strategy+business Winter 2013 : Page 84

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 84 First, an individual must practice the right kind of self-talk in advance. This is not the stereotypical Og Mandino/Tony Robbins technique of constantly telling yourself how great you are. The opposite tack—saying “I can’t do this”—is, of course, even less effective. What works best, per Pink, is using an interrogative voice be-fore you undertake the task at hand. For example, ask-ing yourself, “Can I make the head of this division un-derstand what we’re up against?” and then listing the reasons you can do it is the most effective way to estab-lish a buoyant spirit. (The corollary is to remedy any reason that you can’t.) The second step to buoyancy is maintaining a high degree of positivity, a catchall term for a variety of positive emotions. As it turns out, the optimal ra-tio for tapping into the power of positive thinking is three positive emotions for every negative one. Pink illustrates this principle by following the last Fuller Brush Man, Norman Hall, as he makes his rounds. Pink observes that Hall is careful to start his day with a few calls he knows will be friendly in order to put himself in a positive mood. He also takes time to visit with longtime cus-tomers he knows will be glad to see him in order to balance the inevitable situations in which he will be rebuffed or treated rudely. This strategic approach to creat-ing positive experiences can also help managers improve their resilience. The final step is having the right explanatory style—that is, the kind of story you tell yourself to ex-plain what happened when things go wrong. Pink cites an extensive study showing that people who give up eas-ily tend to explain negative events to themselves as per-manent, pervasive, and personal. By contrast, buoyant individuals tend to frame negative encounters as tem-porary, specific, and external. It’s a great technique for anyone who leads. Pink’s chapter on clarity is full of aha! moments, deeply rewarding and persuasively written. He describes techniques for developing effective pitches that go far beyond the elevator standard and offers a Schein-like template for asking better questions in order to get bet-ter results. Full of fresh information and useful insights, To Sell Is Human is timely, original, thoroughly engag-ing, and deeply humane. Get Out of Your Own Way It’s hard to separate Lean In the book from “Lean In” the phenomenon. In an era when the professed goal of every book, article, and tweet is to start a national con-versation, Sheryl Sandberg has succeeded on an unprec-edented scale with a subject that is often addressed as a dutiful afterthought. Women’s leadership has been pro-nounced dead as a topic of interest many times over the last 25 years. Yet with precision, timing, and an extraor-dinary dedication of resources, Sandberg has revived it. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead combines exhortation, analysis, and memoir in ad-dressing the question of why so many women who start their ca-reers with high potential and high hopes fall behind as the years progress, resulting in a continu-ing paucity of women in senior positions. Until recently, this was widely attributed to the lack of a “pipeline,” a problem that, it was assumed, would resolve itself once enough women were hired into management. This has not happened. Although Sandberg recogniz-es that substantial extrinsic obsta-cles stand in the way of women’s success (organizational culture, blatant and subtle discrimination, and, of course, child-care issues), she’s also convinced that internal obstacles (issues related to women’s own thinking and behavior) play a role. This is what she sets out to examine, draw-ing on her own experience and that of other women. She buttresses her observations with well-integrated aca-demic research on such issues as how success and lik-ability are correlated in women (negatively, as it turns out), differences in how men and women perceive their own qualifications for advancement (men rate them-selves more highly even in cases where women signifi-cantly outperform them), and how men and women perceive their employability (dishearteningly, women apply for open jobs only if they think they meet 100 percent of the criteria listed, whereas men apply if they meet 60 percent of the requirements). Such data makes it difficult to argue with Sandberg’s central thesis that strategy+business strategy+business issue issue 73 73 best books 2013 managerial self-help

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