Monthly Archives: April 2019

Book Notes: Dare to Lead

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts by Brene Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What, if anything, about the way people are leading today needs to change in order for leaders to be successful in a complex, rapidly changing environment where we’re faced with seemingly intractable challenges and an insatiable demand for innovation? We need brave leaders and courageous culture

There are ten behaviours and cultural issues which get in the way of organisations:

  • We avoid tough conversations, including giving honest, productive feedback.
  • We manage problematic behaviour rather than acknowledging and addressing fear and feelings during change.
  • Diminish trust caused by a lack of connection and empathy.
  • Not enough people are taking smart risks or creating and sharing bold ideas to meet challenging demands and the insatiable need for innovation.
  • We get stuck and defined by setbacks, disappointments and failures so we waste time and energy reassuring people who question their value and contribution.
  • Too much shame and blame, not enough accountability and learning.
  • Opting out of vital conversations about diversity and inclusion because they fear looking, saying or being wrong.
  • When things go wrong we rush into ineffective or unsustainable solutions rather than staying with problem identification and solving.
  • Values are vage instead of actual behaviours which are taught, measured and evaluated.
  • Perfectionism and fear are keeping people from learning and growing.

The Rumble is a discussion, conversation or meeting defined by a commitment to lean into vulnerability, to stay curious and generous, to stick with the messy middle of problem identification and solving to take breaks and circle back when necessary, to be fearless in owning our parts, and to listen with the same passion we want to be heard.

The 6 myths of vulnerability –
Vulnerability is weakness – there can be no act of courage without vulnerability,
I don’t do vulnerability – life is fundamentally uncertain with risks and emotional exposure,
I can go it alone – humans are hardwired for connection as a social species,
Engineer the uncertainty and discomfort out of vulnerability – this is not something which you can fix out there it’s something you have to develop inside yourself,
Trust comes before vulnerability – in reality one can’t grow without the other,
Vulnerability is disclosure – this is not about oversharing its about leaning into conversations.

Ask your team”What does support from me look like?”

Armored LeadershipDaring Leadership
Driving perfectionism and fostering fear of failureModeling and encouraging healthy striving, empathy and self-compassion
Working from scarcity and squandering opportunities for joy and recognitionPracticing gratitude and celebrating milestones and victories
NumbingSetting boundaries and finding real comfort
Propagating the false dichotomy of victim or viking, crush or be crushedPracticing integration – strong back, soft front, wild heart
Being a knower and being rightBeing a learner and getting it right
Hiding behind cynicismModeling clarity, kindness and hope
Using criticism as self-protectionMaking contributions and taking risks
Using power overUsing power with, power to, and power within
Hustling for our worthKnowing our value
Leading for compliance and controlCultivating commitment and shared purpose
Weaponising fear and uncertaintyAcknowledging, naming and normalising collective fear and uncertainty
Rewarding exhaustion as a status symbol and attaching productivity to self-worthModeling and supporting rest, play and recovery
Tolerating discrimination, echo chambers and a “fitting in” cultureCultivating a culture of belonging, inclusivity and diverse perspectives
Collecting gold starsGiving fold stars
Zigzagging and avoidingStraight talking and taking action
Leading from hurtLeading from heart

Shame 1-2-3s:

  1. We all have it. Shame is universal and one of the most primitive human emotions that we experience.
  2. We’re all afraid to talk about shame. Just the word is uncomfortable.
  3. The less we talk about shame, the more control it has over our lives.

Guilt = I did something bad. Shame = I am bad.

If shame is obvious then you have a big problem but it can exist in organisations but in a much less obvious way such as: perfectionism, favoritism, gossiping, back-channeling, comparison, self-worth tied to productivity, harassment, discrimination, power over, bullying, blaming, teasing, cover-ups….

Empathy skills:

  1. To see the world as others see it, or perspective taking
  2. To be non-judgemental
  3. To understand another person’s feelings
  4. To communicate your understanding of that person’s feelings
  5. Mindfulness

Book Notes: How NASA Builds Teams

How NASA Builds Teams: Mission Critical Soft Skills for Scientists, Engineers, and Project Teams by Charles J. Pellerin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I personally find the order of the book a bit confusing so I have re-ordered it here into a logical structure which works better for me.

The model has two dimensions – Information which is how you take in information from Intuitor to Sensor and Deciding which is how you take in the information and then make decisions which is from Emotional to Logical .

