J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

December, 2013

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    10 Emotional Intelligence Articles for Improving Your Effectiveness in Work and Life


    Emotional intelligence is one of the most important tools to add to your tool belt, whether you are a leader, a manager, a manager of managers, or an individual contributor that needs to influence without authority.

    Emotional intelligence is “the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups.” 

    It’s powerful stuff.

    Here are 10 of my past posts from this year that will help you learn some new emotional intelligence skills that you can apply immediately:

    1. A Lighter Feeling - What if you could release negative emotions and feel lighter and ready for anything as you go about your day?  You can, if you know how, and the key is, it’s not in your head.
    2. Delayed Gratification: Make It a Better Pill to Swallow - Delayed gratification shows up time and again as one of the best ways to live a better life.  It’s how we rise above the pitfalls of instant gratification.   It’s also how we focus on doing more of what’s important.  But how can we master it?
    3. Emotional Intelligence Quotes – Emotional intelligence is often the difference that makes the difference when it comes to your success in work and life.  This is a roundup of my favorite emotional intelligence quotes from Benjamin Franklin, Buddha, Dale Carnegie, Vincent Van Gogh, and a bunch of other people you probably never heard of.
    4. Empathic Listening: The Highest Form of Listening – Stephen Covey taught us that if we want others to listen to us, we first need to listen to them.  But what’s the best way to listen?  Empathic listening.  It’s where we listen until the other person feels understood.  It sounds so simple, and it is, but where the gap comes in is knowing what to do, and actually doing what you know.
    5. How To Change Any Experience to Empower You -- What if you could change the effect any experience has on you?  What if you could change any feeling, emotion, or behavior for yourself in a matter of moments?  You can.  By changing your state.  You can change how you represent any experience, whether it’s memories of the past, your current experience, or scenarios in the future.
    6. How To Free Yourself from Negative Emotions – Negative emotions are our worst enemies.  What if you could free yourself from negative emotions?  Or, what if you could at least reduce getting stuck and wallowing in negative emotions?  You can.  But you need to know how.  In this article, Brian Tracy shares deep insight into the 4 root causes of negative emotions so we can identify and eliminate them.
    7. How To Get in Superman Mode for Unshakable Confidence - You can’t talk to yourself in a meek and meager way, and expect powerful results.  But, what if you could flip a switch and talk to yourself in a way that’s more assertive, confident, and believable?  You can. And, imagine having a more powerful voice on your side to give you an edge in everything you do, and to help lift you up whenever you need it most.
    8. How Not to Break Under Pressure - Whether it’s negative self-talk or negative beliefs, you can be your own worst enemy.  If you crack under pressure, what happens is you focus on all the wrong things and all the things that could go wrong to the point that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  In other words, you become your greatest obstacle.  What if, instead, you could thrive under pressure?  You can.
    9. Mental Toughness Defined – A very simple definition of mental toughness.
    10. Tony Robbins on the Fastest Way to Get Over Fear - Fear can hold us back.  It can hold us back in subtle and insidious ways.  Fear can also outright paralyze us from taking action.  What if we had a way to get over fear, and experience more freedom?  Tony Robbins shows us how.

    If you only have time to read one, then I recommend starting with the following:

    How To Free Yourself from Negative Emotions 

    Best wishes for 2014!

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Declaration of Interdependence


    You might already know the Agile Manifesto:

    • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
    • Working software over comprehensive documentation
    • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
    • Responding to change over following a plan

    But do you know the Declaration of Interdependence:

    • We increase return on investment by making continuous flow of value our focus.
    • We deliver reliable results by engaging customers in frequent interactions and shared ownership.
    • We expect uncertainty and manage for it through iterations, anticipation, and adaptation.
    • We unleash creativity and innovation by recognizing that individuals are the ultimate source of value, and creating an environment where they can make a difference.
    • We boost performance through group accountability for results and shared responsibility for team effectiveness.
    • We improve effectiveness and reliability through situationally specific strategies, processes and practices.

