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Leadership Book Review: "The Talent Code" and "Start with Why"

(posted: December 27th, 2011)

Questions: As growing leaders in the business world, we might ask ourselves these questions.

  • Why are some people and organizations more innovative, influential, and profitable than others?
  • Why do some command greater loyalty from customers and employees?
  • Why do some have repeat success?

Question Behind the Questions:

What can we do to enhance this in our organizations?

To continue answering the questions above, we go to another two books in our series called the Leadership Book Review.

Last week I reviewed Good Boss Bad Boss, How to be the best and learn from the worst by Robert Sutton and Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us by Daniel Pink.

This week I have two more amazing books filled with best practices to share.

Leadership Book Review

The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born, It's Grown

by Daniel Coyle


"What is the secret of talent and how do we unlock it?"

This book is not just for leaders. He provides parents, teachers, coaches, and leaders with the tools they can use to maximize potential in themselves and others. I have been using many of the tips with my ten-year old daughter with great success.

Daniel identifies the three key elements that will you allow you to develop anyone important in your life as well as yourself; deep practice, ignition and master coaching.

He explains how to optimize performance to enable his readers to reach their highest potential.

1. Deep Practice

Deep practice is built on the paradox that struggling in certain targeted ways, even when you make mistakes, makes you smarter. It is also built on experiences where we are forced to slow down, make errors, and then correct them. Similar to trying to remembers someone's name whom you have just met, this is how we become great at anything important to us.

When you are practicing deeply, the world's usual rules are suspended. You use time more efficiently and your small efforts produce big, lasting results.

Coyle has three rules:

  • Chunk it up
  • Repeat it
  • Learn to feel it

Daniel includes a lot of research and shares how specific practices can increase skill up to 10 times faster.

2. Ignition

"Every great and commanding moment in the annals of the world is a triumph of some enthusiasm."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Deep practice is not a piece of cake. It requires energy, passion, and commitment.

What ignites progress is a vision of your ideal future selves. When you are truly ignited, this energy and passion makes all the difference.

How can you ignite this in those around you and then keep it going?

A high level of commitment and passion separates the high achievers.

One great take away for me was his highlight of the importance of a vision of our ideal future selves; a vision that oriented energy and accelerated our progress.

How many of you truly have a vision that ignites you? Does it keep your motivational fire lit?

3. Master Coaching

As a leader, do you have the knack for combining these two to grow talent in others?

Naturally this section was my favorite. I wanted to discover his secrets and best practices. When I read, "We started approaching our coaching with the idea of, what would John Wooden do?" I was wowed as he is my coaching idle.

One of Wooden's master teaching techniques is a three-part instruction where he modeled the right ways to do something, showed the incorrect way, and then remodeled the right way. He taught in chunks and ingrained in his players; "don't look for the big quick improvement, seek the small improvement, one day at a time."

"Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are."

John Wooden

He introduces to us the shared characteristics of master coaches and reminds us that everybody needs somebody. Whether it is your star employee or your own son or daughter, we can't do it by ourselves.

Leadership Book Review

Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

by Simon Sinek


What do people like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers have in common? You might think very little as I did before I read this book.

What I now realize is, they had a natural ability to start with why. This has enabled them to inspire those around them to achieve remarkable things.

What do you do as a leader to inspire those around you?

He studies the leaders who have had the greatest influence in the world and shares why. Every leader and company thinks and acts from the inside out. Sinek calls this, "The Golden Circle."

Any individual or an organization can explain what they do, but very few can articulate why.

When Sinek says, "why," he means, "what is your purpose, cause, or belief?"

Leaders, ask yourself this:

  • Why do you exist?
  • Why do you do the things you do?
  • Why do customers buy from you?
  • Why do you get out of bed every morning?
  • Why should anyone care?
  • Do you care?

'''Sinek's Example from Apple:

"Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently., the way we challenge the status quo is my making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly. AND we happen to make great computers. Wanna buy one?"

As a leader, your role is to inspire your followers to achieve remarkable things. People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

Key Concepts:

  • Those who start with why never manipulate, they inspire. And people follow them not because they have to, but because they want to. They give people a sense of purpose or belonging.
  • Studies show that over 80 percent of Americans do not have their dream job. If more people knew how to inspire we could live in a world in which that statistic was reverse; a world where 80 percent of Americans loved their jobs.
  • We are drawn to leaders and organizations that make us feel like we belong, that we are special, safe, and not alone. This is their ability to inspire.
  • If you don't know why you can't know what.
  • In hiring, the goal is to hire those who are passionate about your "why," your purpose, your cause of belief, and those whose attitude fits your culture.

The best engineer at Microsoft would probably not thrive at Apple.

  • There is no difference from an Apple customer and an Apple employee, they all believe in Apple's "why".
  • Average companies give people something to work on, innovative companies give people something to work toward.

Energy excites, charisma inspires.

  • Energy comes from a good night's sleep, or a lot of caffeine. Charisma comes from clarity of why. An ideal bigger than oneself. Charisma inspires.
  • Starting with "why not" does not only help you to know what is the right advice to follow, but also to know which decisions will put you out of balance.

"This is a book for those who want to inspire others and for those who want to find someone to inspire them."

Simon Sinek

  • If you follow your "why," then others will follow you.
Challenge Yourself
  • Do you know your "why?"
  • As a leader, do you have the knack for combining these two to grow talent in others?
  • How can you ignite this in those around you and then keep it going? Do you truly have a vision that ignites you?
  • Does it keep your motivational fire lit?

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