Widgets: The 12 New Rules for Managing Your Employees As If They’re Real People – Rodd Wagner


I recently had the opportunity to attend a presentation and book signing by Rodd Wagner for his newest publication, Widgets. Wagner’s presentation flowed in a similar way to his book and he began with the rationale behind his title in which he cited several examples where employees aren’t referred to as people (ex: assets, [human] resources, [human] capital, etc.) and continued with the ways that his book will help those in leadership positions begin to think of their employees as real people, and it all starts with engagement. Wagner defines employee engagement as the intensity employees put into their work, balanced with the company’s investment in their employees. “Reciprocity is the most important concept for any leader seeking to motivate his or her employees.”

Widgets addresses issues of “individualization, fearlessness, pay, well-being, and enjoyment of time on the job” in 12 new rules for engagement. The first rule, Get Inside Their Heads, discusses the power of individualism. There is an emphasis in this rule on looking at employees as more than just a cog in the company’s machine. Skipping to the fourth rule, Help Them Thrive, a disconnect is revealed between companies pushing and supporting their employees. There is a mixed message being communicated – take care of yourselves (health, needs, etc.), but get all of your work and responsibilities done.

Let’s jump to the eighth rule, See Their Future. This rule emphasizes the need for employees to feel a sense of trust with the company for which they’re working. Some type of positive reciprocity or advancement in the company reinforces trust. The twelfth and final rule, Take It to Extremes, speaks to two reasons behind employees having the work intensity that their employers desire. The first is reciprocity that has been discussed within previous rules, and the second is a personal sense of accomplishment. This second reason is where companies often forget that company goals are not the same thing as personal accomplishments.

Overall, Widgets balances easy-to-relate, engaging examples, with insightful explanations of how to develop yourself as a leader, by ultimately making your employees happy. One last value that Rodd Wagner adds is a FREE self-assessment at WidgetsTheBook.com that provides test-takers with a New Rules index and advice on how to take charge of your life at work.

Widgets: The 12 New Rules for Managing Your Employees As If They’re Real People

7 Talent Strategies for High Performing Team – Patrick Antrim


Patrick Antrim’s book is both helpful and engaging. Not only does this book feature chapters that are short and to the point, but it also provides a helpful guide for those seeking to foster exceptional talent and a high performing team. While Antrim’s background didn’t begin in what’s normally considered a traditional business role, he applied the knowledge and experience he had with the NY Yankees to companies and the internal customer. “Developing success with this customer will attract and retain the external customer, the people that buy our products and services.”

 7 Talent Strategies speaks to initial recruitment, the candidate experience, selection assessments, onboarding, leadership, and employer branding. Antrim does not spend time discussing unnecessary specifics, but provides insight and an overview of how a leader should think of these different areas during the acquisition process. The overall goal of each area is putting the candidate first and really trying to find a good culture and relationship fit. In the last chapter of this book, Antrim lists 3 steps, or pieces of advice, to be the employer of choice for job seekers. Overall, it is an excellent resource for leaders and companies who are designing their acquisition process and redesigning their company culture.

7 Talent Strategies for High Performing Teams: Talent Acquisition, Leadership & Culture Strategies for High Performing Teams

The Corporate Culture Survival Guide – Edgar Schein

schein book

Reviewed by: Sierra Williams

The Corporate Culture Survival Guide by Edgar Schein is an interesting read for managers who want to gain insight and transform corporate culture. This book contained real life examples that conveyed organizational culture in an easy to understand manner. Schein also does a good job detailing how culture can fluctuate negatively and positively during a merger or acquisition.

Schein begins with several culture lessons from companies such as, Atari, Apple, IBM, DEC, Proctor & Gamble, and Acme Insurance. These examples give insight on mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures and how to successfully merge when two company cultures collide. He goes on to explain the importance of mergers and understanding what stage a company is currently in. This will most likely be a mirror reflection of what stage the culture is in. Schein gives 3 examples, start ups, midlife and old dinosaurs. Each of these stages requires a different approach when considering a successful merge or join, which Schein outlines.

