If you’ve identified a problem in your organization and want to propose a new course of action, a persuasive memo can help drive change.
A mentor walked me through this convenient template for a logical memo format that can get stuff done. Enjoy!
Work from symptoms to root cause by asking ‘why’
Why are we talking about this? (could be any of the below or others)
Size (eg. this is a big issue as it puts xx CM $s at risk)
Impact (eg. it will impact xx% of the company/ units)
People (eg it touches xx% of our people/ front line, etc..)
Process/ Function (would change how / when we do things..)
What are the extremes, tease out a few spectrums of possibilities to explore (get outside ur comfort zone.. if this feels easy, stop, go back and try again.. get uncomfortable, that’s where change happens!)
Have you now aligned on a set of options to explore?
What are the options along the spectrum? Pros/ Cons/ $Costs/ Rev $ impact of each option
Recommendation (it may be an option at one of the ends of the spectrums!)
I know you’ve heard it. The never-ending emphasis on feedback.Do it right. Do it often. Have the tough conversations. Give feedback with empathy. Improve relationships, improve performance with feedback. Feedback is almost everything you’re missing.
Feedback is widely presented as a near-panacea for improving team performance through smarter interpersonal communication.
But it leaves so many people frustrated.
The Problem With Feedback
When people receive feedback, they can instinctively interpret it as a threat, triggering a defensive response (also known as fight or flight). Scientists have discovered that once this response is active, learning is inhibited. In other words, constructive feedback may prevent people from learning.
Also, feedback is inherently limited by being reactive and not proactive, leading to a narrower possible set of outcomes for improvement conversations.
Research has confirmed some simple best practices for coaching which will help improve your team’s or clients’ performance and learning more than simple feedback alone ever could.
More Effective Coaching
David Peterson is the Director of Executive Coaching & Leadership at Google. In an article published in the Evidence-Based Coaching Handbook, he explained research that provided several models for managers to improve their coaching abilities.
The models led to significant improvements in the managers’ abilities.
Peterson studied 370 managers who learned the below coaching techniques, and measured ratings of their effectiveness from their peers, directs, and managers:
Technique #1: The Development Pipeline
This pipeline idea captures the essence of the five ‘necessary and sufficient conditions for learning’:
Echoing the famous Theory of Constraints from the famous operations book “The Goal,” this visual communicates that to improve your mentee’s development, you should focus on the “bottleneck,” the least robust stage of the pipeline.
If Motivation is in no short supply, it is a “large” pipe. If there’s no accountability compared to the rest of conditions, the greatest results will come from implementing more accountability. By opening that bottleneck, flow through the entire pipeline is enhanced, whereas working more on motivation when accountability is weak will not open up the throughput for the entire pipeline overall.
Iterate focus areas
“Coaching is a cyclical process, shifting as needed from one area to the next and back again, always addressing the source of the major constraint,” according to Peterson.
Technique #2: Map Your GAPS
Thinking in terms of Gaps, Goals and Values connects the desired changes in behavior with the person’s existing skill level and motivations.
The GAPS Grid “expands the first two conditions from the Development Pipeline to outline the types of information that people need for Insight and Motivation” (Peterson & Hicks, 1996)
In this area, the coach “teaches a man to fish” by not simply providing feedback, but coaching the person through generating and incorporating feedback for themselves.
The GAPS grid is the following 2×2, filled out from two perspectives: the person and other’s feedback. It answers the basic questions of where are you today? and how would you define success in regards to your values and goals?
Technique #3: Clear Goals, Conscious Choice, and Effective Action
Firstly, asking for clear goals and using coaching conversations to set clear goals is a prerequisite. Asking for goals should naturally lead to insights into constraints–otherwise, why isn’t the goal already accomplished?
Secondly, generate and explore options for intermediary goals to get the person to the terminal goal. Consciously evaluate priorities vs the person’s personally-defined criteria, simply asking “in light of all your criteria, which of these options do you think is going to be most effective?”
