Book and Media Reviews

Core Values – The Key to Attracting and Retaining A-Players

A Virtuous Talent Cycle

“ I’d love being a business owner, if only I didn’t have to deal with so many people issues!”

We often hear this from our clients when they are frustrated by not having the right people in the right seats, doing things right.

If they seem to have an adequate talent development process, but they still struggle to get, keep and grow A-Players, two questions pop up for us:

What are your organization’s Core Values?

How well would your employees say that you, as an owner, live and breathe these values?

When we talk about values, we’re not talking about slogans, tag-lines or other customer-facing messages. We’re not talking about feel-good, self-focused, morale-building platitudes or inspirational posters. We are talking about the decisions and actions that define character.

As an owner, YOUR values drive the organization’s values, which are the engine for just about everything to do with your people, culture and long-term success. Who you hire, how you treat people, the kind of workplace you create and your reputation or ‘gravity’ as the place for A-Players, all flow from your values.

Hire GREAT People

In the absence of clear values, organizations hire on the technical ability to do the work.  While that’s a good place to start, the heart of a great hire is an alignment of values with the organization. If you aren’t clear about your values, how will you decide who is right for your company? How will a candidate decide if you are right for them?

For example,  Nike knows exactly the kind of people it will (and won’t) hire. They want people who create, take risks and pursue greatness within their company – people who can ‘shatter limits daily’. While a message such as this will attract A-Players, only companies who can deliver on the promise will keep A-Players – and Nike does.

Learn more about hiring great people

Create a Great Place to Work

Creating a great place to work is the first step in keeping the great people. Your values drive HOW you treat your people, the kind of work you take on, the environment people work in and how you celebrate success and failure.

Your values show up in the daily actions of your organization.

  • If you value people seeing the impact of their work, create a metric that helps people see their impact on success.
  • If you value autonomy, create the boundary conditions and measurable outcomes so your team can make independent decisions, and know when they are successful.
  • If you value learning, recognize people who are learning. Make it safe for people to fail and make mistakes on the path to greater success.
  • If you value a variety of interesting work for your people, be selective about the kind of work you take on.

Consistently recognizing and celebrating values in the day-to-day actions of your leaders and team reinforces their importance in your company.

KEEP Your Great People – Help Them Grow

Equally important is helping your people grow.  The trend in organizations is to do many small coaching moments throughout the year, focusing on the work ahead of you, versus the backward-looking ‘performance reviews.’ As described in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, The Performance Management Revolution, traditional performance reviews  “hold people accountable for past behavior at the expense of improving current performance and grooming talent for the future.”

Great leaders are coaching people on the skills, talents and values they need to advance, through immediate, constructive coaching in the day-to-day work of the company.  An excellent book for helping you improve your skills in coaching your team is: The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, by Michael Bungay Stanier. There are now interesting web-based applications, such as Threads ( that help you and your employee document and improve alignment between the values of the organization and delivery of results.

Create a Virtual Bench of Future Talent

Create and groom a list of people who you would like to have work for you. The list might include a former intern who will graduate in a year or two, someone your clients mentioned as a superstar in another organization, or a referral from one of your employees. One way of mining the network of connections already within your organization is to sit down with your best team members and work through their personal contact list in a process called ‘guided recall’.

The strategy here is to stay connected.  Get creative. Share information about your company’s culture and values. Host continuing education events. Invite your employees to bring prospective candidates to a social event, like a craft beer tasting, or through social media like Facebook or LinkedIn. Find ways to add value to those on your bench. When it’s time to look for great people to add to your team, the candidates will be looking for you.

Learn more about creating a virtual bench

Keep Your Values Real

Keeping it real means observing and naming the values you and your organization already live and breathe, today.

How do you test that one of your values is ‘the real deal’?

  • Can you point to a person in your organization who embodies the value?
  • Will you take a financial hit / turn down a deal as you stand for the value?
  • Is repeatedly violating the value a firing offense?

Keep your company’s Core Values front and center – keep them real and alive. They are a powerful magnet to get, keep and align a great team, and ultimately, to amplify your organization’s success!

Learn more about Core Values

– Ann Ralston, © 2017 Ralston Consulting Inc.

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Monday, April 3rd, 2017 Book and Media Reviews, Business Insights, Leadership, Main Page, Personal Mastery, Scaling Up, Values Comments Off on Core Values – The Key to Attracting and Retaining A-Players

Biomimicry – How Nature is Inspiring Radical Innovation

How can Biomimicry help my product or service gain a competitive edge?

