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Phil's Books blog

Phil’s Picks for July: Break out of the metaphors

A couple of leaders I work with and respect (thank you Lincoln Barrett and Joerg Boeckler) sing the praises of this book.

I had a quick look at an interview with the author, Liz Wiseman, that John Mattone’s team did. And bought the book, based on Wiseman’s explanation of how leaders are either ‘multipliers’ or ‘diminishers’ in their impact on others.

No surprise there, but there’s real learning in how she explains that we can go around thinking we are multipliers when we are actually unintentional diminishers.

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter

'Multipliers' Book Cover

I loved Essentialism, and Greg McKeown, author of that, is involved with this book, too.

What particularly appeals to me about Liz Wiseman’s thinking is that it focuses on unintended consequences. Most leaders, in my experience, haven’t yet got to grips with complexity (though they think they have) and still see a clear ’cause and effect’ mechanism in place with themselves, usually, being ‘the cause’.

‘Make it so’ is a myth

This ‘make it so’ assumption in leadership (Jean Luc Picard, the captain in the later incarnations of Start Trek, remember?) is a fallacy and always has been.

But, the need to show that ‘yes, indeed we made it so due to you, dear leader, telling us to’ is so strong in most corporate cultures that it generates a kind of mythical story about what is happening, which runs alongside reality and slightly separate from it.

Until reality wins.

Think ‘acts of leadership’ not ‘leader’

Leadership is in acts that people do within complex large systems. Those acts of leadership emerge and are directed by and within a web of common purpose. Leadership does not sit in a person ‘at the top’ of the organization, making decisions, which the rest of the organization enacts.

Even ‘the top’ is a mental construct. There is no ‘top’. There is no physical height.

When Stephen Covey said “The leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, looks around and shouts down ‘wrong jungle'”, he wasn’t making a literal height-based point; the top of the tree equating to the top of the organization.

Our minds are so full of metaphors and constructs about how organizations work – pyramids, top of the organization, front line, middle managers – based on imposing physical shape – verticality in particular – on something that doesn’t have a physical entity, that we start to act and think in those metaphorical terms.

Break out of the metaphors and be real!

Wiseman’s book helps us break out of this tired (but persistent: take away the ‘vertical’ model of thinking and people get scared and want their ladder-like framework back) old view of structure – where the analogy becomes ‘real’ in our heads, with bosses somehow at ‘the top’ of something.

Another thing I spotted this month

Well, actually, it was the tail end of June, but it had its impact on me this month.

Words of wisdom on leadership from Queen Elizabeth II, aged 90, who said this last week: Phil'sBlogQueen

“One hallmark of leadership in a fast-moving world is allowing sufficient room for quiet thinking and contemplation, which can enable deeper, cooler consideration of how challenges and opportunities can be best addressed.”

Wow; smart woman our Queen :) . The faster markets move, and the more overwhelmed with ‘incoming’ information we are, the more we are tempted to respond with ever-faster decision-making.

Obviously that’s appropriate sometimes to avoid missing a fast-moving opportunity or to sidestep a fast-moving market threat.

But, we are in danger of losing the discipline of taking time to think properly, and making fast knee-jerk decisions to clear the modern equivalent of our in-tray.

“You call it procrastinating.
I call it thinking,”
– Aaron Sorkin
Phil

Phil’s Picks for June: Well done, Nathan!

So, my pick of leadership learning resources on the net for June 2016 is…

The brilliant Nathan Lozeron.

Nathan Lozeron

Nathan describes himself as

“Student. Teacher. Engineer. Project manager. Aspiring entrepreneur.”

He’s also taken the rather tired discipline of personal, team and organization productivity and injected dynamic learning into it with his smart use of animated book summaries.

You’ll remember the RSA started off this combination of drawing (it’s not really animation is it; it’s images drawn while the learning is being narrated to reinforce the learning) and voiceover a few years back.

Perhaps the most effective use of animated book summaries (read on this occasion by the author) was the RSA’s animation of Dan Pink’s reading of the main learning points from his book Drive.

Dan Pink's Drive Video

As with my gripe about infographics (see May’s post below), the RSA’s powerful ‘invention’ was then followed by hundreds of tedious copies (including some of the RSA’s own, to be honest) that never hit the heights of Pink’s Drive.

So, the new medium became devalued; populated with overlong animations with tedious voices and animators who sometimes didn’t quite get the core learning points.

So, just as I was jaded with this promising new medium (again, as with infographics, below), along comes Nathan with his consistently entertaining, focussed, inspiring, high quality version of this medium, complete with a one-page pdf delivered to your inbox if you subscribe, to help cement the learning.

