Guest Post by Dominique O’Rourke: The Confidence Code (Kay & Shipman)

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 8.41.06 AMThank you to my wonderful friend, Dominique O’Rourke, for sharing her review of The Confidence Code.  We first met at the University of Guelph while studying leadership and shared two years of essays, assignments, residence stays and fun.  Her blog Accolade Communications, which specializes in leadership and trust, inspired me to start the A Year of Books Blog (after a drought of reading anything other than course work for 2 years)!!

Here are a few posts from the Accolade site that have left a lasting impact on me:  For my readers who share a connection with competitive swimming, please check out 8 Leadership Lessons from Masters Swimming,  for my health care colleagues it is important to read a caregiver’s perspective in Code Blue:  Hospital -Patient Communications and for a special post and reminder of the importance of our family, read 10 Leadership Lessons from my Dad.

Thanks Dominique, for sharing your review!  This is a book that I will be adding to my growing (mountainous) to be read pile – and discussing with my daughter!


Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 9.05.34 AMAre you a woman who overthinks? Overprepares? Hesitates? Do you take feedback or setbacks personally? If so, it has certainly cost you time and may have cost you important opportunities and advancement. Did you know the reasons are part DNA, part biology, part psychology, part social norms and part behaviour

It may seem like a lot to tackle but in The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance- What Women should know, journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman take you through an amazing – and very easy to understand- tour of fascinating empirical research, share the stories of some of the world’s most famous women and give you easy advice you can use immediately. (Hint: Do More, Think Less).

For an easy week-end read I came away with practical advice for myself, thoughts about how to guide my daughter and insights for my anxious teen. I’d say that’s time well spent.

While you will certainly retain the information that is most compelling for you, the key take-aways for me were:

  1. When in doubt, act.
  2. Focus on mastery, not on perfection. The process of learning something and the progress you make are more important than endless ruminating over whether you should do it in the first place. Better still, mastery in any endeavour builds confidence in others.
  3. Embrace discomfort, risk and failure. The process of learning something new – or tackling something hard – and bouncing back from struggle is an important confidence builder that we avoid in North America.

“In Japanese, they even have a word for it – gaman. Roughly translated, it means ‘keep trying,’ and it gets plenty of use.” (p.124)

  1. Reject all or nothing thinking. One bad math test doesn’t mean you’re bad at math forever, it means you didn’t understand a concept, didn’t sleep well the night before whatever the reason. It’s not personal. Go back and try again.
  2. Reframe your NATs (negative automatic thoughts). Don’t judge yourself for having them, just acknowledge them then consider another positive or neutral point of view. For example, if your boss wants to see you, instead of thinking “there’s a problem with my work” consider “maybe she wants to talk about another project.”

“The second thought doesn’t even have to prove the first wrong. It’s the mental exercise of taking the time to create another explanation that can lessen the potency of the first thought… imagine what you would tell a friend who confessed to having that same negative thought.” (p.149)

In case you imagine that I am some kind of shrinking violet, eagerly gobbling up any pop-psychology or craving praise, I am not someone who has ever been described as lacking confidence. I love public speaking. I am not afraid to speak my mind and I had a lot of success early in my career. Nonetheless, this very credible book helped me identify patterns I can change for myself and avoid for my daughter. It did so in a light but enlightening way and was a pleasure to read. (Although my husband perhaps didn’t care for all the “Wow! Listen to this” interjections during our drive to camp pick-up!)

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Everyone’s An Artist (Ron Tite, Kavanagh, Novais)

screen-shot-2017-01-07-at-4-50-43-pmJanuary is a fresh beginning and seems a great month to inspire leadership.  As I embark in a Resolution Reads Non-Fiction challenge, it is time to read the signed books that I purchased at the November Art of Leadership conference.  This conference was fantastic and the books will continue to provide motivation.  Everyone’s An Artist:  How Creativity Gives You an Edge in Everything You Do, written by Ron Tite, Scott Kavanagh and Christopher Novais, is full of great Canadian examples, humour and suggestions to improve creativity.