Nature has already solved virtually every problem that humans are facing and in considerably better ways than anything humans have achieved.

Biomimicry is a rapidly growing design discipline that provides breakthrough strategies for solving business and technical challenges. At the center of this growing movement has been award-winning inventor and biomimetic entrepreneur Jay Harman, author of The Shark’s Paintbrush: Biomimicry and How Nature is Inspiring Innovation.

A 2013 Fermanian Institute report determined that by 2030, bioinspiration could account for $1 .6 trillion in total GDP, including $425 billion of US GDP. Savings in reduced resource depletion and pollution could amount to an additional $0.5 trillion worldwide.

There is not a business or product today that can’t improve profits, reduce liability, or solve intractable problems through the application of biomimetics.

“The Shark’s Paintbrush reveals how nature is inspiring design to be more efficient, effective, resilient, and beautiful.

In Nature’s 3.8 billion years of design experience, the roughly 99% of designs that didn’t work got recalled by the Manufacturer. The 1% that survived can teach profound lessons about how things should be made, how they work, and how they fit.

Jay Harman’s immersion in and curiosity about the natural world have made him one of the best biomimetic designers. The Shark’s Paintbrush is a masterly field guide for all designers and entrepreneurs who aspire to help the world of the made work like, and live harmoniously with, the world of the born.”

–Amory B. Lovins, Chairman and Chief Scientist, Rocky Mountain Institute


  • explore or search for solutions by function, strategy, or organism



To reach Jay Harman:

Facebook: @TheSharksPaintbrush

This article ©2016, from a program guide for The FortuneŸ Growth Summit, October 25 and 26, 2016, Dallas, TX, held in partnership with

Join us for our next Scaling Up Business Growth Workshop in Columbus, OH.

To learn more and register your team, go to or contact Ann Ralston, or 614-761-1841 x2.

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Friday, March 17th, 2017 Article Archive, Book and Media Reviews, Business Insights, Corporate Social Responsibility, Main Page, Process Improvement, Scaling Up, Social Enterprise, Start Up, Sustainability, Technology Comments Off on Biomimicry – How Nature is Inspiring Radical Innovation

Three Brilliant Podcast Series to Make You Think!

Podcasts rock!  I’ve stopped listening to NPR and even music when I drive. Instead, I’m enjoying and learning from podcasts.

If you haven’t explored the world of podcasts, you are missing out. You can find just about anything!

The bad news for beginners: you can find just about anything. :-((  There are so VERY many podcasts, with lots of clutter and noise, so let’s start you off right!.

Three podcasts in particular continue to change how I think about and perceive my world:

timferrissshowart-500x500The Tim Ferriss Show

On his podcast, author and entrepreneur, Tim Ferriss, “deconstructs world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, sports, business, art, etc.) to extract the tactics, tools, and routines you can use.  This includes favorite books, morning routines, exercise habits, time-management tricks, and much more..”  His guests are amazing and DIVERSE. Actors, Athletes, Artists, Doctors, HIGHLY successful entrepreneurs, soldiers, writers and researchers. I’ve gone back to listen to MOST of over 100 shows.

Josh Waitzkin – A Chess Prodigy on Mastering Martial Arts, Chess and Life

Josh was the basis for the book and movie, Searching for Bobby Fischer. In the process of life as a chess prodigy, world champion in Tai Chi Push Hands, he has perfected learning strategies that can be applied to anything. Author of the incredible book, The Art of Learning, Josh now spends his time coaching the world’s top performers, whether Mark Messier, Cal Ripken Jr., or elite hedge fund managers. Josh also appeared on Episode #2, but this is the place to start…

tony-robbinsTony Robbins – Several Episodes!

I’ve not been a huge fan of Tony Robbins in the past, yet I really enjoyed all of these episodes:

cal-fussmanCal Fussman – Master Interviewer, Writer and Storyteller.

Oh, the stories! Cal is a New York Times bestselling author and a writer-at-large for Esquire magazine, where he is best known for being a primary writer of the “What I Learned” feature. The Austin Chronicle has described Cal’s interviewing skills as “peerless.” He has transformed oral history into an art form, conducting probing interviews with the icons who’ve shaped the last 50 years of world history: Mikhail Gorbachev, Jimmy Carter, Ted Kennedy, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Jack Welch, Robert DeNiro, Clint Eastwood, Al Pacino, George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Bruce Springsteen, Dr. Dre, Quincy Jones, Woody Allen, Barbara Walters, PelĂ©, Yao Ming, Serena Williams, John Wooden, Muhammad Ali, and countless others.

