Many teams thrive on just one strategy that works.
What if it didn’t?
Let’s play a little game of “Take it away, what now”:
- That client source. Take it away, what now? If it stopped working, how would you access your market?
- That product advantage. Take it away, what now? If you open-sourced it, how would you raise the bar next?
- That nest egg. Take it away, what now? How would you slash costs, get creative, be resourceful?
The thing about stoically ploughing on in the face of adversity, is that the adversity is optional.
Bad things don’t need to happen for us to play the game.
We don’t like being tracked online. Yet we enjoy having more followers.
What’s the difference?
- We share our secrets with those we trust. I don’t mind friends and family knowing where I am. This information is freely given to those we trust, but we rightly resent it being taken or bartered away from us.
- Friends and family don’t ‘cash in’ our trust. I’ve received emails that literally said, “I saw you on my website today and…” That’s just being creepy. Unwanted ads and unwanted emails take advantage of our trust.
Connecting with people and sharing information is that’s what the Internet is all about. But it’s about freedom, too. We’re smart enough to connect and share with people we trust. We’d never stalk or barter for private information in real life. Why should online be any different?
Advertisers: please spend less time learning about ads, and more time learning about people.
Xenophobia is a fear of people from other countries.
Is it because they talk differently, or because they might be better than you?
- The metric is care: If they care more than you do, you have every reason to be afraid. They’ll take your job and that’ll be that.
- It goes both ways: If you care more than those around you are prepared to, they should fear you regardless of where they’re from.
The dividing lines are in the wrong place: it’s not what patch of grass you were born on that separates you from others. It’s how much you’re willing to try.
‘Evolutionary’ is often seen as the lesser twin of ‘Revolutionary’.
- Evolutionary means progress. Revolutionary begins in stark contrast to the market. Some changes may be better, others may not be. Change too many things at once and you won’t know which is which.
- Evolutionary means survival. Revolutionary thrives on creating a lot of buzz. Buzz causes big valuations and sudden scale. But buzz doesn’t stick around. All that scaling needs supporting even once valuations drop.
- Evolutionary means statistical inevitability. Revolutionary bets it all on red. Evolutionary plays enough smaller bets that it’s statistically more likely to succeed, eventually.
Great teams know when it’s time to take a big risk together. They also know that, most of the time, evolutionary is a great choice for teams that want to stand the test of time.
Or art a science?
- Art becomes a science when we learn how to create masterpiece after masterpiece, on-demand, objectively.
- Science becomes an art when we choose to express our genius in our chosen area of study, on-demand, subjectively.
While doing important work at scale on a team, perhaps we need both.
We behave differently when something is urgent, compared to when it’s merely “coming soon”, don’t we:
- ‘Urgent’ creates an emotional response. The rational process of methodical craft circumvented by borderline-desperation.
- ‘Coming soon’ creates a reasoned response. The pragmatic process of considering all our options begets potential for ‘analysis paralysis’.
- ‘Up next’ avoids both of these things. When something is ‘up next’, there’s no emergency, yet there’s insufficient time to over-think.
Some people are terminally urgent. For the rest of us, let’s choose ‘up next’ over the alternatives.
Do you struggle asking people for help?
Many people do. But the greats don’t:
- Newton formulated the Law of Gravity, but wouldn’t have been able to without the help of Galileo’s work.
- Galileo proved Heliocentrism, but wouldn’t have been able to without the help of Copernicus’ theory.
- Copernicus gave Galileo a theory to prove, but needed Ptolemy’s Geocentrist theories to build upon.
And so it goes on, a chain-reaction of help creating breakthroughs throughout history.
So, about that challenge you’re working on in your organization. Ask for help. People like to help far more than we expect them to.
History proves it.
Why is getting an oil change is so arduous?
- When we buy an oil change, we’re okay with things being cheap and dirty. It was designed that way. It could have been an experience full of education, topical appreciation, and celebrating artisan work. Like buying jewelry.
- When we buy a piece of jewelry, we’re okay with things being slow and overpriced. It was designed that way. It could have been an experience void of mystique, or enforcing how it’s an expression love. Like an oil change.
We get to choose what experience we design for those who choose us.
How would we behave differently if we were to live for >1000 years instead of <100?
- We’d be less selfish with our time. We’d have time to contribute at a greater level, to make more of an impact. To do things that last.
- We’d slow down and think more. We’d have time to really consider our actions and our legacy rather than “going through the motions”.
- We’d care more about how we effect the future. We’d be more aggressive about fighting the big issues – or we too must live with the consequences.
Do we need 1,000 years for these things to matter?
Which of these is a better question: “What should this email sequence say?” or “Do people want these emails?”
Sometimes we build upon the wrong question:
- Emails before opt-ins: We could guess what our tribe might want to read… or we could see who shows up and write just to them
- Features before offers: We could create them, hoping folks upgrade for it… or we could first extend the offer and see what happens.
- Solutions before problems: We could start by agonizing over what to make and how to sell it… or we could start by helping people.
Building upon the right question begins by asking better questions.
How do you feel about asking for more?
- Buy another. Because it’s good for you, and you should do it again. To not encourage you to is to not care at all about your progress.
