All posts by Richard

Book Notes: Trillion Dollar Coach

Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Handbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, Alan Eagle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a look back at some of the advice which senior leaders in silicon valley received from Bill Campbell who was their coach.

  • Corral any “team of rivals” into a community and get them aligned in marching towards a common goal and thus success.
  • The best coach for any team is the manager who leads that tea. Being a good coach is essential to being a good manager and leader. Coaching is no longer a specialty; you cannot be a good manager without being a good coach.
  • Your Title Makes You a Manager. Your People Make You a Leader

How do you bring people around and help them flourish in your environment? It’s not by being a dictator. It’s not by telling them what the hell to do. It’s making sure that they feel valued by being in the room with you. Listen. Pay attention. This is what great managers do.

  • Delivery is important – you have to have good processes, make sure people are accountable, you know how to hire great people, how to evaluate them and give them feedback and pay them well.

People are the foundation of any companies success. The primary job of each manager is to help people be more effective in their job and to grow and develop. We have great people who want to do well, are capable of doing great things, and come to work fired up to do them. Great people flourish in an environment that liberates and amplifies that energy. Managers create this environment through support, respect and trust.

Support means giving people the tools, information, training and coaching they need to succeed. It means continuous effort to develop people’s skills. Great managers help people excel and grow.

Respect means understanding people’s unique career goals and being sensitive to their life choices. It means helping people achieve these career goals in a way that’s consistent with the needs of the company.

Trust means freeing people to do their job and to make decisions. It means knowing people want to do well and believing that they will.

It’s the People
  • It’s the people – the top priority of any manager is the well-being and success of her people
  • Start with trip reports – to build rapport and better relationships among team members, start team meetings with trip reports or other type of more personal, non-bussiness topic.
  • 5 words on a whiteboard – have a structure for 1:1s and take the time to prepare for them as they are the best way to help people be more effective and to grow
    • Performance on job requirements
    • Relationships with peer groups
    • Management/Leadership
    • Innovation (best practices)
  • The throne behind the round table – the manager’s job is to run a decision-making process that ensures all perspectives get heard and considered, and, if necessary, to break ties and make decisions.
  • Lead based on first principles – define the “first principles” for the situation, the immutable truths that are the foundations for the company or product and help guide the decision from those principles.
  • Manage the aberrant genius – aberrant geniuses (high performance but difficult team members) should be tolerated and even protected, as long as their behaviour isn’t unethical or abusive and their value outweighs the toll their behavior takes on management, colleagues and teams.
  • Money’s not about money – compensating people well demonstrates love and respect and ties them strongly to the goals of the company
  • Innovation is where the crazy people have stature – the purpose of a company is to bring a product vision to life. All the other components are in service to the product.
  • Heads held high – if you have to let people go, be generous, treat them well and celebrate their accomplishments.
  • Bill on boards – it’s the CEO’s job to manager boards, not the other way around
  • Only coach the coachable – the traits that make a person coachable include honesty and humility, the willingness to persevere and work hard, and a constant openness to learning.
  • Practice free-form listening – listen to people with your full and undivided attention (don’t think ahead to what you’re going to say next) and ask questions to get to the real issue.
  • No gap between statements and facts – be relentlessly honest and candid, couple negative feedback with caring, give feedback as soon as possible, and if the feedback is negative, deliver it privately.
  • Don’t’ stick it in their ear – don’t tell people what to do; offer stories and help guide them to the best decisions for them.
  • Be the evangelist for courage -believe in people more than they believe in themselves, and push them to be more courageous.
  • Full identity front and center – people are most effective when they can be completely themselves and bring their full identity to work.
  • Work the team, then the problem – when faced with problem or opportunity, the first step is to ensure the right team is in place and working on it.
  • Pick the right players – the top characteristics to look for are smarts and hearts: the ability to learn fast, a willingness to work hard, integrity, grit , empathy and a team-first attitude.
  • Pair people – peer relationships are critical and often overlooked, so seek opportunities to pair people up on projects or decisions.
  • Peer feedback survey:
    • Core attributes – For the past 12 months, to what extent do you agree/disagree that each person:
      • Displayed extraordinary in-role performance.
      • Exemplified world-class leadership
      • Achieved outcomes that were in the best interest for both the company as a whole and his/her organisation.
      • Expanded the boundaries of what is possible for the company through innovation and/or application of best practices.
      • Collaborated effectively with peers (e.g. worked well together, resolved barriers/issues with others) and championed the same in his/her team.
      • Contributed effectively during senior team meetings (e.g was prepared, participated actively, listened well, was open and respectful to others, disagreed constructively)
    • Product leadership – For the past 12 months to what extent do you agree/disagree that each person demonstrated exemplary leadership in the following areas:
      • Product Vision
      • Product Quality
      • Product Execution
    • Open-text questions
      • What differentiated each SVP and makes him/her effective today?
      • What advice would you give each SVP to be more effective and/or have greater impact?
  • Get to the table – winning depends on having the best team, and the best teams have more women.
  • Solve the biggest problem – identify the biggest problem, the “elephant in the room”, bring it front an center and tackle it first.
  • Don’t let the bitch sessions last – air all the negative issues, but don’t dwell on them. Move on as fast as possible.
  • Winning right – strive to win, but always win right, with commitment, teamwork and integrity.
  • Leaders lead – when things are going bad, teams are looking for even more loyalty, commitment, and decisiveness from their leaders.
  • Fill the gaps between people – listen, observe, and fill the communication and understanding gaps between people.
  • Permission to be empathetic – leading teams becomes a lot more joyful, and the teams more effective, when you know and care about the people.
  • The lovely reset – to care about people you have to care about people: ask about their lives outside of work, understand their families and when things get rough show up.
  • The percussive clap – cheer demonstrably for people and their successes.
  • Always build communities – build communities inside and outside of work. A place is much stronger when people are connected.
  • Help people – be generous with your time, connections and other resources.
  • Love the founders – old a special reverence for – and protect – the people with the most vision and passion for the company.
  • The elevator chat – loving colleagues in the workplace may be challenging, so practice it until it becomes more natural.

