Friday, February 22, 2008

Work On Your Business Rather Than In It

How could you work on your business rather than in it?  How would you design your business if this was the model for 5,000 more just like it?  One of the mistakes a technician cam make is to start a business to work in.   They become slaves to their own machine.  Instead, they can first design a system for results so that the business is both sustainable and a better place to work in (if they choose to.)  In The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It, Michael E. Gerber writes about how to work on your business rather than in it.

Your Business is Not Your Life
Gerber writes:

"Your Business is Not Your Life  The point is: your business is not your life.  Your business and your life are two totally separate things.  Once you recognize that the purpose of your life is not to serve your business, but that the primary purpose of your business is to serve your life, you can then work on your business, rather than in it, with a full understanding of why it is absolutely necessary for you to do so.  This is where you can put the model of the Franchise Prototype to work for you.  Where working on your business rather than in your business will become the central theme of your daily activity, the prime catalyst for everything you do from this moment forward."

Prototype Your Business 
Gerber writes:

"Pretend that the business you won -- or want to own -- is the prototype, or will be the prototype, for 5,000 more just like it.  That your business is going to serve as the model for 5,000 more just like it.  Not alsmost like it, but just like it.  Perfect replicates.  Clones."

Six Rules to Follow for Franchising Your Business
Gerber writes the following rules to follow to win when you play the franchise game:

  • The model will provide consistent value to your customers, employees, suppliers, and lenders, beyond what they expect.
  • The model will be operated by people with the lowest possible level of skill.
  • The model will stand out as a place of impeccable order.
  • All work in the model will be documented in Operations Manuals.
  • The model will provide a uniformly predictable service to the customer.
  • The model will utilize a uniform color, dress and facilities code.

Provide Consistent Value Beyond What They Expect
Gerber writes:

"What is value?  How do we understand it?  I would suggest that value is what people perceive it to be and nothing more.  So what could your prototype do that would not only provide consistent value to your customers, employees, suppliers, and lenders but would provide it beyond their wildest expectations?

That is the question every Entrepreneur must ask.  Because it is the raison d'etre of his business!  It is in the understanding of value, as it impacts every person with whom your business comes into contact, that every extraordinary business lives."

Create Business Results That are Systems Results
Gerber writes:

"The model will be operated by people with the lowest possible level of skill.  Yes, I said lowest possible level of skill.  Because if your model depends on highly skilled people, it's going to be impossible to replicate.  Such people are at a premium in the marketplace.  They're also expensive, thus raising the price you will have to charge for your product or service.

By lowest possible level of skill I mean the lowest possible level necessary to fulfill the functions for which each is intended.  Obviously, if yours is a legal firm, you must have attorneys.  If yours is a medical firm, you must have physicians.  But you don't need to hire brilliant attorneys or brilliant physicians.  You need to create the very best system through which good attorneys and good physicians can be leveraged to produce exquisite results.

The question you need to keep asking yourself is:  How can I give my customers the results they want systematically rather than personally?  Put another way: How can I create a business whose results are systems-dependent rather than people-dependent?  Systems-dependent rather than expert-dependent.  How can I create an expert system rather than hire one?"

Enable Ordinary People to Do Extraordinary Things
Gerber writes:

"It's been said, and I believe it to be true, that great businessaes are not built by extraordinary people but by ordinary people doing extraordinary things.  But for ordinary people to do extraordinary things, a system -- 'a way of doing things' -- is absolutely essential in order to compensate for the disparity between the skills your people have and the skills your business needs if it is to produce consistent results.

In this context, the system becomes the tools your people use to increase their productivity, to get the job done in a way it needs to get done in order for your business to successfully differentiate itself from your competition.  It's your job -- more accurately, the job of your business -- to develop those tools and to teach your people how to use them."

No Extraordinary Business Depends on Extraordinary People
Gerber writes: 

"The typical owner of a small business prefers highly skilled people because they believe they make his job easier -- they can simply leave the work to them.  That is, the typical small business owner prefers Management by Abdication to Management by Delegation. 

Unfortunately, the inevitable result of this kind of thinking is that the business grows dependent on the whims and moods of its people.  If they're in the mood, the job gets done.  If they're not, it doesn't.  In this kind of business, a business that relies on discretion, 'How do I motivate my people?' becomes the constant question.  'How do I keep them in the mood?'"

Invent Innovative System Solutions
Gerber writes:

"It is literally impossible to produce a consistent result in a business that depends on extraordinary people.  No business can do it for long.  And no extraordinary business tries to!  Because every extraordinary business knows that when you intentionally build your business around the skills of ordinary people, you will be forced to ask the difficult questions about how to produce a result without the extraordinary ones.

You will be forced to find a system that leverages your ordinary people to the point where they can produce extraordinary results over and over again.  You will be forced to invent innovative system solutions to the people problems that have plagued small businesses (and big businesses as well!) since the beginning of time.  You will be forced to build a business that works.  You will be forced to do the work of Business Development that is not a replacement for people development but as its necessary correlate."

Key Take Aways
Well, this is certainly thought provoking.  While I haven't really thought about creating a business, it does open possibilities.  Imagine crafting a franchise where you could provide jobs for friends, family, and beyond.  Imagine creating systems for results that create unique value and harness everybody's strengths and passions.  That's food for thought for another day, but here's my key take aways:

  • Apply the concepts to your current job.  I like a lot of the concepts here, independent of whether I'm creating a new business.  I can simply look at my current job and start asking better questions about how can I scale myself, scale my team, scale the business ... etc.  How can I eliminate dependencies on extraordinary people?  How can I enable ordinary people to do extraordinary things? ... etc
  • Your business is not your life. The purpose of your life is not to serve your business. Even if you love what you do, there's more to your life than building your business or working in your business. The primary purpose of your business is to serve your life.
  • Work on your business rather than in it.  I like the idea of crafting a business as a system for sustainable results.  Even if you do plan on working in your business, stepping out of it first, will force you to design yourself a better job.  
  • Pretend the business you own or want to own is the prototype.  Prototype your business.  I really like the idea here of pretending that your business is going to serve as the model for 5,000 more just like it.  It forces you to put your thinking cap on and really engineer your business for consistent, sustainable results.  It makes you think about how you'll perform the various functions in routine ways that allow for flexibility, adaptability and improvement.
  • Ask what consistent value your business can provide.  This is a great question that if you think deeply on it, it's actually pretty challenging.  It's really a question about both unique value to the market as well as sustainable results.  It's one thing to make a one-hit wonder succeed, but it's another thing entirely to create a system or factory for results.
  • Create business results that are systems-dependent. Don't depend on extraordinary people.  Create an expert system rather than hire one.  I actually find this point challenging because I've seen both sides over the years.  I think that somehow, the information age jobs and long-tail scenarios are making this model a bit fuzzier.  That said, I see the meta point is to ultimately bank on your system and not on the people, so that you are not fragile and you are sustainable.  I think there's another benefit to this which is that it forces you to really think about how to streamline how you do what you do. 
  • Build systems to enable ordinary people to do extraordinary things.  Right on!  Bringing out people's best is always an interesting challenge.

