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Just Ask Leadership: Why Great Managers Always Ask the Right Questions Hardcover – August 6, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

How do you become a great leader?
The answer’s simple: Just Ask.

The world is filled with people who have all the right answers. What it needs are more people who have all the right questions. Leadership guru Gary Cohen explains how to empower yourself and your people by presenting open-ended questions designed to engage and inspire. Just Ask Leadership provides the insight and skills you need to strategically “question” your organization to greatness.

“Gary’s book can raise everyone’s awareness of the social and intellectual power of asking rather than telling.”
—Tom Pritzker, CEO, Hyatt Corporation

“A thoroughly engaging, well-researched book that has changed the way I run my business.”
—Kayle Neeley, CEO, EZ Payroll & Staffing, and former Vice President, Norwegian Cruise Line

“Gary’s concept of Just Ask Leadership is new and illuminating. It is what we do as leaders.”
—Matt Wisk, President, My Points, Inc.

“For innovative thinking and getting a new slant on an old problem, Gary Cohen is incomparable.”
—Marcy Syms, CEO, Syms Corporation

“Gary’s approach applies to schools as well as businesses. Administrators can empower teachers and teachers can empower students simply by asking thoughtful, open-ended questions.”
—Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education

About the Author

Gary Cohen, president and cofounder of ACI Telecentrics, Inc., expanded the company from two people to 2,200 employees, took the company public, and reached $32 million in revenues at the company’s peak. ACI grew at an average compounded rate of over 50 percent for almost 13 years. Currently, he is partner and founder of CO2 Partners, LLC, in Minneapolis, where he works as an executive coach and consultant.
Eric Vrooman is a freelance writer living in Minneapolis. He has taught creative writing at Tulane University and Gustavus Adolphus College.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill; 1 edition (August 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780071621779
  • ISBN-13: 978-0071621779
  • ASIN: 0071621776
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #658,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gary B. Cohen
Founder and Executive Coach, CO2 Partners LLC

Like many successful entrepreneurs, Gary Cohen co-founded a call-center company in 1987 with just $4,000 and a limitless supply of enthusiasm. Not knowing what they didn't know, Gary and his business partner hired a consultant to guide them through the start-up phase. What a shock! The consultant charged more money than the two partners were making together. They bit the bullet and swallowed, and the rest is history. ACI Telecentrics, Inc. grew from 2 to 2,200 employees.

Of course, ACI's success was not entirely the result of the consultant's advice. Gary attributes the bulk of it to question-based leadership - not being afraid to ask when he didn't have all the answers. In the process of learning to ask, he empowered coworkers to make decisions and created new ranks of leaders throughout the organization.

Now, after eighteen years of leading his company in an industry that went from "go-go-go" to "no-go," Gary coaches other executives based on his experience throughout the entire corporate lifecycle. And his new company, CO2 Partners (based in Minneapolis), has become another fast-growing success.

City Business, a Minneapolis/St. Paul publication, recognized Gary as one of its "40 Under 40" award winners for business accomplishments and community contributions. Gary has served on the board of nine different organizations, ranging from non-profits to financial institutions. And, he's frequently asked to contribute to articles on leadership, executive, and talent development. In the past year, he has been quoted in USA Today, The Washington Post, Business Week, The Wall Street Journal Europe & Asia Editions, Chief Learning Officer, Investor's Business Daily, Training Magazine, and many other HR, training and industrial publications.

Gary received his undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota and attended Harvard Business School Owner/President Management Program. He also participated in several leadership programs (including the Covey Leadership Center and Disney University) and was nominated as a Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey A. Bradt on October 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In my 20+ years in managment, I've read many of the best sellers, including some excellent ones. I'd put "The Fifth Discipline", "Good to Great", "In Search of Excellence", "First Break all the Rules" and almost anything by Jack Welch near the top. I've also read most of Deming, Juran, Crosby, Sherkenbach, and Victor Vroom. You probably recognize Deming, Juran and Crosby. Sherkenbach, also a TQM guru, led Ford Motors' quality program. Vroom wrote "Work and Motivation" back in the 60's -- it is THE seminal work on employee motivation and is still available. If you haven't read it and you have any interest in the subject, you need to.