The book ends with a forward looking page for advice given to Eric when he was stepping down from CEO of Google on how to stay engaged in later life: Be creative, don’t be a portfolio of interests, fine people with vitality, apply your gifts, don’t waste time worrying about the future.

Book Notes: The Coach’s Casebook

The Coach’s Casebook: Mastering the Twelve Traits That Trap Us by Geoff Watts and Kim Morgan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book presents 12 different traits which they find are common along with 38 different techniques of which different techniques might work well for different people with the different traits. The book also provides some hints to become a better coach. I’m just going to summarise the traits here along with key questions and useful models presented in the book.

Impostor Syndrome

Common characteristics:

  • Having an inability to internalise your accomplishments
  • Feeling that other people have an over-inflated view of you
  • Attributing any success you have to luck or just being in the right place at the right time
  • Being fearful of being “found out”
  • Feeling like a fraud
  • Believing that the very fact that you got the job/do the work means that it can’t be that difficult. Your ability to do something negates the value of it
  • Looking more at what you can’t do, rather than valuing what you can do

How would you describe yourself if you were being as kind and generous to yourself as you are to your friends?

You are never as good or as bad as you think you are

People Pleasing

People-pleasing is associated with a passive behaviour style, the opposite being aggressive. The middle is an assertive style.

Put other people’s feelings and needs above their own
Get pushed around or taken advantage of
Are indecisive
Have a knee-jerk “yes” response to requests
Apologise excessively
Feel guilty for other people’s feelings
Put their needs and feelings before others’
Use emotional blackmail such as sulking, silence or threats to get their own way
Persist until they get what they want
Shout, intimidate and get violent

How would somebody who you really respect and admire deal with the same situation?

Going to Excess

Often when someone is doing things to excess they have a feeling of emotional emptiness inside them that they are trying to fill with other things. These emptiness can come from any aspect in the Wheel of Human Givens.

Wheel of Human Givens

Fierce Independence

People with a strong, fierce independent trait rarely work for long in conventional corporate environments.

How might other people (with a different personality from you) approach your situation?


Energy Investment Model

While we may have a lot less control over the world than we would like, we actually have a lot more control over ourselves and our responses than we appreciate.

Our minds regularly delete things that don’t conform to our view and can distort events to make them fit.

Try keeping a journal of good things which happen. Consciously challenging your response to things. Share these challenges with friends and family so they can support the change.

Change can be brought about at a behavioural level or a belief level – a behavioural level change will likely not last long.

When did you decide to see the world this way?

Driven by Fear

Storytelling may be a defence or a smokescreen to avoid the “real” conversation that is needed. At other times it may be a sign of entrenched or “stuck” thinking.

Motivation is either “towards” what they want or “away from” what they don’t want.#

How much would you say you enjoy the destination compared to the journey?

Ostrich Syndrome

SARA Model

When someone receives some feedback which they don’t want to accept they can get stuck in rejecting the feedback. If this is regarding how they are as a person then one technique is the Johari Window approach where you choose six words from the list which you feel describe yourself and you get others to select six words as well – words you put and others respond go into the open box, things you put but others didn’t in the hidden and things other see but you did not in the blind spots.

Johari Window

What would be the worst piece of feedback that anyone could give you? Why would that be so bad?

Who do you want to be? How close are you to who you want to be? How can you find out more about yourself?


Work and home life have an interdependence so getting a holistic picture can be useful.

Wheel Of Life

What does Perfect meant to you?

What would be the impact of reducing by 10% the standard you set yourself?

How could making mistakes be less painful?


Causes for procrastination include:

  • The task appearing overwhelming
  • Not possessing the knowledge or skills to complete the task
  • Lack of time-management skills
  • Inability to prioritise

These can come about because of:

  • Fear of failure – We instinctively seek to protect ourselves from failure, often without realising we are doing so or acknowledging the consequences. This allows a lack of time to be used as the reason for failure but because you could not do it.
  • Perfectionism – Those who exhibit perfectionism often have unrealistically high standards and expectations for themselves so breaking things down into smaller achievable steps is key.
  • Lack of assertiveness – Which results in over committing to to many things.
  • Lack of autonomy – Could be delaying a task to exert some form of autonomy and control over a situation.

Ways to overcome it:

  • Write down all the reasons for delaying the task. Then create a convincing argument against each one.
  • Break the task into small, manageable “chunks”
  • Tell other people you are going to be doing in order to introduce an element of accountability and peer pressure.
  • Schedule a realistic time slot each day to get a little bit done. Plan a small reward after completing each time slot.
  • If the task seems overwhelming, remind yourself of all your past achievements so you know you are capable of succeeding.
Do you have low frustration tolerance?
Do you believe that life should be easy and comfortable?
Do you find being bored intolerable?
Do you find yourself saying “I can’t live without that” or “I just can’t bare this”?
Are you bored easily?
Do you choose short-term pleasures over important duties?
Do you often feel lethargic?
Do you have episodes of feeling “hard done by”?
Do you have a history of starting lots of things but not finishing them?

Performance Anxiety

If we stretch too much too soon then we can go too far.

How will this moment seem to you when you look back in 10 year time?

If your stress is 10/10 what would it take to lower it to 9/10?

