Tag Archives: Leadership

Your Perception of Reality Is Skewed

Here’s How to Fix It.

Back in the day, when our ancestors had to survive in the wilderness, they had to take every threat seriously.

In those days, the humans who expected the worst and prepared for it survived and passed their genes to the next generation. As a result, we inherited the negativity bias from our ancestors.

The negativity bias helped our ancestors to survive in the wilderness, but how useful is it now? Moreover, what is its impact on our lives today? Those are some questions that are worth pondering upon.

The Negativity Bias in Communication and Leadership

Since negative stimuli have a higher impact on people, its common communication and leadership advice to balance an instance of negative feedback with five instances of positive feedback. This is also known as the 5-to-1 rule.

The same rule is also useful in our relationships with ourselves. If you’re finding a lot of faults with yourself, you might be damaging your self-esteem. This is a common pitfall of personal development.

For that reason, when you come up with points of improvement, you need to balance them by acknowledging your accomplishments, no matter how small. This is something that we aren’t used to doing, because of several reasons.

First, it is discouraged to blow your own horn. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t acknowledge your own accomplishments. Second, our negativity bias makes us underestimate our accomplishments, almost blinds us to them.

The Negativity Bias and Your Perception of the World

There’s another use of the 5-to-1 rule, which is much subtler because it is on the level of perception. When we perceive the world, we notice the negative more and discard the positive easily. That keeps us from forming an accurate account of reality, which is a crucial skill to succeed in life.

To calibrate our perception to match the reality, we have to make a conscious effort to recognize the positive to balance the effects of the negativity bias.

The Negativity Bias and Relationships

This idea is especially useful in relationships. Think about a person in your extended social circle that you aren’t fond of. This can be a colleague, a relative, or a neighbor. Why do you dislike this person?

You might come up with a list of reasons to dislike the person you’ve chosen. Now, think about a list of reasons that makes them a good person. Think about the instances when this person was nice to you.

If you’re objective, you’ll find as many reasons to like a person as to dislike them, but you ended up disliking them because of the negativity bias. You needed five times more reasons to like that person than to dislike them. And that person didn’t provide that many reasons to you.

The Negativity Bias and Your Life Situation

This is not only relevant to relationships but also to situations. Maybe, you don’t like your job, your finances, or your health. But if you look closely to them, you’ll find as many reasons to like them as to dislike them.

Again, the idea here is to make a conscious effort to recognize and acknowledge the positive in your life situation.

Conclusion

Our evolutionary inheritance includes the negativity bias, which makes us perceive the reality worse than it is. That had some advantages for our ancestors that used to live in the wilderness.

The negativity bias hurts us more than it benefits us today. It lowers our quality of life by keeping us in a constant state of discontent.

The way to overcome our negativity bias is to recognize and acknowledge the positive in our lives and in our relationships.

That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t come up with points of improvement and work on them. That means having a positive attitude when working on them.

How to Motivate Yourself to the Level of Obsession

No, this isn’t another “find your why” post.

Simon Sinek made the question “why?” popular like it was never before. People working as employees in corporations needed that type of question to get motivated.

Employees were only provided with “how.” Their managers figured out the process for them and all they had to do was to carry out well-defined processes. Over time that type of work could demotivate employees. Knowing why they did what they did could motivate the employees.

Entrepreneurs need a different type of motivation to go through their dips when their enthusiasm fades and to stay in the game until the payoff day.

Entrepreneurs Don’t Need Why. They Know Why.

Entrepreneurs are a different breed as I discuss in the post Entrepreneurs Beware of the Employee Mindset. They have different goals and needs.

The question “why” isn’t that relevant to entrepreneurs. They already have their “why” to start with. Some of them are motivated by money and the lifestyle and the things they could afford with it.

Some of them are motivated by power and some of them by freedom. Some of them are motivated by seeing their ideas realized in the world and some of them by getting things done. The more things they get done, the more motivated they get.

Entrepreneurs Need to Know What.

The question “what?” is more relevant to entrepreneurs, because they don’t have a boss telling them what to do and how to do it. They have to figure it out by themselves.

If you’re an entrepreneur, you might think you have an answer to the question “what,” but do you really have one? Do you really know where you are going to in the long term? Do you really have crystal clear goals?

If you have them, the answers to those questions might be more than enough to motivate you. If you don’t have them, no “why” could save you.

What, Why, How Are Connected to Each Other.

Let’s say you have a long term goal and you ask the question “how am I going to achieve my long term goal?” The answer becomes your short term “what.” Or in other words, “what is my short term goal?”

