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Good People
Cover of Good People
Good People
The Only Leadership Decision That Really Matters
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Good people are your organization's most critical asset. But what does it really mean to be good?
Leaders love to say that any company is only as good as its people, but tend to evaluate candidates and employees more by their measurable accomplishments than by their "softer" qualities, like integrity, compassion, and other values. Bestselling author Anthony Tjan is leading a movement to change the way we think about goodness so that we can become better judges of people and create more goodness in ourselves, in others, and in our organizations.
Tjan argues that while competence is necessary, real goodness must also encompass values; a fantastic résumé can never compensate for mediocre character. In Good People, he provides a clear language to discuss goodness, redefining it as a lifelong, proactive commitment that, like any skill, can be exercised, honed, and taught. When leaders prioritize goodness in themselves and in others, they can create lasting cultures and tremendous value.
Drawing from his own experiences as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Tjan also taps into the wisdom of his relationships and interviews with extraordinary innovators, executives, artists, academics, teachers, and role models from all disciplines and walks of life.
The cases and profiles shared include: Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria, who has called for balancing leadership of competency with leadership of character; Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who has never forgotten her roots and shows profound kindness to her staff and clerks; Hollywood talent manager Shep Gordon, who has counseled his clients on the importance of generosity and gratitude; legendary venture capitalist Henry McCance, whose success proves that humbly ceding the spotlight to others makes room for their greatness; and master jazz musician Clark Terry, who devotedly mentored the young, blind pianist Justin Kauflin.
Packed with practical yet often surprising advice, Good People establishes a new language and framework you can use to evaluate, develop, and lead with goodness. Tjan will convince you that there is a hard truth in the "soft stuff" of business, and that choosing and working well with good people is truly the only leadership decision that really matters.
Good people are your organization's most critical asset. But what does it really mean to be good?
Leaders love to say that any company is only as good as its people, but tend to evaluate candidates and employees more by their measurable accomplishments than by their "softer" qualities, like integrity, compassion, and other values. Bestselling author Anthony Tjan is leading a movement to change the way we think about goodness so that we can become better judges of people and create more goodness in ourselves, in others, and in our organizations.
Tjan argues that while competence is necessary, real goodness must also encompass values; a fantastic résumé can never compensate for mediocre character. In Good People, he provides a clear language to discuss goodness, redefining it as a lifelong, proactive commitment that, like any skill, can be exercised, honed, and taught. When leaders prioritize goodness in themselves and in others, they can create lasting cultures and tremendous value.
Drawing from his own experiences as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Tjan also taps into the wisdom of his relationships and interviews with extraordinary innovators, executives, artists, academics, teachers, and role models from all disciplines and walks of life.
The cases and profiles shared include: Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria, who has called for balancing leadership of competency with leadership of character; Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who has never forgotten her roots and shows profound kindness to her staff and clerks; Hollywood talent manager Shep Gordon, who has counseled his clients on the importance of generosity and gratitude; legendary venture capitalist Henry McCance, whose success proves that humbly ceding the spotlight to others makes room for their greatness; and master jazz musician Clark Terry, who devotedly mentored the young, blind pianist Justin Kauflin.
Packed with practical yet often surprising advice, Good People establishes a new language and framework you can use to evaluate, develop, and lead with goodness. Tjan will convince you that there is a hard truth in the "soft stuff" of business, and that choosing and working well with good people is truly the only leadership decision that really matters.
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  • From the book 1

    A First Encounter with Goodness

    On one of the hottest afternoons in July in the Toronto suburb of North York, I schlepped up the three porch steps that belonged to the last house on the block, my bulky backpack biting into my shoulders. At age fifteen, I was eager to make whatever extra summer money I could, so I was going door-to-door selling picture frames. Even as a teenager, I wanted to feel like a big-shot entrepreneur, but instead people slammed doors in my face all day. Eight straight hours in the sweltering summer heat had left me ragged, sweat soaked, and feeling low. I was close to giving up, but I decided to attempt one last sale. I impulsively rang the doorbell.

