Author ("Jaked Up") Bill Lane served as a speechwriter, a confidant, and an advisor to one of the most powerful CEOs in history, Jack Welch. In "Losing It," Lane shares stories and observations of how good successful people self-destruct due to values or personality flaws they denied or ignored and failed correct. Recent headlines - "Stryker CEO Stephen MacMillan resigns for `family reasons (illicit relationship)'"; "Yahoo CEO resigns over resume discrepancy" - are warning shots for all who feel immune and signal the need for Lane's perspective for continued self-evaluation and self-correction.
Leadership which has been a hot topic throughout my career requires character, critical and constant self-evaluation, and the maturity to make course corrections - "Being able to look at oneself in the cold light of the day, evaluate what you see, and act on that evaluation is a faculty that must be cultivated to keep on track and accelerate."
Lane urges all leaders to be true to themselves and perform their own 360 review. Ask yourself and colleagues:
* If you are ever arrogant?
* Whether they have ever seen you cross or near the boundary of integrity?
* Whether you are behind on what's going on in your field?
* Whether you need to communicate with colleagues better, more frequently, more passionately?
* If you are spending too much time distracted from your main responsibility with social stuff?
Lane delves into each of these questions with real life stories where missteps in each area led to career destruction of otherwise brilliant and successful peoplem. The stories and insights are drawn from Lane's experience and from that of top leaders at companies including Boeing, AXA Equitable, and Nielsen.
While Lane covers causes like "One Trick Pony," "Presiding not Managing," "Absence of Selective Micro-Management," "Dithering," "Arrogance," "Not Being Rooted in Reality," "Communication," "Loyalty," "Passion," "Accountability," and "The Management of Good News," he spends the most time on "Integrity." "Thoroughly rotten leadership in a company can encourage derring-do, corrosiveness, and immorality. This is how a malignant tumor is born... There will be a day of truth... You need to know you are near the line and are contemplating crossing it... You must have faith in your own character, reputation, and values and act on these... Your soul is at risk... You must hold a moral, ethical compass as you move through your career. Most people who do not will eventually come to ruin, and will meet their deserved fate... Cheating will catch up to you and will become your undoing - including marital infidelityBMWs. As the perks get bigger, one's soul risks getting smaller."
Integrity is a choice, within everyone's control. The only one who can fail at this is you! You MUST be a maniac on integrity regardless of your position.
"Losing It," at 157 pages is a quick read, and with former speechwriter Lane as the author, you are assured of a superb reading experience.
While it is important to learn from success, it's even more important to learn from failures. Bill Lane, the former speechwriter for Jack Welsh, of GE fame, attempts to capture lessons learned from failures in this book.
Bill draws from his own experiences, as well as experiences of top executives from many Fortune 500 companies. He cites examples from AXA-Equitable and Boeing, to name a few other companies.
What I enjoyed about this book:
**The real-life examples. This book is all about concrete tactics and it's very helpful to hear the real-life examples.
**The emphasis on ethics. Bill cites Enron as a counter-example. Enough said.
**The advice to embrace change. This is timeless advice and is key for anyone at any stage of their career, especially in this fast-paced world of today.
**The realistic view of Jack Welsh - the good, the bad and the ugly.
What I didn't care for in this book:
**Most of the examples are about Jack Welsh and GE. I felt that this was a book about Jack Welsh and how successful he was. It's good that Bill writes about what he knows, but he could have expanded his horizons a bit.
**The other examples seem to be more name dropping than stories, Bill mentions Warren Buffet sent him an email about his first book, "Jacked Up: How Jack Welch Talked GE into Becoming the World's Greatest Company." What does that have to do with this book?
**The book didn't flow well. It read as a rambling memoir about Jack Welsh and life at GE in its heyday. One of the lessons learned is to "stay humble." I didn't get the sense that Jack Welch or Bill Lane have a humble bone in their body. So it was a good thing that Bill didn't use himself or Jack as examples of being humble.
**The emphasis on "old style" of success, meaning you must be in it to win at all costs. Of course, focus is key to success, but I don't think it should come at any cost.
