Book Review – Multipliers

So I have another book review, and honestly I’ve found myself traveling so there will be probably quite a few of these as I continue to have time to kill on a plane. The latest book I just finished was “Multipliers” by Liz Weisman and Greg McKeown.

Now I’ve read a book by Greg McKeown before, Essentialism, and found it to be really an excellent and thought provoking read. It caused me to re-examine a lot of the ways I’d approached things in my life. So I was very excited to finally get around to reading the book he wrote before with Lizi Weisman.

This book takes the position that their are two types of leaders in this world, Multipliers and Diminishers. The earlier being the type of leader that causes their teams to aspire to great heights, and to rise to meet an impossible challenge. The later being the type of leader who crushes the spirit of the people they lead, causing them to deliver less and less.

I found this book to be rather insightful and interesting, as it made me question the type of leader that I want to be. Now that being said, I do feel like to say that all leaders fall into one of two buckets, is a bit of a falsehood. I believe all leaders have elements of both diminishers and multipliers in their approach as no one is perfect.

But what I found in this book is that the examples are pretty dramatic, and in that regard its easy to say “I’m not that bad”. But I found it eye opening in that it made me re-evaluate how I approach leadership. I think the focus of the book is on a “binary” nature of these two types of leaders, and to be honest I don’t find that I totally agree with that assessment.

After reading this, I’m convinced, that in a way similar to the nature of introverted vs extroverted aren’t binary but a sliding scale, I believe the same can be said for multipliers and diminishers. Most of the leaders I’ve worked with are somewhere on that scale, but no one is perfect by any stretch of the imagination. But I don’t feel that comes across in the author’s description, and that could because of the reliance on dramatic examples.

The other element I found in this book, is that it does focus on what I call “Official leadership”, which is having an official title or position that puts you in a position of leadership. But in my experience, leadership includes people who are not in a position of authority but who act as leaders. In the beginning of the book it seems to exclusively focus on the earlier, and it is easy to say “this doesn’t apply to me” but I find that is not true.

Overall I found this to be pretty insightful book. Below is a talk from Liz Wiseman at a CEO summit about the content of the book.

Book Review – Innovator’s Mindset

So I have been trying to read more, and focus less on technical technology reading more books on a variety of topics. So one that I wanted to check out was the innovator’s mindset.

Right now my family has been going through a lot of changes, and at the forefront of that is the fact that my kids are a school age, we are moving, and I’ve been looking at my approach to tackling innovation and education as the mission of our family is to secure the future of our kids.

Because of that I was really keen to hear options for people use to help guide new innovative learning methods for not just myself but my children as well.

The book interesting mirrors the work of Angela Duckworth, and her book Grit. And Carol Dwreck’s book, Mindset. Both of which I am very familiar with, and enjoyed and have seen value in my life.

The interesting part he points to here is honestly that the education system. Is ripe for disruption. Many schools and institutions cling to the old ways of doing things and are afraid to take risks with how they teach.

The focus of the book is around how we as a society teach problem solving but not problem fighting, the idea of how you look at the world and see that something is wrong. That requires intelligence but more than that requires empathy. The ability to understand how people feel and to gain understanding into their situation and problem.

The intention is then that we should focus on using learning to drive outcomes, because knowledge that is not practical is wasted effort. There needs to be a way for the student or person to absorb that knowledge into the fiber of their being, into their structure of knowledge for application.

The idea of the innovators mindset is that we need to seek alternative viewpoints take risks and recognize that their is a cost to not changing, and know that failure and iterations are a part of that solution.

I enjoyed the focus on how to embrace the idea of taking risks and the kid of challenges you may run into, and overall found this book to be great. I think he focused a little too much of examples that involved social media. This is not a magic silver bullet for education.

But one point I do agree with is his focus on honest and public reflection. The idea of declaring you will do something is a great way of encouraging accountability, but to the authors point, it also encourages us to be more thoughtful of our ideas if we know that others will be reviewing and challenging these ideas. This can lead to a better more thoughtful effort and a crowd sourced solution to problems.

The biggest thing that really landed in our family is that right now the education system is very focused on consumption, and pushing kids to consume what is thrown at them. While this type of learning can work and has its place, there is such a thing as focusing on empowerment. The idea is to take an objective, and help our kids to have the resources to learn everything they need to obtain that objective. It’s an interesting piece of learning but it works.

So how did this help, my daughter, has been struggling with learning her letters in kindergarten, worksheets are like pulling teeth, flash cards are boring. She’s been having a rough time. While listening to this book, I noticed my daughter loves putting on plays and shows at home. So I asked her “let’s make a letter video.” Not only did she get excited but she pushed passed what was required. After practicing her letters making videos and her wanting to practice “for the video.” She took her test and went from struggling to pass 1 list of letters, to passing 2, and almost a third.

It occurs to me this goes beyond kids, in my own profession. Anyone can learn a technology but it becomes a lot easier when you focus on solving a specific problem and direct your learning as such.

There is no better place to learn than the foxhole. Ultimately it leads to much better drivers to success at the end of the day.

The interesting part also was the second half of the book which talked about how to as a leader foster a culture of innovation within your organization.  And the key points I would acknowledge here are that the giving peole the freedom to fail, and fail fast.  And encouraging your people to take risks.  This is something that I’ve been working on in my family and with my kids, and celebrating the fact that they “tried something new”.

Overall I recommend the book, it gave some good ideas with regard to approaching innovation that I found enlightening, provided you can get past the “education system” focus.

