Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

Absolutely loved this read. In essence, Marty Cagan talks about the value of empowering product teams (several engineers, product manager, product designer) to serve customers with products that customers love, yet work for the business (by collaborating with stakeholders to come up with solutions that work). I particularly loved the fact that the majority of the book focused on coaching.

“Empowered product teams are all about giving teams hard problems to solve, and then giving them the space to solve them.”

“..this is really what I see in so many of the companies I visit. They have product teams that are more accurately feature teams, and they’re slaving away-pounding out features all day-but rarely getting closer to their desired outcomes.”

“Regardless of the reason for reviewing your topology, you should optimize for the empowerment of the teams by focusing on the dimensions of ownership, autonomy, and alignment.”

“Your highest-order contribution and responsibility as product manager is to make sure that what engineers are asked to build will be worth building. That it will deliver the necessary results.”

“Coaching is no longer a speciality; you cannot be a good manager without being a good coach.” – Bill Campbell

“Moving the product teams from the subservient feature team model to the collaborative empowered product team model begins with trust”

One of the most common situations/questions I was asked last year was around not having time to read books and “how on earth do you find time to read so many books?”, so I’ve published this article to help others wondering the same thing.

So how do I find time to read any books, let alone so many?

  1. We don’t have a tv at home, so there are fewer distractions.
  2. We don’t have any kids yet (although this might change this year).
  3. I make it a priority because I enjoy reading about other people’s experiences, the subject of books I read I have an interest/passion in, and learning from books make a positive impact on me personally and professionally.
  4. I only ever have one book in progress at a time, always have the next one lined up, and use an Amazon wish list to manage my backlog of books. Also, I only buy physical books, nice to escape from the screen and having a book lying around is a motivator to pick it up and read it.
  5. I seem to have a thirst for learning from books since I only started reading non-fiction books at the end of 2019 for the first time since leaving college over 20 years ago, so I’ve had a lot of practical experiences to make sense of and huge amounts of wisdom to learn from. Because of this, I tend to be able to relate to what a lot of books say, which helps me absorb the content easier and makes me feel immersed in the experience.
  6. Other people reading (especially my wife) and those that share their book reviews inspire me to read more.

It ultimately comes down to priority. Anyone can find time to read books if they make it a priority and reduce time on other activities they have less interest in. Also, as you start reading and experience the impact, you’ll naturally want to increase the priority of reading books and therefore find more time to read.

If you’re reading this article, the below books will get you off to a flying start:

  1. Indistractable by Nir Eyal
  2. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
  3. Atomic Habits by James Clear
  4. Unlimited Power by Anthony Robbins
  5. Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky

“Success is not a goal to reach or a finish line to cross. It is a system to improve, an endless process to refine.”

This book by James Clear has to be the best book I’ve read on continuous improvement. James’s approach is to just focus on making one tiny change, continuously, which in itself will yield positive results and in time a powerful outcome.

The content is structured around the Four Laws of Behaviour Change (obvious, attractive, make it easy, satisfying) and gives you some good tools and strategies that can help you build better systems and shape better habits.

Throughout the book, there are dozens of stories about top performers, who have faced different circumstances but ultimately progressed in the same way: through a commitment to tiny, sustainable, unrelenting improvements.

“There is a version of every habit that can bring you joy and satisfaction. Find it. Habits need to be enjoyable if they are going to stick. Choose a habit that best suits you, not the one that is most popular.”

James also talks about some common pitfalls to avoid when creating habits, one of which “is that they can lock us into our previous patterns of thinking and acting-even when the world is shifting around us…

…a lack of self-awareness is poison. Reflection and review is the antidote.”

Over a million of these books have been sold, so if you haven’t read it yet and are interested in self-improvement, psychology or wanting to take control of your habits, I’d recommend this book.

Link here to the book on Amazon.

“85% of job success comes from well-developed people skills.”

“70% of team issues are caused by people skills deficiencies.”

It’s becoming increasingly more common for Product Management and therefore product managers, who are generalists, to sit at the centre of the business surrounded by specialists, making collaboration with everyone in your team and stakeholders across the business a fundamental part of the job in order to manage the product and product business effectively. How you handle these relationships will contribute significantly to the success of the product and your role as a product manager.

Human Powered by Trenton Moss will give you a better understanding of yourself, increase your empathy to help forge better relationships and provide you with the tools you need to inspire those around you, setting you and your product up for success.

