Two excuses can keep you from giving clear, unambiguous feedback: the fear of falling out of favor of your boss, and the desire to be liked by your peers or reports.
There is a great example of the desire to be liked in the conversation between Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive1, quoted by Ian Parker in his excellent article for The New Yorker titled The Shape of Things to Come:
Jobs’s taste for merciless criticism was notorious; Ive recalled that, years ago, after seeing colleagues crushed, he protested. Jobs replied, “Why would you be vague?,” arguing that ambiguity was a form of selfishness: “You don’t care about how they feel! You’re being vain, you want them to like you.” Ive was furious, but came to agree. “It’s really demeaning to think that, in this deep desire to be liked, you’ve compromised giving clear, unambiguous feedback,” he said.
Author Stephen King puts it bluntly: only enemies speak the truth2. Maybe we should said instead: only enemies and true leaders speak the truth. When was the last time you gave honest feedback?
Jonathan Ive is the genius behind Apple’s beautiful and revolutionary designed products, ranging from the iPod to Apple Watch. He was very close to Steve Jobs and his personal friend. According to Parker, Ive is also one of the two most powerful people in the world’s most valuable company. ↩
As Seth Godin writes, maybe you don’t care enough to give constructive feedback. “We might be rejected, or scolded, or made to feel dumb. And of course there’s the risk that we’ll get our hopes up that something will improve, only to see it revert to the status quo.”
However, if you don’t overcome your fear, don’t expect others to respect you or follow your lead.
80/20 Sales and Marketing, by Perry Marshall (Book Review)
Perry Marshall’s book is all about Pareto’s Principle and Power Curves. Although the author tries to reason the logic under the principle, the value of this book is in the online marketing and sales tactics it offers.
The book covers topics like market discovery, getting traffic, conversion and selling. “To build a sales funnel, you begin with the end in mind.” Since selling starts with traffic, advanced marketers don’t begin with the invention (i.e., the final transaction). “They begin by asking: ‘what would these people want to buy?’ Then they create it or find it.”
Before trying to convince anybody of anything, however, you must disqualify people who don’t fit. Marshall explains what he calls the 5 Power Disqualifiers. They define who of the traffic you are going to buy:
Do they have money? (…) Do they have a bleeding neck? (A dire sense of urgency, an immediate problem that demands to be solved. Right. Now.) (…) Do they buy into you unique selling proposition? (…) Do they have the ability to say YES? (…) Does what you sell fit in with their overall plans?
The three steps to selling anything, according to Marshall, is what he calls the Power Triangle:
Get Traffic. Who would buy this?
Conversion. What can we say to persuade them to buy?
Economics. Can you reach them affordably? Can they give you money?
The Power Triangle can be applied to each corner of the Power Triangle itself, again and again. For example, to get traffic, you should think about traffic in terms of traffic, conversion, and economics. “There is a Power Triangle inside each element of the Triangle.”1
Marshall’s approach finding customer needs and effective marketing actions is to test, test, and test. Test fast. Fail fast. Move on.
“You send a calculated signal that most ignore, but a few respond to. (…) Before you bet your precious time or money on any sales or business project, you need to rack the shotgun.”
The best place to start testing, Marshall argues, is Google Adwords. Test ads. Test landing pages. Test sign-up pages. Test everything. Then, scale up.
Marshall offers some insights about the Bull’s-Eye Social Media Technique, a method developed by Glenn Livingston to narrow your field of competitors and focus on the exact “corner of the internet”.
Finally, Pareto’s principle should be applied to analyzing your client portfolio. Which 20 percent of your clients make the 80 percent of your sales. Marshall goes deeper and proposes three variables that must be considered in the analysis in addition to gross sales: Recency (when was the last time this customer bought something), Frequency (how often does the customer buys from us), and Money (how much does he buy). He then uses this additional variables to build a scoring system and applies Pareto’s Principle to the results.
Although I didn’t like Marshall’s writing style and I found the hype around the 80/20 Principle somewhat excessive, this is a useful book. It will get you up to speed on modern marketing techniques, specially regarding to online sales and advertising.
I will never stop learning. I won’t just work on things that are assigned to me. I know there’s no such thing as a status quo. I will build our business sustainably through passionate and loyal customers. I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything. I am more motivated by impact than money, and I know that Open Source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation. I will communicate as much as possible, because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company. I am in a marathon, not a sprint, and no matter how far away the goal is, the only way to get there is by putting one foot in front of another every day. Given time, there is no problem that’s insurmountable.
