Introvert, Extrovert or both?

Have you ever lingered in the bathroom at a social event to take a few extra minutes to re-gather yourself?

Have you ever found that working alone was much more productive?

Or, on the flip side, that working alone was much less productive?

I can definitely answer “Yes” to all three.

If you’re looking to understand why you answered these questions the way you did, then “Quiet – The power of Introverts in a world that can’t stop talking” might help…

I first saw Quiet’s author, Susan Cain, speak in Boston at Hubspot’s Inbound Marketing conference. Her presentation really struck a chord with me as Susan discussed the role and importance of introversion in our business and personal lives. (I’m looking forward to sharing a video interview with her in a second post soon.)

Like other writers I love, Susan insists we question the status quo of how we interact. In a business context she urges us not to accept that any single path will be the silver bullet to the best ideas and best results.

The business lessons for me from the book/presentation were these:

  1. Be yourself.
    While we each have a baseline personality type, we all have some introvert and some extrovert in us. Both need to be nurtured. Having read the book, I’m now including more quiet time in my schedule to restore my energy levels. Interestingly, by allocating the quiet time, I’m enjoying the social time much more.
  2.  

  3. Be flexible in how you approach your work and your work space.
    Rework by Jason Fried and David HH really opened my eyes to the concept that you rarely do your best work at work. In fact, the work you are trying to ship or even stages of that work, may dictate which environment suits you best. Choose silence at home alone, a café with people around but no interruptions, a meeting room with a handful of people or your entire team. (This blog post for me is best done in silence at home)
  4.  

  5. In a meeting – consider others’ introvert/extrovert styles to get their best.
    Giving introverts more time to prepare for group meetings was one really useful tip from Susan. And if you’re chairing the meeting, ensure everyone is heard – don’t just take the loudest opinion, go digging for the best one.

So take the time to consider where you lie on the spectrum of Introvert and Extrovert and consider how you can use this knowledge to get the best out of your team and yourself.

 

The 5 Temptations (and remedies) of a CEO

The 5 Temptations of a CEO - Patrick Lencioni
Not these temptations!

A 1 minute summary of Patrick Lencioni’s 5 Temptations of a CEO:

The 5 Temptations:

  1. You put your own career status ahead of getting results for the organisation.
  2. You want to be popular with your team instead of holding them accountable for delivering on the commitments that drive results.
  3. You want to ensure your decisions are correct to achieve certainty which means despite being willing to hold people accountable, you don’t because you don’t think it’s fair.
  4. You desire harmony in your team rather than passionate ideological conflict (not personal attacks) which means that you haven’t benefited from the best sources of information available to you – your team.
  5. You desire invulnerability rather than vulnerability which means your ideas (and others’) don’t get challenged and your team just goes along with what they think your opinion is.
Fortunately, as well as detailing the 5 above, Patrick shares some simple advice to remedy the temptations.

 

Patrick’s 5 simple pieces of advice for CEOs to counteract the temptations:

  1. Make results the most important measure of personal success, or step down from the job.
  2. Work for the long term respect of your direct reports, not for their affection. …View…them as key employees who must deliver on their commitments if the company is going to produce predictable results. And remember, your people aren’t going to like you anyway if they ultimately fail.
  3. Make clarity more important than accuracy. The cost to you of being wrong is pride. The cost to your company of not taking the risk of being wrong is paralysis.
  4. Tolerate discord. Encourage your direct reports to air their ideological differences, and with passion. Tumultuous meetings are often signs of progress.
  5. Actively encourage your people to challenge your ideas. Trust them with your reputation and your ego.

In the vein of Marshall Goldsmith’s “What got you here, won’t get you there”, The 5 Temptations of a CEO, forced me to take a look in the mirror. Result = opportunity to improve!

My temptations:

I feel the temptation I most succumb to is #2 – a want to be popular among my team rather than holding each accountable. I spoke with Adam about this a while ago before I read this book and his advice was spot on – it’s not what you say but how you say it. Holding people accountable means being clear with what is expected and then demanding great performance. It doesn’t mean you have to rant and rave. In the self assessment section of the book, he says that this temptation often manifests itself in comments such as “When will these people stop questioning us and start understanding what we are trying to do?”.

We’ve just set up our scorecards (How to create Scorecards for Topgrading) with outcomes and deadlines for each of us. I think they will be fantastic opportunities to practice my resolve to turn this temptation around.

