Asymmetry Can Bite You

Scales

Have you ever assumed something about someone and been surprised? Assumptions can bite you in the butt pretty fast if you are not careful.

I like to be surprised all the time. And I don’t like to make assumptions.

One thing I do assume is that any person or opportunity I engage has asymmetry. There is information I do not have. Everyone can teach me something. Furthermore, I have a deficit coming into any new relationship or deal. It’s unknown territory. So, it’s best to remain open and relaxed.

When I have asymmetry working on my side, for example, in advising clients, I’m fully aware of the imbalance in knowledge or insight. And based on the deal we are in, I make it a goal to close the gap, so we can have a dialogue based on trust. Often, this means taking time, listening, and sharing information in a way that is easy to digest, and focusing on education.

I do this so I can build long-standing trust with people who are worthy or who have retained me.

I have seen players in the marketplace that try to maintain an advantage in asymmetry in information or power, and I don’t see that strategy working very well these days. When we have an immense sea of options that are readily available, you can build mistrust quickly by trying to maintain a power imbalance in your favor.

I don’t think there’s a cut and dry policy. You have to read the people and situations. Sometimes you have information thieves that devalue you quickly by insisting on free knowledge from you. I don’t think you have to necessarily relent and give away your value. You won’t feel great about such misplaced generosity. You’ll feel used.

But in the case where good deals have been made with people that you like, building trust becomes gold. Much of that comes from how you handle asymmetry and distribute your knowledge accordingly.

You know things others don’t. They know things you don’t. It happens in car buying, dating, entrepreneurship and all your dealings. It’s a great opportunity to lead and focus on how you build trust.

 

Managing Projects with Speed and Clarity

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It is truly dizzying to work in the connected economy. Information is swirling and so easy to create, distribute and push around.

Most people did not go to classes on how to do project work or collaborate like a master. No, the world simply moves and we self-select in our roles, standards and work.

If we like a certain environment we can quickly move there. If we don’t like certain people, we can simply stop working with them. If an opportunity comes along, we can act or miss it based on our responsiveness.

Speed and clarity make you attractive. We are all in the service business and you have a personal brand whether it’s with customers, partners or bosses. Your ability to manage projects and provide world-class service makes you someone to either work with or avoid depending on how you provide service.

Most people are in chaos. They haven’t given thought to their approach to knowledge work, or they may not simply care.

Assuming you do care about personal growth, productivity and being valuable to others, here are a few strategies to manage projects in your world with speed and clarity:

  • Keep lists. Lists are simple, tried and true. They are holding places to organize thoughts into specific categories and actions. They get you ready for taking action. I like using Gmail Tasks.
  • Delete. The best way to complete a project is to simply delete it. At the beginning of each day, take a look at your lists. Your priorities are continually changing. What may have been important may not be that vital anymore. Simple delete it and move on. It’s a quick way to refocus priorities and get you ready towards executing on what matters now.
  • Delegate. We live in a division of labor economy. This amazing leverage allows you to let people who are more efficient than you help you to manage your load and get results. While there are myriad projects you can engage, if you are trying to get results, it’s better to partner with experts. The goal is not to see how many skills you can gain. It is to get the largest results with minimum effort and cost.
  • Focus. Many times you have to block out time for the critical project work that requires deep thinking and engagement. Put those in your calendar. Use early mornings to get the big important work done. When you are low in energy, knock out the lesser tasks. They still have to get done as well. It’s important to know your context, energy and rhythms to get things done consistently.
  • Push. I like to open loops on projects I want to get movement on. This can be starting a discussion, setting a far off meeting date, starting a reading file, or sending a quick email. If a project is worthwhile it will gain momentum and stick. Opening loops with people helps to develop an idea or initiative.

Most projects simply don’t matter. They don’t have the power to dramatically move the needle towards your goals. When you are inundated with information and requests that never stop, you can lose clarity quickly. Having a simple, focused methodology you can use in the trenches goes a long way towards getting results. And, ultimately, that is why you engage in projects in the first place.

Sure, you can play it loose. But, if you don’t prioritize speed and clarity, you miss so many opportunities, many of which you may not even be aware of.

Shopping the Talent Store

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These remarkable times truly do afford anyone with an idea the opportunity to build something quickly and cheaply. The connected economy makes it easy to put together a site, market, drive sales, fulfill promises and ship products and services.

