Monday, November 28, 2022

Empowering Others to do their best work

Insight 1 of 4 with Tiziana Casciaro

Award-Winning Organizational Behaviorist & University of Toronto Professor


 We equate authority and power, but they’re not one and the same. Some people wield a lot of power even though their title may not suggest it. This is because power comes from control over the resources that people value and that they need and want. As the boss, you have resources that people want, and you control them: a promotion, a budget, an attractive project. But there will be people who have other resources that you might need. It could be information, or a network, and, without knowledge of them, you as leader are going to be cut out of a very important resource. That makes you dependent on them. We tend to personalize power, but nothing is further from the truth: power is always situated in a relationship. It’s all relative, and it shifts over time.

Power is not a zero sum game. We tend to think that if we share some of our power, we’re automatically going to lose power. That’s not how it works. The asymmetrical power that exists because of an imbalance—whether in relation to your employees or suppliers, or, for a country, between the people that have the most and those who have the least—is detrimental to the system in the long run.

A leader in an organization will be personally better off when they allow others to also exercise some power over them. By sharing power with others, they will give them the tools to do their best work. In the long run, you will benefit as well, as opposed to feeling attached to your own power and wanting to control the behavior of others. Giving

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Columbia Law School Advice on Negotiating and More

Wanted to notate and save this advice on negotiating and leadership from Alexandra Carter

World-Renowned Negotiation Trainer for the United Nations and Director of Mediation Clinic at Columbia Law School

 The best leaders ask themselves the right questions to cultivate self-awareness. Questions help you define the problem to be solved, uncover your needs, and grapple with your emotions so that they don't come back to bite you in the room. Feelings help you explore prior successes, and also to create an action plan. Questions are a very powerful tool in a negotiation and especially useful for an expert audience. When you raise the right questions, you're going to get the information you need, and it will give you a target to aim at. If you don't ask questions, you are aiming in the dark.
Always start a negotiation by defining the right problem. Many people start their negotiations in the wrong place, by tossing out solutions. Start with, "What's the problem I'm trying to solve?" I was recently counseling a really promising start-up company. They'd had two rounds of financing, and they were getting ready for their next one. COVID hits, a segment of their business disappears, and, all of a sudden, they say, "Alex, we're going to reach out to every distributor we've talked to in the last two years." And I was like, "Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. What is the problem we are trying to solve here?" Depending on that answer, I'm going to counsel you differently. If you told me you wanted geographic distribution and just had to hit big everywhere, okay, maybe do a blitz, but even then, I would still question it. If you told me you needed to achieve the best product velocity in your key markets, then you’d need a totally different strategy.

One of the questions that I think is especially useful is: "How have I handled this successfully in the past?" Asking yourself about a prior success is indispensable before you negotiate with somebody else. If you go into a negotiation with somebody else having just thought about a prior success, you are likely to perform better, because you have primed your mind for creativity, expansion, flexibility, and the ability to think on the spot. The second reason is because the question acts as a data generator. If you think about a prior success and you write down in detail the strategies you used, you're going to find at least a couple that apply to your current situation. Even in a novel situation, you have been through things before, and you can find strategies to help you in your current situation.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Maximize your mindset with these tips


  1. How can you better adopt a “systems” mindset to maximize your creative output while minimizing your time and effort?
    Self-improvement and personal development are about improving your memory, mind, thinking, and decisions. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I want to produce better results over time. I want to achieve bigger goals while working less and putting in less effort; that’s leverage. When I think about the long-term vision of my life, I’m tired of trying to become this superhuman optimized machine-like entity.

