Weekend Links


My Dad’s Friendship with Charles Barkely (WBUR)

What are Friends for? (NYT)


Just in Case (Humble Dollar)

Index-Investing (Bloomburg)  A good defense here against recent critics

First, it costs less — often much less. High fees are a drag on returns; compounded over decades, they lead to a 20 to 30 percent penalty on total returns. Next, the alternative is active-stock or mutual-fund selection or some form of market timing. Academic research overwhelming shows that the vast majority of investors lack the skills or discipline to do that. Attempts at outperformance invariably lead to underperformance. Last, even among those who have the requisite skills, the discipline and emotional control necessary to successfully manage money is intermittent at best, absent at worst.


Gridiron Genius (What I’m Reading Now)

Pep Gardiola and Manchester City: A Case Study (The Sport Journal)

From the Deputy Chief Executive: The Matildas’ World Cup opportunity

Atlanta United (Sky Sports)


On Greatness (White Lion Performance)

Some people are impressive and motivational in their achievements and messages, but the practice of true Greatness is a rarity.

The Trouble With Girls: Obstacles to Women’s Success in Medicine and Research (thebmj)

Warren Buffett: The Three Things I Look for in a Person (Farnam Street)

“You’re looking for three things, generally, in a person,” says Buffett. “Intelligence, energy, and integrity. And if they don’t have the last one, don’t even bother with the first two. I tell them, ‘Everyone here has the intelligence and energy—you wouldn’t be here otherwise. But the integrity is up to you. You weren’t born with it, you can’t learn it in school.”

The End of An Era (The Guardian)

What is Your Culture?

I was lucky enough to be in the room a few years ago for a conversation with a very successful and prominent coach. There were about 12 coaches there to hear him speak.

The coach asked a question, “What do you center your team around.” Not all responded, but most said, “our culture.”  All around the room.

His response, “I don’t know what that means.”

He went on,

“For me, I center everything around one simple question, What’s best for the team. Every decision. The players do the same.”

He explained a bit more and answered more questions, but this one response has stayed with me.

Don’t talk about “culture”–talk  very specifically about your team.  The word culture is like the word technology–overly broad with too many different interpretations.

What is your team culture?  Do your players know? Can we see it from the outside?

When you have a very clearly defined culture, a set of values, shared language, a plan, principles that you believe in, and accountability, all your decisions get easier.

This does not mean executing them is always easy, but making the decision to act gets easier.

So, what’s your culture?

Recently I was in Utah to help lead a retreat for a very high-end, high-quality sporting goods store.  They sell great stuff that’s way out of my price range, but super valuable for people who spend their lives on the slopes or outdoors and need quality.

The owners were in the room, as were the leaders of each of their divisions and all of their stores. It was a funny, bright engaged group.

The view out the window was stunning.  Fortunately I was facing the window, and the group  was not, or we would never have held their attention.

Here’s a photo from my morning hike!

What is your culture?


Basically the retreat was a positive experience on many levels.

The company asked us to center the retreat around the book The Culture Club by Daniel Coyle, which they were reading in a company wide book club.

The Culture Club seeks to answer the question: why do some groups excel while others fail?

He says culture.

But more importantly he tells us his three keys to setting up this culture.

First Key: Make it Safe. Foster Belonging.

Each member of the team must feel comfortable speaking his or her mind. Strong groups foster a sense of belonging and understand how to develop this through common language and “signals of belonging.” 

These signals must be consistent and used often in order to foster this.

You can’t toss it out every now and again and think it will have an effect.

The Second Key: Be willing to Share Vulnerability

 Of course these two (safety and vulnerability) are linked, but he makes  a very interesting point that we often wait until we are certain that it’s safe–until we trust a situation–before we show who we are:

“Normally we think about trust and vulnerability the way we think about standing on solid ground and leaping into the unknown: first we build trust, then we leap. But science is showing us we’ve got it backward. Vulnerability doesn’t come after trust–it precedes it. Leaping into the unknown, when done alongside others, causes the ground of trust to materialize beneath our feet.”

The Third Key: Have a Sense of Purpose. Tell Your Story Well.

This third point circles me back to that prominent coach I started this post with: What do you center your team around? What are the defining values everybody is aware of?  What’s the story you tell internally and externally?

In The Culture Code Coyle gives some great examples of this including touching briefly on the All Blacks, the New Zealand Men’s Rugby Team.

He does not mention the book Legacy , but it is one of the best examples of a clear culture I have ever read.

They know how to tell their story. How to create a sense of belonging.  And, how to be willing to take a step back, be vulnerable, and let others shine.

