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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
by Susan Cain
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.91
199 used & new from $2.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must for Introvert and Anyone Who Intereacts with Introvets, February 13, 2012
Quiet is a new book by Susan Cain which delves deeply into the world of introverts. After reading many very positive review of the book I, being an introvert myself, had high expectations for this book. Without a doubt Quiet met my high expectations and much more. This is a must have book for anyone who is an introvert or needs to interact with introverts including; spouses, children or co-workers. This wonderful book provided many insights into my own behaviors but also provided me with a practicable guide to working with project teams. Additionally, my wife, a special education teacher, finds the material very appropriate for teachers with introverted students in their class - which in reality would be any teacher.
The book is divided into four parts:

Part 1: The Extrovert Ideal - Covers the rise and myths of extrovert leadership in our society

Part 2: Your Biology, Your Self? - Reviews the biological difference between introverts and extroverts and the resulting impacts

Part 3: Do all Cultures Have an Extrovert Idea? - Explores the differences in views of the extrovert ideal in American and Asia

Part 4: How to Love, How to Work - Provides life lessons for dealing with introverts

What follows are just some of the highlight from each section.

Part 1: The Extrovert Ideal

One of the most interesting aspects of this section is how extroverts came to be seen more prominently in the American society. Cain expertly traces the rise of extroverts in America and offers insights into why other countries view extroverts less prominently.

We are then allowed to follow the author as she visits the extrovert havens of a high energy Anthony Robbins seminar and Harvard Business School. Not surprisingly we don't tend to find many introverts at either gathering. Along the way Cain lets us in on some research that does surprise us - group brainstorming session are less productive, in terms of idea quality and quantity, than individual brain storming. These finding have significant implication for business and project managers.
Cain also shows the impacts of the new open office layouts which are becoming more popular in business settings. The impacts are not the anticipated positive ones to increase collaboration but are found to instead increase anxiety and employee turnover. Oops!

Part 2: Your Biology, Your Self?

Part 2 is where we jump into the biology of introverts and extroverts and resulting ramifications of not listening to introverts. This section begins with a clarification of the difference between temperament and personality. Cain reveals how research has shown that our introvert/extrovert temperaments as teenagers and adults can be predicted when we are only four months old.

Of more consequence we begin to understand the situations where introverts can be both better leaders and negotiators than their extroverted counterparts. Cain also explores the Winner's Concept which plagues many extroverts and had a hand in the financial recession of 2008. This section makes me want to make sure an introvert is managing my financial investments!
Most importantly for introverts we learn how to better deal with the made for extrovert situations we dread so much; such as when we need to make small talk with groups and give presentations. Quiet contains wonderful tools to help introverts survive these challenging situations.

Part 3: Do all Cultures Have an Extrovert Idea?

In this section Cain provides a brief but informative comparison between the American and Asian cultures. This section and chapter is a helpful guide for creating better relationships with Asian co-workers.

Part 4: How to Love, How to Work

Cain saves the best for last! In the final section, we learn how can better live, love and work as, and with, introverts and importantly for teachers and parents, how to best facilitate young introverts in their learning and development.
For me this section explained why I have a hard time following my wife's conversation at dinner and why I should never refer to my daughter, or anyone for that matter, as being `shy'. In addition we learn how to assist our introvert children with noisy settings such as play dates.

The insights into questions that parents should and should ask of their kids after school, such as never ask the general question `How was your day?', can also be applied to my work as a project manager when interacting with team members.

Conclusion

Simply put, Quiet is a very well researched and written book about the life of introverts. It is a must read for anyone who is or associated with introverts. I expect in some cases this book could be a life changer for many introverts.
Many kudos and thanks to Susan Cain for writing such a helpful and thought provoking book. Keep up the excellent work and championing for us introverts!


Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World
Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World
by Sam Sommers
Edition: Hardcover
83 used & new from $0.86

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must for Anyone Who Interacts with Others, January 9, 2012
Situations Matter is a new book by Sam Sommers whose goal is to demonstrate how situations influence our thoughts and behaviors. The book more than accomplishes this goal by also providing techniques to interpret situations that are influencing behaviors and providing techniques to better respond to these situations.