My Related Posts

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sustainable, Healthy Commitment

How do you stay motivated?  How do you keep a sustainable pace?  Do you passionately take on challenges or do you try to do just enough to get by?  To produce great results, you need a healthy commitment.  A healthy commitment is performance-enhancing, while an unhealthy commitment drains you.  In Overachievement: The New Science of Working Less to Accomplish More, John Eliot, Ph.D. writes about the distinction between a healthy and unhealthy commitment.

Healthy Commitment
Eliot considers "healthy" commitment to be sustainable and performance enhancing:

  • Being passionate
  • Striving for excellence
  • Earning it
  • Finding a way to win
  • Loving the extra mile
  • Chasing a dream
  • Doing it for yourself
  • Focusing on successes
  • Feeling dedication
  • Being intense
  • Being optimistic
  • Playing
  • Going for it
  • Expressing freedom
  • The stuff of dreams; doesn't feel like work

Unhealthy Commitment
Eliot considers what traditionally passes for commitment to be "unhealthy":

  • Having a Spartan ideal
  • Striving for perfection
  • Sacrificing
  • Paying the price
  • Forcing an extra mile
  • Always focusing on mistakes
  • Delaying gratification
  • Always working
  • Neurotic, OCD
  • Logging in the hours
  • Being pessimistic
  • Covering your bases
  • Preventing failure
  • Taking responsibility
  • Can work, but isn't fulfilling

Lack of Commitment
Eliot provides examples to show what a lack of commitment looks like:

  • Being an occasional player
  • Being victim to obstacle
  • Making things easy
  • Giving in to frustration
  • Lacking inner desire
  • Going through the motions
  • Doing just the big things
  • Being lazy
  • Not really wanting it
  • Not sustaining it daily
  • Thinking negatively
  • Making excuses
  • Cheating
  • Blaming others
  • You'll be at the whim of circumstances

The Right Kind of Dedication
Eliot writes the following:

"Dedication is necessary to success, yes.  But it must be the right kind of dedication.  If you've got lofty, creative, vidiv dreams that you want to turn into reality, you must also be abnormal in the way that you view commitment.  It doesn't mean going top speed in every aspect of your life, day and night.  Making great stuff happen is not about multitasking or sheer effort.  You must make choices about the areas where you most want to separate yourself from the pack.  When people buy into the demonstration of work ethic, throwing themselves into everything, the result is halfhearted commitment in too many areas.  To be committed to everything is to be committed to nothing."

Single-minded Passion for What You Do
Eliot writes the following:

"The kind of commitment I find among the best performers across virutally every field is a single-minded passion for what they do, an unwavering desire for excellence in the way they think and the way they work.  Genuine commitment is what launches you out of bed in the morning, and through your day with a spring in your step."

Key Take Aways
Here's my key take aways:

  • Play to your passions.  Commitment without passion is a problem and it's not sustainable.  Either find the passion in what you do, or go find your passions.  Sometimes you simply need to change your mindset.  See Choose-Tos Over Have-Tos.
  • Enjoy the process.  Don't just focus on the outcomes.  You can't play your best game if you are only focused on the scoreboard.  See Process Orientation Over Product Orientation.
  • Focus on excellence.  Anything worth doing is worth doing well.   By focusing on excellence, you bring out the art in what you do.  You also bring out your best and it's an opportunity for innovation.  Continuous improvement and little distinctions over time are a powerful recipe for results.
  • Be fully engaged.  If you are committed to doing it, then give it your all.  If you can't give it your all, you need to ask what's holding you back.
  • Take on big challenges.  Taking on big challenges is how you grow and improve your performance.  It's the big challenges that keep you fully engaged.  If you aren't excited by what you do, maybe you haven't challenged yourself.
  • Focus on successes over failures.  Failures are your lessons.  Focus on your successes and build momentum.

Getting Started with The Book Share

I realized I still have a lot of first time visitors. I figured I should point out some things to help get you started. Even if you're a regular reader, here's some things you might like to know.

Exploring Posts
While there's a few ways to explore the posts, one of the simplest ways to scan all my posts is to use the roundups:

Personal Development and Professional Development
The focus of The Book Share is on insights and actions for personal and professional development. For personal development, I think this is about communication (with yourself and others), self-awareness, mind and body development, and managing emotions. For professional development, I focus on interpersonal skills, leadership, business ... etc. Ultimately, I try to equip you with the best sources of insight to make you more effective on the job and in your life.

Why The Book Share
I started The Book Share to help share reusable nuggets of insight from various books I read. I wanted to help turn the insight into action, as well as share any lessons learned from applying it in real life. I get to work with a lot of people on a lot of things and get to experience some very challenging scenarios.

It seems like almost everyday I find somebody or myself in some situation where just the right bit of insight or action would help. The problem is that that insight is often sitting on my shelf or it's lost among a sea of text. My goal is to surface those nuggets that I personally find insightful and help turn them into action for others.

Take It For a Test Drive
While I hope you enjoy every post on The Book Share, one of my personal favorites is:

If you already know exactly what you want, then that post is just additional confirmation. Otherwise, it could very well change your life.

How The Posts are Structured
I try to cut to the chase in each post. I assume you don't have a lot of time and that you really just want the best insight and actions. I start each post by setting the context, usually with a precise question. I then summarize the overall solution at a high level. Next, I pull key quotes or relevant insights from the book. I then summarize my key take aways and point any additional resources or my related posts.

I try to make my key take aways as actionable for you as possible. They are also based on my personal experience (I experiment frequently with new ideas and approaches -- I'm a continuous learner by design.)

My related posts section is actually important because many times I can connect the dots across very different books. For example, in my How To Figure Out What You Really Want post, I connect the dots to other posts from other books:

How This Blog is Organized
I optimized this blog around showcasing content and making it easy to navigate and browse. To find posts, you have five main ways:

  • Use the search on the sidebar. This works fairly well, particularly if you remember a distinguishing word from a post or if you simply want to quickly see if there's any relevant posts for a given topic.
  • Browse the Best of Bookshare on the sidebar. (This changes periodically)
  • Browse the Roundups on the sidebar. (These are indexes of posts)
  • Browse the Categories. (These are organized by familiar topics such as Communication, Leadership, ... etc.)
  • Browse the Archives on the sidebar. (You can literally walk the posts by time.)
Roadmaps and Other Entry Points
I do plan to do Roadmaps and other types of posts to help your find your way through various themes. For example, I have a large collection of posts focused on feeling good. I need to pull them together into a roadmap. I literally can create a consolidated index of patterns and practices for feeling good and help you learn the best techniques for feeling better in any situation.

