Category Archives: Randy’s blog entries

Entries by Randy Mayeux

Read; Listen; Learn – Then YOU have to put it into Action – (with thoughts from The Power of Moments by Chip Heath & Dan Heath)

PowerofMomentsBookCoverTwice this week I presented my synopsis of The Power of Moments by Chip Heath & Dan Heath.  One of my two audiences was made up of people who design activities for retired people – people living in independent living retirement communities. The other audience was made up of leaders of a North Texas city.

Two very different audiences.  Two very different sets of needs.

But the book was a hit with both.  Because both groups need help with this:  how do we design memorable moments?

For the sake
 of this book, a defining moment is a short experience 
that is both memorable and meaningful. “This is a book about the power of moments and the wisdom of shaping them.”

The book is filled with great stories, from the story of Joshie, the stuffed giraffe enjoying his vacation, to the Popsicle Hotline at the Magic Castle; and many, many more.

The book states that there are four elements of a powerful moment.  They are (with their descriptions):

ELEVATION: Defining moments rise above the everyday. They provoke not just transient happiness, like laughing at a friend’s joke, but memorable delight. (You pick up the red phone and someone says, “Popsicle Hotline, we’ll be right out.”) To construct elevated moments, we must boost sensory pleasures—the Popsicles must be delivered pool-side on a silver tray, of course—and, if appropriate, add an element of surprise.
INSIGHT: Defining moments rewire our understanding of ourselves or the world.
PRIDE: Defining moments capture us at our best—moments of achievement, moments of courage.
CONNECTION: Defining moments are social: weddings, graduations, baptisms, vacations, work triumphs, bar and bat mitzvahs, speeches, sporting events. These moments are strengthened because we share them with others.

They especially talk about creating these powerful moments in moments of transition, and in moments that are “first.”  Such as, the first day on the job.

But, here’s what really hit me.  Yes, the book has some “ideas to copy.”  But the far more important response is to grasp the philosophy behind such special moments, and then design/craft/create your own defining moments.

Copy, yes!
Grasp the philosophy, and create your own special, powerful moments  – even more so yes!!

The Power of Moments handout sheet

here is a sheet from my synopsis handout

And, this reminds me of the job of the listener to my book synopses (or, really, the reader of any book).  You hear, you read, you listen – but then, you take what you’ve learned and put it into action.  You have to take that step.  And until you do, you haven’t really learned at all, have you?

——————–

Here’s my earlier blog post, with my lessons and takeaways, for this book: The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath – My Six Lessons and Takeaways

 

——————–

My synopsis of this book, with my multi-page, comprehensive handout, and the audio recording of my presentation recorded at the First Friday Book Synopsisin Dallas, is available at the buy synopsis tab at the top of this web [age.  Click here for this specific synopsis, The Power of Moments.  And, click here for our newest additions.

 

When you speak in front of others, Speak Out! Don’t be tentative – Five very practical tips

I am wrapping up another semester teaching speech at the community college level.

I have some students who are naturally outgoing; almost natural speakers.

megaphone-1940x900_34942

learn to speak out — nice and loud

I have other students who are so very tentative.  More than a little nervous.  And so reticent. When these students speak, they speak with such low volume, that it is difficult to hear them.  And they are so seldom looking at the audience members.  They not only don’t make good eyeball-to-eyeball contact, they don’t even lift their faces toward the audience.  It is as though they are delivering their speeches to their notes; not to the audience members.

I work on this with them.  I demonstrate; I teach them; we drill.  We have exercises.  But, they go back to reticence so very quickly.

I see this in many other gatherings of professional adults.  People introduce themselves to a group, but do so with such low volume that their names cannot be heard.  Or, people “report” on group discussions, with…the same problems.

So, here are some tips.  Whenever you speak in front of others, even if it is just to introduce yourself, follow these steps.  Hint;  you will need to practice these – a lot!!!

#1 – Almost always, stand up to speak, regardless of the circumstance.  It makes it easier to hear you.

