Monthly Archives: October 2015

Make a Difference by Dr Larry Little

Make-a-Difference-200x300There is a plethora of methodologies for assessing the behavioural traits of the people you love, lead and live with but this is the first one I have read that made practical sense to me and that has allowed to make a difference to Business Computer Solutions.

I have read a lot of amazing business books over the years and this blog is my chance to share them. What I have noticed is that timing is everything and the concepts in this book hit me just at the time I needed the skills to identify earlier business mistakes and avoid some pretty substantial opportunities to repeat them. This book really challenged my thinking about leadership.

Most readers may have heard of DiSC theory (Based on four different behavioural traits, Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance). Dr Larry Little’s book published in 2013 draws the comparison between character types and four easily identifiable animals; the leading lion, the competent camel, the much loved monkey and the tranquil turtle.

Samantha (my wife and a fellow stakeholder in the success of Business Computer Solutions) and I both read this book on our 22 day motorhome tour to Sweden in July this year. By the time we arrived at our HTG Peer Group meeting in Helsingborg we were already talking in terms of lions, camels, monkeys and turtles. We had even gone as far as guessing which the dominant animal is for each of our staff team and just for fun, some of our friends and family too.

Visit this link and take the test. You will need to read the book to get the best from the result.

Four AnimalsEach animal exists in his quadrant and typically your dominant and secondary attributes will be adjacent.  Turtles and monkeys are PEOPLE oriented where camels and lions are TASK oriented. Turtles and camels are INTROVERTED where monkeys and lions are EXTRAVERTED.

This book has lots of really good stories to help you understand the concepts and importantly ideas as to how you can use the right language to communicate. Get the people bit right and everything else follows.

 

What did I take away from this book?

A Canadian called Laurence J Peter formulated something called the ‘Peter Principle’ which documents the idea that the selection of a candidate for a position is based on the candidate’s performance in their current role, rather than on abilities relevant to the intended role. Thus, employees only stop being promoted once they can no longer perform effectively, and “managers rise to the level of their incompetence”. This book has taught me that this is completely avoidable if you first look at the characteristics of the person you are promoting. If you decide to promote someone to a management role (or ideally a leadership role) and they don’t have enough ‘Leading Lion’ in their make-up, they may not be able to make the constant decisions that the role entails.

Gareth the LionSamantha (my business partner, wife and friend) is a camel. I don’t mean just because she has the hump with me most of the time, but it’s also her dominant characteristic followed by turtle. As such, an introvert who has skills with both tasks based functions and working with people. Company secretary and HR. Seems like she is in the perfect role. I am a ‘Leading Lion’ by a pretty large margin. This is no surprise to those that know me. Now I know this fact, I actively compensate for this. As a lion I don’t need much praise or to stop and celebrate but as a leader, I know that I have team members who are people oriented (turtles and monkeys) and need this reward. From this understanding I now plan (remember, I am task oriented) celebration events. I even praise team members for something historically I would have considered was just them doing the job that I pay them to do. Some people thrive on praise. Who knew?

Not everyone has made up their mind. Having tested all of my team, I learned that some people are not yet fully formed. These people offer the biggest challenge to lead and the biggest opportunity for the business. Knowing they don’t have a dominant type of character means you have the chance to develop them. We even tested our daughter, Bex, who was 19 years old at the time and she has pretty equal quantities of Lion, Camel, Monkey and Turtle in her make up.

Our business growth stalled for a while because we operated under a ‘management’ style rather than ‘leadership’. As part of the process of using what I learned from this book I even had a few ex-staff take the test to see if the theories I was working to were correct. They were. The shift to an approach that develops our people at every level has meant that having leading lions in key roles is allowing us to increase turnover, number of people employed and critically business profitability.

 

 

Switch by Chip & Dan Heath

switch-203x300‘Switch’ is a book recommended to me by the facilitator of my HTG Peer Group, Hardin Byars. Written by Chip and Dan Heath and first published in 2010, Switch helps you understand “how to change things, when change is hard”, so says the cover.

The book has just three simple concepts to understand. The Rider, the elephant and the path. The rider and elephant represent the battle between the two sides of your brain (The rational rider and the emotional elephant). The path is all about the environment into which you place your rider and elephant. By the end of the book you will no longer see these as abstract concepts, but instead notice in your everyday life situations and behaviours that could be improved if people just took the time to understand this simple idea.

The rational rider makes considered changes, but tires easily. The elephant will go where the rider wants him to go, but only if the rider can make the decision. By shaping the path, the rider can save his decision making energy for decisions that need to be made and therefore control his emotional elephant when the time comes.

When things have not gone to plan within my business it has always been easy to assume it’s a people problem. The truth however (having now read this book) is that it has more often been a situation problem.