The Future and Beyond
I do have plans to take The Book Share to the next level. One of the issues is that most people don't like the name. They tell me that the name doesn't do it justice. I didn't think this was that important, but I'm getting enough feedback to take it seriously.

What I don't want to give up though is browsability of posts. While not everybody likes my current theme, enough users are able to quickly find what they need, that I don't want to lose that. I'll be testing various themes so I can find a good fit for the job. If you have specific suggestions or improvements you'd like to see, be sure to tell me them now while I'm planning and testing various options.

Be Your Best
Good luck and best wishes! ... and remember that *luck* is when skill and opportunity come together. I hope the nuggets you find here change your life and help you make the most of any situation.

I'm always interested in success stories so feel free to share any stories you might have about how you applied any of the insights and any lessons you learned.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

When It's Cold, Shiver. When It's Hot, Sweat.

Are you able to make the most of any situation?  When things don't go your way, do you get frustrated or do you learn how to be more resourceful?  The one thing you bring to every situation is yourself.  While you don't control a lot of things that happen in your life, the most important thing you control is your reaction.  In Work from the Inside Out: Seven Steps to Loving What You Do, Nancy O'Hara writes about an old Zen saying that reminds you to choose your best response for any given scenario.

You are Not in Control of the Situation
O'Hara writes the following:

"On a hot day many people walk around complaining about the heat, miserable and cranky because the weather doesn't suit them.  These same people also complain when it's rainy and cold or simply not a picture-perfect day.  What these people lack is an acceptance of what is and an understanding that they are not in control.  There's an old Zen saying that you might want to write on a piece of paper and tack up over your desk or work station, or carry around with you, to remind you that you are not in charge.

When it's cold shiver.  When it's hot, sweat.

And not only are you not in charge of the weather, but you are also not in charge of company policy or how it gets executed or who your coworkers are.  (Even if you are the boss who sets the company policy, you cannot control every little aspect of a dynamic organization.)
So ...

When it's cold, shiver.  When it's hot, sweat."

You are In Control of Your Reaction
O'Hara writes:

"Each time you look at it, and each time you hear yourself complaining about the weather or your job or your boss, let this saying remind you that the only way the weather, or anything else, will change is if you move to a different climate or when time takes its course.  But before you make any drastic changes, consider that staying put and sweating or shivering might be the best answer.  Moving away will not guarantee that the new situation will be more to your liking.  Let this saying also remind you that while you may not be in charge of the weather, you are in charge of your reaction to it.  And this is where you must look to understand why you are dissatisfied and what you can do about it.  You must look to yourself."

Key Take Aways
Here's my key take aways:

  • Raise your tolerance level.  Roll with the punches.  You can't control what's on you plate, but you can control how you eat it. Your frustration in life is directly related to your tolerance level.  See Low Frustration Tolerance.
  • Be flexible and adaptable.  If you can be flexible and adaptable, then you have a wider range of possibilities for being successful.  The willow bends while the oak breaks.
  • Learn to adapt, adjust or avoid.  For any situation, you should be able to figure out whether to adapt for it, adjust the situation for your success or avoid the situation altogether.  If you choose to adapt for the situation, make sure you aren't compromising your strengths or passions.  The more self-aware you are, the better you can figure out how to setup the situation for your success or to avoid the situation because it's not a good match for you.  When your situation is not optional, remember that your own reaction is.  Always choose your best response.
  • Distinguish between what you own vs. influence.  One of my most important lessons in corporate life was when I was challenging some decisions from up above.  My manager had very sound advice.  He told me to distinguish between what I control versus what I influence.  For the things I don't control, I could learn to be more accepting.  This proved useful time and again, because I learned to pick my battles more effectively.  For the decisions I don't own, I can certainly try to influence them, but I can also be more accepting of the fact I don't control them.
  • Avoid becoming the boiled frog in the pot.  While it's good to be adaptable, you have to be careful not to become the boiled frog in the pot.   This is about knowing your ROI quotient for your investment.  Are you getting the return where you spend your time and energy?
  • Identify whether you're moving toward or away from your goals.  While resistance makes you stronger, it's important to know whether you're moving toward or away from your goals and readjust as needed.  Knowing that you are on your path is reassuring and helps you  stay on track when you face resistance or personal growth feels uncomfortable.
  • Distinguish between situation and disposition.   The first question I ask myself when a situation turns bad is, is it me, or is it the situation?   As a general rule, I carry my good behaviors forward, and drop what's not working.  I also try to learn the context of the situation so that I can get better at recognizing patterns.
  • For any situation, choose your best response.  The most important question I ask myself is, what's the most effective response I can choose for this particular situation?  The real point is to choose an effective response versus simply react.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

2008 01 - January Post Roundup

I'm going to continue to do post roundups. I'll continue trying to find better ways to browse my collection of posts, but using a post roundup seems pretty effective for now. Here are my January posts organized in alphabetical order.

January Posts

My Related Posts

Monday, February 11, 2008

Finding Your Key Strengths

What are your key strengths?  What are your talents that come easy for you, but are difficult for others?  Are you fully leveraging your unique combination of strengths?  If you know your unique combination of strengths, and you play to your strengths versus focusing on your weaknesses, you can amplify your results.  One of the key things that can hold you back is spending too much focus on your weaknesses and not on your strengths.  The better you know your strengths and talents, the better you can pick the right situations or job to leverage your innate abilities.  In Now, Discover Your Strengths, Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D. identify 34 key signature themes of strength, based on years of empirical research.