#2 – Greet your audience with your face and your eyes before you begin speaking.  Invite your audience to listen to you with your face and your eyes.  – AND, look at your audience, not at a screen with PowerPoint slides, or at your notes.  Look up to speak up!

#3 – Belt out your words.  Don’t be tentative; be confidently assertive.  Here’s how loud you need to be; loud enough for the person siting farthest away from you to hear you easily.  Speak loudly! (Think Ethel Merman, belting out the beginning words of There’s No Business Like Show Business).

#4 – Learn to “verbally punch” your key words. Just like you do in writing words, using bold emphasis and colorful fonts to emphasize key word and phrases, verbally bold your key words and phrases.

#5 – Begin with a beginning and end with an ending.  Too many people begin and end in the middle. Start well; and finish well.

There is much more to add: gestures, all-across-the-room eyeball-to-eyeball contact.  But follow these five tips, and there’s a chance you will become more effective when you speak to others; every time you speak to others.

——————–

I’ve written quite a few blog posts dealing with issues related to speaking. (Note:  these are on our “archived” blog).

Read this one first:
2 Ways to Guarantee a Failed Presentation

And then, you will find a number of others to read on this page:
Here Are A Number of My Blog Posts Dealing with Speaking/Presentation and Communication Issues

 

The Story of a Serious Book Reader – Worth a Careful Reading…

It’s not often that I begin a blog post with this line, but please — read this post. I think it will be helpful.

A friend told me a story about a man he knows.  This is a man who is quite successful, by any definition of the word successful. And he is a man who has had a…life-change for the better.

Here’s show I put it on twitter:

I am a fan of TED Talks, podcasts, NPR, articles, blog posts, tweets, documentaries… But, I heard a story today about a man who had his mind changed, and shaped, by a multi-month, serious book reading plan.He read many books, in full, and they changed his thinking and ultimately, his actions. — There is no substitute – read books. Entire books. Serious books.

The story of this man is this:  he learned of a list of books.  It was in an area that he decided he wanted to/needed to learn more about.  So, he followed the list, book by book.  He read the first book on the list, then the second, then the third, then the…  you get the picture.

He read the books carefully, thoroughly, fully.  He pondered what the books said.  And, he became convinced of some things; he changed his mind about some things.  And really, he changed more than just his mind – he changed some things about his life.

What books are in your serious book reading stack?

What books are in your serious book reading stack?

This post is a reminder:  there is no substitute for reading books. Books of substance; books that call us to change for the better.  These books that he read were not “self-help” books (there is nothing wrong with such books). But these books were histories, and studies of social conditions, tackling major issues like racism and poverty.  These were…dare I say it…serious books.

And he took his reading of these books seriously.

So, here’s the challenge:  do you read serious books in a serious way?  Note the plural – “books.”  One serious book is not enough.  It takes a stack of such books; a longer-term exposure to the substantive challenges and teachings available is such books.

Yes, I love TED Talks; and I read articles; and listen to speeches. And I spend more time than I should on Twitter.  But there is no substitute for reading serious books, in a serious way, over the long haul.

Take a lesson from this person who did so.  It might change your life for the better.

——————–

I present synopses – pretty deep dives – of books.  I do this for companies, city government leaders, leaders and employees in organizations of many kinds.

I start with my two business book selections each month at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas, which is in its 22nd year. And I do the same for books dealing with issues of Social Justice for CitySquare at the monthly Urban Engagement Book Club, also in Dallas.

My synopses are not a substitute for reading the books for yourself – but, it is a pretty deep dive into the key content of some really useful books.  My business book synopses are available to purchase at the “buy synopses”: tab at the top of this page.  Each synopsis comes with my multi-page, comprehensive handout, and the audio recording of my presentation. Click here for our newest additions.

