work

“I Intend To”

Bureaucracy is a bitch.

What few people realize is that as an upper level exec, in a lot of too many organizations, there’s virtually no natural incentive to approve… well, anything. If you don’t approve requests or initiatives, what can go wrong? You don’t get some (rare) praise for accomplishing something – big deal. But if you approve something and it goes wrong??

As a young Community Manager, if I had a broken hot tub that needed a $1.6k repair and it was over my $500 spending limit, I’d need express written approval.  No biggie, right? I’ll just email my boss and get an answer.

After multiple follow ups, weeks later, there’s no answer beyond the yawning chasm of silence. Why wouldn’t they just tell me ‘no’ if that’s what they wanted? Because not answering the question meant they were the safest they could be.

See, there’s risk in saying yes to things. What if someone comes along later and says you screwed up by approving that thing which could have been done cheaper, better, differently, etc…? What if I get yelled at? What if… something something bad feeling?

I wasn’t alone. A LOT of my cohorts’ bosses did the same thing. Ignore, brush off, delay, deflect, slow roll, forget – anything to not have to take a stand on something that should be easy because the fear was always at their neck that they’d get ripped for it. They wanted express permission from the owner before they’d be ok saying yes. What point was there for their existence then? We could just get the permission from the owner if that’s all it was.

When the issue finally reached crisis level, the owner had the foresight to implement the system that Simon mentions at the 33 minute mark in this video: “I Intend To.”

The way it worked was, if we needed to do something and couldn’t get an answer, we’d fire off an email with “IIT:” in the subject line. If we weren’t told NO within 48 hours, we were free to do it. It changed the onus from getting approval to bosses having to say NO if they felt something shouldn’t be done.

As you can imagine, things improved immediately. Bosses who didn’t have good reasons to say no, besides their personal fear, could tacitly approve something without lifting a finger. Oh happy day!

And don’t get me wrong – I don’t mean to say there shouldn’t be checks and balances and proper vetting of capital requests. By all means, I’d include how many bids I’d received, what the nature of the issue was, what the repair proposed was, why that was a rational way to proceed and what the timeline would be. I’d proactively try to answer every question I could get to make sure it was in line with our company’s values and goals.

Bottom line or TL;DR: There’s all kinds of benefit in empowering your people as opposed to teaching them to subsist on compliance. Your people aren’t the problem, your environment, your culture are the problem.

Eliminate bureaucracy, breed commitment by increasing your team’s involvement.

 

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You’re talented, you’re just not industry-famous. Yet.

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The 4-types of people you’ll work with

The 4-types of people you'll work with

George Lois sums it up nicely here in his book “Damn Good Advice (For people with talent)” – God knows I’ve come across all four of these and the only one that scares me is the fourth. We’ve all worked with plenty of people who don’t much and don’t want to do much – easy enough, they’ll just sit there. No worries. But the ignorant and industrious? God help us all.
If you can’t educate the #4, then attempt to re-purpose them. If that doesn’t work, get rid of them. If you work for them, and none of those have worked, find a new gig!

Get in where you fit in!

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Don’t fight to be where you don’t fit in. You can force the peg into the hole (hammer and all) but that’s a truly poor place to find oneself. 

Do you know who you are and what you like? What you’re good at? Passionate about? Where are you of most value to those around you? Do you know where you’d be the most comfortable? The most effective? Then why not try to go there and forget about all the holes you shouldn’t be trying to squeeze into. 

It’s not “keeping your options open.” It’s being scared of knowing yourself and your worth enough to actively partake in the crafting of your future. If you don’t do it – don’t actually make decisions about what you will and won’t do, others will and I can’t guarantee you’re going to like the outcome. 

Get in where you fit in. Don’t take an ill-fitting job just to have a job. Don’t wait around forever for the perfect one to come around either – get up and search for the environment you’d thrive in and do everything you can to steer your ship in that direction. 

 

 

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

 

 

If you don’t execute, you don’t eat.

If you don't execute, you don't eat.

This sums it up perfectly. EXECUTION is ALL that matters. Apologies to the delicate sensibilities out there, but all the warm fuzzies of best intentions won’t sell SQUAT. Positive thoughts and “hard work” alone won’t move product or make a difference if nothing actually, HAPPENS.

If you make a difference, a REAL difference, then something should be DIFFERENT because you were there. Sounds simple, right? Are the material conditions on the ground different because of something you DID? If so, you made a difference. If not, hate to break it to you, but we’re still waiting.

I’m flummoxed and fired up when a solid sounding strategy never makes waves. It stays perfectly conceptualized inside the minds of the creators and on the tongues of the braggarts and blowhards – but never encounters the harsh light of actually being birthed into the world.

I get it. The world is messy and there are question boxes to outnumber those in the Mushroom Kingdom. There are as many threats, too. If you’re scared, if you can’t get over those fears to bring something to life, please do the rest of us a favor and politely move out of the way. There are things to make and worlds to conquer and markets to impact.

Repeat after me: “If you don’t execute, you don’t eat.”

You can’t sit around talking about how cool it would be to kill a wholly mammoth, and survive. At some point, one of you is going down. Stop talking and pick up a spear. Stop telling me about your responsibilities and tell me about what you changed – what DIFFERENCE you actually made.