The CIA’s 8-point plan for disrupting meetings and conferences

CIA’s Simple Sabotage Field Manual

Here is an 8-point plan for disrupting meetings and conferences. You will probably recognize some of these from your own circumstances:

(1) Insist on doing everything through ‘channels’. Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.

(2) Make ‘speeches’. Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your ‘points’ by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences.

(3) When possible, refer all matters to committees, for ‘further study and consideration’. Attempt to make committees as large as possible—never less than five.

(4) Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.

(5) Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.

(6) Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.

(7) Advocate ‘caution’. Be ‘reasonable’ and urge your fellow-conferees to be ‘reasonable’ and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.

“(8) Be worried about the propriety of any decision. . . . It might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.”

highlighting my September 2021 newsletter –

15 questions about learning

  1. Do you know?

  2. Have you ever said (or thought), “I’m too old to ____”?

  3. Were you right about that?

  4. Who has taught you the most in the last two years?

  5. Last ten?

  6. Do they know you regard them in this way?

  7. Would it benefit them to know?

  8. Who or what has been an unexpected teacher?

  9. Would you consider yourself an expert?

  10. Are you striving to be seen as one?

  11. Do you wish to unlearn something?

  12. What have you learned from experience that studying could never have conveyed?

  13. What do you know of sensuous knowledge?

  14. What’s a film that made you see the world anew?

  15. When did you last feel a sense of awe?



How to change the people’s behavior: make it fun!

This was the first of a series of experiments for a VW brand campaign.

Around the world, workers are quitting their jobs in record numbers

“Lockdown provided an opportunity to reflect – and help me realise what I want from work. I want a job that suits my life and means I’m not tied to a desk all day, every day. And if I don’t feel happy, I can just quit. There are more than enough jobs out there.”

“Workers are drafting up resignation emails, handing in their notices and heading for the exit door in their droves. The trend is worldwide.
In the UK, job vacancies soared to an all-time high in July, with available posts surpassing one million for the first time.
In the US, four million people quit their jobs in April – a 20-year high – followed by a record ten million jobs being available by the end of June.
A Microsoft study has found that 41 per cent of the global workforce is considering leaving their employer this year.”

They call it the Great Resignation.

source –

The answer is: we generated more needs

(in Jeopardy fashion) Why do we work so damn much?

Keynes predicted that, assuming no catastrophic events, the standard of living in advanced economies would be so much higher in 100 years that “for the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem – how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure.” Most people would then be working a 15-hour week, which would satisfy their need to work in order to feel useful and contended.

As we approach 2030, how did Keynes do? Keynes’ predictions about capital growth, technology advancement and productivity were clearly wrong. “He massively underestimated the speed of advances in those areas,” said Suzman. We passed the thresholds of capital growth and productivity that he said would be necessary to usher a 15-hour week economic utopia in the 1980s. “Yet, here we are. And we’re working pretty much as long hours as people did in the 1930s when Keynes wrote the essay in the first place.”

Why is that? According to Suzman work is no longer driven by what we need. Instead, it’s driven by what we want and how society regulates or encourages these wants. We’ve long been able to satisfy our needs and wants with a 15-hour workweek. “But as we’ve gotten richer and built more technology, we’ve developed a machine not for ending our wants, not for fulfilling them, but for generating new ones, new needs, new desires, new forms of status competition.”

From a podcast with anthropologist James Suzman.

Suzman has devoted almost thirty years to studying and writing about the Ju’hoansi and other bushmen from the Kalahari Basin, who are among the world’s few remaining hunter-gatherer societies. He recently published Work: A Deep History from the Stone Age to the Age of Robots, a book about his research.

source –

Ready to go back to the office?



My August newsletter is out!

Again, this month it’s a combination of research and practical insights, some timely and some timeless:

  • Gallup survey results and excellent questions about creating a hybrid workplace,
  • A challenge that will have you rethink how you introduce yourself,
  • On how managers handle their emotional struggles at work… and how this impacts their team,
  • A fascinating study on the positive impact of management on firm performance and how it differs from one country to the next,
  • The five dimensions of curiosity and four types of curious people,
  • A sobering study on how directors view their work on corporate boards,
  • Clarifying the oft-misused learning and development concept of 70/20/10,
    … and more!

