Getting Naked by Patrick Lencioni

20170103-getting-naked-by-patrick-lencioni-coverThis book was recommended to me by a friend and fellow member of HTG, Raja Pagadala, from The Final Step (TFS) in London. Sitting in a bar at the end of a busy peer-day of understanding each other’s businesses, the topic shifted to ‘Read any inspiring books lately?’. I offered up the Snowball Effect and Raja suggested I get naked. I know him fairly well, so why not?

To take you back to my day at The Final Step, Raja explained his business model and how his company doesn’t sell “IT support” and doesn’t commoditise its offering. The basic premise is that TFS, ultimately, sells “trust”. He explained that he is interested in life-long clients who appreciate a highly tailored approach which puts the client’s interests at the centre of the equation. This requires transparency (or getting naked). Fundamentally, in a true partnership, the client’s and supplier’s interests are very much aligned. Culturally, TFS and BCS are more similar than any other company we have met with, which was reassuring. I just couldn’t get my head around how the commercials of his business work and from discussions with other people in our peer group before my meeting with Raja in December, I was not alone. TFS’s pricing model is not formulaic – tailored services can never be – and understanding the lifetime value that the client has received is what drives it.

Now to the book. It is written by way of a parable. I quite like a story to help the absorption of the knowledge being presented and the book kept me engaged for the few hours it took to read it.

The essence of the story is the conflict caused by the differences between a small consulting company (Lighthouse Consulting) and their larger competitor (Kendrick & Black). When the opportunity comes for K&B to buy and absorb Lighthouse Consulting into their operation, Jack, the hero of the story comes to the painful realisation that they could not merge the small company into the larger one, without taking the lessons provided by the smaller company and making fundamental changes to the way the larger company operates. K&B, the larger company, were not ready to make those changes so facilitated the resale of the smaller company onto another similar sized consultancy company, losing Jack from their team in the process.

The book concludes with a summary of the ‘getting naked’ model. I must say, I preferred the story to the summary, but it is a useful reminder of the content.

What I gained from this book splits into four sections.

Reassurance – The way BCS handles new business ‘sales’ is already almost identical, putting the focus on the client from the start. Since the middle of 2016, we actively stopped chasing new business entirely and now just focus on allowing suitable new prospects to find and come to us. The section about fear of losing business is a lesson we have already learned and I know we turn away more unsuitable clients than we sign up. We report openly to our clients about our performance, ask seemingly stupid questions (in the hope some are useful) and make seemingly stupid suggestions (with the understanding some of these may be the catalyst required for discussion and beneficial change). We are already naked!

Understanding Raja – I am pleased our conversation moved to suggested reading, as I understand better now where Raja is coming from. His business goal is for less customers, but keeping only those that understand and value the quality service his team delivers in abundance. Seems like a pretty great goal to me.

Next Steps – Knowing we are already on the right track at BCS, I will be encouraging our leadership team to redouble their efforts to add value to everyone we work with.

Exiting BCS – Arlin Sorenson, the CEO of HTG talks about ‘unnegotiable negotiables’ when planning a business exit. As I read this book it got me to thinking about this topic, as in due course whoever takes over BCS would need to be a good fit as we are already more like Lighthouse Consulting than Kendrick and Black. If they don’t understand why they need to be getting naked with us in front of our clients, they wouldn’t make a good job of running our business, supporting our team or providing value to our clients. Points very well noted.

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E Gerber

20170101-the-e-myth-revisited-coverThis is a strangely very familiar book. Since I made the active decision to improve myself as a businessman, this book has probably been referenced and recommended more than any other. Having never read it, just before Christmas I decided that over the break I would take this from my bookshelf and give it the attention it deserves. Imagine my surprise when I realised that I don’t even possess a copy of this book. Our marketing guru, David Shaw, stepped in and donated his copy to the BCS business book library.

The E-Myth describes the mythical existence of the entrepreneur. Michael talks about the three roles that exist within any business owner of the ‘technician’, ‘manager’ and ‘entrepreneur’, with a clear understanding that for any business to succeed all three functions must be adequately resourced, even after the business has started trading.

