Tag Archives: Leadership

First Principles of Value Creation by Joe Plumeri

A beautiful read that is worth reading and re-reading. Joe was CEO of North America at Citi which was the best performing stock in the 1990s and now is a senior executive at KRR, having turned around Willis and First Data. In this 2019 talk he shares eight of his first principles of value creation

Plumeri’s 8 Principles

  1. Vision
    1. Where’s grandma’s house? Where as we going
    2. We all need a vision. Without one, people will make up their out
  2. Purpose
    1. Do you passionately care about the client and vision?
  3. Make a big deal out of everything
    1. Delegate authority but never responsibility
    2. Write notes to everyone and recognize people as often as possible
    3. Gerald Ford helping to get friend buried at Arlington made me cry
  4. Create a no doors culture
    1. Go “play in traffic” – go make things happen
  5. Create a performance-based culture
    1. Citi had a program where if you didn’t exercise the stock, then you got double the amount. That’s how Sandy Weill was able to keep everyone
    2. Gave stock wherever he worked and he always put shareholders first. Would never even visit a tourist attraction if he was traveling because it was the shareholders who had paid to get him there
    3. Ownership, team building, everybody on the same page
  6. Widen the value gap
    1. The value gap is what people or companies can do for themselves compared to what you can do for them. You always want to be expanding this gap
    2. Never be in a commodity business
    3. Are you competent or compelling?
    4. Price is an issue in the absence of value
  7. Your reach should exceed your grasp
    1. Always ask, “What else?”
  8. Surround yourself with people who want to do great things
    1. Viking effect of burning boats, getting everyone all-in

Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration by Warren Bennis

Summary

  1. This book examines Great Groups systematically in the hope of finding out how their collective magic is made.

Key Takeaways

  1. Focused on seven epic teams that have had enduring impact. They are:
    1. The Walt Disney studio, which invented the animated feature film in 1937 with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
    2. The Great Groups at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC)
    3. Apple, which first made computers easy to use and accessible to nonexperts
    4. The 1992 Clinton campaign, which put the first Democrat in the White House since Jimmy Carter
    5. The elite corps of aeronautical engineers and fabricators who built radically new planes at Lockheed’s top-secret Skunk Works
    6. The influential arts school and experimental community known as Black Mountain College
    7. The Manhattan Project.
  2. Overview
    1. Truly profound and original insights are to be found only in studying the exemplary.
    2. Great Groups have some odd things in common. For example, they tend to do their brilliant work in spartan, even shabby, surroundings.
    3. Efficiency is, in fact, not a word much used by the groups in this book. Driven by a belief in their mission, unconcerned by working hours or working conditions, these groups aim to make a difference, not to make money. Could efficiency, productivity, and the desire for immediate pay-offs occasionally be road blocks on the way to greatness?
    4. The more I learned, the more I realized that the usual way of looking at groups and leadership, as separate phenomena, was no longer adequate. The most exciting groups—the ones, like those chronicled in this book, that shook the world—resulted from a mutually respectful marriage between an able leader and an assemblage of extraordinary people. Groups become great only when everyone in them, leaders and members alike, is free to do his or her absolute best.
    5. Great Groups are inevitably forged by people unafraid of hiring people better than themselves. Such recruiters look for two things: excellence and the ability to work with others.
    6. But probably the most important thing that young members bring to a Great Group is their often delusional confidence. Time forces people, however brilliant, to taste their own mortality. In short, experience tends to make people more realistic, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
    7. Virtually every Great Group defines itself in terms of an enemy. Sometimes the enemy is real, as the Axis powers were for the Manhattan Project. But, more often, the chief function of the enemy is to solidify and define the group itself, showing it what it is by mocking what it is not.
    8. Life in Great Groups is different from much of real life. It’s better. Bambi veteran Jules Engel recalls that the great Disney animators couldn’t wait to get up in the morning to get back to their drawing boards. Fermi and the other geniuses of the Manhattan Project continued to work on the Gadget even when hiking in the mountains on their Sundays off. It wasn’t simply that the work was fascinating and vitally important. The process itself was exciting, even joyous.
    9. Something happens in these groups that doesn’t happen in ordinary ones, even very good ones. Some alchemy takes place that results, not only in a computer revolution or a new art form, but in a qualitative change in the participants. If only for the duration of the project, people in Great Groups seem to become better than themselves. They are able to see more, achieve more, and have a far better time doing it than they can working alone.
  3. Leaders
    1. The leaders who can do so must first of all command unusual respect. Such a leader has to be someone a greatly gifted person thinks is worth listening to, since genius almost always has other options. Such a leader must be someone who inspires trust, and deserves it. And though civility is not always the emblematic characteristic of Great Groups, it should be a trait of anyone who hopes to lead one.
    2. “I explained my views to the orchestra. I did not impose them. The right response, if forced, is not the same as the right response when it comes out of conviction.”
    3. Who succeeds in forming and leading a Great Group? He or she is almost always a pragmatic dreamer. They are people who get things done, but they are people with immortal longings. Often, they are scientifically minded people with poetry in their souls, people like Oppenheimer, who turned to the Bhagavad Gita to express his ambivalence about the atom and its uses. They are always people with an original vision. A dream is at the heart of every Great Group. It is always a dream of greatness, not simply an ambition to succeed. The dream is the engine that drives the group, the vision that inspires the team to work as if the fate of civilization rested on getting its revolutionary new computer out the door.
    4. The way an environment is structured can have an enormous imp
    5. act on creativity, for good or for ill. The atmosphere most conducive to creativity is one in which individuals have a sense of autonomy and yet are focused on the collective goal. Constraint (perceived as well as real) is a major killer of creativity, Amabile has found. Freedom or autonomy is its major enhancer.
    6. Many Great Groups have a dual administration. They have a visionary leader, and they have someone who protects them from the outside world, the “suits.”
    7. The zeal with which people in Great Groups work is directly related to how effectively the leader articulates the vision that unites them.
    8. The best leaders understand very basic truths about human beings. They know that we long for meaning.
    9. Jack Welch once said of his role at General Electric, “Look, I only have three things to do. I have to choose the right people, allocate the right number of dollars, and transmit ideas from one division to another with the speed of light.”
    10. Luciano De Crescenzos observation that “we are all angels with only one wing, we can only fly while embracing each other” is just as true for the leader as for any of the others.
    11. The ability to plan for what has not yet happened, for a future that has only been imagined, is one of the hallmarks of leadership of a Great Group,
