He apologized for his behavior, he was honest, he took responsibility for his actions, he acted as soon as possible, and he demonstrated his integrity. Lincoln realized that the mistake he made was inconsistent with who he wanted to be. By making his apology, Lincoln was able to achieve a sense of self-worth.
After spending with weekend with Jack, Matt returns to work and shares his knowledge with his boss and the rest of the board of directors. His boss takes into consideration Matt’s ideas, and makes a sincere apology to the rest of the board for all he has put them through. After consideration, the board agrees to welcome back their boss and the overall morale and energy improved immensely in the company.
The authors of the book cover many of the characteristic qualities of leaders that have been discussed in class. Some of these include humility, confidence, fairness, honesty, apologetic, and integrity. Although the book tends to focus primarily on apologies, it is truly a powerful way to make things better and have problems solved. The author does not however discuss in detail how the problem is fixed after the apology. The reader is left with the curiosity of whether or not an apology can solve all problems. It would have been helpful if the author went into greater detail about what you can do in addition to the apology. The situation that needs solving in the book is quite vague and may not be the best example for readers to refer to.
The book describes more about the leadership qualities and duties of an individual than it does management qualities. Fredrick Taylor’s “Scientific Management” and Mary Follett’s “Collaborative Management” techniques are not discussed. “The Fourth Secret” describes the ways in which cooperation and relationships can be improved by analyzing one’s own actions and being responsible for them.
As a public relations student, I would recommend this book to any fellow classmate of mine. The book was an easy read that was informative, yet enjoyable. The format incorporates a lot of beneficial information in a simple context. The main character is learning new things while having fun at the same time. His mentor tells him there is no reason that you can’t incorporate fun with business. This book is relevant to anyone in the business world especially those who would like to lead others. The messages in the book reveal many light-bulb moments about how to be a leader. David Bach, a number one New York Times bestselling author, says, “This book will become its own phenomenon like ‘The One Minute Manager’ and ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ Companies will buy it for employees, parents will buy it for their children, and friends will buy it as gifts for friends. And the result will be a better and happier world.”
Reviewed by Katie Dean Williams
The focus of Stick Your Neck Out is to identify areas in communities and within organizations that need change. The book helps outline opportunities to foster this activity and offers a range of perspectives on how to do so over time. Obviously the first step to identifying an issue worth fighting for would be to do some research surrounding the topic and information already out there. This is the stage where it is a good idea to be relentless in your search because afterwards you will need to analyze and learn from your research so you can then make a decision about your action plan. A plan is also a good thing to have when a leader is moving forward and hoping to create a new movement. The end goal is to create awareness. In order to make sure you and your team do not get burned out during the process of planning, it is a good idea during this stage to check yourself and make sure this is something you want to be completely committed to. It’s okay to back out during this stage. Know your limits and don’t push them too far.
The author recommends having a reason why you are against a certain policy or in favor of change. Keep tabs on all the information you researched previously. The book gives several case studies and stories of people who found their problems and made a difference. Some of these include a girl in middle school who was able to get her community to build a facility for skateboarders instead of fining them for trespassing on parking lots. Thus, most of the stories illustrate a win-win solution to the problem at hand. In most cases synergy is used to create a better outcome than could have been achieved by the mere efforts of a few unconnected ideas. Other avenues include legal action and the importance of personal testimonies to the public. These are priceless because they are from the heart and people can connect with a cause easier if they have a face to put with a story. An important thing to remember if you want to lead a cause is not every leader is intelligent; you don’t have to be the smartest person, but you do have to be well prepared. Be prepared to speak in front of audiences about your issue.
Another important thing to remember is the team dynamic. Chances are your project is going to need more help than you can provide without getting overwhelmed. Make sure your team works well together and has a constant flow of communication to avoid conflicts and miscommunication. If conflicts do arise within your team, you will need to be prepared with a management plan. This plan will depend on you and the dynamics of those in your team. Goals are important as well. You should have a good idea of what it will take to accomplish each goal and what the next step will be after you succeed. All in all, the main thing to remember is change is possible if you work steadily and use a strategic plan.
