Book Review: Bigger, Faster Leadership by Samuel R. Chand

image of chand's bookBigger, Faster Leadership: Lessons from the builders of the Panama Canal by Samuel R. Chand is an interesting treatise on leadership using the lessons learned by the builders of the Panama Canal as a concrete (pun intended!)  metaphor for massive challenges that leaders face.  Chand is a public speaker, leadership consultant and author of more than a dozen books.  He was the past president of Beulah Heights University, which became one of the largest predominantly African-American Christian colleges in the US during his time there.  He has mentored leaders in churches and ministries as well as international corporations and business start-ups. He was named one of the top thirty global leadership gurus by (per publisher)

Chand states his thesis in his introduction (pg xvii): ” The only way organizations can grow bigger and move faster is by accelerating the excellence of their systems and structures.”  His explaination of the five basic lifecycle stages that every organization passes through in Chapter 1 is helpful in orienting the reader to how his or her organization fits into the framework of Chand’s discussion.  Chand reminds the reader that “the systems that brought you to this point may not be the ones to take you to where you believe God wants you to go.” (pg 13)  Instead, “Systems must continually adapt to the needs and opportunities of the moment, Static systems gradually lose relevance, but dynamic systems anticipate evolving needs.” (pg 14)

Every organization has a “compelling need” that it was designed to fill.  Clearly identifying that need and building support systems and processes designed to meet that need is critical. This need must drive the organization’s vision (and the corresponding vision of the leaders of the organization). However, gaining buy-in from employees is critical.  Leaders can help this by the way in which they approach change or new ventures. Rather than simply presenting the new venture, Chand suggests prefacing the presentation with an invitation to employees that positions the new venture as “an idea that I think is a great idea but that I would like your input to expand it and shape it for our organization.”  Chand states that the key characteristic of a great leader is a person who brings out the best in their team.  They surround themselves with people who will challenge them to strive for more, not people who are mere mirrors of themselves.

Interwoven throughout Chand’s basic leadership philosophy were stories of the people and challenges faced throughout the building of the Panama Canal.  Aficionados of history will love the flavor this adds to a traditional leadership or business improvement text. This was especially noteworthy in the 2nd chapter where Chand drew parallels between the colossal failure of the French in 1885 to build the canal. In chapter 6 he uses the mosquitoes carrying Malaria and yellow fever to the Canal builders as a metaphor for the problems (sometimes hard to detect) that today’s leaders face.  Chand also weaves personal leadership experience stories into the chapters in order to illustrate key points making this a practical book rather than a philosophical tome.

Links Roundup #47: Best Bookmarking tools, CitNetExplorer, RSSMailer

saddle and ropeFall is in the air and it’s time for another roundup of cool tools from around the Internet.

Bookmarking Tools

If you are not satisfied with the browser bookmarking capabilities you currently use, Educational Technology and Mobile Learning is coming to your rescue with their updated list of Some of the Best Bookmarking Tools for Teachers and Educators.  I have used Diigo for this purpose before, but I hadn’t really thought of some of the others as bookmarking tools but more as content curation tools, though perhaps that is splitting hairs (Pinterest,, Instapaper, Flipboard, Evernote Web Clipper, Pocket) and Trello I had considered more a project management tool.  That’s what is great about these kinds of posts; however, because fresh eyes see and use tools in ways that I had not considered.

RSS Feeds

Anyone out there still reading RSS Feeds?  If you are like me, I forget to check my RSS reader very often and those feeds get lost or backlogged.  If so, you might also be interested in this app:  RSSMailer which will send your RSS feed directly to your email.  It will work on blogs, Instagram public profiles, and YouTube to name only a few popular sources. It is free to use and emails are sent once daily.

Visualizing Citations

image of Citnetexplorer in actionWere you an avid user of Web of Science’s citation mapping feature before they removed it?  Well, grieve no more.  Enter CitNetExplorer . This software tool designed for analyzing and visualizing citation networks for scientific publications is specifically designed to allow citation networks to be directly imported from Web of Science.  The tool was created by Nees Jan van Eck and Ludo Waltman at Leiden University’s Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS) in 2019.

Has anyone out there used any of these tools?  How have they worked for you?  Do you have other favorite tools instead?  Share with us!


Book Review: People Fuel by Dr. John Townsend

I have long been a fan of Dr. John Townsend with my first exposure being his earliest collaborations with Dr. Henry Cloud. As well as being a New York Times Best Selling author and highly respected psychologist, Dr. Townsend is also the founder of the Townsend Institute for Leadership and Counseling.

Many readers will be very familiar with his blockbuster hit (over 3 million copies sold!), Boundaries, co-authored with Dr. Cloud, which has since spun off into various other Boundaries In… type books.  I also loved their later followup, Safe People.  Now Dr. Townsend is back with a new book focused on helping leaders most effectively utilize one of their most valuable resources — the people around them. While his primary focus may initially appear to be church leaders or those leading nonprofit organizations, I think there is valuable content applicable to all organizational leaders today.

