Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Book Review
Book: The Power of Positive Leadership by Jon Gordon

Reviewer: Bobby Powers

My Thoughts: 8 of 10
Every leader has dealt with negativity on their team and knows that it can be tempting to give in to negative emotions. The best leaders rise above that temptation and continue to lead with positivity and enthusiasm in the face of difficulty. In The Power of Positive Leadership, Jon Gordon shares his thoughts on why it’s so crucial to remain positive. I desperately hoped this book would offer enough “meat” and offer real content rather than “pie in the sky” aphorisms. Gordon delivered. Thankfully, this book is nothing like the 1950s book The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. My apologies to those of you who loved Peale’s book, but I thought it was loaded with pithy sayings rather than substance. If you want a book of substantive information about positivity, check out Gordon’s book The Power of Positive Leadership. I also recommend The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor.

The Reader’s Digest Version: A leader’s most important job is to drive the culture, and positivity should be a core tenet of every work culture.

The Importance of Positivity

  • “One positive leader will inspire many others to become positive leaders as well.”
  • “Throughout history we see that it’s the optimists, the believers, the dreamers, the doers, and the positive leaders who change the world.”
  • “As a leader your attitude, energy, and leadership is contagious, and it has a big impact on your culture.”
  • “Our attitude helps create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because optimists believe in a positive future, they actually delude themselves into working more to make it possible. Their belief makes them willing to take actions to achieve it.”
  • “Gallup estimates that negativity costs the economy $250-$300 billion a year and affects the morale, performance, and productivity of teams.”
  • “The most important characteristic of a leader is optimism.” -Bob Iger

Dealing with Difficulty

  • “Greatness is never born from easy circumstances. We can become stronger when the world becomes harder.” -Erwin McManus
  • “The Gallup Organization did a study where they asked people to name the best and worst event of their lives. They found that there was an 80 percent correlation between the two events. Somehow the worst event of our lives often leads to the best, if we stay positive, stay the course, and keep moving forward.”
  • “There is always a way forward.”

Vision and Purpose

  • “When people know how they are contributing to a bigger vision and have a bigger purpose at work–and feel like their manager-leader-coach genuinely cares about them–the research shows that engagement soars.”
  • “Purpose fuels positivity and is the reason why you overcome all the challenges and keep moving forward. Purpose is why you wake up and want to transform your team and organization and change the world. Without a greater purpose, there’s no great desire. Every great organization must have a greater purpose for why they exist and every positive leader must be driven by purpose to lead others and make a greater impact.”
  • “People think that hard work is what makes us tired. Hard work doesn’t make us tired. A lack of purpose is what makes us tired.”
  • “Happiness isn’t an outside job. It’s an inside job. It doesn’t come from the work you do but rather the meaning and purpose you bring to your work.”
  • “As a positive leader you will want to carry a telescope and a microscope with you on your journey. The telescope helps you and your team keep your eyes on your vision, North Star, and big picture. The microscope helps you zoom-focus on the things you must do in the short term to realize the vision in your telescope. If you have only a telescope, then you’ll be thinking about your vision all the time and dreaming about the future but not taking the necessary steps to realize it. If you have only a microscope, then you’ll be working hard every day but set-backs and challenges will likely frustrate and discourage you because you’ll lose sight of the big picture. You need to frequently pull out your telescope to remind yourself and your team where you are going, and you’ll need to look through your microscope daily in order to focus on what matters most and follow through on your commitments. Together they will help you take your team and organization where you want to go.”

Weed Out the Negativity

  • “You are meant to define your circumstances…Remember that it’s never about the circumstance. It’s not the challenge, change, economy, election, adversity, or setback you are facing. It’s always your state of mind and your thinking that produces how you feel and respond. When you see that the world has no power over you, you will lead more powerfully in the world.”
  • “Positive leadership is not just about feeding the positive, but also about weeding out the negative. As a leader you must recognize that negativity exists and you can’t ignore it. One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is that they ignore the negativity within their team and organization. They allow it to breed and grow, and it eventually sabotages the team and organization. You must address the negativity. Confront it, transform it, or remove it.”
  • “Every one of us will deal with negativity and naysayers on our journey. Not everyone will have the same vision as you. Not everyone will believe in your dreams. Not everyone will get on your bus. But to succeed, your positive energy must be greater than all the negativity.”
  • “I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” -Gandhi

Tips for Leading

  • “Positive leaders are humble and hungry. They don’t think they know it all. They are life-long learners who are always seeking ways to learn, improve, and grow.”
  • “I also believe positive leaders and communicators rely on nonverbal communication. They encourage through nods, facial expressions, high-fives, handshakes, pats on the back, fist bumps, and even hugs when appropriate. Positive communication isn’t just verbal. It’s also physical.”
  • “Love is the greatest leadership principle on the planet…We are who we are because someone loved us and our team will be impacted by our love. Love is what separates good and great. Good teachers know their lesson plans. Great teachers know and love their students. Good coaches know X’s and O’s. Great coaches know and love their players. Good salespeople know how to sell. Great salespeople love their clients…If you want to build a great team, business, family, school, or organization, love the people you lead and work with.”
  • “Once you know what you stand for, decisions are easy to make. When your culture dictates your decisions, you are on the right path to positive results.”
  • “It’s important to remember that being a big-time leader starts with doing the little things to serve those you lead.”

 

If you like this book, you may like…
The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler

Other notable books by the author:
The Energy Bus
You Win in the Locker Room First
The No Complaining Rule

Book Review
Book: Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool

Reviewer: Bobby Powers

My Thoughts: 9 of 10
Ever heard of the 10,000-hour rule? It was popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers. Gladwell based that rule on the research of Anders Ericsson, who just released his own book that sets the record straight on what exactly is required to become an expert in a given field. The 10,000-hour rule isn’t quite true (read Peak to find out why), but it does get a few things right–namely that talent is overrated and hard work rules the day. Ericsson shares research conducted on chess grandmasters, violinists, musicians, ballerinas, and others at the top of the world in their craft. The research conclusively shows that deliberate practice trumps innate talent in the battle for the podium in any given area of expertise. Peak is an amazing book that has practical implications spanning education, sports, and personal drive to be the best in whatever you love to do.

The Reader’s Digest Version: Innate talent is largely a myth. Expertise derives from intense, deliberate practice.

Expertise Takes Hard Work

  • “We now understand that there’s no such thing as a predefined ability. The brain is adaptable, and training can create skills that did not exist before…Learning isn’t a way of reaching one’s potential but rather a way of developing it. We can create our own potential.”
  • “I can report with confidence that I have never found a convincing case for anyone developing extraordinary abilities without intense, extended practice.”
  • “When people say God blessed me with a beautiful jump shot it really pisses me off. I tell those people, ‘Don’t undermine the work I’ve put in every day.’ Not some days. Every day. Ask anyone who has been on a team with me who shoots the most. Go back to Seattle and Milwaukee, and ask them. The answer is me.” -Ray Allen, 10-time NBA all-star and greatest three-point shooter in the history of the league
  • “People do not stop learning and improving because they have reached some innate limits on their performance; they stop learning and improving because, for whatever reasons, they stopped practicing–or never started. There is no evidence that any otherwise normal people are born without the innate talent to sing or do math or perform any other skill.