When you look at your why, or “why you’re doing what you’re doing,” you realize that, you do it, because it serves your long term goal.

The “why” of your short term goals are the “what” of your long term goals. The “how” of your long term goals are the “what” of your short term goals.

Once you know your “what,” you can figure out your “how.” If you want to start a content marketing business, you can decide on your medium, by figuring out what your project, who your target audience, and what your talents are.

Knowing your what can help you eliminate everything that doesn’t serve your what.

What Questions Result in Action, Why Questions in Philosophizing.

I like the “what” question much more than the “why” question. The “why” question results in endless philosophizing. The “what” question on the other hand results in crystal clear action plans. That is what we need as entrepreneurs.

How to Get Obsessed with Your Work like a Gambling Addict?

When I look at my own work, nothing motivates me as much as weekly goals and daily action plans. My weekly goal is 10% follower and subscriber growth.

I know that my weekly goal serves my long term goal. As long as I can accomplish my weekly goal, I’m good in the long term.

However, having a short term goal like a weekly goal is way more motivating than having a longer term goal. It is something close to me, yet slightly out of my reach. I have to reach out to it. I have to extend myself.

My weekly goal isn’t fully under my control. That’s what excites me. That partially within my control, partially outside of my control gets my juices flowing. It’s like a game of chance that also requires skill, like poker.

Every day, I come up with an action plan to realize that weekly goal. That action plan consists of steps that are completely under my control to reach a goal that is slightly outside of my control, but so close.

If I focused on a long term goal, I wouldn’t be this motivated. It’s the fact that the target is just in front of me that motivates me so much.

Conclusion

If your goal is too far in the future, break it down by asking yourself “what do I need to accomplish this week to realize my long term goal?”

Make sure your weekly goal is slightly outside of your control. You can work towards it, but you can’t determine the result 100% by yourself.

That would motivate you much more than philosophizing on your why for hours.

This Simple Practice Will Multiply Your Knowledge and Creative Ideas

When I first read the personal development classic Think and Grow Rich more than a decade ago, I was impressed by most of the ideas in the book except two.

With my hardcore, scientific education background, no one could convince me of the metaphysical concepts explained in Think and Grow Rich.

The second idea I wasn’t impressed by was the idea of a mastermind group. I was an introvert computer programmer, who wanted to be left alone.

I couldn’t see myself as a member of a group of like-minded people with similar goals, discussing their progress in regular meetings, no matter how beneficial such a group and meetings were. I had no idea how to find such a group to start with.

After more than a decade of industry experience, I have changed. I became more extroverted and more convinced of the benefits of a mastermind group.

So much so, that I have written a post about the mastermind principle as the practice that could make the difference between success and failure.

“If I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!” Rocky Balboa

I know that the most introverted, tech startup founders wouldn’t like the idea of a mastermind group. They would think that it’s a waste of time. They wouldn’t like to hang out with other people. That’s the definition of being an introvert. Hold on for a second if you fall into that category.

Tech people hate meetings for a good reason. Majority of meetings are hijacked by extroverted people who don’t know how to stop talking once they start. However, a mastermind group doesn’t need to turn into a typical meeting. There are more efficient ways of facilitating a mastermind group using technology.

I’m going to share a way of facilitating a mastermind group that would convince even the most introverted people. We have been applying this method for more than a week.

I’m enjoying my mastermind group and benefit from it very much. But before I explain the method, let me explain the benefits I get from my mastermind group first.

Motivation

Throughout the years, I realized that I’m more motivated when I work with other people. When I’m reporting to my colleagues or a boss, I feel accountable to them. That motivates me to work harder and go more aggressively after results.

When I work on a project by myself, I don’t have that type of accountability. As a result, my motivation dips when my initial enthusiasm fades. I have already discussed different ways of going through such a dip before. With a mastermind group, I can avoid such a dip altogether.

Feedback

We humans are extremely capable beings, but at the same time, we all have our irrational sides. We know some of our irrationalities, but we also have our blind spots. Our blind spots are our irrational sides that we aren’t aware of. We need to invite and welcome feedback to become aware of our blind spots.

A mastermind group is a great way to receive feedback on our progress. They are there to cheer us up, when we fail to achieve our goals. At the same time, they are there to point it out when we are being delusional.

Ideas and Knowledge

A mastermind group is a great platform to exchange ideas and knowledge. It’s an idea and knowledge multiplier. You immediately multiply your ideas and knowledge with the number of people in your group.

Sure, you still have to implement those ideas and to apply that knowledge, but it’s definitely much better than being limited to your own ideas and knowledge.

