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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Social: Post #4--Social Thinking

Social Thinking: Being what the author calls a “mindreader” (mentalizing) allows us to think about what others are thinking. Social thinking switches us from information consumers to info sharers, or what the author calls “Information DJs,” spreading the word.  Social pain keeps us close to others for support, and mindreading keeps us living/working well with others. Our big mistake: Not appreciating the value of our social thinking power—getting more social is the secret to being more productive and happier.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Social: Post #3--Social Pain

Social Pain: As mammal infants, when babies are separated from parents (especially their mothers) and need things, they cry. That cry stimulates mothers’ social brains to care for them and meet their needs. When we hear of someone with a “broken heart,” it turns out that the pain they experience is real. Being left out of a game as a kid, bullied, or snubbed as an adult leads to social pain. Moreover, social pain and physical pain register in the exact same part of the brain. In fact, Tylenol (acetaminophen) can reduce significant social or physical pain. One study showed that 1,000 mg a day can ease social pain in just 9 days.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Social: Post #2--Social Connection

Social Connection: We all need people to love, respect and care about us—both  at home and at work. As mammals we’re all born immature, requiring food and care from our family—primarily our mothers. This social bond starts out as a survival need and becomes a psychological need even as adults. In short, we need other people to help us be happy, successful, and thriving. As the author says, “You can’t build a rocket ship on your own.” In fact, we need people all day, every day, to reach our potential.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Social: Post#1--Overview

Matthew Lieberman is a social psychologist and neuroscientist who studies how we (and our brains) relate to the social world. His big message is that our social brain is every bit as important as our analytical brain—even more so! Using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) studies, the author makes the following points: 1. Dependent: We’re born social as mammals, dependent on our mothers for survival. Thus, the social brain is inbred; 2. Mentalizing: We think about what others around us are thinking to not only survive but also to thrive; 3. Social Pain: Both social and physical pain feel and register on the same place in the brain; 4. Teaching and Leading: To get better at teaching and leading we need to engage our social brain to have a MUCH better chance at success.

Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect by Matthew Lieberman (Crown Publishers, 2013), reviewed by Steve Gladis

Friday, January 24, 2014

On My Watch: Post #10--Final Words

On My Watch--Final Thoughts: Martha Johnson has a lot to teach us. Much like Kipling’s famous poem IF: “If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same…,” On My Watch is an ode to every leader—especially those in the public trust.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

On My Watch: Post #9--Resurfacing

Resurfacing--The  Strategy of Surprise:
We’ve all seen kids fall and look to their parents for cues about how to react—to cry or shake it off. Johnson asked her kids (and ultimately herself after her GSA tumble), “Are you hurt or are you surprised?” In her book, she advocates for “becoming the change,” using the crucible of difficulty to steel oneself for the future. Self-discovery and kindness following a humbling experience teach us a lot more than what suck-ups say when we’re on top of our game.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

On My Watch: Post #8--Walking the Plank!

Walking the Plank: This chapter is about how Johnson lost her job by being the captain of a ship that hit an iceberg—or in this case rammed into a scandal for excessive spending for a training event in Las Vegas. She talks of the complexity and risk of running any federal agency, especially as large as GSA. You can also feel her pain, embarrassment of public humiliation, and her now reflective wisdom about government service, scandal, congressional theater, pain, and especially resilience.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

On My Watch: Post #7--Blockbuster Ideas

Blockbuster Ideas:
Big ideas (blockbusters) have the power of transformation and refocus. GSA adopted several key blockbuster ideas that resonated strategically from them to the rest of the government—changing GSA’s image from being a warehouse to being a powerhouse. The big ideas were Zero Environmental Footprint (ZEF), which acted as a “pull metric” that pulled GSA toward more perfect products. Very much like reverse engineering—starting with the end in mind. Such a pull metric forced a focus on innovation. Note the section on SLAMS—compressed, all-stakeholder lock-ins that produced big decisions in a day—worth reading.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