Mental Representations

  • A mental representation is a brain schema/shortcut developed through deep experience and practice. “Any relatively complicated activity requires holding more information in our heads than short-term memory allows, so we are always building mental representations of one sort or another without even being aware of it.”
  • “The thing all mental representations have in common is that they make it possible to process large amounts of information quickly, despite the limitations of short-term memory.”
  • “The main thing that sets experts apart from the rest of us is that their years of practice have changed the neural circuitry in their brains to produce highly specialized mental representations, which in turn make possible the incredibly memory, pattern recognition, problem solving, and other sorts of advanced abilities needed to excel in their particular specialties.”
  • “The main purpose of deliberate practice is to develop effective mental representations.”
  • “In any area, not just musical performance, the relationship between skill and mental representations is a virtuous circle: the more skilled you become, the better your mental representations are, and the better your mental representations are, the more effectively you can practice to hone your skill.”

Deliberate Practice

  • “Deliberate practice is purposeful practice that knows where it is going and how to get there.”
  • “Deliberate practice takes place outside one’s comfort zone and requires a student to constantly try things that are just beyond his or her current abilities. Thus it demands near-maximal effort, which is generally not enjoyable.”
  • “Doing the same thing over and over again in exactly the same way is not a recipe for improvement; it is a recipe for stagnation and gradual decline.”
  • Key aspects of deliberate practice:
    1. Requires a teacher who can provide specific practice activities
    2. Involves well-defined, specific goals (not aimed at some vague overall improvement)
    3. Requires a person’s full attention and conscious actions
    4. Involves feedback and modification of efforts in response to that feedback
    5. Produces and depends upon effective mental representations
    6. Systematically works to improve micro-aspects of each skill
  • “Remember: if your mind is wandering or you’re relaxed and just having fun, you probably won’t improve.”
  • “The hallmark of purposeful or deliberate practice is that you try to do something you cannot do–that takes you out of your comfort zone–and that you practice it over and over again, focusing on exactly how you are doing it, where you are falling short, and how you can get better.”

Other Insights

  • “When people assume that talent plays a major, even determining, role in how accomplished a person can become, that assumption points one toward certain decisions and actions. If you assume that people who are not innately gifted are never going to be good at something, then the children who don’t excel at something right away are encouraged to try something else…The prophecy becomes self-fulfilling.”
  • “Since the 1990s brain researchers have come to realize that the brain–even the adult brain–is far more adaptable than anyone ever imagined, and this gives us a tremendous amount of control over what our brains are able to do.”
  • “This is how the body’s desire for homeostasis can be harnessed to drive changes: push it hard enough and for long enough, and it will respond by changing in ways that make that push easier to do.”
  • “Once you have identified an expert, identify what this person does differently from others that could explain the superior performance.”
  • “To date, we have found no limitations to the improvements that can be made with particular types of practice.”
  • “The creative, the restless, and the driven are not content with the status quo, and they look for ways to move forward, to do things that others have not. And once a pathfinder shows how something can be done, others can learn the technique and follow. Even if the pathfinder doesn’t share the particular technique…simply knowing that something is possible drives others to figure it out.”
  • “I suspect that such genetic differences–if they exist–are most likely to manifest themselves through the necessary practice and efforts that go into developing a skill. Perhaps, for example, some children are born with a suite of genes that cause them to get more pleasure from drawing or from making music. Then those children will be more likely to draw or to make music than other children. If they’re put in art classes or music classes, they’re likely to spend more time practicing because it is more fun for them. They carry their sketchpads or guitars with them wherever they go. And over time these children will become better artists or better musicians than their peers–not because they are innately more talented in the sense that they have some genes for musical or artistic ability, but because something–perhaps genetic–pushed them to practice and thus develop their skills to a greater degree than their peers.”

 

If you like this book, you may like…
Mindset by Carol Dweck
Grit by Angela Duckworth
The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle
Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin

Other notable books by the authors:
Toward a General Theory of Expertise edited by Anders Ericsson and Jacqui Smith
Beyond Engineering: How Society Shapes Technology by Robert Pool

Review: “Rise”

Posted: April 24, 2017 in Book Reviews
Tags: , ,

Book Review
Book: Rise by Patty Azzarello

Reviewer: Bobby Powers

My Thoughts: 8 of 10
Rise is an empowering book. It’s a book that frees you to focus on the truly important things of your job rather than getting caught up in the minutiae of day-to-day tasks that try to bog you down. Author Patty Azzarello encourages leaders to be confident in their abilities, seek to give more than you receive, and ruthlessly prioritize time in order to be successful. She offers tangible ideas for freeing up more of your time to focus on higher-level projects in your work.

The Reader’s Digest Version: Each level of management requires different skills and demands that you find/make time to do the truly important things for your specific role.

Deal with the Chaos

  • “No one other than YOU has any motivation whatsoever to make you less busy…If you are overwhelmed by the activities of your job and you use up all your time and energy on your current job, you are not ready for a bigger one. Simple as that.”
  • “It’s important to realize that not only do you have permission, but also as a leader you are expected to be able to deal with an overwhelming workload and not be overwhelmed. That’s the job.”
  • “Your job as a leader is to deal with chaos and pressure and make it more manageable. You are supposed to create systems and processes to get more done with less effort. You are expected to think strategically, prioritize, and focus on the most critical tasks. But you’ll never get to do any of this if you don’t first give yourself permission to be less busy.”
  • “Just know that it’s not the work that matters; it’s the outcomes you deliver. You don’t win the game for running up and down the court; it’s the points on the board that count.”
  • “Trust that giving yourself time to think will help you find ways to deliver higher-value business outcomes and get the right work done in less time.”

Ruthlessly Prioritize

  • “Overachieve where it counts.”
  • “Simply put, highly successful people don’t do everything. Watch them. They drop the ball on all kinds of things. They disappoint people. They may have disappointed you from time to time. But if they are successful, the other thing that you will notice is that they have a ruthless focus on the things they care about.”
  • “The ability to work this way is not a status that is granted to you. These people were not given permission to focus on a few things and drop others. They were not less busy or less constrained than others. They took risks. They worked it out. You need to work it out.”
  • “The work almost never comes across the table at you the way you should do it.”
  • “Because you are genuinely succeeding at the things that have the biggest impact on this business, you’ll be forgiven for the things you don’t get done.”
  • “You need to communicate your Ruthless Priorities over and over and over again…Unless you are completely sick and tired of talking about your message, you aren’t even close to getting your audience to adopt it.”

Make More Time

  • “Take some time back. Just take it. Actually schedule time to think. If you have no time to think, you will continue to use up all your time. For a start, schedule two hours per week and hide.”
  • “Make your container of time for your current activities smaller…Decide how much time various areas of work are worth, and don’t exceed that amount of time.”
  • “Don’t resolve things that don’t need to be resolved.”
  • Have a “Don’t Do” list.
  • Create a list with three columns: (1) Things I am getting done (2) Things you think I am doing that I am not (3) Things I know are important that I can’t get to at all
  • “Successful people fail more than unsuccessful people. They try a lot, they do a lot, and they fail a lot. They just get over it and keep going.”

Working with Your Strengths

  • “Manage your circumstances to ensure you’ll be doing what you are naturally good at most of the time.”
  • “Once you have your strengths in focus, you need to think about how you can tune your job to put yourself in your ‘power alley’ more of the time.”
  • “I love my job. I am doing exactly what I am really good at. It’s taken me twenty years to get all the stuff I suck at out of my job description.”