Most businesses are started with passion and some from necessity. At the point of inception, the business is alive with the blood of the entrepreneur. Mostly technician led start-ups are created to cut ‘the boss’ out of the loop, with limited understanding of the perspective of that role.

At some point the founder and business owner ends up spending all their working time back in the comfortable and safe ‘technician’ role. When the business gets busy, the next recruits are most likely to be more technicians to help and share the work of the technician role. This is where things get tricky for many businesses as the busier the owner is training technicians to ‘do’, the less chance of ever revisiting the important function of being an entrepreneur and thinking about tomorrow’s opportunities. There is rarely budget to hire a ‘manager’ to stop this mess. Michael offers a few suggestions to get out of this situation, but as you may quickly realise, it’s better to not even get to this juncture.

Michael goes on to talk about the franchise prototype and how a business is best run if you could at a moment’s notice replicate the whole thing, like you would need to if you sold it as a franchise. Essentially documenting processes into an ‘operations manual’ to create standardisation of quality service delivery, at a controlled unit cost. Ten years ago, BCS was managed without very much structure from a delivery point of view, but it’s interesting to see how much work our leadership team has now put into exactly this type of standardisation of delivery. This book has proven there is more work to do at BCS and I will be recommending the team give this book their attention too.

There is a large section in the book around organisational charts. I am a massive fan of scalable business charts and for many years I was a name all over our company chart, gently replacing myself over time and as our maturity allowed. Michael makes the critical point that the chart needs to separate out the owners of the business from the reporting and accountability roles.

I can’t believe it took me so long to pick this book up, but once I did I couldn’t put it down. Most of what I took from this book was the realisation that the ideas discussed have been taken and reused in other books over the last twenty years (that I have read already) and that I have put most of these suggestions into good use within my business, kindly thanking other authors for what may have been Michael’s ideas. Oops!

The Snowball Effect by Andy Bounds

20160913-the-snowball-effect-by-andy-boundsThe business books that have come into my library are almost all because of the recommendations of others, typically at training events or mentioned in general discussion. This one was different. During a visit to my offices in August by Neil Denning and James Carson from Support Tree (a London based HTG peer group member), we were discussing some work I had undertaken as part of a steering group. I commented that although I thought I had put the work in, the level of response I received from the group was pretty low. Neil and James as one, suggested that I read this book to find out why. A book they swear by in changing their own communication strategy.

By the time I was a dozen pages into the book, I understood the root causes of the lack of response that I had to date received. My emails to this group lack a clear next step and are frankly too detailed for most of the time-poor readers. As part of justifying my role, at each turn I try and prove how clever I am or how much work I have put into my research. The truth is that most of the readers of this email just need the output and critically the next step. Re-reading my recent emails, the next step is not clear and I can’t now even see many people getting that far through anyway.

Having reviewed the emails that Neil and James mentioned, I also ventured into the communications I use with my team at Business Computer Solutions. I found these are typically much shorter but again lack very clear next steps. Critically, these emails also lack the initial request for the reader to buy-in to what I am emailing about. Why should they even care?

I won’t beat myself up completely regarding communication as the book has 63 techniques and some of them I do pretty well already and some are not currently relevant to me, so it’s not all bad.

Now to the book in detail, Andy’s strategy is that if you can get the first part of communication right as the core of your snowball, the other 62 techniques he mentions can be added on the way down the hill. A useful analogy for sure, but don’t let that get in the way.

So the first part of communication (and where I got my biggest lessons in this book) is Andy’s advice to think of communications in three steps and in this order:

  1. The ‘DO’ or next step. What do you want your communication to cause?
  2. The ‘AFTER’. What will be the outcome be of doing the next step?
  3. The ‘CONTENT’ of the communication.

In the case of an email, the ‘AFTER’ will form the subject and perhaps a sub-heading followed by the ‘CONTENT’ and closing with the call to action or ‘DO’. Andy’s reasoning for thinking about the ‘DO’ and the ‘AFTER’ before the ‘CONTENT’ is that it will drive the content to be relevant.