The missing ingredient for success is less about the resources and tools available and much more about courage. If you have the fortitude to start, build and see your idea through, you can get going. It certainly will not be without failures along the way. It will simply be hard. But it will be much easier to start or build something than your parents and grandparents could even conceive.

We have platforms today which allow us to shop  for sellers. And those that have talent from all corners of the globe can simply become a part of your project or idea with simple search on those platforms.

You can put a project such as building a website or programming a new software out on Upwork and you will get immediate engagement from highly talented, low-cost technical resources quickly.

You can put a job on indeed.com and have resumes in your hands fast.

You can search on LinkedIn or post a job and your elaborately connected world of business professionals will approach you for your offerings.

The talent store is abundant, accessible and convenient. Your job is to be:

  • Clear. Know what you want and what results/expectations are required.
  • Cordial. Networking with consideration and professionalism. It’s a small world and you tend to bump into people repeatedly.
  • Compensatory. Pay a competitive, fair price. Overly negotiating can backfire. Do you want someone working for you with a sour taste in their mouth. Make good deals.

Shopping the talent store can move your ideas and projects forward with much leverage. However, though the ease of accessing talent is unprecedented, your leadership and people skills become critical. You have to manage interactions, work and results. Thus, when you bring people into your projects, you have to know what you want, where you are headed and how to measure success along the way. Your skills as a manager become critical to success.

I am a big fan of modularity. I like building teams, finding talent and getting systems, processes and people aligned for different projects. That last part, the people, is always tricky because you can mess up relationships and projects if you are not careful.

When you shop, be wise, insightful and deliberate. I always say, go fast with systems; go slow with people.

Today, more than ever, the approach applies. Build amazing businesses and ventures with the abundant talent out there. Just be sure your approach has some kind of method that sets you up for success and mitigates the risk.

Broken

When life goes sideways, it’s a blessing in disguise to learn what we are made of and if we really want something badly. Sonya shared some from our family’s recent dealings with being broken.

Sonya Dalrymple

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Has something ever taken you out of life for a season – perhaps an injury, a loss, or even a bad decision? I can only imagine as shock starts to slowly bleed into reality. “This is real. This is happening.”  It’s probably like watching a movie and wishing you could push rewind to rewrite the script or get a do-over as in Groundhog Day. 

This last month, our daughter Jadyn broke two bones in her arm from a fall off a rail snowboarding at Copper Mountain with her team. While we were grateful that it was only a broken bone, we were also all so very disappointed because of what it would mean for Jadyn – time off of training in the snow.

She was really heartbroken. She had been training well during pre-season and was looking forward to continuing the momentum in an awesome season with her coaches and…

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It’s a Matter of Priorities

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Moving the needle becomes quite a challenge for everyone these days. When we are drowning in a sea of information, it’s hard to decipher what work is contributing to the bottom line and what is simply wasteful and busy activity.

I usually have a nagging sense of dissatisfaction when I find myself doing unimportant activities that contribute little or nothing to my goals or my team’s goals. It’s a sixth sense and I tend to take pause when I find myself working hard for no good reason.

A lot of work these days is a thinking person’s game. You have to step back and get clear on what matters and what doesn’t. Sometimes, having dialogue around all the swirling issues and pulls helps to put a spotlight on what is important and what does not matter.

Too often, we suffer from attachment. We get attached to something that may have mattered in previous work or projects and we still put energy and investment into those lingering effects.

William Faulkner famously pointed to the importance or prioritizing in writing, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”

I think in knowledge work, you have to do likewise. Our sunk-cost biases and blind spots towards some things we may have been vested in previously can hold us back from truly breaking through. It’s critical to take stock and ruthlessly kill our darlings regularly, those things that are not meaningful contributions towards our goals.

Setting priorities is like getting a cleanse and allowing a reset. You feel lighter, more focused and able to execute. You get rid of the drag that creates cost in your actions and thinking.

You can always take a look at your:

  • Commitments
  • Projects
  • Relationships
  • Apps
  • Material belongings
  • Overhead
  • Recurring costs

Make a decision in these areas and unburden yourself form those things that may have mattered at one time but are simply taking up space in your new reality.

We don’t get to be automatically aligned. We have to make priority setting a natural part of our approach to work to stay focused.

Making Ideas Work in Reality

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I have a lot of fun every day designing things to work in reality. Researching, pulling technology together and finding talent to execute is something I have done for many years, and it is still gratifying to watch a system, process and team work. I don’t know, perhaps it’s a form of art or some tangible way for me to see a return on my thinking. It’s total fun for me to make ideas work.