    Instead, I want to create systems. And so your job is not to do the work; your job is to create the systems that do the work. It’s a decoupling of the value you’re creating from the hours you’re putting into your business and career. It’s such a subtle but huge shift; that’s what a second brain is. It’s a system; it’s a point of leverage for you to create, be more productive, and make more creative outputs, decisions, and experiences without having to just pour in more and more of your own time and effort.
  2. How can you create a second brain to better unlock your creative potential?
    A second brain is a system of personal knowledge management. It’s not as simple as downloading an app; you need three things to build a second brain: the tool, the behavior, and the mindset. 
    • The Tool: The best tool is the simple notes app you likely already have on your digital devices. The power of note-taking comes in its informality. How many great ideas come from a whiteboard session, all these scribbles and crazy diagrams, and suddenly something emerges. Creativity cannot be rigid and precise; it needs to be messy and somewhat chaotic. We can have that kind of messiness and chaos while also benefiting from the incredible capabilities of technology if we get those ideas and capture them digitally. 
    • The Behavior: The four-part framework is called code. C-O-D-E stands for capture, organize, distill, and express. Think of it as a production line you adopt as a part of your daily routine. Four things have to happen:
      • Capture: It has to be saved digitally somewhere that you can access
      • Organize: It has to be organized to know what's important, what's not, or what's important in a given situation. 
      • Distill: It has to be boiled down to the essence
      • Express: This is communication. It's to express yourself, your ideas, tell your story, share your message, and make an impact. 
    • The Mindset: People must put aside the note-taking they learned in school and consider note-taking as a companion to their ongoing learning. There’s a big return on investment here: the notes you take can become part of your lifelong learning of projects and goals. Your second brain is like the map of everything you’re undergoing on your journey that you might want to reference in the future, which is a much more long-term perspective.
  3. How can you better filter what you capture and what you leave behind to maximize saving only the most transformative insights?
    The best filter requires a simple adjustment toward what is surprising and what resonates with you. You can’t use too much energy or intellectual effort at the capture stage because not much value is created there. Instead, the value is created when you organize, distill, and express. You need capture to be so low effort and frictionless that it is much more effective over the long term to use emotions like surprise or resonance to decide what to keep.

    I see how people read and highlight. They’re highlighting every remotely good idea, stuff they already know and agree with. Instead, save very sparingly. Only keep the highlights that blow your mind—the ones that are so surprising they make you stop and sit back, almost like you’re in shock. 

    Your second brain is like a CliffsNotes, a portable collection you have of the key points to remind you that they exist and what they are. Once you’ve retrieved it, you can spend all the time you want going back and finding all the details, but the key is finding that genuinely moving piece of information and capturing it effortlessly.
  4. How can you implement the PARA framework to supercharge organizing your digital life?
    CODE is how to take action and move information from input to output. PARA is how you store things. It’s the organizational hierarchy, but the key is instead of a vast system, like a library with categories and subcategories, there are only four categories:

    P - Projects which are currently active
    A - Areas of ongoing responsibilities in your work and life 
    R - Resources that you’re collecting
    A - Archives are everything from the past that is no longer active

    It’s a simple hierarchy. There’s a project folder and then a folder for each project. There are two levels. You can’t go down more than two levels. You can start this in 60 seconds. Go into your notes app, or whatever program you’re using, and create one folder for each active project you’re working on. This exercise is really powerful. People are like, “What’s the big deal? I know what I’m working on.” I would suggest you don’t. You have projects in the back of your mind and projects on the back burner; you have projects that you’re working on actively that you haven’t even identified as a project. Making a project list is one of the most powerful exercises to organize your digital life.
  5. How can you leverage the “just in time” approach to maximize executing successful projects?
    A question a lot of people have is when do you do your organizing? You’ve captured all these notes. Do you sit down once a day, once a week, or once a month? 

    My approach to executing projects is called “just in time”. I have no regular cadence because the ideal time to sit down and organize your notes is not on any schedule. It’s the moment you decide to start a project. Think about it. If you’re coming out of a meeting with your boss, they’ve said, “okay, it’s time to redesign the website. This is a top priority project”. The minute that project comes into existence, suddenly, you know what you’re trying to do. Suddenly you have goals, constraints, and you know what the competing priorities are. Five minutes earlier, when that project was not started, what basis would you even organize your notes? According to what?

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

4 actionable takeaways and advice for August 2022

 4 Actionable Takeaways

Take 60 seconds to answer one or more of the following questions -- we also highly encourage you to try this with colleagues and/or loved ones! 
  1. How can you reframe your thinking about the future of geopolitics and strategic competition to maximize the good you can do?
    Whether citizens of different countries, business leaders, or policymakers, we often hear a lot of fatalism in discussions of where the world is going. We hear that competition that leads to conflict and strategic frictions between countries is inevitable. We see that our geopolitical environment is becoming more turbulent but it’s important, as individuals, that we remember our agency and that the world's fate is not just about these abstract structural forces. The structural forces we talk about are ultimately driven by people. The decisions we make determine the decisions that nations make and, therefore, the trajectory of the world.

    It’s important to push back against the sense of fatalism. As a community and as individuals, we need to know we can make a difference, we need to know we have the power to reclaim that sense of agency and say, how can we make this world better?
  2. How can you leverage the concepts of the great power competition and transatlantic challenges to make better decisions for your business, community, and life?
    You need to understand two big buckets if you want to learn more about the world and make better decisions for your business, community, and life.

