The Complete Executive: A book review by Bob Morris

The Complete Executive: The 10-Step System to Powering Up Peak Performance
Karen Wright
Bibliomotion (2012)

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle

The last time I checked, Amazon offers 5,515 titles in the category of business coaching. That is not to suggest, however, that there is nothing more to be said on the subject. I am convinced that, to invoke a variation on a residential real estate bromide, for every reader there is a business book and I am certain that Karen Wright’s information, insights, and advice will be of substantial value to many readers, especially to those who are eager to strengthen their fundamental leadership and management skills. Wright offers a “10-Step ‘” system that involves a series of specific commitments but the ultimate success of this system (or of any system, for that matter) depends almost entirely on high-impact execution. Obviously, it remains for readers to select the material that is most relevant to their own needs, interests, and objectives.

Wright organizes her material within ten chapters, within each of which she inserts separate but related mini-commentaries (what I call “business nuggets”) relevant to the given objective. For example, in Chapter 5 (“Put the Business Basics in Place”), she discusses vision, mission, strategy plan, five-year targets and goals, a one-year operating plan, talent review and succession plan, measures of success, crisis management, a corporate social responsibility plan, and a technology plan. In this chapter and in all the others, her focus is on basics. One way to think of this book is that it is a primer, as a brief but comprehensive review of fundamentals.

The Bibliography suggests a number of excellent sources for coverage of those fundamentals in much greater depth. To these I presume to add three others: Guy Kawasaki’s Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition (2008), Beyond Performance Management: Why, When, and How to Use 40 Tools and Best Practices for Superior Business Performance co-authored by Jeremy Hope and Steve Player (2012), and Cynthia Montgomery’s The Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs (2012).

These are among the dozens of passages in Wright’s narrative that were (and remain) of greatest interest and value to me. I identify them with the hope that they indicate the range of subjects that Wright covers.

o Cross-Training and Recovery Strategies (Pages 9-10)
o Mentors and Coaches (24-25)
o Direct Reports (42-43)
o Values and Walking the Talk (52)
o Synthesis (59-60)
o Lessons from Adversity (86-87)
o Network Management (102-103)
o Openness to New Ideas (110-111)
o Brain Fitness (126-127)
o Regular Practice (132-133)

The “Bottom Line” section at the end of Chapters 1-10 reviews key points and suggests specific do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when readers correlates the material in the given chapter to their specific needs, interests, and objectives.

I agree with Wright that decision-makers in any organization (whatever its size and nature may be) need to take a break occasionally from swimming laps in the organizational blender and reflect up on what they do and how they do it. “Regular reflection and planning practices, although at odds with the pace and interaction of the world these days, provide the foundation for well-directed, intentional accomplishment. Reflection ensures that you learn from and stay respectful of past experiences while supporting forward movement that that has a higher probability of getting you where you want to go.” High-impact leaders and managers demonstrate each day that becoming a “complete” executive is a process, not a destination.

No brief commentary such as mine can possibly do full justice to the scope of material that Karen Wright provides in this volume but I hope that I have at least suggested why I think so highly of her and her work. Also, I hope that those who read this commentary will be better prepared to determine whether or not they wish to read the book and, in that event, will have at least some idea of how the information, insights, and wisdom could perhaps be of substantial benefit to them as well as to their own organization.

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