Career Lessons from Great by Choice

15 01 2013

A few months ago, I promised you a review of Jim Collins’ bestseller Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos and Luck – Why Some Thrive Despite Them All, but I realized that I never posted my thoughts.  Rather than a traditional review, I’d like to go over the highlights and discuss how the concepts can apply to your career.  After all, what’s the point of a review if you don’t know how you can apply the things you’ll learn about in the book?

“We cannot predict the future. But we can create it.”

– Jim Collins

The 10Xer (pronounced “ex-er”):  By definition, 10Xers are companies that beat their industry by 10 fold.  Collins’ research finds that 10Xers aren’t more creative, more visionary, more charismatic, or more ambitious, more blessed by luck, more risk seeking, more heroic, or more bold. They’re focused on data with great discipline and stick to their plan (ie: their 20 Mile March.) They’re consistent.  In your career or job search, are you sticking to the plan?  Do you have a plan?

What is your 20 mile march?  Do you continue to develop yourself as a professional, learning and tweaking your strategy along the way?

Zoom Out, then Zoom In: The 10Xers possessed a “dual-lens capability” in which they could zoom out to see changes in the environment and assess risk and then zoom in to focus on the superior execution of plans and objectives.  In other words, don’t get lost in the weeds.  It’s important to understand the macro before you tackle the micro.  In your job search or at work, are you zooming out first to understand the bigger picture?  Knowing this will help you find the right long-term solution vs. a quick fix.

cannonballBullets, then Cannonballs: In the book, Collins describes this concept as a lesson in calibration.  Let’s use the legendary pirate metaphor: Imagine if you had a limited amount of gunpowder on a ship.  Would you pool all your resources (the gunpowder) to fire a cannonball at a target?  What if you miss?  You’re definitely in hot water then.  But, if you use just a little powder to fire a few bullets to test the wind direction and other factors, taking into account the differences you will encounter will a larger shot, you can then use the rest of the powder to fire the big one – the cannonball.  Lesson: Fire bullets first.  Test the waters.  Learn what works for you, recalibrating along the way.  When you have empirical validation that you’re on the right path, fire the cannonball.

So, what did I really think about this book?  Honestly, it was pretty easy to read, has real-world applications, and the multitude of case studies (my favorite ones were Scott/Amundsen, Southwest Air, Apple, and Microsoft) made it all come together.  My employer, Enactus, even felt that the business concepts of this book were so important that we read and discussed it at length during our summer strategic summit, helping us each understand how it applies to what we’re doing as an organization.

Here’s the thing, though…

Just reading a book isn’t enough – at least, not a business book or a book meant for personal or professional development, in my opinion.  For most of us, simply reading something only sticks with us for a short while.  My advice?  Take good notes.  Note how the book relates to what you’re doing right now, what you’ve done in the past (successes and failures) and what you can do to improve your future.  Apply the key concepts to your career.  I’ve found that the best books continue to give you inspiration throughout your life.  In fact, some of my best BHAGs have been inspired by them.  Will you apply the principles from the best and choose greatness? 

PS. If you want to know what a BHAG is, I’d highly recommend reading Good to Great, also by Jim Collins.  You don’t necessarily have to read it before Great by Choice, but I found that it helped.

PPS. I read plenty of fiction for entertainment as well (didn’t want you to think I’m a boring business book guy.)  My favorite authors include James Patterson and Michael Crichton.  Just finished Crichton’s Micro and I give it two thumbs up!  It was a great escape over the holiday break.

Read any good books lately? 


Book Review: GET HIRED!

8 03 2011

Students and recent graduates: How many books have you read about the job search?  Have you noticed that they all follow a similar blueprint?  “Do this, don’t do that…”  Some of it is very subjective, while some of the advice is just that – advice, not proven fact.  Many of these books provide great content, but let’s face it – in the busy world of go, go, go, you want a book that gets right to the point. The goal: Land a job after college.  The timeline: As soon as possible!  Why not take the key points learned and apply them to your job search?

I recently read GET HIRED! A Recruiter’s Formula to Land Your First Job After College.  The author, John Lepley, has been a corporate recruiter for the past 18 years and wrote GET HIRED! to pass on his knowledge and formula for success to college students to help them land their first job after college.  Want to know one of the best features of the book?  It gets to the point quickly to get YOU HIRED!  I met John last year at an event and his passion is amazing.  He wants to help YOU land a job.

GET HIRED! A Recruiter’s Formula to Land Your First Job After College: The title says it all – it’s a formula.  From tips for Freshman that will help them gain a competitive edge, to key sections on networking to résumés, cover letters, the interview and what to do when you receive an offer, GET HIRED! keeps it simple.  John took all his experience and the shared experiences of other recruiters and wrapped it up in small, yet VERY dynamic package for the reader.  It’s all there – in less than 90 minutes (that’s giving you an average of 1.5 minutes per page), the way you approach the job search will change.  You’ll have a strategy, clearly outlined by GET HIRED!, that will help you along the path to success.