Searching for Fulfilment

Explore your values – identify the five values which are core to you from a longer list. Using the selected values over a week record at the end of each day for each value 🙂 to :-(. Use this to identify days which you were more fulfilled than others, try to use this as a pointer to be able to get more fulfilling days.

How in control of life do you fee?

Statements – strong agree, agree, disagree or strongly disagree
Our society is run by a few people with a lot of power and there is not much the ordinary person can do about it.
Success hinges on being in the right place at the right time.
There will always be conflict in the world, however hard people work to stop it
There is no point in voting, it won’t change anything.
Everything which happens in life is predestined.
Its a waste of time trying to change people, they will always stay the same.
Whether I work hard or not it won’t make any difference to how others assess my performance.
Leaders are born not made
Luck and chance play a key role in life.
Most of what happens in life is controlled by forces that we do not understand and can’t control.

Coping with loss

A loss can come in many forms (e.g. loosing a job) and when it happens people have to go through a number of stages for them to come out the other side. For coaching its important to listen and support them through the stages and to not rush things.

Book Notes: Dare to Lead

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts by Brene Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What, if anything, about the way people are leading today needs to change in order for leaders to be successful in a complex, rapidly changing environment where we’re faced with seemingly intractable challenges and an insatiable demand for innovation? We need brave leaders and courageous culture

There are ten behaviours and cultural issues which get in the way of organisations:

  • We avoid tough conversations, including giving honest, productive feedback.
  • We manage problematic behaviour rather than acknowledging and addressing fear and feelings during change.
  • Diminish trust caused by a lack of connection and empathy.
  • Not enough people are taking smart risks or creating and sharing bold ideas to meet challenging demands and the insatiable need for innovation.
  • We get stuck and defined by setbacks, disappointments and failures so we waste time and energy reassuring people who question their value and contribution.
  • Too much shame and blame, not enough accountability and learning.
  • Opting out of vital conversations about diversity and inclusion because they fear looking, saying or being wrong.
  • When things go wrong we rush into ineffective or unsustainable solutions rather than staying with problem identification and solving.
  • Values are vage instead of actual behaviours which are taught, measured and evaluated.
  • Perfectionism and fear are keeping people from learning and growing.

The Rumble is a discussion, conversation or meeting defined by a commitment to lean into vulnerability, to stay curious and generous, to stick with the messy middle of problem identification and solving to take breaks and circle back when necessary, to be fearless in owning our parts, and to listen with the same passion we want to be heard.

The 6 myths of vulnerability –
Vulnerability is weakness – there can be no act of courage without vulnerability,
I don’t do vulnerability – life is fundamentally uncertain with risks and emotional exposure,
I can go it alone – humans are hardwired for connection as a social species,
Engineer the uncertainty and discomfort out of vulnerability – this is not something which you can fix out there it’s something you have to develop inside yourself,
Trust comes before vulnerability – in reality one can’t grow without the other,
Vulnerability is disclosure – this is not about oversharing its about leaning into conversations.

Ask your team”What does support from me look like?”

Armored LeadershipDaring Leadership
Driving perfectionism and fostering fear of failureModeling and encouraging healthy striving, empathy and self-compassion
Working from scarcity and squandering opportunities for joy and recognitionPracticing gratitude and celebrating milestones and victories
NumbingSetting boundaries and finding real comfort
Propagating the false dichotomy of victim or viking, crush or be crushedPracticing integration – strong back, soft front, wild heart
Being a knower and being rightBeing a learner and getting it right
Hiding behind cynicismModeling clarity, kindness and hope
Using criticism as self-protectionMaking contributions and taking risks
Using power overUsing power with, power to, and power within
Hustling for our worthKnowing our value
Leading for compliance and controlCultivating commitment and shared purpose
Weaponising fear and uncertaintyAcknowledging, naming and normalising collective fear and uncertainty
Rewarding exhaustion as a status symbol and attaching productivity to self-worthModeling and supporting rest, play and recovery
Tolerating discrimination, echo chambers and a “fitting in” cultureCultivating a culture of belonging, inclusivity and diverse perspectives
Collecting gold starsGiving fold stars
Zigzagging and avoidingStraight talking and taking action
Leading from hurtLeading from heart

Shame 1-2-3s:

  1. We all have it. Shame is universal and one of the most primitive human emotions that we experience.
  2. We’re all afraid to talk about shame. Just the word is uncomfortable.
  3. The less we talk about shame, the more control it has over our lives.

Guilt = I did something bad. Shame = I am bad.

If shame is obvious then you have a big problem but it can exist in organisations but in a much less obvious way such as: perfectionism, favoritism, gossiping, back-channeling, comparison, self-worth tied to productivity, harassment, discrimination, power over, bullying, blaming, teasing, cover-ups….

Empathy skills:

  1. To see the world as others see it, or perspective taking
  2. To be non-judgemental
  3. To understand another person’s feelings
  4. To communicate your understanding of that person’s feelings
  5. Mindfulness

Book Notes: How NASA Builds Teams

How NASA Builds Teams: Mission Critical Soft Skills for Scientists, Engineers, and Project Teams by Charles J. Pellerin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I personally find the order of the book a bit confusing so I have re-ordered it here into a logical structure which works better for me.

The model has two dimensions – Information which is how you take in information from Intuitor to Sensor and Deciding which is how you take in the information and then make decisions which is from Emotional to Logical .

Sensors : like to know why something works and are not comfortable with ambiguity. They generally shy away from unproven theories and concepts.

Intuitors : are usually quite imaginative and enjoy dreaming about different scenarios, stories, or problems. They tend to live in the grey area and think outside the box. Their abstract minds constantly search for new meanings and are typically reflective.