revisionist-history-gladwellRevisionist History with Malcom Gladwell

Malcom Gladwell, a brilliant storyteller “reinterprets something from the past: an event, a person, an idea. Something overlooked. Something misunderstood. Again, my favorite three, each a must-hear:

  • The Lady Vanishes
  • Generous Orthodoxy
  • The Blame Game – I hope it helps us reflect on how much the news media distorts information, and sadly, how quickly we believe them. We simply take what they say as truth, when it can be far, far from it.

abundancebookcoverExponential Wisdom with Peter Diamandis and Dan Sullivan

I found this podcast after our work with (and subsequent certification in) the Exponential Organizations Masterclass. The podcast holds “Insights from Dan Sullivan and Peter Diamandis on the Human-Technology Relationship”.  This is a fascinating conceptual playground, as the speed of change is outpacing our ability to govern, learn and understand the impact on our future world. Diamandis’ fundamental premise is that we are entering a time of abundance, globally, thanks to technological advances, with evidence that counters the media’s negative, sensationalist biases.

Diamandis and Sullivan offer a deeper understanding of topics such as Brexit, Artificial Intelligence, longevity, healthcare, education… each one fascinating! Go back to the earlier podcasts – even episode one – for the best flow.

I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the podcasts in these series.   Hope you enjoy!

– Ann Ralston,
  © 2016 Ralston Consulting Inc.

Join us for our next Scaling Up Business Growth Workshop in Columbus, OH.

To learn more and register your team, go to or contact Ann Ralston, or 614-561-5273.

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Friday, September 23rd, 2016 Article Archive, Book and Media Reviews, Executive Productivity, Main Page, Personal Mastery Comments Off on Three Brilliant Podcast Series to Make You Think!

Leadership Lessons from the Craft Beer World!

‘Brewing Up a Business‘ by Sam Calagione, the owner of DogFish Head Brewery, was recommended by one of my sons, so I downloaded the audiobook. He brews his own beer as a hobby, and I thought – at best – I was getting into a book about craft beer counter-culture and start ups.

Brewing up a BusinessWhat I found was a fun, fast listen chock-full of lessons on the leadership required to build and run a successful business:

  • about dedication and belief in what you are creating,
  • of commitment to your people,
  • of how the personality of an individual can shape a culture of innovation.

The company was built on creating innovative (and sometimes bizarre) products – which with craft beer means a combination of distinctive taste and ingredients, an evocative name, and a great story. (Liquid Breadfruit Ale, anyone?).

They maintain a constant awareness (and openness to) ideas that may be the germ of a new offering – and in some cases, rescue offerings in trouble.  Sales for the then-failing DFH Beer Shampoo Bar only turned around after they discovered that professional dog groomers loved it, and so repositioned it as a pet care product!

I think the thing that most struck me was their connection to and understanding of their customers. We all talk about knowing our customer, but how does that translate to action throughout a company? Calagione sets a great example, and I could see and feel his commitment to this principle, woven through every story he tells.

If you are looking for a down-to-earth and delightfully “off-centered” point of view on leadership, you are in for a great read (or listen!)!


– Ann Ralston

© 2014 Ralston Consulting Inc.

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Tuesday, April 29th, 2014 Article Archive, Book and Media Reviews, Business Insights, Leadership, Main Page Comments Off on Leadership Lessons from the Craft Beer World!

“We Aren’t the World” – Required Reading Before Going Global

What do we really know about human behavior and motivation, worldwide?

Sustainable business models and social enterprise models count on our ability to understand why our customers buy and use our products and services. Our most successful clients have developed an uncanny sixth sense ability to know the customer’s motivations better than the customer.

On their home turf.

“Home turf”, for many of our clients, means WEIRD countries. Now before anyone takes offense – WEIRD stands for Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic. As long as they grow their ventures into other WEIRD markets, that sixth sense about customer motivation can serve them. But go beyond, and it’s a different story (to which our clients with global reach can attest).


Why is this so?  Why do some of our instincts about customer motives in foreign markets turn out to be wrong – and sometimes waaay wrong??

“We Aren’t the World” is a brilliant article / interview about three researchers at University of British Columbia who, according to author, Ethan Watters, “are shaking the foundations of psychology and economics—and hoping to change the way social scientists think about human behavior and culture.”

