How do we know? What do they need?
- Skills: We can teach these. If we (and they) are prepared to do the work. It’s worth our time if they have the right…
- Attitude: We can’t teach this, no matter how hard we try. Those with the right attitude are worth training if they can tolerate…
- Pain: Don’t teach pain tolerance, that’s called torture. Some of us can simply endure hardships longer than others. For teams doing meaningful work for the long-haul, that’s a valuable trait.
You bring the mission and the training. They bring the attitude and thick-skin. That’s the deal.
It takes a lot more work to make less:
- A great new project idea: What’s the simpler version? 80% of what we think is “necessary” may actually be entirely surplus. What can we throw out?
- A genius approach to a problem: What’s the simpler version? Most solutions are over-engineered and over-complicated. How can yours be simplified?
- A new system for your work: What’s the simpler version? What if we were to take out this entire section over here, what happens then?
Complexity gives us permission to get stuck.
The simpler version is harder to make–it takes more confidence–but removes all the excuses.
What do you think about at 5am?
Is it something that moves you forward or something that holds you back?
- The wrong work: Founders worrying about client relationships instead of an Account Manager. Account Managers worrying about writers using the right tone instead of the Writers. Writers worrying about ad targeting instead of the Ad Manager.
- The right work: Founders pondering how to further realize the vision within the team. Account Managers pondering how to make their clients feel extra-special. Writers and Advertisers collaborating to go deeper for their readers.
Same people, vastly different focus. When we focus on doing the right work, value germinates, starting at 5am.
If it’s a mess, you won’t find anything:
- Focus or Forgetful: There’s no such thing as a good or bad memory, only an organized or disorganized mind. “Good memory” is merely a byproduct of an organized mind.
- Files you were sent: But aren’t yours to keep. Things that are better off with a team member, otherwise it’ll only distract you from doing your best work. Send it on, and move it to trash.
- You can’t see your desktop wallpaper anymore: The things you love to see and do become obscured by “stuff” you shouldn’t be holding on to.
What’s your desktop look like right now? If you’ve got stuff all over it, consider the state of your mind, too.
We all solve problems in the marketplace. But we may not always know how many:
- “I need X” is a problem. This is how most of us recognize the problem our teams solve.
- “I need X that can Y” is two problems. Often there’s a second problem buried within the first, such as a result it creates.
- “I need X that can Y by Z” is three problems. Deadline control is a renderable service, where new stakeholders may need managing.
There’s normally more than one problem we solve. More clarity over that enables us to better solve–and be compensated for–our team’s work.
“What Chance has made yours is not really yours” – Seneca
Does leaving things to Chance make you nervous?
Good; chance is a fickle mistress, and not to be trusted:
- Your competitor may have Chance on their side: And so they’re in the news more, or are more profitable, or have bigger offices. Good for them! But…
- She giveth and taketh away: The news may fade, the office may become a liability. The fickle nature of Chance’s gifts makes them unreliable.
- Lasting change doesn’t flirt with Chance: Systemize news. Systemize profits. Things that grow slowly in nature also live the longest.
Teams last when we don’t take venture capital from lady Chance.
Because we don’t always, do we?
Even when we know what we should be doing, and should just go do it.
- Write it down: If this daily blog taught me anything, it’s that documenting your ideas helps them grow.
- Let it haunt you: Now you’ve said it, you wouldn’t want to make yourself a hypocrite, would you?
From over-working and under-utilization to that extra slice of cake, consider taking your own advice.
When we have one project to do, we get on with it.
When we have many projects to do, we often lose time.
Where do these “lost minutes” go?
- Rapid, empty task switching: Check calendar, check email, check to-do list, check email, do a bit of work, back to the to-do list, back to the calendar…
- Shallow milestones: Shaving a little off every project may get a lot of things ‘done’, but nothing truly gets ‘done’.
Lost minutes can become lost hours, or even lost days.
We find them by confidently going deep, rather than timidly going wide.
Marketers like to talk about conversions.
Trust? Not so much:
- Trust comes first. “Converts” are also known as “believers”. Biblically, the converted are believers, aren’t they?
- We believe who we trust. Without trust, we can’t be truly believed. Instead, we’ll confuse miracles with party tricks.
- So go for trust. This is the ethical gateway to starting a relationship.
Before we concern ourselves with optimizing our work for conversions, we should ask ourselves, have we first optimized our work for trust?
Do we really decide to be stuck?
We have 3 tools to avoid being stuck. We must get to the third in 4 moves or less:
- Decision: Are we able to make a decision? If yes, we’re not stuck. If not, do Step 2.
- Question: What question, if asked and answered, will move us forward? If we have the answer, move to Step 1. If we don’t have the answer, move to Step 3.
- Conversation: Who do we need to talk to, and about what, to answer the question we’re faced with? If we know, do it and move to Step 1. If not, find out then do it, then move to Step 1.
4 moves or less. Otherwise, we’ve decided to be stuck.
These are seen as dirty words. They’re not if used well:
- “That’ll do, I can’t be bothered to do any more.” This is the path to disservice via apathy. Apathy breeds failure.
- “That’ll do, any more will just over complicate things.” This is the path to service via momentum. Momentum breeds success.
In your work, do you know the right time to say, “That’ll do”?
Or does it?
- Thinking vs delaying: Some things don’t need yet more thought, only a decision. Delaying a decision isn’t thinking.
- Thinking vs overthinking: Clarity increases following more thought, to a point, past which we’ve little to show for our effort.
- Thinking it through: Get the data, weigh the options, make the call. We want it to be more complicated, but that only takes us back to bullet #1.
It’s not usually the quantity we need to increase, but the quality.
This topic is a popular one. And it often misses the point.
Not needing to do something doesn’t mean we shouldn’t:
- Follow-up isn’t just for leads. It’s for clients, too. Not spoken to yours in two weeks? Why ever not? Like marriage, we should become more–not less–attentive once promises are made.
- Customer gifts and extras. The heart may not miss what the eye hasn’t seen, but is that a good enough reason to not lavish upon those who trust you with their care?
- Doing what others won’t: Your role may be well-defined. But every team has some “stuff” nobody wants to do. Does a “that’s not my responsibility” attitude contribute or hinder your team’s culture?
Relationships–like culture–germinate in the gaps where nobody “needed” to do something, but did anyway.
When approaching the marketplace, we have a choice to make:
- Faucet: By dignifying the market with care, attention, and service, prospects see you for what you are and either ask for more, or not. Simple.
- Force-it: By fearfully and desperately seeking tricks to compel prospects to move forward with you, they see you another way: desperate.
Which is it to be?
There’s important work to do, but it’s often hidden from view:
- “I’ll do that… otherwise what else would I do?” Good question. Do you plan on answering it? What’s the deeper work you’re not getting around to?
- “There’s nothing left to talk about.” Oh good, now it’s time for real conversation to begin. This is where it gets interesting.
- “This project would be great if only…” Interesting; if it’s really true, what rules do you need to break to make it so?
It’s called “going above and beyond” because it’s the hidden work beyond where we were planning on going that surprises and delights us all.
This one is a simple one.
It’s the end of the workday. Have you:
- Cleaned your inbox? Not everything needs a reply. But team members need acknowledging if they’ve spoken to you. Don’t ghost them.
- Given others a path forward? If others need to drive your work forward, let them know it’s ready. We’re not mind-readers.
- Done a day to be proud of? If not, how can tomorrow be one you are?
Simple but rare. Easy but effective.
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.