Categories
Book Review Leadership

Made To Stick

This is the classic guide to helping you shape your stories to make them sticky. It gives you a set of simple tools and techniques that enable you to refine your message so it becomes more effective.

The particularly great news is that these skills are something that you can learn, it’s not just the gift of the instinctive storyteller. You can deal with the curse of expert knowledge by taking dense and statistics heavy messages, and turning them into short snappy stories that really resonate with your audience.

You will be introduced to the principle of SUCCESs:

  • S – Simple
  • U – Unexpected
  • C – Concrete
  • C – Credible
  • E – Emotional
  • S – Story

Take any message you want to spread widely, test it against these criteria and refine it until you hit more of them. Do this and it’s certain you will hit more people, and the message will stick better with each person you reach.

Simple and practical, this is a great guide for those of us who default to the position of the expert, and who sometimes need to step back a bit to pull others along on our journey.

Categories
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!

Categories
Book Review Leadership

The Manager’s Path

Camille Fournier’s book, The Manager’s Path, is required reading for any technical leaders. Whether you are just starting out or a seasoned professional, there will be something you can take away from the book and immediately use to improve your craft.

It takes you through every level, from what you should expect from a manager, to how to start taking mentoring opportunities to build initial leadership skills. It builds up to leading teams, departments and whole companies, and finishes up with thoughts on how to build up the culture of your organisation.

It’s has a really strong focus on the technical problems that you’ll encounter, from managing familiar personality types, to how to deal with the inevitable tensions of shipping software whilst balancing scope and time to market. If you work with technical people, then it’s still a great read to help you understand the challenges of your Engineering peers.

Camille shares personal anecdotes and stories of times that she’s encountered the issues of leadership, and these personal insights bring the advice to life. It’s also a great way to see where particular options might not be right for you, and which tool you could choose to leave in the toolbox in favour of something else.

The intro suggests that you focus your reading on the level you are currently acting at, whilst encouraging you to skim other sections more lightly. It’s a really good approach, I’d definitely agree that once you’ve read it all you should come back to the parts that are most relevant and useful for where you are now.

Definitely one for the library, it’s one to give to your high potential talent and freshly minted leaders.

Categories
Book Review Leadership

The Art of Leadership

Michael Lopp’s new book has just been released. The Art of Leadership, Small Things Done Well. I’ve had it on pre-order since December, so I was very excited to get it into my hands.

It’s a collection of thirty small things you can do as a leader to build trust and respect in a team. The book is structured around three stages of leadership in organisations, a Manager, Director and Executive.

Lopp takes you through the journey from Individual Contributor, to a Manager leading a team, a Director who is leading Managers, and an Executive who’s accountable for the direction of the company. Each of the small things is especially relevant to a leader at that specific level, but is still something to keep in your toolkit as you move on to greater spans of control.

It covers pitfalls (New Manager Death Spiral) and sometimes unexpected areas of focus (when recruiting, spend an hour per day per open role). Communication is a key theme, whether that’s how to hold effective 1-2-1s, to say the hard thing or how to communicate difficult change through a large org. It recognises that you’ll be bad at each of these roles for at least a few years until you master them, so embrace failures, learn from them and growth through the experience.

If you already follow Rands, then you’ll be familiar with a lot of this content from his excellent blog. The book takes this to a next level, grouping, ordering and curating a common set of advice that is important for all leaders.

It’s a powerful book, it’s easy to read and it’s something you’ll be excited to revisit and dip back in to for years to come.

Categories
Book Review Leadership

Drive

Daniel Pink’s Drive is a short and punchy introduction to the truth of motivation. It cuts through the traditional ideas of ‘carrot and stick’, to look at the intrinsic factors that encourage us to do a great job.

If we’re leading or coaching people, then the thoughts outlined in Drive are a really strong way to open them up to the best chances to grow, achieve and succeed in their endeavours.

