TouchPoints by Douglas Conant and Mette Norgaard

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This book is a very easy read that can be completed over a weekend.  As I read it, I couldn’t help but think about the countless TouchPointsnumbers of managers that I encounter who say they have no time to manage people issues. This book is all about focusing on people and cultivating relationships to get the work done. Frankly, one of the best passages in the book, in my opinion, is this:

“…You need to reject the scarcity mind-set that says, ‘I can either hit the targets this quarter or build the capacity to deliver long term,’ and instead find ways to ‘get the jo done now and next time.’ Instead of thinking, ‘I can either be tough-minded or tender-hearted,’ you can be ‘tough on standards and enthusiastic about people.’

If I had to sum it up, I’d say that this book is largely about making people feel safe and empowered enough to do their best work, which includes the successes they will ,have and the failures they will experience. On the other hand, as I thought about my personal leadership level and style, this book became more useful as it helped me to think about a wall that I often hit:  sometimes I don’t know how to move forward when I recognize that being present and invested in people’s challenges is important, but I really don’t have the ability to give genuine attention to one more iteration of the problem. I really do care; however, the person is stuck. I want the person to have the space and time to work on the problem, but I can’t mask being interested or my fear that they will miss a benchmark?

To this end, TOUCHPOINTS puts forth a concept called the TouchPoint Triad. A way to think about challenges like mine is to remember three questions. First, “how can I help?” You have to be clear on what the person is asking of you. Are you being asked to help them understand something, recast or think differently about something, or being asked to listen? If you’re being asked to listen, be honest and tactful about not being available and do it when you can be fully present. Second, can you ask enough questions to help the person frame the issue? Part of what you bring to a team and organization is your ability to help people see clearly, including analyzing data if warranted. Further, some people need to know that you clearly understand what they are up against before they trust how you have framed their issue: give that validation when possible. Finally, since the ultimate goal is to advance the agenda, it is important to ask, “how do I move forward and keep this person engaged?”

Overall, TOUCHPOINTS makes you remember that the difference between good leaders and exceptional leaders is the ability to connect with the people you lead and motivate them to follow you while owning the destination at the same time.

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