———————-

And click on these links for some pretty good lists of books to get you started, and whet your appetite further:

there is always the right book to read next

there is always the right book to read next

Business Books:

You should read these 30 books – Book Suggestions from Randy Mayeux of the First Friday Book Synopsis (ok – 30, + a few)

Books on Issues of Social Justice:

Here is the line-up of books for the 2018 Urban Engagement Book Club – focusing on books dealing with social justice issues

Here’s the line up of books I will present on Social Justice Issues at the 2019 Urban Engagement Book Club

Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries by Safi Bahcall – My Six Lessons and Takeaways

I love it when I read a book and I feel like I am learning so much that is new to me.  That’s Loonshotsexactly how I felt reading Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win WarsCure Diseases, and Transform Industries by Safi Bahcall. I first heard of this book when I heard Krys Boyd interview the author on her Think program on KERA in Dallas.  (Click here to listen to her interview).  I presented my synopsis of this book at the May First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas.

Loonshots is a science book, a history book, a business book, a genuine “you’re going to have to stretch a little” book. The author is a physicist, a business thinker, and part historian.  All of that comes into play throughout this book.

I learned so much about…Vannever Bush (and Winston Churchill, and FDR, and their embracing of the need to champion technological breakthroughs); and Polaroid and Edwin Land; and Pan Am; and other “loonshots.”

So, just what is a loonshot? Here’s the argument in brief (from the book):

  1. The most important breakthroughs come from loonshots, widely dismissed ideas whose champions are often written off as crazy.
  2. Large groups of people are needed to translate those breakthroughs into technologies that win wars, products that save lives, or strategies that change industries.
  3. Applying the science of phase transitions to the behavior of teams, companies, or any group with a mission provides practical rules for nurturing loonshots faster and better.

I also learned of the important role played by the knowledge made available in the New York Public Library.  Without that library, there might not have been a Polaroid, or a Pan Am airlines.

Especially important was the transition between the Loonshot phase and the Franchise phase. The loonshot phase was when the real breakthroughs were discovered. The franchise phase was when those breakthroughs were rolled out with multiple uses and iterations..

In my synopses, I ask: What is the point?  Here it is for this book:  Loonshots change the world for the better. But they are opposed so very strongly. And creating a loonshot factory (“nursery”) is no easy task.

And I ask: Why is this book worth our time?

#1 – This book is a remarkable history of successful changes for the better brought about by successful loonshots. It is history worth learning.
#2 – This book is a tutorial on why it is so hard to keep a loonshot “factory” going.  There are opponents; there are structural barriers.
#3 – This book is a master class on the strength of systems (over the idea of corporate culture).

• Here are a few of the “best of” my highlighted passages:

In every creative field, we see legendary teams suddenly, and mysteriously, turn.
Being good at nurturing loonshots is a phase of human organization… Being good at developing franchises (like movie sequels) is a different phase of organization, in the same way that being solid is a different phase of matter.
As teams and companies grow larger, the stakes in outcome decrease while the perks of rank increase. When the two cross, the system snaps. Incentives begin encouraging behavior no one wants. Those same groups—with the same people—begin rejecting loonshots.
But the ones who truly succeed—the engineers of serendipity—play a more humble role. Rather than champion any individual loonshot, they create an outstanding structure for nurturing many loonshots. …Rather than visionary innovators, they are careful gardeners.
IBM missed an S-type shift—a change in what customers care about. Today, the combined market value of Microsoft and Intel, the two tiny vendors IBM hired, is close to $ 1.5 trillion, more than ten times the value of IBM.
Without the certainties of franchises, the high failure rates of loonshots would bankrupt companies and industries. Without fresh loonshots, franchise developers would shrivel and die.
When the Dead Sea Scrolls were first discovered by Bedouin shepherds in a desert cave near the Dead Sea in modern-day Israel, archaeologists offered to pay the shepherds for each new scrap they found. That encouraged the shepherds to rip any scrolls they found into tiny scraps. The archaeologists had the right idea in theory but didn’t think through the perverse incentive in practice.
Examining the unintended effects of well-intentioned goals has not received much study.
A loonshot refers to an idea or project that most scientific or business leaders think won’t work, or if it does, it won’t matter (it won’t make money). It challenges conventional wisdom. Whether a change is “disruptive” or not, on the other hand, refers to the effects of an invention on a market.

