We see a lot of teams and individuals in the marketplace that are inconsistent with themselves:
- Perception: A poser with a fancy car and a $30 website template sends a conflicted message. How clear is yours?
- Value: Do you advertise your value but close on price? What does that communicate to your prospects?
- Care: Are you more (or less) attentive to your clients as you are with prospects? What does that say about how much you care?
If your team were to be completely consistent with yourselves end-to-end, from attitude to attire, who is your company?
“If you stop supporting that crowd, it will support itself.” – Seneca the Younger
‘Sort-of-delegating’ is the worst kind of delegating. It’s when we show others how to do something, then don’t give them the space to try, fail, then succeed.
- Making room to fail: When we only “sort-of-delegate”, we deny team talent from owning their work–a full delegation. Why even bother, then?
- What you’re missing: Could our team’s cause, chosen charity, or community be underserved due to our “sort-of-delegating”? How much more of a difference could we make if we made room for others to succeed?
Sharing the load isn’t just for the efficiency of what we see today, but for what’s possible tomorrow.
What gets written down and shared, grows:
- Documentation: A well-crafted soft-system creates happy customers in ways talent never could when talent remains the secret gift of only a few.
- Blog posts: A well-crafted blog post outperforms a front-page advert when the post is so good you can’t not share it with others.What gets written down and shared, grows:
- Briefs: A well-written brief sets great teams into motion in ways an articulate-yet-unclear leader never could.
If the talent writes the documentation, the post makes the front-page, and the leader receives the brief, “the world” is theirs.
It all starts by remembering to write what works.
If you’re a team who reaps the rewards of strategic partnerships in the marketplace, you may notice that everyone falls into one of two categories.
Advocates: In the ‘spirit of shared success’ they will seek out ways to grow with you on the assumption that growth begets growth.
NothingPersonals: In the ‘spirit of the game’ they will feign advocation until it no longer suits them. “It’s nothing personal.”
All partnerships are one of these. Both have their place. Invest lavishly into the former. Keep your eye on the latter.
Do you know who each of your partnerships is
You’ve probably heard of growth mindsets and fixed mindsets.
It seems to me that growth mindsets need fixed goals–to become who we need to be in that reality, and fixed mindsets need growth goals–to become the same person, but a little better:
- If your goal is set–big and fixed–you’ll live life with that goal as your new reality. You’ll become the person you need to be in order to reach it.
- If your goal isn’t set, but a moving target (growing), you’ll remain behind the curve of your own ambition. You’re never the person you need to be to reach that carrot.
Epicurus says it well, “If you live according to nature, you will never be poor; if you live according to opinion, you will never be rich.”
Take away the ever-changing opinion and replace it with your (or your team’s) big goal – how does that change your behavior?
Many important things that distract us from our meaningful work aren’t all that important.
For example, I love my inbox, but only when it’s in a box:
- Put inbox in box: If you spend a while in email every day–an hour or more–what boundaries and rituals could reduce the non-essential time? Could you automate, delegate, batch, or systemize away the things that prevent you from your important work?
- Make to-do today: It’s not just the inbox this applies to. Many areas of our days benefit from being put into boxes (they just don’t sound as good as a post title!) We simply need to make it happen. Today.
The more we tame our distractions (and put them in controllable boxes) the more time we get to do the deeper work that leverages our genius.
Life just keeps on happening, regardless of whether we perceive it as noise or focus.
We have choices.
- Your noisy world is the same noisy world that everyone else deals with. They just don’t advertise it to you on social media. They may be selectively reveal themselves just as you do, or they may be using ‘hoot selection’.
- Perpetuating the lie: if we pretend we don’t live in that world, something terrible happens: others may believe you. They may think they’re doing life wrong, and you may never find the help you need to grow.
- Selectively giving a hoot: if you can’t–or aren’t–going to change something, consider removing it from view. Otherwise you’ll miss the things you could–and will.
Without ‘hoot selection’, we must live with the noise at full-volume. If you (and your team) is pursuing meaningful work, turn down the noise and focus on your signal.
There are parts of your work that others don’t understand. Sometimes, those ‘others’ are your buyers, and that’s an issue.
When “they don’t get it”, you have three options:
- Nix it: Sometimes they don’t get it because it doesn’t matter. Take the opportunity to let go of something you’ve been holding onto for too long.
- Teach it: Sometimes it does matter, you’re just not communicating well enough. Pour out valuable and insightful education onto those you serve.