There were also some pretty good tips about grading the worth of the content of your communications. Which things are better off in an appendix and which are better off being scrapped altogether so you are left with the minimum required to achieve the ‘DO’ resulting in the ‘AFTER’.

So, with the core of my snowball built, I have highlighted a few things taken from this book that I intend to do differently from here.

  • Ensure I point out the first step in all communications and create any required follow-up.
  • Use ‘Walloping’ as a way to point out the risks of inactivity (see chapter 4 of the book).
  • Provide pre-reading for the meetings that I run and reduce the duration of meetings.
  • Change the language of appraisals to be more about the preview of what can be achieved than a review of what has gone before.
  • Use negative questions such as “Can you think of any reason this should not happen?” to provide momentum.
  • Asking what the client wants ahead of preparing detailed presentations. If they want a summary, let’s just give them a summary.

What is interesting is that nothing here is particularly new or tricky however you do need to be willing to unlearn how you do these things to embrace an easier, clearer way to communicate.

I will now change the emphasis, shorten and resubmit my emails to the HTG peer group and see if I get a few more replies.

The 5 Languages of Appreciation by Gary Chapman & Paul White

20160918-the-5-languages-of-appreciation-by-gary-chapman-paul-whiteI had the pleasure of meeting Paul White at the HTG Peer Group Leadership Academy day in Florida back in November 2015. At the end of his keynote speech, Samantha went to meet him and got me a signed copy of this book, but it has taken me until now to prioritise reading it.

After I read the book and before I started on this review, I looked back at my notes from when I met Paul, which served to be a useful refresher. I think he covered the whole of the book and my one A4 page of notes summed it up pretty well too.

The book starts by ensuring you understand that recognition and appreciation are typically delivered for very different reasons. Recognition is usually given for performance. Appreciation however should be more about the person and the efforts that have been made to deliver, irrespective of the performance outcome.

The main assertion of the book is that there are five ways you can show your appreciation which are words of affirmation, quality time with a business leader, acts of service such as helping with a project, tangible gifts and finally physical touch. The book then expands to explain that people have their own primary preference of how they like to be appreciated. For some people having quality time with their supervisor means much more than a pat on the back (physical touch) or a well done (words of affirmation). The book also warns that the primary preference may change for many reasons making this nothing like an exact science. That certainly messes with my analytical head.

Obviously the book has lots of examples and provides assistance for you to work out which language is best for each of your colleagues. In fact, with the book comes a code to allow access to their online testing tool called the MBA Inventory, if you wish to formally run tests. There are also suggestions as to how you can work out people’s primary language from observation, which depending on how you plan to use the knowledge from this book, maybe a better route anyway.

My own primary language are words of affirmation. Nothing is better for me than one of my leadership team, anyone at my office, a customer or a supplier congratulating or thanking me for something I have done or put in place for the business. My secondary language is physical touch and I am the first to offer a handshake or cuddle when the time is right. My least valued language are tangible gifts. Other than penicillin, what do you give the man who has everything?

Whilst reading this book (still on a tour of France), Samantha and I played the game of trying to work out which of the team at Business Computer Solutions would select which of the five appreciation languages as their primary choice.

When we get back to the UK we will be working with the leadership team to bring them up to speed with what we have learned from this book albeit, probably not to systemise the giving of appreciation, but to avoid wasted appreciation given over in languages that the receivers just won’t value.

Go-Givers Sell More by Bob Burg and John David Mann

20160916-go-givers-sell-more-by-bob-burg-and-john-david-mannI have mentioned before how books end up in my library through recommendations. For this one, I can blame Amazon alone. You know, that bit where it says ‘People who purchased this book, also purchased this one’. As such, it ended up in my basket two years ago when I purchased my copy of the ‘Go-Giver’ but has lived unloved and unread on the shelf, until this month when I took it with me on a tour of France in the motor home. It is raining today.

The original ‘Go-Giver’ book was a simple, quick and useful read. This follow-on book serves as a refresher of the principles of the original book, coupled with some practical steps you can take to ensure you become a go-giver in all your dealings. It was also great to see our own HTG Peer Group and Arlin Sorenson recognised for the belief of this life strategy.

