All posts by Richard

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

Book Notes: Made To Stick

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The main thing about this book are the stories within it for which the book is packed. Here I just include the important parts but I do recommend the book for the stories which will make the content here actually stick. If the content does not stick then there was no point. Additionally speaking abilities does not tie with people being able to recollect the content.

Sticky = understandable, memorable and effective in changing thoughts or behaviour

As such for your presentation you need people to:

  1. Pay attention
  2. Understand
  3. Remember
  4. Agree/Believe
  5. Care
  6. Be able to act on it

From research creativity is found to have a formula which can be learnt, using the template means that your message will more likely be memorable. Using the six principles:

  • Simplicity
  • Unexpectedness (helps people pay attention)
  • Concreteness (helps people understand and remember)
  • Credibility (helps people Agree/Believe)
  • Emotions (helps people care)
  • Stories (helps people be able to act on it)

Alongside the six principles there is one recurring warning – the curse of knowledge – the fact is is not possible to unknow what you already know, where as what you know no one else does (else there would be little point in telling them). The tapping a tune game is a way to highlight to people about the impact that they know the answer and others don’t.

Simplicity = the core of your message + compactness.

  • Commander’s intent – prefixing all messages with the intent of a mission, this has a much more power full meaning than a command, e.g. “capture a hill” – why? where as “secure the convoy as it passes by” gives more flexibility while still achieving the same aim.
  • Burying the lead – by putting in so much other stuff that the actual meaning is lost.
  • Inverted pyramid– start with the most important points.
  • If you say three things you say nothing – work out what your point is and keep to just one
  • Decision paralysis – by having a clear simple message helps people make decisions
  • Using whats there – build on things which people already know, this does simplify things at the expense of accuracy but conversely accuracy does not stick where as derivatives do

Unexpected

  • Breaking the guessing machine – people’s brains work in autopilot – for your idea to stick you need to kick the brain out of autopilot and something unexpected will do that, it will make the brain pay attention.
  • Gap theory of curiosity – people want to know things, they can’t be left with a half finished problem. As such presenting a mystery, a gap, will keep people listening till the end however the gap needs to be a suitable size as too big won’t interest people.

Concreteness

  • Make it real – abstract concepts people struggle with where as naming things, e.g. the Mount Hamilton Wilderness, can greatly increase people connection.
  • Concrete is memorable – e.g. bicycle is more memorable than e.g. justice
  • Curse of knowledge – it is difficult to unlearn what you know and to put yourself in the shoes of your listener
  • Ferraris go to Disney World – talking about concrete ideas is one thing but making them in another and vastly compelling way for people to see what you are presenting

Credible

  • Antiauthority – someone who is the opposite of your message to desaude e.g. smoking by a smoker
  • The power of detail – people are more convinced someone is credible when there is more detail in their descriptions
  • Statistics – these can help prove your point but large abstract numbers do not, instead using analogies such as a large bucket of popcorn has more fat than a full day of other foods
  • Fort Knox – by showing that you work in the toughest place you can win over less challenging companies

Emotional

  • If I look at the one – giving a single compelling story is much more powerful than general sweeping statements, people don’t associate with groups only individuals
  • Appeal to self interest – People care about themselves so what is in it for me?
  • Get people to dream it – “Imagine yourself as …” drives people to action
  • Aim for the top of Maslow’s hierarchy – “This bonus shows how great a job you are doing and how much you are appreciated by the company” not “This bonus will let you do home improvements”
  • Association with people you respect – means your message is listened to more
  • Why should someone care? – A repeat of the curse of knowledge but why is it important?

Stories

  • Entertaining and instructional – If the story is entertaining and has a meaning people will enjoy and remember it
  • The art of spotting – Stories happen all the time, the key is to grab them and use them
  • Challenge plot – appeal to our perseverance and courage. They make us want to work harder, take on new challenges and overcome obstacles.
  • Connection plot – about our relationships with other people.
  • Creative plot – make us want to do something different, to be creative, to experiment with new approaches.
  • Conference storybook – Capturing the stories from a conference is a great way to remember the content though the presenters might not like the effort of their learnings being lost

Book Notes: The Responsibility Process

The Responsibility Process: Unlocking Your Natural Ability to Live and Lead with Power by Christopher Avery
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The stages of the responsibility process are easy to spot in others but the hard part is spotting them in ourselves. Once we do we have to make an active decision to want to progress to the next stage which in itself can be tough.

In organisations Accountability and Responsibility are regularly used interchangeably but in reality they are very different:
Accountability : this is external, others decide if you are accountable for something. Driving accountability is seen as “achieve X or feel the consequences”, as fear goes up responsibility goes down.
Responsibility : this is internally how we feel about things and is a more powerful determination of action and result. Responsibility is a feeling of ownership and pride.

Positional leaders at all levels place holding others to account ahead of developing personal responsibility. As a result work and workers suffer.

Denial – Ignoring something either through choice or through limited understanding
Blame Others (Lay Blame) – It’s easy and natural to blame others for something which has happened.
Justify – If we can move on from blaming people then we justify it because of the situation or things outside of your control.
Blame Ourselves (Shame) – Shame is the first step of taking ownership of an issue and initially we feel bad that we blamed others or justified it externally and now realise its us.
Obligation – We feel trapped, burdened and that we have no choice. Feeling that “I have to” – where our true desires are at odds with our perceived reality. In this mental state you don’t perform well – e.g. not really being present in a meeting – and resentment.
Quit – This is where you think you have parked a problem, but it is just temporary and it will return costing you more mental and emotional energy. “That’s a problem for later”, “Only 13 year and 2 months to retirement”….
Responsibility – We feel free, powerful, and safe – you trust that you have sufficient intelligence, creativity and resource to face whatever life brings. We make choices, multiple choices lead to us creating a desired experience compared to attracting experiences which are more complex and less linear.

