Do you “protect your time”?
I hear this term used often. It’s wrong:
- Too-good-er: The mindset of thinking certain things are beneath you.
- Not my responsibility: The rigid, inflexible lack of team-player DNA.
Time doesn’t need you to protect it. It needs you to leverage it:
- Saying no to say yes: The mindset of choosing not to do the wrong things so that you can choose the right things. And do them well.
- Bring your genius: Leveraging your team-player DNA to bring more value in ways you’re uniquely equipped to do so.
Don’t be a too-good, rigid “protector of time”. Be an intentional genius who leverages time for the good of your team.
Great teams teach.
They’re great–and secure enough–to share their insights with the world, as a source of contribution and attention.
But they rarely teach well:
- More videos: Lots of short, almost-useful YouTube videos creating fragmented learning and unclear direction. So you click another.
- More posts: Lots of short, almost-useful rehashed pieces of content competing for search results. So you click another.
- More downloads: Lots of short, almost-useful PDFs and white-papers containing little more than a sales pitch. So you click another.
This is the new channel-surfing. An attention deficit is created by those who complain about it.
No more complaining, or participating: what if you were to create something more substantial, more valuable, something you and your teammates can be proud of?
It’s easy to feel this.
Particularly if you’re moving more slowly than you’d like, or you’re low on resources.
These natural phases of development breed either determination or desperation. The latter literally stinks:
- The market smells it: It permeates the room, undermining your authenticity and compromising your good judgment. People don’t do business with people like this.
- You smell it: It corrodes confidence, distracting your direction and temps you to give up.
- Team members smell it: It germinates throughout the team causing more people to lose confidence, too.
What if you used this phase of development as an opportunity to get unstuck, control the goal, and let determination germinate instead?
A man stands up at a charity gala. The room applauds.
As promises go, standing is the easy part. The hard part comes later.
- The easy part: Standing up and declaring allegiance, alignment or commitment to a cause at that moment. The applause and appreciation validate your decision.
- The hard part: Keeping your promise in those quiet, thankless moments that nobody else sees. Where you do what you do because of a decision you made years ago.
Teams that stand the test of time tend not to be impressed with ‘the easy part’. No applause for standing. After all, they’ll have likely seen many posture and fall.
Rather, they’ll more likely acknowledge and respect ‘the hard part’ with nods of appreciation along the way.
Who gets your applause, the volunteer or the veteran?
What differentiates the winners from the losers?
One of these counts more than all the others combined:
- Skills: We learn these. We apply them where our focus wanders.
- Talents: We have these. We apply them where our focus wanders.
- Drive: We have this. We apply it where our focus wanders.
- Care: This stops our focus from wandering.
Care is the differentiator. Team members with the first three but not the fourth ultimately fail, every single time.
What’s your care-o-meter telling you?
It sounds like a romanticization, doesn’t it?
In contrast, “achieving goals” sounds impersonal.
- Achieving goals: To-do lists are completed, milestones are met, results are achieved. To which we say, “Great!”
- Making magic happen: To-do lists and milestones lay the foundations, upon which a work of art is created. To which we say, “Wow!”
Achieving goals is a science. Without it, we don’t move forward. But without making magic happen, we don’t move forward anywhere others are excited to go.
All teams are capable of this extra ingredient. We simply need to care intensely enough to choreograph something worth saying “wow!” about.
What is ‘weird’?
If you’re on a mission to do meaningful relevant work, the answer might be, you.
If you’re relentlessly pursuing your genius for a cause greater than yourself, the answer might be, you.
If you’re happy with the status quo, safely stowing yourself away for retirement instead of contributing toward something weird, then don’t worry: you’re fine.
(Or are you?)
Being assumptive gets a bad rap.
You may have heard the catchphrase, “When you ‘assume’, you make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’.” That’s only when it’s not meant for ‘u’ or ‘me’.”
Sometimes–such as when teams communicate with the marketplace–to not assume is to be impersonal and disconnected.
If you’re looking for people who are looking for X… stating “You are looking for X” to the marketplace makes some people say “no” and others say “that’s me”.
