Teams that create impact understand how being over-flexible compromises their work and their results.
Flexibility enables work to grow and for every implementation to be done right. This respects your work and your audience.
Over-flexibility cripples your work and for every implementation to be an act of desperation. This disrespects your work and your audience.
Here are some examples:
- Doing the right thing, or doing it differently to cut costs, compromising the results of the work you deliver.
- Doing work at the right time, or doing it too soon to appease a buyer, rushing the results of the work you deliver.
- Doing work for the right duration, or ending prematurely to cut costs and negate the progress of your work. Worse, ending too late to drag out costs because you need the money, ultimately delivering bad value.
There’s a fine line between flexibility and over-flexibility, and every team must determine together where that line is.
What are you working on today?
Regardless of the answer, how we answer that question will affect the outcome. Consider these example answers:
- I’m putting this peg in that hole.
- I’m putting this peg in that hole so that there’s no more hole.
- I’m putting this peg in that hole so that there’s no more hole, and the water will stop rushing into that boat.
- I’m putting this peg in that hole so that there’s no more hole, and the water will stop rushing into that boat, and its passengers won’t all drown.
Are you putting pegs in holes, or are you saving lives?
Every peg should count.
So, what are you working on today?
You’re really good at keeping rhythm. No, really.
Even if you’re not gifted musically, you know how to “find your groove.”
The problem starts when we don’t choose the ‘groove’, and settle for a ‘funk’. Both have Rhythm.
- Your Rhythm is when you consistently bail on your gym workouts.
- Your Rhythm is when you consistently make time for your children.
- Your Rhythm is why you always come through for your team.
- Your Rhythm is why you can’t kick that bad habit.
The nice thing about Rhythm is that we get to “set the tone.” To “march to the sound of our own drum.”
What are your ‘grooves’? What are your ‘funks’? In what ways are you going to “change your tune”?
Drug-dealers and missionaries have a lot in common.
They’re both out there trying to create conversions, albeit for very different reasons.
Their messages are different, but they use the same pattern:
- Drug-dealers: Buy this. It’s easy. They don’t understand, you need this.
- Missionaries: Join us. It’s hard. You’re not alone, I know how you feel.
When approaching the marketplace, every team follows the handbook of one of these two things. One coerces and traps. The other serves and supports.
Which best describes your team? Is that the answer you want?
“It is the business of cavalry to follow up the victory, and to prevent the beaten army from rallying.” – Napoleon Bonaparte
A brand is only as strong as the promises it keeps. Great teams keep their promises. If you do important work, you need to be able to call the cavalry if you get stuck, in case of emergency.
Consider having–and being–cavalry for someone on your team:
- Get cavalry: someone who can ride in and save the day when you need it, who stays ready.
- Be cavalry: Being able to ride in and save the day when they need it, staying ready.
With backup around every corner, how much would an initiative like this strengthen your team’s promise to the marketplace?
Does your next project excite you or stress you out?
Great teams optimize their work to create leading products and services that create a lasting impact. The answer to the question above determines whether or not this is a possibility for them.
Consider the trade-offs of a team that falls into the latter bucket:
- Fastest turn-around time at the expense of everyone feeling worn down. Would a team that feels ‘ready to roll’, rather than aching for a vacation, not create a better result?
- Cheapest option around at the expense of not supporting the team and their families. Would a team that focuses on doing great work, rather than worrying about the bills, not create a better result?
Interestingly, great teams often wind up offering projects their time and their speed for the love of what they do and who they get to do it with.
For customers, “made by a happy team” is the ‘feature’ worth buying.
Most of us have heard that, in marketing, it’s more effective to describe benefits than features. You may have also heard that the best marketing changes the product (e.g. learning and executing user feedback), not the ads alone.
We have an opportunity to go further: to let marketing change not only the buyer’s product experience but our trusting audience’s world, by privileging them. This comes with promises from you to them:
- Feature: Self-setting clock functionality
- Benefit: Convenience of not manually updating the time.
- Privilege: Never again wonder what time it is.
