Charisma

What is Charisma?

In the words of Dr. Nick Morgan “Charisma is focussed emotion.”

There are 2 ways to increase your capacity to deliver “Focussed Emotion” when you speak:

  1. Remove Distractions: remove all distractions 30 minutes before you speak
  2. Care: know how the message of your speech can change people’s quality of life
Watch the video here on the blog.

What do you think?  Is this Bill Clinton’s secret?  

There is no Freedom without Self Discipline

photo: Markop

Freedom is dangerous without self discipline.

Few people will get anything important done in life without a boss, a parent, a teacher.  It is the removal of freedom that allows creation. Completion requires constraints: deadlines, scope, format…

We chaff at the chains, but they serve us.

My boss is an idiot, but without her insistance I wouldn’t have finished the document.

My teacher knows nothing about the real world, but without his deadline I wouldn’t have written the essay.

My landlord is cruel, but without his insistence on payment of rent I would not have gotten out of the bed, out of the house, into the world, served a paying customer, grown, learnt.

Constraints serve.

Freedom is dangerous without self discipline.

5 little things put a Leader in the top 10% of performance

I come more and more to the conclusion that excellent performance is not about complex innovations, but about small habits.

Excellent performance is about small habits

I am reading Leading with Emotional Intelligence by Redlan Nadler.  He quotes from book The Extraordinary Leader by Zenger and Folkman.  They found that doing 5 specific things really well put a leader in the top 10% of performance.

Small efforts in these 5 areas make a major difference.

  1. Giving Feedback
  2. Building Human Relationships
  3. Dealing with Poor Performance
  4. Self Management
  5. Managing Upwards

The table below gives specific examples of the difference between average leader behavior and top 10% leader behavior. If it doesn’t display properly via rss, view it on the blog here.

Good Leader Great leader
Giving Feedback
“Mary, thanks for getting the report to me.” “Mary, great job on the report because it was well-written. I appreciate you checked-in with me on the process.  I like how you collaborated with others.”
Building Human Relationships
Works in office on a project and then takes a break.  On the way to get coffee, nods at a few people and walks past some without even looking.  Heads right back to the computer. Takes a break and stops at several people’s desks to check on how they are doing.  Asks about projects and inquires about issues or challenges.  Asks about family or hobbies.
Dealing with Poor Performance
John is not performing as I would like him to. “John, let’s make sure you do everything to get this right.” “John, let’s spend time going over the next assignment together. You haven’t been performing like I know you can and I want to help. When can we meet?”
Self Management
“I’d better work through lunch because I am behind and can catch up if I eat at my computer.” “I am feeling tired and need to recharge. Going to lunch will help keep things in perspective and I will come back refreshed and better able to deal with these next challenges.”
Managing Upwards
“I don’t know what my boss thinks of me and how I am doing. I know she is busy and probably doesn’t need another interruption. “ “I am not sure what my boss thinks of me or how I am doing.  I will schedule some time with her and clarify expectations and make sure I am doing what she wants. It will also give her visibility on my projects.”
It does not take that much longer.  How do you approach these 5 areas?  Do you manage upwards well?  Are you clear on what is high performance in your role?  Do you deal directly with poor performance… or do you cross your fingers and hope?
Have a great day.

Reining in the State

There was a wonderful letter to the editor in this week’s Economist magazine that used a powerful metaphor of an orchestra to highlight the untenable future of state social spending as currently provided.  The letter was in response to Taming Leviathon – a special report on the future of the state.

“Sir, you twice mentioned – and then went on to ignore – The Baumol cost effect: the same number of musicians are needed now to play a Beethoven symphony as in the 19th century, even though real wages for musicians have since risen.


But William Baumol was an optimist. A better analogy would be an orchestra whose musical instruments steadily increase in size, so that they are soon too large to manipulate without motors and computers. Eventually a larger concert hall is required to accommodate them. The new hall is, of course, equipped with “dynamic acoustics”, which can be tailored in real time to the music being played. This in turn, requires teams of engineers and computer technicians, as well as mechanical hoists and their operators, to move the instruments.


This works until the instruments reach a size that their (aging) players can no longer maneuver them single-handedly and more musicians must be employed. And another hall built. Such is the nature of the pressure on health care and pension costs imposed by accelerating developments in medicine. It is a structural problem, which cannot be solved by pretending it doesn’t exist, or that it’s just a matter of “catching up” with private sector productivity.” Monty MacLean, Stockholm.

