Book Review Coaching Leadership

The Scout Mindset

Julia Galef gives us “The Scout Mindset“, a book about developing your skills in seeing things how they are, rather than how you hope they might be.

We start off by looking at two types of thinking, the Soldier and the Scout. Soldier thinking is both defensive and aggressive. There’s a truth, I know it already and I need to protect it against the assaults of others. Scout thinking is focused around discovering the truth that we don’t yet know. It’s about exploring, improving the map and throwing the old map away when we learn more.

The Soldier approach has value in some situations, and is usually our default way of approaching problems. The Scout mindset is less common, unfamiliar, but likely to be better for the complexities of modern life. So how do we move from one model to the other?

Julia gives four key stages to moving towards the Scout mindset:

  1. Develop Self Awareness – Understand when you are thinking like a Scout or a Soldier
  2. Thrive Without Illusions – Get comfortable living with how things are
  3. Learn to Change Your Mind – Be comfortable being wrong, and celebrate steps towards the truth
  4. Rethink Your Identity – Don’t let beliefs define who you are, as it makes it harder to accept change

Through these stages, there’s some great deep dives on some surprising topics, ranging from how boundlessly positive thinking can be harmful, to how you might have to do things that aren’t obvious to have the biggest impact.

It’s well written, and the book doesn’t endlessly labour similar points or loop over and over on the key message. There’s lots of practical advice, and a great collection of references and further reading to pick-up on.

Any leader working in complex spaces would benefit from reading this book, and trying to think more like a Scout.

Coaching Leadership

Continuous Feedback

Why we give feedback, we want to make another person aware of how we saw their performance. Sometimes it’s to say how great something was and how they should do it more often, sometimes it’s to course-correct and help them to be more effective in a given situation.

All too often, it’s too far removed from the situation to be truly useful. This time of year is the end of the annual performance cycle for many of us, and it might just be the only time you give or get feedback from a number of your peers.

Sticking to the annual cycle is super inefficient. Anything that happened more than a week ago will be really degraded in people’s minds. The situation will be hazy, the behaviour non-specific and the impact debateable. So you’ve lost at least 51 weeks worth of opportunities to give valuable feedback. Being 2% good at something is not where we want to be.

Instead, practice giving feedback as close to the activity as possible. Start off with things that went well. Be specific as to what you’d like to see more of. Ask for feedback yourself about specific recent situations, and practice taking it onboard well.

Giving positive feedback will usually be taken well! Showing you can take on suggestions from other will also make them more likely to listen to your own, it builds trust.

Then you can move on to the course corrections. If it’s close in time to the situation, then the correction is likely to be small, and easier to make. Rather than only having a week from a year to draw from, you can make those small positive changes early and often, and really build up momentum.

Finally, to make the performance review easy, capture some of these in the moment pieces of feedback in a more permanent form. Whether it’s Slack messages, emails or you just keeping a note of them, it’s a lot better to build up a picture of the last year with evidence, rather than what you can remember off the top of your head.

Feedback is super important, give it often, hit the positive as well as the course corrective and do it close to the situation and you’ll be massively more effective in the long run.