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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. ;>)

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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…)

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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.

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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.

Accountable

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…)

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Transparent Leadership | Are you sharing or hoarding? | R.E.S.P.E.C.T

This 7-part weekly Leadership series is about R.E.S.P.E.C.T. - How to get it by earning it!

The RESPECT Series

The ability to earn R.E.S.P.E.C.T. is a critical Leadership requirement … and we have absolute control over the actions we take to earn it.

It’s also the “centerpiece of accountability“, a concept that vexes even the most astute business leaders.

Since it’s impossible to be an effective leader without gaining respect, let’s devote some time and energy to learn how to give it … to get it. Are you with me?

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The RESPECT SeriesAre you sharing or hoarding information?

When I began my business career in the 1970s, the word “transparency” was not in the business lexicon.

You knew what you were told … and you were told what someone thought you needed to know … but it was unlikely that you’d hear much about where the company was going or your role in it.

Prior to starting my own company in the early 1980′s, I can’t recall a single company-wide meeting at any of the companies where I worked … or any general discussion of the company’s performance or strategy.

Is there any doubt about the Power of Transparency?

What exactly is Transparency, the last letter … “T” = Transparency … in our 7 part R.E.S.P.E.C.T. series?

It doesn’t necessarily mean opening the kimono or letting everyone ramble around backstage. It doesn’t mean (more…)

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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. ;>)

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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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Accountability | How to earn a boatload of R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

This 7-part weekly Leadership series is about R.E.S.P.E.C.T. – How to get it by earning it!

Over 7 Wednesdays in January and February, I’ll describe 7 remarkably simple components of R.E.S.P.E.C.T. that you can apply to your everyday conduct. The ability to earn R.E.S.P.E.C.T. is a critical Leadership requirement … and we have absolute control over the actions we take to earn it. It’s also the “centerpiece of accountability“, a concept that vexes even the most astute business leaders. Since it’s impossible to be an effective leader without gaining respect, let’s devote some time and energy to learn how to give it … to get it. Are you with me?

So far in our R.E.S.P.E.C.T. series, we’ve discussed the “R”: Right on Time, Every Time; the E: Every call returned in 24 hoursS“:say something nice like Mom taught us; and “P” = Praise more and blame less. Last week we talked about how important it is to be “E” = Easy to work with.

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Are you a compassionate leader?

Compassion has a lot of definitions, depending on who you ask.

Dictionaries refer to feelings of sympathy and sorrow.

Others call it an awareness of someone else’s plight. But virtually all definitions add another dimension …  the desire to alleviate the distress.

For too many executives … I’ll include myself in more prehistoric days … compassion is limited by what works best for the business.

But that’s not compassion … it’s expedience. We’ve talked about lessons that Mom taught us … and we’ve always known that acting with compassion, politeness or kindness is easier when there is no “cost” or inconvenience.

Compassion is “all in” or nothing

Compassion is embedded in your character … not an instrument to pull from the tool kit when it’s convenient.

All of us know compassion when we see it … (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…)

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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.

(more…)

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