Respecting Others, Part III: Information

Welcome to our last post in our Respecting Others series, where we’re examining oft-overlooked ways of disrespecting those around us. In our first two posts we discussed stealing people’s time, and unleashing upon them our poorly prepared communication. In this post we’ll look at disrespect through withholding information.

Now before we get started, let’s get one thing out of the way. I’m not saying that there is never a legitimate reason for withholding information from someone. I’m not talking about: secret recipes, magic tricks, nuclear proliferation, or your coworker who’s way too open about his bunions, for example.

I am talking about information that is pertinent to the shared goals of a group of people. Withholding that kind of information is disrespectful because it undercuts team members’ abilities to make decisions toward the shared goals. At work, there are few things more frustrating than having responsibility without the resources to carry it out. Withholding information takes away a valuable resource.

As a leader, you can’t afford to do that, especially because the goals they’re working towards are your goals. Not only is it disrespectful, it’s counterproductive.

It’s a classic power move that leaders mistakenly make with their people. The thinking goes something like, “Having all the answers got me to the top. I can’t just make my knowledge public. That will endanger my authority!” While that may be appropriate in terms of your competition, you’re not competing with your employees.

This fear-based move creates classes of citizens within an organization (those who know vs. those who don’t), and that breeds a culture of secrecy and doubt that is often at the heart of deep divisions, malcontent, and bickering within a company. The withholding of information becomes a sort of modus operandi for employees dealing with others outside of their “class”: managers to their teams, or this department to that department, for example.

The key here is to remember that we are a team and that our shared goals are best met when we’ve got what we need to make informed decisions.

Knowledge is power, and sharing that knowledge is respectful.

If you’re interested in real strategies for incorporating transparency into your company’s DNA, give us a call at 843-249-6588. And don’t forget to check out greyphin.com.

Respecting Others, Part II: Communication

We’re always communicating. Our actions, body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, syntax, and yes, our words all communicate something to those with whom we interact.

As we saw in our first post in this series, one of the most common ways we inadvertently disrespect others – disregard for their time – is based in actions that communicate that we don’t care about others’ priorities or perspectives. That may not be our intention, but it is indeed what we communicate.

The same thing happens with verbal communication. We may not “mean” to disrespect others with a certain message, but we can do so all the same, especially if our message is poorly prepared. We’ve all been there: a knee-jerk outburst before we’ve heard the whole story; a terse or snarky email reply to a coworker’s honest question; a hastily written report full of errors. These all communicate a lack of respect.

Each form of verbal communication has its own pitfalls. Spoken communication (especially of the face-to-face variety) is fraught with the dangers of instantaneous emotional expression. It’s much harder to collect our thoughts in the moment when we are in front of someone. It’s easy to get all riled up or to ramble on in a stream of consciousness more associated with our feelings than logical thought.

However, the additional nonverbal tools and immediate feedback available to us in in-person interactions do have the benefit of keeping us more cognizant of how our messages are received. If we happen to be calm, this can help us mitigate, in real time, any unintended messages and correct any misunderstandings.

Written communication, on the other hand, suffers from the loss of (almost) all of the nonverbal cues. That inherent lack often leads to a miscommunication of our meaning. While we may know this instinctively, we seem to get confused (or upset) when someone doesn’t “get” what we were going for. How many times have you thought that if a certain message was spoken instead of written, how much lost time, unnecessary back and forth, confusion, and hurt feelings could have been avoided?

Yet, written communication carries its own inherent benefit. It usually takes longer and thus, allows us more time to collect our thoughts. Sometimes that’s enough to diffuse any emotions we might have unleashed in the moment (a certain presidential Twitter account notwithstanding), but only if we are intentional about it.

So whether you are speaking or writing, a little preparation and empathy will go a long way. Here are a few tips to help keep your workplace communication respectful and goal-oriented.

