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12.31.11

LeadershipNow 140: December 2011 Compilation

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:53 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | LeadershipNow 140

12.25.11

Best Leadership Books of 2011

Best Leadership Books of 2011

WE HAVE more recorded information about leadership now than at any other time in history. Most of it deals with the surface turbulence, which is important but not complete. In all of this information there is the sense too, that perhaps we have lost the wisdom we need and that maybe some new thing will help us to avoid what we already know and don’t want to do.

For the most part, it’s still business-as-usual within the same framework—control. It’s hard to give up fundamental beliefs even though they really aren’t working for us anymore. These books speak to our need to rethink our core thinking, beliefs and motivations—to do the uncomfortable.

We could all benefit from daily reflection. Reflecting on what we believe, who we are in relation to those we serve, and what it means to do what we do. It’s time to rediscover true leadership—to rethink our fundamental assumptions. Leadership matters now more than ever.

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Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking In Your Organization by Daniel Patrick Forrester

From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership by Harry M. Kraemer

Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck—Why Some Thrive Despite Them All by Jim Collins and Morten Hansen

Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters by Richard Rumelt

Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril by Margaret Heffernan

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Take the Lead: Motivate, Inspire, and Bring Out the Best in Yourself and Everyone Around You by Betsy Myers

Practically Radical: Not-So-Crazy Ways to Transform Your Company, Shake Up Your Industry, and Challenge Yourself by William C. Taylor

Better Under Pressure: How Great Leaders Bring Out the Best in Themselves and Others by Justin Menkes

What to Ask the Person in the Mirror: Critical Questions for Becoming a More Effective Leader and Reaching Your Potential by Robert Steven Kaplan

From Bud to Boss: Transition to Remarkable Leadership by Kevin Eikenberry and Guy Harris

Advocacy: Championing Ideas and Influencing Others: Championing Ideas and Influencing Others by John A. Daly

Lead with Purpose: Giving Your Organization a Reason to Believe in Itself by John Baldoni

If You Will Lead: Enduring Wisdom for 21st-Century Leaders by Doug Moran

2010bestbookpick

Biographies:

Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul by Howard Schultz with Joanne Gordon

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Decision Points by George W. Bush

My Life in Leadership: The Journey and Lessons Learned Along the Way by Frances Hesselbein

Related Interest:
Best Leadership Books of 2010
Best Leadership Books of 2009

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:28 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books

12.23.11

What Can Be Done About Biases?

Leadership Nuggets

Thinking, Fast and Slow
How can we improve judgments and decisions, both our own and those for the institutions we serve and that serve us? The short answer is that little can be achieved without a considerable investment of effort.

Two systems drive the way we think and make choices: System One is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System Two is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. The way to block errors that originate in System 1 is simple in principle: recognize the signs that you are in a cognitive minefield, slow down, and ask for reinforcement from System 2.

This is how you will proceed when you next encounter the Müller-Lyer illusion.
Muller-Lyer
When you see the lines with fins pointing in different directions, you will recognize the situation as one in which you should not trust your impressions of length. We would all like to have a warning bell that rings loudly whenever we are about to make a serious error, but no such bell is available, and cognitive illusions are generally more difficult to recognize than perceptual illusions.

The voice of reason may be much fainter than the loud and clear voice of an erroneous intuition, and questioning your intuitions is unpleasant when you face the stress of a big decision. More doubt is the last thing you want when you are in trouble. The upshot is that it is much easier to identify a minefield when you observe others wandering into it than when you are about to do so. Observers are less cognitively busy and more open to information than actors.

Organizations are better than individuals when it comes to avoiding errors, because they naturally think more slowly and have the power to impose orderly procedures. Organizations can institute and enforce the application of useful checklists, as well as more elaborate exercises, such as a reference-class forecasting and the premortem. At least in part by providing a distinctive vocabulary, organizations can also encourage a culture in which people watch out for one another as they approach minefields.

