Posts Tagged ‘book review’

BOOK REVIEW: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Have you wondered why is it so hard to build and maintain a great team? We deal with this a lot as part of our leadership programs and I found the framework of Patrick Lencioni very simple and effective. Given that teams are inherently dysfunctional, below are the 5 dysfunctions to watch our for any team leader and practical practical steps how to address them.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni

DYSFUNCTION #1 – ABSENCE OF TRUST

The first step towards trust is a team leader who is vulnerable and admits their own mistakes and weaknesses.

As most people know, trust and respect are the foundation of any relationship. But they’re also the basis of great teamwork. Why? For a team to perform well, members must trust one another. When this is the case, they will communicate in a healthy, open way even when discussing tough or touchy topics. This allows them to find the best solutions quickly. Without trust, important issues may be avoided and left undebated, which results in poor decisions. Put simply, team members need to willingly make themselves vulnerable to one another. This is not easy to do, as in today’s cut-throat world people learn to be competitive and protective of their own interests.But for trust to be built, everyone must see that there is no reason to be protective or careful in the team. This means team members must make a deliberate effort to quash their basic caution, and instead share their vulnerabilities and mistakes openly. This way everyone will quickly be able to see that their peers’ intentions toward them are good, and trust will develop.

At ATAIRU we like to use Talent Dynamics tool as a good way to start teams thinking about everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and also seeing where everyone can contribute the most value with greatest ease.

DYSFUNCTION #2 – FEAR OF CONFLICT

If people trust each other, they engage in constructive conflicts and make better decisions.

Most people think of conflict as an inherently negative thing, but constructive conflict is in fact important for any team to make the best possible decisions.This is because decision making benefits from having varied, often clashing perspectives. Open and free debate on the merits and faults of every idea results in a better outcome. So, in this sense, some conflict is beneficial, but it must be constructive in nature – meaning everyone should be focused on the topic at hand, rather than on their own agenda or intra-team politics. If a team lacks trust, this often means that they will want to avoid any and all conflict, so they shy away from discussing controversial topics. They hold back their opinions and honest concerns, preferring not to challenge one another, because they are trying to uphold some kind of pseudo-harmony within the team.

For example, when Kathryn first arrived at DecisionTech, she found that there was hardly any debate in the leadership team’s meetings. This is because they did not trust each other enough to discuss difficult yet vital topics.So if constructive conflict is crucial for making the best decisions, and trust is crucial for conflict, it becomes clear that a team must build trust if they’re to find the best possible solutions to any challenges.

Building trust enables conflict, because team members who trust each other will be comfortable even when engaging in a passionate and emotional debate over a tricky issue, because they know that nothing they say will be interpreted as destructive.

DYSFUNCTION #3 – LACK OF COMMITMENT

Everybody has to be committed to a decision, even if there is no consensus or certainty about its correctness.

Most people have, at some point in their lives, been unfortunate enough to sit in a meeting where decisions have been made, only for people to keep second-guessing the decisions so that nothing actually gets done.

One of the key traits of great teams is that they are able to make decisions and then stand by them. This is because they know that any decision is better than no decision at all, especially when it comes to important ones. They commit to the decisions they make, because they know that lack of commitment creates ambiguity. In the leadership team of a company, this results in misaligned goals and priorities, and these misalignments become even more extreme as they trickle down to employee level. In a great team, decisions are made so that everyone can buy into them. How can this be achieved?It is very difficult to find consensus in any team setting, as different perspectives and opinions will always prevail. Forcing a consensus in such a setting would mean finding a solution that pleases everyone, and this is rarely productive. Instead, great teams understand consensus to mean that everyone is committed and understands the greater goal, even if the decision made is not the one they voiced. To get there, great teams ensure everyone has a chance to express their opinion. This lets everyone feel that they have been heard, and often this is already enough. Most reasonable people do not insist on their opinion always prevailing, but are satisfied when their input has been considered and addressed. When everyone’s ideas are given genuine thought, the team is then more willing to rally around team decisions. This is why in great teams you’ll often find people committing fully to the group’s decisions, even if they had argued passionately against that very decision earlier.

