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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
In one of Chuck Martin's previous works, Tough Management, he recommends "seven winning ways to make tough decisions easier, deliver the numbers, and grow the business in good times and bad." None of the "ways" is a head-snapper, nor does Martin make any such claim. The substantial value of this book is derived, rather, from responses by more than 2,000 senior executives and managers in 50 countries who participated in a survey conducted by NFI Research, Martin's firm. They completed a brief survey segment every two weeks over a period of 24 months. That is a key point because, over time both circumstances and respondents' reactions to them change. The final survey results thus have much greater credibility. Martin operates a global idea exchange and research engine with a network base of more than 2,000 senior executives and managers from more than 1,000 companies in more than 50 countries, including half of the Fortune 500. His observations and recommendations are thus based on an abundance of real-world data that he and his NFI associates continue to accumulate and then evaluate with meticulous care.

In this volume, which he co-authored with Peg Dawson and Richard Guare, Martin develops in much greater depth many of the core concepts introduced in his previous books. For example, insights concerning how both individuals and collaborative teams can achieve and then sustain superior performance by leveraging their strengths (i.e. talents, skills, temperament, and experience) when completing tasks for which those strengths are most appropriate. In this volume, the authors assert that there are certain brain functions starting at birth "and they are "`hardwired'" into every individual. Brain researchers have found that these skills are fully developed by the time you become an adult. These skills are called `Executive Skills' because they help you execute tasks." OK but so what?

As the authors then explain, our strongest skills will continue to be our strongest skills and our weakest will continue to be our weakest -- and are not significantly changeable - as we become adults. "The opportunity is how to deal with [strengths and weaknesses], and this book provides a framework for you to do that." They identify and then rigorously examines twelve executive skills that range from self-restraint to stress tolerance. Mastery of these skills by those who comprise the workforce within a given organization (regardless of its size or nature) will enable it to derive substantial improvement of its productivity, quality, employee recruitment, employee retention, training, teamwork, competitive edge, reduction of stress, meetings, operational execution, and information management.

Martin, Dawson, and Guare agree with countless others that organizations must measure only what is most important, and they should do so with consistency. Hence the value of diagnostic tools such as the "Executive Skills Profile" that he provides in Appendix B. It enables each of those who read this book to tap into their greatest Executive Skills strengths and then leverage them when completing whatever tasks to which they have been assigned. At this point, it is important to keep in mind that one of the greatest challenges for supervisors is to make certain that they are locating those for whom they are directly responsible in proper alignment with tasks appropriate to their given strengths. Organizations that sustain such alignment are "hardwired for success" because their people - as individuals and as members of a team - are themselves "hardwired for success."

In my opinion, this is Chuck Martin's most valuable book, thus far, and another brilliant achievement. He and his co-authors, Peg Dawson and Richard Guare, invite those who wish to obtain updates and/or share their own comments to visit [...]

Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out Martin's other books. I also recommend Bill George's Authentic Leadership and True North, Michael Ray's The Highest Goal, Ram Charan's Know-How, Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman's First, Break All the Rules and Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton's Now, Discover Your Strengths, Buckingham's The One Thing You Need to Know and Go Put Your Strengths to Work, and Success Built to Last co-authored by Jerry Porras, Stewart Emery, and Mark Thompson.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2007
Like other experiences in this mind business, Chuck Martin has supplied us with the evidence to support the gut instincts we all use to navigate our daily lives. I am glad that the book does not simply present the problem. It goes on to acknowledge the difficulty in correcting executive behaviors and then provides concrete ways for both self-correction and to assist others in maximizing their strengths and controlling their weaknesses. One of the quotes he used included the phrase, "rises to the level of their incompetence." We have all watched this happen and lamented the bad fortune of someone caught in this trap. What you realize is that the blame is not always the failure of the individual but a failure to recognize a good fit from a bad one.

One of the most glaring examples that reinforces everything this book has to say is the problem most companies face when they advance top performers into management. I know my own company fights the problem that some top performers don't manage as much as they continue trying to contribute doing what they do best. Through promotion you can turn your top performer into your greatest problem or your most depressed employee. It is easy to think of this as a failure for the employee. It is really a failure to look more closely at the fit between employee strengths and the requirements of the job.

I have often lamented that there is a diminishing level of craftsmanship in our world. Here is a new opportunity for craftsmanship -- fitting job requirements to the person rather than shaping the person to fit the job. Martin has offered these new craftsmen a powerful set of tools, background information and realistic examples that will help them maximize their business skills and knowledge. Crafting this proper fit between jobs and people will create the competitive advantage of the 21st Century and improve the outlook of employees in the process.

This is really the most on-target work I have read in the area of performance management and human behavior. As a training professional, I will be more sensitive to the limits of training as a solution when the real problem be crossed wires.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Chuck Martin has taken the insights he has accumulated from the ongoing executive panel of his NFI Research efforts and has created an insightful, practical Executive Skills Guidebook.

Identifying twelve "built-in" specific brain (cognitive) functions which he labels as "Executive Skills", the book in a clear and concise fashion provides readers / users a very useful tool to assess their own strengths and weaknesses of each function.

The book goes on to provide guidance and a map on how to maximize one's strengths and minimize one's weaknesses, as well as how to consider positions that intensify and reward the strengths.

