This is part three of the series of posts I’m doing about ranking the books I read in 2017.
Here are the books I’ve ranked thus far:
Now on to the next few on the list.
Have you ever been excited to start a new project, only to have that excitement fade over time? Yeah, me either. 🙂
One of the things the author brings out in the book is that you can maintain motivation by making choices to benefit yourself, your team or your project. Research has shown that people feel more motivated when they have greater control over a situation. We humans get excited when we get to make choices. He says that if you’re stuck on a task, make a decision. Even mundane choices can help to pick you back up.
He says that studies have shown that when you reach for higher, bigger goals. A 1997 study revealed that after Motorola had incorporated stretch goals into its management training, engineers were able to develop new products in a tenth of the time it took previously.
Stretch goals by definition are goals that are out of reach, so sometimes they feel overwhelming. He says the way to reach your stretch goal is to break it down into smaller steps.
Even if you outline your goals and break them down into steps, life is unpredictable. So how do you stay focused? He says one good way is to create mental models, which are positive stories that prevent distraction and keep you excited about your future.
Mental models prepare you for upcoming projects or conversations. You can get yourself through an upcoming stressful week by imagining how you’ll conquer each challenge, step by step. It’s all about planning ahead for distractions and making plans for how to handle them.
What’s the recipe for a great team?
Google’s project Aristotle spent two years researching what makes a team great. They found that even a team of average performers can accomplish more if the team has the right dynamic.
What is it that they need? The most important factor is whether team members feel psychologically safe. They feel safe when they know they won’t be ridiculed for making mistakes or suggesting ideas. Psychological safety enhances performance because it allows team members to admit mistakes, which means they can be quickly corrected. They also feel more comfortable sharing unconventional ideas, which makes the team as a whole more creative.
You don’t have to start from scratch to be innovative. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to develop an amazing new car.
A better way is to use old ideas in new ways.
Two professors at Northwestern University, Brian Uzzi, and Ben Jones analyzed 17.9 million academic papers using an algorithm in 2011. What they found is that the most creative papers contained content that had already been published elsewhere. The innovative papers were considered groundbreaking because they approached existing concepts from new angles, not because they developed new concepts alone.
Another way to boost creativity is to tune into your feelings. Let emotions and intuition guide you. How you feel about a situation or idea will tell you whether you’re dealing with something great or just run of the mill. Disney used this when working on the movie Frozen. The writers explored their emotional connections with their siblings. Doing so allowed the writers to portray the relationship between the characters Anna and Elsa in an authentic and relatable way.
The key message of this book is that staying productive, motivated and competitive is ultimately about making the right choices, both in your daily life and with your most ambitious goals. Break down your stretch goals into achievable steps. Overcome distractions by staying prepared.
One thing I loved about this book is that it ate its own dog food. What I mean is that it presented old ideas in a new way that got me thinking about them differently and that is one of the points the book makes.
I recently got certified as a Life Coach by Tony Robbin’s coaching arm, Robbins-Madanes. Since then I’ve devoured anything about coaching. That’s one reason I picked up this book.
“Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever” is the subtitle of the book, The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier. In the book, he gives seven questions to use when coaching others. Once you see them, you’ll realize that they are common sense and really powerful.
You’ve most likely worked with a coach before, whether it was a football coach in high school or a piano teacher. If you were lucky, this person not only taught you the skills you needed to perform a particular task but also empowered you to be the best that you could be. Unfortunately, coaches like this are rare.
If you’re a manager or coaching someone, how do you make sure that your coaching moments are effective? Stanier first points out that coaching is not all about giving people advice. It is about asking the right questions.
Here are the seven questions.
The Kickstart Question – “What’s on your Mind?”
This question is an essential tool in your coaching toolbox. It is a way to refocus a discussion to get to the heart of the matter.
The AWE Question – “And what else?”
This question prevents a conversation from becoming stuck on a single topic. It helps people open up when they have more to say but aren’t sure where to start. This question is also handy if you find yourself wanting to make a comment and cut someone off.
The Focus Question – “What’s the real challenge here for you?”
This is the question that will help slow down the rush to action, so you spend time solving the real problem, not just the first problem. Usually, when someone starts with a problem, it’s not the real reason they have come to you. This question gets them to focus on what the real issue is.
The Foundation Question – “What do you want?”
We often don’t know what we actually want. Even if there’s a first, fast answer, the question “But what do you really want?” will typically stop people in their tracks. Even if you know what you want, what you really really want, it’s often hard to ask for it.
He points out that the illusion that both parties to the conversation know what the other party wants is pervasive, and it sets the stage for plenty of frustrating exchanges. This question helps to keep people from “beating around the bush.”
The Lazy Question – “How can I help?”
The power of “How can I help?” is twofold. First, you’re forcing your colleague to make a direct and clear request. Second (and possibly more valuable), it stops you from thinking that you know how best to help and leaping into action.
A more blunt way to ask this question is “What do you want from me?”
The Strategic Question – “If you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?”
It is unwise to say yes to every single opportunity that comes your way. To ensure you give yourself time to think clearly, ask yourself this question: “If I say yes to this, what am I going to say no to?” It is a powerful question and gets people to think about their priorities because the reality is when you take on something new, you drop something else. I thought of one of the principles that Jon Acuff brought out in his book Finish – Choose what you’re going to bomb.
The Learning Question – “What was most useful for you?”
He says that this question will help you finish any conversation in a way that will make you look like a genius. People don’t really learn when you tell them something. They don’t even really learn when they do something. They start learning, start creating new neural pathways, only when they have a chance to recall and reflect on what just happened.
Asking “What was most useful for you?” does several things:
- It assumes the conversation was useful
- It asks people to identify the big thing that was most useful
- It makes it personal
- It gives you feedback
- It’s learning, not judgment
- It reminds people how useful you are to them
The key message I got from this book is that a good coach doesn’t give advice. Instead, a good coach guides people toward self-sufficiency in a positive, caring way.
Seven books are left! Hopefully, I can do more than two at a time in the next few posts. We’ll see.