If you would like to learn more about the inner workings of General Electric and how some decisions led to failure, then you might enjoy this book.
on June 28, 2012
Lane observed much of what finds its way into his book taking a different look at business as speechwriter for the legendary Jack Welch of General Electric. His background for the book is much broader than this however. After serving in Vietnam, he worked at the Pentagon as a civilian congressional liaison. Teaching and consulting are also elements of his long diverse and interesting career at higher levels of American business and government.
Ranging over a broad field of American business in an entertaining and insightful popular style, the book has timeless lessons, but it is also notably timely especially considering the national economic problems and unethical or reckless business practices giving rise to these. Lane's depictions and lessons regarding how ambitious, talented, and promising business people casually or purposely slip into the Gray Zone of questionable, possibly illegal, and usually eventually self-destructive behavior have obvious relevance to current concerns and questions.
Most self-help books relate what to do. Losing It however relates what not to do. Much of the advice and engaging anecdotes concern maintaining integrity. Lane also delves into strategic comprehension of one's field, management decisions and activity, reading subtleties in one's working environment and interactions with others, and other factors in career growth.
With its engaging style, timeliness, and instructive anecdotes and analyses, Losing It is not only a useful guide for business people, but also a inside view of scenarios, pressures, activities, relationships, etc., within varied contemporary organizations.
While there are many things you should be doing to further your career, there are just as many things you should *not* be doing. You can be doing everything perfectly, but one mistake in the "don't do" list can torpedo years of excellent work. Bill Lane covers some of these areas in his book Losing It! Behaviors and Mindsets that Ruin Careers: Lessons on Protecting Yourself from Avoidable Mistakes. Given that he was a speechwriter for former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, he's seen plenty career shipwrecks up close and personal.
Introduction; Losing It; The Integrity Trap and Opportunity; Presiding Is Not Managing; The Imperative of Selective Micromanagement; Dithering and Distractions; Arrogance; Reality; Changing Yourself; The Final Word; Index
Losing It is a relatively quick read, and there's a number of points that should give the reader some food for thought. The first chapter (and by far the largest) deals with integrity, as well as how easy it is to lose it. Enron makes more than a few appearances there, and as a former employee that resonates with me. Lane rightfully points out that most people don't go from point A to point Z on the ethical scale in a single step. Instead, it's the A to B step that don't seem to be bad on its own. Unfortunately, going from B to C, then C to D can be just as easy, and one day they end up looking at Z, wondering how they ended up there.
Another chapter that I found very true to life was the one on arrogance. Unless someone truly has the power they think you do, arrogance will lead to a nasty fall from grace. And if they *do* have the power to be arrogant, then few people will want to work with them. It was a good reminder for me (who does *not* have the power) to keep in check any "better than thou" attitude.
Overall, Losing It is worth reading. Lane does a good job in the writing of the book (I would expect that as a speechwriter), and the stories ring true. I would have liked to have seen more balance in the book when it came to the chapters and the length. The integrity chapter is 45 pages long, while the changing yourself chapter is two pages. Some selective trimming or fleshing out might have helped. Still, there was enough information that I have plenty of things to work on.
Obtained From: Publicist
This book has information that is potentially important for anyone who wants to succeed in the corporate world. But, for me, it was a difficult read so I wound up skimming through it. I hope other readers are able to read the book to utilize the lessons in it.
I was put off by the "salty" language that too often slipped onto the pages. It would have been a better fit for me if the book did not have language that I dislike. I even thought, from the title, that I would be able to share it with my teenage grandchildren who will soon be part of the corporate world. But, I can't.
Perhaps I missed reading the part of the book where the author advised readers against using language that isn't suitable for all audiences. In my 39½ year career (in Accounting and Human Resources, from clerical to management), I found that the best leaders either instinctively knew/learned how to present themselves and their ideas so that those around them felt respected and valued - and wanted to be part of the team.
It is easy to tell that the author has a wealth of experience. In many instances, he confesses that he committed - and survived - the ruinous behaviors and mindsets he now warns against. That explains why the book is more like a personal journal, full of musings and thoughts.
As I read more and more of career self-help books, a pattern is starting to emerge. One is that failure is not really failure unless you fail to learn from your mistakes. Learning from the mistakes of others is important, but there's nothing more personal and intimate (and painful) than making mistakes for yourself and learning how to deal with the consequences firsthand. In the end, you become stronger.