34 Themes of Strength and Talent
Familiarize yourself with the 34 key themes of strength.  If you can identify your top five themes, you can use the information to start cultivating your strengths for personal excellence and stop focusing on weaknesses.  Here are the 34 signature themes of strength according to Buckingham and Clifton:

  • Achiever - You have a relentless need for achievement.  You feel as if everyday starts at zero and you must achieve something tangible in order to feel good about yourself.  It brings you the energy you need to work long hours without burning out.
  • Activator – You are impatient to start.  “When can we start?” is a recurring question in your life.
  • Adaptability – You live in the moment.  You don’t see the future as a fixed destination.  Instead, you see it as a place that you create out of the choices that you make right now.
  • Analytical – Your Analytical theme challenges other people.  “Prove it.  Show me why what you are claiming is true.”   In the face of this kind of questioning some will find that their brilliant theories wither and die.  For you this is precisely the point.  You do not necessarily want to destroy other people’s ideas, but you do insist that their theories be sound.
  • Arranger – You are a conductor.  When faced with a complex situation involving many factors, you enjoy managing all the variables, aligning and realigning them until you are sure you have arranged them in the most productive configuration possible.
  • Belief – If you possess a strong Belief theme, you have certain core values that are enduring.  These values vary from one person to another, but ordinarily your Belief theme causes you to be family-oriented, altruistic, even spiritual, and to value responsibility and high-ethics – both in yourself and others.
  • Command – Command leads you to take charge.  Unlike some people, you feel no discomfort with imposing your views on others.  On the contrary, once your opinion is formed, you need to share it with others.  You are not frightened by confrontation; rather you know that confrontation is the first step toward resolution.
  • Communication – You like to explain, to describe, to host, to speak in public, and to write.  This is your Communication theme at work.  Ideas are a dry beginning.  Events are static.  You feel a need to bring them to life, to energize them, to make them exciting and vivid.
  • Competition – Competition is rooted in comparison.  When you look at the world, you are instinctively aware of other people’s performance.  Their performance is the ultimate yard-stick.  No matter how hard you tried, no matter how worthy your intentions, if you reached your goal but did not outperform your peers, the achievement feels hollow.
  • Connectedness – Things happen for  a reason.  You are sure of it.  You are sure of it because in your soul you know that we are all connected.  Yes, we are individuals, responsible for our own judgments and in possession of our own free will, but nonetheless we are part of something larger.
  • Context – You look back.  You look back because that is where the answers lie.  You look back to understand the present.  From your vantage point the present is unstable, a confusing clamor of competing voices.  It is only by casting your mind back to an earlier time, a time when the plans were being drawn up, that the present regains its stability.  The earlier time was a simpler time.  It was a time of blueprints.  As you look back, you being to see these blueprints emerge.
  • Deliberative – You are careful.  You are vigilant.  You are a private person.  You know that the world is an unpredictable place.  Everything may seem in order, but beneath the surface you sense the many risks.  Rather than denying these risks, you draw each one out into the open.  Then each risk can be identified, assessed, and ultimately reduced.
  • Developer – You see the potential in others.  Very often, in fact, potential is all you see.  In your view, no individual is fully formed.  On the contrary, each individual is a work in progress, alive with possibilities.  And you are drawn toward people for this very reason.  When you interact with others, your goal is to help them experience success.  You look for ways to challenge them.  You devise interesting experiences that can stretch them and help them grow.
  • Discipline – Your world needs to be predictable.  It needs to be ordered and planned.  So you instinctively impose structure on your world.  You set up routines.  You focus on time-lines and deadlines.  You break long-term projects into a series of specific short-term plans, and you work through each plan diligently.  You are not necessarily neat and clean, but you do need precision.  Faced with the inherent messiness of life, you want to feel in control.
  • Empathy – You can sense the emotions of those around you.  You can feel what they are feeling as though their feelings are your own.  Intuitively, you are able to see the world through their eyes and share their perspective.  You do not necessarily agree with each person’s perspective.  You do not necessarily feel pity for each person’s predicament – this would be sympathy, not empathy.  You do not necessarily condone the choices each person makes, but you do understand.  This instinctive power to understand is powerful.  You hear the unvoiced questions.  You anticipate the need.  Where others grapple for words, you seem to find the right words and the right tone.
  • Fairness – Balance is important to you.  You are keenly aware of the need to treat people the same, no matter what their station in life, so you do not want to see the scales tipped too far in any one person’s favor.  In your view this leads to selfishness and individualism.  It leads to a world where some people gain an unfair advantage because of their connections or their background or their greasing of the wheels.  This is truly offensive to you.
  • Focus – “Where am I headed?” you ask yourself.  You ask this question every day.  Guided by this theme of Focus, you need a clear destination.  Lacking one, you life and your work can quickly become frustrating.  And so each year, each month, and even each week you set goals.  These goals then serve as your compass, helping you determine priorities and make the necessary corrections to get back on course.  Your Focus is powerful because it forces you to filter; you instinctively evaluate whether or not a particular action will help you move toward your goal.  Those that don’t are ignored.
  • Futuristic – “Wouldn’t it be great if …” You are the kind of person who loves to peer over the horizon.  The future fascinates you.  As if it were projected on the wall, you see in detail what the future might hold and this detailed picture keeps pulling you forward, into tomorrow.  While the exact content of the picture will depend on your other strengths and interests – a better product, a better team, a better life, or a better world – it will always be inspirational to you.
  • Harmony – You look for areas of agreement.  In your view there is little to be gained from conflict and friction, so you seek to hold them to a minimum.  When you know that the people around you hold differing views, you try to find the common ground.  You try to steer them away from confrontational and toward harmony.  In fact, harmony is one of your guiding values.  You can’t quite believe how much time is wasted by people trying to impose their views on others.  Wouldn’t we all be more productive if we kept our opinions in check and instead look for consensus and support?  You believe we would and you live by that belief.
  • Ideation – You are fascinated by ideas.  What is an idea?  An idea is a concept, the best explanation of the most events.  You are delighted when you discover beneath the complex surface of an elegantly simple concept to explain why things are the way they are.  An idea is a connection.  Yours is the kind of mind that is always looking for connections, and so you are intrigued when seemingly disparate phenomena can be linked by an obscure connection.  An idea is a new perspective on familiar challenges.  You revel in taking the world we all know and turning it around so we can view it from a strangely enlightening angle.  You love all these ideas because they are profound, because they are novel, because they are clarifying, because they are contrary, because they are bizarre.  For all these reasons, you derive a jolt of energy whenever a new idea occurs to you.  Others may label you as creative or original or conceptual or even smart.
  • Inclusiveness – “Stretch the circle wider.”  This is the philosophy around which you orient your life.  You want to include people and make them feel part of the group.  In direct contrast to those who are drawn only to exclusive groups, you actively avoid those groups that exclude others.  You want to expand the group so that as many people as possible can benefit from its support.  You have the sight of someone on the outside looking in.  You want to draw them in so they can feel the warmth of any group.  You are an instinctively accepting person.  Regardless of race or sex or nationality or personality or faith, you cast few judgments.  Judgments can hurt a person’s feelings.
  • Individualization – Your Individualization theme leads you to be intrigued by the unique qualities of each person.  You are impatient with generalizations or “types” because you don’t want to obscure what is special and distinct about each person.  Instead, you focus on the differences between individuals.  You instinctively observe each person’s style, each person’s motivation, how each thinks, and how each builds relationships.  You hear the one-of-a-kind stories in each person’s life.  This theme explains why you pick your friends just the right birthday gift, why you know that one person prefers praise in public and another detests it, and why you tailor your teaching style to accommodate one person’s need to be shown and another person’s desire to “figure it out as I go.”  Because you are such a keen observer of other people’s strengths, you can draw out the best in each person.  This Individualization theme also helps you build productive teams.  While some search around for the perfect team “structure” or “process,” you know instinctively that the secret to great teams is casting by individual strengths so that everyone can do a lot of what they do well.
  • Input – You are inquisitive.  You collect things.  You might collect information – words, facts, books, and quotations – or you might collect tangible objects such as butterflies, baseball cards, porcelain dolls, or sepia photographs.  Whatever you collect, you collect it because it interests you.  And yours is the kind of mind that finds so many things interesting.  The world is a great deal, it is not necessarily to refine your theories but rather, to add more information to your archives.