Book Review – Clockwork

Hello all, so as many of you know I read a good bit, and I also like to use “audible”. Great way to pass time while traveling or driving is to listen to audio books. Right now I’ve been on a real kick to learn more about business perspective and productivity. Some of the great books I’ve read and talked about before are:

  • Grit
  • Essentialism
  • 10x Rule
  • Deep Work

But I wanted to take a minute to talk about the book I just finished, Clockwork: Designing your business to run itself, by Mike Michalowicz. Now I have to admit, I found out about this book when I heard about it a couple of times and it showed up on my “recommended reading” books a few times.

So I was skeptical about this book, mainly because the book talks about how its focused on people starting their own business, and I work for a major corporation. So how can this be helpful to me? Well I have to admit, I was wrong.

I found this book to be really thought provoking, and it caused me to re-examine a lot of activities and work I do to measure impact and importance to success. The author makes the argument that in any organization, everyone has a responsibility to do the following:

  1. Protect the Queen Bee Role
  2. Serve the Queen Bee Role

And basically the key part of the business is to take the QBR (the Queen Bee Role) which is the crucial part of your job, and make all of your actions that you take focus on that above all others. Basically the argument is that I should spend every second of my work day focusing on that QBR, and when an activity takes away from that, I should focus on getting done with that as soon as possible, or if possible moving it off my plate.

The intention is that it makes me focus on the bigger picture and creates a scenario where you can take off from work and feel comfortable. For me, I have a tendency to have a hard time unplugging, and stepping away from work. And recently I’ve been setting goals to help myself to unplug. I found that when I started to put this into practice, I was able to unplug with less stress and it helped my overall mental health. For me, I started with the intention of doing the following:

  • Blocking 1 hour for lunch everyday
  • I will not eat at my desk

This forces me to take a lunch break away from my desk, and honestly it sounds small but it has paid huge returns, I have found that when I come back to work I am more focused, and at the end of the day less drained from a mental perspective. I find that stress level has gone down with regard to work and I also find that the work I’m doing is much more satisfying.

Below is a video that summarizes some of the ideas of the book. The value of this book though aren’t the ideas, but how you execute.

Goals and Grit

Hello All, I wanted to shake things up a little bit and talk about a book I have been working my way through and goals. So its officially January, and a lot of us are looking at the great new year like a blank canvas, waiting to be painted. I have to be honest, I’ve always been a fan of New Years, not the holiday or New Years Eve, although everyone loves a good party night. But every year I enjoy the act of self-reflection and planning that goes into the new year, and the chance to grow and improve.

But the one thing I hate about this process is during the self-reflection, admitting where you came up short. Where did you stumble or fail, what went wrong? Now if I’m being honest I’m a DevOps guy and as a result am big on admitting failure. But if we look at this from a DevOps perspective, teams grow when they fail fast, and on some level this yearly retrospective ritual flies in the face of that.

Lately I’ve been reading a great book call Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. And it really is an amazing book that will change the way you look as success on the whole. Really it promotes this concept that success is not built on talent, but rather on the determination and passion of the person.

In the beginning of the book she calls out West Point. West Point has one of the most rigorous recruiting processes in history, and they only take the best and brightest into their program. But despite that, they were seeing a very high drop out rate, and couldn’t figure out why. The short version is because the people who are most talented are rarely tested, and if you’ve never had to overcome obstacles before, then you are likely to back down when faced with your first wall.

The book also gives an interesting take on goal planning that I had never done before, and its one that to me makes a lot of sense, and I’m giving it a try this year. So I will have to update the blog here with the results. But the one method she talks about was discussed by Warren Buffet, arguably one of the most successful business men of our time. In the book, he describes a planning process he does, which is to write down 25 goals, 25 things you’d like to accomplish this year. This sounds like a lot, but if you start writing goals, you’ll find its not hard. I hit 30 without breaking a sweat. And then pick from that list the top 5, and put those in the “MUST DO” category.

And take the rest…and put them in the “NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES” category. The idea is this, your time is your most valuable resource, and multi-tasking is an illusion. So you should focus your attention on these 5, and the other 20 are a distraction. The focus being that being successful isn’t about saying “Yes”, its about saying “No”.

For me this resonates, as if I pour all my attention and time into 5 specific goals, I am way more likely to accomplish them with greater impact. And this also works well with another planning approach that I’ve leveraged before, which is described by Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

In his book, he describes the idea that if you think of your day as a bucket, and I tell you to fit big rocks, little rocks, and sand into the bucket. What is the most logical way to fill it? Big Rocks, then little, then Sand, and if we are being honest we should approach our goals the same way. But most times we don’t, we avoid the big tasks, and small tasks, and fill our day with emails first.

So he recommends breaking things into the following matrix (called the Eisenhower Decision Matrix):

Important / Urgent Important / Not Urgent
Not important / Urgent Not Important / Not Urgent

In this matrix, the idea is that “Important” means that it lines up with your goals, which I would argue are the five goals provided above. From there we can look at what’s urgent and aligns to our goals as where our time should be spent.

  • Q1 of the above box, is for things that are urgent and related to your goals, like deadlines, crisis, opportunities that are time sensitive.
  • Q2 of the above are items that don’t have a pressing deadline but focus on your goal, this should be next on your priority list.
  • Q3 are items that require immediate attention but don’t move us forward. Which should try to minimize these tasks as much as possible. Things like phone calls, emails, etc.
  • Q4 are items which aren’t urgent or important and are basically time wasters, eliminate at all costs.

So leveraging the above matrix, makes it very easy to keep our focus where it should be on our 5 goals, and avoiding the distractions that undermine our success.