A compilation of thoughts

I’ve had a relentless few days of writing  so I thought I’d pull all of the pieces into one place as some are currently just sitting on LinkedIn…so

For my reflections on the UK launch of Google Glass. Yes, I look like a….

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For a reminder that CEOs are people too

For that exclusive extended interview with Dr Maslow Pinkwell

For some thoughts on the need to be honest about motives when talking engagement

And if you don’t normally check it out you should make Christopher Demers’ best of blogs a fixture on your reading calendar. It is wonderfully curated and if you read some of his work whilst you are there you will be better off for it. Every word makes you smarter.

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10,000 hours of 70:20:10 – an interview

2 weeks ago I was lucky enough to be afforded a rare interview with Dr Maslow Pinkwell about his new book and talk to him about his unique position as a ‘composite thought leader’

Could you give me a brief synopsis of the new book?

The key focus of the book is to centre people’s worklives on areas where they can spend at least 10, 000 hours developing their skills within a 70:20:10 framework, utilising their personal drive in situations where they can exercise autonomy, mastery and purpose to be authentic leaders. This is work 3.1.

Does the book serve as a practical guide or is it more a detailed research examination?

No. I wouldn’t describe it as either.

How does the approach you take differ from your last book ‘Blinking through tipping points’?

The last book largely focused on research from the 90’s and a smattering of real life examples to support the arguments I made. For this book I’ve largely given up on real life examples and I’ve had to use research from the 50’s to make sure it feels new to people. There are however a significant amount of simple anecdotes that allow you to draw incredibly strong conclusions on key subjects.

What is the creative process for a book like this?

It was a pretty arduous undertaking. I had ten minute conversations with a number of people that I picked based on qualifications and obscurity. I then had to edit to make them seem more accessible and I also had to hit the credibility ratio.

What’s the credibility ratio?

70 per cent of the material had to feel vaguely familiar and the remaining 30 per cent had to be dumbed down enough for people to be able to remember and repeat. That’s why there are large gaps in lots of my arguments. I’m smart enough to realise that people wouldn’t actually cope with the really smart stuff. Lots of things could plausibly conflict with my position, so I had to be careful to acknowledge those things but then give the impression that smart people would never believe something so obvious. Leading people by the hand through a dangerous minefield of contradictions.

What actions do you hope people will take after reading the book?

I’d be delighted if they recommended it to friends and purchased the next one.

And finally, you describe yourself as a ‘composite thought leader’, what does that mean?

It means that there is as much artistry in packaging as there is in substance. For instance I’ve already written an extra chapter for the ‘updated version with new content’ edition before we have even published this one. That’s leadership. It’s all about vision.

What would you say to critics who say that your work doesn’t give a credible insight into what it takes to be a commercial success?

Check my bank balance.

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Cover art for the latest book was created by Simon Heath

Twitter goals and corrupting targets

I happened upon a question yesterday night in some tweets by Clare Haynes about whether people have ‘Twitter goals’. I said that I did and that I’d be happy to share – so here we go.

When I started working as an independent I realised that I had a wealth of options open to me as to how I operated and what I tried to achieve.

I could target a certain revenue amount or I could target a certain volume of days etc. If I wasn’t going to advertise then I was probably going to be on social media and if I was on social media I should probably have some quantifiable targets on what that time gave me.

Whilst that may seem like it would have been a smart thing to do I am more aware than most of the corrupting nature of targets, as I worked for the first company the regulators really cracked down on post recession. Targets, particularly ‘stretch targets’ create a tension and fog that changes behaviour and clarity of perception – rarely for the better.

I wanted to work in a different way – the ambition I set myself was to do cool work with cool people that makes a difference. I’m not a salesperson and I can’t do biz dev, so I figured I’d be myself and see what happened.

So instead of stretch targets I set myself ‘worthwhileness measures’ for the business. Numbers/soft measures that I should be able to comfortably hit if I was doing things the right way. And if I didn’t hit them then the activity was probably not worthwhile and I’d stop it or at least have a think about it. I then set myself some ‘audacious goals’ – things I’d be delighted to hit but had no expectation to. I’ve listed them below with the thought process behind them. I hope it’s useful .

Twitter followers – when I first started on Twitter (just over a year ago) I spent quite a bit of time looking at the stats of people I respected and the stats of people that used it in a way that I wouldn’t feel comfortable with. I remember reading a great piece from Mervyn Dinnen where he had analysed the engagement levels of folks with high numbers of followers and some of them may as well have been robots. I wouldn’t make a good robot. Most of the folk that I enjoyed engaging with and learning from had more than 700 followers. As it would only be worthwhile to be on Twitter if other people found me worthwhile I set a target of ‘approaching 700 followers by the end of the first year and 900 by year two’.