- Upgrade to this. Because these benefits will help you, and not letting you know that makes us an opportunity thief and a bad friend.
- Donate to this cause. The biggest, best gift of all: the gift of no personal gain at all, except for the story they’ll tell themselves.
Is the story we tell ourselves one of care and service, or one of scarcity and imposition?
Which is less selfish?
We all have one. We think it’s an asset, but it isn’t.
Really, it’s holding us–and everyone around us–back. Consider these examples:
- The Fantastic Firefighter: So great at jumping in and fixing problems that nobody knows where the system needs improvement.
- The Flexible Friend: So accommodating that they’ll issue discounts and extensions without any thought to sustainability.
- The Pedantic Perfectionist: So ‘by the book’ that projects and infrastructure suffer ‘death by minutiae.’
These are all skills. We may even be proud of them.
But what are these skills costing us, and those around us?
Here are three pieces of feedback I saw come through our teams today:
- “You guys know me better than I know myself”: Client using one of our ImpactCoaching team’s sessions. Takeaway: the session is strong, connect more people to it.
- “Your team’s work was what won me this job”: Prospect using our Creative team’s freebies. Takeaway: the freebies are strong, connect more people to it.
- “I had no idea you guys could do that”: Prospect of one of our Creative team’s products. Takeaway: that product’s marketing is weak in scope awareness, address this before advertising it.
When we peel back the feedback, we usually find clues about what needs our focus.
Your work shares a challenge that Apple and Google both have: control requires trust.
- Apple created a closed platform: We can’t change it, edit it, or even assist with bug fixes. So we either trust they’ll make better choices than the competition (with our data and their products), or we leave.
- Google created an open platform: We can change it, edit it, fork it, root it, flash it, make it ours. But we don’t trust them with our privacy (we are the product), so it either stays open, or we leave.
If we want to control more of our work (for the benefit of our clients) then we need the world to know it is, in fact, for the benefit of our clients.
Can we agree that good communication is proactive, not reactive?
The latter is widespread:
- Reactive: “The client did the wrong thing again.” Proactive: I must teach them the right way more clearly.
- Reactive: “That team member never seems to ‘get it’.” Proactive: I should been clearer and invest more time with them.
- Reactive: “The prospect didn’t show up for the call.” Proactive: I didn’t make the call valuable enough, nor did I remind them of it.
In each case, they all want to be great. We have the privilege (and responsibility) of showing them how.
We love the guy who stinks on stage.
We root for him until he finds his stride. His weakness earns him our support until he gets good.
And yet some still prefer to “fake it”:
- Blowing up social media about your “wild success” when you’re struggling to pay rent. That’s called ‘lying’.
- Playing the guru when your advice is either untested or unsuccessful. That’s called ‘thievery’.
- Struggling quietly when your problem is quickly solvable by peers. That’s called ‘stupidity’.
If you feel like faking, be like the guy who stinks on stage. It works, and we like him better.
They’re often just repackaged ‘standard practices’, and they’re seldom ‘best’.
They’re simply what most people do:
- ‘Standard’ rejects unprofitable activity: even if it delights a pocket of customers, turning them into evangelists… perhaps its profitable after all.
- ‘Standard’ sells anyone who meets spec: even if it’s a bad fit for them and you know it. Eventually they’ll know it too… perhaps they weren’t ‘spec’ after all.
- ‘Standard’ does what standards do: the same as everybody else. A rapid descent toward commoditization… perhaps only following standards isn’t ‘best’ after all.
We should all know our industry’s standards.
And follow them.
Then raise the bar.
I’m fascinated by things that stubbornly stand the test of time.
A bit like U2:
- U2 have been making music for 42 years. They committed to their craft for decades longer than most. And they’re not done yet.
- U2 decides whether or not U2 is relevant. They don’t let others tell them who they are. Trendy bands usually die with the trend.
- U2 frontman Bono founded Product(RED). They use their influence to influence positive change. What better reason is there for influence?
Whether or not you like their music, how could your team benefit from being a bit like U2?
…is that it’s the wrong goal.
Teams that obsess over scale risk diluting their work. If we instead focused on…
- Better promises: These win you more attention and (if you keep those promises) the opportunity to serve more people.
- Better method: Streamlining your team’s work enables individuals to focus on their areas of genius, instead of re-solving the same problems.
- Better leaders: Leaders create leaders. This cascade enables everyone on the team to level-up, producing even higher quality work.
…it just so happens that all these things are really good at helping you scale up.
You probably know what it is.
The one your team may have all thought of, but never voiced, because it’s much too risky.
The riskier it feels, the bigger problem you have:
- It feels risky when your work needs work: How sure are you that your team’s work will beat expectations? Aggressive guarantees aren’t risky if the answer is ‘99%’.
- It feels scary when nobody else does it: They probably don’t do it for the reasons above. That’s good: it means you get to go first.
If the consequent challenge is merely “perfect your work”, what’s stopping you? Weren’t you going to try to do that anyway?
Sometimes, we’re going to screw it up.
The project. The presentation. The conversation. We’ll do the wrong thing, slip up, misunderstand.
