Tag Archives: 3 Star Book

Book Notes: Give and Take

Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam M. Grant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book presents three types of people:

  • Givers – people who give and help others no matter what. For givers they get pleasure from giving or helping others.
  • Takers – people who take with no thought of giving. For takers it is all for and about them.
  • Marchers – people who give when they have taken or in the hope that by giving they get something in return

At the start givers perform worse than takers or matches – this is because they invest more time into others. However over time givers start to accelerate their success and exceed those of takers and marchers.

Givers need to be careful not to ignore themselves – else they can become burnt out.

Book Notes: The Peter Principle

The Peter Principle by Laurence J. Peter, Raymond Hull
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Raise to Their Level of Incompetence

Each role requires a different set of skills, as such people using the skills which made them successful in a different role will either not help them in the new role or will hold them back.

A second manifestation is where subordinates of the person in the incompetent role tightly follow the rules, because deviation from them will act against them personally. They are incentivised to be strict to the rules.

Organisations work around it by “promoting” people or moving people sideways into roles which they can do no harm.

If people are super-incompetent then they are easily let go. Ironically this also applies to the super-competent. These people challenge the hierarchy and are let go to preserve the current order.

Work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence

There is no direct relationship between the size of the staff and the amount of useful work done.

Nothing fails like success

Psychological profiling can place employees in roles which they are most suitable for. This means that any promotion will be to an area of less competence.

Good followers do not become good leaders

There is a compulsive desire to get to the level at which you are not competent, as the jobs which are easy for you to perform well offer no challenge. As such people push themselves into the roles which they can not do. The challenge is more to stay one level below the level of incompetence.

Incompetence can be classified into four types:

  • Physical
  • Social
  • Emotional
  • Mental

This is not just a workplace phenomenon, political candidates are chosen to will elections rather than because of their law making skills.

Book Notes: Our Iceberg Is Melting

Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions by John P. Kotter and Holger Rathgeber,
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set the Stage

  • Create a sense of urgency – aid others see the importance for acing
  • Pull together the guiding team – build a team with leadership skills, credibility, communication, authority and analytical skills

Decide What to Do

  • Develop the change vision and strategy – clarify the future and how to get there

Make it Happen

  • Communicate for Understanding and Buy In – ensure that you get as much buy in as possible
  • Empower others to act – remove barriers to those who want to make the vision a reality
  • Produce short-term wins – create visible success as quick as possible
  • Don’t let up – press hard and fast after the initial wins.

Make it stick

  • Create a new culture – hold on to the new behaving and make them succeed until it is strong enough to replace the old traditions

Book Notes: Outliers

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book provides a number of stories which highlight that the history and background have echoings for a long time to come. The fist story is about the importance of community of the duration of people lives. The impact that groupings by age have on future performance in sport, given that a child nearly one year older will be better than people at the other end of the year group physically. That genius is not an individual’s efforts but as a result of the opportunities people had e.g. Bill Gates having access to a computer terminal before most other people etc. The impact of culture in plane crashes where a hierarchical culture endangers lives. How number systems in asia gives them an advantage in maths. How people who herded animals are more aggressive than people who tended fields – animals are easier to steal than a field of potatoes – has impact for generations to come.

Book Notes: Peak

Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by K. Anders Ericsson, Robert Pool
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fundamentally the book is highlighting that the people who can achieve more do so by focussing on developing skills through deliberate practice which is at odd to the more standard approach of teaching knowledge. This is because it is easier to teach and examine knowledge, however knowledge itself is not useful – the mental model so that you can perform skills are what you actually need. The book presents that the best way we know to build these mental models are through practice.

Deliberate practice is different to just doing something – just doing something longer does not automatically make you better at it. Just repeating something does not make you better and more junior people will likely have more up advanced teaching which they could be ahead of you.

Deliberate Practice is the best way to develop skills. Identifying areas you want to improve and focussing on actively getting better using measurable goals & data to provide feedback and committing regular dedicated time to the practicing pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone.

Ideally working with the best to understand their approaches will speed up your acceleration. When you hit plateaus try various techniques to try to find new mental models to go further.

Natural talent does not exist. There is no link between IQ and ability in e.g. Chess. The only places where there is a link between IQ and the result is where IQ is used as an initial filter – meaning we are missing out on people who could be very successful.

Book Notes: Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There!

Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There!: Ten Principles for Leading Meetings That Matter by Marvin Ross Weisbord, Sandra Janoff & Jack MacNeish
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

We spend a lot of time in meetings so making them more effective will likely greatly improve the performance of bussiness, however people are rarely taught how to run meetings well.