- Your promise: You will ensure that the clock never breaks or stops, and you’ll replace it immediately if it does.
- Feature: Batteries included.
- Benefit: Product is ready to use, right out of the box.
- Privilege: Never see a sad face on your child when they open a gift from you.
- Your promise: You will learn their child’s preferences every gift season, to be sure the gift they buy is always a perfect fit.
Privileging your audience means giving them the gift of an unpayable debt. It’s an opportunity to serve at a much deeper level.
“Self-approval is a dangerous state of mind” – Napoleon Hill
Doubt is a double-edged sword: an essential ingredient for doing creative work, and a barrier to even trying. Really, it’s a call to action:
- For your team: Assuring them to stay the course will release them to use doubt as a tool to improve their work.
- For your clients: Enabling them to focus on moving in the right direction will release you to do your best work for them.
- For your prospects: Equipping them with the information they need to make good decisions will release you to start serving them.
- For your mentors: Sharing your doubts with them will release them to guide you toward your next phase of growth.
Doubt is a double-edged sword that can help you stay on track and serve others more deeply. Or it can hold us all back. Be sure to wield it wisely.
Without rhythm, our brains wouldn’t defer breathing to the unconscious. Rhythm means we’ve figured out how to make something work, every time.
And when it comes to breathing, that’s great. But when it comes to creativity, which only appears when we try things that might not work, we have what Einstein would call ‘insanity’ – doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Creativity needs an extra step to shake things up. How can we be consistently creative? I call it ‘mind salsa’:
- Find the beat. This salsa beat has five steps instead of four: a consistently odd number of steps. Breaking out of your normal rhythm makes space for creativity.
- Move. Watching the same moves over and over gets boring. Changing your approach, changing your environment, driving straight instead of turning right, forces your mind to figure out what happens next.
Rhythm carries you, for better or worse. If you choose to ‘mind salsa’, you might unlock more of your creative genius. How would your work benefit if you were consistently more creative?
Whether it’s a workout or a project, there comes a point where you say, “That’s enough.” The project is all done. Your legs are burning from the hill climb. Nothing.
Nobody celebrates or talks about what we’ve completed.
But we suddenly get very evangelic whenever something is 101% complete. When we went one more hill, created for 10 more minutes, wrote one more email.
- 100%: Those who work-out only as far as they set out to, eventually get fat. Those who merely complete their work, run out of work.
- 101%: Those who push themselves little further, eventually look amazing. Teams who go beyond for their clients, get more clients. After all, you’re already in the gear, why not commit to one more 1%? Your only barrier is your will.
Like working out, raising your will creates your new standard. Done together, this is how teams put themselves in a class all of their own.
Raise your will, one more hill, build goodwill, or it’s all downhill.
Work. Career. Mission. Which do you have?
- Work: ‘Doing as we’re told, for a while, for money.’
- Career: ‘Doing as we’re told, for a while longer, for money.’
- Mission: ‘Breaking the rules, indefinitely, because it’s right.’
Unless you’re a doctor, doing as we’re told works only up to a point, now that the world rewards rule-breakers. Ironically, from that volatility comes the greatest stability.
We assume the world will stay the same. That, in five years time, we’ll type on laptops, search on Google, and your company will survive using today’s tactics.
If your team is on a mission to change the status quo, that gives you an opportunity to be remarkable, indispensable, and supported in your efforts.
It’s either that or doing as you’re told for just a little while longer.
I don’t know much about cars. When Ferrari releases under-the-hood photos of a new vehicle, I’ve little idea of what I’m looking at. But it looks good.
Under the hood, most of us wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between Ferarri’s latest and that of an economy-class vehicle… were it not for the presentation. Shiny, symmetrical, considered, cared for, and painted red.
Open the hood of your work. What do we see?
- Care: Can I tell how much you do? Is it blackened with dirt, assuming it doesn’t really matter? If you don’t care, why should anybody else?