The Level Dilemma

  • “Each time you step up a level, what it means to be good at your job changes.”
  • “Your value is in developing strategy, people, and teams, not in delivering the work personally.”
  • “As a leader who has stepped up, you need to associate your value with different stuff. If you don’t start to associate your value with the higher-level managerial and leadership work, you will automatically gravitate back to the detail, because that is where you feel the value is. You’ll keep working at the wrong level, and you’ll fail to do an effective job as a leader.”
  • “Being stuck in the content and detail is working in the business. Rising above the content to lead and build capability in your team is working on the business. Essentially, you want to spend more time thinking and less time doing. If you are spending all your time doing, you are probably not working on the business.”

Trust

  • “I have never seen a smart person damaged by letting a smarter person thrive beneath him or her.”
  • “If you send people the signal that you trust them, and you encourage them to do big things, they will be more motivated to do big things. And more often than not, they will do them.”
  • “The hardest part about building trust is that you need to be unfailingly consistent. As soon as you let up, change your mind, disappear for a while, don’t pounce on a consequence, let something slide, fail to give credit, or back off on communicating, you are degrading trust. I have a mentor who describes this part of leadership as ‘the hard, boring, and required stuff.’ Stay ever diligent on measures, consequences, and communicating. The payoff is big.”
  • “The higher you go, the more you need the support of others. As you advance, success becomes less about what you yourself can do and more and more about what you can accomplish through others.”

Authentic Networking, Not Politics

  • “Keep in mind that networking as two distinct parts: (1) Keeping in touch with the people you already know (2) Meeting new people.”
  • “Most of the power from networking actually comes from keeping in touch with the people you already know.”
  • “Networking is actually about giving, not taking…Once you start to think about building your network by what you can give, and by adding genuine value for others, it becomes much more meaningful and feels much less political. Remember, your network only has value if you put value into it.
  • “The trick to authentic networking: Give when you don’t need anything. Take less than you give—always.”

Confident or Fearless: Your Choice

  • “Fearlessness is partly about having the imagination to see yourself in that role, deserving that role. It is also about being willing to go there before you feel ready and comfortable. Over and over again, I have seen less-talented, less-qualified people move beyond higher performers for the sole reason that they were willing to do so.”
  • “If you aspire to big things or the top jobs, you can’t get there without putting aside your confidence issues and just doing it anyway. If you are smart, you will catch up with your leap. I promise. I’ve done this with pretty much every job transition I’ve made.”
  • “A key test of executive presence is to look like you are doing your job with ease and grace. Even if behind the scenes it is chaos, what people should see is you being calm and in control.”
  • “It’s ok to be terrified. In fact, if you are terrified, you are doing it right! I was lucky to have mentors and coaches share this with me, and I want to share it with you. All executives feel at certain points like they are in over their heads, don’t know what to do, aren’t doing a good enough job, and are going to be ‘found out’—particularly when they start a new job.
  • “One sign that you are on a fast track is that you spend most of your career at the bottom of the pay curve, because you get promoted too quickly to ever climb up a pay curve for a particular level. Part of the success formula is being willing to take these leaps and throw yourself into situations where you don’t know much or where you could be challenged as inexperienced. You need to trust yourself to be smart enough, and then you need to learn really fast!”

 

If you like this book, you may like…
Presence by Amy Cuddy
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

Other notable books by the author:
Move: How Decisive Leaders Execute Strategy Despite Obstacles, Setbacks, and Stalls

Book Review
Book: Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott

Reviewer: Bobby Powers

My Thoughts: 9 of 10
One of my favorite books is Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler. Since reading that book, I’ve been on the lookout for other impactful books that teach how to have meaningful difficult conversations. I finally found one. Susan Scott’s work contains numerous insights useful for having tough conversations with colleagues, friends, and family. The most memorable one for me was Scott’s description of “official truth vs. ground truth,” which is described further below.

The Reader’s Digest Version: The most productive conversations are those full of intense candor and depth.

Fierce Conversations

  • “When you think of a fierce conversation, think passion, integrity, authenticity, collaboration. Think cultural transformation. Think of leadership.”
  • “Doesn’t ‘fierce’ suggest menacing, cruel, barbarous, threatening? Sounds like raised voices, frowns, blood on the floor, no fun at all. In Roget’s Thesaurus, however, the word fierce has the following synonyms: robust, intense, strong, powerful, passionate, eager, unbridled, uncurbed, untamed. In its simplest form, a fierce conversation is one in which we come out from behind ourselves into the conversation and make it real. While many are afraid of ‘real,’ it is the unreal conversation that should scare us to death. Whoever said talk is cheap was mistaken. Unreal conversations are incredibly expensive for organizations and for individuals.
  • “Success occurs one conversation at a time.”
  • “Begin listening to yourself as you’ve never listened before. Begin to overhear yourself avoiding the topic, changing the subject, telling little lies (and big ones), being imprecise in your language, being uninteresting even to yourself. And at least once today, when something inside you says, ‘This is an opportunity to be fierce,’ stop for a moment, take a deep breath, then come out from behind yourself into the conversation and make it real. Say something that is true for you.”
  • “During a fierce conversation, my role is not to say what is easy to say or what we all can say, but to say what we have been unable to say. I try to pay attention to things that may pass unobserved by others and bring them out into the open. The most valuable thing any of us can do is find a way to say the things that can’t be said.”

Ways to Know You Just Had a Fierce Conversation

  • You identified and focused on the real issue.
  • You didn’t get sidetracked by rabbit trails.
  • You took him or her deeper and deeper into the issue until you found the core.
  • You weren’t distracted by anything else going on in the room.
  • You used silence powerfully.

Interrogate Reality

  • “We believe that, in order to execute initiatives and deliver goals, leaders must have conversations that interrogate reality, provoke learning, tackle tough challenges and enrich relationships.”
  • Ask yourself, “What are the leaders in my organization pretending not to know? What am I pretending not to know?”
  • “Several years ago I was introduced to the military term ground truth, which refers to what’s actually happening on the ground versus the official tactics. One of the challenges worth going after in any organization–be it a company or a marriage–is getting to ground truth…What is ground truth in your organization? Every day companies falter and fail because the difference between ground truth and the ‘official truth’ is significant.”
  • “The official truth is available for general circulation and is viewed by most team members as propaganda. Ground truth is discussed around the water cooler, in the bathrooms, and in the parking lot, but it is seldom offered for public consumption and rarely shows up when you need it most–when the entire team is assembled to discuss how to introduce a new product or analyze the loss of a valuable customer and figure out how to prevent it from happening again.”
  • “Profitability requires an ongoing interrogation of reality, of ground truth.”
  • “In any situation, the person who can most accurately describe reality without laying blame will emerge as the leader, whether designated or not.” -Edwin Friedman
  • “The point here is to draw others out with good questions and incredible listening on your part.”
  • “A fierce conversation is not about holding forth on your point of view, but about provoking learning by sitting with someone side by side and jointly interrogating reality. The goal is to expand the conversation rather than narrow it. Questions are much more effective than answers in provoking learning.”

The Decision Tree

  • “The president of the company I worked for in my late twenties took me through this exercise when I was promoted to my first management role. She drew a rough sketch of a tree and said: ‘Think of our company as a green and growing tree that bears fruit. In order to ensure its ongoing health, countless decisions are made daily, weekly, month. Right now in your development, you have a good history of making decisions in these areas [we reviewed those areas]. So let’s think of these areas as leaf-level decisions. Make them, act on them, don’t tell me what you did. Let’s make it our goal to move more decisions out to the leaf level. That’s how you and I will both know you’re developing as a leader.’”
  • “She pointed to her sketch of the tree and explained four categories of decisions.”
    • Leaf Decisions: Make the decision. Act on it. Do not report the action you took.
    • Branch Decisions: Make the decision. Act on it. Report the action you took daily, weekly, or monthly.
    • Trunk Decisions: Make the decision. Report your decision before you take action.
    • Root Decisions: Make the decision jointly, with input from many people. These are the decisions that, if poorly made and implemented, could cause major harm to the organization.
  • “Remind everyone that the goal is to move more and more decisions out to the leaf level.”
  • “At a GE plant, managers were told, ‘You have six months to teach everyone who reports to you to get along without you.’”
  • “If your employees believe their job is to do what you tell them, you’re sunk.”