The western world has a big problem.  We have mortgaged our future requiring large debt repayment costs to be added into the costs of doing business…  but we are now competing on a global scale with economies which do not have that additional cost, or high costs of living and therefore high wage bills.

I do not think the answer is widespread cuts and reduction of all social provision to nothing.  I do know that sitting back and waiting to see is not the answer.  Any good ideas?

Standard of Living is Directly Proportional to Labour Productivity
I think a few areas are key: ensuring world class digital infrastructures, ensuring world class education for all, developing leadership and communication skills that allow for unparalleled collaboration and creation of new products, services, ways of living.  In the long run, the standard of living of a country is directly proportional to the productivity of labour – which is a factor of quality of infrastructures, quality of leadership and systems of work, and efficiency of labour.  My brother has some great thoughts on conquering procrastination.

4 approaches to learning a new discipline

The US Aikido master George Leonard in his book “Mastery” speaks of 4 approaches that we take to learning new disciplines.  It scares me that I might be a regular Hacker…  how to shift my approach and push through “good” and reach “better” and one day “expert”?:

  1. The Dabbler – The Dabbler’s learning curve rises very quickly, meets an obstacle and then drops to zero, since the dabbler gives up the activity and goes on to another; repeating the same curve on different activities.
  2. The Obsessive – The Obsessive’s learning curve rises quickly, meets obstacles, which The Obsessive tackles by redoubling his effort, getting more books and tools and trying to figure out ways to get better results faster and cheaper, and then burns out in a short while when he finds that the curve is not a straight line upwards.
  3. The Hacker – The Hacker’s learning curve rises quickly, meets an obstacle or two and then plateaus out on a straight line. The Hacker doesn’t consider the need for more instruction or rising above that level. He is content with level reached and plans to stay at that level.
  4. The Master – The Master’s learning curve rises quickly, plateaus for a while, and with consistent practice, rises again with some regression and plateaus again for a while and so on. The Master knows that Mastery is a lifetime path. The Master enjoys living on the plateau. The Master knows that while he is on the plateau, learning is happening and practice will inevitably raise him to a higher level.
How do we make the journey of learning a journey towards mastery?  George outlines five keys to mastery:
  1. Instruction – get an instructor.
  2. Practice – learn to love the plateau and practice for the sake of practice.
  3. Surrender – surrender to the learning process and the learning curve.
  4. Intentionality – bring all of your willpower and the mental game to the learning.
  5. The Edge – focus on the fundamentals and the leading-edge.
Have a great weekend.  Looks like spring is here.

How you do Anything is How you do Everything

Two months ago, I was at IESE business school with Verne Harnish and his wife Julie.  We were talking about entrepreneurial success and achievement.  He shared with me a quote that comes from his father-in-law:

“How you do anything is how you do everything.”

Detail from the Alhambra Palace in
Granada, Spain credit Pim Fijneman

Verne’s father-in-law has apartments that he rents out.  What criteria does he use to identify good tenants?  How does he decide to whom he will rent out his apartments?

When somebody comes to view one of his properties, he takes the time to look at that person’s car.  Are the tires in good condition?  Is the paintwork in good shape?  Is the inside of the car in good condition?  Is it clean?  If the person takes good care of their car, he knows they will take good care of his apartment.  He rents his apartments to those who take good care of their cars.

“How you do anything is how you do everything.”

Coach John Wooden, the most-winning-est coach having led the UCLA basketball team to 10 championships in 12 seasons, has 3 rules for his players:

  1. Show up on time
  2. Show up properly dressed
  3. Show up shaved
His view is that if you can keep these simple things under control, you have the discipline to master the big things.

“How you do anything is how you do everything.”

My brother Aidan worked in investment banking for a decade.

When he first started he joined a team led by a gruff senior banker.  This senior banker gave my brother one simple task that he was to complete every morning before the 7:00am team meeting – he was to send out an email to the team with 6 market indicators calculated for the day.  My brother delivered this email before 7:00am every day for 2 years.  One day, the whole team had a late night.  Everybody was out late celebrating.

The next morning, my brother’s email didn’t arrive til a few minutes after 7:00am.  The gruff senior banker immediately said to him “Never let this happen again.  How can I trust you with clients, with million dollar trades, if I can’t trust you with this task.  Never again. Understood?”