Successful change happens when you speak to the needs to the rational rider and the emotional elephant so they work together to reach the required goals along the shaped path. The goals need to be broken into manageable small accomplishments and you need to be ready to support the needs of the emotional elephant who hates to fail.

Some of the things I have been doing that have brought success to BCS over the last few years have been by accident. This book has given me a greater understanding of why what I have done has worked, helping me understand how I can repeat this success.

 

What did I take away from this book?

Finding the bright spots is the idea that you get a better reaction from identifying, praising and even rewarding the right behaviour than focussing on the wrong behaviour. Most of us were pretty good about doing that with our children (well done for writing your name or passing your exam) but less good about keeping that as the focus in our businesses. Since reading this book, I have made it my endeavour to remove all language that chastises unhelpful behaviour, whilst looking for the great behaviours that by repeating them would help the business succeed.

It’s great to think that everyone in your company does the right thing every time but that’s just not likely to be true. The concept of scripting the critical moves is about ensuring that the rational rider never suffers from ‘analysis paralysis’ using his efforts to make the decisions they need to make and can add value with. We have now built a sales process that provides structure in a way that means no steps are missed and therefore at some later point we don’t find that the rider has made a decision to allow his elephant to stampede through ignoring critical steps that cause issues to service delivery once we bring the new client on-board.

We have some pretty big business goals at Business Computer Solutions with the idea that we will be doubling the size of the business by the end of 2018. As a goal, this means very little to most of the team members. They figures are almost telephone numbers and much too abstract. The advice from Chip and Dan Heath is to ‘Shrink the Change’. For this it means changing the message and the language. Telling the team how great we have done and how far along the business growth plan we already are, helps them understand how the small goal to achieve in the next quarter is within reach. Of course, also ensuing each member of the team understands how their part of this contributes to the companies’ aspirational goal. Small goals allow small failures but ultimately provide massive successes.

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

Leaders-Eat-Last-Cover-199x300‘Leaders Eat Last’ is a book by the amazing author of the renowned ‘Start with Why’, Simon Sinek. Yes, I should have probably reviewed ‘Start With Why’ first but I picked them up in the wrong order. Here goes anyway.

Simon Sinek is very good at explaining the biology behind the psychology in this book. I can put a fiction book down half way through if the story hasn’t gripped me but with business books by authors like Simon I have learned to read them cover to cover before forming opinions.

When you distil this book to the core, it’s a lesson on empowering people to make decisions, trusting that they will make the right ones but critically ensuring everyone is aligned to the company core values and understands and buys into the aspirational goals.

The ‘Leaders Eat Last’ reference is from a conversation Simon had with a US Marine Corp general. He said “Officers eat last”. It is normal practice for the junior Marines to eat first and the senior Marines to take their place at the back of the line. Great leaders are willing to sacrifice their own comfort (or survival) for the good of those in their care. This is rooted in a biological need we all have that is explained well in the book.

The circle of safety discussed in the book demonstrates how teams build and gain support and an intense loyalty from their strength together. Once this is achieved they will stop at nothing to advance their leader’s vision and the organisations aspirational goals and best interests.

 

What did I take away from this book?

The section about abstraction is interesting, but not surprising. Telling people what you need them to do isn’t as powerful as showing them. Telling people what they can have because of what they do isn’t as powerful as showing them what they can have. This links into the ‘Start with Why’ concept that I will review later. Essentially, people need to buy into why they do what they do. If they feel the pain a client or colleague suffers, they do more to avoid it. Following this we have made more effort to ensure all new staff joining the company spend time in all departments to understand how everyone works for the same goal and feedback from customers is garnered and shared liberally.

IAuthority can credit this book with helping me understand how I mistakenly micromanaged my team at Business Computer Solutions and why this is not only limiting to business growth but damaging to our ability to perform and to everyone’s happiness. Authority to make decisions must be passed to the people who have the information. Once you have delegated that decision making you can focus your efforts on driving the vision of the company. My team thank me for reading this book. The anecdote about the submarine captain is the perfect demonstration of this.

The book also talks about ‘The Distracted Generation’. All those people whose mobile phone bleeps drives their every action, every day. As said, there is an argument that this is a generational matter, but having read Simon’s take on this lead me to look at how my team at BCS manage their time. Had I done the wrong thing by allowing social media and phones in the workplace? I believe that it was right to allow them, but even better that I have helped the team with coping strategies to drive periods of time where they shut out the distractions (including internal communications too) whilst they make progress on projects. The story about the airline controller and the mobile phone brought the issue alive for me.

Not directly related to any particular section of the book but probably because of this book at about the time I read this I changed my staff 1-2-1 appraisal technique and focussed much more on the personal goals of each member of the team. Helping them with goal setting and then where we can helping them achieving their goals. Most of the goals held by my team are achievable, but sometimes they don’t know without help how to take the first step.