Rely on my innter knowingRely on my observations
Think more about "what could be"Think more about "what is"
Prefer creativityPrefer common sense
Act on flashes of insightAct on careful analysis
Prefer wrestling with conceptsPrefer wrestling with facts and data
Prefer holistic perspectivesPrefer details
Love big ideasLove established reality

Emotional : the decision is chosen more because it feels right.

Logical : the decision can be proved to be right based on data and an accurate modeling of all the different parameters which may occur.

Harmony is intrinsically valuableHarmony is a means to an end
Prefer to act on "what feels right"Prefer to act on "what's logical"
Consider the people firstConsider the task first
Prefer harmounious relationshipsPrefer being right
Decide through concensusDecide with my own thinking
First, trust my heartFirst, trust my head
Intolerant of conflictOK with conflict

The two dimension result in four quadrants Cultivating (Information Intuitor and Emotional Deciding), Including (Information Sensor and Emotional Deciding), Visioning (Information Intuitor and Logical Deciding) and Directing (Information Sensing and Logical Deciding) .

Cultivating - They appreciate others , share interest in a better world, caring for others. People want to feel appreciated for what they do and to have shared interests. e.g. teacher, guru.

  • Attention - These people naturally attend to people's needs and universal values
  • Mindset - We are here as stewards - for others, family, for spiritual values
  • Behavior - Supporting others in being happy and successful
  • Results - Success without damaging people
  • Dangers - Can be victim, hyper sensitive, emotional, judgemental, unrealistic


  1. Individuals can fully meet the standard by appreciating others Habitually, Authentically, Promptly, Proportionally and Specifically.
  2. Individuals can fully meet the standard by addressing the interests they share with others, especially when conflict inhibits their effectiveness.

Including - They include others, bring integrity to relationships and build teams. To include people by appropriately sharing power, information, and recognition as well as keeping the agreements while renegotiating problematic agreements before they break them. e.g. people person, cheerleader. mediator

  • Attention - These people naturally attend to teamwork and relationships
  • Mindset - We are here to work together
  • Behavior - Facilitating teamwork and collaboration
  • Results - Success through harmony
  • Dangers - Rescuing, self-deprecating, conflict averse, needs approval, withdrawn


  1. Individuals can fully meet the standard by appropriately sharing power, information, and recognition, and avoiding wasteful over-inclusions.
  2. Individuals can fully meet the standard by only entering agreements they can keep, then rigorously keeping these agreements, while renegotiating problematic agreements before they break them.

Visioning - They constantly create and need to be the best/smartest. Reality based optimism about the future achievements and to be 100% committed to that achievement. e.g. genius, intellectual aggressor

  • Attention - These people naturally tend to ideas, concepts and being the best
  • Mindset - Big, novel ideas are the deal
  • Behavior - Generate and then promulgate their ideas (faster than other can respond)
  • Results - Success through excellence and innovation
  • Dangers - Rationalising, capricious, argumentative, critical, bostful, anti-authority


  1. Individuals can fully meet the standard by holding optimistic mind-sets, while fully embracing unpleasant realities, and then advocating appealing and credible future outcomes.
  2. Individuals can fully meet the standard by demonstrating 100% commitment to realizing their essential Outcomes.

Directing - They take organised action and direct others towards the result. Having a blame and complaining free culture and clarity on roles, accountability and authority. e.g. commander, director, executive/CEO

  • Attention - These people naturally attend to task, process and certainty
  • Mindset - Plan the work - work the plan
  • Behavior - Execute with discipline and rigor
  • Results - Success through process and consistency
  • Dangers - Blame, inflexible, judgemental, controlling, closed mindset, insensitive


  1. Individuals can fully meet the standard by avoiding blaming or complaining, and being intolerant of blaming or complaining by others.
  2. Individuals can fully meet the standard by defining and communicating their Roles, Accountability and Authority to the people who need to understand and/or approve them.

The book highlights the importance of playing in all four areas of the model they present and highlight that typically people have a primary corner in which they reside but that this does not result in the best for the person, team or project - so learning where you are strong and weaker is important to help grow in these other areas.

It provides eight questions for people to assess where they are within the model as well as where the team is. This is probably the interesting part as most other models look at just the individual but this proposed to ask the questions about the team to see how people feel about others.

Additionally the book provide some other interesting insights. The first is that the more you invest in people expanding their missing dimensions the more people improve and deliver.

When you are pitching projects think from the other side -where it the matrix are they looking form? How can we both want the same things? What is their perspective?

Another lesson was when you are coming up with a project you might need a Visioning leader however when this moves to an execution phase you might need to have more of a directing leader to keep things on track. You likely have a visioning team if:

  • Grants the most power to exceptionally capable thinkers
  • Argumentative without concern for ruffled feelings
  • Creative excellence over process and certainty
  • Process is driven by technical experts
  • If management or admin are haphazard and disorganised
  • If the members are chaotic and sometimes frustrating

Where as if you have the following you likely have a directing team:

  • Managers at the top of the org chart
  • Organised processes and management style
  • Process and certainty over creativity and excellence
  • Process driven by management
  • Management process are rigorous and documented
  • Behavior is disciplined and tightly organised

Red-story lines - to get things done you need to think in a positive way, this solves a disproportionate number of issues. Feelings such as "Improving my effectiveness is too hard" will result in no change, identifying Red story lines means that you can actively look at these and make them green.

Emotional intelligence proved to be twice as important as technical skills and IQ for jobs at all levels.

Emotional Intelligence by Dan Goleman

Bring emotions to the front - identify things which make you and the team glad, sad, mad, scared and loved. Talking about these things creates a positive discussion with a no blame can do culture to fix things.

Turn blame or complaints into requests - either request something or let it go. Doing anything else is just a waste of your own effort and will get you no improvement.