Grit: this is beautifully done

Here’s the latest great distillation from Nathan: Angela Duckworth’s brilliant book Grit, which helps explode the myth of talent that McKinsey’s The War For Talent has foisted on large organizations for the past two decades.

Here’s Nathan’s brilliant animated learning summary. I say ‘summary’ but part of the strength of Nathan’s approach, I think, is that these videos show HIS take on the main learning points in new books. He adds value with his own insights – pointing at the learning ‘golden nuggets’ hidden in any book that he notices himself.

Notice how Nathan respects people’s time: That was a six-minute clip. Fits right into what my team and I have been championing as the only way to effectively engage people to develop their leadership today: keep it short and sharp!

As with all other ‘Phil’s Picks’ of web-based leadership learning, I have no commercial connection with Nathan at all. I just stumbled across his You Tube Channel, then subscribed to his website, thought “What a brilliant young man” and wanted to share the learning with you.

Here’s his website:  productivitygame.com

Here’s Nathan’s You Tube Channel: Productivity Game YouTube Channel

Phil


Phil’s Picks for May: Help! No more longwinded infographics please

This month I finally got fed up with INFOGRAPHICS as a medium. 

When infographics started to emerge, as short, sometimes instant-hit (as in the impact seared into you in milliseconds) picture-led information/learning/insights like this, I loved them:

Boss Leader Infographic

In fact the above is my fave infographic on leadership so far.

If anyone finds a better one, do send it to me :) .

As my approach to leadership development is all about ‘micro-lessons’ and “Learn a little every day” – which originated with The 60 Second Leader book – distilled learning ‘bites’ of leadership for time-poor leaders and would-be leaders – I thought the new breed of infographics would enhance our approach.

But, as with all new media, the form got confused with the content and I’m now besieged with a series of “infographics your website users will find essential” from the new breed of online marketers or ‘native advertisers’ with titles like

27 ways to engage the workforce

15 Things leaders get wrong

The Top 50 things leaders do

And they go on and on and on and on. You have to scroll endlessly to read. You know the kind of thing.

But, I do love the emergence of SKETCH NOTES

So, I’m heartened at the emergence of sketch notes, which feel more ‘real’ and peer to peer and rough and instant, now that ‘infographics’ have been taken over by the new marketers and trashed.

Here’s a great sketch note from a great practitioner of this new communication/learning art form,

5 Disciplines Sketch Notes

The above teaches us in condensed form – and provides a handy ‘aide memoire’ to allow us to recall the learning – the Five Disciplines in Peter Senge’s book The Fifth Discipline, which any aspiring learning organization needs to embed and practice constantly.

Hats off to Tanmay Vora, creator of the above, who distils important but bulky time-consuming leader learning into sketch note form to save us all time and to focus us in on the essential learning. That link takes you to his blog, where you can find more neat sketch notes like the above.

Sketch notes, and in particular Tanmay’s example of how to do them, is my pick of the month for May, as a form of leader learning that fits neatly into the ‘distil and inspire fast’ – little and often learning – model that I use with clients.

Phil


Phil’s Picks for April: on listening leaders

Note: We don’t do ‘native advertising’ or advertising disguised as opinion that links you to people we have a financial relationship with. I think that’s a despicable betrayal of trust. My recommendations, below, are simply that; my recommendations.

This month I was struck by the continuing urgent need for leaders to stop talking and learn to listen:

The secret to exceptional leadership

On an unlikely source, the Pub Landlord Advisor (!)  website, I stumbled across a nicely written article that’s like a basic primer on leadership. This jumped out at me from it:

What makes a leader exceptional

Over fifteen years, leadership consultant Lee Ellis quizzed hundreds of leaders and managers. He asked them to identity the one key attribute of their greatest leader that made them exceptional.

Guess what the most popular answer was?

They listened to me.”

Introverts and listening

Introverted leaders tend to be great listeners, particularly in one to one situations. It’s the extroverts who really have to learn that talking is only 50% of leadership communication, that listening is the other 50%. And it’s the neglected 50%.

So, I was drawn again this month to Susan Cain’s Quiet Leadership Institute, to see what they’re talking about there, and was rewarded with an interview with the author of a book I’ve just bought and haven’t had time to start reading yet, Charles Duhigg, author of Smarter, Faster, Better. 

I was delighted to see him say this in the interview:

Productivity-and-the-Power-of-Trust_Hero

“We know some of the best leaders act the way they want those around them to act, which can easily mean not being assertive, not being over the top—but instead being a calming, listening influence because other people will take that cue and they’ll learn from it.”

