Weekly Update – #3 – January 19th, 2019

Weekly Update – #3 – January 19th, 2019

This week was yet another exciting week. It is unusual receive several days of rain here. While we stayed safe and dry, the team still accomplished a lot. Reminder: You are part of my team.

Health & Fitness

I have relearned the same lesson many times. Health and fitness underpins everything else. To be the best you in mind and body you have to eat right and move your body. For couch potatoes and desk jockeys, making positive changes in the health & fitness area yields 10X results every other area. Negative changes compound in the wrong direction; garbage in garbage out.

This week I have not done any long, 10+ miles runs but I’ve done some short “active recovery” runs. I’m resting in preparation for my first ever half marathon race, The Pasadena Half Marathon. Early tomorrow morning I will embark on this 3 hour run, and it’s going to be so much fun. I’ll show you guys some pictures next week.

Writing

This week my blog Torrey’s Weekly Report hit a new milestone of 70 subscribers. I take time to thank every single subscriber, because what matters more than the number is the engagement and the overall impact. This is also why I don’t spam anyone or forcibly subscribe anyone. The blog achieves nothing if no one bothers to read it. The best way to make an impact is to grow a highly engaged readership.

I didn’t realize it when I started, but the blog has a potential to tear down silos. It is a blog available only internally to my company (~20,000 employees), and it is becoming a platform for sharing useful information far and wide.

In large organizations, silos naturally form in the hierarchical command structure. Information needs to be “cascaded down” but it doesn’t, it gets stuck. There’s this great parable called Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars by Patrick Lencioni if you’re interested in these kind of problems and solutions. Basically, the organization loses effectiveness because people don’t openly communicate, share information, and collaborate across imaginary boundaries. Silos.

Anyway! Torrey’s Weekly Report is a way to tear down silos. Every week, fresh and timely information goes out to a growing list of leaders in many levels of the organization. Multiple business units and roles, from support agents to recruiters to vice presidents have subscribed.

What would even cooler than seeing the blog grow would be this. Seeing someone else get inspired, seeing another blog spring up, documenting happenings in another corner of the global enterprise. Sign me up! I’ll read it.

Reading

My morning 20 pages reading habit is going strong. I finished up two books I bought last year.

Head Strong by Dave Asprey

The Battles of Tolkien by David Day

I shared a two sentence summary of Head Strong in last week’s update.

I don’t usually read fiction, and The Battles of Tolkien isn’t entirely fiction. It talks a lot about mythical warriors and battles from many human cultures. And it draws connections between the Lord of The Rings universe’s history and these ancient human myths. For example, metallurgy and sorcery are common themes as shown by the evil anti-hero Sauron in LOTR.

I’m trying to finish up a book called On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. Again since I’m not at all excited about reading or writing fiction, this one is taking me forever to slog through. But it does hold some good general writing tips and references other good writing books like Strunk & White.

Lastly, I started a new book that’s been sitting on my kindle for a while. It’s called The 50th Law by Robert Greene and 50 Cent. So far it talks a lot about overcoming fear and about self-management. Robert Greene is great at finding examples from history to explain his points.

That’s all for this week. See you next time.

Have a great week!

How to Write Better Emails

Elon Musk, during a recent interview, described corporations as cybernetic collectives of people and machines. Corporations vary in size and market cap. Why are some corporations more effective than others? I think Communication is a huge part of it.

For example, Amazon.com’s unique communication style. Meetings begin with carefully prepared 6 page memos, read silently by attendees before beginning discussion.

How do most people in corporations communicate? In many cases, they communicate by sending lots of email messages. So, writing more effective emails makes you more effective and helps the rest of the team, too. Your job as a writer of emails is to save the reader’s time.

Five practical tips for being an effective emailer:

  1. Name your target
  2. Just get out with it
  3. Write shorter emails
  4. Make a phone call
  5. Avoid detective games

1. Name your target

When you’re making a request, you must have a person or person(s) in mind who can fulfill your request. Don’t be shy, name them. These people are your target.

