Leadership

You Shouldn’t Get Through This…

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The beauty of zen sand gardens is inherent for a fundamental reason: zen gardens exist, so we can exist in them. There is no other purpose than to place ourselves back in ourselves.

No one tries to get through the process to the other side. There is no other side – only ourselves and the sand. Since there’s no “Right” way to rake the sand – no great sand artists to emulate, we can create in the most original and honest way possible. Because we’re truly present in the process, beauty emerges naturally as the chaos of the sand gives way to the serenity of our peaceful, purposeful, interactions with it.

It’s a deeply satisfying metaphor for our lives and our work. Shoddy things happen when we try to get through them, as if they’re not worthy of our attention, or our time. Cutting the onions, painting the fence, raking the lawn; all great opportunities for art – great opportunities to exist in ourselves and to create something beautiful. If only we could stop ourselves from thinking they’re obstacles, that there’s really something else we’d rather be doing.

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I don’t think it’s any surprise then that those doing the best work are those having the best time – that truly love their craft, and thus exist in every moment of it. Never rushing any one part of their job in favor of another, they know it’s all connected and it all comes with the package. There are parts more exciting, sure. But even the small parts are paid attention to, the true beauty in them is found. The goal isn’t to “get through the day” but to greet the day with a smile, and gratitude in their hearts for the opportunity to do something that so compliments their nature. These are the rare people, but they can be any of us, at any time.

Rushing into action, you fail.
Trying to grasp things, you lose them.
Forcing a project to completion,
you ruin what was almost ripe.

― Laozi, Lao TsuTao Te Ching

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Like the “Tipping Point” but, you know, with Science.

Did you like Malcolm Gladwell’s “Tipping Point” or Dan & Chip Heath’s “Made to Stick?” You did? Both, are totally great works that opened our eyes to how ideas get spread. Of the two, “Made to Stick” was the better manual for attributing what is “sticky” vs. what is passably interesting.

Now, Professor Jonah Berger has codified why certain things go viral in a way that does much more to explain the phenomenon than these earlier works. I really can’t wait to try out this process and see how we can best apply it to our product.

I’ll be presenting this video and materials tomorrow in our Leadership Series (held bi-weekly) with all of our Managers and we’re going to try the workbook on making things contagious. It’s available when you subscribe to the Prof’s blog at http://www.JonahBerger.com – which is totally worth it.

If we’re successful applying the principles to our business, I’ll be sure to share the results and give you some step-by-step insight into what worked and how we got there. I think this is going to be one of the easiest to implement processes we’ve encountered yet.

Dan Pink: The Puzzle of Motivation TED talk

This is an absolute classic and one that has helped me decide what kind of work I most enjoy doing. The three keys towards fulfilling, cognitive work, are (summarized briefly):
*Autonomy – Do you control a majority of your time at work and what you’re working on?
*Mastery – Are you doing something you can get better at?
*Purpose – Do you feel like you’re a part of something larger than yourself?

These have been guide posts for me for the last three years since I first saw Mr. Pink spell out what I’d long suspected. My quarterly bonus of thousands of dollars as a Regional Manager wasn’t nearly as motivating to me as was the joy of helping one of my Managers succeed, or creating some new metric/model/marketing platform that would help propel our success. Sure, I love money, but I love my team and the thrill of winning a lot more. Especially when I get to create and collaborate in order to get there.

Give this a view and really check your current motivations for why you do what you do. Are you propelled by your bonus potential, or possessed by your passion?

Simon Sinek – Your job is to take care of your team.

Great video of Simon Sinek talking about the Circle of Safety – why we should take care of one another and why it’s a leaders highest obligation to make sure that they take care of their team. It’s a shame I missed this as it was filmed in downtown Gainesville.

Busy doesn’t equal Effective…

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It’s a learned behavior. Odds are you had mentors or bosses who were forever putting out metaphorical fires. You learned something implicitly: Busy = productive. Scratch that. Busy = valued.