When you have a challenge, simply formulate your challenge as a question and ask your mastermind group. Remember, asking the right questions is the first step to success.

A Mastermind Group without Meetings

In our mastermind group, we are with three people. We have the same goal, which is success in online business. We are from different countries. We are even from different sides of the world. There are twelve hours of time difference between some of us.

We haven’t met in person. We haven’t even talked over phone. Yet, we are providing great value to each other. We are cheering each other up when we fail to achieve our goals. We report our goals and progress to each other.

We provide feedback to each other and exchange ideas and knowledge. We do all of that in our own pace, anytime, anywhere we want. How do we do that? We do that with a Facebook group.

Facebook Closed & Secret Groups

I have been a member of closed Facebook groups in the past and I knew that it was a good platform to host a mastermind group.

Posting, commenting, archiving, and searching capabilities of Facebook groups are just fine for the purpose of our group. With the secret group option, our discussions remain private and we are not bothered by other people.

So far, we have shared our long term goals and how we want to get there. I have also reported my first week’s progress. The feedback, ideas, and knowledge shared in this group are phenomenal.

How to Create Your Own Mastermind Group

Here’s how we created our own mastermind group. One of the members posted a valuable tip as a response to one of my Medium posts. We exchanged a few responses and direct messages on Medium and Twitter.

One of us asked the other, if they wanted to participate in such a group. The response was positive, and we started the secret Facebook group. Then, I did the same with the third member and they accepted as well.

How to Find Members for Your Mastermind Group

The idea is to look for people online who are more or less on your level. Reach out to them with a valuable comment. If they respond, introduce them the mastermind idea and invite them to your group.

Don’t take it personal if they don’t accept or not respond to your invitation. That’s fine. You’re just a stranger to them at this moment. Just carry on. Reach out to the next person and ask them. I’d keep the group limited to four to six people, but it’s up to you with how many people you want to work with.

Once you have created the group, then it’s all about exchanging value with each other. Do your best to share the most valuable feedback, ideas, and knowledge you can and they’ll do the same with you. As a result, all of you will benefit from the process.

Conclusion

A mastermind group is a great way to exchange feedback, ideas, and knowledge among people with similar goals.

It increases your motivation by holding you accountable to your group members. They cheer you up when you fail and point out your blind spots.

You don’t have to meet with your group members to facilitate a mastermind group. You don’t even have to know each other in person. You can use the closed or secret Facebook groups to facilitate your mastermind group.

If you don’t know any people to join your mastermind group, simply look for people with similar goals on social media. Reach out to them with a valuable comment and invite them to your group.

Do your best to provide value to your group members and they’ll return the favor. As a result, everybody will benefit from the practice and you’ll make leaps toward your goals.

Predictably Irrational

We humans are irrational, that includes me and you. If we want to succeed in life and business, our irrationality is a topic we need to study meticulously.

This coin has two sides. The first side is the irrationality of ourselves. The second side is the irrationality of others.

Study Your Own Irrationality

We need to study our own irrationality. We need to learn our own irrational behavior patterns. We need to become aware of them. Awareness is the first step of learning.

Then, we need to replace those irrational patterns with rational patterns. That is the second step. That second step requires a lot of effort until the new pattern becomes second nature. When the rational behavior pattern becomes second nature, we reach the highest level of learning.

How do we recognize our own irrational behaviors?

Sometimes, our irrational behaviors are obvious to us. When we smoke, overeat, or waste time online, we don’t need someone else to tell us that we are behaving irrationally.

Even though we know that those behaviors are irrational, we keep on doing them. Why? Nobel laureate psychologist Daniel Kahneman explains this topic in his book Thinking Fast and Slow.

Two Systems in Our Minds

There are two systems that are operating in our minds. The first system is active most of the time. It’s energy efficient and fast. That’s where all of our programs reside, including the programs that we inherited from our ancestors in our DNA.

Those programs include rational behavior patterns such as fight or flight when we are in danger, as well as irrational patterns such as overindulging in calories. Overindulging in calories wasn’t irrational when food was scarce, but now, in the age of abundance, it is irrational.

Letting those irrational behaviors go isn’t easy, because that involves the second system. System 2 requires a lot of energy to operate and it’s slow. So, we can’t use system 2 all the time. We use it only when it’s necessary, for example when making a complex arithmetical calculation.

Our system 2 looks at our behavior and thinks that it is irrational. However, system 2 cannot change our behavior right away, because our behavior is mostly a function of our system 1.

What our system 2 can do is to override our system 1, over and over, until the desired behavior becomes a program in our system 1. This is what I mean by a program that reprograms itself.