    The first bucket is the notion of a great power competition which affects politics, business, and our day-to-day lives. It focuses on the United States, China, and Russia- three nuclear-armed powers possessing substantial economies. The United States and China alone account for over 40% of the world’s economy, and have different visions geopolitically and strategically for the world. Whatever your station in life, whatever your vocation, you must focus on what the United States and China are doing.

    At the end of the Cold War, the United States had a particular vision for how it wanted the world to evolve. There was triumphalism in US policymaking and an underestimation that other countries could become more powerful, have different ideologies, and the ability and willingness to push back. We’re seeing this with Russia's invasion of Ukraine. And so, the competitive dynamics between these three great powers concern anyone because they affect geopolitics, which means they affect business.

    The second bucket is what I call transnational challenges—climate change, pandemic disease, macroeconomic stability, energy insecurity, and so on. One of the concerns is that if these three powers allow their competitive dynamics to dominate their relationships, they not only think about cooperation on those transnational challenges as a fool’s errand, but they think cooperation is a demonstration of strategic weakness.

    Suppose national-level governments are increasingly preoccupied with competitive dynamics and unwilling to cooperate, but these challenges are only growing in severity and complexity. Is there a role other actors and communities play in pushing the ball forward and thinking more creatively about diplomacy? There’s a real challenge, but I also believe there’s a real opportunity for communities to move the needle and think creatively about diplomacy going forward.
  3. How can you further overcome the challenges preventing you from becoming a deeply engaged citizen?
    There are three things to focus on to diminish the feelings of isolation and remain a deeply engaged citizen:
    • Remember that most trends are going in the right direction: The rate of extreme poverty and child malnutrition is much lower today than it was several decades ago, and life expectancy is much higher. In many ways, the world is safer, more prosperous, and healthier than it was a few decades ago. 
    • Restore the sense of community: People feel much more anonymous than they did two years ago. Individuals worldwide report dramatically higher rates of isolation, loneliness, and disconnection. When we have a community, we restore that sense of togetherness and that we’re not fighting the good fight alone.
    • Consume more positive news: Axios published an article about how news consumption has declined tremendously. People feel the news is grim. How do we push back on that narrative? The media plays an important role in amplifying good news, spotlighting good trends, and showcasing individuals making a difference. There’s a website called Good News Network, which shares the good news stories you don’t hear about. We need more of those websites. We need to raise those voices and profiles to have a more objective lens.
  4. How can you focus on what you do best, and doing it better, to project quiet confidence to your allies and partners?
    Complacency isn’t good for long-term competitiveness or business leaders, but alarmism and consternation aren’t good either. Instead, focus on doing what you do best and doing it better. You want to look inward and say, “How can we become a more dynamic version of our best selves?” Let’s focus on what the power of our example looks like in practice. How can you recommit to renewal at home and abroad and articulate a positive, affirmative forward-looking vision that speaks to your aspirations more than your anxieties? 

    When you can do that, you’ll be able to mobilize the public. People are more excited when you tell them, “Here’s what we are going to do,” as opposed to just what we’re going to oppose. At a time of intense and growing political polarization, we need a shared project that can galvanize the American people to help them transcend their divisions and project quiet confidence to our allies and partners. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

5 Actionable Takeaways from Mark Moses

 5 Actionable Takeaways

Take 60 seconds to answer one or more of the following questions -- we also highly encourage you to try this with colleagues and/or loved ones! 
  1. How can you better turn your most critical business goals into reality?
    There are two key questions to ensure you are turning your business goals into reality:
    • Where do you want to get to, and what are the measurable, repeatable, daily activities that will get you there? 
      First, you need to get clear on what success looks like for you. I’ve spoken to many executive-level groups, and when I ask what success looks like three years from now, most don’t know. Getting what you want is about having the discipline to follow a cadence. Imagine you determine what you want and develop your big, hairy, audacious goal. You’ve got your vision statement, mission, and core values. The next step is to determine what you need to do annually, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily to achieve your desired outcomes. Most importantly, you need to determine and track what are the most critical daily, repeatable, measurable activities that will enable you to get there. For revenue growth, it could be a certain number of new events, that get you a certain number of new prospects, which result in a certain growth level. It is critical to have your eye on the key leading indicators that you can influence daily to ensure you get to your lagging indicators. 
    • Who are the people you need to achieve what you want?
      Because most people don’t know what they want three years from now, they rely mostly on their current organizational structure; it’s a significant weakness for many firms. Look at your team—how would you answer the question, would you enthusiastically rehire them again today? In some cases, the answer is no, so the more challenging question is, would you enthusiastically rehire them today to help you achieve what you want three years from now? If the answer is still no, it comes back to you as a leader. Do you have the courage to search properly and find the people to drive the outcomes that you want?
  2. How can you fully leverage your leading indicators to better plan for times of adversity?
    Hopefully, your business won’t be affected by the coming recession, but there’s nothing wrong with future planning. It’s good to know the issues in your business that are leading indicators, the impact of those leading indicators, and what decisions you would make to change their outcome. 

