The Coaching Habit – Questions

Just a quick update today on the Coaching Habit.

If you are building up your muscles in this area and trying to solidify your habit, then having the seven questions available to you in an easy to digest format is incredibly useful.

I’ve found this poster covering the Seven Essential Questions to be the best representation of these questions. You can print it out and paste it in your notebook, so it’s always there whenever you need inspiration on where to go next in the conversation.

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Measure What Matters

Measure What Matters is John Doerr’s new book outline the theory and practice of using OKRs to drive success and 10x growth.

Objectives and Key Results are a goal setting method that can be used to bring to bear four superpowers:

  • Focus and Commit to priorities
  • Align and Connect for teamwork
  • Track for accountability
  • Stretch for amazing

The basic premise is simple, on a regular cadence, set Objectives that can be measured by a set of Key Results.

Each OKR is made public, they are transparent and shareable. Every person in the company can link their personal OKRs in to the company wide objectives, as an example one of your personal Objectives may tie directly to a Key Result of your team or department’s OKRs, and so on up the chain.

Key Results must truly be measurable, they should be specific, set with a real date and the metric should be unambiguous. ‘Increase active users’ is bad ‘Increase daily active users by 25% by 1st May’ is far better. They don’t cover the how, but are used to define the direction and measure of success.

We must also check in on OKRs regularly, the value is not just that they exist, but that we measure how we are getting to the goal. Looking at the successes and understanding the failures is a fundamental method to ensuring they add the true value they can provide.

John reminds you that OKRs should not be tied back to personal performance reviews. One of the superpowers is the ability to stretch, and OKRs should be set so they are difficult or uncomfortable to achieve. A stretch OKR may only be hit 60% of the time, but if it’s tied to personal compensation, you can be sure it’ll be hit more often. The stretch is so important because hitting 80% of a massive goal is much more rewarding and transformative than reliably hitting 100% of a simple goal

The book is an easy read, with a history of OKRs, how they came to Google and illustrations of their use at a number of other companies. It’s an inspirational guide on how a simple tool can have such significant power. The resources at the end of the book are extremely valuable, especially if you are attempting to set up your own OKR system, so it pays to spend to the time studying these as well as the case studies covering specific areas.

Overall, a great introduction to the OKR mindset, definitely worth picking up, and returning to as you go on your own OKR journey to success.

Leaders Eat Last

Simon Sinek’s follow up to Start With Why is another excellent and thought provoking read.

Leaders Eat Last is a longer read, and in many ways an easier one. Where Start With Why occasionally struggled with the repetition of example, this is less a feature in Leaders Eat Last.

Instead, we are taken through a tour of what it means to be a leader, how building a circle of safety and trust will create a strong organisation, and allow people to achieve their greatest outcomes.

It spends a long time talking about various biological and chemical imperatives that make us work well together, and suggest where we may fail. It’s not fundamental that you believe this approach to take value from the core message of the book. It has the feeling of popular science that may not be backed up by rigorous evidence, but this doesn’t detract from the overall thesis.

Leaders need to make a safe and trusting space for those they lead. They reap the benefits of higher status and acclaim, but the deal is that they will be the first to run towards danger when it manifests itself.

This is the core idea. Serving the needs of those you lead, being ready to risk all for their good and you’ll be rewarded with loyalty and dedication above and beyond what you could otherwise expect.

Greatness by David Marquet

This excellent video is a brilliant use of ten minutes of your time – Greatness – David Marquet

It’s a great way to see an example approach to Servant Leadership, switching from a telling to an asking mindset and empowering people to use their own skills and abilities to solve problems.

By setting expectations on behaviours, and goals to achieve, it’s possible to give people the opportunity to get to those places in the best way, bringing the efforts of all towards finding a solution, rather than relying on the approach and guidance of one person.

The Coaching Habit

Back this month to books, and I’ve just finished Michael Bungay Stanier’s excellent and entertaining book, The Coaching Habit. It’s a short and fast paced introduction to providing highly valuable coaching sessions in the busy day-to-day work environment.

The book’s premise is simple, and on the front cover! Say less, ask more.

However, rather than a high minded or academic approach, Michael runs through a set of seven short but effective questions you can use to take practical steps to improve your habits.

The start of the book explains how to build a habit, why it may be difficult and why you should persevere. It then splits between explanations of the seven questions, and masterclasses that give useful techniques and insights.

Where some books may stretch their content with repetition, The Coaching Habit eschews this approach, going for fast pacing, large text and bold quotes. It’s an easy afternoon read, but one that you’ll want to come back to many times as you start putting its lessons into practice.

AWS Cloud Practitioner

In a brief break from focusing on Leadership books, I’ve been brushing up my technical skills and reviewing some training material from AWS.

Amazon’s cloud offerings are many and varied, and they can be daunting for anyone unfamiliar with the basic concepts. The AWS Cloud Practitioner certification provides a grounding in these core concepts, and is suitable for anyone who has to interact with AWS in a professional capacity.

The AWS provided training consists of around 7 hours of content, covering the basic principles of the cloud, outlining some core AWS services and then covers security, design and pricing. It’s broken down into short videos with knowledge checks following each section. It’s easy to consume and easy to understand.

The certification is a single multiple choice exam, consisting of 60 questions with 90 minutes to complete. I also took the practice exam, which was 25 questions long, but I’d advise doing this a few days before your scheduled exam as the the results are not always ready immediately.

Once you’ve passed the exam, you get access to a digital badge that you can share to display your credentials.

As is often the case with these kinds of certifications, the value is in the initial training, which I would recommend for anyone who wants to learn the difference between EC2 and S3, and why either matters. The exam and certification are an additional extra, nice for hte validation but not fundamentally required.

This is a stepping stone for other more involved certifications, but I’d say it’s not required. An experienced developer could skip this and move straight to the associate level exams without missing much, whereas a product owner, scrum master or other non-technical person may really find benefit at the practitioner level.

Start With Why

Start With Why is Simon Sinek’s best-selling book about Leadership, Inspiration and why some companies or organisations succeed when others might fail.

It has a very simple core premise. Many organisation know What they do and How they do it, but not a great number really understand and articulate Why they do it.

The lack of Why does not stop a company doing well or making money, but it can lead to a lack of direction and focus, which will harm it the longer this lack goes on.

Organisations that understand their Why, their purpose, will drive great loyalty from the customers and employees. They will naturally succeed in their causes because they have an internal compass that can guide them to success.

However, only those organisations that truly live and breathe their why will reap the benefits. Values printed on posters and stuck on a wall will not achieve this success, it must be felt by all throughout the organisation.

At its heart, it is a strong thesis. The book reads well and is easy to understand. It inspires you to consider your why, to find it if you don’t currently know it and to share it when you do.

If it has one failing, then it’s the repetition in the examples. A handful of companies are used over and over to illustrate the points made. Casting a wider net would have helped strengthen the core message even further.

In all, another good book, thought provoking and definitely worth the time to read.