I’m grateful that I can live in the 21st century and the challenge is less about materials, tools and technology as it had been in times past. There’s not much of a barrier to entry to put an idea in play. Our fingertips and brains can find all kinds of web resources, mobile apps and specialized talent across the globe.

The hard part is getting clear on what the input and output needs to be. Some kind of problem exists to serve the customer. It’s why we do everything. Perhaps, their billing experience is lacking a certain touch. Or projects don’t have a precision in throughput, cost and delivery. Or team members seem to make choices and decisions apart from what’s truly important.

Getting to that crux of what the problem is and understanding what will drive an immense impact is a creative labor of love. Clear thinking is not common even though we are drowning in a sea of options and information. You still have to:

  1. Identify a root cause
  2. Think about solutions
  3. Leverage your efforts with the highest impact solutions
  4. Test your ideas quickly
  5. Pivot
  6. Nurture the solution

This is hard when there’s so much noise and emotion swirling everywhere. And not everyone’s been trained or thinks this way towards problem solving. Even more so, many think chaos is normal, or they might even profit from it.

When we have those opportunities to be problem solvers and make our ideas work, it takes a lot of effort to ensure it sticks. You may have to get embedded in a culture. Surely, you have to lead. That’s unavoidable.

You have to see the possibilities and the answers in your head clearly first. Then the work begins to make the physical world adapt to what you see.

Each and every time, you give yourself that gift of conviction. You force the change that needs to happen in the world.

The great thing is that there are so many problems out there. And with some initiative and forcefulness, you can germinate an idea and create art in problem solving.

Build In the Cost

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Part of living in reality is accepting all its shortcomings and inefficiencies. All the inputs you may work hard to put into a system – materials, technology, talent, management, etc. – will not work at maximum efficiency or ever be balanced.

When your systems become more complex, there is going to be more leakage and failure points. And a good system designer will account for the cost that comes from trying to make a workflow or system work.

That cost plus comes from the dependencies and statistical fluctuations which are a natural part of life.

People get sick. A vendor doesn’t deliver goods you need on time. A strategy missed the mark. You get a software virus.

Every working day has these types of statistical fluctuations and it has an impact on how your business and workflow will operate.

It’s why accounting for the costs that are natural from everyday work as well as Old Man Murphy is so important to consider. You have to have margin that’s based on the inevitable inefficiencies which will impact your results.

I think it makes operational efficiency somewhat of an art as well. You don’t know what will impact your well-intended and well-laid plans. You can only know that there are places in your workflow that will take a hit, sometimes sporadically, and other times regularly.

When it comes to getting business results, the cost side of your systems are real and if your expectations can have a buffer to what is ideal, you can rely on a lot of flex in your outputs. This is especially true with people-dependent processes and systems.

I like to think about contingency planning along with continuous improvement in known areas that will require support at untimely intervals. This not only keeps you from being blindsided, but you manage the risk from an imperfect world we all have to tolerate.

Consider where your costs will arise and how it impacts your overall results, whether that is in selling, demand generation or operational workflow. Mitigating that cost can go a long way towards allowing for continuity and sanity.

Fooled by Heroics

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We do not tend to give compliments or recognition for, “Look what I prevented from happening.” It’s simply not how our brains work.

Yes, we have heard the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” However, who do you observe living this out consistently?

When crises happens, it’s an opportunity for heroes to shine. This is where heroes can extinguish the threat, problem or failure and get things on track again. It’s a time when such big spirits can shine.

But what if your business or life requires continuous heroics? Is that a good thing? Do you keep applauding when your problems finally get solved? Or do you have a downer?

I am not quite sure why people have neuroses. Some people really love drama. Others get off on the adrenaline of all hands on deck. Many in sales believe month’s end has to be extremely high energy.

Maybe life is too boring without drama. We like entertainment and movies because we can escape into some fantasy of plots, villains, world catastrophes, natural disasters and so many other problems that get solved in a couple hours. Maybe we all secretly want to be divas and actors saving the day.

We like the score to be close. It’s why we tune in at the last minute shot or crunch time in the bottom of the 9th. The pressure and the glory of winning is right there clear as can be.

Perhaps, our businesses become a platform to act out our repressed heroic desires. Who knows. I see it everyday, and I know people like heroics.

