For a long time, I have not been interested in word gymnastics about management and leadership. There are many books and articles that do just that. I always used to think as leadership as good management, and management as mediocre or poor management. This used to annoy people that considered them as vastly different things. But in my flippant disregard for language, what I meant by being a good manager, and therefore a leader, is simply that you set your own work for you and your team rather than simply carrying out the instructions from above - mediocre or poor managers can do that. This is what led to my disdain for a difference in language as I could not see why anyone would be a manager that did not want to plot their own course. And I did not see why any leader would want a manager that did not want to help decide in which direction to work towards. If a manager is simply managing, then why do we need them? Cut out the middleman.
On a recommendation from my day-job boss, I have started read Leadership Plain and Simple, which has solidified my previous thinking, although the book too does draw a distinction. This book brought to life the part that I was trying to convey. The future.
Leaders have a vision of the future. Something they are striving for. Something that needs to be different. When people think leadership and management are different it is surely the future element that is missing from the latter. This is what I mean when I say leadership is just good management because I was blind to the fact that anyone would not want to plot their own course for the future if they were a manager.
If word gymnastics are in order, then a clearer distinction should be between leader/manager and manager/supervisor. If you just want to baby sit some employees and be a message regurgitate, then you are a supervisor. If you think up some better version of the future and then put that into action? Now you are a leader.
Marcus Aurelius, as all the Stoics did, practices thinking of fame and high office as something to be put in its correct place, rather than something of importance. Even ambition itself to them is seen as something to be avoided. Why is ambition seen as good in our society now? Presumably, it was in Roman times too, which is why the Stoics had to practice avoiding it.
If you are an ambitious male, it is probably an attractive trait to your partner. Can you work towards anything in the future without ambition? If we are to despise the future and embrace the present, then surely, we would never even move from our current place of rest.
It is easy to see why courting fame should not be seen as a good thing. All your freedoms will be gone. All your money wasted in the premiums of privacy just to get the same liberties as anyone else. Paying thousands per night for a hotel room that you are then trapped in. Unable to go to the shops to get some mil without being pursued.
But what of more noble ambitions? What of calling? Marcus also laments of himself being lazy staying in bed. If he has no ambition or ambition is bad, then why is staying in bed so bad? Is working towards something bad? The work itself is in the present. Only taking the mind too far into the future is undesirable as it takes away from actually doing the work.
Great ambitions, those that run away with a person, to win at all costs, those are easier to see that they should be avoided. But to want to be the best version of yourself? Surely there can be no better ambition. The only better one perhaps is to help others as much as possible but to do that we must look after ourselves first.
There is lots online about the Navy Seal 40% rule. When you think you are done, you are only 40% done and there is lots more you can give.
I ran a 10k race on Sunday and was at a fine pace all the way through not to bother me. Not going for a quick time, just jogging around and chatting with friends. I have done half marathons before and my friends have done full marathons and ultra-marathons. The 10k distance should have been a nice jog all the way around, but we all found that just seeing that 9km marker made it instantly harder. Your mind starts to say, 'come on only another 1km to go, push on through.' My body started to tense, and I found myself willing myself to get to the finish line. Before seeing the sign that we only had 1km to go, everything was fine - I could have gone on for ages. If I had not seen the sign I know, as I have done hard marathons, that I can do about double the distance at the same pace. Knowing that I was near the end caused my mental process to get interrupted, my body to react and everything got more difficult.
Training where you do not know where the end will be is mentally tough. This is what they train for in the special forces and this is the right training to do.
Where in life do you know where the end is? Only in manufactured environments. School - exam. Race - finish line. Work - clocking off time.
Real life, the middle bit in-between your twenties until you die does not have clearly marked waypoints. You know neither whether you are headed in the right direction or how long you will be out here for. Not much trains you effectively for this apart from Stoicism. Having the mental capacity to keep going and doing the right thing is the thing that life demands but is not formally taught. Unless you seek it out and push yourself you might be able to keep going, but are you going in the right direction. Or you might be going in the right direction and give up before you get there.