    12. Americans don’t like people claiming credit for other people’s work. It violates their sense of fair play. And so Walt Disney was more or less forced to come up with a satisfactory explanation of exactly what he did at the company that bore his name. The Disney version of the truth, the one that the studio would turn to again and again, was the bee story. It appeared, for instance, in “The Magic Worlds of Walt Disney,” an article on the Disney empire that ran in National Geographic in August 1963: You know, I was stumped one day when a little boy asked, “Do you draw Mickey Mouse?” I had to admit I do not draw any more. “Then you think up all the jokes and ideas?” “No,” I said, “I don’t do that.” Finally, he looked at me and said, “Mr. Disney, just what do you do?” “Well,” I said, “sometimes I think of myself as a little bee. I go from one area of the studio to another and gather pollen and sort of stimulate everybody.” I guess that’s the job I do. I certainly don’t consider myself a businessman, and I never did believe I was worth anything as an artist.
  4. Greatness starts with superb people.
    1. They see connections. Often they have specialized skills, combined with broad interests and multiple frames of reference. They tend to be deep generalists, not narrow specialists. They are not so immersed in one discipline that they can’t see solutions in another. They are problem solvers before they are computer scientists or animators. They can no more stop looking for new relationships and new, better ways of doing things than they can stop breathing. And they have the tenacity so important in accomplishing anything of value.
  5. Great Groups and great leaders create each other.
    1. Disney, John Andrew Rice, and Steve Jobs not only headed Great Groups, they found their own greatness in them. As Howard Gardner points out, Oppenheimer showed no great administrative ability before or after the Manhattan Project. And yet when the world needed him, he was able to rally inner resources that probably surprised even himself. Inevitably, the leader of a Great Group has to invent a leadership style that suits it. The standard models, especially the command-and-control style, simply won’t work.
  6. Every Great Group has a strong leader.
    1. This is one of the paradoxes of creative collaboration. Great Groups are made up of people with rare gifts working together as equals. Yet, in virtually every one there is one person who acts as maestro, organizing the genius of the others. He or she is a pragmatic dreamer, a person with an original but attainable vision. Ironically, the leader is able to realize his or her dream only if the others are free to do exceptional work. Typically, the leader is the one who recruits the others, by making the vision so palpable and seductive that they see it, too, and eagerly sign up.
    2. Leaders of Great Groups inevitably have exquisite taste. They are not creators in the same sense that the others are. Rather, they are curators, whose job is not to make, but to choose. The ability to recognize excellence in others and their work may be the defining talent of leaders of Great Groups.
    3. The respect issue is a critical one. Great Groups are voluntary associations. People are in them, not for money, not even for glory, but because they love the work, they love the project. Everyone must have complete faith in the leader’s instincts and integrity vis-a-vis the work.
  7. The leaders of Great Groups love talent and know where to find it.
    1. The broader and more diverse the network, the greater the potential for a Great Group. The richer the mix of people, the more likely that new connections will be made, new ideas will emerge.
    2. Being part of a group of superb people has a profound impact on every member. Participants know that inclusion is a mark of their own excellence. Everyone in such a group becomes engaged in the best kind of competition—a desire to perform as well as or better than one’s colleagues, to warrant the esteem of people for whom one has the highest respect. People in Great Groups are always stretching because of the giants around them. For members of such groups, the real competition is with themselves, an ongoing test of just how good they are and how completely they can use their gifts.
  8. Great Groups are full of talented people who can work together.
    1. Certain tasks can only be performed collaboratively, and it is madness to recruit people, however gifted, who are incapable of working side by side toward a common goal.
    2. Although the ability to work together is a prerequisite for membership in a Great Group, being an amiable person, or even a pleasant one, isn’t. Great Groups are probably more tolerant of personal idiosyncrasies than are ordinary ones, if only because the members are so intensely focused on the work itself. That all-important task acts as a social lubricant, minimizing frictions. Sharing information and advancing the work are the only real social obligations.
  9. Great Groups think they are on a mission from God.
    1. Their clear, collective purpose makes everything they do seem meaningful and valuable. A powerful enough vision can transform what would otherwise be loss and drudgery into sacrifice.
    2. The army had recruited talented engineers and others from all over the United States for special duty on the project. They were assigned to work on the primitive computers of the period, doing energy calculations and other tedious jobs. But the army, obsessed with security, refused to tell them anything specific about the project. They didn’t know that they were building a weapon that could end the war or even what their calculations meant. They were simply expected to do the work, which they did—slowly and not very well. Feynman, who supervised the technicians, prevailed on his superiors to tell the recruits what they were doing and why. Permission was granted to lift the veil of secrecy, and Oppenheimer gave them a special lecture on the nature of the project and their own contribution. ’’Complete transformation,” Feynman recalled. “They began to invent ways of doing it better. They improved the scheme. They worked at night. They didn’t need supervising in the night; they didn’t need anything. They understood everything; they invented several of the programs that we used.” Ever the scientist, Feynman calculated that the work was done “nearly ten times as fast” after it had meaning.
  10. Leaders of Great Groups understand the power of rhetoric. They recruit people for crusades, not jobs.
  11. Every Great Group is an island—but an island with a bridge to the mainland.
    1. Great Groups become their own worlds. They also tend to be physically removed from the world around them.
    2. People who are trying to change the world need to be isolated from it, free from its distractions, but still able to tap its resources.
