This is a collection of every link we ever shared in our newsletter.All the good stuff in one place. If a link gets broken, just tell us and we’ll repair it in sprinter time.
You rock. And you are not alone.When I founded 3 years ago, I felt so alone. The second year also. It took me three years to build a team that celebrates progress every week. It is such a relief, and a blessing.
We want YOU to have the same feeling of being seen and supported on your path. Of giving your best every day and receiving much more in return. Of getting tough love that moves you from comfort to sprint mode.
This is why we created the mastermind group.
According to Forbes there are 7 reasons to join a mastermind:1 Being part of an exclusive community.2 Advisement.3 Collaboration.4 Access to a network.5 New learning.6 Cross-Promotion.7 Think bigger.
Thomas Balgheim and I added to the Mastermind concept the best tools from business coaching, general management and business growth that we could find. We are ready to take on a very few of you this Q4. You are eligible if you are a founder, executive, entrepreneur or high-performing solopreneur. Enter the application process directly here.
Magic October (October Gems)
Our magnificent delivery team (Diana, Alexander, Karina, Lukas, Simon) put together the most juicy tools available. Here four things you can do today to have a great October:
- Start with Strategy
- Define project sequence [Opportunity Costs]
- Define project importance [Leverage]
- Let go of all other distractions
David Allen answered the second batch of your productivity questions:
Manage Creativity, Productivity and Opportunities. Video.
How to manage your agreements. Video.
“We accept that we are all alone in this, together” is one of the first things David and his Co-Founders wrote down when they started their company together.
The impact of changing the perspective on control. Video.
Are you ready to be ready? Video.
Our friend Alina Costache in London shared with us a case of corporate communications done well. Find the Starbucks workbook and all training resources here — a masterful internal communications case-study.
“There are no problems, only projects”. David Allen and I talked Freedom, Focus and Flow. We talk authenticity, time management, acceptance and beyond.
Selma Schönburg taught me how to get one million unique visitors per month. We talked about the importance of creating original content and taking ethics seriously.
A German video explaining the Sprint Manifesto at the Happy Projects Conference 2019. How to spot opportunities as an Entrepreneur with Selma Schönburg. Trust as the new currency with Lars Maydell. Our first Facebook Group Entrepreneurial Freedom with 397 interactions and 222 members in the first 28 days. Unit on How to turn work into play (coming up). Video Lesson The Freedom-Based CEO. The Clarification Process with David Allen on IGTV (coming up).
How to foster a culture of experimentation? It’s not enough to place value on experimenting. Organizations actually need to live this day in and day out to ensure they are keeping pace in our rapidly changing business environment. Read what Alpha CEO Thorn Ernstsson has to say.
Five Mistakes Intrapreneurs Make When Trying To Change Their Companies. While their hearts are in the right place, some of the choices they make can lead to counterproductive outcomes. This article identifies five key mistakes intrapreneurs make. Spoiler: Lack of focus is one of them;-)
If you’re new to our newsletter or want to find previous gems:Here is a collection of every link we ever shared.This is how strategy will be taught in the future.Our 16 best innovation tools to spread and grow your idea.More impact, more freedom. Design the life you desire.
Strategize every Friday. The Strategy Sprints team reviews every Friday:1. What are the right things to do this quarter?2. What builds on what?And we visualize them this way.
The first Pioneers of the Innovation Course are onboard, join them here.
We had such a beautiful day with David Allen in Amsterdam, diving deep into clarity, focus, flow, authenticity and impact. Quick win: We asked him for the best books he read this year. And we are delighted to share them with you:
The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking.The intelligent person’s guide to understanding the much-misunderstood idea of happiness. read more
Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions That Matter the MostThrough compelling stories that reveal surprising insights, Johnson explains how we can most effectively approach the choices that can chart the course of a life, an organization, or a civilization. Farsighted will help you imagine your possible futures and appreciate the subtle intelligence of the choices that shaped our broader social history. read more
This episode of the strategy show covers leadership, peak performance and executive coaching. Executive Coach Lars Maydell shares his best advice on the future of career coaching, and how to create a desirable future on your own.
Another common complaint: in an effort to get more work done, clients hire more employees—but somehow this only creates more work. This article explains why it feels like you can never make headway, and proposes an obvious (but effective) solution: only start new projects when an existing project is completed.
Every athlete has an external support system enabling to maintain high performance and focus. Entrepreneurs, managers and consultants have master mind groups. Especially in challenging times, it really helps to have regular support from people you trust and admire.
Our mastermind group “Manufaktur” is designed by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. Every mastermind session is limited to 12 participants. We call it Manufaktur (Latin: “built with your own hands”) since it´s about sharpening your tools with like-minded business builders.
It turns out that high employee engagement not might be the result of creating great work conditions so much as being clear about what employees should expect. It’s critical to deliver on explicit and implicit promises about company culture during recruiting, hiring, and onboarding, so that the right employees can self-select into your workplace.
Think you have to be a jerk to get results? Think again: “We’d love to find out if there are good aspects of abusive leadership. There’s been a lot of research. We just can’t find any upside.”
Experiments in the four-day work week are providing compelling evidence: results from a New Zealand firm that made the switch showed “no fall in output, reduced stress and increased staff engagement.”
We’ve all made decisions we’ve regret, but clinical psychologist Jennifer Taitz has recommendations for turning those moments into opportunities for self-improvement. Next time you find yourself ruminating on the past, evaluate how you’ve handled (and hopefully grown) from regret, take a break from obsessing over it, and treat yourself like you would want your mentor to treat you.
If you need help building a case for why your organization needs to care about culture: the University of East Anglia ran an experiment in which they created an investment fund of companies that were ranked highly in Glass Door or were rated as a “Great Place to Work.” The fund outperformed by 10%.
Buffer’s released the 2019 State of Remote Work. Some key findings: the two biggest struggles of remote workers are unplugging after work and loneliness; companies typically don’t pay for their co-working spaces and internet; and despite many having “unlimited” vacation, they take an average of 2-3 weeks off.
A survey of nearly 600 employees identified the three least effective ways to build trust as a leader: company retreats, thanking your team, and being transparent about company information. Most effective? Showing vulnerability, explaining your actions, and follow-through.
Buffer has released its career frameworks for both Makers and Managers. If you’ve been thinking about how to structure career progression at your own company, it’s worth a look.
When their investors said they weren’t working hard enough, Charlie HR revamped its culture. Learn how they audited the company and rolled out new practices to turn themselves into a high-performing team.
Employees are at their happiest and least stressed their first year at a new company. Happiness dips the second year but improves and even surpasses the level set in the first year by year three. Unfortunately, stress only goes up the longer you stay at a company.
Trying to get to know the members of your team better, but don’t know where to start? Dojo4 compiled a list of 52 questions—everything from “What helps you get in the flow” to “What skill, that you don’t currently have, would you want to develop for life after the apocalypse?” Start your next meeting with one of these check-ins and see where the conversation leads.
“Summer Fridays” have long been popular in segments of the creative industries. Now, some companies are experimenting with Winter Fridays, giving their employees Friday afternoons off to spend time with family, observe religious ceremonies, or travel. The World Wildlife Foundation, meanwhile, has “Panda Fridays” every other week year-round, to help improve employees’ work-life balance while reducing their carbon footprint. Could this be part of the gradual shift towards four-day work weeks?
Scott Belsky, 99U Founder, has some good advice for those stuck in the “messy middle” of a project. Most relevant: leaders must find the right balance between reacting out of fear at the low points, and reacting out of ego at the high points.
Many companies say they want to foster an innovative culture… But do they really? Encouraging creativity looks like a lot of fun—crazy ideas! Freedom to fail!—but requires trade-offs, namely, intolerance for incompetence, rigor around experimentation, intense candor, individual accountability, and yes, strong leadership. If your company isn’t willing to fully commit, creativity can lead to chaos.
Here’s a fun way to look at your management style—what rock band are you? The author identifies four styles—Friends (Beatles), Autocracies (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), Democracies (R.E.M.) and Frenemies (the Rolling Stones)—and breaks down the pros and cons of each.
If you’re looking for inspiration for meaningful “perks” to keep your employees engaged, here’s a list of 40 companies that have worked to create a positive culture. Ideas include a four-day work week, extensive opportunities for career development, and dedication to diversity.
You may think you’re showing appreciation to your employees, but are you using the right language? One VP of Design at Lyft has taken the idea of “love languages” and applied it to recognition at the office. Next time you want to acknowledge an employee’s work, think about whether they’d most appreciate encouraging words, tangible rewards, focused time, greater autonomy, or visible impact.
