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.