The author of Stick Your Neck Out, John Graham, offers a good approach to leadership because he outlines a lot of the difficulties leaders most often face and gives relevant advice on how to avoid mistakes. Although his advice is sound, the most valuable part of this book remains the countless case studies crammed into the margins and weaved into the chapters. These real-life examples serve as a great resource for anyone looking to follow suit and create a successful movement of change within a community and beyond. Yet, at times the arrangement of material did seem a bit jumbled because there was so much information between his tips for success, practical advice and the case studies. In addition, a major weakness of this book can be found as stated in the first few chapters. Graham states the book does not contain any information about fundraising, maintaining social media or developing Web sites. This is a huge chunk of information to leave out because it is extremely valuable and pertinent to the success of most movements in today’s world. As discussed in class, sites such as Facebook and Twitter have transformed the way businesses approach younger audiences. Thus, any group looking to promote a new idea and gain active participants would be wise to explore these avenues in addition to maintaining a Web site regularly. Also, without fundraising events most movements would never gain the awareness or backing they need to move forward with a budget. This book does a great job of outlining some things leaders can do to find and work on important issues, but it also neglects a few crucial elements a campaign during the twenty-first century shouldn’t be without.
Of the case studies mentioned, one that stood out in particular was one about a community that came together around the concept of democracy when one young girl decided a space needed to be provided for children to exercise and play. Her specific goal, even though she was not a skater, was to build a skate park for those teens that had no other place to go. A park of this type would keep these young people off the streets and out of trouble, she argued. The girl passed a petition around and was able to garner support by posting flyers and talking to adults who were unaware of the issue. She took charge of a problem she saw not being addressed in her town and made it happen. Before too long the land was donated and a contractor was hired for the park that was now seen as a necessity for the growth of their community. With this and many other case studies outlined in the book, no real strategic business model was outlined. I do not think this type of leader (a young girl in her community) could really benefit from an MBO-style plan. The author does, however discuss developing leadership characteristics such as those discussed in class. A few of them are: establishing and communicating values, building relationships and having measurable and attainable goals. These leadership characteristics are essential to success because they are steps toward gaining trust and support as a leader in a community like those discussed in the book’s case study example portrayed.
As an established leader on campus, I have had the opportunity to attend several leadership retreats and seminars as well as read several books on the subject. Stick Your Neck Out is one of the more basic readings on leadership, but definitely a good read for anyone looking to find an issue around them and start a campaign to solve a problem or promote change. I personally have always been a fan of studying the theories behind leadership and management and not focusing so much on the execution style because everyone creates their own set of rules on how things should be done and each group’s experiences dictate what will be most successful. I would, however, recommend this book to any public relations student because it describes many case studies that have been successful. The case studies alone make this book a great resource. As public relations students we must learn to model ourselves after those who have come through the profession before us and learn from what has worked in the past as we add our own creative ideas to the mix. New problems are discovered everyday, and we must be prepared to face them. Books on leadership and management help us to better understand the world around us as opinion leaders and we are better able to see the various options available to us as we grow in our profession.
Reviewed by Jacquelyn Daane
Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin adapted a nontraditional form of management and built their enterprise around the needs of their consumers and employees; by doing so, Page and Brin created one of the most successful enterprises of all time in a decade. Bernard Girard explores Google’s innovative rise to success in his book The Google Way: How one company is revolutionizing management as we know it. Girard highlights the unusual approach to management that Page and Brin apply and how exactly it benefits the structure of their company.
Page and Brin rejected conventional methods of management authority and chose to implement a triumvirate as top management; instead of having one CEO, Google has three. This unusual form of management is just one of many ways Google varies from other major enterprises, such as Microsoft. Page and Brin brought in Eric Schmidt, an expert in strategic planning and management, to serve next to them at the top of their company. A triumvirate provides Google with many benefits, one of which is a speedy reversal of errors. By having three equal powers heading the company, no one CEO is afraid of correcting his decisions because he has two people standing next to him. A triumvirate also ensures that an array of viewpoints are present at the top of the company, which offers an assurance to investors and consumers that someone understands their needs and concerns. The distribution of power at the top of Google mirrors the checks and balances within our own government; the three CEOs keep ideas and egos in balance.
Apart from a triumvirate, Page and Brin also focus on their employees-a lot. Google has never spent a cent on advertising, but it has spent an abundance of time and resources on recruiting and hiring. Google founded its company on the premise of only hiring the best. Therefore, Google employs a large amount of people to do the hiring; 1 out of 14 employees were dedicated to recruitment in 2005. This rigorous hiring process usually spans across multiple interviews and months. Once they have hired the best, Google spares no expense to make sure that they are satisfied at their jobs. Apart from all of the rumored benefits-pools, indoor workout facilities, massages- Google offers its employees something much more valuable: time. Google makes sure that 20% of each employee’s time is spent on personal research of their own desire. This strategy offers many advantages, one of which is that it leads to an emergence of new products. It also is a form of intrinsic motivation that helps employees seek satisfaction and retain independence in their job.