Their work has taken them around the world, testing how perceptions, behaviors, and motivations vary by culture. Along the way, they discovered significant biases in the research methods of “…a vast amount of scholarly literature in the social sciences—particularly in economics and psychology…”

“As the three continued their work, they noticed something else that was remarkable: again and again one group of people appeared to be particularly unusual when compared to other populations—with perceptions, behaviors, and motivations that were almost always sliding down one end of the human bell curve.

In the end they titled their paper “The Weirdest People in the World” (pdf) By “weird” they meant both unusual and Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic. It is not just our Western habits and cultural preferences that are different from the rest of the world, it appears. The very way we think about ourselves and others—and even the way we perceive reality—makes us distinct from other humans on the planet, not to mention from the vast majority of our ancestors. Among Westerners, the data showed that Americans were often the most unusual, leading the researchers to conclude that “American participants are exceptional even within the unusual population of Westerners—outliers among outliers.”

Given the data, they concluded that social scientists could not possibly have picked a worse population from which to draw broad generalizations. Researchers had been doing the equivalent of studying penguins while believing that they were learning insights applicable to all birds.”

How could this happen?? (Did you guess: ‘European colonialism and political correctness’?)

“The last generation or two of undergraduates have largely been taught by a cohort of social scientists busily doing penance for the racism and Eurocentrism of their predecessors… “

Decolonizing_Methodologies__CoverI cannot overestimate the importance of developing acute cultural sensitivity when going into regions affected by European colonial expansion, which began in the 15th century and whose impact is felt to this day.

Also, don’t assume you have to cross oceans to find such cultures. I owe a debt of gratitude to my aboriginal clients and friends – members of Coastal First Nations in British Columbia. They helped me through one of the most powerful, disturbing experiences of my career as I learned about the terrible history of abuse of aboriginals in residential schools in Canada. For more information, please visit Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission site.


For any colleagues heading into similar territory, the site above, as well as the book: Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples may help heighten your cultural sensitivity.

To avoid stereotyping, it is rarely stated bluntly just exactly what those culturally derived qualities might be… Economists and psychologists, for their part, did an end run around the issue with the convenient assumption that their job was to study the human mind stripped of culture. The human brain is genetically comparable around the globe, it was agreed, so human hardwiring for much behavior, perception, and cognition should be similarly universal. No need, in that case, to look beyond the convenient population of undergraduates for test subjects. A 2008 survey of the top six psychology journals dramatically shows how common that assumption was: more than 96 percent of the subjects tested in psychological studies from 2003 to 2007 were Westerners—with nearly 70 percent from the United States alone. Put another way: 96 percent of human subjects in these studies came from countries that represent only 12 percent of the world’s population.”

But it gets worse. From the research paper:

“Even within the West, however, the typical sampling method for psychological studies is far from representative. In the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the premier journal in social psychology—the sub‐discipline of psychology that should (arguably) be the most attentive to questions about the subjects’ backgrounds—67% of the American samples (and 80% of the samples from other countries) were composed solely of undergraduates in psychology courses (Arnett 2008). …”

No. Way. Epic experiment design assumption goes horribly wrong and throws a shadow over an entire field of study. Oh – and anything else that is based on the field in question.

The magazine article concludes:

“And here is the rub: the culturally shaped analytic/individualistic mind-sets may partly explain why Western researchers have so dramatically failed to take into account the interplay between culture and cognition. In the end, the goal of boiling down human psychology to hardwiring is not surprising given the type of mind that has been designing the studies. Taking an object (in this case the human mind) out of its context is, after all, what distinguishes the analytic reasoning style prevalent in the West. Similarly, we may have underestimated the impact of culture because the very ideas of being subject to the will of larger historical currents and of unconsciously mimicking the cognition of those around us challenges our Western conception of the self as independent and self-determined. The historical missteps of Western researchers, in other words, have been the predictable consequences of the WEIRD mind doing the thinking.”

So take heed – if your organization has plans to operate in a foreign cultural context and marketplace:

  • Read the article, research paper, and anything credible you can find about the culture.
  • Find local cultural guides and take a learning journey, immersive far beyond the ‘airport hotel and tour bus’ visit. The aim is to experience firsthand the nation, the people and their culture – down to the specifics of where and how they will buy and use your offering. (Be prepared to put aside anything you’ve read in favor of direct experience.)
  • Given all you have learned, localize your business model, offering and approach.

Maybe then, the locals won’t dismiss you as too WEIRD.

A shout out to Fleurette Sweeny at SelfDesign Learning Foundation for turning us on to this article!

– Gary Ralston

© 2013 Ralston Consulting Inc.