The book is broken down into 10 chapters each with an idea of improving creativity and creative thinking which are “at the heard of scientific and medical advances, social and political improvement, and personal achievement and satisfaction”:

  1.  Congratulations You’re An Artist – Introduced the idea that creativity is important in all both life and the workplace and is the “key to problem solving and innovation”.
  2. Reinvent Yourself – Shares the importance of creative thinkers and being open to thinking of yourself as creative rather than labelling yourself.  The importance of reinvention and growth was imparted with examples of Steve Martin who has not only been a comedian but also an actor, musician, novelist and most recently curated The Ideas of the North:  The Paintings of Lawren Harris at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.  Suggestions were made to travel, to be open to experience and to constantly evolve.
  3. Be Unrealistic –  Breaking the rules, taking risks, challenging assumptions and sharing ideas help to build creativity.
  4. Stop, Look and Listen – With our busy lives, balancing work, family, carpool and many other life events make it essential to take the time to stop, look and listen.  This fosters creativity and suggestions include taking a quiet walk (like Dickens, Nabakov and Canadian Nobel Prize winner, Alice Munro) or stopping the day to day grind of work to refresh and think in a device free environment.  Observation and listening (instead of speaking!) can help determine customer needs and wants and is key to creative thinking.
  5. Ask Questions – This chapter is dedicated to focusing on questions which open up exploration and problem finding rather than problem solving.  This may lead to breakthroughs and challenges to the status quo.
  6. Get’er Done – Nothing can be done without hard work and this chapter references Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Outliers.  He wrote a chapter reviewing a study that found that successful people engaged in more than 10,000 hours to hone their skill.
  7. No Competition – Shares the idea that inspiration is more important and not to let competition “distract us from being our most creative selves”.
  8. Hush The Haters (Including the One Inside Your Head) – Haters include the critics, those that share negativity and might be jealous of your own creativity and success.  It is important to use their feedback to improve rather than getting frustrated  and to find those that you can trust to share honest feedback.
  9. Flip the Flop – Failure is discussed frequently – in parenting and business, as an important growth strategy.  This chapter describes failure as “how we refine, redirect and polish our ideas.  It’s how we learn” and shares that “if you are working creatively, you’re going to fail.  And when you do, success will be following right behind you”.
  10. Always Connect – This section deals with empathy and understanding how other’s feel and think, describing the importance of fiction and storytelling in helping others to understand.

This book reminds me of some of the learnings from the MA Leadership program at the University of Guelph – taking time to reflect to be a better leader rather than the constant hamster wheel of work; learning from failures (following the footsteps of many who have failed such as Einstein, Stephen King and sports icons but have worked hard to succeed); and using feedback as a way to grow and improve.  The chapters provide helpful reminders and the book is a quick read.  The authors have done a great job of finding relevant, Canadian examples and adding humour to the text.

If you have a chance to attend the Art of Leadership conference this year, I would highly recommend it – it is a great day packed with inspiration and insight (and a lot of great books to bring home and enhance the learning of the day)!!

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Ron Tite: The Art of Leadership

img_1712Tite reinforces that this reinvention has “lead to an amazing career” and that reinventing themselves “is what great leaders do”.  He spoke of the Top 10 brands and provided examples of how they have reinvented themselves including Apple, Google and Microsoft.  He even used the example of Barbie, saying that if “Barbie can change, you can change”!

Tite identified some key areas for the leaders in the room to consider:

Focus on Your Art – which he expanded to finding out what your “art” is.

Eliminate Time Sucking Maggots – don’t just eliminate these maggots but reinvest your time into your “art”.  This suggestion garnered many chuckles and I am sure that the audience was considering all the things that they could reduce – for me, I need to tame my inbox!

Mindless Accept Syndrome (MAS) – reconsider blindly accepting those meetings that pop into  your calendar.  He did not show the following TED talk but referenced the works of David Grady.  The video is worth a view and certainly made me laugh as he mimicked the teleconference issues we experience EVERYDAY!!

Be a Rebel with a Cause – follow a higher order belief by leading with your values and considering “purpose before profit”.  He said that this is “why you do what you do” and gave the example of the CBC giving up the profits of other programming to broadcast The Tragically Hip’s last performance.

“I don’t care about your values – I shouldn’t read them, I should experience them”

Be a Rockstar – Starting with a  video of 1000 individuals performing the Foo Fighter’s Learn to fly video in a small town in Italy, he shared the importance of face to face interaction.  Instead of management by walking around, he feels that many of us practice with “management by reply all” and stressed how essential connection with our teams is.  Telling stories, reinforces behaviours and “the stories we are passionate about, we tell over and over again”.  Leaders need to consider “what is the story I have to tell and write?” and need to “write the stories of where we want to get to”.

Be Anti-establishment – Stick it to the man, even if you are the man – Tite says it takes courage to be anti-establishment and to consider new ideas and yet successful “disrupters are companies that are solving the problems the establishment can’t or won’t”.  He shared examples of Virgin Hotels and Dyson who have been revolutionary with new ideas.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (Gil Scott Heron) – sometimes no one sees change coming and organizations such as Uber, AirBNB, Square and Tesla show up and have no other competition.