Throughout the book, there are short realistic stories with characters as examples to explain situations and resolutions making them easy to digest and relate to.

They don’t teach you how to handle conflict at school, but Trenton does a great job of setting out a framework to help you resolve conflict. The book covers 5 other key areas, with a framework for each including:

1. Conflict resolution
2. Strong relationships
3. Leading and influencing
4. Facilitation
5. Storytelling
6. Outbound comms

I’d recommend this book for all product directors and product managers/owners.

EQ is the new IQ!

You can order the book here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1781336067/ref=cm_sw_r_apan_glt_fabc_4ZFMT00SGSVD473E0K56

Rewiring your brain to avoid your mind crippling your energy as it obsesses about past or future events is difficult, but it is absolutely possible, and this book makes it much easier.

It gives you tools on how to do it written in an easy to understand question-and-answer format to show you how you can silence these thoughts and use that energy more practically.

Essentially once you’ve made the journey into the Now, you will no longer have problems (only situations) as nothing exists outside of the Now. It is here you will find joy, are able to embrace your true self, and feel comfortable in the present.

“The energy form that lies behind hostility and attack finds the presence of love absolutely intolerable”.

Over 7 million people have read this book, it’s a best seller on Amazon, and I can understand why.

In this book, Frank Barrett writes remarkable stories on leadership, learning, and innovation from a range of industry settings-from Jazz performance to automotive manufacturing.

Saying ‘Yes to the Mess’ ultimately means accepting as a management team that you don’t have control over how the teams on the front line get to the end goal or get a detailed plan on how they’re going to get there, and Instead, you can see how the team navigate through the uncertainty by learning along the way, being curious, creative, innovative, driven to succeed no matter how many experiments fail, and having fun along the way…aka improvisation.

Whilst there is no mention of product management in the book, there are clear lessons that can be learnt from jazz, which are also covered in other Lean product development books on how to handle uncertainty – by providing a vision and empowering the team to decide how they are going to get there, which as a result yields creativity, ownership, autonomy, learning, loyalty, speed, and value.

Jazz is a ‘risky business’ and the mindset of jazz would work in a multitude of environments with high uncertainty such as a product innovation hub, a new product that hasn’t been validated in the market, or a brand new feature for an existing product. Everything is an experiment to a jazz player, which reminds me of the hypothesis-driven product development approach.

After reading this book I definitely have a greater appreciation of jazz because of the level of risk and improvisation that takes place.

This wasn’t an easy read, but I enjoyed it, as it provided a unique angle on leadership from different perspectives.

After 17 years of researching leaders around the world, Jo Owen shares the secret sauce to what a successful mindset looks like at different leadership levels and how you can unleash it.

Seven mindsets that consistently came out of the research which the book focuses on:

1. High aspirations
2. Courage
3. Resilience
4. Positive
5. Accountable
6. Collaborative
7. Growth

This is the best book I’ve read on management and leadership as it compares the different mindsets you need across each leadership level, allowing you to build a crystal clear picture of what mindset you need to focus on to get to the next level of your leadership journey.

Owen includes a multitude of tables, with the most impactful showing how the nature of leadership and management changes at each stage of a career, along with what mindset you need at each stage and details of behaviours/expectations. This makes it easy to find the gaps allowing you to make an immediate impact on your mindset.

The book is packed with advice on how to get the most out of yourself and your team along with some common pitfalls for example:

• High aspirations: should not be about self – focus on the mission and gain buy-in from the team.
• The prison of performance: focus on learning, not just achievements.
• Positive thinking: ensure it doesn’t crowd out reality.
• Leadership: it’s not about authority, power or position, but taking people where they wouldn’t have got by themselves.

“High aspirations will accelerate your career: you will succeed fast or fail fast. More likely, you will fail several times, learn from your setbacks and then succeed to a greater extent than anyone thought possible.”

To paraphrase Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change.”

This book will help you make sense out of the nonsense you might experience, and give you insight that will help you to accelerate your learning and career.

“The most important mindset for a successful career is learning and growth. If you stay still, you will fail.”

AA 50 Walks

Posted: Jul 18, 2021 in Book Reviews, Psychology
Tags: , , ,

Looking for a new hobby, some exercise, a good way to reflect on how the week went and prepare your mindset for next week?