    3. Participants in Great Groups create a culture of their own—with distinctive customs, dress, jokes, even a private language. They find their own names for the things that are important to them, a language that both binds them together and keeps nonmembers out. Such groups tend to treasure their secrets.
  12. Great groups see themselves as winning underdogs.
  13. Great Groups always have an enemy.
    1. When there is no enemy, you have to make one up.
    2. Competition with an outsider seems to boost creativity. “Win-lose” competition within the group reduces it.
  14. People in Great Groups have blinders on.
    1. In Great Groups, you don’t find people who are distracted by peripheral concerns, including such perfectly laudable ones as professional advancement and the quality of their private lives. Ivy League colleges are full of well-rounded people. Great Groups aren’t. Great Groups are full of indefatigable people who are struggling to turn a vision into a machine and whose lawns and goldfish have died of neglect. Such people don’t stay up nights wondering if they are spending enough time with the children. For the duration, participants have only one passion—the task at hand. People in Great Groups fall in love with the project.
    2. But Great Groups often have a dark side. Members frequently make a Faustian bargain, trading the quiet pleasures of normal life for the thrill of discovery Their families often pay the price. For some group members, the frenzied labor of the project is their drug of choice, a way to evade other responsibilities or to deaden loss or pain.
  15. Great Groups are optimistic, not realistic.
    1. As Seligman explained to Fortune magazine, the people most likely to succeed are those who combine “reasonable talent with the ability to keep going in the face of defeat.”
    2. Alan Kay once observed, “The way to do good science is to be incredibly critical without being depressed.” Great Groups don’t lose hope in the face of complexity. The difficulty of the task adds to their joy.
  16. In Great Groups the right person has the right job.
    1. Too many companies believe people are interchangeable. Truly gifted people never are. They have unique talents. Such people cannot be forced into roles they are not suited for, nor should they be. Effective leaders allow great people to do the work they were born to do.
    2. Many projects never transcend mediocrity because their leaders suffer from the Hollywood syndrome. This is the arrogant and misguided belief that power is more important than talent. It is the too common view that everyone should be so grateful for a role in a picture or any other job that he or she should be willing to do whatever is asked, even if it’s dull or demeaning
  17. The leaders of Great Groups give them what they need and free them from the rest.
    1. Successful groups reflect the leader’s profound, not necessarily conscious, understanding of what brilliant people want. Most of all, they want a worthy challenge, a task that allows them to explore the whole continent of their talent. They want colleagues who stimulate and challenge them and whom they can admire. What they don’t want are trivial duties and obligations. Successful leaders strip the workplace of nonessentials.
    2. All Great Groups share information effectively. Many of the leaders we have looked at were brilliant at ensuring that all members of the group had the information they needed. Bob Taylors weekly meeting at PARC was a simple, efficient mechanism for sharing data and ideas.
    3. Great Groups also tend to be places without dress codes, set hours, or other arbitrary regulations. The freedom to work when you are moved to, wearing what you want, is one that everyone treasures. The casual dress so typical of people in extraordinary groups may be symbolic as well, a sign that they are unconventional thinkers, engaged in something revolutionary.
    4. One thing Great Groups do need is protection. Great Groups do things that haven’t been done before. Most corporations and other traditional organizations say they want innovation, but they reflexively shun the untried. Most would rather repeat a past success than gamble on a new idea. Because Great Groups break new ground, they are more susceptible than others to being misunderstood, resented, even feared. Successful leaders find ways to insulate their people from bureaucratic meddling.
    5. One vital function of the leaders of Great Groups is to keep the stress in check. Innovative places are exhilarating, but they are also incubators for massive coronar-ies. Sundays off helped at Los Alamos and the Skunk Works.
    6. Civility is the preferred social climate for creative collaboration. In an era of downsizing and underemployment, many workplaces have become angry, anguished, poisonous places where managers are abusive and employees subvert each other. Such an environment isn’t just morally offensive. It is a bad place to do good work.
    7. Genuine camaraderie, based on shooting the moon together, is the ideal climate of a Great Group. When less attractive emotions come to the fore, they have to be dealt with before they threaten the project. Taylor’s model for resolving conflicts, which encourages colleagues to understand each other’s positions, even if they disagree, is an especially useful one.
    8. Members of Great Groups also need relative autonomy, a sine qua non of creativity. No Great Group was ever micromanaged.
  18. Great Groups ship.
    1. Great Groups don’t just talk about things (although they often do that at considerable length). They make things—amazing, original things, such as a plane that a bat can’t find.
  19. Great work is its own reward.
    1. The payoff is not money, or even glory. Again and again, members of Great Groups say they would have done the work for nothing. The reward is the creative process itself. Problem solving douses the human brain with chemicals that make us feel good.
    2. There is a lesson here that could transform our anguished workplaces overnight. People ache to do good work. Given a task they believe in and a chance to do it well, they will work tirelessly for no more reward than the one they give themselves. People who have been in Great Groups never forget them, although most groups do not last very long. Our suspicion is that such collaborations have a certain half-life, that, if only because of their intensity, they cannot be sustained indefinitely. Since creative collaboration is done by intellectual explorers, it is net surprising that most Great Groups are temporary. They ship, and soon end.