    I heard a soft shuffling of feet, and then a terse "Who's there?" As the door opened, I had to conceal my surprise. The owner of the house was elderly and tiny, much gentler looking in person than her voice had let on, with unkempt gray-white hair. Two minutes later, I was seated in her small, worn living room, but when I launched into my practiced pitch, she interrupted, turning her focus from the picture frames to me. She unleashed a barrage of questions: Who was I? Where was I from? Newfoundland? Then what was I doing in Toronto so far from home? Where were my parents? The frames weren't stolen, were they? And another question, one she asked repeatedly: Was this something I really liked doing?

    An hour later, holding my second glass of iced tea, I'd hardly moved; the two of us were still deep in conversation. By now, I knew she was eighty-two, a retired social worker and a widow, and a graceful, even riveting, storyteller. She kept coming back to one point: the most important thing in life, she told me, was to figure out what I really wanted to do and who to do it with. She blurted it out: "Listen," and then stressed it in her slightly craggy voice-"You must love both that thing you are doing and love even more the people you do it with." Then, after a pause and with a wide, assuring smile, she added that she just knew I would have wonderful success in my life. And at that moment, for some reason, I believed her, even though she didn't buy even one picture frame.





    Over the past two decades of my peripatetic career, IÕve tried hard to stand by that wisdom from the retired woman in North York: to love what I do, but to love even more the people with whom IÕm doing it. I picked my first official job because of the good feeling I got from the people who interviewed me. Little did I know then that some of those same interviewers would serve as lifelong mentors, fund my first venture and subsequent ones, or become colleagues and collaborators in initiatives throughout my career.

    One of those longtime mentors is a former partner of the management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, Tsun-yan Hsieh. I first met Tsun-yan when I was a young associate at McKinsey and he was a senior partner and then chair of McKinsey's Professional Development Committee globally. At the time of our conversation for this book, Dominic Barton, the worldwide managing director of McKinsey, had just recognized Tsun-yan for his mentorship, learning, and development philosophies. Both Dominic and I were in the same Toronto McKinsey office in the early 1990s, and Tsun-yan at that time was already a mentor to Dom. It all came full circle when Dom recently paid tribute to Tsun-yan as one of the handful of people...
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 6, 2017
    Entrepreneur Tjan (coauthor of Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck) delivers a well-intentioned but flimsy meditation on kindness as the primary goal and tactic of leadership. He stresses that, more than ever, employees are the most important assets of their employers. In an effort to figure out how companies can more actively foster compassionate cultures, Tjan conducted close to 100 interviews with people in leadership positions. Unfortunately, he doesn’t turn up any particularly noteworthy insights, but regardless goes on to fill the book with a repetitive discussion of the characteristics of goodness. Character and values matter more than competency, he asserts, and he names compassion, respect, kindness, patience, and connectedness as the linchpins of a successful business. There is space given to the best ways to put kindness into action—mentorship, etc.—but overall, a lack of direction makes this primer uninspiring. Agent: Jim Levine, Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary Agency.

  • Library Journal

    April 1, 2017

    It's generally taken for granted that the meaning of the phrase "good people" is understood. Taking time to nuance that definition is entrepreneur Tjan's (Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck) goal. He takes this underdefined phrase and explores how it can be applied to leadership. The general outline of the book advocates that for anyone to be "good" they must be people first, helping others, committed to values, balanced, and practicing goodness all the time. This work follows the fairly typical self-help, feel-good storytelling model that seems to be a staple in popular modern "business-light" works. With that said, Tjan does tackle an excellent question by attempting to define "good." Told in a narrative format with chapter summaries that helpfully distill the salient points, this accessible, entry-level work is for anyone developing their own leadership philosophy. VERDICT Recommended as an introduction for individuals who are interested in leadership but are not entirely sure how to get started.--Mark Hanson, Maranatha Baptist Univ. Lib., Watertown, WI

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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