It is counterproductive to get mad at ourselves for our irrational behaviors. In a way, we need to treat our system 1 as a separate entity. We need to understand that person. We need to use management and leadership skills to guide that person to act rationally.

Our Blind Spots

Some of our irrational behaviors are obvious, but some aren’t. Other people can recognize some of our irrational behaviors that we can’t. Those are our blind spots. We can only become aware of our blind spots through the feedback of others.

The problem is that receiving feedback is painful for most of us. It hurts our ego when someone tells us that something we do isn’t right. However, we need to welcome that feedback and make use of it in order to make progress in life and business.

One way of doing that is to get involved in a mastermind group, discuss our issues with other people, and to invite feedback.

Irrational Behavior of Others

Self-awareness and self-improvement is one side of the coin. It’s 50% of our success. The other side of the coin, or the other 50% of our success involves becoming aware and making use of the irrational behavior of others.

Other people are as irrational as us. However, we ignore that fact most of the time. This is an error technical people do all the time.

When technical people think about business, they think rationally. That might work to some extent in a B2B context.

In a B2C context, we need to deal with the irrationality of the end users. We need to do that even in a B2B context, but not to the same extent as in a B2C context. This is something we need to learn.

First, we need to protect our business from the irrational behaviors of others. Second, we need to learn to use the irrational behaviors of others to improve our businesses in an ethical, legal, and moral way.

Marketing and Sales

If that second part triggered you, let me tell you that all marketing and sales is based on the irrationality of other people. The only thing we need to pay attention to is to use these concepts in an ethical, legal, and moral way.

If we deliver a product or service that would truly benefit a customer, doesn’t it make sense to use the irrationality of the customer to market it to them?

As a software developer, I’m not an expert in this topic. That’s why I want to study this topic more and more. There are a few books I’ve read on the topic and a few that are on my reading list. Here’s a combination of both lists.

  • Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman
  • The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, by Al Ries and Jack Trout
  • Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely
  • Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert B. Cialdini
  • Pre-Suasion, by Robert B. Cialdini

Conclusion

We are all irrational and there’s great value in that. First, we can recognize our own irrationalities and replace them gradually with rational behavior. An important part of that involves inviting and welcoming feedback.

Second, we can recognize the irrationalities of others and use that in our lives and businesses in a legal, ethical, moral way.

Exercise

  • What are some of your irrational behaviors?
  • How can you replace them with rational behaviors?
  • What would your life look like if you became aware of all of your irrational patterns and replaced them with rational patterns?

Optimal Emotional State for Maximum Performance

When you read or listen to personal development experts, you might get confused about the optimal emotional state for maximum performance.

The Law of Attraction experts teach us to feel good in order to attract what we want. They recommend us feeling as if the wish is already fulfilled. They suggest we find the positive in every situation and cultivate gratitude.

Then there are motivational experts. They shout at us like a drill sergeant. They want us to get angry, never be content with our performance, and attack the next goal in front of us.

As if that wasn’t enough, we have the Zen experts. They teach us to let go of all of our emotions and work on our tasks with mental clarity.

I don’t know about you, but all of that used to confuse me very much until I saw the big picture.

The optimal emotional state for maximum performance changes from person to person and from situation to situation.

The trick here is to recognize which emotional state is necessary for you in a particular situation and then get into that state.

Every person is different. Therefore, I can’t come up with a simple formula that would work for everyone. I’m going to discuss what works for me in different situations to give you an idea. You can make a similar analysis for yourself.

The Ideation Phase

As I have explained in a previous post, I make a difference between two phases while working. The first phase is ideation.

In the ideation phase, I reflect on the problem at hand. I come up with possible solutions and analyze those solutions. I decide on one of them and draft an execution plan.

The optimal emotional state for the ideation phase is relaxation. It doesn’t matter whether my emotions are positive or negative at this stage. I want their intensity to be low. Not too low that I fall asleep, but sufficiently low, so that they don’t interfere with my thinking.

A low intensity emotional state is what the Zen experts are teaching us. It gives us a certain mental clarity to see the big picture and think in depth on a certain problem.

Michael A. Singer explains this mental state in his book Untethered Mind. He also documents his journey from being a yogi academician to becoming a successful businessman in his book The Surrender Experiment. Both books are highly recommended and show how a Zen mind helps you succeed in business and life.

The Execution Phase

When I decide on a solution and have my plan to execute it, that is the time to cultivate aggressiveness. Of course not aggressiveness towards people or property, but towards the work.

The angry drill sergeant motivation is useful during the execution phase. Again there’s an optimal point in the intensity of anger to perform well during the execution phase. If the intensity of anger exceeds that optimal point, it becomes counterproductive rather than being productive.