- Red: Is yours, under the hood? There’s no need for it to be; engineers did it for the love of their craft. People who love their work do good work. Can I tell how much you love your work?
Most daren’t show under the hood of their work. Don’t just show it. Paint it red.
To-dos can be deceiving because an activity is not an achievement.
“Leave 10 voicemails” is easy to check off, with an assumption they may lead somewhere. But what if the goal wasn’t to merely leave voicemails, but to “receive enthusiastic interest from Mr. X”?
The problem is, if the voicemails yielded no reply, the to-do is still checked off. You ‘succeeded’, even when your goal remains unachieved. Mr. X isn’t enthusiastic yet–you’ve yet to even speak.
Consider replacing your To-do List with a Result List. It has 3 components:
- What Result do we want? This is the ‘What’, not the ‘How’, behind this item on your list. For example, “receive enthusiastic interest from Mr. X.”
- Why do we want that result? This is the ‘Why’, not the ‘How’, behind this item. For example, “Mr. X. has enormous value our tribe could benefit from.”
- What are all the ways we could achieve it? This is the list of all the possible ‘Hows’ you could utilize in order to achieve the ‘What’ in #1. For example, “Voicemail, email, send our book, hand-written letter, intercept at a conference”, the list is endless.
After a method in #3 creates the result in #1, you toss out the rest of the items in #3. Why do the rest? Your result was achieved!
Ticking off a to-do does not mean achievement, but working through divergent approaches toward a single goal–while being mindful of why you’re doing it–ensures achievement.
Consider your to-do list: how could you turn it into a Result List?
Take a look at this week’s calendar. How does it make you feel? Do you feel motivated by the momentum you’ll create, or do you feel locked down by dread?
Dread locks you out of your genius–your ability to do your best work. It moves you from “How can I make today amazing?” to “How can I get through today?” I call the latter state ‘dread locks’. When you have it, for each task in the week, ask yourself:
- What’s the goal? Every action needs a goal or you’ve no way of knowing if it was successful or not. That can create dread. Assign one or delete the task.
- Does the goal need to be achieved? If not, delete the task. Why do things that don’t matter? The feeling of wasted time can create dread.
- Does it need to be achieved by you? If not, find who it belongs to and give it to them. Doing the wrong work can create dread.
- Does it afford you enough time and resources? If not, get them, and commit to ensuring they exist for this type of task in future. Trying to do things with a hand tied behind your back can create dread.
- Do you know how to succeed with this goal? If not, get the training and clarity you need, or revisit #3. Not knowing what success looks like can create dread.
- Now how does the week look? If there’s still dread, return to #1 and repeat.
Life’s too short to do work that doesn’t matter, and your team deserves better than you showing up with ‘dread locks’. How would your week feel without them? How would your work benefit?
When you set ‘bad goals’, everything feels entirely within arm’s reach. You need not stretch yourself to attain them.
Microsoft did this during Ballmer’s leadership when they optimized for the 20th century when the rest of the world had moved into the 21st.
When you set ‘good goals’, everything is slightly out of reach. You need to grow from where you are now to possibly reach them. And that creates fear: you might not make it.
If you choose the latter (check out “YIAM Growth Challenges“) you get to decide where to focus: on growing to meet your goal, or on the fear associated with having made it:
- Fear: “I can’t reach it. It is unreachable to me. Is it even possible?”
- Growth: “What can I do next that could move me closer to my goal?”
How would you feel, what would you think about, and how would you act, if you supposed for a moment that your goal was entirely possible?
Creating, leading, or belonging to a great team is a privilege.
Like a great childhood, a great team has lasting effects on us that we wouldn’t change for the world. What makes a great team? And how do you know when you’re on one?
- Initiative. Members step up for challenges outside their comfort zone.
- Committed. Members show up for reasons beyond the dollar alone.
- Good stewards. Of time, attention, energy, resources. Self-sustaining.
- Time. Members want to spend it together.
- Trust. No babysitting. Members are treated like–and behave like–adults.
- Growth. Members are becoming–or helping others become-A Players.