    I like to look at 13 months because that gives you a year over year compared to that one month, but you can also do it quarterly. For example, imagine revenue is down, and you have slight gross margin erosion month over month. What if you can see over the last five months that the average time to close a sale has increased by a few days? Is that negative? Are your customers affected? Are your clients having problems? 

    At baseline, we do nothing. At a 5% increase in margin erosion, we take action. More than that, we take aggressive action, and we do something meaningful. At each stage, it’s worth asking why would I not do that anyway, even without the margin erosion? And if I would make those changes when the bad stuff happens, why would I not make them now? What would the impact be if I did?  All these questions lead you to be better prepared for when adversity does hit. 
  3. How can you ask better questions in your leadership meeting to maximize alignment in your organization?
    Alignment comes back to a disciplined process that starts with the annual leadership meeting. Each team member prepares the following: What went right this past year? What went wrong? What did we learn this past year? How did we do on our goals compared to how we said we would do? How did we do on the measurable activities we said would drive the outcome that we wanted?

    This is critical because often, things misfire on buy-in and alignment. People might have different visions, or our assumptions are wrong. Let’s say we achieved 80% of the activities but only 60% of the result. We might have chosen the wrong actions, or we didn’t pick enough of them. I like to ask, what will it take to guarantee we achieve the outcome? Once a year, it’s worth asking the question, if we were to start our business all over again, what are we doing today that we would not do in our new company? 
  4. How can you use the sensitivity analysis tool to identify the two most important levers in your business?
    When using the sensitivity analysis tool, you pick two essential levers in your business and create a simple two-dimensional graph, and the impact on EBITDA is in the center. That’s the number to focus on. You can see on one end EBITDA is high, and on the other end, it’s low. It’s a very disciplined way to look at your business. I suggest every company take their most essential levers and plot them against each other on the grid. This simple exercise shows you what moves the needle for your business and what you can do more of and less of, depending on your desired outcome.
  5. How can you better evaluate which executive coach is right for you to unlock your full potential?
    A good coach is three things. First, they’re part coach; a coach is somebody who can ask great questions and guide you to the answer. They also have a lot of industry experience, so they’ll wear the consultant hat. And at times, they are business therapists helping clients navigate between the courage and fear to act.

    Coaches often get fired because the client’s perception of the value they’re providing isn’t there. You don’t need a friend or therapist. You’re looking for somebody who can help you achieve what you really want a year and three years from now. Think through if you believe they can help you do that and how they are going to help you do it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Great stories from July 6, 2022

Newsletters have become the hottest new thing over the last 3 years. Here are some of the top stories that are intriguing for today July 6, 2022 with the biggest in my opinion is the Pokemon making more cards in 2021 than they did in the last 20 years more or less. Well read why below: 

The Eiffel Tower is getting rusty. According to a leaked report, the 133-year-old monument needs a fix-up, but only cosmetic repairs have been planned so far.
Cinemas are banning teens from viewing Minions: The Rise of Gru. The #gentleminions trend, which requires wearing a suit to watch the film, has caused some dapper disturbances.
Sewage water is being used to make beer. Singapore’s “NEWbrew” is a blonde ale made from toilet water that aims to send a message about recycling.
Pok√©mon made 9 billion new cards last year. Hype to catch ‘em all was so high that the company printed more than a quarter of all the cards it’s ever created from 2020 to 2022.
Sand batteries can store green power for months. Finnish researchers believe they could be a simple and low-cost alternative to other energy sources.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Tyler Cowen Interview and 5 Takeaways


  1. How can you better identify the key traits of talented people?
    These are the top 5 traits I look for when conversing with any potential candidate for a new role:
    • Energy Level & Desire: A person’s energy level is critical. Are you able to feel a surging desire from them to do something, to work, cooperate, to achieve something? 
    • Social Intelligence: This is about how well people work with others. If they see a group, how quickly are they able to figure out, here's how the group works, and here's the role I should play in that group. 
    • Maximizing the Correct Things: Some smart people work hard but maximize the wrong things, so look for people who can figure out the proper hierarchies of what is truly important.
    • Persistence & Durability: How likely is the person to stick through highs and lows and continue performing consistently? 
    • Happiness Level: On average, happy people seem to be more productive.
  2. How can you better leverage the talent that’s already in your orbit?
    Someone with a single excellent idea can be worth so much more than a perfectly good worker who doesn’t have a comparably valuable idea. Because of increasing globalization, remote work, and AI, a good idea is now multiplied many times more than it used to be. By our best estimates, 20% to 40% of American economic growth has come from better allocating talent since the 1960s. 

