Frank Sonnenberg’s Managing with a Conscience

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A few weeks ago, Lolly Daskal, Founder of Lead from Within, asked if I would read Managing with a Conscience (2nd end) by Frank Sonnenberg, saying, “His is one of my top books of the year, and i have read many books.” In Managing.., Sonnenberg, formerly the national director of marketing for Ernst & Young Management Consulting, examines nine critical success factors for competing in the 21st century. As he notes, “You won't find these attributes in the annual report because they are intangible and difficult to quantify. But that doesn't make them any less important…”

There was so much to like about Frank's book. In addition to my thinking he'd make a great guest on Real Recognition Radio, and that several of the checklist were the kernels of a great HBR post, here are just few ideas that stood out.

1. Watch for language that stifles creativity. In the chapter, “It's a good idea, but…”, Sonnenberg talks about how we quash innovation via verbal roadblocks. Here are just a few: “What you came up with is ok, but let's do it differently.” “I know there's no reason to have it tomorrow, but I want it then.” Or, “Sorry I didn't review your idea yet. I've seen 50 others like your this week.” If you're like me, I say these at work… I say them even more at home.

Every Word matters Speak Kindly
Source: Shelli Dorfe, Etsy

2. The importance of stories: “Stories are nonthreatening; they expand perception, highlight possibilities, challenge the imagination, and make difficult concepts engaging. Stories help us deal with complex feelings, open us to new relationships, and call us to action. To be effective, stories must include goals reached, aspirations achieved, and dreams fulfilled.”

When I first left Wall Street, I wrote a story, titled “Daughter of the Wind.” Even if I never publish this book, the story will have helped me deal with complex feelings, to make meaning of my life, and to mark a dream fulfilled.

3. Listening: According to Sonnenberg, “Though we spend 45% of our time listening, if report cards were given out, few us would receive a passing grade. Barriers to listening include: assuming a subject is uninteresting and tuning out, focusing on how something is said rather than on what is being said, reacting too quickly before the message is completed, picking up on emotional words and not hearing the rest of the message, listening only for facts, rather than trying to absorb the ideas, allowing yourself to be distracted, and avoiding listening to subjects you don't understand.”

Prior to reading this, perhaps you, like me, thought yourself a good listener, I'm especially guilty of avoiding listening to subjects I don't understand. Well, actually, I could do all of these better, including listening for facts, not just ideas.


  • “A minute can be a lifetime” — @fsonnenberg v @johnsonwhitney
  • “Learn to treat time as personal capital. Invest it wisely.” – @fsonnenberg v @johnsonwhitney
  • “If grades were given out for listening, would yours be passing?” – @fsonnenberg v @johnsonwhitney
  • “Trying to do everything yourself is not good management, it is an addiction.” – @fsonnenberg v @johnsonwhitney
  • “Character in the long run is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike.” – Theodore Roosevelt via @fsonnenberg
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