Try not to make requests to “somebody” or “anybody” because you will end up with a response from “nobody”. Highlight or tag (@name) the name of your target to grab their attention.

2. Just get out with it

Just get out with it. State your request first and provide detailed context later. People are lazy readers, they can read the first sentence and decide whether to continue reading.

It feels unnatural to skip the build up, but do it anyway. The reader can dig into the meat if they want. Take it to the next level by making the request very succinct.

3. Write shorter emails

Write shorter emails. Try to get it done in 3 sentences or less. Most people are lazy readers, they’re not going to carefully read your wall of text. So, you’re wasting keystrokes typing all of it.

4. Make a phone call

When there is a lot of back and forth, stop using email and make a phone call. Exchanging paragraphs of text back and forth may be a signal a 10 minute phone or in-person conversation would be more effective.

5. Avoid Detective Games

If you’re referencing a document or web site or anything, hyperlink directly to what you’re talking about. Or include a screenshot/image. Better yet, draw a red box around the part of the image you’re talking about.

Don’t make me (the reader), play a game of figuring out what you’re referencing. Save me as many clicks as possible by giving me a hyperlink. Doing this makes it easier for me to understand and reply. We both get better results.

What I learned from The Three Laws of Performance

Torrey’s Notes


Law #1 : Performance correlates to how the situation occurs to people involved

It doesn’t matter what you say or how you say it. What matters is how you are heard.

If the situation occurs to you as broken and unfixable, it won’t change. However if the situation occurs to you as unsustainable and needing to be changed, it is likely to change. Compare the ‘default future’ with the ‘ideal future’.

Our ‘default future’ is where we end up if the story is not changed. We can choose not to accept the default future, and embrace transformation. We can imagine a future we want and move towards it. Large groups of people can rally behind a compelling vision of the future.

Ask yourself: What is my default future? What is my vision for the ideal future?

Example

Personal Health Default future: Stress, over-eating, relationship issues will persist and I will die early and lonely.

Ideal future: eating healthy in moderation, drinking lots of water, pushing myself in the gym, will lead to a long and happy life.


Three Laws of Performance Law #2 : How the situation occurs arises in language

Whatever you resist persists. Leaders have to listen to verbal and non-verbal language. There is often tension in the room and controversial things are left unsaid. These issues need to confronted else they persist.What is unsaid? What is unsaid but communicated non-verbally? Leaders must have the courage to say what is unsaid, to confront issues that make people uncomfortable.


Three Laws of Performance Law #3 : Future based language transforms how situations occur to people.

To elevate performance, you have to change the story of the organization and get buy in from the whole community. The story is the vision of where the group is headed.

Ask yourself: Where do you see your team in 5 years? 10 years? What stories will you tell when you get to the old folks home?


Read More

The Three Laws of Performance: Rewriting th Future if You Organization and Your Life by Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan

(affiliate link)

(non-affiliate link)

What I learned this week about productivity from Tesla, Amazon memos

Last week’s leaked Tesla memo is fascinating, and so is the annual Amazon.com letter to shareholders. The memos were seemingly penned by Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, which gives us a rare view of how they lead their world-changing companies. Here I dive into why I love these memos.

#productivity #Tesla #Amazon #memo #meetings

Last week, while announcing plans to add shifts to reach 24 hour production, Elon dropped a few productivity tips. Read a copy of the whole memo here.

Excerpt:

Btw, here are a few productivity recommendations:

– Excessive meetings are the blight of big companies and almost always get worse over time. Please get of all large meetings, unless you’re certain they are providing value to the whole audience, in which case keep them very short.

– Also get rid of frequent meetings, unless you are dealing with an extremely urgent matter. Meeting frequency should drop rapidly once the urgent matter is resolved.

Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren’t adding value. It is not rude to leave, it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time. (Emphasis mine)

– Don’t use acronyms or nonsense words for objects, software or processes at Tesla. In general, anything that requires an explanation inhibits communication. We don’t want people to have to memorize a glossary just to function at Tesla.

– Communication should travel via the shortest path necessary to get the job done, not through the “chain of command”. Any manager who attempts to enforce chain of command communication will soon find themselves working elsewhere.

– A major source of issues is poor communication between depts. The way to solve this is allow free flow of information between all levels. If, in order to get something done between depts, an individual contributor has to talk to their manager, who talks to a director, who talks to a VP, who talks to another VP, who talks to a director, who talks to a manager, who talks to someone doing the actual work, then super dumb things will happen. It must be ok for people to talk directly and just make the right thing happen.

– In general, always pick common sense as your guide. If following a “company rule” is obviously ridiculous in a particular situation, such that it would make for a great Dilbert cartoon, then the rule should change.

Why I love this:

  • I think I have too many meetings
  • Sometimes I wish people would get up and leave meeting I have organized, because I mistakenly invited them. They have to stop what they’re doing to come to the meeting. Wasting more of their time adds insult to injury. They won’t leave because they think it’s rude.
  • I think some people go to every meeting they are invited to without questioning the value or the trade offs.
  • Sometimes I wish meetings were a lot smaller. I try to add up the salary of everyone in the room to estimate the cost and ROI of the meeting.
  • “Chain of command” sounds really antiquated. Of course this kind of red tape gets in the way of getting things done. As a manager I try to get out of the way as much as possible, let engineers talk to engineers. Very rarely have I heard anyone complain about chain of command.
  • Acronyms get really confusing. People who don’t know what they mean pretend like they do so they can avoid looking bad. I hate jargon.
  • Common sense is surprisingly not very common. Jeff Bezos, in last year’s letter, talks about process as proxies. Following rules reminds me of that. If you focus on following all the rules and nothing else, you are dead. You lose touch of what is actually important: the end product and customer; getting things done.

This year’s annual Amazon.com letter to shareholders touches on many topics including: deliberate practice, meetings, writing.

Here’s my favorite excerpt:

Perfect Handstands

A close friend recently decided to learn to do a perfect free-standing handstand. No leaning against a wall. Not for just a few seconds. Instagram good. She decided to start her journey by taking a handstand workshop at her yoga studio. She then practiced for a while but wasn’t getting the results she wanted. So, she hired a handstand coach. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, but evidently this is an actual thing that exists. In the very first lesson, the coach gave her some wonderful advice. “Most people,” he said, “think that if they work hard, they should be able to master a handstand in about two weeks. The reality is that it takes about six months of daily practice. If you think you should be able to do it in two weeks, you’re just going to end up quitting.” Unrealistic beliefs on scope – often hidden and undiscussed – kill high standards. To achieve high standards yourself or as part of a team, you need to form and proactively communicate realistic beliefs about how hard something is going to be – something this coach understood well.

It’s called work for a reason! Achieving high standards requires putting in the work. You have to delay gratification to achieve big goals.

How Amazon does meetings:

Six-Page Narratives

We don’t do PowerPoint (or any other slide-oriented) presentations at Amazon. Instead, we write narratively structured six-page memos. We silently read one at the beginning of each meeting in a kind of “study hall.” Not surprisingly, the quality of these memos varies widely. Some have the clarity of angels singing. They are brilliant and thoughtful and set up the meeting for high-quality discussion. Sometimes they come in at the other end of the spectrum.

In the handstand example, it’s pretty straightforward to recognize high standards. It wouldn’t be difficult to lay out in detail the requirements of a well-executed handstand, and then you’re either doing it or you’re not. The writing example is very different. The difference between a great memo and an average one is much squishier. It would be extremely hard to write down the detailed requirements that make up a great memo. Nevertheless, I find that much of the time, readers react to great memos very similarly. They know it when they see it. The standard is there, and it is real, even if it’s not easily describable.

