Refreshing View of the Working World – Managing Humans by Michael Lopp

September 21, 2016


I like that chapter 1 is titled “Don’t Be a Prick” «smile»

I’ve enjoyed Michael Lopp’s Rands in Repose blog for many years. Having read his blog I felt that there was no need to buy the book Managing Humans. I was wrong. I needed the book. The book introduced me to many blog posts that I hadn’t read before. Also reading a physical book is “different” than reading online, especially when I’m going to take actions based on it.

If you’re a manager, or mentor, then this is a great resource. Even if you’re not a software development leader, like Lopp, I highly recommend it.

Getting Started with Reading Lopp (aka Rands)

Here are two favourites

  • Stable and Volatiles — If you’ve ever built something then you’ve seen yourself in each role — stable and volatile. The excitement of getting into technical debt and the desire to never be in technical debt again.
  • A Nerd in a Cave — I got ideas from this «laughing»

**Must Reads** Conversations – Difficult & Crucial

May 18, 2016


Fantastic is how I’d describe the books “Difficult Conversations” and “Crucial Conversations”.

I read “Difficult Conversations” first and I liked the premise that — “Each Difficult Conversation Is Really Three Conversations” —

  • First — The “What Happened?” Conversation.
  • Second — The “Feelings” Conversation.
  • Third — The “Identity” Conversation.

and that the solution is to “Explore the Others Story & Yours” and one will need to “Reframe, reframe, and reframe to keep on track <smile>

This is because we really don’t know what happened, don’t know much about the mechanics of our feelings, and don’t want to know what our identity is. Fun stuff — if you can laugh at yourself. The first thing to do is to figure out what your contribution to the “difficulty” is – We are not blame free.

The book “Crucial Conversations” is focused on the workplace and provides very good examples in that context. The instructions are similar to “Difficult Conversations”. My favourite phrase is that we react with “silence or violence” and that we often use three clever stories to justify our actions. The three clever stories are

  • Victim Stories – “It’s Not My Fault”
  • Villian Stories – “It’s All Your Fault”
  • Helpless Stories – “There’s Nothing Else I Can Do”

We use “clever stories” because, first, they are accurate, oops the authors state that “clever stories” are rarely accurate. They mostly get us off the hook and help us shirk responsibility.

Noticing our “clever stories” is very useful. If we notice ourselves telling a clever story then there is high probability that we’ve contributed to a “Difficult Conversation” — We are hiding details. The way out is to stop and acknowledge that the “clever story” is not true. It’s a fiction. Then work to figure out what we are hiding and “Tell The Rest of the Story”.

Leadership & Working (by Iain)

May 6, 2016

This was first posted January 26, 2016

Last week I attended an excellent workshop on “Compassionate Leadership”. The whole point of the workshop was to have a discussion on what “Compassionate Leadership” meant to us. It was very interesting as we started with compassion being all “soft, nice, and comfortable” and finished up with compassion being “a dance between soft/nice/comfortable and hard/powerful/uncomfortable”.

Those discussions reminded me of leaderships books I’ve read, and found useful, in the last few years. These books all speak to the dance between “soft/nice/comfortable and hard/powerful/uncomfortable”.

Leadership BS (by Jeffrey Pfeffer)

This is a great book because Pfeffer lays out a very realistic description of the workplace. It is not a “pretty” description and this is why it is so useful. There is a lot of discussion around the interest of an individual versus the interest of the group. He notes empirical evidence that modern day leaders always focus on the individual first (i.e. themselves).

I wrote more here —

The Hard Thing About Hard Things (by Ben Horowitz)

This is a book written around Ben Horowitz’s blog. He was an early Netscape employee and is a Silicon Valley legend.

The reason I’ve loved this blog is that Ben talks about really hard things like “Demoting Your Friend”, “Firing An Executive”, “Managing Yourself”, etc. In most cases he describes the problem as — we got to this place because you ( the CEO ) messed up and not the employee.

He talks a lot about why CEOs make mistakes. For example, one of my favourite blog posts from Ben Horowitz notes that if CEOs were tested for CEO skills the average score would be 22%. That is “CEOs suck” and then he goes on to discuss why that is.