  • Intellection – You like to think.  You like mental activity.  You like exercising the “muscles” of your brain, stretching them in multiple directions.  This need for mental activity may be focused; for example, you may be trying to solve a problem or develop an idea or understand another person’s feelings.  The exact focus will depend on your other strengths.  On the other hand, this mental activity may very well lack focus.  The theme of Intellection does not dictate what you are thinking about; it simply describes that you like to think.  You are the kind of person who enjoys your time alone because it is your time for musing and reflection.  You are introspective.  In a sense you are your own best companion, as you pose yourself questions and try out answers on yourself to see how they sound.  This introspection may lead you to a slight sense of discontent as you compare what you are actually doing with all the thoughts and ideas that your mind conceives.  Or the introspection may tend toward more pragmatic matters such as the events of the day or a conversation that you plan to pragmatic matters such as the events of the day or a conversation that you plan to have later.  Whatever it leads you, this mental hum is one of the constants of your life.
  • Learner – You love to learn.  The subject matter that interests you most will be determined by your other themes and experiences, but whatever the subject, you will always be drawn to the process of learning.  The process, more than the content or the result, is especially exciting for you.  You are energized by the steady and deliberate journey from ignorance to competence.  The thrill of the first few facts, the early efforts to recite or practice what you have learned, the growing confidence of a skill mastered – this is the process that entices you.  Your excitement leads you to engage in adult learning experiences – yoga or piano lessons or graduate classes.  It enables you to thrive in dynamic work environments where you are asked to take on short project assignments that are expected to learn a lot about the new subject matter in a short period of time and move on to the next one.  The Learner theme does not necessarily mean that you seek to become the subject matter expert, or that you are striving for the respect that you seek to become the subject matter expert, or that you are striving for the respect that accompanies a professional or academic credential.  The outcome of the learning is less significant than the “getting there.”
  • Maximizer – Excellence, not average, is your measure.  Taking something from below average to slightly above average takes a great deal of effort and in your opinion is not very rewarding.  Transforming something strong into something superb takes just as much effort but is much more thrilling.  Strengths, whether yours or some else’s, fascinate you.  Like a diver after pearls, you search them out, watching for the telltale signs of a strength.  A glimpse of untutored excellence, rapid learning, a skill mastered without resource to steps – all these are clues that a strength may be in play.  And having found a strength, you feel compelled to nurture it, refine it, and stretch it towards excellence.  You polish the pearl until it shines.  This natural sorting of strengths means that others see you as discriminating.  You choose to spend time with people who appreciate your particular strengths.  Likewise, you are attracted to others who have found and cultivated their own strengths.  You tend to avoid those who want to fix you and make you well rounded.  You dn’t want to spend your life becoming what you lack.  Rather, you want to capitalize on the gifts with which you are blessed.  It’s more fun.  It’s more productive.  And, counter intuitively, it is more demanding.
  • Positivity – You are generous with praise, quick to smile, and always on the lookout for the positive in the situation.  Some call you lighthearted.  Others just wish that their glass were as full as yours seems to be.  But either way, people want to be around you.  Their world looks better around you because your enthusiasm is contagious.  Lacking your energy and optimism, some find their world drab with repetition or, worse, heavy with pressure.  You seem to find a way to lighten their spirit.  You inject drama into every project.  You celebrate every achievement.  You find ways to make everything more exciting and more vital.  Some cynics may reject your energy, but you are rarely dragged down.  Your Positivity won’t allow it.  Somehow you can’t quite escape your conviction that it is good to be alive, that work can be fun, and that no matter what the setbacks, one must never lose one’s sense of humor.
  • Relater  - Relater describes your attitude toward your relationships.  In simple terms, the Relater theme pulls you toward people you already know.  You do not necessarily shy away from meeting new people – in fact, you may have other themes that cause you to enjoy the thrill of turning strangers into friends – but you do derive a great deal of pleasure and strength from being around your close friends.  You are comfortable with intimacy.  Once the initial connection has been made, you deliberately encourage a deepening of the relationship.  You want to understand their feelings, their goals, their fears, and their dreams; and you want them to understand yours.  You know that this kind of closeness implies a certain amount of risk – you might be taken advantage of – but you are willing to accept the risk.  For you a relationship has value only if it is genuine.  And the only way to know that is to entrust yourself to the other person.  The more you share with each other, the more you risk together.  The more you risk together, the more each of you proves your caring is genuine.  These are your steps toward real friendship, and you take them willingly.
  • Responsibility – Your Responsibility theme forces you to take psychological ownership for anything you commit to, and whether large or small, you feel emotionally bound to follow it through to completion.  Your good name depends on it.  If for some reason you cannot deliver, you automatically start to look for ways to make it up to the other person.  Apologies are not enough.  Excuses and rationalization are totally unacceptable.  You will not quite be able to live with yourself until you have made restitution.  This conscientiousness, this near obsession for doing things right, and your impeccable ethics, combine to create your reputation: utterly dependable.
  • Restorative – You love to solve problems.  Whereas some are dismayed when they encounter yet another breakdown, you can be energized by it.  You enjoy the challenge of analyzing the symptoms, identifying what is wrong, and finding the solution.  You may prefer practical problems or conceptual ones or personal ones.  You may seek out specific kinds of problems that you have met many times before and that you are confident you can fix.  Or you may feel the greatest push when faced with complex and unfamiliar problems.  Your exact preferences are determined by your other themes and experiences.  But what is certain is that you enjoy bringing things back to life.  It is something to its true glory.  Intuitively, you know that without your intervention, this thing – this machine, this technique, this person, this company – might have ceased to function.  You fixed it, resuscitated it, rekindled its vitality.  Phrasing it the way you might, you saved it.
  • Self-assurance – Self-assurance is similar to self-confidence.  In the deepest part of you, you have faith in your strengths.  You know that you are able – able to take risks, able to meet new challenges, able to stake claims, and, most important, able to deliver.  But self-assurance is more than just self-confidence.  Blessed with the theme of Self-assurance, you have confidence not only in your abilities but in your judgment.  When you look at the world, you now that no one can make your decisions for you.  No one can tell you what to think.  They can guide.  They can suggest.  But you alone have the authority to form conclusions, make decisions, and act.  This authority, this final accountability for the living of your life, does not intimidate you.  On the contrary, it feels natural to you.  No matter what the situation, you seem to know what the right decision is.  This theme lends you an aura of certainty.  Unlike many, you are not easily swayed by someone else’s arguments, no matter how persuasive they may be.  This Self-assurance may be quite or loud, depending on your other themes, but it is solid.  It is strong.  Like the keel of a ship, it withstands many different pressures and keeps you on your course.
  • Significance – You want to be very significant in the eye of other people.  In the truest sense of the word you want to be recognized.  You want to be heard.  You want to stand out.  You want to be known.  In particular, you want to be known and appreciated for the unqieu strengths you bring.  You feel a need to be admired as credible, professional, and successful.  Likewise, you want to associate with others who are credible, professional and successful.  And if they aren’t, you will push them to achieve, until they are.  Or, you will move on.  An independent spirit, you want your work to be a way of life rather than a job, and in that work you want to be given free reign, the leeway to do things your way.  Your yearnings feel intense to you, and you honor those yearnings.  And so your life is filled with goals, achievements, or qualifications that you crave.  Whatever your focus – and each person is distinct – your Significance theme will keep pulling you upward, away from the mediocre toward the exceptional.  It is the theme that keeps your reaching.
  • Strategic – The Strategic theme enables you to sort through the clutter and find the best route.  It is not a skill that can be taught.  It is a distinct way of thinking, a special perspective on the world at large.   This perspective allows you to see patterns where others simply see complexity.  Mindful of these patterns, you play out alternative scenarios, always asking, “What if this happened?  Okay, well what if this happened?”  This recurring question helps you see around the next corner.  There you can evaluate accurately the potential for obstacles.  Guided by where you see each path leading, you start to make selections.  You discard the paths that lead nowhere.  You discard the paths that lead straight into a fog of confusion.  You cull and make selections until you arrive at the chosen path – your strategy.  Armed with your strategy, you strike forward.  This is your Strategic theme at work: “What if?” Select. Strike.
  • Woo – Woo stands for winning others over.  You enjoy the challenge of meeting new people and getting them to like you.  Strangers are rarely intimidating to you.  On the contrary, strangers can be energizing.  You are drawn to them.  You want to learn their names, ask them questions, and find some area of common interest so that you can strike up conversation and build rapport.  Some people shy away from starting up conversations because they worry about running out of things to say.  You don’t.  Not only because you are rarely at a loss for words, but you actually enjoy initiating with strangers because you derives satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection.  Once the connection is made, you are quite happy to wrap it up and move on.  There are new people to meet, new rooms to work, new crowds to mingle in.  In your world there are no strangers, only friends you haven’t met yet – lots of them.