Here’s what we’ve figured out. Often, when a memo isn’t great, it’s not the writer’s inability to recognize the high standard, but instead a wrong expectation on scope: they mistakenly believe a high-standards, six-page memo can be written in one or two days or even a few hours, when really it might take a week or more! They’re trying to perfect a handstand in just two weeks, and we’re not coaching them right. The great memos are written and re-written, shared with colleagues who are asked to improve the work, set aside for a couple of days, and then edited again with a fresh mind. They simply can’t be done in a day or two. The key point here is that you can improve results through the simple act of teaching scope – that a great memo probably should take a week or more.

[…]

(As a side note, by tradition at Amazon, authors’ names never appear on the memos – the memo is from the whole team.)

This is why I love this section:

  • I think careful preparation for meetings also reduces the number of meetings.
  • And it eliminates agenda-less meetings. The memo is the agenda.
  • Preparing a written memo for every meeting allows the best ideas to emerge.
  • The way Amazon has implemented this, carefully thought out ideas can prevail over the loudest ideas.
  • A well-written memo can say A LOT with few words. Maybe even more effective than speaking in some cases.

Thanks for reading! If you like this please consider subscribing. I really appreciate all of my subscribers!

What I learned about Trust

Trust is the Currency of Relationships

You have a very small group of friends you could call at 3am to bail you out of jail. You built trust with these people over years if not decades. You know they would rescue you without second thoughts, because you would do the same for them. If trust could be put in a joint bank account, this account would pay dividends.

You trust your spouse 100% (hopefully), and this allows you to accomplish feats otherwise impossible. Telling your partner ‘I trust you’ is more powerful than saying ‘I love you’. Since you feel safe at home, you focus your energy on threats outside.

Relationships make or break your business, inside and out. According to the Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Study, having a best friend at work is a key factor for employee engagement. The best friend satisfies the need to build trust in the workplace. Since you feel safe at work, you focus your energy on working together to reach your potential.

Currency is Trust

When customers buy your product they trust you will deliver to them value. This trust starts before they buy; it starts with a relationship. Often, the relationship is formed through public speaking and media.

An inspiring idea comes from Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba: If you have 1 billion dollars, that’s not your money, that’s trust society gives you; they believe you can manage the money better than others. The people of the world are putting their trust in you to use resources to bring good into the world.

Trust Cycle

The Trust Cycle illustrates how trust grows between two parties. First, trust is given. Second, trust is received. Then, mutual trust is born and exchanged.

The Trust Cycle

Think of it this way: trust starts with you. You can go around waiting for your family members to repair the relationship, or you can “be the bigger person” now and give them trust.

Flow of Trust

Where does trust start? It starts where anything else starts, with leaders. Giving trust without expectation of return requires courage, a risk taken, a leap of faith.

Flow Of Trust

The leader serves a group of followers. The leader takes the first step by giving trust. The followers return trust to the leader. Trust starts at the top and flows downhill.

360 Degree Trust

Trust flows in all directions. This model helps you analyze your relationships and focus on those with weaker trust. By carefully listening to your peers you may find unexpected hints of mistrust. The mission and the process are abstract. There is no mutual exchange of trust for mission and process; instead, trust comes from understanding.

360 Degree Trust

Observe these many angles:

  • Trust in leaders
  • Trust in the processes
  • Trust in peers
  • Trust in the teams
  • Trust in the mission
  • Trust in partners
  • Trust in partner teams

Thanks for reading!

Words to Remember When Things Aren’t Going Your Way

Anticipation – thinking about an event before it happens.

Innovation – doing things different today than yesterday.

Experimentation – trying new methods and measuring the outcomes.

Communication – asking questions and sharing information.

How to Apply These:

  1. Do one small task before you normally would do it.
  2. Modify your daily routine in a small way .
  3. Record some data about a lifestyle change you want to make.
  4. Over-communicate by telling someone new about your goals.