  1. Get the whole system in the room
    • Who should be in the meeting
      • The decision makers
      • Data – contracts, time or money
      • Expertise in the issue or field
      • Information about the topic (where the expertise is missing)
      • Affected parties who can speak of the consequences
    • Match the timeframe to the agenda
    • Give people time to express themselves
    • Differentiate then integrate
      • Differentiate into functionally similar groups to clarify their stakes
      • Integrate with the whole group or mixed groups
    • Where it is not possible to get the whole system ensure you have at least three levels and three functions. Providing access to other functions and levels speeds up the whole system.
  2. Control What You Can, Let Go What You Can’t
    • Know your role – Do you have content? Are you managing the meeting?
      • No No – You are only observing and commenting
      • Yes No – You are likely an expert who is providing advice
      • No Yes – You are facilitating the meeting
      • Yes Yes – You assume great deal of responsibility for process, content and results.
    • Clarify the purpose yourself
    • Monitor the meeting
      • Seek fight or flight
      • Check for someone being excluded
      • Arrange seating for the style
      • Establish time management norms in breaks
  3. Explore the “Whole Elephant”
    • A “go around” – get input from everyone who wants to contribute
    • Use timelines – get all the history from the many peoples views
    • Make a mind map – get all the points out so people have a common view
    • Group flowchart – get all the flows e.g. processes on the table so their is common understanding of the environment
  4. Let People Be Responsible
    • Accept everyone is doing their best
    • If people have hidden agendas that is their choice
    • Do less so others will do more
    • Encourage self management
    • Contain your “hot buttons”
    • Encourage dialogue
    • Legitimise opposition in tense meetings
  5. Find Common Ground
    • Hold off problem solving
    • Get conflicts into the open and leave them there
    • Focus on the future
    • Back cast from the future
    • Stay with anxiety and ambiguity
    • Depersonalise conflict
  6. Master the Art of Subgrouping
    • Ask “anyone else … ?”
    • Differentiate then integrate
    • Listen for integrating statements
  7. Make Friends with Anxiety
    • The four rooms of change
      • Contentment
      • Denial
      • Confusion
      • Renewal
  8. Get Used to Projections
    • View things in perception not in objects by making yourself the subject. such as It this and that become I or me. e.g. “I’m bored” is “I bore me”.
  9. Be a Dependable Authority
    • Everyone reacts to authority – could be good or bad
    • Recognise dependency – going along with everything
    • Recognise counterdependency – not happy with everything
  10. Learn to Say No If You Want Yes to Mean Something
    • Be dependable only commit to things which will be done and no to the rest

Book Notes: Mastery

Mastery by Robert Greene
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book pulls together some historical examples of learning to gain Mastery by people such a Edison and summarises some of the stages from these.

  • Calling – you need to identify what is your passion, not one based on circumstances or one enforced on you by someone else.
  • Apprenticeship follows three phases
    • Deep Observation – where you are watching others to understand what to do
    • Practice – trying out your understanding
    • Active – pushing yourself to get feedback from peers or the public
  • Strategies for apprenticeships
    • Value learning over money – the best apprenticeships might not pay (well)
    • Keep expanding your horizons – push yourself to look broadly
    • Revert to a feeling of inferiority – be open to new learnings
    • Trust the process – invest the time, gaining skills is quick
    • Move towards resistance and pain – invest the effort, gaining skills is not easy
    • Learn in failure – what can you learn from failure when they happen
    • Combine the “how” and the “what” – seek to understand the how not just what
    • Advance through trial and error – experiment, see what works and what not
  • Mentors are key to you being supported through your apprenticeship
    • Choose the mentor according to your needs and inclinations
    • Gaze deep into the mentors mirror – we become overly optimistic with our abilities, you need a grounding to reality
    • Transfigure their ideas – it is not about copying your mentor but absorbing the relevant parts and adapting
    • Create a back-and-forth dynamic – where mentor and mentee learn from each other so that the relationship evolves as the mentee grows their own ideas
  • Social intelligence
    • The seven deadly realities – envy, conformism, rigidity, self-obsession, laziness, fightiness and passive aggression
    • Speak through your work – convincing people with quality work not fighting
    • Craft the appropriate persona – so that you can be consistent to listeners
    • Suffer fools gladly – don’t lower yourself to their level or fight them
  • The Creative-Active
    • Creative Tasks – choose your task wisely, one which you can obsess about, engage deeply and emotionally commit
    • Creative Strategies – we like to do the same things, it’s easy for us.
      • Negative capabilities – embracing mystery and uncertainty, suspending judgement and admit that we wound up in our own ego and vanity.
      • Allow for serendipity – random external stimuli lead us to association we can not come to on our own.
      • Alternate the mind through “the current” – cycling between speculation and observation/experimentation to dig deeper resulting in a theory which explains something beyond our limited senses.
      • Alter your perspective
        • Search for the “how” not just the “what”
        • Investigate details, don’t just generalise
        • Look into anomalies
        • What is absent, not just what is present
      • Revert to primal forms of intelligence – e.g. drawings and models
    • Creative Breakthrough – sometimes we need some distance from the problem to come back with fresh ideas and perspectives
  • Mastery
    • Connect to your environment
    • Play to your strengths
    • Transform yourself through practice
    • Internalise the detail
    • Widen your vision
    • Submit to others – get an inside perspective
    • Synthesize all forms of knowledge

