Week 43

Here are some highlights for leading into Week 43 🙂

  • “Want to Become the Best at What You Do? Read this.” by Benjamin P. Hardy

    20% of your energy should be devoted to your work.

    80% of your energy should be devoted to rest and self-improvement. This is what fuels your work and makes it better than anyone else’s. Self-improvement is more than books and true rest is renewal.

  • “Want to Become the Best at What You Do? Read this.” by Benjamin P. Hardy

    You need to put yourself into positions that create immense pressure. The kind of pressure that will either make or break you. This is how you purge out your weakness and small-mindedness. It won’t be pretty. But it will change you. And eventually, you’ll rise up. New. Changed. Better.

  • “Want to Become the Best at What You Do? Read this.” by Benjamin P. Hardy

    If you don’t know who you are, you’ll always try to be someone else. And thus, you’ll never be the best. Your work will always be a cheap imitation.

  • “Want to Become the Best at What You Do? Read this.” by Benjamin P. Hardy

    It blows me away how often I see people throw their value-systems out the door in hopes for quick success. … It’s so common, in fact, that it’s almost expected. Hence, few people become the best at what they do. They end up becoming something far less.

  • “Guys, Can We Stop Calling Everyone “Guys” Already?” by Julianne Ross

    But sexism doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and language, as the tool that brings order to our thoughts and allows us to communicate, infiltrates nearly every aspect of our lives. When, as in English, it relies almost entirely on the presupposition of masculinity, it can shape how we see the world.

  • “Guys, Can We Stop Calling Everyone “Guys” Already?” by Julianne Ross

    Male-centric language is just that: a subtle yet constant hint that women are different, that their lives constitute a sort of subcategory of human experience dependent on feminine modifiers (which, in turn, often “infantilize” them, Grey said: “actress, suffragette”). The use of “he” to refer to nonspecific persons doesn’t point to some great conspiracy to keep women oppressed, but it does reflect an inequality coded into our linguistic inheritance, a micro-aggression that consistently reminds half of society they are, as they have historically been, secondary.

  • Radical Candor by Kim Scott

    The first conversation is designed to learn what motivates each person who reports directly to you. Russ suggested a simple opening to these conversations. “Starting with kindergarten, tell me about your life.” Then, he advised each manager to focus on changes that people had made and to understand why they’d made those choices. Values often get revealed in moments of change.

  • Radical Candor by Kim Scott

    The second conversation moves from understanding what motivates people to understanding the person’s dreams—what they want to achieve at the apex of their career, how they imagine life at its best to feel. …

    Russ recommends that you begin these conversations with, “What do you want the pinnacle of your career to look like?” Because most people don’t really know what they want to do when they “grow up,” Russ suggests encouraging people to come up with three to five different dreams for the future. This allows employees to include the dream they think you want to hear as well as those that are far closer to their hearts.

    Ask each direct report to create a document with three to five columns; title each with the names of the dreams they described in the last conversation. Then, list the skills needed as rows. Show how important each skill is to each dream, and what their level of competency is in that skill. Generally, it will become very obvious what new skills the person needs to acquire. Now, your job as the boss is to help them think about how they can acquire those skills: what are the projects you can put them on, whom can you introduce them to, what are the options for education?

    The final part of Russ’s second conversation involves making sure that the person’s dreams are aligned with the values they have expressed. For example, “If ‘hard work’ is a core value, why is one of your dreams to retire early?”

  • Radical Candor by Kim Scott

    Last, Russ taught managers to get people to begin asking themselves the following questions: “What do I need to learn in order to move in the direction of my dreams? How should I prioritize the things I need to learn? Whom can I learn from?” How can I change my role to learn it? Once people were clear on what they wanted to learn next, it was much easier for managers to identify opportunities at work that would help them develop skills in the next six to eighteen months that would take them in the direction of at least one of their dreams. This translation of current work to future dreams was far more inspiring for people than “Here’s how you climb the next rung on the ladder.”

    Here’s what to do: make a list of how the person’s role can change to help them learn the skills needed to achieve each dream; whom they can learn from; and classes they could take or books they could read. Then, next to each item, note who does what by when—and make sure you have some action items.