Sensors : like to know why something works and are not comfortable with ambiguity. They generally shy away from unproven theories and concepts.

Intuitors : are usually quite imaginative and enjoy dreaming about different scenarios, stories, or problems. They tend to live in the grey area and think outside the box. Their abstract minds constantly search for new meanings and are typically reflective.

Rely on my innter knowingRely on my observations
Think more about "what could be"Think more about "what is"
Prefer creativityPrefer common sense
Act on flashes of insightAct on careful analysis
Prefer wrestling with conceptsPrefer wrestling with facts and data
Prefer holistic perspectivesPrefer details
Love big ideasLove established reality

Emotional : the decision is chosen more because it feels right.

Logical : the decision can be proved to be right based on data and an accurate modeling of all the different parameters which may occur.

Harmony is intrinsically valuableHarmony is a means to an end
Prefer to act on "what feels right"Prefer to act on "what's logical"
Consider the people firstConsider the task first
Prefer harmounious relationshipsPrefer being right
Decide through concensusDecide with my own thinking
First, trust my heartFirst, trust my head
Intolerant of conflictOK with conflict

The two dimension result in four quadrants Cultivating (Information Intuitor and Emotional Deciding), Including (Information Sensor and Emotional Deciding), Visioning (Information Intuitor and Logical Deciding) and Directing (Information Sensing and Logical Deciding) .

Cultivating - They appreciate others , share interest in a better world, caring for others. People want to feel appreciated for what they do and to have shared interests. e.g. teacher, guru.

  • Attention - These people naturally attend to people's needs and universal values
  • Mindset - We are here as stewards - for others, family, for spiritual values
  • Behavior - Supporting others in being happy and successful
  • Results - Success without damaging people
  • Dangers - Can be victim, hyper sensitive, emotional, judgemental, unrealistic


  1. Individuals can fully meet the standard by appreciating others Habitually, Authentically, Promptly, Proportionally and Specifically.
  2. Individuals can fully meet the standard by addressing the interests they share with others, especially when conflict inhibits their effectiveness.

Including - They include others, bring integrity to relationships and build teams. To include people by appropriately sharing power, information, and recognition as well as keeping the agreements while renegotiating problematic agreements before they break them. e.g. people person, cheerleader. mediator

  • Attention - These people naturally attend to teamwork and relationships
  • Mindset - We are here to work together
  • Behavior - Facilitating teamwork and collaboration
  • Results - Success through harmony
  • Dangers - Rescuing, self-deprecating, conflict averse, needs approval, withdrawn


  1. Individuals can fully meet the standard by appropriately sharing power, information, and recognition, and avoiding wasteful over-inclusions.
  2. Individuals can fully meet the standard by only entering agreements they can keep, then rigorously keeping these agreements, while renegotiating problematic agreements before they break them.

Visioning - They constantly create and need to be the best/smartest. Reality based optimism about the future achievements and to be 100% committed to that achievement. e.g. genius, intellectual aggressor

  • Attention - These people naturally tend to ideas, concepts and being the best
  • Mindset - Big, novel ideas are the deal
  • Behavior - Generate and then promulgate their ideas (faster than other can respond)
  • Results - Success through excellence and innovation
  • Dangers - Rationalising, capricious, argumentative, critical, bostful, anti-authority


  1. Individuals can fully meet the standard by holding optimistic mind-sets, while fully embracing unpleasant realities, and then advocating appealing and credible future outcomes.
  2. Individuals can fully meet the standard by demonstrating 100% commitment to realizing their essential Outcomes.

Directing - They take organised action and direct others towards the result. Having a blame and complaining free culture and clarity on roles, accountability and authority. e.g. commander, director, executive/CEO

  • Attention - These people naturally attend to task, process and certainty
  • Mindset - Plan the work - work the plan
  • Behavior - Execute with discipline and rigor
  • Results - Success through process and consistency
  • Dangers - Blame, inflexible, judgemental, controlling, closed mindset, insensitive


  1. Individuals can fully meet the standard by avoiding blaming or complaining, and being intolerant of blaming or complaining by others.
  2. Individuals can fully meet the standard by defining and communicating their Roles, Accountability and Authority to the people who need to understand and/or approve them.

The book highlights the importance of playing in all four areas of the model they present and highlight that typically people have a primary corner in which they reside but that this does not result in the best for the person, team or project - so learning where you are strong and weaker is important to help grow in these other areas.

