The Buzz

Not sure I ever gave you a final report, but I thoroughly enjoyed the read. Lots to think about in there, especially If you complete the couple of assessments honestly. Wish I'd seen this earlier in my career - I'd have taken different approaches to certain challenges.

Steve Swofford - Alabama Credit Union

The list of available books on leadership and transforming organizations is quite long, and while Evolutionaries joins the list, it strikes out on a new and different path—it is at once part of that literature and the start of a different literature. Evolutionary leaders—and here the term “leader” is used in a broader sense than usual—are the planners, the guides, the innovators, and the communicators who can lead an organization through times of transition. And we are forewarned: unless adaptation and innovation are what are needed, evolutionary leadership is not what the organization needs.

Evolutionaries is a well-grounded book, filled with interesting self-tests. At the outset, the reader is asked to gather data to answer questions such as, “do you need an evolutionary?,” and “are you an evolutionary?” Evolutionary leaders evolve, and the book defines the dimensions of evolutionary leadership and guides readers in developing their own potential for functioning as an evolutionary leader. (One of the most interesting self-analysis surveys focuses on the reader’s communication orientation: evolutionaries communicate in ways that are direct, situational and bonding, and the quiz provides data for self-analysis, followed by the weak and strong points of each style.)

I don’t want to give away too much of the short (134 pages) book—although no summary of the content could suffice. No, this is a book to be experienced, to read as if you are a participant in a challenging, engaging, groundbreaking workshop.

Evolutionaries is filled with a running dialogue with several people identified by the authors as evolutionary leaders—people in real organizations doing real work in the real world (e.g., CEOs, Executive Directors, and a captain assigned to SEAL TeamONE). There are few “hypotheticals” in this book; rather, the examples offered and the research cited ground the principles and recommendations and make them imminently practical. One of the evolutionaries recommends being aware of the moment when “It’s time to break the engineers’ pencils,” when the time comes to risk leaping forward before the engineers are satisfied that every i is dotted and every t crossed.

How is Evolutionaries a terrific example of what it describes? This book offers an approach that is itself transformative. Consider that the usual approach to assessing good leadership requires little more than an examination of the “bottom line.” Good evolutionary leadership is much more. In a fascinating section on “Meta-Planning,” the authors describe a technique in which an organization’s entire ecosystem—the contexts in which the organization is situated—are brought into the planning process, resulting in plans that have the potential to change not only the organization, but the industry and the community and beyond the community. This is not your usual book on leadership!

Evolutionaries concludes with two chapters unique to books on leadership: “The Code of an Evolutionary,” and “When Evolutionaries Fail.” At the beginning of the former chapter, the authors write: “The cornerstone of the code [of evolutionary leadership] is a commitment to a cause that is larger than the individual. The pursuit of personal excellence is always in some fashion at the service of that larger cause. This larger cause is rooted in making the world a better place—leaving a positive and healthy legacy for generations to come.” In the last chapter, the authors reiterate some of the problems with evolutionary leadership and evolutionaries themselves. The road described by the authors is not a smooth one, and certainly not aneasy one, but it has the potential to lead to the fulfillment of goals that go far beyond the usual.

This is a book about leadership that has as its goal a better world, not simply a larger profit.

Lawrence B. Rosenfeld - Department of Communication Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

This book is a concise, probing, testy bit of prose that will challenge your organizational structure and flow. I really like the strength of character described for evolutionaries; while admitting that you cannot have an organizational made up entirely of evolutionaries. The chapter on communications is spot on spelling out the characteristics of successful communications and how it is multi-layered.

This book is sort of putting Randy and Carmen in a bottle and being able to tap the genie of their wisdom at your leisure. It is not a long read, but you need to plan to dwell on the subject, play with the exercises, and revisit it. Much like making a candle, you need to dip into the wax of wisdom and allow it to dry before re-dipping. You also need to refrain from lighting a match to the partially formed candle lest you burn out quickly from lacking the depth of wisdom to found in this book.

Gary Easterling - United Federal Credit Union

Evolutionaries is one of many business books I've read over the years. None have delivered a similiar message in such a compact form. I found the book to be consistent with the points and not preachy in making them. It would have been nice to have read this earlier in my career so I could better recognize the Evolutionaiies in my own Company and Organization.

Brit Parker -

My mission as CEO is to provide an extraordinary life for the people who work at Climax. This means an extraordinary work life and an extraordinary personal life. There is a pervasive line of thought in management that people are supposed to leave their home life at home and their work life at work. No personal calls at work, and no work calls or talking about work at home. But, this is not how we really work as human beings. We don’t just shut off our families, our children and loved ones when we go to work, and we don’t stop thinking about work when we are at home –especially when we love what we do. How many times have you solved a work problem while doing something creative or fun at home with your family? We want people to think about work when they are at home – that is often the time when they are the most rested, the most relaxed, and able to think of the most innovative solutions.

Geoff Gilmore, CEO - Climax Portable Machining & Welding Systems

You have to be out there talking to developers and partners that might fall outside of your current target demographic. If we stuck only to our target demographic we would focus 99% on the mobile phone and what is good for that industry. But if that is all we do, we will miss something, we are underutilizing our potential. I want to see another market come out that is as big as the mobile phone, but to see that you have to talk to people outside of the mobile phone industry. I think there are a lot of opportunities right now for people who are willing to be a little bit aggressive, take some chances and invest a little for what could be large gains.

Mike Foley - Bluetooth SIG

What makes a team so special as compared to a work group is that they are allowed the luxury of focus on whatever it is that needs to be done. A work group has other distractions which is typically their regular job. Another problem with teams in the business environment is that they are often kept together much too long. Real teams have a shelf life of maybe 18-24 months. If you have a real team that has been formed for a real reason their work will be intense and they have to stay focused. People can only do that for so long before they need some downtime. Even professional sports teams don’t play twelve months a year—they have a four or five month break.

Steve Ahlberg -

Conflict in the workplace or between managers of a company should not be thought of as a “culture” that is sustainable. Unending conflict, constant clash, doesn’t make people stronger, it wears them out. Placing your best people in situations of constant conflict will only serve to burn out your best people. At some point, guidance is about being a leader who is willing to shut conflict down when necessary. Put an end to it. Leaders make final decisions. That’s part of the job. Ask for advice, ask lots of questions, gather lots of data, and debate and seek out conflicting advice, but in the end, you have to be willing to make a final decision

Cindy Tortorici - The Link for Women

I think the key is to be proactive—to share what you know, what you believe, and to have courage enough to say “We think the future is going to look like this so we are going to plant our flag out in front of that” – but you can only do that if you have the confidence and trust in the partners that are going to help you along the way.

Scott West - Travel Oregon

Our purpose was to lend a common voice to the entire Travel and Tourism industry. Everything we did really needed to communicate that.

Todd Davidson - Travel Oregon

Something that I realized early was that as a leader I want to touch what we build, I want to feel it, I want to walk on it. So, when we build a bridge I want to walk on that bridge. When we build a streetcar I want to ride on that streetcar, I want to be able to take my friends and my relatives on it. I like to lead people from a single idea to getting funding, through the building process and then see it function for the community. It is an incredible gift to be able to see something from its inception completely through to fruition and then be running for the next 30 years into the future.

Chandra Brown - United Street Car

So true! This sums up what frustrates me and my partners about trying to do any long-term planning with our law firm.

Carmen was the keynote speaker at the Portland WIFS dinner I recently attended. She talked about how businesses can plan for the future when we are no longer able to make long-term plans for the future. I think I am going to be glad I read this book.

Rose City Reader -