I also had some guiding rules that went with the worthwhileness target to keep me honest

  • I’d only follow people who I was interested in
  • I’d only follow back if we had something in common
  • No automation

Blogging stats – I had absolutely no idea what good blogging stats would look like. Sukh and Alistair were kind enough to share some of their numbers to give me context. I wanted to share stuff I was thinking about and not have to chase numbers – but if nobody is reading it then I wasn’t sure what the point was. On the other hand I had no desire to pump out work just because I thought it would land well. I settled on 8000 hits in the first year and 10,000 in the second year. I went for 8000 as it gives a target of 667 hits a month which is a silly number for a target and stops me getting hung up on whether I’m tracking to target each month – as working out percentages of 667 mentally is quite tricky. 10,000 would have felt too obvious and too ‘targety’. I then set myself some guiding rules that went with it, some of them deliberately contrary to the advice you get in the ‘how to write a popular blog’ guides.

  • Write when I feel like it – never write to a schdeule
  • Write about what I feel like – never write about a topic because it will be popular. I have had the odd popular one, but please trust me when I say there are several that sank for every one of those

Sexy blog reaction

  • Splurt the words out without reference to SEO etc
  • Stop it if it stops being fun
  • One person saying ‘that really helped’ justifies writing a post.

I did break my rules for one post just to see what happened, because I like experimenting. If you really want to read about ‘FlappyBird and business’ then feel free.

AND THEN MY AUDACIOUS GOALS – no specific time period, would just be cool

  • Visit Facebook, Google and Innocent
  • Become a published author
  • Keynote a conference
  • Get interviewed on TV (or by mainstream press) as an expert so my family can watch and understand what I do for a living…
  • Get published in a variant of HBR
  • Get a chance to talk to Dan Ariely, Steve Levitt, Malcolm Gladwell and Charles Handy
  • Trend on Twitter

I know some of these may seem like vanity metrics, but they are also reasonable measures of professional recognition and progress. And since they aren’t ‘in plan’ I can just take the opportunities if they come up. No pressure means no change in behaviour. I can just have fun.

Am I advocating this approach for everyone?

No – I’m genuinely just sharing because someone asked and I offered. For the moment I’m experimenting and it is working for me. I’d encourage you to experiment too – but the approach may not work for people with a greater ambition or need for control. I have huge respect for the folk that do genuine thoughtful business development, I just don’t have it in me.

My lack of business orientated targeting may, over time, come to be the reason I fail. It may be naive. For the moment? It feels worthwhile.

Would I try it in an actual company? These days, I might…

Because after all, this is what I’m in it for…

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Empathy

When you ask people to list the attributes of good leaders you get lots of nice things like Trust, Integrity, good communication and Vision.

What you don’t often get towards the top of the list is top notch ’empathy’.

You don’t get often enough ‘understands what I worry about when I’m not here’.

I’m not talking about leaders being able to name your 3 kids. That’s not empathy.

I’m talking about having some form of appreciation of what you have to do to juggle work and 3 kids.

Let me give you an example.

The first time that I had to manage someone who was pregnant I was in my early twenties with no children. I dutifully did all the ‘by the book’ things a manager should do to balance conversations about the individual (and how they were feeling) and what needed to be done for the company. I remember someone telling me the key to managing pregnant women is to understand ‘it’s not an illness’.

That’s true, but it is an almighty change and a physical and mental challenge.

My daughter is now 4. I can give you a list of some of the things I didn’t understand or empathise with earlier in my career

– the sleepless nights (due to how uncomfortable it is to have a giant bump preventing you getting comfortable)
– the tiredness and the emotional strain (all wrapped into one)
– the concern in case anything goes wrong
– the fatigue and sore feet and sore back
– having to cope with a feckless husband who is learning all this stuff more slowly than you are
– having to cope with a feckless male boss in his 20’s asking how you are but not being able to empathise

It’s the same with bereavement, illness and other life events. They are hard to understand unless you’ve been close to them or experienced directly. I’ve got better at managing people as I’ve experienced more. That isn’t a shocker – but how bad you can be if you just go by the book is worth reflecting on.

Understanding makes all the difference to the individual.

When people talk about ‘managing the whole person’ don’t think you have it licked because you can name the children of all the people in your team.

Empathy is more than that. Caring is more than that. Leading is more than that.

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Image for the quote is courtesy of Mark Ellis

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Dirty Rotten Bloggers and Thought Leechership

Last week I had the opportunity to go and see F.W. De Klerk speak about the end of apartheid and the importance of leadership – something that Kate Griffiths-Lambeth covers in wonderful detail here. I then went to see Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at the weekend. 

De Klerk spoke at some length about how the requirement of leadership is to stand for something, – not to just play back to the people what they want to hear in order to get yourself elected. It is an important distinction and a complicated one – is it arrogant to suggest that sometimes the leader will be in the best position to see what is best for the people? Is the essence of democracy enshrining of choice – or the enshrining of the choice of a leader? Since principles seem to shift over time how do you stand up for them?

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was great fun and one of the songs elaborated on what it took to be a great con man

“Give them want they want. Smooth and easy.”

So much of the content that we read is so similar to other content that it is hard to pick out

  • who is trying to make a point
  • who thinks in the same way as other people
  • who is just trying to sound ‘on message’ and give the people what they want

I’m pretty sure someone who has never worked in HR could read a few blogs/’thought leadership’ pieces and cobble them together into something that would get a good reception.