Ultimately, a richer language is essential to the skill of constructive criticism. There is a direct link from more precise gossip at the watercooler to better decisions. Decision makers are sometimes better able to imagine the voices of present gossipers and future critics than to hear the hesitant voice of their own doubts. They will make better choices when they trust their critics to be sophisticated and fair, and when they expect their decisions to be judged by how it was made, not only by how it turned out.

Adapted from Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:21 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Nuggets , Thinking

12.21.11

Doing More With Less

Leadership
Most companies are asking employees to do more with less. These demands may produce positive results in the short term, but they are not sustainable in the long term. “Organizations can do more with less simply by not leaving so much untapped performance on the table.” The frustration people often face in these conditions is not an engagement problem; it is more often an enablement problem.

Mark Royal and Tom Agnew of the Hay Group, explain that The Enemy of Engagement is frustration caused by a highly engaged employee’s inability to succeed in a role due to organizational barriers or the inability to bring the bulk of his or her talents, skills, and abilities to the job. Ironically, the more engaged they are, the more frustrated they get because they care more.

“Doing more with less doesn’t mean conjuring higher levels of motivation out of thin air, but rather allowing motivated employees to perform at their best. It’s about harnessing and unleashing the full potential of frustrated employees—those who want to give their best but can’t due to organizational barriers and constraints.”

Typically we associate better engagement with leadership, but what drives it is better management. Fixing engagement means dealing with the frustration of thwarted employees. Specific management practices detailed by the authors include:
  • Create specific, measurable goals and clearly lay out what employees need to do—the precise behaviors and activities—to achieve them.
  • Provides employees with regular, concrete, and constructive feedback about their work and its value to delivering business strategy.
  • Empower employees to make the decisions necessary to execute and excel at their jobs—and make sure employees understand which decisions they control.
  • Prioritize investments in resources and staff with an emphasis on providing employees with the tools and support they need to succeed.
  • Assign and coordinate roles with serious consideration of each employee’s strengths, reward and reinforce teamwork and collaboration.
One of the most actionable things to do is to simply ask: “How can we change things around here to help you be more effective?” By doing so “a manager creates an opportunity for an employee to speak honestly and openly about enablement issues.”

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Enablement is what drives engagement and what ultimately frustrates it. Get people what they need to do their jobs and get out of the way. The Enemy of Engagement is focused on employees who are engaged, motivated, and loyal—who aren’t ready to give up—but who are experiencing frustration on the job. Ultimately, it requires that we rethink our notions of what it means to be a leader and what it means to manage. We insert ourselves far more than we should.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:34 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Management , Motivation

12.20.11

5 Leadership Lessons: What if You Could Take Control of Your Life with One Decision?

5 Leadership Lessons
Great leaders know they cannot let others determine their moods and behaviors. The decision is ours. David Pollay wrote The Law of the Garbage Truck to remind us that “it is not our duty to absorb the frustrations, anxieties, and disappointments of other people. We were not put on earth to carry other people’s negative energy, nor were we created to burden others with ours.” The Law of the Garbage Truck is straightforward:
Leadership
Many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they look for a place to dump it. And if you let them, they’ll dump it on you. So when someone wants to dump on you, don’t take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Believe me, you’ll be happier.
Here are five lessons from David Pollay, to help us to focus on what really matters personally and professionally:

1  The Law of the Garbage Truck is about humility. No one is perfect. You don’t have to defend yourself every time one of your imperfections is pointed out. At the same time there is no need to judge others for their imperfections. If you let garbage trucks unnecessarily activate your defenses at every turn, you’re not following the play. Instead you’re allowing someone to tease you into a battle that’s not yours to fight, thus diverting your energy from the play you’re meant to run.

