You Get What You Celebrate

While it may be a cliché in the workplace, it is also indisputable that “What gets measured, gets managed.” In other words, as soon as something becomes a KPI, gets placed on a performance review, is tied to compensation, or becomes the CEO’s new hot button, it is almost certain that performance around this new metric will rise.
Well that’s simple then. In your business, if you want to improve something, simply begin measuring it and stack ranking the results. You are almost guaranteed to see your work or your team’s work improve in this area. Without getting too deep into the pros and cons of the KPI culture in corporate America, there are some drawbacks to this approach however, and there are times when it can backfire. Instead of delving into those examples (maybe another time…), let’s instead consider an alternative.
In a recent interview, Frank Blake, the former CEO of Home Depot made a comment that you could say is a close cousin to “What gets measured, gets managed,” but takes a different approach and arguably stands to make a more positive cultural influence on your organization: “You get what you celebrate.”
This sounds incredibly simple, and essentially it is. However, how often do you see bosses, parents, etc. who desire a certain behavior attempt to get there via either negative reinforcement or management via measurement as referenced above? Blake, however, speaks to how he encouraged a culture customer service at Home Depot beyond what a survey could measure. He drove this behavior via hundreds of handwritten notes to employees who demonstrated these qualities. He inspired this focus with break room TVs that celebrated above and beyond customer service stories. This is the transformational approach – the cultural approach – to achieving a behavior you desire. This is effective at work, at home, in parenting, and in relationships. So the next time you want to influence a positive change, think about it differently. Can you make the change come about via celebration?

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Productivity Points 1.0

 

There is so much to be written about productivity and how to maximize it, that there is little use in trying to capture it all in one work, no matter the distance between the covers. Few readers would have the patience to read it, and no writers would have the lifespan to write it. Instead it is best to take productivity pointers in bite sized chunks. If you come across one hundred different ways to improve you productivity, and want to try them out, chances are you try a handful. If instead you were to encounter two of them every week for a year, I’d wager your success with implementation would rise significantly. In that spirit, I will mostly keep these productivity points short.
In a recent blog post, Sam Altman, of Y Combinator fame, wrote a laundry list of productivity practices he has come to implement over time. They range from his sleeping and eating habits to the ideal length of a meeting (which is often zero minutes). A couple of his points stand out as particularly striking and worth an attempt at trying out.

Examine What You Are Working On:

One of the most basic and absolutely most influential aspects of productivity is the importance of what you are working on and your interest level. If you love something enough, you do it in your free time. You find a way to squeeze it into your day. Imagine having just half of that interest in your work projects?

But I get it. In the corporate world, you don’t always get to choose. Don’t pretend you don’t have influence here, though. Most employees do. What boss does not like a direct report coming to them with a project they’d like to contribute to? If you don’t like what you are working on, and you truly can’t influence it where you work, then maybe it is where you work that you need to change.

Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize

There are a number of ways to practice this. Start the day with your most challenging project. You should be at your most energized and will not want to tackle this item later when you are drained. You will also feel accomplished when it’s done, which can spur further productivity. Bonus tip: Don’t schedule meetings at this time. Your productivity is wasted in meetings.

Another way of saying this is to “Eat the frog”, which comes from quote people love to attribute to Mark Twain (I’m unsure if it’s accurate and you can’t believe the internet when it comes to Mark Twain quotes). He is reported to have said that if you start the day eating a live frog, you at least know the worst of your day is behind you. Tackle your worst project first. Everything else will feel smooth from there on out and it will relieve the stress you are placing on yourself by leaving that item hanging over your head all day long.

The third skill to learn here is to become good at saying, “No.” Learn what is important to get done and what is not. You don’t have to fix every problem or put out every fire. You will get yourself into trouble if you try. Saying no to something is simply allowing yourself to say yes to something more important when it arises, if it’s not already staring you in the face.