Anger is not the only intense emotions that would work in the execution phase. Enthusiasm, excitement, and to some extent fear and worry could also fuel your performance in the execution phase. But again, there is an optimal point in the intensity of each of these emotions.

The Resting Phase

Oscillating only between the ideation and execution phases and never resting is a recipe for burn-out. I need my rest time. Low intensity of emotions are ideal for the rest phase.

Some people use caffeine to fuel their execution phases. The problem with that approach is that caffeine tends to stay in the body longer than the execution phase and interferes with the resting phase. For that reason, using your own emotions to fuel the execution phase is better than relying on caffeine.

The Introspection Phase

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates

If you want to follow Socrates’s advice, you might want to include some introspection in your weekly routine. The optimal emotional state for that is slight sadness and a quite environment, free of distraction.

Optimism vs Pessimism

Excluding the extreme cases, optimistic people perform better than pessimistic people. One aspect of optimism is the faith in your ability to grow if you put in the necessary time and effort.

People with growth mindset have a higher chance of success compared to people with fixed mindset. If you want to learn more about growth and fixed mindset, I recommend the book Mindset by Carol Dweck.

Self-Regulation

As I have mentioned above, this is a personal analysis of me, my work, and my life. It’s meant to give you an idea on how you can make a similar analysis of yourself, your work, and your life. Having that analysis is a good starting point, but it’s not enough.

You need to be able to go through the following steps to perform at a high level.

  1. Recognize the situation you are in.
  2. Recognize which emotional state is the optimal for that situation.
  3. Get into that situation.

These three steps require awareness and self-regulation. It is a skill that you can learn, if you pay attention and put in the time and effort.

Self-regulation is a part of emotional intelligence. If you want to learn more about emotional intelligence, I recommend the audiobook Boosting Your Emotional Intelligence by Prof. Jason M. Satterfield, available at audible.com.

Another part of emotional intelligence is recognizing those emotions in others and cultivating the necessary emotions in others. That might as well be the most important leadership skill.

Conclusion

The optimal emotional state for maximum performance depends on the situation and on the person. You need to analyze the scenarios that you come across often and find out which emotional state works the best for you in those scenarios.

Once you have your emotional playbook, it’s up to you to regulate your emotions according to the situation you find yourself in.

If you want to improve your leadership skills, you need to develop the skill to cultivate certain emotions in others, according to the situation your team find itself in.

Four Secrets of Leadership

What comes up into your mind when you hear the word leadership?

  • Do you think about a politician giving a speech to a group of people?
  • Do you think about a sergeant shouting at their soldiers to motivate them?
  • Do you think about a businessperson explaining their strategy to their managers in a serious tone?

When we think about leadership, we immediately think about communication skills. It’s not a secret that communication skills are a fundamental part of leadership. Hence, this post is not about communication skills.

Is the biggest secret of leadership paying people to do things?

Sure, money is a great motivator. People want to be paid fairly. They would go the extra mile for a royal bonus or payoff. But again, paying people is not a leadership secret. It’s an obvious strategy. So, this post isn’t about motivating people with money either.

So, what is the secret I’m talking about? Here it comes.

People do what you do, not what you tell them to do.

Most parents realize that their children imitate them. Children don’t do as their parents say. They do as their parents do.

Show, Don’t Tell

There’s a rule in writing fiction: “Show, don’t tell.” The same rule applies to leadership as well. You can tell your followers as much as you want what you want them to do. Your impact will be very limited.

If you want to have a huge impact, do what you want your followers to do. Not, only once, but over and over, until your followers start imitating you. This is the biggest secret of leadership. However, it doesn’t end there. There are a few more.

People will follow your lead, if they know you’ve got their best interests at heart.

Managing people in a way to profit off their work by minimizing their interests and maximizing yours is not leadership. With that approach, you’ll be able to influence people to the extent you pay them, not any further.

If you can convince people that you’ve got their best interests at heart, they will go the extra mile for you. They will fight to death if they have to. That’s a winning business strategy as well.

Responsibility

The leader is the person who takes the biggest responsibility in an organization or community. They are the person who takes the biggest risk. If the business or the organization fails, the leader is the person who’s going to take the biggest hit.

Value

The leader is the person who adds the biggest value to the organization. Sometimes, it’s the founder of a business, but sometimes, it’s a middle manager, who holds the whole organization together. Like the title of a book by Robin Sharma suggests, you don’t need a title to be the leader.

Summary

People follow leaders who have good communication skills and who pay them well, but there are other, less known leadership secrets.