I would have felt cruelly treated in this situation – “I deliver 400 times successfully and the one time I deliver 3 minutes late I get beaten up!”  But the message was very clear:

“How you do anything is how you do everything.”

Sweat the details.
The little things count.

“We can do no great things, only little things with great love”

Mother Teresa.

Have a great weekend.

8 Disciplines of Leadership

I read Conversations on Leadership by Lan Liu when I was sitting in the IESE library recently.  He interviews some of the big thinkers and identifies 8 core disciplines of leadership.
  1. Connecting with People
  2. Learning from Failure
  3. Reflecting on Experience
  4. Thinking Deeply
  5. Storytelling
  6. Being a Teacher
  7. Knowing Yourself
  8. Becoming Yourself
Further reading
Lan Liu is a rising star in Chinese leadership studies.  Lan Liu wrote a HBR blog post recently titled “Beyond the American Model of Leadership

Video: 5 Aspects that Give you a Powerful Speaking Voice

I have prepared a series of short videos for my IESE courses this year. This is a 3 minute video describing the 5 aspects of a powerful speaking voice.  A powerful voice will transmit authority to your audience and allow them to engage with you as a credible leader.  

The five aspects of a powerful speaking voice

The five aspects of a powerful speaking voice are:

  1. Breathing
  2. Resonance
  3. Silence (and vocal variety)
  4. Articulation
  5. Downward Inflection

You could subscribe to my YouTube Channel. It has over 300 educational videos.

Over to you

How do you warm up your voice before speaking?  Do you have any exercises that work for you?  What would you most like to change about your voice?

Would you like to see more videos on this blog?  Is this a helpful format?  What questions would you like me to address via videos?

Have a great day.

Plant Acorns. Grow Oaks.

This post is inspired by a talk “You and your research” by Richard Hamming.

One life to live

Richard Hamming

“Now, why is this talk important? I think it is important because, as far as I know, each of you has one life to live. Even if you believe in reincarnation it doesn’t do you any good from one life to the next! Why shouldn’t you do significant things in this one life, however you define significant? I’m not going to define it – you know what I mean.” Richard Hamming speaking to Bellcore, 7 March, 1986.

My summary of Hamming’s lessons for success (as a scientist, but I believe easily applicable to any profession) are:

Hammings 13 Lessons for Success

  • Work hard
  • Accept ambiguity
  • Work on important problems
  • Plant acorns to grow oaks
  • When opportunity appears pursue it fully
  • Keep your door open sometimes, closed sometimes
  • Do your job in such a way that others can build on it
  • Even scientists have to sell (learn to speak well)
  • Educate your bosses
  • How you dress matters
  • Be good to secretaries
  • Let others fight the system (you can do great work or fight the system, not both)
  • Always look for positive not negative
  • Know yourself, your weaknesses, your self-delusions (we all have self-delusions)

All the talent, but don’t deliver

Richard Hamming says about people who have greatness within their grasp but don’t succeed:

  1. they don’t work on important problems (Bad work, good work, great work)
  2. they don’t become emotionally involved,
  3. they don’t try and change what is difficult to some other situation which is easily done but is still important, and
  4. they keep giving themselves alibis why they don’t. They keep saying that it is a matter of luck.

How success and fame can ruin you

“When you are famous it is hard to work on small problems. The great scientists often make this error. They fail to continue to plant the little acorns from which the mighty oak trees grow. They try to get the big thing right off. And that isn’t the way things go. So that is another reason why you find that when you get early recognition it seems to sterilize you.”

How to keep it going for life

“Somewhere around every seven years make a significant, if not complete, shift in your field. Thus, I shifted from numerical analysis, to hardware, to software, and so on, periodically, because you tend to use up your ideas. When you go to a new field, you have to start over as a baby. You are no longer the big mukity muk and you can start back there and you can start planting those acorns which will become the giant oaks.”

“It is better to solve the right problem the wrong way than to solve the wrong problem the right way.”

Thanks to Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator for sharing this talk on his blog.  The full text of the talk is here.

What do you think?

Are you planting acorns?  Are you fighting the system? or doing great work?  Is it true that you cannot do both?  (sometimes the system is wrong…  what should I do?)  Join the discussion here.

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