What’s The Most Difficult CEO Skill? Managing Your Own Psychology (Ben Horowitz)

If CEOs were graded on a curve, the mean on the test would be 22 out of a 100. This kind of mean can be psychologically challenging for a straight A student. It is particularly challenging, because nobody tells you that the mean is 22.

More here —

So Far from Home: Lost and Found in Our Brave New World ( by Margaret J. Wheatley)

This book describes how we can do our good work with dedication, energy, discipline, and joy by consciously choosing a new role for ourselves, that of warriors for the human spirit.

It is quite a “dark read” in that Marg Wheatley really digs into the dark corners of our working lives to set the tone for the challenge. Her picture of working is even darker than Jeffrey Pfeffer’s. (Whew) Again she speaks the truth of our working day challenges. That really helps. I’ve found the concept of a “Warrior For The Human Spirit” to be very useful.

The “good-reads” reviews are very good too. –

This book was recommended to me by Bonni. Thank You.


This is a very easy read for “Social Innovation” leaning people and a very hard book to read for “Entrepreneurship” leaning people ( like myself ). I’ve persevered and have come to understand him. I went to a talk by him, read the book, then mind-mapped the book, and took immense pressure from my daughter to understand him.

I really like that he talks about “acting like a group movement”. It is fascinating. I think all of you would like this book.

Here is the first chapter [link]

Fun With Freakonomics *Think Like a Freak*

November 24, 2015

Think Like A Freak is highly entertaining and informative like the earlier Freakonmics books.

It contains some very useful GEMS.

I especially liked the Incentives 101 summary on page 135.

Number 5 is so ….

5. Never, ever think that people will do something just because it is the “right” thing to do.

Incentives 101



I had the pleasure of attending a talk by Steven Levitt at UBC a few years back when “Think Like A Freak” came out. I’m glad I’ve finally read the book.

Important Reading *A Bigger Prize* by Margaret Heffernan

November 21, 2015

Margaret Heffernan’s recent book on the topic of Competition is an important read. Her view of competition will really mess with your current views. Guaranteed. It is worth the effort.

Yes that means that A Bigger Prize: How We Can Do Better than the Competition is tough going. The final paragraph of Harvey Schachter’s great review is spot on.

She goes on and on, not just listing the damages she ascribes to competition but also indicating why the alternative, collaboration, is preferred. It’s sobering reading, well researched and illuminating in its examples and scope.
Harvey Schachter – Globe & Mail


So Much Fun — The Secrets of The Immortal Nicholas Flamel

November 18, 2015

My current “book crush” in the teen fantasy genre is Michael Scott’s “The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series.

This is so much fun. I’ve been mixing the audio and print. Both are great.

Almost as much fun as 39 Clues and Charlie Bone – Children of the Red King.

*Thank You* Jeffrey Pfeffer –Leadership BS is Awesome!!!

November 16, 2015

“Thank You” Jeffrey Pfeffer.
I love Leadership BS! I’ve already gifted a few copies. It’s that good.

Yes, it is sad, sobering, and Machiavellian as most of the reviews I’ve read say.

So What! It’s one of the few books that gives advice based on “Reality”. It’s important to note that leaders are not perfect and that bad behavior is more common than we’d like to admit. Pay attention and take care of yourself.

So Many Gems

My favorite is on page 173

“… relying on the good behavior and positive sentiments of work organizations for your career well being is singularly foolish”

Getting A Raise

In Chapter 7 “Take Care of Yourself” Pfeffer gives great advice on asking for a raise. Think “What can you do for the organization in the future?” — the organization does not care what you’ve done in the past. Yes it’s harsh advice. But is true and choosing to ignore this reality is a bad plan. Make sure you firmly put yourself in the organizations future plans, then you are “needed”. Talk about what you’re going to do. Use your past successes to support your story for your future.

Books For Experiential Learning

I’ve found that in teaching experiential workshops, like e@UBC’s Lean LaunchPads, our students are more exposed to “Reality”. Thus we need more books to support what they find in their research. We need more leadership books that have their roots in what people actually do versus what we want them to do. For example, there is a section where Mentorship goes sideways in this book. Priceless.