It’s not true and odds are when you started out in your career you sensed it in your heart, if not your head. But the allure! Running around all crazy you couldn’t help but feel… important! Needed! This whole thing relied on you to keep those balls in the air or else they would fall and everyone would be let down.

Stop that.

Busy is often times, bullshit. Sure, you’ve got deadlines and reports, and big things in the works. Who doesn’t. If you’re running a restaurant, the kitchen had better be busy or you’re not making jack. But you’re not the sous chef for Chez Awesome, now are you? Didn’t think so.

To be effective you need to delegate your time and spend some much valued time planning so others can faithfully execute. Like a good point guard, yours isn’t to score all the points – it’s to distribute. And to do so in a way that allows your team an easy dunk.

If you sense yourself saying any of these things as a leader – check yourself, lest you wreck  yourself:

  • OMG! I’ve got so much to do!
  • WTF! I’ve got 156 emails since lunch! 
  • IDK! Maybe I have 10 minutes next week, maybe!
  • AGGGHHHHHH!!!!
  • If I don’t send this TPS report by 3pm, I’m burning this whole thing down. 

Also, it’s a good tip that if you find yourself speaking in “text talk” then you’ve likely got some big issues.

Busy isn’t beautiful – and it sure isn’t effective. Yes, at times, you’ve got to put the head down and scramble, but that’s not the ideal situation. The glory goes to being prepared. Toward having effective systems. Toward making the most of opportunities and marshaling resources into a mighty force for good.

So next time you have the inkling to put off your work till 5pm so you can stay until midnight and claim your gallantly selfless act, don’t do it. Leaders don’t engage in such sophistry. You’re better than that. I know you are. 

Insert a bunch of quotes here on: not waiting till the last minute, being awesome, and having great commitment to rad internal systems in your winning organization.

What all Great Leaders Do…

Simon Sinek gives about the best description I’ve ever seen on the powerful effects of Trust.

I really don’t want to say too much here, best just to take a little while to listen to this while you’re typing and soak it in.

The 9 Questions Leaders Ask

A friend recently commented on a post where I stated that great leaders ask great questions. In fact, I believe that to be the bulwark of their mission. But what kinds? Here are a few from the top of my head:

  1. Who are we and who do we want to be as an organization? Everything flows from this question and its importance shouldn’t be overlooked – and it begs the next one…
  2. What does that look like in practice? If we’re going to do it, we should have an idea of what we’re aiming at.
  3. What does success look like in this instance? How do we know if we’ve achieved our mission? If we don’t know there’s not much point in pursuing it.
  4. What traits does an organization possess that we aspire to be? Who are our role models? Is there someone doing it incredibly well already? What do we want to adopt from what they’re doing?
  5. What’s the craziest thing you’d do if you owned this company? Often times asking questions without the limits of rational conditions gets the mind to say things it wouldn’t normally. Pick at the thread and trace it back to the underlying point of the statement – see what it’s trying to say.
  6. Does this fit our mission? Southwest airlines is famous for being “The low cost airline” so their CEO famously stated they wouldn’t  add salads on a flight from Vegas to Seattle as it didn’t fit the mission. What are we doing that’s outside our mission?
  7. Why are we doing this and not something else? A number of factors pop up that make us do things: pride, ease, cost, budgets, etc…. this can be a great moment to educate our team by explaining the thought process of what we do and why.
  8. If you were a client/customer would you buy this? How would you feel about the policy/practice? It can be a good reflection to see how our decisions affect others and if we’d be OK with them. It may seem small internally, but it always resonates outward.
  9. What’s our guiding philosophy say in regards to this proposal? A leader is never done wondering if their current practices are in alignment with the companies goals and ethos.

Ultimately, I think the leader is tasked with keeping forever in mind the ultimate goals and philosophy of the organization and further charged with keeping them sacred – to make sure that everything taken on comports with that world view. Or, if confronted with a new situation that compels change of the founding philosophy, to make the hard changes and sell them to the rest of the team.

As always, nothing important happens without meaningful communication.

So what which questions do you think your group should ask, often?