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Archive | February, 2011

Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction | Tom Clancy returns

FRiction FRiday | Tom Clancy is Back | Dead or Alive

Wow, FRiction FRiday is here again? How did I get stuck with all of these tire stoppers anyway? Yeah, I know I got a break with Jack Higgins 18th Sean Dillon novel, The Judas Gate … always a quick but fun read … but before that, Ken Follet’s Fall of Giants was almost 1,000 pages … and now Dead or Alive is 850pp? How can I finish one of these every week, I mean, I’ve got to work for living … don’t I? Yes, Lary, you do!

I’m glad you’re here, though … and don’t worry if it seems like you landed on the wrong planet. Sword Tips is still about Building a Business and improving your leadership performance, productivity and success … but we also take a little time every FRiction FRiday to have a little fun and settle in for the weekend by uncovering a few more of our favorite Mystery-Thriller-Suspense novels.

[All names in Bold Italic … BLACK for authors, titles in GREEN, characters in ORANGE … except URL references in RED.]

By the way, make sure you sign up to get all of these and other updates sent directly to your inbox every week. Jump in to add your comments and questions, too, so we can share what we know and what we’d like to know. Remember, we don’t have to agree … I fully respect your right to be dead wrong! Just kidding … kind of. ;>)


Dead or Alive? Usually, pretty dead!

I’m almost halfway through Tom Clancy’s Dead or Alive, his first novel in 10 years. It brings back Jack Ryan, now a retired U.S. President along with various members of Rainbow 6, the efficient but deadly special ops team formed many books ago. Dingo and Chavez and their brethren are in the same Sean Dillon strain of “take no prisoners”.

Once again, it’s refreshing to see how quickly conflicts get resolved without psychobabble and political mumbo-jumbo. Get er’ done and move on. We don’t get to do too much of that in real life, do we? … but it’s a delicious delicacy, isn’t it, to see how much gets done when you follow the straightest line between two points without fanfare, distraction or PC worship.

The “4 Corners of the Globe” Plotline

Speaking of the “shortest distance between two points”, (more…)


Productivity Tip: Still struggling with Accountability? Who’s on first?

A Weekly Personal Productivity series to help you get more done!

Every Thursday, I’m sharing a new Personal Productivity Tip to help you get more done. Each Productivity Tip is a remarkably simple tool or concept that can be quickly implemented to make a real difference in your personal productivity. When you apply many of them together, they’ll make a big difference in improving productivity, achieving accountability and staying focused on the things that matter the most in your life.

You may want to check out some of the posts in this Productivity series, including the the value of checklists; the importance of getting rid of the crappy stuff;  the nightmare of the cluttered mind; and the 4 Do-or-Die Principles to Drive your Personal Productivity System.


Last week, we dusted off the S.M.A.R.T acronym as a reminder that we need to create Specific, Measurable, Agreed Upon, Realistic and Trackable objectives if we want to create a business culture with accountability as its centerpiece.

There is simply no shortcut or substitute for the genuine productivity that results when we SET CLEAR EXPECTATIONS.

Today, we’re going to dust off another “oldie but goodie” but one that many of you may have never encountered.

I learned it from some old consulting hands and while it’s often used in a formal chart of “who’s supposed to be doing what,” it’s a valuable accountability tool to evaluate the roles and responsibilities of individuals involved in any kind of team effort or project.

What is an ARCI chart?

In short, it qualifies team members based on their expected level of contribution to a project. Different parties play different roles to get things done, and this tool provides a simple, effective and consistent way to achieve project accountability by evaluating who’s doing what.

By spending just a little time to establish these roles, you will once again, SET CLEAR EXPECTATIONS. It will also help your team members understand their roles and what’s expected of them in a particular project. Read on to learn about each of these four roles.


In short, the buck stops here. This team member has ultimate accountability for accomplishing the objective. Since “if you have two bosses, you have none”, (more…)


Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction | Would the real Sean Dillon please stand up?

FRiction FRiday | Jack Higgins | The Judas Gate

Wow, is it FRiction FRiday already? They sure seem to come up fast … even though some weeks are pretty long … so let’s kick up a few more rocks and talk some fiction about our favorite mystery-thriller-suspense novels. [All names in Bold Italic … BLACK for authors, titles in GREEN, characters in ORANGE … except URL references in RED.]