The World Needs Originals, Not Sequels – He showed a picture of Donald Trump and Rob Ford, sharing that these two have followers because some people believe in them because of the fact that they do not look like politicians.  The room laughed when Tite talked about the “presidential haircut” which clearly Trump has not received!  He spoke of WestJet and their originality which has brought them success and a strong reputation.

Ron Tite was a great speaker and the audience was very engaged.  I am looking forward to reading my copy of Everyone’s an Artist.fullsizeoutput_6fd8

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Sir Ken Robinson – The Art of Leadership Event

 

img_1708The initial speaker at the Art of Leadership conference was Sir Ken Robinson, an expert in creativity and innovation whose TED talk Do Schools Kill Creativity has been viewed by over 41 million people!  He received his knighthood in 2003 for his services to the arts.  His book, Finding Your Element, (which I now have a signed copy) is a New York Times Bestseller.  His talk was engaging and peppered with funny anecdotes which kept the audience of 1600 people laughing and attentive.

His initial concept was that “all people are born with tremendous talents” which need to be discovered and that human resources, like natural resources, are “highly diverse and you need to dig down”.  He talked about the difference between aptitude and ability and that humans are very curious and “absorb most of what we know from the people we are with”.  Unfortunately, organizations often ignore the potential talent that is available and miss opportunities for greatness.

“Diversity is the vitamin of innovation”.

He quoted a statistic from a Gallup Poll that over 70% of individuals are uninterested or disengaged from their jobs and that the World Health Organization predicts that the 2nd most prevalent cause of illness by 2020 will be depression.  He feels that the key to solving this problem is “finding something you are good at and something you love” since it is all about energy, both spiritual and physical, to keep going.  Heads were nodding in the audience with this piece of advice.

“If you love what you are doing, it feeds your energy”

He told the story of how his wife of over 40 years loves Elvis.  Apparently Elvis had not been allowed to join the Glee club as it was thought that he would ruin the sound – what a great example of talent overlooked!  He also shared that his friend Paul (that is Paul McCartney) had a similar experience when he hated music when he was in school.  George Harrison was also at that school and the teacher, who had half the Beatles in his class, had missed that talent which Ken thought was “a bit of an oversight”.

Sir Ken also shared the story of Kodak – a company that started with the immensely popular Brownie camera which employed and sustained the community of Rochester, New York.  Unfortunately, the company is now practically bankrupt.  Photography has gone digital and even though they invented digital photography in the 1970s, the company of chemists ignored it, instead choosing to focus on the chemical process of film development.  His example showed that this company “couldn’t see what was right in front of them” when they needed to adapt to both internal and external changes.  They missed a key opportunity as more pictures, and he laughed – selfies,  are being taken than ever.

It is essential for leaders to “develop the creative ability of every community member”. Companies need to have “synergistic relationship with their environments”, feeding off other peoples ideas and encouraging innovation as a “constant refractory process”.  To reinforce that the solutions are often right in front of us, he shared this Dutch video which showed individuals trying to get a peanut out of a tube.  Can you figure it out before the answer is clear in the video?

“We absorb most of what we know from the people we are with”.

“People have tremendous talents but we exclude them because of where they sit or their job descriptions”.

He finished by sharing another video called Yes I Can, which portrayed special olympic athletes showing that “as humans we are capable of extraordinary things” yet “everyone is struggling with something” and that we all have special needs.  His final message was to reframe what we are capable of!

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Key points depicted by Carolyn Ellis during the event.

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The Happiness Equation (Neil Pasricha)

517QswQRQqL._SL160_Many of you have likely heard of The Book of Awesome.  This was written by Canadian author, Neil Pasricha who was to present at the Toronto Reference Library.  Inspired by this upcoming event, The Happiness Equation made it to my TBR pile.  Unfortunately, the event has been postponed.