#4 is the second one I succumb to – the desire for harmony. Being a debate maker is a crucial skill to master in becoming a Multiplier. With a clear understanding of what outcome we are trying to produce, debate helps to extract all of the information in order to make the best decisions. There are plenty of opportunities to practice this in our weekly, monthly and quarterly meetings.

This was an awesome fable by Patrick Lencioni. I read it in an hour and a half on the beach and now I’ve spent another hour and a half re-reading sections.

I have a feeling I’ll be coming back to this post many times.

20 Habits That Won’t Get You There

what-got-you-here-wont-get-you-there-how-successful-people-become-even-more-successful Marshall Goldsmith

I’ve just finished Marshall Goldsmith‘s great book: “What got you here, won’t get you there – How successful people become even more successful“.

What is the book about?

My one sentence answer is:

It is about removing your personal obstacles to further magnify your strengths. 

Here’s some more detail:

Marshall describes the 20 habits of leadership that hold us back from getting where we want to be:

  1. Winning too much (p45)
  2. Adding too much value (p48)
  3. Passing judgement (p50)
  4. Making destructive comments (p53)
  5. Starting with “no”, “but” or “however” (p57)
  6. Telling the world how smart we are (p59)
  7. Speaking when angry (p62)
  8. Negativity or “let me explain why that won’t work” (p65)
  9. Withholding information (p68)
  10. Failing to give proper recognition (p71)
  11. Claiming credit we don’t deserve (p73)
  12. Making excuses (p76)
  13. Clinging to the past (p79)
  14. Playing favourites (p81)
  15. Refusing to express regret (p83)
  16. Not listening (p86)
  17. Failing to express gratitude (p88)
  18. Punishing the messenger (p91)
  19. Passing the buck (p93)
  20. An excessive need to be me (p96)

That’s quite a few flaws to deal with right?

I was reading the book on a plane trip to Brisbane with my fiancee. We jumped into a cab and she suggested that we could go to work drinks on the Friday night with her friends. I immediately said: “That sounds great. The only problem is I have my friend in town from the UK and I’ve got a huge week so I’ll be pretty tired.” In a classic number 8 style (negativity or “let me explain why that won’t work”), I’d leapt straight to the reasons why it wouldn’t work rather than looking for ways it could work.

As Marshall detailed each of the 20, I kept seeing myself in situations at home and at work displaying these habits. In some parts, he literally quoted words or phrases that I have used… It was like ripping off the rose coloured glasses, looking into a not so pretty mirror and seeing my behaviours clearly and how they impact those around me.

Perfection across the 20 habits is absolutely not the aim. The aim is to take your single worst habit out of the equation – the one that is really holding you back.

So what’s Marshall’s solution to breaking these habits?

It’s a 7 step process:

  1. 360 degree feedback on your behaviour as a leader (see the appendix on p225 for a list of 72 questions)
  2. Confront the reality of your flaws
  3. Apologize to those you’ve impacted
  4. Advertise your efforts to improve
  5. Follow up religiously on those efforts
  6. Listen without prejudice
  7. Gratitude

There are a stack of other great ideas in this book. Here are 2 of my favourites to wrap up:

Feedforward:

Feedback is based on the past (behaviours, patterns, data etc). Feedforward is a way of getting buy-in into the future – particularly when you have decided what you want to get better at.

The question to ask is:

What are 2 things I/we can do to get better at [desired outcome]?

You do not get better without follow up:

Am I getting better? Checking in with those around you to see if you are actually getting better (or indeed anything else) is essential to creating lasting change. It holds us to the goal, it helps us measure our progress, it reminds us that change “is an ongoing process, not a religious conversion” (p162).

Here’s a video from YouTube of one of Marshall’s presentations: 

Why do we exist as a business?

It’s an existential question I asked myself after reading Ben Horowitz’s blog post: Lead bullets.

Fortunately I was reading Ron Baker’s book Implementing Value Pricing at the time.

Ron proposes a simple, yet extremely demanding, 2 part answer:

  1. The sole reason for a business to exist is to create value for its customer.
  2. Value, both tangible and intangible, is solely in the eye of the customer.

It’s simple because it can be communicated in 2 sentences.

It’s extremely demanding because of all it implies.

If value is solely in the eyes of the customer, then this answer demands that you understand your customer and their needs and wants, that you help them identify value, that you deliver on the value that you promise and that you continue to help them extract value across the lifetime of your product or service.

