On Turning 20...

Dear BK community member,

Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., was founded in January 1992. We have had remarkable continuity in the purposes, values, and vision of our publishing company, as is apparent from this letter in our first catalog.

But a great deal has also changed and is continuing to change at Berrett-Koehler, as is apparent from these Berrett-Koehler News pages in our newest catalog, which is being distributed this month.

We will celebrate our 20th Anniversary during 2012. We want to involve as many members of the BK community as possible in celebrating with us in ways that help advance BK’s mission of “Creating a World That Works for All.” Therefore, we are beginning now to make plans for celebrations during 2012, and we are seeking to involve many members of the BK community in participating in these celebrations.

To help us do this, we ask you to respond to a quick 6-question survey. Please click on this link to respond to the survey:

We appreciate your support of Berrett-Koehler and hope that you will join with us celebrating our 20th Anniversary in 2012.

Best regards,

Steven Piersanti
President and Publisher

Marshall on Management

Our VP for Editorial and Digital Initiatives, David Marshall, is also a bestselling author and has held numerous executive-level positions with global companies. Here David obliges us with five lessons on management -- three for self-management and two for managing others:

Managing Yourself...

#1 Plan your career, or it will plan you (lifelong tip): In a previous entrepreneurial life, I spent many hours with Richard Bolles, the acclaimed author of What Color Is Your Parachute? Dick says that the vast majority of people fall into jobs that have nothing to do with their values; it’s no wonder so many are unhappy with their careers. Confucius said “find a job you love, and you’ll never work day in your life.” There is much wisdom in those words. In college, I created a 50-year career life chart that I have updated every five years as new life experiences re-shaped the original plan. It is vital to have a vision of where you want to be professionally in 5, 10, and 20 years. If you don’t, you will let external factors drive your career instead of you steering it.

#2 Grow or die (annual tip): Many managers and leaders, usually at the 50-yard line or beyond, conclude that they have learned all there is to learn, figured out what management style works best for them, so just settle in and execute. This is a tragedy. Don’t go stale. No matter how advanced your career, no matter how much success you’ve had, take a blank piece of paper at the beginning of each year (it’s not too late for 2011), and write down five things you want to learn or improve upon as a manager and leader. Choose things that you can realistically accomplish with intention and attention. Pick the most important one and create quarterly milestones for yourself so you can measure your progress. Grade yourself at year end.

#3 Fortify your life blood: your daily time (daily tip):
Choose the number of hours you work each week; don’t let it choose you. For some, it’s 40; for others, it’s 70. Embrace that number and then prioritize projects within it. Steven Covey advises us to do first what we prioritize as the most important rather than let others choose which things we do first based on their priorities. Avoid letting new requests from others re-prioritize your day, week, and month. Learn to respectfully say no or “yes, but later” when necessary. Every committed project advances or slips based on what’s in front or behind it. If I lose control of my time, I feel stressed, guilty, and de-motivated—and don’t even want to go to work. It’s deadly.

Managing Others...

Managing myself and managing others are connected at the hip. 1) If I am not happy at work because I am in the wrong career, 2) if I have lost my desire to keep learning throughout life, or 3) if I have lost control of my time, woe be to those I manage; they will suffer because I did not nurture my own management soul first.

#4 Practice permission-based leadership: Employee and company stakeholder empowerment is not just a buzzword. As Harvard Business School professor and new BK author Bill George said to Steve Piersanti and me recently (I’m paraphrasing), “the era of top-down ‘command and control’ leadership is over.” My experience is that people work harder, longer, and with higher quality if they are inspired and motivated by their manager, not brow beaten. As head of the BK editorial department, it’s not my right to lead the team. I receive permission every day from Bonnie, Jeevan, Neal, and Steve to lead it. They hold the power, not I. If I serve them well, miracles happen. This is equally true of cross-departmental and cross-divisional leadership.

