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Are you doing a good job?

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There are a few ways to approach work: 1) you show up, do your job, you do it efficiently—sometimes even faster than expected—and leave. 2) you create change, make an impact in unmeasurable areas, fail, and solve interesting problems.

Doing your job the first way can be enough. It is, after-all, what you were hired to do. But they could hire anyone with your experience to do that. What will make you irreplaceable?

What will we miss? To answer that question you’ll have to stop thinking about the job description and start considering your own mission, your own point of view, your own platform.

Another question you’ll have to keep in mind is whether or not your organization even values that kind of thing.

"I had no choice"

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Which actually means “I had only one path that was easy at the moment.”

The choices we make when it doesn’t even seem like we have a choice determine who we really are. Do we respond or react? Do we act or are we acted upon?

What follows is the impact we make—or not, your choice.

Work week

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This week, for many, is still considered a work week. For some, it feels like work. For others, it’s something they would do even if they didn’t get paid to do it.

So what is work? And what does it mean to ‘put the work in?’

Do self-proclaimed workaholics really work harder? Or do they just work longer? Because the notion of hard work has changed. It’s no longer about being the first into the office and the last to leave. It’s about asking the questions you don’t want to hear the answers to. It’s making decision without all the data. It’s inventing a new system. It’s telling your boss they might be wrong. It’s accepting responsibility for when you make a mistake.

The successful workers this week won’t be the ones who work longer. They’ll be the ones who work harder.

Another thing, this isn’t about working hard v. working smart. Working hard IS working smart. For working smart will still require you to navigate that problem, jump through those hoops, overcome these objections—which is really, really hard. Sure, there will be many days where you will stay in the office past 6 PM, but just because you are, don’t think you are working hard. Measure your hard work by the number of breakthroughs, difficult conversations, and innovations you have. That way the time you put in will actually be worth the effort.

Culture add

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If you’re in a position to influence culture - which (spoiler alert) you are if you choose to be - then you probably despise complacency. You preach inclusion. And you push for creativity.

Your main priority is, no doubt, to break through bureaucracy so that the environment in which you seek change is effected in an upward trajectory. In other words, everyone wants the same thing: progress, growth, and prosperity, yet we keep doing the same things over and over to get there—insane!

If we truly want what we say we want, then why do we keep doing things that don’t work?

If we want new ideas and fresh eyes, then why are we not listening to those who have them or seeing those who view things differently?

If we really want a culture of diversity, inclusion, and originality, then why do we insist on culture ‘fits’ instead of culture ‘adds?’

Now, if your definition of a culture fit is someone who adds value in a unique way, then, by all means, hire culture fits. But for everyone else, why is it so important that you hire someone who looks like, acts like, and talks like everyone else in the office? People from similar backgrounds think the same. They probably perform at similar levels as well; which, might be good for the short term but that’s not how innovation happens.

Innovation happens when new ideas are introduced and executed. New ideas come from a variety of different places—oh wait, that’s it! Of course, new ideas and methods can come from culture ‘fits,’ but there is something special that happens when a culture ‘add’ is thrown into the mix.

Here’s the thing, finding culture fits is a predictable model. It’s something all growing organizations are looking for (and when i say ‘growth’ I mean ‘revenue’). But the organizations that want real growth, the kind that sticks, that makes a difference, that matters, are the ones that find culture ‘adds’ (this time, when I say ‘growth,’ I mean ‘the process of developing or maturing’).

So what does it mean when you say someone isn’t a culture fit? What is your culture? And why wouldn’t they fit in?

Another question: what’s so great about your culture that you literally wouldn’t want to change anything about it? Wouldn’t you beg for people who add value? Add substance? Add depth? Add culture?

Then invest in culture ‘adds.’

Institutional habits

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Beside your desk is probably a thick book of rules, procedures and best practices. There may be a section in there about company values and another about how to conduct a successful meeting.

But then, on the Slack channels, there’s something else happening.

Like it or not, realize it or not, culture is always taking place. It’s adapting, changing, and pivoting. You can’t aways control it, but you can influence it—through habits and routines.

The best companies in the world are run by employees who have developed healthy habits. They aren’t micro-managed, they aren’t machines, but they are trained on how to react to certain cues. Angry customer? They don’t panic, they rely on their training on how to deal with this kind of situation; and the habit of kindness kicks in. Leads aren’t coming in? That’s the trigger that refers them back to whatever acronym they were taught on how to increase traffic; and the habit of productivity takes over.

Dysfunctional organizations have habits, too. Habits that are the catalysts for toxic behavior and catastrophic events. Then some big wig steps in thinking he can change everything by promising more revenue and lower costs. And the race to the bottom continues.

Take a look at the organizations, teams, and institutions that have changed things around. They didn’t see a drastic transformation at first. It happened over time. They started with something simple, celebrated the moral victories and the small wins along the way, and, little by little, started to see bigger and bigger results.

Turns out, we too can see similar transformations when we focus on the simple habits.

Start small. Take it one habit at a time, then give it some time. You will hardly notice a difference. But then, one day, you’ll see that you are different.