The beauty of this is that those who can live up to it will reap the rewards by being able to charge a price commensurate to the value delivered.

“We are committed to delivering value at least 3-10x the price we charge.”

This is our new commitment at Bluewire. It changes the discussion with an existing or prospective customer from adversarial sales to genuine partnering and deeper relationships. It sets a standard of excellence for our delivery and ongoing service. It creates accountability to deliver on that value.

2 elements of the book really clarified this new perspective on value for me:

The first was a graph:

Customer Value vs Price vs Cost Graph

Price reflects a portion of the value created for the customer, so if you grow the value, you can grow the price.

The second element was this:

Poor business is: Service > Cost > Price > Value > Customer

Good business is: Customer > Value > Price > Cost > Service

The customer must always come first.

Then you measure the value to them, decide on a price, and work out the cost to deliver the service required.

So it’s a call to arms to grow value, both tangible and intangible for customers. And with it comes a renewed sense of purpose, a reason to exist.

It’s the reason you pick up the phone with a smile.

It’s the reason you say no when you can’t deliver the value to the customer in the first place.

It’s the reason you have a moral obligation to help your customers continue to extract value from your product or service.

It’s the reason you keep checking on customers in an ongoing relationship.

It’s the reason your customer has to work with you to extract this value from your product or service as soon as possible.

It’s the reason you need to explore as many options as possible.

It’s the reason to stay current with events and trends and best practice, because you might be able to help your customer extract further value from your services.

It’s the reason exactly the same advice can have hugely different value to different customers and hence the reason you can charge different prices.

It’s the reason you must keep improving your business, so you can help your customers improve theirs.

It’s the reason your communication is so important – how do you know what is valuable to the customer without talking to them?

It’s the reason that value is not rational – it is not always absolute dollars, but speed, response times, flexibility, comfort, self-esteem, “cool”, a smile, trust, ease of use, great design, simple, fun, taste, great service, friendly atmosphere, lighting, music, attitude all make a difference.

Ultimately, it’s the reason for everything you do as a business.

So, finally, to blend Ron and Ben:

If you don’t deliver value to your customers, why do you need to exist at all?

I think it’s a question worth revisiting everyday.

Not Choosing Is A Choice Too

I read once that your gut feeling is the sum total of everything – everything you know, everything you’ve ever been taught and everything you’ve ever experienced – boiled down to a yes/no, right/wrong choice and impetus to act. I absolutely agree.

Recognising:

Recognising there is an issue is a critical skill.

You don’t even need to know what the issue is, you only need to recognise that there is one.

For me it’s a gut feeling of anxiety, butterflies, nerves or even sometimes a physical reaction (sweats, shaking hands, etc) to an interaction or a situation, which says “something isn’t right here”.

It’s a physical indicator of your intuition and is enormously powerful and informative. It varies dramatically in intensity – from “hmmmm – not so sure about that” to “if I don’t do something about this I’m going to explode”.

Recognition can be trained with time and practice.

Questioning:

Once you’ve recognised there is an issue, you can analyse it by questioning:

  • What am I feeling nervous about?
  • Why did that situation make me feel uncomfortable?
  • What is it that didn’t sit well with me?

Choosing:

Based on the intensity of your gut feeling and tempered by the answers to your questioning, you can choose how you act.

This is a critical point.

You can choose how you act.

You can choose to confront, let it slide, do something, do nothing, ask for help, draw a line in the sand, run, fight, hide…

Then you can choose when to act – immediately, in an hour’s time, in a day, if it happens again.

Just remember that not choosing is a choice too.

Finding a resolution:

This is not about problem solving – that’s up to you and how you work best. It’s about the steps that lead up to it.

A genuine resolution might come immediately or it might take hours, days, weeks, months, years.

You’ll know when you find one because that very same feeling in your gut – the anxiety, nerves, butterflies, whatever it is – will vanish. You’ll know you’ve found a resolution.

With choice comes the responsibility for outcomes. Positive or negative.

But at least you got to choose.

You Can’t Eat On Facebook – 3 Timeless Fundamentals from Never Eat Alone

Never Eat AloneYou know it’s a good book when you dog ear the last page. That’s what I did with Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi. I did it for this quote:

…you can’t do it alone. We are all in this together.

It’s a book about the power of relationships.
It’s a book of advice and practical  tips for starting, growing and strengthening relationships.
It’s a book that takes it one step further and holds up your relationships as the single most important ingredient to your success.