DYSFUNCTION #4 – AVOIDANCE OF ACCOUNTABILITY

Great teams have peer-to-peer accountability, meaning everyone’s performance is transparent.

One of the most uncomfortable moments imaginable in any team occurs when you have to point out to a peer that he or she is performing below expectations or behaving inappropriately. This is awkward because most people feel like they are sticking their nose into someone else’s business, or artificially elevating themselves above their supposed peer.Unfortunately, if team members do not call each other out in such cases, it will make everyone feel less accountable, which in turn results in missed deadlines, mediocre results and poor team performance. The team leader is then burdened with being the sole source of discipline in the team, as there is no peer-to-peer accountability. In some teams, when members have developed good rapport, they are then reluctant to hold one another accountable, because they fear their valuable personal relationships will be jeopardized. Ironically, this reluctance can and will damage those personal relationships, because the team members will begin to resent each other for not living up to expectations and for slipping from the team’s performance standards. However, members of great teams do hold one another accountable and this actually improves their relationships, because they develop respect for each other for adhering to the same high standards. When there is trust in a team, the members who are pushed to perform better will understand that it is being done for the common good, and not take it personally. At the end of the day, peer pressure is by far the most efficient and effective means of maintaining high standards of performance. Individuals who fear letting down teammates they respect will naturally feel pressure to work hard and improve their performance. This is why peer-to-peer accountability is a key component in enhancing team performance

DYSFUNCTION #5 – INATTENTION TO RESULTS

Great teams spend a lot of time together, which results in them saving a lot of time.

Much as a rowing boat will go nowhere if every oarsman rows in a different direction, a team will go nowhere if they don’t agree on where they are going. So what can be done to resolve such ambiguity or indecision?

The key is for teams to meet regularly, as there are multiple benefits to this. Firstly, it helps members develop good rapport and trust, which already helps them resolve any issues quickly and effectively. Secondly, conflicts are easier to resolve face-to-face, and it is far easier to gather arguments and counterarguments from all team members in real time when they are all situated in the same space. Thirdly, in face-to-face meetings, team members have better insight into what each of them is doing and how their skills might be leveraged in other areas as well, so there is less risk of redundant work. When a team has developed good rapport, they are better positioned to work in sync. For example, overlapping work is avoided when each team member sees what the others are up to. Also, resources are allocated smartly, because team members immediately see where their skills and knowledge could be used to help each other. So in conclusion, regular meetings and touch points help great teams be coordinated and efficient, and this saves a lot of time, even if much time needs to be invested at first.

BOOK REVIEW: Are you clear about your WHY?

I believe that understanding your own why and ensuring your actions are consistent with it is a big part of long term happiness and fulfilment.
Given that Purpose is one of key modules of Atairu Authentic Leadership and we work with boards of companies to define purpose of their organizations I am always looking for interesting books on that topic. Here are some key thoughts from FIND YOUR WHY book by Simon Sinek which are confirmed by our experience of working with leaders around the world.

1. Knowing your WHY means having a clear purpose, and this makes you and your business more appealing.

Finding your WHY can be challenging, but once you have it in your life, you can wake up each morning with purpose and determination. Sinek discovered his WHY after he’d lost all passion for his work. After some soul-searching, he realized his WHY was to inspire others, and once he took this to heart, he began to see his life more clearly and with more optimism. I have had a very similar experience about 10 years ago which led me to define my purpose as reinventing education globally to activate uniqueness in children, leaders, teams and organizations.
This not only applies to people, but also to companies. A case in point is Apple, which has strong competitors offering cheaper products with more features. But Apple’s customers are loyal and inspired by their motto “Think Different,” which perfectly describes their WHY. Customers would rather give money to a business with a progressive identity than save a few bucks buying from a more generic company.