It provides eight questions for people to assess where they are within the model as well as where the team is. This is probably the interesting part as most other models look at just the individual but this proposed to ask the questions about the team to see how people feel about others.

Additionally the book provide some other interesting insights. The first is that the more you invest in people expanding their missing dimensions the more people improve and deliver.

When you are pitching projects think from the other side -where it the matrix are they looking form? How can we both want the same things? What is their perspective?

Another lesson was when you are coming up with a project you might need a Visioning leader however when this moves to an execution phase you might need to have more of a directing leader to keep things on track. You likely have a visioning team if:

  • Grants the most power to exceptionally capable thinkers
  • Argumentative without concern for ruffled feelings
  • Creative excellence over process and certainty
  • Process is driven by technical experts
  • If management or admin are haphazard and disorganised
  • If the members are chaotic and sometimes frustrating

Where as if you have the following you likely have a directing team:

  • Managers at the top of the org chart
  • Organised processes and management style
  • Process and certainty over creativity and excellence
  • Process driven by management
  • Management process are rigorous and documented
  • Behavior is disciplined and tightly organised

Red-story lines - to get things done you need to think in a positive way, this solves a disproportionate number of issues. Feelings such as "Improving my effectiveness is too hard" will result in no change, identifying Red story lines means that you can actively look at these and make them green.

Emotional intelligence proved to be twice as important as technical skills and IQ for jobs at all levels.

Emotional Intelligence by Dan Goleman

Bring emotions to the front - identify things which make you and the team glad, sad, mad, scared and loved. Talking about these things creates a positive discussion with a no blame can do culture to fix things.

Turn blame or complaints into requests - either request something or let it go. Doing anything else is just a waste of your own effort and will get you no improvement.

Book Notes: Getting To Yes

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher, William Ury & Bruce Patton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Life is full of negotiating, we negotiate vastly more often then we would initially think. The problem is that most negotiation is based on bargaining over position – one side presents their offer and then a second party responds. This can result in poor results and an increased likelihood that the talks will break down.

The book encourages the use of conducting a principled negotiation where the goal is a wise outcome reached efficiently and amicably – work with the other party to identify the principles which you want to observe during the negotiation. Principled negotiation contains the following parts:

  1. Separate the people from the problem – be soft on the people and hard on the problem which can be conducted independent of trust. Treat each other as judges trying to decide on a case, not the prosecution and defence.
  2. Focus on interests, not positions – try to understand where the other party is coming from by exploring interests. Ask why? and why not?
  3. Invent options for mutual gain – from understanding the interests come up with creative solutions to satisfy both sets of interests with the aim to come up with multiple solutions which both sides are happy with, then decide later.
  4. Insist on using objective criteria – try to reach a result based on standards and be open to reason. Bow to principles not pressure.

You must prepare for negotiations – find objective criteria so that you can start with an informed position second be clearly aware of and strengthen your BATNA. Your BATNA is the best alternative to a negotiated agreement. Once you have this try to work to strengthen your BATNA so you can improve the balance of power so you are not locked into the negotiation and you know when it would be wise to walk away.

What if the other party won’t use the above approach? There are three things you can try: you can focus on the merits not the position through principled negotiation, else negotiation jujitsu, if all else fails try the one-text procedure.

Negotiation jujitsu – break the vicious cycle by not responding to the other sides attacks, they can attack by asserting their position forcefully, attacking your ideas and attacking you. Don’t attack their position, look behind it – ask questions to find out more about their position. Don’t defend your position, invite criticism and advice – this can turn it into a collaboration. Recast and attack on you as an attack on the problem – let the other side let off steam and don’t react. Ask questions and pause – people tend to feel uncomfortable with silence and will fill it with things which can help.

One-text procedure – use a third party who can gather the information about desires, not requirements themselves but the background to them. The third party produces a list covering the desires from both sides and invites criticism of the list. The third party then goes off and tries to come up with a solution covering all of the desires – this is then brought back and both parties are able to offer challenges. Some of these challenges might be addressable but at some point an option is presented which maximises the desires but might not be able to fully incorporate them all which both sides tend to accept.

What if the other side uses dirty tricks? – question the legitimacy of the tacktick with them. Don’t attack the people. Focus on interest not position. Invent options for mutual gain. Insist on using objective criteria.

