Book Notes

Posts from the “Leadership” Category

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Posted on April 5, 2018

The Hard Thing About Hard Things is ostensibly a book about how to build a business but it is in fact a collection of war stories and opinions by venture capitalist and erstwhile CEO Ben Horowitz. I think it is probably a fairly helpful read to somebody in crisis in a CEO-like role who needs to hear that the work is difficult and that even CEOs regarded as successful have a really hard time of it. I personally found lots of the book sort of narrow-minded and wrong-headed and sometimes downright offensive. It comes off as a bit of a long-form humble-brag, which is annoying. I wouldn’t personally want to work for this guy or to emulate him. And as someone in a leadership…

The Effortless Experience

Posted on February 2, 2018

The Effortless Experience, by Matthew Dixon, Nick Toman, and Rick DeLisi, is a really good read for pretty much anybody who runs a customer service organization, and parts of it are worthwhile for anybody who leads people working in a customer service organization. The authors strive to make a pretty solid case for a Customer Effort Score framework that their research has led them to develop; I don’t intend to push too hard for the introduction their framework in my organization, but I still felt like a lot of what the authors share makes good sense and can contribute to providing better customer service. Several times, I found myself kind of smacking my head and thinking “we should be doing a better job of…

The Effective Executive

Posted on January 19, 2018

Years ago, I started to read an abridged version of James George Frazer’s The Golden Bough, a huge work of comparative religion and mythology that jumps from continent to continent from one sentence to the next as it outlines myths and magics of the world. It’s a dazzling book that’s really hard to absorb because of how much information it throws at you. Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive made me think of Frazer’s book, though Drucker’s is a fair bit more modest in scope. Often in the book, he states a premise and then catalogues a few case studies in brief, and his catalogues, located as distant in time as they are, and as discursive as they sometimes are, kind of made me glaze…

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Posted on January 8, 2018

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick M. Lencioni, offers what it bills as a fable dramatizing a team’s shift from dysfunction to function. It’s a little annoyingly patronizing in how it lays out the fable, and it’s also annoying how much it relies upon stereotypes (e.g. the spectrum-ish CTO or the sort of diva marketing personality), but it’s also fairly useful and easy to follow, and it’s a small time investment. The five dysfunctions are (indented bullets are quotes from the book): Absence of trust (the bottom of the pyramid) Fear of conflict (building on absence of trust) Lack of commitment Avoidance of accountability Inattention to results In a nutshell, if you lack trust on your team, you likely also have a…

The Coaching Habit

Posted on January 5, 2018

Although this book has some useful into in it, I wouldn’t recommend that anybody read it. For one thing, it’s chock full of teasers to go watch videos on the author’s web site; for another, there’s a plea midway through to rate the book on Amazon. So it feels very spammy. It also generally feels like an “I’m a guru” sort of book in which the author synthesizes things that other similar gurus have written about in their own books. I guess this saves me the effort of reading those unappealing books, but it still feels kind of weird. On the whole, I feel like this would have worked pretty well as a short blog post with a list of questions and brief blurbs…

Leadership and Self Deception

Posted on January 5, 2018

The idea at the core of this book is insightful and valid, but the book itself is painful to read because it’s written for an audience that lacks self-awareness or nuance. It’s written in the form of a dialogue, as fiction. There’s a fine old tradition of this going at least as far back as Plato, and that tradition tends to include kind of a dumb-ass who has to be led by the nose from his benighted state to enlightenment. This is fine as ancient literature, but in a modern business book, it comes off as patronizing, and, reading this book, I often felt as if I was reading the script for an infomercial, or as if it was some kind of long-form version…