The author starts by recounting an experience in which he and his wife missed a connecting flight and how he interpreted the situation to negotiate a hotel voucher from the airlines customer service agent. In this case the author explains how he considered the situation in which the agent was operating to successfully frame his request. The lesson is that the agent is not a heartless ogre who did not want to assist the stranded travelers but instead an amicable person who was put in a tough situation by the airline. This discussion is very well aligned with the powerful negotiation techniques presented by Stuart Diamond in Getting More: How to Negotiate to Achieve Your Goals in the Real World.

Sommers then discusses why, when presented with three game show hosts to tutor our child, we would immediately pick a certain one since he is viewed as more knowledgeable based on the game show that he hosts.

The remainder of the book covers several specific situational topics as I outline below.

WYSISYG - What you see is what you get. In this chapter, Sommers explains how we respond to what we see and discusses why we do not typically analyze and interpret the specific situation. In particular there is a discussion on how westerners will focus on a main object in a picture while those from eastern cultures look at the entire picture- frame and all! The most interesting analogy I found in this section was comparing the 2006 Olympics Opening Ceremony in Atlanta with the 2008 Olympics Opening Ceremony in China. As you may recall the 2008 games in China opened with 2008 people playing the drums while the 2006 games in Atlanta opened with a single performer - Celine Dion. Interesting insight indeed!

Help Wanted - In this chapter Sommers explores the perplexing reasons of why people in crowds will not assist those in need. Many real life examples along with results of studies (including the famous Good Samaritan study conducted at Princeton University) demonstrate that we will shirk responsibility when we are in the mix of a crowd as opposed to being alone.

Sommers also provides his insights onto the infamous lack of crowd response to the extended assault on Kitty Genovese in Queens during 1964. This is the classic case study of crowds which analyzed in many other books include Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Overall this chapter is an impressive synopsis as to why crowds affect our responses and behaviors.

Go with the Flow - This section introduces the Crows Whisperer aka `Super Fan'. This is the guy at sporting events who gets you to break out of the norms and scream passionately for your team. The most important take a ways from this chapter are techniques that can help you break yourself and others from the crowd affect that paralyze us during emergencies.

You are Not Who You Think You Are - In this section, Sommers presents evidence that we not only view others differently given the situation, but we also view ourselves differently. The results of several research experiments show that depending on our location and context we will identify ourselves differently. The author also gives great advice on how we should view ourselves as opposed to how many `self help' experts try to convince us to view ourselves. Overall this is a well written and very insightful chapter for understanding how we view ourselves.

Love and Hate - The final two chapter address how and when we love and hate are both influenced by situations. In the love section Sommers outlines the situational influences that affect who we end up choosing to date and marry as opposed to the traits we seek in a mate.

In my opinion, the chapter on Hate is the most important in the book. Finally, someone has addressed why we have a hard time initially distinguishing people within different ethnic backgrounds. This is a critical concept for anyone to understand when they interact and work with people who we do not classify within one of our `in groups'. This section also provides useful lessons for Project Managers who need to manage a team that consists of different groups, organizations or backgrounds.

My conclusion is this is a great book for helping to remind us that when viewing and judging the actions of others we need to consider their situation. It's main strength is that it also provides insights and strategies for dealing with the potential harm of crowd affects along with overcoming biases, both our own and others.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who interacts with other people. For further reading on these topics I also recommend reviewing the author's blog.


One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com
One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com
by Richard L. Brandt
Edition: Hardcover
40 used & new from $2.48

4.0 out of 5 stars one click - lot of breadth but lacking depth, January 6, 2012
One Click is a new book by Richard Brandt which delivers an overview of Amazon.com and its founder Jeff Bezos. Although this is a well written overview on both subjects, in my opinion these are both amazing stories that deserve their own more complete books.

Brandt starts with an overview on the background and upbringing of Jeff Bezos. It was interesting to learn of the technical achievements that Jeff attained during his younger years. I did not realize that Jeff is a technical whiz; I always assumed he was an expert on retail or book selling!