How To Identify Your Strengths
You'll likely recognize a lot of these strengths in yourself.  The key isn't to whittle the list down to your absolute strongest talents, the ones that differentiate you from others and that come easiest for you.

A lot of the strengths resonated for me.  I took two passes.  On my first pass, I made the following list:

  • Achiever; Arranger; Competition; Deliberative; Developer; Fairness; Focus; Empathy; Ideation; Individualization; Intellection; Learner; Maximizer; Self-assurance; Significant

On my second, pass, I modified some of my choices and whittled it down to the following five strengths:

  • Achiever; Ideation; Individualization; Maximizer; Self-assurance; Significant

I don't know that I've yet got the precision I need but it's a start.  I plan to ask others for their feedback and to help me find my blind spots.  I also plan to take the StrengthsFinder evaluation.

Taking the StrengthsFinder Evaluation
You can go to the authors' site at - and take the evaluation.  You need a copy of the book, Now, Discover Your Strengths, for an access code to take the evaluation.

Key Take Aways 
Here's my key take aways:

  • Identify your signature strengths.  Don't just know what you're good at.  Identify what you are great at.  This difference makes all the difference in the world.
  • Be your best.  The key here is to be your personal best.  This is why modeling somebody else's success may not come easy for you.  You may not have the same strengths.
  • Cultivate your strengths.  The key is to focus on your strengths and not your weaknesses.  Reducing your weaknesses is not the path to greatness.  Improving your key strengths is your personal path to excellence.
  • Use the sum of your talents.  It's not about having a single strength, it's about using the synergy of your strengths.
  • Find a fit for your strengths.  Leveraging your strengths turns your work into passion.   What's work for somebody else is your play if you find the right way to leverage your unique talents.
  • Amplify your results with your network.  Once you know your key strengths, you can find the people that complement you in strengths that you lack.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Counteracting the Me Syndrome

How do you build a collaborative environment at work? Do you lead by example? Can you move your focus off yourself? Do you lift others up and help them to succeed? Do you treat others as you expect to be treated? Can you perform random acts of kindness and expect nothing in return? Can you forgive and forget those that don't treat you as you expect?

What would life at work be like if you could resist greed, anger, and delusion? What if you could avoid the traps of ignorance, aversion and attachment? You could very well be your best self. In Work from the Inside Out: Seven Steps to Loving What You Do, Nancy O'Hara writes about steps you can take to avoid overly focusing on yourself and how you can improve the spirit of cooperation at work.

The Me Soup
O'Hara writes:

"When we sit in a selfish, deluded state of mind -- the me soup -- our attitudes turn to poison and taint everything. We see the world through the me prism and stand ignorant of what is truly going on. Then our desires and attachment to the way we want things take us over and control us. Next, when the world doesn't conform to our fantasies, we move into a state of aggression and hatred."

What Can I Do For You
O'Hara writes:

"This is a pattern that gets repeated over and over again in big and small ways, even during the course of one day, never mind a lifetime. But you can alter this pattern and change your habitual ways of operating simply by directing your attention away from thoughts of 'What about me?' to thoughts of 'What can I do for you?' "

Love and Compassion are the Antidotes
O'Hara writes:

"In a nutshell, it is imperative that you throw into the mix of your life a large dose of love and compassion. Otherwise you will get lost in the vortex of greed, anger, and delusion. Love and compassion are the antidotes to ignorance, aversion, and attachment."

