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.

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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.

Getting to Yes

Getting to Yes is the classic guide to principled negotiation.

It has a very simple structure, and is built around the core thesis that there is a better way to approach negotiation than the simple positional style.

Positional bargaining is very easy to do, but often not effective. It may win the day in a single encounter, but is often a difficult experience, and considered harmful to building long-term relationships.

The authors outline this problem, covering the difficulties that can arise from both the hard and soft styles of positional bargaining. They put forwards the idea of principled negotiation being a better long-term solution to achieving the best outcomes.

After the introductory chapter, the main section of the book covers the four main pillars of the approach:

  1. Separate the people from the problem
  2. Focus on interests, not positions
  3. Invent options for mutual gain
  4. Insist on using objective criteria

It then moves on to cover some difficulties you may encounter in attempting to implement the method, before finally answering a series of more detailed questions.

The book is very good it’s very much worth the time to read. Some of the examples have started to show their age, but the ideas in the book are just as relevant and important as when they were first published, over 30 years ago.

 

Reinventing Organisations

Reinventing Organisations, by Frederick Laloux, is a “Guide to creating organisations inspired by the next stage of human consciousness”.

I picked up the Illustrated edition following a recommendation in a talk at Agile London. It’s a very quick and easy read, and fells like an excellent introduction to the ideas presented in the original book.

It begins by outlining various types of organisations, and the reasons that these different styles arose. Red are the first type encountered, impulsive and tribal, think the Mafia or street gangs. The innovations these organisations initiated were the division of labour, and a view of top down authority.

We then move to amber, conformist organisations such as the church or military, with replicable processes and stable organisational charts. Orange orgs are the familiar corporations of today, achievement focused, caring about innovation, accountability and the meritocracy. Then on to Green, a pluralistic view, with empowerment, values driven cultures and a focus on stakeholder value.

Laloux’s argument is that, whilst many organisations exist in broadly these four camps, with real organisations taking aspects of all four, there is a new, fifth style to consider.

Teal is the evolutionary approach. An organisation where an individual can grow and be their whole self, can find a true and valuable contribution based on a feeling of inner rightness, and can fundamentally make a difference.

By following the approaches and case studies outlined in the book, it is possible to create organisation with a true sense of purpose, really bringing transformation to the world.

It’s an interesting perspective, and it brings a great new set of terms and techniques to the discussion. As no current organisation is fully Red or Green, no one setup will ever be fully Teal. It’s an approach to follow, and there will be valuable opportunities for anyone brave enough to change their views to incorporate the fifth style.

The introduction book is extremely easy to read, and can be completed in one or two quick sittings. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in organisational change or growth, you’ll certainly have something new to think about once you’ve read the book.