Tag Archives: leadership

Have Specific Conversations, not General Conversations

If you are discussing a topic with colleagues, it’s almost always better to have a specific conversation instead of a general conversation. General Conversation Specific Conversation “We need to figure out how to scrub all open bugs.” Followed by a lot of non-specific debate… “There are 42 open bugs. 42 bugs fit on one screen in Excel. Lets look at them all right now and see if there’s a pattern.” “Customers are angry. We need …Continue reading

Taxonomy and Lexicon

How many times have you been in a heated discussion only to find out that the two sides were talking past each other because they were reading from two different dictionaries? I bet you can also remember situations where just a little more structure got everyone aligned quicker. Creating, explaining, and re-enforcing a strong Taxonomy and Lexicon is a critical skill for all leaders (reminder: everyone in our business is a leader, not just managers). Taxonomy …Continue reading

One-Way and Two-Way Doors

Effective decision making starts with understanding; in the long-term, very, very few things actually matter. The vast majority of the decisions made day-to-day are either minutia or easily reversible and can be made quickly. However, a small number of things (about 1 in 10) matter a lot (in the long term) and are worthy of serious pondering, discussion, investigation, investment, and decision making. Back when I was at Microsoft, a mentor introduced me to the pithy phrase 90% of …Continue reading

Mental Models

You’ve probably noticed people you work with who are effective at leading can frame complex ideas simply. They’ll lead conversations like this: “Well, I think there are three things we should focus on, not 15, and they are…” “Folks, I think there’s another way of looking at this problem. What if we viewed the problem through these four lenses…” A key to doing this effectively is to be conscious of the concept of Mental Models. …Continue reading

Lead Without Authority

There are two forms of influence in the world: Influence by authority Influence without authority When a ‘boss’ (a manager or someone with a big title) attempts to influence change or drive action using only their authority, it is rarely successful in the short term, and never in the long term. “Because, I told you so” may work a few times on a kindergartner, but doesn’t inspire confidence or long-term results in the business world. …Continue reading

Have Strong Opinions, Weakly Held

The Are right, A Lot Amazon Leadership Principle reads: Leaders are right a lot. They have strong business judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs. A great mnemonic for remembering how to get better living the Are right, a lot LP is: Have strong opinions, weakly held. Stanford University professor Paul Saffo coined this term. “Allow your intuition to guide you to a conclusion, no matter how imperfect — this …Continue reading

Have a Plan (With Dates)

I’ve written a lot on the importance of having a plan. This week’s Leadership Principle tip doubles-down on that. Consider a status update: Bad: “The team will investigate the issue.” Good: “The team will complete the investigation of the issue by Tuesday afternoon and will share a plan for how to fix it by Thursday.” The Good version of this does a few things: It enables accountability on the next steps. It conveys the appropriate …Continue reading

Dive Deep != Micromanaging

You’ve said it. You’ve heard others say it. You are not quite sure how you feel about it. “So-and-so is a micro-manager. He/she’s always in my shorts and doesn’t let me just do my job.” This week’s Amazon Leadership Principle tip may help you navigate this common meme more effectively. The following has been my pinned tweet for the past year: “The more details you know, the better questions you can ask. The better questions …Continue reading

Just Right Porridge and Leadership Principles

Last week I wrote about Have Backbone, Disagree and Commit. This week the topic is about how to get the balance right when living Leadership Principles. Just as it is possible to not live a leadership principle (under-index), it is possible to over-do them. The key is to find the balance and be like mama bear’s porridge: Just Right. “Moderation in all things” ― Aristotle Yes, it is possible to over-do even Customer Obsession. A …Continue reading


A strong bias towards ownership is important in org culture. The problem is, folks often over-index on ‘I own this area, so I’m going to nail it!’ vs. ‘I am an owner on behalf of the entire company and need to do the right thing for our customers!’. The key is to balance these. Amazon’s definition tries to make this tension apparent by explicitly stating ownership is broader than themselves or their team: Ownership Leaders …Continue reading

Attention is the Currency of Leadership

Great leaders optimize how they spend their attention. They are skilled at turning up the heat to get others to focus their attention on the right things at the right times. Attention is the currency of leadership, and each person has a fixed amount of attention to spend. “Leaders have a fixed amount of attention units they can spend in a day, week, or year. Are you spending yours on the right things?” (A mentor …Continue reading