2. An outside perspective can help you uncover your WHY.

If you’ve gone over a dozen stories from your past and still can’t find your WHY, don’t panic. Sometimes it’s difficult to identify a common theme in the things that are important to us, and if this is the case, it might be time to bring in a fresh perspective. Another person who knows you well can be a valuable resource in identifying your WHY. This person doesn’t need to be someone you’re intimate with, just someone who’s curious and observant. It can help if the person you’re talking to isn’t overly familiar with your background and is someone who will ask thoughtful questions – and even take detailed notes.
Asking specific questions is very important to finding your WHY, and these questions often lead to vital details and intense feelings.

3. HOWs can help you in everyday decision-making.

Every now and again, we’re presented with a tough decision, whether it’s a project proposal, partnership or job offer. Having a keen understanding of your own HOWs is key to avoiding disasters and making the right choices that will allow you to flourish.

4. Once you discover your WHY, it’s important to share it.

Part of the journey to reaching a fulfilling life is uncovering your WHY and understanding your HOWs. But the hard work doesn’t end there; next comes the task of sharing it with the world.
Start by offering your WHY statement to those who ask, “What do you do?”. This is a common question in any social situation, and it’s an opportunity to start getting comfortable with expressing your mission in life. Try it with the person sitting next to you on a plane, a fellow guest at a party or a stranger in a waiting room. More importantly, sharing your WHY with the world will push you to commit to it and back up your wordswith actions. The more you give voice to your intentions, the more likely you’ll be to follow through with them.
As for your business, there are a number of reasons to constantly refer back to its mission statement. For starters, it will make it readily apparent when a product or service becomes outdated, or no longer relevant.
But it’s also useful in matters of human resources, such as knowing what to look for during the hiring process, or recognizing when an employee’s WHY isn’t in line with the company’s. Finally, you’ll be sure to find the most productive arrangements possible when you can match the WHYs of your staff with the roles that best suit them. So the more others are familiar with your WHY and the more familiar you are with the WHYs of others, the better off we’ll all be, both personally and professionally.
https://youtu.be/YnBs6YGPAu4

BOOK REVIEW: The Organized Mind

Do you sometimes feel braindead or simply mentally overloaded? The Organized Mind by Daniel J. Levitin gave me some very interesting and practical tips how to deal with it. And also how to convince my family that order is really great for us.

source: ffbsccn.wordpress.com

Here are 6 key thoughts:

1. The brain can only focus on a limited number of stimuli at a time.

Have you ever told yourself that you’d like to “get organized?” It’s an easy promise to make, but difficult to put into action. So where can you get started?

Well, before we even approach this challenge, we must first understand in greater detail the way our mind works, more specifically, our attentional system. This is the way our brain handles and categorizes information. The times we live in pose a great challenge to this system, because our brains aren’t equipped to cope with the flood of new facts and sights that we face everyday. Instead, brains work best when concentrating on one thing at a time.

This was vital for our ancestors, who hunted successfully by staying highly focused. Their thoughts would only be disrupted by important events, such as an approaching predator.

Nowadays, we’re constantly attempting to do many things at once. Driving a car, listening to the radio, thinking about an upcoming business meeting – it’s not unusual that all these things happen simultaneously. This is something that our brain has not evolved to do successfully, which means that multitasking comes at a price.
When we switch our attention between different activities, our brain is unable to function effectively. This in turn causes us to make thoughtless mistakes, or forget and misplace things.

In order to better understand our attentional system, we also need to consider how our brain decides how to divide its attention. It’s all to do with the brain’s remarkable ability to detect changes.

Our brains are more likely to pay attention to changes than constants. For example, imagine you’re driving your car. You suddenly notice that the road feels bumpy. Prior to this, you didn’t even consider how even the street was, simply because this was not useful information.

But that realization could be vital, because it alerts you to a treacherous change in surface or a problem with your car.
Changing circumstances can pose a threat to our survival.

2. Because we’re surrounded by more and more information, we’re forced to make more and more decisions.

Decisions are part of everyday life: Should we opt for the cheaper internet plan, or pay more and get unlimited data? Should we respond to this email now, or read these texts first? We confront decisions like these nearly every minute. But how can our brain cope with this non-stop flow of decisions when it originally evolved to process one idea at a time?

It’s simple: we can manage the flood of information by focusing our attention. But how, exactly?