The “no” crowd were never going to respond anyway, so why indulge the catchphrase?
Sometimes, to assume is to get to the heart of those your message is to serve.
If your team was the best in the world in your field, how would you behave differently?
- Would you offer greater guarantees? With the confidence of being the best, would your guarantees become stronger?
- Would your service become more selective? With an abundance of prospects, would you accept the same customers/clients?
- Would you behave differently? With no superiors, are there activities, behaviors, or tolerances you’d change?
- Are there products/services you’d cut? With the title of ‘best’, would you choose to focus more exclusively on your best works?
These are things that separate where you are now from when you’re the best in the world.
So why not change them now and start closing the gap?
Why does “get what you deserve” sound negative?
- Embracing challenges as opportunities: You reap the rewards of sound reasoning and timely perseverance. That’s “getting what you deserve”.
- Doing the uncomfortable: You reap the rewards of habitually choosing growth over comfort. That’s “getting what you deserve”.
- Not stepping up to the plate: You reap the consequences of lowering the tone of your team: you’re gone. That’s “getting what you deserve”.
What you deserve is the results of what you sow.
Great teams that pull together and create remarkable work deserve to win. Eyes on the prize.
There’s a deadline coming.
Does that make you feel like rushing?
Me too. Here’s an alternative:
- Rushing means doing things while flustered. Rushing loses time to task-switching, acting before thinking deeply, creating then re-creating in order to arrive at the right output.
- Flowing means doing things while calm. Flowing thinks deeply before acting, enabling the first output to be the right output. No waste.
When there’s a lot to do (and there always is) the temptation is to rush, to go fast, to skid around corners.
When we recognize the urge to rush, switching to flowing means the same output, but no skid marks.
‘Feel-good’. Adjective. Meaning “a feeling of happiness and well-being.”.
It ties two words together that mean far less apart. Consider your team:
- Being ‘good’: Your work is exquisite and your results are strong. You get the job done. But without the other, you’re just a silo, missing opportunities to germinate ideas or relationships with your peers.
- Being ‘felt’: Everyone knows you’re there, riffing on ideas, building bonds. But without the other, it’s an empty promise that leaves your peers confused what you bring to the table.
Neither truly thrives without the other.
Does your team have ‘feel-good’, or just ‘feel’ (or ‘good’)?
What is ‘being stuck’?
It’s what we say when we stop thinking.
There’s a code to it:
- There’s too much to do: Code for “I need to organize how I invest my time.”
- It’s too complicated: Code for “I need to better understand this.”
- I don’t know where to begin: Code for “I need to draw the roadmap.“
- I don’t know where to go next: Code for “I need to re-draw my roadmap.”
The ‘code of stuckness’ suggests there’s no such thing as ‘stuck’. On the contrary, ‘stuck’ indicates there’s immediate action you can take.
Do you–or your team members–ever feel stuck? If so, it’s time to act.
Now there’s a job title that shouldn’t exist.
Yet it does.
In the old economy, ‘making sandcastles’ is a worthless skill that people should stop pursuing in favor of sensible, stable work.
In the new economy, ‘stable’ went away. As “sensible” gets automated, genius finds new means of expression.
Sometimes genius creates spaces at the edges that shouldn’t exist. Where automation doesn’t exist. Where genius can shine.
There are parts of your team’s work that exist on the edges where your genius shines. What are they?
There are 2 ways to run in the rain:
- Running from the rain: To get back indoors as quickly as possible. This doesn’t make you less wet while out there, or dry faster once indoors.
- Running in the rain: Though not necessarily directly toward the door. This may give a divergent perspective on a familiar environment and creates a more memorable walk.
The rain didn’t change. You did.
When it rains on your team, does it send everyone racing for the door, or give you all a new perspective you can leverage for good?
You might simply need to use the ones you have better:
- A fancy new easy presentation app, or clear concise communication in an email?
- A brand new computer to run your big apps faster, or a lighter, leaner tool for the job?