  • People do as you do, not what you tell them to do.
  • People will follow your lead, if they know you have their best interests at heart.
  • People will follow the person who takes the most risk, who has the greatest responsibility.
  • People will follow the person who adds the most value.

Your Turn

What do you think about the leadership secrets discussed in this post? Are there any leadership secrets that I forgot to mention here? Let us know in the comments.

Lessons in Leadership from Medium

Medium knows how to motivate people. They let you know when people clap for and highlight your posts, when they follow you, and when your posts hit some milestones such as 10, 50, and 100 fans.

Once a week, you receive a summary of statistics of your posts and a list of most influential people on Medium that followed you.

The recognition that is the most precious to me is becoming a top writer in a certain tag. So far, I’ve received that title in Finance, Business, Investing, Life Lessons, and Self-Improvement.

Yesterday, I’ve received an email that congratulated me for becoming a top writer in Leadership. This was a very nice surprise to me, because I didn’t use that tag often.

My Top Writer Journey in Medium So Far

When I received the top writer title in Finance, it was a surprise, because that was the first title I received on Medium.

Then I started to target the tags Investing, Business, Life Lessons, and Self-Improvement. I received the title in each of them. I would have been content if I could defend the top writer titles that I already received.

I neither made an effort nor expected to receive the title in another tag. That’s why receiving the title in Leadership was a nice surprise.

I’m grateful for the top writer titles I have received so far. I owe a lot to all my readers who read, clap, and highlight my posts and follow me on Medium.

I owe a big “thank you” to the Startup Publication who publish my posts on a daily basis on their Medium publication with 200K+ followers. Without their help, it would take much longer to receive all those titles.

By the way, you might not see the Leadership tag in my profile, because Medium doesn’t show more than five tags in someone’s profile. If you go to the top writers tab of the Leadership tag, you’ll see me there, hopefully for a long time.

The Most Effective Way to Lead

The introduction of this post is not only about me receiving a Medium title. It is also about lessons in leadership. When you think about a leader, you might think about an angry person shouting at a crowd. Unfortunately, this is what many people in top positions think what leadership is.

Shouting angrily at a person or a crowd is not leadership. On the contrary, it’s a guaranteed way to alienate people, push them away from you and your cause, and loose them for good.

Look at how Medium motivates its writers. Medium cheers them up whenever they reach a milestone on their platform. Medium creates all these small milestones to reach out to its writers and to recognize their efforts.

I can guarantee you that without the recognition we receive from Medium, many writers would have given up by now. It’s just grueling work to write and publish day after day. Without seeing any recognition in return, that would be impossible to bear. That is our first lesson in leadership today.

In order to motivate people, recognize their achievements, no matter how small.

That is quite counterintuitive, because most people would think that if they recognize someone’s achievements, that person would get spoiled and take it easy. Nothing can be further from truth.

People lose their motivation not when their efforts are recognized, but when their efforts are ignored and the only feedback they receive is critical.

Does that mean never to give critical feedback?

Not necessarily, but there has to be a ratio between positive and critical feedback. The optimum ratio seems to be 5-to-1. This is a figure that I come across often in multiple sources. The last source I came across was The Art of Conflict Management by Prof. Michael Dues, available at audible.com.

When I talk about 5-to-1, you might think that every five instances of critical feedback has to be balanced by a positive one. This is what we tend to do. The optimal ratio is the other way around.

Every instance of critical feedback has to be balanced with five instances of positive feedback, not only in your relationships with others, but also in your relationship with yourself.

Direct People Toward the Areas They Are Good At

Granting the top writer title is Medium’s way of telling you “people like your posts in this tag. Focus on this tag. Write more and regularly in this tag.” I’ll take the clue and I’ll start writing more on leadership from now on.

It’s a waste of human capital pushing someone to a field they aren’t good at. To make the most of the human capital, people need to be deployed in areas they are good at.

Instead of criticizing someone’s weakness in one area and pushing them towards that area, you’re better off recognizing their strengths in another area and encouraging them to focus on that area. This is what Medium is doing with their Top Writer titles.

Provide Frequent, Fair, Objective, Accurate Evaluation

Medium sends a weekly stats email to its writers. These are pure numbers. They are objective. It’s not someone’s subjective opinion about someone’s work. As a result, that evaluation is fair. It’s not biased by someone’s subjective opinions.

Coming up with accurate, objective, fair way of evaluating people’s work and providing that evaluation frequently motivates them. People can disagree with your opinions all day long, but they can’t disagree with numbers, if they reflect the truth.