But, I’m not impressed. It’s easy to get fooled by heroics. And, don’t get me wrong, we can’t account for every scenario that can happen. However, if there’s a pattern happening, isn’t it worth subduing?

If you keep having missed deadlines for customers, do you simply ratchet up the effort? How is that building a business or culture?

Problem solving can be done far ahead of time, especially with repeatable events. You can ask simple questions:

How many times have I seen this issue play out?

What is the root cause of the problem?

Can I solve it? Do I know someone who can solve it?

Can I test my assumption in reality? What happens?

Heroics are simply not sustainable. It can do a lot for the ego and solicit attaboy’s, but it’s simply a cost at the expense of growth, scaling, and resource allocation. If you spend so much energy in crisis mode, how can you get to the good stuff such as imagining double the business or exploring exotic places or enjoying relationships fully?

Don’t get fooled by heroics. They feel great, but good businesses and people are on to better things.

How You Get Conviction

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Believe nothing. Move with the popular notions of your peers. Play it safe. Fit in.

That’s a good way to blend in without much change. It can work well as a strategy for work that is predictable and factory-oriented. In fact, most people are seeking this kind of stasis.

However, the reality of today doesn’t leave such a convenient existence as much of an option. Technology and people’s behaviors keep pushing the envelope and create new normals. And, if you are not careful, you can become disoriented, marginalized and irrelevant.

You have to have conviction.

It is the awareness, decisiveness and deeply embedded belief in what you do or value that matters most. You have to believe that it works or is true.

You need conviction to survive.

You need conviction to be valuable.

You need conviction to get results.

It’s a rare quality. And the key to getting conviction is struggle. That’s right,

Struggle = Conviction

When you struggle through work or hard problems, you gain insights that bystanders and observers simply cannot appreciate without going through the same journey.

Try doing something like building your own website on a server. You make a lot of mistakes as you learn. You understand how IT works with FTP uploads, server security, blank home pages, and all sorts of tripwires and pieces that make a site work. Albeit, it’s easier today than ever. The information and instructions are readily available. And when you experience the failure along the way, you have to keep choosing to push towards your goal until you eventually launch something.

This is true for anything that is complex. You have to struggle through the work. Along the way you give yourself a gift. You know what is true and why. You gain conviction.

So many opportunities are within reach for anyone with initiative. And getting conviction in leadership, technology, organizational behavior, selling, projects, and everything else we deem as worthy work is critical. You know that you know that you know.

What Moves the Needle?

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Most of the people I know are in a daze. Life is simply overwhelming. Sure, we have revolutionary technology that increases our productivity. However, are we really more productive?

We can push more information and work around like never before. But much of what is being pushed around is noise. It often doesn’t have much to do with the goal.

I’ve often stated that most things don’t matter. If you start with that premise, your mind can focus. You can cut through the onslaught of demands and unimportant projects that can suck your energy, time and attention. You can redirect your mind and work to what does matter. And my guess is that this is a very short list of items.

You have to honestly ask, “What moves the needle?”

For this, you have to figure out what your goal is. What do you want to exist that is not reality today? That goal has to stay front and center. Let’s say you have a business and want to make money. Here would be some things that don’t matter:

  • Coffees with people that cannot say, “Yes.”
  • Reading endless newsletters and emails that don’t change you
  • Traveling all over and making no deals
  • Working endlessly on your website look and layout
  • Organizing your office supplies

These are simply busy activities without a relationship to the goal. While we can be blinded by activities and effort, it does not move the needle. Wastefulness happens often because of our ability to rationalize and delude ourselves. Richard Feynman said it best,

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”

I think it’s fine to do all sorts of fun activities. However, if you want to move the needle, then there are likely a few things that matter above all others and those are the activities that must be considered as top priority. With the goal of money-making for a business owners, it could look like:

  • Thinking specifically and creatively about creating value for customers
  • Spending time with the best customers
  • Talking to ten people a day that can say, “Yes.”
  • Developing ideas to help solve problems for people that can say, “Yes.”
  • Making selling a process that is repeatable and specific for a team

Those are examples that could focus your thinking and schedule so you don’t fool yourself. It’s an input/output approach to money-making. Do things that matter and move the needle.

It sounds simple, but we have to think about where we put our attention these days, lest the pull of things that simply don’t matter sucks all the hours out of our day and energy from our souls.

Consider making a short list of what moves the needle. Can you identify 3 things you need to do that moves the needle in your pursuits that have to be done above all else consistently?