Micromastery: A Hidden Path to Learning and Happiness

Learning anything new is not a daunting challenge, but a journey where each step counts. Fundamentally, we learn so that we can be happy and joyful. Micromastery is a great way to eliminate anxiety in learning.

Two years back, I was fascinated by people creating sketchnotes and I wanted to learn how to create them. I was unaware of what goes into creating a great sketchnote but I decided to give it a try anyway. I remember taking up a quote and creating some rudimentary visual which I then shared on Twitter as a showoffable outcome. A couple of generous folks appreciated and that feedback fueled further exploration. I then explored more to learn about structure. My second sketchnote was incrementally better than the first one. It had a structure, some use of typography and separation of key ideas. I pushed it a bit further, one step at a time, by exploring visual metaphors, learning from the community, getting better at image quality and editing/coloring them using digital tools. And then, they started getting noticed. Each step fueled the other resulting in a body of work that I am incredibly proud of.

I never felt overwhelmed along this journey because I was doing it for the joy of doing it. I wanted to get better and at the end of every iteration, I wanted myself and the world to see an improved outcome. I was pursuing what Robert Twigger calls “Micromastery”.

This approach has served me well while learning how to write, speak in public, play a few songs on harmonica (mouth organ), sing solo and play a guitar.

Truth is, that is how we learn as kids. I can see my 5 years old son dabbling into so many things, learning in small increments and then improving upon it. He doesn’t want to be a specialist. He just wants to explore whatever interests him. His latest fascination is drawing the Amazon logo and he is getting better at it. His eyes shine when he succeeds at creating stick figures.

I read this book “Micromastery” by Robert Twigger with great interest. He defines micromastery as:

“A micromastery is a self-contained unit of doing, complete in itself but connected to a greater field.”

The book nicely explores different facets connecting micromastery to dynamic learning, getting into flow, polymathism (Neogeneralism, multipotentialite) and happiness. In many ways, reading this book was liberating because it tells us that we neither need permission to learn anything nor an overwhelming plan. We just need to find what we love doing, however insignificant, and start pursuing it.

If you are a keen learner who is interested in learning wide array of things instead of going just deep, this book is for you.

Here is a sketchnote covering some ideas from the book:

The Neo-Generalist

The books I love the most are not the ones that offer off-the-shelf “solutions” but ones that start a conversation, catalyze thinking, elevate understanding and help in thinking about a topic in novel ways.

And that’s why I loved reading “The Neo-Generalist” by Kenneth Mikkelsen and Richard Martin.  It is a book that bridges the gap between two extremes of specialism and generalism and introduces a neo-generalist as:

“The neo-generalist is both specialist and generalist, often able to master multiple disciplines. We all carry within us the potential to specialise and generalise. Many of us are unwittingly eclectic, innately curious. There is a continuum between the extremes of specialism and generalism, a spectrum of possibilities. Where we stand on that continuum at a given point in time is governed by context.”

The book introduces the concept and then takes it forward with the help of stories from many people who were interviewed as a part of the research for this book. Reading diverse journeys of so many multi-disciplinarians was insightful and only added new dimensions to the topic.

Somewhere in these narratives and stories, I could sense a deep connection with my own inclination towards neo-generalism right from my choices in school to how I have evolved as a professional. From that perspective, reading this book was very rewarding because it helped me map my own journey to the specialist-generalist continuum that this book talks about. Gaining new perspectives and expanding my own understanding of how we learn, choose and do things was a huge bonus.

I also loved the organization of book where quotes so eloquently encompass and extend the essence of the ideas. The bibliography section of book recommends other rich resources for extending the conversation.

Here is a sketch note summary of key points from the book that may offer a small preview of some key insights from this treasure.

More on The Neo-Generalist
Related Topics at QAspire

Critical Competencies for Effective Coaching (And a Book) by Lisa Haneberg

Great coaching is at the heart of meaningful accomplishments. In an organizational and team context, being able to coach people means helping them overcome their own resistance, get unstuck and move forward in the direction of their goals. Great coaching catalyzes great results.

But too often, we see managers and leaders getting so busy on the treadmill of getting things done that they lose focus on how those results are achieved. A leader’s constant job is to strike a balance between getting things done and developing people. Doing one at the cost of the other can be a great disservice to organization and its people.

I recently read revised edition of my friend Lisa Haneberg’s book “Coaching Basics” published by Association for Talent Development (ATD). It is a wonderful resource for organizational leaders, HR professionals and managers if they want to understand the nuances of how to coach others for greatness. I strongly recommend this book.

I was also fortunate to be able to write a blurb in this book where I say,

Companies often tell their leaders to ‘coach’ people without giving any guidance on the ‘how.’ Lisa Haneberg fills this important gap by offering a very useful handbook that clarifies the foundation of good coaching and offers actionable insights and tools for effective coaching.

– Tanmay Vora, Director, Product Development R&D, Basware

But when I read this book, I was instantly reminded of a wonderful post that Lisa wrote in 2014 where she outlined critical competencies of a great coach.

Here are a couple of excellent quotes from Lisa’s post:

“Coaching is a service and we cannot be successful if the learner perceives that we are helping to satisfy OUR needs or wants.”

“Great coaches are able to help learners adopt a more helpful perspective of the situations about which they are struggling.”

And here is a sketch note summary of coaching competencies that Lisa’s post outlines.

Get the book at: TD.org | Amazon

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Also read at QAspire.com:

Ideation and Entrepreneurship: Interview with Liz Alexander and Naveen Lakkur

Dr. Liz Alexander (who I interviewed in 2013 on the topic of thought leadership) and Naveen Lakkur (Director, Founder Institute, India) wrote a new book titled “FOUND – Transforming Your Unlimited Ideas Into One Sustainable Business. The book is short but powerful enough to help entrepreneurs and ideators in bringing their ideas to life by following a proven five part framework. I loved the simplicity of the framework and real-life case studies which complement the insights.

 

I interviewed Dr. Liz and Naveen Lakkur to learn more about the book and how it can help ideators and entrepreneurs.

[Tanmay Vora] Thank you Liz and Naveen, for sharing your insights here. I read your new book “FOUND – Transforming Your Unlimited Ideas Into One Sustainable Business” with great interest. I was curious to know what prompted you to write this book?

Thank you, Tanmay, for your interest in FOUND, which was a labor of love for us both. We always intended that this contribution be a catalyst that increases the success rate of entrepreneurship, not just remain a book. Especially since there seemed to be such a waste of time, energy and financial resources by many entrepreneurs in pursuing ideas that could not support sustainable businesses. You may have seen the statistic quoted by Adeo Ressi, the CEO and founder of Founder Institute in the Foreword to our book, that only about four in every 1,000 startups founded each year create a global impact. That equates to a 0.4% success rate, which I think you will agree is shockingly low. We sincerely hope that by following the proven, five-part process outlined in our book, we will see a considerable improvement in this figure in the months and years to come.

only about four in every 1,000 startups founded each year create a global impact. That equates to a 0.4% success rate

[Tanmay Vora] What is the number one thing according to you that keeps people from acting on their ideas?

It’s a great feeling, isn’t it, when you have what you believe to be a winning idea? You imagine that executing on it will be fun, easy, and rewarding. It’s only when you have to take action that you are thrust back into the world of reality. So we would say “fear of failure” is the top thing that stops people from moving forward with their ideas. Because then they have to face up to the fact that their desired outcomes may or may not come about. You have to have a strong heart and a huge amount of commitment to succeed as an entrepreneur—in fact, any kind of ideator. Which is why, for many people, it’s more comfortable for them to say, “I could have gone ahead with this idea, but….” and find excuses for not taking action. Despite the fact that there is always a huge amount of learning and benefit that comes out of seeing whether that idea could have become a viable business or a new product or service within an organisation.

“fear of failure” is the top thing that stops people from moving forward with their ideas.

[Tanmay Vora] Ideas are cheap, they say, execution is everything. But executing on an idea that is not viable is even worse. Is there an approach to guide us when assessing the business viability of our ideas?