#5 Be hard on the issues, soft on the people: Many assume that you are either soft on the issues and soft on the people (good cop), or hard on the issues and hard on the people (bad cop). However, it is indeed possible to be a strong-willed manager who asks employees to stretch themselves every day without being a tyrant. A common dysfunction resulting from the “hard on the issues, hard on the people” management style is passive-aggressive behavior whereby co-workers, who are under harsh personal treatment from managers, outwardly agree to support the bad cop’s directives but don’t follow through. Managers who learn to be hard on the issues but soft on the people—both good cop and bad cop in the same person—are more effective and successful in the long run.

A final note on humility and resilience: Either lose your ego or don’t seek or accept a management position. I aspire to the five tips above but am not always successful. I regularly fall, but pick myself up and try again. Fail fast and often, learn from the slips, and bounce back; that’s the overriding lifelong learning tip I can share.


The Magic of BK Authors Retreats

I recently participated in a unique event in all the world: the Ninth Annual Berrett-Koehler Authors Retreat, which was held from October 7 – 10 at the Pearlstone Conference and Retreat Center in Reisterstown, Maryland. Several factors make this annual retreat unique, including the many ways that fun and meaning are combined with learning and connection, the fact that it is entirely organized and run by authors for authors, and the fact that its sponsoring organization, the BK Authors Cooperative, is the first of its kind in the world as far as I know.

Each year, magic truly happens at the retreat. To give a glimpse of this magic, I asked seven BK authors (including five who were first-time participants in the retreat) to share their experience of the retreat. Their comments are below. Also below are comments from new BK editor Neal Maillet, who has seen a lot in his 22-year publishing career but was nevertheless amazed by the retreat. And Bruce Rosenstein blogged about the retreat; here’s a link to his blog (which includes responses from several retreat participants).

The importance and influence of the retreat go far beyond what happens at the retreat itself. In part this is because every year friendships are formed between retreat participants that go on for years and that often lead to these new friends sharing speaking and consulting leads, recommending each others’ work, and even collaborating on projects. But I think that there is a still bigger and wider impact of the retreat: in many ways the retreat is a microcosm of what Berrett-Koehler is about. The retreat creates and models patterns that permeate many dimensions of BK and that reach beyond BK’s authors into its broader community and the messages of its publications. Some of these patterns are:

• Unity around a common purpose and mission of “creating a world that works for all.” BK books address hundreds of different topics, yet almost all BK authors see their work as contributing to this common purpose.

• A welcoming community.
Part of the magic of the retreat is that most participants feel a vibrant sense of community while new participants are welcomed warmly into this community. This is due partly to the engaging personalities of many participants, but I believe that it is due even more to the sense of shared purpose that permeates those who are attracted to the BK mission of creating a world that works for all. As Mark Albion observes below, “I belong within a community of authors of different minds sharing one heart.”

• Desire to help, serve, and share.
The pattern in evidence at the retreat and throughout the BK community is of people being exceptionally generous in reaching out in many ways to help others in need.

• Openness to learning and teaching. Participants in the retreats see themselves as simultaneously both learning from others and sharing their unique talents and perspectives. Everyone has much to learn and much to teach.

• The power of integration.
At every retreat I have been struck by how well different types of authors connect with each other and how much they learn from each other: academics and practitioners, old and young, new and experienced, progressive and conservative, business authors and personal growth authors, societal change authors and organizational change authors, etc. I have concluded that much of the value of the retreat – and the power of BK’s publishing program generally – comes from bringing together these diverse perspectives under the umbrella of a welcoming community and common mission. This integration happens on many levels and in many ways.

I am confident that future retreats will continue to develop these and other powerful patterns – both in making the retreats a phenomenal experience for participants and in leavening the entire BK community, publishing program, and impact on the world.

If you are a BK author, I hope that you will plan on participating in the next retreat, scheduled for September 8 – 11, 2011, at the Stillheart Institute, nestled in the Redwoods just south of San Francisco. You can learn more here.

If you are not a BK author and would like to attend the retreat, a few spaces will be available for other members of the BK community who are sponsored by a BK author and granted associate membership in the BK Authors Cooperative; if this is of interest to you, contact a BK author about sponsoring you.