  • Try not to communicate when you’re angry. You may think that you’re merely informing your direct report that she needs to turn her paperwork in on time so that other departments don’t fall behind, but chances are your red face (or triple exclamation points) are communicating something else (that she’s lazy, incompetent, etc).
  • Don’t leave your audience guessing. Be clear. When talking/writing about subjects that we know a lot about, it’s easy to overcomplicate it. Resist the urge to sound impressive by sounding confusing; that’s disrespectful. For written communication, a good rule of thumb is to write in such a way that a 5th grader could understand it. Connect the dots for your audience.
  • Consider your audience’s perspective. They come with their own experiences and perspectives, and to disregard them makes them feel talked at rather than talked to. Your audience may not have the same background information that you do, and therefore may not understand how you arrived at the conclusions you did. Imagine being in their shoes, and then think about what you would want to hear.
  • BLUF: Bottom Line Up Front. While not appropriate for everything, it’s a great go-to for many workplace communications, especially written ones. Give your audience the key takeaways at the beginning and then any supporting details after that. This is great because it is clear and gets to the point quickly, wasting no one’s time. It is up to the reader, then, to decide whether they need more detail or not. How respectful is that?!
  • Prufreed…

Respecting Others, Part I: Time

We all deserve respect. Sometimes giving it’s easy. And sometimes it takes a bit of self control. But, often it’s more complicated. You don’t have to be downright mean to disrespect others. Frequently we do it without even knowing. This is the first blog in a series of three, written to uncover often overlooked acts of disrespect.

‍‍‍So where do we begin? With time. Time is one of the only resources you can’t earn or buy more of. (And if you follow our blog you’ve probably already realized we’re seriously obsessed with it.) There are only 24 hours in a day, and if you want to maximize them you’ve got to spend them well. This is particularly difficult to do if those around you are spending them for you. Here are a few examples of what I mean:

  • The Yapper. Years ago, I worked next to a kindhearted woman who, unfortunately for her, happened to be a great listener. You see, her listening skills attracted frequent and unsolicited conversation from me, and her kindheartedness prevented her from telling me to, well, shut it. But thanks to my newfound mindfulness habit (I owe you one Headspace), I’m now self-aware enough to realize I was spending her time without her consent. It’s funny really. I regularly saw her rushing around at the end of the day trying to cram two hours of work into 20 minutes, yet I felt no responsibility for her stress. I wasn’t malicious, but I was oblivious.
  • The Flake. I have a few people in my life who are non-essentialists and as a result are perpetually tardy. This would be fine if they operated in a vacuum. But they don’t, and their tardiness frequently leaves me scrambling so that I don’t do the same to someone else. These non-essentialists are not only spending their time poorly, they’re spending mine poorly without my consent. Time is money, and time is experience. I regularly leverage my time to provide both material and experiential possessions to my family, therefore my time is very valuable to me.
  • The Over-committer. We all periodically run into people who struggle with overcommitment. You know the ones. The every day is a “yes day” person. For these over-committers saying yes is easy, but scheduling all of the yeses isn’t. They’re chronically double and triple-booking themselves. Sadly, the people closest to the over-committer are the ones left holding the proverbial check, and the only accepted form of payment, is their time.

When we spend someone else’s time without their consent, it’s a subtle and socially tolerated form of theft. We don’t go around stealing money or possessions from others, yet we feel justified in stealing the time they use to procure their money and possessions. Many of us have been unaware of the way we’re disrespecting those around us. But now we know, and according to an animated G.I. by the name of Joe, “Knowing is half the battle.” And, the other half is…stop stealing people’s time!

You Don’t Want to Be The Best

I know that you say you want to be, but you don’t know what you’re saying.

If you’re the best, well, then that’s all you have to look forward to. You can only hope to maintain your status. And if your focus is your status, you can’t really expect to grow because you’re always going to be diminishing, stifling, or downright fighting the efforts of others. But you won’t last long. Self-preservation can’t compete with the hunger of those that want to get better. You only delay the inevitable.