Confrontations and Giving Feedback

  • “All confrontation is a search for the truth. Who owns the truth? Each of us owns a piece of it, and nobody owns all of it.”
  • “When we are preparing to confront someone’s behavior, our obligation is to describe our reality concerning the behavior and then invite our partner to describe the reality from his or her point of view.”
  • “People deserve to know exactly what is required of them, how and on what criteria they will be judged (including attitude), and how they are doing. Praise is essential when deserved. And when you praise, keep that conversation separate, focused, and clear. Reserve your praise for specific behaviors and results deserving of celebration and congratulation. Do not use praise as a lead-in to a confrontation.
  • “When we script what others will say and do prior to a conversation, we can be so locked into the responses we’re expecting that when someone responds differently, we do not notice. He may not seem angry right now, but inside I bet he’s seething. I know how he is…Our bodies manifest the pictures our minds send to them, so pay fierce attention to the negative scenario you are running in your mind.”
  • “Healthy relationships require appreciation and confrontation.”
  • “Fierce conversations cannot be dependent on how others respond.”

Other Leadership Lessons

  • “For a leader, there is no trivial comment. Something you might not even remember saying may have had a devastating impact on someone looking to you for guidance and approval. By the same token, something you said years ago may have encouraged and inspired someone who is grateful to you to this day.”
  • “I am successful to the degree that who I am and what I live are in alignment.”
  • “As a leader, you get what you tolerate.”
  • “If you want to build a ship, don’t gather your people and ask them to provide wood, prepare tools, assign tasks. Call them together and raise in their minds the longing for the endless sea.” -Antoine de Saint-Exupery

 

If you like this book, you may like…
Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler
Difficult Conversations
by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen
Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen

Other notable books by the author:
Fierce Leadership

Review: “Mindset”

Posted: February 23, 2017 in Book Reviews
Tags: ,

Book Review
Book: Mindset by Carol Dweck

Reviewer: Bobby Powers

My Thoughts: 9 of 10
Over the past several months, I’ve read numerous books that referenced Carol Dweck’s research on the “fixed mindset” and the “growth mindset.” By the fourth or fifth reference, I asked myself why I was bothering to read what amounted to secondary research: authors quoting Dweck. I finally went straight to the source and picked up a copy of Dweck’s book Mindset. In the book, 
Dweck blows the doors off IQ bias and explains why hard work and continuous improvement are more important than innate traits like static intelligence. Powerful book. Powerful research. I definitely recommend checking out Mindset. It will cause you to question many assumptions you’ve likely held about intelligence.

The Reader’s Digest Version: Continuous learners achieve more than those with superior innate intelligence

Qualities of the Fixed Mindset

  • Based on the belief that your qualities are carved in stone
  • Creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over, as everything comes back to a question of whether you’re good enough
  • To those with a fixed mindset, “failure” on a task leads the person to question their identity, intelligence, etc. and apply labels like “I’m a total failure,” “I’m an idiot,” etc.
  • “Leads to a desire to look smart and therefore a tendency to (1) avoid challenges (2) get defensive or give up easily (3) see effort as fruitless or worse (4) ignore useful negative feedback and (5) feel threatened by the success of others. As a result, [fixed mindset individuals] may plateau early and achieve less than their full potential.”

Qualities of the Growth Mindset

  • Based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate and grow through your efforts
  • In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development
  • To those with a growth mindset, “failure” exposes areas for personal growth, as they now know what they need to improve.
  • Although people may differ in every which way–in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments–everyone can change and grow through application and experience.
  • “Leads to a desire to learn and therefore a tendency to (1) embrace challenges (2) persist in the face of setbacks (3) see effort as the path to mastery (4) learn from criticism and (5) find lessons and inspiration in the success of others. As a result, [growth mindset individuals] reach ever-higher levels of achievement.”

growth-mindset-vs-fixed-mindset

Comparing the Two Mindsets

  • “In one world–the world of fixed traits–success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the other–the world of changing qualities–it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself.”
  • “From the point of view of the fixed mindset, effort is only for people with deficiencies…Why is effort so terrifying? There are two reasons. One is that in the fixed mindset, great geniuses are not supposed to need it. So just needing it casts a shadow on your ability. The second is that it robs you of all your excuses. Without effort, you can always say, ‘I could have been [fill in the blank].’ But once you try, you can’t say that anymore. Someone once said to me, ‘I could have been Yo-Yo Ma.’ If she had really tried for it, she wouldn’t have been able to say that.”
  • “In the growth mindset, it’s almost inconceivable to want something badly, to think you have a chance to achieve it, and then do nothing about it.”
  • “Mindsets frame the running account that’s taking place in people’s heads. They guide the whole interpretation process. The fixed mindset creates an internal monologue that is focused on judging: ‘This means I’m a loser.’ ‘This means I’m a better person than they are.’ ‘This means I’m a bad husband.’ ‘This means my partner is selfish.’ In several studies, we probed the way people with a fixed mindset dealt with information they were receiving. We found that they put a very strong evaluation on each and every piece of information. Something good led to a very strong positive label and something bad led to a very strong negative label.”

Implications for Teaching and Training

  • “I think it’s too easy for a teacher to say, ‘Oh, this child wasn’t born with it, so I won’t waste my time.’ Too many teachers hide their own lack of ability behind that statement.” -Dorothy DeLay
  • “Great teachers set high standards for all their students, not just the ones who are already achieving.”
  • “Just because some people can do something with little or no training, it doesn’t mean that others can’t do it (and sometimes do it even better) with training.”
  • “Great teachers believe in the growth of the intellect and talent, and they are fascinated with the process of learning.”

Applications for Parents

  • “Parents think they can hand children permanent confidence–like a gift–by praising their brains and talent. It doesn’t work, and in fact has the opposite effect. It makes children doubt themselves as soon as anything is hard or anything goes wrong. If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning.”
  • “Does this mean we can’t praise our children enthusiastically when they do something great? Should we try to restrain our admiration for their successes? Not at all. It just means that we should keep away from a certain kind of praise–praise that judges their intelligence or talent. Or praise that implies that we’re proud of them for their intelligence or talent rather than for the work they put in.”
  • “After seven experiments with hundreds of children, we had some of the clearest finding I’ve ever seen: Praising children’s intelligence harms their motivation and it harms their performance.
  • “One more thing about praise. When we say to children, ‘Wow, you did that so quickly!’ or ‘Look, you didn’t make any mistakes!’ what message are we sending? We are telling them that what we prize are speed and perfection. Speed and perfection are the enemy of difficult learning.”

i-try-too-hard

Other Insights

  • Even the IQ test was not designed to test static intelligence. Alfred Binet, its creator, designed the test “to identify children who were not profiting from the Paris public schools, so that new educational programs could be designed to get them back on track. Without denying individual differences in children’s intellects, he believed that education and practice could bring about fundamental changes in intelligence.”
  • “It’s not always the people who start out the smartest who end up the smartest.”
  • “If you only go through life doing stuff that’s easy, shame on you.”
  • “We endow our heroes with superhuman abilities that led them inevitably toward their greatness…People with the growth mindset, however, believe something very different. For them, even geniuses have to work hard for their achievements. And what’s so heroic, they would say, about having a gift?”