Common tricks:

  • Fake data, get your own to validate.
  • Ambiguous authority, ask if the other side can actually commit if not then agree that you are coming up with a joint draft so there is realisation that if they change their position you can change yours.
  • Dubious intentions, if both sides have different solutions to one problem then taking the others solution can be combined with yours under certain conditions e.g. if two consecutive payments are not made.
  • Less than full disclosure is not the same as deception, you might want to use an independent third party which both parties can fully disclose to see if both parties have sufficient room to maneuver to both succeed.
  • Stressful situations, change them so your comfortable.
  • Personal attacks, recognising the tactic will nullify its impact.
  • Good guy/bad guy, once you spot it it has no impact.
  • Refusing to negotiate, try to understand why they don’t want to negotiate and propose principled negotiations as a way to allow them to take part.
  • Extreme demands, get them to rationalise their demands to the point they themselves realise they are futile.
  • Increasing demands each time you think negotiating is complete, take a break consider them when returning both sides will be more serious.
  • Lock-in tactics, play them down so that the other side has movement.
  • Hardhearted partner is not happy to accept whereas the negotiator is, get the hardhearted partner to agree to the principles in writing.
  • Calculated delay is a high cost game, highlight this and negotiate about the delay to give both sides time to come to an agreement but if there is a delay build your BATNA.
  • Take it or leave it, the best is to ignore this and keep negotiating as before.
  • Don’t be a victim, get the rules of the game on the table early so you know the game.

Book Notes: The First 90 Days

The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels by Michael D. Watkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book focuses very much on getting to the break even point where you can contribute more to the company than you can take from it – if you can accelerate that then you will be more use to the company quicker.

Avoid the common mistakes

  • Sticking with what you know – new role means new ways of working and rarely repeating previous approaches will succeed
  • Falling prey to the “action imperative” – you try too early to put your stamp on the organisation without spending sufficient time learning.
  • Setting unrealistic expectations – could be caused by not learning sufficiently before setting expectations to boss or stakeholders
  • Attempting to do too much – resource and energy gets spread too thinly so the results are poor
  • Coming in with “the” answer – you conclude too quickly on “the” problem and set “the” solution which alienates people and lose an opportunity to develop support and a good solution
  • Engaging in the wrong type of learning – spending too much time on the technical and insufficient on the culture insight, political relationships and knowledge conduits.
  • Neglecting horizontal relationships – focussing on the boss and not sufficiently on peers and stakeholders to build supportive alliances.

The fundamental principles

  • Prepare yourself – make the mental break from your old job to move on to the new one. The biggest pitfall is assuming what got you to this point will continue to do so. Ensure that you have breadth of what is going on and depth where needed. When you get promoted you need to reconsider what you delegate so that you can scale. As you move up decisions are made more through influence because people are more capable but also with stronger egos. Find the informal channels of communication and absorb the corporate culture.
What’s changed?What should you do?
Broader impact horizon. There is a broader range of issues, people and ideas to focus on.Balance depth and breadth
Greater complexity and ambiguity. There are more variables, and there is greater uncertainty about outcomes.Delegate more deeply
Tougher complexity and ambiguity. There are more powerful stakeholders to contend with.Influence differently
Further from the front lines. There is greater distance between you and the people executing on the ground, potentially weakening communication and adding more filters.Communicate more formally
More scrutiny. There is more attention paid to your actions by more people more frequently.Adjust to greater visibility
  • Accelerate your learning – understand the market, product, technologies, systems, structures, culture and politics. Learn about the past (performance, ways of working, past changes) the present (vision and strategy, people, process, landmines, early wins)and the future (challenges and opportunities, barriers and resources, culture). Get views from multiple sources both internal and external. Use structured learning e.g. staff surveys, structured interviews, focus groups, analyse critical past decisions, process analysis, factory tours, pilot projects etc.
  1. What are the biggest challenges the organisation is (or will) be facing?
  2. Why is the organisation facing (or going to face) these challenges?
  3. What are the most positive unexploited areas for growth?
  4. What would need to happen to exploit this growth?
  5. If you were me, what would you focus your attention on?
  • Match your strategy to the situation
Start-upTurnaroundAccelerated growthRealignmentSustained success
Assembling the capabilities (people, financing and technology) to get a new bussiness or initiative off the ground.Saving a business or initiative widely acknowledged to be in serious trouble.Managing a rapidly expanding business.Reenergising a previously successful organisation that now faces problems.Preserving the vitality of a successful organisation and taking it to new levels.
Building the strategy, structure, and systems from scratch without a clear framework or boundaries.
Recruiting and welding together a high performance team.
Making do with limited resources
Reenergising demoralised employees and other stakeholders.
Making effective decisions under time pressure.
Going deep enough with painful cuts and difficult personnel choices.
Putting in place structure and systems to permit scaling.