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Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 Article Archive, Book and Media Reviews, Business Models, Corporate Social Responsibility, Main Page, Marketing, Social Enterprise, Values Comments Off on “We Aren’t the World” – Required Reading Before Going Global

Book Review: To Sell is Human, by Daniel Pink

Once upon a time, there was a consultant who wanted their business to be successful far and wide, because she cared about people, the earth and longed deeply to make a difference.

Everyday, she would beat herself up for not being able to sell her wares or write pithy articles that were relevant to their clients.

One day, she read a book – To Sell is Human

Because of that she developed greater skill (and confidence) and credibility with her clients, and more courage to find a financial win-win while helping the people and organizations she cared about.

Because of that, she saw their sales increase.

Until finally, she saw their business grow far and wide, making a difference to more people than ever, (and even wrote a relevant, pithy and timely book review).

(Example of a “Pixar pitch”, one of six successors to the elevator pitch)

“I’m not a salesman. That’s just not who I am

A client echoed my own thoughts last evening. Inwardly, I smiled. No, I may not be a sales person, but I am really good at helping people succeed, at holding their vision, at connecting others, and at marshaling knowledge and resources in their service. That, according to author, Daniel Pink, is the new world order of sales – a world where, like it or not, every one of us is in sales.

Information changes everything:

To Sell is Human Kindle Edition

Of course, for many of us, the old world of selling conjures images of real estate agents and car salesmen wielding secret books of data, and the cry of ‘caveat emptor’ – buyer beware! Pink observes that information is now equally available to both sides of the sale. Buyers come to a transaction knowing as much or more than the salesperson, so the value of the sales person as holder of knowledge has greatly diminished.

When we make a major purchase, Gary does his homework. When we got our last car, Gary knew more about price, availability and fit to my preferences than either the sales person or me, steering me to a car I never would have considered. Prescient? No. The information is readily available for consumers, along with the tools to make sense of and personalize it.

This information parity is perhaps most apparent in the real estate industry, where the old guard competes with agents more attuned and more wired to the new reality of how buyers approach their research and purchase. The typical home buyer today, smartphone in-hand, has walked through the house, scanned satellite images and toured the neighborhood, all virtually, before ever asking to step into a home. They have at their fingertips market pricing, school district grades, crime statistics, “Walkability” scores and the impressions and opinions of their social network living in the neighborhood. ‘Caveat venditor’ – seller, beware. (Agent, plug-in!)

If not “gatekeeper to information” what is the value and role of the salesperson in the new order?

The new ABC’s of selling:

In researching the book, Pink has delved into many diverse fields, weaving them into surprising and sometimes counterintuitive insights. He follows with practical resources and useful thought experiments at the end of each section. These little ‘sample cases’ are grist for the reader’s personal reflection, insight and skill development (and yes, make us squirm just a bit).

In the old world of selling, ABC stood for Always Be Closing. Ugh. Thankfully, Pink has come up with new ABC’s:

Attunement – being aware of yourself, your actions and attitudes in the current context,

Buoyancy – mental resilience before and after a sales opportunity, and

Clarity – finding the right questions to ask to help the client gain clarity.

As Gary and I reflect on the evolution of our approach to sales, these principles ring true.

The final section of the book focuses on what to do in the ‘new’ sales process. He draws from Pixar and others as he walks through six ways to ‘pitch’, and reaches into improvisational theatre to help the reader move from a world of scripted sales to deeper listening and awareness in working with customers and peers.

Servant Selling:

In closing, Pink talks about a fundamental shift in values underlying selling. Taking a page from Robert Greenleaf’s “Servant Leadership” philosophy, he creates a version for the new world of sales
 He calls it “Servant Selling”:

“ It begins with the idea that those move others aren’t manipulators but servants. They serve first and sell later. And the test – which, like Greanleaf’s, is the best and most difficult to administer is this: If the person you’re selling to agrees to buy, will his or her life improve? When your interaction is over will the world be a better place than when you began?”

The book, like Pink’s previous work, is a fast read, a bit cheeky, and packed with useful tidbits. Most important, for the many of us who protest “I am not a salesman!”, it touches our core of doubts, fears and biases. It offers the opportunity and a pathway to change our frame from sales as something to be avoided to sales as a caring service aimed at helping both parties succeed.

This is certainly true for me. I’m far better off for having read this book.

– Ann Ralston

© 2013 Ralston Consulting Inc.