Thirdly, explore together how effective implementation can be guaranteed. Effectively implementing necessary actions could range from a simple tweak to embarking on a new multi-year degree for learning necessary skills.
“Ask them what they will do next. Insights are, sadly, fleeting so you need to clarify the next step as soon as they find clarity. The smaller and more concrete the step, the more likely it will be to happen. Once they have described it, ask them this question: ‘Would you like some extra accountability on that?’”
Bonus Technique: Overcome Coaching Challenges
Forge a partnership: Build trust and understanding so people want to work with you.
Inspire commitment: Build insight and motivation so people focus their energy on development goals that matter.
Grow skills: Build capabilities so people can do what is required.
Promote persistence: Build stamina and discipline to make sure learning lasts on the job.
Shape the environment: Build organizational support to reward learning and remove barriers.
Bringing it Home
Focusing on clear goals, concrete behaviors, and connecting to internal purpose and external accountability will enable your coaching clients, mentees and direct reports to learn how to approach personal development in all arenas.
What a robust promise–and so much more than what simple reactive feedback can provide!
…to reach more customers and improve your marketing!
Whether you’re looking to grow your business or improve your own career prospects, I think “Building a StoryBrand” by acclaimed author Donald Miller will give you a powerful approach to improving your communication.
Because actually you have a problem: your messaging is confusing for many, and not attention-capturing for most hearers.
The guide with the plan
The first mistake brands make is they fail to focus on the aspects of their offer that will help people survive and thrive. All great stories are about survival—either physical, emotional, relational, or spiritual. A story about anything else won’t work to captivate an audience. Nobody’s interested. This means that if we position our products and services as anything but an aid in helping people survive, thrive, be accepted, find love, achieve an aspirational identity, or bond with a tribe that will defend them physically and socially, good luck selling anything to anybody.
Miller provides an incredibly clear structure for how to craft a brand’s message: the archetypal hero’s journey!
He points out that customers are self-interested and short on attention.
The way to communicate the value of your service to them is not by talking about yourself, but by focusing on the customer as the hero. Zeroing in on their external needs and internal needs and aspirations. And when you do talk about yourself, it’s only as the guide in the customer’s journey.
See the simple arc here:
Your actions determine your results
At this stage, you might be rolling your eyes at how simple or familiar this advice is.
But look at your website. Listen to yourself giving your elevator speech. Look at your recently-published email or blog content.
Where’s the focus?
Even if it is on the customer meeting their needs through your product, “Building a StoryBrand” will likely still have significant constructive criticism.
Using case studies, science, and engaging stories, Miller walks the reader through tactical and philosophical approaches to improving
Your elevator pitch
Your brand one-liner
Websites and landing pages
Email drip campaigns
Customer testimonial gathering
For example, here’s a list of his suggestions on eliciting testimonials:
Here are five questions most likely to generate the best response for a customer testimonial:
1. What was the problem you were having before you discovered our product?
2. What did the frustration feel like as you tried to solve that problem?
3. What was different about our product?
4. Take us to the moment when you realized our product was actually working to solve your problem.
5. Tell us what life looks like now that your problem is solved or being solved.
StoryBrand can give you power
The above notes scrape the surface of this book.
For small business operators, marketers, and even individuals interested in personal branding, Building a StoryBrand provides a cohesive over-arching strategy based on what works, and a wealth of actionable tips to start making improvements to your communications immediately.
Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.
John F. Kennedy
Why is it that successful practitioners are so rarely great teachers as well?
The myriad of business books today seem to either fall into the camp of unqualified writers providing advice they haven’t lived, or successful leaders penning memoirs without much in the way of practical, actionable advice.
Here are some lessons that spoke to me from the book:
Transparency Promotes Accountability, Which Provides Freedom
Due to the extreme transparency of work ownership, goals, and progress within Hubspot, much of the red tape of traditional management was not required. “[I]t bought us the freedom not to have things like roadmaps and version numbers and dates — things that are all in the traditional product management world.”