In the next section, Brandt reviews the history of Amazon; how it started, got its name, and how it grew. It includes a review of the controversy around the `One-Click patent', along with some of the successful Amazon innovations such as Market Place, Gold Box Deals, and Customer Reviews. Missing from the book was any review of the significant impacts on the decision to offer free shipping on orders over $25. On the other hand some of the failures, such as the auctions to compete with EBay, are also covered.

The ugly side comes out as well during the overview of reported threats against publishing houses that would not agree to lower prices. I was disappointed that the 2005 reports that Amazon offered different prices to different customers based on part purchases was not presented in this book.

The philosophy of why Bezos did not focus on turning a profit and how his approach was forced to change is provided in detail. This discussion is presented in conjunction with the history of how and when Amazon expanded outside of being just a book seller.

After we are caught up to date on Amazon Brandt again returns to Bezos and provides an overview of his leadership style (we learn that he is a hard driving, idea guy) along with his initiatives for space exploration as part of Blue Orbit.

My conclusion is that this is a well done; quick read which provides an overview of the life of Jeff Bezos and the history of Amazon. This book covers more breadth than depth on these topics, though at least a couple of significant topics noted previously are not included, which left wanting me wanting more. If you are interested in an overview of Amazon and/or Bezos this is a good book to start with. If you are looking for a more complete history of Amazon or a full biography of Bezos this one will not fulfill your appetite.


Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy
Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy
by Bill Clinton
Edition: Hardcover
396 used & new from $0.01

6 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Some good ideas but too partisan, December 17, 2011
I did not give this book a low rating not because I disagree with a lot of President Clinton's policies. I think some of his ideas presented in this book are worth pursuing, though I believe some others would be ineffective and harmful to the economy.

Instead I gave this book a low rating because almost the entire first half of the book was spent criticizing the Republican presidents over the last 30 years while giving himself and President Obama nothing but praise. I was hoping for a non-partisan book full of ideas to consider. Instead Clinton was at times hypocritical by stressing the need for Republicans to work with Democrats to solve the problems facing the United States while bashing Republican for their past policies. You cannot promote togetherness while criticizing half of the people you say should work together. I was disappointed; you should have done better President Clinton and risen above the politics.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 27, 2011 4:01 PM PST


Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World
Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World
by Michael Lewis
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.60
516 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beware the Boomerang, December 10, 2011
Think of a time when citizens of a country swarmed to their bank to draw out as much cash as they can. What is the first thought to come to mind? The United States during the 1930's? Although this was the case, in Boomerang we see that this happened in Iceland and not almost 80 years ago, but less than five! Instead of gathering Iceland's kronas they were gathering up Francs and Yen.

Boomeranged is the latest from who is one of the foremost authorities of the 2008 financial crisis. He is the author of The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machineand MoneMoneyballyball. In The Big Short Lewis did a masterful job in detailing the crisis in America. This time he is back with a look at how the crisis impacted a few European countries with accounts of his travels to these countries.

Lewis starts with Iceland and you will enjoy the story of why he starts with Iceland, think 20 million nickels (you have to read the book to understand....). So how does Iceland change from over one thousand years of being masterful fishing people to be successful investment bankers overnight? The answer is of course they don't which is one reason that Iceland's debt swelled to 850% of their GDP. But hey, you have to love a country where anyone can still stop in and visit the Prime Minister without going through security or producing identification.

Next up was Greece with its' national debt of over $1 trillion. Bad? Yes, but even worse when you consider Greece has about 20% fewer people than the city of Los Angeles. This section left me a bit speechless, how can a 21st century country have such correction and so few enforced tax laws? Greece is one case where the government's actions caused the banks to fail instead of the other way around. Then there was the $1 Billion+ in government properties that were given over to a society of monks.

Lewis was then on to Ireland, where the government jumped in to bail out major banks even though their failure would not have been catastrophic. They did end us saving foreign investors at the cost of Irish taxpayers. DOH!

Then we get to Germany, the most financially secure nation covered in this book. Will Germany save the countries discussed above? How did Germany get talked into joining the EU with these less financially stable members? Lewis reviews these questions in this section.

Just when as an American you start feeling good about the United States, Lewis turns his attention to the United States. In particular he looks at how the financial crisis has hit a couple of municipalities in California. These are very troubling stories indeed.