To keep your CEO and executive board aligned, venture capitalist Fred Wilson recommends a series of sessions to discuss hard topics and provide the CEO with feedback on their performance. First, the board should meet with the CEO. Then, the board should discuss items without the CEO present. Finally, the CEO should be brought back to meet with at least one of the directors.
Toyota is famous for “gemba walks“—having managers get on the factory floor to see how employees are actually working. To see what this looks like in practice, follow a day in the life of Mitsuru Kawai, an Executive VP who is dedicated to this practice.
Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer makes the case that the modern workplace is killing employees. While it’s no longer acceptable for corporations to pollute the physical environment, it’s still common practice to pollute the “social” environment, providing high-stress jobs with little financial stability. If leaders don’t actively change their culture, lawsuits will.
Google’s Design Sprints—originally created to focus on user needs and develop prototypes—has morphed into a Team Development Week. By incorporating exercises that build trust and provide a forum for feedback, teams have an opportunity to improve how they work together.
First Round has released their annual State of Startups. Some interesting findings include: ageism in the tech industry is believed to start at 46; 2/3 of male founders believe that companies are inclusive for parents, but just 1/3 of female founders agree; 70% of founders believe messaging tools like Slack improve productivity; and 66% were kept up at night by the challenge of hiring good people.
Since our London Managing Director Lauren Currie joined three months ago, she’s had a lot of time to think about beginnings. When you’re starting a new role, you’re tempted to want to fix all the problems and make a good impression, but Lauren makes the case for the three things you should really focus on.
Every good leader wants their team to speak up and share their ideas, but too often, employees remain silent. Recent research indicates that while personality and the environment both impact the likelihood of people piping up, “strong environmental norms could override the influence of personality on employees’ willingness to speak up.” It can also impact whether they point out potential threats as opposed to innovative ideas. So the next time you find yourself facing a silent meeting room, ask yourself how you can create the psychological safety needed for the team to contribute more.
Square holds “silent meetings“: the team gathers in one room and works on one document on their individual computers. Then, after 30 minutes of work, discussion starts. This method was developed to create a more inclusive environment, whether you’re an introvert, a minority employee, or a remote worker.
We practically run our business here at NOBL off of Trello, so we’re always excited to see new ways of using it. Typeform just shared how it turned a Trello board into an Employee Directory, which helps the team know who’s who as they scale.
Historian and Sapiens author Yuval Harari makes the case that the most important skill for future workers isn’t the ability to code or speak Chinese, but rather, to be “psychologically flexible” when it comes to change.
Infinite Red developed a simple system of hand gestures to improve their remote meetings. No, not those hand gestures—people would raise one finger if they wanted to speak, and if someone already had a finger up, they’d hold up two fingers, and so on, effectively forming a queue. This resulted in greater engagement and faster, more substantive meetings.
If you need to convince people of the need for change, take drastic steps: LEGO dedicated two months to retrain its people on how to work in design sprints. This commitment and level of intensity built momentum, and they went from 10 to 150 design sprints in one year. Buy-in from senior leadership was essential, but “playback”—sharing what the teams learned from their sprints—was just as important, demonstrating the value of the investment.
This history of a culture audit at agency C Space illustrates many of the challenges involved in changing a company’s culture. First, while they identified company values, they didn’t prioritize them, or plan for what to do when values conflicted. Second, there was a substantial gap between rolling out the new values and measuring their impact. As a result, values were skewed: “only accept awesome” turned into “work until you’re exhausted.” But once the team realized the problem, they made adjustments and committed to ongoing improvement.
Jason Fried, founder of Basecamp, reminds readers to “resist the allure of large.” All too often, companies want to get big fast, but big companies struggle to retain a scrappy mindset and agility. He encourages teams to question the benefits of “growing up” and to hang on to what made them succeed in the first place.
It’s hard to stay motivated with the end of the year in sight. If you need a little extra push to get yourself over the finish line, try these four tricks from Professor Fishbach of the Booth School of Business. First, define goals and tie them to intrinsic motivations. (And if you are stuck doing chores with few intrinsic rewards, try to find elements of the work you enjoy.) Second, when setting an extrinsic reward for yourself, make sure it doesn’t undermine your goal—in other words, don’t reward yourself for being productive by slacking off. Third, break your goals down into sub-goals to avoid the “middle slump.” Lastly, reach out to friends and role models to help keep you on the right track.
Do you put yourself in conditions where you are likely to be “wrong, uncomfortable, and reflexively quiet?” Five stories from Tesla, Patagonia, Pixar, and other innovative companies illustrate how leaders ask questions that push their organizations to do better.
When creating a culture, even the best intentions can have unintended results. The Gates Foundation’s emphasis on hiring the “best and brightest” has led to people trying to prove they’re “the smartest people in the room,” and focusing their work on generic, rather than specific, solutions. This has also had the adverse effects of employees valuing expert knowledge even over experiential knowledge, and trying to impress Bill Gates even over serving their customers.
Maintaining change is hard: a study at a European bank found that 44% of teams returned to average output within two years of implementing a new initiative. Three factors help teams maintain change: first, leadership should align the change with the company’s purpose, so people understand the “why”. Second, focus efforts on problems that directly impact employees so they’re motivated to maintain the change. Third, leaders must act as coaches, keeping employees motivated.
A study of the world’s most innovative companies has identified five common characteristics. Most of them will be familiar to our readers—principles like focusing on user needs, and involving executives in the innovation process—but it’s worth calling out the importance of project selection. Companies have no shortage of good ideas, but struggle when they have to decide what to put into production. It’s also important to note that whereas a few years ago, excelling at one or two principles would have been enough to be considered a leader in innovation, now companies must demonstrate excellence across the board.
Square has implemented new practices to combat bias in compensation and promotions. They now encourage managers to evaluate everyone in their team for promotion readiness—especially those who have stayed in their role for longer than average. And to make sure compensation is fair, they run a full audit before handing out a raise.
One of the fundamental tasks of a leader is delegating work, but allocating it fairly can be a challenge. Experts recommend dedicating one to two hours every week to thinking about how you’ll divide up tasks. The next step is to clarify roles and set expectations—what responsibilities are attached to the work, and how will the owners know when it’s completed? Finally, make sure you’re having regular 1:1s with your workers to make sure they understand the work, and that they’re neither overwhelmed nor bored.
After seeing a talk from our London MD Lauren Currie, one designer started asking people “what’s your story?” instead of “what do you do?” This simple shift helped people adopt a much more human-centric mindset, setting his design thinking workshop off on the right foot. How has making a simple change to how you work made a big impact?
Lyft doubled in size over the past year, but its level of diversity remained the same—an achievement given that in times of rapid growth, hiring often has a bias for speed over diversity. To help managers think more about diversity, the new VP of Talent and Inclusion has implemented a “report card” to track diversity of teams, and started a program to help employees hold difficult conversations around race.
A study of companies that have survived 100+ years identified six common traits. They had a clear purpose, leaders had longer tenure, and a high profile public image, all of which gave the companies a “stable core.” This was balanced with a “disruptive edge,” which entailed employing part-time experts to keep ideas circulating ideas, keeping the organization lean (under 300 people) and focused on constant iteration; and encouraging cross-functional work to mix up ideas.
When making a decision, it helps to determine where it falls along two axes: how reversible it is, and how consequential it is. Spend most of your time on the irreversible, consequential decisions; gather more evidence for the consequential but reversible ones. And inconsequential decisions, regardless of how reversible, can be delegated—leaving you more time to focus on the first two categories. Struggling to make decisions with a team? Try our Slackbot!
Companies are continuing to experiment with vacation policy: Doist (makers of ToDoist) have just announced a policy in which every employee is given 40 days a year to use as they see fit. What’s unusual about this set up is that time off is mandatory.
Change isn’t a matter of motivational speeches; it’s a question of identifying and modifying habits within the organization. New research from USC psychology professor Wendy Wood shows changing the context of a behavior—such as moving to a new office—can get people to adopt new habits. The key is to make the new behavior easy adopt, while making the old habit more cumbersome or costly.
There are just 99 days until 2019, making this the perfect time for a sprint: set weekly goals and check in on progress at the beginning of every month. Setting the end of the year as a clear deadline can help keep you on task, and positions you well for next year’s goals.
Many companies are making an effort to be more inclusive, but may be overcorrecting: involving more people in more meetings and more decisions leads to decision fatigue and decreased productivity. Another study suggested that it’s hard for a conversation to exceed four speakers—add one more person, and it splinters into smaller groups. So when planning your next project, remember small can be beautiful.
Delegation is a critical leadership skill, but what should you do if you realize you’ve delegated too much? Get re-involved in three ways: take the lead on a symbolic project; hold on offsite with your team to review priorities; and use multiple, frequent touchpoints (like all-hands) to repeatedly communicate your vision for the team.