Link to Kindle e-book at To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013 Article Archive, Book and Media Reviews, Leadership, Main Page, Sales, Values Comments Off on Book Review: To Sell is Human, by Daniel Pink

Innovative Video of DRIVE, by Dan Pink

DRIVEbyDanPinkWe had drafted our pithy review of the book: DRIVE: The surprising truth about what motivates us, when Ann discovered this very effective animation based on Dan Pink’s talk at the 250-year-old (but surprisingly hip!) Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA).

This 11-minute video is highly-watchable for both content that challenges conventional wisdom about motivating knowledge workers, and an innovative combination of a graphic artist and time-lapse filming. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010 Article Archive, Book and Media Reviews, Business Insights, Main Page Comments Off on Innovative Video of DRIVE, by Dan Pink

Review – The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t

Our apologies to any readers out there with tender ears, but we’ll let the author speak for himself in this excerpt from his article in the Harvard Business Review:

There’s a simple practice that can make an organization better, but while many managers talk about it, few write it down. They enforce “no asshole” rules. I apologize for the crudeness of the term – you might prefer to call them tyrants, bullies, boors, cruel bastards, or destructive narcissists, and so do I, at times. Some behavioral scientists refer to them in terms of psychological abuse, which they define as “the sustained display of hostile verbal and nonverbal behaviors, excluding physical contact.” But all that cold precision masks the fear and loathing these jerks leave in their wake. Somehow, when I see a mean-spirited person damaging others, no other term seems quite right.

– Robert I. Sutton
More Trouble Than They’re Worth
Breakthrough Articles for 2004 – HBR reprint R0402A

At some point in time, we all have worked with a person who is a mean-spirited jerk – who throws their weight or position around, and who uses fear to motivate, to manipulate, or to get his or her way. In short, we’ve all had the displeasure of working with an ‘asshole’.

noassholecoveramazonThe No Asshole Rule, Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving in One That Isn’t, by Robert Sutton, is a fast and fun read (or listen) about keeping assholes out of your workplace, recognizing our own individual tendencies toward asshole-ism and about how some people leverage their assholed-ness for power and results (yes, some people actually do get what they want by being real jerks).

Sutton has two simple criteria for determining if someone is an asshole. First, if the person on the receiving end “feels depressed, humiliated or de-energized or belittled” and secondly if the “alleged asshole aims the venom at people who are less powerful rather than people who are more powerful.”

In Sutton’s language there are also temporary assholes. These are people who are simply having a bed day, in contrast to certified assholes – people who are persistently nasty and destructive jerks. Sutton also has the obligatory asshole self-test in his book so that you can understand if you, yourself, are of the certified or temporary variety.

The book is sprinkled with examples of how awful people can be, and “revenge” stories that show the lengths ‘victims’ will go to in response. It also highlights success stories, such as Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines, and successful counter-examples, such as Steve Jobs of Apple, Inc. (See “Evil Genius” in Wired magazine for more…)

I think the most important question to discuss, particularly if you are and executive or business owner, is to what degree you are actually willing to condone assholes in your work place.

Sutton refers to a number of studies that describe the damage done to organizations by jerks. They undermine the productivity of a team or organization, cause good people to leave the workplace and in some instances, can put others at physical risk when allowed to continue.

Gary and I are frequently called in to help deal with employees who hold their organizations hostage through their nasty attitude and behavior. At times, these people are in what they perceive to be ‘key’ positions, by their productivity or specialized knowledge. These people are expert at pushing to the very limit of tolerance, using anything up to and including temper tantrums to get their way. What’s an organization to do??

Especially in this climate of reduced resources and economic challenges, business leaders must make the most of every employee to leverage the organization toward success. If you, like Sutton or Kelly, are interested in creating a great place to work where good talent is hired, invested in and grown for its incredible competitive advantage, then the ‘no asshole’ rule is a good one to adopt and keep at zero-tolerance.

© 2008 Ann Ralston and the respective copyright holders.

Monday, May 19th, 2008 Article Archive, Book and Media Reviews, Business Insights, Main Page Comments Off on Review – The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t

WSJ bestseller – The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich

4hourworkweekcover2Love it or hate it, this book is bound to offer new views on cherished assumptions.

And boy, does author, Tim Ferriss have the power to polarize opinion. This controversial Princeton University guest lecturer has written what I consider to be an innovative antidote to a problem for our clients and their colleagues – trapping themselves into working for the sake of work. Right from the start, I would recommend you separate your opinion about Tim and his choices, style and values from the ideas and tools presented.