The Corporate Culture Survival Guide lists several recommendations from a culture and design context that can be given to a new business or someone looking to start an organization. The primary focus of these should be on the goals, vision and mission of the organization. Once those are established, executives and mid level managers are walked through how to develop a transparent culture that will be well accepted among employees and have the potential to grow if handed off to other potential leaders.

Overall, The Corporate Culture Survival Guide gives valuable information that can be applied throughout an organization at any cultural level. Additionally, many of the concepts can be extended to apply to everyday life. These concepts are understood subconsciously, however we do not become aware of them in an organization unless a problem occurs. The levels of culture, artifacts, espoused values and shared tactic assumptions are vital aspects in discovering what is important to an individual and/or organization. The three stages of an organization, startups, midlife and old dinosaurs, are equally vital aspects during cultural impacts. This is a great read for anyone interested in becoming culturally aware of unconscious aspects that take place in a corporate setting.

The Corporate Culture Survival Guide

The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age – Casnocha, Hoffman, and Yeh

the alliance

The Alliance provides many useful frameworks, templates, and advice for how to think of employment as an alliance. Casnocha, Hoffman, and Yeh explain this concept further with examples, insight from others, and personal strategies throughout eight chapters. After addressing where the employer-employee relationship has fallen short, they continue on to their concept of the “alliance”. This “alliance” is a mutually beneficial deal, with explicit terms, between both managers and employees.   Both managers and employees can speak openly and honestly about the investment the company is willing to make in the employee and the type of growth and investment the employee is willing to make in the company.

After addressing the beginning of the employee life cycle, Casnocha, Hoffman, and Yeh go on to focus on development and retention. They use the example of military tours of duty to explain ways that employees should take on a number of projects during the course of their work at an organization. Throughout these “tours of duty” chapters, there is an emphasis on developing alignment between the company’s purpose and values and the employee’s career purpose and values. Following this up, Casnocha, Hoffman, and Yeh bring the conversation around to utilizing employee network connections and implementing network intelligence programs to continue to expand recruiting through networking and provide feedback to employers. The Alliance concludes with a discussion on ROI, the benefits of investing in an alumni network, and how to establish a comprehensive the exit process.

Throughout this book, the authors make a point to include an “advice to managers” section at various points, which highlight specific steps, tips, or recommendations about that section that may be helpful for managers trying to apply these concepts.

It is as Rich Lesser, the CEO of The Boston Consulting Group emphasized, “You hire the best people you can possibly find. Then it’s up to you to create an environment where great people decide to stay and invest their time”.

The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age (Amazon)

Ready to Be a Thought Leader: How to Increase Your Influence, Impact, and Success – Denise Brosseau


Ready to Be a Thought Leader is a “how to” guide to accelerate the way leaders inspire others and add value to the world. According to Brosseau, a thought leader builds visibility, credibility, and a platform to have a meaningful impact on others. They are trusted go-to people in their field of expertise and understand the importance of story-telling, engaging others, and connecting with people by sharing how they overcame obstacles. Thoughts leaders do not hesitate to give praise to others who have had successes as well. In addition to connecting positively with others, thought leaders strive to change the world in meaningful ways and inspire others to do the same. As Guy Kawasaki states in the foreword, “True thought leaders have expertise, passion, and a track record of changing the world”.

Brosseau’s book is well structured, descriptive, and full of additional resources to advance leaders at any stage of their careers. Brosseau organizes this book into seven major chapters, or “steps to thought leadership”. The first three focus on building your niche and “what-if future”. Chapter four identifies the importance of soul-searching and overcoming fears. While chapter four is about gaining insight, chapter five instructs on how to create a blueprint for others to follow. In chapter six, Brosseau uses an acronym, SHOUT, to explain the steps in getting the word out. SHOUT stands for Select your audience and venue, Hone your message, Overcome resistance, Understand potential pitfalls, and Transform individuals into a community. The steps to thought leadership conclude with chapter seven, which is about creating and nurturing your community.

