The Unforced Error: Why Some Managers Get Promoted While Others Get Eliminated Hardcover – 15 Oct 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
What Krames provides in his latest book is a synthesis of everything he has learned from the most highly regarded executives (e.g. Welch) and the most highly regarded business thinkers (e.g. Drucker) as well as from what he has learned during his own career thus far as a senior-level executive in two of the most prestigious publishing houses, McGraw-Hill and then the Portfolio division within the Penguin Group. As the book's subtitle correctly indicates, his purpose is to explain "why some managers get promoted while others get eliminated." He invokes an extended metaphor - the game of competitive tennis - to illustrate several of his key insights. For example, the importance of minimizing (if not totally eliminating) unforced errors that help to explain why most matches as well as most career opportunities are lost. Another key point stresses the importance of "keeping your eye on the ball," competing without allowing any distractions to delay or preclude success.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
What Krames provides in his latest book is a synthesis of everything he has learned from the most highly regarded executives (e.g. Welch) and the most highly regarded business thinkers (e.g. Drucker) as well as from what he has learned during his own career thus far as a senior-level executive in two of the most prestigious publishing houses, McGraw-Hill and then the Portfolio division within the Penguin Group. As the book's subtitle correctly indicates, his purpose is to explain "why some managers get promoted while others get eliminated." He invokes an extended metaphor - the game of competitive tennis - to illustrate several of his key insights. For example, the importance of minimizing (if not totally eliminating) unforced errors that help to explain why most matches as well as most career opportunities are lost. Another key point stresses the importance of "keeping your eye on the ball," competing without allowing any distractions to delay or preclude success.
Years ago, as I began to read self-improvement books such as Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich, Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People, and Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking, I began to formulate a set of questions that I continue to review almost every day:
1. What don't I know but need to know?
2. What haven't I done but need to do?
3. What should I stop doing?
4. What should I begin to do?
5. What should I do less of?
6. What should I do more of?
7. What to delay, for now?
8. What to eliminate from my life?
9. What to avoid?
10. What has changed since I last asked these questions?
Note: Through trial and error while answering these questions, I learned to limit my to only two but preferably only one initiative per answer. I try to work my way through the questions at least once a week and always take brief notes. Priorities change because circumstances change but it is imperative, as Krames frequently stresses in his book, to minimize (if not eliminate) unforced errors (e.g. decisions made in haste, without sufficient consideration) and to be sharply focused on what is most important. Krames and I both agree with Stephen Covey that most executives spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.
Those who have read any of the recently published books based on Anders Ericsson's research on the basis of peak performance (e.g. Geoff Colvin's Talent Is Overrated, Daniel Coyle's The Talent Code, and Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers) already know about the "10,000 Hours Rule": On average, peak performance requires 10,000 of what Colvin calls "deliberate" practice and what Coyle calls "deep" practice, conducted under the rigorous supervision of an expert in the given field (e.g. chess, music, athletics) who also serves as a disciplinarian. Krames addresses these separate but related subjects - rigorous and repetitive practice and under strict supervision - in Chapters 8 ("Why Focusing on Strengths, Not Weaknesses, Wings Games") and Chapter 9 ("Why Learning [from Expert Coaches] is Such a Critical Success Factor"). Once peak performance has been achieved, how to sustain it? Krames responds to that question in his Epilogue, "Beyond the Unforced Error: For Expert-Level Performance, Keep at It." It is worth noting that during Tiger Woods' career thus far, while continuing to win more tournaments in less time than anyone else ever has, he has made major adjustments of his swing mechanics, not once but twice.
Who will derive the greatest benefit from this book? As noted earlier, it offers a wealth of useful information and valuable insights than can be of substantial benefit to almost anyone beyond as well as within the business world. However, I think it offers the greatest benefit to those who are preparing for a career in business or who have only recently embarked upon one. There are no head-snapping revelations, nor does Krames make any such claim. He duly acknowledges all of the sources of wisdom that have been helpful to his own career. Beyond admonitions about avoiding forced errors and hasty judgments, he reveals his pragmatic perspectives when urging his reader to "face reality at all times," to select "partners" in all areas of one's life with great care, to keep in mind The Gambler's strategy to "know when to hold 'em and know when to fold `em," to know the rules and regulations of the given "game" and always "play by them," to assume responsibility and accept accountability, and to seek constant improvement while "watching the whole court" to "protect your flanks." After I re-read this book, I realized that I should re-examine my list of Ten Questions more often because, in all probably, at least a few need to be revised.
You have to learn from your mistakes, develop strong interpersonal skills, remain open to the ideas of others, accept personal accountability, and show powerful initiative. The author also advises you to spend more time developing your strengths rather than trying to fix your weaknesses. Instead, know your weaknesses and try to play to your strengths.
He uses lots of tennis metaphors that really do make sense and his light touch keeps it all from feeling too forced.
A useful and helpful read for anyone trying to develop their career. The younger and earlier in your career you are, the more valuable this book can be to you. If you are older and more experienced, you might want to consider using it in your mentoring work with younger folks on the rise or as a present to a young business person you care about.
Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Ann Arbor, MI.
Some of the most useful info comes on pages 62-63. When senior managers announce a new program at a meeting, it is a bad idea to give any hint that you are not on board 100% with the new game plan. True, these moves can be career-killers...but I'd wonder why the senior exec chose to announce major changes at a big, public meeting. If he or she followed Krames's advice to hire strong subordinates, wouldn't it be appropriate to solicit their opinions?
Another valuable point on pp 67-68 distinguishes personal vs operational values. However, I `d say look at the company's values and see if you agree. For instance, if you work for a soft drink company you will be marketing food that many people believe is unhealthy. Your operational values may need to change but first you need to look at your personal values. It's not just a case of low-end vs high-end, as in Krames's examples.
Most important, nearly every situation can be interpreted in multiple ways. The section on watching the whole court is quite good. I like the advice to avoid office politics but not remain unaware.
However, Krames describes a newspaper editor whose reporters complained about her story decisions. Since her boss said nothing she ignored the complaints. When her boss "promoted" her to a less important job, he cited the complaints as a reason.
However, I can't help wondering if the boss didn't have a hidden agenda. Why did he wait to discuss the complaints with this editor? If he's happy with her work, and only a few people complained, why didn't he divert the complainers or at least discourage them from going over her head? Without being there I'd say you must at least consider the question of sabotage (especially with a female manager).
I'd also wonder about the advice to meet with a boss regularly. My own experience is that bosses don't want too many requests for feedback. You can come across as seeming needy. It's always a judgment call.
The chapter relating to experimentation is good but seems relevant only if you are a CEO. He's talking about company policies rather than individual.
Overall, this book would be a good choice for new managers as well as veterans who want a refresher. I suspect almost everyone will recognize an episode from his or own past and cringe a little while hopefully learning for the future.
That same approach can be applied to practically any other endeavor, especially business, as Jeffrey Krames so skillfully demonstrates in this very helpful and pragmatic book. Avoid the unforced errors, work on your strengths, learn from your setbacks and always strive for better performance. If you can do that in corporate America, you may just survive long enough to have a successful career; but beware, those who feel threatened by you may do everything in their power to undermine you, up to and including, backstabbing you out of a job. Utilizing the sound fundamentals laid out by Krames will give you a solid foundation to succeed.
Nothing's guaranteed in business, but this is as good as it gets to ensuring your long-term prospects.