In my limited 15 year experience in the work world since college, I can see truth in a lot of what Bill Lane writes in this book. Don't fall behind, don't become complacent and just coast along (Steve Jobs said the same thing with "Stay hungry. Stay foolish.") Don't use jargon and buzzwords because it just makes you sound like a pretentious ass. Be ethical. Don't be arrogant. Learn to listen. Much of what he talks about is straight-forward and fairly common-sense... or ought to be anyway, since common-sense seems to be in short supply these days.
So, most of this stuff you already know. For someone early on in their career trajectory or even readers more advanced in their professional path, there are good reminders in here to stay grounded and focused. Lane writes with a very affable and friendly style. The book doesn't take too long to get through.
Losing It is a very engaging, easy book to read. It is packed with stories to make it interesting and of course, you learn from others mistakes and failures through these stories. I'm not in the corporate world so I am sure this book didn't have the appeal or meaning to me than it would others. I could see how many of the insights are helpful but many are common sense. Still, it can be helpful and cause a person to change, and it is a very engaging book. At times it does seem to ramble. I enjoyed it but I think there are other business books that might be more helpful.
LOSING IT-BEHAVIORS AND MINDSETS THAT RUIN CAREERS by Bill Lane is a 163-page book printed on off-white paper. There are no tables, charts, or photos. The book contains ten chapters. The introduction provides a brief bio of the author, and we learn that the author has held one position at General Electric Co. for a period of 20 years. While this is a commendable track record, I do not think that it will provide any person with sufficient background to write a book on dangerous work situations. In other words, it appears that the author has led a charmed life, and has simply not been exposed to typical irrational, unethical, and criminal behaviors, that are sometimes encountered in the workplace. CHAPTER ONE (pages 9-21) disclose the author's job loss after his boss, Jack Welch, was replaced by Jeff Immelt. An entertaining and engaging writing style is used, which includes the technique of name-dropping. For example, little fortune-cookie tidbits of information are provided about General MacArthur, Tom Coughlin (football coach), Carly Fiorana, and Dwight Eisenhower. CHAPTER TWO (pages 23-66) hops around from topic to topic, for example, on Adolf Hitler, the Enron Scandal, Meatloaf (rock'n'roll band), the torture of Vietnamese soldiers, the Madoff Scandall, Dennis Koslowski (he spent $2 million on a birthday party), and so on. Thus, it is the case that the book consists mainly of male-bonding type chit-chat, and a wealth of amusing but undeveloped observations about society.
Skipping ahead a bit, the following is an excerpt from CHAPTER FOUR (page 86): "Eye-rolling and impatient gestures from the congressmen and comittee staff followed, along with some sarcasm about lack of data. The general returned to the Puzzle Palace, the Pentagon where we worked, to be chewed out by a three-star general for not being prepared. "You are never going up there again . . . don't send him over here again." Bringing his attractive wife as a date was mentioned with disgust.
Moving ahead to CHAPTER SEVEN (page 113), we read, "I don't know. As a leader, you can sit and collect your stock option cash, ride around in helicopters, and preside over the sinking of your Titanic, like the ridiculous Captain Smith. And you can retire, and hit the beach in some theme-park community in Florida as the company founders and the guys that mill, or grind, or mix stuff in your plants lose everything."
CONCLUSION. The book consists mostly of male-bonding type chit-chat, where the writing has some peripheral relevance to the employment situation. Although the book is entertaining, I decided that the writing in the book does not reflect the subject matter of the book's title. I was hoping that the book would detail various types of management failures, including a documentation of immoral and criminal behaviors that are chronic problems with various companies and institutions. I was hoping that the book described how to avoid being a victim of these management failures. The book does not provide much in the way of guidance on these matters.
This book was sent to me as a n Advanced Reading Copy.
Lane begins by describing his own experience of "losing it," when he picked up the warning that his job was about to go away. He'd been at GE for something like 16 years, as a speechwriter and communications pro, working directly with Jack welch. Then in one call from Welch, he knew from just one phrase that his career was over.