Use a Full Spectrum LED

For the most actionable item on the list, try this. Full spectrum LED lights have a host of benefits, including helping with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) for those of us in the colder, darker climates. Altman says he uses his for 10-15 minutes every morning while he works through emails, and it is the one of the best things he has implemented. Not what I expected to find in this article, but mine will be getting delivered by Amazon by the end of the week…

Make Smaller Maps

The bigger the map, the bigger the potential mistakes. Work with closer goals and course correct along the way.

Show of hands, who has been to the Mountains of Kong? Oh really? I doubt it. The Mountains of Kong are a non-existent mountain range that magically spanned the continent of Africa for much of the 1800s. James Rennell, Johann Reinecke, and John Cary all displayed this massive range on their maps and engravings, while famous explorers such as René Caillié, Lemon Lander, and Hugh Clapperton all included this on their maps as well. There are various lessons you could derive from this story, but the one I want to focus on relates to a phrase from Scott Berkun’s book A Year Without Pants. Not only does the book have one of the best names ever penned, but useful nuggets are buried throughout its pages regarding modern work and the accompanying challenges around remote workspaces, project management, and culture.
One of the more striking bits of wisdom in A Year Without Pants is Berkun’s supplication to his readers to “Make smaller maps.” Berkun’s point is that when creating a road map for a project or goal, if you set out every piece in advance for a large project, all the way to completion, and then attempt then to follow it, you run the larger risk of being drastically wrong. However, if you work with smaller maps, simply moving yourself in the direction of where you need to go, or even think you need to go, you are much more likely to discover mistakes and course correct along the way. You are not blinded by the destination way off in the distance, leading you further afield. You instead focus on the goal just in front of you, which in turn moves you in the right direction. The faulty pieces of your map come more easily to light and you can fix them, creating a stronger product or process.
So work with smaller maps, make sure your progress is accurate and building soundly upon your previous steps. While you certainly need to be aware of what is on the horizon, if you have created a map with a destination deep in the Mountains of Kong, and are so gung-ho about getting there that you fail to realize your blunder until it is too late, you are going to have a long, embarrassing road home.

How to Battle Commitment Regret

We all know the feeling. It’s the night before an event, or worse, the morning of, and as you scroll through your mental preparations, you have two desires. One is to kick yourself for having said yes. The other is to rewind the clock and not agreed to whatever event is looming on the horizon. Why did you tell your boss you would attend that seminar? Why did you agree to brunch with that friend from high school you haven’t kept up with? Why did you tell your coworker that you would help her with that project?
When a commitment is far enough away, still nebulous and vague, there is no pain or discomfort associated with agreeing to it. In the heat of a moment we often agree to things without thought. We make commitments without regards to the repercussions. The next step in the process? Complain to our loved ones that we wish we’d never said, “Yes.” And one of the more masochistic parts of this phenomenon? We do it over and over again.
Esther Dyson, however, is a Swiss-born American journalist also known as a businesswoman, investor, and philanthropist, who has figured out a way to guard herself against this weakness. In a wonderful piece of advice you can make your own, she advises you to ask one simple question when something comes along that will eventually take your time or effort, but requires a decision today:

“Would I say yes if it were on Tuesday?”

This metaphorical Tuesday could be any day of the week, but what Esther is essentially doing is taking that event and putting it front and center. What changes to your schedule would you have to make if your commitment were coming due this Tuesday? What inconveniences would arise? Is this something you truly want to do or are you going to say yes because it is easier? It is only easier because the pain is so far away! Pull that discomfort into the here and now, and you will save yourself that Monday night regret when your next future Tuesday comes calling.

Wait…Be More Impatient?

We all know that person or have that friend (or if we are being honest, it is ourselves…) that is impatiently waiting for something that is years away. It is often a promotion we want to earn, a skill we want to master, or a job we want to have. We talk about it constantly, dream about it on a nightly basis, and oftentimes pin our very happiness to it. We don’t allow ourselves to be content, because this thing, this change in our life, is the key to the rest of our lives. Or so we think.

