Stage Manager on Mac OS 14.1.1 Sonoma

Yesterday, I stumbled across this lovely, hidden feature in the new Mac operating system, so I thought I’d share in a short bonus post.

It’s called Stage Manager and you activate it in the same desktop menu where Do Not Disturb lives.

When you turn on Stage Manager, images of your most recent active apps appear in live windows on your desktop. This makes switching between apps seamless, and, as a bonus, these are actual live windows (e.g. if it’s a Zoom call that you’ve jumped away from, you’ll still see the live video call in the small window on the left).

There are, of course, additional ways to play around with the display—info is here—but for me, a relentless user of Command+⌘ to toggle between apps, the core functionality of a better way to switch between apps is what matters to me.



Doing the High Value Thing Quickly

This is one of the unspoken skills of highly effective people.

It’s a skill of identification and of action.

Both of these require excellent diagnosis, pattern recognition, and confidence.

To be clear, the diagnosis is two-fold: when to act, and when it’s your job not to act or let someone else act.

And the confidence is paired with humility: not “I believe in myself the most, always” but, “I know this is really important. I’m confident, based on my experience, about what needs to be done. And I’m willing to be on the hook for the results.”

Supporting skills include the ability to task switch when necessary; comfort with risk; the willingness to act with incomplete information; and the discipline not to procrastinate.

Owning Our Mistakes

We all make mistakes.

Hopefully, today’s mistake happened because we aimed high and fell short: we thought we could deliver something amazing and it was only OK. We thought something was an appropriate risk to take but the dice turned up snake eyes. We thought we could keep all the plates spinning but we let one of them drop.

Regardless of why it happened, here we are.

The question now is: who is going to own that message? And how quickly?

It is incredibly tempting to choose to duck and cover in this moment.

Maybe our client, or our boss, won’t fully notice.

Maybe, even though we know that they will notice, we don’t feel ready to stand in the cold, harsh light of (our own and their) disappointment.

Worse, maybe we find ourselves minimizing and deflecting because our ego can’t stand the idea that we truly messed this one up.

This approach—which can feel safer—exposes us to a much greater risk.

Because the underpinning of all our relationships is trust. This trust can only exist if you and I are confident that we have the same understanding of what “good” and “great” look like.

When we hide from our mistake, when we miss the opportunity to say, first and loudly, “This wasn’t good enough,” we’re eroding that shared sense of confidence.

We’re opening the door to our customer asking themselves, “Do they [service provider] share my [purchaser] understanding of what we are trying to achieve here? Do we agree what “great” looks like?”

Once that question is asked, the conversation stops being about what went wrong and how to make sure that never happens again. In parallel, beneath the surface, unspoken questions fester: about values and judgment and standards, and whether they are shared between the two parties.

Because this conversation is hidden away, we won’t hear these questions until it is too late.

This is why we must own our mistakes clearly and forcefully—to ensure that this one-time mistake doesn’t metastasize into something much more harmful.

“This was our mistake.”

“This wasn’t us at our best.”

“I understand the negative impact this has had on you. Our job is to keep our promise to you, and we didn’t do it this time. We are committed to doing better next time.”

“This should never have happened, and it won’t happen again.”

Morning Walk

Each day I see

One frame of the seasons unfolding.

A movie reel running so slowly I might miss it if I don’t pay attention.

Greens to yellows to reds

Leaves flitting down lazily

A gentle, one-time, kaleidoscope snowfall.

Trees become bare, preparing to stand stoically all winter.

To stop bending in the wind.

Each day the sun has a new angle, the light a new flavor.

Each day is a chance for quiet, for reflection, for breath, for presence

A chance I sometimes take and sometimes miss.

Each day I notice my body.

The little things that ache and, less often, the big things that don’t.

Each day I am the quiet before everyone else’s day has begun,

The rhythm of early morning before the school bells have rung.

Each day, near the end, I appreciate this time

Thankful to the canine whose fault it is I’m up so early.

Tomorrow morning, the alarm will ring, earlier than I’d like

And I will think, “Again?”

The lines between a chore, a discipline, a practice, and a blessing are blurry indeed.


Woods at sunrise Frost on the field Flowers first frost My shadow, and my shadow

Fast and Now

With seniority comes the opportunity for leverage. Our rate-limiting factor is no longer what we, personally, can do; it is what we, the collective, can do, and our job is to maximize that.

I’ve written before about the three jobs of any leader: making decisions; making the people around you better; and doing stuff.

Counterintuitively, the first two are the most important because they are much more scalable than “doing stuff.”

The question then arises: what does it look like when someone does this effectively?

The senior leader is faced with the following question in every moment of the day:

Of the million things that are going on right now (that I’m aware of) which of these needs my attention and my voice right now?