How about hiking on Sundays. It’s taken us 3 years to get through this book and we couldn’t recommend it highly enough – short walks, long walks with breathtaking views, walks for the whole family and the dog.

The only rule is you can only use your phone for taking pics or if you get lost!

AA 50 walk guides: https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=aa+50+walks&sprefix=aa+50&ref=nb_sb_ss_ts-doa-p_1_5

In a startup, it’s common for the c-suite to function as the product manager until product-market fit has been validated.

Once validated, it’s time to build the product for real which would require a product manager to work in a product team that also includes a product designer and several engineers to continue learning and solving customer problems/demands.

As the product grows, so does the business and resources, then before you know it, the product manager is running around trying to keep the product afloat by keeping customers happy, growing the product, validating ideas, managing expectations with stakeholders and ensuring that the product is on the right strategic track. The full breadth of the product manager role is vast!

At the same time of growing resources across the business, it’s essential to consider scaling the product management team, but before this happens you need to define your product lines/areas/verticals, so then you can hire product managers to manage, own and be accountable for a particular product line/area/vertical.

The best way to split up your product into lines is across the core value streams/customer experiences, for example:

  • Cashier – Payment/withdrawal flows
  • Compliance – Login flows/security, regulatory flows, marketing preferences/data protection flows
  • Growth – Acquisition/CRM flows, account, and any MarTech integrations needed to achieve the growth OKRs
  • Engagement – Focusing on driving engagements
  • Community – Initiatives to drive social engagements
  • Gaming Integrations, content management and gaming experience
  • Sportsbook – Integrations, trading and betting experience
  • Web – Providing customers with the optimal web experience
  • Apps – Providing customers with the optimal app experience through the App/Play Store

The Product Manager is fully accountable for the success of their product line, so as well as defining the product vision, KPIs, strategies and product roadmap for their product line, they would also be part of an Agile product team (including a product designer and engineers) who would together manage the product backlog, execute the VMOST, product backlog items (PBIs) and test hypothesis.

Now, letting product teams manage a specific product line (which comes with ownership (autonomy and empowerment)) can be a terrifying thought for some businesses since they often prefer a more controlled project management approach, which is why they just hire product managers (or product owners) and stick them in a scrum team to execute projects from a pre-defined roadmap. Marty Cagan articulates this widespread problem and its impacts well in his recent article on project teams vs. product teams.

Saying this, there are also some challenges when transforming to a product line structure:

BenefitsChallenges
Clear product ownership across the businessManaging cross product line/area dependencies although tools such as Aha! certainly helps
Accountability for KPIs and live product supportMore effort needed on alignment especially on high priority cross-cutting initiatives
AutonomySwitching to a more learning, trust and empowered culture which isn’t always quick and easy
Empowered product teams
Focus on outcomes over outputs
Domain expert knowledge
Efficiency
Ability to continually improve key product areas staying ahead of the competition
Leaders at every level
Product/tech team retention

Essentially, what product lines give you if done effectively, is empowered mission-focused Agile product teams who are motivated to execute the VMOST which they defined for their product area in collaboration with key stakeholders.

The outcome of this is having a best-of-breed product, delivering more customer value quicker.

Loved this book!

The way Yu-kai Chou has combined the game mechanics and behavioural psychology components to create the Octalysis Gamification Design Framework is remarkable.

The book gives a thorough overview of how you can optimise the below 8 core drivers of Gamification with Human-Focused Design to create engaging and successful experiences in your product, workplace, marketing, and personal lives.

  1. Epic Meaning & Calling
  2. Development & Accomplishment
  3. Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback
  4. Ownership & Possession
  5. Social Influence & Relatedness
  6. Scarcity & Impatience
  7. Unpredictability & Curiosity
  8. Loss & Avoidance

It reminded me of how commonly used gamification mechanics are outside of games, when my RunKeeper app told me that my last run at the weekend was my 34th fastest – a reminder I need to get out more!

The book categorises the 8 core drivers into White Hat and Black Hat techniques and explains the benefit of cultures where people are intrinsically motivated rather than extrinsically.

An enjoyable learning experience and a recommended read.

Martin Luther King inspired millions to stand up against inequality and injustice, because he started with WHY.

Apple is worth $2 trillion and managed to build a cultish loyal following, because Steve Jobs always started with WHY.

