The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Book Review: V3 Issue 1

Title: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Author: Steven R. Covey

Publication details: Simon & Schruster Ltd, Great Britain, 1992

Number of pages: 355 pages

Since first being introduced to this classic book on personal development as part of my MBA course, I have revisited it several times and got something new out of it, every time. I again find ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Steven R. Covey relevant for today’s business context of uncertainty and economic upheaval. We are experiencing higher levels of stress with events like salary cuts and layoffs. In times like these it is essential that we stay grounded within ourselves and not loose faith in our own abilities. This book helps focus on the things you can control i.e., things within your “Circle of Control” rather than “Circle of Influence” and helps you stay confident and less stressedIt says…“It’s not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us.” What is more the book’s step-by-step holistic, integrated, principle-centered approach for living gives one the security to adapt to change, and the wisdom and power to take advantage of the opportunities that change creates.

Covey begins the book by discussing how we all have our own paradigms (map of how we perceive the world and how we think the world should be), the source of our attitudes and behaviors. We must begin ‘Personal Effectiveness’ by examining our own character, paradigms, and motives rather than looking at our problems as "being out there". This ‘inside-out’ approach says “If you want to have more freedom, more latitude in your job, be a more responsible, a more helpful, a more contributing employee…” Hence, Covey argues that character and principles are keys to success, effectiveness, and happiness in life. And that there are no quick fixes that will work permanently.

Covey then details out the ‘Seven Habits’ that will help you develop personally and so become more effective in how you live, work and relate with other people. The ‘Seven Habits’ help us move through three stages of personal development. The first three viz., be proactive, begin with the end in mind and put first things first, take you from dependence to independence. The next three viz., think "win/win", seek first to understand and then to be understood and synergise usher you along to interdependence, and the seventh viz., sharpen the saw is needed to reinforce the other habits. The habits are inter-related and synergistic, yet each one is powerful and worthy of being adopted and followed in its own right.

Apart from explaining vividly and developing a case for inculcating each of the habits, Covey also provides concrete exercises to apply and develop these habits over a period of time. For instance for the habit ‘synergise’ he suggests “Make a list of people who irritate you. Do they represent different views that could lead to synergy if you had greater intrinsic security and valued the difference?” The examples scattered throughout the book help reinforce the value of each habit. Covey illustrates the think "win/win", with the story of how a management training program was revamped. This not only resulted in saving costs for the company by reducing the training period drastically, but also in producing highly motivated and well trained set of management trainees.

What made the book an interesting read for me was that it integrates many useful concepts - personal scripts, importance and urgent quadrant, abundance mentality, principles of successful change, visioning, empathetic listening, effective delegation...the list can go on and on. Also the fact that Covey is quite specific helps. For example he recommends that one must devote an hour everyday to sharpen one’s saw viz., the habit of self renewal.

Like many self-help books, much of what you read here is common sense. However, what Covey manages to do so successfully is to convince the readers to take a long hard look at themselves. But, the only real way to test the value of the habits is to work on them and find out for oneself. While anybody embarking on a journey of self development will find this book valuable, it is a must read for every aspiring Manager.

Managing in Turbulent Times: Book Review; V2 Issue 3

Title: Managing in Turbulent Times

Author: Peter F Drucker

Publication details: Harper Collins Publishers, 1980

Number of pages: 256 pages

After spending weeks looking for a relevant book Managers could use in these tough economic times I found this prophetic and seminal book ‘Managing in Turbulent Times’ by Peter F. Drucker, considered by many to be the most influential and widely read authority on management. Even after 25 years after its publication, the book is relevant because of its classic wisdom on running a business, in good times as well as bad times.

The book starts by asserting that in turbulent times the fundamentals have to be managed well. It explains what according to Drucker managing the fundamentals entails. An enterprise's figures should be adjusted to inflation, liquidity and financial strength must be put before earnings; the decline of productivities (of capital, time, knowledge, physical resources) must be reversed and the costs of staying in business tomorrow must be earned today, regardless of "record profits."