As a leader, one of your main tasks is to find a way to evaluate your people’s work objectively. If you can do that and if you make those numbers available all the time, your people will do their best to improve those numbers, because what gets measured, gets improved.

Summary

There are three lessons we can learn from how Medium motivates its writers.

  1. Recognize the accomplishments of your people, no matter how small.
  2. Direct people toward the areas they are good at and encourage them to focus on those areas.
  3. Provide fair, objective, accurate, frequent evaluation based on numbers and statistics and your people will do their best to improve them.

What’s Your Take on Leadership?

What are the leadership lessons you have learned in your life? Who or which organization is your inspiration for leadership? What did you learn from them? What are the leadership mistakes that you have done so far or that you see others are doing?

One Practice Startup Founders Hate

This practice can make the difference between success and failure in your startup and in your life.

Masterminding is forming a group of people to work together towards the same goal. Think about a board of directors. I know masterminding sounds harder than working by yourself to the introverted computer geek who thinks of starting their own business.

You might be scared of navigating all the conflicts in a group. Maybe, you want to start your own business just because you are fed up with the politics in your current job. Nevertheless, people who start with at least two founders have a higher probability at succeeding as a startup compared to people who start by themselves.

If you have problems dealing with other people and let’s admit it which computer geek doesn’t, I recommend you the audiobook The Art of Conflict Management by Prof. Michael Dues (available at audible.com). I am still on my way to complete this audiobook and so far I got great value out of it.

What are the advantages of masterminding?

Brainstorming is a huge advantage of masterminding. Brainstorming is a great way to create new ideas and solutions. It might be the most effective idea creation method. You need to have two or more people who are looking for an idea in the same direction. By exchanging ideas with each other and building on top of each other’s ideas, you can come up with ideas that the individuals can’t come up with separately.

Moreover, when you build a team you have something called the wisdom of crowds. Scientific studies have shown that when a number of people write down their predictions without being influenced by each other, the average of their predictions are more accurate than the individual predictions. (Check the book Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman for more information on this.)

Markets price assets accurately most of the time. Price discovery is a task of the stock markets and they do a good job doing it most of the time. That’s why I prefer to trust the market by investing in an index fund like SPY at whatever the current price is, instead of picking my own stocks and price points.

A Large Scale Example

Think about a country where the goods to be produced and their sales prices are determined by a board of experts. Think about another country where both of these decisions are made by the citizens who may or may not be experts. Which country has a higher chance of succeeding economically?

Your rational mind would say that the country where the decisions are made by experts would have a higher chance of succeeding economically. However, that’s not the case as we have seen time and again. Many socialist countries that tried that system failed economically.

Market economies where production and pricing decisions are made by the citizens succeed more often than the socialist countries. By the way, I’m not at the libertarian end of the continuum, but closer to that end than the socialist end.

Summary

In short, by building a mastermind group, you’re taking advantage of brainstorming and the wisdom of crowds in a small scale. Having a mastermind group can make the difference between success and failure in your startup and in your life.

Disclaimer

This post is for information purposes only and not intended to be business or investment advice.

 

This Is How You Annoy People without Even Realizing It

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” George Bernard Shaw

I remember my first job more than a decade ago. We were a bunch of tech enthusiasts researching algorithms. Those were the days when Google came up with new products frequently. There were products such as Google Wave, Google Buzz, and Google Docs.

I was a Google fanboy. Whatever came from them must be the pinnacle of innovation and I had to use it. I also had to shove it down the throat of my colleagues. It was fun to work on a single Wave with multiple people and see how everybody was typing their ideas at the same time.

Sure, Google Wave was a huge synchronization challenge solved well, but was it adding any value to our process? Maybe marginally. Same with Google Buzz and Google Docs. Whenever, I sent a document to a supervisor, they would print it and give it back to me as a hard copy with handwritten notes on it anyway.

It took me a little more time to realize that my need to make an impact on my environment wasn’t serving me or my colleagues well.

Soon, Google retired Wave and Buzz, but it took me a little more time to realize that my need to make an impact on my environment wasn’t serving me or my colleagues well. Once I realized that, I started to do my due diligence before introducing a new technology to my colleagues.

  • Have I tested this software thoroughly?
  • Which value does this software add?
  • Does the added value justify its cost in money, computing resources, and learning efforts?
  • Most important. Can my colleagues effectively use this piece of software? Can they get the same value out of it as I do?
  • Does it have significant added value over existing systems such as a standard email client?

The questions above are not only relevant to the software, but also to other products and lifestyle choices. Unlike other cryptocurrency enthusiasts, I don’t promote Bitcoin to everybody that I come across. I know that 99% of the population can’t figure out the security basics of Bitcoin and can’t deal with the ups and downs of the price.