- Respect. Opinions, values, and apologies are all accepted and honored.
- Tough-love. Members are relationally strong enough to challenge each other.
- Protective. Members actively reject ‘bad fits’ for the benefit of the team.
- Pride. Members are all proud of the work they do together.
Great teams are rare. How many of these does your team have? Which could you bring to your team?
When you belong to a great team, it’s great because of you, as well as the others. Otherwise, it would be a ‘mostly great’ team. But we don’t always ‘feel’ great.
Turns out, we can do something about that. We control more of our emotions with our self-talk than we realize. Consider these contrasts:
- Terrible or Inconvenient?
- Cold-caller or Treasure-hunter?
- Losing or Learning?
- Nice or Absolutely-Marvelous?
- Nutritious or Delicious?
- Organizing or Recreating?
- Scary or Growth-opportunity?
- Expensive or Valuable?
- Weak or Delicate?
- Confusing or Intricate?
- Hurtful or History?
- Paycheck or Calling?
Which words sound more like yours, the left ones or the right?
Which would you prefer? What’s stopping you?
It’s fascinating how perspective and mental state can totally rewrite our circumstances. A favorite saying of mine is,
“Big problems are just small problems in small worlds.”
Here are three examples of how this might apply:
1. ‘Big’ problem: “I may lose a customer.”
- Small world: You only have 2 of them. You selfishly cling on past when is best for them.
- Bigger world: Would it still be a problem if you had 100 clients instead of 2, and a pipeline full of prospects?
2. ‘Big’ problem: “I don’t know how to solve this problem.”
- Small world: You have no advisors or network to guide you forward. So you’re stuck, spinning your wheels.
- Bigger world: Would it still be a problem if you had people around you that you can trust, who can point out the way?
3. ‘Big’ problem: “I don’t want to <insert here>”
- Small world: You’ve only your feelings to drive you forward. So you procrastinate.
- Bigger world: Would it still be a problem if you had a reason bigger than yourself for doing <insert here>?
Perspective changes everything and shines a new light on what you should do next.
Consider your biggest problems today. How do they change when you click “zoom out” a few times to see the bigger picture?
With development accelerating in AI and machine learning, the world is going to transform in a big way. Some wonder where humans might fit into it all, as blue-and-white-collar professions are altered by robots.
Here are 3 things robots can’t do:
- Intuition. Learning to trust your gut can at times go against the data. Knowing your gut is human-only; it’s when you know someone’s a good fit for your team after just 3 minutes of talking to them.
- Awareness. Beyond knowledge, this is where we see how the pieces fit together after being exposed to wide varieties of knowledge. Like the Magic Eye picturebooks of the 90s.
- Why. This transcends the activity or direction or timing. It’s what gives purpose. This is when you take a longer harder path not because it’s easy, but because it’s right.
Is your work celebrating your humanity? Do you do the 3 things that robots can’t do?
When you go on a trip, a vacation, a hike… don’t forget to take pictures and draw a map.
The same applies when doing important work.
When you go ‘there’ again, you have your map. When you find better routes (or worse routes), update your map accordingly.
Doing so makes every trip–and every project–better than the one you did before it. And better than the one your team did, if you’re sharing your map.
Now you all get to spend your time, energy and genius on finding a better way, rather than merely finding a way.
No map is perfect. But a map you and your team continue to refine together is pretty darn close.
Make sure it takes us somewhere amazing.
Map apps (and GSP units before them) do three things really well:
- Show the best route: am I going where I want to go? Is this the right way for me based on where I’m heading?
- Reroute if there’s a problem: a new route appeared that’ll get me there faster and safer? Take me that way, please!
- Time to arrival: now I know when to start my journey, and how long it’ll take me if I start now.
If you’re planning on doing meaningful work this new year, keep your eye on the best route, reroute if needed, and remember the ‘time to arrival’ only counts if you start now. If you’re unsure, surround yourself with map apps to keep you accountable and on-track.
Where will you and your team be this time next year?
The bank teller should have done such a good job that I didn’t want to bank online.