- Build it: Sometimes they “get it” but they can’t “do it”. Consider this your next product or service: an ode to those who needed more help and support than your current body of work provides.
Knowledge-gaps are full of potential. We get to choose if frustration or fascination is our response.
It’s the same with business and bicycles: if you increase the resistance, you increase the value…
- Low-Resistance work is commoditized. Having an article published 30 years ago meant you were ‘somebody’. Now a new blog can be set up with its first post published within a half hour. The resistance decreased, and so did the value. We don’t get much of a workout while tootling along in first gear.
- High-Resistance work is valuable. Podcasts are still hard to set up. Cameras are still scary to talk to. With increased resistance comes increased perceived value. The resistance, much like a high-gear hill-climb, prevents most people from having the legs of a God.
Try increasing the resistance and see how the toil pays off.
“Don’t behave as if you are destined to live forever.” – Marcus Aurelius
If it matters enough, ’later’ is an excuse we can’t afford. Better to invest our time in FLOW:
- F: Fail. At any activity or skill. The sooner we fail, the sooner we…
- L: Learn. We don’t truly learn without first failing. When we learn, we can…
- O: Optimize. Our learning dictates how to improve. Do it enough times and…
- W: Win. As an eventuality from failing, learning and optimizing enough.
The time we have is enough to succeed in our pursuits if we don’t delay.
What’s your job title? Is that all you do?
- Everyone’s a customer service rep. “Why isn’t it working?” If there’s a code glitch, dignifying the customer with a proper reason and a plan to resolve it is customer service.
- Everyone’s a spokesperson. “So what does your team do?” We’re all on social media, we all line up for coffee, we all interact with others. We represent our team everywhere we go.
- Everyone’s a benefactor. “What on Earth are we going to do?” When things hit the fan, we’re all able to pull together to fix what’s broken, if it’s important enough to us. Will we?
Customer service, sales, spokesperson, benefactor, administrator, volunteer, coach, janitor. When we’re fully engaged in our team, we have more job titles than we thought.
How did that last digital training course work out for you?
- “I tried all the advertising channels and none work.” It’s not the channel, but your ability to communicate that determines its success.
- “I tried all the investment vehicles and none work.” Some are better than others, but putting up only $1,000 at 6% or 12% is still only $60-120.
- “I tried all the NLP tricks and none work.” It’s not your techniques, but how much you empathize that determines your rapport.
There are plenty of courses teaching you “the tactic that works”. But the tactic doesn’t matter. If you get the heart of the matter right, you can choose almost any tactic you like and get your results.
Year 2000, flying cars. Year 2020, all-green energy.
These goals are delusional. And there’s a formula as to why:
- Dream = Dream. That’s all it is.
- Dream + Deadline = Delusion. This is our “new millennium flying cars” thing. The deadline didn’t make it so, the work never happened, as much as I wanted to have been during the 90s.
- Dream + Milestones = Goal. What has to happen next year? What about next month? What about next week? What about tomorrow? The milestones make or break the dream, making the goal measurable.
The adage, “A goal is a dream with a deadline”, is mistaken. Instead, toil through an arduous series of milestones and see if that dream really can come true.
“Amor Fati” is Latin for loving one’s fate, to make the best out of what comes our way. For teams doing meaningful work, this premise compliments our toil:
– Loving the vision is one thing. An inspiring end-goal or virtuous mission is easy to get excited over. But how do we stay the course?
– Loving the pursuit is another. If it’s to ever happen, there’s likely to be an unsexy daily grind to master. Beyond mastering it…
– We must learn to love both. And in order to do that, we need to learn to love the toil regardless of what comes out way: Armor Fati.
The more we learn to love relentlessly toiling toward a collective vision, regardless of the outcome, the more unstoppable we all become.
Complication is the enemy of execution. See if this sounds familiar:
- Read 50 articles on the subject: The Internet is full of tricks, best practices, strategies, and blueprints. So you read all of them, perhaps taking notes along the way.
- Whiteboard out the intricate complexity: Next, you muster the mental energy to map out a method of applying every piece of information you’ve gathered into one “master plan”.
- Do nothing with it: Because it’s really complicated. Where to begin? Which parts compete with other parts? Who’s going to do which piece? Better read an article about that, too.
The simpler path suggests you either take off in the right direction and draw the map as you go, or take an existing map with you.
The important thing is to start walking.
Would you do business with you, based on how you treat yourself?
- Your attention: Does your team give itself as much attention on internal projects as it does to customer-facing work, or do you instead resemble a slow, unpredictable service provider?