- Customer satisfaction won’t be 100%. Not if we serve enough people. Eventually, there will be a small few that mess up our “perfect 100%”.
- Some ideas or implementations will flop. The 3rd Gen iPod Shuffle. Google Buzz. The Ford Pinto. Can’t win ‘em all.
- Sometimes we’re just going to screw up. The conditions were perfect, you just didn’t get it right. The side of teamwork and entrepreneurship nobody talks about.
We can’t know what the future holds, and every team will mess up sometimes. We can merely choose to be our best, daily.
99% is as perfect as we’ll ever be. 99% is the honest 100%.
Let’s imagine you were #1 on Google.
Are you ready for what would happen?
- Being ready so you need not get ready: We know where we aren’t ready: the undocumented steps, the weak-spots. Getting ready prepares us for the increase.
- Being more than a noun: “Page 1” can either be a generic noun (“plumber”) or where you’re so remarkable that people search for your team directly.
- Being like that, now: What new things would your team do in that position? Doing those things now increases our chances of this coming true.
We get to #1 by behaving as though we’re #1.
Is engaging your team’s work as easy as pushing a button?
Vending machines are clear about what each button gives us. The Lemonade Button is unashamedly Lemonade:
- It’ll turn many away: We won’t push it unless we want lemonade. Nobody else will push.
- Some will surely press: We’ll push it if we want lemonade. And we’ll be happy with the result.
The alternative is to be less specific in an attempt to get our button pushed more often (by those who didn’t actually want lemonade) and consequently leaving those who wanted lemonade to risk pushing others.
How could your team’s work be more confidently like The Lemonade Button?
What do you do when crisis hits your company?
Let’s say a key player has an incident that takes them temporarily out of the game. Some have a Crisis-Mode Switch, and they respond by flicking theirs to “On”:
- Taking lead: These people jump in and step up in their stead, taking lead on new roles and doing a sterling job of it.
- Keeping promises: These people make certain all bases are being covered, by them or others, so the team keeps its market promises.
- Owner’s mind: These people have an Owner’s mind; the team is theirs, and they can’t allow it to drop the ball during Crisis-Mode.
Who on your team has a Crisis-Mode Switch?
“Hoping for your opponent to make mistakes is not a strategy” – Kasparov, Chessmaster
How many things on your team feel un-controllable by nature?
For instance, whether you’ll win over that customer, or how much your competition can influence your success?
We need not leave things entirely to chance:
- “It’s the same work, but maybe the competitor’s proposal isn’t as good”: Perhaps “maybe” isn’t a good strategy. Play to win or change the rules.
- “It’s the same product, but we’ll be okay if we sell it cheaper”: Perhaps “cheaper” isn’t a good strategy. Be most valuable in your market segment, or change the segment.
We get to choose. There’s our power.
But isn’t selling about engaging, not preventing?
- Preventing the wrong decision: denying the purchase of the wrong piece of work shows you have their best interests at heart, not their wallet.
- Preventing misuse of your team’s work: guiding customers away from bad practice increases can increase their respect for your work.
- Preventing the wrong timing: being on-demand may be convenient, but if it’s not right for your team’s work, forgoing it can increase demand.
Preventative selling prevents mistakes, misuse, and dilution.
Is your team ‘enabling’ when you should be ‘preventing’?
Let’s play a game.
Which is better: occasionally great, or consistently bad?
- Consistently bad: this person can be trained to be consistently good.
- Consistently good: this person can be trained to be consistently great.
- Consistent great: this person can lead the training of others.
- Inconsistent at any level: this person is too unpredictable to be trained.
The power in being “consistently bad” isn’t in the “bad”, but in the “consistent”.
With few exceptions, reliably showing up at any level enables us to become great, with time.
When lots of people contribute to something, there are seams where each person’s work is stitched onto someone else’s.
- Open-source is great because everyone can contribute. But when “everyone” is involved, the result is seldom seamless.
- Proprietary is great because a small team can design something truly seamless. But “a group” can’t scale like “everyone” can.
Turns out we can have it both ways. When our small teams gift the world our work, and lead “everybody” as a community, our small projects are repaid in scale.
It only takes leadership and generosity to remove the seams.
Ever received a forwarded email that just says, “Thoughts?”
Great. An email that took seconds to write will take minutes–or hours–to address.
This isn’t leverage, this is laziness:
- To get an insightful, thorough email reply from an expert, first create an insightful, thorough question. Don’t disrespect them by making them figure it out.
- To deploy engaging, sustainable marketing for your team, first make an engaging, sustainable effort to better understand your market.
- To assign a detailed, important task to a fellow team member, first assign yourself the important task of giving a detailed description of what must be done.
The input should require as much consideration as the output.
I stink at a lot of stuff. On purpose:
- Fear the day you know everything: In defense of stinking Sound the mental alarm and uncover what you’ve been missing, you’re about to level-up.
- If you don’t plan on being great, why get good? It’s only worth getting ‘good’ at watching TV if you plan on being ‘great’ at it.
- Sometimes it’s better to stink: Stinking at something means you didn’t go half-way to ‘good’, but instead focused on your areas of genius.
How many things can you proudly stink at?