Looking closely at the approach we take from our company, Business Computer Solutions, lots of what we have developed over the last two years fit with this ethos and perhaps have been influenced by the first book. This includes the BCS Learning Zone (designed to upskill the end-users of our clients), the lunch and learns events (designed to upskill both our own clients and other people with wider networks than ours) and our forthcoming business magazine, BCS Bytesize (designed to inform and educate anyone with an appetite to improve). Creation of all three of these are without a direct return on investment forecast but of course positions us as an expert in our field and importantly, a giver. We are creating value for others with all of these actions.

It is difficult to read any of the books in the ‘go giver’ series without dealing with the fact that the strategies contained are in opposition to conventional business wisdom. People tell me that I should know my numbers. How many in the top of the funnel to allow me to sign up enough clients to achieve our growth plans? What will be the value of return from a £1 of marketing budget spend? If you are going to follow the Go-Giver, throw all you have learned out of the window.

This book made me reconsider my view of a ‘sales funnel’. When we get to the stage of meeting with a prospect and providing a formal proposal, based on experience, the prospect will most likely chose Business Computer Solutions to partner their IT support requirements. As such, before this book I had not fully considered the substance of the numbers. All that mattered to me was that we had a decent number of proposals going out. I would report to my HTG peer group an amazing percentage ‘close rate’ but a low number of new clients signing up. Why was this? Looking closer, I have realised that prospects that become customers enter our ‘funnel’ of their own accord. They find us. The ones we add ourselves in the hope we can nurture them through traditional methods just cause a distraction, overhead cost and have a much lower chance of coming on board. This reinforces my resolve to continue to invest in the BCS Learning Zone, Lunch & Learns and BCS Bytesize as these are all designed to widen our personal impact. Critically, we know that what we do helps others achieve what they do.

The book then provides some really useful help with how to handle networking environments where you normally feel compelled to spew your elevator pitch over everyone as if they are your prospect when in truth they mostly are not going to buy from you. Your efforts to steer away from a traditional pitch will help the person you are speaking with open up more too so you can start to build a relationship. Note to self: I must keep in mind, it’s not all about me!

You may know from an earlier blog about the Business Computer Solutions core values are integrity, dependability and education. This book aligns amazingly well with our values, with the way we use education as part of our gifting to anyone we can help, coupled with our ingrained integrity proving we are ‘real’ and often praised by everyone who deals with our team, our dependability.

I have learned from this book and through a very expensive and painfully repetitive mistake over the last twenty years that we have never sold IT support services. All we have done is enabled prospects to buy our services. We have not manipulated their decisions. We have just informed, educated and then partnered them for in most cases their whole business journey. So looking back, and I don’t recommend you do it, we have spent a tidy sum on people and activity to fill a sales funnel that we can’t even influence. We should have just directed our resources to widen our network.

The best time to change how we get new business was 20 years ago. The second best time is now!

Evolve or Become Obsolete – by David Shaw

Optimized-20160829 - Evolve or Become Obsolete  by David Shaw CoverThis isn’t my usual kind of business book to select, I think because I feared it would be telling me too much that I already knew, having been in business for almost 30 years. The reason I ended up reading this book, is that David Shaw is now working with the team at Business Computer Solutions helping to build our inbound marketing profile and he thrust a copy into my hand. Don’t shout that this review is biased or the value compromised quite yet.

Back in 2006 we were happily running a ‘break-fix’ computer support business. Essentially, if a customer had a computer issue they called us and one of our team would fix their issues and we would then submit an invoice for time and materials as used. The reason I mention 2006 is that was when a South African chap called George Flanagan joined our team. He spent the next two years trying to convince me that the future was Managed Services. I pretty much said “We don’t do it like that at BCS”. In 2008 I attended an event at Microsoft where the speaker said “Who in the room still runs a break-fix business”. Wow! That was us. The key word was ‘still’. I felt like a dinosaur. The world had moved on and BCS clearly hadn’t. Our business was still based on the misfortune rather than success of our customers. This had to change. This story is relevant as it changed my personal view of business evolution. I habitually bring smarter people into BCS than I ever was, but I no longer ignore their advice.

