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Book notes: No-Nonsense Leadership

Book notes on "No-Nonsense Leadership"

These are my notes on Nadia van der Vlies’s No-nonsense Leadership.

It contains quite practical advice, but it is not software/engineering specific.

Keeps the trend on other leadership books: Empower people by letting them find their own solutions.

Key Insights

  • Mature leadership:
    • High empathy, High honesty.
    • Treat others as equals.
    • Everybody can self-manage.
    • Empower people to come up with solutions.
    • Bidirectional trust.
  • New behaviours are acquired by doing, doing and doing.
  • To keep control, take ownership:

Take ownership

  • Keep sharing the mission, vision and strategy.
  • You are no longer one of your (ex-)co-workers.
  • Performance reviews:
    • Negative reviews should never come as a surprise.
    • Make notes through the year.
    • Would I hire this employee if they were applying for their current position?
  • Give compliments regularly:
    • Stimulate culture where people speak positively about others.
    • Be specific.
  • If you want your employees to feel safe, you have to show some vulnerability.
  • Coaching:
    • Coaching means biting your tongue a lot.
    • A success is an attempt to change behaviour, even if the attempt failed.
    • Coachee is responsible for his personal development.
  • To reflect is to learn.
  • If you work hard, other wont have to.
  • Respectful confrontation.
  • Delivering bad news.

TOC

Chapter 1 - No-Nonsense Leadership

  • Mature model based on Transactional Analysis.
  • Mature:
    • Treat others as equals.
    • Everybody is a responsible human being.
    • Everybody can self-manage.
    • Coaching leadership style.
    • Empower people to come up with solutions.
    • Honest.
    • Conscious and considerate choice.
    • Bidirectional trust.
  • You need:
    • Empathy.
    • Honesty.
  • Pitfalls:
    • Mother:
      • High empathy. Low Honesty.
      • Always eager to help.
      • Effects:
        • Takes away responsibility, hence opportunity to grow.
        • Leader become overworked.
    • Macho:
      • Low empathy. High Honesty.
      • I know better attitude. Judgemental.
      • Effects:
        • Obedient or rebel employees.
        • Takes away responsibility, hence opportunity to grow.
    • Mole:
      • Low empathy. Low Honesty.
      • Avoids confronting issues.
      • Effects:
        • Nothing is improved.
  • Pitfalls are not pitfalls if you consciously chose them and don’t use them often.

Chapter 2 - Leadership Skills

  • Situational leadership:
    • Use a different kind of leadership depending on employee task maturity.
    • Task Maturity:
      • Willingness to do the task.
      • Ability to perform it.
      • Levels M1 to M6:
        • M1: Loads of detailed instructions.
        • M2: Still lots of instructions, but also explain the why.
        • M3: Focus on person, not task.
      • How to asses task maturity? Ask employee.

Situational leadership. Task Maturity

  • Taking ownership:
    • Keep your values in mind.
    • When things do not go as expected, to keep control you have to:

Take ownership

  • Conversations:
    • Keep three perspectives: yours, the others, that of an objective observer.
    • Active listening:
      • Listen.
      • Recap:
        • Use your own words unless is a delicate matter.
        • Content and feelings.
      • Keep asking questions.
      • Tolerate silences.
    • Stay in control:
      • Commit: set the goal.
      • Monitor: check if the talking is relevant.
      • Off topic: draw attention and ask if it is relevant.
      • Difficult interaction: draw attention and ask why.
      • Two tracks: commit again.

Chapter 3 - Leader, Manager, Coach

  • You are no longer one of your (ex-)co-workers.
  • Leader before Manager or Coach.

Chapter 4 - Leader

  • Enthusiastic, authentic.
  • Keep sharing the mission, vision and strategy.
  • Know and learn company values.
  • Motivate and inspire:
    • Share conclusions and reasoning.
    • Show appreciation.
    • Repeat yourself.
    • Connect.

