Monthly Archives: January 2019

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:


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.


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.


  • 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?