The twelve-week year. A 90-day challenge. It seems like even the algorithms of the internet reward you for consistency for 3 months.
Even before I heard of these, when I was busy in my day job, I found that I could cope with long hours and working weekends as long as it was in three-month bursts. I knew that during those three months I had to find a way of making all the things I was currently doing fit into a sustainable timeframe to give me a "break" by being able to work "normal" working hours for the subsequent three months. At the end of the three-month burst, I would be able to take a holiday, get back into a more moderate pace for three months before taking more one on and having a mother three-month burst.
After doing this a couple of times, it no longer took three months to sort out the next big workload. The same techniques can be implemented much quicker once you have practiced them and you start to get into a groove of your own system: cut out these meetings, replace with reports; find out who is reading the reports and cut out the ones not needed; find some areas of the business driving noise and move them to self-serve with a bit of training.
The thing that takes longer than three months is working on yourself. And that is okay. Once you have taken the time to boil things down to habits you can do every day no matter what - then do them every day, no matter what - why stop doing them? Build upon them instead. You might have identified one habit in order to get fitter. Great, well don not stop when you have done this for 90 days, just build on top of it. Find a way of making it sustainable.
Thinking of a 90-day challenge of content creation, I think this is where Gary Vee's document versus create comes from: do not give yourself the excuse of not having ideas for content, just document your day - that is the content.
Where else can you find excuses and turn them on their head? Find a way of keeping going longer than 90 days. Use the common three methods eliminate (other busy work), automate (non-important things taking your time), delegate (the tough bits or get help).
The second of this weekends link posts is from The Wall Street Journal Article on the most productive hour of the day - 4am. Some highlights below:
One of the most common challenges to productivity, Dr. Davis says, is that people booby trap their offices with distractions: Desk clutter, email pop-ups, cellphone, Facebook , news feeds. "By waking up at 4 a.m., they've essentially wiped a lot of those distractions off their plate. No one is expecting you to email or answer the phone at 4 a.m. No one will be posting on Facebook. You've removed the internal temptation and the external temptation."
Read the whole article here
This weekends link posts start with a great one from Barking Up The Wrong Tree on how to actually work smarter not harder. Some stand outs for me:
1) Do Less - Then Obsess
By using a variation on a classic scientific principle. "Occam's Razor" says the simplest answer is often the best. So start ruthlessly cutting all the activities in your workday that aren't producing value.
Ask: How many tasks can I remove, given what I must do to excel? Remember: As few as you can, as many as you must.
Reduce the number of activities you perform - and reallocate that time to intensity.
There is loads more in this great article. Go check it out.
My ideal job, assuming I had to trade time for money, would be going to organisations and helping them to cut out busy work. Processes that are political rather than help results. Random thoughts from the top that send a ripple into a tidal wave as it makes its way down the organisation. The quick Excel sheet that turns into a monster model to bypass an idiosyncrasy of the system rather than fixing it. Throwing people at the problem rather than process or system. Meetings that are not focussed on creative high-level thinking, strategic planning or tactical execution (all of which are valuable) but instead are a talking shop where people try to do other people's jobs. Things that make people feel good rather than actually driving results.
Forecast and stock policy is a great example. The higher level the forecast, the more accurate it is usually. When something fails a customer order, every man and his dog wants a say on what the process should be. How could you not know that my customer needed this stock? We must change to individual forecasts and roll them up. What do you think happens then? Everyone includes a little bit of buffer and it multiplies up until the forecast is ridiculously over-egged. No chance of us failing orders anymore but now we need another warehouse that we have not costed into the sales price, so now we are not making any money.
This example can be seen in every function in every area of corporate life. The proliferation of meetings is the same. The CEO wants a numbers review every month, not an unreasonable request. So, the SE's need a pre-meeting every month. Each functional SE needs a pre-pre-meeting with their managers and they, in turn, need pre-pre-pre-meetings with their teams to know what is going on.