This is most especially important with the changing nature of work. As we move away from the algorithmic world of the 20th century, where output and effort were easy to measure, and into the heuristic world of the creative modern workplace, then we must change our approach. When the outcomes you strive for are not easily linked to the outputs, then rewarding people becomes a more complex problem.

Firstly, we must provide the environment for the intrinsic drive to come to the fore. So long as people have their basic needs met, and can see that they are compensated fairly when compared to others, then we can unlock their true potential.

The three strands that form this motivation are Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose.

Autonomy is the power to choose your own goals, to determine how you will achieve them and to make commitments on your own terms. In a commercial context, they must of course be aligned to the needs and goals of the organisation, but beyond that the more power of choice you can give, the better the outcomes will be.

Mastery is the recognition that the journey is often the valuable thing, rather than the final reward. It’s the idea that the goal medal is recognition for great achievement, rather than the goal itself. In seeking mastery you are always looking to learn and improve, and to get better at your craft.

Purpose is the knowledge that your efforts are building towards something greater, whether that’s an endeavour to build something great, or to create a positive change for the future.

If you can give these three things to a group, then they will become engaged, effective and solve problems far beyond their apparent capacity. As leaders, it’s our role to find ways to extend access to these opportunities. As coaches, we might encourage our coachee to find these opportunities themselves.

In the book, we are given a range of techniques to try for ourselves and our organisations, and some tools to check-in on how we are doing. You can pickup the ideas of Drive in a very short period of time, and then return to the resources again and again as you develop your own approach. It gives you a list of over a dozen books for further reading, with brief summaries of each. This is a great springboard for continued learning.

Very much recommended, a great read and an excellent investment of your time.

Categories
Book Review

Never Split the Difference

If Getting to Yes is the book that teaches you how to negotiate with someone who’s looking for the best outcome in collaboration, the Never Split the Difference is the book you need to read to get better at negotiating in adversarial conditions.

The author has been involved in high stakes hostage negotiations, and uses this experience to distil a series of tactics and techniques you can use in daily life to get better negotiation outcomes.

Through each chapter we start with a scenario from the hostage negotiation world, and then translate that into usable advice, with examples of putting it into practice.

The book encourages you to build rapport quickly by mirroring, using empathy to label the pain of the other side and starting off looking for ‘no’ to gain real commitment to any later ‘yes’. It recommends you to seek “That’s right” to show agreement, and how to discuss what is or isn’t ‘fair’. Finally, it pushes on securing commitment, and also uncovering the ‘unknown unknowns’ that can transform a negotiation when discovered.

It ends with a guide on how to prepare for a negotiation, with steps and sample questions you can tune to your own needs.

This was an interesting read, with some new and updated techniques that are great to add to your toolbox. It very much benefits from familiarity with ‘Getting to Yes’ and other books that are referenced in the text, but it can still be read standalone.

I’d certainly recommend it.

 

 

Categories
Book Review Coaching

Manager as Coach

Manager as Coach is an introduction to the OSCAR coaching model. This is an evolution of the simple GROW model that’s especially useful to coaching in a management context.

The model is broken out to consider the Outcome, Situation, Choices, Actions and Review. The focus on Actions and Review is the main difference for the model when compared to GROW, and this is what slants it towards a more management focused approach. GROW looks at the Coachee’s Will to commit to change, but the Coachee will not necessarily sign up to a firm agreement to make that change.

In OSCAR, Actions and Review build an agreement to both what will be done and how it’s going to be reviewed. This is familiar in style to SMART objective setting, hence the power of this model in a management coaching relationship.

As well as an introduction to the model, the book covers applying it to Coachees in various mindsets. It also walks through different types of relationship that can benefit from coaching, how you can show the value of coaching to an organisation and how you can build a coaching culture.

There are lots of examples spread throughout the book, with case studies and testimonies throughout every chapter. This really helps to bring to life some of the considerations raised in the main text.

The book may be a little bit long in some places, attempting to apply OSCAR to too many situations beyond the core coaching conversation. There’s certainly sections that are less valuable once you’ve picked up the core model, so don’t be afraid to pick and choose your reading after the first few chapters.