Book Notes: 5 Conversations

5 Conversations – How to Transform Trust, Engagement and Performance at Work by Nick Cowley & Nigel Purse
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book kicks off by highlighting that leadership is a relationship – trust, stewardship, concern, understanding and humanity you display towards people and the safe environment you create for them to flourish and grow in.

The book proposes the following definition of engagement:

  • Organisational citizenship – being proud to belong to their organisation and being advocates of its products and services to other potential employees and customers
  • Discretionary effort – to be willing to go the extra mile or put in those additional hours when needed
  • Intention to stay – coupled with a belief that they have room to grow and fulfil their potential and career aspirations within the organisation

What drives high engagement:

  • A strong narrative – where has the organisation come from and where is it going. A clear purpose and vision that individuals are clear where they fit in and contribute to.
  • Engaged managers who
    • Focus their people and give them scope to innovate and contribute
    • Treat their people as individuals – and build individual relationships
    • Coach and stretch their people
  • Employees are heard – information and ideas don’t just flow downwards from the top but travel upwards too. Employees views are actively sought out and are listened to.
  • Organisational integrity – the values on the wall reflect day-to-day behaviours at all levels and in all context both formal and informal.

Relationships are key to humans, we have evolved in a social way:

  • Leaders need to avoid (consciously or unconsciously) demonstrating behaviour that people will perceive as a threat, risk or danger. Humans sense these and kick into a closed, defensive and suspicious state.
  • Leaders need to build positive conditions to appeal to the rewards systems of peoples brains through authentic, honest, two-way conversations and through instilling a trusting environment.
  • Building relationships is key, people are good at detecting insincerity. You need to genuinely understand and relate to the other person. This is not about being soft, but is about honestly seeking a meaningful, high quality relationship.

The book proposes there are five key conversations:

  1. Establishing a trusting relationship
  2. Agreeing mutual expectations
  3. Showing genuine appreciation
  4. Challenging unhelpful behaviour
  5. Building for the future

Smart leaders today engage with employees in a way that resembles ordinary person-to-person conversation more than it does a series of commands from on high.

Leadership Is a conversation, Groysberg and Slind, Harvard Business Review

Sample questions

Establishing a trusting relationship

  • What’s really important to you at work?
  • What do you feel most strongly about?
  • What are you most passionate about?
  • What do you consider your greatest strength?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • What do you think is your greatest limitation?
  • What do you really want to be known for?
  • What is it that you really stand for?
  • What’s important to you in building relationships with someone?
  • What matters most to you when trusting others?
  • When do you tend to feel most badly let down by colleagues?
  • What sorts of things destroy a relationship for you?
  • To what extent do you tend to open up to others at work?
  • How easily do you trust others?
  • What one thing could I tell you that would help you trust me?
  • Tell me about a good day at work?
  • What gives you most satisfaction at work?
  • What energises you?
  • Tell me what a bad day at work looks like?
  • What causes you to lose sleep at night?
  • Which emotions do you experience most often?
  • What one question could I ask you that would enable me to really understand you?
  • What one thing can you tell me that might be helpful for me to know about you that I don’t already know?
  • Do you have any unrealised ambitions?
  • What do you most value about working here?
  • What one thing would you change about working here and why?
  • What would you like to be most remembered for?

Agreeing mutual expectations

  • Let me give you an overview of what I’m trying to achieve over the next period, and especially why this matters for me…
  • Can you talk me through the same thing from your point of view? What are you trying to achieve and why is it important to you?
  • Can we explore how we can support each other in achieving our goals? e.g resources, influencing, coaching etc? What would be most useful?
  • How do you think you can best support me?
  • How might we get in each other’s way? Is there anything we should be aware of to avoid this?
  • Can we summarise the expectations we have of each other and how we can hold each other to account for delivering on these expectations?

Showing genuine appreciation

  • Understand and appreciate
    • What’s going really well for you at the moment? What’s been your biggest success in the last few weeks? What’s been your biggest achievement recently? What’s been your biggest challenge?
    • What was the situation? What were the key challenges you faces?
    • What did you say and do that led to success?
    • How did you feel as this was happening/
    • What strengths, talents and skills of yours contributed most to this outcome?
    • What’s the learning you take from this experience?
    • How are you feeling right now?
    • Thank you! I really appreciate your contribution you are making and the skills and commitment you bring to our team
  • Explore
    • What other opportunities are there for you to use these strengths, talents and skills?
    • How else can we play to your strengths?
    • How do you want to develop these skills further?
  • Consolidate
    • What’s the key insight you have gained from the discussion?
    • What learning points should we both take away?
    • What are the action points that we both commit to follow up on?