As we learned previously, our brain instinctively concentrates on the information that is most important for us.
Here’s an example: imagine you’re on a busy street, desperately looking for your lost dog. You automatically fade out all unnecessary details like the people, cars and buses, and only focus on things that are the same size and color as your dog. So unless there are a lot of other things on this street that are about knee-height, fluffy and brown, your brain immediately makes it easier to find your beloved pet.

This automatic process of honing our focus down to what’s necessary should also be reflected in our decision making. In other words, you shouldn’t spend too much time on less important everyday choices. Instead, find shortcuts and ways to simplify your decision making.

For example, one type of decision we often need to make is about purchasing products or services that can make our lives easier. A good way to analyze these decisions is by thinking about the monetary value of our own time, because it allows us to compare it to the benefit the product promises.

Let’s say you’re thinking about hiring someone to clean your home instead of doing it yourself. Just ask yourself: Would you be willing to pay $50 for two extra hours of free time? If the answer is yes, then go for it without deliberating any further!

Now that we’ve learned how to streamline our decision making, the following will show us how to organize more aspects of our lives in the most effective way.

3. Find a designated place for every single object.

When was the last time you lost your keys, phone or glasses? It seems ridiculous that the objects we need with us all the time are also the ones that seem to go wandering most often. The reason is straightforward: we lose these objects because we carry them around with us. Objects that we only use in one place, like our toothbrush, seldom get lost at all.

There is, in fact, a special part of our brain dedicated specifically to remembering the location of things. It’s called the hippocampus, and it was crucial for our ancestors who needed to know where a watering hole was, or the areas where predators might pounce.

In order to learn more about our hippocampi, researchers studied the brains of London taxi drivers, as they are required to commit the city’s street plan to memory. The tests revealed that the hippocampi of the drivers were larger than hippocampi in other people of similar education and age. These larger hippocampi were attributed to the need to recall many locations in detail.

However, the hippocampus can only provide us with information about objects whose location doesn’t change. This isn’t a problem for a taxi driver trying to remember how to get to a particular building, but is a constant problem for us when we try to remember where our frustratingly mobile keys are.

To ensure that you don’t always have to seek out these essential items, simply find a designated place for them. A special bowl next to the door for your keys always does the trick!

If you can’t set aside a certain place for an object, then it may also help to purchase duplicates. For example, if you need reading glasses, having a single location for them might prove frustrating as you may need them in different places. Instead, you could purchase a pair for your bedroom for nighttime reading, while another pair remains at work.

4. Give your brain a break – move your organizational processes outside your head.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all the different ideas and thoughts floating around inside your head? The best way to ensure you can keep track of them is to organize them outside your head.

A time-tested trick to unburden your brain is to write things down. Good old-fashioned flash cards are an easy and effective way to record and organize ideas as soon as you think of them.

For example, you might be on the bus and suddenly remember that you still have to buy a birthday present for your aunt. Don’t stress, just write it down and you’ll no longer have the burden of trying to remember it all day!
On the other hand, if you think of something that you could do right away – such as calling your aunt to say happy birthday – then don’t think twice, do it immediately. Think of it in terms of the two-minute rule: if the task takes longer than two minutes to complete, then write it down. Otherwise, do it straight away.

Another effective approach is to organize your written thoughts into categories. This mirrors the way our brains are constantly categorizing new stimuli and helps simplify our thinking, thus saving time and increasing our attention capacity.

For example, if we see a flying object with feathers, our brain recognizes it as part of the category “bird.” Though this bird might be a hawk or an eagle, it’s easier to place it in this broader category rather than identify it specifically.
The same goes for our flash cards – collect them together and sort them into different groups according to the topics they relate to. These could be categories such as “Personal Life,” “Work” or “Kids.”

This way you’ll be able to keep your thoughts and ideas organized and accessible.

5. Set aside time to refuel so you can increase your productivity later

Everyone knows that you tend to be far more productive after a good night’s sleep. And yet, we’re often tempted to skip a few hours of kip in order to work just a little bit more.