Are there time-wasting meetings or processes which you could get rid of by increasing trust or transparency in your culture?
They Even Threw Out the Public Product Roadmap
“Customer needs will inevitably change over time, which means your product will need to change too. There is no real end-goal. The end-goal is evolution.
“So at HubSpot I made the decision to not set a public product roadmap. For a company that values transparency, it was a decision that led to a fair amount of handwringing from those wanting a reliable way of knowing what was coming next.
“The problem with product roadmaps, however, is that they often satiate company curiosity more than they solve customer problems. Roadmaps solve for the company not the customer. What solves for the customer is non-stop testing and a continuous improvement.”
David Cancel’s Top Principles for Achieving Hypergrowth
1. Be Customer-Driven
“This is the most important ingredient. The team has to be spending time with customers continually.” Even engineers pulled shifts on customer support at Hubspot!
2. Infuse All Roles and Levels With Accountability
“This is the ingredient that people get wrong the most. They try to have a model of autonomy with very little or no accountability built-in. Remember: Autonomy without accountability is anarchy, not autonomy”
I found this advice to be the most surprising, since shared central resources supporting multiple teams is a favorite structure of managers trying to design efficient systems:
“Because of this, teams should be designed to be as independent as possible (e.g. they should have a dedicated, not shared, designer). “
Structure the work, communication processes and tools, and culture to strongly default to transparency in any way possible.
Individuals and teams need to over-communicate their goals, performance, ideas, and concerns with the entire company via in-person “show and tell” meetings, via the wiki, and via a public scorecard of the metrics they are responsible for.
4. Iterative Approach
“After accountability, this is the ingredient that most people get wrong. They interpret being customer- driven as focusing only on major improvements/ features. What I have learned is that customers appreciate an incremental approach. An incremental approach shows customers that you are listening to them and making changes based on their feedback.”
It’s critical that individuals and teams be set up to have clear ownership over a customer-facing product. Most companies get this wrong and always regress to a “pool” model where no one has clear ownership and people work across products on design/backend/ frontend tasks.
Focus on the root causes of all customer pain points–not exactly what went wrong, easy fixes, or unique parts of that exact customer’s demographic or complaint. Think upstream!
Continually Invest In Customer Development
Empathy, listening, and challenging your beliefs are all key to learning and iterating as fast and successfully as possible.
I have this belief that everything that we create and every idea we have is wrong, and we need to get it out into the world as soon as possible to figure out how much of it is wrong and how we can correct it.
Hypergrowth is a short book with a lot of wisdom for leaders of scaling B2C tech companies. I appreciated learning David Cancel and team’s overarching philosophy and coming away with practical advice I could immediately implement. I highly recommend it for all startup leaders.
He compares parenting to organizational leadership:
“Leadership is like parenting. We have to encourage our kids’ natural capacity and create space for their passions to come alive.”
I loved the book’s illustrations and practicality, including specific scripts to use for common situations of conflict.
As a father of two boys, I read the book for its stated goal of improving communication between parents and their children. However, I was quitesurprised at how many practical insights I ingested to improve my managerial skills at work!
Here’s a few of my favorite:
Giving Constructive Feedback
You know what we mean by “constructive” feedback. That’s so often the subversive euphemism for “negative comments, usually by a manager, that attack your identity or value.”
I believe there’s a better way.
I found this quote exceedingly helpful to remind me what attitude I need to have as a parent, coach, or manager when correcting someone:
The attitude behind your words is as important as the words themselves. The attitude that children thrive on is one that communicates, “You’re basically a lovable, capable person. Right now there’s a problem that needs attention. Once you’re aware of it, you’ll probably respond responsibly.”
As the book’s authors put it: “Information is a lot easier to take than accusation.”
Encouraging Autonomy in New Skill Areas
Some lessons from the book don’t transfer directly to many workplace relationships. That being said, I found its excellent philosophy on encouraging kids’ autonomy to translate in multiple ways — both in managing down and in managing up.