You’ve hit the nail on the head of what the FOUND process is all about, Tanmay. The five-part framework we make available to readers reduces the time, money, and effort they may have otherwise expended on an idea that couldn’t become a business.

Let us offer a story from the book to illustrate what we mean. One of mentees that worked with Naveen through the Founder Institute, Bangalore had a background in Human Resources. He had a concept he called “Experience Zones” that he believed would boost employee engagement in large organizations. This, as we know, is a major issue to be solved. So you would expect that there would be no end of companies all vying to back this HR executive’s idea, right?

Sadly, that wasn’t the case. When he had visited 25 different companies to ask them what they thought of his idea, everyone said it was great and he should move ahead with it. But the “N” within the acronym FOUND stands for Negotiation. By that we mean getting more than tacit agreement. This ideator’s assignment was to get at least three letters from companies prepared to financially back his idea. But none of the 25 people who had been so enthusiastic about the overall idea were willing to put money into it.

That’s just one of the five parts of the FOUND process and all of them are essential as a discipline to follow if an entrepreneur (or intrapreneur) wants to confirm they have a market that will pay for their solution.

[Tanmay Vora] What are the top three things that an entrepreneur should do before they start acting on their idea?

What entrepreneurs should always look for is to offer a solution that fills a current or potential market need, rather than create a solution that’s looking for a problem to solve.

We’re going to offer three things that should only come after the five things entrepreneurs need to go through when reading FOUND. And they are all to do with creating a community that truly supports the business:

1. Co-founders who can bring different skills and experience to the business, perhaps through a background in marketing or sales or different technical competencies.

2. Customers who, early on in the development of the business, are willing to pay for the solution and prove there is a ready market for it.

3. Catalysts, such as ideation specialists and intellectual property lawyers whose expertise can help guide the start up through some of the stormy waters that lie ahead.

By engaging with all three of these groups, the business can truly accelerate. What entrepreneurs should always look for is to offer a solution that fills a current or potential market need, rather than create a solution that’s looking for a problem to solve.

[Tanmay Vora] My last question stems from Naveen’s introduction in the book which says “Converting Creative Concepts into Commerce with Compassion”. People believe that in most cases, commerce and compassion don’t go well together in a world of cut-throat competition. What does compassionate commerce really mean?

Thanks for this question, Tanmay. I (Naveen) has always believed that these two concepts can co-exist. If you take the definition of compassion it means having a deep awareness and sensitivity for others, especially when it comes to their misfortune. In the Free-Flow chapter of our book we point to how so many successful ventures have been the result of different emotions experienced by the founders.

It is that compassion in understanding that there are major pain points that you can solve for others that makes for the most successful commercial enterprises

Take redBus in India, for example. The whole idea came from the fact that one of the co-founders, Phanindra Sama, wasn’t able to buy a ticket to travel back to his home town during a major festival. It wasn’t just his disappointment that caused him to take action and create redBus but his recognition of how much distress this kind of lack of organization causes others.

In fact, we quote his co-founder, Charan Padmaraju in the same chapter who said, “It was all about building something that would be useful to someone.” It is that compassion in understanding that there are major pain points that you can solve for others that makes for the most successful commercial enterprises, in my view.

My specialization is to play the role of a catalyst to help these creative concepts become commercial realities, with compassion built in. Otherwise all we have is cutthroat competition.

[Tanmay Vora] Thank you so much for sharing your views here, Naveen and Dr. Liz. I am sure readers of this blog will find these ideas and your book, useful in bringing their creative concepts to life.

Thank you for the opportunity to share our perspectives on the ideation process, Tanmay. We’d like to close by pointing out that by following a similarly disciplined process to the one outlined in our book, the Founder Institute has achieved a 91% success rate in terms of ideas that survive, a 70% success rate of entrepreneurs that execute on their plans, and close to 45% success rate of ventures that have attracted external funding. By any measure, all of those statistics are considerable improvements on the 0.4% figure we mentioned in our first response.

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Related Posts at QAspire:

Building a Business Culture That Works for Everyone: An Interview with Diane K. Adams

 

Diane K. Adams is Chief People Officer at Qlik (NASDAQ: QLIK), one of the fastest-growing high-tech companies worldwide with nearly 2,300 employees in 30 countries. She has spent her career leading teams in Fortune 500 Human Resources organizations. Chief executives of smaller companies and international and national organizations and leaders also regularly tap her expertise as coach, consultant, and/or lecturer to help them hone their positive cultures. More than a ‘Human Resources’ executive, Adams is a ‘Culture and Talent’ expert. She specializes in helping companies recognize what’s required to energize their people and to achieve long-term success at the bottom line.

Diane recently published her new book “It Takes More Than Casual Fridays and Free Coffee – Building a Business Culture That Works for Everyone” which I read recently. Being a student of organization excellence, I caught up with Diane on a conversation about building high performance cultures. Here is what she shared:

[Tanmay Vora] Hi Diane, Congratulations for the new book. Culture of an organization always exists – either it is designed consciously or it happens by default. How can organizations be more deliberate about their culture?

[Diane K. Adams] Thanks Tanmay. You’re so right about culture. Every organization does have its own culture. Your company, your favorite sports team, a college or university, even a church, mosque or synagogue has its own culture.

Culture, after all, is the set of clear values that drive the thinking, actions, and attitudes of an organization and its people. One of my favorite definitions: culture is what you do when no one is looking.

Culture, after all, is the set of clear values that drive the thinking, actions, and attitudes of an organization and its people.

At successful companies, the culture is positive and values-based. It’s pervasive and intentional, and is reflected in everything the organization and its people say and do, in every action and every process internally and externally. In turn, team members, along with their companies, achieve excellence personally and professionally.

Whatever the culture, though, it’s important to remember that culture comes from the top. That means that to intentionally mold a culture starts with the leadership deciding those values that are important, and then modeling them in everything that’s said and done. Too often lofty values end up simply rhetoric. If a company’s leaders decide honesty and integrity is an essential value, they must act accordingly. Everyone, every action—from hiring and firing, to decisions, discussions, and more–must reflect honesty and integrity. For example, how someone’s employment is terminated says everything about a company’s culture. This is a time when everyone is watching. Too often terminations lack respect for the individual.

When it comes to reinforcing positive behaviors, top companies may reward team members who demonstrate excellence in terms of a specific value. The “reward” often is in the form of recognition—a note of praise from the leader or a mention of job-well-done at a peer meeting.

My personal approach to deliberately creating a successful culture adheres to the 7 Points to Culture Success outlined in my book. They include:

  1. Define Your Cultural Values and Behaviors
  2. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
  3. Integrate Your Values into All Aspects of Your Company
  4. Drive Culture through Leadership
  5. Show You Care: Engage and Invest in Your Team
  6. Give Back: Make a Difference beyond the Workplace
  7. Make It Fun: Reward, Recognize, and Celebrate

[Tanmay Vora] Corporations have vision, mission and values that are propagated across the company through various programs. But culture is built around actions by people at all levels. How can organizations bridge the gap between values and behaviors?

[Diane K. Adams] That’s an excellent question. Again, it’s about modeling the behavior you expect of others—living the value and acting on it. Also keep in mind that reward and recognition drive behaviors. Therefore, the primary way to bridge the gap between values and behaviors is to reward and recognize employees who demonstrate the positive behavior.

it’s about modeling the behavior you expect of others—living the value and acting on it.

For example, consider the value social responsibility, so important to energize your teams and foster long-term loyalty internally and among your customers. As a leader, you help cement the value in your people with your behavior. You act in ways that give back to the community—volunteering your time, your efforts, your expertise in ways to help others.

At my employer, Qlik, for example, on our internal website we highlight givebacks by our team members. Recently we ran an internal campaign–How Was Your Day?–and each day highlighted how a different individual used his or her volunteer day to give back to the community.

[Tanmay Vora] The book has a chapter on building culture of innovation. What advice would you share with a CEO who is struggling to build a culture of innovation?

