September 30, 2014

The Incredible Power of Not Taking Credit

Most of us like to receive credit for what we do. It can be a huge motivational factor, and it makes us feel good to be recognized - especially if we've put in the time and effort. But sometimes it can really be to your own advantage to let someone else score points. Bruce Kasanoff makes this point well in his article, "The Incredible Power of Not Taking Credit."

Nothing limits your ability to achieve great things more than your desire to take credit for what you have achieved.
-Bruce Kasanoff

Because compensation and promotion revolves around getting credit, many employees spend more time worrying about who will get the credit, than they do about results. You can accomplish much more if you don't worry about who gets the credit. It's easy to nudge people in certain direction if your goal is not to get credit, but to affect change.

Some ways to nudge:
  1. Set fires under people. Get them excited about their job, a project, etc. Don't push your plan; pick an idea that seems disconnected from you.
  2. Demonstrate by doing.
  3. Take genuine joy in the success of others.
  4. Allow time for things to happen. Be persistent, but patient.

September 23, 2014

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life."

"Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it."

September 16, 2014

Fleisch-Kinkaid and Readability Ease

One of the more interesting things I've picked up over the last year is the formulas used to score readability of writing. The Fleisch-Kinkaid Reading Age (FKRA) scale is used to determine what age group your work is best suited for, and the Readability Ease (RE) scale is used to determine how easy or confusing the work is.

Both scales use at least a paragraph (the more the better) of text, and two values must be calculated:
  • ASL: This is the Average Sentence Length. In order to calculate this, you count the number of sentences in your paragraph(s). Then you count the number of words in the paragraph(s). Finally, you divide the number of words by the number of sentences.
  • ASW: This is the Average Syllables per Word. This number is derived by dividing the number of syllables in your paragraph(s) by the number of words.
The FKRA scale formula is:
FKRA = .39ASL + 11.8ASW - 15.59
This will give you the grade level (1-12 primary and secondary school, and then 14-21 for college). If you add 5 years to this number, you will get the age level.

The RE scale formula is:
RE = 206.835 - 1.015ASL - 84.6ASW
This will return a score of 0-100, where 0 is very confusing and 100 is very easy.

I will illustrate with two examples. First a selection from the currently popular (though I'm not sure why) "50 Shades of Gray"by E.L. James:
His office is way too big for just one man. In front of the floor-to-ceiling windows, there's a huge modern dark-wood desk that six people could comfortably eat around. It matches the coffee table by the couch. Everything else is white -- ceiling, floors, and walls except, on the wall by the door, where a mosaic of small paintings hang, thirty-six of them arranged in a square. They are exquisite -- a series of mundane, forgotten objects painted in such precise detail they look like photographs. Displayed together, they are breathtaking.
There are 6 sentences, 92 words, 122 syllables. That means an ASL of 15.3 and an ASW of 1.3. Our FKRA is therefore 5.717, or almost a 6th-grade reading level (10- to 11-year-olds). The RE is 81.325, or a fairly easy read. In other words, for the target audience (adults), this book is quite juvenile in its writing style. Let's compare that to a paragraph from "The Element" by Ken Robinson:
From that moment of epiphany, Ewa knew that she wanted to dedicate her life to billiards. Fortunately, her parents supported her, allowing her to spend six to ten hours a day playing at a local poolroom, doing her homework in between shots. "People there knew I was serious about the game, so they left me alone. But we also had a lot of fun there. If you find a place where everybody else likes the same thing that you do, it really becomes fun. So these odd characters -- because we all had billiards together -- we became like a family."
Here there are also 6 sentences, with 101 words and 144 syllables; giving an ASL of 16.9 and an ASW of 1.4. That gives an FKRA of 7.5 (half-way through 7th grade, or 12-year-olds). The RE is 71.241, or a decent level of ease. This paragraph is just slightly lower on scale for the adults it is targeted to.

There are sites, of course, which will calculate all of these values for you, such as But it is always handy to know this information for yourself!

September 9, 2014

6 Secrets to Influencing People

As I progress down the path of leadership, I find that it is important to learn how to promote myself and get across my ideas in a way that others can easily understand and relate to. A true leader knows not only how to lead, but how to influence. So naturally when I came across John C. Maxwell's "How to Influence People" my interest was piqued. Here is a summary of the six secrets:

Success depends on influence; everyone influences someone else.
  1. Integrity - You cannot influence others if they don't trust you. Make truth, reliability, honesty, and confidentiality the building blocks of your life.
  2. Trust - Gaining influence over others begins with trusting them. Demonstrate that you believe in them; build them up.
  3. Listen - When you listen to others, you demonstrate respect for them and you can influence them to be on your team and on your side.
    You can make more friends in two weeks by becoming a listener than you can in two years trying to get other people interested in you. (Dale Carnegie)
    People who do all the talking without listening are too self-focused to build strong relationships. They make the all-too-common mistake of thinking that, by talking more and listening less, they will impress others as being smart, witty, or entertaining. As a result, they find it difficult to develop significant influence.
  4. Understand - When you try to understand people, you will be much more able to communicate with them and influence them positively. Self-centeredness causes misunderstandings; avoid such problems by recognizing the worth and value of those around you.
  5. Mentor - Invest in people. Be selective about who you decide to mentor: choose those who share your philosophy.
  6. Empower - When you empower others, you transform them into something special.

September 2, 2014

"Don't judge someone just because they sin differently than you."
- Unknown

"Two things to remember in life: take care of your thoughts when you are alone, and take care of your words when you are with people."
- Unknown