What does it take for this person to successfully answer this question day in and day out?

To makes sense of this, consider: her job is not just to make decisions; it is, more importantly, to quickly and effectively decide where to weigh in. To do this, both her decision-making and her meta-cognition need to operate at a very high level.

The only way she can survive and consistently add value in this maelstrom is if she:

  • Has easy access to the right information (from dashboards; from colleagues; etc.). She is IN the information flow and has open, trusting relationships with the right folks in the organization.
  • Processes all of this information quickly and acts decisively (“I can ignore all of these things, and these things need my attention right now.”)

Her job is to constantly be getting new information and successfully deciding: where to act; how loudly her voice should be heard; when to ensure that things are continuing or accelerating; and when to redirect or even stop.

There’s no way she will pull this off if she is not both fast and deciding now.

I often remind myself and my team that, to make lasting change, our work is a marathon, not a sprint.

However, the requirement of “fast and now” brings to mind the capabilities of a soccer player, not a marathoner.

As leaders, we need to be able to accelerate quickly for a short distance, over and over again. This skill allows us to achieve a high throughput on all the inputs we see, so that we can add value when and where it’s most needed.

Conversely, if it takes us a long time to process and decide—if we’re slow to get to maximum velocity and then to act—it will be harder for us to consistently add value in the way that we want and that our teams need.

There’s likely no shortcut to developing this ability, but we can keep an eye out for the things that slow us down. Things like:

  • Putting off the hard decisions until we have “enough time” or our to do list is clean.
  • Being unwilling to take a stand based on what our experience and pattern recognition tell us.
  • Feeling the need to weigh in on every important decision.
  • Not trusting our team to make tough calls.

Being unwilling to create clarity in the face of dissenting voices, for fear that someone won’t be happy with our decision.

It helps to remind ourselves that most of the decisions we make are Type 2 decisions—they are relatively easy to reverse—and that the enemy of progress is lack of clarity and the unwillingness to take a stand.

The Invisible Crown

Not long ago, I had the chance to speak to a friend who is facing a major health challenge in their nuclear family.

The bravery that they are showing is astonishing, a reminder that courage isn’t a thing anyone would choose; it is simply what required in the face of unspeakable challenges.

As we chatted, this friend shared some hard-earned wisdom: “Getting older really sucks, but it’s also a million times better than the alternative.”

When I was in my 20s, my cousin, who is very religious, would remind me that most of us walk through the world wearing an invisible crown: it is the crown of good health and good fortune, and most days we fail to see it.

We forget it is there, forget how beautiful it is, forget how lucky we are to have it on.

Until it’s gone.

Of course, our normal, day-to-day challenges are very real. Life throws us all sorts of curveballs, and it’s natural to ride ups and downs of the emotional roller coaster.

But we can also build in some moments in every day to consciously appreciate all the good things—to see our own crowns.

Doing this regularly—having a practice of gratitude and appreciation—is one of the best ways to stay grounded, happy, and healthy.

Leaders Operate in a Low Gravity Environment

For years, I thought of myself as a flat-organization person.

After all, I value what each person has to say.

I know that good ideas come from everywhere, and the best ideas rarely come from the top.

I want to have genuine relationships with the people around me.

And I don’t want these relationships to be impacted by our relative positions of authority in the company or organization we work in.

But what I want is not the same thing as what is.

The reality is that each person comes into each organization with an inherited orientation towards authority.

And it’s the job of the person with authority to understand this and act accordingly.

That means that, if you have authority, you have to remember how amplified each of your actions is: the more authority you have, the further your words carry, the more likely it is that they will land with a bigger impact than you intended, the greater chance that what you do and don’t say will be noticed by more people than you expect.

I find it helpful to think of myself standing on the moon: each step is much bigger than it would be on earth.

And every leader operates in this sort of low-gravity environment.

Adjust accordingly.

What Implementation Really Means

My first job, in the mid 90s, was as a management consultant. Though I was often working 70+ hours a week, on some level I knew the job was easy:

  1. Gather information, from inside and outside the company we were working with
  2. Understand client needs, and trends in the marketplace
  3. Talk to folks who knew what was going right, and going wrong
  4. Do a bunch of data analysis
  5. Write it all down in a coherent story
  6. Present that story to the client
  7. Walk away

The job—at least how I experienced it as a more junior person—boiled down to synthesizing and collating what was already known. Often, the main purpose was to force a set of conversations within the client company, by laying out an existing, but murky, perspective clearly.

After that, our job was to walk away. We’d leave the “implementation” to the company, as if that were just the last, eighth step in the process.

