Book Reading: The One Minute Manager Builds High Performing Teams

I have an awesome team of high performers. While I am proud of them, I want them to achieve more and be even better, and for that I have to learn how to be a good leader and a great teacher. So, I have been trying to get hold of books that would help me support my team. This book was already in my dad’s book shelf, so I decided to read this first.

This book is written by Kenneth Blanchard along with Donald Carew and Eunice Parisi-Carew.

The book was good (not awesome maybe, but good). I would rate it 3 out 5 stars. I did get to learn something new that I did not know about before.

I came across the ‘Situational Leadership’ concept while reading the book. The situational leadership theory is a leadership theory originally developed by Paul Hersey, professor and author of the book ‘Situational Leader’, and Ken Blanchard, leadership guru and author of ‘The One Minute Manager’.

What Situational Leadership means is that there is no single best style of leadership. The leader needs to change his/her style of leadership according to the current needs of the individual or team he/she is leading.

The book talked about how we can use ‘Situational Leadership® II’ to help our teams become highly productive teams. Leaders need to provide varying combination of directive and supportive behaviours, according to the development stage the team is in. Different teams in different stages were described along with their leaders to help relate the theory better.

I also came across the concept of PERFORM. High performing teams show the characteristics defined under the acronym of PERFORM (There is a nice blog post regarding this here). The leader’s work is to help the team achieve these characteristics.

Perform Venn diagramTo be an effective group leader, or member, one needs to become an effective observer and a participant at the same time. While observing a group’s process, you need to be observing

– Communication & participation: who talks to whom? who is left out? who talks most often?
– Decision making: how the group goes about making a decision
– Conflict: how is conflict handled?
– Leadership: who is influencing whom?
– Goals and roles: is the team clear about these?
– Group norms: which norms (rules governing group’s behaviour) are most obvious in the group?
– Problem solving: how does the group solve problems?
– Climate/tone: feeling or tone of the group – how pleasant it seems.

Once you get the hang of being a participant observer, it will be easy to diagnose the group’s functioning and development stage. Accordingly, the team leader adjusts the leadership style, and works towards empowering the team.

The four stages through which a group goes through are –

Stage 1: Orientation (Leadership style = Directing)
Stage 2: Dissatisfaction (Leadership style = Coaching)
Stage 3: Resolution (Leadership style = Supporting)
Stage 4: Production (Leadership style = Delegating)

A team leader’s most important function is to help the group move through the stages of development.

More notes from the book –

1. When in doubt about a group’s stage, start with a directive style

2. Try to move quickly from directive to coaching style (but in a gradual manner – step by step), and begin to encourage members to share their ideas and opinions.

3. You will never, never, never have an empowered, self-directed team unless the manager is willing to share control

4. Your job as a manager is to help people and teams develop so they have competence and commitment and the ability to share in making decisions.

5. Groups may regress to a previous stage – when groups gain, lose, or change members, when task changes or if a major event occurs which disrupts group functioning. (move back one leadership style at a time until you solve the problem)

6. The words “Manager” and “Educator” are synonymous.

Book Summary: Don’t make me think by Steve Krug

I just finished reading this book. This is a very good book on usability. Everyone who is interested in improving their website, or in being a success in the Web domain, should read this.

I wanted to write a summary for myself for the times when I am not having this book with me and want to recap the main points discussed, or for the time when I am in a hurry and just want a summary to go through before starting my work. So, here it goes..
(Please read the book for detailed information and explanations. It will be totally worth it. Don’t expect to know everything there is in the book by reading the highlights below.)

1. Usability is mostly just common sense, but not necessarily obvious until after someone has pointed it out to you.

2. First law of Usability: “Don’t make me think”
* Get rid of uncommon names/text
* links/buttons should be obviously clickable
* Pages should be self evident, etc.

3. How we use the web
* we don’t read pages, we scan them
* We don’t make optimal choices. We satisfice (choose first reasonable option)
* we don’t figure out how things work. We muddle through

4. Design pages for scanning, not reading
* Clear visual hierarchy
* Conventions are your friends
* Break pages into clearly defined areas
* Make it obvious what’s clickable
* Keep noise down to a dull roar

5. It doesn’t matter how many times i have to click, as long as each click is a mindless, unambiguous choice.

6. Get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what’s left

7. Web navigation.
Following elements should be presented as per conventions:
* Site ID
* Sections
* Utilities
* Subsections
* “You are here” indicator
* Page name
* Local navigation (Things at current level)
* Small text version (links in footer)

8. Web navigation.
* Persistent navigation including 5 elements – Site ID, “home” link, Search option, Utilities, Sections

9. To check if a page is well designed – Choose a page, keep at arms length , and answer following questions as quickly as possible
* What site is this? (Site ID)
* What page am I on? (Page name)
* What are major sections of this site? (Sections)
* What are my options at this level? (Local navigation)
* Where am I in the scheme of things? (Bread crumbs)
* How can I search?

10. Home page should answer the following 4 questions, at a glance, correctly and unambiguously –
* What is this?
* What do they have here?
* What can I do here?
* Why should I be here – and not somewhere else?
* Where do I start?

11. Add a good tagline to make it clearer

12. Web design arguments within team are a waste of time. Instead, conduct usability tests by calling outside people for opinion

13. Ideal number of users for each round of testing is three, at most four

14. How to conduct usability testing – two kinds of testing – “get it” testing, “key task” testing

15. For doing usability testing by yourself, find more advice in chapter “Usability testing: The movie” that is in the first edition of this book

16. Web site should be behaving like a Mensch. Each problem user encounters on the site lowers the user’s level of goodwill reservoir

17. Things that diminish good will
* Hiding information that I want
* Punishing me for not doing things your way
* Asking me for information you don’t really need
* Faux sincerity, and disingenuous attempts to convince me that you care about me
* Putting sizzle in my way – Flash intros, animations, etc
* You site looks amateurish

18. Things that increase goodwill
* Know the main things that people want to do on your site and make them obvious and easy
* Tell me what I want to know
* Save me steps wherever you can
* Put effort into it
* Know what questions I am likely to have, and answer them
* Provide me with creature comforts like printer friendly pages
* Make it easy to recover from errors
* When in doubt, apologize

19. Accessibility is part of Usability
5 things you can do right now:
* Fix usability problems that confuse everyone
* Read an article. Highly recommended article – “Guidelines for accessible and usable Web sites: Observing users who work with screen readers” by Mary Theofanos and Janice Redish
* Read a book
* Start using cascading style sheets
* Make sure you have implemented the most common things
– Add appropriate alt text to images
– Make your forms readable with screen readers. Use labels for fields
– Create a “skip to main content” link at the beginning of the page
– Make all content accessible by keyboard
– Don’t use java script without a good reason
– Use client-side (not server-side) image maps