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.

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

20160630-It’s-Not-About-You-Cover-196x300A 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.

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

20160630-What-Got-You-Here-Won’t-Get-You-There-Cover-191x300I 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.

Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath

20160630-Made-to-Stick-Cover-196x300The book ‘Switch’ by the brothers Heath had a massive impact on me, changing the way I see decision making across the people I lead and providing practical ways I could manage change (I reviewed it previously on this blog). As such, I had very high expectations of ‘Made to Stick’. I also chose to read this book about the same time as I attended a training course on the topic of storytelling at the Entrepreneurs Circle.

At 300 pages this was a fairly long read, but as it is principally about why stories stick I am sure you can imagine there are quite a few stories in there. I ended up reading the book twice, first on a trip to Hastings in the Motor-home in May and then again in June from a sunbed in Cyprus. It was worth the second read and gave me a great chance to pull some notes to help with this review. It was a long book … this will be a long review. Here goes …

The biggest takeaway for me was the idea that you need to be careful not to confuse the core of any message. When you tell a story you are better off having one really good idea fully delivered than squeezing ten ideas in where none will be remembered. As is typical of every business book I have read, this is ‘obvious’ but doesn’t mean I have not been guilty of this mistake. A quote in the book that resonated for me was that a design reaches perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. As such, simplicity and clarity are key.

The second lesson from this book is about the ‘Curse of Knowledge’. This is the idea that once you learn something it is really difficult to think back to a time when you didn’t know it. As such having revisited some of our output from Business Computer Solutions including our ‘new’ website, it became clear that you would need more knowledge of our industry than a layperson has to be able to understand what we are saying. We are now reviewing everything using proof readers from outside our organisation. It has proved quite revealing.

I had never heard of the term ‘Burying the lead’ before this book, but it transpires that it dates back to 1977 and relates to a writing style where you start the story with secondary information leading to the essential facts further into the story, used perhaps in politics where you don’t want people to ever get to the finer and more contentious details. Sadly, I realised I do this. The practical tip is to use an ‘inverted pyramid style’ of writing starting with the actual primary core of the story, working down to the secondary and tertiary facts on the basis that if the reader breaks off any time after the primary message, they have received your message. If they get bored of your story before you tell the core, you have wasted your efforts.

What is in a name? Well, everything. I read the story about the Daily Record in Dunn, North Carolina where they talked about the importance of names in stories. People like to see their own name in print or online. To be recognised for their achievements. Their part in the story of life. We are already pretty good at acknowledging people on the Business Computer Solutions website blogs and social media output. Reading this book makes me just want to double that commitment.

Stories that reveal gaps in knowledge help engagement. This could be sensational teaser headlines that draw people to the ‘inverted pyramid’ of content leading from it. The compelling desire to find out what happens next or how the story ends. The danger of not having a good opening headline is that the reader may presume from the headline they know what’s coming … and not even get to the core reason for the story.

I have grown up with Abraham Maslow. I say grown up, he died in 1970 when I was just two years old, but his theory of the ‘hierarchy of needs’ from 1954 has been something I studied when I was just a kid and think back to frequently. This book documents a widely agreed alternative view that once you have the basic physical needs covered (food, water, heat) the rest of the needs and desires are not achieved as rungs up a ladder but are pursued simultaneously. I won’t do justice to this section within a review, but when you are creating a story you need to understand what need you are looking to fulfill for your target reader. Is it safety, belonging or maybe even esteem.

After I read this book for the first time in May this year, I had a guest speaker come along to the Thanet Business Network to pitch the services of his organisation. I got to the end of the meeting and realised that there was not even one story in his presentation and I can’t remember one of his core messages. I spoke to other members about this and it turns out I was not alone. If his organisation has made a difference anywhere, he didn’t convey that to us. Maybe I will send him a copy of this book!

Core Values – You just can’t make this stuff up?!?!

The ‘Core Values’ of a company are its culture, its heart and its DNA. Too often I have seen companies do that thing where they get their staff to sit around in a circle and brainstorm what they would like their Core Values to be from an aspirational point of view. Then they paste the long wish list on the wall as a motivational poster. This rarely reflects the true culture of the business and the chasm to leap from where they are to where they want to be is just too great, so it just doesn’t happen.

