I have coached and conducted strategic planning in some very successful a course in miracles. I have seen the value of ESOPs as a tool to motivate and focus employees. When ESOPs are working well, the value is that the employees truly see themselves as owners and their work as business people is to build the value of the company. These employees relate to customers as owners would and take great interest in ensuring that the customers are raving fans and repeat buyers.

After assessing the situation, and mulling things through in my genius brain, I invited this leadership group to read the book Open-Book Management by John Case. To be honest, I did not invite them, I made them read it. Well, it was assigned and heck, they just had to do it. This book is about the various ways companies used to have everyone embrace being effective business people and being responsible for the financial future of the company.

After reading the book, members of the leadership got excited because they saw a pathway to engaging employees. These executive saw how they could make the ESOP relevant. They saw the light and were eager to move toward it with velocity and enthusiasm.

The Best Possible Return on Investment

The most revered and known proponent of Open-Book Management is a business leader named Jack Stack. He wrote his own book called The Great Game of Business. This book is about how he and his employees turned Springfield Manufacturing around (which, by the way, is also an ESOP). A couple of the leadership groups attended conferences given by Jack Stack and his consulting company. These are called the “Gathering of the Games” and feature many successful ESOPs.

Open-Book Management in this company has now become a movement and a cause clbre. The CFO began to do research on what the value of the ESOP would be to the leadership group. A division of the company began to organize games with incentives with their frontline group. They are off and running in exploring how the ESOP can be a powerful organizing focus for the company. All this came from reading a stupid book that costs $20.00 or so. A book! Not bad return for that investment.

Choosing Your Books

Books with large print and preferably with pictures are the most appealing to business people. Stories and parables are appreciated. A synopsis at the end of the chapter with cliff-type notes also appreciated. If the book is good, and at the same time scholarly, you can make the case to read it. At times, this can be a tough sell. The ultimate test for the consuming executive is whether or not the material presented is applicable and useful. The more user friendly the material is, the better.

Books as manure allow businesses to do without bloodsucking consultants. In and of themselves, I have seen books transform companies and their business cultures. I have seen many examples of this. The leadership group reads the book, talks about it and applies it. It is simple, inexpensive and effective and who needs the bloodsucker any way?

Some of our clients have started book clubs. “No way!” you say and,”way,” I say. And this was before Oprah – astounding. What I have seen is the CEO picks the book and over lunch convenes a session. Typically, this happens monthly. The group discusses a chapter or two. Some CEOs prepared for the session, and others just winged it. They always seem to work. I have seen this approach bring fresh knowledge into companies. It also gave the CEO an easy avenue to get to know and become related to employees.

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