Tag Archives: Leadership

Drive

Daniel Pink’s Drive is a short and punchy introduction to the truth of motivation. It cuts through the traditional ideas of ‘carrot and stick’, to look at the intrinsic factors that encourage us to do a great job.

If we’re leading or coaching people, then the thoughts outlined in Drive are a really strong way to open them up to the best chances to grow, achieve and succeed in their endeavours.

This is most especially important with the changing nature of work. As we move away from the algorithmic world of the 20th century, where output and effort were easy to measure, and into the heuristic world of the creative modern workplace, then we must change our approach. When the outcomes you strive for are not easily linked to the outputs, then rewarding people becomes a more complex problem.

Firstly, we must provide the environment for the intrinsic drive to come to the fore. So long as people have their basic needs met, and can see that they are compensated fairly when compared to others, then we can unlock their true potential.

The three strands that form this motivation are Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose.

Autonomy is the power to choose your own goals, to determine how you will achieve them and to make commitments on your own terms. In a commercial context, they must of course be aligned to the needs and goals of the organisation, but beyond that the more power of choice you can give, the better the outcomes will be.

Mastery is the recognition that the journey is often the valuable thing, rather than the final reward. It’s the idea that the goal medal is recognition for great achievement, rather than the goal itself. In seeking mastery you are always looking to learn and improve, and to get better at your craft.

Purpose is the knowledge that your efforts are building towards something greater, whether that’s an endeavour to build something great, or to create a positive change for the future.

If you can give these three things to a group, then they will become engaged, effective and solve problems far beyond their apparent capacity. As leaders, it’s our role to find ways to extend access to these opportunities. As coaches, we might encourage our coachee to find these opportunities themselves.

In the book, we are given a range of techniques to try for ourselves and our organisations, and some tools to check-in on how we are doing. You can pickup the ideas of Drive in a very short period of time, and then return to the resources again and again as you develop your own approach. It gives you a list of over a dozen books for further reading, with brief summaries of each. This is a great springboard for continued learning.

Very much recommended, a great read and an excellent investment of your time.

Innovation is Tough

Building a culture of innovation is tough. It’s pretty easy to learn the ‘fail fast’ or ‘build-measure-learn’ mantras, but to really pull it together requires a deep understanding of these paradigms. You have to recognise a good failure as opposed to a bad. You need to be strong in defining experiments and how you react if you don’t get hoped for results. You really must have strong leadership at all levels.

The benefits of innovation are immense. You solve the right problems, you do it effectively and efficiently and you empower people to bring about massive positive change.

HBR’s recent article, The Hard Truth About Innovative Cultures, really drills down into the detail of this. It shows you what good and bad is, and how to recognise them. It’s an excellent read, well worth your time and the time of anyone attempting to embed this culture in their organisation.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson have just released their latest book, It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work. It’s a collection of micro essays on covering the authors’ thoughts of damaging or short term working practices.

It’s an incredibly quick read, each thought is presented over at most three pages, so it’s easy to rattle through them at speed. Most of them have examples of the described approach and benefits from Basecamp, the company they founded in 1999.

The basic premise is that you can find time to do important work by shutting out distractions, rather than pushing to be the most reactive, always on and always struggling to grow.

Not every piece of advice will be relevant to you, or possible for you to enact (some of the bigger benefits like a four day week can be hard to implement). However, some of them likely will be useful. Cutting down on chat software, setting sensible boundaries and other simple changes can make big differences to what you are able to accomplish, without it feeling crazy.

People rarely do great work while under unreasonable pressure or whilst constantly distracted. This is worth recognising, and this book is certainly a good quick intro to some of these thoughts.


I’m available for coaching opportunities in Central London. Leadership development, especially in a technical organisation or with anyone leading a digital or agile transformation. Connect on LinkedIn to kick-off a discussion.

Crucial Conversations

Vital Smarts’ Crucial Conversations is a classic book on the subject of communication. Its core message is that some conversations are far more important than others, that they may suddenly occur without warning and that if you aren’t prepared for this, it’ll often go badly.

It’s set out much as you may expect, opening up with the basic premise, running through how to recognise what a Crucial Conversation is and when you might be about to enter one. It runs through techniques to succeed, methods to deal with complex situations and finally works through how to secure actions and commitments at the end of a conversation.

The newer edition also covers a series of particularly difficult cases or types of behaviour, dealing with a large number of the possible objections along the lines of “Great ideas, but my specific case doesn’t fit because …”.

Altogether, it’s well written and simple to follow. If you’ve read a lot in this area, then you’ll find the ideas and approaches familiar, but that’s probably because newer books build on them or take them as a starting point.

If all you take away from the book is that some conversations are vital, and that if you can be aware of that then you’ll improve your overall communication and effectiveness. If you can go to the next level, and seek to improve how you build dialogue during those conversations, then you’ll really be taking the value from this writing.


I’m available for coaching opportunities in Central London. Leadership development, especially in a technical organisation or with anyone leading a digital or agile transformation. Connect on LinkedIn to kick-off a discussion.

 

Radical Candor

Radical Candor is Kim Scott’s approach to becoming a great leader by empowering your team.

It’s a simple exhortation, encourage people to greatness by Caring Personally and Challenging Directly. As with most simple things, it’s not necessarily easy to achieve.

The book is generally well structured, covering the philosophy first, breaking it down into what ‘Caring Personally’ and ‘Challenging Directly’ mean, and what happens when you miss on one or both of the axes (Ruinous Empathy, Manipulative Insincerity and Obnoxious Aggression).

It’s only a hundred or so pages for this first section, but that is pretty small print, so do beware when pacing your reading!

The second section is built around techniques, from how to elicit feedback and build that culture of sharing, to how to host and structure great meetings. It covers building trust, working in teams and how to inspire growth in all types of team members.

There will be sections that resonate more or less deeply with you, depending on what the culture of your organisation is, where your experience and preferences lie, and the current realm of influence you have available to you.

For me, some of the ideas about the purposes of meetings, how to structure them and where they fall on the Listen / Decide / Execute cycle were very useful, especially around being explicit when you are moving between the Debate and Decision phases.

Even if all you take from this book is that it’s important to think about what motivates your people, how you can help them grow and how you can make them happier and more engaged, then it will have been worth reading.

If you can open yourself up to understanding and valuing the difference in others, then that truly gives you a chance to be a great and motivational leader.

Time is precious

Time is the one thing we all have the same amount of, the only thing we cannot get more of and our most precious resource.

As such, we should all be mindful of how we spend it, how much it’s worth to everyone we interact with, and how valuable it is when someone uses their own time to help you out.

The first and most important thing we can do is understand how we use it. HBR recently published an excellent and insightful article on how top CEOs spend their time. The Leader’s Calendar is an eye opening view on many aspects of the daily lives of top execs, and certainly worth the read.

One piece that stands out is that even for these already time conscious people, the difference between how they think they spend their time and how they actually use it is stark. As true today as it was when first coined, Know Thyself is advice that resonates down the years.

Understand why you are doing something, what value it brings to your life and the lives of those around you. Ruthlessly cut out anything that isn’t great or moving you in the right direction. Do this and you’ll do more of the right things, which is the most worthy of aspirations.

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.