What I got out of it

  1. A concrete and very helpful synthesis of what traits great groups exhibit. The appendix has the 15 key lessons which is worth reading and re-reading

My Years With General Motors by Alfred P. Sloan

Some brilliant insights into human nature and organizational impact (annual car models, coordinated policy with decentralized authority, a policy of filling the gaps, how to incentivize employees with their bonus/compensation plans, the importance of sound dealer relations, and more). Too long of a book in many ways but worthwhile for anyone interested in business or GM’s history

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing

Hard to imagine the struggles they went through but one of the most surprising things about this book was how they seemed to be in a good mood and get along most of the time. What also stood out was Shackleton’s leadership – he got to know each of his men so intimately that he understood what they could/couldn’t do, who they could/couldn’t work together with, when they were at the edge of collapse and so much more. Although he was great, he also doubted himself and was unsure often. This other side of leadership, the doubtful side, is rarely talked about but always present. 

Setting the Table by Danny Meyer

Longer write-up and full notes can be found below. Worth reading in its entirety if you want a great perspective on leadership, communication, business, and “enlightened hospitality”

Russell Rules: 11 Lessons on Leadership from the Twentieth Century’s Greatest Winner By Bill Russell, David Falkner

Longer write-up and full notes can be found below. Worth reading in its entirety if you want a great perspective on leadership, mastery, “team ego” rather than personal ego, and so much more

Measure What Matters: OKRs: The Simple Idea that Drives 10x Growth by John Doerr

Summary

  1. OKR stands for “objectives and key results.” They are important in that they help drive good ideas forward by gaining clarity, transparency, and accountability. They are a collaborative goal setting structure for individuals, teams, organizations, or anything else. Objectives are what we want to get done – they must be concrete, actionable, and hopefully inspiring. They are a vaccine for fuzzy thinking and action. The key results are how we determine and measure the progress of getting to an objective. The results must be verifiable and have a number attached to them. Specific hard goals push people and if you have verifiable measures of progress you can hold them accountable. Goals create alignment, engagement, meaning, and fulfillment if done correctly. They’ll align people within a company and clarify what is most important, they break down silos, and help people communicate in the same language. They are meant to help communicate, measure, and achieve lofty goals.

Key Takeaways

  1. OKRs have four superpowers: Focus, Align, Track, and Stretch (FATS)
    1. Focus
      1. Setting objectives gives people a clear path on what to work on and what success looks like. Key results help indicate success and progress since there is a clear benchmark for what ‘success’ means for each objective 
      2. When people help set the objectives they are more likely to follow through
      3. Hand-in-hand with focus is a deep commitment. If you waiver or switch priorities often, you will waste time and confuse your team
      4. Objectives should be one line and clearly understandable. The key results must be objective and measurable
    2. Align
      1. OKRs allow teams to move very quickly as it is clear what the priorities are and ensures everybody is moving in the same direction
      2. Transparency is the key and modern goal setting people allow people to buy in and gives management has a clear idea of what people are working on and why.
      3. Objectives get people to flush out their hesitations or frustrations which helps foster communication and collaboration.  
      4. Alignment is extremely important but hard to come by and is the biggest lever to go from strategy to execution – if people don’t know the business model and what they’re doing to help the company succeed, it is hard for them to go all-in and know what they’re supposed to be working on.
      5. In addition, this transparency allows for the whole company to weigh in on the best objectives. The best objectives tend to come outside the C-suite, coming from the front line employees who have the best access to accurate information and changing trends.
      6. You also get more people thinking about the same problems – flushing out ideas, making connections that otherwise might not have been made, and getting cross-division collaboration
    3. Track
      1. OKRs are living and breathing goals, evolving and adapting with the needs of the company. OKRs are meant to be adaptive guardrails, not strict rules to follow.
      2. The OKRs have to be visible and related to daily, or else they fade into irrelevance. 
      3. Making progress in public goals is one of people’s most motivating factors. You need to write them down and follow up on them often
      4. The constant monitoring and making sure that you’re working on the right thing at the right time is more important than the actual objectives
      5. Expectations are easier to set across groups and fewer surprises can be expected when OKRs are set and tracked accordingly 
      6. Post-mortem: OKRs aren’t done even when completed. You can go through a post-mortem: objective scoring (are the objectives themselves valuable and correct?
      7. Google measures each one in a 0 to 1 scale, with anything above .7 being considered successful, subjective self-assessment, and reflection (what contributed to success, what obstacles did I face)
    4. Stretch
      1. Google adheres to and goes after the 10 X improvement. It requires a new way of thinking and a lot of courage to go for 1000% change vs. a 10% change
      2. A stretch goal cannot seem like a long arch to nowhere and it cannot be imposed from the top down, with no basing in reality. Employee buy-in is essential and leaders have to show that they think the objective is important and obtainable
  2. CFR
    1. Conversation – Feedback – Recognition
    2. OKRs set the direction and give clarity, CFRs provide the fuel to get there. They work hand-in-hand and help boost each other up. Continuous performance management rather than quarterly or annually
    3. A manager’s first job is a personal one – to build a deep and trusting relationship with all of their people. The quarterly feedback which is common and most companies is outdated and eats up a lot of time.
    4. CFR is an updated way to give your people feedback – building trust and pushing them to learn and grow.
    5. They help boost OKRs since people can go all-in, knowing that what they’re working on is important and getting appropriate feedback and recognition for their hard work.
    6. Conversation 
      1. It is important for managers to have one on one meetings with their people – the employee must set the tone and agenda, driving the conversation, but the manager must make themselves open and available to discuss and meet with them. This should help the employee with goal setting and objectives, help them look at their progress and areas where they can improve, enable two-way coaching, future career development, and lightweight performance reviews
    7. Feedback
      1. Feedback must be timely and specific in order to be effective
      2. Without consistent feedback it is very hard to know if you’re moving in the right direction and how you’re progressing
      3. Ask new employees – what they love, what drains them, what their ideal job would look like. Make it clear that the expectation is that they will always tell the truth and do the right thing, and that you’ll do the same
      4. Upward feedback – what are you getting from me that is helpful/harmful? What can I do for you to make you more successful?
      5. Career development – what skills or capabilities would you like to develop? In what areas would you like to develop and how can I help you get there?
    8. Recognition
      1. Continuous recognition is a huge driver of engagement and employee satisfaction. 
      2. Institute peer to peer recognition 
      3. Establish clear criteria – projects finished, values lived out, etc. Replace employee of the month with achievement of the month 
      4. Share recognition stories – blog or newsletter
      5. Recognition should be simple and attainable 
      6. Tie recognition into company goals and strategies – customer satisfaction, product launch…
  3. Other
    1. Ideas are easy execution is hard – OKRs help turn bold and audacious ideas into sustainable, scalable, and repeatable processes
    2. About 3 to 5 OKRs per quarter is about right. 
    3. There should be one sole owner for each OKR or else you dilute ownership and accountability
    4. Don’t confuse your mission with your objectives. Your mission is the direction you want to go and your objectives are the steps you need to take to get there. The mission should be extremely aspirational and the objectives more obtainable. This process allows you to be ambitious yet realistic
    5. Doerr’s favorite quote or definition of entrepreneur is “someone who does more than anyone thinks possible with less than anyone thinks possible”
    6. It is important to have rules from the start. Just like trying to give a teenager rules when there were none as a child, it will be difficult to implement after the fact
    7. The best turnover is internal turnover, where people move to different roles within the company to grow and learn
    8. The adoption period can be difficult and take up to a year, but it is worth it. It has to come from the top and everyone has to buy-in
    9. Culture is the only thing which can’t be commoditized or copied 
    10. Conviction and buy-in from leaders is most important to make this process work
    11. Should establish both ambitious and incremental OKRs