    To unlock this value, we need to start by looking for creative input from a greater number of people, as well as from different types of people. More people are energizers, creatives, and winners than we think. Talent includes renowned CEOs, people running startups, world-famous athletes, and cultural figures like Paul McCartney. But you can also find them on a micro level. I run a podcast, and the sound engineers contribute extremely useful ideas. They are creatives and energizers. In part, they energize me; and they also see things that I do not see. Train yourself at ‘talent appreciation’, the way you might train yourself at art appreciation or music appreciation. It starts with the wake-up call to be fully aware that the creative acts of your individual talent and their judgment are truly central to the future of your institution, more so than ever before. 
  3. How can you better position existing talent inside your organization to maximize their impact?
    The research shows people don’t change that much over time, so if you’re trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, it probably won’t work. At times, I succeeded in having people switch divisions; so it’s important to have an open mind about what part of your institution the person could work in. People are capable of learning, that’s a positive fact, but most people stay who they are at their core. If someone is introverted or disagreeable by nature, they will stay that way. Either figure out how they can fit in, or you need to move in some other direction.
  4. How can you ask the right questions to identify creatives, energizers, and winners?
    Get prospective hires into a conversational mode on topics they care about but are not prepared for. Find out what they’re interested in and get them talking–baseball, The Beatles, Star Wars, whatever it may be–it will help you see how they think, and how they interpret social structures. Everyone will come prepared with an account of their own strengths and weaknesses, what they learned from the last time they made an error in their previous job; It’s fine to ask those things. You will learn something but you won’t learn what makes that person tick.

    Here’s an example of the ideal question I like to ask people: “What are the open tabs in your web browsers right now?” What are they interested in? What do they care about? The key is not so much to judge the content of the tabs. It’s the level of enthusiasm, detail, and involvement that you’re looking for.

    When it comes to assessing durability and persistence, what I tend to look for is simply people who started endeavors when they were fairly young and were truly interested in them. It’s not proof of persistence, but if they’re 19 and started something at 14, you’re going to see five years of persistence. It’s a sign they might be on that campus of people who just keep on going forever. I look at the earliness of the start. Even if someone is 45, maybe they’ve been out of the workforce. What projects did you start when you were 16? It’s something I would want to know. Highly imperfect on my wishlist. If I could judge the persistence of young people much better, that would be the number one thing on my wishlist.

    All good interview questions spoil within five or ten years, so it’s not about memorizing the best questions. Instead, it’s about thinking through how you bond with people during a conversation—to have a meeting of the minds.  If you’re good at that, the questions will come to you because you are conversing. You don’t go out with a list of questions in your everyday life. Most of all, as the interviewer, be trustworthy; it’s important people trust you. If they perceive you as responsible, your conversations will be much better. That’s more important than a list of best questions.
  5. How could you better assess talent in political leaders?
    I find it striking how hard it is to predict good political leadership. For example, if you read the Charles Moore biography of Margaret Thatcher, it was not obvious earlier in her career that she would be a significant political leader. I’m not talking about whether you like what she did or not. Clearly, she became Prime Minister, she was very influential, including internationally. She was a chemist, which is great, but I don’t think the best interviewer in the world would’ve seen that in her. 

    I would say when it comes to political leaders, indeed, almost everything else, the importance of keeping a truly open mind, the human capacity for self-improvement is one of the best things you can do, and it will make you happier, more optimistic, and more productive. I find political leadership the hardest thing to forecast. Still, I think at the end of the day, a political leader can only do so many things, and you need to focus on how they communicate with the public. What two or three ideas are they trying to bring to the discourse, even if they don’t succeed with them now, those ideas might happen in 10 years. 

    You need to throw out so many of the other signals you are getting. It’s hard to do because you’re used to looking for more signals, more information to put together a more complete picture. Still, often for political leaders, you can be a bit more accurate by throwing out a lot of the information you’re getting because how good they are, just doesn’t matter. They’re constrained. They have little time, and many tasks, it’s not really a job that makes any sense. The presidency is a job for 17 different people. So I’m not saying we can actually run it that way. It’s really going to mess with your normal intuitions. And I would just say, “Please keep an open mind, all the more.”
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