Happy reading and feel free to share these management and leadership insights with your friends and colleagues.

Also, if you want to receive your own copy by email, subscribe!



Une lettre d’Albert Camus à son premier instituteur

Quelque peu après avoir reçu le Prix Nobel de Littérature en 1957 Albert Camus écrit à son premier instituteur, Louis Germain.

19 novembre 1957

Cher Monsieur Germain,

J’ai laissé s’éteindre un peu le bruit qui m’a entouré tous ces jours-ci avant de venir vous parler un peu de tout mon cœur. On vient de me faire un bien trop grand honneur, que je n’ai ni recherché ni sollicité. Mais quand j’ai appris la nouvelle, ma première pensée, après ma mère, a été pour vous. Sans vous, sans cette main affectueuse que vous avez tendue au petit enfant pauvre que j’étais, sans votre enseignement, et votre exemple, rien de tout cela ne serait arrivé. Je ne me fais pas un monde de cette sorte d’honneur mais celui-là est du moins une occasion pour vous dire ce que vous avez été, et êtes toujours pour moi, et pour vous assurer que vos efforts, votre travail et le cœur généreux que vous y mettiez sont toujours vivants chez un de vos petits écoliers qui, malgré l’âge, n’a pas cessé d’être votre reconnaissant élève.

Je vous embrasse, de toutes mes forces.

Albert Camus

“Votre enseignement… votre exemple… vos efforts… votre travail… le coeur que vous y mettiez…” Être reconnaissant, c’est du concret, c’est une liste d’observations précises.

Reading notes (2021, week 25): On first systems as explicit norms and the moral imperative of what we do

First systems as important as first hires

Important, yet often forgotten:

So much startup advice comes down to one common element: Hiring the best people. Whether it’s Twitter threads about how the first 50 hires set the cultural tone, or blog posts recommending that a founder interview the first 100 employees, most pointers are about keeping an unwavering focus on the people who power startups.

“While I definitely agree that people are your most important asset, I’ve noticed that most content doesn’t talk as much about the systems. What I don’t come across as often is a read about how the systems that those first hires build are the manifestation of the culture,” says Fishner.

In his view, it’s not an either or — it’s both. “While early employees are of course a driving factor for the company culture, they’re only half the equation. The other half is the foundational systems,” he says. “The comparison I like to draw is the nature versus nurture debate. Both your genes and your memes are highly influential on your outcomes. Likewise, both your people and your systems are highly influential on your company’s outcomes — but the system side doesn’t get as much attention as it should.”

Fishner expands on why he thinks systems deserve equal footing. “While early employees help set implicit norms, building systems early in a company’s lifecycle sets explicit norms. How do decisions get made? How are meetings structured? How are goals set? These systems are much easier to build when the company is small, and very challenging to put into place as the company grows,” he says.

Fishner’s conviction here surprisingly comes from his college days. “I studied philosophy. My thesis was on the impacts of subconscious advertising techniques. Theories of economics are built on the foundational belief that individuals are rational, well-informed and autonomous. But in practice, none of those things are true. For example, we’re far from autonomous — each person influences other people,” he says.

“In my reading and research for the thesis, I came to more of a determinist worldview that free will is overrated and our willpower is overstated. We’re actually much more influenced by the environments that we’re put in.

source:  “Focus on Your First 10 Systems, Not Just Your First 10 Hires — This Chief of Staff Shares His Playbook” in First Round Review  (accessed 210601)

The moral imperative of what we do in tech

I reconnected to Om Malik’s observation on tech and emotions via L.M. Sacasas’ newsletter “The convivial society“:

Having watched technology go from a curio to curiosity to a daily necessity, I can safely say that we in tech don’t understand the emotional aspect of our work, just as we don’t understand the moral imperative of what we do. It is not that all players are bad; it is just not part of the thinking process the way, say, “minimum viable product” or “growth hacking” are.

But it is time to add an emotional and moral dimension to products. Companies need to combine data with emotion and empathy or find themselves in conflict with those they deem to serve. 

This comes up quite often in my coaching conversations. For now, I’ll say this: the choice to ignore the emotional and moral dimensions of one’s work, services, or products is itself an emotional and moral stance.

Both Malik and Sacasas’ newsletters/blogs are well worth following.