  • Radical Candor by Kim Scott

    The best advice I ever got for hiring somebody is this: if you’re not dying to hire somebody, don’t make an offer. And, even if you are dying to hire somebody, allow yourself to be overruled by the other interviewers who feel strongly the person should not be hired. In general, a bias toward no is useful when hiring.

  • Radical Candor by Kim Scott

    What about public praise? Yes, by all means, praise in public. But think carefully about what you are praising. Praise the things you want more of: high-quality work, mind-boggling innovation, amazing efficiency, selfless teamwork, and so on. Do you really want such a focus on promotions? If not, then don’t make such a big deal of them.

  • Radical Candor by Kim Scott

    A thank-you goes beyond praise. Praise expresses admiration for great work. A thank-you expresses personal gratitude. In the case of a thank-you, you are explaining not just why the work matters, but why it matters to you.

  • Radical Candor by Kim Scott

    1:1s are your must-do meetings, your single best opportunity to listen, really listen, to the people on your team to make sure you understand their perspective on what’s working and what’s not working. These meetings also provide an opportunity to get to know your direct reports—to move up on the “care personally” dimension of the Radical Candor framework.

  • Radical Candor by Kim Scott

    They are also valuable meetings for you, because these meetings are where you’ll get your first early warning signs that you are failing as a boss. Here are some sure signals: Cancellations … If people just give you updates that could simply be emailed to you, encourage them to use the time more constructively. … If you only hear good news, it’s a sign people don’t feel comfortable coming to you with their problems, or they think you won’t or can’t help. … If they never criticize you, you’re not good enough at getting guidance from your team. … If they consistently come with no topics to discuss, it might meant that they are overwhelmed, that they don’t understand the purpose of the meeting, or that they don’t consider it useful. Be direct but polite: “This is your time, but you don’t seem to come with much to talk about. Can you tell me why?”

  • Radical Candor by Kim Scott

    An extremely successful—and busy—CEO I know fought this by blocking two hours of think time on his calendar every day. He wouldn’t move it for anyone.

  • Radical Candor by Kim Scott

    “Culture eats strategy for lunch.” A team’s culture has an enormous impact on its results, and a leader’s personality has a huge impact on a team’s culture. Who you are as a human being impacts your team’s culture enormously.

  • Radical Candor by Kim Scott

    Be vigilant about clarifying what you are communicating

  • Radical Candor by Kim Scott

    The most amazing thing about a culture is that once it’s strong, it’s self-replicating. Even though you’ve taken a number of conscious actions to impact it, you’ll know you’ve succeeded when it truly is no longer about you.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    A Gallup study found that when people leave their companies, 65 percent of them are actually leaving their managers. As true in the Navy as it is in business, leaders are failing—and the costs are astounding.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    Conservative estimates put the cost of losing a trained worker at one and a half times the annual salary of the out-going employee, as measured by lost productivity and recruiting and training costs for the replacement.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    In a nutshell, hard experience has taught me that real leadership is about understanding yourself first, then using that to create a superb organization. Leaders must free their subordinates to fulfill their talents to the utmost. However, most obstacles that limit people’s potential are set in motion by the leader and are rooted in his or her own fears, ego needs, and unproductive habits. When leaders explore deep within their thoughts and feelings in order to understand themselves, a transformation can take shape.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    In the beginning, people kept asking my permission to do things. Eventually, I told the crew, “It’s your ship. You’re responsible for it. Make a decision and see what happens.”

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    Since, by definition, new ideas don’t have metrics, the result is that great ideas tend to be stillborn in major companies today.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    Pondering all this in the context of my post as the new captain of Benfold, I read some exit surveys, interviews conducted by the military to find out why people are leaving. I assumed that low pay would be the first reason, but in fact it was fifth. The top reason was not being treated with respect or dignity; second was being prevented from making an impact on the organization; third, not being listened to; and fourth, not being rewarded with more responsibility. Talk about an eye-opener.