I’m glad you’re here, but don’t worry if it seems like you landed on the wrong planet. Sword Tips is still about Building a Business and improving your leadership performance and productivity … but we also take a little time every FRiction FRiday to have a little fun and prepare for the weekend by uncovering a few more of our favorite Mystery-Thriller-Suspense novels.

By the way, don’t forget to sign up to make sure you get all of these and other updates sent directly to your inbox every week. Make sure you add your comments and questions, too, so we can share what we know and what we’d like to know. Remember, we don’t have to agree … I fully respect your right to be dead wrong! Just kidding … kind of. ;>)


Sean Dillon is finally back in action

What does a Walther PPK and a glass of Bushmills have in common? Sean Dillon. You’ll recall that Dillon, former IRA enforcer and now protecting the Queen’s realm, is one of our Top Ten Characters. Jack Higgins introduced Dillon in Eye of the Storm in 1992, and The Judas Gate is #18 in the series.

Higgins has created a powerful, “take no prisoners” character in Dillon and when you think about it, (more…)

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Want to Build Accountability? Get S.M.A.R.T.

Set Clear Expectations using S.M.A.R.T. guidelines

When I talk to executives every day, there’s hardly a conversation that doesn’t include the same 2 things: “Why aren’t I getting more done?” … and “Why aren’t my people getting more done”?

There are several simple and proven leadership tools that can save your bacon many times over. This one is kind of an “oldie but goody” so you’ve probably seen it around. If you’re saying, “that old thing again”, I’ll give you 5-1 if you can come up with something better for setting goals and objectives.

The question is … have you really used it?

Why aren’t our people getting more done?

As with the common cold, there’s probably no cure … but there are some things we can do to manage the symptoms. (more…)

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Leadership Styles: The Smartest Guys in the Room can kill you!

When a fellow says it hain’t the money but the principle o’ the thing, it’s th’ money.” — Frank McKinney

‘Always ask why.  Dig deeper.  Get the facts.’ Avoid the crowd mentality

“Ask Why” was their motto.

“Wheel Out,” “Fat Boy” “Death Star” and “Get Shorty” were some of the nicknames applied to their strategies.

Confirmation letters of successful trades were addressed to names like “Mr. M. Yass and “Mr. M. Smart” … and I think you can parse the underlying contempt.

“Rank & Yank” described their people performance system, “Pump and Dump” their trading strategy.

About $70 billion of market value was destroyed, more than 20,000 employees lost their jobs and pension funds worth $3.2 billion were destroyed, more than two thirds of which belonged to retirees with little chance to rebuild.

I had always intended to watch “The Smartest Guys in the Room,” the 2005 movie based on a book by the same name from co-authors Peter Elking and Bethany McLean, but it got lost in the shuffle until last week.

It chronicles the Enron cataclysm, whose meteoric ascent was violently terminated with its bankruptcy on Dec. 3, 2001.

“Be like Enron” is still an ignominious curse

It’s hard to believe this happened almost 10 years ago since to be “like Enron” still reverberates as an ignominious curse. It’s really more like a viral infection, though, because so many of the forces that drove its destruction have cleaved similar fissures in scandals from (more…)


FRiction FRiday | Great Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction | Ken Follett, Fall of Giants

Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants

If you’re any kind of a history buff … and enjoy fiction in this Mystery-Thriller-Suspense genre, you’re already familiar with Ken Follett, who we discussed briefly last week.

As usual, Follett delivers another great historical epic across the landscape of World War I. His characters are richly nuanced, the story sweeping across generations of 4 families including coal miners and aristocrats in England, factory grunts in Russia and a young American advisor to President Woodrow Wilson. All of the usual mischief … betrayal, espionage, adultery, conspiracy, scandal … is woven into the household and the battlefield.

Another great historical epic in Fall of Giants

Fall of Giants, Ken FollettFor many of us, American history is full of fascinating character studies and monumental events that have shaped the modern world. There are many extraordinary periods in the last few centuries. One is the Revolutionary War era during the late 1700’s, if only for the rich personalities and history-making ideas that dominated the period leading up to and beyond the signing of the Constitution. The other period is from World War I, known then as the Great War, which began in the summer of 1914, through to the end of World War II in 1945.

Did you know that over 75 million people died in those two World Wars?

