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The New Year’s Question: Are You Starting Again…Again?

The New Year’s Question: Are You Starting Again…Again?


    Time in pubs with friends is rarely wasted. At the very least you get in a good chat with your friends, and at best you get a life-changing revelation. This one started out as the traditional:

    “If you knew then what you know now, would you do it again?”

    We worked on it and developed it and made it into something ‘more’. We made it into this question:

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    “Knowing what you know, would you start again from where you are — if you had the choice?”

    From that, we developed a whole process for deciding what to do next when it comes to the big ideas in life and so on. The idea is simple — and is particularly useful as we head into a brand new year…

    Step One: Value What You’ve Got

    Ask yourself a question: If some super-intelligent alien race arrived tonight and asked you what you’d got and you told them — and they did the same to everyone else, they’d probably have a pretty good idea of how much you had was worth in the grand scheme of things. The ‘alien bit’ is important because it implies that they have a complete understanding of what’s going on, but no emotional or sentimental attachment to things.

    What you get at the end of that is a notional value of, say, ‘X’ thousand pounds, dollars, euros, yen, smarties or whatever.

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    Step Two: Play or Fold

    This step is designed to make you think about your circumstances a bit. If they offered to take what you’d got and give you that fair valuation for it, would you take it?  Again, the fact that it’s an alien is important, because it’s important that the X thousand they give you is absolutely, objectively fair.

    If you’d take it, fine. If not, also fine. But not taking it implies there’s something above and beyond the economic value of your stuff. It implies that there’s an emotional attachement. Great. It means you believe in what you’re doing and it means you’re likely to be passionate about it. Good for you!

    Step Three: Starting Over

    Starting over is the most important one – and it assumes you were forced to sell to these strange aliens, whereas the previous step assumes you have a choice.

    If you got a fair amount of money for your stuff, what would you do with that money?  Would you buy back your own stuff?  Alternatively, knowing what you now know (which is different from what you knew when you first got your stuff, obviously – and critically) would you buy something different?

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    It’s all about ROI – return on investment. If you’re happy to buy back your own stuff (emotional attachment aside), it follows that you must believe your stuff represents the best portfolio of ‘stuff’ that you could have. On the other hand, if you think you can get a better return on your money, knowing now what you didn’t know when you first got that stuff, you shouldn’t buy back your own stuff. Instead you should buy different ‘stuff’.

    Step Four: Repeat the Repeating

    This idea of starting over (and over) is an interesting one. It’s probably possible to take it too far (daily? weekly?) but it probably has merit as the process for a monthly review – or perhaps an annual review of what you’ve done, not done or might do in the future.

    It’s an idea that encourages you to be honest — brutally honest — with where you are and what you should do next. Doing it regularly means you’re constantly assessing where you are and asking yourself if you’re making the best use of your resources.

    The Downside

    There’s always a downside, right?

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    The big one we found as we tossed this idea around is this – it doesn’t take account of the cost of change. Implicit in the alien’s approach is that it costs nothing to change from where you are to where you should be, objectively, and sometimes the cost of change is greater than the benefit of doing that. Cost, of course, can be measured in money, time, effort and energy, peace of mind and a host of other ways!

    So one last step is to ask yourself this:

    “If you think you should move to something else – is it worth the effort?”

    And if you’ve decided not to move, the question should be whether you’re using the cost of changing as an excuse.

    (Photo credit: Concept image of a signpost via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on February 18, 2019

    How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

    How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

    These days, in a world with cognitive, AI, and extraordinary advances, we have failed at the most basic stimulus: motivation. Why do I say so? Just take a look at these statistics:

    58 percent of managers said they didn’t receive any management training as per a CareerBuilder.com survey. Only 12% of employees leave their jobs because of more money. Research indicates that around 80% of employees leave their jobs due to “lack of appreciation”. Due to fear of failing, more than half of American workers don’t take their paid vacations. 53% of Americans are unhappy at work (not engaged). And 1 in 3 are working in a field they don’t like.[1]

    Archaic people management and HR structures are the root cause.

    “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    So how to motivate employees and boost team productivity?

    Here are 3 key things that you can do to motivate your employees and boost team productivity:

    1. Run Your Team/Group/Company like a Lean Startup

    The Lean Startup phenomena by Eric Ries has been socialized across millions all over the globe. In a nutshell, it is a methodology for developing businesses and products, which aims to shorten product development cycles and rapidly discover if a proposed business model is viable; this is achieved by adopting a combination of business-hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and validated learning.[2]

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    Encourage Your Employees

    When you empower your employees (or family members) to do what they deem to be best for a particular roadblock, idea, or improvement, you create magic. You create genuine trust. You enable innovation. The result is happy, inspired employees who feel they have a say in the grand cosmic stage at work.

    Note that increasing the competency level of employees and coaching and mentoring them along the way is key. You yourself, need to do the same. Nourish your brain – and get a mentor that will keep you at the edge of your game.