Book Notes: Getting To Yes

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher, William Ury & Bruce Patton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Life is full of negotiating, we negotiate vastly more often then we would initially think. The problem is that most negotiation is based on bargaining over position – one side presents their offer and then a second party responds. This can result in poor results and an increased likelihood that the talks will break down.

The book encourages the use of conducting a principled negotiation where the goal is a wise outcome reached efficiently and amicably – work with the other party to identify the principles which you want to observe during the negotiation. Principled negotiation contains the following parts:

  1. Separate the people from the problem – be soft on the people and hard on the problem which can be conducted independent of trust. Treat each other as judges trying to decide on a case, not the prosecution and defence.
  2. Focus on interests, not positions – try to understand where the other party is coming from by exploring interests. Ask why? and why not?
  3. Invent options for mutual gain – from understanding the interests come up with creative solutions to satisfy both sets of interests with the aim to come up with multiple solutions which both sides are happy with, then decide later.
  4. Insist on using objective criteria – try to reach a result based on standards and be open to reason. Bow to principles not pressure.

You must prepare for negotiations – find objective criteria so that you can start with an informed position second be clearly aware of and strengthen your BATNA. Your BATNA is the best alternative to a negotiated agreement. Once you have this try to work to strengthen your BATNA so you can improve the balance of power so you are not locked into the negotiation and you know when it would be wise to walk away.

What if the other party won’t use the above approach? There are three things you can try: you can focus on the merits not the position through principled negotiation, else negotiation jujitsu, if all else fails try the one-text procedure.

Negotiation jujitsu – break the vicious cycle by not responding to the other sides attacks, they can attack by asserting their position forcefully, attacking your ideas and attacking you. Don’t attack their position, look behind it – ask questions to find out more about their position. Don’t defend your position, invite criticism and advice – this can turn it into a collaboration. Recast and attack on you as an attack on the problem – let the other side let off steam and don’t react. Ask questions and pause – people tend to feel uncomfortable with silence and will fill it with things which can help.

One-text procedure – use a third party who can gather the information about desires, not requirements themselves but the background to them. The third party produces a list covering the desires from both sides and invites criticism of the list. The third party then goes off and tries to come up with a solution covering all of the desires – this is then brought back and both parties are able to offer challenges. Some of these challenges might be addressable but at some point an option is presented which maximises the desires but might not be able to fully incorporate them all which both sides tend to accept.

What if the other side uses dirty tricks? – question the legitimacy of the tacktick with them. Don’t attack the people. Focus on interest not position. Invent options for mutual gain. Insist on using objective criteria.

Common tricks:

  • Fake data, get your own to validate.
  • Ambiguous authority, ask if the other side can actually commit if not then agree that you are coming up with a joint draft so there is realisation that if they change their position you can change yours.
  • Dubious intentions, if both sides have different solutions to one problem then taking the others solution can be combined with yours under certain conditions e.g. if two consecutive payments are not made.
  • Less than full disclosure is not the same as deception, you might want to use an independent third party which both parties can fully disclose to see if both parties have sufficient room to maneuver to both succeed.
  • Stressful situations, change them so your comfortable.
  • Personal attacks, recognising the tactic will nullify its impact.
  • Good guy/bad guy, once you spot it it has no impact.
  • Refusing to negotiate, try to understand why they don’t want to negotiate and propose principled negotiations as a way to allow them to take part.
  • Extreme demands, get them to rationalise their demands to the point they themselves realise they are futile.
  • Increasing demands each time you think negotiating is complete, take a break consider them when returning both sides will be more serious.
  • Lock-in tactics, play them down so that the other side has movement.
  • Hardhearted partner is not happy to accept whereas the negotiator is, get the hardhearted partner to agree to the principles in writing.
  • Calculated delay is a high cost game, highlight this and negotiate about the delay to give both sides time to come to an agreement but if there is a delay build your BATNA.
  • Take it or leave it, the best is to ignore this and keep negotiating as before.
  • Don’t be a victim, get the rules of the game on the table early so you know the game.

Book Notes: The First 90 Days

The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels by Michael D. Watkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book focuses very much on getting to the break even point where you can contribute more to the company than you can take from it – if you can accelerate that then you will be more use to the company quicker.

Avoid the common mistakes

  • Sticking with what you know – new role means new ways of working and rarely repeating previous approaches will succeed
  • Falling prey to the “action imperative” – you try too early to put your stamp on the organisation without spending sufficient time learning.
  • Setting unrealistic expectations – could be caused by not learning sufficiently before setting expectations to boss or stakeholders
  • Attempting to do too much – resource and energy gets spread too thinly so the results are poor
  • Coming in with “the” answer – you conclude too quickly on “the” problem and set “the” solution which alienates people and lose an opportunity to develop support and a good solution
  • Engaging in the wrong type of learning – spending too much time on the technical and insufficient on the culture insight, political relationships and knowledge conduits.
  • Neglecting horizontal relationships – focussing on the boss and not sufficiently on peers and stakeholders to build supportive alliances.