In Denial, Blame Others, Justify, Blame Ourselves, Obligation & QuitIn Responsibility
Our reasoning is simplistic and restricted by our mental state.We have available to us the entire complex probabilistic reasoning capabilities of our extraordinary mind.
Our logic is mechanical, looking at simplistic cause and effect.Our logic is holistic, taking a systems view of all the interrelated elements in our lives, work and relationships.
We are driven by anxiety.We are pulled by what we truly want in life, at work, in relationships, both for the long term and for this situational problem moment right now.
We are fairly weak.We are incredibly strong.
We are constrained by our reality.We craft our reality.
We are victims.We are agents.
We have problems that are more powerful than we are.We know that we are more powerful than any problem we face.

To take on the task of being a 100% responsible person you need three keys:
Intention : An active intention to take responsibility by asking yourself “How can I?
Awareness : When we feel frustrated identify which mental state we are so we can improve
Confront : You must face and examine the perceived conflict in your mind to grow

You can use the Catch Sooner framework to actively work on personal issues.
1. Catch : Catch yourself performing the action you want to change.
2. Change : Determine the desired behaviour
3. Forgive : Forgive yourself for being human and not changing faster due to unconscious programming or conditioning
4. Vow : Vow to catch yourself sooner next time

Lead yourself first – some people see the others as the problem and want to resolve their issues, but you can’t do that you can only grow and develop yourself. Take every opportunity to learn. Use the phrase “What do I want?” rather than “What should I do?”

So many people assume they can’t make much of a difference in groups unless they are given authority over others in the group. However in group settings, these same individuals admit seeing either a positive or negative difference that others make.

For others to follow you you must first study, demonstrate, ask then teach others the responsibility process – without fully embracing it yourself others will see through you and not fully you into your message.

WordPress Block rending simple HTML

When I wrote my notes on the Grit boot I made a mini quiz based on the questions in the book – originally that was just in a “classic” WordPress posting, but with the recent update to Gutenberg the hacky little script stopped working. So I thought I’d have a look at coming up with a slightly less hacky WordPress Block. This is just some notes on what I did to basically create a block which is a block with predefined HTML (nothing fancy).

Using the WordPress command line interface (CLI) I created a simple package (needed to hold a block) followed by a block using:

$ php wp-cli.phar scaffold plugin "grit-quiz"
$ php wp-cli.phar scaffold block grit-quiz --title="Grit Quiz" --plugin="grit-quiz"

The changes then just need to be made to the index.js file in wp-content/plugins/grit-quiz/blocks/grit-quiz. After a bit of hunting I needed to have an element RawHTML returned so I changed the save method so that it would store the HTML directly.

save: function() {
	return el(
		"p", 
		null, 
		el(
			wp.element.RawHTML, 
			null, 
			formHtml // a variable with the basic HTML
		)
	);
}

As with all of these things the result is quite simple but only when you know the answer. I have popped the full code here for future reference.

Book Notes: Sprint

Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky and Brad Kowitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is really to take a challenge (high stakes, not enough time or just plain stuck) and learn the most that’s possible within one week. The book really focuses on two things firstly the benefits you can get by trying out risky ideas in the simplest way possible and secondly how to execute this with tips on facilitation and organisation.

Its key to have the right seven (would be ideal) people.

  • The decision maker is key – without their buy-in, without which you are likely to not take the right challenge to push the product forward.
  • Financial expert so you are clear on how this will impact the business
  • Marketing expert so it fits in with the rest of the corporate message
  • Customer expert so you have someone who understands what the customer wants or would use
  • Tech/logistics expert who understands what the company can deliver
  • Design expert so that you can make something people want to use
  • Trouble makers these people will challenge what you are doing so the results are better

If you have extra experts have them attend on the Monday and decide on who will be the facilitator who will need to remain unbiased for the week.

No laptops, no phones – fully dedicated time from 10am till 5pm Monday to Thursday with a morning break at 11:30am, 1hr lunch at 1:00pm and another break at 3:30pm has been found to be the best. On Friday its a bit different so 9am till 5pm so you can squeeze in the real users.

Monday – Make a map and choose a target

Why are we doing this project? Where do we want to be in six months, a year, or five years from now?

  • What questions do we want to answer in this sprint?
  • To meet our long-term goal, what has to be true?
  • Imagine we travel into the future and our project failed. What might have caused that?

Make a map of the way people currently complete the task – this will contain multiple actors (including the customer) and a clear ending, keep it simple, suitably high level and ask for more input to ensure that its accurate by welcoming experts to pop in for 30 minutes each during which time you can improve the accuracy of the map to better reflect real life.

Once you know the map you need to choose a target – a technique for this is for people to make “How might we …” cards independently before putting them on the wall together. Once on the wall group them and dot vote on the questions which people feel are the most valuable. The decider then needs to decide which step in the map will we focus on and which questions we will look to answer.

Tuesday – Sketch competing solutions

Start off by seeing other things which might be approaches to solving the problem, give three minute demos of things which you feel are relevant.