Giving feedback is challenging enough—remote work makes it that much harder. The Senior Product Manager at Creative Market breaks down how he’s developed a culture of respectful design critique for remote teams: first, ask permission to give feedback, so they’re in the right frame of mind. Setting a regular critique time (say, Friday at 10 AM) can help the team get into a regular rhythm. He also encourages bringing in different members of the team to provide feedback, and to have more junior members speak first. Finally, in remote situations in particular, re-framing the feedback and asking questions makes sure everyone’s aligned on what’s being suggested.
Small teams can be incredibly effective—hence Jeff Bezos’ two-pizza rule. But if you’re unable to change your team’s size, you can still implement a few practices that will deliver similar results: break the problem down into discrete tasks and assign smaller teams to work on them; move away from formal presentations to whiteboarding sessions to save time while spreading information; and identify what decisions every team member can make so as to avoid decision-making meetings. More suggestions can be found in MIT Sloan Review.
Co-founder of First Round Capital Howard Morgan shared what separates good from great leaders: relaxing constraints. He identifies four types of constraints: technical, cost, knowledge, and time. He then recommends questions to help relax those limits, like “What’s preventing this from scaling?” “What does this look like in five years, and what can be done now?” or “What’s missing or holding us back?”
No one relishes talking about their failures at work, but doing so can increase “benign envy”—essentially, modeling behavior that encourages people to work better—and build better relationships with colleagues. That said, there’s a right way and a wrong way to discuss failure. First, make sure you’ve created a “safe space” to share without judgment. Hold the conversation in person so you can better assess tone and body language. And finally, don’t make it a pity party; instead, focus on what can be improved next time. If you need a conversation guide, review our steps for conducting a project retro.
A new report captures some of the challenges remote workers face: 30% said that a lack of community affected their happiness, and a third indicated that overwork or disconnecting at the end of the workday was a problem. Despite this, the longer people work remotely, the more likely they are to stick with it; 80% said they wanted to work remotely as long as possible.
If you ever have to ask for a favor, do it the right way: Be direct, give your reason why you need it, and lastly, give the person you’re asking an easy out. This last tip allows you to maintain the relationship and keeps it a request, not an order. And if you’re the one granting the favor? Do it, or not, but be kind about it.
The most successful leaders live by a variation of the “five-hour rule“: they set aside at least one hour every day during the work week for learning or deliberate practice. In particular, this time should be dedicated to reading, reflection (such as journaling or retros), and rapid experimentation. If an hour a day sounds daunting, start with 20 minutes and build from there.
Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman presented his four recommendations for better decision-making: apply algorithms to help prevent bias; use broad framing rather than viewing it as one problem in isolation; assess your appetite for risk and regret; and lastly, “find an adviser who likes you and doesn’t care about your feelings.”
NASA’s history of going over budget and missing deadlines may be due largely to the very culture of optimism that enables the organization to attempt challenges that have never been done before. Managers have “Hubble psychology”—named after the telescope that launched late, over budget, and with a technical defect—because technical performance is celebrated while other measures of success or failure are forgotten or ignored in retrospect. And despite an emphasis on openness, leaders who speak up with problems are still concerned about being perceived as negative. To avoid this on your own team, make sure you are balancing optimists and pessimists.
Software engineer Chelsea Troy has developed a rubric for evaluating how employees are making their culture more inclusive. She’s identified five key skills that support a more inclusive environment: moderating, soliciting opinions, attributing, advanced assuming, and capitalizing on alternative perspectives. By focusing on skills as opposed to groups (i.e., women, LGBTQ, etc.) you can more effectively give colleagues feedback, and signal to the entire team that these behaviors are necessary in order to advance within the organization.
One of Mailchimp’s remote engineering managers shares his tips for better inclusion of remote workers. Level 1 recommendations include suggestions like designating a “remote advocate” to check in with remote attendees during meetings and making sure A/V systems are working; Level 2 recommendations include scheduling virtual “water cooler” time; and Level 3 recommendations are more involved, like convincing your company to invest in headsets and video conferencing.
Working with colleagues in different functions is challenging enough—working with teams from completely different sectors can feel almost impossible. Before you engage in cross-sector collaboration, make sure you’ve thought through four questions: Does the problem require cross-sector collaboration? Is it set up to achieve success? Does your organization have the capacity, structures, and culture to collaborate effectively? And, does your organization have the necessary cross-sector leadership skills?
A New Zealand firm’s two-month experiment in reducing the work week from five to four days resulted in increased productivity, improved creativity, and better work-life balance. The reduced hours encouraged the team of 240 employees to find ways to work more efficiently, such as cutting meeting times from 2 hours to 30 minutes. More and more companies are experimenting with reduced and alternate work schedules, with mixed results.
Startup Chewse is intentionally designing its culture with a bias towards transparency and psychological safety: salaries are transparent from the beginning, and every Monday, the team shares how they’re feeling on a “Red Light/Green Light” scale. It’s easy for any team to develop bad habits, but consciously establishing positive rituals can help prevent them from becoming entrenched.
If you’ve ever put off an important task in favor of easier tasks that can get done quickly, it’s not your fault: it’s your brain defaulting to the “urgency effect.” These immediate tasks result in a quick payoff, even if that payoff is ultimately a worse outcome than the results of the important task. To counteract this tendency, use an Eisenhower Box to determine what’s important and what’s merely urgent, and then work through your tasks accordingly.
Who’s more creative: generalists or specialists? A generalist can bring new ideas from different backgrounds to existing problems, but only a specialist may have the necessary expertise to delve into a knotty problem. A new study indicates that it depends on how much change the field is experiencing: slower-moving industries benefit from more generalists, while faster-paced industries require more specialists. Leaders should analyze their markets to determine the right mix within their organizations.
If you’re an ambitious leader, it’s always performance management season—there’s always room improvement. This professional growth questionnaire asks probing questions about your existing and future roles, and can help you identify patterns and overlooked opportunities. The creator recommends reviewing it four or five times a year to stay current.
Asking an open-ended question like “any questions?” often leads to polite silence. If you want real answers, take a page from Steve Jobs’ strategy of alternating between “what’s working?” and “what’s not?” You can adapt this to your presentations as well by asking “What’s clear? What’s still confusing?”
More and more clients have been asking about best practices for remote work, so we wanted to share some of our favorite resources. Zapier’s put together the Ultimate Guide to Remote Work; customer service company Help Scout has tips for virtual teams; Buffer listed 40 Lessons from 4 Years of Remote Work; MIT Sloan has five ways to improve communication in virtual teams; and we at NOBL put together a guide to building healthy remote teams. Regardless of the source, the most common themes include hiring people who are suited to remote work; establishing communication norms to stay aligned on tasks; and hosting company retreats to bring people together in person.
The tipping point for change is 25%: new research indicates that once a minority view reaches a quarter of the population, it can effectively flip the opinion of the majority. If you’re trying to implement change at your workplace, remember that you don’t have to win everyone over: focus on your core and establishing new norms. Once teams see other people doing things a new way, they’ll feel more compelled to make the switch.
Facebook’s created an “Investigative Operations Team” to identify—and hopefully, prevent—worst-case scenarios from occurring. Google, YouTube, and Twitter have also taken steps to block inappropriate behavior before it spreads. While your organization may not have the bandwidth to dedicate an entire team to this function, we recommend conducting a “pre-mortem” or scenario planning activity at the beginning of each project: think about likely issues that could arise, and then spend time brainstorming how the team will address them.
Apple’s Top 100 Meeting was started as a way to recognize top performers and discuss the future of Apple. Again, you don’t have to hold a top-secret, luxury retreat to reward leaders, but you can design an event that focuses on the future and rewards people for their hard work and loyalty.
Championship basketball team The Golden State Warriors has a half-time ritual that includes a retrospective. As soon as the buzzer sounds in the first quarter, coaches start identifying plays and compiling video clips that they’ll want to review at half-time, with an emphasis on positive examples of play. When heading into half-time, Head Coach Kerr will first confer privately with the assistant coaches, both to solicit their feedback, and to compose himself so that he appears calm and in control to the rest of team. Then, after reviewing clips together, other coaches and players are invited to provide their own input—as center Zaza Pachulia notes, “Everybody is a leader here.”
Nobody likes getting negative feedback, but there are better and worse ways to respond to it. First, give yourself time to reflect—it’s okay to not respond immediately, especially if you’re feeling defensive. Then, ask questions and collect more information so you can accurately interpret the feedback, and identify a clear action you can take to demonstrate to the rest of your team that you’re working on making a change. And remember that while you may not be able to change some things, you can be upfront with colleagues and ask for their help in navigating your own weaknesses.