People Fuel: Fill Your Tank for Life, Love and Leadership is a practical, relaxed read with a myriad of stories and clinical advice to help professionals recognize and leverage the value that relationships bring to the successful leader.  “People are the fuel we need to grow, be healthy and prosper,” Townsend explains.  “… we need to know what we need, recognize who can supply it, and have the skills to get it.”  He explains that leaders can contribute to greater energy in the workplace, or can drain the energy of those around us.  His Four Quadrants of Relational Nutrients helps organize the characteristics leaders can use to help fortify their workers in ways similar to that of vitamins for physical vitality. (See the interview clip below for his discussion of this.)

These same nutrients that the best leaders provide to their employees are nutrients that they need themselves in order to not become drained and burned out in their roles. In Part 3 of his book, Townsend turns the focus to seven commons types of people who can help provide the vital relational nutrients to leaders: Coaches, Comrades, Casuals, Colleagues, Care, Chronics and Contaminants. (Hint:  The last two categories are more groups to watch out for!)

Summing up:  Whether we  have formal leadership roles in our organizations, all of us have leadership aspects in the various roles of our daily life. Dr. Townsend offers valuable guidance in the area of relationships and the vital part they play on our inner health and outward effectiveness.  I loved his book.  I hope you do too.

Links Roundup #46: Academic uses of Trello, and Top Tools 2019 survey call

saddle and rope💡 I wondered who was talking about Trello’s use for Academics (and librarians, of course).  Here are a few discussions I came across worth sharing:

  1. Paperpile did a nice case study blog post on using Trello for research in Trello for Research: 3 Powerful Use Cases. 

2. Cathy Mazak did a great post back in March discussing Three Popular Academic Project   Management Tools.  In it she not only reviews Trello, but also Basecamp and Asana.  On her site she also offers free Trello Templates for organizing Academic Writing Projects.

3. Two of my co-workers (Li Chin and Xueying Chen) did a lovely article a year or so ago for Computers in Libraries on How to Manage Library Projects with Trello.  Here is the citation to their excellent article:

LI CHEN, & XUEYING CHEN. (2017). How to Manage Library Projects With Trello. Computers in Libraries37(4), 19–23.

4. A related article in the open access journal Open Information Science explored how two different libraries, both striving to manage their Electronic Resources, used two different Kanban tools to achieve their purposes: Trello and KanbanFlow.   Here is the citation to their fascinating article:

McLean Jaclyn, & Canham Robin. (2018). Managing the Electronic Resources Lifecycle with Kanban. Open Information Science, (1), 34.

5. Newsweek’s Best Business Tools 2019.  This listing was compiled from an extensive questionnaire covering 54 business software and software services categories.  More than 10,000 professional users chimed in.  What is most interesting is the “Gen Z” best picks.  The survey amassed over 1500 Gen Z respondents (born 1995 or later) and in the Administration & Organization category, the Gen Z pick was none other than Trello!

6. TIP-Topics for Students Top Tech: The Best Technology for
Graduate School, as Rated by Graduate Students is another interesting article for 2019 where several tech-savvy graduate students highlight the most useful technology for graduate school.  Making the list as most helpful are calendaring tools (Google Calendar), file hosting – cloud based (Dropbox and Google drive), web-based to-do apps (a whole laundry list here), reference management (Endnote, Mendeley, etc) and project management tools (Slack, Trello, etc).  Also discussed were tools students used to stay informed and for communication.  The whole article can be located here:

Gisler, S., Gray, B., Roman, J.-L., & Rothstein, E. (2019). TIP-Topics for Students Top Tech: The Best Technology for Graduate School, as Rated by Graduate Students. TIP: The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist57(1), 1–5.

Top Tools for 2019!  Vote Now

And Finally, Jane Hart’s Top Tools for Learning has launched their their annual survey of your top productivity tools for 2019.  The survey is open until September 13, so vote to make sure your favorite tools are represented.

Meeting Overload?

Feeling Swallowed by Meetings?  You aren’t alone! Sometimes Academia seems particularly prone to this malady, so I shot down a rabbit hole on Google to see what insights I might be able to find for us all.

I found this helpful (and whimiscal) workflow for deciding on whether or not to schedule another meeting from Harold Jarche’s blog post in May:

The Atlassian article that he is quoting from (Running effective meetings) had several interesting points. They state:

An effective meeting brings a thoughtfully selected group of people together for a specific purpose, provides a forum for open discussion, and delivers a tangible result: a decision, a plan, a list of great ideas to pursue, a shared understanding of the work ahead. 

So meetings need the right people, an atmosphere of open discussion, and result in a tangible result. Consider whether you have diverse perspectives and individuals with complementary knowledge who can enrich the discussion and problem solving. Get buy-in from meeting members that they will be actively involved in the meeting. In our monthly team meetings, for example, all electronic devices (except for the secretary taking minutes) are banned.  And finally, end with an action plan, decision, or next steps, complete with dates and deliverables so everyone knows where things stand.

DMCS Book Cover 450px.jpg

Another resource you might want to peruse on the topic of effective meetings is a 2017 book by Dr. Rick Brinkman. Dealing with Meetings You Can’t Stand: Meet Less and Do More. It offers an empathetic and humorous view of this office-place time-stealer and provides a number of ideas and techniques to make meetings more effective and more tolerable. In addition to tips, real-life case studies are included to show how meetings can actually work successfully. The author also offers some extras on his website. He recorded a lengthy and quite informative interview with his publisher on YouTube:

I’d love to explore on this topic some more, but I have a meeting to attend. 😉