On My Watch: Post #6--Leading Under Oath

Leading Under Oath: A pledged oath places constraints and history on your shoulders. “The surround sound of laws and regulations narrowed my options and agility.” There was a battle between both employee rights and performance. The president is the boss—loyalty flows up but rarely down. Scandal must not splash back on the president. Government (and private sector) leaders face several similar problems: tight rules, constraints, and risk. To meet these challenges, Johnson promoted three priorities: customer intimacy, operational excellence, and innovation.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

On My Watch: Post#5-- Leading by Scale

Leading at Scale:
Big scale has an effect. “It distorts, it disconcerts, and it makes even small things huge.” When leading at a distance, keep focused on the horizon and macro shifts in the economy and society and avoid rearranging the pencils on your desk—what we often do when overwhelmed. Avoid getting pulled into the weeds and keep a system-wide perspective.  Techniques to handle scale revolve around asking good questions like, “Why bother?” and “Why?” (5 times—Kaizen technique).

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

On My Watch: Post#4--Leading into the Light

Leading into the Light: Johnson recommends asking organizations to be more transparent by allowing access to data, raising questions in public, communicating often, and creating a safe place to fail. Love this Martha-ism: “Fail Fast, Fail Forward, Fail Fruitfully.” Read this chapter for her creative ideas like Day Trader Meetings (about talent management), leaders comparing performance plans, avoiding measurement and metrics gone wild. Her description of choosing a different, interruptive discussion around executive rotation is fascinating.

Friday, January 10, 2014

On My Watch: Post #3--Interruption

Interruption: Things get stalled and choked in such a system. Johnson offers a simple way to break logjams: Interruption. Instead of full-fledged change, she opts for the interruption “softball” to nudge the conversation or challenge an assumption to move things in a new direction. Brainstorming new ways of describing problems, using consultants to push the discussion, asking disruptive questions—all of these interrupt and change the conversation.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

On My Watch: Post #2--Leading in the Dark

Leading in the Dark: Leaders can’t absorb all the information out there to make decisions. By necessity, information gets filtered by staff and managers. Moreover, there’s a flood of information available today. So, leaders have to get good at “…separating the signal from the noise.” Absence of information can make leaders edgy and distrustful and force them to turn to control, even micromanagement—never a good idea. Moreover, political appointees run into a special brand of isolation from career government employees who have been through appointees by the scads and know it’s often simply a waiting game.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

On My Watch: Post #1- Overview

Overview: At last, a leader who has led a complex government agency (GSA), and also served in the private sector, who can write! Martha’s mastery of leadership principles is equally matched by her fresh, funny, intelligent style. This is the story of the rise, fall (due to politics), and rebirth of an authentic leader.  She was the captain of a ship that hit an iceberg—responsible but not culpable by any measure. She had to fall on her sword. She did. And now almost two years later she emerges with some powerful messages for leaders. I would highly recommend it for every leader, and especially every government leader.
On My Watch: Leadership, Innovation & Personal Resilience by Martha Johnson (Dudley Court Press, Sonoita, AZ) reviewed by Steve Gladis.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Culture: Post #9--Cultural ssessment (FINAL)

How to Start Cultural Assessment   Schein favors a group interview process (over a sweeping cultural survey) that gets to the heart of culture faster by discussing artifacts, values, and shared assumptions. He outlines a number of steps: 1. Obtain Leadership Commitment: Select group for self-assessment;          2. Select an appropriate setting for group assessment; 3. Explain group purpose; 4. Define culture’s key factors: Artifacts, Values and Basic Assumptions;              5. Identify aids and hindrances; 6. Decide on next steps.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Culture: Post #8--Key Principles

Key Leadership Principles of Culture Change   #1 “Survival anxiety or guilt must be greater than learning anxiety.” #2 “Learning anxiety must be reduced rather than increasing survival anxiety.” #3 “The change goal must be defined concretely in terms of the specific problem you are trying to fix, not as ‘culture change.’” #4 “Old cultural elements can be destroyed by eliminating the people who ‘carry’ those elements, but new cultural elements can only be learned if the new behavior succeeds.” #5 “Culture change is always transformative change that requires a period of unlearning that is psychologically painful.”

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