While I have dreams which seem a long reach for the next 5 years, there are some I expect we will see within that time period. For me, that dream is simple. Cell phones that are what we think of as our computers, entertainment stations, personal assistant, internet connection, social hub, communications device and everything else – all while connecting to any one of a number of docking stations which provide better input and output. This is possible today, but not in a way that the average person can put it to use in any meaningful way – currently it takes a lot of management and leaves you increasingly isolated while looking like a dweeb. I fully expect that to change in the very near future.
Process. While it’s a multi-billion dollar business each year in the U.S. alone, to read recent business magazines and blogs you’d think it a dirty word. Clearly, for large companies there are sincere savings to be had from sometimes marginal changes, and small growing companies regularly complain about not having enough. If this is so, what makes it so bad?
It’s not that simple. Too much process is just as bad as too little. It stifles innovation, prevents canaries in the mine from being able to sound the alarm, causes proliferation of non-beneficial overhead, and generally slows production and results. You can have too much of a good thing. In my opinion, processes should be like salt or spice in a meal; enough that you notice and appreciate it, but not so much as to overpower.
It isn’t more or less process we all want, it’s the right process. Keep it simple, get it working. Striving for that sweet spot is what will keep us all talking about process for some time.
Stand up, and move around! It is literally killing us. In spite of all the research for many years, we still spend more time sitting than we do anything else. Yes, even more than we spend sleeping. This is a shame, as our minds work best when our bodies are fit and in motion. How many great ideas have you come up with while sitting at your desk? How about while walking? I bet most of your best conceptual leaps have come to you while you were doing something other than staring at a screen and sitting down.
Do you agree? If so, what are you going to do about it? Personally, I’m getting a desk that raises and lowers (which in the past I found I would stand at for 4-6 hours a day). I’m also taking more walks throughout the day. I usually come back with better focus and ideas.
Make your interviews difficult. The (right) candidates want you to.
As much as we may say otherwise, free and easy are not what we want when it comes to a job. We want to be challenged: to know that those we work with will push us to be our best.
How does this relate to interviewing? Simple: if you ask only light and fluffy questions, they will think you are a light and fluffy place to work. Even worse, they will think you (and by extension, the company) are an employer who will let just anyone in the door. If they come to work for you they can expect to have low expectations placed on them, limited or no useful direction or feedback, and have coworkers who aren’t very good at their jobs.
Not really the message you wanted to send, was it?
Instead, ask candidates tough questions. Make them dig deep, work on their feet, come up with novel approaches to challenging problems. They will thank you for it. They will think you are the kind of place they want to work. And since you pushed them to the breaking point and still offered them a job, perhaps they’ll do okay. After all, you know them better than any of the other yahoos who just asked them to walk you through your resume (yawn).
Cartoon thanks to Canary Pete
When you confront a problem, one of the most important things you can do is ensure you are asking the correct questions. Too often we dive in to solving a problem the moment it is presented, but quite frequently, that will not lead to an optimal solution. Sometimes it doesn’t even solve the problem at all! Instead, step back from the problem and ask a few questions.
- What are you trying to accomplish? (or, what is the desired result?)
- Why is this important now?
- Who should be tackling this issue (and how can I/we help them to do so)?
By asking these and similar questions, you can determine if you are attacking the real root cause of a problem, the right problem, or potentially even something you don’t need to worry about at all. This takes only a moment, and can save so much.
What are the little things which annoy you today? How would you fix them?
Someone out there may come up with a brilliant solution to your problem, making the way you used to do things seem completely unacceptable in comparison. Along the way, they may just create something worth some serious cash. What keeps you from being the one to create it?
One of the greatest challenges a manager can face is helping someone through a performance roadblock. This is especially true of those who have done well at every job they have ever done – for them, the idea of needing to change in order to succeed can be unpalatable, and in the end, holds them back from even higher performance.
The concept has been explained by Continue reading
Most people don’t accept criticism well, which is a shame, since it is only through learning how to control our negative features that our best features can shine. Certainly we all like flattery, and positive feedback, but being able to listen to and learn from critique is crucial to career and personal advancement. Continue reading
If you are a manager of others, one of your most important tasks is to provide feedback to those who report to you, and help them become more effective employees – and usually happier in the end too. Most managers are never given training on this, and wind up either aligning at one of the extremes. Either Continue reading