• Here are a few of my other observations from the book:

  • You needed the invention/discovery genius, AND the champion of that genius
  • In the high-stakes competition between weapons and counterweapons, the weak link was not the supply of new ideas. It was the transfer of those ideas to the field.
  • People who don’t believe in the loonshot really, really don’t like the loonshot
  • Another desk chief wrote dismissively that the idea was “a wild dream with practically no chance of real success,” listing a handful of reasons it was impractical… “It really pained me … to think how much two years of fleet experience with radar before 1941 could have saved us in lives, planes, ships and battles lost during the initial phases of the Pacific war.”
  • partly turf wars; partly distrust of outsiders… (note, R.M., remember Thomas Kuhn, paradigm shifts, and the role of the outsider)
  • The two types of Loonshots
  • The P-Type – a breakthrough in product
  • The S-Tyoe – a breakthrough in strategy
  • There was a great lesson about the decision-making process (a lesson from Garry Kasparov, the Chess Champion):
  • Teams with an outcome mindset, level 1, analyze why a project or strategy failed. • Teams with a system mindset, level 2, probe the decision-making process behind a failure.
  • And here are my six lessons and takeaways:

#1 – Many leaps forward require a technological breakthrough. Getting to that technological breakthrough is seriously hard work; requiring technological expertise, and dogged people skills.
#2 – The possibility of a next loonshot goes down as the size of the organization goes up.
#3 – But, this size dilemma can be offset with changes in the systems.
#4 – And, the idea for the next loonshot may be found by the “outsider,” with “outsider thinking.”
#5 – Be sure to praise both the loonshot genius and the strategy genius (and the perpetual tweaker)
#6 – And… We will never fix the traffic problem! (I threw this in as sort of an extra.  But, the book does kind of explains the why…).

Loonshots deserves to be read (along with other books trying to make sense of just where breakthroughs come from).  It is a fun, stimulating, and rich-with-insight book to read.

———————–

Our synopses are available to purchase from this website.  Each synopsis comes with my multi-page, comprehensive handouts, along with the audio recording of my presentations.  (Click here to see our newest additions).  You can search for titles through the search box on the “buy synopses’ tab at the top of this page.  My synopsis for Loonshots will be available soon.

So you read that book. What did you learn from reading that book?

“Well when events change, I change my mind. What do you do?”
Dr. Paul Samuelson, Nobel Laureate in Economics, 1970
(frequently attributed, in slightly differing versions, to John Maynard Keynes, including one time by the same Dr. Samuelson)

The_Six_Southern_Gentlemen_of_Tennessee

Isaac Jaffe (Robert Guillaume)

Exaudio, Comperio, Conloquor.
That’s a Latin phrase that translates: To Listen, To Learn, To Speak.
Isaac Jaffe, (Robert Guillaume), from the episode The Six Souithern Gentlemen from Tennessee, Sports Night

Learning:  knowledge acquired through experience, study, or being taught.

 

——————–

So, you read a book – or heard a speech, or a lecture, or a webinar – and you “learned” something.  Here are some versions of such learning:

I did not know that.  Now I do.
I thought differently.  Hmmm; either I’m wrong, or the book/author/speaker is wrong.  Time to explore more deeply.
I did know that.  I’m glad to have my knowledge/view reinforced.
I did know that.  Now, I clearly need to step up my game, and implement my learning more fully, more completely.

I suspect there are other “levels” of response and learning. Here’s a link to a list of differing taxonomies of learning:  Learning Levels.  This includes the well-known Bloom’s taxonomy:  1) Knowledge; 2) Comprehension; 3) Application; 4) Analysis; 5) Synthesis; 6) Evaluation.