Because there is no top. There is no ceiling. Only an expansive universe that beckons us to keep going higher. If the thought of not being the smartest one in the room, the top performer in your field, or even the coolest of all of your friends bothers you, then you are going to be the limit of your sphere, the ceiling of your universe. You shrink the world. And that’s depressing.

So you don’t really want to be the best. You want to be better. But in order to keep getting better you can’t be afraid to make others better than you. Your true value is known through how you influence positive change in those around you. The real benefit of being better than others is that it affords you the opportunity to do just that, but only if you refuse to settle for position over progress.

Because we are inspired by those better than us. We are reminded that more is possible than we originally thought. A 4-minute mile was seen as impossible until May 6, 1954, when Roger Bannister did it. Now, there have been over 4800 sub-4-minute races. There was a time when doing the splits on the balance beam was considered amazing. Now gymnasts do complex aerial maneuvers on the beam…every day. Getting better is not be about ego; it’s about evolution.

That’s why I’m not discouraged by others being better than me. I’m encouraged that better is possible. If I am afraid to make others better than me, then I am afraid of a better world. The only way to make a better world is to help others get better, and if that means “better than me,” so be it. I am thankful that there are better people, that there are people who can do things I can only dream of, because they inspire me.

Do you want a better you, a better team, a better company, a better world? Invest in expanding the world, in pushing the limits of human achievement. Expand our vision of what is possible by refusing to settle for position over progress. Making others better, making the world better, is far more powerful than being the best. It is motive force.

Best is a period. Best is terminal. But better is a story. Better is eternal. Better is better than best.

So, if you’re a leader, don’t think that only you can inspire your people, or that only you have the answer. If you can get over your need to be the best, and really give yourself to bettering your people, the greatness they can achieve will inspire their peers in a way that you may never be able to. And if you can celebrate that, rather than feel threatened by it, you can be more than the best…you can be good.

There’s No Time to Waste

How many of you just can’t seem to get everything done? It’s not like you’re not doing anything. I mean, you’re doing lots. You’re running from place to place, expending tons of energy, and to the outsider, it looks like you’re getting loads done. But, what do you have to show for it? Well, besides several unfinished tasks, a super stylish frazzled look, and a fractured attention span?

Not much. Here are a few practical tips to help you, actually get stuff done:

  • Recognize time is a limited resource. Unless you’re Hiro Nakamura, you only have 24 hours a day.
  • Keep a rolling task list. Task lists are great for the psyche. Setting small goals and meeting them has been known to help ward off depression (hmm… I smell a future blog). At Greyphin, we use a handy little task management software called, Trello. Check out this sample task list.
  • It’s okay to say no. In fact, it’s great. Prioritize your time. It is yours, after all.
  • Now that you realize your time belongs to you, figure out how you’re spending it. You may have heard your crazy and budget obsessed cousin Clark say, “Give every penny a job.” Well, it’s time you give every minute a job.
  • Be honest. Now that you’re giving every minute a job, be real about the amount of time it will take you to complete each job. For example, you know it’s going to take you longer than 30 minutes to get you and your kids ready for the day. Yet, you still appear perplexed when you roll into work 10 minutes late, everyday. Stop it. You wouldn’t lie to others, so don’t lie to yourself.
  • Estimate better. Make a list of all the stuff you have to do from the moment you wake until you have to be at work. Assign each task a completion time. Add up said time, and then multiply it by your fudge ratio. What’s a fudge ratio? I’m glad you asked. Steve Pavlina, personal growth expert, has created this magical fudge ratio to help people get more done and stress less. According to Steve,

…if you estimate that a certain list of tasks will take 12 hours to complete, but they really take 15 hours, then your fudge ratio is 15/12 = 1.25. This means it took you 25% longer than expected to complete the tasks…My average fudge ratio is about 1.5. This means that whenever I make an off-the-cuff estimate for how long a task will take, on average I’m too optimistic; the task ends up taking about 50% longer than my initial guess.

