It’s super important with a new client that I always make a super-fast start on my work with them. There are a raft of benefits to this approach, not least of which is the signal I send; I’m can-do, energetic, enthusiastic and proactive.
They will forever judge me against this early work.
Many days, others want you. Other days, you are needed; your actions are vital and the wheels turn about you. Then there are the few days when no one cares what you do. These are the days when you stand apart.
You capitalise on some breathing space, not by taking a breather, but by doing the things that matter beyond the end of today, past the end of this week.
This body of work; the things that you do when no one is waiting or watching, will become your legacy. These are the things that you will be proud of. And this work will determine your value.
You should care if you do nothing at work today.
It was hot yesterday so…not too sensibly, I waited until the middle of the afternoon to mow the lawn.
It didn’t take more than the slightest effort (walking 10metres to the shed) for the sweat stain on my straw hat to start spreading. Forty minutes later I was really flagging. I stopped briefly for brow-wipe and a drink from the hose. It was really hot, and dusty. Then back to the mower which, suddenly, I could not move.
There was a small sharp stone wedged under my front wheel. I was intent on pushing over it but I didn’t have the power. But I kept shoving anyway and got hotter and more annoyed. My heat-aadled brain was unable to grasp the obvious option… pull back and get some momentum.
That stone was my broken excel formula, my failing email communication with my difficult client, my presentation that wasn’t humming. Sometimes shoving madly forward gets you nowhere. But a pause and some renewed momentum usually does the trick. Roll. Bump. And you’re over that little stone.
Get up some real speed and nothing will stop you.
Years ago I had a serious crack at writing fiction. One of my teachers, the late Laurie Clancy (pictured) was an old school Australian short story writer and critic. He was possessed of a warm, serious, funny and sad narrative tone and he had a face to match. Amongst the many insights Laurie imparted, “show me, don’t tell me” has stayed with me and remains a powerful metaphor for life beyond fiction writing.
To give your characters life, you must show their actions to your reader. By only telling, you omit evidence, you forfeit richness and create doubt about the believability of your characters. Each exposition and development must be illustrated, not simply told. Think Hamlet’s slide into madness, Ahab’s escalating vengeance against That Whale or Raskolnikov’s delusions of grandeur as he plots his Crimes, before Punishment.
We observe those characters by their actions just as our observations of those around us powerfully inform our view of them, beyond what they merely say. Clancy’s advice is never truer than when we pursue credibility in our work. We must make action our central narrative device. Our deeds and successes must be shown, not just told.
Focus on claiming a win at every stage this week. Celebrate small victories as you go.
Win Monday’s stage and enjoy the kudos all day Tuesday. Win Tuesday and wear the yellow jersey all day Wednesday.
Be deliberate and break away this week. It’s ok to show off a bit when you’ve earned it.
I have a friend who runs a very successful professional services company. In her company, the expertise of her people is paramount. In fact, it’s all her clients care about. So she’s always on the lookout for potential.
She has a secret policy for emerging leaders. Secret? What kind of a policy is that?
Her secret policy supports her best employees through their post grad studies. You see, the only people who qualify for consideration are those with the initiative, spark and determination to wonder about what’s possible. The only people in her company who ever get to hear about the secret policy, are those who actually talk to her about what they can do together.
She’s believes in the underlying principle that we should each be responsible for making things happen for ourselves. And so having leaders self-select for development is the perfect way to allocate very limited resources towards those people who are determined to use them well.
So the next time you hear a whisper around the water cooler at your office, you might wonder if you’re missing out on a really useful secret.
I have absolutely no empirical evidence of this but I think, if you walk fast, you get more done. Not because you move from one place to another quicker but, as you speed up your body, you promote urgency and action.
Dawdling along is nice. It’s comfortable and requires no deliberate effort. Whereas fast-walking requires purposeful action, energy and mindfulness. It’s harder work.
If you make fast-walking your default, it becomes a proxy for energetic work and you are guaranteed to feel more active and get more done. You’ll think better while you’re walking and, once you get to where you’re going, you’ll fast-work your way to super-productivity.
Ditch dawdling at work and try fast-walking today.
A friend of mine has cancer. In fact, he’s coming out the other side of some pretty nasty, visceral treatment. And so far, he’s on top. But he said something recently that made me stop, and think.
“I used to be pretty shy,” he said, “but I’m learning to tell people what I want…when I want it. I mean, what am I waiting for.”
Intuitively, we know that first impressions count. But not only do they count, they are very difficult to change.
The work of Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman demonstrates some startling biases that we humans exhibit.
One, that he calls Confirmation Bias, describes a tendency towards confirmatory evidence. Once we form an impression of someone / something (psychologists call them schemas) we will favour evidence that confirms our “theory” and disregard contradictory evidence. It has been shown that disconfirming evidence can in fact strengthen a pre-existing belief.
For further reading try Thinking…Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman or for an intersting and extreme example click here
Watch your biases and don’t forget to work hard to make your first impressions count.
I’ve been thinking a little about hard work.
We all work hard right? The usual definition of long hours usually comes to mind. Fine…but you can’t build a competitive advantage by putting in more time. Anyone can decide to work longer hours and do it – low barriers to entry – no particular skill required (other than say, maintaining effectiveness as hours on the job build).
So how can you work harder in unusual ways to get a true advantage which is hard to copy?
Try working difficult.
It’s a subtle but important variation on working hard. Working difficult goes to the heart of what it means to create value. You choose to do the work that others avoid, you choose to do the work that requires thinking but you do not choose the path of least resistance.