James Kerr, Legacy’s author, writing for The Telegraph reminds us of 5 of the values they focus on:

Sweep the Sheds— literally everyone cleans up after themselves as a reminder of their value of personal humility

Follow the Spearhead–all three points as one; they don’t tolerate anything else

Champions do Extra–Speaks for itself, but the focus is on incremental gains

Blue Head–Maintain their calm and demeanor, but read the book to see the contrast to the “red head”

Leave the Jersey in a Better Place–Again, speaks for itself, but a clear picture of legacy.

Common language creates a sense of belonging. Values that remind us to be vulnerable to one another. And, most importantly a common sense of purpose and story.

I highly recommend Legacy when you get a chance. It’s a blueprint for building the team you really want.

In the meantime–stop speaking about “culture” and start speaking about the specific culture you are creating and why it matters.



Changing My Habits

Getting Better Every Day

I buy the idea that changing habits happens in small incremental steps every day.

James Clear who appears to be one of the experts on this uses this image to make the point.

changing habits in small incremental steps

Or as Aristotle put it, “We are what we repeatedly do.”

But, damn if it isn’t hard to change a habit even if you look at it in these small bite sized increments. Or, at least that’s what I’ve found.

I find most of my bad habits can be broken into two categories–completely thoughtless and stubbornly hard to break. That’s how it goes for me.

In the completely thoughtless category I put things like reading twitter when I should be working. I am working and then something pops up and I pop over and then it leads to another things and then I’m like–“right, I was working, but now I’m knee deep into an article on …..”

Gretchen Ruben in Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of our Everyday Lives says that fully 40% of my day is governed by habit. I’m betting most of my habits fall in this category of thoughtless.

That’s why actually tracking what you eat is so powerful. Dark chocolate almonds add up when they are grabbed as you walk past the pantry. Each time you walk past the pantry. Surely a thoughtless habit.

But if you write down everything you eat that awareness may help you to forego the handful of nuts. Just by bringing awareness.

These are the habits I’m going to tackle first. The thoughtless ones.

I’m going to start with one habit.

I’m going to read more novels. Specifically I’m going to read a novel for 30 minutes of my day.

I used to read novels all the time. When did I ever stop? Slowly they’ve been replaced by non-fiction books and too much time on the internet.

A novel brings something entirely different into my life.  The best novel allows us both to lose ourselves and expands our perspective. It explains the world and capture it’s complexity. Think, To Kill a Mockingbird or The End of the Affair.

Now I know in many ways this is a ridiculous place to start. I should be doing something harder. After all I enjoy reading novels.

But, why did I ever stop?

Because I allowed myself to drift thoughtlessly along. And, because I started to read only to get information. For utility.

The irony is that I think we learn more from a novel at times. The book  The Art of Fielding contained a character who was as effective a coach as most coaches I’ve studied. Only he wasn’t a coach. He was a teammate. The novel anticipated a book like The Captain Class, which makes the case that the leader on the field is the most important leader.

In other words, I bet I can be a better coach or a better professional by reading novels. Charlie Munger would agree.

But that takes me back to the place where it’s only about utility, where I justify my decision by making a straight line to productivity.

Maybe that’s the habit I’m really working on.

Breaking this notion that I need to read to be more productive as opposed to reading a novel simply to  be more fully human.  More compassionate, kinder, thoughtful, open and aware.

Simply because I will be a better person.

Why did I ever stop reading novels in the first place?

(The Coaching Conversation is an Amazon Affiliate. If you purchase books or other items through here we receive a small percentage)

Practice Kaizen

Make a plan–One habit at a time

Breaking Habits

Weekend Links: The Art of Persuasion and More

Here’s some of what we’ve been reading this week.  Click each title to find the full article.

The Leader

Masters in Business Podcast: Robert Cialdini, author of Influence and Presuasion

RITHOLTZ: Let me give you a quote from the book which I find fascinating, “We all fool ourselves from time to time in order to keep our thoughts and beliefs consistent with what we have already done.” Why is the desire for consistency such a motivator of behavior?

CIALDINI: Two reasons one is we prefer to have our — for reasons of self concept to be consistent within ourselves, right? We want to see ourselves as reasonable, as logical, and rational individuals would be — would say one thing that would fit with the next thing we say, the other is the people around us want us to be consistent too.

And so for both of those reasons, internal status and external status, we want to be consistent and appear to be consistent in our environment.

Masters in Business Podcast

The World’s Worst Boss 

There are few good books on being a good manager. Fewer still on managing yourself. It’s hard to think of a more essential thing to learn.

Seth’s Blog

Ten Traits of a Drucker-Like Leader

Even worse than wasting your own time is wasting the time of others. Drucker reminds us that leaders can be their own organizations’ worst bottlenecks. “In a knowledge organization, if something sits in the leader’s in-box for two weeks, it’s like the line being down in a factory for two weeks,” says Wartzman. “No one would tolerate that.”


