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  • David Bloomfield

#28 Sharing some things that I’ve Read, Heard & Seen

What I’ve Read

Nine lies about work: A freethinking leaders guide to the real world by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall - I absolutely loved this book its wonderfully provocative and (of course in my opinion) it holds considerable truth. It really does shine a light onto the many core beliefs and distractions that we continue to create within our organisations and also beliefs that we follow within our careers. Many of which fail to serve our interests and distract us from the many possibilities of what could be achieved. These universal beliefs or lies as they are defined here can cause much distress, they can certainly lead us to lose connection and confidence in our uniqueness, slowly losing our ambition to follow our dreams as we become distracted and governed by FOPO (fear of other peoples opinions) to follow others disconnected assessments and their narrow expectations of us.

Here are the nine lies and the alternative core truths:

Lie #1 - People care which company they work for. Truth: People care which team they are in, because that’s where work really happens.

Your company does not have a uniform culture, if there is something distinct about your company's culture then its immeasurable, that the total score of your company's employee survey is simply the clumping together of lots of highly varied team surveys and that these clumps mask what really matters.

Our overemphasis on culture leads companies to remove responsibility from where it resides - within teams. Culture consists of stories we share with one another to breathe life into the empty vessel of a company. So strong is our identification with our tribe that’s its hard for us to imagine that other people inside our company are having a completely different experience from ours, which leads us to believe in the myth of a company culture. Yet these team experiences have far more bearing on whether we stay in the tribe or leave it than do our tribal stories.

Lie #2 - The best plans wins. Truth: The best intelligence wins - because the world moves too fast for plans

Many plans particularly those created in large organisations are over generalised, quickly obsolete, and frustrating to those asked to execute them. Its far better to co-ordinate your teams efforts in real time, relying heavily on the informed, detailed intelligence of each unique team member.

The underlying assumption is that people are wise, and that if you can present them with accurate real time, reliable data about the real world in front of them, they'll invariably make smart decisions.

How to create an intelligence system: 1) Liberate as much information as you possibly can. Make all information as possible available to your team. Planning systems contain information to those who "need to know". Intelligence systems don't they liberate as much information as possible, as fast as possible. You don't have to worry if they will understand it or be able to make use of it; 2) Watch carefully to see which information people find useful. Don't worry too much about making the data simple or easy to consume, or packaging it for people or weaving it into a coherent story. The biggest challenge isn't making sense of it - most of us deal with complexity all the time and pretty good at figuring out what we need to know and where to find it. The biggest challenge is making it accurate; and 3) Trust your people to make sense of the data. Planning systems take the interpretation of the data away from those on the front lines and hand it to a select few - who decipher it’s the patterns and construct and communicate the plans. Intelligence systems do precisely the opposite

Lie #3 - The best companies cascade goals. Truth: The best companies cascade meaning - because people want to know what they all share

Can we evaluate a person based on how many goals he or she has achieved? Many companies do. But here’s the snag: Unless we can standardise the difficulty of each persons goals it impossible to objectively judge the relative performance of each employee

Goals set by others imprison us. In creating our own we find freedom. The best leaders realise that their people are wise, that they do not need to be coerced into alignment through yearly goal setting. These leaders know that in a team infused with such meaning, each person will be smart enough and driven enough to set goals voluntarily that manifest that meaning. It is shared meaning that creates alignment, and this alignment is emergent, not coerced. Whereas cascaded goals are a control mechanism.

Lie #4 The best people are well rounded. Truth: The best people are spiky, because uniqueness is a feature not a bug

A competency model is a quality you are supposed to possess in order to excel in your job. During annual talent reviews, the competencies will be the language used to describe your performance and potential

Competencies are impossible to measure - take strategic thinking as an example is this a state, something that is variable and subject to flux? Or is it a trait, something that is inherent and relatively stable over time? We measure these quite differently. When measuring states, we either devise surveys that ask a person about their state of mind for example at a point in time. We expect them to change over time. Traits on the other hand - each of us possess certain unique predispositions and recurring patterns of thought, feeling and behaviour, and while we can all learn over time to be more intelligent and effective at contributing through these patterns the patterns themselves persist throughout our lives. Traits can't be measure by survey, instead they are measured using validated personality assessments.

Because these are un-measurable it is impossible to prove or disprove the assertion that everyone who excels in a particular job possesses a particular set of competencies. It’s equally impossible to show that people who acquired the competencies they lacked outperformed those who did not - in other words well rounded people are better.

