Know-How The 8 Skills That Separate People Who Perform From Those Who Don’t

Author: Ram Charan

Genre: Management, Self Help

Ram Charan is “one of the most influential business-consultants alive today” (Fortune) and has coached many leaders who went on to become CEOs of renowned organisations. An MBA and doctorate from Harvard, he has authored more than 30 books that have sold over 4 million copies in many languages. This is one of his ground-breaking books where he defines 8 leadership skills that separate people who perform from those who don’t.

He cautions against people who appear as leaders – grand vision, eloquence, gravitas, high intelligence – but, in reality, fail to deliver hard results. And hence the focus on 8 ‘Know-How’ skills, without which leadership is incomplete. These match the skills of people who know what they are doing with the personal and psychological traits of the successful leader.

First, let us see the personal traits of a leader:

  1. The drive to accomplish something worthwhile but not to win at all costs. Balance.
  2. To search, persist and follow through, but not hold on too long.
  3. Self-confidence. To overcome the fear of failure, or the need to be liked and use power judiciously but not become arrogant and egotist.
  4. Psychological Openness. To be receptive to new ideas and not shut other people down.
  5. To see what can be actually accomplished and neither gloss over problems nor simply assume the worst.
  6. Appetite for Learning. To grow and improve know-hows and not repeat the same mistakes.

These psychological traits, while important, are not complete in itself. They need to interact with 8 ‘hard’ know-how skills:

  1. Setting the Business Foundation, by positioning and repositioning the business to make money. Making decisions time to time on what to keep in the business and what to take out. Finding a central idea for the business that meets customer demand and also makes money.
  1. Connecting the dots by looking at the big picture and the messy details. Pinpointing and taking action on emerging patterns. Dealing with change to stay ahead of the curve. Anticipating external landscape, having diverse social network and putting the business on the offensive.
  1. Getting people to work together by managing the social system of the business. The right people with the right information together, make faster and better decisions. Getting other people to commit and deliver on common goals.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  1. Judging, selecting and developing leaders and creating a pipeline. To know where people would flourish (their natural talent), what they need to develop on and how to bring the best out of them.                                                                                 
  2. Moulding a team of leaders. A big challenge is to mould high-energy, high-powered, high-ego people into a working team of leaders who understand total business (instead of their function and their personal ambitions) and synchronize their efforts to propel the business forward.
  1. Determining and setting the right goals, which are achievable and Align people’s energy to the stated organisational goals linked with rewards & recognition which in turn will have positive impact on behaviour and performance.
  1. Setting laser- sharp priorities, so that no body has a question – “It’s Monday morning. Now what?” Specific and clear priorities at ground level (unlike 50,000 feet goals) help individuals to focus on right things, when everything day-to-day seems to be urgent and important.                                                                                                                                                                                                                         
  2. Dealing with societal forces behind the market that are not in leader’s control but that can affect your business. Every business operates in a complex societal & political environment that demands more than just profit out of the business.

Charan ends the book with a letter to a future leader, Michael, in which he advises that “ambition alone won’t be enough to sustain your success. Ultimately, it’s the content of your leadership that will count. Given the transparency of today’s world, any shortcoming in your know-hows, personality traits or character will be revealed very quickly.” He encourages Michael to pick out the one or two know-hows that come naturally to him and improve on them and refine them.

Why Should You Read This Book: Overall it’s a great book, a well written masterpiece that makes you deeply think and reflect. The amount of content on leadership and know-how, backed up with real life examples, imparts great insights and prepare us in our own leadership journey. Many world class CEOs like Larry Bossidy, Jack Welch and AG Lafely have written glowing blurbs about the book.

Goodreads Link: Know-How: The 8 Skills That Separate People Who Perform from Those Who Don’t by Ram Charan (