The rest of the interview is here: Productivity and the Power of Trust 

Which reminded me of this wonderful TED Talk on the over-riding need for leaders to learn to shut up and listen, so I went over to have another watch and listen to that:

A leadership lesson from hippos

A 1 minute story from Ernesto Sirolli on a leadership lesson we must learn again and again: shut up and listen.

“I decided when I was 27 years old to only respond to people.

So what you do… You shut up. You never arrive in a local community with any ideas and you sit with the local people… You become friends. You find out what that person wants to do.

Passion is the most important thing. If you gave that person an idea, and they don’t want to do it, what are you going to do?

The passion that a person has for their own personal growth is the most important thing. We help them to go and find the knowledge. Because nobody in the world can succeed alone.”

Leaders need to shut up and listen

Hope there’s something useful in the above to help you develop your (probably) neglected listening skills as a leader.

Phil


Phil’s Picks for March: Rob Roe’s FAQs for Organizations

‘Phil’s Picks’ steer you to the best leadership learning on the web.

Rob Roe was a leading contributor to the Leadership Hub’s Community of Practice – our original community when the Hub started back in 2008.

We’ve temporarily closed that community while we revamp it, as I had to stop facilitating it, as we had to focus on a big corporate client (we fund the Leadership Hub with the profit from our corporate clients, and I had to go get some profit!), and in the absence of a central facilitator, the Hub community got taken over by ego bloggers and spammers and the community disappeared. Maze

But, anyway, Rob was a real thought leader in that community when it was vibrant, and I’m delighted to see he’s taken that further still with his new online “FAQs for Organizations”. 

Rob is a deep thinker and recently sent me his blueprint of where organizations and leadership go wrong and how to fix it and I found it compelling.

Rob’s thinking emerges out of Systems Thinking and I feel that’s the only way for leadership to go if we are to move our lumbering slow organizations into a new agile world.

Or they’ll disappear, like that community temporarily did (it’ll be back! Working on it).

Anyway, here’s an example of Rob’s thinking. Click to go to his site and read on, if this opening sounds familiar to you:

 “When we return from the latest leadership program, best practices conference, offsite strategy workshop, we find ourselves still stuck in meetings all day long, we still can’t get decisions made, we still write and read enough emails to make War and Peace look like a short story and we still spend our weekends doing our actual jobs. And forget about trying to innovate, anything!”

Read more from Rob here.


‘Expert Interview’ with me, who doesn’t believe in experts

John Mattone Expert InterviewAlthough I always say I refuse to believe in the notion of expertise, particularly that I have any, I just did an interview over on John Mattone’s site as part of their ‘Expert Interviews‘ series.

As I’m supposed to be an expert in leadership development, the interview is about what I think is wrong with leadership development today and what large organizations should be doing instead.

Click here to read my radical rant on John’s site.John Mattone Expert Interview


The Leadership Hub will be at Learning Technologies 2016

We will be attending Europe’s biggest showcase on technologies that support learning at work (from 3rd-4th of February) to display our proven online leadership development community for large organizations.

I will be giving a Learning and Development seminar based on eight years in one of the world’s largest companies, bringing together 1,500 globally dispersed leaders to learn and share their best leadership practises.

Come see us on Stand K9!

And here’s the LT 2016 website!

And here are our event t-shirts!

Prepared to look good

 


What if you got rid of managers?

Chaos Reigns at Zappos as Company Moves Toward Self-Organization. Muuuwwaahaahaa :) from Zappos Insights on Vimeo.


New Look Leadership Hub

We’ve revamped the Leadership Hub open learning platform to be less about conversations and community posts and instead to focus on a series of ‘bitesize’ learning modules. All free.

The Leadership Hub was the world’s first global online leadership community of practice when we created it in 2007. Things have to evolve, so we’re trialling these new learning ‘bites’ as they fit in with the overall proposition in The 60 Second Leader – that people don’t have time for long drawn out training any more, and need regular, short, sharp blasts of learning in few minute ‘chunks’.

Yep, it’s the attention-based learning model that leadership neuroscientists Geoffrey Schwarz & David Rock wrote about as being more appropriate for time-poor busy people now.

Leadership Hub's New Look


A Book Distillery: Whole leadership books in 5 min animations

From 30SecondsMail (who have undercut me by 30 seconds, but I don’t care as it’s a great idea).

We recently launched our “Book Distillery”: We create super short and crisp 5 minute animated video abstracts of famous business books. There’s no easier and funnier way to digest a whole book in such a short time. And it’s 100% free (and always will be) :) We thought maybe your readers would like to know about it.

There will be one new “video-book” every week.

Here is our first video “Zero to One – by Peter Thiel

Coming up: The Lean Startup, the 4-hour work week and many many more. – Ajie

30Seconds

Check out Aije’s site by clicking here, or try a video by clicking the picture.