[Diane K. Adams] First, kudos for recognizing the importance of innovation. After all, if you’re not constantly innovating, you’re falling behind your competition.

It’s not enough to say innovation matters. Companies and their leaders must instill a mindset of innovation across the entire company, not just in the product or research and development organizations. Every leader and every employee must continually ask the question, what’s the newest and best way to accomplish a goal–whatever that goal might be.

As I mentioned above, you can encourage this innovative behavior by highlighting individuals who have creative and innovative ideas. That means a recognition program and often a rewards one, too, for the best of the best.

The additional advice I would offer a CEO is also to strive for a culture of collaboration. That’s because collaboration fosters teamwork, brainstorming, and ultimately generates the best ideas. Remember, success is a team effort. No matter your company, industry, or competition, it’s important to constantly ask each other and yourself the question, how can something be accomplished better, faster, and more efficiently.

[Tanmay Vora] How helpful are cultural assessments (based on standard models) in culture building initiatives?

[Diane K. Adams] Very. At Qlik we regularly do full-blown culture assessments with the help of metrics and organizations like the Great Place to Work® Institute. The results provide us a measure of our progress and lay the foundation for developing very thorough action plans so that we can continually be at our best.

In addition, we do interim assessments of various aspects of our culture. For example, we might use an assessment tool to measure our progress in maintaining two-way communications. We also use in-house surveys from organizations like Survey Monkey.

After all, to accomplish a goal, you first have to know where you are in order to develop the right strategies to get there.

[Tanmay Vora] What are your top 3 tips for creating a culture of learning and development?

[Diane K. Adams] 1. First, it’s important to create an environment in which every team member has an annual individual learning plan (ILP). The plan sets goals, lays out strategies for achieving those goals, and helps each individual see clearly how he or she will learn, grow, and succeed along with the company. The best companies with true learning and development cultures view ILP goals with the same importance as annual performance goals.

It’s important to create an environment in which every team member has an annual individual learning plan

To achieve the highest performance rating, for example, an individual must excel in his or her performance as well as with his or her personal learning goals.

2. Leverage your talent. Learning and development doesn’t have to cost lots of money. Everyone contributes in his or her own way, so capitalize on this broad expertise that’s already available to you. First, identify individual talents (often utilizing a StrengthsFinder assessment tool), and then be intentional about providing opportunities for your people to learn from each other.

Be intentional about providing opportunities for your people to learn from each other.

Some ways to do that include holding internal webinars on specific topics that are led by team members who excel in that area. For example, someone with outstanding presentation skills could share his or her expertise with other team members. Another example could be holding monthly “lunch and learn” meetings with your team. Everyone gets together for lunch and a team member leads the training. The “teacher” could alternate depending on the topic and the person’s area of expertise. The company could pick up the lunch tab, or it could even be a pitch-in lunch with the company providing the drinks and the facility space.

Another way to leverage your talent is with a simple mentoring plan. Again, it starts with identifying the strengths of individuals throughout the company, and then making those talents known and available to others. That way if someone needs improvement in a specific area, he or she can then reach out to the right person.

3. Conduct annual talent reviews to identify and understand the strengths of your individual team members and their career goals. In turn, leadership then can be intentional with developmental career moves for its team members.

Research indicates that 70 percent of our learning comes through experience, which is why career development job moves are so important.

[Tanmay Vora] There are a lot of assessments, theories and best practices for building a culture of excellence. How does one “make it all happen”?

[Diane K. Adams] That’s another great question, and it’s what inspired me to write this book. The answer goes back to the basic definition of culture. Remember, creating a positive values-based culture is about being intentional and pervasive about each of the 7 Points to Culture Success.

So, the secret to a successful culture lies in intentionally defining your values and integrating them into every part of your organization.

For example, are your values incorporated into your performance review process? Do you have a recognition process for individuals who excel at the core values? Are your leaders rewarded for building a positive-based culture? Those are just a few of the ways you incorporate your values into and make your positive culture happen. It all ties back to the 7 Points to Culture.

[Tanmay Vora] If there is only ONE advice from your book that you would like to share with companies and start-ups, what would that be?

[Diane K. Adams] Every person and every company has the potential to be extraordinary. Creating a positive values-based culture provides an environment to do just that.

[Tanmay Vora] Diane, thank you for writing this book and for sharing your valuable insights here. I am sure readers of this blog will find your book and ideas very helpful in their own journeys of building excellent culture within their teams and organizations.

[Diane K. Adams] Thank you Tanmay. One last thought for your readers: Creating that great culture doesn’t have to be overwhelming or expensive. But it does take a recognition of those positive values that matter to you and your company, and then the commitment and courage to live those values in everything the company and its people say and do.

If you would like to learn more about how you can build a positive culture in your organization, please check out the FREE online workbook that accompanies my book at my website, www.DianeKAdams.com.

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Also read: Other Book Reviews at QAspire Blog

Hidden Strengths – Unleashing The Leadership Skills You Already Have

Most people ascend to leadership positions based on their areas of natural strengths. Tools like SWOT analysis also focus excessively on two things: strengths and weaknesses. So, our natural response as leaders is to leverage our strengths and improve on areas of our weakness. Yes?

But there is a large space between our strengths and weaknesses that which is hidden. Authors Thuy Sindell and Milo Sindell calls this space as “Hidden Strengths” in their new book by the same name. About 70% of our skills fall in this hidden space where we are neither excelling nor failing. And according to authors, our focusing on our hidden strengths provide a very fertile ground for our leadership and professional growth.

The book points to research which states that,

“Effective leaders evolve and grow throughout their careers, whereas failed leaders get stuck in a pattern of overusing their strength to the point of staleness.”

After a while, overusing our strengths may just turn out to be one of our weaknesses. And therefore, it is vital to first know the hidden strengths and then work to develop in those areas.

Our natural strengths are an intersection between our talents, knowledge and skills. However, the possibility of having natural strengths is only to an extent of 20%, i.e. your top 20% of skills. For rest of the skills there are missing pieces.

This book can be your effective guide in identifying those missing pieces. To do that, this book provides an overview of 28 skill areas that are divided into four categories:

  • Leading Self: How aware are you of your skills and limitations? How strong is your ability to self-regulate?
  • Leading Others: How do you interact with others in the organization?
  • Leading the Organization: To what extent do you think about the direction of the organization and how you function within it?
  • Leading Implementation: How are you ensuring that things get done?

Knowing that constant learning is our biggest competitive advantage in a rapidly changing world, we all try hard to develop our skills in areas we think we need to improve. But having a handy guide like this book can provide a definite direction to your self-development efforts.

This is a compact 80 page book that is not preachy in its tone, doesn’t offer any quick fix models but just outlines the premise, key skills and why they are important. Free online profiling of hidden strengths that comes with this book  also complements for brevity in content.

Whether you are a leader looking for improving your skills further or an aspiring leader, this book will offer useful insights into some of the key skills that contribute to great leadership.

Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say ‘Thank You’. In between, the leader is a servant.” – Max De Pree

Gone with the industrial age is the concept of traditional leadership where people at the top of pyramid exercise the power in a hierarchy. In a creative and connected economy, a leader’s first and foremost job is to serve to the needs of people they lead. To create an ecosystem where creative people thrive. To create trust by trusting others. To build a learning organization. To deliver meaningful results.

That is what Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes® Lousiana Kitchen, Inc says in her brand new book “Dare to Serve – How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others”.

Why dare? What kind of a leader is Cheryl Bachelder talking about?

“This is a different kind of leader with a rare combination of traits, courageous enough to take the people to a daring destination, yet humble enough to selflessly serve others on the journey. The dynamic tension between daring and serving creates conditions for a superior performance.”

I could see the same contrast/creative tension between “dare” and “serve” that Jim Collins described as “Fierce Resolve” and “Humility” as a trait of Level 5 Leader.