Drucker then provides actions and long term strategies that will ensure a company's capacity to survive a blow, to adapt to sudden change, and to avail itself of new opportunities. Strategies include concentrating resources on results by knowing the performing and productive resources; sloughing off (abandoning) of resource devouring and unproductive past; deciding how much to grow so that a company does not become marginal in its market; making existing companies especially large ones capable of innovation; and business strategies like being the right size or deciding when to diversify and how. Drucker recommends a scorecard for managers that assess performance in a)appropriating capital, b)people decisions, c)innovation and d)strategies versus performance.

The book then elaborates upon the realities of the new economic, social and political environment and how they can be managed. He discusses a range of topics including cheap imports, multinational corporations, technological change, employee participation, changing population demographics, and global markets. His commentary on recession throws up some interesting possibilities for managers to consider in current times of economic slowdown. For example he narrates how when American mass builders, thinking people cut back on housing during recession, in 1973-74 started making “basic home” without the frills, they did not sell at all. On the contrary spending on housing increased. Same was the case with eating out. He says this is because there is a new market segment that is linked to population dynamics rather than income. I like the way Drucker issues various challenges to managers throughout the book. He says, “The manager..will have to learn to create “issues”, to identify both the social concern and the solution to it, and to speak for producer interest in society as a whole rather than for special interest of “business”. 

The book is full of tips on how to implement the strategies recommended. “Any increase in volume that leads to reduced productivities…should be eliminated..”  He covers different economies - developed and developing; different companies; different periods to illustrate what is working and not working. Drucker has solutions to the challenges associated with each of his own prophecy. For instance about the workforce he predicted it becoming heterogeneous, knowledge workers seeking a second career in their sixties and seventies etc. He says as a step towards managing “labor forces” each with different needs and characteristics, acknowledge these differences in connection with work policies, training programs and benefits. So a woman whose husband’s company provides health insurance for family, may value benefits other than the health insurance benefit.

This book is not easy reading and you will need to budget couple of sittings to understand and assimilate the content. But then nothing worth having comes easy. It is relevant for managers grappling with various management issues and for management students aspiring to become managers.

FL!P : Book Review: V2 Issue 2

Title: FL!P

Author: Peter Sheahan

Publication details: HarperCollins Publishers, India, April 2008

Number of pages:326 pages

Wondering why your current business idea or career move is not working as well as it used to. Maybe it’s time to flip your thinking on it. Peter Sheahan is the author of the groundbreaking book ‘Generation Y: Thriving (and Surviving) with Generation Y at Work’. And in his new book ‘Flip’ he gives a formula for succeeding in today’s business context by turning everything you know on its head.

The book begins by describing the four forces of change today viz., increasing compression of time and space; increasing complexity; increasing transparency and accountability; and increasing expectation on the part of everyone for everything. These changes require you to reexamine every aspect of running a company to continue being successful.  

The book highlights what today’s successful businesses and ‘flipstars’ such as Richard Branson, Google, Toyota, Rupert Murdoch and Apple have in common. It is an ability to 'flip' conventional thinking about business and then act boldly.  A limit was put by the government on premiums that could be charged. So, Progressive car insurance from offering insurance only to high risk drivers at high premiums started offering insurance to all drivers at widely varying premiums. Most players were talking about work-life balance. But Macquarie Bank during recruitment said, “Say goodbye to your You are not going to see them for ten years. But when you do, you will be rich!” Both companies are highly successful today.

Scattered across the book is counterintuitive wisdom on doing business. To meet expectations about our products or services, just picking being two of the three ie., fast, cheap or good,  is not enough. The book says “Think And, Not Or.” We must pick all three and something more. The more could come from being green, easy, healthy etc. Luxury car Lexus makes things easy for its user by arranging to pick up the car for service, leaving a replacement to use, returning the car clean with chocolates on the front seat and getting free parking. While talking about “To Get Control, Give It Up” the book says “You should tap into the brilliance that individuals don’t work for you have, whether they be customers, bored scientists in academia or teenage kids with an idea about how to advertise your product better”.  Another flip mentioned is “Action Precedes Clarity” ie., acting in spite of ambiguity.

The book also contains valuable conventional wisdom. Design the total ownership experience for customers by incorporating service, form, functionality and story. It talks about how Apple iPod‘s marketing slogan “A thousand songs in your pocket” told the story of what it would do for customers in daily life. What I liked best about the book are the numerous such industry examples ranging from Microsoft to the company dealing with Lonely Planet Travel guide books. It also gives a glimpse of the current business and workplace trends like the use of social networking tools, competing companies working with each other, Gen Y employees seeking more empowerment etc.