This experience rang true for me. I wish he'd expanded on the meaning of it - the role of intuition fueled by experience. Back when I had jobs, I recall interviews where a polite phrase let me know - before the interview was over - that I wasn't going to get a "yes."
The rest of the book presents Lane's guidelines for succeeding in corporate careers. His style is direct (if you like it) or abrasive (if you don't). He's no career counselor. Reading the book, I was reminded of being seated on a flight next to some frustrated corporate executive (usually after an upgrade to first class) who was taking advantage of the drinks service - not drunk, but losing a lot of inhibitions.
Most of the advice makes sense. It's not especially original: be positive, stay on top of situations, and don't get into a dying industry. There are a few points you rarely hear, such as what to do if you're promoted over your head (and why promoting someone else is a bad idea). I'm not sure I agree with that tidbit, as there's the saying, "Nobody looks like a sergeant till you see stripes on their sleeves." And in fact Lane warns that people often get a job by looking the part.
I was most uneasy with the chapter on ethics. It's all too easy to judge the behavior of others without the full story. In the case of Enron, most of us have heard the story of MBA students who predicted the company's fall based on publicly available data.
Perhaps the most valuable part of the book comes on page 14, where Lane quotes another executive: It' s critical to be "absolutely paranoid" about the currency of your technical knowledge "as well as the currency of your grasp of what you're working at every day."
That advice rings true for business owners as well as corporate leaders. It's hard to put into practice, because technical knowledge keeps expanding, and because some people have an especially strong intuitive grasp of what's important in their current business and professional environment. Sometimes I think this insight is like hearing pitch in music: a rare few have perfect pitch, an elite few have excellent pitch and many just don't hear the difference, even with training.
I'm not sure who will benefit by reading this book. Most people who make the leap to executive ranks will already know 90% of what's here. If they have gaps, they're probably unaware and will nod comfortably as they read, thinking of others who would really benefit from reading this book.
In his previously published book, Jacked Up: The Inside Story of How Jack Welch Talked GE into Becoming the World's Greatest Company (2007), Bill Lane provides an eyewitness account that is (pardon the cliché) up close and personal to Welch from the time he was selected by Reginald Jones as his successor in 1981 until he retired in 2001. After seven years of service in the Army's Congressional office at the Pentagon, Lane was hired by GE in 2000 and was later named GE's Manager, Chief Executive Officer Communications and was Welch's speechwriter. For almost ten years, Lane probably spent more one-on-one time with Welch than did anyone else at GE. I do not recall a single incident described in that book or in any other book by or about Welch in which Welch "lost it," except patience.
I mention Lane's association with Welch because it plays a recurring, indeed dominant role in this book as he relies (in my view, too heavily) on Welch when demonstrating several key points while examining (key word) avoidable behaviors and mindsets that can ruin - indeed have ruined - many careers.
Lane cites this observation by Otto von Bismarck: "Only a fool learns from his mistakes. A wise man learns from the mistakes of others." With all due respect to the founder and chancellor of the German Empire, only fools think they have never made a mistake and more wisdom can be gained from one's own mistakes than from those made by others. Lane offers a prime example: he wrote this book based on what he learned from his own mistakes. Whether or not his readers gain any wisdom from the book is impossible to determine.
Throughout his ten-chapter narrative, Lane offers several dozen "tips" for surviving and thriving at work and focuses on ten in particular. None is a head-snapper, nor does Lane make any such claim for them. Be paranoid about remaining current, for example, and follow a moral/ethical compass. My own opinion is that a series of admonitions with a parental flavor tend to have little (if any) impact. Lane's writing style is conversational, the flow of his material is episodic and at times idiosyncratic, and his playful (sometimes self-deprecating) wit adds a leitmotif during discussions of various crises that (his descriptive) "suck."
On balance, I think Bill Lane has written another lively personal account, sharing much of what he learned from his career, especially during the association with Welch at GE. His advice is sensible and his convictions are sincere. I would have rated the book another Star had his thinking been clearer on three separate but related points: wisdom that can [begin italics] only [end italics] be learned from personal experience, the relevance of his insights to a workplace today that is significantly different from the one in which he gained most of his experience, and the extent to which Welch remains a relevant role model for executives in the current business world.