Challenging unhelpful behaviour

  • Observations – what you saw
  • Feelings – how this made you feel
  • Needs – what are your needs? e.g. support and protect, respect, harmony, reassurance, support
  • Request – the clear request of what you want

Building for the future

  • Purpose/Meaning – understand their need to make a difference
  • Autonomy/Freedom – understanding their needs for freedom e.g. job content, hours
  • Mastery/Learning – what and how do they want to grow
  • Innovation/Exploring – opportunities for creative, discovery, innovation and exploration
  • Collaboration/Inclusivity – how important is this for them to work or lead a team
  • Achievement/Recognition – the need to win, succeed or achieve
  • Work-Life Balance/Wellbeing – what do they want this balance to be or change
  • Advancement/Promotion – the desire to climb the corporate ladder
  • Financial Reward/Security – peoples drive for financial security and benefits
  • Status/Power – understanding their drive for power and satisfaction to exert influence over teams, functions or organisations

Book Notes : Grit

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book presents the concept of grit and highlight that we can be confused by natural talent and as such feel that people enter the world fully formed – which is far from the case. It states that grid might be genetic but it is also generated by experiences.

You can calculate a grit score based on:

Not at all like me Not much like me Somewhat like me Mostly like me Very much like me
New ideas a projects sometimes distract me from the previous ones*
Setbacks don’t discourage me. I don’t give up easily#
I often set a goal but later choose to pursue a different one*
I am a hard worker#
I have difficulty maintaining my focus on projects that take more than a few months to complete*
I finish whatever I begin#
My interests change from year to year*
I am diligent. I never give up#
I have been obsessed with a certain idea or project for a short time but later lost interest*
I have overcome setbacks to conquer an important challenge#

Grit is made up of two components – passion and perseverance. The * questions measure your passion and the # questions above measure your perseverance. It is these two qualities themselves which have been shown to be more important to accomplishment that other characteristics, such as IQ.

Grit is about holding a top-level goal for a very long time, persevering at it improving and ultimately succeeding. These are then made up of mid and low level goals. The more unified, aligned and coordinated our goal hierarchies are the better. The Warren Buffett approach to this is:

  1. Write down a list of 25 career goals
  2. Identify the top 5
  3. The remaining 20 goals you should avoid at all cost as these are goals which will distract you

The book poses that this is a simplification and that the goals listed might be related and so they can be grouped into a higher level goal. However the goal is that energy is limited and that to be successful you need to decide what is important and what is not important to exert energy on.

How grit grows:

  1. Interest – you have to have a fundamental interest before you can to build a passion
  2. Practice – this is addressing your weaknesses and proactively trying to get better, not just repeating what you already know. To achieve more you need:
    • A clearly defined stretch goal
    • Full concentration and effort
    • Immediate and informative feedback
    • Repetition with reflection and refinement
  3. Purpose – feeling that your work matters is key to you sustain interest and to practice for a long period of time
    and at all times Hope – to learn to keep going even when things are difficult, if we get knocked down we get up again

It is possible to help people grow grit and some of the ways to do this are through language and by encouraging the uptake of activities.

Using a growth mindset language helps build grit

From terms which undermine a growth mindset and grit To terms which promote a growth mindset and grit
“You’re a natural! I love that.” “You’re a learner! I love that”
“Well, at least you tried!” “That didn’t work. Let’s talk about how you approached it and what might work better.”
“Great job! You’re so talented!” “Great job! What’s one thing that could have been even better?”
“This is hard. Don’t feel bad if you can’t do it.” “This is hard. Don’t feel bad if you can’t do it yet.”
“Maybe this just isn’t your strength. Don’t worry-you have other things to contribute.” “I have high standards. I’m holding you to them because I know we can reach them together.”

Activities where a person has participated for a number of years and have gained achievements (e.g. sport, volunteering, research, hobbies etc) as a result improve grit. A form such as:

Activity Check grad levels of participation Achievements, awards, leadership position, if any
  9 _ 10 _ 11 _ 12 _  
  9 _ 10 _ 11 _ 12 _  
  9 _ 10 _ 11 _ 12 _  

For activities completed for a single year were filtered out. Each activity completed for two or more years they earn a grit point, if they achieved some form of advancement scored a second point and a third if this advancement was deemed “high” e.g. president of a society or employee of the month. The score was the sum of the two activities with the highest achievement so a total score of 6 points. This follow though on activities both requires grit and builds it.

It has been shown that people with grit achieve more and are happier at the same time.