2  Other people are not the only ones who bring garbage into our lives—we create plenty of our own negativity that stirs memories of our past and makes us fearful of what we imagine awaits us in the future. When negative memories are invoked, we often indulge in looking for new meanings in them. As we engage these bad memories, and as they pass through our consciousness, we strengthen them. We feel the initial mood of disappointment, anxiety, and doubt all over again. By energizing these old memories with new thinking, we give them additional importance in our lives.

3  Many people spend their lives trying to get back at garbage trucks. They feel abused, challenged, or violated after being run over by one, so their mission is to hit back as soon as they can. They often think about what they could have said or should have done and fantasize about revenge. When you center your life on revenge and ruminate about every provocation and slight, you jeopardize everyone’s health, safety, and happiness—including your own.

4  For the Garbage Trucks in our lives: People who act like Garbage Trucks allow their anger, frustration, insecurity, and disappointment to drown out most everything good around them. Fortunately, people do not act like Garbage Trucks all the time. Eventually they’ll leave the safety of being a Garbage Truck—if even for a moment. They’ll do or say something nice, show concern, or offer their help on some occasion. It’s then that you must recognize their best. Let them know the good you see in them. Show them how much you care and how much they mean to you. When you look for and focus on the good in people, you help them see what is possible in their lives. You give energy to what is right about them. Your love and attention may be what enables them to change.

5  What about venting? Venting helps people understand your problems. Dumping leaves people feeling burdened by your problems. Venting is based on permission and turns into dumping when you do not have permission to unload your complaints, worries, frustrations, and disappointments on someone. Venting is time sensitive. Dumping, on the other hand, seems to have no end. It starts without consent and suggests that there is no likely solution. You waste people’s time and burden them with your garbage.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:43 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Five Lessons , Human Resources , Management , Motivation

12.19.11

Creative People Must Be Stopped

Leadership
Mostly people say they want big, new, creative ideas. But when you come up with one, they seem to go out of their way to kill it. They act like creative people must be stopped. Wouldn’t it be nice to know where the opposition is going to come from before you ever present it?

In Creative People Must Be Stopped, David Owens suggests that it will come from at least one of six different areas:

Individual—your idea may not be that good
Group—your group criticizes it out of existence
Organizational—it dies in your organizations bureaucracy, lack of will and fear of risk
Industry-Wide—competitors or even customers torpedo it
Societal—it gets killed by regulation or cultural norms, or—
Technological—it can’t be done with current technology

Owens presents a framework “that will enable us to see in advance the vital factors that determine our chances for success when we embark on an innovation.”

We both lead and manage innovation, says Owens. “Think of the process of innovation as simply a set of steps that will need to be accomplished in order to get from the stage of identifying a problem all the way through to implementing a solution. Along this path, there will be a number of management activities that can smooth progress and make for a more efficient effort.” At the same time there are leadership type activities along the lines of emotion, motivation and mission. He writes:
One of the most important leadership skills is to discern whether the person standing in front of you is asking for your help as a manager or for your attention as a leader. Sometimes explaining the plan, clarifying a goal, or acquiring a resource is enough management to keep team members moving along a path. At other times, they may need something significantly different. They may want to understand whether this mission is truly meaningful given that they heard otherwise over the office watercooler. Or they may need help staying motivated in the face of seemingly endless late nights and setbacks in the project.
He adds a crucial reminder for leaders as it’s easy for a leader to get to the place where you think, “Why are they questioning me? They should just do!:”
Everything we know about leadership suggests that people need reasonable answers to be willing to follow. Of course you can choose not to answer them proactively; but then don’t be surprised when rumor, gossip, and hearsay gathered from around the office watercooler quickly fill the void you have left.

David Owens offers a free Organizational Innovation Constraints Assessment on his web site.
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:22 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Creativity & Innovation

12.14.11

Avoid Trivia

Caught up in our day-to-day struggles, keeping our eye on the big picture is difficult. We can become distracted by the relatively trivial matters to our larger purpose. To be sure, the daily minutia needs to be dealt with, but the trivia will always be there to deal with, to distract us, to take us off-course, to cause us to doubt and give up.