- A limitation forced upon you by your tools, or an opportunity to find a creative new solution?
What tool-based limitations does your team experience that clarity, focus, and creativity can’t solve?
Are you a team newbie or part of the old guard?
Is it possible to be both at the same time?
- Newbies: These have many fresh new ideas, but have knowledge gaps due to inexperience.
- Old Guard: These know the ropes, but risk being unable to see beyond them.
- Combined, “New Guard”: These have the wisdom that comes with experience, while actively nurturing and maintaining a fresh, “newbie” perspective.
How could you–and your teammates–aspire to be the team’s New Guard?
Give yourself a number.
Great at what you do? That’s a 10.
Just starting out? Make it 2. New but nice? Try a 4.
Now give everyone on your team a number (don’t tell them). Every relationship you have on the team is a number:
- You plus them: You work, tasks get done, nobody gets hurt.
- You minus them: Work gets done, but “ugh.”
- You multiplied by them: What you do raises the bar for the whole team.
- You divided by them: One if you must go. You don’t care who.
Great collaborations on a team have high numbers.
What frustrates you?
Let me help, how about:
- Being pulled in too many directions at once? Stuck.
- Having plans change after you invested your time? Stuck.
- Being accountable for a result you’re ill-equipped for? Stuck.
Frustration often comes from the feeling of being ‘stuck’.
Energy experts say ‘Shui’ (水) emphasizes the importance of ‘motion‘.
That when a rock is placed in a river, the water effortlessly finds another way.
Sometimes we forget that roadblocks to a linear action aren’t really roadblocks at all. They’re merely reminders to think more divergently.
Or, to be a little more Shui.
It was my first flight lesson.
It felt nice and steady. I looked at the airspeed indicator: 90mph.
Were we on the ground, that’d scarcely feel ‘nice and steady.’
- Go steady on the ground: Startup teams often rush around at 60mph so much that they miss important details as they whizz by the window – a quick way to ensure they never leave the ground.
- Go steady in the sky: Once teams take flight, details don’t ‘whizz by’, even at 90mph’. The team won’t appear rushed, but they’ll cover a lot more ground.
My instructor taught me, “Everything’s done slowly in a helicopter.”
Perspective matters. They can’t see your airspeed indicator.
But doesn’t changing the rules mean not going with the flow?
Sometimes, we’re so busy going against the flow that we don’t think to follow it:
- They’ll want to shop around anyway, why not anticipate it and do the research for them, showing them where the best deals are (and where you come out on top)?
- You’re going to voicemail anyway, why not anticipate it and prepare some wonderful, value-packed voicemails to give to them each time you end up there?
- They’ll need a moment to think anyway, why not anticipate it and offer it to them with an iced beverage before they ask to be excused?
Sometimes the flow has precisely what we need–we’re just too busy resisting it.
Is your team charming?
The pursuit of “perfect” often overcooks products into “sterile”:
- Every book on the Kindle is the same. No dog-eared pages, coffee stains, or torn dust covers. Just millions of words. ‘Perfect.’
- Every song on Apple Music is the same. No pops and noise, scratched discs, or storage limits. Just millions of songs. ‘Perfect.’
- Every movie on Netflix is the same. No cinema times, overpriced drinks, or kids kicking the back of your chair. Just tens of thousands of movies. ‘Perfect.’
Except they’re not perfect.
Kindle books have no memories, lower retention, and no personality. Apple Music has no secrets, no social glue, and winner-takes-all algorithms. Netflix has no date magic, few favorites, and no ‘I went to see that’ experience.
Unless you make pacemakers, the pursuit of ‘perfection’ shouldn’t erase variety and charm.
If you knew your idea would get stolen, would you share it?
In the western land of patent lawsuits, profit often comes from blocking innovation of ideas.
There’s an alternative that nurtures rapid innovation for brave teams, found in Shenzhen, China.
- Sharing not stealing: Shenzhen’s communities believe “sharing” ideas will drive faster innovation (3x speed of US).
- Being the source: All who implement or refine an idea know who can produce it for them: the source.