Managers Can’t Be Great Coaches All By Themselves

The first surprise: Whether a manager spends 36% or 9% of her time on employee development doesn’t seem to matter. “There is very little correlation between time spent coaching and employee performance,” says Jaime Roca, one of Gartner’s practice leaders for human resources. “It’s less about the quantity and more about the quality.”


Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Her mother-in-law once advised her that the key to a happy marriage was sometimes pretending to be a little deaf; Ruth has said the same applies to being a female Supreme Court justice. “When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best to tune it out,” she observed. “Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.”


Health and Fitness

The Power of the Lift 

From  the author of Endure one of my favorite books this year

That’s great news. Even better is that it doesn’t take much. The study’s main conclusion is that even one session or less than an hour a week of resistance training reduced the risk of cardiac events and death from all causes during the study, no matter how much (or how little) aerobic exercise the subjects were also doing.


The American Diet

“We have known from some small, not well controlled studies that the microbiome does change — and we have known for many years that adopting a Western lifestyle is associated with an increase in disease,” said microbial ecosystem expert Jack Gilbert, director of the University of Chicago’s Microbiome Center, who was not involved with the current study. “This brings those two concepts together.”

Washington Post

The Art of Coaching

Lessons from the All Blacks

In response, a new management team under Graham Henry began to rebuild the world’s most successful sporting team from the inside out. They wanted a fresh culture that placed emphasis on individual character and personal leadership. Their mantra? ‘Better People Make Better All Blacks’. The result? An incredible win-rate of just over 86pc, and a Rugby World Cup.


The NBA’s Next Great Coach

In his 15 seasons as an NBA player, Kerr played for elite coaches such as Cotton Fitzsimmons (832 career wins), Lenny Wilkens (1,332 wins), Phil Jackson (1,155 wins) and Gregg Popovich (1,022 wins). So he knows how great coaches operate. Part of what he has learned is the importance of perspective: Maintaining a sense of humor and playfulness by showing your team that, indeed, there is more to life than basketball.


You Can’t Measure Everything


You might like: Legacy

You might like: The Leadership Moment

My Next Book To Read

(The Coaching Conversation is an amazon affiliate. Every time you purchase through here you support this blog. We thank you for doing so. Of course, we also think the public library and your local independent bookstore are good choices as well.)

Quiet Power: Not Everybody Will Be the Same Kind of Leader

Do You Coach an Introvert or Quiet Athlete?

Do you coach an introvert or have a really quiet athlete on your team?  Perhaps you are an introvert yourself?

If so, you may want to take a look at Susan Cain’s books, Quiet and Quiet Power. I have read and can recommend the first.

Quiet reminds us to make room on our teams for the  introverted athletes without requiring anyone to change or to be self-conscious.

You don’t need to be loud to have the best ideas. Strength is not correlated to loudness. There’s an amount of light that is best for each person.  Allow the athlete to find and enjoy that light.  There is power is authenticity; power in quiet.

So if you coach an introvert perhaps just celebrate who she actually is without judgment or concern.

Quiet Power is on my list.

Look Beyond the Leaders

She also contributed a piece to the New York Times about the importance of followers in an organization.

She makes a compelling case that we emphasize the leadership requirements for all applicants and students ignoring the obvious–not everybody can be the leader.

“Yet a well-functioning student body — not to mention polity — also needs followers. It needs team players. And it needs those who go their own way.

It needs leaders who are called to service rather than to status.”

In the process she asserts by thinking of leadership in only one way we also hollow out the meaning of leadership.

“One young woman told me about her childhood as a happy and enthusiastic reader, student and cellist — until freshman year of high school, when “college applications loomed on the horizon, and suddenly, my every activity was held up against the holy grail of ‘leadership,’ ” she recalled. “And everyone knew,” she added, “that it was not the smart people, not the creative people, not the thoughtful people or decent human beings that scored the application letters and the scholarships, but the leaders. It seemed no activity or accomplishment meant squat unless it was somehow connected to leadership.”


“Not Leadership Material? Good the World Needs Followers”  (NY Times March 24)


((Disclosure:  The Coaching Conversation is an amazon affiliate. If you purchase a book or anything through here the blog makes a small percentage. Thank you in advance.)

Effective Feedback

Interesting article on effective feedback in Psychology Today. Basically he articulates the value of criticism in development and reminds us of the problems with excessive praise.

“Well-chosen criticism, delivered in an environment of high expectations and unconditional support, can inspire learning and development, whilst poorly judged praise can do more harm than good. Even relatively young children can tell the difference between constructive and destructive criticism, and it is a serious and unhelpful error to conflate the two.”

Found the article via Changing the Game Project on Twitter. Read the whole article.  Also, give them each a follow on twitter.

Evokes the concept of Mindset by Carol Dweck :

What is Growth Mindset

What is False Growth Mindset?

Life Wasn’t Meant to be Easy