My Christmas holiday reading ranged from MindF*ck by Christopher Wylie to a Satya Nadella recommendation: Mindset by Dr Carol S Dweck. Wylie’s book is A1, and all the lessons of December 12th (the latest UK General Election) are there. The antidotes are much more wide ranging.
The latter one was one of those books where I think the pieces I need to remember will fit on less than a sheet of A4.
Most of the book was contrasting the difference between “Fixed Mindset” and “Growth Mindset”. However, look under the surface, the main points are:
- Blame is for losers
- Prima Donnas “anyone’s fault but mine” are an example of this, not good for team cohesion
- People with a growth mindset appear to be relentlessly curious and ask questions to understand patterns, not just learn by rote memory
- A repeat of the old Arnold Palmer Golf Adage; “the more I practice, the luckier I get”
- Be humble
- “A managers pick A employees, B managers pick C employees”.
- Also struck in my past that the best managers don’t issue edicts, but ask lots of questions – and trust the skills of their employees – instead
I recall one 23-year old VP at British Telecom; whenever confronted with a new service, the immediate question was “What is the business model?” and he was straight under the surface to understand how things work.
The other was a personal experience in May 1983, when none other than Bill Gates visited Digital Equipment (where I worked) to show us a new system Microsoft were building called “Windows”. There were 14 of us sitting around a conference table waiting for the senior folks to escape a board meeting – and Gates sitting there with a Compaq+ PC and a two button mouse. Curiousity got the better of me, so I said “Tell me. The Apple Lisa has a one button mouse, and Visi-On (a Windowing system being developed by the authors of Visicalc) has three. I notice your mouse has two buttons. Why?”.
He duly went off for a good few minutes describing how all the competitor products interacted with different third party applications, and the problems each resulted in. Very deep, really thoroughly thought through. The senior folks duly arrived, and frustrated him with a lack of commitment to using MS-DOS on our PCs, Windows or not.
I was told afterwards that he told the salesguy who brought him in: “There was only one guy in the room who knew what he was talking about. Hire him”. I interviewed with Scott Oki (VP International at Microsoft at the time) and David Fraser (UK MD), but elected not to take the role. Many years later, I took Paul Maritz – then CEO of VMware, but previously VP of Windows at Microsoft) to see my CEO (Mike Norris of Computacenter; while waiting for our slot, I asked him where Scott Oki was these days. Answer – he owns several golf courses on the West Coast of the USA 🙂
The main thing I always reflect on is in situations when i’m interviewing job role applicants. There’s always this situation at the end when the candidate is asked “Do you have any other questions for me/us?”. While there are a few attitude qualification questions – plus some evidence that they set their own performance standards – that final question is almost always the most important qualifier of all. Demonstrate humility and curiosity, then you’re the one I want to work with, and improve together.