What I got out of it

  1. Some great, actionable takeaways on how to think about and establish OKRs, and why that’s important. CFRs is another great idea to take to heart and implement. Simple but definitely not easy

Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell by Eric Schmidt, Alan Eagle, Jonathan Rosenberg

Summary

  1. This is a “help-others” rather than a self-help book. It will teach you how to better help and coach others so that they can flourish

Key Takeaways

  1. Bill Campbell
    1. Bill began every relationship with a foundation of trust. This was essential to him and everybody he worked with felt it. He showed, from the beginning, and regardless of who the person was, that he cared
    2. He always preferred to be behind the scenes but is given credit for helping Apple, Google, and various other companies reach their full potential – totaling over $2T in market cap! Bill was always looking to help others with great compassion and empathy. He helped make sure the problems, ideas, and frustrations were flushed out rather than swept under the rug, making sure everyone was on the same page whether they all agreed with the decision or not
    3. Bill played football at Columbia but was severely undersized, yet led the team due to his effort and attitude. He later coached Columbia but failed and moved into the business world at 39. After only 5 years, he rose up the ranks as a senior executive, first at Kodak, then Pepsi and Apple, later as CEO of Intuit
    4. Bill was always happy and nice to everyone – he showed everyone, regardless of who they, were dignity and respect
    5. Bill was never afraid of crossing divisions within a company he was a sales and marketing guy to start out with but would go talk to the engineers directly and get their point of view, understand them, and help everyone work together
    6. Bill always advocated for more generosity rather than less – he thought that this was an easy and important thing to do for good people
    7. One of Bill‘s main roles was to shine the light on the elephant in the room. He would bring it front and center, expose it, and have people talk about it openly and honestly.
    8. Bill worked from first principles and invariant strategies. It didn’t matter if he was dealing with Steve Jobs and Apple or the flag football team he coached at Sacred Heart. He would treat everyone the same, be present, and follow his same game plan
    9. Bill saw all the chess pieces all the time because he wasn’t on the board! Can often be more effective when you’re not part of the system. Bill did this by not sitting on many boards and by also not taking any cash, or equity. “I don’t take cash, I don’t take equity, I don’t take shit.”
    10. Bill was huge on community and had many yearly trips with different groups – a Super Bowl trip, boys trip, family trip, and he always paid for everything. Even when he died, he set up an endowment to make sure that the tradition continued. He really understood the power of moments and ritual. Bill was heavily focused on building community always connecting people and building deep emotional ties 
  2. Was all about the people and wrote his “It’s the People” Manifesto to capture this idea
    1. “People are the foundation of any company’s success. The primary job of each manager is to help people be more effective in their job and to grow and develop. We have great people who want to do well, are capable of doing great things, and come to work fired up to do them. Great people flourish in an environment that liberates and amplifies that energy. Managers create this environment through support, respect, and trust. Support means giving people the tools, information, training, and coaching they need to succeed. It means continuous effort to develop people’s skills. Great managers help people excel and grow. Respect means understanding people’s unique career goals and being sensitive to their life choices. It means helping people achieve these career goals in a way that’s consistent with the needs of the company. Trust means freeing people to do their jobs and to make decisions. It means knowing people want to do well and believing that they will.”
    2. A manager’s job is to help their people become as effective as possible, to ensure their well-being and success 
    3. Develop a relationship with everyone – don’t be dictatorial, establish credibility, show you really care and love them
    4. Your title makes you a manager, your people make you a leader
    5. People will crown you as a good leader, a good manager – this never comes from yourself.
    6. A manager‘s role is firstly to help his people grow and fulfill their potential but also to help facilitate decisions and remove roadblocks from their people‘s paths. However he hated consensus as he believed this led to group-think. He wanted to air out all the ideas and give everyone a chance to voice their opinion‘s but ultimately the decision is the leader’s. 
  3. Teams > Individuals, Teams > Problems
    1. Bill coached teams and not individuals. When he met with Larry and Sergei of Google, he met with their whole staff not just the founders. He coached them on how to be better managers and leaders of their teams and also how to be better people overall
    2. Always focus on the team rather than the problem
    3. Begin every meeting with some social talk – asking about trips, weekends, plans, anything outside of work that people are passionate about. Deep relationships and clear communication are absolutely vital. Use meetings to get everyone together, build relationships, see each other’s strengths, get everyone on the same page, and make decisions
    4. Bill started meetings by writing five words on the whiteboard that he wanted to cover. He would sometimes ask the person he was coaching to write his top 5 – 9 words. This would help prioritize and show what each thought were the most important topics
    5. The leader should speak last and let everyone voice their opinion‘s. Getting the right answer is important but how you get there is just as important. Sometimes you have to make a hard and unpopular decision but it is the right thing to do – at this point the team has to “disagree and commit”
    6. Winning is important but winning right, winning as a team, is more important
    7. Leaders communicate effectively and clearly. When they see fissures developing, they stop them in their tracks. They fill in the gaps and make sure everyone is on the same page
  4. Other
    1. While a genius can help you in many ways, if they’re sucking up too much management time and aren’t able to work well with others, they shouldn’t be around
    2. An important lesson to learn is that you should only coach the coachable. Those who are coachable are honest and humble, persevere and work hard, and are open to hearing negative feedback.
    3. He always asked a ton of questions – “I would never tell anyone what to, but I would help people get to the root of the problem or help them get to the key question themselves.” Because everyone knew Bill cared and that he was coming from a place of trust and love, he could be extremely candid and blunt in his feedback. He was constantly giving feedback but, if it was critical, he would do it in private
    4. Listening and making sure whoever you’re with is being heard is vital – be present don’t be distracted. Truly listen to people
    5. Don’t tell people what to do. Instead, tell them stories about where you want to end up and let them figure out how to get there
    6. As a leader, you must be an “evangelist for courage” – giving people a greater ability to push past the fear and go for big, bold outcomes. When you set the bar higher for people than they otherwise would, you can get greater results than they thought imaginable
    7. Have the courage to be your authentic, full self. Do not water it down or hide it – this will help you gain people’s trust
    8. Seek people who have “smarts and hearts,”, integrity, work ethic, and are team players
    9. Solve the biggest problems and solve them first
    10. When things aren’t looking good, when you’re losing, recommit! Be positive, be decisive, infect others with this determination and positivity 