To get more of a feel for the retreat, here are some photos from the last retreat.

All the best,


“Generosity is a gift that is genuine and rewarding. The generosity of my fellow authors was overwhelming. As a first-time attendee at the Berrett-Koehler Authors Retreat you are not sure what to expect. Very quickly any concerns vanish. The warmth and complete acceptance replace all the fears. As the retreat goes on, generous gifts of friendship, suggestions, and coaching begin to fill you. Soon you realize that you belong with these people and you feel joy and a sense of renewal. What more could you want except to eagerly await next year's retreat.”-- Dave Basarab

“What I enjoyed most about the retreat was seeing the deep friendships that have been formed between BK authors over the years. All the laughter, the gentle teasing, and the sense of camaraderie were great. Also appreciated the warm welcome that I received."-- Suchi Shenoy

“I want you to know that the retreat was one of the best experiences of my life. I felt I was watching a 'better world for all' unfold before my eyes, and I’ll never use the term 'BK community' in the abstract again. I don’t think I fully understood until the weekend how the strength of our publishing comes from this community. Nor did I understand how this community would support me and nurture me, personally. I now understand how BK will help me become a better person, not just pay my salary. I know I must sound like I’m drinking the Kool-Aid, but there really is something special about this place and our mission.” -- Neal Maillet (new BK Executive Editor)

“The retreat reconnects me with spirit and community. It causes me to remember who I am and where I belong within a community of authors of different minds sharing one heart. Through the trials, tribulations, and financial struggles of being an author, the retreat reinvigorates me to the beauty and honor of what we do.” -- Mark Albion

“I had a wonderful time at the retreat. It's rare to be in a group of people who are simultaneously brilliant, welcoming, aspirational, curious, and fun. The design of the retreat created space for all of these qualities to bloom among and within us. I can't believe that one weekend could include such a range of experience. How did we manage to travel from pragmatic information to community building to world changing so effortlessly? How did we do all of those things and still have time to rest and play? I'm honored to be part of this community.” -- Barbara McAfee

“The BK Author’s Retreat was everything I hoped it would be and more. Smart, caring, and creative people who were willing to share their experiences, not to mention their books. Provocative team building exercises that built trust and broke the ice in a nice way. And even the opportunity to make my ‘Maryland shore’ solo singing debut at Saturday night’s talent show. Thanks for such a nice way to welcome me into this extraordinary community of professionals.” -- Jacquie Ottman

“I had a fabulous time at the retreat. As a first-time author, I felt enormous gratitude for the warmth and the welcome that the BK authors community offered. People were unexpectedly generous with their encouragement, ideas, lessons learned, and networks of relationships. Of course, the highlights had nothing to do with writing or selling books. The highlights were what happens when people who trust one another and share a vision of how the world could be let their guard down enough to stuff their cheeks with marshmallows, dance on four-inch high rails, and sing ‘Lasagna!’ at the top of their lungs. So much for being intimidated by BK authors!” -- Debbie Frieze

“If I could prescribe a population of people with whom I could spend my life, it would be the BK authors community. For me, this particular retreat was no less than a spiritual hot tub, where I felt surrounded by trusted and trusting friends, amidst the swirl of warm waters. I attend the authors retreats knowing that I will come away smarter, wiser, and more attuned to what really matters in the world. This one was no exception. The last line of the Identity Credo is, I will receive in accordance with what I give. I came to the retreat knowing full well that I had an obligation to give – to give something of value, something meaningful and, hopefully, lasting – which might entitle me to receive the same in return. I did. And, I did. This retreat reached a new level of joyfulness…there was a vibe from the outset that resonated during our time together. I think what happened more this time than ever before was the marriage of intellect and emotion. There were, for sure, great conversations about important ideas. But there was more; there was the deliberate intrusion of beautiful music, in voice and instruments. There was a native humanness that interceded, penetrating the meetings, the structure and earnest conversations, which are always present in our retreats. For me, a new level of ‘community’ was born.” -- Larry Ackerman