    Further research disclosed an unexpected parallel with civilian life. According to a recent survey, low pay is also number five on the list of reasons why private employees jump from one company to another. And the top four reasons are virtually the same as in the military. The inescapable conclusion is that, as leaders, we are all doing the same wrong things.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    My organizing principle was simple: The key to being a successful skipper is to see the ship through the eyes of the crew. Only then can you find out what’s really wrong and, in so doing, help the sailors empower themselves to fix it.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    I have learned over and over that once you squander an opportunity, you can never get it back.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    As in business, no one person can stay on top of it all. That’s why you need to get more out of your people and challenge them to step up to the plate. What’s needed now is a dramatic new way of inspiring people to excel while things are happening at lightning speed.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    Whether you like it or not, your people follow your example. They look to you for signals, and you have enormous influence over them. If they see you fail to implement a policy you disagree with, they may think they have a green light to do the same. If they see you not telling the truth, they may feel free to lie as well. Likewise,if they see you challenge outdated business practices, they will follow suit. Doing so will become ingrained in the culture. Whenever an officer proposed a plan, I asked, “Why do we have to do it that way? Is there a better way?” So they always searched for better ways before coming to me. The signals you send are important. You train your crew how to operate through every decision you make and every action you take.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    Whenever I could not get the results I wanted, I swallowed my temper and turned inward to see if I was part of the problem. I asked myself three questions: Did I clearly articulate the goals? Did I give people enough time and resources to accomplish the task? Did I give them enough training? I discovered that 90 percent of the time, I was at least as much a part of the problem as my people were.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    As a manager, the one signal you need to steadily send to your people is how important they are to you. In fact, nothing is more important to you. Realize your influence, and use it wisely. Be there for your people. Find out who they are. Recognize the effects you have on them and how you can make them grow taller.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    Every so often, your chain of command comes up with a policy that you disagree with—yet it’s your responsibility to enforce it. It’s important to make your decisions known in a private manner with your bosses. But if you lose your argument, it’s also important that you carry out that order as if you supported it 100 percent. … It’s important that you not undermine your superiors. In any organization, your people need to know that you support your chain of command. If they see you freelancing, they will feel free not to support you when they disagree with your policies.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    The whole secret of leading a ship or managing a company is to articulate a common goal that inspires a diverse group of people to work hard together.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    I decided that before I launched any big new policy, I would ask myself how my sailors saw it. If it made sense from that vantage, I probably had a pretty good policy. If it made no sense, I either had the wrong policy or I wasn’t communicating clearly. If I had communicated clearly, people would understand, before they got involved, why a new policy was in everyone’s best interest, which was how we got the crew’s 100 percent support for nearly every change we made.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    I am absolutely convinced that with good leadership, freedom does not weaken discipline—it strengthens it. Free people have a powerful incentive not to screw up.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    Trust is a human marvel—it not only sustains the social contract, it’s the growth hormone that turns green sailors into seasoned shipmates and troubled companies into dynamic competitors.

    But trust is a kind of jujitsu: You have to earn it, and you earn trust only by giving it. …

    Trust is like a bank account—you have got to keep making deposits if you want it to grow. On occasion, things will go wrong, and you will have to make a withdrawal. Meanwhile, it is sitting in the bank earning interest.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    Leaders and managers need to understand that their employees are keenly attuned to their actions and reactions. If they see you give up on someone, they understand instantly that there’s no room for redemption in this outfit, and they could be next to go. If they see you intervene to help someone who is worth your effort, they will be reassured. Though the process is tedious and time-consuming, you will benefit if people feel more secure, are more willing to take risks, and have a positive attitude about the organization.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    I started eating at least one meal per week on the mess decks with the crew. It paid big dividends; I learned a great deal and got to know people that way, and after a while my officers began taking occasional meals there, too.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    I was determined to create a culture where everyone on board felt comfortable enough to say to me, “Captain, have you thought of this?” or “Captain, I’m worried about something,” or even “Captain, I think you’re dead wrong and here’s why.”