Top topics seem to be

  • Isn’t the recruitment experience a bit pants?
  • Aren’t performance reviews a bit pants?
  • Isn’t HR a bit pants?
  • Isn’t classroom training a bit pants?
  • Don’t we have too much policy?
  • Shouldn’t we have more diversity? 
  • Is x dead? (where x = engagement/thought leadership/ROI as required)
  • Shouldn’t we all use technology more?
  • Remote working is a good thing isn’t it?
  • Isn’t command and control a bit too commanding and controlling?
  • Isn’t Big Data an opportunity/a pathway to a dystopian future?

Maybe writing those is giving the people what they want? Maybe some of us are unwitting con artists and some of us are intentional con artists. Plenty of us will say we don’t write for the stats – but I bet not many of us would write if nobody read or responded. 

Maybe being unpopular is a sign of genuine leadership. Maybe the best thought leadership out there is so unpalatable or progressive that it doesn’t register, as it doesn’t fit into one of the categories above.

I’ve written posts on most of the topics above, so this is a reflection rather than a pop at other people. What would leadership in this space look like? Or is ‘social’, by its nature, more about collaboration than genuine creation? 

How can you tell someone exploring a topic from a stats hungry Dirty Rotten Blogger? How can you tell a thought leader from a thought leecher? 

Would it make any difference if you could? 

 

I don’t know who’ll want this post, but thanks to Mervyn Dinnen for the nudge

 

 

You think like a complete banker

Last week I found someone’s cashcard on the street. It was from one of the ‘traditional’ High Street banks. It was a horrible day with rain coming down by the bucket load in central London. I was looking like a Tesco Value Mr Darcy from THAT scene in Pride and Prejudice. A bit.

I thought it would be a nice thing to do to reunite the lost card with its owner – I imagine they were having a far worse day than me as losing access to your money is hugely stressful, especially if you don’t know if it has been lost or stolen.

Before becoming freelance I worked for Metro Bank for a short time – I’m declaring that up front as it might explain why I was so baffled by what happened next. If you worked at Metro Bank you had an amazing service ethic – you didn’t need it drilled into you (we hired for that) but we refined it until you always wanted to do the best for the customer.

This is what happened…

I walked to the nearest bank (I was comedically wet by this point) and eventually spoke to an assistant. I explained that whilst the card didn’t belong to one of their customers it would be great if they could reunite the owner and card. 

They explained to me that the nearest branch of the other bank was a 15 minute walk in the other direction and pointed me back into the torrential rain. Since I didn’t have 15 minutes to spare this wasn’t an option I could take. I won’t name the bank involved, but let’s say it rhymed with Snarkleys.

As I didn’t have time to spare I thought I’d call into a bank on the way back (where I did have an account) and see if they could be more helpful. They looked at me in a baffled fashion when I suggested they could somehow make steps to either reunite the cardholder with the card or let him know that it had been found. They took the card away and said they’d cut it up. They wouldn’t contact the other bank as the customer would eventually notice, cancel the card and so it wouldn’t make much difference. I won’t name the bank involved, but if you live in ‘the world’ they will be your ‘local bank’. 

Here is what I think would have happened in a service orientated bank – or just one with employees that thought about people

  • Somebody might have got me a towel (I was dripping wet)
  • There would have been interested in my issue/challenge – rather than just trying to deal with me as quickly as possible and move onto the next query
  • The bank would have offered to do one of the following i) find a way to reunite the card with the owner ii) find a way to notify the owner
  • Somebody would have said ‘I’m sure the cardholder would have appreciated you trying to help them, thanks’
  • After I left someone would probably have walked the card to the nearest branch of the other bank (or at least called them)

Why would they do this? Well, the person might even have been commercially aware enough that doing something useful for the person who lost the card might make them think about changing banks. Or they might just be a considerate person who likes helping.

Those two things probably aren’t mutually exclusive. We used to love helping people at Metro Bank because we wanted them to be fans and tell stories about how they had been surprised and delighted.

Those stories are nicer ones than, for instance, how your bank manipulated LIBOR or missold PPI.

Stories count – my experience with the lost cashcard is a story. Every interaction is an opportunity for a story.

Brands can distinguish themselves through the ways they help people – even those who aren’t customers.

Choosing not to help people also says a lot about you too…

‘It’s the same old story…’

Do snails like rainbows?

This morning my daughter (who is 4) asked me if snails liked rainbows. I took to Twitter to see if anyone knew for certain and I got the following replies.

Katie: I’m afraid snails wouldn’t be able to see a rainbow. Only see “dark” & “light”, really bad eyesight #randomstuffiknow

Swiftly followed by…. Katie: Now I feel like I crushed the dream!!! Far too practical for my own good. I’m sure they have rainbows in their minds!

Robert Ordever: it’s impossible not to like rainbows. Even as a snail.

Sue Gerrard: But they love the damp weather that causes rainbows.

And finally brilliantly from

Anna Edmondson: I think yes – everybody loves rainbows. And they may see them reflected in puddles…

And Simon Heath

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Sometimes answering the little questions can be as fun as answering the big ones. It’s all about perspective.

For anybody who is curious – I’ll show my daughter the picture and tell her they love the reflections.

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