What is important is what you pay attention to. Where you place your attention will determine the course of your life.

Marshall Plan
After World War II, Europe tried to rebuild. But it became clear that it could not do it alone. For Secretary of State George Marshall, moving quickly on a plan to aid Europe while keeping it out of the clutches of the Soviet Union was of paramount importance. In Marshall’s words, “The patient was sinking while the doctors deliberate.” On April 29, 1947, Marshall instructed the State Department's first director of policy planning, George Kennan and his team to come up with an economic relief plan. He gave him two weeks to come up with what would later be called the Marshall Plan.

Kennan recalls that he offered no observations or suggestion of his own. When he asked for advice, Kennan writes, “The only advice he had to give me was expressed in two deeply serious and unforgettable words: avoid trivia.”

Kennan says when they began they encountered a great deal of skepticism and pessimism. “To every idea we put forward, weighty and often plausible objections were raised. The problem we were told was too great: the resources were not there; the Europeans would never consent to take the initiative; whatever help we might be able to offer would merely sink into the sands.” But their instructions from Marshall were to not listen to those voices—avoid trivia.

Those voices are always there in any worthwhile effort we make. The tension between the trivial and the weighty matters is a part of life. Avoid trivia. Stay focused on the weighty matters. Choose the things that capture your attention—be intentional. Avoid the worthless things.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:31 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Vision

12.13.11

7 Keys to Managing Willful Blindness

Leadership
We can’t escape willful blindness. “It’s a human phenomenon,” admits Margaret Heffernan, “to which we all succumb in matters little and large.” She explains in Willful Blindness, that it doesn’t always bring us to a disastrous end, it also oils the wheels of social intercourse and it is not inevitable but it is persistent. Sometimes we do have the courage to see. “When we confront facts and fears, we achieve real power and unleash our capacity for change.”

Our brain likes the familiar. It doesn’t operate in neutral. There’s always a bias. “Our blindness grows out of the small, daily decisions that we make, which embed us more snugly inside our affirming thoughts and values. And what’s most frightening about this process is that as we see less and less, we feel more comfort and greater certainty.”

An aspect of willful blindness, self-deception, is the topic of Robert Trivers’ The Folly of Fools. He asks, “Why do we possess marvelous sense organs to detect information only to distort it after arrival?” Although we gather an “exquisitely detailed perception of the outside world, as soon as that information hits our brains, it often becomes biased and distorted, usually without conscious effort.” It’s a fascinating work, but even Trivers can’t help himself from selective recall and arguments molded to fit his own biases here and there. We are all right in our own eyes. It’s difficult to share examples of blindness without exposing our own blindness. Heffernan notes, “when we work hard to defend our core beliefs, we risk becoming blind to the evidence that could tell us we’re wrong.” What can we do to escape our own self-deceptions and willful blindness?

Maybe the best we can do is to balance our biases. Heffernan suggests several ways we can manage our blindness:

Reexamine Your Life. When we are younger we do it more frequently. But at some point we stop doing it. “Is it that it gets too draining to keep questioning your life?”

Travel between Perspectives. Hannah Arendt calls it “thinking without a banister.” Traveling between points of view can be risky says Heffernan. “But in the intersection between disciplines, real insight can be gleaned.”

Recognize the Homogeneity of Our Lives. Put more effort into reaching out to those that don’t fit in. “Diversity, in this context, isn’t a form of political correctness but an insurance against the internally generated blindness that leaves [our Congress, corporate boards, think tanks and churches] exposed and out of touch.”

Know the Limits of Our Cognitive Capacity. Go home. Working long hours taxes our cognitive capacity. Exercise. “The only exercise that seems to nurture, or at least protect, our brains is aerobic exercise.”