Another reminder to be self-aware when it comes time for the annual performance review: “managers use more positive words to describe men and more negative ones to describe women.”
While everyone recognizes the need for a facilitator, the note-taker may be the real MVP of meetings. Without a record of what decisions were made and what next steps are required, it’s like the meeting never happened. NOBL and Tettra partnered to provide tips for note-takers, as well as a template for meeting notes.
A two-year study proves what telecommuters have long known: working from home increases productivity equivalent to full day of work. Not to mention, “employee attrition decreased by 50 percent among the telecommuters, they took shorter breaks, had fewer sick days, and took less time off. ” That said, it does increase feelings of isolation. To get the best results, the researcher’s recommendation was to encourage working from home on a part-time basis.
Violent politeness may be stifling your team. It’s a concept coined by INSEAD associate professor Gianpiero Petriglieri, and it refers to “situations in which people in groups would rather bite their tongues than openly express their disagreements or misgivings.” The real problem is when this shifts from being a conscious decision to an ingrained habit, and becomes more pernicious as you move up the chain. To address this within your own teams, try comparing “official truths”—your company’s ideals or preferred values—with “ground truths,” or actual behaviors.
It is becoming more common in the C-Suite. In an attempt to reduce bias and find the most promising candidates, more companies are requiring management candidates to undergo tests like the Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test. While the companies behind these tests claim that they help “weed out” candidates, other companies are still skeptical that a timed test can accurately measure all the skills a leader needs. If you’re looking to move up in the ranks, however, testing may become increasingly important.
Patreon has publicly shared its “Engineering Levels,” which outlines expectations for its engineers and provides a framework for career development. If your company is reviewing its roles and responsibilities, it’s a great reference.
Pro-active leaders often start their week by mapping out an ambitious to-do list. Unfortunately, this only works until the first unexpected request or interruption, which throws the to-do list into disarray and can leave people frustrated that they haven’t accomplished what they wanted to. Instead, it’s better to engage in contingency planning. Plan out your day as usual, but then evaluate the likelihood and frequency of interruptions. If it looks like a high-interruption day, then be realistic about the amount of tasks you can complete, and think about how you can adapt if interruptions do occur. It seems like a simple variation on planning, yet research indicates that this helps maintain engagement and productivity more than traditional time management.
If you want to understand someone’s point of view, we used to think it would help to “walk a mile in their shoes.” But a new study shows that’s not true—it only helps you remember what you already know about their situation. If you want to know what someone’s really thinking, your best bet is to ask them — and then really take in what they are saying.
Netflix is designing a more transparent relationship between its senior leadership and its board of directors. Instead of dense PowerPoints, directors receive 30-page memos in advance of meetings, and they attend monthly and quarterly senior leadership meetings to stay informed. As a result, there’s more prep time involved but shorter meetings, and the conversation is focused on discussion rather than review.
Jeff Bezos still reads all the emails that customers send his public-facing account—he finds it’s one of the best ways to address pain points, and provides a necessary check to Amazon’s extensive metrics. And while he doesn’t respond to all the emails, he will forward them on to the appropriate executives with the simple subject line “?,” indicating they should review it further.
Researchers at Gartner have identified four types of manager coaching styles. The most effective is the “Connector Coach,” who provides feedback on the area of expertise and directs their team to other experts when help is needed. Surprisingly, the least effective is the “Always-On Coach” who provides constant feedback. Managers who want to develop their team should focus on the quality of their feedback, not the frequency, and help them connect with others in the team and organization who can teach them new skills.
Despite best intentions, Starbucks’ anti-bias training probably won’t change much: a meta-analysis of implicit bias training “found no evidence that getting people to acknowledge their implicit biases alters behavior. ” It may even make bias worse by re-enforcing stereotypes. Instead, companies should focus their efforts on integrating the workforce and promoting more minorities to management. Developing policies around judgment calls in specific situations, as well as targeted programs like college recruiting, are also effective.
“Long hours, a lack of job autonomy through micromanagement, and unstable health insurance” are hurting American workers, causing an estimated 120,000 excess deaths a year. Part of the problem is that while productivity is tracked, employee wellness isn’t, making it easy for companies to ignore. And all too often, employees suffer in a toxic work environment because due to ego. We must fundamentally redesign the workplace—not rely on nap pods or yoga sessions—if we want to address the issue.
Changing up seating assignments really does lead to better work. A study of an e-commerce company going through a move found that employees sitting next to new colleagues increased their daily deal revenue by 40%. Surprisingly, it wasn’t due to increased collaboration, but rather, exposure to new ideas that increased their creativity. The researchers further postulated that this effect would flatten out over time as people absorbed all the relevant information from their seat mates, and that regular reshuffles would bring further innovation.
Looking for an easy and effective way to keep your team focused on your customer? One Ohio public library created a “human-centered design hallway” with Post-It notes, markers, books, and customer personas on the walls. Everyone is encouraged to contribute their ideas, or just walk through to be inspired by what the team is working on.
Diversity and Inclusion policies benefit the entire organization: a new study from the Mental Health Commission of Canada found that accommodating employees with mental illness led to a “significant return on investment.” Notably, many of the recommendations are simply good practices for creating a healthy work environment for all, such as allowing for greater flexibility in when and where work gets done, and developing communication norms that encourage civility.
Every leader knows they must delegate their work, but it’s easy to make excuses: it takes longer to supervise others; the results won’t meet your standards; the team is already too busy. To get better at delegating, corporate psychologist Patricia Thompson suggests identifying what tasks can be delegated; defining the desired outcome, level of quality, and deadlines upfront; and then following up to make sure they’ve been completed.
One common trait in high-performing leaders is resilience: they view obstacles and setbacks as opportunities for growth. Unfortunately, as one study reported in HBR found, this resilience often only comes from the individual, with little support coming from the team or organization. To increase your team’s resilience, encourage them to build meaningful relationships at work, and be emotionally supportive when they’re stressed.
Humility, it turns out, isn’t always a virtue: in organizations that are strongly hierarchical, a certain amount of braggadocio can actually help leaders be more effective. A humble leader was seen as weak and left their team feeling less confident in sharing ideas or taking risks. Organizations that were more egalitarian, however, greatly benefited from a humble leader, and were more likely communicate and be creative.
According to some of the latest psychological research, stability and consistency are so important to our brains that we erase how we used to be different. Once you’ve consumed new information or adopted a different viewpoint, you quite literally forget you ever knew otherwise. Ironically, this means that even though we change all the time, it seems like it rarely happens, leading people to be skeptical of introducing change.
We’ve often counseled leaders who are struggling with what to do with a “star” team member who is having a corrosive effective on the team at large. Now there’s evidence that bad behavior is contagious: in a study of financial advisors, an encounter with a colleague who had committed fraud increased the likelihood that they would commit fraud by 37%.
Give a listen to Adam Grant’s recent discussion on “stars” on teams. It turns out that whether you’re looking at Wall Street analysts or the NBA, teams that are 60% comprised of stars outperform teams with 80% or more stars.
Teams are working harder ever, but it still seems like there’s not enough time in the day. This may be a corollary of Blinn’s Law: “As graphics pioneer James Blinn first pointed out, in animation, rendering time remains constant, even as computers get faster. An artist gets accustomed to waiting a certain number of hours for an image to render, so as hardware improves, instead of using it to save time, he employs it to render more complex graphics. This is why rendering time at Pixar has remained essentially constant over the past fifteen years.”
Leaders are always looking for better ways to measure results. We love this simple sticker-based tool that measures if people feel they’ve finished valuable work on a daily basis. Each team assesses the value of their work with yellow or red stickers: the higher or lower the sticker on the flip chart, the greater or lesser the value, respectively.
Women are often not recognized for their leadership abilities, like speaking up, because they don’t fit the image of a leader—that is, a man. Paradoxically, the best way to change this perception is to expose people to more women in leadership positions.
Drew Gilpin Faust, the first female president of Harvard University, talks about leading the institution through a decade of change. Things she did to affect change: held hiring committees to wider search parameters, created advising programs that helped low-income students adjust to life at college, made all marketing and school signage more inclusive, and integrated administrative functions (capital planning, IT, and even libraries) to reduce silos between colleges. And like sooooo many organizations, Harvard has adopted a “One Harvard” mantra to drive cultural alignment and collaboration.
Most leaders know their strengths but are oblivious to their weaknesses. And 1/3 of leaders have a fatal flaw, a weakness that severely hampers their ambition or reputation. The most effective way to get self-aware is to find someone who can give it to you straight.