What I got out of it

  1. A really inspiring man who dedicated his life to giving back and helping others flourish – focus on the team rather than the problem or any specific individual, establish trust in every relationship, air out any problems even though it may be uncomfortable

The Captain Class: The Driving Force Behind the World’s Greatest Teams by Sam Walker

Summary 

  1. Sam Walker does an in depth analysis of the best sports teams in history and comes to the somewhat surprising conclusion that the overriding factor in each team’s sustained dominance was their captain. 

Key Takeaways 

  1. In a great team, the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. The teams can go “all-in” and trust each other which lead to non-linear outcomes
  2. The captains serve as glue, uniting the team to reach greater heights than they otherwise would. A competent leader is one of the rarest commodities on earth and we are hard wired to seek it out and follow it 
  3. Individual commitment for group success 
  4. The teams studied:
    1. The Collingwood Magpies (Australian rules football)
    2. The New York Yankees (MLB)
    3. Hungary’s International Men’s Soccer Team
    4. The Montreal Canadiens (NHL)
    5. The Boston Celtics (NBA)
    6. Brazil’s International Men’s Soccer Team
    7. The Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL)
    8. The Soviet Union’s International Men’s Hockey Team
    9. The New Zealand All Blacks (Rugby, 1986-1990)
    10. Cuba’s International Women’s Volleyball Team
    11. Australia’s International Women’s Field Hockey Team
    12. The United States’ International Women’s Soccer Team
    13. The San Antonio Spurs (NBA)
    14. The New England Patriots (NFL)
    15. Barcelona’s Professional Men’s Soccer Team
    16. France’s International Men’s Handball Team
    17. The New Zealand All Blacks (Rugby, 2011-2015)
  5. The captains exhibited qualities one would not typically associate with the stereotypical “captain”
    1. They lack superstar talent. In fact, clusters of talent did not correlate to better teams. The superstars knew they wouldn’t be captains and the captains knew they wouldn’t be superstars 
    2. Weren’t fond of the spotlight 
    3. They didn’t lead in the traditional sense – they were subservient to superstars and often didn’t take the “big shot”
    4. They were not angels – they played to the edge of the rules, sometimes berating opponents and even teammates in order to win
    5. They did potentially divisive things 
    6. They weren’t the usual suspects (Jordan, Jeter, etc.). They preferred to lead from the shadows 
  6. Barcelona is an outlier in spending as most of the Tier 1 teams were most dominant when they were relatively poor. Lavish spending gets you more wins but not necessarily more titles 
  7. Management and ownership is important but also not purely correlated to the greatest teams in history 
  8. Despite the three national championships and the endless accolades he received as one of the leagues best defensive ends, Willie Davis always played as if he was just above the cut line. The Green Bay packers always played as if they were clamoring for recognition 
  9. Coaching was not responsible for this success either. There was no correlation between the coach, their strategy, tactics, temperament, or anything else 
  10. It was a secret for nearly 40 years why Bill Russell never accepted his hall of fame stature but recently he revealed why. He thought of the award as an individual achievement when he wanted his career remembered as a symbol of team play. He was solely focused on internal culture and how many titles they won. He needed no recognition and in fact actively dismissed it. His atypical leadership style was not often connected to the atypical success the team had. All great captains shared this. Their seemingly erratic behavior brought their teams closer together and got them to play better 
  11. 7 traits of elite captains 
    1. Extreme doggedness and focus in the heat of competition 
    2. Aggressive play which tests the limits of the rules 
    3. A willingness to do thankless jobs in the shadows 
    4. Motivates others with passionate nonverbal displays 
    5. Ironclad emotional control 
    6. A low key, practical, and democratic communication style
    7. Strong convictions and the courage to stand apart 
  12. Tim Duncan is another elite example and his humility and how low key he was was a big part of his success. By lowering himself, he was able to coax the most out of his teammates. He was a “functional leader”, willing to do whatever was needed in order to win, even carrying water 
  13. The easiest way to lead is to serve 
  14. The best teams communicate enthusiastically outside of formal and competitive environments and talking time is doled out evenly. Most captains communicate little with the public but talk a lot with their team and foster constant communication. 
  15. These leaders are charismatic connectors – having energized and focused conversations, listening more than they talk, talking to everyone, and communicate well (and constantly) with words but even more so with their nonverbal cues. Styles differentiate but they’re all energetic, find styles that work for them and work on understanding their team and how to best approach each person
  16. Mirror neurons prove that mind and physical connections are contagious and the best leaders can infect their team with their enthusiasm, work ethic, confidence, etc 
  17. Some disagreement is good and the best captains protect their teammates and stand up to coaches and management when needed. Leaders must operate on the margin of what the team likes and wants rather than at the center of the collective consensus – often putting them in the middle of heated and difficult arguments. This type of positive dissent takes courage and was hugely important. Truth is more important than tranquility when told by a captain who protects his team and avoids personal attacks. It was never driven out of ego but for the desire to win 
  18. Emotional resilience and extreme emotional control is extremely important for overcoming adversity 
  19. We are programmed to respond to strong, steadfast, courageous and generous leaders 
  20. An Israeli study of decorated war vets lead to a leadership formula. Leadership = potential x motivation x development
  21. None of the great captains were named leaders early on. They were given a chance to study others and prove themselves 
  22. People actually get more power by slightly underplaying their skill – humility 
  23. Famous vs heroes – do something because others will approve vs doing something because it is the right thing to do
  24. Avoid a posture culture where people posture for the leadership position but rather one where the leader is chosen due to his ability to “carry water”, support others, have courage, and lead others, doing whatever it takes to get it right even if, especially if, it’s disapproved of by others 
  25. Great leaders do not need to be glamorous. They only need a solid idea of what success looks like and a road to get there. They do not need publicity and in fact often give the impression that they’re not worthy of leading at all 