What I like about this book is that it is a first hand account of a CEO who turned the business around. In 2007, Cheryl Bachelder was hired to turn around the business situation that reeled with poor customer service, dwindling sales and troubled relationships with franchise owners. In the first part, Cheryl describes the journey of transformation, challenges, setbacks and ultimately the triumphs. In the second part, she puts forward anecdotes and specific examples of how leaders can become stewards of people and organization’s mission. The book makes you think through game-changing questions that Cheryl calls as “Dare to Serve Reflections”. Exercises and quotes makes the book all the more interesting and learning oriented.

The concepts of servant leadership or the paradoxes of leadership are not new. But Cheryl Bachelder does a great job at bringing these concepts to the fore using her own transformation experience. And for that, this book is valuable.

Here are some of the other gems from the book:

Helping people who want to find meaning and purpose at work is exceptionally rewarding. It is the leader’s opportunity to leave a legacy in lives of people you lead.

For principles to matter, they have to be “in action,” not on plaques. Principles must come alive in the daily conversations, decisions, and actions of the team.

Self-centered leadership is actually a lazy path. The leader merely wields power over others to achieve results for their own benefit. This is not difficult to do. But this approach stunts performance of the people and the enterprise. It cannot deliver superior results.

If you are a leader who is at the center of transformation responsibility, this book is a must read. If you are already someone who already leads through service, this book will help you gain a diverse perspective of what stewardship looks like in real life.


Also Read: Other book reviews/author interviews at QAspire.

Book Announcement: Implementing Lean Six Sigma in 30 Days

I am so glad to announce that my next book is just released. It is an actionable guide titled “Implementing Lean Six Sigma in 30 Days” that aims to help readers in understanding the Lean Six Sigma methodology and solve problems that undermine quality and inhibit efficiency.

This book is for business owners, quality improvement professionals and anyone in general who is driven by the desire to improve their team performance.

I co-authored this book with my colleague and friend Gopal Ranjan (to whom I am so grateful) and this book is published by ImPackt Publishing, UK.

As also written in the book introduction,

How can we improve? This is one of the most fundamental, but challenging, questions an organization can ask itself. It is never easy, but the ability to drive significant change that can bring positive results is immensely important for a business that wants to be successful in a rapidly growing market. Lean Six Sigma offers a way of answering this question, combining the approaches of both Lean and Six Sigma in a way that offers an opportunity for exponential improvement in a way that is manageable, flexible and sustainable. Spanning a month’s implementation process, this book will take you on a Lean Six Sigma journey, where you will gain a clear understanding of the fundamental principles, and develop a clear perspective of the process as it unfolds. From defining the problems to be tackled, to their measurement and analysis, this book leads you towards the stage of innovation where you can take steps that ensure and sustain improvements.

So, if you are a quality professional or an improvement consultant, you can use this book to guide your clients/organizations through their Lean Six Sigma journey.

Available on: Amazon and PacktPub Website

And yes, when you guide your customers through improvement journey, do not forget to align the content (the concept and implementation method) to your client/organization’s unique business context.

Because in the end, any methodology or best practice only delivers results when content intersects with context. It is this intersection where meaning is created.


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Double the Love: An Interview with Lisa Haneberg

 

Lisa Haneberg is an expert (and lifelong student) in the areas of organization development, management, leadership, talent management, and personal and organizational success. With over 25 years of experience she has provided departmental leadership, consulting, training and coaching solutions for manufacturing, health care, high technology, government, and nonprofit organizations. She has written 14 business books and speaks on a broad range of topics of interest to leaders and managers.

Lisa recently published her new book Double the Love – 11 Secrets for Cultivating Highly Accountable and Engaged Teams and I had a privilege of previewing some of the ideas before it was released and share a blurb in the book. I read the book with great interest and it just consolidated what I wrote in my blurb,

“Double the Love is a treasure trove of transformative ideas, secrets and wisdom on how to build an engaged and accountable workforce. Wish I had this book early on when I built my first team!” – Tanmay Vora, author, blogger and improvement consultant, QAspire.com

I caught up on a conversation with Lisa recently and here is what she shared:

[Tanmay Vora] Lisa, welcome again to QAspire Blog. I often hear senior leaders who complain about lack of accountability within their teams and organizations. What is the #1 mistake that leaders make when trying to make their teams more accountable?

[Lisa Haneberg] Thanks, Tanmay. I think that the #1 mistake is failing to understand how our performance systems work. As leaders, we use two performance systems – accountability and engagement. Accountability is an extrinsically motivating system, which means that it is a “push” system and thus the secret is to be consistent and have strong follow through. I have worked with leaders who proclaim a need for accountability, publish metrics, but then do little else to operate the accountability system.

[Tanmay Vora] I loved how you have differentiated and then related accountability and engagement. Please tell us a little more about that.

[Lisa Haneberg] Accountability and engagement are distinct systems, as I mention above. What this means is that the leadership actions that increase accountability are not the same as those that increase engagement. At the same time, accountability and engagement are interdependent. When you increase accountability, for example, you might see a downturn in engagement because accountability systems can make employees feel audited and unappreciated or untrusted. This is where the phrase “double the love” comes from – when you increase accountability, you need to double the love to keep accountability and engagement in balance.

[Tanmay Vora] “Love” is not a word that we use often at workplace. What has love got to do with the whole topic of accountability and engagement?

[Lisa Haneberg] Let me start with defining “love.” Managerial love is taking initiative on behalf of someone else. It’s doing the things that enable our team members to do their best work. It’s caring enough to apply individualized support. As leaders, we give love when consider and act in ways that engage and help our team members. Sometimes love is as simple as letting someone skip a long meeting so they can get out of the office at a decent hour or spending time listening deeply. Managerial love is the fuel for engagement – it’s how we create more pull and satisfaction in the workplace, so it is HUGELY important for engagement (and helps counteract morale hits from accountability measures).

[Tanmay Vora] If there was one key message from “Double the Love” that you had to share with HR, Managers and Leaders at all levels, what would that be?

[Lisa Haneberg] In the book, I share 11 “secrets” and the final one is that the secret to performance velocity is design. This idea pays homage to Dan Pink’s belief from “A Whole New Mind” that design is a critical competency for our time. And this is particularly the case when trying to cultivate accountability and engagement. Design in this context means that we have been deliberate in choosing and using leadership practices that will support our goals. Being deliberate means that your intentions show up in your actions, decisions, beliefs, and behaviors. I believe that many leaders know – intellectually – the best things to do but that few follow through with their intentions. Design is the most fascinating discipline for leaders, I think. I love the challenge and possibility of creating my leadership practice. BTW, Dan Pink endorsed the book based on this connection to his earlier work and I love what he said.

“This terrific book brings together the intentionality of good design with the science of motivation to help leaders create better workplaces. The synergy is extraordinary.” Daniel Pink, author of DRIVE and A WHOLE NEW MIND

[Tanmay Vora] Lisa, thank you so much for provocation to lead better through this book. Thank you also for being so generous with your art and sharing your insights here. I am pretty sure readers of this blog will find your blog and books very useful and inspiring.

[Lisa Haneberg] Thanks, Tanmay. I hope that your readers will double the love and bring out the best in others.

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Also read: Previous interview with Lisa Haneberg on her book “Never Ending New Beginnings”

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Interview: Chip Bell and Marshall Goldsmith on Art of Effective Mentoring

Last week, Chip R. Bell and Marshall Goldsmith released the revised edition of their classic bookManagers as Mentors: Building Partnerships for Learning. This week, they open up in a free-flow conversation with QAspire on the art of effective mentoring. In my view, this interview is almost a definitive guide to become a great mentor! Let’s get started:

[Tanmay Vora] Chip and Marshall, it is my pleasure interviewing you. Effective mentoring is a great way to elevate capabilities of people. How does one approach mentoring when working in a hyper-competitive business environment where speed and results take up precedence?