    While the Agile Manifesto is geared toward Agile practitioners, the Declaration of Interdependence is geared towards Agile project leaders.

    When you know the values that shape things, it helps you better understand why things are the way they are. 

    Notice how you can read the Agile Manifesto as, “we value this more than that” and you can read the Declaration of Interdependence as “this benefit we achieve through this.”  Those are actually powerful and repeatable language patterns.  I’ve found myself drawing from those patterns over the years, whenever I was trying to articulate operating principles (which is a good name for principles that guide how you operate.)

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    Using MadLibs to Create Actionable Principles and Practices

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Personal Development Articles Free and At Your Fingertips


    Browse free personal development articles that will elevate your game in work and life.   If you have a passion for personal development, then you’ll enjoy this knowledge base of personal development articles on Sources of Insight:

    Personal Development Articles

    There are more than a 1,000 personal development articles in the knowledge base.   I’ve grouped them into meaningful buckets across mind, body, emotions, career, financial, relationships, and fun.

    I’ve spend many, many, many $1,000s of dollars on books and training over the years.  

    For the past several years, I’ve made it a habit to share more of what I learn and what I use in the real world on Sources of Insight.

    The singular goal is to empower you with skill and help you be as effective as possible in all that you do.

    Or, as I like to say it with a phrase:

    Skills to pay the bills and lead a better life.

    If you don’t have time to read all the personal development articles, then just read this one:

    There is No Shortage of Time


  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Countdown Deal for Getting Results the Agile Way on Kindle


    image“In life you need either inspiration or desperation.” – Tony Robbins

    Is 2014 going to be YOUR year?

    Let’s make it so.

    My best-selling book on time management and productivity is on sale for a limited time offer, through a Countdown Deal:

    Getting Results the Agile Way on Kindle

    What is Getting Results the Agile Way all about?  It’s a simple system for meaningful results in work and life.   It’s the best synthesis of what I know for mastering time management, motivation, and personal productivity. (And, it’s designed to be “better together” – use it with your favorite existing tools of choice, whether that’s Franklin-Covey, the Pomodoro Technique, Getting Things Done, etc.)

    The way this Countdown Deal works is that the price goes from lower to higher during the course of 7 days.

    As I currently understand it, here’s the price breakdown:

    • Dec 26, 27th – .99 Cents
    • Dec 28, 29th – $2.99
    • Dec 30, 31st, and Jan 1st – $4.99

    In other words, the sooner you get it, the cheaper it is.

    Here are the key benefits of the book:

    • Triple your productivity.  (When you combine a strengths based approach + Power Hours, you’ll ignite your productivity.)
    • Set yourself up for success on a daily basis
    • Embrace change and get better results in any situation
    • Focus and direct your attention with skill
    • Use your strengths to create a powerful edge for getting results
    • How to change a habit and make it stick
    • Achieve better work-life balance with a system that works
    • Spend more time doing the things you love

    Here’s what others are saying about the book:

    "Agile Results delivers know-what, know-why and know-how for anyone who understands the value of momentum in making your moments count."– Dr. Rick Kirschner, bestselling author

    "JD’s ability to understand and cut to the real issues and then apply techniques that have proven to be successful in other situations is legendary at Microsoft. Over the years I have learnt that he will not recommend something or someone unless he believe it the entire value chain, making the advice you get even more potent. It’s a little like a whirlwind and you have to be prepared for a ride but if you want results and you want them fast, you talk to JD."– Mark Curphey, CEO & Founder, SourceClear

    JD is the go-to-guy for getting results, and Agile Results demonstrates his distinct purpose – he shows how anyone can do anything, better. This book has simple, effective, powerful tools and ideas that are easy enough for everyone to apply in their work and lives, so that they get the results they’d like, even the impossible and the unexpected.”– Janine de Nysschen, Changemaker and Purpose Strategist, Whytelligence

    Getting results and being YOUR best is a personal thing, which is why I designed it as a personal results system.

