As a people manager one of the greatest tips I have received was to share and be explicit about what my values are. Values that govern my work life, what motivates me, how I work etc. The tip was provided in the context of accelerating the on-boarding process for new team members but I have found it to be useful beyond that.
After a bit of self reflection I had a small list that in a burst of creativity and imagination was titled “The Rules”. They reflect my values and perhaps more interestingly are sourced from life lessons, some from good experiences and some that were not quite as delightful as one would have preferred. But as they say we are but a collection of our life experiences.
There is little connection to Web Analytics, except perhaps that I am a humble practitioner of the art of web analytics. Here are the rules, in no apparent order, that mostly govern my work life….
- Rule #1: Always have clear lines of ownership. Know exactly what you are supposed to do and ensure others know that exactly.
- Rule #2: Always have your act together. You can't know everything, but what you can know try to know it well.
- Rule #3: Under promise, over deliver. You will always come out on top.
- Rule #4: Never make yourself indispensable. If you do you'll stay where you are because you are, well, indispensable.
- Rule #5: Credibility is king. Period.
- Rule #6: Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. You can teach anyone anything, you can never teach right attitude.
- Rule #7: If you find yourself in a hole the first thing to do is stop digging. Old cowboy saying.
- Rule #8: "Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it is (or where it has been)." The Great One, Wayne Gretzky.
- Rule #9: At the end of the day always remember that it’s just a job.
Here are the the rules with some context for each:
Rule #1: Always have clear lines of ownership. Know exactly what you are supposed to do and ensure others know that exactly.
As companies become more complex and flat and matrixed I have discovered this to be more and more true. Often the core point of failure, for an individual or a team or a project, is the fact that there is not enough clarity on 1) who is doing what 2) what is going to get accomplished 3) how to declare victory. For me Rule #1 is an antidote to these issues. As much as possible I strive to define exactly what I own, what I am solving for and what does success look like.
Making sure others know that, well defined and written down, is to ensure that there there is shared vision (an opportunity to get input from others and adapt so that you are not alone playing in the left field but shared vision ensures that if you need help you’ll be able to get it because you, well, have shared vision).
Rule #2: Always have your act together. You can't know everything, but what you can know try to know it well.
In the business world every interaction you have, especially the higher up you interact with, is an opportunity to make that interaction accretive to building confidence in you, your team, your leadership. No matter what level you are at. IMHO one way to build that confidence in you is to “always have your act together”. All that means is that know what you are saying, have data / facts / solid hunches to back it up, and be in the know of all that you are expected to know (and a bit more if you can). It takes effort, it takes pro-activity, and it sometimes being a bit anal. But such is life.
Another facet of this is that, purely due to limits of my own intelligence, you don’t have to know everything and be good at everything. So if someone turns to me and says “how can we improve the logistics system of this company” or “what is r squared”, I simply say “I don’t know”. What you are supposed to know, know it well. All else have the courage to say “I don’t know” or “I don’t know but I can try to find out and get back to you by xxx time-frame”. This works better than hazarding a guess.
Rule #3: Under promise, over deliver. You will always come out on top.
This was an internal slogan at DHL at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where I worked for a few years. Time has made me appreciate it more and more.
There is always a natural tendency to promise the moon or think that you have identified all that could go wrong or you have a perfect system or process or that you are simply really good. At DHL we could deliver all the overnight packages by 0830 hrs in the morning. As a matter of fact 90% of the times the deliveries were done by 0800 hrs. But in all our ads and commitment points we promised the customers guaranteed delivery by 0900 hrs.
It would have been a slight competitive edge to say 0830 hrs. But the company choose not to because even though we delivered early each day the customers never got tired of the surprise. They always greeted us with a smile: “Ahhh John you are early with the package again”.
This lesson was solidified later in my years as a Sr Project Manager, always leave some room to breath in your commitment. Room enough to, if possible, deliver a little bit more to create customer delight.
Rule #4: Never make yourself indispensable. If you do you'll stay where you are because you are, well, indispensable.
One way to make a lot of money, to guarantee job security, to be high profile is to do something so well and in such a unique way that no one else can do it. You are the indispensable superstar of the company / team / project / something. We all try to do this. The problem with this strategy is that if you are indispensable then there is really no place else for you to go, the company can’t afford to move you on and fill your, oversized, shoes.