If you want to know what your core values are, take some time out of your business and when you come back, look at the decision making process your staff have taken to move forwards. That’ll tell you a lot. Culture is what happens when the Managing Director is not in the room. In 2015 I was ‘in the room’ at my IT business no more on average than 2-days a week. Plenty of time to learn what works and doesn’t and I have to say, the culture is one of the many bits we have right. It’s ingrained.

The point is, you don’t just set Core Values, you live them. Assuming your business is good you are already living them, you just need to identify them and then help the people you lead to develop actions that reinforce the great behaviours that will continue to deliver your Core Values. This is critical if you have any plans to scale your business, as I certainly do.

In staff interviews, ask scenario based questions that will give you a guide as to how a candidate will handle a dilemma related to your values. Assuming you provided adequate training, when a member of staff does something that breaches your core values it becomes easier to make the decision as to whether you need to start the disciplinary procedure.

Business Computer Solutions has just started a scheme to promote and reinforce its three Core Values using some very smart glass trophies and a lot of team engagement. Have a read of the blog article on the BCS site if you want to see who won in January.

Core Values

  • Integrity – The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.
  • Dependability – Tell people what you plan to do and then do it. Every time.
  • Education – Having a quest for knowledge and supporting colleagues with their continued development

Although presented at the end of January by the leadership team, in future the award recipient will be selected and award presented by the previous winner. This further reinforces the importance of the role, both in the giving and receiving.

IT Nation 2015 – Bob Hoskins said “It’s good to talk”.

When the late and great Bob Hoskins back in 1995 said “It’s good to talk” within the BT adverts, it was all about ensuring people see the value of talking rather than the cost of making the phone call. Even in 2015 it is still true that we need to look at the massive benefits to be derived from being an active ‘go-giver’.

IT NationBack in a blog entry in September I mentioned that I was asked if I would speak at IT Nation in Orlando. This is a conference run by the provider of the main line of business software used at Business Computer Solutions, called ConnectWise. It is attended by close to 3,500 delegates with another 500 vendor representatives.

It’s a big event. The main stage display was driven by 16 projectors. Yes, I counted them all. The headline keynote speaker this year was Marcus Lemonis of CNBC’s The Profit.

So, is it good to talk? Do I have anything to talk about? Can I fill a one-hour slot? Would people be adequately interested in what I have to say? What should I proffer as a topic?

Then it struck me that the issue of companies using shareholding as a way of buying loyalty of their staff may make an interesting topic. I came up with the title that ‘Ownership does not equal leadership’ and I was away …

Having read Dr Larry Little’s book, ‘Make a Difference’ (see my blog book review) I had already started to understand that some of the team at Business Computer Solutions are not and will never be leaders. Giving some of these people shares in the company and expecting them to become leaders would just be madness. Separating ownership from leadership is the only way forward.

AnimalsAs part of my book review and with this presentation in mind, I purchased four brilliant masks.

With the co-operation of a few of my team I got the following photographs to represent the types of characters in the team which made for an amusing slide during my presentation.

Nestlé Lion BarSo having visited the Cash and Carry, I packed three boxes of Nestle Lion bars into my suitcase and headed for Orlando.

At the start of the presentation Samantha handed out the chocolate bars and I gave the statutory health and safety warning about nut allergies. That said, most of the chocolate had been eaten by the time I gave the warning. I had an afternoon slot and I think the energy boost was welcomed by most.

One of the delegates posted a picture of his half eaten chocolate bar on social media, which wasn’t one of the outcomes I expected.

AlbertAlthough I was, as you would expect, apprehensive at the start, I soon found my stride and delivered about 45 minutes of content and fended 15 minutes of questions.

I had a queue of people who wanted to chat after, which was a great feeling. In fact, a feeling only bettered by people stopping me in the corridor later in the evening to say that they had been in my presentation and had gained value from it.

I started out thinking that the only outcome for me would be that I will have the ‘bragging rights’ to say that I have ‘Spoken at IT Nation’. What I didn’t factor was the benefits of the education I would gain on the journey of researching my presentation. Looking closely at various IT businesses and getting details of those that have introduced sharing ownership well and those that have made a horrendous mess of it.

The research that went into preparing a 45-minute presentation would probably make a half-decent 200-page book. Maybe this is the topic of my first book? Another unexpected benefit of being a ‘go-giver’.

So I reckon Bob was right, it’s good to talk.

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.