Don’t Let the Big Picture Stop You

Recently, on two separate occasions and for two different reasons, I was asked to thoroughly explain how the tasks different people were being asked to do were connected to a bigger picture or master plan. On many occasions this makes total sense, but I believe in these two situations the people were using this as a way to escape from doing the work.

Sometimes you just have to start the task or project and get work done. Finding new and more creative ways to try and stop yourself from getting work done (like making it seem you’re trying to be strategic) is only hurting your progress.

In certain cases, you have to do one of the following:

  1. Remember that the person asking for the work understands the higher purpose
  2. Recall the discussion about the higher purpose at the beginning of the journey, or key it in to the organization’s mission
  3. Call bulls&^t on yourself and discover if it’s a hiding tactic

Climbing the tree and ensuring you know you’re headed in the right direction is important, but being on the ground and chopping through the woods efficiently and effectively is also important.

Know which role you play on the team and when you just want a break from chopping, that’s when the real magic happens if you can push through.

Developing Great Teams With Small Investments

Recently I was at a meeting where they brought in various teams from around our Company to showcase the work that they were performing.

Unexpectedly, I recognized someone who I hadn’t worked with or seen in 13 years running one of the booths. We immediately hugged hello and fell back into an old level of comfort with each other, laughing while talking about past stories, catching up on what we’re doing currently and what’s happened over the last few years.

After processing that encounter, I found myself wondering why I seemed to have a better and more authentic connection with a person I hadn’t seen in 13 years and only worked with for a shorter time compared to many others I have worked with either longer periods of time or more recently.

Many pieces play into group dynamics and connections, but looking at the traditional factors didn’t seem to uncover the answer. There had to be more. I really wanted to be able to find the answer so I could try and use that to continue to build great relationships with the teams I work on and people I work with.

That’s when I realized the difference between the strong bonds that had been formed more than 13 years ago versus some of the more tenuous bonds today.

When we were working together years ago, there were many more offsite and not-directly-work-related interactions. Our teams and colleagues spent more time doing things out of the office together and we had more support for little things like team lunches and offsite dinners.

Great relationships build great teams and great teams accomplish great things easier.

Since that’s the case, why do budget cuts first target the very things, like off sites and team meals, that can help build great teams?

So, the next time you hear about a startup or some smaller company hosting happy hours or buying everyone lunch realize that it’s not only a nice perk, it’s a strategic investment in accomplishing great things.

The next time someone asks you for budget for what may seem like fun vs. work related activities, realize it will pay off much more in terms of the work.

Are You Living What You Expect In An Interview?

What questions did you ask the last candidate you tried to hire? What expectations did you have about what they would bring to the table and the types of leadership and results you expected to see? What were the things that made you want to choose the person you actually hired?

Now ask yourself, are you performing at the level that you expect or hope for in your job candidates? Are you expecting something from a new hire that you aren’t even doing yourself?

No, I don’t mean the actual tasks that are being performed by that new person, because it doesn’t mean that you should just take on more tasks. Didn’t you focus on more than just task execution in your interview?

Maybe it’s time to interview yourself.

Using Urgent for Urgent’s Sake

One particular summer Friday a few years ago, I was fortunate enough to be working from a remote location at a beach town.  I wasn’t supposed to be working that day, but an “urgent” (in quotes because it was someone else’s definition of urgent) project meeting came up that was four hours long that I “had” to attend.  We were told to have the meeting urgently because it was described as a critical meeting to get something designed and moving that HAD to be completed immediately.

Beach towns aren’t always the greatest at WiFi connectivity (thankfully) so I had to ride my bike around town till I found a spot with internet connectivity. I sat on a rickety chair in the town library for the next five hours taking part in the meeting. Thankfully, because I was already at the beach, I could put the meeting out of my mind about ten minutes after it was over as next steps could wait till Monday.

Fast forward to that same weekend, one year later, and as I drove into that beach town again for the first time in the season I saw the library building and immediately had flash backs to that meeting–the meeting that had to get done on that particular day, because we had to get the project moving immediately.

Quickly my flash back turned into a great teaching moment as I realized that while it was now a year later, that particular project had still not started and was still having “urgent” meetings.

I just drove by that library again this season, and now every time I see it it becomes a great lesson in building trust with a team and how taking action to move a project forward is usually better than just talking about doing something.