But read it you should. There is a good chance that your top performers, road warriors, independent thinkers and millennials (those born roughly from 1981-2000) have at least heard of Lifestyle Design. His premise is simple: working long hours for many years, deferring the activities of retirement until we are too old to participate in them (and possibly, can’t even afford them) is a broken model. As an alternative, he presents the concept and practice of Lifestyle Design – separating earning power from activities, incorporating mini-retirements throughout life, and re-focusing new-found free time on learning and service as a worthy pursuit.

I think this last point is important to highlight. Were I Tim, trying to reach the likes of Ann and me, I would have mentioned sooner that it’s not all about globe-trotting sybaritic pleasures. Many, if not most of the experienced Lifestyle Designers interviewed in the research discovered that they faced the challenge previously connected to retirees: When your income is no longer dependent upon your activity, you’ve given yourself a long holiday (or three) and you don’t care if you ever photograph another wild gazelle, then what do you do? Fortunately, there is a chapter on filling the void and inventing your next purpose.

For some entrepreneurs, especially, this book will shine a light on the common pattern of leaders who weave themselves indispensably into their business model – becoming a growth bottleneck, a key-person risk and a prisoner all at once. Similar to Gerber’s “The e-Myth, Revisited“, Ferriss offers leaders ways to disentangle from their processes – to move from self-employment to owning a business system.

Available in book and other formats, I recommend The 4-hour Workweek to anyone who must manage or collaborate with Lifestyle Designers, or aspires to become one. See you at the beach!

©2008 Gary Ralston all rights reserved.

Download a brief audio presentation by Tim Ferriss here.

Monday, May 19th, 2008 Article Archive, Book and Media Reviews, Business Insights, Executive Productivity, Main Page Comments Off on WSJ bestseller – The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich

Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, by Mark Lynas

SixDegreesCover150wAs a global community, we have until 2015 to cap carbon dioxide emissions at 400 ppm, and 2 degrees Celsius average warming, or reach a tipping point leading to an unstoppable, runaway overheating of the planet.

That’s pretty much the bottom line from this extremely well-researched and well-written book by journalist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer, Mark Lynas. In Six Degrees, Lynas paints six scenarios of how the planet will be different – one for each degree Celsius of average global temperature increase. I’ve read the summaries for policymakers published by the Nobel Award-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and as clear as they are, they simply don’t give you the same gut-level grasp for just how much our current way of business – and of life – will be overturned.

National Geographic thought so, too, and used Mark’s work as the basis for their television special: Six Degrees Could Change the World. I suggest that you click on the Video tab, and work all the way through the various video clips. Consider, for instance, this chilling SFX shot of a New York subway car abandoned in a tunnel flooded by rising sea levels. Many of us reading this blog will easily live long enough to experience this possible future. And many of us will not want to look. Heck, I had trouble completing my research for this article because I felt overwhelmed by the scale and immediacy of the problem. But look, we must.

SubwayFlood250wThe situation is on top of us, and not nearly enough people appear to be paying attention.

In strategy, structure and systems, we are always on the lookout for feedback loops. Well, our planet has some enormous temperature-triggered positive feedback loops – tipping points or points of no return – just waiting for some species to trip them.

The first threshold, for carbon-cycle feedback, is around 3 degree Celsius of warming – 450 ppm of Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Large amounts of Carbon Dioxide are predicted to be released from “reservoirs”, among them the burning forests of the Amazon and Malaysia, and the thawing Arctic icecaps and tundra.

The second threshold, for Siberian methane feedback, is around 4 degrees Celsius of warming – 550 ppm of Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Large amounts of methane (23 times as potent as the same amount of Carbon Dioxide) are predicted to be released from “reservoirs”, such as those in Siberia, and methane hydrate in deep sea deposits.

So where are we now? In 2007, Carbon Dioxide (CO2) was at 382 ppm (parts per million), and we currently increase about 2 ppm per year.

Lynas concludes, based upon his review of the available research, that in order to have even a 75 percent certainty of keeping temperatures below the magic 2-degree threshold, we have seven years to reverse the buildup of greenhouse gases globally and hit a safety target of around 400 ppm of Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions must peak by or before 2015, and decline by 85 percent by 2050. If we let it get to 3 degrees (as early as 2050), feedback cycles kick in, and we risk a one-way ticket to 6 degrees of global warming and mass extinction on a scale not seen since the End-Permian age.

The numbers ought to chill us all to the bone, and then fire us into immediate re-thinking of all parts of our business and lifestyle, and the prospects for our descendants.

As Lynas put it:

“We humans, one species of animal among millions, have now become de facto guardians of the planet’s climate stability – a service that used to be provided free (given a few ups and downs) by nature. Without realizing it, we have appointed ourselves janitors, our sweaty ape hands resting heavily on the climatic thermostat. A more awesome responsibility can scarcely be imagined.”