- Bank tellers lost to online banking, at the expense of a human guide. Tellers should have appreciated their roles as guides.
- Bookstores lost to Amazon, at the expense of expert curation. The experts should have appreciated their roles as leaders.
- Local markets lost to supermarkets, at the expense of the local community. Store owners should have appreciated their roles as community builders.
- Newspapers lost to online news, at the expense of retention and the rise of fake news. Publishers should have appreciated the undivided attention and trust they received.
As they fell in love with their medium, rather than their customers, the transformation into relics began. Had these relics spearheaded innovation themselves, perhaps we’d have modern marvels without losing what made their earlier works so special.
Passionate people put a lot of themselves into their work. While writing about distractions a couple of days ago, I touched upon a parasite of the passionate: ‘fake-work’.
Fake-work is when you feel like you’re working, but you’re really not. It takes time, but without the sensation of forward-motion in ways that matter.
Here are some examples to help you spot it when it happens:
- Thinking but not deeply enough to drive any thought, situation, or idea forward. This is ‘worry’ in disguise.
- Checking and re-checking things at a rate that exceeds practical utility. E.g. checking your email every 15 minutes. This is ‘flailing’ in disguise.
- Unstructured ‘research’ or unstructured reading. E.g. watching an ‘important’ life-hack YouTube video when you should be creating. This is ‘procrastinating’ in disguise.
Work hard on things that matter. Don’t let fake-work steal your valuable time.
What are you worried about, today?
It’s not something we often hear much about, as though the best of us are immune to worry. The truth is, worry–like every other signal your body sends you–can be leveraged once mastered.
Pretending it’s not there won’t help. Take my “Worry-buster” technique and steal it for yourself:
- Define it. What are the things you’re worried about right now? List them out on paper, one per line, leaving a line between each one.
- Bust it. In those empty lines, please, be the voice of reason. Explain why it’s nonsense or redundant (if it is) or show yourself some Philautia if it’s not.
- Learn from it. What can each busted worry teach us? Does something need more rehearsing? Does someone need a call or email from you? Or do you simply need to let something drop?
Worries busted, lessons learned. Thank you, body. Now, let’s move on with our day with clear heads, shall we?
The first and last thing you look at is likely your smartphone. Your glowy little defender against boredom. What would happen if you gave its morning/evening bedside pedestal to a paper notebook?
Let’s break down what you likely use it for in these times (categorized):
- Checking if someone messaged you. ‘Distraction’.
- Checking if there’s a critical issue at work to resolve. ‘Fake-work‘ – are you going to do anything about the issue, or will you just mark it as ‘unread’ and worry about it until later?
- Reading website things. ‘Distraction’ or ‘Fake-work’ – are you doing actual research? You’re doing it from the bed, right now?
- Writing notes. ‘Good.’ But isn’t paper better for this?
- Reviewing old thoughts. ‘Good.’ But isn’t paper better for this?
- Prioritizing. ‘Good’, unless you’re cracking open Project Managment apps, in which case it’s ‘Fake-work’ – see item #2.
- Journaling. ‘Good’; writing worry-busters and organizing thought. But isn’t paper better for this?
If this list sounds familiar, consider swapping your phone for a paper notebook in the mornings/evenings for five days, and see what effects it has.
I had the ‘collector’ bug as a child, appreciating the allure of a complete ‘set’ or rare ‘pull’.
Could they make a “collector’s edition” of your work?
If you provide a service, is there a special edition they could experience and remember, either by choice or as a gift? If a product, is there a version fit for the mantlepiece that recipients can be proud to show off and be thankful for?
There are two key by-products there: being proud and being thankful, to experience your work. It’s what makes a “Snow White Edition Moleskine notebook” desirable to collectors.
We could call works that evoke pride and thankfulness “collectible-able”: things you’d at least consider getting a “collectors edition” of, were one to exist.
Even if you never make a “collectors edition” of your work, how could your work benefit if you made it more “collectible-able”?