What makes work meaningful? Workers find it for themselves, so it’s not something you can spur with inspirational posters or an internal comms plan. What helps: if people outside the company see your work as important, if your job requires emotional work (especially uncomfortable, or even painful thoughts and feelings), if you have a series of high-moments (not just one big one), if you actually reflect on whether your work is meaningful, and if you can see your work as an integral part of your life’s journey. You’ll definitely make work meaningless, though, if you: ask people to do things against their values, take them for granted, give them busy work, treat them unfairly, disempower them, socially isolate them, or put them at risk. Individuals can derive meaning from their job, from particular tasks in their work, from interactions with others, or from the purpose of the organization and you should focus on that full ecosystem of meaning.
“For many leaders, the allure of best practices is strong and their expectations for results are unrealistic. “
“For as much as many might wish to think of performance management as numeric and thus perfectly quantifiable, it is as much a product of context and social science as the products we design and develop.”
“A good prioritization framework can help you consider each factor about a project idea with clear-eyed discipline and combine those factors in a rigorous, consistent way.”
“We find that living and working with women for 8 weeks causes men to adopt more egalitarian attitudes.”
Watch CEO Bree Groff discuss how understanding loss can help you manage change at MirumOpus 2017.
“Too many startups are looking for their performance panacea — they go through systems like 7Geese, or OKRs, or Impraise like Kleenex — each time rolling something out with elaborate rules and deadlines. “
“Marketing a flexible workplace is one thing, but investing the energy, resources, and care to actually build one is another. “
“We’re drowning in email. And the many hours we spend on it are generating ever more work for our friends and colleagues. We can reverse this spiral only by mutual agreement. “
“In the past 15 years, I have helped develop new ways of robustly measuring management practices and can now show that a large fraction of productivity differences is due to the adoption of those practices.”
“It’s a recipe for building a ‘sick system.’ It tells you exactly how to create a screwed up environment driven by panic and powered by manipulation.”
What I Learned about Management and Culture from Growing Uber’s Asia Business from Zero to Billion
“At the end of my experiment, I felt conflicted about the four-day workweek.”
“Change is hard in the same way that it’s hard to finish a marathon. Yes, it requires significant effort. But the fact that it requires effort doesn’t negate the fact that most people who commit to a change initiative will eventually succeed.”
“Our analysis reveals that leaders must be ready to transform their companies: At any given point in the 12-year period we studied, 32% of all large companies were experiencing a severe deterioration in total shareholder return.”
“Between 2012 and early 2017, 180 Tesla employees applied for compensation for partially or permanently disabling injuries”
“Management fads such as radical transparency often take root because successful companies and individuals think their success is a result of all the decisions they made being correct.”
“…In the course of my career as a manager, I’ve seen the biggest displays of human emotion during something that’s otherwise straightforward: desk moves. “
“Companies with diverse executive teams posted bigger profit margins than their rivals, compared with companies with relatively little diversity in their upper echelons.”
“We show that under these circumstances moderately sized groups, whose members are selected randomly from a larger crowd, can achieve higher average accuracy across all tasks than either larger groups or individuals.”
“If BlackRock wants to act in a socially responsible way… It could demand that CEOs of the underlying firms be compensated based on the difference between the stock returns of their firm and the stock returns of other firms in the industry.”
The Fall of Travis Kalanick Was a Lot Weirder and Darker Than You Thought
“… It was up to her to diagnose why mentorship usually goes sideways and design something different.“
“We are now in the era of do-it-yourself career development.”
“In the digital economy, business architecture must also focus on agility — designing rapid reuse of individual business components.”
“Studies show that when women have a preference, they would choose to have a male boss instead of a female boss… Where does this aversion to female bosses come from?”
“Regardless of what’s happening in your specific meeting, the principal cause of most conflicts is a struggle for validation.”
“According to a Korn Ferry poll of nearly 5,000 professionals, the top reason people are looking for a new job in 2018? They’re bored.”
“Forget automation. The workplace is already cracking up in profound ways, and Washington is sorely behind on dealing with it.”
“How might you introduce friction so that detrimental behaviors are harder to start? And how might you reduce friction so that positive actions feel more like a glide than an uphill trek?”
“37% of managers said they found it hard to give negative feedback to workers about their performance, 20% said they struggled to share their own vulnerability, and another 20% disliked being the messenger for company policies.”
“If work dominated your every moment, would life be worth living?”
Our founder Bud Caddell was featured on the podcast OverTime, discussing what it takes for teams and leaders to embrace change and how to make it work.
“You can’t use outcome quality as a perfect signal of decision quality.”
“Racially homogeneous groups are less rigorous in their decision-making — and make more mistakes — than diverse ones.”
“…Some companies are ‘taking more and more of an interest in labor market problem-solving and the development of regional economies,’.. But how much responsibility for job training should these companies take?”
“…Being among the best gets more and more demanding with each passing year. Each generation of champions develops a body of best practices. The next generation must learn them and then build upon them, leaving those who come after them with even more to learn to get up to speed.”
“All over the world, organizations encourage kooky activities unrelated to employees’ work.”
Glassdoor’s “Best Places to Work” list is out… do you agree with the rankings?
“We believe business leaders need a new mental model to better understand the complex interplay between companies, economies, and societies.” (paywall)
“If introverts can develop strategies to more accurately forecast their enjoyment of behavior more conducive to emergent leadership, then it is possible that such individuals will be on a level playing field with extroverts in relevant social situations.”
Last but not least, some fun from McSweeney’s: “My new job at Amazon, or deep inside the Church of Scientology, is working out great. Dog-friendly offices, great nearby coffee shops, and a continual performance improvement algorithm insure that I’m operating at higher and higher levels of productivity. Data is liberating!”
FirstRound’s 6 Must-Reads for First-Time Managers
“But if you work for a company that doesn’t have an official policy [on career development], how can you make the case to your manager (and the necessary higher ups) to support you?”
“…Rather than offering facts, your goal should be to show emotional leadership and try to figure out what are the emotional blocks inhibiting your colleague from seeing reality clearly.”
“So even though the last time I wrote about performance reviews it was to share why we don’t do them, it’s not actually that weird (at least at Buffer) to return to the topic only to share that we have been doing them, or at least experimenting with them.”
Quartz just published a NOBL article about how AI and automation are coming for your manager’s job.
“I was convinced that if I could see my meetings, projects, ideas, and tasks all together, I’d be able to better plan out my days. I’m a bit biased here, but the visual and spatial aspects of Trello’s boards, lists, and cards seemed like the perfect solution to me.”
“The question arises as to whether there are natural “sweet spots” at which communities are likely to be more successful (i.e. survive longer without fissioning) because they map better onto natural grouping patterns and their underpinning psychology.”
“The notion that technology is killing the labor market is not true.”
“A Dozen Business Lessons from Waffle House“
Netflix uses a “Start, Stop, Continue” format to give its employees feedback.
“A new Adobe study, based on the findings from a survey of 750 U.S. creative professionals, reveals the unique barriers for women and people of color in their pursuit of a creative career. “
“We have sold ‘lean’ as a deceptively simple set of common-sense process mechanics with the idea that if we just implement them, we’ll get incredibly great results. As true as that is, ‘just implement them’ is a lot harder than most of the ‘rapid improvement’ models imply.”
“The widely accepted view that strategy and execution are separable activities sets companies up for failure in a fast-paced world.”
Episode 599 of HBR IdeaCast tells the life stories of 3 everyday individuals who led momentous change.
“But perhaps Tesla’s greatest challenge isn’t within the company. It’s the “Mary and Carlos” threat. Mary Bara is GM’s CEO; Carlos Ghosn is the emperor of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi-Avtovaz conglomerate that recently jumped to the #1 position in the auto industry.”
A fun (and macabre!) way to honor the past in an organization.
Our very own Kim Perkins answers the question, “Do you have to be a jerk to be a leader?“
Jeffrey Immelt on how he transformed GE.
“While the rest of the auto industry increasingly uses robots in manufacturing, Toyota has taken a contrarian stance by accentuating human craftsmanship.”
“In my six years at Airbnb, I watched it scale over 100X on every metric: listings, users, revenue, employees, and, yes, sometimes complexity.”
“Part of safety in an environment like that is being able to admit mistakes and being open to learning… That helped contribute to an 84 percent decline in Shell’s accident rate company wide.”
“In a society where market rules rule, the only way for an employee to know her value is to look for another job and, if she finds one, usually to quit.”
In 1983, female computer scientists saw women leaving the field in droves. Here’s what they had to say about it.
If you really want to adopt a new way of working as an organization, scan the bullets at the end of this article to see how wide and deep those changes must go.
We are checklist obsessives. This product management one is niiiiice. Imagine if your team encoded your process into one of these? (hint: do it!)
So many leaders ask us “how do I build trust?” This interactive guide uses game theory to explain how and why we trust each other.
