Category Archives: Monday Morning Wake Up Call

How Ray Kroc (McDonalds owner) became an overnight success

Don’t desist to persist #MondayMorningWakeUpCall

I watched the movie ‘The Founder’ over the weekend. It’s the story of Ray Kroc, the person credited to making McDonalds an empire from a single store and ‘the most successful fast food operation in the world’.

Ray Kroc was a travelling salesman. He sold paper cups, pianos and milk-shake mixer machines door-to-door, till he chanced upon McDonalds at the age of… wait for it…wait for it…wait for it… 52!

There are a whole bunch of business lessons in the movie for entrepreneurs, founders and aliens alike but the one that probably is at the core and resonates throughout the movie (and his career) comes best from this dialogue at the end of the movie where he’s preparing for a speech.

Ray Kroc says: “I know what you’re thinking. How the heck does a fifty two year old, over the hill, milkshake machine salesman build a fast food empire with 1600 restaurants and an annual revenue of seven hundred million dollars?

One word: Persistence!”

It reminded me of a same same but different Steve Jobs quote, “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”

I think they might be bonding well in the after-life.

3 common traits among superstar workers

“I don’t know who you are but you must be some kind of superstar” – Jamelia #MondayMorningWakeUpCall

In the 1990s, 2 economists and a sociologist from MIT embarked on a research project on how the most productive people build mental models. Crawling through all the data, they noticed that the productive people shared a number of common traits. Three to be specific, explained below:

  1. Superstars seek projects that require them to seek out new colleagues and learn new abilities

Conventional wisdom holds that productivity rises when people do the same kind of tasks over and over. Repetition makes us faster and more efficient because we don’t have to learn fresh skills with each new assignment. But as the economists looked more closely, they found the opposite. The superstars didn’t choose tasks that leveraged existing skills. Instead, they signed up for projects that required them to seek out new colleagues and learn new abilities. It’s also what sets them up to become a generalist specialist, probably the ones who’ll own the future – Generalist vs Specialist debate

  1. Superstars take up assignments that are in their early stages

Another trait they found common is superstars were disproportionately drawn to assignments that were in their early stages. This despite common knowledge that joining a project in its infancy is risky.

However, the beginning of a project is also more information rich. By joining fledgling initiatives, the superstars gain access to knowledge, trends and lessons which are usually missed out by other executives.

  1. Superstars have a more productive method of thinking.

And they love to generate theories, lots and lots of theories about all kinds of topics, to their colleagues, the world and themselves. They probe deeper to come up with explanation after explanation about practically everything.

They create mental models by telling stories about what they expect to see and happen.

By envisioning what will happen, the mental models create a sub-conscious plan. What will occur first? What are potential obstacles? How will you help pre-empt them? By telling stories about what you expect to occur makes it easier to decide where your focus should go when your plan encounters real life.

Source: Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg

Why being a rebel is good

Be a rebel! #MondayMorningWakeUpCall

Since the time of Rebel Without A Cause and way way before, being a rebel has always been considered criminal to put it mildly, a violation that ostracises you from society.

Little known fact though is that encouraging (or at least not punishing) your child or employees to rebel is an under-rated and under used method to helping them stay motivated and develop confidence. Rebelling gives them the psychological perception that they are in control, which is deep down what they innately look for, and is one of the strongest factors to aid motivation – a sense of autonomy and control of choice.

Punishing or thwarting every act of small defiance not only ultimately frustrates but also lowers self- confidence. Don’t denounce those who rebel with or without cause against your strict rules and rigid schedules. Better still, don’t have them at all.

And if you’re at the receiving end, then be a rebel. In fact be a rogue and save the galaxy!

5 norms to get the best out of your team: Learnings from Google’s Aristotle Project

As unbelievable as it may seem, Google has discovered the secrets to get the best out of your team #MondayMorningWakeUpCall

Teamwork_Google_Aristotle_Project

Teamwork is essential… it allows you to blame someone else 🙂

Four years ago (2012) Google launched a project called Project Aristotle to find the answer to one of corporate world’s biggest existential questions – How to build a team which has perfect dynamics to ensure maximum productivity?

Google being Google, they gathered some of the company’s best statisticians, organizational psychologists, sociologists, engineers and researchers (since they didn’t have access to Deep Thought).  What they discovered, after a Google amount of research, was that the answer definitely wasn’t 42. What they also discovered was that it was almost impossible to find patterns, or any evidence that the composition of a team made any difference or what made a team successful.

What they did discover was that understanding and improving group norms were the keys to improving teams. (Aside: Norms are traditions, behavioural standards and unwritten rules that govern how people function when they work together or collaborating gather)

The one norm to rule all norms: Create psychological safety

Teams need psychological safety. It is the one norm, more than anything else, critical to making a team work.

Harvard Business professor Amy Edmundson defines psychological safety as an environment that “Gives a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up. It describes a climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves”

To create psychological safety, team leaders need to model the right behavior. Google’s checklist for that is –

  1. Leaders should not interrupt teammates during conversations because that will establish an interrupting norm.
  2. They should demonstrate they are listening by summarizing what people say after they said it.
  3. They should admit what they don’t know.
  4. They shouldn’t end a meeting until all team members have spoken at least once.
  5. They should encourage people who are upset to express their frustrations, and encourage teammates to respond in non-judgemental ways.
  6. They should call out intergroup conflicts and resolve them through open discussion.

Bonus material: 4 more norms that come a close second are:

  1. Teams need to believe that their work is important
  2. Teams need to believe that their work is personally meaningful
  3. Teams need clear goals and defined roles
  4. Team members need to know that they can depend on one another

Bonus bonus material: 5 myths discovered from Google’s Project Aristotle

  1. “We need superstars” (Truth: You can take a team of average performers, and if you teach them to interact the right way, they’ll do things no superstar could ever accomplish)
  2. Sales teams should be run differently than engineering teams
  3. Best teams need to achieve consensus around everything
  4. High performing teams need a high volume of work to stay engaged
  5. Teams need to be physically located together

For the more devil hunters, details of the research and methodology are here.

