I really, really liked this book and definitely recommend it.
Admittedly it started a little slow but then quickly got very interesting. I love the simplicity of it – the book is built around very basic, but often overlooked leadership principles and it’s a great read no matter what your level of experience as a leader.
Personally I found it mostly to be a great reminder of basic and powerful things to focus on as a leader – the true stuff that sets great companies apart from mediocre companies. As usual, I am doing some of these things now and have also neglected some lately. There were also a few techniques that I wasn’t already aware of which I am going to work to put in place.
Below is a bit of a brain dump of some of the most interesting notes I made along with a couple of things I am going to focus on as a result of reading this book. The list is longer than I would normally write, but that just goes to show how many great nuggets there were in the book.
- When it comes to re-enforcing clarity there is no such thing as over-communication
- Management teams over 8 or 9 are too large – managers in meetings will tend to advocate more than they do inquire (not good) as they look to use their scarce air time to make a point.
- Leadership team members need to see their goals as collective and not just operate in silos
- Vulnerability trust is necessary for building a cohesive team – everyone needs to be entirely comfortable with being transparent and honest
- The leadership team knowing each others personal histories can be very powerful
- Conflict in meetings is essential to get to the right ideas and solutions and this may mean someone steps over the line from time to time – this should be managed and not feared.
- Leaders should mine for conflict in meetings
- Letting people leave a meeting without active commitment on a decision is fatal. They don’t go away and actively and obviously sabotage things, in fact they often do something far less exciting, harder to spot and damaging – they will do as little as possible to support the movement and will sit back and just watch problems unfold
- Behavioural confrontation needs to be encouraged. You need your team to pick others up when there is a display of not living the values of the organisation or following the direction set
- A leader confronting behavioural issues in front of the entire team can be incredibly powerful (obviously where apropiate)
- It’s incredibly important for the team to know and understand their purpose (which is not to increase stakeholder value – this should only be a result of their purpose).
- Values need to be known and clearly understood by the team
- There are four types of values:
- Core: these are inherent in an organisation – they do not change over time and must already exist (generally just two or three)
- Aspirational: these are values the organisation wants and wishes it had. The belief is that having these will maximise success.
- Permission to play: these are normally minimum behavioural standards such as honesty, integrity etc.
- Accidental: these have some about unintentionally and don’t necessarily serve good – they should be guarded against
- At an organisation level there must be one single top priority at anyone time – normally taking 3 to 9 months to execute
- Goals and objectives should fit onto one page – there are no exceptions
- It’s important to develop a responsibility and accountability sheet so everyone is clear on who and what
- The only way to fully embrace a message is to hear it over a period of time, in different situations from a variety of different people
- The top two priorities of a leader are to set direction and ensure people are reminded of it
- One CEO sent around a Friday email without fail which re-enforced the companies goals, objectives and progress towards it
- When hiring there should be a clear and strict criteria for cultural fit
- Hiring processes can easily get too complex and over-burdersome – often less structure is better
- Over time managers get slack with recruitment and let all processes and structure fall to the wayside – this leads to bad hires
- Often being unconventional during the hiring process works well – take the candidate for a walk and get out of the ‘across the desk from each other’ interview room
- Onboarding new employees well is critical – explaining strategy, who does what and how they can contribute is key - the time window is in the first 1 to 2 weeks as they are the most eager and excited at this point
- Real time recognition is very important
- There are four types of meetings:
- Daily check-ins – are we on track and are there any impotent issues to resolve? (10 or so mins)
- Weekly staff – bringing the leadership team together to go through the biggest initiatives and important issues – a great opportunity to over-communicate (60-90 mins)
- Adhoc topical – taking on big issues, problems or strategic decisions (2-3 hours)
- Quarterly offsite – review of objectives, goals and high level strategy
- Stakeholder (I’m adding this as a fifth) – for key stakeholders of an initiative to review progress and problems for a specific initiatives / project – often weekly
Actions for me:
Hiring – I’m ashamed to say that I too have allowed myself to become quite unstructured on the recruitment front over the last year or so. I tend to be good at asking the right questions and I think I am generally a pretty good judge of character and talent, however I absolutely need to become a bit more structured. I’ll be putting in place a 1-2 sheet document for each role I am recruiting for reminding me of the key values and skills I’m looking for – and will ensure I have 2 or 3 questions for each skill so that I can be consistent in pushing the right areas with each candidate.
Mine for conflict – I’m going to be much more conscious that is is my responsibility to encourage conflict within the leadership team when discussing significant issues.
Friday email – I liked this idea and am going to commit to doing something similar with one of our teams.