Right, to David’s book. The first half is a history lesson but a quick enough read, its worth getting through as it will bring you up to date with the story so far. Consider it as the ‘previously…’ at the start of the next episode of a long running drama. The language used makes easy reading for even the most novice of this field.

The book then starts to get interesting as David explains in detail ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth) and how this now drives the buying process. Essentially by the time somebody is at your door to talk to you about your product, they have already done their research so they are educated about you, your product, your customer service and your pricing policy. If it is not you they found during their research, it won’t be your door they arrive at. So be in front of your prospect wherever they are looking and provide the answers to the questions your prospect is asking.

David continues by defining what ‘digital’ means to him and his concerns about some experts and their obsessions with counting how many followers they may have. I think his quote “Measure depth of relationships you make and not amount of followers you accumulate.” will be cited in lessons on this topic for years to come. In fact, this was good timing for me as I was concerned about how we can increase our Facebook likes and Twitter followers. I now understand the vanity of this type of metric.

Finally, the best advice I got from the book was about who you should listen to regarding the changes that are happening in the industry. Since my mistake in 2006 I have tried to listen to everyone and read everything. Given how this strategy is not really viable, David’s advice is to pick some of the movers and shakers of the industry and follow them. Read what they have to say as typically they will give you an insight into the wider landscape. I will now be following David Shaw and if he says jump, we will jump. Sorry again George.

Not all business owners are ready to embrace evolution. Are you?

TED Talks Storytelling – by Akash Karia

Optimized-20160829 - TED Talks Storytelling by Akash Karia CoverMost of the business books I read come to me as recommendations. This one however was a surprise birthday present from my wife and daughter. I guess having made them sit through so many TED talks online over wet winters evenings, they knew it was something that fascinated me. How come these guys are just so damn good at public speaking?

Starting with show-and-tell sessions in school and certainly over the last 27 years since I started working for myself, I have had cause to speak to groups of people on numerous occasions. My usual defense mechanism when delivering speeches are props. Lots of them. Physical props gave way to PowerPoint slides, but it amounts to the same thing. You watch TED speakers deliver and rarely does a PowerPoint presentation get in the way of the key message the speaker planned to deliver.

Right. That’s the key. As I said, ‘planned’ to deliver. If I don’t prepare and plan my presentation the outcome is always lacking. If, however, I plan too far to the point of scripting what I want to say, that comes over even worse and I don’t even like delivering it. My best presentations are well planned, but never scripted. A bulleted list of what I want to communicate and then delivered with passion.

Well, this short book (just 47 pages) explains some of the reasons this idea works. It will also serve as a check list of what should be in your presentation and what you should take out. The most important lessons of which are as per the title of the book, storytelling.  Any included stories need to be personal, that enthrall your audience, take them on a journey, show and deal with conflict, educate and leave them elated with one short repeatable key takeaway.

Having read this book, I now find myself a critic of other people’s presentation styles. Worse still, I see other people present and make the mistakes I did before reading this book. Just imagine wasting the most important 30 seconds talking about the venue, host, weather or your journey.

Next presentation I give will have no introductions. Just straight into a story!

Four Years of Thanet Business Network

Since 1989 when I started my grown up journey into business, I have attended many hundreds of networking meetings. In truth not many added value to me or my business. In fact, disillusionment takes the form of eventually believing that everyone present was really just there for the buffet! The munch bunch!

Thanet Business Network (TBN) was formed back in 2001 and is a networking club, meeting over breakfast, that allows for only one business from each sector to be represented. Near the start of TBN I attended as a guest but was too late to fill the IT provider sector role.

I wasn’t at the meeting, but roll the clock forward to 2012 and the mighty fracture (I believe people reacting to a situation rather than responding) that led to a number of members walking out to form a new club. Martin Hughes of ChipsAway skilfully took over the role of Chairman and steered the TBN ship through what was apparently some turbulent waters. Dave Tappy (Big Red Branding) contacted me in September 2012 to let me know that the IT sector role was now vacant.