Google concentrates on keeping employee teams small, with the average team consisting of three to five people. By doing this they ensure that no employee can freeload and the individual managers, usually one per seven employees, have full knowledge of what is going on. This small approach to a large company allows many different projects to occur simultaneously. As a way of uniting the entire company Google has MOMA, an extremely complex intranet system. MOMA keeps all employees in contact and updated on the latest company endeavors. After it acquiried the company Blogger, Google has encouraged employees to keep blogs that share project ideas or updates with the entire company.
Google offers an extremely innovative and hands-on approach to the management aspect of its business. The company forgoes the usual protocols and instead uses a form of management that suits the company, even if it goes against convention. But, just because the use of a triumvirate fits Google’s objectives does not mean that it would be successful if it were applied to any other enterprise. Three CEO’s present the possibility of co-workers turning on each other or one person desiring more power. A company must be very stable for such a unique management situation to prosper and a triumvirate would likely fail in any new company. One element of Google’s management that reflected ideas studied in class was that of company-wide quality control, similar to the one Toyota implemented. Google uses regular peer-reviews to serve as quality control for the entire company. Because employees are constantly being critiqued by their fellow colleagues, the level of quality always remains high.
I would definitely recommend The Google Way: How one company is revolutionizing management as we know it to a fellow PR student because it highlights an unconventional form of management while educating the reader about the technological aspects behind of one of the most prevalent components of the Internet: the search engine. Page and Brin have solid reasoning behind every nontraditional decision they have made when it comes to running their company and their success alone is motivation enough to read the book. Girard did a very thorough job of breaking down and defining standard industry language so that the average reader could quickly understand complex Internet concepts or business models. In an age where Google is so dominant, the knowledge of the inner-workings of the company can be nothing but beneficial.
Reviewed by Rebecka Wilson
The Art of Managing People discusses the ever-changing nature of management theory, yet presents their approach based on the fact that the basis of their approach is pretty universal. The authors focus on what they call “Interactive management.” The goal of Interactive management is to build trust and have open honest two-way communication between the manager and the employees. This is opposed to the practice of “Technical management” which focuses on the company’s needs and does not tend to account for possible setbacks or uncontrollable events that inevitably occur in a person’s life.
The authors often include lists of behaviors or skills that will benefit the manager and help teach him/her some of the ways to be effective with Interactive management. One of these lists includes their advice on Interactive Communication skills. The authors set up several tactics to enable a manager to more effectively communicate with his/her employees. The main points and skills are: the art of questioning, the power of listening, projecting the appropriate image, communicating through voice tones, using body language effectively, and making sure with feedback. The authors go into detail on each of these points discussing the way people are affected by these types of communication, and teach the most effective way for a manager to send out the desired message to the employees.
The focus on building a relationship between the manager and the employees is brilliant. I feel like that is definitely the first step in making the employees feel valued and appreciated, and everyone wants that kind of reassurance and praise at work. The process of gaining employee trust and confidence is also important because the more the employee knows the relationship they have with their manager is solid and genuine, the more they will enjoy working under that manager. An environment where there is mutual trust and honesty between the manager and the employees will be more effective than an environment where there is resentment and bitterness for the manager and frustration and misunderstanding for the employees. The Interactive management method has an appeal to it because it focuses on interpersonal cooperative relationships at work, as opposed to a domineering dictator of a manager that bellows at employees and orders them around.
Based on lectures and discussions of management in class, I feel that this book definitely brings some positive points to the table. I think the authors were effective because they took a few years to do research before compiling this book, and they also put the disclaimer out there that management theory and ideas are constantly evolving. I agree that building open trust-based relationships between managers and employees is an effective strategy and would definitely create a more pleasant and productive work environment anywhere. I think that people want to be treated and acknowledged as individuals both in and out of the workplace, and I doubt that idea will change much. This idea of Interactive management responds to the idea of individual appreciation in the workplace, and I agree that in that regard their theory has elements that make it universal.
I would recommend this book to other public relations students, especially since we tend to focus on relationship building of one form or another in our career field. I would also recommend this book to anyone who feels challenged in the role of a manager, for someone who is soon to be a manager, or for a manager who feels like he/she is failing to be the most effective team leader they can be. The authors’ style is easy to read and compelling. The advice of the authors felt conversational and relatable, and it made sense. The logical progression of employees succeeding when they trust their manager and knowing their manager trusts them makes sense, and that is what this book was all about: being a relatable person in a position of authority.