As we see our families this Christmas Day, we’re reminded of the traditions we share. Each family is unique, as are the effects of their traditions.
They bring people together in unique ways that you sorely miss if you’re unable to be there.
When building or nurturing a tribe of people, traditions become a bonding agent few ‘perks’ can match. Let’s decode these traditions:
- Intimacy: The traditions bring people together. That mutually desired closeness breeds intimacy.
- Camaraderie: The traditions create shared experiences. The shared pursuits create camaraderie.
- Protection: Without consistency, they’re no longer traditions. Tribe members protect the tradition so that it can continue.
- Fun: There’s no ‘point’ beyond the act itself. Gain or benefit isn’t the point: simply participating is the point.
- Inexpensive: Because we don’t measure the performance and success of these points in dollars and cents.
You can leverage points 1-4 in your tribe, while the fifth makes doing so a no-brainer.
Traditions reinforce and celebrate the difference between being a group of individuals, and being a real team. Which would you rather belong to?
Most of us have experienced the difference between purchasing commodities and ‘finer goods’. The term ‘finer goods’ is often confused with ‘expensive’, but as we define the characteristics of finer goods, we see this isn’t the case.
Certainly, the act of engaging with the creators of finer goods can be more personal, enjoyable, refer-able, and long-lasting. All great things. What makes these things happen?
- Recognition. By reflecting the identity of the buyer, the item becomes about them. E.g. a U.K. customer receives a product sourced entirely from U.K. suppliers.
- Experience. By providing a memorable experience while engaging with you and your work, the process becomes about them. E.g. how jewelers let you watch them set your stone.
- Exclusivity. Rarity, by its definition, suggests that not everybody has it. This makes ownership about them: they get to have one. E.g. limited run items.
- Individualism. By tailoring your work specifically to them, your work becomes unique to them. It’s their name on the front, then yours, instead of just a logo. E.g. a suit being fitted to your body, or a purse having your initials on it.
To make a difference, your focus needs to be on the tribe you serve, and the difference you make. When making work that matters, consider how your work could benefit from being treated as a finer good.
What if you already had your pick of causes that desperately need your support?
What if you already had access to the strategies needed to take your work to market?
What if you already had access to the capital needed to make your idea a reality?
What if you already had access to the buyers needed to grow that idea exponentially?
What if the right people were already available, to recruit or to join forces with, ready to own the change needed to make it all a reality?
What if all you needed was the vision and creativity to put those pieces together?
What are you waiting for?
A box of free-range eggs only costs a few dollars. A Fabergé egg costs millions.
Their rarity, intricacy, and mystique make all the difference. And you can’t even eat them.
In a race to become an overnight success, we frequently observe the rapid commoditization of products, services, and brands. Many appear to prefer being a free-range business, rather than a Fabergé business.
How can you be the latter?
1. Be Different, because ‘rare’ isn’t the same.
- Do unexpected things. Fabergé makes precious few eggs, surely they’d want to sell more? Free-range thinking: ‘more’ doesn’t always mean ‘better’.
- Learn other markets. Most markets use the ‘rules’ of that market, doing things the way everyone else does them “because that’s how it’s done”.
2. Be Specific, because ‘rare’ isn’t wishy-washy.
- Get clear. How clear are people on the distinctive value of your offer before you present that offer to them?
- Choose your own market. And bake it into your marketing. Fabergé isn’t sold in supermarkets because that’s not where their target audience is.
3. Be a Leader, because ‘rare’ isn’t where everyone else is going.
- Write the rules. If a map exists, someone’s already been there, in the exact same way. Find a better way, and draw a new map.
- Forget all you know. And do it better, by instead questioning everything in your market, industry, and process.
4. Be Better, because ‘rare’ becomes more exquisite with time.
- Give back. Benefit a community, market or industry and make your venture bigger than yourself.
- Train, grow, let it show. The best are comfortable revealing their journey of growth. Others get a look at the precision of your work.
What would it to do your work if you accepted it’s not for everyone, and instead became a precious rarity for those you serve?