  • Schedule. Schedule. Schedule. Literally schedule your day. This means put every commitment in your calendar. If you don’t have a calendar, get one. We recommend Google Calendar. Once you have all of your commitments in the calendar, you can use any remaining time slots to take care of the items on your task list. When your time slots are used up, you’re done.
  • Repeat. Sounds tough, right. It’s not as tough as you might think. With technology provided by the many calendar applications on the market, you can set your habitual tasks to repeat.

Anywho, I’d love to stay and chat, but it’s not in my schedule. Cheers and happy scheduling!

The Carrot or The Stick?

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Let that settle in. Vision is caught not taught. Unfortunately, many business leaders don’t get this. They’ve simply accepted the tried but not necessarily true philosophy that suggests people are best motivated by either the stick or the carrot. Ya, right. Stalin killed to get what he wanted, and Marie Antoinette gave people cake. But we all know how that ended for them.

If you feel the need to rely heavily on the carrot or the stick, you’re creating a dishonest environment, one where people hide mistakes and lie about their successes. You either need to get different people, do a better job at sharing your vision with others, or some combination of the two.

You see, your people can be your most valuable asset, and I don’t mean this in some corporate, inspirational poster found on the walls of your conference room sort of way. I mean it. Seriously. If you’re having issues in your company, look at your people and the way you’ve treated them for the last ten years. You’ve allowed or created this environment. It’s on you.

I was watching Richard Branson in an interview a while back when he was asked how he managed and started so many successful companies. His response was this, “I learned early on, that if you can run one company… you can run any company. I mean a company’s all about finding the right people and inspiring those people… Drawing out the best in people.” This is truth. The guy’s built an empire that grosses somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 billion following this philosophy.

You don’t need a shinier or tastier carrot, nor do you need a bigger and more tenacious stick. That’s because some get really good at hiding from the stick, while others experience this little thing called, diminishing marginal utility of income and wealth. Now, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here. The carrot matters, but it’s not everything.

So what’s the solution? Brace yourself, because OMG… here it is:

Know your purpose. Why do you do what you do? Why don’t you do something else? What is it you really want out of life? There’s much more at stake than simply getting a job done. You’re not just serving school lunches. You’re feeding children who may not otherwise eat. You’re not just selling insurance. You’re delivering peace of mind and financial protection to families. You’re not just building a boat. You’re teaching people to long for the endless immensity of the sea. It’s not about the job. It’s why you do the job.

Awaken your team to your purpose. Connect the dots for them. When they understand scooping mashed potatoes isn’t just scooping mashed potatoes, you’ve succeeded. You’ve helped them see this whole thing is bigger than they are. They’re now active participants in the purpose. Humanity’s been looking for purpose, well, at least since the dawn of time. It’s kind of a big deal.

Make your workplace fun. In fact, make it so fun employees don’t spend all of their time dreaming about being somewhere else, but rather spend all of their time somewhere else dreaming about all of the awesome stuff they’re doing at their job.

Be transparent. If your team has all of the info, and has caught your vision, they’ll make decisions in line with the decisions you would make. You’ll be happier with them, and they’ll be happier working for you.

Remove stupid. Ridiculous rules are a pain for all. So get rid of them or the people who need them.Set the example you want your team to live by.

Be thankful. These are human beings, after all.

Automation: Learn, Package Up, Give Away and Repeat

You’ve dreamed of this moment since you first met Brad “The Beast” Watson, who was qui‍‍‍te possibly the worst boss ever. I mean seriously, what 45 year old man names himself Brad… “The Beast”… Watson? Come to think of it, what 45 year old man still works as a shift supervisor at The Dairy Hut? But, enough about Brad. You’ve finally done it! You started your own company. You are your own boss. You are in charge. And you are free. That is, after you receive the latest shipment of product, drop the deposit by the bank, process payroll, run quality checks on the latest advertising campaign, interview the candidates for the open position over in customer service, contact the manufacturer about the damaged product received in the aforementioned shipment, approve the most recent product discounts your sales team requested, and finish strategically planning for your company’s future. You do, after all, want to continue being in charge, right?

