255: Trust-rate optimization ​

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?

254: Being stuck is a decision ​

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.


253: That’ll do ​

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”?


252: Needs more thought ​

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.

251: About the things you don’t need to do ​

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.

250: Faucet or force-it? ​

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?

249: Hidden work ​

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.

248: Cleaning your desk ​

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.

247: It’s not what it ‘seems like’ ​

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.

246: Unfinished theology ​

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.

245: Just good enough ​

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.

244: What’s the point? ​

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?

243: What creativity and good memory have in common ​

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?

242: Your team is ugly ​

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?

241: They don’t make teams like they used to ​

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.

240: Don’t learn the rules ​

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?

239: Systems aren’t the point ​

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.

238: The wheel works ​

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.

237: How long is five minutes?

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.

236: Cold at scale ​

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.

235: Don’t touch base ​

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.

234: When is a tool more than a tool ​

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.

233: The problem about this project ​

…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.


232: A day in the life ​

What’s your day look like?

  • Quiet? It’s probably not a result of today, but of many days that led to this.
  • Crazy? Your company has bigger problems than today for it to be so.
  • Great? You’re doing something right beyond just today alone.

Our teams are only as great as a day in the life would reveal it to be. Change the day to change the company.​

231: Break your own industry ​

Most of us can think of something that could totally change an industry, breaking the way things are done today, for the better. Like self-driving cars for taxi companies. Many fear it:

  • “It’ll never actually happen.” Not a good strategy. Hoping it’s impossible limits you and underserves those who trust you with their care.
  • “Hopefully nobody’ll do that.” Not a good strategy. Someone probably will, eventually. What happens then?
  • “What if we did it?” Good question. It would be hard, sacrificial work, and it could transform the amount of value you provide those you serve.

If you’re already eager to do hard, sacrificial work, and you want to offer the greatest value to those you serve anyway, then why not break your own industry?

230: You were probably right all along ​

Someone doesn’t Iike your work.

They have an opinion about the way you do things, or your communication style, or your priorities. Let them:

    • It comes from another world. It’s based on something they’ve done before that worked for them. That doesn’t mean its the best way, or the only way. Is being from another world OK with you?
    • It’s from what they’re used to. Something different is something different. Different doesn’t mean better or worse. Is ‘different’ OK with you?
    • Familiarity hurts our heads less. So unfamiliarity creates push-back within most people. People need bringing around to new ideas. Is leading that change OK with you?

Too many differing opinions usually results in watered down work. If you answered “Yes” to the above questions, then you were probably right all along.

229: If it’s not one thing ​

It need not be another.

Although the alternative is rare:

  • “If it’s not one thing, it’s another”: Another fire to put out? Moving from fire to fire feels like progress, but it leaves us battered and burned.
  • “If it’s not one thing, it’s no thing”: A better alternative is to make that ‘one thing’ fireproof in future so that it can’t be a ‘thing’ again in future.

I’d like to think “If it’s not one thing, it’s no thing” could be a phrase that replaces the popular alternative. Perhaps then we’d all fix the problems in our work for good, rather than merely chasing symptoms around.

228: Maps, muscles, and motor racing ​

What do these three things have in common?

Progress requires slowing down:

  • Slow down to absorb the map, otherwise who knows where you’ll end up. Ten paces in the right direction are faster than twenty going the wrong way.
  • Give your guns a break, since growth comes from healing, not tearing. Strong muscles come from training our bodies, not damaging them.
  • Don’t overcook the corners, as knowing when to brake is as important to speed as knowing when to accelerate. Good lap times require both pedals.

It’s the smart work, not the hard work, that makes our work thrive.

227: The parts of our brains we can’t describe ​

…are all the parts that really matter.

For teams doing meaningful work, it’s worth keeping that in mind.

  • The more we feel, the less we know: We feel stressed when we’re in the dentist’s fluorescent lobby. We feel relaxed in the restaurant’s mood-lit lobby. A mood-lit dentist would jam our senses.
  • “I don’t know what it is about that person…” but we trust that feeling at the moment when it comes. We process words differently when we “feel like” you’re stressed (is she lying?) vs confident (he must know).

There are reminders and patterns all around us, thanks to our brains that work tirelessly to keep us safe from danger.

The way we present our work matters more than we can describe. Literally.

226: The clearest communicator wins ​

What if your price and your value are both great?

There’s a third component to consider:

  • “Is my price too high?” If you’re taking the time to ask yourself this question, your price is actually probably too low. For most people, this isn’t the area that needs their attention.
  • “Does my offer need to be more valuable?” Probably. Most offers are pretty weak. You should strengthen it. But for most people, this still isn’t the area that needs the most attention.
  • “Am I being clear enough?” No. In most cases, clarity is sorely lacking. To whom are you speaking? Do they understand what you can help them with, how you can help them, and why? This needs your attention.

    The clearest communicator wins.