The longer you’re around, the more ‘seems like’ goes out of the window:
- When you don’t know a team member well, ‘seems like’ is all you have to work with. After all, you don’t yet know their character sufficiently to suppose whether or not a misunderstanding or anomaly has occurred.
- When you know a team member well, ‘seems like’ becomes a crass negligence of care to recognize their character. In this scenario, to not discard the anomaly as an anomaly says more about you than it does about them.
New team members need to demonstrate goodness of character to move beyond ‘seems like’.
The old guard (and new guard) have earned the benefit of the doubt. Listen to them.
The smartest people I’ve met have unfinished theology.
- They have questions as well as answers. Aside from making for better conversation, it recognizes there’s always an opportunity to learn. The most knowledgeable of us do the most listening.
- They’re still working on it. Rigid dogmatic thinking closes the door to growth. The clearest thinkers among us get that way by working on their thinking skills rather than merely their debating skills.
- They make great teachers. We learn what we learn more deeply when we‘re to teach our discoveries it to others.
We make more knowledgeable, clearer thinking, better teachers when we accept we don’t have all the answers.
Teams are great when the many is greater than the few.
Part of that requires being ‘just good enough’ at things you don’t ‘do’, so others can be their best:
- Being ‘just good enough’ at presenting means you can help account managers as a subject-matter expert to enhance their level of service.
- Being ‘just good enough’ at code means you can prepare semantic designs for the latest technology.
- Being ‘just good enough’ at management that you can drive your work forward, so project managers can focus on streamlining instead of chasing.
Being just good enough enables your team to be their best.
Beyond ‘the goal’, what’s ‘the point’ of the work we’re doing?
- There may not be one. And that makes it all the more human, which is becoming increasingly valuable in the new economy.
- There may be one, albeit skewed toward you. Such as to enable more family time. Others may not value that like you do. That’s fine.
- There may be one, that you don’t see the point of as a team. Consider dismissing it; perhaps it’s not your way.
There’s seldom a universal ‘point’ to things when we get right down to it, only that which we’ve assigned.
So: what’s the point?
They’re not things any of us have:
- Attention to detail is something you do, not something you have. We either choose to commit to exploring every angle, or we don’t.
- Creativity is something you do, not something you have. We either embrace the activity, or we limit ourselves to shallower thought.
- Good memory is something you do, not something you have. We either organize and structure our thoughts, or we leave them messy.
There are no special snowflakes here: we all have the ability to embrace or forgo attention to detail, creativity, and a good memory.
How does accepting that affect our work?
And so is mine. And that’s the way it should be:
- “Put-together” means hiding problems. We can’t fix things if we’re busy hiding the problems from view, instead of addressing them.
- “Pretty” doesn’t want to hear about flaws. We can’t improve if we can’t accept what needs to improve. This insecurity settles for “good” instead of unlocking “great”.
- “Ugly” accepts the facts and wants to improve. Personal and team development starts with a desire to grow. Without the desire, we’re stuck.
Have you guys been ugly with each other this week?
The digital workforce has a hidden secret: it’s going soft.
- What if the project fails? Odds are it probably will. But that’s fine, it might work the second or third time.
- Presenting is hard. Most things worth doing are hard. But it’s what makes them worthwhile.
- Guarantees are risky. Most good ones are. They make us responsible for keeping our promises.
Safe, secure work that goes largely unnoticed is going to the machines. It’s time to toughen up.
If you already have, then forget them:
- Affiliates for agencies? Isn’t that just for physical products? No, that’s merely the rule.
- Retainers for plumbers? Isn’t that for SaaS or consultants? No, that’s merely the rule.
- Money-back guarantees for doctors? Aren’t they for infomercials? No, that’s merely the rule.
- One-time fee for perpetual service? Isn’t that only for non-recurring items? No, that’s merely the rule.
What if you broke all the rules?
I like systems. If you’re on an effective team, you probably like them too.
- We like systems because they create consistency; of process, of results, of growth, of outcome.
- They’re not the point though; we use systems because using them is better than not using them.
- Systems aren’t what‘s important. Having strong promises is. A team is only as strong as the promises it keeps.
A system that locks you down loses its utility. Don’t be afraid to update, amend yours. The promise is what counts.
We know to not ‘reinvent the wheel’. Yet it remains tempting:
- Ideas without execution: We all know a guy who thinks Uber was his idea. Having a great idea didn’t do him much good.
- Execution without ideas: This works fine. Originality might help, but winners need not be original in order to win.
If execution is indeed the more important ingredient, put aside the drawing board. The wheel works already.
Exactly how long is a five minute wait, really?
- 60 minutes: Five minutes of unattended, ill-considered waiting time feels like forever. It sets the tone of the experience: “This is going to suck.”
- 5 minutes: When an experience exactly matches ones expectations, we get a different tone: “satisfactory.” But who wants “satisfactory”?
- Mere seconds: A restaurant that has a bar instead of a waiting area has no perceived wait time. It sets a whole new tone for the experience.
It’s easy to succeed when expectations were exceeded at the start. But very hard to even meet them when starting from frustration.
Is your team cold at scale?
- One-to-many is no more: Mass-media went away. So did mass-audiences. One-to-many has been replaced with lots and lots of personalized one-to-one conversations. We’re not all the same.
- Misunderstanding automation: Automation doesn’t mean void of humans, only that it happens the same way every time without your input. Humans should reply to emails, not machines. Machines are cold.
Many teams lose their warmth in an attempt to scale. Don’t go cold, we liked you because you were warm.
Thinking of setting up a meeting to “touch base”?
- Touching base is code. Code for, “I’m not sure of the goal, and I don’t care to figure it out.” It shows carelessness and a lack of regard for someone else’s time.
- Good meetings have a goal. Once that goal is met, the meeting should end. A call without a goal has no ending. This shows a lack of leadership in whatever area the meeting is regarding.
- Status updates are better written down. Updates require no collaborative problem-solving. As such, the written word–clear and asynchronous–is much better suited to the task.
Solve a problem, meet a goal, or write an update. Don’t touch base.
When smartwatches started becoming prevalent, the chairman of Rolex was asked how they may influence the watch business. To which he replied, “I don’t know. I’m not in the watch business.”
When is a tool more than a tool? When it moves beyond purpose and into meaning:
- Purpose gives value: This tool has utility and reason for existing. Tools with purpose are economically selected and preserved for their utility.
- Meaning has value: This tool has value beyond utility alone. Tools with meaning are pursued and sentimentally preserved for what they represent.
A $6 Casio keeps better time than a $30,000 Rolex. Only one was designed to keep time.
…is that its full of things we don’t need:
- Does it really need all of those features? Or did someone decide they’re needed simply because it’s what others do?
- Do we really need all these meetings? Or can we spare ourselves the ‘stand-ups’ and ‘touching base’ by better defining our goals?
- Does it really need to be done in 3 weeks? Where did that date and time come from? Did someone merely “pick a date”?
When we pack a timeline so full that we lose the ability to think between tasks, we lose our ability to see where we’re going.