Each person independently should sketchup one or more ideas. Give it a title as it should be anonymous. Don’t share them with others at this stage.

While this is all going on someone not part of the team should be finding people for friday – real potential users, advertise on bulletin boards and offer a voucher reward but ask them questions to ensure they are your correct target market, if they are not then Friday will be a wastes. So when questioning be careful not to push them to the answer you want.

Wednesday – Decide on the best

  1. Put all of the sketches on the wall
  2. Look at each independently and put dots on features which are interesting
  3. Quickly discuss the highlights of each sketch and capture big ideas.
  4. Each person votes for one solution
  5. The decider makes the final decision – this could be to try two things if you want to compare different ideas (like A/B testing)

The next step is to plan things out in more detail, starting from how the user starts an interaction with your product (e.g. reading about it in a newspaper). By having a storyboard today it should be quicker to prototype tomorrow.

Thursday – Build a realistic prototype

Fake it, build a convincing facade this will give you the most learnings with the minium work. Things like slides etc can be great to present things quickly but it should be immersive, the person on Friday must feel they are using a product. You can prototype anything, they will be disposed of and build just enough to learn what you need.
Have a stitcher whose job it is to pull together all of the parts the rest of the team produce and make it into a coherent product fixing things like layout, the customers name to be consistent etc.
At the end of the day have time to trial it lead by the person who will run the trial on Friday.

Friday – Test with target customers

Five 1hr interviews a 30 min break after each and a debrief is the order for the day. From their research the more people you have you get diminishing returns and five is the sweet spot.

For each interview have it so that there is just the customer and an interviewer, others should watch remotely and taking notes is key to getting value from the day. The interviews follow the format:

  1. A friendly welcome to start the interview
  2. A series of general, open-ended context questions about the customer
  3. Introduction to the prototype(s)
  4. Detailed task to get the customers reaction to the prototype
  5. A quick debrief to capture the customer’s overarching thoughts and impressions

The onlookers should be noting down things which were good, things which were bad for each of the interviewers for each of the stages in the prototype to see if there is any correlation or new ideas which come out of it.

Book Notes: When

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are natural rhythms in daily life which we tend to ignore – instead believing that all times are good time for everything. In reality humans have an approximately daily rhythm which if taken advantage of can have a huge impact on people’s well being and performance.

Taking the midpoint between falling asleep and waking up results in a near gaussian distribution – for most people this point is around 3:30am, but it can be much earlier or later. For people whose midpoint is before 3am these 14% of people are considered Larks, the midpoint for the 21% of people considered Owls being after 5:30am and the remaining 65% of people being “Third birds”. Part of the reason for the natural midpoint is nature and part nearture with age being a significant factor.

The daily rhythm tends to be a peak followed by a trough followed by a rebound, for Larks and “Third birds” but for Owls the pattern is the opposite. As such – all times are not created equally and not all people experience it the same.

LarkThird BirdOwl
Analytic tasksEarly morningEarly to mid morningLate afternoon and evening
Insight tasksLate afternoon / early evening Late afternoon / early evening Morning
Making an impressionMorningMorningMorning
Making a decisionEarly morningEarly to midmorningLate afternoon and evening

Doctors are people too, and it’s been seen that morning exampinations have an increased detection rate for issues compared to later in the day.

People love to get on with things, however taking a proactive “vigilance break” to take stock and review things before jumping in can have huge benefits, including saving peoples lives.

Brakes have a huge benefit, some research has found 52 minutes work the a 7 minutes break to be the optimum. You can boost brakes by including movement and also other people – as long as your not discussing work, ideally outside. Research shows the importance of a break for lunch and naps of 20 minutes or less prevents you feeling drowsy – you can achieve this by having a coffee before a nap, around the 20 minute mark the caffeine will kick in.

Start at the right time – an early start does not mean more productive and research for students has shown that as late as an 11am start time to be vastly more beneficial than the regular pre-8am start times.

Start a project with a pre-mortem. Imagine some point in the future and come up with the things things which could go wrong, use this to understand why these things “went” wrong and use this as a guide for things you can try to reduce or mitigate.

People struggle with the middle – the start is exciting and so are achievements but its the middle which is tough, pushing through this to achieve the results can be the most painful part. The midpoint can be a slump but it can give us a push – at the start there is lots of time but at the middle highlighting that time is escaping and there is a lot to do in less time can provide motivation to get things done before the deadline.

You can make the most of midpoints by setting public intermediate goals which pushes things forward, stop the day with work still to do (e.g. an unfinished sentence) will pull you to want to continue the next day, build an unbroken chain (e.g. marking off days you write) as this puts pressure on yourself to keep working so as not to break the chain, think about what you are doing can help others also helps you get through the midpoint blues.

Endings can be positive, using the term “here is your last chocolate” boosts enjoyment compared to “here is your next chocolate”, giving good news first and bad news second results in better happiness as the other way round people dwell on the bad news when receiving the good. Use endings as a positive – such as noting down at the end of the day the things which you have achieved, making a special end event or experience such as a chocolate at the end of a flight.

People naturally synch with others as part of a group – naturally this can be breathing or even heartbeats. You can use this to boost your well being such as singing in a choir, running together, etc. Improv can provide useful techniques for a group to synch, some techniques include:
– a mirroring exercise where you follow another person’s actions
– a mind meld where on the count of three a pair shout out to each other a random word, then on the second count they shout out a word which joins the two until you both come up with the same word
– a clapping exercise where the aim is for one person to look at another and for them to clap at the same time, this second person then chooses the next person etc
You can also promote belonging to a group by replying to email quickly, telling war stories and nurture self organising rituals.