The One Thing: The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results, by Gary Keller (Book Review)
Gary Keller proposes a framework for achieving extraordinary results in work and in life in general. The author’s premise is that extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus, or more precisely, by focusing on the One Thing.
[Achievers] have an eye for the essential. They pause just long enough to decide what matters and then allow what matters to drive their day. Achievers do sooner what others plan to do later and defer, perhaps indefinitely, what others do sooner. The difference isn’t in intent, but in right of way. Achievers always work from a clear sense of priority.
The author explains how getting things done is not a matter of discipline but of developing habits that will help you focus on the task at hand. Discipline is needed to acquire the habit, but we cannot run on discipline in the long term.
Achieving extraordinary results requires making extraordinary efforts. In that sense, Keller does not believe in a balanced life as a goal to be achieved or a state of balance, but in counterbalancing your life as an every day reality, an act of balancing.
If you think of balance as the middle, then out of balance is when you’re away from it. Get too far away from the middle and you’re living at the extremes. The problem with living in the middle is that it prevents you from making extraordinary time commitments to anything. In your effort to attend to all things, everything gets shortchanged and nothing gets its due. Sometimes this can be okay and sometimes not. Knowing when to pursue the middle and when to pursue the extremes is in essence the true beginning of wisdom. Extraordinary results are achieved by this negotiation with your time.
One day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls—family, health, friends, integrity—are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.
The book mentions the now-more-known Stanford Marshmallow Experiment by Walter Mischel, which relates the effect of delayed gratification and developing grit with outcome and success in different areas in life.
Keller also cites Carol Dweck‘s research on growth-mindsets vs fixed mindsets as an example of how your perception of things strongly affect what you can achieve:
Dweck’s work with children revealed two mindsets in action—a “growth” mindset that generally thinks big and seeks growth and a “fixed” mindset that places artificial limits and avoids failure. Growth-minded students, as she calls them, employ better learning strategies, experience less helplessness, exhibit more positive effort, and achieve more in the classroom than their fixed-minded peers. They are less likely to place limits on their lives and more likely to reach for their potential
Keller’s framework is constructed on applying what he calls the Focusing Question to the different areas of your life: What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
Productivity isn’t about being a workhorse, keeping busy or burning the midnight oil…. It’s more about priorities, planning, and fiercely protecting your time.
To stay on track for the best possible day, month, year, or career, you must keep asking the Focusing Question. Ask it again and again, and it forces you to line up tasks in their levered order of importance. (…) you can drive yourself nuts analyzing every little aspect of everything you might do. I don’t do that, and you shouldn’t either. Start with the big stuff and see where it takes you. Over time, you’ll develop your own sense of when to use the big-picture question and when to use the small-focus question.
Answers to the Focusing Question come in three categories: doable (something that is already within your reach), stretch (at the farthest end of your range), and possibility (an answer that exists beyond what is already known and being done). “Highly successful people”, explains Keller, “choose to live at the outer limits of achievement. They not only dream of but deeply crave what is beyond their natural grasp.”
The Focusing Question, however, is not enough. Adopting the mindset of someone seeking mastery is needed (the commitment to becoming your best, and embrace the effort it represents).
More than anything else, expertise tracks with hours invested. Michelangelo once said, “If the people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem wonderful at all.”
You will also need to deal with the natural ceiling of achievement with a purposeful mindset (not accepting the limitations of our natural approach as the last word), and learn to be accountable for the outcome of your lives (in contrast with being a victim of the situation). This is essential —according to Keller— to achieve extraordinary results.
If you have to beg, then beg. If you have to barter, then barter. If you have to be creative, then be creative. Just don’t be a victim of your circumstances.
Almost finishing the book, Keller warns the reader against the four thieves that can stand in our way to extraordinary results. The inhability to say “No” , the fear of chaos —”pursuing your One Thing moves other things to the back burner (…) chaos is unavoidable. Make peace with it. Learn to deal with it”— , poor health habits, and an environment that doesn’t support your goals.
I enjoyed reading the book and strongly agree with most of what the author proposes. You can use the framework “as-is” or adapt it to suit your needs.
Achievers have an eye for the essential. They have acquired the habit of aligning their long-term goals with their day-to-day actions. They are aware that while they can decide to do whatever they want, they cannot do everything. They live their days by Pareto’s Principle: a minority of causes, inputs, or effort usually lead to a majority of the results, outputs, or rewards.1. Achievers focus their attention on what’s important, and say no to other things so they can produce extraordinary results.