Throughout, the authors reinforce their findings and guidance with practical quotes from a wide array of executives, the commentary gathered from the 2000 senior executives and managers globally that have participated in NFI Research during the past eight years.

Using the book in an internal organization seminar format would provide considerable strenghtening of a management team.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2007
Here's my take on this book: I already believe in excellence; I want to know how to achieve it for myself and build it in others. This book does that.

Martin, et al., use a scientific research approach to self-evaluation and overcoming weaknesses in one's self and team members based upon recognition of how our brains are wired. The mix of science and practical application is a breath of fresh air! For example: I've already applied their strategy for overcoming my chronic lateness to meetings (yes, it s about my fear of being unproductive).

I find most business excellence books to be long on inspiration and short on useful tools. This book has so much meat to it that I'm going use in my work and in my studies. The evaluation tools, teaching skills suggestions and skills alignment concepts are all immediately transferable to my work context. The executive skills concepts certainly bear more research and study as to how this thinking impacts the art/science of management theory as well.

In summary, I generally find few business press books to be of enduring value, but I think Martin and colleagues have written an important one in SMARTS. I think they have really broken new ground in management science thinking, and I am looking forward to applying SMARTS wherever possible in work and life.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2007
Great book, and easy read. We all know we have certain predispositions and this book explains them in a structured way so we can maximize the strong Executive Skills and contain the weak skills. It offers a new way to think about tasks and teaming, how to match skills to tasks and teaming of people performing those tasks.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2007
Chuck Martin's ability to connect meaningful research with personal

behaviors and organizational alignment through this work will be a

terrific resource for the many of us who struggle with this challenge. I

am particularly enlightened by the connection between Executive Skills and

organizational communication issues. We have always believed that MOST

organizational challenges we have encountered stemmed from communication

issues . . . not enough, the wrong information, not timely etc. Connecting

communication abilities to Executive Skills can go a long way towards

remedying this misconception.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2007
As a professional, I found the Executive Profile to be a fantastic tool for determining my personal strengths and style. The sections describing how your key strengths and weaknesses combine to create unique opportunities and challenges was fabulous; almost all the books I've read deal with one or the other, but not both and certainly not the synergy between one's strengths and weaknesses.

If you liked "Now, Discover Your Strengths", then "Smarts" is a great combo of focus on strengths combined with weakness mitigation.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2007
In Smarts, Martin, Dawson and Guare have helped me to understand why I approach my work in the way that I do, where I should concentrate my efforts and what work I should delegate to others. The executive skills questionnaire has been particularly useful in helping me to predict what future activities and tasks will be a "good fit", thus allowing me to better plan for and use my resources. Smarts has already changed the way that I manage my business.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 13, 2008
This book may, on the surface, sound like the strengths books of Markus Buckingham, but it is significantly different. To start with the strengths listed here are 12 "executive skills" (executive as in execution, not position). These have been determined based on neuroscience. They are:

1. Self restraint
2. Working memory
3. Emotion control
4. Focus
5. Task initiation
6. Planning and prioritization
7. Organization
8. Time management
9. Defining and achieving goals
10. Flexibility
11. Observation
12. Stress tolerance

While the 12 strengths here are certainly more manageable than the 34 in the model espoused by Buckingham, I don't think they are as crisp. That is, many can be used, or not, in a variety of different ways. For example, is one who keeps one's computer files organized but one's desk disorganized strong in "organization"?

But there are many good ideas here, many I hope Buckingham incorporates. Probably the most important is the idea of being aware of one's weakest areas, not just one's top strengths, is key. As discussed in Smarts - skills are distributed, more or less, as a bell curve - most people have a few at which they are really strong, and a few at which they are really weak- but the majority are more "in between". When looking to match people to job responsibilities, it is hard to have a perfect match, but if one focuses on most of the top skills and none of the bottom ones, that will result in a much better fit than looking at only the top skills.

Another good idea presented here is the idea of not just looking at fit between skills and a job or tasks, but corporate culture as well.

This book also has some limitations, especially when compared to the model used by Buckingham. The quizzes provided to determine strengths are poor. I actually found the quizzes used to assess strengths in others to be more useful at self-assessment than the provided self-assessment quizzes. One thing that hurt the model presented here, as well as all the quizzes, was failing to take into account interest. One's success at various skills can be based on interest of applications of the skills, and success is largely questioned rather than talent and/or interest.

In summary, Smarts is a well-written book with some great ideas, but it, in my opinion, is best used in conjunction with one or more of Buckingham's books.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2008
Smarts may sounded related to intelligence, but really, it takes on a whole different field. Smarts helps explain many characteristics of our personalities that are never given a deeper thought. For example, everyone knows that one person who never seems to arrive on time. You may think they are lazy, or not communicating properly. Have you ever stopped and wondered if that person, mentally, has a different value of time, and cannot grasp the importance of being on time? They literally cannot! It's called Time Management, and it is one of the 12 executive skills of the frontal lobe.

Smarts takes a very organized and easy to understand approach at explain the 12 executive skills of the frontal lobe. It describes why we are on time, procrastinate, organized, un/focused, and many more personality traits. Through several quick self assessments, Smarts can determine your high and low executive skills. It will then explain what you can do with or about them, as an employee and a manager.

Overall, Smarts is an excellent read for anyone, especially in the business field. It is a quick, very informative, read that will help you to understand yourself and others.
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