“We think there’s real reason to believe that we are on the verge of a new productivity boom.”
“IBM, Aetna Inc., Bank of America Corp., Best Buy Co., Honeywell International Inc. and Reddit Inc. are among employers that have ended or reduced remote-work arrangements recently as managers demand more collaboration, closer contact with customers—and more control over the workday.” (paywall)
“We found that in certain circumstances, managers were actually more responsive to suggestions from opposite-gender subordinates.” (paywall)
The essential elements of giving good feedback.
“Asking in person is the significantly more effective approach; you need to ask six people in person to equal the power of a 200-recipient email blast.”
Want to brush up on your design thinking? Need a refresher on how to understand your customer? Add these to your bookshelf.
“We face not monotony in our jobs but the temptations of endless variety.” (paywall)
How to encourage psychological safety on your team, from one of the people behind Google’s famous Project Aristotle.
“At Toyota, there exists a way to solve problems that generates knowledge and helps people doing the work learn how to learn. Company managers use a tool called the A3… as a key tactic in sharing a deeper method of thinking that lies at the heart of Toyota’s sustained success. ” (paywall)
“On Aubrey Blanche’s first day as Atlassian’s Global Head of Diversity Inclusion, the company was hiring roughly 10% women into its technical workforce. Over the last year, 18% of their technical hires were women.”
“Let’s hope the internet and artificial intelligence can lead a new tech revolution, but so far it is looking like a long, tough slog.”
“If your culture expects people to work long hours or hang out off-hours, the strain on the people who are different, in whatever way, is increased, and your ability to retain a diverse work force is reduced.”
“In this exclusive interview, Stanley, Nir and Baier deconstruct how they are building a more transparent and trustworthy compensation culture.”
“What actually happens once you eliminate the employee evaluation is a bigger farce than the evaluation itself.”
A case for Summer Fridays: “…Because it’s easier to come by fun in the summer, people are actually better at getting things done.“
“…If you have ambitions that involve building great companies and improving customers’ and workers’ lives, the stock-based metric will fail you in the long run.”
Google officials said it was “too financially burdensome and logistically challenging to hand over salary records that the government requested in the discrimination case.”
“To reduce dissonance, we have to modify the self-concept or accept the evidence. Guess which route people prefer?”
“There’s no precise formula for when and how to share challenges with your employees, given how varied each situation can be. But I’d recommend the following guidelines…”
40 ways to invest in more resilient teams.
“Exceptionally inclusive managers do a few things differently.”
Non-competes have gotten out of hand here in the US. “The growth of non-compete agreements is part of a broad shift in which companies assert ownership over work experience as well as work.”
Women at work are drowning in advice and starving for opportunities. Lara Hogan urges us all to provide women (and non-binary people) sponsorship, not just mentorship.
Building 87 is where Microsoft invents its way back into relevance with cross-functional teams and heaps of imagination. Also, like Batman, they have an Applied Sciences Lab.
Christina Wodtke wrote up a couple Medium articles on some of the most fundamental ideas behind team design and she nailed it out of the park. Well done!
IBM admits just how hard it is to radically change a company while also supporting remote work. This week they offered its marketers (and others) a choice: come back to the office or find a new job.
“They discovered that in certain situations, more innovation led to poorer performance. Their conclusion: sometimes, less innovation is better.”
How Seth Godin kicked his meeting habit.
“Not only is unfairness the biggest reason for tech workers to quit jobs, it can also cost tech companies close to $16 billion per year to find replacements.”
“It occurred to me that in sports—and perhaps in other fields where teamwork matters, from business, politics and the military to science and the arts—we’ve been choosing the wrong people to lead us.”
“The precariat is everywhere. Companies such as Nissan have begun manning factories with temps; even the U.S. Postal Service has turned to them. Academic jobs are increasingly filled with relatively cheap, short-term teaching appointments.”
“One of our core advantages as investors at the Motley Fool is that we look very, very closely at companies’ cultures. And I think that, for the most part, Wall Street does not.”
“I needed a way to effectively play each role I have — engineer, engineering manager, engineering leadership team and senior management team — when there are sometimes only minutes to switch my mindset and get on the right wavelength… I created a playlist for every role, and then some. “
“[The founders of Instagram] realized they had themselves become a bottleneck to getting things done. So three months ago, they began scheduling meetings to do nothing but make decisions.”
FirstRound’s article on how HotelTonight turned profitable in seven months goes beyond the financial aspects to how they managed change within the team.
In an effort to reduce the gap between men’s and women’s wages, some states and cities are banning companies from asking “what’s your current salary?” during interviews.
“We can try to convince ourselves that we are free, but as long as we must submit to the increasing authority of our employers and the labor market, we are not.”
It turns out that how you manage might matter less than how consistently you apply whatever management practices you have. (Paywall)
Get an inside look into Google’s TGIF Meetings.
“…Existing gender diversity had a big impact on how workers felt about pursuing more senior roles.”
The debate continues on whether the six-hour workday is better or worse for companies and employees.
How to deal with burnout—whether it’s your employees’ or your own.
“…The problem with interviews is worse than irrelevance: They can be harmful, undercutting the impact of other, more valuable information about interviewees.”
“…Tool adoption was not the real problem to solve. The real problem to solve was getting teams to discover and adopt the modern practices that the tools enabled.”
“For the second year in a row, Google’s parent company Alphabet will oppose a shareholder plan that would commit the business to evaluate and disclose whether it has a pay gap between female and male employees.”
Agree or disagree? “In the age of networked enterprise, strong cultures may turn from assets to liabilities.”
“[Factory vs. Studio is] a live simulation in the classroom that helps students understand the importance of start conditions when they’re managing a team.”
80% of people think they’re better-than-average leaders.
“After a salary audit and adjustment in 2015, Salesforce has found that it needs to constantly monitor compensation, or inequality will keep creeping back in.”
“Today’s young managers may be thinking, ‘Show me the money!’ But there are other ways to keep them engaged.” (Paywall)
And you thought trust falls were bad.
“If some of history’s greatest figures didn’t put in immensely long hours, maybe the key to unlocking the secret of their creativity lies in understanding not just how they labored but how they rested.”
How a “Skills Inventory” can help you better allocate work and encourage employees’ career development.
“Petitions only work if employers are willing to entertain them, but for many employees, they’re the only way to be heard.”
Vox has ongoing coverage of how the Uber scandals are playing out.
“While these might strike visitors as silly, the movements and shouts are a Japanese-innovated industrial safety method known as pointing-and-calling; a system that reduces workplace errors by up to 85 percent.”
“Executives may therefore need to become smarter about when to open up and when to withhold information.”
“Smarter machines can — and should — be keys to unlocking greater returns from human capital.” (Paywall)
Shots fired: “Instead of winning a war for talent, organizations appear to be waging a war on talent, repelling and alienating employees more successfully than harnessing their skills.”
“…No matter how good it feels in the moment, complaining about your work problems may leave you feeling worse in the long run.”
“The Revolt of the Caring Classes”: a four-minute video in which anthropologist David Graeber discusses how we’re re-evaluating the meaning of work.
“These companies… start with about the same mix of star players, but they are able to produce dramatically more output.”
XKCD’s take on employee onboarding.
“The existing research on motivation tells a clear story: There are both psychological and performance benefits to connecting employees to the beneficiaries of their work.”
“How on earth did such a debauched zest become the highest calling for a whole generation of entrepreneurs?
We humbly suggest that unilaterally deciding to share everyone’s salaries is not the best way to build trust within your organization.
“When a leader takes that fundamental position of customers first, and they actually mean it, they’re simultaneously taking the position that problems are first, not politics.”
“When technology automates some portion of a job, employment in that occupation often increases.”
“No matter how you try and dress it, a cubicle still manages to feel cold, sterile and isolating. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.” (video)
In case this hasn’t popped up on your feed yet, this is a depressing look at the sexist culture at Uber.
Gallup’s State of the American Workplace is up (requires your information to download).
“Organizations often don’t consider that the management practices and methods they are about to introduce come with underlying values and assumptions about how things should get done.”
Delegation doesn’t end when you tell someone else to do it.
“Sid’s biggest tip for success in scaling a distributed company: write everything down.”
Four ways to get better at giving feedback.
What can you remove to make something better? Ask Johnny Ramone.
“Research that we’re 15% less productive, we have immense trouble concentrating and we’re twice as likely to get sick in open working spaces, has contributed to a growing backlash against open offices.”
And here’s a professional way to give feedback to that annoying colleague next to you in your open office.
“Complexity is like addiction… It comes on slowly, forming weak bonds that you can barely feel. But as it continues, the bonds strengthen quietly until they calcify and become hard to break.”