Nearly three decades later, I find myself in a world where all the world’s information—and more, thanks to AI—is literally at our fingertips. Everywhere we turn we find versions of 10 Tips to Be More Effective, 8 Ways to Inspire Your Team, 12 Steps to Driving Your Strategy Through Your Company.

The catch is this: it’s one thing to consume all of this information, to reflect on the gaps between what’s described and what you see in your organization.  And it’s another thing entirely to turn awareness of these gaps into real and meaningful change.

The “implementation” is not a small part of the overall job. It is often the whole job.

The job of making change happen with and through people, given all the existing constraints—culture, customers, expectations, old habits.

The job of doing it in a way that makes everyone empowered and excited, that treats them as part of the solution.

That’s the hard part, every time.

By all means, be curious and active in consuming information about better way to do things. We need that curiosity and external focus, always.

But also remember that there are few stances that are safer than that of the person who sits on the sidelines, like I did when I was a management consultant, describing what could be, and leaving the “implementation” to someone else (or, worse, sitting on the sidelines with arms crossed, saying to anyone who will listen something like, “If only they would [blank] then everything would be better.”)

There are few stances than are easier and safer than describing what needs to be done, and placing the weight of inaction at someone else’s feet.

And there are few stances more courageous than putting yourself on the hook, getting your own hands dirty, and walking the path from idea to implementation.

That’s called leadership.

Anecdotal Evidence Won’t Help Us Understand Financial Inclusion

Here’s a piece I just published reflecting on the findings of the 60 Decibels 2023 Microfinance Index, which we launched last week. As an industry, it’s time to stop falling prey to superficial claims about “lives impacted” that masquerade for meaningful impact; and it’s equally important that we question broad-brush journalism that relies on a handful of targeted customer interviews to paint the picture of an entire industry. We say that we are in the business of improving peoples’ lives. If that is true, then we owe these people the respect and deference of listening directly to them in a systematic, rigorous way, to hear what they have to say about what is happening in their own lives. My full article is here.


An article published last year in Bloomberg was highly critical of the microfinance industry and the international institutions that invest in it. The article described many negative practices—including but not limited to aggressive debt collection—and implied that the microfinance industry is doing serious harm to customers while international, public, investors turn a profit.

While there are, in fact, serious issues in the microfinance sector that need to be addressed—including over-indebtedness, debt collection practices and discrimination—these issues need to be seen in the context of many of the very positive impacts that microfinance is having for clients. And, more importantly, both the negative and positive impacts of microfinance need to be quantified objectively, to better understand the proportion of clients microfinance is working for, and the proportion that it’s not.

This kind of balanced approach is not possible when reporting is done with small scale,  largely anecdotal evidence about a complex situation on the ground.

As I have said in the past, social interventions like microfinance loans vary a lot in their characteristics and impact across contexts and periods. It is problematic to use a handful of interviews with clients or “experts” and extrapolate about an entire country or industry from these narrative accounts. And yet, the basis for the article’s broad claims are “dozens” of interviews with microfinance borrowers, along with expert interviews—a radically narrow sample from which draw sweeping conclusions.

What we need is large-scale, objective, comparable customer data to understand what’s really happening for all—and not just a few—customers. In service of these goals, in the last two years, the firm I lead, 60 Decibels, has listened to more than 50,000 microfinance customers in 41 countries, using a single, standardized survey tool that allows for full comparability across all questions. For each institution, we spoke to a representative, random sample of clients, and, in total, these customers represent an estimated 48% of the 173.5 million microfinance clients globally.

We can use insights from this data to cast some light on the murky claims made in the Bloomberg piece.

  • Claim: Clients are pressured to sell their homes, land, and other assets in order to make repayments.
  • What we found:  19 out of 20 of the microfinance customers we spoke to said that agents treat them fairly, are trustworthy, and have never pressured them to sell an asset.

(read the rest of this article on the 60 Decibels website).

Cringing in the Rain

Rain starts falling, and what do we do? We lift our shoulders and hunch our backs to stay dry.

It turns out that this doesn’t keep us and drier or warmer. It’s just our primitive, protective stance in the face of discomfort. We shrink.

The other option is to intentionally stand tall, drop our shoulders, and stride purposefully. We don’t get any wetter, we’ve just stopped hiding.

The rain, as always, isn’t just rain.

But we are still, and always, ourselves. And we have the chance to see how our unconscious reactions might be the same in all situations—and to learn from this.

Just because we are confronted by something different, difficult, or scary doesn’t mean that our posture should be one of defensiveness, protection, or fear. These stances both fail to keep us safe and worsen our experience. Their only real impact is to increase our sense of suffering and hardship.

Lest we forget, inside of all of us is that fearless girl standing in front of the bull.

We just need to remember to tap into that.

The Fearless Girl (Mark Lennihan/Associated Press)