March 26, 2007
Book Short: Crazy Eights
In honor of Return Path being in the midst of its eighth year, I recently read a pair of books with 8 in the title (ok, I would have read them anyway, but that made for a convenient criterion when selecting out of my very large “to read” pile).
Ram Charan’s latest, Know-How: The 8 Skills That Separate People People Who Perform From Those Who Don’t, was pretty good and classic Charan. Quick, easy to skim and still get the main points. The book lost a little credibility with me when Charan lionized Verizon (perhaps he uses a different carrier himself) and Bob Nardelli (the book was published before Nardelli’s high profile dismissal), but makes good points nonetheless. Some of the 8 Skills he talks about are what you’d expect on the soft side of leadership — building the team, understanding the social system, judging people — but his best examples were particularly actionable around positioning, goal setting, and setting priorities. The book reminded me much more of Execution and much less of Confronting Reality (which is a good thing).
For years I’ve felt like the last person around to still not have read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, so I thought I’d skip straight to the punchline and read Stephen Covey’s newer book, The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness. Fortunately, as I’d hoped, the new book summarizes the prior book several times over, so if you haven’t read the first, you could certainly just start with this one. The book also comes with a DVD of 16 short films, some of which are great — both inspirational and poignant. Unlike most business books, the 8th Habit is NOT skimmable. It almost has too much material in it and could probably be read multiple times or at least in smaller pieces. The actual 8th habit Covey talks about is what he calls Find Your Voice and Help Others Find Their Voices and is a great encapsulation of what leading a knowledge worker business is all about. But the book is much deeper and richer than that in its many models and frameworks and examples/tie-ins to business and goes beyond the “touchy feely” into hard-nosed topics around execution and strategy.
Now I’m looking for the DVD of the first season of Eight is Enough!