 

If you like this book, you may like…
Grit by Angela Duckworth
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Other notable books by the author:
Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler and Carol Dweck
Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals by Heidi Grant Halvorson and Carol Dweck
Self-Theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development by Carol Dweck

Book Review
Book: Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Guest Reviewer: Zach Richardson

My Thoughts: 9 of 10
“This is not a novel. It is a textbook on individual achievement that came directly from the experiences of hundreds of America’s most successful men.” –Miller Reese Hutchison, Associate of Thomas Edison

Think and Grow Rich is one of the influential texts in American economic history that inspired a generation of business owners and workers of all trades to pursue the American Dream vigorously and reap rewards in proportion to their contributions. It continues to do so to this day. Napoleon Hill–with the help of his good friend, Andrew Carnegie–interviews 500 of the most successful and influential people of the day in hopes of discovering what common threads wound their success. In his pursuit, he uncovers thirteen such commonalities, which he outlines in this book. Seven are summarized below.

Desire

  • “There is one quality which one must possess to win, and that is DEFINITENESS OF PURPOSE, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning DESIRE to possess it.”
  • “Any person who wins in any undertaking must be willing to burn his ships and cut all sources of retreat.”
  • “He did not say to himself, ‘I will try to induce Edison to give me a job of some sort.’ He said, ‘I will see Edison, and put him on notice that I have come to go into business with him.’”
  • “He succeeded because he chose a definite goal, placed all his energy, all his will power, all his effort, everything back of that goal.”
  • “He stood by his desire until it became the dominating obsession of his life–and–finally, a fact.”

Faith

  • “What the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.”
  • “All thoughts which have been emotionalized, and mixed with faith, begin immediately to translate themselves into their physical equivalent.”
  • “There are no limitations to the mind except those we acknowledge. Both poverty and riches are the offspring of thought.”
  • “There are millions of people who BELIEVE themselves ‘doomed’ to poverty and failure, because of some strange force over which they have no control. They are creators of their own ‘misfortunes.’”

faith

Specialized Knowledge

  • “You will require SPECIALIZED KNOWLEDGE of the service, merchandise, or profession you intend to offer in return for fortune.”
  • “SPECIALIZED KNOWLEDGE is among the most plentiful, and cheapest forms of service which may be had. If you doubt this, consult the payroll of any university.”
  • “Knowledge will not attract money, unless it is organized, and intelligently directed.”
  • “Any man is educated who knows where to get knowledge when he needs it, and how to organize that knowledge into definite plans of action.”
  • “Success requires no explanations. Failure permits no alibis.”

Planning

  • “The most intelligent man living cannot succeed in accumulating money–nor in any other undertaking–without plans which are practical and workable.”
  • “To be sure of success, you must have plans which are faultless.”
  • “You may originate your own plans, either in whole or in part, but SEE THAT THOSE PLANS ARE CHECKED, AND APPROVED BY THE MEMBERS OF YOUR ‘MASTER MIND’ ALLIANCE.”
  • “The successful leader must plan his work, and work his plan.”
  • “When defeat comes, accept it as a signal that your plans are not sound, rebuild those plans, and set sail once more toward your coveted goal.”

Leadership

  • “There are two forms of Leadership… LEADERSHIP BY CONSENT… and LEADERSHIP BY FORCE…History is filled with evidences that Leadership by Force cannot endure.”
  • “Decide at the outset whether you intend to become a leader in your chosen calling, or remain a follower. The difference in compensation is vast.”
  • “Most great leaders began in the capacity of followers. They became great leaders because they were INTELLIGENT FOLLOWERS.”
  • “An intelligent follower has many advantages, among them the OPPORTUNITY TO ACQUIRE KNOWLEDGE FROM HIS LEADERSHIP.”
  • “The really great leader CLAIMS NONE OF THE HONORS.”

Persistence

  • “Without PERSISTENCE, you will be defeated, even before you start. With PERSISTENCE you will win.”
  • “OPPORTUNITY has spread its wares before. Step up to the front, select what you want, create your plan, put the plan into action and follow through with PERSISTENCE. ‘Capitalistic’ America will do the rest. You can depend upon this much–CAPITALISTIC AMERICA INSURES EVERY PERSON THE OPPORTUNITY TO RENDER USEFUL SERVICE, AND TO COLLECT RICHES IN PROPORTION TO THE VALUE OF THE SERVICE. The ‘System’ denies no one this right, but it does not, and cannot promise SOMETHING FOR NOTHING, because the system, itself, is irrevocably controlled by the LAW OF ECONOMICS which neither recognizes nor tolerates for long, GETTING WITHOUT GIVING.”
  • “There may be no heroic connotation to the word ‘persistence,’ but the quality is to the character of the man what carbon is to steel.”
  • “THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR PERSISTENCE! It cannot be supplanted by any other quality! Remember this, and it will hearten you, in the beginning, when the going may seem difficult and slow.”

never-give-up

The Master Mind

  • “You must have the advantage of the experience, education, native ability and imagination of other minds.”
  • “Perhaps you may need much more specialized knowledge than you have the ability of the inclination to acquire, and if this should be true, you may bridge your weakness through the aid of your ‘Master Mind’ group.”
  • “Economic advantages may be created by any person who surrounds himself with the advice, counsel, and personal cooperation of a group of men who are willing to lend him wholehearted aid.”
  • “No two minds ever come together without, thereby, creating a third, invisible, intangible force which may be likened to a third mind.”
  • “Connect with this fact, the additional knowledge that [Henry] Ford’s most rapid strides became noticeable, from the time he became a personal friend of Thomas A. Edison, and you will begin to understand what the influence of one mind upon another can accomplish.”

 

If you like this book, you may like…
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

 

Other notable books by the author:
The Law of Success

Review: “Work Rules!”

Posted: November 5, 2016 in Book Reviews
Tags: , ,

Book Review
Book: Work Rules! by Laszlo Bock

Reviewer: Bobby Powers

My Thoughts: 9 of 10
Work Rules! should be used as a bible for recruiters, HR managers, and executives. I realized just how good this book was when I recommended it to our company recruiter and he told me that he had already read it twice and begun incorporating the book’s principles into our hiring process. Author Laszlo Bock offers a rich background of HR experience from his work at Google, and even shares the results of several groundbreaking projects and studies from Google’s People Operations team.

Leadership

  • “Leaders who build the right kind of environments will be magnets for the most talented people on the planet.”
  • “Managers serve the team.” -Eric Schmidt
  • “We’ve found that trusting people to do the right thing generally results in them doing the right thing.”
  • “As Larry (Page) often says: If your goals are ambitious and crazy enough, even failure will be a pretty good achievement.”