[Chip and Marshall] The same way any leadership or coaching activity occurs…it comes down to priority. In today’s time’s up work world, mentors can be impatient thus rendering the mentoring. Mentoring means starting where the protégé is, not where the mentor wants him or her to be. Mentor and protégé must focus on the quality of the process not a rush to the outcome. Mentoring need not be a long leisurely dialogue away from the chaotic highs and lows of a busy enterprise. Few mentors or protégés have the luxury of time to have a conversation as if over a five-course meal in a fancy restaurant. But, there must be time for a rapport-building appetizer and a where-do-we-go-from-here dessert. There must be time for focused listening and meaningful reflection. And, there must be time for the sincere communication of interest and concern.

[Tanmay Vora] If I am a mentor, what is your #1 tip for finding my protégés. What is your #1 tip if I am looking for a mentor?

[Chip and Marshall] For the mentor, start with people you directly influence and supervise. The old-fashioned view of mentoring as someone outside the leader’s chain of command it no longer relevant. Arie de Guies wrote in his book, “The Living Company” these words: Your ability to learn faster than your competition is your only competitive sustainable advantage.” Leaders create learning organizations. For the protégé, select a mentor who can help you be the best you can, not one you think can help you get a promotion.Remember, you can sometimes learn more from people who are different than from people who are “just like you.”

[Tanmay Vora] In your book, you offer SAGE model of great mentoring. Can you explain that a bit for benefit of the readers of this blog?

[Chip and Marshall] The mentoring model found in this book is built around the belief that great mentoring requires four core competencies, each of which can be applied in many ways. These competencies form the sequential steps in the process of mentoring. All four have been selected for their ability to blend effectively. Not accidentally, the first letters of these four competencies (and steps) spell the word “SAGE”—a helpful mnemonic as well as a symbolic representation of the goal, the power-free facilitation of learning. They are: Surrendering—leveling the learning field; Accepting—creating a safe haven for risk taking; Gifting—the core contributions of the mentor, the main event; and Extending—nurturing protégé independence.

Mentoring is an honor. Except for love, there is no greater gift one can give another than the gift of growth. It is a rare privilege to help another learn, have the relevant wisdom to be useful to another, and partner with someone who can benefit from that wisdom. This book is crafted with a single goal: to help you exercise that honor and privilege in a manner that benefits you and all those you influence.

[Tanmay Vora] Not all managers possess the qualities required to become an effective mentor. What are these qualities?

[Chip and Marshall] Balance. Unlike a relationship based on power and control, a learning partnership is a balanced alliance, grounded in mutual interests, interdependence, and respect. Power-seeking mentors tend to mentor with credentials and sovereignty; partnership­-driven mentors seek to mentor with authenticity and openness. In a balanced learning partnership, energy is given early in the relationship to role clarity and communication of expectations; there is a spirit of generosity and acceptance rather than a focus on rules and rights. Partners recognize their differences while respecting their common needs and objectives.

Truth. Countless books extol the benefits of clear and accurate communication. Partnership communication has one additional quality: It is clean, pure, characterized by the highest level of integrity and honesty. Truth-seekers work not only to ensure that their words are pure (the truth and nothing but the truth) but also to help others communicate with equal purity. When a mentor works hard to give feedback to a protégé in a way that is caringly frank and compassionately straightforward, it is in pursuit of clean communication. When a mentor implores the protégé for candid feedback, it is a plea for clean communication. The path of learning begins with the mentor’s genuineness and candor.

Trust. Trust begins with experience; experience begins with a leap of faith. Perfect monologues, even with airtight proof and solid support documentation, do not foster a climate of experimentation and risk taking. They foster passive acceptance, not personal investment. If protégés see their mentors taking risks, they will follow suit. A “trust-full” partnership is one in which error is accepted as a necessary step on the path from novice to master.

Abundance. Partnership-driven mentors exude generosity. There is a giver orientation that finds enchantment in sharing wisdom. As the “Father of Adult Learning,” Malcolm Knowles, says, “Great trainers [and mentors] love learning and are happiest when they are around its occurrence.”1 Such relationships are celebratory and affirming. As the mentor gives, the protégé reciprocates, and abundance begins to characterize the relationship. And there is never a possessive, credit-seeking dimension (“That’s MY protégé”).

Passion. Great mentoring partnerships are filled with passion; they are guided by mentors with deep feelings and a willingness to communicate those feelings. Passionate mentors recognize that effective learning has a vitality about it that is not logical, not rational, and not orderly. Such mentors get carried away with the spirit of the partnership and their feelings about the process of learning. Some may exude emotion quietly, but their cause-driven energy is clearly present. In a nutshell, mentors not only love the learning process, they love what the protégé can become—and they passionately demonstrate that devotion.

Courage. Mentoring takes courage; learning takes courage. Great mentors are allies of courage; they cultivate a partnership of courageousness. They take risks with learning, showing boldness in their efforts, and elicit courage in protégés by the examples they set. The preamble to learning is risk, the willingness to take a shaky step without the security of perfection. The preamble to risk is courage.

Ethics. Effective mentors must be clean in their learner-dealings, not false, manipulative, or greedy. Competent mentors must be honest and congruent in their communications and actions. They must not steal their learners’ opportunities for struggle or moments of glory. Great mentors refrain from coveting their learners’ talents or falsifying their own. They must honor the learner just as they honor the process of mutual learning.

Partnerships are the expectancy of the best in our abilities, attitudes, and aspirations. In a learning partnership, the mentor is not only helping the protégé but also continually communicating a belief that he or she is a fan of the learner. Partnerships are far more than good synergy. Great partnerships go beyond “greater than” to a realm of unforeseen worth. And worth in a mentoring partnership is laced with the equity of balance, the clarity of truth, the security of trust, the affirmation of abundance, the energy of passion, the boldness of courage, and the grounding of ethics.

[Tanmay Vora] From an organizational perspective, is it important to have a culture of mentoring, starting from the top? How does it help?

[Chip and Marshall] Today’s organization succeed if they are growth-oriented, excellence-focused and innovative Growth is about change, so is learning; excellence is about a pursuit of betterment, so is learning and innovative is about unfreezing old ways to find new ways, so is learning. When the organization embeds learning as a part of its DNA, the expression of that core is growth, excellence and innovation. So, what do leaders do in a learning organization? They mentor!

[Tanmay Vora] Your book is a treasure trove of meaningful advice on the art of effective mentoring. If you had to share one message from the book for aspiring mentors, what would that be?

[Chip and Marshall] Be humble, be curious, be courageous and be willing to share what you know with others in a partnership-relationship.

[Tanmay Vora] Thank you for offering third and revised edition of “Managers as Mentors”. It was a pleasure interviewing you and I am sure, readers of this blog will find your ideas and your book, a very useful resource on developing people and bring the best out of them. Thanks again.

[Chip and Marshall] Thank you for giving us the opportunity to share with your leaders a topic we are passionate about. Happy mentoring!

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Stay Tuned: Subscribe via RSS, Connect via Facebook or Follow us on Twitter. You can also subscribe to updates via email using the section at the bottom of the page.

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Also read: Other Book Reviews at QAspire Blog

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Review: Managers as Mentors by Chip Bell and Marshall Goldsmith

For thousands of years in India, there prevailed a tradition of “Guru-Shishya” – mentor and protégé in other words. In this relationship, which was a primary form of education then, powerful and subtle knowledge was conveyed to protégé on a one-on-one basis in an environment of complete trust, dedication and intimacy. As realization grew, the protégé would extend his lessons to others and so, wisdom kept flowing across generations.

Cut to the corporate environment today. Ability to provide mentoring is a part of almost every manager’s KRA. They are expected to help people grow and ensure that they learn as they do. Managers are the glue that builds engaged teams in organizations. But the reality is that managers get so engrossed with lines – deadlines and bottom lines – that they forget they also need to help others grow. Sadly, they start looking at people as “resources” to get the job done.

If I were to judge a manager’s performance, I would do so based on two parameters: 1) How effectively do the managers get the job done? 2) While doing so, how much did people in the team grew and learned? To be effective and make a lasting difference, managers have to be mentors first and then guardians of tasks.