Reviewed by William Inman
“The Politics of Crisis Management: Public Leadership under Pressure” reads as textbook guide to dealing with public crises as an elected or public official. The four authors, Boin, Hart, Stern and Sundelius, identify five challenges that leaders face throughout the course of a crisis: sense making, decision making, meaning making, crisis termination and learning from the crisis. After giving full accounts of each challenge, the book cites suggestions on how to overcome such problems and view crises in a different way.
The first challenge, “sense making,” refers to recognizing vague signs that indicate a developing, out of ordinary event. By making sense of the problem, a leader is able to communicate a stable message to the public and hopefully curb the crisis at the same time. The authors suggest that there should be an early warning system in place; staff of the leader should routinely scan potential crisis issues for threats (and opportunities, as well). As an individual, the leader should be alert to what is not said in briefings, meetings and calls. The leader should ask for all news and all worst case scenarios in order to set the tone that bad news should not be withheld. In addition to being extremely aware, the authors suggest a leader should take nothing at face value, seek a diversity of information and actively monitor stress.
The second challenge, “decision making,” refers to the hard decisions often thought about in crisis management. Historically, hard decisions and tough calls are looked upon with great emphasis in both negative and positive lights. For example, the decision to go to war is often viewed as a very difficult decision that pits human life against a cause or way of life. However, the authors argue that leaders should debunk the “leader in charge” rhetoric and plan for better communication between professional units that help make decisions in times of crisis. While the “buck stops here” mentality is historical and still present, the leader must think long term and balance political decisions with operational decisions.
“Meaning making” is vital to proper crisis communication. “Meaning making” refers to the leader being able to communicate his or her definition of the situation so other decisions can be respected and understood. For example, the leader must be able to effectively “market” his or her understanding of the crisis in order to properly deal with the crisis. Since it is easy to lose control of the crisis to media and other public figures, the leader must maintain the public consensus by explaining what the situation means to the public and its future. The authors suggest that a leader cannot survive the meaning making challenge without being an effective communicator and must be willing to consistently confront the crisis.
“Crisis termination,” the fourth challenge, relies on the leader to adjust to the end of the crisis in a skillful, almost artistic way. The leader cannot let the crisis continue for too long while also being aware that he or she cannot seek to terminate the crisis too early. The public must see signals of returning back to normal without the leader seeming detached from the issue. In order to guard against wrongful termination, the authors suggest leaders still appear available after the crisis has ended; the leader must stay present in the media and continue to acknowledge the crisis instead of ceasing all crisis communication.
Finally, the fifth challenge is learning from the crisis. Often times, leaders are almost too eager to show what they have learned from the crisis. Reform work is sometimes needed, like creating a new operation to deal with potential problems highlighted by the crisis, but sweeping changes should not be looked at as the only possible answer. The authors present crisis training and planning as options to learn from the crisis. In addition, the authors warn leaders against applying previous crisis communication tactics to new situations since no crises are the same.
Overall, I find the authors’ suggestions and leadership style to be useful and engaging. The authors encourage the leader to be proactive, seek problems, plan ahead and consult a variety of people in dealing with crises. However, I do find that many of the suggestions are vague in content, which may be required in the wide realm of crisis communication. Also, the approach of the book is simply covering 5 challenges with possible, untested suggestions. Since crises often arrive like “big bangs,” only the most skillful political teams can be prepared to apply suggestions in the best way. Furthermore, I appreciated the decision-making challenge suggestions, as they somewhat parallel Follett’s Collaborative Management approach. Though the political leader often is responsible for the decisions, the author suggests reaching out to different units and ridding himself of the “leader in charge” rhetoric in order to govern a crisis the most efficiently. While the public seeks a leader in charge and the media may present him or her as one, it is important for the leader to pursue a variety of opinions in order to make such hard decisions. Finally, I do have a hard time grasping the authors’ charge that simply looking for possible crises will help prevent them. Such advice seems a bit too idealistic, as each year a yet another amazingly bizarre political scandal arrives that would be extremely hard to predict.
When considering a recommendation of this book, I must consider the specificity of this book. While I enjoyed reading about dealing with political crises, I’m not sure every student would share my delight as politics often turn many people off. However, I do think the book holds valuable lessons for a public relations student. While none are earth shattering, the crisis communication suggestions in this book are important and can seemingly be applied universally. Furthermore, the style of the book may turn some readers off. Written in textbook format, there is no storyline that keeps the reader engaged, only the desire to read about dealing with political scandals. Finally, the book, while lacking an exciting style, is engaging in substance and will certainly interest anyone interested in political communication and management.