Other than that, it’s a worthwhile read for managers new to coaching approaches and is deserving a place on your coaching bookshelf.

 

Categories
Book Review

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow is the starting point for anyone who wants to stop and really learn about how we think and make decisions. It’s an incredibly information rich book, it’s certainly not an easy read but it is most definitely a worth while one.

It collects decades of research into how we make decisions, how we consider risk and gain and how we use shortcuts that are sometimes great but can often be terrible.

It starts by discussing System 1 and System 2, two models of thought. System 1 is the hasty and instinctual prone to taking shortcuts and making lazy decisions. System 2 is the more rational, willing to spend effort to make important decisions. Kahneman discusses the differences between these two modes, and shows us when System 1 can make good decisions, and where it can fall down.

We then move on to thinking about Humans and Econs. Traditional economic theory suggests that people always make rational decisions. Kahneman shows us times we may not behave rationally, when we are Humans and not the Econs of rational theory.

Finally, he discusses the differences between the remembering self and experiencing self. In this approach, we see that people are often willing to experience greater overall discomfort if the end of it is more pleasant. We remember the end of the experience more clearly, or we recall the peaks more than the average. It’s a surprising insight.

The book is brilliantly researched, each insight is backed up with rock solid studies that are brilliantly footnoted. Every chapter covers one of these major insights, compressed down into less than a dozen pages. There are regular ‘Speaking of’ sections that give great short practical views into each of the complex topics.

Take the time to drink this book in. Don’t rush through it, but do rush to buy it!

 

Categories
Book Review Leadership

It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson have just released their latest book, It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work. It’s a collection of micro essays on covering the authors’ thoughts of damaging or short term working practices.

It’s an incredibly quick read, each thought is presented over at most three pages, so it’s easy to rattle through them at speed. Most of them have examples of the described approach and benefits from Basecamp, the company they founded in 1999.

The basic premise is that you can find time to do important work by shutting out distractions, rather than pushing to be the most reactive, always on and always struggling to grow.

Not every piece of advice will be relevant to you, or possible for you to enact (some of the bigger benefits like a four day week can be hard to implement). However, some of them likely will be useful. Cutting down on chat software, setting sensible boundaries and other simple changes can make big differences to what you are able to accomplish, without it feeling crazy.

People rarely do great work while under unreasonable pressure or whilst constantly distracted. This is worth recognising, and this book is certainly a good quick intro to some of these thoughts.


I’m available for coaching opportunities in Central London. Leadership development, especially in a technical organisation or with anyone leading a digital or agile transformation. Connect on LinkedIn to kick-off a discussion.

Categories
Book Review Coaching Leadership

Crucial Conversations

Vital Smarts’ Crucial Conversations is a classic book on the subject of communication. Its core message is that some conversations are far more important than others, that they may suddenly occur without warning and that if you aren’t prepared for this, it’ll often go badly.

It’s set out much as you may expect, opening up with the basic premise, running through how to recognise what a Crucial Conversation is and when you might be about to enter one. It runs through techniques to succeed, methods to deal with complex situations and finally works through how to secure actions and commitments at the end of a conversation.

The newer edition also covers a series of particularly difficult cases or types of behaviour, dealing with a large number of the possible objections along the lines of “Great ideas, but my specific case doesn’t fit because …”.

Altogether, it’s well written and simple to follow. If you’ve read a lot in this area, then you’ll find the ideas and approaches familiar, but that’s probably because newer books build on them or take them as a starting point.

If all you take away from the book is that some conversations are vital, and that if you can be aware of that then you’ll improve your overall communication and effectiveness. If you can go to the next level, and seek to improve how you build dialogue during those conversations, then you’ll really be taking the value from this writing.


I’m available for coaching opportunities in Central London. Leadership development, especially in a technical organisation or with anyone leading a digital or agile transformation. Connect on LinkedIn to kick-off a discussion.