Mentoring is an art. This week, Chip R. Bell and Marshall Goldsmith released the revised edition of their classic book “Managers as Mentors: Building Partnerships for Learning” which I read with great interest. I loved the sub-title which says it all. Mentoring is the highest form of teaching and every manager who wants to make a difference in their people’s lives will find this book useful. I was reminded of the powerful tradition of “Guru-Shishya” while reading parts of this book.

The book starts with a section that defines mentoring. It says,

“At a most basic level, it is simply the act of helping another learn”…“Mentors” are people (especially leaders) who engage in deliberate actions aimed at promoting learning.”…”Bottom line, a mentor is simply someone who helps someone else learn something that would have otherwise been learned less well, more slowly, or not at all.”

The book then goes on to provide practical ideas and case studies that can help any manager in mentoring their team members effectively and thereby build an engaged and connected team that delivers results and grows. I also loved the useful tools (book has an entire mentors toolkit section) like self-check scale for a mentor which helps you assess your own aptitude to mentor others.

On a long run, a manager’s real legacy is not the projects executed, but difference made in the lives of other people. People already have potential hidden (like gold dust within the sand)  and a mentor’s job is to help a protégé so that the gold surfaces. It is about gently and constantly pushing them towards higher plane of possibilities and learning.

Learning and extending that learning to others in an organization is not a “feel-good-nice-to-have” thing – it is a competitive strategy that helps in innovation, improvement and growth.

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Stay Tuned: Subscribe via RSS, Connect via Facebook or Follow us on Twitter. You can also subscribe to updates via email using the section at the bottom of the page.

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Also read: Other Book Reviews at QAspire Blog

Great Story: A Manager’s Function

I recently re-read a fantastic book “Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams” by Tom Demarco and Timothy Lister.

The book is filled with hard-won wisdom about executing projects and managing people for highest productivity.

Here is a real-life story from the book that underlines importance of the “human aspect” of our work; especially creative work that requires significant emotional involvement too.

In my early years as a developer, I was privileged to work on a project managed by Sharon Weinberg, now president of the Codd and Date Consulting Group. She was a walking example of much of what I now think of as enlightened management. One snowy day, I dragged myself out of a sickbed to pull together our shaky system for a user demo. Sharon came in and found me propped up at the console. She disappeared and came back a few minutes later with a container of soup. After she’d poured it into me and buoyed up my spirits, I asked her how she found time for such things with all the management work she had to do. She gave me her patented grin and said, Tom, this is management.”

Sharon knew what all good instinctive managers know: The manager’s function is not to make people work, but to make it possible for people to work.

Peopleware was first published some 25 years ago, and updated once since then. With such remarkable wisdom available to us, it is unfortunate to see many organizations and leaders still not getting the very essence of leading a knowledge-oriented and creative enterprise. Either they don’t read enough (which is dangerous) or they don’t practice what they already know.

It is all about people. As the book nicely puts it,

“The major problems of our work are not so much technological as sociological in nature.”

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In Review: Leadership and the Art of Struggle by Steven Snyder

When we look back at our careers and lives, what do we remember the most? When I asked this question to some of my friends and colleagues, most of them told me vivid stories about their struggles and how they dealt with challenges to came out victorious. One of the friends nailed it when he said, “It is our struggles that make our lives worth living. Where is the fun if everything is hunky dory.

We grow through our struggles. They shape us a great deal. They bring out the best within us. Yet, most people dread when they are facing struggle. They complain, curse, doubt their capabilities and worst: they quit.

I had an opportunity to read Steven Snyder’s new book titled “Leadership and the Art of Struggle” this week. In this terrific book, Steve has shared a wealth of knowledge that he gathered, specially during his association as an early leader at Microsoft. The book shares some very interesting real-life stories about leadership struggle along with ways to navigate these challenges and grow.

Here are some of the interesting snippets from the book:

“Change stands at the heart of leadership struggle. Every struggle is triggered by some type of change. Perhaps, a leader initiates change by envisioning a new direction for organization; struggle may emerge from forces that stand in opposition of that vision….. External change, whether desired or not, always carries with it seeds of opportunity and growth…..In still other cases, change comes from deep within a leader’s inner world. As the heart and the mind expand to take in new ideas, feelings, and perspectives, struggle comes from the process of clarifying newly emerging values and identity.”

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“As an art, leadership struggle cannot be reduced to a single sound bite or simple formula, but a key concept is this: the more self-aware you are, the more capable you will be of adaptively channeling your behavior.”

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The choices you make – large and small – are the most vivid expression of your leadership. They reflect who you are as a person. It’s one thing to talk about your values, but through the actions you take and choices you make, they become visible for the whole world to see.”

There are many books on leadership but a few talk about the struggle of leadership. This book does not attempt to provide a clear roadmap to navigate through these struggles. Instead, it outlines some key concepts that can help you in looking at your struggles differently, be adaptive, understand your leadership blind spots and grow through those struggles.

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Stay Tuned: Subscribe via RSS, Connect via Facebook or Follow us on Twitter. You can also subscribe to updates via email using the section at the bottom of the page.

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Also read: Other Book Reviews at QAspire Blog

Great Quotes: Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky

I just completed reading Scott Belsky’s (Twitter: @scottbelsky) book “Making Ideas Happen – Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality”. It is a fantastic book for those who have great ideas but struggle to give those ideas a life. This book bridges gap between the spark of an idea and all that goes into turning the idea into reality.

I read the book with great interest and here are some of the quotes that I particularly liked. I hope these quotes/snippets will help you get the gist of this book and prompt you to read it:

Managing the Work

“The term ’project management’ makes most creative people cringe. Elaborate Gantt charts and byzantine procedures plague bureaucracies large and small. Depending on your approach and your mind-set, the experience of organizing and managing a project can be miserable or deeply satisfying. Nevertheless, ideas are made to happen only as the result of a well-managed workflow.”

On Progress

“The inspiration to generate ideas comes easy, but the inspiration to take action is more rare. Especially amidst heavy, burdensome projects with hundreds of Action Steps and milestones, it is emotionally invigorating to surround yourself with progress.. Why throw away the evidence of your achievements when you can create an inspiring monument to get stuff done? As you successfully reach milestones in your projects, you should celebrate and surround yourself with these achievements.”

On Our Insecurities

“Along the journey to making ideas happen, you must reduce the amount of energy you spend on stuff related to your insecurities.”

On Productivity

“…productivity is not about how efficient you are at work. Instead, your productivity is really about how well you are able to make an impact in what matters most to you.”

On “Project Approach” to Ideas

“Everything in life should be approached as a project. Every project can be broken down into just three things: Action Steps, Backburner Items, and References.”

On Managing Your Energy

“The way you organize projects, prioritize, and manage your energy is arguably more important than the quality of the ideas you wish to pursue.”

On Taking Charge

“You can’t rely on others—especially your managers and clients—to engage your strengths. In an ideal world, managers would constantly be thinking about how to best utilize their people—and clients would always unearth your greatest potential. Unfortunately, the reality is that bosses and clients are as worried about their own careers as you are about your own. You must take the task of marketing your strengths into your own hands.”

On Rewards and Status Quo

“The rewards system of the traditional workplace keeps us on track, in line with deadlines from the higher-ups. If we adhere to it, the deeply embedded rewards system of our adult lives is likely to keep us employed and secure within the status quo. . . However, these tendencies become destructive as soon as we begin to pursue long-term goals or attempt something extraordinary”

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Stay Tuned: Subscribe via RSS, Connect via Facebook or Follow us on Twitter. You can also subscribe to updates via email using the section at the bottom of the page.

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The Series on “Traits of a Collaborative Leader” continues at All India Management Association’s Blog. Here is the second part outlining 6 key traits.

In Review: The Outstanding Organization by Karen Martin

In quest of excellence, an organization that grows has to deal with chaos. I recently read Karen Martin’s new book “The Outstanding Organization” that offers a simple yet effective model to create organizational conditions to combat this chaos and ensure better results out of improvement efforts.