Think Like an Owner

  • “All it takes is a belief that people are fundamentally good—and enough courage to treat your people like owners instead of machines. Machines do their jobs; owners do whatever is needed to make their companies and teams successful.”
  • “It is within anyone’s grasp to be the founder and culture-creator of their own team, whether you are the first employee or joining a company that has existed for decades.”
  • “Whatever you’re doing, it matters to someone. And it should matter to you. As a manager, your job is to help your people find that meaning.”
  • “The man who does not get a certain satisfaction out of his day’s work is losing the best part of his pay.” -Henry Ford

stepbrothers-interview

Hiring and Interviews

  • “Our single greatest constraint on growth has always, always been our ability to find great people.”
  • “We wanted to hire ‘smart generalists’ rather than experts. [Other] firms were mystified that we’d prefer hiring someone who was clever and curious over someone who actually knew what he was doing.”
  • “There have been volumes written about how ‘the first five minutes’ of an interview are what really matter, describing how interviewers make initial assessments and spend the rest of the interview working to confirm those assessments…Psychologists call this confirmation bias, ‘the tendency to search for, interpret, or prioritize information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs or hypotheses.’”
  • “There’s no correlation between fluid intelligence (which is predictive of job performance) and insight problems like brainteasers.”
  • “Typical, unstructured job interviews were pretty bad at predicting how someone would perform once hired. Unstructured interviews have an r-squared of 0.14, meaning that they explain only 14 percent of an employee’s performance…The best predictor of how someone will perform in a job is a work sample test (29 percent)…The second-best predictors of performance are tests of general cognitive ability (26 percent).”
  • “We do our interviewing based on really testing your skills. Like, write some code, explain this thing, right? Not look at your resume, but really see what you can do.”
  • “Before you start recruiting, decide what attributes you want and define as a group what great looks like. A good rule of thumb is to hire only people who are better than you. Do not compromise. Ever.”
  • “If you’re hiring people who are better than yourself, most other people issues tend to sort themselves out.”
  • “At Google, we front-load our people investment. This means the majority of our time and money spent on people is invested in attracting, assessing, and cultivating new hires. We spend more than twice as much on recruiting, as a percentage of our people budget, as an average company.”
  • “We want the people who will perform their best here, not the ones who will perform their best elsewhere.”

Ikea Job Interview

Work Culture

  • “In most organizations, you join and then have to prove yourself. At Google, there’s such faith in the quality of the hiring process that people join and on their first day are trusted and full members of their teams.”
  • “We look across our portfolio of talent and ensure we have the right balance of generalists and experts.”
  • “Our operating assumption is that anything we’re doing, we can do better.”
  • “If you want a nonhierarchical environment, you need visible reminders of your values. Otherwise, your human nature inevitably reasserts itself. Symbols and stories matter.”
  • “Innovation thrives on creativity and experimentation, but it also requires thoughtful pruning.”

Google’s “Project Oxygen”

  • “Teams working for the best managers also performed better and had lower turnover. In fact, manager quality was the single best predictor of whether employees would stay or leave, supporting the adage that people don’t quit companies, they quit bad managers.”
  • The 8 Project Oxygen attributes shared by top managers: (1) Be a good coach. (2) Empower the team and do not micromanage. (3) Express interest/concern for team members’ success and personal well-being. (4) Be very productive/results-oriented. (5) Be a good communicator—listen and share information. (6) Help the team with career development. (7) Have a clear vision/strategy for the team. (8) Have important technical skills that help advise the team.
  • “Unexpectedly, we found that technical expertise was actually the least important of the eight behaviors across great managers. Make no mistake, it is essential. An engineering manager who can’t code is not going to be able to lead a team at Google. But of the behaviors that differentiated the very best, technical input made the smallest difference to teams.”

Training

  • “Have the people who are best at each attribute train everyone else. We ask our Great Manager Award recipients to train others as a condition of winning the award.”
  • “I promise you that in your organization there are people who are expert on every facet of what you do, or at least expert enough that they can teach others.”
  • “Individual performance scales linearly, while teaching scales geometrically.”
  • “Training is, quite simply, one of the highest-leverage activities a manager can perform.” -Andy Grove
  • “Engage in deliberate practice: Break lessons down into small, digestible pieces with clear feedback and do them again and again.”

Compensation

  • 4 principles: (1) Pay unfairly. (2) Celebrate accomplishment, not compensation. (3) Make it easy to spread the love. (4) Reward thoughtful failure.
  • “Pay unfairly. Your best people are better than you think, and worth more than you pay them.”
  • “In a misguided attempt to be ‘fair,’ most companies design compensation systems that encourage the best performers and those with the most potential to quit…Why would a company design a system that makes the best and highest-potential people quit? Because they have a misconception of what is fair and lack the courage to be honest with their people.”

 

If you like this book, you may like…
How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg
Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace

Other notable books by the author:
(None)

Book Review
Book: Ego Is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday

Reviewer: Bobby Powers

My Thoughts: 9 of 10
I love books that teach tangible skills, but books that make you contemplate your moral fiber and strive to improve as a person are even better. Ryan Holiday’s new book Ego Is The Enemy is absolutely a book that made me want to improve my character. Incorporating ideas from ancient and modern philosophers, war generals, politicians, and businessmen, Ego Is The Enemy challenges readers to not let pride stand in the way of attaining or repeating success.

The Reader’s Digest Version: Don’t let your ego get in the way of success

The Perils of Ego

  • “Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, your worst enemy already lives inside you: your ego.”
  • “If you start believing in your greatness, it is the death of your creativity.” -Marina Abramovic
  • “We can seek to rationalize the worst behavior by pointing to outliers. But no one is truly successful because they are delusional, self-absorbed, or disconnected.”
  • “Ego needs honors in order to be validated. Confidence, on the other hand, is able to wait and focus on the task at hand regardless of external recognition.”

Ego Shadow

Don’t Believe Your Own Press

  • With success comes the temptation to tell oneself a story, to round off the edges, to cut out your lucky breaks and add a certain mythology to it all…It’s a type of storytelling in which eventually your talent becomes your identity and your accomplishments become your worth. But a story like this is never honest or helpful.”
  • “Crafting stories out of past events is a very human impulse. It’s also dangerous and untrue. Writing our own narrative leads to arrogance.”
  • “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.” -Richard Feynman
  • “Instead of pretending that we are living some great story, we must remain focused on the execution—and on executing with excellence. We must shun the false crown and continue working on what got us here.”

Humility

  • “When we remove ego, we’re left with what is real. What replaces ego is humility, yes—but rock-hard humility and confidence. Whereas ego is artificial, this type of confidence can hold weight. Ego is stolen. Confidence is earned.
  • “One might say that the ability to evaluate one’s own ability is the most important skill of all. Without it, improvement is impossible.”
  • “What is rare is not raw talent, skill, or even confidence, but humility, diligence, and self-awareness.”
  • “We don’t like thinking that someone is better than us. Or that we have a lot left to learn…For this reason, updating your appraisal of your talents in a downward direction is one of the most difficult things in life, but it is almost always a component of mastery. The pretense of knowledge is our most dangerous vice, because it prevents us from getting any better. Studious self-assessment is the antidote.”

Don't Stop Learning

Lifelong Learning

  • “It tends to surprise people how humble aspiring greats seem to have been…The reality is that, thought they were confident, the act of being an eternal student kept these men and women humble.”
  • “It is impossible to learn that which one thinks one already knows.” -Epictetus
  • “An amateur is defensive. The professional finds learning (and even, occasionally, being shown up) to be enjoyable; they like being challenged and humbled, and engage in education as an ongoing and endless process.”
  • “I never look back, except to find out about mistakes…I only see danger in thinking back about things you are proud of.” -Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann
  • “This characteristic (focusing on how to improve even in success) is characteristic of how great people think. It’s not that they find failure in every success. They just hold themselves to a standard that exceeds what society might consider to be objective success. Because of that, they don’t much care what other people think; they care whether they meet their own standards. And those standards are much, much higher than everyone else’s.”