Meetings can be great, but only if you have the right inputs focussed on what you want to get out of it. Why does the CEO want to have a numbers review? Tell that to the people at the bottom actually doing the work and see what you get back without the managers in-between. You might be surprised.
When will you know when enough will be enough? When will you know when to quit? When to try something new? When to move on?
It is not often in our lives that we have a big event, an epiphany, a big decision, the benefit of hitting rock bottom, that causes us to go one of two clear-cut ways. Most of the time is spent leading up to this point so that it never happens as a Big Bang, to more of the time is spent avoiding any decision at all.
Is it right to expect anyone else to change? Have you seen enough evidence already? What will be different in the future?
You know the answers to these questions even if you do not like to admit it. The real questions are: How much longer are you going to accept this? This behaviour. The standards you have set for yourself. When will you know when enough is enough? The next time? The time after that? How will you know which straw will be the last straw? You do not want to wait until the proverbial camel's back is broken as that will be longer and more painful than avoiding the loading of all the other straws right now.
Then comes the real question, You probably know the answers to all the other questions already, although you choose not to admit them to yourself. The real question is, are you willing to accept the pain now? The pain of change. The pain of not knowing if everything would have turned out alright. The pain of uncertainty.
One is a short-term pain with longer better future. The other is a chronic disease that you have probably got so used to that you do not even notice it. Knowing which is which is the key to a good life.
Possessions, career ladder, salary.
Freedom, lifestyle, experiences.
Know which is which and what it takes to get there. Which type of pain and which benefits do you want?
A few people at my day job have recently left to "pursue other opportunities."
One got made redundant, is close to retirement but yet did not want to go and retire on the pay-out, instead wanting to carry on working and will seek another job after a small break. A couple of people have gone into consulting for some big money but a lot of travel and long hours, so they will be impacting their family life as a result.
What are they working for? What are they earning the money for? DO they love what they do? Do they hate their families? Who knows? Maybe not even them if they have not stopped to work it out.
The latest person to leave has given extended notice (six months instead of three) so she hopes that a replacement can be found and have a good handover. How novel an idea that there would be some continuity in a key job. I wonder if HR will catch on ;-) But she is leaving to do charitable work or work for a non-profit. They always said later in their career they wanted to give back rather than working for big corporations all their lives.
I thought that this was so refreshing. Obviously, people who have made big bucks, celebrities and politicians wives always go on the non-profit train because it is noble and because they have the means to do it. But to hear from a 'normal' person that they have always wanted to do this and actually having the courage to follow through with it, with nothing to go to, is quite inspiring.
If you do not follow through in actions, that which your mind desires, then they can never come to fruition.
I found it strange that I know no one who has left to start their own business apart from a consulting business of one person, for tax purposes. But no one has built a product business or anything remotely scalable. It is like everyone is brainwashed to use time to earn money rather than the other way around.
It is the start of a new month as I write this. If you were waiting for an arbitrary time to start something, then today is the day. Or are you going to wait until Monday? The start of a new week might be the time you find more motivation than now. We have the weekend in-between then and now of course. It is difficult to start something at the weekend. Or maybe wait until next year?
It is March and New Year's resolutions are all out of the window. No point starting something big mid-year is there? Better to wait and avoid starting until next year's New Year's resolution, right?
If this sounds like you, I hope reading it has already solidified how absurd this thinking is. What are we delaying things for? Our future selves will be no different than our current selves unless we make different habits. To make different habits we have to start and then keep on consistently. We might fail. That is okay. We just need to start again as quickly as possible.
What about if you have no time right now? Well, why would you have more time in the future? You squander much time now, so why will tomorrow be any different. Or any other expanse of future time? Do today what you want to be doing in the future and the future will come to you. If you do today what you have always done on a day like today, then your future is easy to see - it will look a lot like your past.
What are you going to do today that you have been putting off? What sacrifices are you prepared to make in order to do it? Put first things first and see what drops off the list.