The book is full of interesting tips and suggestions. For example the suggestion made in the book for finding new ideas for your product or service ---“…contact with fringe areas of society where new ideas percolate…This is why Nike assiduously tracks trends within minority urban communities, striving to identify what suburban consumers will later buy in even greater quantities.” Each chapter ends with 'to do' lists for readers.

While this book is a must read for business owners, decision makers and marketing professionals, it is also a book for people looking for inspiration to do something different in their lives. I think it is apt to end this review with the words used by the author at the end of the book “Get up off your butt and do something!!!”

The Secret: Book Review; V2 Issue 1

Title: The Secret

Author: Rhonda Byrne

Publication details: Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, Great Britain, 2006

Number of pages: 198 pages

If a book starts with an alluring promise of its contents giving you anything you want: happiness, health, and wealth, it is difficult to resist reading further right?  So not surprisingly I could not stop reading the book ’The Secret’. Rhonda Byrne when faced with a very difficult time in her life learned about ‘The Secret’ and overcame every single one of her difficulties using its principles. In gratitude she created a DVD to share this knowledge. When this DVD became hugely successful she created a book by the same name.

“The Secret is the law of attraction." According to this everything in the Universe vibrates on a particular frequency. When you think in harmony with the frequency of something, you attract it to you. If you think about health, you become healthy. If you think instead about your illness, you become more ill. You attract what you think about. It says “It is impossible to bring more money into your life when you are noticing you do not have enough, because that means you are thinking thoughts that you do not have enough….and you will create untold more circumstances of not having enough money. You must focus on abundance of money to bring that to you.”

And the book tells you how you can find out what you are thinking … “To know what you are thinking, ask yourself how you are feeling…. It is impossible to feel bad and at the same time have good thoughts.”  The steps to utilizing this law in life are simple. Know what you want and ask the universe for it. Feel and behave as if the object of your desire is on its way. Be open to receiving it.

A child cured of Hepatitis, Jack Canfield the author of ‘Chicken soup for the soul’ attaining a hundred thousand dollar a year lifestyle from a eight thousand one, a woman attracting the perfect partner by acting as if she already had one… are all inspiring personal examples cited in the book of the power of positive thinking in the areas of health, money, relationships respectively. It provides various tips for practicing ‘The Secret’. Some of them are using secret shifters like pleasant memories to shift your frequency from negative to positive, being thankful and grateful to all that you have, expecting the things you want, creating your day in advance the way you want it to go. For instance for relationships to improve it talks about not complaining about other people but focusing on what we appreciate about others to get more of that from them.

No doubt it is essentially a beautifully packaged and marketed book with ideas on positive thinking that are centuries old. But then there are some things that we know and still need constant reminding. The principles detailed in it are summarized at the end of each of the chapter for ease of reference. The book has pertinent quotes from many sources and contributors -scientists, doctors, life and business coaches and metaphysicians from both past and present.

One flaw I see in the book is that it does not talk about taking action to improve a negative situation. If I am overweight and I keep overeating instead of moderating my food intake and exercising, I doubt whether I will lose weight. Also it does not make sense that innocent people who are victims of tragedies attracted the same. However, you can neither prove nor disprove the law of attraction. It is something akin to faith. If you do not receive what you asked, you know you did not have enough faith. And only you can know it. No one else can.

There it’s not a secret any longer. But to practice this you need to know its nuances which only the book will give you. From getting a cup of coffee to being cured of cancer, the book claims ‘The Secret’ can work for anything. I am beginning to believe in its power. I tried the book’s principles on a few small things and guess what it worked! So it makes me wonder why it should not work on bigger things. All I need to do is tune my frequency to what I want in life. That’s what I am going to do. What about you?

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish : Book Review; July'08

Title: Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

Author: Rashmi Bansal

Publication details: CIE, IIM Ahmedabad, India, 2008

Number of pages: 325 pages

There is a way to become successful and derive personal satisfaction from your work. Just bring the same kind of energy and passion to your existing job that you see entrepreneurs featured in the book ‘Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish’ exhibit in their work. The book narrates the fascinating stories of 25 IIM Ahmedabad graduates who at some point in their life started their own companies. These entrepreneurs belong to diverse industries like IT, Retail, Finance, Consulting, Agriculture etc and IIMA batches ranging from Class of 1970 to Class of 2004 and they started out at different stages of their careers. The one thing they have in common is their ability to dream big and pursue their dreams.