The Well-Educated Mind{And here is a more complete look at Benjamin Bloom’s taxonomies. Notice especially the three domains: 1) the cognitive domain (knowledge-based); 2) the affective domain (emotion-based); and 3) the psychomotor domain (action-based).}

And, I love this description of the well-educated mind, which I read from Susan Wise Bauer, and her book The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education you Never Had (read my blog post here):

Stage #1 – the grammar stage – You simply absorb information; you do not evaluate it.
Stage #2 – the logic stage – You analyze information, deciding “whether information is correct or incorrect, and make connections between cause and effect, historical events, scientific phenomena, words, and their meanings.”
Stage #3 – the rhetoric stage – You learn to express your “own opinions about the facts you have accumulated and evaluated. So the final years of education focus on elegant, articulate expression of opinion in speech and writing – the study of rhetoric.”
So, she writes:
“Learn facts; analyze them; express your opinion about them.”

But, here’s the thing:  it is not all that challenging an ambition to say “yes, I read that book.”  The real challenge is to act on what you read.  To learn something from the book you read (or the speech you listened to).

Read to learn. Listen to learn.

What have you learned lately?

 

Nine Lies about Work by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall – My Six Lessons and Takeaways (and, a little disagreement)

There are books that I disagree with because they are shallow, illogical, shoddy…  These are books with inadequate thoughts from inadequate authors.

No, I won’t name any of these.  But, yes, I’ve read a few; or, at least portions of them.  Thankfully, with the advent of Kindle sample pages, a reader can make an evaluation without buying the whole book.  And, if you want to tell me that it is unfair to make a judgment without reading the full book, ok…but in many/most cases, one can tell with just the sample pages.

And then there are books that I disagree with – at least partly – that represent the perfect kind of book to disagree with.  These books are not shallow.  They are thoughtful, well-thought through, well-researched, well-argued.  You have to ponder the conclusions in these books, and ask yourself…is this something that I agree with?  Let me think about this.

Nine Lies about WorkI love reading these books. Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall is one such bookl  This is a very good book.  One worth your time.  I commend it.

But I don’t fully agree with it.  And, that’s ok, isn’t it?

I presented my synopsis of this book last Friday at the May First Friday Book Synopsis.  Here are some of the highlights from my synopsis handout:

  • What is the point? — Don’t accept the “common wisdom.” Chances are the common wisdom is wrong. …And, maybe the single most important key to business success is…build really good teams.
    • Why is this book worth our time?
    • #1 – We do not know what to measure.  This book will help us with that.
    • #2 – We focus on the wrong things toward self-improvement, and others-improvement.  This book will help us with that.
    • #3 – We evaluate others, and seek engagement, using the wrong tools  This book will help us with these challenges also.
      • Here are some quotes and excerpts from the book – the “best of” Randy’s highlighted passages (I left one key one in bold):

Global worker engagement is weak… And economists, in seeking to explain the global decline in productivity growth since the mid-seventies, have suggested that “the technological advances and management strategies that worked to propel productivity in the past have been fully implemented and are no longer contributing to productivity.
In other words, whatever our current practices may be, they are no longer giving us much lift.
When you’re next looking to join a company, don’t bother asking if it has a great culture—no one can tell you that in any real way. Instead, ask what it does to build great teams.
The defining characteristic of our reality today is its ephemerality—the speed of change.
Everywhere we look we see this speed of change. When you put your plan together in September, it’s obsolete by November.
It’s not true that the best plan wins. It is true that the best intelligence wins.
Each and every weekthese leaders have a brief check-in with each team member, during which they ask two simple questions: What are your priorities this week? How can I help?
The best, most effective way to create clarity of expectations is to figure out how to let your people figure it out for themselves.
We started with MBOs, or Management by Objectives, first popularized by Peter Drucker in his 1954 book The Practice of Management. Then came SMART goals, followed shortly by KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals, in Jim Collins’s memorable framing). The latest incarnation, OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), originated at Intel and is now used by much of Silicon Valley for defining and tracking goals and measuring them against your “key results.”
In the real world, there is work—stuff that you have to get done. In theory world, there are goals. Work is ahead of you; goals are behind you—they’re your rear-view mirror. Work is specific and detailed; goals are abstract. Work changes fast; goals change slowly, or not at all. Work makes you feel like you have agency; goals make you feel like a cog in a machine. Work makes you feel trusted; goals make you feel distrusted. Work is work; goals aren’t. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Goals can be a force for good.
We would never tell Lionel Messi to try to play with his right foot.
We’re often told that the key to learning is to get out of our comfort zones, but this finding gives the lie to that particular chestnut—take us out of our comfort zones and our brains stop paying attention to anything other than surviving the experience. It’s clear that we learn most in our comfort zone.