Book Note: Care To Dare

Care to Dare: Unleashing Astonishing Potential Through Secure Base Leadership by George Kohlrieser, Susan Goldsworthy & Duncan Coombe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The concept presented in the book is the importance of a leader which provides a secure base so that the people in the team are able to take risks through daring while maintaining safety for them through caring. To be a secure base to others you need a secure base yourself , both in your personal and professional life.

The way a leader builds trust and influences others by providing a sense of protection, safety and caring and by providing a source of inspiration that together produces energy for daring, exploration, risk taking and seeing challenge.

The characteristics of a Secure Base Leader are

  1. Stays Calm
    Remaining composed and dependable especially when under pressure
  2. Accepts the Individual
    Accept and acknowledge the basic worth of the person as a human being, not just an employee
  3. Sees the Potential
    See beyond the current functioning state and see the long term potential which someone has perhaps 10 to 20 years in the future.
  4. Uses Listening and Inquiry
    To help people work things out themselves rather than telling or advocating a particular way.
  5. Delivers a Powerful Message
    A short sentence or gesture which impacts people deeply on a bullseye target.
  6. Focuses on the Positive
    So they can see the potential and the opportunity for learning, even in a crisis or time of difficulty.
  7. Encourages Risk Taking
    This is actively pushing people to do things which they may feel that they can’t, so they are in a position which they can learn and develop fast.
  8. Inspires through Intrinsic Motivation
    Focusing on potential, learning, development, passion, contribution and meaning
  9. Signals Accessibility
    People knowing that when they need you you are able to discuss or be a sounding board is useful to people to feel they are not alone.

This is more than just being nice to people this also requires Feedback – even painful feedback to help someone grow, Push – really challenging people, inspiring courage and not using fear, Accountability – they don’t accept excuses and will disagree with people taking the easy way out.

Key to being a secure base for others you need to build a strong and deep attachment that creates more energy than the person would have on their own. This attachment is what leads to high levels of caring. To be able to attach you need a strong feeling that the attachment is worthwhile, that you truly value that person and for that person to truly trust you.
A key part of attachment is to acknowledge and embrace loss – the person will grow and leave, the project will end etc. All things come to an end and by embracing this you can boost your attachment quality and speed of attachment and reattachment. At the end everyone goes through the stages of grief – celebrating etc can accelerate this process and move on together.

  1. Denial
  2. Protest – Anger
  3. Sadness – Missing
  4. Fear – Terror – Panic
  5. Rationalisation
  6. Acceptance
  7. New Attachment or Renewal
  8. Forgiveness
  9. Gratitude

Always look out for the positives and keep people focus on the benefits rather than tha negative pain so that they can Play to Win an not just Play Not to Lose.
Care must be taken that the past does not become a self fulfilling prophecy, as such taking a growth mindset is required to influence the “Mind’s Eye”. Through training you can focus on the positives and learn but not dwell on the negatives of the past. This can adjust how your see your current state and can have an influence on the results which you achieve. It is through developing the “Mind’s Eye” that you can lead to high levels of daring.

Playing to Win – “Together we can achieve great things” which needs courage

Playing Not to Lose – “Let us be safe and not take too much risk”

Playing to Dominate – “Who needs others?  I can do better by myself” which is where you are in total control.

Playing to Avoid – “I want to be left alone”

Rate your Secure Base Leadership on a 1 = never to 5 = always scale the following:

  • Remains calm when under pressure
  • Are dependable and predictable in terms of moods and emotions
  • Remains approachable for support, even in stressful situations
  • Value your team members as human beings, not just as employees performing a role
  • Accept people’s limitations and weaknesses in a supportive way
  • See the core goodness in people before judging or criticising them
  • Establish and hold a concrete vision of each direct report’s unrealised potential
  • Encourage each of your direct reports to realise his or her full potential
  • Ask your direct reports about their hopes and dreams for their careers
  • Listen actively
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Ask questions before telling people what to do
  • Deliver powerful, memorable messages
  • Speak clearly and succinctly
  • Use non-verbal signals and gestures to accentuate our memorable messages
  • Keep your team focused on the goal even when under pressure
  • Focus on opportunity and possibility more than problems and difficulties
  • Find and express the positive in situations
  • Encourage those who work for you to take risks
  • Provide real stretch assignments
  • Give people freedom and responsibility (vs micromanagement)
  • Determine what is really important to people and use that insight to motivate them
  • Stress the importance of learning, growth and development
  • Focus people on achievement and fulfillment rather than financial reward
  • Return calls or emails in a reasonable amount of time
  • Remain supportive of people even when you have little direct contact
  • Make yourself available to others when they have questions

Book Notes: Thanks for the Feedback

Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Feedback is only useful if people actually act upon it, improve and get better. There are three triggers which mean we react defensively to the feedback we receive.

Truth Triggers are where we feel the substance of the feedback is somehow off, unhelpful or we perceive to be untrue. As a recipient it is key to search harder to understand the feedback. Once we understand we might still consider the feedback wrong – some of it will be but some of it might actually be covering a blind spot we did not know about.

