I'm particularly fond of sentences that start with, "You should..."
Actually, the truth is...I'm not. Neither should you. I recall a moment when I should on a coworker. I said "You should develop this product line." He replied, "I should do a lot of things."
I know what I would do in a situation, but I'm not you...and you're not me. I know, you know, and we all know that each of us would do different things in a given situation. So let it be, or present it in a different way. When you should-on someone you're just stressing them out. We are all busy and have tremendous workloads these days.
If you really believe in your idea and you're not just spouting off some worthless idea, then here's an alternative to dropping a big should on someone:
"I think this (insert your idea) would be a good idea, would you be interested in working on it with me?"
Paul Mitchell the School has a great culture. For the most part, creative students are excited to be there and they all have a million ideas for marketing, service, parties, events, hair styles etc. When a student comes up to a learning leader with a great idea and begins to should on them, the reply is, "Would you like to be the 'Creative Master' over this project?"
The ball gets passed back to the person with the idea to work on. If it's really worth it then they'll make it happen and hopefully ask for help. Ideas are great, we all have ideas, but it takes hard work to make them happen a reality...hard work that most people are not willing to do.
It’s a always a helpful reminder to make a list and check it twice.
I recently read Atul Gawande's Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right.
I must agree with the author, tragic mistakes can be sharply reduced with just 3 things:
- A piece of paper
- Hand-drawn boxes
- A pencil
I happen to use the iPhone Reminder App...and I use it daily.
I learned from Gawande that,
“The volume and complexity of what we know
has exceeded our individual ability to deliver
its benefits correctly, safely, and/or reliably.”
It's hard to count on people. Can you relate? A select few I know I can always count on to follow through - they are the exception, not the rule. If you want to be a leader here's some advice:
- Show up
- Make promises
- Keep promises
- Do what you say you're going to do
- Listen...really listen
- Trust (but verify)
- Care about the work (Administer)
- Care about the people (Minister)
- Talk to people (not at them)
- Show respect
If you can't do one of these things then find someone else to replace you. Don;t just quit.
For so many years I have made To Do Lists
or simple Checklists,
to keep myself on track so I don’t forget basic basic tasks that I meant to do, but for some reason just omitted. I write down No-Brainer
tasks which are STUPID
. I’ve been criticized for listing such mundane tasks, but simply stated, “It really helps me to remember to get it right!”
I can’t stand it when I don’t do something that is very easy, just because I had too much on my mind to remember to do it.
The excuses are endless: “It takes too much time to make a list,”
or “What’s the point? If I forget to do something, then it wasn’t worth remembering.”
The truth is, checklists only take a few minutes to create and they have the potential to keep you on track for your entire workday. In addition, people (especially those who rely on you) really appreciate it when you do the things you say you will do (add your Ethos to the checklist while you’re at it).
Here's a thought, if your To-Do List gets too long, consider a Not Right Now List.
I figure if Pilots and Surgeons utilize checklists to get their jobs done, perhaps those of us serving in positions of leadership ought to follow suit.
When you tell someone your goal, you can experience what's called a "social reality." The mind is tricked into thinking that you've already accomplished the goal and therefore after you've felt the satisfaction from saying it aloud, you are less motivated to do the hard work to really reach the goal.
But wait? I thought you were supposed to tell your friends your goals? Sorry, stop doing it. Scientific study trumps conventional wisdom on this one. Look at this TED talk by Derek Sivers and learn more.
Resist the temptation to announce your goals. Delay the gratification. I know it feels good to say what you're going to do, but imagine how you'd feel if you waited until you'd actually reached it? Make no mistake, the mind can mistake talking for doing.
In my last blog post
I wrote about how unnecessary business plans are because nobody knows the future. It sure would be nice if the line graphs always went up and up...but that's not reality. Here in this video Derek Sivers, author of Anything You Want, explains the following:
1. A complex and thorough business plan does not guarantee success
2. How business plans can change quickly
My favorite quote from this video is:
"No business plan survives first contact with the customer."
Check out this case study
to learn the above principle in great depth and these other lessons:
- Business plans are the leading cause of startup death
- Rapidly changing markets require continuous business model iteration/customer development
- Your ability to raise money has no correlation with customer adoption
It's amazing how some people just won't admit that they "don't know." They can believe in their plan so much that they can't adapt as needed - this is how business plans stifle progress. No matter what you've got planned, once you get into the real world, everything will change. It's better to understand this from the start. Enjoy the video!
The landscape of business is ever changing. 2011 is halfway over and already so much has gone down. I imagine most management professionals out there would agree that the first two quarters have felt like a roller coaster.
It's been on my mind to revaluate my company's business plan amid all the changes as of late and create a new plan, budget, goals etc.