Prove you right

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Do you believe you have what it takes? Why or why not?

Is that something you were born with? Is it something you were told?

Which begs the question, is it something you can teach?

Howard Schultz seems to think so, and it’s a big reason why Starbucks has grown from a 6-shop franchise to a 17,000-store giant.

I really, genuinley belive that if you tell people that they have what it takes to succeed, they’ll prove you right.

So, let them prove you right!

How often are we tempted to criticize and nitpick weaknesses when there is so much to complement and be proud of? This isn’t to say to shy away from coaching, it’s merely looking at personal and professional development from a higher view.

Take a step back and reflect on all of the variables at play. Chances are, it’s impressive. If there is room for improvement, first let them know you believe in them. Let them sense your confidence. Allow them to see it in your eyes that you know they have what it takes to succeed.

Let them prove you right.

Habits of execution

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There are some projects that require months of planning along with multiple prototypes and iterations of blueprints. Building a house, adjusting the infrastructure, launching a project—by all means, plan, and plan some more. The cost of finding out crucial information is layers deep.

But for most of us, most of the time, the cost of finding out is very cheap. It’s as simple as a call, text, or email. Yet, we overthink it. We have come to believe that we need to do more research, act more strategically, or gather more data before we can move forward. In reality, we just need to do the very thing that all of the planning usually leads up to in the beginning, rather than at the end.

Here’s the thing, the thickest playbook doesn’t win championships, execution does. And, champions don’t do extraordinary things, they do ordinary things faster than everyone else—i.e.—they have developed strong habits of execution which helps them react faster than everyone else.

That’s because, most of the time, it’s not physical, it’s mental. It’s about an adjustment here and there, then repeating that adjustment time and time again that make all the difference.

Professionals, too, realize this. They know that there is no such thing as an overnight success. It’s about the small habits we develop over the years that accumulate into great results. It’s about persistence and consistency.

So again, think to yourself: is it information you’re lacking? Or is it execution? Is it motivation you’re lacking? Or is it execution? Is it talent you’re lacking? Or is it execution?

You get the point. No matter your circumstance, ability, knowledge, resources, there’s always something you can tweak and improve upon. Streak enough of those good habits together, you just might make things interesting.

It's not you, it's the opportunity

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Sometimes.

Because sometimes, it is you. In fact, most of the time, it’s in your best interest to stick it out, see it through, and turn your obstacle into an opportunity.

But then there are those times when it’s not you, it’s the opportunity. There may come a time when you have to call it what it is and find a different way because the obstacle isn’t worth your effort.

Again, this is usually the exception.

So how do you tell whether it’s you or the opportunity? Look for patterns. Are you constantly unsatisfied? Have you felt undervalued at other places? Were you not a culture fit before? It’s probably you. Do they have turnover issues? Are they constantly overpromising and under-delivering? Are they ‘hiring for culture fit’ as a means to discriminate? It’s likely the opportunity.

How to find a needle in a haystack

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We all have them. Needles we need to find. Haystacks to sort through.

For some of us, those needles are relationships, innovations, breakthroughs.

For others, those needles are goals, quotas, or projects. Whatever your needle is, there will come a time when you will need to find it in the most unfortunate circumstances, improbable scenarios, and unlikely obstacles.

Some will find their needles, others will not. The difference between finding what you are looking for, accomplishing what you set out to do and not, comes down to one word—persistence.

There is no such thing as an overnight success. The men, women, and organizations that have gone on to accomplish great things didn’t get there because they just happened upon ‘their needles’ in the thick of a ‘haystack,’ they got there because they were more persistent than everyone else.

Genius is often just persistence in disguise

Nikola Tesla spent a year in Thomas Edison’s lab during the invention of the lightbulb. He once grumbled that “if Edison needed to find a needle in a haystack, he would proceed at once to simply examine straw after straw until he found the object of his search.”

Sometimes, that’s exactly what it takes. That job you are looking for, that book you are writing, that deal you are closing, that mission are you embarking on, that person you are influencing, that thing you are learning—persist.

Work works—it’s simple, but not easy.

The thing that will set you apart from everyone else will be your ability to tolerate the difficulty and mundaneness that will certainly arise as you continue toward solving the problem in front of you.

Here’s something that helps me. I keep telling myself that ‘it’s supposed to be hard.’ So, settle in, get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and double down your efforts on finding your needle in a haystack.

Blinded by features

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Simplicity is making a comeback. Then again, the perfectly simple things never went away. We were just blinded by the flashy new features we thought we couldn’t live without.

Organizations do this all the time. Especially when it comes to buying software. They only see what the reps want them to see. They look past what the business really needs to run more efficiently. They disregard ‘minimum requirements’ and ‘deal-breakers’ in lieu of something ‘shiny’ or ‘innovative.’

Individuals do this, too. Especially when it comes to planning our careers. We take jobs we aren’t qualified for and pursue opportunities that promise more money in our bank accounts over choosing something that fulfills us or helps us feel alive.

Instead of focusing on features, first determine what core functions you can’t live without. Set boundaries and have requirements. Plan accordingly, then make a decision.