The early results of gender-blind parental leave are in: “Since Etsy’s new parental leave policy took effect, 48 employees have taken leave: 50% identify as men, and 50% as women.”
At Warby Parker, teams pick what they want to work on. Far from creating chaos, it’s actually created an efficient market.
“People used to their work being constantly monitored tend to now expect it: as my contact put it, ‘They don’t think it’s that bad. It seems normal.’”
Use amplification to get more credit for your work.
How leaders at Google, BuzzFeed, Xerox, Nike, and more make decisions.
“Organizations are built on the work of people who don’t get paid very much, don’t receive sufficient respect and are understandably wary of the promises they’ve been hearing for years. Calling these folks the bottom of the org chart doesn’t help.”
Want to learn more about Toyota’s best practices and revisit a classic text on management? Check out “Re-Translating Lean from Its Origin.”
“When we work alongside others (either as the director of combined labour or as a member of a team), our collective powers are extended way beyond anything that one fragile being could ever accomplish.”
A Field Guide to Dudes Who Ruin Meetings.
“The old-school review systems may have been rigid, but their replacements are confusing, often asking too much of employees. In an attempt to differentiate, online performance review platforms have added so many bells and whistles that people don’t want to use them.”
“But there’s also something a little, well, eye-rollingly predictable about Silicon Valley elites latching onto a philosophy that teaches them how to accept the things they cannot change.”
A classic post on “What is an Agile Leader,” but a good refresher as we enter the new year.
“An exercise in deliberate institutional memory ” — learn how the UK’s Government Digital Service started a digital transformation within the government, and how others can inspire change within their own organization.
“Because organization (org) structures appear to be easily distilled down to simple graphs, it is frequently the case that when a company is doing well a given org structure serves as a model for others to follow; and when things are not going well there’s a chorus to change to some obvious alternative.”
“Their call to action is to achieve full gender parity in all businesses across all levels of corporate leadership by 2030, with a near-term goal of women holding at least 30% of senior roles.”
“Once a startup leader gets up on a chair to address the staff and someone yells out, ‘We can’t hear you,’ it’s time to start rethinking how you’re communicating.”
Beth Comstock, Vice Chair of GE, has just released a piece on The Emergent Era and how organizations must adapt.
An interesting peek into change management: The CEO of Zenefits tweeted all the changes the organization has made in the past ten months, and his reasons for stepping down now.
Agree or disagree? Apple may have finally gotten too big for its unusual corporate structure.
How healthy is your design team? This list will get you started by asking the right questions.
What would you do if you didn’t have to work to receive an income?
“If Richemont’s removal of a (very important) management layer pays dividends, it will be noteworthy—it’s not full holacracy (letting employees make all of their own decisions), but it’s an interesting experiment in corporate governance.”
We love the Atlassian Team Playbook, with “guides for tracking your team’s health, and plays that build your Get $#!τ Done™ muscle.”
“Ideas breed ideas…The classic technique is by putting things together that don’t go together.”
Our friends at Breather have put together a piece about the best workspaces for different kinds of work.
“The authors argue that companies can bridge this gap between strategic intent and actual implementation by following three steps: figure out what will move the needles, choose a bottleneck, and craft the rules.”
“The Spotify model can help you to understand how things are done at Spotify, but you shouldn’t copy it in your own organization.”
“I was able to process all of this over a period of weeks. I had become comfortable with the problem and comfortable with the path forward. However, I was now expecting the whole team to process all of that in a one-hour meeting.”
It’s not easy to disagree with your boss, but sometimes it’s necessary. Here’s how to do it, politely.
“When I joined Handy, it was much more about the business opportunity and how are we going to accomplish the business goals, and a lot less about, ‘Wait a second, how is the org going to run? How are the people going to feel? How are we going to motivate them to get to this vision?’”
“…No amount of likability or shared traits can make up for that kind of trust and respect. By overemphasizing culture fit, founders guarantee their company’s demise.”
“At the start of every board meeting, the first topic of discussion is about where the fire exits are, how to access the stairs, and where we will meet up afterward. Why would we bother starting every meeting that way? Because United’s culture is built on safety. And the best way to cultivate and reinforce that culture is to lead with behaviors and take actions that promote the importance of safety.” Leaders can’t control culture, but no one has greater influence over it.
“When Voss analyzed the transcripts of his most unlikely hostage negotiation victories, he discovered that the turning point frequently occurred right after his team took the time to listen to the captor’s argument, summarized that argument back to the captor, and then got the captor to say, ‘That’s right.’” Leadership is a negotiation.
“It was deeply ironic, she thought, that in a data-driven industry that prides itself on running experiments, performing A/B testing, and measuring outcomes, there was no official, easily accessible data about the number of women actually working in the field.” Industries only begin to change when someone has the courage to demand it.
“I remember one really bad All Hands towards the end of 2013. There was just no consistency — one presentation was really tactical; another was strategic. The narrative wasn’t cohesive. Team members didn’t know what to expect, they weren’t always sure how the meeting topics fit together or why they were relevant to their work, so they tuned out.” Give your company meetings a theme to create cohesion out of rapid growth.
“No matter how minor or obviously necessary the change, it was always labeled the dreaded “reorg.” Morale took a hit. Team dynamics suffered.” At NOBL, we find the term ‘self organizing’ to be misleading, so we prefer “self editing” and here’s a great case study from Newscred.
“The team — for lack of a better way to put it — is a group of individuals who operate within the bounds their interpersonal conflicts allow for. Limit those conflicts, and you become high performing.” A good back to basics approach on teaming.
“So now we have a slightly different answer to the question about the unemployed being better off in work. Yes they are, as long as they are in good-quality jobs. If they are in bad jobs, there is a perversely strong chance that they will be worse off — especially in terms of their mental health.” The fight for full employment might actually be bad for mental health.
“These female executives often serve as role models for other women in the company. They push for better diversity practices and help men overcome hidden biases.”
Our Founder Bud Caddell was interviewed about what every organization gets wrong about collaboration.
“The 165-slide presentation includes tips on defining your company’s culture to attract the right employees, how to organize interviews, and where to find compensation data to set salaries.”
“More women are leaning in — and we’ll all go farther when the workplace stops pushing back.”
“Organizations hire smart people, but then positively encourage them not to use their intelligence.“
“If someone wants to see him, they are told to call and set up the meeting when they can see him tomorrow. So if you want to meet with him next Friday, you call next Thursday and say ‘Can I see Mr. Buffet tomorrow?’”
“…the thought that keeps occurring to me as I go from board meeting to board meeting is the key to success when you are past the startup/product market fit stage comes down to two things, team and strategy.”
“The goal is to create a situation that is better suited to autistic people’s styles of communicating and thinking… It represents a novel, and potentially fraught, expansion of the idea of diversity.”
“Female staffers adopted a meeting strategy they called ‘amplification’: When a woman made a key point, other women would repeat it, giving credit to its author. This forced the men in the room to recognize the contribution — and denied them the chance to claim the idea as their own.”
“When someone does a mistake and they’re harshly reprimanded for it, the next time it happens they’ll prefer to work hard to maintain that a secret.”
Quartz is running a series called “Perfect Company” exploring how organizations are building better corporate cultures.
How Google Ventures uses design sprints to get more done.
“It’s no coincidence that the “dynamic” workplace has arisen at a time when professional work has become increasingly insecure.”
“In fact, the majority of labs and innovation centers flounder because of one, critical, missing ingredient.“
“In her research, she has found that putting on an emotional mask at work—conforming to a certain image that doesn’t necessarily correspond to how you feel or who you are—drains you of energy that can only be replenished if you then have an opportunity to be yourself.”
“Supporting our working families isn’t just the ethical thing to do (which, frankly, should be reason enough for responsible leaders); it will also balance out financially.”
“New research suggests that maintaining strict distinctions between work roles and home roles might actually be what is causing our feelings of stress to set in.”
“If you’re going to go from a laggard to a leader, try to get to something you can actually achieve and sustain that looks like real change.”
“What I’ll share today are some of the factory processes we’ve developed over the years to keep ourselves in the sweet spot between high-risk/idealistic (where most research lives), and safe-bet/pragmatic (where most big companies live).”
Eric Quint, Chief Design Officer at 3M, details the subtle art of being a designer inside of a legacy organization and how to teach colleagues about the importance of design.
A new podcast from Bloomberg on “job frustrations, dilemmas, habits, and everything that happens in the office.”
Bruce Tulgan, author “It’s Okay to Manage Your Boss,” and John Baldoni, author of “Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up,” have identified six things you must do to build a good relationship with your manager.
Giving your team the authority to make a call independently will help your team act faster and give you more time to focus on the high-priority decisions that do require your attention.