Simon Sinek is able to repeat his success again and again and inspire others to do the same, because he focuses on WHY.

The Wright Brothers managed to invent, build and fly the first motor operated airplane, because they started with WHY.

Becoming a billion-dollar business or change the course of industries requires a rare special partnership between one who knows WHY and those who know HOW.

Employees give 110% to the mission, when they know WHY.

People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.

Another inspiring book by Simon which I’d recommend to anyone in a leadership role.

Very inspiring book by Simon Sinek, where he explains a concept called Circle of Safety, where only when people feel safe will they pull together as a unified team, better able to survive and thrive regardless of the conditions outside.

“When we feel sure they will keep us safe, we will march behind them and work tirelessly to see their visions come to life and proudly call ourselves their followers.”

The book explains well that a title doesn’t make you a leader, but instead leading with purpose having empathy, trust, integrity and creating a safe autonomous environment is key to being an effective leader.

Simon includes stories of the damage which unhealthy cultures can have, includes detailed explanations of the science behind why some teams pull together and some don’t and has fascinating insights into how leadership has changed over the generations which includes an extra chapter on how to lead Millennials.

It’s a must read for anyone responsible for defining and delivering a vision.

In this book Nir Eyal provides a simple yet powerful model to help your customers form habits that connect their problems with your solutions.

The Hooked model focuses on:
An initial ‘trigger’
Which drives an ‘action’
Where you get a ‘variable reward’
Which causes an ‘investment’ due to reciprocation

Nir provides some fascinating insights into how companies have successfully adopted this model eg. Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Tinder and case studies from The Bible App and Fitbod, where Nir tells his story of the personal benefits he got from Fitbod.

Social media companies and video game makers know these tactics already, but Nir wrote this book so everyone can build products that help people do what they really want, but for the lack of good product design, don’t.

A must-read for everyone who cares about driving customer engagement.

Today’s business world is one that needs more leaders, from a more diverse range of backgrounds and in this book Sarah Wood provides a practical framework to give aspirational leaders the courage and confidence to step up and fulfil their ambitions.

“We are in a relationships age; empathy delivers better business results”

The biggest reason why leaders are failing to step up is because of a confidence gap – not an ability, skills or capability gap!

What makes a good leader has changed over time, from being a dominant personality and didactic style to having leadership qualities of courage, kindness, trust, authenticity and empathy.

Sarah explains that “a love of learning, and the compulsion to continously explore new ideas and put them to the test, is one of the hallmarks of a great leader.”

“As a leader, one of the most important jobs you have is to motivate, encourage and support your team”.

Want to step up? Sarah says “the most important thing is that you get started, as quickly as possible. Done is better than perfect!”

This book is filled with advice and tips from other exceptional leaders which has made an immediate impact on my mindset, so I hope it helps you too.

It takes courage to ask a question rather than offer up advice, but in this book 📚 Michael Bungay Stanier gives seven questions and the tools to make them an everday way to work less hard and have more impact.

On communication and habits, Michael says that the single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place already and that 45% of our waking behaviour is habitual.

Michael touches on learning and explains that “people don’t really learn when you tell them something.

They don’t even really learn when they do something.

They start learning, start creating new neural pathways, only when they have a chance to recall and reflect on what just happened.”

“When we take time and effort to generate knowledge and find an answer rather than just reading it, our memory retention is increased.”

The book is structured around seven key questions…

🔸️ The Kickstart Question
🔸️ The Awe Question
🔸️ The Focus Question
🔸️ The Foundation Question
🔸️ The Lazy Question
🔸️ The Strategic Question
🔸️ The Learning Question

…but you’ll need to buy this great book to find out what the questions are!

In this book L. David Marquet tells a remarkable true story of how he transformed a low performing team of 134 passive followers, into high performing empowered active leaders who received a plethora of awards as a result of their successes.

Marquet explains “You may be able to “buy” a person’s back with a paycheck, position, power, or fear, but human being’s genius, passion, loyalty, and tenancious creativity are volunteered only.”

Having independent, energetic, emotionally committed and engaged individuals thinking about what they needed to do and ways to do it right achieved excellence.

“Simply providing data to the teams on their relative performance results in natural desire to improve.”

