Think Big, Act Bigger, by Jeffrey Hayzlett (Softcover, 2015)|
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Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.
This is really a great book for the corporate ladder climber, business owner,
or top executive. I think the advice applies to life generally. Mostly, it's the
author's way of thinking that provides the value in this book. And thinking
without acting is rather pointless, thus the title as it is.
I want to note that Mr. Hayzlett, though quite articulate, could be
misunderstood. Don't take his statements out of context, but try to
understand the way he thinks. Mr. Hayzlett has a great deal of bravado and
seeming overconfidence. But he also expresses humility. This man is not
afraid to own up to his mistakes and blindspots. Some of his stories of his
screw-ups had me laughing aloud.
In that spirit, I will point out another one he made in this book. He
says he knows what is meant by thinking outside the box, but what follows
after that statement clearly shows he does not. The proverbial box is not
what he portrays it to be or what most people seem to think it is.
The box metaphor comes from a puzzle that tests critical thinking skills.
You draw three rows of three dots. Then, using four straight lines, connect
all nine dots. Most people will try to draw a box. To solve the puzzle, the
lines have to form something other than a box. Thus, "thinking outside the
box." It means thinking in a way not constrained by preconceptions. BTW, the
solution is a triangle with a line extending from one vertix through the
middle of the opposite side.
Often in a business book, seminar, or workshop, people are looking for
specific tactics or techniques. That's fine as far as it goes, but it
doesn't go very far. Yes, you need technical skills, but if their use is
constrained by small thinking you're not going to see big results. You get
those big results by thinking bigger. The pressure to not think bigger is
immense. On top of that, thinking bigger entails risks. So most of us will
think smaller, minding our place and being happy with the incremental
improvements that come from doing the wrong things better than we used to do
In my own case, I've been thinking much bigger in recent years than I
used to. But still not thinking on the scale someone like Mr. Hayzlett does.
His book has encouraged me to, uh, think outside the box more when
considering my strategies. Having gone through some severe trials, I'm maybe
too risk averse to swing for home runs. There is still, however ample room
for more bigness below that risk level. I see that now.
Something I like about how he deals with employees (or contractors, as
the case may be) is he hires them to handle specific areas of responsibility
and he expects them to handle those and gives them the power to do so. He
doesn't want them coming to him with questions they should already know the
answer to ("Why do I need you if you have to ask me that?"). This seems a
bit harsh at first glance. But the key is he's not micromanaging, disabling,
or intimidating people. He wants them to take ownership. He has other things
The lesson here had immediate application for me with a contractor who
made the best possible decision with the information she had available. I
didn't like the decision at first, and shot off an e-mail before thinking
about what I would have done in her shoes. My e-mail basically took the
decision power away from her, which was a huge mistake on my part. I
followed up by saying I was wrong, apologizing for jumping the gun, and
walking through the scenario to demonstrate I honestly felt her decision was
the best possible one to make. That's another aspect of thinking big. You
have to be big enough to admit when you're wrong (just as Mr. Hayzlett did
in this book several times, often to my amusement).
I also like his oft-repeated thought, "Nobody is going to die." In
looking back in my career, I'm now amazed at how many petty things got blown
way out of proportion. Managers might expend $50 in meeting cost to gripe to
an employee about a $4 problem, making it sound like a life or death matter.
I put up with this sort of stupidity when I was in my 20s. By the time I was
in my 30s, I would just walk off and leave the idiot boss fuming. Let him
have the heart attack, I don't need one.
But sometimes, I found myself starting down this same path with
subordinates. Just remember Mr. Hayzlett's admonition, "Nobody is going to
die." Unless, of course, it doesn't apply. For example, a worker is
performing an unsafe act; maybe someone is going to die. In most cases,
however, remembering this admonition can keep you from making a proverbial
mountain out of the proverbial molehill. I think what Mr. Hayzlett is saying
is to keep your response at a level that matches the severity of the issue.
In most cases, the issue isn't worth making a huge fuss over. Explain the
problem anad move on.
A pattern in business books is some celebrity CEO writes his or her
memoir or a vanity "Look how great I am" book with some nuggets of advice.
That problem has soured me on these types of books generally, so it's hard
to get me to read a business book these days. Something about this one
appealed to me, and I'm glad I read it. This is definitely not a work of
vanity. As I began reading, I was reminded of another outstanding man, Boake
Sells. Mr. Sells was the CEO of Revco and brought it out of bankruptcy. He
took time out of his busy life to provide some badly needed mentoring to me,
and he was a straight-talking person who just wanted to help another person.
I am eternally grateful.
Mr. Hayzlett has that same, "Let me be your mentor" vibe. What he said
has great value for the reader who pays attention and thinks about the text.
But it goes beyond what he said to how he says it. My experience in the
corporate world was that many people try to bluff and fluff their way
through life with acronyms and "management speak" that, to me, simply
camouflages a person's ineptness and (usually well-deserved) lack of
confidence. Then you have plain-speaking people who have a good track record
and well-deserved high degree of confidence. Mr. Hayzlett, unlike many
business writers, is the latter.
This book follows the standard construction formula of ten chapters
followed by a conclusion. I had an advance reading copy (provided for
reviewers), and it runs about 160 pages.