- Leave the old ways behind: Those not participating may make copycats, but they’ll be too late.
Sharing knowledge increases a team’s influence and generates more business.
Not by blocking progress, but by accelerating (and becoming attributed to) progress.
Will your team lead progress in your space?
Who controls your fulfillment?
First let’s ask, what fulfills you?
- “Making great designs” gives control to the design owner. “Growing in my craft” takes back control, because both design success or design failure leads to growth.
- “Leading a successful project” gives control to the client. “Nurturing those under my leadership” takes back control, because you can choose to nurture regardless of outcome.
- “Working on fun tasks” makes you unreliable, since no one knows if you’ll do your work. “Finding joy in my work” takes back control, because you control your mindset.
Don’t outsource your fulfillment. Where do you need to take back control of yours?
Yesterday we talked about ‘meeting spec’.
But what if the ‘spec’ keeps changing?
Some things are designed with rules (e.g. ‘setting and meeting goals’), whereas others have no rules (e.g. ‘following a vision’).
- Goals are obtainable, fixed points. These can be met by following ‘spec’. Fall in love with the process to achieve a goal.
- Vision is a world view, a moving horizon. Spec doesn’t apply here. Fall in love with the imperfect, incomplete nature of the journey, using goals as stepping stones, to achieve a vision.
If the ‘spec’ keeps changing, your team needs goals.
If goals take you nowhere, your team needs vision.
What is “Spec”?
Specifications are shared expectations.
The more people share the expectation, the truer the spec becomes.
But when someone decides spec doesn’t work, we have two choices:
- We follow our first inclination: to throw the anomaly away.
- We do what Deming taught Toyota: stop the production line and review it.
The trouble with Option 1 is that those ‘anomalies’ will compound. You’re left with the challenge of bailing faster than you take on water.
So we’re left with Option 2. If we must stop production to review things that don’t meet spec, it’ll get addressed quickly, and the whole team will be stronger for it.
You’re not using Option 1, are you?
What do “pressing publish”, “pressing record”, and “walking on stage” have in common?
They’re all really simple actions to perform.
Yet they’re all scary.
Because we decided they are. We forget what they’re made of.
Works of art, great presentations, and space travel, all consist of simple actions followed by more simple actions.
The next big step forward for your (great) team might be hidden behind what you’re afraid to do. We get to find out what we’re made of when we remember what our fears are made of.
Brewing pǔ’ěr tea in a Yixing clay teapot comes with many rituals.
If you search for it on YouTube, and you’ll quickly find videos of people conducting precisely choreographed ceremonies with a huge lexicon of unfamiliar terms.
It may appear extraneous. But to suppose so misses the point of ritual:
- For the discipline: Ritual trains us to honor and perfect our craft.
- For the reminder: Ritual celebrates the importance of process.
- For the culture: Ritual teaches us about who we are as a team.
Teams that encourage rituals see an increase in some of these three areas.
What rituals could your team create?
“Do” is a relative term:
- ’Try the task’: Set out to complete the task but if there’s a roadblock, it’ll get left undone.
- ‘Complete the task’: Whether it’s a success or a failure, consider this “done”.
- ‘Accomplish the task’: Implement and re-implement until it’s successful.
- ’Systemize the task’: Succeed in the execution, then document it so it need not be solved again.
How do you define “done”: tried, completed, accomplished, or systemized?
What is a “Market Hypocrite”?
It’s sadly much of the market: teams that make promises they’re not equipped to keep. They know it, but are unlikely to admit it, even to themselves:
- Don’t trust an obese dietitian: They’re unlikely to have the answer, but will promise they do.
- Don’t trust a broke marketer: They may compromise their genius by selling falsehoods.
- Don’t trust a counselor on wife #6: They don’t have a good record of reconciliation.
Prove your genius before asking others to believe in you.
Those who do this don’t need to hide behind sensationalism and flash sales. They get to communicate transparently, deliver consistently, and keep their promises.
Are there any areas of your team you risk being a “Market Hypocrite”?