The fundamental principles

  • Prepare yourself – make the mental break from your old job to move on to the new one. The biggest pitfall is assuming what got you to this point will continue to do so. Ensure that you have breadth of what is going on and depth where needed. When you get promoted you need to reconsider what you delegate so that you can scale. As you move up decisions are made more through influence because people are more capable but also with stronger egos. Find the informal channels of communication and absorb the corporate culture.
What’s changed?What should you do?
Broader impact horizon. There is a broader range of issues, people and ideas to focus on.Balance depth and breadth
Greater complexity and ambiguity. There are more variables, and there is greater uncertainty about outcomes.Delegate more deeply
Tougher complexity and ambiguity. There are more powerful stakeholders to contend with.Influence differently
Further from the front lines. There is greater distance between you and the people executing on the ground, potentially weakening communication and adding more filters.Communicate more formally
More scrutiny. There is more attention paid to your actions by more people more frequently.Adjust to greater visibility
  • Accelerate your learning – understand the market, product, technologies, systems, structures, culture and politics. Learn about the past (performance, ways of working, past changes) the present (vision and strategy, people, process, landmines, early wins)and the future (challenges and opportunities, barriers and resources, culture). Get views from multiple sources both internal and external. Use structured learning e.g. staff surveys, structured interviews, focus groups, analyse critical past decisions, process analysis, factory tours, pilot projects etc.
  1. What are the biggest challenges the organisation is (or will) be facing?
  2. Why is the organisation facing (or going to face) these challenges?
  3. What are the most positive unexploited areas for growth?
  4. What would need to happen to exploit this growth?
  5. If you were me, what would you focus your attention on?
  • Match your strategy to the situation
Start-upTurnaroundAccelerated growthRealignmentSustained success
Assembling the capabilities (people, financing and technology) to get a new bussiness or initiative off the ground.Saving a business or initiative widely acknowledged to be in serious trouble.Managing a rapidly expanding business.Reenergising a previously successful organisation that now faces problems.Preserving the vitality of a successful organisation and taking it to new levels.
Building the strategy, structure, and systems from scratch without a clear framework or boundaries.
Recruiting and welding together a high performance team.
Making do with limited resources
Reenergising demoralised employees and other stakeholders.
Making effective decisions under time pressure.
Going deep enough with painful cuts and difficult personnel choices.
Putting in place structure and systems to permit scaling.

Integrating many new employees.
Convincing employees that change is necessary.
Carefully restructuring the top team and refocusing the organisation.
Living in the shadow of the former leader and managing the team he or she created.
Playing good defense before embarking on too many new initiatives.
Finding ways to take the business to the next level.
You can do things right from the beginning.
People are energised by the possibilities.
There are no rigid preconceptions.
Everyone recognises that change is necessary.
Affected constituencies offer significant external support.
A little success goes a long way.
The potential for growth helps motivate people.
People will be inclined to stretch themselves and those who work for them.
The organisation has significant pockets of strength.
People want to continue to see themselves as successful.
A strong team may already be in place.
People are motivated to continue their history of success.
A foundation for continued success (such as a long product pipeline) may be in place.
  • Negotiate success – with your new boss having critical conversations about the current situation, expectations, working style, resources and your personal development. Developing and gaining consensus on your 90 day plan. Working with your boss
    • Don’t stay away
    • Don’t surprise your boss
    • Don’t approach your boss only with problems
    • Don’t just feedback a checklist
    • Don’t expect your boss to change – take responsibility for making the relationship
    • work
    • Clarify expectations early and often
    • Negotiate timelines for diagnosis then action
    • Aim for early wins in areas important to your boss
    • Pursue good marks from people your boss respected.
  • Secure early wins – on a small number of bussiness priorities and support behavioral change through succeeding in these in the right way.
  • Achieve alignment – review the strategic direction and bring the organisational structure into alignment with the strategy and develop the processes and skill base necessary to realise strategic intent. Don’t make change for the sake of change, restructure out of a problem when restructuring is not the issue, create a complex structure, overestimate the organisations ability to change.
  • Build your team – systematically and strategically approaching the team challenge, evaluating, aligning and mobilising its members. Move forward – don’t criticise previous leaders identify. Assess the team for competence, judgement, energy, focus, relationships and trust. Decide on the people to keep in place, keep and develop, move to a new role (high priority and low), to remove (high priority and low) or to monitor for now these need to be aligned to the strategic direction. Balance the need for stability by resolving the high priority changes initially then the low priority ones but make sure to work hard to keep the people you want – they can choose to leave because of the changes. Don’t commit new people to a course of action they were not part of agreeing.
  • Create coalitions – supportive alliances, both internal and external, are necessary to support you and your team to success.
  • Keep your balance – building the right advice-and-counsel network is indispensable to reducing the risk of losing perspective, becoming isolate and making bad calls. Ensuring that you don’t become overly stressed is also very important to achieve peak productivity.
  • Accelerate everyone – speeding up everyone’s transitions will help the organisation to gain benefits from people quicker which is beneficial to the organisation. Teaching people the techniques presented in this book can speed things up greatly. Getting people to start getting up to speed before they actually have their first day on the job can be very beneficial.

Book Notes: Ego Free Leadership

Ego Free Leadership: Ending the Unconscious Habits that Hijack Your Business by Brandon Black & Shayne Hughes
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

As a book to learn something it is quite light, a book to follow a real lift set of trials and tribulations it is an ok read.

The book presents the concept of a pinch – when our ego system is triggered by an unwanted threat or circumstance.

The learnings can be summarised as:

  • Notice the moments in your life when you experience a pinch. It may be an event or something someone says.
  • Instead of reacting search for what triggered you. What is that visceral discomfort you’re trying to numb or you’re blaming others for? How is your sense of self-worth threatened?
  • Look outward and consider what vulnerabilities others might be feeling behind their veneer of strength or indifference. Empathise with how they feel in danger.
  • Take the risk of disclosing how you feel vulnerable. Share your ego threat, not your mind chatter. Model a context of safety.

The book presents the importance of 360 feedback to understand how the perception of events we can have can vary dramatically from the other people in the same event. The learning is summarised by the contents page:

  • That voice in your head does more damage than you realise
  • No, it’s not just your personality
  • Workplace politics are your fault too
  • Stop pretending you’re not vulnerable
  • You’re not really listening are you?
  • Your ego loves an enemy
  • We can’t talk about “that”
  • “Those” people have something important to teach you

Book Notes: Difficult Conversations

Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton & Sheila Heen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When we talk there are three different conversations actually taking place at the same time. The “What happened” conversation, the feeling conversation and the identity conversation.

