As 2010 comes to a close all means of the “Best of” lists are certain to arise in your favorite circles. Whether it’s best ice cream flavors, green idea, news stories, remixes, political figures, hospitals, celebrities, musicians, Internet trends, automobiles or my personal favorite books, the lists will surely arrive. To get you in the mood our friends at Booz & Company’s Strategy + Business magazine have delivered their 2010 Best Business Books list (slightly ahead of the holidays—just sayin’) Here’s are the nominees:
Slapped By The Invisible Hand: The Panic of 2007 – Gary B. Gordon
Chasing Stars: The Myth of Talent and the Portability of Performance – Boris Groysberg
Reflections on Leadership and Career Development – Manfred F.R. Ket de Vries
Denial: Why Business Leaders Fail to Look Facts in the Face – Richard S. Tedlow
Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation – Steven Johnson
The Power of Positive Deviance – Richard T. Pascale et. al.
Country Driving – Peter Hessler
Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition – Daniel Okrent
A wide ranging group of other authors get a nod including Charlene Li’s Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform The Way You Lead; Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age; Hagel, Brown and Davison’s The Power of Pull; Jody Heymann’s Profit at the Bottom of the Ladder; Dan Pink’s wonderful Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us; The Heath Brother’s Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard; and from one of my favorite management thinkers Warren Bennis, Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership.
Undoubtedly, you have your own favorites or “best” choice for 2010 don’t you? Share your favorites by adding a comment or two. I’ll come back to update the listing a little bit later. Stay tuned. Here’s wishing you another rich bounty of great reading in 2011.
In the shadow of today’s economic climate it is inevitable that questions about and pressure to make sudden shifts in strategy, business plans, and direction will be brought to bear on association leaders. Rushing off in a new direction at this particular juncture would be a mistake. There are simply too many unknowns—even in the face of the smartest people in the room with good intention at hand—this lack of clarity more often fuels disaster rather than success. Organizations looking for success and business strengthening activities in the face of the current downturn can thrive by doing three things really well:
1. Stick to the knitting. Associations thrive in downturns and uncertainty not by veering off to some new unexplored terrain, but rather by reassuring and shoring up services to members. Knowing where your organization excels, revisiting your core competencies and making sure you are executing on plan are more important than ever in difficult financial times. Force a strong focus on the needs and concerns of the membership. Call them directly. Ask how they are managing in these tough times. Ask how the association can help. The answers will surprise you.
2. Resist the urge to merge. Typically in economic chaos, the call to partner or merge with a related industry or professional group will arise either from your own Board or membership or from those of other similarly situated group like your own. To be sure, there’s nothing wrong with mergers when they strengthen your core capabilities and when there is sufficient opportunity and resources to assess the potential fit. Be wary. The empirical data is clear—most mergers fail to deliver value to the membership and divert management’s attention from the real work at hand. Even the talk of a merger will spike the levels of uncertainty among staff and members, the exact opposite of what’s needed in the moment.
3. Don’t Confuse Vision and Strategy. It’s easy to lose sight of the organization’s goals when you and everyone around you is feeling pressured. This is where experience and perspective can be enormously helpful and healthy for your enterprise. Depending on the demographics of your organization there may be some (many?) people on the Board, committees and staff who have never experienced a downturn economy or at least not one of these proportions. As a leader, it’s your job to provide the greatest degree of confidence and certainty as you can. If you don’t have a perspective on the current economy, get one from a friend, trusted advisor or a financial professional. Weird economic times heighten the need for communications from the top and folks will look to your for their cues. Getting your team focused on execution, moving the association’s plan forward and watching for the unexpected bumps along the way will go a long way toward serving members and making the best of a truly challenging economic time.
In the words of former Secretary of State and US Army General Colin Powell (Ret), “people want to share your confidence however thin, not your turmoil however real.” As a leader can you offer less? I don’t think so.