Throughout each chapter, Brosseau does a good job of engaging the reader through the use of little tasks to complete on the side while reading. While some chapters may seem basic if you’re already well established, others may be helpful to revisit periodically to codify your blueprint for connecting with others and becoming a thought leader, which is what Denise Brosseau hopes to accomplish with Ready to Be a Thought Leader.


It’s Not the How or the What but the Who: Succeed by Surrounding Yourself with the Best – Claudio Fernández-Aráoz


Claudio Fernández-Aráoz’s book is organized into six distinct parts.  The first highlights the importance of insight into our own biases, the second focuses on making the most out of opportunities, while the third concludes with the selection of the right people and skills.  Fernández-Aráoz goes on to address the importance of training and development in part four and then uses the fifth part to discuss engagement and design of a great team.  He concludes with part six which advises a “pay it forward” strategy to influence organizations.  Each section of this book addresses a different aspect of performing as a leader and managing talent.

Fernández-Aráoz refers to the “WYSIATI” take on decision-making periodically throughout this book.  WYSIATI stands for “What you see is all there is” and this automatic train of thought is a major hindrance for leaders.  Innately we all prefer others that look or behave as we do and have to constantly remember to look deeper into complimentary skills and backgrounds that lead to the most success.  This is the fundamental basis for the way things have always been done, however Fernández-Aráoz attempts to contest this.

Throughout this book, Fernández-Aráoz provides numerous examples that challenge popular views on recruiting the right candidates and the benefits of diversifying the workforce and executive team.  This book is most useful for leaders who are developing a more productive and successful workplace and walks them through key pieces of the onboarding process.  “The three most important competencies in the real world are managing human capital, managing decision-making processes, and managing strategy and innovation” and Fernández-Aráoz walks the reader through these three competencies with his examples and techniques for focusing on the WHO.


Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say, and Do – Kathryn D. Cramer

Lead Positive

Lead Positive builds on the fundamentals of Asset-Based Thinking and expands into three distinct steps toward driving positive change.  This book breaks down these three steps and organizes the book into three corresponding parts.  The first part, “See”, is full of strategies that assist the reader in focusing their mental attention on what has worked well in the past, what opportunities lie in the present, and what positive goals can be envisioned for the future.  The second part, “Say”, identifies plans for inspiring, engaging, and communicating effectively with others by promoting meaningfulness and consistently.  The third part, “Do”, concentrates on using the “See” and the “Say” to drive positive change and leverage leadership presence when influencing others.  Chapter 12 describes seven key behaviors for transformational change and strategies for applying this to every stage of the change process that Kathryn Cramer developed.  Throughout the stages of change and the “See, Say, and Do” process, there is a large emphasis on personal insight and without it, a leader cannot expect to communicate, motivate, or develop effective employees.

This book is well written and reads easily.  Kathryn Cramer does a wonderful job of stressing the importance of focusing on the positive and possibilities, over problems.  The alignment of the “See, Say, and Do” method with leadership effectiveness is spot on.  Cramer uses neuroscience, psychology and case examples to back up her techniques, which provide a clear and unique roadmap for leadership transformation.


Strengths Finder 2.0 – Tom Rath


Strengths Finder 2.0 is a revamped edition of Gallup’s Now, Discover Your Strengths.  Not only does this book highlight the importance and benefits of focusing on one’s strengths, but it also includes an assessment that finds and applies your top five strengths.  Having a background in Psychology has allowed me to see how focusing on strengths and positive attributes can lead to higher levels of confidence and productivity.  Tom Rath explains this philosophy well throughout the first part of the book and uses the rest of the book to describe the 34 strength themes, give examples of each, suggest action plans, and provide tips on how to work with others who have strong talents in each theme.

This book not only benefits those who want to discover and develop their own strengths, but also helps friends, colleagues, or employees build on their natural talents.  This book is great for first-time readers and those who may need to revisit it.  I will end this review with a powerful quote from Tom Rath’s book: “You cannot be anything you want to be – but you can be a lot more of who you already are.”