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Tipping Sacred Cows: Kick the Bad Work Habits that Masquerade as Virtues Hardcover – March 4, 2013

4.3 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Breeden argues that success in the workplace requires being able to deep-six the conventional wisdom, recognize when assets have turned into liabilities, and consider the unintended consequences of the canon of corporate "wisdom." Breeden breaks down some of these old virtues into their component parts, including balance, collaboration, creativity, fairness, and passion—no longer as useful as they once were. Breeden puts his theories into practice, providing step-by-step guides for how readers can stop striving for each purported virtue and start using time and resources more wisely. - Publishers Weekly

Breeden's work identifies the seven most common sacred cows at work--including balance that turns bland and passion that becomes obsession--and how to overcome them. Whatever the profession or discipline, it's a pretty safe bet that your company, or your client's company, is making many of these mistakes right now. Correcting them can go a long way--even all the way to the bottom line. - Consulting Magazine

From the Inside Flap

We all know the "sacred cows" that are revered in the workplace—the conventional wisdom to try your best, work well with others, and produce excellent work. But these cherished nuggets of advice, in practice, have a dark side that can lead to career-limiting, unintended consequences.

Based on Jake Breeden's experience coaching thousands of leaders in 27 countries and on the latest research in behavioral economics, neuroscience, and psychology, Tipping Sacred Cows reveals what it takes to overcome the dangerous behaviors that masquerade as virtues at work and how you can lead with fewer self-imposed limitations and greater results. In this groundbreaking book, Breeden identifies the dark side of the seven most common sacred cows at work:

Balance: Disguising indecision as a bland compromise that attempts to achieve many things but ends up accomplishing nothing

Collaboration: Creating a culture of learned helplessness with little individual empowerment and accountability

Creativity: Wasting time and money coming up with new ideas because it feels good, not because it's needed

Excellence: Spending too much energy producing perfect work instead of developing the quick-and-dirty solution needed now

Fairness: Keeping score and evening the score to make sure no one gets more than their "fair share"

Passion: Racing down a path seeking success only to find burn-out and misbehavior instead

Preparation: Planning to do work instead of productively working out just-in-time solutions with just the right people

For each of these seven sacred cows, Breeden offers proven, powerful strategies for how you can overcome their allure and achieve real results.

Tipping Sacred Cows shines a light on the hidden traps that lie between good intentions and good results, clearing a path so you can finally realize your fullest potential at work.


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Check out a quick Q & A (PDF) with the author.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (March 4, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1118345916
  • ISBN-13: 978-1118345917
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #728,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Years ago in If It Ain't Broke...Break It!: And Other Unconventional Wisdom for a Changing Business World (1992), Robert Kriegel and Louis Patler suggest, "Sacred cows make the best burgers." That is not what Jake Breeden has in mind. As he explains, "The point of this book isn't to slaughter sacred cows. The point is to save them, and we do that by tipping them over and examining them. By understanding when and how to use our heartfelt beliefs we can avoid their nasty unintended consequences." I also wish to point out that Breeden does not discuss tipping points, an insight that Morton Grodzins (1917-1964) introduced in 1958 and Malcolm Gladwell later appropriated in his eponymous book, published in 2000. Breeden asserts, "Powerful, often invisible behavioral, social, and cultural forces can cause leaders to espouse the infallible importance of [key word] unexamined virtues in their ascent to success." I agree, adding that many (most?) of those leaders seem convinced that, to borrow from the title of one of Marshall Goldsmith's books, "what got them here will get them there." In fact, whatever got them "here" won't even enable them to remain "here," however "here" may be defined.

Some of the most valuable material in this book is provided when Breeden rigorously examines seven virtues that often become potentially lethal business paradoxes that are separate but interdependent. They involve, respectively, bland/bold balance, automatic/accountable collaboration, narcissistic/useful creativity, process/outcome excellence, outcome/process fairness, obsessive/harmonious passion, and backstage/onstage preparation. He devotes a separate chapter to each and details are best revealed within the narrative, in context.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love this book. Read it cover to cover. Wrote all over it. I've listened to it a couple times. And I've started to recite parts that are incredibly moving (and sometimes *expletive* hilarious): " ... zombie teams wondering around and snacking on resources ... "

It's an unusually useful business book. And unusually well written.

The chapters each have something specific to say with at least four sources of punch to bolster the chapter's big-idea; opinion, example, real-world-metaphor, scientific research papers with girth ... and so on.

These multivariate perspectives are specifically illustrating and focusing on the main idea of the chapter. It's all written conversationally and briefly. I congratulate the Jake Breeden for completely bringing theory and reality together for us mere mortals to read. This is a very elegant bit of literature.

I'm particularly impressed with author's extreme effort to be NOT full of himself. And if some bit of arrogance sneaks out, he taps it with a grin and some self deprecating humor.

The chapters of each cow have great resonance in style and content. An inspiration to me for sure.

Great work. A big eye opener. And well worth the money. (AND A FUN READ)

He sometimes openly challenge some wildly popular books. I've read some books feeling jilted for sure. And it is refreshing to hear an authority make some jabs.

I really enjoyed hearing the author state "I am a vicious anti-zealot!" in a Google YouTube video. Made me laugh, and makes me think every time I feel something zealous about to come out of my face.

Great work with pragmatic sincerity.

Thanks Thanks Thanks.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Those interested in business books that supposedly reveal 'the secrets of how X, Y, and Z achieved phenomenal success' probably long ago realized that something was amiss. For one thing, the books don't all offer the same prescriptions - in fact, some of them are contradictory. Another problem - firms formerly featured frequently flop shortly afterwards.

The most obvious example of the latter is 'Total Quality Management,' the rage in the early 1990s. The epitome of good management was reportedly embodied within the practices of those firms that won the Baldrige Award. Unfortunately, followers soon became aware of eg. Wallace Company, award-winner in 1990 that filed for bankruptcy in early 1992. Motorola was an original winner (1988), and subsequently lost billions with its Iridium satellite venture, was broken up and sold off, Xerox (1989) has declined significantly due to its inadequate response to the rise of much cheaper PC laser printers, Milliken (1989) was largely forced out of its mainstay business of rug manufacturing by Asian imports, Cadillac (1990) has suffered from poor quality and strong competitors from Japan and Europe, Solectron (1997) began losing money in 2003 and was acquired by Singapore-based competitor Flextronics in 2007 after its stock had fallen 93% from 2000 levels, etc.

Similar results followed firms highlighted in Peters and Waterman's 1982 'In Search of Excellence.
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