The “What happened” conversation

When we have difficult conversations we tend to focus on the “What happened” conversation which itself is split down into three parts – who’s right, who meant what and who’s to blame.

The truth assumption – When starting the conversation we start from the place of “I am right and you are wrong”, from which all of the problems flow. The problem is difficult conversations are never about getting the facts right – they are about conflicting perceptions, interpretations and values. Conversations are not about what is true, they are about what is important.

The intention invention – we assume we know the intentions of other people, but in fact we don’t. When we are unsure about their intentions we naturally assume they are bad selfish etc.

The blame frame – this only produces disagreement, denial and little learning evoking fear and punishment so our energy goes into defending ourselves.

We take the data to form observations which then form interpretations which finally form conclusions – which are now quite abstract from the original data. Additionally this is different for each person – each have different data based on different viewpoints, these plus our own knowledge and experience with each person knowing themselves vastly better than others resulting in different observations, interpretations and conclusions usually reflecting self interests. To move forward you have to try to understand their perspective. Don’t present your conclusions as The Truth, share where your conclusions come from, don’t exaggerate with “always” and “never” give them room.

Disentangle intent from impact, people feel that someone has (e.g.) hurt them intentionally where as in reality the intent could have been quite different. Disentangling these is a challenge as people easily see and feel the impact and assume that is what the intent was – which can be far from the case. Take this as a hypothesis and enquire as to the impact which the original person intended. Be open to reflecting on the complexity of your intentions.

Quit backwards looking blame and instead look at contribution so that you can learn from this. “How did we each contribute to this situation?” knowing this then we can ask “How can we change this?”. The key is contribution is joint, each contributed to the result and understanding is key to learning. Remember to focus on all parties contributions, understand feelings and this is not about blaming the victim but understanding “What did I do to contribute to the situation?”. There are four hard to spot contributors – avoiding a problem till now, being unapproachable, relationship interactions with reinforcing cycles and problematic role assumptions. Try out two approaches – role reversal and the perspective as an observer.

TruthDifferent stories
AccusationsIntention and impact
Judgements, characterizations Feelings
What’s wrong with youWhat’s going on for them

The Feelings conversation

Difficult conversations are inherently about feelings and are an integral part of the conflict. Without discussing feelings you are not actually discussing the actual issue (in most cases) so putting these on the table for discussion is key to resolve some problems.

Sharing feelings without evaluation. Acknowledge how people feel so that they feel heard and respected. Sometimes feelings are all that matter.

The Identity conversation

How does what happened affect my self esteem, my self image, my sense of who I am in the world? This is what am I saying to myself about me.

Ground yourself – ask what is at stake when there is an identity threat. Identity threats look at “Am I Competent?”, “Am I a good person?” and “Am I worthy of love?”. People tend to feel it is all or nothing where in fact it is all grey. You need to accept that you will make mistakes, your intentions are complex and you have contributed to the problem. Take a longer term perspective which likely will reduce the impact of this issue. Raise identity issues explicitly.

Use curiosity – but with safety not to answer. Check your understanding and show that you are listening perhaps by paraphrasing back. Invite them as partners in sorting out the situation together.

  • Can you say a little more about how you see things?
  • What information might you have that I don’t?
  • How do you see it differently?
  • What impact have my actions had on you?
  • Can you say a little more why you think this is my fault?
  • Were you reacting to something I did?
  • How are you feeling about all of this?
  • Say more why this is important to you?
  • What would it mean to you if that happened?

Book Notes: Switch

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book presents change with the analogy of a rider, elephant and path.

  • Direct the rider – what often appears as resistance is often a lack of clarity, so provide a crystal-clear direction. Some is not a number and soon is not a time – these are not clear enough.
  • Motivate the elephant – what looks like laziness is often exhaustion. The rider can’t get its way by force for long so its keep to engage peoples emotional side.
  • Shape the path – what looks like a problem is often situational. When you shape the path you make it easier for the elephant and rider to follow the path.

Techniquest to Direct the rider

  • Fine the bright spots – we focus on the negative this is exemplified by English having nearly twice as many negative words as positive ones. Instead we should be looking for the bright spots which already exist and learning from those.
  • Script the Critical Moves – it’s a fallacy that big problems need big solutions, small changes can make a big difference. Humans make many small decisions on autopilot, by scripting the moves we can help adjust the autopilot making small change with big impact.
  • Point to the Destination – build a vision so the driver knows where it is going and so the elephant knows why it is important.

Motivate the Elephant

  • Find the Feeling – we are motivated much more by feelings than facts so building feelings is key to change. Be that the feeling of empathy so you can better understand your customer or the feeling of strength so you can take you medication or hope, optimism and excitement about new products.
  • Shrink the Change – it’s much harder to try to do everything, instead look at how you can shrink the change perhaps by only doing part of it or making the change easier.
  • Grow Your People – there are two basic models of decision making the consequence model and the identity model. The consequences model is the analytical approach to decision making. The identity model is where you ask yourself Who am I? What kind of situation is this? What would people like me do?  Building an identity is powerful – be that people identifying as inventors, cast members etc.

