lessons learned: the fundamental attribution error

As I’ve been promoted and promoted and promoted again, I’ve had various conversations with other managers assessing the performance of others on the team. They’re frustrating. They’re good at this, but don’t do this right or that right. They’re problems in the way of our success.

While I felt all of these things from a management perspective, I also had the perspective of the employees, having done the same job and had the same struggles. From that perspective came this little voice in my head wondering why I was judging those people like this. Hey, man, those guys are doing the best they can inside of a broken system.

But I didn’t say anything. Perhaps my ego liked getting promoted, at least partly because of others’ “poor” performances, so I didn’t listen much to my little voice.

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Seven Questions to Avoid Competition

We recently lost a very large project in a competitive selection process. It hurt so much that it had me reaching to my bookshelf for inspiration on what to do. I reached for Peter Thiel’s Zero to One, and I decided it’s time to build something that has no competition. Easier said than done.

Here are Thiel’s questions to ask yourself on whether you can actually make that happen:

  1. Can you create breakthrough technology?
  2. Is now the right time to start this particular business?
  3. Are you starting with a big share of a small market?
  4. Do you have the right team?
  5. Do you have a way to deliver/sell your product? 
  6. Will your market position be defensible for 10-20 years?
  7. Have you identified a unique opportunity that others don’t see?

Otherwise, you’re sort of hoping for a miracle.

The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier

We live in the world our questions create.

— David Copperrider

This brilliant little book is basically just a list of seven simple questions with the power to shift almost any conversation in our lives. They can be used on their own or sequentially. Here we go.

(1) What’s on your mind?

In other words, what should the real focus of this conversation be?

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the positive focus

The antidote to finding yourself in the gap is to focus on your achievements.

Strategic Coach calls this The Positive Focus, and they’re all in on this concept. They even have an app, Win Streak, designed to help you with this by counting your daily wins.

Rather than daily, I’ve found myself using this idea for looking back on the past week, which went a little something like this:

List out your top 5 wins. Why were they wins? What’s the next piece of progress you can make?

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the horizon and the gap

Dan Sullivan‘s The Gap is a concept that really hits home with me. I naturally and automatically spend a lot of energy comparing my current status to the ideal in my head. Dan’s advice is to focus on forward progress rather than comparing yourself against an ideal.

The metaphor he gives for this is the horizon. We’re never going to get to the horizon. When we move forward, it just remains as far away as before.

No matter how far we go, the “ideal,” like the horizon, is still always in the distance. Much wiser to look back and compare your progress with the point you started from. The ideal is a great motivator to get started, but using it to measure progress is debilitating.

One way to focus on progress is to use Dan’s “Positive Focus” tool. Basically you list out your wins over a recent period of time (like last week) and why they were important. When I filled one of these out for January, I realized something that wasn’t exactly top of mind: I kicked ass in January!

Dan would call this “counting your wins”.