We get the inside view of how a business like Edelweiss Capital or Mphasis was born and built and in the process we gain an understanding of some of the hardships, experiences, challenges faced by an entrepreneur. Be it the story of Vinayak Chaterjee’s Feedback Ventures morphing from a market research company to India’s leading infrastructure advisory and engineering firm or Deep Kalra’s story of building India’s leading travel portal, each of the stories are equally unique and prove there is no consistent formula or strategy for success. So while small is beautiful without scale the actual vision cannot be realised and while it pays to ride a wave in an upturn, belief in one's ideas is as important to see through the trying times. And yet there are some common threads. The entrepreneurs evaluate “Is the business inherently scalable? Is the market opportunity large enough?” They “... are smart people, they manage the risk-reward equation very well.” They do not give up. They build teams that can sustain the business.

Most of them thought innovatively or differently. Some of them ventured into nascent spheres like schooling (Eklavya’s Sunil Handa), online trading (India Infoline’s Nirmal Jain) etc. Others like’s Sanjeev Bikhchandani and Renuka Sugar’s Narendra Murkumbi, who built wealth for poor farmers, nurtured ideas that were well ahead of time.

The book also looks at alternate models such as social entrepreneurship exemplified by Vijay Mahajan who pioneered the concept of microfinance in India through his organisation ‘Basix’ And then there are those who believe they can be entrepreneurs without necessarily being 'owners’. An example is S B Dangayach who is not the owner of Sintex but works like one in every sense and was behind the iconic Sitnex water tanks.

Written in a conversational format, the author, Rashmi Bansal an IIMA alumnus herself, thinks aloud before having a conversation with an entrepreneur. We then get to hear about the vision, struggle, team building, success story and advice for young entrepreneurs in the very own words of the entrepreneurs. So it’s no surprise that the book is filled with gems like “Become extremely conversant with finance especially if you are going into some form of a fairly complex, large type of operation.”, “Base your business on deep customer insights.”, “There is no point in merely saying we are all a family. We have to believe it, we have to show it, we have to behave, we have to walk the talk.” and “In every business the more you know about the grassroots the better”. With its liberal use of Hindi (“Dil mein Chaah to niklegi raah”) the book makes you feel proud about the fact that it’s not just the story of successful entrepreneurs but Indian entrepreneurs. This is a must read for all young MBA graduates and a “treasure” for all those who are looking for inspiration to counter the feeling of “What I am doing at work is just not enough, But really, what can I do?”


Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking: Book Review; March'08

Title:Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Author:Malcolm Gladwell

Publication details:  Allen Lane, Great Britain, 2005

Number of pages:277 pages

Ever assessed a person the moment you met him and then later found out that the assessment was right. Malcolm Gladwell, the author of the best seller 'The Tipping Point’ writes yet another engaging book ‘Blink’ about how brilliant decisions makers make their judgement in the blink of an eye. It shows how we can hone our instinctive ability in order to become better decision makers in our homes, offices and everyday life.

Blink explores how a part of the brain can leap instantly to conclusions based on very little information. The book opens with the story of a magnificently preserved ancient Greek statue about to be purchased by the Getty Museum in California for about $10 million. After 14 months of investigation, the Getty staff had concluded that the statue was genuine. But an art historian taken to see it, in an instant decided it was fake. Further investigations revealed that the statue had been sculptured by Roman forgers in the early 1980's. The analysts who did research turned out to be wrong. The historian who relied on his initial hunch was right.

In our brains there is, Gladwell argues, a mighty backstage process, which works its will subconsciously. Through this we have the capacity to sift huge amounts of information, blend data, isolate telling details and come to astonishingly rapid conclusions. And the good news is… "The power of knowing, in that first two seconds…. is an ability we can all build for ourselves." The key is to understand and enhance a natural human adeptness at ‘thin slicing’ picking up on patterns in situations based on very narrow slices of experience. Gladwell cites successful people who trust what they know, instead of succumbing to ‘paralysis through analysis.’