Think about what happened during this 30 year period. (more…)

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Productivity Tip: The 8 Most Powerful Letters in the Productivity Toolkit

How many words do you think it takes to describe the most important productivity tool of all?

A few paragraphs … a few sentences … maybe just a few words?

Actually, it’s only two words … and 8 letters … and if you follow them religiously, you’ll accomplish more than you thought possible.

Here’s an extract from what I said about it in my newspaper column last year, If you do nothing else, follow up:

Follow up is continually seeking progress on established initiatives.

If you’re watching timelines … the period during which a project or task is being done … rather than the deadlines by when they’re due … follow up might be seen as nothing more than shepherding a project to a successful conclusion.

There are some ancillary, yet powerful benefits to a good follow up system. (more…)

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FRiction FRiday | Great Mystery-Thriller-Suspense fiction | Ken Follett

Recently, we extolled the prodigious talent of James Lee Burke, a royal member of the mystery-thriller-suspense genre and last week identified the Edgar Award nominees for the Best Novel of the Year for 2011.

By the way, don’t forget to sign up to make sure you get all of these and other updates sent directly to your inbox every week.

[All names in Bold Italic … BLACK for authors, titles in GREEN, characters in ORANGE … except URL references in RED. No affiliate links except trial Amazon widget.]

Now Reading ….

I knew this was going to happen … which is I’m falling behind in my fictional pursuits, er, pursuits of fiction. Why? I’m still stuck about 3/4 finished with Ken Follett’s WWI novel, Fall of Giants, the first of a planned trilogy about 3 generations of families. This is another long one but I’ll finish it this weekend. He’s truly a great story teller, so if you haven’t read his most popular novel, Pillars of the Earth, it’s never too late to miss this phenomenal story.

When you see that it’s 1,000 pages in hardback, don’t start groaning.


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Productivity Tip | One Simple Tool to Overcome Brain Freeze

 Checklists? You mean those lists I prepare each day that don’t do anything to help my productivity? Thanks, but I don’t really need to know more about them!

Or do you mean those checklists that airline pilots use to keep me from getting killed? Now, those I like. I like the ones that keep doctors from getting me killed, too.

Checklists are invaluable

In the Value of Checklists, I discussed The Checklist Manifesto, a book by Atul Gwande inspired by issues found in operating rooms, but expanded to the many areas where simple checklists enhance productivity and eliminate errors and oversights.

Be sure to check this out to see how by adding a simple 5 step checklist, a hospital reduced the level of infection related to IV tubes in the operating room from 11% to zero.

It’s making the world of medicine safer

The prestigious New England Journal of Medicine also published a study showing the safety value of a surgeon’s checklist.

Checklists won’t solve everything.

They aren’t terribly productive for To Do lists, for example, although that’s probably the first list people think of.

It’s a longer discussion for another post, but there is simply too much arranging and re-arranging, rescheduling and re-ordering to make To Do lists a very valuable productivity tool if they’re being kept on a simple checklist.

What are the 4 Keys to a Powerful Checklist?

HR departments use checklists to onboard new employees so nothing is left out, particularly those pesky government forms that damn well better be in the file when Uncle Sam comes a’knockin’.

Accounting departments use a monthly closing checklist to be sure that when the books are closed for the period, nothing is left out.

There are countless uses for checklists but I think they are the most useful when they include these 4 components: (more…)

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Do you have a Battle Plan – or is Hope your only Strategy?

Most of us weren’t around during World War II … but D-Day was the largest amphibious invasion of all time, with over 250,000 troops and 15,000 ships landing along a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast on June 6, 1944. Luck? Accident? … or the result of rigorous strategic planning and project management?

Did General Eisenhower, the Allied Supreme Commander, lead this effort without any planning?

Of course not, and even if our business plans aren’t quite as extensive, we know (deep down, we know for sure) that we need some sort of an organized planning process to build a successful business.

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower, (American 34th President (1953-61). 1890-1969)

We need to make sure that everyone’s headed in the same direction … that we don’t ignore the obstacles or overlook the great opportunities on the road ahead … or don’t squander valuable resources chasing rainbows.

That’s why you should listen to our 5-part podcast series that demystifies planning and describes a simple discipline to get you started.

Do I really have to plan to have a successful business?

I find myself using General Eisenhower’s phrase repeatedly for at least two reasons … it’s true … and (more…)

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