Liked? Or respected?

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When it comes to seeing real change, too often, we let the need to be liked get in the way.

Our ego wants us to be liked. It begs us to seek validation, to put things off, to double down on bad decisions, to avoid asking the questions we don’t want to hear the answers to.

Being respected is the long game. It takes time. It’s something you earn as opposed to something that’s given.

Failure is going to happen. You’re going to do things that don’t work, be places that aren’t a good fit, make decisions that have poor repercussions, have unfortunate circumstances befall you. It might be your fault, it might not be, but at this point, it doesn’t matter. It’s what you do now that matters.

Will your next decision be based on what others will think of it? Or will you dig deep, reflect, and take ownership?

When ambition backfires

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We talk a lot about passion. How passion should be the driving force for everything we do. But plenty of people have fallen without getting up in the name of passion.

Passion will get you kicked out, force you to surrender, coerce you to make irrational, inaccurate decisions.

What you need is not passion, it’s purpose. For purpose is passion with principles, boundaries, if you will. Purpose will allow you to detach, work toward something bigger than yourself, gain the proper perspective.

Ambition is an incredible trait to have. Give me someone ambitious over someone who doesn’t care any day. But with unbridled ambition comes vulnerability. So watch your back, because if you are too aggressive, you leave yourself defenseless to a counterattack.

Shiny new toy

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The new opportunity presented to you before you get the chance to show what you can do.

The young up-and-comer taking on the veteran champion.

The impulsive purchase on an Instagram ad.

We've all been there. How quickly do we forget why we are doing what we are doing, why we have what we do, and how great things actually are.

There's a difference between contentment and complacency. Being content simply means being grateful for what we have and putting things in perspective. Being complacent, on the other hand, means not bothering about trying to make things better. It's the difference between improving your circumstances verses merely trying to get out of every difficult situation that comes your way. It's the difference between investing in things that work versus constantly searching for the next best thing.

The intangibles

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It's the 'nice touch' during an interview like bringing hand-written notes to the people you're speaking to. It's going into a client meeting with cookies and data. It's showing that you are actively listening by asking engaging questions.

These are the reasons why you'll get that job, or not. These are the reasons why you'll land that account, or not.

The simple change to change

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I’m reading more now than I ever have before. Not because I’m exerting more willpower, but because I have 1) made the decision, and 2) made a few modifications to my environment.

And by environment, I not only mean my workplace and the city I live in, but also my phone. I simply deleted most of my social media apps and the Netflix app, and replaced them with a Kindle app and another app I use called Scribd.

They’re simple tweaks, not easy ones. But I’ve realized that’s the quickest and easiest way to building new habits and changing your life - one tweak at a time. The sooner you can replace your weak habits with strong habits, the quicker you can start seeing the change in yourself you’ve always wanted to see.

And—change your environment, change your life.

References

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When a prospective employer asks for references, they aren’t looking for more information, they’re seeking validation. They have a feeling they’ve made the right decision, but (usually out of formality) they want someone else to tell them that as well.

Every day, we’re forced to make decisions with very little information. And certainly after 3 conversations, you’re not going to know everything about your candidate. Checking references, therefore, acts as a smokescreen. It gives you more time and more information. However, the new information you receive is random (some people exaggerate, some people lie), and the time it takes you to check those references is wasted (when you could be spending that time with your candidate).

More information isn’t the answer—certainly not from people who skew the data (aka, references).

Winning routines

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The organizations that really get it—the ones that always win—have been able to develop a workforce of autonomous individuals who are bought into the organization’s routines.

For, successful individuals have habits, and successful organizations have routines.

Winning a conversation

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But missing the point.

After all, what is it you’re trying to accomplish? Sharing something important? Asking for help? Passing time? Teaching something? Learning something? Earning trust? Winning a friend?

If you really want to ‘win’ the conversation, employ the same tactics you would to win a friend or catch a fly.

A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall. So with men. If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey which catches his heart, which, say what he will, is the high road to his reason
— Abraham Lincoln

Intent matters. Intent is always what is communicated, no matter which words are or aren’t used. It opens new doors and shuts possible ones.

So pay attention, it might feel like you are winning the conversation, but is that what really matters?

Improving your writing

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Someone told me today that my writing was improving.

I appreciated the compliment, but didn’t really believe them. Then I looked back at some of my first posts and could hardly read them. I guess my writing has improved.

I had no idea.

As Seth Godin would say: drip, drip, drip.

It's time for a promotion

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First, do the thing others have asked you to do. Then, figure out how to do it faster and more efficient. Finally, find better things to work on. 

Wondering why you haven't received that promotion? It's probably because you haven't given yourself one, yet. 

Working on things that others have assigned you to work on is good. It's how you learn. It's how you gain experience and make yourself valuable. But there comes a time when you must choose yourself. Give yourself a promotion by learning new skills, trying different things, innovating, and creating a more useful contribution. 

The kind of promotion you are really looking for won't come from others. And it certainly won't come tomorrow unless you invest in the proper things today.