So the optimal strategy is to go into any job and do the best you can from day one to accomplish the goals that have been set. At the same time to do whatever is possible to ensure that the knowledge you possess is transferred to others and put down on paper and supporting processes created. If possible look for a successor who can take your place should you leave or move on. Sounds counter-intuitive but you are doing right by your employer and if you are good there is nothing to worry about.
Rule #5: Credibility is king. Period.
I don’t know what to say that is not obvious in that statement. I have worked in large companies and small ones. Direct line reporting relationships and matrixed. Through it all one thing that is obvious is that influence is the most, well, influential way to drive change, effect an outcome. Influence works better than dictating, better than control, better than “ordering”. And the most powerful thing you can bring to the table to be a good influencer is your credibility.
If you have credibility people will listen to you, they will not doubt that you have vested interests, they will look beyond hidden agendas etc. So be honest, be open, keep your promises and do what you have to earn your credibility (it can never be demanded, only earned) and then with every action taken reinforce that credibility.
Rule #6: Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. You can teach anyone anything, you can never teach right attitude.
This is on the post-it box that sits next to my monitor. Again a very obvious statement, but usually deeply under-appreciated in people. Matt said in our interview that rather than expertise and experience he prefers to hire “attitude”, I feel very much the same as I go out to look for team members. I have had the experience of working with any number of really smart or really on paper big university degree folks or people with lots of experience, but without the right attitude towards work and problems and teams it all comes up really short.
One practical manifestation of attitude to me is the desire to go above and beyond the call of duty. I find that it takes a very special kind of person to care when others stop caring, it takes a special kind of person to embrace and solve a problem even when it is not your problem and the difference is the right attitude. In companies there are usually less than 5% of the employees that possess this “special gene” and they make the difference between a star company and a has been.
Rule #7: If you find yourself in a hole the first thing to do is stop digging. Old cowboy saying.
Even though I am a MBA you must have noticed I have yet to use the omni-present MBA phrase: paradigm shift. : ) For me reading this quote a long time ago was truly a paradigm shift. Atleast for me in how I thought about things.
If faced with trouble or with a challenge or a difficult situation the natural response was to react, and usually react strongly. Yet in most cases it only made the situation worse. So one day I read this quote and the mind goes ahhhh. : ) All along it was not so much trying to get out of the hole but rather digging a deeper one.
One does need a certain amount of self-perception ability recognize it. Either in a meeting or when you find yourself deep in web analytics data, often to find the proverbial golden answer the thing to do is to stop digging, take stock and figure how to go seek alternative means of getting out of the hole and not keep digging.
Rule #8: "Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it is (or where it has been)." The Great One, Wayne Gretzky.
IMHO another key differentiator between those who are constantly in the state of catch up vs. those who consistently over-achieve. It is hard enough to figure out how to get from where we are to where “the puck” is, it takes a special dispensation to figure out where “the puck” is going to be and figure out how to get there.
Given our world is evolving so fast it is not enough to be merely satisfied with knowing what our world is and executing against that. There are so many changes and threats coming at us and we need to set aside time and energy and getting trapped in the weeds to up-level the thought process and look just a little bit beyond the horizon. This applies in our personal jobs, it applies to our teams and companies, it applies to hockey.
Rule #9: At the end of the day always remember that it’s just a job.
This one’s simple, for me. It is important not to get too wrapped up into a job. It is important that a job does not become our life, the only source of fulfillment. If it does people make pretty different decisions in every day interactions in their work life. There is something better and more important outside the four walls of the cubicle. That should give a sense of perspective as to why you are sitting in the cubicle in the first place.
For me it is my two small children. They define me, they mean the world to me, they are the reason I exist and they are what I am solving for. Not web analytics, not my career, not the next cool thing, not for fulfillment from a “job” (!). : ) Make no mistake, as the date and time stamp on this post will illustrate, I work hard at my job, give it all I have, build the best decision making platform I can, the best team in existence who does this kind of work. But all in service of what sits outside the cubicle. Knowing that I make different choices, small and big, every day.
So there you go, hopefully this was interesting. : ) Do you have other rules? What works for you? What do you think of the above mentioned rules? Please share your feedback via comments.
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