This, however, is a mistake. Our brain works incredibly hard while we sleep, processing new information from the day and integrating it into our existing knowledge. Memories, problems and ideas often appear in our dreams and we may find ourselves better positioned to solve a problem after “sleeping on it.”

This phenomenon is backed up by studies. Researchers found that students attempting to solve a problem performed better following a night of sleep than they did working on it for the same length of waking time.

Ultimately, you’re twice as likely to solve a problem after you’ve slept on it. This shows that sleep is essential, and attempting to work when you’re tired is counterproductive.

Sleep isn’t the only way that we can refuel our minds. Many companies have discovered the benefits of decreasing employee work time and providing facilities and opportunities for rest.

For example, at Microsoft, employees are welcome to use the in-house spa to relax and recharge. This is not only great for employees, but, as studies have shown that productivity increases when working hours drop, the use of downtime in facilities such as these may well be a driving force behind increased productivity.

Accounting firm Ernst & Young has also improved worker performance by allowing additional vacation time. In fact, for every additional ten vacation hours taken by employees, the employees’ performance rating increased by eight percent.

6. We can’t know the answer to every question, but we can know where and how to find it!

Today, we lead very different lives to our grandparents. One of the greatest changes is the way we can easily access vast amounts of information in no time at all. Googling something takes less than a minute! Nevertheless, there’s one important question we should continually ask ourselves: Is this information reliable?

Many of us have used Wikipedia before. The information it can provide us on a wide range of topics is hugely helpful, but is subject to a major drawback. Anyone is able to edit the information on a Wikipedia page, so we can never immediately be sure whether it is reliable. This means we should take the time to verify the information.

In order to evaluate whether a website is a valuable source or not, we can first investigate whether any reliable websites, such as established news services or government websites link to the website. If so, the site itself is likely to be reliable, and information can also be verified by cross-checking it with the content on several other websites.

However, not every problem can be solved by checking online. In complex dilemmas, particularly in the workplace, you’ll need to think for yourself in order to find solutions. Inventive and innovative thinking is something you just can’t google for! In such cases, the ability to reason, estimate and develop hypothetical assumptions is vital. 

For example, in Google’s own job interviews, potential candidates are confronted with a question that has no correct answer. Here’s one for you to try on for size: “How much does the Empire State Building weigh?” Google was interested in whether the candidate could use their logical skills to work through a problem on their own, for example, by calculating the approximate size and weight of the concrete used for the building.

Daniel Levitin on 3 big ideas: multitasking, brain extenders and decision making in the age of information overload in Talks at Google

BOOK REVIEW: UnSelfie

Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World? The book UnSelfie by Dr. Michele Borba offers a 9-step program to help parents cultivate empathy in children, from birth to young adulthood—and explains why developing a healthy sense of empathy is a key predictor of which kids will thrive and succeed in the future. Radka Dohnalová, ATAIRU Founder and Managing Partner reviewed this book in context of topics Future of Education and Leadership.

