Longevity in the workplace can lead to clarity. Concepts or truisms emerge if you can distill down the daily activity in to big picture observations. Here’s a concept that’s become more evident to me the last 5 years.
Starting, running, and growing a business requires 3 key elements.
Hard work – without this, all else fails.
Luck – working hard, and working smart, creates more opportunities for more luck. Anyone who tells you they made it on hard work, or their superior intellect, alone is full of shit.
Who you know – sure, you can build a business without this, but you can do more, faster, if you’ve got strong ties with friends, colleagues, and family across your industry.
Driving in this morning I thought about a recent conversation with a former co-worker. The topic: how to handle co-workers that are gossiping, griping, and complaining. Yes – this is what adulthood looks like. Thinking about mundane managerial topics. What happened to me? I used to be cool…see below.
Looking back on that conversation, I think most of the bad advice I was spouting was an attempt to treat the symptoms, not the cause. Possible “causes” of this behavior might be:
* Frustration with rapid change and lack of formalized structure
* Feeling like they don’t have a stake in process
* Different expectations of how they want to be managed vs. are being managed
* Bad management
* Different character traits – they value/see the world differently
* Professional immaturity
Possible treatments for each requires a different approach. 1 – 3 requires listening; asking lots of questions to learn where they’re coming from, instead of preaching here’s what you need to do. Number 4 is your own fault. Number 5 – getting the entire company to take one of the StrengthsFinder tests or something similar could help here. #6 is when you’ve ruled everything else out and it’s time to move on.
Everyone has certain codes they try to live by, whether conscious of them or not. One of my personal favorites is “Less is More”. I personally believe this mantra holds true for anybody attempting to create, build, or deliver anything of value. A few quick personal experiences.
As a recovering salesperson, I’ve done my share of “show up & throw up”. That’s when your best prospect finally takes your call and you rattle off the 30 reasons your company is so great for them before they can even speak a word. Before you even know what they want. I have Brandon Wilkins, who was my sales colleague at the time at Bronto Software, to credit for this particular lesson. Immediately after verbally overwhelming a prospect, Brandon pulls me aside and with his characteristic charm spouts “Davis. Dude. Everything you said was awesome. Just say it slower and with less words”. Doesn’t seem like much, but it floored me. Thanks for that, B. Less talking = more listening = more selling. To this day I keep a post-it note glued to my desk that demands “Talk Slower”.
Another incredibly exciting work story to which us work folks can relate is what I have just dubbed as Salesforcification. You heard it here first. That’s when every freakin’ department decides they want the sales team to capture 40 points of data about a prospect or customer and enter it in to Salesforce. Oh yeah, you don’t get credit for your deal until you have it all entered. Sheesh. The focus should be on Less data that has More impact on what really matters. Plus, grilling your brand new customer with 25 questions about what vendors they use strictly for your own corporate benefit is just plain rude. If you’re implementing or managing Salesforce, don’t let this happen to you.
And now a fun case study with audio. Back when I was cool I played guitar, wrote songs, and attempted to arrange the band as well. Figuring out who plays what & when. Our first arrangements were a sloppy mess. Check out “Blue Jay” on our CDBaby page here. 5 years later we were starting to get the hang of Less is More on “Smelling Like a Rose. We played less notes and the music sounded more better. At least to me.
If you open your mouth to speak, if you write an email, if you tweet, if you code, if you post/pin/whatever, quality [almost] always trumps quantity.
Years ago I was considering changing jobs. I knew that I couldn’t grow anymore at my current company and was bored with my work, but I loved everything else. The campus and the office provided a visually impressive space. Any one who has seen the American Tobacco Campus in Durham, NC knows what I’m talking about.
Personally, I believe every employer has an obligation to provide a stimulating, inspiring, and beautiful work space. If you’re going to spend 70% of your work day somewhere, it should provide more than fuzzy gray cubes and fluorescent lights. Cube farms are soul-crushing and reduce workplace productivity by as much as 46%. That’s completely made up but it feels true(ish).
The next job I was considering, unfortunately, was a cube farm. The cubes were so tall it blocked all natural sunlight, leaving you to wallow in the vomit green glow of fluorescent tubes all day. Every day. It looked exactly like that image.
What to do? I turned to my parents for advice. My father only needed about 2 minutes of me whining to chirp back, “Matthew. If you love your work and the people you’re working with, you can work out of a cardboard box”. True.