    Offer Rewards

    Motivation is also intrinsic. The startups I have worked at offered instant rewards — not just fat checks or equity increments, but Oscar-style nominations.

    The non-monetary rewards were actually more coveted, and grandiose: lunch with the CEO, tickets to an Obama fund-raiser, horse-back riding with a world-class equestrian.

    Compare this to a dodgy, corporate, white-cubicle dinosaur that had a “yearly performance review” where both parties dread the conversation. In a world of instant WhatsApp messages, having a conversation about performance, likes and dislikes cannot just happen annually in 60 minutes. Employees need to be rooted in the belief that their manager genuinely cares about them.

    Give Autonomy

    Another key attribute is autonomy. Most employees start brushing their resumes and cruising LinkedIn when their hands are tied in their current positions: approval forms, long meetings, escalations, and more meetings. In the world of agile and scrum masters, deliberating for the sake of deliberating is poison. You will choke the very employees that giddily accepted the job initially to “change the world”.

    Within a reasonable realm of assessment and deep-dives, trust your employees to do the heavy lifting. Give them access to the knowledge, people and resources that help them directly make the choices that will shape the future of your team, and your company.

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    Eliminate yourself as the bottleneck – and interject yourself as a benevolent, servant leader that is the symbol of high-performing organizations.

    2. Apply the 90/90/1 Rule

    I recently saw a video by Deepak Sharma (a leadership adviser) about productivity and this principle stuck with me. Here’s what it’s about:

    Devote the First 90 Minutes of Your Day to Important Project

    For the next 90 days, devote the first 90 minutes of your day to your most important project—nothing else. Do this for yourself and your employees.

    We usually get sucked into the most wasteful, operational activities in the morning which robs our focus, and steers us into an unwanted rabbit hole. So mute your notifications, avoid the temptation to check your exploding inbox, and scroll your Instagram feed later. Instead, focus on that ONE thing that will provide real value to you, your team, or your business/company/home.

    Apply this rule to yourself – and your team. Your team will thank you. Note: If you’re feeling really stretched for time, you can always hack the rule by testing out a “45/45/1” version.

    A To Do Scheduling System

    Another version of this is to use the Kanban concept, developed by Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota. Kanban is a scheduling system employing boards and cards.

    The most basic version is a canvas with “To-do”, “Doing”, and “Done” boards (or columns). Each activity or task is a “card” that moves from one column to the other. I use Trello (a Kanban-inspired app) that is a key system for my personal and professional life. It allows me to understand my workload, their priority, and due dates.

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    I use importance and effort metrics (scores) for each task to understand what is truly necessary in my life to work on. It negates the FIFO (first-in, first out) paradox that has plagued millions of people. Instead, it allows me to take stock of what is on my plate, and then bite on what truly will move the needle for me, my team, my life, and my company.

    With a limited appetite (at least for some), would you eat the veggies, fries, mashed potatoes and leave the sizzling steak? No, you wouldn’t (unless you are a vegan and ended up in the wrong restaurant).

    Approach your work with a weighted vengeance – and encourage your team to do the same.

    3. Align Passion and Skills to Purpose

    The heart of human excellence often begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, and gives you a sense of meaning, joy and passion.

    “The most fortunate people on earth are those who have found a calling that’s bigger than they are—that moves them and fills their lives with constant passion, aliveness, and growth.” — Richard Leider

    An ace team-member once told me that while she enjoys working for the company we both used to work at, she really hated anything to do with technology. She was more of a “people” person, and did not want to sit behind a desk sifting through lines of code.

    What struck me was that she was in that role for more than a decade and had just spoken up. The good thing is she spoke up. She expressed her desire and interests. And it allowed her to get into a role of her liking within 30 days.

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    Ask If They like What They’re Doing

    If you, or a team member is frustrated, demotivated, or not performing at their best – one of the questions you should ask is whether they like what they are doing. Then genuinely try to help them get to the role they should be in (whether in the same team/company or not).

    There’s a reason why 53% of Americans (and perhaps more or same across the globe) are unhappy at work. A butcher cannot be an ace salad maker. Pursue your passion – and help pave the way for your team. Unlock your potential and theirs. You will command and lead a supercharged team.

    “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

    The Bottom Line

    Sometimes, passion has to be ignited. It is dormant, clouded by busy-ness, buried by wrong career choices, and plagued by non-supportive eco-systems. Some will climb out of it, but we as society — and in the case of business teams — incumbent upon the manager/CEO/leader to foster, grow, and nurture the employee.

    Teach her the ropes. Show her the path. Advise him as you would yourself. Let them lead, and make mistakes. Do not fear them, rather make them the leader you would want to become.

    For your not-so-great team members, understand that it is not personal, it is just not a good fit. Help them move on to the pastures they would be fit to graze on. Hence, hire slow (and fire fast).

    Your team is a reflection of you. Boosting their confidence and helping them achieve the impossible is motivation. Focus on that, and you will have a productive team that you and your company will be proud of.

    More Resources About Team Management

    Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

    Reference

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