The book has an appealing cover – the bright blue balanced with a yellow smiling face encourages a reader to choose it off the shelf.  It has an easy cadence of text, encouraging examples and highlights some interesting facts about happiness and being your authentic self.  Pasricha divides his book into 9 secrets:

Secret # 1 – The First Thing You Must Do Before You Can Be Happy is instead of working hard to achieve success as a way to lead to happiness start with feeling happy which then leads to great work and success.  Paschira gives ideas such as:

  • Take walks to improve happiness;
  • 20 minute replays – write to relive a positive experience
  • Carry out at least 5 random acts of kindness each week (good advice for everyone)
  • Completely unplug (hard to do in our world of connection with smart phones but finding time to leave the technology behind)
  • Hit flow – become completely absorbed in what you are doing (mindfulness and connected with completely unplugging)
  • 2-Minute Meditations – using mindfulness to improve compassion and self-awareness while reducing stress
  • 5 Gratitudes – write them down each week as a way of appreciating what we have

“Happy people don’t have the best of everything.  They make the best of everything.  Be happy first”

Secret # 2 – Do This and Criticism Can’t Touch You focuses on “do it for you”, setting your own meaningful goals for yourself, being confident and accepting yourself.

Secret # 3 – The Three Words That Will Save You on Your Worst Days focuses on being happy with what you have, not worrying about keeping up with the Joneses (which had been an actual cartoon strip in the early 1900s) and avoiding a culture of ‘more’.  The three words are remember the lottery since we have already won this lottery by being alive.  Interestingly, the author also shares that the average world income is only $5000 and if you make over $50000 you are in the top 0.5% of wage earners in the world which puts ‘having more’ in perspective.

Secret # 4 – The Dream We All Have That is Completely Wrong is in relationship to retirement.  It is interesting that there is such a focus on retirement yet it is so important to have “ikigai” or a reason to wake up each morning which gives life meaning and provides stimulation.  Instead of retiring, Paschira talks about changing focus and to “seize the opportunity of an exhilarating second wind”.  It was interesting to read about the benefits of work which “exposes us to simple joys each day”.

“We want challenges.  Challenges let us contribute a sense of giving, learning, and improving ourselves and the world”.

Secret # 5 – How to Make More Money Than a Harvard MBA compares the effort and time that some individuals put into their job.  A high salary with large amounts of overtime equates to a lower salary with reasonable hours when you consider the pay hourly.  Less hours working can provide a better quality of life to ensure time to recharge.

Secret # 6 – The Secret to Never Being Too Busy Again highlights the need for balance and giving space to think and be creative.  He writes about taking a break from a problem, doing something different like taking a walk, a bath or relaxing in bed which helps ideas percolate when we use a different part of our brain.   Removing decision fatigue by automating decisions can increase time for recharging.  He provided examples of individuals that bought all the same socks or a wardrobe of clothing that all matches to reduce thinking, sorting and decision-making. He discussed the importance of deadlines, sometimes too much time encourages us to procrastinate while a tight deadline inspires the work to be done.  The last area of discussion was email and how this can be a ‘hot potato’ yet when a response is not forthcoming, individuals either figure it out on their own or email again if it is really important.  He postulates that when you don’t write as many emails, you don’t receive and that reducing email helps create focus on what is important.

Secret # 7 – How to Turn Your Biggest Fear Into Your Biggest Success is relating to first thinking that we can do it (confidence) and wanting to do it (inspiration).

“The greatest leaders just try and try and try.  They try.  And then they try.  And then they try some more.  Sure, you will fail at some things.  But you’ll keep moving.  And more often you’ll succeed.  Little wins turn into confidence and desire to try again, which leads to bigger wins.  You gain momentum.”

Secret # 8 – The Simple Way to Master Your Most Important Relationship discusses “being you” or knowing thyself including “a total alignment of thoughts, words and actions”.  This makes me reflect on the wisdom of my Grandma Davison who used to quote Shakespeare and say “to thine own self be true”.  I never understood her meaning as a child but it resonates today.  He encourages readers to uncover yourself by thinking about what you like to do on a Saturday morning when you have nothing to do (ikigai, finding things that spur your passion), by thinking about and testing how you feel in new situations and considering the 5 people that are closes to you in the things you love most.

Secret # 9 – The Single Best Piece of Advice You’ll Ever Take is to make your own decisions and not follow the advice of others as “the answer are all inside you”.

I enjoyed this simple focus on happiness.  It is an easy read and a reminder to relax, follow your dreams and focus on what is important in life.  It reinforces concepts similar books which I have reviewed:

  • The Happiness Advantage (Sean Achor) shares that success does not lead to happiness but happiness leads to success.   Provides 7 steps to attain this happiness.
  • An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth (Chris Hadfield) who writes of his experiences and his leadership lessons following his dream to become an astronaut.
  • Mindset (Carol S. Dweck) describes how talent is helpful yet attitude and mindset is more important and identifies the benefits of a growth mindset.