Seek Disconfirmation. Hire dissent. This is most critical and often the most strongly opposed. “The ability to endure or even welcome debate and conflict requires practice and protection….You need to create a state in which [employees] have the courage to do something. You want to build organizations where everyone sees provocation as one of their essential roles.” Too many leaders are saying, “Why are they questioning me?” or “That’s none of their business.” Get a thinking partner for that third opinion. (See Bill George’s True North Groups.)

Professional “third opinion” Saj-Nicole Joni, told Heffernan:
Having a small network of people, who will bring you the unvarnished truth and with whom you can have unfettered exploration, are a partial antidote to willful blindness.

True leaders—whether they are at the top of an organization or within it—know that you cannot go into execution mode and retain peripheral vision. You cannot focus both on the woods and the trees. So you need a network to watch out when you have your head down. There is a tremendous value to being able to shut down and focus—but you put yourself at risk if you don’t have people out there scouting the horizon, covering your back.
Heffernan adds: “Outsiders—whether you call them Cassandras, devil’s advocates, dissidents, mentors, troublemakers, fools, or coaches—are essential to any leader’s ability to see.”

Challenge Complexity. Provoke skepticism around complexity. “Many organizations view their impenetrability as a feat of fantastic intellectual virtuosity. In reality, it’s a huge cause of blindness and explains why, when such companies get into trouble, they can’t find their way out of it.”

Endure the Noise. Silence—fear of debate, fear of debate—becomes self-perpetuating. “Without conflict, everyone remains afraid and blind…We need to celebrate those that make the noise, heroes more inspiring than talent contest winners and drunken movie stars.”

Heffernan concludes that seeing starts with simple questions: “What could I know, should I know, that I don’t know? What am I missing here?”

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Willful blindness is universal but need not be debilitating if we can develop the courage to think critically and welcome other perspectives. As leaders, power disconnects us from reality. Wise leaders create systems to minimize its effects. Provoke your biases.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:45 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Thinking

12.09.11

3 Ways to Be a Positive Leader

Leading Forum
This is a guest post by best-selling author and speaker, Jon Gordon about the value of developing positive relationships with the people you lead.

In a world filled with busyness and stress, I find that too often leaders can act like hard-charging, fast-driving bus drivers that have a vision and goal within their sights and they’ll run over anyone – even their own employees – to reach their destination. I know this well because early in my business career I was that kind of leader and I have had to work hard to change my approach.

I realized that any hard-charging leader can create success in the short term, but it would take a positive leader with a people and process-driven approach to build a successful organization for the long term.

As John Maxwell said, “If you are all alone at the top, you are not a leader. You are a hiker.”

No one creates success alone. To win in business, you must win with people. Running over people will only get you so far. To create true and lasting success you must nurture and invest in your people. Here are 3 essential ways to do this.

Care about them – The main question every employee in every organization is asking is, “Do you care about me; can I trust you?” Employees want to know if you care about them. If you do, they will be more likely to stay on the bus and work with you. Employees are more engaged at work and will work at their highest potential when their manager cares about them.

Develop a relationship with them – Author Andy Stanley once said, “Rules without relationship lead to rebellion.” Far too many managers and leaders share rules with their people, but they don’t have a relationship with them. So what happens? The people rebel, and they disengage from their jobs and the mission of the team. I’ve had many managers approach me and tell me that my books helped them realize they needed to focus less on rules and invest more in their work relationships. The result was a dramatic increase in team performance and productivity. To develop a relationship with your employees, you need to build trust, listen to them, make time for them, recognize them and mentor them.

Appreciate them – The main reason why people leave their jobs is because they don’t feel appreciated. For example, Doug Conant, the CEO of Campbell Soup, has written more than 16,000 thank-you notes to employees in the past seven years and created a very positive business in the process. It’s as easy as saying (or writing) “Thank you.”