Relationship Triggers are because feedback does not occur in a vacuum and the relationship between the giver and receiver. So we react based upon what we believe about the giver. Here people respond by “switchtrack” where the person responds with the relationship issue and the original feedback gets dropped. The issues is not them or you it’s them and you – the question to answer is what’s the dynamic between us and what are we each contributing to the problem?

Identity Triggers are no about the feedback nor the person giving it but the feedback challenges our identity – our sense of who we are. Understanding how we react to such triggers help us identify when it is occuring. When they then occur it is easy for our mind to exaggerate, being aware that we are doing this can help us keep things in perspective. Seeing the feedback as useful in helping us grow means that we take the feedback better than believing that we fixed.

TriggerInternal VoiceListen ForQuestions to ask
Truth That’s wrong
That’s not helpful!
That’s not me
Data they have that I don’t and interpretations they have that aren’t the same as mine.
Impacts I’m having that I may not be aware of because of my blind spots.
Can you give me an example?
What did that mean to you?
What are you worried about?
What do you see me doing that’s getting in my own way?
How did that impact you?
RelationshipAfter all I’ve done for you?!
Who are you to say?
You’re the problem not me
Switchtracks that put a second topic on the table about our relationship.
Systems between us – what are each of us contributing to the issues, and what’s my part in that system?
Help me understand your feedback. Then I want to talk about how/when/why you’re offering it and some of my relationship concerns.
What am I contributing to the problem between us? What is most upsetting to you and why?
IdentityI screwed up everything
I’m doomed
I’m not a bad person – or am I?
What’s my particular Wiring – how far do I swing and how quickly do I recover? How can I talk myself through my particular pattern?
Can I sort for Coaching focused on the opportunity to grow, rather than the judgement implicit in the evaluation or coaching?
Can you help me get perspective on your feedback?
What could I do that would help me improve? What could I change that would matter most?

There are three different types of feedback.

Appreciation – to see, acknowledge, connect, motivate, thank. Different people need appreciation in different ways – this could be through words, acts of service, quality time, physical contact or gifts. As well as tailored to the person it also needs to be authentic.

Coaching – help receiver expand knowledge, sharpen skill, improve capability or to address the giver’s feelings or an imbalance in the relationship

Evaluation – to rate or rank against a set of standards, to align expectations, to inform decision making

The challenge is when you ask for one type of feedback (e.g. appreciation), you receive a different one (e.g. coaching) and how you interpret it (e.g. as evaluation). This “cross-transactions” means that the feedback is wasted. To improve this when you are asked for feedback you should enquire why they are seeking it. Secondly you should try to remove evaluation from coaching and appreciation. Evaluation always comes along as the loudest.

Feedback arrives with generic labels e.g. be more proactive – its key to go from “that’s wrong” to “tell me more”. This is a challenge because givers and receivers interpret the label differently since the giver naturally knows what is meant and the receiver imagines something based upon it. Ask where is the feedback coming from? This is because people jump from data to interpretation and for you to fully understand the interpretation you need more of the data. When we receive coaching it’s important to know what their suggestion would look like.

There are blind spots which we can not see, such as our facial expressions, our tone of voice, our patterns, our email etiquette, etc. There are also some amplifiers – such as our emotion which others see as doubly important, I will attribute things to the situation and others will attribute it to my character, us judging ourselves by our intent and others on our impact. You can not see more by looking harder, only external people can provide the feedback needed – to do this ask “What do you see me doing, or failing to do, that is getting in my own way?”. Feedback is a mirror but some mirrors are honest and some are more supportive. Alternatively videoing or recording a meeting provides an undisputable mirror.

Switchtracking is when we have an emotional response to feedback – we respond with something based on our feelings. Normally we then continue with the conversation, whereas what should be done is that we acknowledge the two tracks and deal with both of them independently.

Taking a perspective of seeing feedback as part of a broader system

  • One step back : you and me interactions – From here we see the interaction of you and me as a pair. What is the particular you + me combination that is creating a problem, and what is each of us contributing to that?
  • Two steps back : role clashes – This view expands our perspective to look at the roles each of us plays on the team, in the organisation or in the family. Roles are often a crucial but largely invisible reason we bump into each other.
  • Three steps back : the big picture – From this frame of reference we can view the entire landscape – including other players, structures, and processes that guide and constrain the choices we each make and the outcomes we get.

People distort feedback in their mind – and this distortion is hugely different with different people with some people able to get back to normal quickly and others taking a lot longer. For feedback it is good to consider the following so that things are put into proportion.

  • Be prepared, be mindful
    • Know your feedback footprint – what do you do? Blame, switch track, cry apologies?
    • Inoculate yourself against the worst – imagine that the feedback is bad, this highlights that things are not so bad
    • Notice what happens – slow things down and take it as positive ways to learn
  • Separate the strands : feeling, story and feedback
    • Our stories shadowbox with the past – we can over react to feedback because of other history
  • Contain the story
    • Time – the present does not change the past and can only influence not dictate the future.
    • Specificity – being bad at one thing does not mean you are bad at everything.
    • People – One person does not mean everyone, and everyone usually likes something about us and people’s opinions change over time.
  • Change the vantage point
    • Imagine you are an observer – an outside view puts things in context
    • Look back from the future – in 10 years how important will this moment be?
    • Cast the comedy – humour offers a release of emotional tension
  • Accept you can’t control how others see you
Identity QuestionsFixed mindsetGrowth mindset
Who am I?I’m fixed. I am who I amI change, learn and grow
Can I change?My traits are fixed – effort doesn’t really change the fundamental truth about peopleMy capabilities are always evolving. Effort and hard work pay off
What’s the goal?Success. The outcome is what matters.The process of learning is what’s rewarding. Success is a by-product.
When do I feel smart/ capable/ successful?When I do something perfectly, and when I do it better than others.When I struggle with something and then start to figure it out (others’ abilities are less relevant to my own potential).
Response to challengeThreat! I may be exposed as not up to the challenge.Opportunity! I can learn something and improve.
Most comfortable environment?Safety within my abilities and comfort zone.Just outside my abilities to stretch my capabilities.