This book is a reminder on focusing on what makes the reader happy, finding ways to make time to recharge and relax and to be true to yourself.  Life requires balance and we never regret time spent doing things we love.  I hope that there is another opportunity to hear this author speak and get my book signed and for now, I will reflect on the AWESOME in my life.

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Disrupt Yourself (Whitney Johnson)

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Disrupt Yourself is a terrific book for individuals finding themselves at a cross-roads in their career.  It encourages the reader to take risks instead of taking the safe road and consider what you really want for the future.  It is based on disruptive innovation, coined by Clayton Christensen and author who I have had the privilege of hearing speak a couple of years ago (his book How Will You Measure Your life is another helpful guide).  Whitney Johnson, author of Disrupt Yourself has been mentored by Christensen and has taken her own advice making dramatic career shifts.

The book is divided into 7 sections:

  1.  Take the Right Risks – This chapter discusses the importance of learning and understanding the problem that needs to be solved.  In changing roles it is essential to understand the new responsibilities and performance metrics so that you can focus on learning and addressing unmet needs that no one else is managing.
  2. Play to Your Distinctive Strengths – “Disruptors not only look for unmet needs, they match those needs with their distinctive strengths” which helps promote unique skills which enable you to thrive and become indispensable.  The author suggests considering what makes you feel strong, what makes you frustrated in others, what made you different as a child, what compliments do you shrug off and what are your hard won skills as a way to understand your own strengths so that these can be matched to gaps in the organization.
  3. Embrace Constraints – Johnson shares the benefits of constraints which help to provide structure, limit the options and promote creativity and innovation.   She shares an example of an author given the challenge of writing a 225 word children’s book filled with words that first graders could understand – the result is The Cat In the Hat!
  4. Battle Entitlement, The Innovation Killer – This chapter describes cultural, emotional and education entitlement and ways to avoid them.  To avoid cultural entitlement she suggests changing your environment, expanding networks (avoiding like minded individuals) and working in cross-functional teams enabling the blend of old and new ideas.  Being grateful, saying thank you and reflecting on your positives are ways to avoid emotional entitlement and reframing dissenting ideas and working to build consensus avoids intellectual entitlement. She notes that humility and understanding the changing world are skills that require changing ourselves to enable innovation and growth.
  5. Step Down, Back, or Sideways to Grow – To learn, it may be essential to step back or move sideways.  This can be challenging but it is important to remember that there are other benefits than just salary.  Other metrics such as doing work that makes a difference, more quality time at home or gaining experience can be considered.  Stepping back can sometimes become a springboard to future success but requires bravery and planning to take the chance to disrupt yourself for long-term gain.
  6. Give Failure its Due – Disruption comes with the risk of failure and the importance of considering failure as a growth and a learning experience.  Another literary example is provided describing how J.K. Rowling who was a depressed, single mother on the verge of bankruptcy and considering suicide, was catapulted to success when she wrote the wildly successful Harry Potter series.
  7. Driven by Discovery – Flexibility and a desire to learn help guide discovery where feedback provides the opportunity to adapt is the topic of the final chapter.

Disrupt Yourself is a quick read with helpful tips to consider when career planning and setting goals and milestones to guide your future path.  The book provides numerous helpful examples and key ideas to inspire innovation and consider new ways  of judging opportunities and setting measurements of success.  I am interested in reading the author’s first book:  Dare, Dream, Do.

“As  you look to tip the odds of success in your favour, beware of the undertow of the status quo…”

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Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us (Seth Godin)

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“The secret of leadership is simple:  Do what you believe in.  Paint a picture of the future.  Go there.  People will follow.”

Seth Godin has written a very easy to read synopsis on leadership using  examples that the reader can identify with.  He talks about tribes (followers) and the need for people to feel connection and to feel that they belong.  He reinforces that anyone in an organization can and should lead since leadership is about creating change that you believe in though motivation, connection and leverage not about titles and status.

Godin encourages readers to be brave and to reject the status quo despite fears of failure, criticism, making mistakes and losing face.  This makes me think of the you tube video which highlights successful individuals who had experienced failure prior to success.  Innovation and success come from trying new things and being comfortable with the risk of failure.

The common themes in leadership are relationships, communication and dedication.  This book reinforces what is evident in day to day professional and personal situations.  Listening to others and building trustworthy relationships engages individuals to respect and follow the leaders.  Simple ideas yet sometimes challenging with the complexity, politics and fast pace of organizations.  Simple ideas that can make all the difference!

“People won’t follow you if they don’t believe you can get to where you say you’re going.”

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