It’s a simple truth: When you care about your employees and the people you work with, they are more likely to stay on the bus and work harder, with more loyalty and greater positive energy. In turn, they are more likely to share their positive energy with your customers, thus enhancing service and the bottom line. The greatest customer-service strategy has nothing to do with customer service, but it has everything to do with how you treat your employees. If you model great service, they will provide great service.

Remember, leadership is not just about what you do, but what you can inspire, encourage and empower others to do. Instead of running over the people in your team/organization, invite them on the bus with you and engage them to help you create an amazing and successful ride.
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Jon Gordon is the Wall Street Journal and international bestselling author of a number of books including The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work and Team with Positive Energy, and his latest, The Seed: Finding Purpose and Happiness in Life and Work. Learn more at JonGordon.com. Follow Jon on Twitter @JonGordon11 or Facebook www.facebook.com/jongordonpage. Jon has also made avialable free webinars and teleseminars and other useful resources on his website.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:06 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Positive Leadership

12.07.11

True North Groups

True North Groups
You can’t do it alone. We often try to, imagining that we can see and know the things we need to know without the discerning eye of a outside point of view. Bill George and Doug Baker remind us in True North Groups that, “We need people around us to whom we can look for support and advice, who can help us develop as human beings. We need them to help us become better leaders in our work, our communities, and our families.”

It’s easy to get off track. “Most of us know what our True North is, but we are constantly pressured from external sources to deviate from it. Or we are seduced by extrinsic rewards like money, power, and recognition that cause us to detour from our True North.”

A True North Group is comprised of six to eight trusted peers who meet on a regular basis to discuss the important questions of their lives and to support each other during difficult times. At various times, each person in the group will serve as a mentor or coach to others.

True North Groups are not just about having a place to go to help you with your challenges. Done well, a group will encourage you to make the necessary course corrections that will help you to avoid the avoidable problems we all can get ourselves into. Save us from ourselves so to speak. It’s also a place to share successes.

At stake is our own vulnerability. Even if we are afraid of the idea, it’s not difficult to see the value in it. George and Baker have been doing this for decades and share the nuts and bolts of creating your own group. It begins with picking the right people and that may not include your close friends. It’s based on trust and a commitment to personal growth. The authors list the following characteristics of ideal group members:
  • Curiosity about themselves, others and the world
  • Willingness to challenge assumptions about life
  • Comfort with self-reflection
  • Commitment to continuing personal growth
  • Respect for themselves and others
  • Ability to listen without judgment
  • Ability to hold confidences
  • Willingness to be open and share their life stories
  • Not self-absorbed
  • Ability to commit time and energy to the group
  • A sense of humor and a positive outlook on life is always helpful.
Next steps include, Norming (establishing how the group functions), Storming (behaviors that may impede your group), Performing (maintaining and renewing your group) and Reforming (the need to restructure and start again).

The appendix provides topics for discussion to get your group going and thinking in the right direction. You’ll also find Member Contracts, Ground Rules and other valuable resources for your own True North Group.

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Trying to develop yourself as a leader on your own is risky. True North Groups are a way to grow as a human being and as a leader in an environment of trust, confidentiality, intimacy, affirmation, support and honest feedback.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:27 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | Human Resources , Leadership Development

12.01.11

First Look: Leadership Books for December 2011

Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in December.

  360 Degrees of Influence: Get Everyone to Follow Your Lead on Your Way to the Top by Harrison Monarth
  Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World's Greatest Companies by Jim Stengel
  World Changers: 25 Entrepreneurs Who Changed Business as We Knew It by John A. Byrne
  Screw Business As Usual by Richard Branson
  Shake the World: It's Not About Finding a Job, It's About Creating a Life by James Marshall Reilly

360 Degrees of Influence Grow World Changers Screw Business As Usual Shake the World

For bulk orders call 1-800-423-8273


discounted books

Build your leadership library with these specials on over 120 titles. All titles are at least 40% off the list price and are available only in limited quantities.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:09 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books



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