I did enjoy this book even more that The Big Short. Yes I admit it was easier to comprehend for the less financially savvy of us. This is an easy and insightful read for anyone interested in the across the seas impact of the 2008 financial crisis. Some reviews have found fault with the journal style in which the book was written. I enjoyed this aspect of the writing and found it more interesting and fun to read.


The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential
The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential
by John C. Maxwell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.54
149 used & new from $4.65

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great start for new leaders, December 9, 2011
The Five Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential is the latest book by John C. Maxwell. Maxwell is the author of many books on communication and leadership including Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differentlyand How Successful People Think: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life.

In 5 Levels, Maxwell provides an overview of his five levels of leadership, which are:
1. Position
2. Permission
3. Productivity
4. People Development
5. Pinnacle

The book begins with an assessment that can be used to determine at which level of leadership you are currently performing. It includes questions for yourself and others to answer about your leadership skills. The bulk of the book covers each of the steps in separate sections. Each section contains a detailed review along with both the upsides and downsides of each level.

1. Position - is the authority you are granted by your job and title in a company. A great place to start because you will need some level of legitimate power to be a leader but you will not be a successful leader if you remain on this basic level. I am sure we have all been associated with leaders who never advance beyond being a position leader - these are the ones who rely on the letters after their names and their job titles to direct others.

2. Permission - is all about establishing relationships and getting others to choose to follow you. This involves getting to know your team, but be aware that when you begin to build these relationships with others you get the whole person and not just the hands. Meaning you get all their issues, concerns and fears from both their work and personal lives. This is the first stage that leaders need to begin to transform their thinking from me to we.

3. Productivity - focuses on getting things done. The key in this step is to help make everyone else productive and not just yourself. As a project manager I have found that making the team successful makes a project manger successful - not the other way around.

4. People Development - is about developing others and letting them take control. This is where it becomes all about the individuals working with you and not about yourself. Leaders can not be afraid the develop others who would potentially replace them. Insecure leaders never reach this level because instead of developing people, they spend their time micro-managing. It is here that the insecure leaders will identify themselves. If you place blame while taking accolades you need to focus in this area. I work under the belief that if I have not prepared a project to be successful upon my departure from the project then I have not done my job successfully.

5. Pinnacle - is about getting other leaders to Level 4. According to the author this is the highest level a leader can achieve, the one at which leaders are developing other leaders. These leaders rise above their company and industry to become recognized leaders - think Jack Welch and Nelson Mandela. This is not to suggest Level 5 leaders can sit back and rest, but instead need to continue to advance themselves and others around them. In order for leaders to remain at this level they have to keep their ego in check and not lose focus (See Lee Iacocca). For additional reading on how companies and leaders can fall from this level check out Jim Collins' How The Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In.

It is important to note that you need to build on these levels as you move up the steps. For example to be a successful Level 4 leader, you need to first establish relationships with your team before you can facilitate their becoming productive. It is only at that point that you can begin `growing' your team members. On the other side you will not be a successful leader if you establish good relationships with your team but never advance them to a high level of productivity.

One of the most interesting concepts in this book is the realization that you are on at different level with different individuals you interact with at any given time. For example you may be at Level 3 with one person while still at Level 1 with another. It is thus important to understand where you are with each person and plan for maturing your leadership accordingly. When you start a new job, as I am doing right now, you are basically back at Level 1 with everyone and need to start up the steps once again.

This book is a great guide for anyone who is new to leadership. It will provide you with a big picture as to the levels of leadership and a path for moving up the steps. Be aware that leadership is a very complex topic so no one single tome will provide you with all the knowledge to be a great leader. This book sets the stage by providing a general understanding of the steps, but you will need to use other resources to help move you through the steps. For example to get to Level 4, People Development, the author discusses the need to motivate teams and bring out the best in them, but does not include specific detail how to accomplish this task. For further reading on this topic I suggest Liz Wiseman's Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter.

If you have been a leader for any amount of time I would suggest using this book as an assessment. It is also interesting to use this book as a guide for assessing other leaders that either you work with or work for you, as I found myself doing.


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