The book names nine lies about work.  Here are the nine:

LIE #1 People care which company they work for
LIE #2 The best plan wins
LIE #3 The best companies cascade goals
LIE #4 The best people are well-rounded
LIE #5 People need feedback
LIE #6 People can reliably rate other people
LIE #7 People have potential
LIE #8 Work-life balance matters most
LIE #9 Leadership is a thing.

Here are a few of the points I shared from the book:

      • Some things to do
      • weekly meetings with team members – This leads us to one of the most important insights shared by the best team leaders: frequency trumps quality.
      • people have to set their own goals!– If a goal is going to be useful, if it is going to help you contribute more, then the only criterion is that you must set it for yourself, voluntarily. Any goal imposed upon you from above is an un-goal.
      • What exactly is a strength?
      • This sensation is not, at root, created by how good you are at something. Rather, it’s created by how that activity makes you feel. A strength, properly defined, is not “something you are good at.”
      •  “Something you are good at” is not a strength; it is an ability.
      • A strength, on the other hand, is an “activity that makes you feel strong.”
      • Look for the spiky
      • the best people are spiky, and in their lovingly honed spikiness they find their biggest contribution, their fastest growth, and, ultimately, their greatest joy. 

And here are my six lessons and takeaways:

#1 – Give up measuring others.  Work on yourself
#2 – Forget the “company.”  Focus on your team.
#3 – Forget overcoming your weaknesses. Focus on really excelling in your area(s) of strength.
#4 – Forget giving, and receiving, feedback. Instead work on giving yourself feedback.
#5 – Do aim for meaning; (and) something that makes you “spiky.” – In other words, what really matters to you really does matter!
#6 – Keep growing and learning – especially in your area of strength(s).

I agreed with plenty from the book:  people work for and in teams, not companies, for example.  And, people really do not do well with feedback.  Yep!

So, you may be wondering, where was my disagreement?  I’m something of a fan of the OKRs strategic planning approach (and its cousins, with other initials).  Reading this book made me think of other books I’ve read.  One specific one is The 4 Disciplines of Execution, which speaks of the whirlwind (of every-day work demands; always demanding!) — the whirlwind which overwhelms needed big-picture thinking and planning. I think the authors of this book were dealing primarily with the “whirlwind,” and some leaders, somewhere, need to step back for some bigger picture thinking.

And, I disagree with the dismissal of “culture” in this book.  Though it is true that people work for teams, and there are good teams in bad companies and bad teams in good companies, I do believe in the reality of company culture. (Consider Herb Kelleher and his years at Southwest Airlines).

But, the book did make me think  — to think long and hard about issues. And my disagreements with it are worthy of more pondering, and more discussion.

Anyway, this is a good book.  Read it.  In addition to spurring your thinking about some pretty big issues, It is likely to help you, especially as you focus on teams; and on strengths..

——————-

My synopsis of this book will be available soon on this web site. Each synopsis comes with my multi-page, comprehensive synopsis handout, along with the audio recording of my presentation from our live event in Dallas.  Click here to check out our newest offerings.

AND, SPECIAL NOTE:  The chapter on “Leadership is a Thing” contains a brilliant look at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his leadership.  And, the story weaves a narrative about the museum in Memphis connected to the Lorraine Motel, the site of Dr. King’s death.  I went to the motel before the museum was constructed.  I’m headed back soon.  This book made me even more glad I’ve planned such a trip.  This chapter was genuinely moving.  Get the book to read this one chapter; you will not be sorry you did.