[Note: This is a re-post of my July 10 blog entry, which was lost in a server migration. Apologies!]
We all love secrets and shortcuts to the problems we face as business owners, entrepreneurs, and free agents. And when it comes to the more complex principles and theories of business, we all want someone to cut through all the fancy concepts and buzzwords and tell us what it really means and what we should do.
Enter Business Without The Bullsh*t”: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need To Know, by Geoffrey James. Geoffrey James is an award-winning business journalist whose Sales Source blog is hosted on Inc.com.
What makes this book useful is the fact that James has blended his own experience inside companies with a synthesis of the hundreds of interviews he’s conducted with hundreds of business executives, ranging from “living legends to unknown entrepreneurs struggling with their initial start-ups.”
James makes the point that size and structure of companies are mostly irrelevant when it comes to managing ourselves and others. More than ever, we are each our own boss. So, there’s something for everyone in this book. What’s more, James makes it easy for the reader to pick and choose their area of interest–you don’t read the book cover to cover, you use it in a just-in-time way to help you solve your current challenge.
There are seven parts to the book, each with seven shortcuts. The first four parts focus on getting the most out of everyone you work with, including yourself. The fifth part focuses on the tools you need to pitch your ideas and services. The last two parts deal with “emergencies” and “evil,” the special situations that can put a kink in even your best plan.
It’s these two parts that I found most compelling, mostly because the material in the first five parts, while useful and relevant, I had heard, seen or read before. Here are my favorite “top ten” of the fourteen secrets in parts six and seven:
ON HANDLING EMERGENCIES
Here’s what to do if…
…you’ve screwed up. “Don’t try to fix things immediately,” advises James. “Take some time to think. Remember that eventually nobody will care what happened. Find out how seriously you screwed up. Make apologies but focus on fixing the results.”
…you have a personal crisis. Have a contingency plan. “Get a feeling for how much empathy you’ll get,” James writes. “Make a habit of finishing your projects early, do favors for others that you can call in when necessary.” When a crisis does hit, try to minimize the damage to your work. Above all, do what you must to take care of yourself and know that folks will manage without you.
…there’s a layoff (or shutdown). Recognize the typical warning signs: continued financial loss, rumors and official denials, private equity investment, mergers. “Know when a layoff is coming and plan accordingly,” says James. When you see a red flag, immediately develop some other options. If the layoff happens or the business shutters.That way you won’t panic, and you’ll be able to take action. And, if you’re fortunate to be offered a voluntary severance package, take it.
…if you feel rejected. “Reject only means the other person had different rules,” writes James. Rejection stings because you’ve made the other person too important. Every rejection inevitably move you closer to your goal. This is why sales professionals thrive on objection and rejection.
ON COPING WITH EVIL
Here’s how to…
…thwart dirty office politics.
James covers the nine most common types of dirty pool in business: development opportunities, rock fetches, sacrificial lambs, card-forcing, hiding skeletons, rat-holing a meeting, hijacking a meeting, stealing credit, and throwing banana peels. You’ll recognize each, get a chuckle, and receive spot-on advice for dealing with each.
…cope with management fads.
Managers love silver bullets and programs du jour. James delightfully punches holes in the most prevalent. Six Sigma “creates busybodies; ignore them until they go away.” Reengineering “means layoffs; activate your escape plan.” Matrix management “is endless turf warfare; wait it out.” Core competency “means one group gets favored; get yourself assigned to it.” Best practices “is imitating old strategies; praise the strategy, then ignore it.” Restructuring “means a new manager; impress him [or her] by achieving a goal.”
…spot a workplace lie.
According to James, there are four kinds of workplace lies. Bald-faced lies are when the liar knows A to be true, but instead claims that B is true. “This is the classic lie,” writes James. “The rest are more subtle.” With half-truths the liar technically tells the truth, but only those parts of it that will mislead the other person. Then there are indirect lies, in which the liar technically tells the truth by attributing the lie to some other source. Finally, the bogus statistic, where the liar encapsulates a numerical truth in a way that it will probably be misconstrued. You’ll love the sample dialogue James provides both on recognizing the lie, and then handling it.
…recognize the the eight lies most bosses tell.
There are some special lies bosses tell, and James translates them for the reader:
- “We can’t pay you more.” Truth: your salary isn’t a priority.
- “Your raise is above average.” Truth: you probably got stiffed.
- “We’re one big happy family.” Truth: this place is totally dysfunctional.
- “There’s no truth to the layoff rumor.” Truth: a layoff is imminent.
- “My hands are tied.” Truth: I’m unwilling to fight for what you want.
- “You’ll be working 40 hours a week.” Truth: you will have no personal life.
- “Your response will be confidential.” Truth: it will be used against you.
- “Your participation is voluntary. “Truth: your participation is mandatory.
…know when it’s OK to lie to the boss.
James acknowledges up front that this chapter might seem to be the book’s antithesis. “However, there is a social contract between human beings: don’t lie to me and I won’t lie to you. In business that contract is often see as working only one way: a boss can lie but an employee can’t. And that’s the real bullsh*t.”
And the seven times? When your job entails lying to the public, when the boss wants you to rat out your coworkers, when you’re actively looking for another job, when the boss cracks a bad joke (laugh anyway), when the boss punishes people who tell the truth, when the boss really, really needs you to keep the truth private, and when the boss pries into your private life.
If you’re tired of all the mumbo jumbo in your company, pick up Business Without The Bullsh*t.