Children today live in a self-absorbed culture that makes them ill-equipped to understand the emotions of others. When researching the key skills we will need for the future, empathy plays a critical role, not just for children but also in leadership. I loved this book because it shows how parents and teachers can help children learn to feel greater empathy by teaching them about emotions and showing them how their actions affect others. It can be also a great spurce of inspiration for leadership. Here are some of the key thoughts.
Evidence shows that empathy is decreasing among young people, while narcissism is on the rise.
Did you know that “selfie” was voted word of the year in 2014 by Oxford Dictionaries? The decision was made following a 17,000 percent increase in the word’s usage over the previous year.
This obsession with photos of ourselves is symptomatic of an all-about-me society that’s ruled by ego, in which everybody wants to be the center of attention. Psychologists are even in agreement that empathy is on the decline, while narcissism among young adults is steadily rising.
Just take psychologist Sarah Konrath, whose University of Michigan, Ann Arbor team considered 72 behavioral studies among college students over the last three decades. Their results, which were published in Personality and Sociology Review, paint a disturbing picture.
They found that students today are 40 percent less empathetic than their predecessors were 30 years ago. In addition, rates of narcissistic behavior, including selfishness, an inflated sense of self-importance and a tremendous need for admiration, have soared by a whopping 58 percent!
Or consider a Gallup poll that found that while only 12 percent of teenagers in the 1950s agreed with the statement “I am very important,” that figure has hovered around 80 percent since the late 1980s.
The drop in empathy is also made abundantly clear by the rise in bullying among school children. After all, children who bully others do so by dehumanizing their victims and failing to see life from their perspective, which is why soaring rates of bullying are a strong indicator of decreasing empathy.
And although children have always been mean to one another, recent studies have found that bullying has reached an all-time high in recent years. One study showed a 52-percent increase over a mere four years. Another study determined that children as young as three years old were engaging in bullying behavior.
But what’s perhaps most disturbing is that one out of every five middle schoolers reports considering suicide because of peer cruelty.
We can thus see that children today are much more self-absorbed than previous generations were at the same age – but that doesn’t mean that they have to stay this way.
Adults can help kids develop emotional literacy.
Just as they’re not born being able to change their own diapers, kids don’t come out of the womb knowing how to understand and act with empathy. Even especially bright kids need years of experience before they can read body language and facial cues with fluency.
That being said, you can coach your children through this process.
First, you can use face-to-face contact to teach kids to read emotional signals. This is crucial, since children and teens are especially prone to misreading such gestures, which causes them – and, potentially, those around them – lots of unnecessary suffering. To lend them a hand, pay special attention to your own body language and be ready to explain things like, “don’t worry, I’m not angry. I’m just tired. If I rub my eyes you’ll know I’m tired.” You can also do some casual people watching with your child. During a trip to the mall, you might ask, “who looks angry, tired or bored?”
Second, you can use books and films to teach kids about emotions. To do so, you might watch a few minutes of a TV soap opera together with the sound on mute and make a game of guessing how the actors feel. This kind of exercise is a useful way to teach children about body language. Books are also great for this. If the main character in a story expresses an emotion, ask your children, “how can we tell he’s scared?” or “have you ever felt like that?” Doing so will give your kids an opportunity to understand an emotion from the inside out. And finally, give your kids an emotional vocabulary. After all, you can’t talk about something without the appropriate language to express it, and that’s especially the case when it comes to emotions. So, expose your children to words like “eager,” “confident” or “dismayed” that go beyond the simple emotions of “happy” and “sad.” To make sure you’re using emotional words when speaking with your children, you can make a point of talking about your own feelings. Be especially sure to use lots of emotional words when playing with boys, as they tend to hear less of this language in their daily lives.

source: Twitter @micheleborba

Teach kids empathy by asking them to walk in another person’s shoes.
What do you need to do to make sure your child thrives? Well, it’s essential for her to be able to advocate for her own interests – but that’s not enough.
To be happy and successful, kids also need empathy. In fact, children who understand the perspectives of others have more friends and stronger, closer relationships than self-absorbed children. Not only that, but empathetic children are happier, better adjusted and more likely to resolve conflicts or stand up for victims.
Such positive traits are known as the Empathy Advantage and they’re linked to more favorable life outcomes, including better job prospects, higher salaries and even greater educational attainment.
Luckily, any child can develop the Empathy Advantage through a few careful exercises, and the first of these is to reverse sides in an argument.
Say your two children come running to you, each begging for you to take their side in a disagreement. Instead of doing so, ask each child what he or she thinks the other child will say about the situation. By grappling with this question, both children will learn to see the situation through the other child’s eyes.
Another way you can develop your children’s empathy is through the use of props and role play. This kind of strategy will help your child step outside of her own world and into that of another. For instance, you can put on a tiara, an army boot or a sari, then ask your child who they think the wearer of these objects is and what they think about life. What are that person’s fears, hopes and dreams?

This is also a good approach if your child bullies someone. While young children might not understand questions like “how would you like it if Bobby did that to you?”, props can help them empathize. So, if you instead say “here’s Bobby’s hat. You be Bobby and I’ll be you,” and then act out a scene in which you’re mean to Bobby, most children will come away from the experience understanding how painful it is to be bullied.

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