While slightly exaggerated, this is the predicament many people “in charge” find themselves in. They’re overly burdened by that which they have not yet automated, packaged up, and given away. It’s worth noting, to automate doesn’t necessarily mean to simplify using software. What we’re talking about here is, getting rid of those aggravatingly distracting, yet, necessary tasks preventing you from growing your business.

At Greyphin, we like to encourage our clients to engage in a simple and valuable exercise, where all activities, both professional and personal, are tracked in a journal. This exercise can last anywhere from a week to a quarter. It simply depends on how deep you wish to chase this proverbial rabbit.

Now, while it might seem senseless to track both personal and professional activities, it’s not. According to a recent study conducted by the accounting firm EY, 35 percent of Millennials surveyed worldwide, declared they struggle with work-life balance. EY also discovered 34 percent of Gen Xers and 30 percent of Baby Boomers also have this struggle (basically, that’s a boat load of the workforce today). The point I’m making is this, if we all generally struggle with work-life balance, it’s safe to assume we too will find it difficult to clearly compartmentalize personal and professional activities without first tracking them.

Once your activities have been tracked, identify the professional tasks that repeat and determine how much your company is paying you to complete those repeated (and most likely, teachable) tasks. In order to determine if these repeated activities are a wise use of your time, divide your annual salary by the average number of hours you work in a year and multiply that by the number of hours you spend on that repeated task. Here’s the equation: (Annual Salary / Average Number of Hours Worked In A Year) * Number of Hours Spent On Repeated Tasks.

Now, comprise a list of people these tasks could be delegated to if they were automated properly, and use the same equation from above in order to create, as barbaric as it sounds, an effective cost savings illustration. Clear as mud, right? Put simply, you make more money than someone you could delegate the repeated activity to; therefore, you’re using your company’s funds irresponsibly by continuing to pay yourself a premium to do that which could be automated, packaged up, and given away. So take a moment to set aside any excuses (because at the core of it, that’s what they are), roll up your sleeves, and get to it.

Apprentice to My Own Competition

My day? Well it began at 4:30 AM, when I awoke with my host, indulged in an hour of reading and discussion, drove 30 minutes to the gym, worked out for an hour, showered, bumped into two celebrities on our way out, and walked two blocks to the CNN building, conveniently located at the corner of Cahunga and Sunset Boulevard in L.A., where, I’m now stationed for the next two days. I’m not bragging. I’m just saying. Honestly, if I had been on my own, I would have gotten up an hour later and went to bed an hour earlier. I’m merely making a point about successful people and their habits. You see, I’m conducting an experiment regarding best practices, personal environments, and their immediate results on one’s life, and I couldn’t think of a better place to do this than Los Angeles; the land of amazing opportunities and tremendous missteps. So, the people I’ve surrounded myself with for this experiment work directly with the richest, most famous and most elite of the world. The best of the best, and we bumped into two of them on our way out of the gym.

Whether you’re competing with others or yourself, life, is a competition. It’s difficult and rarely clean, and if you want to be the best, it helps to surround yourself with the best people.

Even stars need influence, and besides, you don’t know what you don’t know. Take Frank Lloyd Wright for example. In 1932, he began to take on talented apprentices due to his recent lack of spark and professional progress. His work with these genetically anointed apprentices led to what many deem to be the greatest piece of architecture in modern history, the Fallingwater House. Yet, even his plan for re-discovering architectural genius was externally inspired. It was his wife, Olgivanna’s idea.

According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, in 1994, Harvard conducted a study where they examined people who radically transformed their lives. We’re talking about a complete makeover here; lazy, good for nothing, two timing, four flushing, waste-of-spaces suddenly getting fast tracked to partner, and deserving it. And guess what Harvard attributed this new found success to? Social immersion in groups of people who made change feel possible. That’s it.