    If you already are using Agile Results, tell me a story.   Tell me the good, the bad, and the ugly.   I always want to know what’s working or not working for you.  Each week, I receive emails from people around the world with their stories of personal victories.  For some, it’s fast, as if it was the missing link they needed to help them connect the dots.  For others, it’s more like a slow crescendo.  And, for others, it’s more like a game of slow and steady that wins the race.

    But what everybody seems to have in common is that they feel like they got back on path and are instantly getting better at spending the right time, on the right things, the right way, with the right energy.  

    This is where breakthroughs happen.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    The Power of Annual Reviews for Personal Development


    Talk about taking some things for granted.  Especially when it’s a love-hate relationship.  I’m talking about Annual Reviews. 

    I didn’t realize how valuable they can be when you own the process and you line them up with your bigger goal setting for life.  I’ve done them for so long, in this way, that I forgot how much they are a part of my process for carving out a high-impact year.

    I know I might do things a big differently in terms of how I do my review, so I highlighted key things in my post:

    The Power of Annual Reviews for Achieving Your Goals and Realizing Your Potential

    Note that if you hate the term Annual Review because it conjures up a bunch of bad memories, then consider calling it your Annual Retrospective.  If you’re a Scrum fan, you’ll appreciate the twist.

    Here’s the big idea:

    If you “own” your Annual Review, you can use taking a look back to take a leap forward.

    What I mean is that if you are pro-active in your approach, and if you really use feedback as a gift, you can gain tremendous insights into your personal growth and capabilities.

    Here’s a summary of what I do in terms of my overall review process:

    1. Take a Look Back.  In December, I take a look back.   For example, this would be my 2013 Year in Review.   What did I achieve?  What went well? What didn’t go well?  How did I do against my 3-5 key goals that really mattered.   I use The Rule of 3, so really, I care about 3 significant changes that I can tell a story around for the year (The value of a story is the value of the change, and the value of the change is the value of the challenge.)
    2. Take a Look Forward.  Also in December, I take a look ahead.  What are my 3-5 big goals that I want to achieve for this year?  I really focus on 3 wins for each year.  The key is to hone in on the changes that matter.  If it’s not a change, then it’s business as usual, and doesn’t really need my attention because it’s already a habit and I’m already doing it.
    3. Align Work + Life.  When the Microsoft mid-year process starts, I figure out what I want to achieve in terms of themes and goals for the year at work.  I’ve already got my bigger picture in mind.   Now it’s just a matter of ensuring alignment between work and life.  There’s always a way to create better alignment and better leverage, and that’s how we empower ourselves to flourish in work and life.

    It’s not an easy process.  But that’s just it.  That’s what makes it worth it.  It’s a tough look at the hard stuff that matters.  The parts of the process that make it  a challenge are the opportunities for growth.   Looking back, I can see how much easier it is for me to really plan out a year of high-impact where I live my values and play to my strengths.  I can also see early warning signs and anticipate downstream challenges.  I know when I first started, it was daunting to figure out what a year might look like.  Now, it’s almost too easy.

    This gives me a great chance up front to play out a lot of “What If?” scenarios.  This also gives me a great chance right up front to ask the question, if this is how the year will play out, is that the ride I want to be on?  The ability to plan out our future capability vision, design a better future, and change our course is part of owning our destiny.

    In my experience, a solid plan at the right level, gives you more flexibility and helps you make smarter choices, before you become a frog in the boiling pot.

    If you haven’t taken the chance to really own and drive your Annual Review, then consider doing an Annual Retrospective, and use the process to help you leap frog ahead.

    Make this YOUR year.