To Encourage Autonomy:
1. LET CHILDREN MAKE CHOICES:
“Are you in the mood for your gray pants, or your red pants?”
2. SHOW RESPECT FOR A CHILD’S STRUGGLE:
“A jar can be hard to open. Sometimes it helps if you tap the lid with a spoon.”
3. DON’T ASK TOO MANY QUESTIONS:
“Glad to see you. Welcome home.”
4. DON’T RUSH TO ANSWER QUESTIONS:
“That’s an interesting question. What do you think?”
5. ENCOURAGE CHILDREN TO USE SOURCES OUTSIDE THE HOME:
“Maybe the pet shop owner would have a suggestion.”
6. DON’T TAKE AWAY HOPE:
“So you’re thinking of trying out for the play! That should be an experience.”
Building autonomy in new skills when managing down
One of the above tips that has helped me in prompting my direct reports in areas where I’m coaching them is to provide choices. For example, instead of asking a new sales manager “what are you going to do to increase call volume?”, which could overwhelm the new manager, a director could provide several suggestions. This will make the most sense in areas where the manager has more mastery of the skill in question.
Building autonomy in new skills when managing up
With humility, I recognize that I’ll always have a lot to learn. By adapting the above philosophy, I may give my manager a head’s up that I will be tackling (and likely struggling with) a certain stretch project or reaching out to external sources of support. In this way, I’m signalling my intention to build my own autonomy muscle in new skills while providing an opportunity for my manager to step in quickly, perhaps if a sense of urgency requires immediate direction.
As someone who’s wired to thrive without significant praise, I’ve struggled with how to provide a good quality and quantity of well-deserved praise to others.
The book has some superb suggestions for how to avoid the glib “good job!” which encourages few and instructions no one:
Paddy has demonstrated his leadership and expertise on countless occasions while serving on DonorSee’s Board of Advisors. While thoroughly understanding our organizational realities, he provided precise advice that took us from pre to post-PMF. We are now experiencing substantial growth as Paddy continues to support us by encouraging focus, suggesting practical strategies and tools, and championing our cause to his strong personal network.
Patrick is hands down one of the best mentors and connectors I’ve met in the start up world. Patrick is tied into so many different circles and has an incredible amount of business experience, but his willingness to share his lessons learned and network connections make Patrick a truly rare mentor. I’ve been blown away by the advice and guidance Patrick has given me and I’m incredibly thankful to know Patrick as a mentor and friend in business. Patrick would be a fantastic addition to an advisory board or executive team of any growing start up, and I look forward to working with Patrick on many more ventures in the future!
Patrick was hands down one of the most insightful mentors I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with. He was laid back and very approachable, but also challenged me in all the right areas to continue growing myself and exploring my path. We identified a number of solid actionables and connections that would help me in the next step of my transition.
Patrick and I did not waste anytime jumping into an extensive conversation focused on startup strategy. Throughout the discussion Patrick created a comfortable environment to share success as well as pain points. His impressive military and civilian professional background make Mr. Weeks an excellent mentor!
Patrick listened to where I am I my business first. He shared some definitions I wasn’t clear on, gave some strategy advice that I know I needed, as well as some suggestions that I didn’t really want to hear. However, truths in business can be hard to accept and even harder to implement. I’m grateful to him and to Veterati for the high caliber advising!
Patrick has advised me on both of my businesses. He helped me strategically game out my launch into the market, risk considerations and who I should look out for. His no-nonsense and bullish (at times) approach is what every good entrepreneur needs in their life, whether they know it or not. I highly recommend using his services as he provides a great approach to helping you troubleshoot your business and a different outlook on one’s industry. No doubt, he’s added great value to my businesses.
Bella McCann, Founder and Principal – Domestic Engineering, CEO – McCann Development
My first session with Patrick was excellent. He quickly met me where I am at in my own journey and helped me address the concerns and issues I am facing. We set up next steps and a follow up plan.
Patrick gave really thoughtful and sound advice that helped me with clarity and direction in my entrepreneurial journey. He has tremendous insight as a leader and entrepreneur and I really enjoyed our discussion.