Chapter 5 - Manager

  • Translates Vision to Goals:
    • Employee translates goals to solutions.
    • Let employees have a say on their goals to create greater commitment.
  • Monitor and review results and behaviours:
    • Respectful confrontation:
      • Step 0: reflect if it is you or the employee.
      • Step 1: Expose facts and only facts.
        • Use first person.
        • No judgement.
        • Be very specific.
      • Step 2: The effect it causes.
        • I think + I feel + I act.
      • Step 3: Ask “Is this something you recognize?”
      • Step 4: Explain your request/desire.
      • This is the kick-off for a conversation.
      • Dealing with responses:
        • Reflect on feeling.
        • Explain.
        • Guess underlying need.
        • Express your need.
        • Make your request/proposal.
  • Asses and adjust:
    • Performance review:
      • Your employee is never your equal.
      • Demotivating for others if poor performing coworkers get same pay raises.
      • Make notes through the year.
      • Would I hire this employee if they were applying for their current position?
      • SMART goals.
      • Start with the good things.
      • Negative reviews should never come as a surprise.
      • Ask for feedback on the assessment.
    • Give compliments regularly:
      • Stimulate culture where people speak positively about others.
      • Honest.
      • Specific.
      • Do not delay it.
    • Delivering bad news:
      1. Deliver the blow:
        • Go straight to the bad news.
        • Give one or two reasons.
      2. Manage the reaction:
        • Be understanding. Do not justify yourself.
        • Give space. Do not fill silences.
      3. Solution, explanation, follow up appointment:
        • Wait for the employee to be ready. When she starts asking “why” or “what now”
        • Reiterate reasons.
        • Maybe follow up with another meeting.

Chapter 6 - Coach

  • Coaching as a manager is more difficult as you already expect something from your employee.
  • Do not give tips or advice.
  • Coachee comes with their own problems and solutions.
  • Coachee is responsible for his personal development.
  • Accept what it is, without judging. Emphatic.
  • Pitfalls:
    • Comparing and going one worse.
    • Educating and giving advice.
    • Playing down the problem.
    • Interrogating.
    • Psychoanalyzing.
    • Join in and making it worse.
  • Walk ins with no clear question or need:
    • Respectful interrogation.
    • Emotion reflection.
    • What do you want from me? What is your question?
    • Commit: on condition, now, later, never.
  • Coaching without a coaching goal is pointless.
  • Marteen Kouwenhoven coaching matrix 4 doors:
    1. Thought door: get the facts.
    2. Emotions door: why is this a problem to be solved?
    3. Needs door:
      • Positive opposite of emotions door.
      • Cannot be about others changing.
    4. Actions door:
      • Coachee should find her own solutions.
  • Coaching means biting your tongue a lot.
  • Celebrate success:
    • Start coaching session by talking about successes.
    • A success is an attempt to change behaviour, even if the attempt failed.
  • Growth mindset:
    • Learning about fixed vs growth can get you out of the fixed mindset.
  • If you want your employees to feel safe, you have to show some vulnerability.

Chapter 7 - Reflexes

  • Beliefs that get on your way to do what you have to do.
  • “Survival” strategies.

Chapter 8 - Tricky Situations

  • Passive employee, defiant employee, moaning employee, …
    • Respectful confrontation
  • Top performing employee:
    • Sincere and explicit compliments.
    • Not everyone wants to develop further.
    • Check regularly so they dont get bored.
  • Quarreling employees:
    • Employee should state exactly what she expects from you. This makes her responsible for the solution.
    • Employees should settle it themselves.
    • Make sure employees responsibilities are well defined.

Bonus 1 - The truism of no-nonsense leadership

  • To reflect is to learn.
  • The answer to most questions is “lets talk about it”
  • If you have something to say, say it. If you have something to ask, ask it.
  • If you work hard, other wont have to.
  • New behaviours are acquired by doing, doing and doing.

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