strategy+business Winter 2013 : Page 83

B E S T B U S I N E S S B O O K S 2 0 13 / M A N A G E R I A L S E L F -H E L P dependence on those lower in the hierarchy. Only when leaders are able to overcome their fear of exhibiting such dependence can they allow their curiosity to lead them to vital information. Humble Inquiry redresses this condition by show-ing managers a variety of ways to frame questions to which they do not know the answer. Schein is careful to distinguish humble questions from leading questions, rhetorical questions, embarrassing questions, or state-ments masquerading as questions. He also notes that the burden for asking such questions always falls on the higher-status person in an exchange. Humble inquiry is therefore especially useful as a management practice. Like Peter Drucker, Schein rarely cites or draws from work that is not his own, an approach that para-doxically gives his observations added authority and weight. The methods he sets forth have obvi-ous utility in many situations, but seem particularly useful for orga-nizations undertaking complex initiatives such as culture change. In fact, it’s not extreme to say that no leader should attempt such a venture without first consulting Humble Inquiry. Get Moving In contrast to Schein’s autodidactic reliance on a lifetime of experien-tial learning, Daniel H. Pink con-tinues his own tradition of digging up fresh, pertinent, and provocative research to support virtually every point he makes. In To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others, he builds a strong, clear case that selling, which he defines broadly as “the ability to move others,” has become an essen-tial managerial practice rather than something that only salespeople do. (See “Daniel Pink’s New Pitch,” by The-odore Kinni, s+b, Autumn 2013.) In Pink’s view, selling has become integrated into all kinds of work. This is true in part because more people now work as free agents, subcontractors, and en-trepreneurs, either on their own or in association with a larger entity, and in part because organizations have become much flatter. Flatness erodes functional bound-aries, making job descriptions more elastic. Engineers are “forward deployed” to interact with clients, while computer scientists head into the field to solve customer problems. As a result, the skills of persuasion are needed to support the practice of many kinds of expertise. Yet even as more of us need to integrate sales skills into our managerial repertoire, the nature of what constitutes skilled selling is changing. For instance, information parity is replacing information asymme-try. Such asymmetry historically gave salespeople and managers an edge. But now, Pink notes, both can ben-efit by taking the high road —being honest, direct, and empathetic, and seeking to build relationships for the long term. In a transparent world, where we all have the means to research our choices, Pink says, “Moving peo-ple depends on more sophisticated skills and requires as much intellect and creativity as designing a house [or] reading a CT scan.” The core of To Sell Is Hu-man is a lively section titled “How to Be” that spells out Pink’s new ABCs of selling. Instead of “Al-ways be closing,” the traditional sales mantra, Pink posits a new watchword for moving others: “Attunement, buoyancy, and clar-ity”—an ABC that’s as useful to managers as to salespeople. Describing attunement, Pink steps into Schein’s territory. He of-fers research indicating that people with lower status tend to be keener perspective takers, more cogni-tively attuned to the moods and needs of those with higher status and so better able to discern what will move them. He therefore advocates the strategic assumption of lower status when trying to win someone to your cause. Pink also presents studies upending the conventional wisdom that extroverts are the best at moving others. It turns out that ambiverts—those able to move back and forth between action and reflection—are more skilled at at-tunement because they’re likely to be better listeners than are extroverts. Daniel Pink’s examination of buoyancy is fascinat-ing. He notes that being good at moving others requires great persistence as well as an ability to deal with the discouragement that comes as a result of “wave after wave of rebuffs, refusals and repudiations.” How can we stay afloat amid this ocean of rejection? By drawing on three techniques that social science identifies as most vi-tal for resilience. best books 2013 managerial self-help 83

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