Book Review Coaching Leadership

Top Posts for 2020

At the end of what’s been a really tough year, I’m taking the time to look back over all the visits to the site, so I can share my most read posts.

Hopefully, you’ve already had the chance to enjoy them, but if not, these are the top highlights for you to enjoy.

  1. The Art of Leadership – My Review of the new leadership book from Michael Lopp. Short sharp lessons on doing the small things well. Standout book of the year.
  2. Losing it Hurts More – It’s a lot more painful to lose out on something you thought you had than it is to get something unexpected. Covered in a lot more detail in Thinking, Fast and Slow, but I think a number one takeaway is think about how you communicate changes in benefits or opportunities, especially in uncertain times.
  3. Dedication to Goals – Some ways to understand how to get stronger commitment from a Coachee when they outline their goals. Great reading for people leaders as we get into Annual Review season.
  4. Radical CandorKim Scott’s highly rated guide on an approach to giving feedback in organisations. It’s a powerful skill to learn and really worth putting the effort in to get right. It is especially important to do the learning with this approach, and don’t let “Radical Candor” be a smokescreen for the negatives behaviours of the Jerk.
  5. Strength of No – Get mindful about how you are saying “No”. Is it a hard no, is it a maybe that’s opening a negotiation or is it a disguised form of “Yes”? If you focus on this, you’ll really improve outcomes in all sorts of conversations.

These were my top five posts of the year. Let me know which ones you enjoyed the most, or if one of your favourites didn’t make the list!

See you next year!

Coaching Leadership

Performance Reviews

Lots of you are going into the holidays with a weight hanging on your mind, the annual performance review coming up in the New Year.

The weight can be for a lot of reasons, but they mostly boil down to a well intentioned idea (look at what you did, improve next time), turning into a torturous and badly run process that ends up leaving everyone involved dissatisfied with the outcome.

I can’t save you from a badly run process, or a bad manager who has no interest in getting to a great outcome.

I can share a set of techniques that will help you get the most value from these processes, even if they are badly executed in your organisation. If you follow these, then I guarantee that this review season will be better than the last, and that you’ll be able to take this on into each year in the future.

I’m giving all my readers early access to my eBook, “Winning the Performance Review”. It’s available to download below, and through this early access period, it’s totally free.

If you find this useful, then please let me know! I very much encourage you to share it with anyone else who would benefit from it.

I’d also love feedback, I’m developing and updating this guide regularly. Drop me a note on

Finally, if you’d like to discuss a personalised approach to winning your performance review, then book an initial conversation now, and I’ll help you set effective goals and get the recognition you deserve.

Coaching Leadership

Clashing Over the Obvious

One of the most difficult situations you can get into is an argument over something that is painfully and blindingly obvious to you.

It’s difficult because you are stuck in a gap of meaning. The argument is occurring because the other party doesn’t see why it’s obvious, but because it’s obvious to you, you are unlikely to be driving forwards with compelling reasons or attempting to add to the pool of meaning.

Classic ways to recognise this situation are:

  1. You are throwing around words like “obviously”, “clearly” or “plainly”
  2. The other party “don’t understand the value”, “don’t see why that’s the right option” etc
  3. You are thinking about “them”
  4. You’ve gone deep, and are into “What are these idiots doing?”

When you spot these patterns, you are falling into the Obviously trap. It’s hard to pull back, but you can do it. You need to pause, stop telling and start listening to the concerns of the other group. Give extra context or information that will help show why this course is obvious to you, and help them come to a deeper understanding.

Train yourself out of saying “obviously”, as it’s an invitation to end dialog, which means you aren’t going to get buy-in, and if you get your way, it’ll be grudgingly at best, rather than with enthusiastic efforts to be successful.

If you can get to a point where the other party are saying that your desired outcome is the obvious one, then you’ve done great work, sharing the meaning without telling them what to do.


Setting the Framework

It’s easy to make bad decisions, and it can be hard to make good ones. Almost always, just making the decision, implementing the outcome and correcting as you go is better than getting stuck in Analysis Paralysis and doing nothing.

Given that making the decision is a good move, how can you improve your chances of making a good one, and getting everyone bought in to that choice. We’ll tackle this from the point of view of a business decision, but you can use these approaches in any situation.

First off, get super clear about the scope and parameters of the decision. Create a statement of the problem, one that’s got enough detail to show whether the decision made successfully solved the issue.

So rather than “We need to do something about this”, prefer “We need to decide with investment option has the best chance of returning 3x on its investment inside 18 months”. Once you’ve got this, put together your options. What could you do to solve this problem? What are the pros and cons of each approach, where are the risks?

Now you are ready to take these forwards to make a decision. Get the smallest possible group with the authority to make the call, covering the groups who will be impacted by the decision. Review the problem statement, discuss the options, weigh up the tradeoffs and pick a course.

The outcome of the final conversation needs to be documented and communicated. The process should be made as visible as possible to show how the decision was made, and the outcome tracked to show how successful it was.

For a big decision, each of these stages can be a separate meeting. That allows you to bring in experts when putting together options, while keeping the decision making group small. For smaller decisions, you can use a single meeting, but make sure to split the phases of the meeting clearly. For some groups you’ll need a strong facilitator to keep the conversation moving, especially those that keep circling back to options multiple times. If that happens, don’t be afraid to pause, and regroup in a separate session.

There’s lots more reading to do about effective decision making, from traps to avoid, to emotional connections and much more, but following this simple framework and you’ll see an immediate improvement:

  1. Clearly state the problem that requires a decision
  2. Outline options with pros, cons and risks
  3. Convene a small group with authority, and make a choice
  4. Communicate the decision
  5. Measure the outcome