Reading notes (2021, week 23): On pluralities of people, mindsets of a leader, and why it pays to notice emotions in the workplace

Pluralities of people come in three kinds

I read this on Alan Jacobs’ blog:

One of the most fundamental ideas that Auden held in the 1950s — the period of his career that I’m working on right now — was that “pluralities” of people come in three kinds. From an essay called “Nature, History, and Poetry” (published in Thought in 1950), with bold type added by me:

  1. “A crowd consists of n members where n > 1, whose sole characteristic in common is togetherness. A crowd loves neither itself nor anything other than itself. It can only be counted; its existence is chimerical.”

  2. “A society consists of x members, i.e. a certain finite number, united in a specific manner into a whole with a characteristic mode of behavior which is different from the behavior of its several members in isolation (e.g. a molecule of water or a string quartet). A society has a definite size, a specific structure and an actual existence.”

  3. “A community consists of n members, all of them rational beings united by a common love for something other than themselves.”

The tragedy of social media is this: Each given social-media platform consists of a crowd pretending to be either a society or a community.

To which I add – The tragedy of the modern corporation is this:  Each given company consists of a society pretending to be a community (“here at ABC Inc., we’re a family“).

source: Alan Jacobs, pluralities (accessed 210601)

Six mindsets of a leader

  1. Transcender: Seeks benefits for the whole ecosystem
  2. Builder: Zeroes in on building the organization
  3. Dynamo: Focuses on clear strategy or set of goals
  4. Chameleon: Adapts to surroundings and will serve anyone
  5. Egoist: Tries to maximize benefit to himself or herself
  6. Sociopath: Serves no one and believes the rules don’t apply

Questions: Which one are you? Which one is your manager?

source: Modesto A. Maidique and Nathan J. Hiller, “The Mindsets of a Leader” in MIT Sloan Management Review (accessed 210601)

Why it pays to notice emotions in the workplace

Emotional acknowledgment is the simple act of noticing a nonverbal emotional cue — like a frown or grin — and mentioning it. This mention can be a question or a statement such as “You look upset,” or “You seem excited.” (…) this small act can have a powerful effect because it is read as a sign of genuine intentions.

in a work environment, a supervisor who shows concern for others’ emotional state is signaling a willingness to get involved in a potentially messy situation. “A leader could very easily see someone in distress and choose to ignore it,” Yu says. “But only a leader who truly is benevolent and cares about employees would risk getting involved by voluntarily acknowledging the distressed employee. Thus, employees might take this as a signal that this leader is someone who can be trusted with their well-being.”

in  research across six studies, (…) participants reported higher levels of trust in people who engaged in emotional acknowledgment than those who did not.

This result aligned with the theory

Asking someone who seems unhappy about their emotional state engenders higher levels of trust because it is riskier and involves a greater investment of attention, time, and effort than asking someone who seems happy.

There was, in addition, an unexpected finding:

acknowledging an employee’s emotional state is more powerful than only acknowledging the situation that produced the emotions. “It turns out that saying something like, ‘You looked upset after that meeting. How are you feeling about it?’ lands better than saying something like, ‘It looked like the meeting went poorly. How are you thinking about it?’ Yu explains.
“People trust the person who acknowledges the emotion directly more than the person who acknowledges the situation. There’s just something special and unique about emotions — they are really core to a person’s inner experience and sense of self. So when we acknowledge emotions, we humanize and validate the person being acknowledged.”

And another unexpected finding: you don’t even have to get it right

the trust-building effect of emotional acknowledgment is not always dependent on correctly interpreting emotions, particularly when positive feelings are misread.

But emotional support is not part of my formal job expectations as a manager!

If leaders want to signal care and build trust, they need to meet people where they are. The worst thing leaders can do when employees are feeling badly is to do nothing. Our research suggests one way to do that is by proactively engaging in emotional acknowledgment because it grants employees the space and license to share their emotions.

The paper: Alisa Yu, Justin M. Berg, Julian J. Zlatev, “Emotional acknowledgment: How verbalizing others’ emotions fosters interpersonal trust”, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Volume 164, 2021, Pages 116-135. The report:  Theodore Kinni, “All the Feels: Why It Pays to Notice Emotions in the Workplace”, Insights, Stanford Business, May 13, 2021.