What Problem Does This Book Address?

The book starts with a simple premise: Self-inflicted chaos (internal chaos) sabotages an organization’s ability to provide value to your customers, satisfy stakeholders, and offer a work environment that doesn’t break employees’ spirit. Self-inflicted chaos comes from constantly shifting (and often conflicting) priorities, excessive focus on hierarchy, unclear direction, unstable processes, unhappy customers and disengaged employees. To deal with this chaos that cracks the very foundation on which business results are based, Karen suggests essential strategies in four broad areas: Clarity, Focus, Discipline and Engagement.

What I liked the most

I loved the simplicity with which this book is written. It is a fine balance of narrative explanation, real life examples from the world of business and specific actionable ideas.

In the very beginning, Karen emphasizes that all improvement strategies are based on “respect for people.” Karen says,

“I have never seen an outstanding organization that believes that people are interchangeable, that they are simply parts in a machine to be used when needed and discarded when they are no longer convenient. I have never seen an outstanding organization that views people as a variable cost. Organizations are not machines – they are fundamentally and irreducibly made up of people.”

This book also touches upon applicability of essential lean concepts including Gemba and Kaizen in building a high performance organization. Not only that, the book has impressive research behind it and the research sources are very generously shared.

Selected Quotes from the Book

On Engagement and Creativity: “When the need to express their creativity is consistently thwarted – whether because it’s not safe, not encouraged, or not allowed – human beings stop giving of themselves – they know they will get nothing back. Organizational performance suffers as a result.”

On Priorities: “When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority”

The bottom line

No single book can cover everything that is required to build a great organization. However, this book is a very good starting point for senior leaders within the organization to assess the current state and decide their way forward based on essential strategies outlined in the book. Every leader who is committed to excellence will find this book useful.

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Find out more about the book at Karen Martin’s website: http://www.ksmartin.com/

How to Establish Thought Leadership? Interview With Dr. Liz Alexander

Thought leadership is important for building careers and for building organizations. It is the most important tool we have as professionals to build our personal brand and establish credibility. What is thought leadership? How does one build thought leadership in his/her area of work?

Let’s find out from Dr. Liz Alexander who recently co-authored a book titled ThoughtLeadership Tweet. In the following interview, Liz shares her ideas on how authentic thought leadership is established.

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[Tanmay Vora] Liz, when I started my own blog in 2006, I had no idea about the concept of thought leadership. But our world is getting hyper-connected and hyper-competitive and clearly, building thought leadership is the best way to attract opportunities. For the benefit of readers of this blog, how would you define a thought leader?

[Liz Alexander] I consider true thought leaders—not content curators, subject matter experts, or trusted advisors who frequently adopt the label—as those who disrupt others’ habitual approaches to issues that concern organizations, industries, or society at large. My co-author Craig Badings and I describe them as advancing the marketplace of ideas by positing actionable, relevant, research-backed, new points of view.
My rule of thumb? If you’re calling yourself a thought leader, likely you’re not. It’s a term bestowed on you by others because of your recognized ability to shift their thinking; it’s not something you get to adopt.

[Tanmay Vora] Most people think that having a blog and sending out tweets is a way to build thought leadership. What all goes into making a thought leader?
[Liz Alexander]
While undoubtedly it’s important to channel your contributions out into the world, thought leaders require three things: the right environment in which to think (consider that for a moment; how rarely do today’s organizations provide this?), a strategic focus for those thoughts (again, how many organizations consider up front what they want their thought leadership to achieve?), and the courage to explore possibilities that the vast majority of people never see.

Let me say a little more about that. Natural thought leaders foster their curiosity, are brave enough to challenge established points of view and willing to explore approaches that may appear controversial, at least at first. Wipro’s concept of Intelligent Terminals; Blue Dart Express’ championing of corporate social responsibility in India through their “Living Corporate Responsibility” campaign; the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation’s AMUL model that champions farmer empowerment– these are all examples of organizations who looked broader, thought deeper, reached higher. True thought leadership in action!

[Tanmay Vora] What is the role of “real accomplishments” in being a thought leader? I mean, when we talk about “thought leadership”, is there something called “act leadership” or leadership by doing things?
[Liz Alexander]
I was struck by an analogy I read that described thought leaders as people who sold you tickets for the bus tour, but weren’t necessarily driving the bus. That is, they are doing the thinking that intrigues, inspires and incites others to take the necessary tactical action, such as the three examples given above. They innovate conversations rather than offer up cookie-cutter tactics.

Thought leadership, in order to have any value, must provoke meaningful change. One of the most important “acts” that thought leaders inspire in others is to get them to think through the practical, personalized implications of adopting a new perspective or way of perceiving their industry, organization, or customer base.

[Tanmay Vora] What are the key lessons individuals can take away from your book #THOUGHT LEADERSHIP tweet?
[Liz Alexander]
That there is more to designing and executing a successful, effective thought leadership campaign than most people realize. We’ve done the preliminary thinking for readers by compiling 140 tweet-sized prompts with which organizations can review their existing culture (Tweet # 14: Is your environment supportive of a culture of innovation? How have you demonstrated that in the past?); determine their strategic focus (Tweet #34: What is it you want your target audience to do when they receive or interact with your thought leadership point of view?); and ensure the right people are campaign champions (Tweet #109: Who will be involved and how in the design, development, and execution of your thought leadership campaign? Why did you choose those people?).

[Tanmay Vora] Thank you Liz, for sharing your ideas and book with the readers of this blog. I am sure they will pick some important clues to build their own thought leadership.
[Liz Alexander]
I’m grateful for the opportunity, Tanmay. Thank you!

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Get the book on: Amazon | Flipkart.com (if you are in India)

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Bio: Dr. Liz Alexander is a business book strategist and consulting co-author who works with executives and consultants in the US and India, providing the questions (and solutions) to help them discover and communicate their unique thought leadership space. Her 14th book #Thought Leadership Tweet: 140 Prompts for Designing and Executing an Effective Thought Leadership Campaign is designed to ensure aspiring thought leaders consider all aspects of a successful thought leadership campaign before investing time, money, and effort. One of her favorite words is “why?”

BLOGTASTIC by Rajesh Setty: A Blogging Guide

Why do I blog? Why do people blog?

I blog because it helps me see my thoughts. Get clarity. Make a small difference to my community. Build meaningful connections. Establish credibility.

One such connection I made during my blogging journey was with my friend and mentor, Rajesh Setty. He is one of those who has, through his writing, taught me some very important lessons in my blogging journey since 2006.

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Coming back to blogging, most people think that having a blog is ‘such a cool thing’. They are allured to start their own blogs. They focus on a great design, using the right service, an appealing logo and so on. But then, they get stuck on content. Either they don’t have anything unique to say or they don’t know how to say it. Their blogs die a slow death.

Blogging is a great tool to build a personal brand, develop your unique voice and generate influence. But how do we approach it?

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Rajesh Setty recently released a very informative and interesting eBook titled “BLOGTASTIC: growing and making difference through blogging”. It is a comprehensive guide for bloggers (and the aspiring ones). What I liked the most about this eBook is that it just doesn’t talk about blogging tactics. It addresses the mindset required for effective blogging. Apart from some very valuable insights by the author, this eBook also offers experiences of 33 other successful bloggers across the globe.

Tips and blogging insights in the book makes it very interactive and interesting. Here are a few tips/insights from the book:

“Take yourself to the next level before you can take your blog to the next level!”

You can rarely become memorable by being a chronic critic.”

Your blog readers are your customers who pay via their time and mindshare”

Your accomplishments outside the blog will directly influence the reach of your blog”

This is a book that gets to the heart of what blogging really is. If you are a blogger already, the book will provide you with ideas to take your blog to the next level. If you are someone who is thinking of starting a blog ‘some day’, this book will give you the much needed instigation to start sooner. In any case, you will definitely learn.