Integrating many new employees.
Convincing employees that change is necessary.
Carefully restructuring the top team and refocusing the organisation.
Living in the shadow of the former leader and managing the team he or she created.
Playing good defense before embarking on too many new initiatives.
Finding ways to take the business to the next level.
You can do things right from the beginning.
People are energised by the possibilities.
There are no rigid preconceptions.
Everyone recognises that change is necessary.
Affected constituencies offer significant external support.
A little success goes a long way.
The potential for growth helps motivate people.
People will be inclined to stretch themselves and those who work for them.
The organisation has significant pockets of strength.
People want to continue to see themselves as successful.
A strong team may already be in place.
People are motivated to continue their history of success.
A foundation for continued success (such as a long product pipeline) may be in place.
  • Negotiate success – with your new boss having critical conversations about the current situation, expectations, working style, resources and your personal development. Developing and gaining consensus on your 90 day plan. Working with your boss
    • Don’t stay away
    • Don’t surprise your boss
    • Don’t approach your boss only with problems
    • Don’t just feedback a checklist
    • Don’t expect your boss to change – take responsibility for making the relationship
    • work
    • Clarify expectations early and often
    • Negotiate timelines for diagnosis then action
    • Aim for early wins in areas important to your boss
    • Pursue good marks from people your boss respected.
  • Secure early wins – on a small number of bussiness priorities and support behavioral change through succeeding in these in the right way.
  • Achieve alignment – review the strategic direction and bring the organisational structure into alignment with the strategy and develop the processes and skill base necessary to realise strategic intent. Don’t make change for the sake of change, restructure out of a problem when restructuring is not the issue, create a complex structure, overestimate the organisations ability to change.
  • Build your team – systematically and strategically approaching the team challenge, evaluating, aligning and mobilising its members. Move forward – don’t criticise previous leaders identify. Assess the team for competence, judgement, energy, focus, relationships and trust. Decide on the people to keep in place, keep and develop, move to a new role (high priority and low), to remove (high priority and low) or to monitor for now these need to be aligned to the strategic direction. Balance the need for stability by resolving the high priority changes initially then the low priority ones but make sure to work hard to keep the people you want – they can choose to leave because of the changes. Don’t commit new people to a course of action they were not part of agreeing.
  • Create coalitions – supportive alliances, both internal and external, are necessary to support you and your team to success.
  • Keep your balance – building the right advice-and-counsel network is indispensable to reducing the risk of losing perspective, becoming isolate and making bad calls. Ensuring that you don’t become overly stressed is also very important to achieve peak productivity.
  • Accelerate everyone – speeding up everyone’s transitions will help the organisation to gain benefits from people quicker which is beneficial to the organisation. Teaching people the techniques presented in this book can speed things up greatly. Getting people to start getting up to speed before they actually have their first day on the job can be very beneficial.

Book Notes: Ego Free Leadership

Ego Free Leadership: Ending the Unconscious Habits that Hijack Your Business by Brandon Black & Shayne Hughes
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

As a book to learn something it is quite light, a book to follow a real lift set of trials and tribulations it is an ok read.

The book presents the concept of a pinch – when our ego system is triggered by an unwanted threat or circumstance.

The learnings can be summarised as:

  • Notice the moments in your life when you experience a pinch. It may be an event or something someone says.
  • Instead of reacting search for what triggered you. What is that visceral discomfort you’re trying to numb or you’re blaming others for? How is your sense of self-worth threatened?
  • Look outward and consider what vulnerabilities others might be feeling behind their veneer of strength or indifference. Empathise with how they feel in danger.
  • Take the risk of disclosing how you feel vulnerable. Share your ego threat, not your mind chatter. Model a context of safety.

The book presents the importance of 360 feedback to understand how the perception of events we can have can vary dramatically from the other people in the same event. The learning is summarised by the contents page:

  • That voice in your head does more damage than you realise
  • No, it’s not just your personality
  • Workplace politics are your fault too
  • Stop pretending you’re not vulnerable
  • You’re not really listening are you?
  • Your ego loves an enemy
  • We can’t talk about “that”
  • “Those” people have something important to teach you