“The face-to-face conversations we have with colleagues in hallways, meeting rooms, and even elevators can still represent huge—and often untapped—opportunities to advance our careers.”
Does your company need an innovation outpost? The six questions to consider before investing.
“Peterson’s 10-point code is intended to guide leaders as they seek to raise the level of trust within in their organizations.”
Need to get out of the office? Try a work from anywhere week.
“I realized I’d received much more management training in the last five years than I did in the first 20 years — when I really needed it — combined.”
“I’m convinced that the meetings that take place inside Star Trek episodes and movies are superlative models of how you should run meetings at the office.”
“I need to manage myself—my happiness, my job satisfaction—the same way I would manage it for any of my reports, and take the time to identify problems, and put the tools in place to solve them.”
While no one likes dealing with conflict, these five exercises can help improve your team’s conflict management skills.
“Here’s an age-old management conundrum: who should be rewarded for high performance, and how? The answer is deliciously complex.”
Twitter’s VP of Product breaks down a process for finding out what your customer really wants.
RebelMouse CEO Paul Barry has pinpointed four triggers that signal a critical need for new product sprint, as well as the roles required to make those sprints successful.
“If you want to make sure everyone can be there, the best time to meet is Tuesday afternoon, according to a study from YouCanBookMe… The firm crunched data from more than 2 million responses to 530,000 invitations and concluded that 2:30pm Tuesday is the time most people are free.”
“If you answered ‘Yes’, your boss might just be a secret saboteur, drafted by the CIA, acting purposefully to undermine your nation’s productivity and morale.”
Behold, the five charts that reveal the Future of Work.
As more and more companies embrace offsite workers, culture becomes a harder thing to maintain. Customer support company Help Scout has outlined six ways you can intentionally create a successful work culture when working with a virtual team.
Any producer or project manager worth their salt will tell you that the first 5% of any project is the most important. How you bring the team together, define roles, and outline the work will determine how well you work together in the future. Here’s how UX content strategist Jerry Cao of UXPin kicks off his projects.
“The following 10 principles can help unlock the potential strategic leadership in your enterprise… You may have already adopted some of these tenets, and think that’s enough.”
Starbucks invited 9,600 store managers to their Leadership Lab: a $35 million, 400,000 square foot experience with 21 projector screens and 5,000 coffee plants, dedicated to mobilizing employees to become brand evangelists.
“People and organizations looking for brave new ideas or significant critical thinking need to recognize that disconnection is therefore sometimes preferable to connection.”
Jeff Bezos explains the difference between Type 1 and 2 decisions, and how distinguishing between the two will help prevent Amazon from becoming risk-averse.
Here are five ways to find out if a company really cares about work-life balance.
Here are four myths that bosses believe about employee engagement. #1? That there’s no proof that happy employees will work hard.
This handy infographic summarizes how the future of work is changing, complete with stats on demographics.
“It’s likely that companies pursuing Millennial-specific employee engagement strategies are wasting time, focus, and money. They would be far better served to focus on factors that lead all employees to join, stay, and perform at their best.”
“Here are 10 warning signs. If you have an employee demonstrating seven or more of these characteristics, you’ve got a majorly unhappy player on your hands.”
“While not exactly ‘50,000 ways it cannot be done,’ [this] is a compilation of startup post-mortems that describe the factors that drove a startup’s demise.”
“Continuing with obsolete management practices is a pretty quick way to get yourself disrupted.”
A bad reputation costs a company at least $10K more per hire.
“A strategic narrative is a special kind of story. It says who you are as a company. Where you’ve been, where you are, and where you are going… It explains why you exist and what makes you unique.”
“The problem is not that overworked professionals are all miserable. The problem is that they are not.”
“When we polled 377 business leaders, 94% of those in companies with revenue of more than $5 billion told us that internal dysfunction—not lack of opportunity or unmatchable competitor capabilities—was now the main barrier to their continued profitable growth.”
“Of the millennials surveyed, 48 percent of women said they are ‘being overlooked for potential leadership positions,’ while men outweighed women in saying they were leaders in their departments by a 21 percent to 16 percent margin.”
Find how just how much it’s costing your company whenever you and your teammates sit through another meeting.
“Medium announced it will no longer use the ‘self-management’ system trumpeted by the likes of Zappos and other companies as the antidote to traditional hierarchy.”
“We want candidates to know that the enthusiasm they felt during the interview process didn’t only exist to get them to join the team and fill a seat. We’re seriously stoked to be working with them and can’t wait for them to start. That’s why candidates get [a personalized gif] in their emails after they decide to join Lever.”
“Zenefits may be among the first of several cautionary tales to highlight a sobering lesson: For a start-up, growing too quickly can produce just as spectacular a failure as growing too slowly.”
“It’s her responsibility to ‘develop Millennial champions within their careers [at Bacardi] while leveraging them as a ‘live think tank’ of target consumers.’ De Swardt has created the Bacardi Rising Stars program where emerging Millennial leaders will be equipped with the knowledge, expertise, and experiences to prepare them to be future leaders.”
“The effective organizational system isn’t just a mechanistic one of capital investment. It’s a human system that relies heavily on unique human capabilities.“
“We examine data from prediction markets run by Google, Ford Motor Company, and an anonymous basic materials conglomerate (Firm X). Despite theoretically adverse conditions, we find these markets are relatively efficient, and improve upon the forecasts of experts at all three firms by as much as a 25% reduction in mean-squared error. “
“One of the biggest barriers to understanding others is excessive egocentrism.”
“The reality is that few organizations have figured out how to innovate, adapt, and create amazing things without burning their people out.”
“So while I believe transparency around pay is essential, sharing salaries in a spreadsheet isn’t going to solve issues around pay equity.”
“The future will resent us in exact proportion to our failure to have attempted to meaningfully address those systemic problems that we will be known to have been quite aware of.”
Microsoft Research: 8 Ways a Team’s Structure Influences its Software Development
“It would be easy to just cash in if our philosophy changes. With a co-op, that’s impossible.”
“Even the kids in Lord of the Flies took half a dozen chapters before they started jabbing each other with spears. At Zappos the problems started almost immediately.”
“And that’s all we need with Silicon Valley: a watchful eye and an intelligent wariness of any self-satisfied bullshit.”
Facebook hired just 7 black people in 2013
“Abusive as all this sounds, I would argue that most of the bad behavior of these men is fear-based, impulsive and reactive rather than consciously hurtful. It grows not out of a sense of superiority but rather of insecurity.”
“The dysfunction in the organization becomes the dysfunction in the product, and that gets passed on to the customers.”
“Historically women over the age of 55 would not have been an area of focus (for HR managers), but as the research suggests, this pool of talent might hold the key to transformation and in some cases, business survival”
“Leaders who lead organizational change, at any level, are implicitly dealing with the act of changing themselves.”
“I think what you’ve described as a shift towards a culture of sustainability is actually part of a much more profound shift—one toward meaningful work.”
“The number of female CEOs of America’s most influential companies is stuck at a 5 percent, as it was the year before.”
“Although diversity in many industries has increased in recent decades, progress in the corporate realm has been slower than expected.”
“This problem is not us versus the machines, but between us, as humans, and how we value one another.“
“Staggs encouraged a policy that’s internally referred to as ‘constructive discomfort,’ which was meant to guard against cultural complacency by fostering collaboration.”
“The survey of 7,200 adults found that about half had left a job at some point ‘to get away from their manager.’”
Stop saying ‘diversity’ and just call it what it is: normalizing.
“By accepting this narrative of progress uncritically, imagining that technological change equals historic human betterment, many in Silicon Valley excuse themselves from moral reflection. Put simply, the progress narrative short-circuits moral reflection on the consequences of new technologies.”
“From entities with persistent ownership beholden to their nation states, corporations have transitioned into organizations with investors with no commitment to any particular nation or generation other than the present. The result is that the interests of the corporation have progressively diverged from those of the societies within which they operate.”
“It is time to quit viewing motherhood as incompatible with employment.”
“The real gender wage gap is for moms”
“the biggest challenge in Digital Transformation is not in the initial refocusing on a new organising principle, it’s in resisting the steady drift back to the old one.”
“Here, you can have our intellectual property because at the end of the day this will be better for the planet. If you guys adopt it you can scale more, because you’re way bigger than us.”
“Women leaders are viewed as being less competent than men, they’re evaluated in performance reviews on personality traits while men are evaluated on accomplishments, and they’re interrupted more often during team meetings.”
“I’ve made billions of dollars of failures at Amazon.com. Literally billions of dollars of failures. You might remember Pets.com or Kosmo.com. It was like getting a root canal with no anesthesia. None of those things are fun. But they also don’t matter.”