“GetHired! is a great source of information, insight and tools to empower college students through the process of landing their first job. It is a “must read” for high school and college students who want to prepare for their future. Parents will also reap great benefits from the book as they guide their young adults into the next phase of their lives.”

–          Steve Hayes, Sr. Partner – The Human Capital Group, Inc.

So what are you waiting for?  Take the first step – get the formula to land your first job out of college.  Click here to purchase the book.  GET HIRED! makes a great graduation gift for high school students attending college next semester (parents – hint, hint).  Looking for a gift that literally keeps on giving?  Give  this book.  I’m not even a college student, yet continue to read and re-read the book.  Why?  Because someday, I’ll be up for that promotion or will interview for the new position and will need to be prepared.  GET HIRED! provides tips on how to write a résumé that will get noticed, how to network effectively to find unadvertised jobs, and much more.  Get your copy and GET HIRED!

FTC Disclaimer: This is my review of GET HIRED! A Recruiter’s Formula to Land Your First Job After College, by John W. Lepley.  This is my honest, unsolicited review.  The book can be purchased at  I do not receive any proceeds from the sale of the book or any other compensation.

Read Any Good Books Lately?

15 02 2011

Read any good books lately?  No, I’m not talking about the latest crime novel or vampire thriller.  I’m talking about a book that helps you grow as both a person and professional.  I just finished a great book and I’d like to highlight a few of the things that I found most useful while reading it.  The book is From Bud to Boss: Secrets to a Successful Transition to Remarkable Leadership by Kevin Eikenberry and Guy Harris.  It brought together literally everything a new leader needs to know as they transition into their role.  I’d like to think of it as a manager’s blueprint for success.  Notice I didn’t say “new manager”.  Why?  Because it’s relevant to both new and veteran managers!

Here’s what I got from reading the book:

  • Leadership development – whether you’re a new leader or a well-established leader, there’s something for everyone.  As a leader, you must continue to develop your leadership style and understand how to effectively work with your team.
  • Communication tips – everyone communicates differently.  Knowing how to communicate effectively and knowing that there are different ways to communicate depending on that person’s style will help me and YOU become a better leader.
  • A better understanding of my circle of influence – I now know what is in my power to influence and what’s outside of that circle.  Change is inevitable, but setting the right expectations of your team and yourself is crucial in establishing influence.  To quote the book, “People tend to live up (or down) to your expectations of them.”  Are you setting realistic expectations?
  • Advice as a new manager – I learned tips on how to celebrate progress (not just completion), how to handle resistance to change by others, how to be an effective coach providing feedback and feedforward. For the definition of feedforward, you’ll just have to read the book!
  • Inspiration to be the best – all of the tips, tools and resources made available by this book makes me realize that this quote speaks true:  “Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” –William Jennings Bryan.  We have to work hard to be the best.  Having a thirst for knowledge and healthy dissatisfaction of the status quo will help us achieve our destiny.  No one can do it for us.
  • And so much more! (Hey, if I gave you the Cliff’s Notes of the book, you wouldn’t read it, would you?)

From Bud to Boss is a one-stop shop to find advice on Change, Coaching, Leadership, Management, Communication, Listening, Effective Presentations, and nearly everything you need to become a great leader , transitioning into your new role.  This is a book that you can read cover to cover, or simply skim for the good nuggets of information.  They’re in there – you just have to look.  There’s even a reference to Star Wars Episode Six: Return of the Jedi (making me a bigger fan of Kevin and Guy than I was already).

Two other great features of the book are Bonus Bytes and Now Steps in each chapter.  Bonus Bytes expands the content beyond the printed word, taking you to their Bud to Boss Community, helping you put the philosophies and ideas into action in real life situations.  The Now Steps are calls to action at the end of each chapter, asking you to reflect on what you’ve just learned and to take action in real life, applying the principles.

Kevin Eikenberry and Guy Harris’ book From Bud to Boss launches on Tuesday, February 15th. To celebrate the launch, they have gathered some terrific gifts from partners. To find out about the gifts, please visit  I’ve also added this title to my Book List.  You can check it out, along with other excellent leadership and job search resources.  If you know someone who just got a promotion, is entering the workforce (think graduation gift), or has recently transitioned into a new leadership role, this is the book for them!

FTC Disclaimer: This is my review of From Bud to Boss: Secrets to a Successful Transition to Remarkable Leadership, by Kevin Eikenberry and Guy Harris.  In return for receiving the book in advance, I have been asked to give an honest review.  The book can be purchased at and other online retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Books-A-Million.  I do not receive any proceeds from the sale of the book or any other compensation.