Coaching Leadership

Small Efforts, Big Improvements

I’m a strong believer in the power of small efforts to make some big improvements. It’s particularly powerful when you need to repeat a task often, but just getting into the practice of making things slightly better each time almost always pays off.

There are a couple of XKCD comics that illustrate when the investment might be too large, or ways you can distract yourself from the original goal. Get in the time sweet spot and stay focused, and that’s where you make the big impact.

It can be especially satisfying to put the small effort up against something that’s slowly been getting worse. When you don’t notice the daily change, but looking at it over months it’s maybe half as good as it used to be.

I recently spent some time fixing up all my taps. London water is hard, each day you get just a bit more limescale and a slightly slower flow. Leave it long enough and you can be sitting around for ages each time you fill the kettle!

So I grabbed some tools, stripped back the offending parts of the taps and gave them a proper clean. Each one took less than ten minutes, and it got quicker as I went.

Each little fix has massively improved how the taps work, and now I know how easy it is to fix them up, the motivation to keep them maintained is high.

So what can you do that’s only a small effort but will make a big improvement to your daily life?

Book Review Coaching Leadership

Managing Humans

This is Michael Lopp’s first book, now on its fourth edition. It’s sixty chapters, short pieces of advice, anecdotes and stories.

If you are familiar with the blog, then it’s very much like revisiting some old friends, but polished up and putting their best foot forwards.

It covers every core leadership topic, from how to hold a 1-2-1 to how to manage the rumour mill, and on to navigating reorgs and the politics that go with them.

I read through the fourth edition in couple of sittings, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of “just one more” as each chapter really is only a few pages long. However, I’d say the real value lies in dipping into a particular chapter that’s related to current concerns, absorbing the lessons and putting them to use in your context.

Not everything will be valid for you. If you are in a high growth tech start-up then a lot of it will be, in other organisations you might be able to take less overall. Lessons on individual leadership, meeting culture and the needs of people will be universal.

I found that the thread running though the book was less well formed than in The Art of Leadership, which Rands recognises as having the fuller arc.

As a leader, especially in a tech org, if you were only going to read one, I’d point you to Art of Leadership, but I really think you’d benefit from both!