20160630 -TBN Breakfast at QuexAt the end of Martin’s year in June 2013, I was elected to the role of Chairman (the minimum membership term to be eligible for election to the committee it turns out). On one hand that could look like desperate times had led to desperate measures. However, I think that the truth was more that I brought new life to the table and had not been sullied by the nonsense that led to the split in 2012. As in, it wasn’t my problem or my fault. I had no place in the past, my whole reason to exist as Chairman was for the future of the club. I ran with that …

By the end of my first term as Chairman, I realised that the club was good, but not quite optimal. It was possible for members to come and go as they pleased and only pay if they turned up. We had some members whose attendance was quite patchy and as a result they hardly received any leads or benefit from the club and certainly never provided any leads to their fellow members. The fix for the club to me was the same as the fix for Business Computer Solutions which was to move to more like a managed service or subscription. A member would pay a regular recurring fee for which everything was included. This would push attendance up and therefore increase the number of leads given and received. Sounds logical to me.

At the AGM in 2014 the motion to make these changes was approved and our resident solicitor Steven Harrison (Robinson Allfree) updated our constitution documents as Andrew Dickinson (Oakwood homes) took over as chairman in July 2014. Members left who didn’t like the changes which we expected and were completely at ease with, but even more members joined. I believe that Andrew and I did a marvellous job of the transition from ad-hoc club to subscription club.

20160630 -TBN Demelza - DonationWith nobody lined up who wanted to take back over as chairman in July 2015, I snuck back in as the logical shoe-in for a second term as chairman. Over this past year the club has continued to strengthen even allowing us to support several charitable causes with money and materials plus we organised a fabulous Fun Day bringing sick children with their siblings and parents down for a day out at Quex Museum in a massive collection of fast and fun cars!

20160630 -TBN Cars at QuexWith things like attendance, finance, debt collecting and lead passing almost off the agenda the group now focuses on business development, training and peer support. Meetings remain vibrant and fun … which is a feat to achieve given the 06:30 start each Wednesday.

The committee this year with whom we couldn’t have achieved all we have were Vice Chairman – Mags Vickers (Aloe2bee), Secretary – Ruth Dolan (Tarvos Wealth), Treasurer – Michael Collier (Levicks Accountants), Membership – Andrew Dickinson (Oakwood homes), Events – Lee Sadd (Safety and Management Solutions) and Marketing – Ian Lodge (Broadbiz). Thanks guys.

I have now handed over to a new chairman, Mags Vickers (Aloe2Bee) and a mostly new committee (including another Business Computer Solutions director, Martin Hynes). With 39 active members, a goal to not exceed 40 members and money in the bank, this club is thriving and I believe it will do for many years to come.

The Thanet Better Business Conference being arranged and funded by Thanet Business Network on Saturday 24th September 2016 at the Winter Gardens Margate is coming together nicely. Further details and speakers should all be live on the website in the next few weeks. Hopefully this will be a recurring event further enhancing Thanet Business Network’s position as the go to networking group in Thanet.

Book Review – It’s Not About You by Bob Burg and John David Mann

20160630 - It’s Not About You CoverA short book and one worth being read twice, by the authors of the ‘The Go-Giver’. I first read this in February 2015 and it changed my perspective on my attitude to others. My second read of this book was in June 2016 and it was interesting to see how much I have changed some of my arrogant attitudes by realising that it turns out it is not about me!

As Chairman of the Thanet Business Network from July 2015 to June 2016, my opening addresses were renowned for seemingly being about me. The irony is that most Chairman’s reports were crafted to be about business development and lessons that may help one or more business owners in the room. Frequently members would speak to me after the meetings and say “Yes, I have that issue too. Thank you”. This was a deliberate strategy created after my first read of this book and hence why I have waited until the end of my year as Chairman to publish this review.

Right, down to the book review …

The book is really just one long story of a chap working for a mergers and acquisition company who needs to convince the management of an established manufacturer to sell. What are they bringing to the table? What does the company have in buckets and what do they need to get them to thrive? Why has the company been successful up until now? Typically, an ‘M&A’ person is not a ‘Go Giver’.

