Category Archives: Books

How to read

Yeah, no really.  I’m not talking about reading for fun or anything really gripping.  I’m talking about reading those dry but meaty books that you’re really trying to learn from.

What works

Notecards

No seriously.  A small 3X5 notecard with a pencil will do.  Write down page numbers or quotes that appeal to you.  Go back to them later for reference.  You can even (depending on how small you write) capture thoughts or reactions from the reference material.  Be comfortable.  A small notebook can work too if you like to write a lot.  I prefer 1-2 notecards because they are easy to reference later and serve as bookmarks to boot.

What doesn’t work

Reading on the bed.

It didn’t work in school, why do it now?  If you’re anything like me, being on the bed just keeps reminding me of how much I’m not sleeping.

Reading at night.  

See above.  Even if it’s not on the bed, you’re still not as alert as you should be and won’t be able to absorb the key points.  Concentration is key and you should give yourself an honest shot at grasping themes, tones, etc of what you’re reading.

Reading with distractions.

I know it sounds obvious, but a lot of times, we set ourselves up for this one.  “I’m going to read [insert length] every [insert duration].”  And the only way we succeed is by cutting into family time, tv time, or meal time.  You’re probably not going to get far multi-tasking as the “distraction” will be more engaging than the material you’re reading.

If you’re looking for an example, here’s the output of a good book I recently read.

Leadership…what it really means

I recently read The Leadership Challenge, a book recommended to me by my boss.  It’s actually really good and I recommend you read it.  It really made me think of how to improve myself while also being able to recognize good leadership when I see (rather than much later after the fact).  Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book and what they mean to me.  In some cases, I agree with the authors, and in others, I take my own interpretation.

“Leaders need to be much more proactive in thinking about the future”

If you want to lead, you better have a target to head for.  Let’s not confuse strategy with goals.  Goals is where you want to be, strategy helps you get there in some period of time.  Strategy, in an of itself, is useless if you’re going in circles because you don’t know what you’re end game is.

“Passion plus pride equals performance”

As a leader, you have to create an environment where people can be passionate about what they do and have pride while doing it.  Seems kind of obvious.  But of a lot of us settle for a job, and don’t endeavor to do something that really excites us.

“Innovation requires more listening and communication than does routine work…get out and walk around”

The writers go on to say “stay in touch with the world”.  I couldn’t agree more.  One of the biggest pitfalls in my past leadership positions have been to neglect this very important point.  Travel.  Get out of the office.  Spend time and create relationships with the entire organization.  Create something meaningful such that your colleagues trust you and find you credible.  Then, get outside the office and meet people in your industry and do the same thing.  Get an outside perspective and bring that inside.  Leadership is so much about personal relationships that you really need to spend time being a person, and not just a voice on the phone or words on a screen.

“Leaders move from being in control to giving over control to others, becoming their coaches and teachers.”

A bad leader is one that needs to be replaced.  A good leader is one that can be replaced but isn’t.  Got a lot more to learn here.  It’s hard not being in the driver’s seat all the time.  As this book also states, “be the first to trust.”  Truth.

“Making a point of regularly saying ‘thank you’ goes a long way in sustaining high performance.”

Particularly when the organization is a bit larger and you don’t interact directly with all parts of the organization.  Some say “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”.  Tit for tat has no place in business.  Be nice and thank people for their efforts.  Often times, it’s only helping you at the cost of disrupting them.

If you find any of my above comments useful, I recommend reading the book and identifying your own favorite quotes.  Writing down what they mean to you is a good way to process and reflect on what you just learned.

* Note, all quotes taken from various places throughout the book.

Introduction to me

Hi,

My name is Shivan Bindal.  I just started this blog.  This is not a New Years Resolution.  This is my attempt to share my opinions with whoever is interested in listening.

A little background

After college and grad school in Computer Science, I went on to work as a software developer and worked my way into product management through small to medium sized software technology companies.  Today, I work at RightScale in Santa Barbara, California and I love it.  I love what I do.  I love where I work.  I love the city.

I’m married to my college sweetheart with no human children.  Dogs should count though, and I’ve got 1 very mischievous mutt of a dog named Oreo.  We love him like a son and treat him better than most humans (he’s got at least 3 beds of his own plus ours and the couches!)

I am opinionated.  Sometimes my thoughts are not well formed.  I’ll attempt to be as clear as I can be in this blog and will look to you to keep me honest.  If you don’t understand something, reach out and I will be more than happy to clarify.

I’m reachable on this blog as well as on LinkedIn and twitter.  Drop me a line with feedback, comments or questions.

Cheers and happy reading!

-Shivan