- Hardcover: 208 pages
- Publisher: Thomas Nelson Inc; First Edition edition (September 13, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 078521335X
- ISBN-13: 978-0785213352
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 7.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #696,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Tales from the Top: 10 Crucial Questions from the World's #1 Executive Coach Hardcover – September 13, 2005
The Amazon Book Review
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From Publishers Weekly
Though Alexander's "ten crucial questions" aren't revolutionary-"What's life all about for you?" "Would you do anything differently if you knew you had only a year to live?" "Are you running your business or is it running you?"-he makes the usual threadbare management clichés ("Treat your customers like royalty") say something new by avoiding the hyperbolic vigor common to American business writing, instead employing a dry style that can verge dangerously close to sarcasm: "Many business leaders find focusing on what is truly important difficult, because doing is so much easier than thinking." Alexander also pinpoints the major drivers of business dysfunctionality: fear, frenetic busyness, arrogance and ignorance. His solutions are quite sensible: write down the one thing that scares you most about your current situation; do three things a day that only you can do really well to uniquely help the business; don't guess what your customer wants. Though the advice sounds practical enough, the real-world results Alexander has achieved aren't quantified in this book, and the CEOs Alexander has coached aren't named. Still, Alexander has written the rare palatable guide to executive coaching.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Normally I dismiss ego-driven books and especially ego-driven titles like "World's #1 Pastor, World's #1 Politician, etc." But a good friend, Werner Jacobsen, highly recommended this book. We kind of coach and mentor each other over breakfast a couple of times each year. (I may nominate him for World's #1 Talent Manager, his pre-retirement profession.)
Werner's book pick is golden. In my consulting work, I also do coaching--and this book is both my Coaching 101 and Coaching 401 gold standard. Great coaches ask great questions (Alexander calls them "Million-Dollar Questions"):
--What are you hiding?
--List the things that you have never discussed with complete openness and honesty with anyone.
--What are you afraid of?
--Do you nip negativity in the bud?
--Are your customers thrilled?
The coaching stories are numerous and relevant to any leader with a pulse. Alexander writes about a newly promoted executive: "During a discussion about something unrelated to the frantic pace he was keeping, I stopped the conversation and said, `With respect, I don't want to continue this conversation. I want you to tell me honestly, How are you feeling?'
"That simple question stopped him cold. He thought about it for a few minutes and then replied, `I haven't admitted this to anyone else, because I am fearful it would have a demotivational effect on people, but I will answer you honestly. I've been in this business for thirty years. I thought I knew everything about this business and that I'd be able to succeed in this role. That's why I took it on. But I want to tell you that it's ten times harder than I could ever have imagined. I'm not at all sure I can succeed.'"
As Max De Pree famously said, "The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality." Coaching can help leaders get reality (that elephant in the room) smack dab out on the table.
The coaching primer has 10 chapters with 10 probing questions. The pure gold in the book is there for the taking: two-page executive summaries of each chapter (20 priceless pages), each with about 30 bullet points in four categories: Million-Dollar Questions, Action Items, Leadership Notes and Wake-Up Calls. Brilliant.
Million-Dollar Questions: "What knowledge about yourself are you missing that could make a significant difference in your life and/or your company's performance?" "What's the one missing piece in your puzzle?"
Action Items: "Give it away. Identify three areas of responsibility and ten places you are involved to give away."
Leadership Notes: "Whenever you have a grievance, only take it to somebody who can fix it. Only have conversations with people who can affect things positively."
Wake-Up Calls: "Slay the sacred cows." "Identify meetings you are no longer going to attend and what meeting agenda items you are going to drop from the meetings you run."
Use this book two ways: for your own enrichment (you'll be convinced on the value of finding a coach)--and for tools and insights for coaching others. In the final chapter, Alexander asks a hum-dinger: "Are the people I lead stressed out? What legacy am I leaving?"
Coaches who are Christ-followers will want to have this book in one hand and the new book, The Cure: What If God Isn't Who You Think He Is And Neither Are You, in the other hand--a perfect blend of leadership savvy and grace.
A separate chapter is devoted to each of the questions. Throughout each chapter, "Million Dollar Questions" are posed and "Action Items" are recommended. They as well as "Leadership Notes" and "Wake-Up Calls" are reviewed in an Executive Summary at the conclusion of each chapter. Presumably whenever Alexander begins a new coaching relationship, he asks his client many of the same questions and recommends completion of many of the same exercises. Obviously, he cannot interact in person with his reader but he does establish and then sustain a personal rapport as he helps his reader to gain as much value as possible from what is indeed a rigorous process of personal discovery. Those who are thinking about becoming an executive coach or who have only recently embarked on a career as one will find a wealth of valuable information and counsel in this book. That said, I also think that all C-level executives and other supervisors need to respond to the ten "crucial questions" that Alexander poses. He suggests that his book be thought of as a mirror. The metaphor is apt if the various questions posed in each chapter are carefully considered and suggested initiatives are taken. Otherwise, the "mirror" will reveal nothing and the reader will learn nothing.
Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out Michael Ray's The Highest Goal: The Secret That Sustains You in Every Moment James O'Toole's Creating the Good Life: Applying Aristotle's Wisdom to Find Meaning and Happiness, Stewart D. Friedman's Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life, David Whyte's The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America, Bill George's Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value and True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership, and Alan Watts's The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are.
- get fear out into the open where it can be confronted and
dealt with constructively
- say what you think
- face facts dispassionately rather than running away from them
- confront negativity head-on
- be passionate about your business
- seek new missions to reinvigorate staff
- select the undone things on your "to do" list
- itemize reasons for failure or reasons why there are no results
- discuss the unmentionables dispassionately
- do not waste precious talent
The work is invaluable because it confronts reasons why
people and/or organizations face intractable bottlenecks.
Dispassionate honesty flushes out why an organization does not
work so that constructive strategies can be put forth to
improve the throughput of decision-making .