Hard Work

  • “The way to do really big things seems to be to start with deceptively small things.” -Paul Graham
  • “To become what we ultimately hope to become often takes long periods of obscurity, of sitting and wrestling with some topic or paradox.”
  • “Greatness comes from humble beginnings; it comes from grunt work. It means you’re the least important person in the room—until you change that with results.”

Other Thoughts

  • “Talk depletes us. Talking and doing fight for the same resources. Research shows that while goal visualization is important, after a certain point our mind begins to confuse it with actual progress.”
  • “Play for the name on the front of the jersey and they’ll remember the name on the back.” -Credited to several people, including Tony Adams

 

If you like this book, you may like…
Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Other notable books by the author:
The Obstacle Is the Way
Trust Me, I’m Lying
Growth Hacker Marketing

Review: “Grit”

Posted: July 18, 2016 in Book Reviews
Tags:

Book Review
Book: Grit by Angela Duckworth

Reviewer: Bobby Powers

My Thoughts: 8 of 10
Angela Duckworth made quite a splash with her first book. Grit presents a strong argument against talent reigning supreme in the workplace. Duckworth’s research compellingly posits that grit–which she defines as passion plus perseverance–is a better predictor of future success than talent. I was inclined to buy into that concept before reading Grit, and Duckworth pushed me over the edge. This book is especially influential for anyone in a hiring role, where tradeoffs often must be made between raw talent and resume strength versus work ethic and perseverance. If this topic interests you, I’d recommend also checking out Duckworth’s TED talk (after reading this review, of course!).

The Reader’s Digest Version: Even more than talent, grit is the strongest determinant for success.

Grit and Why It Matters

  • “In sum, no matter the domain, the highly successful had a kind of ferocious determination that played out in two ways. First, these exemplars were unusually resilient and hardworking. Second, they knew in a very, very deep way what it was they wanted. They not only had determination, they had direction. It was this combination of passion and perseverance that made high achievers special. In a word, they had grit.
  • “What we accomplish in the marathon of life depends tremendously on our grit—our passion and perseverance for long-term goals. An obsession with talent distracts us from that simple truth.”
  • “Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another.”
  • “Not a day goes by that I don’t read or hear the word talent…It seems that when anyone accomplishes a feat worth writing about, we rush to anoint that individual as extraordinarily ‘talented.’”
  • “If we overemphasize talent, we underemphasize everything else.”
  • “Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.”

Perseverance

Talent Is Not Enough

  • “The human individual lives usually far within his limits; he possesses poses of various sorts which he habitually fails to use. He energizes below his maximum, and he behaves below his optimum…The plain fact remains that men the world over possess amounts of resource, which only very exceptional individuals push to their extremes of use.” -William James
  • “Our vanity, our self-love, promotes the cult of the genius. For if we think of genius as something magical, we are not obliged to compare ourselves and find ourselves lacking…To call someone ‘divine’ means: ‘here there is no need to compete.’” -Frederich Nietzsche
  • “In other words, mythologizing natural talent lets us all off the hook. It lets us relax into the status quo.”
  • “I’ve never really viewed myself as particularly talented. Where I excel is ridiculous, sickening work ethic.” -Will Smith
  • “The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is: I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. I will not be outworked, period. You might have more talent than me, you might be smarter than me, you might be sexier than me. You might be all of those things. You got it on me in nine categories. But if we get on the treadmill together, there’s two things: You’re getting off first, or I’m going to die. It’s really that simple.” -Will Smith

Continuous Improvement

  • “As soon as possible, experts hungrily seek feedback on how they did. Necessarily, much of that feedback is negative. This means that experts are more interested in what they did wrong—so they can fix it—than what they did right. The active processing of this feedback is as essential as its immediacy.”
  • “And after feedback, then what? Then experts do it over again, and again, and again. Until they have finally mastered what they set out to do. Until what was a struggle before is now fluent and flawless. Until conscious incompetence become unconscious competence.”
  • “In her interviews with ‘mega successful’ people, journalist Hester Lacey has noticed that all of them demonstrate a striking desire to excel beyond their already remarkable level of expertise…’It’s a persistent desire to do better,’ Hester explained. ‘It’s the opposite of being complacent. But it’s a positive state of mind, not a negative one. It’s not looking backward with dissatisfaction. It’s looking forward and wanting to grow.’”

Deliberate Practice

  • “After you’ve discovered and developed interest in a particular area, you must devote yourself to the sort of focused, full-hearted, challenge-exceeding-skill practice that leads to mastery. You must zero in on your weaknesses, and you must do so over and over again, for hours a day, week after month after year.”
  • “The really crucial insight of (Anders) Ericsson’s research, though, is not that experts log more hours of practice. Rather, it’s that experts practice differently. Unlike most of us, experts are logging thousands upon thousands of hours of what Ericsson calls deliberate practice.”
  • Requirements of deliberate practice:
    • A clearly-defined stretch goal
    • Full concentration and effort
    • Immediate and informative feedback
    • Repetition with reflection and refinement

Deliberate Practice

Purpose

  • Purpose = “The intention to contribute to the well-being of others”
  • “While interest is crucial to sustaining passion over the long-term, so, too, is the desire to connect with and help others.”
  • The Parable of the Bricklayers: “Three bricklayers are asked: ‘What are you doing?’ The first says, ‘I am laying bricks.’ The second says, ‘I am building a church.’ And the third says, ‘I am building the house of God.’ The first bricklayer has a job. The second has a career. The third has a calling.”
  • “Whatever you do, whether you’re a janitor or the CEO—you can continually look at what you do and ask how it connects to other people, how it connects to the bigger picture, how it can be an expression of your deepest values.”

Fixed vs. Growth Mindset

  • Those with a fixed mindset interpret setbacks as evidence that they don’t have the “right stuff”—they are lacking talent and they’re not good enough. They believe that intelligence is largely immutable in each person and can’t change very much.
  • Those with a growth mindset believe they can learn to do better. They recognize that although everyone begins with predilections to certain areas, intelligence and talent can be substantially changed with hard work.
  • Praising talent reinforces the fixed mindset, whereas praising effort reinforces the growth mindset.
  • “If you have a growth mindset, you’re more likely to do well in school, enjoy better emotional and physical health, and have stronger, more positive social relationships with other people.”
  • “A fixed mindset about ability leads to pessimistic explanations of adversity, and that, in turn, leads to both giving up on challenges and avoiding them in the first place. In contrast, a growth mindset leads to optimistic ways of explaining adversity, and that, in turn, leads to perseverance and seeking out new challenges that will ultimately make you even stronger.”

Final Thoughts

  • “Superlative performance is really a confluence of dozens of small skills or activities, each one learned or stumbled upon, which have been carefully drilled into habit and then are fitted together in a synthesized whole. There is nothing extraordinary or superhuman in any one of those actions; only the fact that they are done concisely and correctly, and all together, produce excellence.” -Dan Chambliss
  • Surround yourself with people of grit: “The thing is, when you go to a place where basically everybody you know is getting up at four in the morning to go to practice, that’s just what you do. It’s no big deal. It becomes a habit.”
  • “We all face limits—not just in talent, but in opportunity. But more often than we think, our limits are self-imposed. We try, fail, and conclude we’ve bumped our heads against the ceiling of possibility. Or maybe after taking just a few steps we change direction. In either case, we never venture as far as we might have. To be gritty is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. To be gritty is to hold fast to an interesting and purposeful goal. To be gritty is to invest, day after week after year, in challenging practice. To be gritty is to fall down seven times, and rise eight.”