Shape the Path

  • Tweak the Environment – look at how you can make the environment more aligned to the result you are looking for makes the change easier. If you are struggling with focusing on writing why not take your laptop away from WiFi and work in the woods.
  • Build Habits – if you can instill habits that reinforce then you can make progress towards your goals for free. This builds the automatic reactions to reduce the challenge of decision making. Examples include routing, or checklists etc.
  • Rally the Herd – you are doing things because you see other people doing them. “Designated driver” spread in this way by asking TV executives for 5 seconds to include such a person, this spread the idea and it quickly caught on.
  • Keep the Switch Going – recognise and celebrate the first step. When you spot movement reinforce it.

Common obstacles

  • People don’t see the need to change – visualise the problem, find the feeling, tweak the environment
  • Not invented here – highlight identity either company or profession, find the bright spot where it is invented here and clone it
  • Too much analysis – find a feeling, create a destination, simplify the problem
  • Overcoming old approaches – create a new habit, set a preloaded action trigger, create a new routine without the old approach, remove ambiguity
  • No motivation – sell the identity change, encourage a small step, create a destination, encourage the smallest change, use social pressure, make the path easy to follow
  • I’ll change tomorrow – shrink the change so you can start today, set an action trigger, make yourself accountable to someone
  • “It will never work” – find a bright spot, build small successes, give people a free space to the people who are optimistic
  • Know but not doing – knowing isn’t enough, find the smallest thing you can do, can you tweak the environment, get and give reinforcing support to someone else
  • Change resistance – people get married and have children and this change will be smaller
  • Tough patches – focus on building the habit, remind people how much they have already achieved, teach a growth mindset
  • It’s too much – shrink the change, develop the growth mindset, some change includes failure don’t beat yourself up.
  • Nothing happens – build clarity, remove obstacles, replicate a bright spot,

Book Notes: Decisive

Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Decision making is hard and humans are not good at it. as just one example from the world or work where 83% of high stake decisions (aka takeovers) don’t return any increase in value to shareholders – no doubt that huge amounts of analysis were done but if the process of making the decision is floored no amount of analysis will fix that.

Process matters more than analysis – by a factor of six

When making decision there are four factors which strongly influence

  1. Narrow framing – this means we miss options. Such as asking the OR question – do we do this OR that? Instead think if there is a way we can do this AND that? Are there more creative ways to solve the problem? Widen your options
  2. Confirmation Bias – people select data which supports their idea or aim, sometimes this is intentional sometimes it is not. Reality test your assumptions
  3. Short-term emotions – focusing on the here and now rather than on the long term. Attain distance before deciding
  4. Overly confidence in our own predictions – to the point of ignoring data which would reduce our confidence. Prepare to be wrong

Widen your options

  • Multi track – is there a way that you can try out multiple different approaches concurrently? By doing them concurrently and not incrementally you come up with a more diverse set of options, not just smaller changes. It is also good for peoples egos to realise there are multiple solutions not just the one they came up with originally. Toggle between the prevention (avoiding negative outcomes) and promotion (pursuing positive outcomes) mindsets. Try coming up with a playlist for stimulating new ideas which you can reuse.
  • Find people who have already solved the problem – these could be external companies or internal “bright spots”. Try different levels of abstraction e.g. for a swimwear manufacturing the lowest level is by looking at smooth materials but by moving to a more abstract level of “things which move fast in water” opens your eyes to ways other (even nature) has already solved these problems.

Reality test your assumptions

  • Consider the Opposite – How can you bring this into the process – such as the role of devil’s advocate? As the question “What would have to be true for this to be the very best choice?”. Ask disconfirming questions e.g. “what do people leave your company?”. Use more open questions to get broader information rather than closed questions in one particular direction. How can we keep our yes open for the opposite to our expectations e.g. a happiness diary if we are feeling down. Can we test our assumptions with a deliberate mistake? These require discipline to not be blind to.
  • Zoom out, zoom in – We don’t tend to seek reviews for our most important decisions. The inside view is our evaluation of our specific situation, the outside view is how things generally unfold in similar situations – the outside view is more accurate but we tend to use the internal. Get a base rate, either from known research or ask experts for their historical experience – don’t ask them to predict as experts tend to be poor at predictions. Take a close up view as well, put yourself right in the action to get a close up view. We should do both the zoomed out and close up view.
  • Ooch – try it out, run small experiments and see what you learn. Ooching is not always the right thing to do but where a small amount of learning is useful it is hugely beneficial.

Attain distance before deciding

  • Overcome short-term emotions – We tend to make decisions with only a short term focus, not a long term one. Ask the question how would you feel in 10 minutes, 10 months, 10 years? to get perspective. We like things which are familiar to us and we don’t like losing things – these are short term feelings which need to be overcome else you will continue in the status quo. “What would your sucessor do?” “What would a friend advice?”
  • Honor your core priorities – long term emotional values, goals, aspiration – what kind of person/organisation do we want to be? By enshrining these you can quickly answer many questions. Ensure we stick to our core priorities – get things off this list long term (e.g. working out how you can permanently resolve issues), have a stop-doing list to remind you of things which are distractions to avoid, have an hourly beep test to check you are doing something on the to-do list.

Prepare to be wrong

  • Bookend the Future – The future is not a point it is a range, so how would you deal with different scenarios. A premortem is a positive way to identify the things which may go wrong and to work to avoid them occurring. A preparade is a way to identify what would happen if things go well (e.g. running out of parts).
  • Set a tripwire – How can we be actively notified when things are moving in one way or another so that we can actively make decisions, not just for a point in time to pass us by and for a now out of date decision to still be in place.
  • Trusting the Process – Decisions made by groups must be fair. Collaborating on a decision results in a better result – this takes more time upfront but is quicker during implementation. We need to be actively taking part in the process for it to be fair. Process does not sound fun but it allows for the making of bigger and more successful choices.

In general consider the WRAP process of

  • Widen your options
  • Reality test your assumptions
  • Attain distance before deciding
  • Prepare to be wrong