The well rounded high performer is a creature of the theoretical world, in the real world each high performer is unique and distinct, and excels precisely because that persons has understood his or her uniqueness and cultivated it intelligently. Every single organisation that the Gallup organisation studies displayed the same pattern: those who excelled did not share all the same abilities, but instead displayed a unique combination of different abilities

Lie #5 People need feedback. Truth: People need attention because we all want to be seen for who we are at our best

Humans have a strong tendency to skew our explanations of others’ behaviour (particularly negative behaviour) toward stories about who they are and is called the fundamental attribution error. When it comes to our self-attribution, we skew the other way and over ascribe to the external situation around us, to what’s happening to us. These biases lead us to believe that your performance (whether good or bad) is due to who you are and therefore if we want you to improve your performance we must give you feedback on who you are, rather than looking at the external situation you were facing and addressing that.

In the real world, each person’s strengths are in fact her areas of greatest opportunity for learning and growth; and that consequently, Time and attention devoted to contributing to these strengths intelligently will yield exponential return now and in the future.

Lie #6 People can reliably rate other people, Truth: People can reliably rate their own experience- because that’s all we have

Your rating of a team member on performance is unreliable, because the definition of performance is unique to you. But in contrast your response to the question “do you turn to this team member when you want extraordinary results?” Is entirely reliable. Instead we are asking you to look inside yourself and tell us simply whether you feel confident to go to her when you want something done excellently.

Lie #7 People have potential. Truth: People have momentum - because we all move through the world differently

Companies have recoiled from natural diversity and decided instead to invent a generic quality called potential, rate everyone on it and invest most in those who have lots of it and much less in those that don’t. The lie that people have potential is a product of organisations‘ desire for control and their impatience with individual differences. To say you have potential means simply that you have capacity to learn and grow and get better. Like every other human.

Assuming for a moment that potential is a trait - as we saw earlier it’s impossible for a rater to either be perceptive or objective enough to measure it. Since we are asking a rater to rate you not on a trait displayed in your current behaviour but a projection, a probability that you will possess something that might just possibly be displayed sometime in some future situation, its flat out impossible for the rater to do this reliably, so whatever data he produces about you will be the very worst of bad data.

Lie #8 Work-life balance matters most. Truth: Love in work matters most because that’s what work really is for

We should be curious about how each of us can find love in our work. We should honour the truth that our organisation can never find it for us and can never define it for us. When people say I think you should do this or that, remember that they do not know you like you know you.

A technical master absent of love always leads to burnout. It isn’t the absence of balance but the absence of love

Lie #9 Leadership is a thing. Truth: We follow spikes - because spikes bring us certainty

We follow leaders who connect us to a mission we believe in, who clarify what’s expected of us, who surround us with people who define excellence the same way we do, who value us for our strengths , who show us that our teammates will always be there for us, who diligently replay our winning plays, who challenge us to keep getting better, and who give us confidence in the future. This is not a list of qualities of a leader, but rather a set of feelings in a follower. Leadership isn’t a thing, because it cannot be measured reliably, followership is a thing, because it can.

While we should not expect every good leader to share the same qualities, we can hold all good leaders accountable for creating these same feelings of followership in their teams.

What I’ve Heard

Where should we begin podcast with Ester Perel - I've have just finished listening to the 3rd series of this wonderful podcast which shares original audio from her wide-ranging therapy sessions with couples

A short summary of some of the things that I learned

Its only chronic conditions that lead to acute symptoms. Underneath most relationship impasses lie three major dynamics: power and control (whose priorities matter most); care and closeness (do you trust me, have you got my back, can i trust you); and respect and recognition (Integrity).

The Power of the helpless - The reason that the advice that people keep giving all of the time is not helpful. Is not because it’s bad advice. It’s because there is a dynamic. And the dynamic is the power of the helpless. The power of the helpless is the person who is down, despondent, stuck. That enlists and activates everybody around them to tell them what to do to improve the situation. And their power is the one that defeats such great ideas that everybody else has come with and in the end they manage to make the other people around them feel as helpless with them as they feel with their own situation.

Here are some of my favourite questions that I've heard her ask during various sessions:

  • If there is a choice between remembering and forgetting, do you lean towards the side of forgetting, or the side of the one who remembers it all?

  • Were you raised for autonomy, or were you raised for loyalty?

  • Was there a moment where you thought, ‘I’m giving up’ — and tell us whether you did or you didn’t?

  • What part of your identity was given to you, or what part of your identity was chosen?

What I’ve seen

Abstract season 2 on Netflix back for a second season! I love getting the chance to get a glimpse behind the scenes of the creative process

My personal favourite episodes:

  • Neri Oxman: Bio-Architecture

  • Cas Holman: Design for Play

  • Ian Spalter: Digital Product Design

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