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    Make your people feel they can speak freely, no matter what they want to say. If they see that the captain wears no clothes, let them say so; facts are facts and deserve attention, not retribution. Yes, I’m pushing you to work harder at leading your organization. Yes, the climate I prescribe is tough to create. But in my view, had someone been comfortable tapping that commanding officer and saying, “Sticking to a schedule isn’t important enough to justify taking safety shortcuts,” that accident on Greeneville might have been avoided.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    When leaders and managers behave as though they are above their people, when they announce decisions after little or no consultation, when they make it clear that their orders aren’t to be questioned, then conditions are ripe for disaster.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    My goal was to cross-train in every critical area. Thus, when the day came, I didn’t let the experienced offer do it. I wanted other people to start learning.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    If a rule doesn’t make sense, break it. … If a rule does make sense, break it carefully.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoffvv

    You will seldom get in trouble for following standard operating procedure.

    On the other hand, you will rarely get astounding results. And all too often, SOP is a sop—it distracts people from what’s really important.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    Sometimes a solution is so simple and so apparent that we ignore it. We think it isn’t innovative or cool or complex enough, or that others have considered and discarded it. That’s a big mistake.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    Show me a manager who ignores the power of praise, and I will show you a lousy manager. Praise is infinitely more productive than punishment—could anything be clearer?

    The same principle applies when you’re dealing with bosses: Never tear them down; help them grow strong. If you want to achieve anything in a large bureaucracy, get inside the bosses’ heads. Anticipate what they want before they know they want it. Take on their problems; make them look so good that you become indispensable. When they can’t get along without you, they will support nearly anything you seek to accomplish.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    Think about the welcome-aboard program in your company. Do newcomers arrive for the first day of work and find that no computer awaits them, their pay and benefits are delayed by red tape, and the only employee available to answer their questions is second-rate because the best people are too busy? If so, it isn’t surprising that they become discontented with their jobs and disparage the organization. It’s the end of their idealism.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    It seemed crucial that I step up to the plate and swing for these things without being prompted or pressured. I rarely asked permission. I just acted on the theory that my bosses had authorized me to do so in their behalf. They wanted me to take care of things without being nagged. They had far too many other crises and problems. If I got my unit operating independently and delivering outstanding results, they could concentrate on other issues and do their jobs better—that’s what any boss wants, as well as bragging rights.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    Anything you can do to understand your people, support them in tough times, and nurture their gifts will pay benefits to your bottom line.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    The key to a successful evaluation is whether or not your people are surprised the day you give them their grades. If they’re surprised, then clearly you have not done a good job of setting their expectations and providing feedback throughout the entire year. If you’re communicating expectations and feedback on a continuous basis throughout the year, you will minimize, if not eliminate, people’s surprise when you give them the final evaluation.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    I gave consistent feedback at regular intervals throughout the year, formally on a quarterly basis, but also as part of the daily routine. Whenever people did something great, I let them know. Whenever they came up short, I did not let it fester until the end of the evaluation period; I got it out in the open right away. More than anything else, your people appreciate honesty from you. Even if they’re doing something poorly, it’s better to get it on the table early in the process so they have time to fix it. That’s the key to being a good leader: ongoing counselling and consistent honesty.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    My first move was to cancel our diversity training program. … In its place I substituted unity training, concentrating on people’s likenesses and our common goals rather than differences. Unity begins by recognizing common interests.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    I wanted people who screwed up on my ship to know two things: First, they will be appropriately punished; second, they will get another chance.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    I often get a feeling that Corporate America, like the military, is headed for a nervous breakdown. We are now permanently wired to our work, wherever we are. Even on vacation, we’re tethered to pagers, cell phones, and laptops, so we can log in from the beach. This is okay, in moderation. In excess, it eats away at the inner reservoir of spirit that people need to draw on when life gets tough.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    I believe that a leader’s final evaluation should not be written until six months or a year after he or she leaves the organization. The true measure of how well you did on your watch is the legacy you hand your successors. And don’t wish them ill so you can look good by contrast. Think bigger: Their success is actually your reward for leaving your command as shipshape as possible.

  • It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

    And you have to be accountable—no blame game is acceptable. The buck stops at the tip of your nose.

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