While the success part is all in the eye of the beholder, I completely agree with him on the importance of relationships – and it’s a timely warning.

Social Media is something that we advise clients on all the time. Sure it’s great to have lots of Facebook fans, or Twitter followers. But ultimately you’ll need to turn these contacts  or “weak ties” (as Malcolm Gladwell has contended in his article “Why the revolution will not be tweeted”) into people who take action – whether that is downloading your e-book, buying your product, or overthrowing a government.

Never Eat Alone is all about acknowledging the power of your relationships and then helping you to grow and strengthen them.

There are definitely some great tactics in this book, but my top 3 take homes were reminders of timeless fundamentals that just can’t be over looked:

  1. ALWAYS follow up
  2. Build Mentor/Mentee relationships
  3. Have dinner parties with friends – old and new

To paraphrase Verne Harnish:

We are not B2B or B2C, we are all P2P. [People to People]

If you believe that like I do, then read this book.

Reinventing Education (More Opposite Thinking)

Consider your schooling for a minute.

What if you had lectures for home work and exercises for class time? What if you could have spent more one on one time with your teacher to help you really grasp the details of concepts, and help you solve problems rather than sitting in a classroom trying to concentrate on the 5th lesson of the day? What if you could have rewound the teacher to listen again to the part that you didn’t quite understand?

Would it have made a difference? Would you have learnt faster (or at least at your pace), been more engaged, been more interested?

It’s underway.

The Khan Academy, started by Salman Khan, is a fascinating project that is using videos and the web to turn education upside down and is a great example of opposite thinking. Starting off as a series of tutorials for his cousins, explaining algebra and other maths topics, Salman’s videos have now racked up 53 million views on Youtube and have expanded from maths to a huge array of topics (now there are over 2500 videos and growing). The Khan Academy is now being backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation amongst many others, and looking to roll out a full curriculum to schools around the world based on self paced learning, game theory, and everything that the web and technology now have to offer.

There are a couple of things that I really love about this idea:

  1. Salman did this initally to solve a problem for his cousins. The web has meant that his solution has been amplified, taken up and loved, by kids and parents all over the world.
  2. It has the potential to take a traditional education approach of teacher in front of the class with minimum 1 on 1, to maximising teacher 1 on 1 time – a key ingredient to personalising education.

If you’re a believer that education is key to solving the world’s problems (like I am), then the execution of this great idea has enormous potential.

Here is Salman explaining the concept in a TED presentation:

Opposite thinking

Look hard at how your industry works now. Then see what might happen if you do the opposite.

If you were looking at the web design industry, the exercise might start [and I mean start – you could definitely get much more hard core than this…] in a list looking something like this:

  1. No time sheets
  2. Take holidays when you need them because your “Job” is actually your “Calling”
  3. Client work takes place on client premises
  4. Projects are completed on time every time
  5. A person is only ever working on one project at a time
  6. Wear professional attire
  7. Spartan offices
  8. All meetings take place at client premises
  9. All staff pay is tied to company profit
  10. Clients pay only on performance
  11. Help desk would be one of the most important roles in the business
  12. Clients would never feel confused
  13. All meetings have an agenda and a time-frame
  14. All client interactions are paid
  15. All IP is publicly available
  16. Everyone can work from anywhere
  17. No one accrues sick leave – it’s taken when you need it
  18. Financial reports are shared
  19. Board meetings are open
  20. No account managers
  21. No pitching/tenders without proper planning
  22. Always give the best recommendation first, then choices second
  23. Always make recommendations as though it was our money that was being spent

Banker to the Poor (The Story of the Grameen Bank), is written by Muhammad Yunus (twitter) and is the inspiration for this post.

Since 1976 the Grameen Bank, has delivered micro-credit loans to the poorest in Bangladesh. It claims a 98.35% repayment rate – an astonishing figure and incredible achievement!

How did they do it?

  1. No contracts (therefore no police, no lawyers)
  2. No collateral
  3. Loans are given to individuals only if there are groups of 5 that need the loans
  4. 98% of borrowers are women
  5. Bankers go to the people, not people to the bank
  6. All loans have a 12 month maturity
  7. All loans are repaid weekly
  8. 20% interest rate on all loans

These are just the start of what Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen bank have done to turn the banking industry upside down to enable some of the poorest people in the world to access credit, start businesses, and bootstrap themselves out of poverty.

I’d be really interested to hear if anyone else has applied this idea of “opposite thinking” in any other way. Let me know.