What I found interesting is the way people rely on the accuracy of such assessments even when they are dangerously wrong. The book describes this ‘dark side of rapid cognition’ with examples of voters electing Warren G. Harding, one of the worst presidents, because he looked presidential. It also shows how snap decisions can lead us astray if they're rooted, for example, in cultural prejudices with the instance of the New York police shooting and killing an unarmed immigrant because they misread his intentions.

But thankfully the book says that such behavior can be anticipated if it is better understood, and can be modified. ''Every moment -- every blink -- is composed of a series of discrete moving parts,'' he writes, ''and every one of those parts offers an opportunity for intervention, for reform, and for correction.'' And like Galdwell rightly points out "It doesn't seem like we have much control over whatever bubbles to the surface from our unconscious. But we do, and if we can control the environment in which rapid cognition takes place, then we can control rapid cognition. We can protect people fighting wars, or manning emergency rooms….from making mistakes."

Nothing new here I would say, but what is new is the way Gladwell uses fascinating stories to explain his ideas. For instance in an experiment he describes, consumers invited to rank 44 different jams ranked them similar to a panel of food experts. Then another nonexpert group was asked to rank the jams, but with detailed explanations for the ranking. Result: The rankings were drastically different. Gladwell thus justifies the point of how "introspection destroyed people's ability to solve insight problems." Now I know why when I ask my husband “Why do you love me?” he is unable to give an adequate explanation. He just knows. So next time data tells you something and your intuition tells you something else, there is every reason you should explore further. With its blend of anecdotes and academic research Blink is a brilliant book. A book you must definitely read!

The Art of Happiness: Book Review; Jan'08

Title:The Art of Happiness, A Handbook For Living

Author:HH Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler

Publication details:  Hodder and Stoughton, Great Britain, 1998

Number of pages:269 pages

I have a loving family, good friends, interesting job and a nice life. Yet I find myself yearning for that elusive happiness. So this New Year I was delighted to find amazing ideas in the book ‘The Art of Happiness’, for including a ‘happiness’ related resolution. In this book H.H. the Dalai Lama, one of the world’s great spiritual leaders and a Nobel Peace Prize winner in collaboration with a renowned psychiatrist from the West brings to us the key to ever lasting happiness in life. As professionals this is relevant to us because given the pressures and challenges of today’s everyday life we must not only focus on developing ‘work skills’ but also ‘life skills’ to be effective.

The book begins with the assertion that “the very purpose of life is to seek happiness… A state of happiness that remains despite life’s ups and downs…” It discusses the true sources of happiness like inner feeling of contentment, a sense of self worth etc., while illustrating the harmful effects of a comparing mind. Surprisingly rather than just recommending a spiritual path to attain happiness, Dalai Lama takes a rational approach by emphasizing learning and extensive practice ie., systematic training of the mind for happiness by cultivating positive mental states such as forgiveness, by discovering new perspectives, developing flexible thinking, finding meaning in pain and suffering etc.

Principles of Tibetan Buddhism are applied to everyday problems like anger, anxiety, insecurity, loneliness, loss and depression to help achieve balance and complete mental and spiritual freedom. For instance, the book offers chronic worriers this solution: “If there is a solution to a problem there is no need to worry. If there is no solution, there is no sense in worrying either.” While talking about dealing with anxiety Dalai Lama says "If I'm anxious before giving a talk, I'll remind myself … the aim of giving the lecture is to be of at least some benefit to the people, not for showing off my knowledge. So those points which I know, I'll explain....With that motivation, I don't have to worry about appearing foolish or care about what others think of me. So I've found that sincere motivation acts as an antidote to reduce fear and anxiety."

We get to understand Dalai Lama’s beliefs like human nature is predominantly gentle and compassionate. Seeing others around us in this light helps us gain trust in our fellow humans and feel safe and assured, making us feel happier. Much suffering could be eliminated by remembering that while we are all somehow different, fundamentally we are all human.

Through conversations, stories, and meditations Dalai Lama shows us how to ride above life’s obstacles and Cutler substantiates these with his interpretations, scientific evidence and case studies from his own practice. For instance Dalai Lama’s assertion that romantic love is negative is substantiated with the case study of one of Cutler’s depression patients, who after falling in love got better, but got worse when his girlfriend broke up with him.