Cooperation Over Competition at Work
O'Hara writes:

"Love and compassion belong as much at work as they do at home, if only to counteract the meanness that is too often prevalent in the workplace. And this you can do. You can help change the atmosphere at work. You can stop thinking solely about you and begin to think about others. This will bring you more joy and happiness than any other approach -- though this should not be your sole motivation, because having such an expectation will only set in motion the cycle of greed, anger, and delusion. So be careful here. Do it, but as you do it be loving and compassionate -- for its own sake, then for the sake of others, and, lastly, for your own sake."

The True Goal, The True Meaning of Life
O'Hara writes:

"Here's why, according to the Dalai Lama: 'If you contribute to other people's happiness, you will find the true goal, the true meaning of life.' Isn't this what you really want? Isn't this why you've read this far? Isn't it in fact what we all want? To the Dalai Lama's sentiment we can add, When you behave in a loving and compassionate way while at work, your day-to-day satisfaction on the job will increase."

Six Ways to Counteract the Me Syndrome at Work
O'Hara provides six ways to counteract the me syndrome:

  • Imagine yourself in your coworkers shoes. Sometimes you may think your focus is on others, as you watch them get a promotion or accolades from the boss or some other perk related to the job. But too often, even as you congratulate them, you may harbor feelings of resentment and self-pity. Next time, put your anger aside and imagine yourself in your coworker's shoes. Feel their joy. Be happy for them. Don't look at what you don't have. Take the focus off you -- let it be on them, with love in your heart. If you can't yet feel the love, be at least willing to be happy for them. Create that intention in your heart.
  • Lend a helping hand. If one of your colleagues falls behind in their work, lend a helping hand. And before you lapse into judgement, and without acting superior, attempt to discover why the person is behind -- become a compassionate listener if your coworker is willing to open up (without jeopardizing either job, and keeping the focus on work.) Realize that when every member of the team is efficient, everyone wins.
  • Keep your ego out of it. Learn to be a team player. Don't just look out for number one. Become a worker among workers, no head higher than any other. Don't play the big shot. And if someone else does, don't engage in battle. Think about what's best for the group. Keep your ego out of it but do your best. If there's trouble in the group, express kindness toward this person. Notice the effect. Be awake and aware at all times. Be involved in the process and not in your own small mind. Park your petty ego outside the door and work with your healthy one -- the one that thinks and behaves in estimable ways and can take care of you without taking the events of the day personally, the one that can rise above any mean-spiritedness and not boast about it.
  • Treat everyone with the love and respect that you yourself deserve and at the end of the day you will be at peace with yourself. If your motivation in practicing loving-kindness at work is to make people like you, cease and desist at once. It is not in your control, and in the end it is none of your business who likes you. What is your business is loving and caring for all those around you, even if you don't like some of them so much.
  • Be generous with your ideas, your knowledge and your expertise, without being foolhardy. Share what you know. Don't keep secrets. If someone walks away with one of your ideas and claims credit for it, have compassion for them and believe that they needed it more than you. Express gratitude for having this person in your life and trust that you will someday know why they are there. Don't be stingy with yourself. Your gifts are just that, gifts, to be shared with the world. Nothing withers the spirit more than repression and stinginess.
  • Engage on a regular basis in anonymous acts of charity. Do something nice for someone at work and tell no one. Do this especially for someone who has hurt you or for you hold bad feelings. And don't make it so obvious that the benefactor can be none other than you. Anonymity here is most important. Notice the impact that such an act has on the receiver, if you are in a position to notice. Best of all is simply doing, walking away, and letting go. Just be awake for its effect on you.

Key Take Aways
Cooperation and collaboration is a better place to be in the end. Here's my key take aways:

  • Focus on the greater good. If you focus on yourself, you limit your vantage point and you send the wrong signals.
  • Don't harbor resentment. Forgive and forget. Dwelling robs you of opportunities to be your best. It also creates the wrong intentions, limiting you and driving the wrong behaviors.
  • Contribute to other people's happiness. Lift others up. You'll build a better place to be. The act of raising others will force you to operate at a higher level.
  • Expect nothing in return. If you only manipulate or expect reciprocity, then your intentions are off and you'll be let down.
  • Let go of what you don't control. You can't make others like you. Don't get hung up on trying to control what you can't. Focus on being your best and helping others independent of their intentions or their reactions.
  • It's how you get things done. Focus more on your why and how and the rest will follow.

My Related Posts

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Five Principles to Improve Your Conversational Writing

How do you improve your writing?  How do you make your writing more conversational?  How do you cultivate a personal style in your writing and your speeches?  In Perfect Phrases for Executive Presentations: Hundreds of Ready-to-Use Phrases to Use to Communicate Your Strategy and Vision When the Stakes Are High (Perfect Phrases), Alan M. Perlman, Ph.D. writes about five principles you can use to improve your writing and speeches to make them more conversational and personal.

Five Principles for Improving Conversational Communication
Based on results and experience, I agree with Perlman's principles for more effective writing and speech.  His five principles for improving conversational communication are:

  • Principle 1 - Replace abstraction with action.
  • Principle 2 - Replace passive with active expressions.
  • Principle 3 - Break up long compound structures.
  • Principle 4 - Expand nominalized sentences into full sentences.
  • Principle 5 - Use contractions.

Principle 1 -  Replace Abstraction with Action
You should mention people over using abstractions.  Perlman provides examples:


  • The modernization of our facilities is proceeding on schedule.
  • Current projects show a very constrained outlook.
  • Management recommended radical cost reductions.
  • Any increase in the gasoline tax of sufficient size to significantly impact the budget deficit.


  • We're modernizing our facilities and proceeding on schedule.
  • We are/Our staff is currently projecting a very constrained outlook.
  • Management recommended that we cut our costs radically.
  • If we/the government increase(s) the gasoline tax enough to significantly impact the budget deficit ...

Principle 2 - Replace Passive with Active Expressions
Say who's performing the action so it sounds more personal.  Don't avoid the passive completely but emphasize who or what is performing the action where you can.  Perlman provides examples:


  • Three thousand additional employees were hired.
  • Our cost-reduction efforts were intensified.
  • These conclusions which were drawn from the study, ...
  • When combined with renewed emphasis on product quality, these efforts can ...
  • It is assumed that new products will claim a significant market share.