A lesson in execution through communication

Communication without an organized feedback mechanism to check on the execution of the order is Japanese for ‘Lost in Translation’ #MondayMorningWakeUpCall

When General Eisenhower was elected president, his predecessor, Harry S. Truman, said: “Poor Ike; when he was a general, he gave an order and it was carried out. Now he is going to sit in that big office and he’ll give an order and not a damn thing is going to happen.”

Peter Drucker’s theory of why Harry Truman concluded that “not a damn thing is going to happen” is, however, not that generals have more authority than presidents. It is that military organizations learned long ago the futility in most orders and organized the feedback to check on the execution of the order. They learned long ago that to go oneself and look is the only reliable feedback.

All a president is normally able to mobilize—are not much help. All military services have long ago learned that the officer who has given an order goes out and sees for himself whether it has been carried out. At the least he sends one of his own aides—he never relies on what he is told by the subordinate to whom the order was given. Not that he distrusts the subordinate; he has learned from experience to distrust communications – which generally have a propensity to get lost in translation.

I’m sure there’s a parallel in here to startups and corporate organisations alike. A lesson in execution. Don’t hold the illusion that communication will lead to execution.

To go and look for oneself is also the best, if not the only, way to test whether the assumptions on which a decision had been made are still valid or whether they are becoming obsolete and need to be thought through again. And one always has to expect the assumptions to become obsolete sooner or later. Reality never stands still very long.

Trying vs Doing. And the winner is…

“Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda #MondayMorningWakeUpCall

Trying_vs_doing

Better than do… just be.

Doing wins hands up, hands down, hands over and around. In fact doing kicks trying’s ass till there’s no ass anymore.

Bernard Roth in his book The Achievement Habit explains it super succinctly. “There is a big difference between trying to do something and actually doing it. They’re two totally different actions. The difficulty arises when people conflate them. If you try to do something, it may or may not happen. If it does not happen, you might try using an altered strategy, and again it may not happen. Although this could go on indefinitely, usually it lasts until you luck out and succeed, get tired of trying, or get distracted by something else. Clearly this is a very unproductive way to go about your life.

If you are doing something, then no matter how many times you hit a barrier, or how frustrated your original strategy becomes, you intend to get the job done, and you bring to bear on it the inner resolve and attention necessary to fulfill your intention. Doing takes intention and attention.”

To demonstrate this in his class, the professor asks for a volunteer to come to the front of the room. When he is standing in front of him, he holds out a water bottle (or other object) and say, “Please try to take it away from me.” The volunteer will tug at the bottle—at first tentatively, because he’s older and looks weaker, and then more forcefully when he realizes the professor has it firmly in his grasp. Eventually he asks the student to stop trying.

The professor then asks the volunteer to listen carefully to his next instruction. This time he says, “Please take the bottle from me.” What follows is essentially the same action as before, with more force and maybe some twisting added. Sometimes he’ll decide to change tactics and ask me to hand it over. The professor always refuses.

Finally he asks the volunteer, “Do you have a younger sibling or cousin?” He then asks the volunteer to imagine that the professor is that younger sibling or cousin, they’re both kids, and there are no parents around. Furthermore, he tells the volunteer to imagine the situation has gotten very annoying, and it is time for him to reclaim the bottle from the professor. Then he repeats the instruction, “Take the bottle from me.”

Participants who get what he’s driving at simply whisk the object out of my hand, leaving him no time to resist. He is overpowered by their intention to take the object. They have manifested a dynamic, elegant flow of intention to do, which is in sharp contrast to their previous static, tentative attempt at doing. Even better, in taking the object they usually actually exert less force than they did before.

He uses this exercise to show that when you do, you are using intent, there’s an inner resolve; when you try, you are merely attempting.

Simply put, trying is ‘half-hearted doing’, a veil to hide indolence and disappointment.

Which doesn’t mean that all roads of doing leads to ‘success’ in whichever way you choose to define success. It rather means trying is ineffective. Don’t try your best. Do your best.

Reasons are bullshit!

Obviously the truth is what’s so. Not so obviously, it is also so what. – Werber Erhard #MondayMorningWakeUpcall

The problem with reasons is that they’re just excuses prettied up. Which in simple Sanskrit means, reasons are bullshit!

It just boils down to what is a high priority in your life. If it’s important to you you’ll find a way, if it’s not you’ll find an excuse. It’s that simple. And it’s that difficult. This is one of the 1st ideas Bernard Roth, the founder of Stanford’s course called “The Designer in Society”, a course, to encourage students to think differently about how they achieve goals in their lives-to get them to stop thinking wistfully about possibilities and start actually doing.

In the course, the professor often drives home this point through a sarcastic “That’s a goooood reason” response whenever a student offers an explanation, which leaves the students a bit embarrassed along with the student understanding that the reason is not really the reason.

But we are faced with a paradox: Reasons exist because if people didn’t explain their behaviour, they would seem unreasonable. We need reasons so we appear reasonable, yet when we use reasons we are not taking full responsibility for our behaviour.

In his book, The Achievement Habit, he explains his twofold approach to the problem: One for the external persona, and one for the internal self. Externally you use reasons in everyday conversation when you need to, and thus appear to be perfectly normal and reasonable. Internally you look at the reasons your external self offers, and question each of them. The internal self also looks at the reasons given by the people you are interacting with.  Simply by noticing how reasons are used, you can gain insight into your own behaviour and your relationship with others which can make you aware of which of your actions you might want to change.