Guiding principles the team used to achieve excellence:

🔸️ Initiative
🔸️ Innovation
🔸️ Intimate Technical Knowledge
🔸️ Courage
🔸️ Commitment
🔸️ Continuous Improvement
🔸️ Integrity
🔸️ Empowerment
🔸️ Teamwork
🔸️ Openness
🔸️ Timeliness

Leadership at Every Level!

“Ultimately, the most important person to have control over is yourself – for it is that self-control that will allow you to “give control, create leaders”.”

In this book Nir Eyal provides practical methods, realistic approaches and proven techniques to balance technology with well-being, so that you can become indistractable and make more traction towards reaching your valuable goals.

Being indistractable means striving to do what you say you will do.

Nir explains that “unless we deal with the root causes of our distractions, we’ll continue to find ways to distract ourselves. Distraction, it turns out, isn’t about the distraction itself; rather, it’s about how we respond to it.”

The book covers mastering internal triggers, making time for traction, hacking back external triggers (Group chats (Slack), meetings (Zoom), email…), preventing distractions with pacts, as well as making your workplace indistractable, raising indistractable children and how to have indistractable relationships.

What’s your next step to being indistractable? I’d recommend this book as one of them.

Fantastic book by Stephen R. Covey

If you’re into self-improvement I couldn’t recommend this highly enough.

Four generations of time management:

1st generation – notes and checklists

2nd generation – calendars and appointment books

3rd generation – important idea of prioritisation, of clarifying values, and of comparing the relative worth of activities based on their relationship to those values

4th generation – recognises that “time management” is really a misnomer-the challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves

5th generation – tbc

Incredible book by Robert Cialdini which includes ~50 amazing experiments from psychologists around influence, as well as a great selection of experiences which Robert has been through himself.

I found the most fascinating chapter was around reciprocation, because it explains why those who naturally give/help others out in a selfless way, get more successful outcomes in the long run than those who don’t. Very relevant in business especially for roles involving Agile, product management, marketing and of course sales.

The book also covers Commitment and Consistency, Social Proof, Liking, Authority and Scarcity

If you’re into psychology, I’d recommend this book.

Anxious

Anxiety disorders are very common. In a survey covering Great Britain, 1 in 6 adults had experienced some form of ‘neurotic health problem’ in the previous week. The most common neurotic disorders were anxiety and depressive disorders. More than 1 in 10 people are likely to have a ‘disabling anxiety disorder’ at some stage in their life.

Anxiety gives you a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something which has an uncertain outcome, but some tools make it possible for you to rewire your brain allowing a more calm, healthy and rational way of thinking instead, but being self-aware is also an important part of being able to achieve this.

Example of some of the common scenarios which cause anxiety:

One way of reducing the unease about your uncertain outcomes is to fill up a to-do list with ‘certain‘ outcomes, covering both personal and work items which will keep your mind busy the majority of the time on these achievable items. As your mind knows that they’re achievable it will naturally allow your brain to focus more on positive thoughts (rewiring your anxious brain), leaving the items on the list above still on your mind, but approaching the scenarios will be more natural and rational as you’ll be more confident rather than your head spinning for days.

By creating these to-do lists of small achievable items whether it’s on your phone through an app like Notes, email or physical notepad you’ll find that not only will you start getting a positive feeling of progression as you tick them off each day (which replaces some of the anxious thoughts), but you’ll also find that your productivity will increase as you’re spending less time procrastinating, unnecessarily worrying about things which are often outside of your control or a scenario which will never happen.

To-do lists can be as little or as big as you like for example:

  • Anything you need to do at work
  • Review your R&R for work and if there’s anything you’re not doing, then add those to your list
  • DIY projects
  • Food shopping
  • Blog posts
  • Setting up meetings
  • Sending out reports
  • Contacting friends or family
  • Items to purchase next
  • Hobbies
  • Fitness eg. Booking golf
  • Watching a film
  • Talking to someone at work about something
  • Sending an email
  • List of work objectives
  • Friends/family birthday
  • Your children’s after school activities
  • Researching and learning

It’s important not to feel pressured to get everything on the to-do list done in one day and rather than set a deadline for it all, just prioritise it and slowly go through it when you have time.

Another tool is to write down some positive affirmations, referring back to the relevant ones often by having them up around the house or in a visible place, which can often put your mind at ease.

Thinking ‘what will be will be’ is easier said than done, but try something different to get your mind thinking in a different/positive way and you may find yourself naturally thinking ‘what will be will be’ for something which you had major anxiety over before.