But that is not necessarily the point I want to make here. Let’s go in a different direction. What is striking, and often blind to us and our friends and family that, is that this impatience is not wrong, but just grossly misplaced. Patience is a virtue, but only in the right context. While we pine away for mastery of a skill, appointment to a job, or a lifestyle above and beyond our current means, we are extraordinarily patient with the activities that will get us there.

Gary Vaynerchuk makes a great point in a recent video when he says that we need to “Stop being patient with the micro and impatient with the macro. Impatient about milestones you want to hit years from now but wasting time watching TV.” The macro is that lifestyle you want, whether it is a larger house or nicer apartment with a fancy car, or an early retirement cruising the Caribbean. That’s the big picture. That’s the macro. It is likely far away. However, the micro, what you are doing today to get yourself there, the steps you are taking in that direction, is the micro. What work have you put towards learning the language you always wish you knew? What work have you put towards learning the guitar? To saving enough money to go to Europe? To learning that skill that will get you promoted? Or offered a new job somewhere else? Oh you bought a seventh jacket to add to your closet but don’t have enough money to go to Bali? You don’t have the body you want because you go to happy hour every day after work instead of the gym? You didn’t get promoted, but you’re caught up on every season of Survivor? My sympathies.

Too many people need to flip their behaviors. Be patient with the macro. Those are significant life changes. However, to make those things happen, get more impatient, much more impatient, with the micro.

http://www.stealshamelessly.com

Tell Your Boss to Go Shove Those “KPIs”

I see it all the time with new leaders. Note, I don’t say here young leaders, but new leaders. They are worried about one metric or the other and are trying to figure out what is wrong it. Or why it is off. They run report after report and pore over all the spreadsheets they can lay their hands on until they figure it out. They finally have it narrowed down to one Key Performance Indicator. One piece of data out of the thousands of minutiae that they have considered. They often then come to me with their triumph in tow, like a freshly stuffed animal back from the taxidermist ready to be hung on their cubicle wall. “Look what I’ve found! If we can just get this one metric moving in the right direction, we’ll be set! It will add X dollars to the topline or X dollars to the bottom line. What do you think?”

In these situations I usually have a couple thoughts or comments. Generally I will let the leader move forward with whatever their plan is and have them report back to me. If the results are good, then we may have found something important that can then be shared within the organization. If the results are poor, then it comes back to one thing: Don’t get so focused on the measurables that you forget to count the things that can’t be counted. The talent of the people on your team, the messaging you used to deliver the new idea, the execution of the new idea, the timing of the new idea, the mindset of your team, etc. Running a business or a team has just as much or more to do with the people you hire and how you influence their state of mind, as it does with the metrics you use to run it. Never, ever forget to count that which can’t be measured.

Before You Start that Pros & Cons List, Read This

It’s the most natural thing in the world. You have a big decision in front of you. Do you quit your job and find a new one? Do you marry the person you are dating? Do you break up with the person you are dating? Do you move cities? Buy a new car? As rational beings our instincts are to break down these decisions to the most basic elements of good and bad, put the pieces into our mental scales, and see which side comes down heavier.

However, Bozoma Saint John, the Chief Brand Officer at Uber, would have you skip these lists altogether, and she has a wonderful point, which she explores in detail towards the end of this podcast interview with Tim Ferriss. To keep it short and sweet, her advice is this: Very often, when you are making pro and con lists, you already know what you should do, and you are simply using these lists in an attempt talk yourself into a bad idea or talk yourself out of a good one. You do this because what you already know to be the right decision is not an easy one. You are trying to use logic, reason, or rationality to make the decision you want rather than the decision you should. Because one is easy. But the other is right. There is a lot of power in that thought.

This is not to say that you should never use analysis, which is obviously an incredible tool in your tool belt. However, there are many times when you know what the right move is, what will make you happy, what will make others happy, and what will be fulfilling. Don’t muddy the waters. Make the decision and move forward. Every decision is not a gut decision, or one that your “spirit” knows to be right as Saint John describes it, but often for the big ones, listing the pros and cons is an exercise in futility.

 

http://www.stealshamelessly.com