Immediate Business Implications:

Business Carbon Emissions WILL be regulated: We all know that business has had a free ride, not having to account for the global cost of releasing Greenhouse Gases. In the following decades, financial statements and regulatory reports will also account for credits and debits of these gases. If your supply chain is carbon intensive, your costs will climb.

TCClogo_smallConsumers and regulators are demanding that business be accountable for the Total Lifecycle of products and services: Large business is already having to do this. Smaller businesses should be scrambling to figure out how to manage the cost of policing their entire supply chains, and extend their financial models to include liability for disposal. Learn more at sites such as The Climate Conservancy, a non-profit created by scientists from Stanford University.

There will be a social backlash against conspicuous consumption and the disposable economy, fueled by the climate crisis: As with so many of us, our parents grew up during the depression, when recycling went by another name – survival. In my case, our family began formally recycling about the time man first landed on the moon, and has never stopped. Fast forward 40 years. In my home town of Vancouver, BC, Canada, recycling is required, and garbage is spot-checked for infractions. Yet here in Central Ohio, Ann and I must pay for the privilege of recycling. Only two families do so on our street.

StoryOfStuffToday, US consumers have trashed ninety-nine percent of all goods they buy within six months of the date of purchase. Only one percent is still in use. The US – five percent of the world’s population – consumes 30 percent of the world’s resources and creates 30 percent of the world’s garbage. It is horrifying to think that much of the world’s population would be clamoring to emulate the US. Visit this website – – for a brilliant animated presentation sponsored by the Tides Foundation, and others.

Bottom line – if your business model depends on rampant consumerism, planned and perceived obsolescence and depends upon externalized costs, your free ride may run out, really soon. Which brings us to the next issue…

Public companies will be at even worse odds with the people leading them: As a system, the stock markets (i.e. Wall Street, stockholders, 24-year-old analysts in cubicles, news media, etc.) wants public corporations to focus short-term to produce unending growth of revenue and profit. As humans, the presidents and CEO’s go home to their families – children and grandchildren – whom they care about very much. It is natural that they would want to use all their supposed influence to give them a better future – say, reversing global warming. But to do so, they must go back to work and focus long-term – whereupon they are promptly fired for not keeping their eyes on quarterly profit performance.

In the end, we as a global community must institute a new definition of success for public companies. We must create markets that value planetary stewardship in addition to ROI in setting the share prices on the daily exchange.

There will be no silver bullet: There is no single thing that will reverse global warming, nor two, nor three. There will likely be seven to fifteen major initiatives, and thousands of minor ones. Of these options, conservation – using less in the first place – should be at the top of the list. This is great news for business, both large and small, because it means that no one will have a monopoly on the business opportunities presented by this crisis / opportunity. In the next decade, there will be a flow of funding and resources to this megaproject that will be measured in percentages of our planetary GDP.

A suggestion for how to build momentum to change:

Ann and I are acutely aware of our own immense discomfort in relating to this issue. Yet, we want to know reality even more, and that lets us take one more step. Here’s what you might consider:

  1. Go watch the video footage at National Geographic’s  Six Degrees Could Change the World site, then read the summary for policymakers at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change site.
  2. Watch The Story of Stuff.
  3. At the very least, read the last chapter – Choosing our Future – of Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, by Mark Lynas.
  4. Browse The Climate Conservancy site.
  5. For your business, schedule reviews of business strategy and process. Research what your suppliers are doing. Evaluate your liability for disposal of your products. Re-think how you generate wealth, and realign your strategy to mitigate, and even profit from reversing global warming.
  6. WE_Logo_TM_RGB-1In your personal life, take inventory on your progress toward reducing your environmental footprint. There are thousands of sites to help. We Can Solve the Climate Crisis, a project of the Alliance for Climate Protection, founded by Nobel Laureate, Al Gore, is a great site recommended by our colleagues. National Geographic launched The Green Guide, where I found this excellent article on switching to green power through our existing public utility. Google “Carbon Footprint” for many more options.

The biggest change in the business and social climate in our time will be the change from a society of consumption and competition to a society of sustainability and cooperation. Plan to be part of leading this change. And if it wouldn’t be too much bother, please start today. Seven years will pass in a blink of an eye.

© 2008 Gary Ralston and the respective copyright holders – all rights reserved

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008 Article Archive, Book and Media Reviews, Business Insights, Main Page, Sustainability Comments Off on Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, by Mark Lynas

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