The Productive Professional
Adam Savage, the co-host of MythBusters describes how he learned to repair his car in an article in Wired magazine. He says: ‘Every repair followed the same progression: (1) I don’t know how, (2) I can’t afford to pay someone else to do it, (3) I have to do it, (4) hey, that wasn’t so hard!’.
It reminded me of the progression we all go through when we’re first delegated something: (1) I don’t know how, (2) I have to do it, (3) hey, that wasn’t so hard! There are some thing we’ll never understand. No matter how I try, I’ll never be good at calculus. But I have learned how to work out percentage change, by practice, practice and more practice.
The sub-heading of the article was: “The more complicated the project, the more potentially awesome the outcome – but first you need the courage to try”. In the early days of this new year, maybe it’s time to take on something new, knowing that at first it’ll be hard, and that with practice, it’ll get easier.
An article in the WSJ discussed the negotiations which are currently going on between dockworkers unions and several east coast and gulf ports. Apparently, an agreement is near, but the effect on retailers who import the goods we see in stores has been dramatic.
Not knowing whether there would be a strike in JANUARY, they rerouted to west coast ports and air in OCTOBER. At first, I couldn’t imagine having to make such a costly decision based on not knowing what would happen in 4 months.
And then I realized, I do it all the time. We don’t know how flight prices will change for Mark to visit Frankfurt, Shanghai and Sydney mid-year, but we’ve already making those decisions. I didn’t know how the fiscal cliff will affect the economy, but that didn’t stop me setting targets for Career Tools for 2013.
Sometimes, you just have to admit there is uncertainty, and make a decision with the knowledge you have now. You could be right, and you could be wrong, but not making a decision at all is almost always more costly than making one.
A profile piece in September’s Fast Company about Maelle Gavet, the CEO of Russia’s largest e-commerce company has an interesting quote. She says “‘People keep saying, ‘We need more prioritization.’ I say, ‘Guys, what you want is less work. And that is not going to happen’”.
It reminded me of all the times I’d heard ‘prioritization’ as the solution to overwork at conferences. (The answer, if you haven’t heard it is delegation. Eventually, there’s no one to delegate to but the floor, and so the least important things don’t get done.)
In a growing, thriving organization, or even in a declining one, there will never be less work. If you’re getting less and less work, take it as a hint to work on your resume. There will always be more work than you have time to do. The trick is to work out how to be more effective and how to do what’s essential. And then to DO THAT first. The rest can wait. Sometimes forever.
In some magazines they have a bit where they show a reader holding up the magazine in unusual places. Outside the Taj Mahal or the White House or another famous building. Up a mountain or scuba diving. You get the idea.
I seem to have a new ability to spot people doing One on Ones in unusual places. Every article I read, One on Ones jump out at me. The latest is in an article about the Blue Man Group. Fortune’s October issue says ‘The associate directors… have weekly contact with Blue Man captains in each city’.
It seems like everyone has a reason not to do One on Ones.. and for every reason they give, someone else has overcome it. So if you’re still not convinced, come to the forums. We’ll find someone with just the problem you’re trying to overcome who is ahead of you in solving that problem, and you can get started with the best practice you’ll ever start.
We’ve said many times on Manager Tools that management is not simple, but it consists of simple actions. It’s not sexy, it’s boring and repetitive.
This was brought home to me by a quote on the letters page in September’s Inc magazine. Bennet Simonton, president of Simonton Associates says “My experience has taught me that if management meets the basic needs of employees to be heard and respected, and to have competence, autonomy, and purpose they will be more capable than anyone thinks possible”.
When I shared the quote with Mark he said ‘in the land of the blind, the one eyed man or woman is king’. Not only is good management not sexy, it is boring and repetitive AND it’s what gives you the edge you want.
The founder of Kayak was interviewed in an article in October’s Fortune, and one part struck me. Talking about recruiting he says: ‘The joke at Kayak is, if we have a business trip out of San Francisco, when the plane lands, my colleagues will say, “How many people did you hire on this flight?”’
It reminded me of Mark, who regularly gets emails from people he met on a plane, gave them his email address and they follow up. How does he do it? This is what I’ve learned from those emails. He really does follow our guidance on greeting people on planes.
He’s interested in people and what they do. He’s enthusiastic about what we do. He’s kind and helpful to the attendants and the people around him. He actually invites interaction.
If you’re finding it hard to build your network, think about the opportunities you have when there are lots of people around. Do you invite interaction, or do you have your ‘don’t talk to me’ face on? Are you really making the effort?
..do it well. Or as Muhammed Ali put it: “Whatever I’d a done, I’d a been the best at it, if I’d a been a trash man I’d a hauled more bins of trash than anyone else!” I was reminded of this by a piece in Fast Company’s October issue talking about Apple and Microsoft.
It said: One former top designer’…discovered at Apple ‘workers carefully loading boxes so the logos all faced the same direction. “I asked why and one guy explained that he loved the look on people’s faces when … he revealed all the boxes perfectly aligned.”’
I find, there’s a pride in a job well done which invigorates you. I know when I cut corners, and I know when I’ve worked hard. When I’m being half-assed, I know it, and I don’t feel good about it. Whatever you’re doing – be it photocopying or creating a 10 year strategy do it well – even if no-one else will ever know. You will.
From October’s Entrepreneur magazine an article entitled: “Accentuate the Negative”. ‘No’, it says ‘means more than just a rejection of a request; it means a rejection of the requester’. Huh? Really?
Sometimes, it feels like it, but every therapist I’ve ever spoken to has said that taking a rejection as a rejection of yourself, you set yourself up for issues. You are not your work, your ideas, or your request for a raise. You are a human being with value merely because you exist.
Worse, they suggest that the way to ameliorate the no is to say ‘Melinda, it sounds like you’ve thought lot about this. Your points are valid, but I just can’t see your vision right now. So I’m afraid the answer is no’. This is bad, for the same reason that adding words to negative feedback is bad – it makes the direct suffer through until you get to know what he knows is coming. It’s obvious. Just say no, rip the bandaid off and move on. It’s better for you and it’s better for the direct.
We have rearranged the forums to make them easier to use. Don't worry, we haven't deleted anything - the full 6 year history is still there.
We've consolidated the categories, so it's easier for you to choose where you put your question and to find answers to similar questions.
To help you find things here's a list:
General questions and Comments now includes the FAQs, Finance and Accounting and International Management topics.
Manager Tools Conferences includes posts for both the Effective Manager and Effective Communications conferences.
The Manager Tools Trinity covers, as you would guess, One-on-Ones, Coaching, Feedback and Delegation.
Career Management is the new home of general career discussions, Influence and Persuasion, Communication, and Interviews.
Hiring includes both Hiring and Interviewing Others, as well as the Bench Success Stories.
Management and Leadership is where you'll also find the Project Management discussions.
All the other categories remain the same.
We know for those of you who have used the forums for a long time, it'll be an adjustment, but we hope that you'll find the new structure easier in time and that it'll be more intuitive for newcomers.
Last night we were delighted that Manager Tools won the People's Choice Podcast Award in the business category. It's the fourth time Manager Tools has won in this category and the whole team is thrilled that you, our listeners, voted for us again.
Mike, Mark, Maggie, Dani, Mytyl, Traci, Kate and Liza were all over the States making management and careers better for you, so Wendii accepted the award on their behalf in Las Vegas.
It's a privilege to serve you. It's a joy to work for you every day. We're delighted with your support. We thank each and every one of you for your nominations and your votes.