As the apparently simplistic solutions unfold in the book you realize they are not that simple and slowly but surely a coherent and profound philosophy of living takes shape - having ethical discipline, reaching out to others, understanding and cultivating what gives meaning to our life, basically being a good human being. Different aspects like family, work, relationships, pursuit of wealth etc are discussed. Dalai Lama also gives practical tips like realizing the usefulness of compassion, understanding our dependence on others, maintaining closeness with as many people as possible etc in order to develop warmth and compassion.

May you find happiness after reading the book, for as the authors put it “search for happiness offers benefits not only for individual but for individual’s family and for society at large.”

Now, Discover Your Strengths: Book Review; Nov'07

Title:Now, Discover Your Strengths

Author:Marcus Buckingham, Donald O. Clifton

Publication details:  Pocket books, Great Britain, 2005

Number of pages:262 pages


To motivate your team members to give superior performance you must correct their weaknesses right? Wrong! As per the book “Now, Discover Your Strengths”, focusing on their strengths is far more effective in achieving success than eliminating their weaknesses. Based on interviews conducted by Gallup of over 1.7 million employees the authors introduces a positive approach for discovering, focusing and using strengths and talents to create personal and professional success.

The authors consider the following two assumptions on which they think most organizations are built flawed and provide alternate assumptions they think are right.
“Each person can learn to be competent in almost anything.
Each person’s greatest room for growth is in his or her areas of greatest weakness.”

The statement “Spontaneous reactions, yearnings, rapid learnings and satisfactions will all help you detect the traces of your talents.” is quite useful for zeroing in on our talents. The book maintains that while with sufficient practice we might be able to learn different tasks well, we will never be great in these areas unless we have a natural innate talent for them.

Each copy of the book contains a unique ID code that allows you to take a Web-based interview (StrengthsFinder) that is fairly easy to take. This analyzes your instinctive reactions and presents you with your five most powerful signature themes like Achiever, Activator, Empathy, Futuristic, or Strategic. Once you know which of the 34 themes you lead with, the book shows you how to leverage them for powerful results at three levels: for your own development, for your success as a manager, and for the success of your organization.

The book reinforces a lot of unique ideas first published in Marcus Buckingham’s best selling book “First Break All The Rules”, ideas like manager being the most influential person for an employee’s stickiness to an organization, individualization (treating individual employees differently rather the same way to take care of their individual needs) etc.

It also provides a step by step strength based approach for developing and managing 3 HR processes viz., selection, performance management and career development. Here, I found some of the suggestions to be radical but credible. For instance in performance management system it talks about every manager holding a “strength discussion” rather than a “development discussion” with his team member. While the former is focused on how the employee’s strengths can be utilized at work, the latter typically focuses on areas of improvement. However, industry data of how companies have applied it practically for HR processes and benefited would have been useful for HR practioners.

This resourceful book is easy to read with its short concise chapters, varied examples and interesting case studies.  The report of my signature themes was a little too brief, nevertheless very useful.

If you are wondering is it OK to ignore our weaknesses then do note that the book does acknowledge that any weakness which comes in the way of superior performance needs to be minimized. For instance the book gives the example of Bill Gates. His genius at taking innovation and transforming them into user friendly applications is a “strength” whereas his ability to built an enterprise in the face of legal and commercial assault as compared to his partner Steve Balmer, is not. So he selected Steve Balmer to run the company allowing him to return to software development. Thus, the important message it imparts is…. “Capitalize on your strengths… and mange around your weaknesses.”

The Greatness Guide: Book Review; Jun'07

Title: The Greatness Guide
Author: Robin Sharma
Publication details: Jaico Publishing House, Mumbai, April 2006
Number of pages: 240 pages

Do you want to craft an extraordinary life for yourself? Then ‘The Greatness Guide’ is what you maybe looking for. Robin Sharma, the author of international bestseller ‘The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari’ and one of the world’s top success coaches, in his book ‘The Greatness Guide’ brings together 101 powerful ideas for meeting your highest potential and living a great life.  If you liked Robin Sharma’s other best sellers you will like this book too. I did.

