Most People are Almost Fits at Best

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Business problems are largely people problems. And, in the same vein, business is people.

Yes, you can automate. That’s easier than dealing with people. Machines, software and automation follows rules, logic and functionality.

But people don’t fit what the job usually requires. They are almost fits at best. They don’t come in the specific shape, size, function and consistency your jobs require.

This is why it is critical to gauge a person’s preferences and strengths. At least you will start with an understanding of the likely behaviors and bents that you can come to expect to see.

If your business has critical roles to fill and a lot of risk for non-performance, then evaluating a person’s inclinations is a small investment. It’s costly to discover the nature in a person further down the road and realize the almost fit you were hoping for is not even a fit at all.

I am not sure people change much. Most people are characteristic. When you talk about your friends, you don’t see them becoming a 180 of themselves. They behave consistently. So it is with the talent you recruit and manage. There’s a latitude to their growth and change, but not something dramatic altogether.

When it comes to getting work done – sales made, projects out the door, ideas that stick, etc. – you can lose a lot of money and time if your team members don’t fit what’s required.

It’s painful. And it’s real. I’ve heard the story repeatedly from business owners.

Expect most people are almost fits at best. But test to see how misaligned they are for the requirements you objectively have for your business. Hope is a poor strategy. A little foresight, process and quantitative evaluation can go a long way towards seeing if you have a close enough fit vs. someone far off the mark.

Can you be a better hirer of talent?

Manage By Outcomes

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How do you know most of your work matters? There are probably a few things that matter to produce the outcomes important to an organization. Most work is simply effort and cost and does not produce meaningful results. You can see this with the ridiculing of office politics and people doing busy work in cartoons and TV shows.

If you are a manager, getting results starts with a system that focuses on outcomes. You have to be clear about what the key metrics that matter are. Then build your system to output those results.

It’s not easy because getting people doing what you need takes pig-headed determination. Furthermore, creating clarity is hard without clear strategy and vision. This often takes dialogue to get clear on what really matters to your business. Your attention and day-to-day is pulled by a ton of distractions and things that don’t matter.

If you’re not moving the needle lately, then think about how all the work that you and your team do contributes to the outcomes you want.

Maybe you’re working on outdated priorities. Or you have not refreshed your near term and long-term goals based on what you know today.

Anyone can work and be busy. But, getting the right things done requires taking pause and managing to the right priorities.

What outcomes are important to you now? Is your work set up to support those outcomes?

Don’t Hold the Hot Potato

We remember the game as kids. The hot potato moved around the group and your job was to touch it and pass it. You were part of the game of movement. You lose if you hold on too long.

When you are dealing with information, you are holding the hot potato. The next person needs you to pass it. Your team member, boss, customer, vendor, or consultant needs the information you have.

If you hold on, you affect getting paid, creating opportunities or making customers happy. You become the bottleneck. And bottlenecks jam up the flow of deals and projects that keep moving despite your productivity or lack thereof.

Whether we like it or not, the game of hot potato never stops. We can just get better so the flow keeps going. It’s harder when you have to add more creativity to the flow of the game. It takes time, deliberation and accuracy if you have to come up with a creative solution to a problem.

If you are simply clerical, it can become boring. Getting paperwork processed, bills paid or HR forms filled can be tedious. That’s the temptation of letting robots do what we get bored of so human beings don’t hold the hot potato on critical path work.

Think about where you are in the game and how you handle information flow. The great news is that you can get better. You can become more effective by anticipating the work coming your way this day, this week or this year. You can be ready to execute.

Then when you get the pass, you can get the work to the next person that needs it quickly.

That’s how you play and win. It’s how you contribute when you are in the knowledge game.

Manage Oneself

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Photo by Mark Arron Smith on Pexels.com

That one can truly manage other people is by no means adequately proven. But one can always manage oneself. Indeed, executives who do not manage themselves for effectiveness cannot possibly expect to manage their associates and subordinates. Management is largely by example. Executives who do not know how to make themselves effective in their own job and work set the wrong example. ~ Peter Drucker, The Effective Executive

I side with Drucker. I do not think that managing other people is adequately proven. Most of the conversation I have experienced about work is complaining about employees and managers.

The one thing I can control is my own effectiveness. I work hard to improve my habits and get output from my labor. A lot of this is keeping to rituals, pushing to learn something new every day and staying humble.

Last week my lists of projects were getting out of hand. It was one of those cycles where the pile was keeping me from seeing the important things to get done. So I do what I always do:

  1. Cut out things that don’t matter
  2. Completed and shipped low hanging fruit
  3. Simplified my lists
  4. Identified the big things that did matter

I can’t control the chaos, but working through my own management processes over the years has been cathartic and effective. It’s extremely satisfying to manage my own effectiveness and see where that might spill over and move the needle elsewhere.

What Gets Measured Gets Done

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Perfectionism can be the antithesis of good business. That fixation of doing things right, rather than doing the right things, can move us away from the goals that matter.

I think there’s a lot of talk on KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators), but it’s hard for many people to slow down, think, and identify the core things that matter. It’s even harder to quantify what does matter. We tend to talk in qualitative terms:

That’s a nice person.

I like their work.

We are making progress.

How nice?

Did the work produce a return on investment?

What percentage of progress?

If you can step back and think about numbers that matter so you can hit your goals, then there’s an accountability, focus and output that keeps the focus where it needs to be without ambiguity. What gets measured gets done. And those metrics have to be thoughtfully created, tested and transparent so everyone knows whether the right things are being done.

There are many attributes our intuition can take into account, but good measurement focuses the bottom line around what truly matters to you.

Want more revenue? How much? What actions consistently done contribute to that goal?

Want a better reputation in the marketplace? How about setting the goal front and center of getting four star plus ratings on Google and Yelp? Let your customers score you and keep the current score front and center to see how you are doing today. If you’re low, it forces you to make adjustments based on feedback.

Yes, we can bury ourselves in the many things we want to consider. But it’s hard enough to get any goal when everything is working against you. But you can get one or a few that truly matter and put all your energy into closing the gap.

Pick a goal. Design the way to measure progress towards the goal. Then work relentlessly to stay honest with yourself and others that contribute towards that metric.

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.

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.