But for good measure and originality, I’d like to spice things up a bit and sprinkle a little friendly competition into this recipe for success. While Mike Tyson has been quoted saying many things, he once graced the world with the following enlightening words, “No one wants to get up at four and run when it’s pitch-dark, but it has to be done. The only reason I do it so early is because I believe the other guy isn’t doing it and that gives me a little edge.” But remember to keep it friendly, because “a rising tide lifts all boats.” So, get out there and get better.‍‍‍

You Don’t Have Time For Balance

You don’t have time for balance.

That’s right. You heard me. All that stuff about how you gotta balance your work life and home life is garbage.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Of the two of you reading this, one of you is saying, “Y‍‍‍eah! That’s right, man. I’m never gonna get anywhere if I take my foot off the throttle. Work while the other guy is sleeping. That’s how I get ahead.” And the other one of you is saying, “Hold on there, buddy. I have a family. Balance is important. I refuse to be a workaholic, gain-the-whole-world-lose-my-soul kind of guy.”

You’re both missing the point.

Reader number 1, I like your drive, and you’re right to an extent. You’ll probably get ahead…for a bit. And then you’ll burn out. People don’t come back from burn-out.

But more importantly, I don’t think you know where you’re even heading. Sure, you’ve got a goal. But since you don’t even have time for sleep, you most assuredly don’t have time for reflection. Because if you did, you would realize that you’re just trying to prove to that voice in your head that you’re not a loser after all. Good luck with that.

Reader number 2, you’re a little more self-aware. You understand that life is more than just amassing accomplishments. You have good intentions. Kudos. But it’s your fault that we’re having this whole balance discussion in the first place.

Now, I understand why balance is such a popular concept. When we think of a balanced person we think of someone steady, even-keeled; someone who won’t embarrass everyone at family gatherings. We don’t want to be “extremists”, after all. I can get behind that. But the problem comes when we try to actually apply balance to our lives.

Think about it. How do you become more balanced? Well, you start by thinking of some area in which you feel like you’re a little too [whatever]. Then you try and be less [whatever]. But you have to be careful, lest you become too [whatever-is-the-opposite-of-what-you-started-trying-to-avoid-in-the-first-place]. So balance isn’t really a thing. It’s just not being two opposite things. It’s avoidance.

Let’s look at the example that started this whole thing – work:life balance.

You don’t want to be a workaholic (you’ve got a family you want to spend time with), but you don’t want to be ineffective, or seen as (gasp!) lazy. So in order to find balance, you teeter back and forth as you try varying proportions of work:non-work time allowances. But regardless of the proportion, you find yourself sometimes feeling guilty about still being at work late at night, and sometimes feeling guilty for not answering your work phone while your kid tells you about her day at school.

Just gotta find the right balance.

That’s no recipe for success. That’s a recipe for guilt, no matter what you do.

And you know what else? It’s not inspiring. No one says, “You know what I’m passionate about? Balance.” Because it’s not a thing! We want to be something, to do something meaningful. We don’t want to just avoid bad attributes.

“Ok, ok. I see your point,” says Reader 2. (Reader 1 already stopped reading long ago; he had a meeting.) “But what do I do, then? If not balance, then what?”

Exactly.

You haven’t answered that question. You haven’t decided what it is that you want; you only have some absolutes about what you don’t want. You’ve got to take some time and describe for yourself the life you do want. Then, do Toyota’s famous “Ask why 5 times,” to get to the root motivation. Once you know where you’re going and why, then you can make decisions about how much time or effort you devote to this or that, with greater clarity and resolve.

Continuing with the work example, you can think about how your work fits into the broader vision of your life. Rather than asking yourself questions like, “Is it lazy to stay home this Saturday?” or, “Is it overworking to go in?” you can ask, “Will working this Saturday do more to contribute to, or detract from the life I want?” That’s a very different approach, much less binary and way more 3D.

So forget balance. Live in 3D.