The Greatness Guide has something for everybody - salesmen, CEOs, managers, professionals and even parents. There are several relevant chapters for achieving success at today’s workplaces that will appeal to readers at every level of their careers. There are tactics for achieving peak performance, potent ideas for motivating employees and growing leaders, specific strategies for customer satisfaction and for turning setbacks into opportunities and a whole lot of other stuff. For example in his chapter ‘Sell Your Desk’, he advocates getting out of the office to become a better performer in business.

It is packed with unique suggestions for improving personal effectiveness, being happy and getting more from life. For instance in his chapter ‘Speak like a Superstar’, he says, “Articulate a series of spectacularly positive words…words that you imagine a superstar in your field using…You will discover that speaking these words will make you feel…more passionate. And when you feel great feelings, guess what? You will do great things.”   

Robin Sharma provides several practical suggestions - create personal best practices like repeating success statements throughout the day; commit to surroundings being first class thus feeling like extraordinary before becoming extraordinary; use positive reference points to pull you into new way of seeing things; read books by people you respect to allow some of their brilliance to rub off on you etc.

While a lot of Robin Sharma’s ideas like celebrating one’s blessings or listening twice as much as speaking, are not new, he breathes certain freshness into them. While talking about life’s best pleasures being simple ones he says “Enrich your life with more of them and your heart will be happy. And you can start with sweet breezes.” Or look at the way he highlights the need to schedule things you really want to do in your life. He says, “You can argue that self-development is an essential pursuit to you…Show me your schedule and I’ll discover the truth. Because your schedule doesn't lie.”

From his opening disclaimer “I am no guru” to the very end, challenging us to claim our greatness, Robin speaks from the heart and does not fail to inspire. In the chapter ‘Be wildly enthusiastic’ he says, “I’ll be the first one to agree what you can’t control what happens to you each day. But with abundance of enthusiasm, I have no doubt that whatever the coming hours bring, you will handle them with grace, strength and a smile.” The book makes me want to be first class in my work as well as my personal life and more importantly Robin gives me the confidence that I can.

His use of simple language, catchy titles, short (2 page) chapters and anecdotal style makes it easy and enjoyable reading. Sure, one can finish it in one sitting. But to get the most from the book, read it slowly, taking the time to savor and reflect upon each idea. And like all self help books unless the chapters are reread and the ideas refreshed regularly and applied, the insights may be forgotten. All in all ‘The Greatness Guide’ is an excellent resource for achieving personal and professional mastery!

High Five! The Magic of Working Together : Book Review, Aug'07

I read somewhere the quote, “Divine spark is the difference between a crowd and a team.” from the book ‘High Five! The Magic of Working Together’ and wanted to understand it better.  That was when I read the book. And guess what I found - an inspirational account of how to build teams and what teamwork is all about. . . Drawing inspiration from sports which have produced some superb teams, the best selling authors of ‘Raving fans’ and Gung Ho!’ have spun a stirring tale of creating winning teams.

Alan, a good performer, is fired from work for being a poor team player. As he takes his son to his grade-five hockey practice, it is clear to him that his son's team, also knows nothing about teamwork. The team's coaches persuade him to join them, and ironically Alan finds himself responsible for teaching the players teamwork. What then unfolds is a journey worth emulating. With the help of a former girls' basketball coach, Alan and the team learn the value and power of teamwork.


There are some fundamental lessons of what makes good teams viz., “giving clear sense of purpose” and “continuously building individual skills”. There are valuable tips for good team building like “keeping the accent on the positive” and “repeated reward and recognition”. The book’s essence is captured in the line, “A team is wonderful thing. It allows us to achieve things far beyond our own ability, while at the same time keeps us humble.”I especially Iiked the idea that teamwork not only improves team performance but also improves individual performances.

What is wonderful about the book is the way the four simple techniques for creating great teamwork are illustrated through the trails and tribulations of the characters. There are some lessons which defy logic like having to let go highly skilled but non team players to improve team performance, teams can beat other teams with better performers, you don’t have to win to achieve and reward those who pass balls to others rather than hit goals themselves. The book provides practical suggestions like drawing up a team charter, measuring and comparing skills, not giving any negative feedback, having individual goals, cross training team members etc.

The story is touching, the style is engaging and the applications in an organization context is evident.  It can be read easily and quickly. The story is so charming that you may tend to read it like any other racy novel. But it is just impossible to miss the lessons. When I finished reading the book I desperately wanted to feel the magic of working with a team. I hope you do too.