    You Might Also Like

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    Anatomy of a High-Potential

    Mid-Year Review, Career, and Getting Ahead

    Performance Review Template

    The Guerilla Guide to Getting a Better Performance Review at Microsoft

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Lists at a Glance


    Lists are your friend when it comes to productivity, focus, and personal effectiveness.   If you’re  a Program Manager, you already know the value of lists, whether it’s a list of scenarios, a list of features, a list of bugs, a list of milestones, a list of open work, etc.

    I use lists of all kinds to collect, organize, and simplify all sorts of information.   Here is my newly renovated Lists page on Sources of Insight:

    Lists at a Glance

    I have lists of books, movies, quotes, and more.  I also have checklists that you can use to improve things like focus or leadership in work and life.

    Here are a few of my favorite lists from the page:

    If you only read one list, read 101 of the Great Insights and Actions for Work and Life.  It might seem long but it’s a super consolidated list of things you can use instantly to make the most of what you’ve got and to apply more science to the art of work and life.

    Here are a few examples from 101 of the Greatest Insights and Actions for Work and Life:

    Job satisfaction — Autonomy, identity, feedback significance, and variety.  If you want to truly enjoy your job, focus on the following characteristics: skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, feedback.     See  Social Psychology (p. 423)

    “How does the story end?” – How the story ends, matters more than how it starts.  A happy ending is a very powerful thing.   The ending of the story is often more important than the beginning.  Daniel Kahnenman says that a bad ending can ruin your overall experience or memory of the event.

    “Doublethink” — Think twice  to visualize more effectively.  Think twice to succeed.  Focus on the positive and the negative.  You can visualize more effectively if you imagine both the positive side and the negative side.  First, fantasize about reaching your goal, and the benefits.  Next, imagine the barriers and obstacles you might face.   Now for the “doublethink” … First, think about the first benefit and elaborate on how your life would be better.  Next, immediately, think about the biggest hurdle to your success and what you would do if you encounter it.  In 59 Seconds:  Think a Little, Change a Lot, Richard Wiseman says that Gabriele Oettingen has demonstrated time and again that people who practice “doublethink” are more successful than those who just fantasize or those who just focus on the negatives.

    Delphi Method — Use “Collective Intelligence” to find the best answers.  The Delphi technique is a way to use experts to forecast and predict information.   It’s a structured approach to getting consensus on expert answers.  The way it works is a facilitator gets experts to answer questions anonymously.  The facilitator then shares the summary of the anonymous results.  The experts can then revise their answers based on the collective information.  By sharing anonymous results, and then talking about the summary of the anonymous results, experts can more freely share information and explore ideas without being defensive of their opinions.  See Delphi Method.

    The Power of Regret — Reflect on your worst, to bring out your best.    In 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot, Richard Wiseman says, “research conducted by Charles Abraham and Paschal Sheeran has shown that just a few moments’ thinking about how much you will regret not going to the gym will help motivate you to climb off the couch and onto an exercise bike.”


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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Shareholder Value is a Result, Not a Strategy


    In Motley Fool Stock Advisor, David Gardner writes about a idea from 1970 that changed the business culture at large:

    “In 1970, Noble Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman wrote a famous article for The New York Times Magazine, decrying the idea that businesses should have any sense of social responsibility.  Their responsibility, he said, is to increase shareholder wealth to the greatest extent possible – pure and simple.  It was an incredibly influential idea that became common wisdom and is in large part responsible for much of the business culture we see today.  The problem is it was completely and transparently wrong.”

    David then follows up with words of wisdom from Jack Welch, Former General Electric CEO. 

    Here’s what Jack said in an interview back in 2009:

    “On the face of it, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world.  Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy … Your main constituencies are your employees, your customers, and your products.  Managers and investors should not set share price increase as their overarching goal.”

    It’s a great reminder to set overarching goals that matter.

    Then great results are a by-product.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    25 Holiday Classic Movies and a Lesson Learned


    A few years back, I put together a roundup of 25 holiday classic movies to help people find their holiday spirit:

    What 25 Holiday Classics Teach Us About Life and Fun

    The post was pretty broken in terms of formatting, but the content is evergreen, so I took the time to revamp it.  It should be 1000 times better now (at least.)