What I got out of it

  1. “Extremes in outcome – both good and bad – often instruct best.” – Charlie Munger. Sam Walker appreciates this and his deep dive into the best teams brings about some fascinating insights on elite captain’s traits and some of their counterintuitive aspects 

The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done by Peter Drucker

Summary

  1. Most management books deal with how to manage others but this one deals with how to manage oneself; how to lead by example. Effectiveness is not natural and has to be learned and practiced deliberately. Being effective means doing the right things well

Key Takeaways

  1. Jim Collins did the foreword to this edition and highlights his 10 Key Lessons
    1. First, manage thyself 
    2. Do what you’re made for what you can be world class at. To work on exclusively what you’re bad at is foolish and irresponsible but you must address weaknesses which stand in the way of maximizing your strengths and achieving your full potential 
    3. Work how you work best and let others do the same
      1. You must focus on people’s strengths and build around that and not on their weaknesses. Find people who are better than you and who can deliver in specific areas bring them into your fold
    4. Count your time and make it count. This requires the discipline to schedule your time into blocks. The most effective people do one big thing at a time and don’t let distractions seep in. Create unbroken ‘think time’ blocks during your most lucid time of day and do them with regularity. Create chunks for people and random tasks which must get done. Attend only meetings that matter 
    5. Prepare better meetings by having clear reasons for the meeting and having disciplined follow ups. 
    6. Don’t make 100 decisions when one will do. Inactivity can be very intelligent behavior
    7. Determine what your distinctive impact can be in an organization – the one decision, behavior, or action that might not have happened if you were not there
    8. Stop what you would not start. Most people are too busy to work on truly important things so you must have a stop doing list and refine and rethink your daily tasks and objectives
    9. Run lean. An organization is like a biological organism in that the internal mass grows faster than what shows externally – the volume increases as a cube of the linear dimension but the surface area only as the square. You must fight and hold back internal growth which doesn’t help drive profits and goals.
    10. Be useful. Over success. Over wealth. Over fame. Be useful. 
  2. The best executives have personalities all over the map but Drucker found 9 shared traits
    1. They ask what needs to be done.
      1. You must prioritize this list every couple years. Once you tackle the biggest priority, you must redo the process. Can only focus on a maximum of two at any given time
    2. They ask what is right for the enterprise
    3. They make an action plan.
      1. This must include the name of the person who is accountable, the deadline, who this effects directly and must be made aware, who should be told even if they’re not effected 
    4. They take responsibility for the decisions
    5. They take responsibility for communicating the decisions
    6. They are focused on opportunities rather than problems
    7. They run effective and productive meetings
      1. End once the purpose has been accomplished. Announce the purpose of the meeting at the beginning. Sum up what happened, action items, who is accountable, deadlines, send to everyone involved
    8. They thought and said “we” rather than “I”
    9. Listen first, speak last
  3. The shift from manual labor and work to knowledge work is why the demands of executives today is so different than before
  4. Effectiveness is so important and must be learned. Especially in today’s knowledge-based economy. Knowledge work is not graded on costs or quantity but on results. Managers in the knowledge based field are those whose decisions have an outsized impact
  5. Hindrances towards effectiveness include being part of the system itself and not having enough perspective, not being willing to give up a lifetime of habits and work, not letting others step up, and not delegating enough.
  6. Events should not drive what an executive does. Rather, key criteria which help inform results and contributions should be his main focus. The truly important things are not the trends – they are what cause the trends and is why you should never focus on the events but on what lies behind them
  7. Effective executives have these skilsl
    1. They know where their time goes 
      1. Effective executives start with their time not with tasks because they know time is a limiting factor
      2. They record their time, they manage their time, and then they consolidate their time into long chunks.
      3. What can you do away with totally, what can you delegate?
      4. Don’t waste others’ time
      5. Reduce recurrent and predictable decisions
      6. Avoid overstaffing
      7. Reduce poor organization such as too many meetings
      8. Reduce poor information (wrong form or just wrong)
      9. Consolidated time is the key. Most executives don’t have more than 25% of their time at their disposal but if they come in chunks, it’s usually enough. Even if it was 75% but broken up, you’d never get anything done. 
      10. It is hard and rare to over-prune
    2. They focus on results rather than effort
      1. The focus on contribution over effort is the key to this whole book. This is what drives how you spend your time and the decisions you make. As a leader you must make a focus on contribution rather than effort the norm. This helps with communication, getting people to go all-in
    3. They understand what is expected of them and how they can get there
    4. They focus on and build on strengths not weaknesses – both theirs and others’
    5. They focus exclusively on areas where their focus will have outsized returns.
    6. They know that they have to do the most difficult and important things first and that there’s no time for the second things
    7. They make effective decisions and know that a few, big important decisions are the way to go. Many, rushed decisions lead to mistakes
  8. Although there are very many personalities, the one thing they had in common when making decisions was that they were slow and deliberate in personnel decisions
  9. Well managed business are boring and quiet. Crises have been anticipated and routinized. 
  10. Try to contribute in 3 areas: direct results, adding to culture and values, building the next generation 
  11. You must be able to see through the eyes of others and understand how they will use your output. This will help you use common language, put information in a usable form, etc. A generalist is simply a specialist who can translate their knowledge to a universal audience 
  12. You must always think and put tasks first and not personnel or else you will get politicking clash of personalities
  13. Jobs must be big and demanding for executives to see how they live up to it. You must judge the people you are considering by their strengths and what they would need to reasonably fulfill this job and you must have clear expectations and definitions of success
  14. With every strength comes a weakness so you must focus on and understand how does a person’s strength translate to a weakness 
  15. Staff for opportunities and not for problems
  16. You should remove incompetent men. Not only because of their lack of results, but because if they stayed on, it would hurt the rest of the culture. This is not a slight on the man but a slight on the leader who put him in the position to begin with
  17. George Marshall focused on strengths but also on weaknesses. He put Eisenhower in a position to learn about strategy and, even though he was never great, he was able to appreciate its importance later on
  18. Managing upwards is as important as managing downwards. You must make the strengths of your boss productive as their success and promotions will help you as well. Knowing yourself, and your strengths and weaknesses, and how to make your strengths productive is equally as important.  This is an attitude as much as a skill 
  19. The key skill is concentration on the first and most important things first and only doing one thing at a time. Effective executives also make sure that the organization as a whole focuses on one thing at a time. They review the past and anything which isn’t an emphatic yes, is curtailed or done away with completely, leaving time to focus on the most important things. Organizations need to stay lean and muscular just as biological organisms do
  20. Fresh eyes which give fresh perspective is vital 
  21. Setting priorities and posteriorities (a list of what not to do) is more about courage than knowing what to focus on. You must be future-focused – rather than looking at the past, you must look at opportunities rather than problems, you must be willing to set your own agenda and make your own decisions rather than relying on others, and aim high for things which will truly make a difference rather than playing it safe
  22. Effective executives ultimately make effective decisions. They take their time, know what’s truly important, focus on a few things at any one time, and know that quick decisions are sloppy and not impressive
  23. Effective decisions have these common traits
    1. Is this a generic or a specific situation and problem?
      1. As generic problems can have rules and principles to deal with where a specific problem must be dealt with individually.
      2. Executive executives don’t make many decisions because they don’t have to they figure out which problems are generic and through their rules and principles are able to adapt to situations quickly and effectively 
    2. They asked themselves if they would be able to live with the decision for a long time. If not, they keep on working on the solution
    3. They asked them selves, “what are the specifications of the problem they are trying to solve, what are the objectives, and how will they know if their decision has been a good one?” These are the boundary conditions – the minimum results necessary that must be achieved
    4. They ask what is right rather than what is acceptable
    5. They ask and figure out how to turn the solution and question into action. Asking who has to know is as important as understanding the capacity of the people involved in acting out the decision. You must build the execution of the decision into the decision itself which is very difficult
    6. There has to be a feedback loop. This has to be built into the decision to continuously test the assumptions and the actions as they face reality. You cannot get too removed from the process. You must touch the medium and see if yourself how the actions are being carried out and the reactions to it
  24. What is the criteria necessary to determine success and how do you measure that? The effective executive assumes that the traditional measure is wrong otherwise they probably wouldn’t be in this predicament. 
  25. The best executives consider alternatives and this causes dissension and disagreements which is very healthy and can lead to the better decisions and outcomes
  26. You must begin with trying to understand and only then trying to figure out what is right and what is wrong. Like a first-year lawyer is assigned to argue the other side’s case before they’re allowed to think about their own, we must truly understand all sides before making a decision
  27. The last question an effective decision maker asks is, “is the decision even necessary?” Better to not act at all if not needed. Act or don’t act. Don’t hedge or go halfway. Only act if your decisions and your actions are needed and important – if things will work out without your involvement, leave them be
  28. Above all, what is needed is courage. Courage to focus on what you think is right and ignore what you don’t believe will make a difference
  29. Don’t just say this was a great book figure out how it will change how you act and behave. That is the sign of a great book

What I got out of it

  1. Loved this book. So much to gain from reading and re-reading – focus on where your time goes, manage yourself first, know how you work best, focus on contributions rather than effort, know what your role is and how you can most impact the organization, few and deliberate decisions, have the courage to not follow the crowd, encourage dissension and sharing of opinions…