This need has some leadership qualities and can contribute to the environment if acted upon consciously.

I realized through experience that my need to make an impact on my environment wasn’t serving me or my environment well all the time. Sure, this need has some leadership qualities and can contribute to the environment if acted upon consciously. However, it also has its flip side.

As humans, we tend to jump on conclusions without sufficient data. That is a part of our DNA. However, if our conclusions don’t match reality and if we impose those conclusions on others, then we are causing more harm than good.

The Theory

Even though I curbed my need to make an impact on my environment, my real awakening came from the audiobook Outsmart Yourself: Brain-Based Strategies to a Better You by Prof. Peter M. Vishton (available from audible.com).

Prof. Vishton explained the need to make an impact on one’s environment brilliantly. He also explained that this need was inherent in all of us, even in babies. The lesson here is to become aware of this need in ourselves and use it in a conscious way. That way we can use this need to do more good and cause less harm.

The need to make an impact on one’s environment and jumping on conclusions are two of the many unconscious biases, needs, and heuristics that we carry in our DNA. Learning them and becoming conscious of them have their benefits. The book Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman is a good starting point if you are interested in this subject.

Like all the biases, needs, and heuristics that we carry in our DNA, the need to impact one’s environment must have an evolutionary advantage that I can’t see at the moment. If you have any idea about it, let me know in the comments.

  • Do you have the need to impact your environment?
  • How does that manifest in your life?
  • How does it serve or disserve you and/or the people around you?
  • Which evolutionary benefit would the need to impact one’s environment have?

How to Deal with an Employee with a Tech Abuse Problem

In a previous post, I have discussed the effects of the fight or flight response and instant rewards that our gadgets trigger in us. The results are shortening of our attention spans, reduced concentration, and with that, reduction of our cognitive capabilities.

In another post, I have introduced a Pomodoro technique variant that would make your tasks more exciting than the apps and websites on your phone and laptop.

In both posts, I promised that I’ll write about how to deal with the effects of the technology on others, such as your colleagues, customers, family, and friends. In this post, I’ll discuss what can be done about an employee with tech abuse problem.

First of all, addressing the issue directly doesn’t add much value. Telling the employee “Look, you’re abusing tech for private purposes on company time and you should stop that.” won’t make much of a positive impact. Everybody knows that they shouldn’t do that, but they are doing it anyway. Pointing this fact out doesn’t do any good anyway.

Another thing that wouldn’t add much value is to impose company-wide rules about this. If you ban private tech use in your company, just because a single employee is abusing it, you are punishing the rest of the staff, who send a single text message a day about something really important. That way you create a lot of disgruntled employees who would otherwise be OK with their job.

If you create unnecessary friction with your employees, their performance will drop and at the end, you will lose as well. Company-wide rules about private tech use is difficult to enforce anyway, unless you want to install cameras in the toilet and hire someone to monitor those cameras.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether the employee is abusing tech or not. What matters is whether they perform or not. Coming up with dozens of policies only annoys employees. A few basic guiding principles is more than sufficient to manage a group of grown-up people. Of course, ethics is the ultimate principle. Another relevant principle is the 20-70-10 rule of Jack Welch.

The 20-70-10 Rule

The 20-70-10 rule involves rewarding the top 20% of your workforce, coaching the middle 70%, and firing the bottom 10% every year. A consequence of this rule is that you hire and train new employees every year, if you want to maintain or grow the size of your staff.

The reward and punishment principle of the 20-70-10 rule will already motivate your employee to increase their performance. On top of that, you will need to coach them to increase their performance. Coaching doesn’t mean to tell a person what to do and what not to do. It is a conversation between two parties to find out how their performance can be increased.

Asking questions like “What can we do to increase your performance? What can you do to increase your performance? What keeps you from performing?” one by one, and letting them come up with the answers is much better than telling them “we believe you underperform because of your tech abuse.”

Why is that? Because humans have this thing called ego and they want to be autonomous. They want to come up with their own solutions and they want to be in control. That’s the best way to motivate them and to make them perform at higher levels. By letting the employee find their own answers, you are actually achieving a much higher motivation than telling them what to do, which at the end has little to none impact other than causing friction and annoying them.

If your employee still doesn’t get it, you can provide resources about the impact of tech abuse in the personal development program of your company. If this still doesn’t help and they insist in staying in the bottom 10%, you can’t afford to keep that employee in your workforce or at least, in their current position. Keeping the underperformers will not only hurt your business, it will also demotivate the rest of your staff and bring them down too.