  • We/The firm hired three thousand additional employees.
  • We intensified our cost-reduction efforts.
  • These conclusions, which I/we/our consultants drew from the study ...
  • When we combine them with renewed emphasis on product quality, these efforts can ...
  • We/I assume that the new products will claim a significant market share.

Principle 3 - Break Up Long Compound Structures
Spell out what you mean.  Don't use clever and concise compound phrases that only specialists understand.  Write out the phrases using simple words.  Perlman provides examples:


  • sales tax
  • user call placement procedure
  • committee meeting agenda


  • increase in the tax on sales
  • procedure that people use to place calls
  • agenda for the meeting of the committee

According to Perlman, for specialists communicating to each other, these long compounds become a kind of in-group shorthand.  You don't have to spell out the relationships between the elements, like in the examples above, because the audience already knows what they mean.  When you cultivate a personal style, on the other hand, you're replicating spontaneous speech.  Use only the compounds that are clearly understandable.

Principle 4 - Expand Nominalized Sentences into Full Sentences
When we use nouns instead of verbs or adjectives -- a process called nominalization -- to compress part of a statement, we make communication more complex.  Perlman provides an example:


  • The expectation of management is that the economy is at the beginning of recovery


  • Management expects  the economy to begin to recover.

Perlman writes:

"The problem with nominalization is that it requires the listener to reconstruct the sentence that's been compressed.  There's also a cultural problem with nominalization.  Frequent nominalization is well established in the language of bureaucracies, scientists, and others whose professions require an impersonal style of communication.  Since actions expressed as nouns rather than verbs allow the agent (the doer) to be omitted, nominalization may leave doubts as to who's doing what.  (In fact, bureaucrats may love nominalization just because it avoids mentioning who did what.)

To make your communication more conversational and more intelligible to non-native speakers, convert each nominalization to a full sentence."

Principle 5 - Use Contractions
Contractions are a very strong signal of a personal conversational style.  Perlman provides a set of common acceptable contractions for everyday speeches:

Acceptable for all but the most formal of speeches ...

  • Contractions with not: won't, wouldn't, shouldn't, can't, couldn't.
  • Contractions with pronoun or that with am/are/is: I'm, you're, he's, she's, it's, we're, they're, that's
  • Contractions with will: I'll, you'll, he'll, she'll, we'll, they'll
  • Contractions with have/has: I've, you've, he's, she's, it's, they've
  • Contractions of I would: I'd

Acceptable only in spoken language or very informal written communications

  • Contraction with is (e.g. executive's -- as in executive's leaving)
  • Contraction of it will: it'll
  • Contraction of pronoun and would: you'd, he'd, she'd, we'd, they'd
  • Contractions of pronoun and had: I'd, you'd, he'd, she'd, they'd.

How To Choose Between a Personal or Impersonal Style
Perlman writes:
While most of your speeches will be in a personal style, you'll want to be sensitive to those situations in which a little more formality is required -- for example, a eulogy or a serious business or scientific/technical presentation.  Ask yourself how your subject is typically discussed and what your audience expects.  Then adjust your language accordingly.

The Quality of Your Life and Communication
Writing and speaking are powerful tools if you use them effectively.  In fact, I think you can argue that the quality of your life is the quality of your communication to yourself and others.

Conversational Over Formal
While some audiences and communities require impersonal speeches and writing, a lot of the most impactful communication is conversational and personal. 

In school, I learned to write formally and put the focus on the topic.  On the job, I've learned to be more adaptable and put the focus where it makes sense, whether it's the topic or the reader. 

I've also learned to use a more conversational style and to choose simpler words and phrases.  This helps me reach a wider audience and makes the information easier to follow.  After all, what good is the information, if I can't help you understand it or use it?

Key Take Aways
Here's my key take aways:

  • Where appropriate, choose conversational over formal.  Kathy Sierra says it best in her post, Conversational writing kicks formal writing's ass.
  • Don't make the reader work too hard.  Don't write to impress, write  to be understood.  If your audience has to reparse every sentence in their head just to follow along, then you're making them work too hard.  You can use the approaches above to help fix this issue.
  • Speak the same language as your audience.  Not literally, but figuratively.  If you want to reach a wider audience, then avoid jargon where you can and say things as simple as possible, but no simpler.  When you're among specialists in your field, then feel free to use your special words and phrases.  For example, among a bunch of pattern authors, we can speak using patterns and condense our conversations.  Outside that audience, it doesn't help to use terms that have to constantly be explained.
  • Keep your audience front and center.  Picture your audience immediately across the table from you.  This helps you make the right trade-offs for words you use and the style you choose.  It's hard to go wrong, when it's right for your audience.
  • Don't try to please everybody.  You can't.   There isn't a universal style that makes everybody happy.  However, you can eliminate some problem patterns in your writing or speaking that turn your audience off.
  • Eliminate worst things first.  If you want to make big improvements, pull your big levers first.  Get some feedback from folks you trust to identify the top three things they'd like you to improve.
  • Know the secret of great writing.  Luckily, the secret to great writing isn't about your writing at all.  It's the feelings, insights and actions you inspire in your readers. 
  • Know what you want to accomplish.  Knowing is half the battle.  Do you want to inspire, educate, improve ... etc.?    Knowing that helps you figure out what to tune in your writing and speaking.
  • Measure by effectiveness.    If you know what you want to accomplish, know you can gauge your effectiveness.

Friday, February 1, 2008

2007 Post Roundup

A colleague suggested I do a roundup of my posts. I thought this was a great idea, and timely, since I've been trying to find a better way to get to some of my older posts. I still need to improve this, but I like having a post that makes it easy to browse my 2007 posts.

I've changed my style over the past year, based on reader feedback. At the end of the day, I want each post to be a nugget of insight and action that you can quickly consume.

When I started the year, my early posts were more like book summaries, and they weren't very actionable. What I try to do now is summarize the insight, share relevant quotes from the book, then summarize my key take aways.

I'll experiment with more post patterns this year, measure effectiveness, and adapt based on your feedback.

Post Roundup
I've organized my posts by book title. Enjoy!

The 3 Keys to Empowerment

The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding

Brilliant NLP


Coping with Difficult Bosses

Crucial Conversations

Dealing with People You Can't Stand

The EMyth

Feeling Good

The First 90 Days

Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Flawless Execution

Get Them On Your Side

It's not the BIG that eat the SMALL

The Leadership Challenge

The Power of Focus

Scenarios Stories and Use Cases

A Simple Statement

Simple Zen

Six Thinking Hats

Social Psychology

Software Architect Bootcamp

Sources of Power

Think and Grow Rich


Unlimited Power

The War of Art

Well-Read Life

Work From the Inside Out

Your Road Map for Success