But then I got to thinking about the last plan I wrote...it was a great plan but in the middle of following it the economy drastically changed! Some competitors dropped off, many old customers disappeared, we gained new ones and had to learn how to serve their needs, our vendors tightened lines of credit, some of them disappeared too. It felt like we were running a totally different organization.
I've come to realize that business planning and forecasting (especially over the long-run) is really just guessing. There are way too many variables outside of what you can actually control, like: market conditions, your competition, your customers, the wonderful economy and so on. Throughout my years in business school and in almost all the classical publications I've read, managers are advised to write "business plans."
It sounds responsible, yes. But now I ask, "What’s the point?!"
Recently I read this article
by Eric Markowitz
, where he writes about Araceli Camargo
's notion that planning is actually bad
for business. Here's an excerpt:Some research supports this claim. In 2007, The Wall Street Journal reported that “budding entrepreneurs can spend months, sometimes years, polishing elaborate 50- to 100-page business plans that include financial projections, market research, and intricate details on day-to-day planning and organization…But skeptics say there's little concrete evidence that extensive planning is highly correlated to success." Two years later, in 2009, The Journal clarified further, noting that "researchers found no evidence (emphasis added) that either the content or presentation of the plan influences venture capital-funding decisions."
Now I'm a HUGE planner. I'm constantly making plans in my life's personal pursuits - planning events, projects, and things you have control over is a great way to be a productive individual. But the problem I see with planning in the business world is this:Writing a business plan makes you feel in control of things you really can’t control.
I've come to realize that business is all about improvising. You have to be able to take on an opportunity when it presents itself. I've also learned that you have the most information about a situation when you’re right in the thick of it. Planning before
you’ve actually done it doesn’t make any sense; before
is the worst time to make an important decision. This is often the reason why you feel incredibly overwhelmed after a long planning meeting.
I'm always thinking about the future and how I should solve problems that I see on the horizon. But I no longer feel like I need to write it down and obsess over it. I use to stress about keeping to business plans, financial projections, and stratagem…but it was a waste of energy because these are all just guesses! When you start to think about it like that, it's really not so serious.
I've decided I'm going to quit guessing. I'm just going to decide what I'll do this week and stop worrying about the rest of 2011. I'll start with the most important thing I can think of and move on from there. This sounds much better than following a plan blindly that has no correlation with reality.
I just read this article
by David Ronick
), the point that stood out to me most was when he stated “perfect is the enemy of good enough." I'm somewhat of a perfectionist, I like things neat, organized, on time or early. I often go overboard in the beginning diving into what I'm doing so I have enough time to refine the project, report, product, or whatever I'm doing in a stress free manner well in advance of the deadline. In college I preferred to turn my work in early so I could get feedback from my professors (once I was accused of plagiarism because my professor didn't believe a student would actually do something like this).
I finally learned that when I'm almost done...that means it's time to launch. I use to curse myself with constant editing when the product was actually "good enough," I would waste a great deal of time trying to make it perfect.
I no longer do this because Jason Fried
taught me in on page 93 of Rework
that once a product does what it needs to do, then it needs to go to market. I used to hold everything up because of a few leftovers, when I should have been shipping the product out the door, and putting off what I didn't need right at that very moment. Jason makes the point, "Build the necessities now, worry about the luxuries later."
I'm reminded of the founders of Crate and Barrel. They didn't wait to build perfect and fancy displays when they opened their first store. No, what they did was turn over the crates and barrels that the merchandise came in and stacked the products on top of them. I love the no-frills Costco credo! Drop the pallet and cut the wrap - that's it.
While this kind of approach could easily be mistaken for skimping on quality, cutting corners, laziness or procrastination, it's important to understand that the best way to create something great is through iterations.
Some times we get ourselves into trouble with bosses, coworkers, and customers.
We bring it upon ourselves because our estimates flat out suck. We upset these people because we tell them we'll have the job done, the order processed, the assignment completed, the bid prepared, or the proposal submitted...but we fail to meet their expectations because maybe we should have asked for more time. But we don't!
We press through and ship it late hoping they'll understand but they usually don't, they become frustrated with us and we might even get labeled as the person that's "always running behind." Worse, our ethos is damaged and we feel like a liar because we didn't do what we said we would do.
If your intentions are pure and you want to deliver great service to whom ever, but it often seems like you're running behind, then you need to read this attachment. You can avoid this kind of trouble by better communicating the expectations, you can do this by breaking the project down into smaller pieces. It's hard to judge how long a huge project will take, it's easier to estimate how long something small will take. So take a moment, break down the project down into smaller chunks, then do the math. Expect the best outcome, but plan for the worst.