Give and Take, by Adam Grant

There are givers and there are takers. There are winners and there are losers. There are the selfish and there are the selfless. We have stereotypes for all of these, and we’ve all encountered someone who has personified each. But things aren’t quite that simple. In Give and Take, Adam Grant walks us through a thoughtful analysis of reciprocity styles and their relation to success. Do you need to be selfish to be successful? Is being generous a bad strategy? The answers, of course, are not that simple. The book provides compelling examples of selfless people who are successful — … Read more

How to write a great cover letter

A great cover letter is highly customized and personalized. Which is hard to create, but worth it. This is the first test you must pass in many job applications. If you don’t cross this hurdle successfully, not much else matters. So why not roll up your sleeves and get to work? Whether you’re just entering the market or already employed and looking for your next opportunity, cover letters matter. Cover letters matter even if (and perhaps especially if) you’re senior in experience, too. A weak cover letter shows limited enthusiasm and creativity. A great one shows that you’re paying attention, … Read more

Decisive, by Chip and Dan Heath

We make decisions every day. Big ones, little ones. Ones for work, ones for personal life. Some for both. We always want to make good decisions, and we ususally think that we do. Sometimes we get stuck. That’s when decisions preoccupy our thoughts and create stress – even though they often represent an exciting opportunity of some sort. After all, decisions come at the crossroads. The point where we elect one thing over alternatives, make a commitment, and move on. Chip and Dan Heath use social science to articulate the many challenges of decision making. Decisions by humans are fraught … Read more

Assume Positive Intent

To be good problem solvers, we need to listen. To listen well, we need to listen carefully. Listening carefully requires us to really try to hear and understand what others are saying. And that takes effort. Not just effort to pay attention, but also in forming opinions and passing judgement, which can happen very rapidly. It can be instinctive to jump to conclusions rather than push ourselves to analyze further. Such is the case when we feel the person speaking is working against us. If we think someone is speaking with malice, we’ll shut down. That person is not worth … Read more

Competence Is Not Enough

Having the skills to deliver on time and on budget is not enough. Meeting spec is not enough. Doing it right is not enough. These are the minimum requirements. And minimum is not enough. We spend a lot of time and energy worrying about what might go wrong, about how to stay on track, about how to meet expectations. We tend to not spend enough time contemplating the up-side. How can we be early, exceed expectations, deliver delight? The minimums aren’t easy. Nor are they unimportant. But we need to aim higher. We need to figure out how to get … Read more

How To Write Short, By Roy Peter Clark

There’s a lot to say about saying things concisely. More than I would have guessed. How To Write Short by Roy Peter Clark explores the art of short writing in a wide variety of forms, many of which have been around for a long, long time (tombstones, for instance). So, while sharpening one’s writing skill for today’s abbreviated attention spans and new digital formats is worthy, it is also interesting to consider the many other applications for good short writing. And the long history of good short writing. Indeed, Clark’s premise cleverly reverses the old adage that “a picture is … Read more

A Better Response

We can see more, if we’re patient. Resisting the urge to react and respond immediately to everything often leads to better results. A little patience can draw in more information. A little patience can allow for greater reflection. A little patience can help to formulate a better plan. The term “knee-jerk reaction” has a negative connotation. Yet, we’re often aspiring to just that at nearly every turn. To react without much thought. To engage without much reflection. To dismiss an item as quickly as it appeared. That can be fun, but it’s rarely productive. And sometimes it’s harmful. Inserting a … Read more

Preparing to lead

Frequently, we think of leadership as a heat of the moment endeavor. A situation has developed to a point where decisiveness is needed. A clear need for action exists. It may be a crisis, or it may be an opportunity. Leadership is called for, and great leaders rise to the challenge. These moments crystalize the story of leadership. And while they are authentic, they are incomplete. The moments are built upon a foundation established gradually over time. Good leaders understand this and go about that foundation building very intentionally. This deliberate effort is not at all glamorous. Progress is slow. … Read more

Conferring at the conference

Don’t go to listen. Go to engage. Sure, you’re interested to hear great speakers who cover interesting topics. A well-honed talk delivered by a charismatic speaker can imbue you with knowledge and inspiration. And if it’s that good, it’s probably also entertaining. Many speakers won’t hit that high water mark, but even so you’ll likely get something from what they have to say. Something you can take back home with you and use in some way. Something that makes you a little bit better. That’s why you go to the conference. Not just to get away, to break the routine. … Read more