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The good news is: This book is offered free by MobStac, so download, read and share it with anyone you think will benefit from it. You can also download this book from Slimbooks (paid).

The Booker Award: Books I Love

Michael Wade is one of my favorite bloggers who is just amazing. Daily and consistently, he ships goodness on his blog Execupundit where topics range from self-development, great quotes and book reviews to management insights. Michael Wade has nominated me for the “The Booker Award”. This award requires me to list my five favorite books of all time and mention at least five other bloggers who deserve this award.

If you choose to participate, the rules of the award are to: 1) Nominate 5-10 bloggers and let your recipients know. (2) Post The Booker Award picture. (3) Share your top 5 books of all time.

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I read a lot and wish I could read a lot more. I cultivated the habit of reading observing my dad who is a voracious reader and a very fine writer. I want to cultivate the love for reading in my kids and I think the only way to do that is to model that behavior.

With all the books that I read, it is incredibly hard to keep this list to just 5 books, but here I try. These books have shaped up a lot of my perspectives and practices. I have included snippets from these books to make it a little more interesting. So, here they go (in no particular order) :

1) The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma

“You will recall that in the middle of the garden stood a magnificent lighthouse. This symbol will remind you of yet another ancient principle for enlightened living: the purpose of life is a life of purpose.

2) On Writing by Stephen King

“It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.

3) The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge

“We need to cultivate ‘a discipline to see the wholes’, a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than snapshots. Reality is made up of circles, but we see straight lines.

4) Linchpin by Seth Godin (Read my review of Linchpin and Seth’s Interview here)

“You get paid to go to work and do something of value. But your job is also a platform for generosity, for expression, for art. Every interaction you have with a coworker or customer is an opportunity to practice the art of interaction. Every product you make represents an opportunity to design something that has never been designed, to create an interaction like any other.”

5) Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig

To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top.”

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So, who will I tag? I would love to know what books have been all time favorites for: Rajesh Setty (I know he loves great books), Lisa Haneberg, Jesse Lyn Stoner, Becky Robinson and Utpal Vaishnav.

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Join in the conversation: What are you reading? What are your favorite books of all time? Tell us in the comments.

Never-Ending New Beginnings: Interview with Lisa Haneberg

Lisa Haneberg is a great friend who is an expert (and a lifelong student) on the craft of management. I have been following her blog and her work since last six years and she has greatly influenced my own blogging journey so far. Lisa is an expert in the areas of organization development, management, leadership, talent management, and personal and organizational success. With over 25 years of rich experience in providing departmental leadership, consulting, training and coaching solutions for manufacturing, health care, high technology, government, and nonprofit organizations, Lisa has written 13 business books and speaks on a broad range of topics of interest to leaders and managers.

Lisa recently released a new book titled “Never-Ending New Beginnings – A Manifesto on Personal Impact” which features 69 best posts from her blog Management Craft. It was my long term wish to bring Lisa’s thoughts to the readers of this blog and I grabbed this opportunity to catch up a conversation. Here is goes (emphasis added on important lessons):

[Tanmay] Lisa, I have enjoyed your blog since many years and I am so glad you have compiled a book with “best from Management Craft” posts. Tell us a little bit about your blogging journey so far and how blogging helped you evolve.

[Lisa] I started blogging in August of 2004 and I had no idea what I was doing or what great blogs looked like. I became a blog reader and a blog writer at the same time. I don’t recommend this! My learning curve was steep and I had to learn a lot of lessons. Eight years later I can say that blogging has helped me develop a unique voice and greater authenticity. When I write books, the publisher often wants a fairly formal treatment of a topic. But the blog is informal and therefore more me. So my blog helped me find the real me.

[Tanmay]  At QAspire, I write on the “human” aspect of leading others for excellence. I loved the post where you say that all of us are “beautifully flawed persons”. What according to you makes these flaws beautiful?

[Lisa] I think that flaws are beautiful when we get things done in spite of them. The leader who builds a great team even though he is shy.The manager that struggles against her defensiveness to be more inclusive. Our most interesting qualities are usually productive flaws. And I think we are beautiful when we work well with people regardless of their flaws or ours.

[Tanmay] How do you see the role of manager evolving in a knowledge-intensive world where teams are distributed across the globe?

[Lisa] I think we need to be better at showing the love. Really. As our ways of working become more physically detached, I think we need to try extra hard to create connection and build ownership. Managers need to become expert connectors and they need to learn to show warmth, care, and support through the phone, email, IM, and social networks. Not easy!  – not a set of tasks to do. We help people do their best work.

[Tanmay] How was your experience curating and editing “The ASTD Management Development Handbook”? Any lessons from that journey that you would like to share?

[Lisa] I was honored to be asked to select and work with a collection of nearly 40 authors. The best part was finding and inviting people. The toughest part was keeping them all in the loop. If I were doing it over, I would have done a better job with communication. Perhaps I need to apply my own advice from the previous question.

[Tanmay] If there was one key message from “Never-Ending New Beginnings” that you had to share with today’s manager, what would that be?

[Lisa] That we will enjoy a better career and impact more people if we constantly reinvent ourselves. Always look inside yourself first to discover the path to catalyze breakthroughs in organizations. That is why the name of the book is what it is – there is no single post with this title, but it is the central idea. Never stop reinventing.

[Tanmay] Thank you Lisa, for your thoughtful responses. Thank you also for inspiring me at various points in my blogging journey so far. I am pretty sure readers of this blog would find your blog/books useful and inspiring.

[Lisa] Tanmay – thank you so much. I have enjoyed reading your work, admire your thinking, and look forward to seeing what you do next!

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Review: The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

Through his new book titled “The $100 Startup – Fire Your Boss, Do What You Love And Work Better to Live More, Chris Guillebeau shares amazingly inspiring stories of people who transformed their ideas and skills into viable businesses.  Some people start on their own because of situations and others start based on their internal drive, passion and skill. Some people keep experimenting with side projects and then do more of what works to become entrepreneurs. These are all possibilities.

For this book, Chris included stories of 100+ entrepreneurs to show us how these possibilities are realized. In a new world of work, it is entirely possible to be on your own with your passion and skill and money can follow. These entrepreneurs started with little or no money to build businesses that earns them more than the average American salary.

I specially loved the story of Brett Kelly who noticed that there was no detailed user manual for Evernote and started working on one. He meticulously created a comprehensive user guide titled “Evernote Essentials” that went on to become a big hit amongst Evernote enthusiasts. The goal was to sell $10,000 worth of copies and that was achieved in just eleven days. Stories like these also underline the importance of “noticing” a gap, a pain (and hence an opportunity) and then doing something about it. Passion comes in first, but then it is all about execution.

Chris says,

“They all did it by pursuing two twin concepts: freedom and value.

Freedom is what we’re all looking for, and value is the way to achieve it. The magic formula of skills + usefulness is how you change the world.

When you value freedom above other things, you’ll make different choices. Your priorities will shift. When you focus on helping others, connecting your work to their needs, that’s when value is created.

This is what it came down to for all of these people, and that’s how it can work for you too. No special skills, not a lot of money, but the willingness to imagine.”

One question to Chris Guillebeau

Tanmay: Chris, our world of work is changing very fast and people are looking for work that is “challenging, new and interesting” versus “safe, known and routine”. If you had to give ONE piece of advice to young students and professionals about living life on their own terms, what would that be?

Chris Guillebeau: You don’t have to make that choice — there’s not much "safe" work left. Fortunately, the challenging, new, and interesting work is unlimited. If you can’t find it, follow the lead of all the unconventional entrepreneurs in The $100 Startup and create it yourself. All the best!

This is a great book that provides a blueprint for creating freedom by building a business with no special skills and a small amount of money. Life is abundant, possibilities are endless and you are in charge. Personally for me, this book gave me a feeling of abundance, of possibilities that reside within each one of us and how those possibilities take a form when we are determined to live a creative life.

Chris also writes for a small army of remarkable people at ChrisGuillebeau.com. Check out my review of his previous book “The Art of Non-Conformity”.