Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Story Factor

How can you highlight the importance of telling stories ? "Well ... by telling stories !" says Annette.

This book not only tells you "Why stories are important", but also tells you "How you can use them". There are enough stories in this book to sustain your interest. I bet, it will be hard for you to gobble through the material. Take time to read the material to assimilate the wealth of information.

Key takeaways from the book are:

  1. Manipulation is an inferior method of influence. Telling an authentically persuasive story is a much more powerful source of influence
  2. A fact is like a sack - it won’t stand up if it is empty. To make it stand up, first you have to put it in all the reasons and feelings that cause it in the first place.
  3. The greatest crime you can commit as a story teller is to bore your listeners
  4. No matter whom you want to influence, a story that promises a bright future will cooperate as a primary motivating force to encourage cooperation

Will this book make you an overnight story teller? NO. Will this book put you on the right path towards improving your story telling skills? YES. The author persuades you to use stories to get the attention of audience. However, storytelling is an art. You'll need lots of practice to master it.

Author's website:

Getting Past No

What would you do if you face a big NO during negotiation? This book trains you well to handle such challenges. The techniques are very practical. I felt that this book is lot more better than the hypothetical Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In

Key takeaways from the book are:

  1. The five most common real world barriers that get in the way of cooperation are: your reaction, their emotion, their position, their dissatisfaction and their power
  2. Rather than pressurizing your adversary to change their mind, create an environment in which they can learn. Only they can break through their own resistance. Your job is to just help them.
  3. The secret of effective negotiation is simple - PREPARATION
  4. There are 3 kinds of alternatives in a negotiation - walk-way alternative, interactive alternative and third-party alternative (with a mediation)
  5. Stepping to the adversary’s side means doing 3 things - listen, acknowledge and agree
  6. How you ask something is just as important as what you ask
  7. Ask a question that cannot be answered by a NO
  8. If you observe the practice of successful negotiators, you’ll find that they ask countless questions. 

The author teaches 5 simple negotiation techniques - Get perspective of the situation by 'going to the balcony', step to the adversary's side, re-frame adversary's thoughts and beliefs, build them a golden bridge. If any of the above 4 techniques don't help you - use power to educate your adversaries. The author has cautiously avoided using the word 'adversary'. He recommends everyone to take a 'co-operative' approach and not a 'manipulative' approach.

If there is one thing that is more important than any of the suggested techniques - it is PREPARATION. "The best place to make mistakes is in rehearsing with a friend or colleague, not in negotiating for real". This echoes Jim Champ's "Practice sessions provide you an environment to fail safely" theory.

The importance of having a BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) is re-enforced in this book. Overall, this is a very good book to read to improve your negotiation skills.

Author's website:

Monday, March 3, 2008

Good to Great by Jim Collins

Jim Collins, in his book "Good to Great" explains how good companies can transform into great companies. He explains what kind of leadership traits can make a company great. He also shares some techniques to build organizations that can achieve and sustain greatness. Anyone who is serious about developing skills in business management, this is a MUST to read.

Key takeaways from the book are:

  1. Good to great transformation process: Disciplined people, disciplined thoughts and disciplined actions
  2. People are not the company’s important assets. The right people are.
  3. You can accomplish anything in life, provided that you do not mind who gets the credit
  4. Confront the brutal facts, but yet never lose the faith
  5. The executives who ignited the good to great transformation first got the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus and then figured out how to drive it. 
  6. The right people will do the right things and deliver the best results they’re capable of, regardless of the incentive system
  7. Put your best people on your biggest opportunities and not on your biggest problems. 
  8. Stop doing lists are important than todo lists
  9. Doing what you are good at, will only make you good. Focusing solely on what you can potentially do better than other organizations is the only path to greatness. 

The 48 Laws of Power

Do you think that you are not getting the credit for your work? Did you ever feel left out in discussions or meetings? Do you find it hard to create dependency? Were you curious how some of your colleagues move up in the ladder fast? Well, this book is just for you.

Key takeaways from the book are:

  1. Anger is the most destructive of emotional responses, for it clouds your vision the most
  2. It is even more damaging for an minister to say foolish things than to do them
  3. An emotional response to a situation is the single greatest barrier to power. Power’s crucial foundation is the ability to master your emotions
  4. A solid reputation increases your presence and exaggerates your strengths without you having to spend much energy
  5. People feel superior to persons whose actions they can predict
  6. The ultimate power is to get the people do as you wish
  7. When you meet a swordsman draw your sword. Do not recite poetry to one who is not a poet. 

The author clearly defines the "48 laws" that can help you in gaining power. The author not only talks about situations where you can apply these 'techniques' but also warns you of situations where you shouldn't. The references from history was kind of too much and was going above my head.

These techniques will serve as an armor, if your work environment expects you to play politics. If you don't play them right, some of these ploys may also bring you down from power.

This material is a good source of techniques to be aware of. It will help especially when people try to play these tricks on you.

Author's website:

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Starting with NO by Jim Camp

Jim Camp provides a contrarian view of doing negotiations. "Starting with NO" is an interesting read from the beginning till the end. The author teaches you a number of effective ways to do negotiations.

Key takeaways from the book are:

  1. There is nothing called “win-win” in negotiations
  2. “NO” is a decision. An early “Yes”is probably a trick. “Maybe” gets you nowhere
  3. "Win-Win" is often "Win-Lose" because it invites unnecessary compromise. It is emotion based and not decision based
  4. Greatest weakness in negotiation is the "dangers of neediness"
  5. Fear of rejection is a sign of neediness
  6. Cold-Calling is the worst way to do business. But, it is a great training ground for negotiation because your neediness is under control
  7. We feel OK in the presence of inferior people and we feel not OK in the presence of superiors
  8. Saying NO, inviting NO, hearing NO - these are powerful tools for any well trained negotiator
  9. Never save the adversary, but save the relationship. Otherwise, you'll be responsible for their decisions.