Book Notes: Winning

Winning by Jack Welch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book, it gives quite a lot of really interesting stories which really go much beyond the notes I have capture here.

Underneath it all
MISSION AND VALUES – So Much Hot Air About Something So Real

A good mission statement and a good set of values are so real they smack you in the face with their concreteness.

A good mission statement answers “How do we intend to win in this bussiness?”, giving a clear direction to profitability and inspiring to be part of something big and important. In compiling the mission statement it is important to listen to smart people from everywhere in the bussiness but it is management’s responsibility to listen, then define it then deliver on it.

Where as the responsibility for mission is the managements the responsibility for values is everyones, and while management might come up with a first version it is important for everyone to feel that they can have input and challenge them to make them better. It is then important to reward people who follow them and punish those that do not – living the values is crucial to winning.

Mission and values must be reinforcing – which seems obvious at first, but over time they can drift apart and if kept unchecked can cause the downfall of the company (e.g. Arthur Anderson).

CANDOR – The Biggest Dirty Little Secret in Business

First you get more people and ideas expressed in conversations which results in more richer ideas where people feel they can discuss, pull apart and improve ideas rather than just shutting people down.
Second it generates speed which is needed in a world market competing against a five person startup.
Third it cuts cost with meaningful discussion not just dull presentations

DIFFERENTIATION – Cruel and Darwinian? Try Fair and Effective

This is the way to manage people and businesses – for businesses it was being #1 or #2 in the market or having a plan to get there, if this were not the case then the company would have to be restructured, sold or closed. This made winning very clear and also made it clear where money should be invested – not just giving a little to every bussiness.

Managers already rank people in their head so why not make it visible.
Top 20% – these are your best and are treated well with share options bonuses etc
Middle 70% – these are the majority and here the challenge and risk is to keep them motivated and engaged. Focus is on training, feedback and goal setting. You don’t want to lose these people you want them to improve.
Bottom 10% – these people have to go, ideally once you tell them they are in the bottom 10% they will leave on their own to find jobs which are much more suited to them.
The challenges is that in some companies 20-70-10 does not work because of cronyism or favoritism. It could be that management classify the top 20 are head nodders and the bottom 10 are the ones who ask tough questions. This can be resolved with a candid clear cut appraisal system with clear goals, expectations and timelines.

VOICE AND DIGNITY – Every Brain in the Game

Every person wants and deserves a voice and dignity. Voice meaning that everyone is respected for having a valid opinion and feeling from their perspective. Dignity being acknowledged for their work, effort and individuality. Using “Work-Out” sessions where an external facilitator the manager would open the event and then leave for the sessions to be as open as possible, the manager would return at the end of the day and for 75% of the items give a yes or no answer right away and committing to respond to the remaining 25% soon after.

Your company
LEADERSHIP – It’s Not Just About You

Before you become a leader success is about growing yourself. Once you become a leader success is about growing others.

What leaders do:

  • Leaders relentlessly upgrade their team, using every encounter to evaluate, coach, and build self-confidence
    • You have to evaluate – making sure the right people are in the right jobs, supporting and advancing those who are, and moving out those who are not
    • You have to coach – guiding, critiquing, and helping people to improve their performance in every way
    • And finally you have to build self-confidence – pouring out encouragement, caring and recognition.
  • Leaders make sure that people don’t only see the vision but that they live and breath it
  • Leaders get into everyone’s skin, exuding positive energy and optimism
  • Leaders establish trust with candor, transparency and credit
  • Leaders have the courage to make unpopular decisions and gut calls
  • Leaders probe and push with a curiosity that borders on skepticism, making sure their questions are answered with action
  • Leaders inspire risk taking and learning by setting the example
  • Leaders celebrate

HIRING – What Winners Are Made Of

Integrity – they tell the truth, keep their word and take responsibility for past mistakes
Intelligence – not just education (which is a piece of the puzzle) but intelligence is critical
Maturity – individuals can handle the heat, stress and setbacks

4Es and a P
Positive energy – they love what they are doing and seem to never get tired
Energise others – the ability to get people revved up and passionate to do things
Edge – the courage to make tough yes or no decisions
Execute – the ability to get the job done
Passion – a deep felt and authentic passion for work

For senior leaders then you are also looking for
Authenticity – to have self confidence and conviction
See around corners – to be able to predict things before they happen
Surround themselves with better people than they are – a great leader has the courage to pull together a team which can make them look like the dumbest person in the room
Heavy-duty resilience – when they make a mistake do they re-group and then get going again

PEOPLE MANAGEMENT – You’ve Got the Right Players, Now What?