Of all of these works, only "First Break All The Rules" is as readable as "Just Ask Leadership". A couple of hours of light reading gets you some memorable and practical advice. I was responsible for strategic planning for an 800 employee, $300 million/year organization so I think I know that subject as well as anyone. Chapter 1 of "Just Ask" is as good a guide to strategic planning as I've ever read.

I read Bock's review and I understand his criticism about the loose structure. Unlike many of the best sellers mentioned above, "Just Ask" doesn't boil all of managmement down to a neat half dozen bromides ("stick to the knitting" "loose-tight management" etc). This is not a dispargement of the best sellers. I like those books and I have often found those bromides helpful, despite their triteness. But, "Just Ask" is ultimately about just one thing -- How would your management practices be changed if you started all of your problem solving with a series of questions? You could spend three hours contemplating that question or you could read "Just Ask". I think you'll find reading "Just Ask" to be a much better use of your time.

Yes, "Just Ask" is, ultimately, a one trick pony. But, it's a good trick. One well worth learning -- and one that "Just Ask" teaches well.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John Chancellor TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Unfortunately, so many of us grew up in a command and control environment. Our parents told us what to do. The same thing with school, the teachers told us what to do. Our first employment probably continued the same pattern. So by the time we had risen to any sort of managerial position we were totally indoctrinated in the habit of trying to lead by telling rather than asking.

And we have been done a real disservice.

"Would you rather be asked for your input or told what to do?" According to a survey conducted by the author, 95% of leaders preferred to be asked questions rather than told what to do. But "these same leaders give instructions 58% of the time rather than ask."

"If you want to lead and motivate others, questions are the answer. If we tell our coworkers how to do their jobs, we are essentially limiting their options and stifling their initiative. We're not leading." But, as you will learn from this book, all questions are not created equal. The right question can empower, inspire and challenge. The wrong question - a gotcha you question - enhance the status of the asker but demoralize and create distrust among those being asked.

This book is all about teaching you the right questions to ask and the correct way to ask them. The book is a series of questions in five separate categories. 1) How to improve the vision of the organization 2)How to ensure accountability 3) How to build unity and cooperation 4) How to create better decisions and 5) How to motivate to action. In each chapter there are a series of questions and discussion about those questions.

The questions should not be taken as a strict guide.
Read more ›
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By D. Buxman VINE VOICE on September 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Just Ask Leadership is a practical field book of leadership in the modern world. In a time where leadership skills on display through the media are at an all time low in the corporate and governmental arena, this book offers an approach that will work in a wide variety of realms from academic and family areas to commercial and societal areas. By asking the right questions with the right motivation, we can create and foster an innovative and relaxed environment in which good decisions are made without the hard feelings and brain damage created by the common dictatorial methods that seem so prevalent today. If the executives at Countrywide, Bank of America and others had utilized this leadership approach, or if our national leadership had done so, the current economic crisis might have been avoided. On a smaller and more practical level, I've already been able to implement a question-asking approach in managing a small law firm that is resulting in cost savings and revenue enhancement in just a few short weeks. This book is well-written and employs the right amount of real world anecdotes to keep the pace lively, yet informative. All in all, this book is an excellent investment.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jon Wade on August 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love how the very best concepts in life tend to be the simplest. I found Just Ask to be very thought provoking not only for the great insights into leadership it provides but for the many questions it posed for me as I reflected on situations it brought to mind in the past and present.

It was great to think all of this through as I read but even better that Gary gives so many great examples of how you can lead in the situations we all face with sample questions that drive the concept and actual usage home. It feels great to lead this way and even better to have a leaders that does. As I think back all of my most inspiring leaders used elements of Just Ask. I am already starting to apply it in my business and personal life, which is a great change for me and the reason I am taking time to write this review.
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