 

If you like this book, you may like…
Mindset by Carol Dweck
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Other notable books by the author:
(None)

Book Review
Book: Smarter Faster Better 
by Charles Duhigg
Reviewer: Bobby Powers

My Thoughts: 7 of 10
I loved Charles Duhigg’s first book, The Power of Habit, so I was excited to see he had released a new business/psychology mash-up. Smarter Faster Better explains how to leverage our brain’s hardwiring to increase productivity. Covering topics from motivation to teamwork, Duhigg shares how we can perform with greater efficiency and lead our teams to accomplish higher-reaching goals.

The Reader’s Digest Version: There are many ways to unlock greater productivity in the human brain.

“Productivity, put simply, is the name we give our attempts to figure out the best uses of our energy, intellect, and time as we try to seize the most meaningful rewards with the least wasted effort. It’s a process of learning how to succeed with less stress and struggle. It’s about getting things done without sacrificing everything we care about along the way.”

Motivation

  • “Self-help books and leadership manuals often portray self-motivation as a static feature of our personality…But scientists say motivation is more complicated than that. Motivation is more like a skill, akin to reading or writing, that can be learned and honed…The trick, researchers say, is realizing that a prerequisite to motivation is believing we have authority over our actions and surroundings. To motivate ourselves, we must feel like we are in control.
  • “When people believe they are in control, they tend to work harder and push themselves more. They are, on average, more confident and overcome setbacks faster.”
  • “You know when you’re stuck in traffic on the freeway and you see an exit approaching, and you want to take it even though you know it’ll probably take longer to get home? That’s our brains getting excited by the possibility of taking control. You won’t get home any faster, but it feels better because you feel like you’re in charge.” -Mauricio Delgado
  • “This is a useful lesson for anyone hoping to motivate themselves or others, because it suggest an easy method for triggering the will to act: Find a choice, almost any choice, that allows you to exert control. If you are struggling to answer a tedious stream of emails, decide to reply to one from the middle of your inbox.”

Motivational Poster

Teams

  • Google’s People Analytics team undertook a study code-named Project Oxygen to determine why some managers were more effective than others. “Project Oxygen found that a good manager (1) is a good coach; (2) empowers and does not micromanage; (3) expresses interest and concern in subordinates’ success and well-being; (4) is results oriented; (5) listens and shares information; (6) helps with career development; (7) has a clear vision and strategy; (8) has key technical skills.”
  • Another Google People Analytics’ project, Aristotle, investigated what makes high-performing teams. They found five key norms: (1) Teams need to believe that their work is important. (2) Teams need to feel their work is personally meaningful. (3) Teams need clear goals and defined roles. (4) Team members need to know they can depend on one another. (5) Most importantly, teams need psychological safety.
  • “There are always good reasons for choosing behaviors that undermine psychological safety. It is often more efficient to cut off debate, to make a quick decision, to listen to whoever knows the most and ask others to hold their tongues. But a team will become an amplification of its internal culture, for better or worse. Study after study hows that while psychological safety might be less efficient in the short run, it’s more productive over time.
  • “The best tactic for establishing psychological safety is demonstration by a team leader. It seems like fairly minor stuff, but when the leader goes out of their way to make someone feel listened to, or starts a meeting by saying ‘I might miss something, so I need all of you to watch for my mistakes,’ or says, ‘Jim, you haven’t spoken in a while, what do you think?,’ that makes a huge difference.” -Amy Edmondson
  • Another research project—this one undertaken by psychologists from Carnegie Mellon and MIT—reached similar results: “It was the norms, not the people, that made teams so smart. The right norms could raise the collective intelligence of mediocre thinkers.” Two behaviors were shared by all high-performing teams: (1) “All the members of the team spoke in roughly the same proportion, a phenomenon the researchers referred to as ‘equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking.’” (2) “The good team tested as having ‘high average social sensitivity’—a fancy way of saying that the groups were skilled at intuiting how members felt based on their tone of voice, how people held themselves, and the expressions on their faces.”

Focus

  • “In the age of automation, knowing how to manage your focus is more critical than ever before.”
  • “We aid our focus by building mental models—telling ourselves stories—about what we expect to see.”
  • “Envision what will happen. What will occur first? What are potential obstacles? How will you preempt them? Telling yourself a story about what you expect to occur makes it easier to decide where your focus should go when your plan encounters real life.”
  • A large research project conducted at a midsize recruiting firm found that “the firms’ most productive workers, its superstars, shared a number of traits”: (1) “They tended to work on only five projects at once—a healthy load, but not extraordinary.” (2) “They were signing up for projects that required them to seek out new colleagues and demanded new abilities.” (3) They were “drawn to assignments that were in their early stages.” (4) “They loved to generate theories—lots and lots of theories, about all kinds of topics, such as why certain accounts were succeeding or failing, or why some clients were happy or disgruntled, or how different management styles influenced various employees…The superstars were constantly telling stories about what they had seen and heard. They were, in other words, much more prone to generate mental models.”

Goal Setting

  • GE helped initiate SMART goals as well as STRETCH goals.
  • “Some 400 laboratory and field studies [show] that specific, high goals lead to a higher level of task performance than do easy goals or vague, abstract goals such as the exhortation to ‘do one’s best.’” -Edwin Locke and Gary Latham
  • “Making yourself break a goal into its SMART components is the difference between hoping something comes true and figuring out how to do it.” -Gary Latham
  • SMART goals occasionally fail because they don’t evaluate whether the goal itself is important or trivial. Always make sure you’re doing the right things.
  • “Numerous academic studies have examined the impact of stretch goals, and have consistently found that forcing people to commit to ambitious, seemingly out-of-reach objectives can spark outsized jumps in innovation and productivity.”
  • “The reason why we need both stretch goals and SMART goals is that audaciousness, on its own, can be terrifying. It’s often not clear how to start on a stretch goal. And so, for a stretch goal to become more than just an aspiration, we need a disciplined mindset to show us how to turn a far-off objective into a series of realistic short-term aims.”

Wikipedia Michael Scott

Innovation

  • “Creativity is just connecting things.” -Steve Jobs
  • “A lot of the people we think of as exceptionally creative are essentially intellectual middlemen. They’ve learned how to transfer knowledge between different industries or groups.” -Uzzi
  • “We can create the conditions that help creativity to flourish. We know, for example, that innovation becomes more likely when old ideas are mixed in new ways. We know the odds of success go up when brokers—people with fresh, different perspectives, who have seen ideas in a variety of settings—draw on the diversity within their heads. We know that, sometimes, a little disturbance can help jolt us out of the ruts that event the most creative thinkers fall into, as long as those shake-ups are the right size.”

Absorbing Data

  • “Our brains crave reducing things to two or three options. So when we’re faced with a lot of information, we start automatically arranging it into mental folders and subfolders and sub-subfolders.” -Eric Johnson
  • “When information is made disfluent, we learn more.”
  • “Recording a speaker’s comments via longhand is both harder and less efficient than typing on a keyboard…writing is more disfluent than typing, because it requires more labor and captures fewer verbatim phrases. When the researchers looked at the test scores of those two groups, however, they found that the hand writers scored twice as well as the typists in remembering what a lecturer said.”

 

If you like this book, you may like…
Getting Things Done by David Allen
Work Rules by Laszlo Bock
The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker

Other notable books by the author:
The Power of Habit