The first note I made as I read this book was around the idea of ‘holding the vision’. Anyone can dream their vision for the future, but it’s a level of commitment that allows people to hold the vision when external pressures change the game so regularly. Success comes from having the faith to continue to believe in your vision.

The second note I made was about the ‘employee scrapbook’. A wall in the office devoted to the extended family that is our work colleagues. The people we work together with and serve. I have chosen a wall within the offices of Business Computer Solutions and am ordering picture frames now. It will be great to recreate this Americanism, in Ramsgate!

The third and final note was a big one. The difference between reacting and responding. This is demonstrated by a story in a restaurant about how a complaint handled correctly becomes a winning situation. Most people react, but taking the time to consider the next step would mean everyone would be better off responding. This now means that I am a calmer person to deal with. Although still not perfect, I am more likely to respond later than react now. This is not in my personality so has taken me quite a while to control but seems to be worth it. My team at Business Computer Solutions certainly think so!

When I was struggling with a problematic customer about six months ago, my wife and business partner profoundly said to me “Gareth, you don’t know what is going on in their lives”. This gave me a wakeup call to consider others in a much broader way than I had before that point in time. The pressures on that customer were probably the reason they were ‘reacting’ rather than ‘responding’ to every interaction. From that day, life became easier … for me, the people around me and probably even the client.

Invest a couple of hours and read this book. The story is warming and the lessons pertinent.

Book Review – What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith

20160630 - What Got You Here Won’t Get You There CoverI have to start this review by saying that this book was not what I expected when I started to read this (on a sunbed in Cyprus). I was ready to be told how to fix the issues with the team within my main business (Business Computer Solutions) that cause our recurring growth plateaus. Turns out this book points the ‘blame’ with laser accuracy at the leadership, starting from the very top.

Successful people believe that they are doing what they choose to do, because they choose to do it. When we do what we chose to do we are committed but when we do what we have to do we are compliant. How much do the people we lead do because they are compliant rather than committed?

Marshall also believes that lots of us are quite delusional about how successful we are and that maybe why we resist change. Marshall goes on to suggest that a natural law exists where people will do something, including changing their behaviours, only if it can be demonstrated that doing so is in their best interests, as defined by their own values.

In chapter two Marshall defines 21 bad business habits and personal flaws that will stifle progress and more usefully, practical steps to take to improve. You guessed it, I read the habits and realised I could tick too many of the boxes for me to be smug about my current situation. Admitting that I have these habits is the first step.

Please let me apologise to everyone. This is the next step on long journey for me.

Habit #10 talks about failing to give proper recognition of a team member’s contribution to the team’s success even suggesting that it is common for leaders to claim this as their own success. A practical solution and one I will be putting into place in my own life is to make recognition procedural. You start by creating a list of the important people in our lives, be them family, friends, colleagues or customers. Then at a regular interval, perhaps weekly, check the list and consider if anyone has done anything that could be recognised and make that phone call, drop an email or send them a gift. The impact of this is to ensure that those people that are committed to our shared success, get to understand how much we value them and their contribution. The topic is revisited later in the book suggesting the benefits of taking time out to consider those on our full life journeys that have helped and sending them some gratitude too. If you have helped me become who I am today, expect me to be in touch soon.

This book introduced to me the concept of feedforward to fix the interpersonal habits that may be holding me back. This is broken into four simple stages.
1. Start by picking the habit that will make the biggest positive difference.
2. Describe it to whoever you chose as your feedforward ‘partner’.
3. Ask for two suggestions for the future they think may help you. No reference to the past is allowed.
4. Listen attentively and the only response permitted is thank you.

Repeat this with any other partners you select who you know will be honest with you and help you in your task. The important key detail here is that this is not to fix what you think is the root cause, but what your trusted feedforward partners think is the issue. They will know better if you are deluding yourself.

One last little thought that came from this book is I noted that during my working life I have had lots of ‘to do’ lists to ensure I don’t forget the things that are important that I must do. Until reading this book I hadn’t considered the idea of a ‘to stop’ list. Smart people know what to do. They also need to know what to stop

This book has given me things I need to do for my own self-improvement. Once underway, I will use the tools I have learned to start to help those I lead to develop too. Wish me luck in this quest.