  • Elevate HR to a position of power and primacy in the organisation, and make sure HR people have the special qualities to help managers build leaders and careers. In fact, the best HR types are pastors and parents in the same package.
  • Use a rigorous, non bureaucratic evaluation system, monitored for integrity with the same intensity as Sarbanes-Oxley Act compliance
  • Create effective mechanisms – read: money, recognition and training – to motivate and retain
  • Face straight into charged relationships – with unions, stars, sliders and disruptors
  • Fight gravity and instead of taking the middle 70 for granted treat them like the heart and soul of the organisation
  • Design the org chart to be as flat as possible with blindingly clear reporting relationships and responsibilities

PARTING WAYS – Letting Go Is Hard to Do

Firing people is not pleasant for neither the employee nor the manager but there are three mistakes which are common.
Moving too fast – Identifying someone is underperforming and not giving them a chance to improve
Not being candid – Where you have said nice things to the person but not the real feedback so when they are fired the feel mislead
Taking too long – where someone is obviously underperforming and everyone knows it but the fear of firing someone is too large these people suffer as a result

CHANGE – Mountains Do Move

  • Attach every change initiative to a clear purpose or goal. Change for change’s sake is stupid and enervating
  • Hire and promote only true believers and get-on-with-it types
  • Ferret out and get rid of resistors, even if their performance is satisfactory
  • Look at car wrecks – where things go wrong see what might be salvaged

CRISIS MANAGEMENT – From Oh-God-No to Yes-We’re-Fine

  • Assume that it is worse than it appears
  • Assume there are no secrets in the world and that everyone will eventually find out everything
  • Assume that you and your organisation’s handling of the crisis will be portrayed in the worst possible light
  • Assume there will be changes in processes and people
  • Assume your organisation will survive, ultimately stronger for what happend

Your competition
STRATEGY – It’s All in the Sauce

  • Come up with a big aha for your business a smart realistic relatively fast way to gain substantial competitive advantage
    • What does the playing field look like now
    • What the competition has been up to
    • What you’ve been up to
    • What’s around the corner?
    • What’s your winning move?
  • Put the right people in the right jobs to drive the big aha forward
  • Relentlessly seek out the best practices to achieve your big aha whether inside or out adopt them and continue improving them

BUDGETING – Reinventing the Ritual

The standard budget process is broken as finance and the company are on different sides – there is a phony war where people can not be honest and open which turns it into a game. If instead two questions were asked ” How can we beat last years performance?” and “What is our competitor doing and how can we beat them?”. This is more an operational plan and unlike a budget can and should change as the year progresses.
This can only work if bonus is not tied to the budget and is instead linked to how the company improved on the previous year and in comparison to competitors.

ORGANIC GROWTH – So You Want to Start Something New

Starting and growing a new product or company with value of $50k is more complicated than running an established bussiness of $20m. However there are common mistakes which companies make.
First companies tend to under resource new ventures.
Second they make too little fanfare about the potential the new idea has
Third they limit the ventures autonomy.
These are hedges by the company to limit the potential risk and impact but they also limit the chases of its success. Instead
Spend plenty up front and put the best, hungriest and most passionate people in leadership roles.
Make an exaggerated commotion about potential and importance of the new venture
Err on the side of freedom; get off the new venture’s back

MERGERS AND ACQUISITIONS – Deal Heat and Other Deadly Sins

  • The first pitfall is thinking that a merger of equals can occur. Despite the noble intentions of those attempting them, the vast majority of such mergers self-destruct because of their very premise.
  • The second pitfall is focusing so intently on strategic fit that you fail to assess cultural fit, which is just as important to a merger’s success, if not more so.
  • The third pitfall is entering into a “reverse hostage situation”, in which the acquirer ends up making so many concessions during negotiations that the acquired ends up calling all the shots afterwards.
  • The fourth pitfall is integrating too timidly. With good leadership, a good merger should be completed within 90 days.
  • The fifth pitfall is the conqueror syndrome, in which the acquiring company marches in and installs own manages everywhere, undermining one of the reasons for any merger – getting an influx of new talent to pick from.
  • The sixth pitfall is paying too much. Not 5 or 10% too much, but so much that the premium can never be recouped in the integration
  • The seventh pitfall afflicts the acquired companies people from top to bottom – resistance. In a merger, new owners will always select people with buy-in over resistors with brains. If you want to survive, get over your angst and learn to love the deal as much as they do.

SIX SIGMA – Better Than a Trip to the Dentist

The book advocated Six Sigma in areas such as repetitive tasks and complex new products with the key aim to be the reduction in variation – with the highlight of “variation is evil” and Six Sigma provides a way to reduce this.

Your career
THE RIGHT JOB – Find It and You’ll Never Really Work Again

Imagine you are considering a new job…

SignalTake it as a good sign if…Be concerned if…
PeopleYou like the people a lot – you can relate to them, and you genuinely enjoy the company. In fact, they even think and act what you do.You feel like you’ll need to put on a persona at work. After a visit to the company, you find yourself saying things like, “I don’t need to be friends of people I work with”
OpportunityThe job gives you the opportunity to grow as a person and a professional, and you get the feeling you will learn things there that you didn’t even know you needed to learn.You’re being hired as an expert, and upon arrival, you will most likely be the smartest person in the room.
OptionsThe job gives you a credential you can take with you, and is in a business and industry with a future.The industry has peaked or has awful economics, and the company itself, for any number of reasons, will do little to expand your career opportunities
OwnershipYou are taking the job yourself, or you know who you’re taking it for, and feel at peace with the bargainYou are taking the job that any number of other constituents, such as a spouse you wants you to travel less or the 6th grade teacher who said you would never amount to anything.
Work ContentThe “stuff” of the job turns your crank – you love the work, it feels fun and meaningful to you, and even touches something primal in your soul.The job feels like a job. In taking it, you say things like, “this is just until something better comes along” or “You can’t beat the money”.