- Your process: While working on your own projects, do you use the process and discipline you’d show your customers, or do you freestyle it with vastly different responsibilities and standards?
- Your referral: If judged only by your experience of your last internal project, would you refer yourself to others?
For many, the internal experience is vastly different to that which others experience. What if the mechanic didn’t drive a bad car? What if the cobbler’s son did have shoes?
Tweakaholic. Noun. One who is obsessed with tweaking things past the point of return.
- You have this. It’s why you do the things you do each day that make no difference; because it’s comfortable work rather than useful work.
- Your clients have this. It’s why they want to take control of things they may not fully understand, and get frustrated when it doesn’t go their way.
- Your team has this. It might be why that one project everyone thought was really important still isn’t done.
The cure: while doing work that matters, ask yourself, are you really?
You have twelve great options. Which do you choose first?
Whether it’s choosing a content strategy, code framework, A/B test, or market segment, we have choices on how to choose:
- “I’m not sure, let’s discuss it some more.” Most teams choose this one, even for tiny concerns. It’s laziness disguised as collaboration.
- “I’ll just pick…that one.” This is the second most popular choice. Decisions are made without record or method, until we get lucky.
- “I’ll sort them and start at the top.” Sorting by any means (expert input, risk, investment) enables us to learn quickly what makes a winner and what doesn’t. Every selection teaches us and guides the next.
Laziness, luck, or learning… Which is it to be?
It may be unfair, but it is predictable:
- Memento mori: Latin for “You too are mortal; you too shall die.” What you’re experiencing now won’t last forever, for better or for worse, so we should be sure to…
- Prepare for the ups and downs: Because they’re both coming. The marketplace rewards those who are ready. That lets us be on…
- The right side of unfair: i.e. “The winning side.” We don’t get there by wanting or toiling… unless those wants become action, and our toil remembers Memento mori.
Nature gave us an unfair marketplace that–in its irony–gives us all an equal opportunity to produce meaningful work that makes an impact.
Because ‘good’ is always being commoditized:
- Being good at sign painting came to an end when printers went mainstream. Only the best sign painters–those who add an exquisite charm to those they serve–still deserve to paint signs for others anymore.
- Being good at designing websites came to an end when drag-n-drop tools made it free. Only the best designers–those who bring a story to life rather than just decorating–deserve to design websites for others anymore.
- Being good at taking photos came to an end when smartphone cameras became ‘good enough’. Only the best photographers–those who capture emotion as well as just light–deserve to take photos for others anymore.
It has, does, and will happen to every discipline, in time. The question is, are you just ‘good’, or does your work change the rules of the game?
When you enroll a new client, their “yes” should be the beginning of something wonderful.
But it rarely is:
- 20% leave after 100 days: Using SaaS as an example here, if 70% of buying decisions are made based on feelings, but 20% of new customers don’t stay enrolled for even 100 days, what are we missing?
- Care decreases on “Yes”: The attention, energy, enthusiasm, engagement, and support during evaluation disappear all too often when a sale is made. Rather like a spouse that stopped trying after courtship.
- A sign of things to come: That’s all the evaluation process should be. We should expect more of the same following “Yes”, if not a greater amount of what led you to say “Yes” in the first place.
Ever bought something and wondered where the energy of the seller went afterward? Could you be doing that to those you serve?
If you get to make decisions that affect those you serve, you’re one or the other:
- A fiduciary makes things happen between buyers and sellers where he is rewarded for ensuring the best decision is made. Measures people helped (conversations).
- A broker makes things happen between buyers and sellers where he is rewarded by swaying the decision in the favor of a commission. Measures number of closes (dollars taken).
The fiduciary wants the best for you. The broker wants the best for himself. Which of these people would you prefer to do business with?
Sometimes, we have to do something very uncomfortable… we have to pull the red velvet rope:
- Work that doesn’t create growth exists in most teams, be they teams of one or many. It may be a wasteful project or a disrespectful client. In either case, it’s important to recognize that’s not the future you want to build.
- There’s a trap door underneath these projects and clients. We ignore it most of the time because caring teams don’t like to think about it. Still, it’s important to recognize that it’s there.
- Pulling the red velvet rope when you’ve been led astray is incredibly uncomfortable for caring teams, be it emotionally or financially. Still, it’s important to do if you care about the future you want to build.
Do you, and those you work with, have permission to pull the red velvet rope?
Please, judge books by their covers. It’s normal, don’t feel bad about it:
- The best page-turner with a bad cover isn’t the best page-turner at all. If it didn’t put in the work to make you open it up, it chose not to compete.