Be grateful. Life’s a Black Swan.

One of the things that I’ve enjoyed most about being in business has been the exposure to new ways of thinking and a whole new genre of books. The Black Swan, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, is a book that has definitely challenged my thinking.

The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas TalebWhat is a Black Swan?

A Black Swan has 3 attributes:

First it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme impact. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable. (p xvii)

It’s a humbling book in many ways and Taleb drives home his ideas of the “Impact of the Highly Improbable”. There are some great stories inside, from a turkey being stuffed to financial markets to billiards to melting ice.

Funnily enough, after reading this book, I’ve been left feeling grateful. Enormously grateful. Every now and then it’s good to be reminded of the spectacular odds that we’ve faced to get to where we are in an infinite universe.

Here are a few of my notes:

  1. Beware the bell curve
    We need to be careful of the environment we’re in when we’re dealing with probabilities and outcomes. He talks about the difference between Mediocristan (where the bell curve applies) and Extremistan (where it absolutely does NOT).
  2. Mediocristan vs Extremistan:
    Non-scalable ScalableMild or type 1 randomness vs Wild (even superwild) or type 2 randomness
    The most typical member is mediocre vs  The most “typical” is either a giant or dwarf, ie there is no typical member.
    Winners get a small segment of the total pie vs Winner-take-almost-all effects
    Example: audience of an opera singer before the gramophone vs Today’s audience for an artist
    More likely to be found in our ancestral environment vs More likely to be found in our modern environment
    Impervious to the Black Swan vs Vulnerable to the Black Swan
    Subject to gravity vs There are no physical constraints on what a number can be
    Corresponds (generally) to physical quantities: ie height vs Corresponds to numbers, say, wealth.
    As close to utopian equality as reality can spontaneously deliver vs Dominated by winner-take-all inequality
    Total is not determined by a single instance or observation vs Total will be determined by a small number of extreme events
    When you observe for a while you can get to know what’s going on vs It takes a long time to know what’s going on
    Tyranny of the collective vs Tyranny of the accidental
    Easy to predict from what you see and extend to what you do not see vs Hard to predict from past information
    History crawls vs History jumps
    Events are distributed* according to the “bell curve” (the GIF) or its variations vs The distribution is either mandelbrotian “gray” Swans (tractable scientifically) or totally intractable Black Swans
    *What I call “probability distribution” here is the model used to calculate the odds of different events, how they are distributed. When I say that an event is distributed according to the “bell curve”, I mean that the Gaussian bell curve (after C.F. Gauss) can help provide probabilities of various occurrences.
  3. We are hopeless at predicting
    Did you know that to predict the 56th impact of a billiard ball on a pool table, “…every single elementary particle in the universe needs to be present in your calculations”?
  4. All pieces of information are not equal in importance (p 58)
    The single observation that disproves the theory is far more important than the previous million observations that confirmed it. Example: A million sightings of white swans in Europe led to the belief that all swans were white. Then they found a black swan in Australia.
  5. Be an empirical skeptic
    Formulate a bold conjecture then start looking for the observation that will prove you wrong.
  6. Luck favours the prepared
  7. Focus on the consequences
    In order to make a decision, you need to focus on the consequences (which you can know) rather than the probability (which you can’t know).
  8. Don’t try to predict the precise Black Swan.
  9. Seize any opportunity or anything that looks like an opportunity.
  10. Serendipity
    Finding something that you’re not looking for.
  11. Barbell investment strategy
    Taking maximum exposure to the positive Black Swans while remaining paranoid about the negative ones.(p207)

Humanising – the real value of Real Time

Real Time Marketing and PR“Our people are our greatest asset.”

“Our differentiator is our relationships.”

“Product X is great but it’s our people and our culture that really makes the difference.”

“Our competitors could walk into this place and look around. They can even copy everything we do, but they can’t copy our culture or our people.”

Have you ever heard these statements? I have. Many times.

David Meerman Scott (in Real Time Marketing and PR) has nailed a fundamental shift in communication:

…the web has actually brought communication back full circle to where we were a century ago… communication is once again real, personal and authentic… word of mouth has regained its historic power…

Humanise your company.

If you believe these statements, if you truly believe them, then place your trust in your people and culture, and let them wow the world. Give them the tools – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and whatever else is next – to share that very same culture and grow those same relationships – in real time.

If your people and culture can’t be copied then surely that is the one thing you can fearlessly make public.