GETTING PROMOTED – Sorry, No Shortcuts

To get promoted:

  • Do deliver sensational performance, far beyond expectations, and at every opportunity expand your job beyond its official boundaries.
  • Don’t make your boss use political capital in order to champion you.

In addition the following help:

  • Do manage your relationship with your subordinates with the same carefulness that you manage the one with your boss.
  • Do get on the radar screen, being an early champion of your company’s major project or initiative.
  • Do search out and relish the input of mentors, realising that mentors don’t always look like mentors.
  • Do have a positive attitude and spread it around
  • Don’t let setbacks break your stride

HARD SPOTS – That Damn Boss

  • Why is my boss acting like a jerk?
  • What is the end game for my boss?
  • What happens to me if I deliver results and endure my bad boss?
  • Why do I work here anyway?

WORK-LIFE BALANCE – Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Having It All (But Were Afraid to Hear)

  • Your boss’s top priority is competitiveness. Of course they want you to be happy, but only in as much as it helps your company win. In fact, if he is doing his job right, he is making your job so exciting that your personal life becomes a less compelling draw.
  • Most bosses are perfectly willing to accommodate work-life balance challenges if you have earned it with performance. The key word here is: if.
  • Bosses know that the work-life policies in the company brochure are mainly for recruiting purposes and that real work-life arrangements are negotiated one-on-one in the context of a supportive culture, not in the context of “but the company says …!”
  • People who publicly struggle with work-life balance problems and continually turn to the company for help get pigeonhole as ambivalent, entitled, uncommitted or incompetence – or all of the above.
  • Even the most accommodating bosses believe that work-life balance is your problem to solve. In fact, most know that there are really just a handful of effective strategies to do that, and they wish you would use them.
    • Keep your head in whatever games your at – compartmentalise so you do home stuff at home and work stuff at work
    • Have the mental to say no to requests and demands outside your chosen work life balance plan
    • Make sure your work life balance plan doesn’t leave you out – with pulls in 2,3,4 directions it is easy for there to be no time for you

Book Notes : To Sell Is Human

To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Persuading, Convincing and Influencing Others by Daniel H. Pink
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book starts by highlighting how the environment for selling is changing – increasingly the number of people who are in sales are larger than they might realise with the rise of “none-sales” selling. This could be selling ideas or trying to get people to act safely – rather than traditional selling.

Additionally sales used to be based on an imbalance in information where the seller used to have all of the information whereas with the rise of the Internet this imbalance has shifted so both the seller and buyer have near knowledge parity.

The book presents the new ABC for selling:

Attunement

The ability to bring one’s actions and outlook into harmony with other people and with the context you’re in.  This hinges on three principles:

  1. Increase your power by reducing it – people in a low power situation are more likely to understand the perspective of the other parties.
  2. Use your head as much as your heart – perspective taking and empathy are closely related but not identical.  Getting the perspective of the thinking of the other party is more conducive to selling than getting the perspective of their feeling.
  3. Mimic strategically – Humans like it when we see echongs of ourselves, these make us feel that we are both in tune.  As such mimicking is a good way to win people over but care needs to be taken since if the other person feels this is forced this becomes fake.

People who are ambiverts (part way between extrovert and introvert) are better sellers than either extroverts or introverts, who both sell relatively similar amounts.

Buoyancy

How to stay afloat in an ocean of rejection. There are techniquest before, during and after an interaction.

  1. Before – Asking yourself if you can do this is a powerful way to prepare yourself for a selling interaction.
  2. During – Positivity, people who have 3 – 11 times more positive emotions compared to negative ones allow people to flourish. Sometimes it is good to engineer some positive experiences into your day (e.g. seeing friendly customers to balance our negative ones)
  3. After – Optimistic explanatory style, seeing rejection as temporary, specific and not universal, and external not personal.

Clarity

  • Finding the Right Problem to Solve – People fall into two groups, problem finders and problem solvers. Problem finders are creative. When you try to focus on helping the customers requires creative solutions e.g. recommending competitors products if this is the best thing for the customer.
  • Finding Your Frames – Clarity depends on contrast.
    • Experiences frame – experiences are generally more valuable to people than material purchases, so selling a car based on its leather interior is less likely to have a return customer than describing the experiences the car could take them
    • Label frame – just labelling a group a something encourages them to be it, e.g a school class the “neat” class results in the classroom being neater.
    • Blemish frame – having a small negative can make the positives more attractive, but only if the negative information follows the positive
    • Potential frame – “the potential to be good at something can be prefered over actually being good at that very same thing”
    • Finding an Off-ramp – providing a clear way for people to take the action which you desire

What to do

The book covers a number of different ways to pitch an idea.

Improvide – from improv theater

  • Hear offers – active listening
  • Say “yes and”
  • Make your partner look good

Serve – make what you do in the service to others makes it more meaningful, move from upselling to upserving

  • Make it personal – e.g. show pictures of patients to x-ray reviewers
  • Make it purposeful – e.g. a sign “Hand hygiene prevents patients catching diseases” outperforms messages about the person washing their hands or a catchy phrase
  • Aim to make the buyers life better. 1. If the seller buys this will their life improve? 2. Will the world be better as a result?