Had a great conversation with Patrick. I really appreciated his candid perspectives on the benefits and drawbacks of entrepreneurship and startups and his knowledge and willingness to share resources. 100% would recommend for anyone interested in startups (or anything else for that matter).
US Military veteran, current consultant, aspiring startup executive
Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret. -Ambrose Bierce
Few books literally change your life as soon as you read them. Crucial Conversations is a famous book among many circles — for good reason. I finally read it in its entirety recently and was blown away by the practicality and impact of its philosophy. It actually changed my approach to and success in the most charged conversations and potentially damaging confrontations I faced.
If you want to improve your handling of tough conversations in work or life, I highly recommend you read Crucial Conversations for yourself.
In the meantime, here are my favorite quotes, to whet your appetite:
What do you want?
The first problem we face in our crucial conversations is not that our behavior degenerates. It’s that our motives do — a fact that we usually miss.
Look for the win-win
Under the influence of adrenaline we start to see our options as unnecessarily limited. We assume we have to choose between getting results and keeping a relationship. In our dumbed-down condition, we don’t even consider the option of achieving both.
Imagine harnessing the irresistible user experience and community-building aspects of social media apps — for pure good.
The DonorSee app crowdfunds support for the world’s poorest individuals, and uniquely allows donors to see how their money makes an impact through raw video updates.
When I met DonorSee Founder Gret Glyer for the first time, I thought his idea sounded interesting, but I had no idea how two aspects of DonorSee would soon shock me.
First, I downloaded the app and in a matter of minutes had made a small donation to a worthy cause: contributing to a well-building project in Chinguluma Village, Malawi, where a village of 300 families lived 45 minutes from the nearest “safe” water source. Multiple people were dying every year from contaminated water.
Across several weeks, 197 donors raised $9,000 and got a new well built.
Providing clean water for each family there for a year only costs $1.48.
As the construction occurred and the village finally celebrated their new water source with infectious enthusiasm, I received video updates in the app. Real people. Real stories. Real emotional impact. Donors liked me piled on celebratory comments. It was incredibly positive and authentic. Almost the opposite of Twitter or Youtube comment feeds.
If you’re a startup leader, these are ten book recommendations for you that I found helpful in 2018. Not all were written in the past year; it’s just when I read them. Hope you enjoy my recommendations by category.
Any you’d like to add? I’d love to hear your suggestions!
A must-read for any leader with a high opinion of themselves!
“The art of taking feedback is such a crucial skill in life, particularly harsh and critical feedback. We not only need to take this harsh feedback, but actively solicit it, labor to seek out the negative precisely when our friends and family and brain are telling us that we’re doing great. The ego avoids such feedback at all costs, however. It thinks it already knows how and who we are — that is, it thinks we are spectacular, perfect, genius, truly innovative. It dislikes reality and prefers its own assessment.”
Thank you to the hundreds of people who recommended this to me! (mostly joking)
This spring, I joined Sonder, a rapidly-scaling tech company looking to launch their DC market. The company was completely new to me but the opportunity was too exciting to pass up.
Sonder aims to provide a unique, yet consistent experience for stays in beautiful hand-picked locations in cities around the world. Each Sonder is purposefully selected, designed and maintained — customized to reflect the vibe of its neighborhood. With thousands of beautiful spaces built for travel and life, Sonder is transforming the future of hospitality. And with 24/7 on-demand service, crisp linens, and over 200 other quality standards, we’re “taking stay further” for guests all around the world.
After college, I spent five years as a logistics officer in the Marine Corps. I found the excitement, leadership opportunity, and organizational challenges right up my alley. After starting a family, I transitioned to the more stable world of financial consulting, doing project management with Ernst & Young. Working with sharp, driven people at both of these organizations energized me, as did fast-paced and challenging work.
However, the stodgy mega-bureaucracies felt stifling. I was ready to lose the suit and tie and TPS reports.