- The worst material with a great cover is a frequent letdown of trigger-happy buyers. Yet it earned a chance at your attention, it reached the semi-finals.
- Carefully crafted content with a great cover is so rare, we share it with everyone we know. It earned a chance at your attention, and it won.
Whether you’re working on a book or you belong to a team trying to earn your audience’s attention, it’s worth considering asking yourself what type of book you are.
The ratchet effect in a growing team suggests that, sometimes, you don’t get to-do that anymore:
- The toil you know is more comfortable than the toil you don’t. We enjoy what we’re good at, so letting it go is asking for discomfort.
- Leading others toward your toil takes time you could have spent doing it yourself. Yet leading others forward is what helps your company grow.
- What comes next is even harder. Now what? It’s time to draw a new map, rather than following your old one. That one’s not yours anymore.
The ratchet effect creates leverage but can be uncomfortable to crank. Is your work important enough to you to make you trade your to-dos for discomfort?
Questions control our focus. When posed to us, they have the power to change the way we look at ourselves, even if for just a while:
- Are you a caring person? The focus is on your nature, making us more likely to volunteer for a good cause.
- Are you an adventurous person? The focus is on your spirit, making us more likely to try something new.
- Is quality important to you? The focus is on your taste, making us more likely to invest in a quality, long-lasting solution.
- Are you a people person? The focus is on your social orientation, making us more likely to attend an event.
When we ask questions of ourselves or others, our answers carry into the rest of the conversation. Whether we’re recruiting volunteers or raising their ambition, the lives of those we wish to serve are as good as the questions they–and we–ask them.
Brendon Burchard, motivational speaker and coach, says “Problem marketing was a great technique until 2005, but the culture changed, the world changed. We moved away from a pain-oriented society into an aspirational-society.”
Aspirations exist in the future, and the future doesn’t exist at all (yet). With no ‘reality’ to hold it down, the future makes it a great space for raising ambition:
- Emotional investment. A journey into the future starts in the present. If we like the sound of where it’s going, it becomes part of our own vision for the future. We want the future to be bright, don’t we?
- A vision you belong to. Because the vision is ‘ours’, our bias stretches beyond acceptance to advocacy. We want our own vision to come true, don’t we?
- Permission to raise our ambition. By advocating for this shared future–a bigger future–its failure would mean the undoing of the very world we hope to live in. We can’t sit idly by and let that happen, can we?
It could be a shared future of better smartphone photography (to take better images of your family). It could be one where a type of crime no longer exists (making a safer world for your children). Whatever it is, sharing future gives us a powerful place to end a message and set the sights of our audience in the right direction.
I’m working on a book at the moment.
It’s got a lot of important information in it that’ll help a lot of cause-driven companies.
If they engage with it:
- Information is half of the body of work: Experiences without value are just broken promises. They draw you in, engage you, and leave you with nothing. The information needs to be amazing.
- Experience is the other half: Information without experience is a confusing chore. It’s everything you ‘need’, but if it doesn’t motivate you to engage with it and apply it, it’s scarcely even intellectual entertainment.
It’s not just what’s in the box that matters. The way we wrap, box, and deliver our work is a part of the work itself.
Do you need to learn how to add more to the box, or how to wrap better?
I spotted a man wearing a t-shirt today that said “Time is money” on it.
On its own, that’s a terrible trade:
- Time, to money, to time again: To sell your time for money, only to sell your money for time again later in life, is a lousy deal when you’re…
- Factoring in inflation: Depending on how long you leave it and how long your lifestyle and genetics afford you, the time you buy back again might not be the same as the time you sold in the first place.
- Making it worth it: To make a winning trade, ensure your trade includes mission, contribution, and purpose.
This way, when you buy time back again, it’ll have appreciated faster than its rate of inflation: you’ll have made a difference.
Pushing through adversity–spirit–is rare because of how it’s made.
Seneca wrote, “This is the touchstone of such a spirit; no prizefighter can go with high spirits into the strife if he has never been beaten black and blue; the only contestant who can confidently enter the lists is the man who has seen his own blood, who has felt his teeth rattle beneath his opponent’s fist, who has been tripped and felt the full force of his adversary’s charge, who has been downed in body but not in spirit, one who, as often as he falls, rises again with greater defiance than ever.”
The great irony, then, is that spirit breeds spirit, much like strength breeds strength.
On teams doing important work, fear becomes spirit if you push through it. If we don’t push, it simply becomes more fear.