Online Learning Team Building Platform

I’ve been thinking about how to strengthen online teams… Many online courses require participants to form teams to complete some of the work. There are two ways to go about this:

  1. Create a team of people you already know
  2. Join a diverse team of strangers supplied by the platform

If you’re with your friends and colleagues, team building aspects may not be an issues. But if you’re on a new diverse team, you might benefit from some additional team building activities.

Instead of nesting team building activities into each separate online platform, why not build a platform that specializes in creating stronger bonds between online teams for the purposes of coursework? Then the teams could utilize this new team building platform for becoming a better team, and the learning platform can focus on being a better learning platform.

What would you do to help online teams get stronger?

 

Failure Awards

Very similar to Beg Forgiveness Cards

How about creating an awards program in your group specifically to highlight failure.

Celebrating success is great, but celebrating failure could just lead to better success.

What else do you need to celebrate in your group to help entice more of that behavior?

 

Beg Forgiveness Cards

Getting your team to believe that failure is an option or that taking prudent risks are OK is sometimes hard.  Most people in a work environment are trained to believe that things need to work out correctly all the time.

If you’re trying to get your team to live into the phrase “beg forgiveness rather than ask permission” maybe you can help accelerate their adoption of this with “Beg Forgiveness Cards.”

Think of little business cards that simply say “I took a risk and it didn’t work out. I am begging for forgiveness.”

Give out 2 or 3 to your team per year as a way to signal that they have a free pass to try something they think is risky, even if it does fail.  Maybe even include a line on the back like “and the thing I learned was ______.”

This shows that even when someone messes something up they can learn from it as well. After some time, you can display the collected cards for everyone to see what was learned and increase the overall risk tolerance of your group.

What other types of cards could people use at your office?  What could this little piece of “permission” unlock in your organization?

 

Hackathons for People

I love Hackathons and think they should be used for everything from IRS forms to anti-bullying solutions.

So how can hackathons work for people themselves?

A hackathon for people is to find help amplify or find solutions for one person’s work, because it’s great and you want to help spread or deliver their idea.

The idea of a Hackathon for People took shape as a friend and I were talking about someone in our community that has done a ton of good for other people but always let his needs or desires take a back seat.

What if we could get all kinds of people together from different expertise areas where he might be able to benefit and work to create outcomes for his long-term benefit?

This isn’t fundraising or anything – this is helping him do what he might not know how to do (build a website, edit a video) help him build momentum.  It’s also about teaching throughout the process so it isn’t just fishing for someone, but teaching to fish also.

It’s almost like Extreme Home Makeover, YC, TechStars, Trading Spaces, the Apprentice and Shark Tank all combine in service of helping someone that deserves it.

Who would you help, who else might want to help them?  Get to it.

The Question Recorder

You can tell a lot about a group from the questions they ask each other and/or ask others outside the group.

Think of the power of uncovering insights based on the ability to document every question ever asked by or to a group/brand/person/etc and tracking all the context and meta data attached to it.  Being able to record the solution as well would make it even more powerful.

The potential builds off of the data–like an automatic FAQ creator or a prioritized list of focus areas based on number or type of questions–would be incredibly valuable as well.

At the end of the day, the questions we ask of ourselves determine the type of people that we will become.

-Leo Babauta

What else could we do with this data?

 

Finding the Payoff in Your Work

When I was a little kid I was always on the search for odd jobs. A couple times my Uncle Mike brought me to a warehouse he managed where they distributed VHS training videos in all sorts of subjects. One of the jobs I did there was to take huge boxes of VHS video tapes and stick stickers on the front of them before putting into other huge boxes. It was one of the greatest jobs I ever had.

The reason why: there was an immediate payoff (and maybe it’s related to singular focus).

I could see hour by hour, minute by minute the exact output of my work and set up little games to challenge myself to get better. If I did 2 boxes of video tapes the first hour, I would challenge myself to get 2.5 boxes done the next hour.

How many times do you get to the end of your day and think “what the hell did I do today?” Sure, you know you went through hundreds of emails and sat in hours of meetings and did SOMETHING today – you just have no idea what it was and there was no payoff at the end that lets you realize your impact. It usually after months and months of a large project to realize any payoff when it launches.

What would happen if you or the people on your team were absolutely clear, every day, about what the payoff was that you were working towards? How can you tie your daily actions to overall longer term goals?

Whatever you do, just please don’t set up some little system where you make the number of emails you send in a day or the total number of minutes you spend in a meeting any criteria for success.