    If you’re a movie buff, you'll recognize a lot of the classics, like The Lemon Drop Kid, or The Bishop’s Wife, or White Christmas.

    I can never find anybody who has actually seen Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, though it’s still one of my favorite versions.

    And when it comes to Claymation, my favorite is still Rudolph.  I can never forget the scene where Yukon Cornelius says, “Look at what he can do!”, and the Bumble (the Abominable Snowman) puts the star on the top of the tree, without a ladder.

    And whenever I see a sad looking little tree, I can’t help but wonder if adding a bunch of lights would magically transform it into a big, magnificent, and full tree, Charlie Brown style.

    Transformation isn’t magic though.

    It’s a lot of work.  A lot of smart work.

    As you get ready for this coming year, I hope that the key lessons you learned, and the key insights from this past year serve you well.

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s how investing in the right capabilities pays off time and time again.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Nelson Mandela Quotes


    As a tribute to Nelson Mandela, I put together a comprehensive collection of the best Nelson Mandela quotes:

    Nelson Mandela Quotes

    It’s a pretty extreme collection, organized by key themes like compassion, courage and conviction, and humility.

    One of the things that surprised me is how much Mandela was about fulfillment and self-actualization.  I knew the freedom and equality focus, as well as the leadership focus, but I hadn’t realized how many great words of wisdom and pithy prose he had about making the most of what you’ve got, as well as rising above your circumstances.

    He really exemplified the idea of “follow your growth.”

    So whether you’re building your building your knowledge base for personal development or leadership insights, Nelson Mandela’s quotes should be a great fit for your collection.

    Here are a few of my favorite Nelson Mandela quotes:

    1. “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
    2. “Quitting is leading too.”
    3. “Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”

    Here is the my full set of Nelson Mandela quotes.  

    Please share them with anybody you think will benefit or needs a pick me up or some little lift for their day.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    How Tos for Personal Effectiveness at a Glance


    "Information is not knowledge." -- Albert Einstein

    We live in a super-competitive world.  It’s also a super-collaborative world.   How ironic.  But, I guess, in that way, it’s kind of like Survivor. 

    We need to learn how to do things better, faster, and cheaper, and what you don’t know can hurt you.

    How Tos are still my favorite way of learning how to get things done, and for sharing and scaling expertise in a simple way.

    In the sprit of helping you get better, faster, and more capable, I’ve revamped my How Tos page on Sources of Insight (my blog on “proven practices for personal effectiveness.”)  Here is my updated How Tos page (Index of How Tos organized by Emotional Intelligence, Leadership, etc.):

    How Tos at  a Glance 

    Here are a few of my favorites that I think you’ll enjoy:

    1. How To Achieve Any Goal
    2. How To Change Any Experience
    3. How To Change Any Habit
    4. How To Find Your Strengths
    5. How To Find Your Why
    6. How To Communicate with Anyone
    7. How To Inspire a Vision
    8. How To Not Break Under Pressure
    9. How To Set Better Goals
    10. How To Think Like Bill Gates

    I think you can use any of these to instantly get quick benefits and apply new skills or approaches.  Or, if you have a better approach, then you can share it with me, and I can improve the How To Winking smile

    If you only have time to read one, read How To Think Like Bill Gates.

    A common reaction people have when they read that one is at first they think it’s all common sense, but then when they read the part at the end that contrasts it with typical default thinking patterns, they realize the enormous gap between every day thinking and thinking like the big “G” man.

    You Might Also Like

    10 Emotional Intelligence Articles for Improving Your Effectiveness in Work and Life

    How To Use Monday Vision, Daily Wins, and Friday Reflection to Triple Your Productivity

    Sources of Insight Refresh: Insights and Actions for Work and Life at Your Fingertips

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