Manual repetitive – Assembly line factory worker, farm labourer
Cognitive repetitive – Call center operative, Bank teller
Manual non-repetitive – Jewellery maker, Custom car builder
Cognitive non-repetitive – Project manager, Sales of large complex systems
Generally speaking, repetitive manual work requires the least self-management and is the lowest paying, and cognitive non-repetitive work requires the most self-management and is the highest paying.
Are you good at Self-Management?
“We must manage ourselves, and help others manage themselves” Peter Drucker
Peter Drucker wrote an article called Managing Oneself that is still the best summary of Self-Management. As a summary, you need to be answering these 6 questions:
What are my strengths? Feedback is the only way to find out. Do you have a systematic process for getting feedback on your behaviours?
How do I perform? How do I learn best? Don’t struggle with modes that don’t work for you. (on Mastery)
What are my values? “What kind of person do I want to see in the mirror in the morning?”
Where do I belong? Mathematicians, musicians and cooks are mathematicians, musicians and cooks by the time they are 4 or 5 years old. Successful careers are not planned, they happen when people are prepared and positioned for opportunities that suit them. Knowing where one belongs can transform an ordinary person into an outstanding performer.
What should I contribute? Given my strengths, methods and values: what is the great contribution to what needs to be done? Don’t look too far ahead – 18 months is the range of good planning. Define courses of action: what to do, where and how to start, what goals, objectives and deadlines to set.
Who can I work well with? Adapt to what makes those around you successful. Adapting to what makes your boss most effective is the secret of managing up. Take responsibility for communicating how you are performing; take responsibility for building trust
They lie, they manipulate and they pick fights: Some colleagues are ruthless, especially when it comes to their own professional advancement.
Avoiding a toxic employee can save a company more than twice as much as bringing on a star performer. The trouble with Toxics is that they are difficult to detect. Often, Toxics are popular with colleagues, seen as friendly and interested. It’s only after a while that co-workers begin to notice that the Toxic is sucking the joy and engagement of an entire workplace. Poor leadership creates the perfect breeding ground for Toxics.
Who is likely to be toxic?
Overconfidence and narcissism are toxic. I know these traits… because myself, Conor Neill, at age 35 was massively overconfident and pretty narcissistic.
What it takes to get the job is not just different from, but often the reverse of what it takes to do the job well.
The main reason for the uneven management sex ratio is our inability to discern between confidence and competence. Men are more apt to show confidence, women tend to hold themselves back from overconfidence.
Unstructured interviews are a terrible method to evaluate a person for a job – they reward self confident individuals and fail to analyse real competence.
High-flying leaders dream of their faces appearing on the front of Time, Business Week and the Economist. Not their brand, not their team, not their investors… their own face. (That was my dream when I was 35 – fame for me). This is narcism.
Freud told us that there is a dark side to narcissism. Narcissists are emotionally isolated and highly distrustful. Perceived threats trigger rage. Achievements feed feelings of personal grandiosity. Freud thought narcissists were the hardest personality types to analyze.
Narcissistic CEO Larry Ellison was described thus by a subordinate: “The difference between God and Larry is that God does not believe he is Larry.”
The 4 Apocalyptic Qualities of Poisoned People
Harvard Research showed that employees who showed the following characteristics were more likely to be toxic workers:
Overconfident – as described
Self centred – narcism
Productive – individually highly productive in visible areas; note: this is individual rather than team focus on productivity
Rule-following – a stickler for the formal rules
A self-centred, overconfident productive and rule following person will poison their team – taking all the credit, ruining the spirit, enjoying and promoting the failures of those around them.
How to be Un-Toxic?
What can you personally do to be less toxic? What can you look for in others to ensure that they are competent and serve others?
Jim Collins identifies the 4 characteristics common to Level 5 leaders:
Responsibility: Give credit to others while taking blame upon themselves
How do you achieve humility combined with ferocious resolve? How do you stay responsible even as you do start to achieve more and more? I believe there is only one way to keep our feet on the ground:
Feedback from Trusted Peers
You must be surrounded by a group of people who can keep your feet on the ground, but believe deeply in your capacity to be a powerful, positive, valued leader. There is no way to keep this journey going alone. We need others to regularly see something in ourselves that we become blind to when left alone. As the story goes, we are 2 wolves… alone we feed the bad wolf, supported by peers, mentors, coaches and inspiring people… we feed the good wolf.
Watch people – do they seek feedback from trusted peers? If not, they are likely Toxic.
Robert Fritz says that we each have two limiting beliefs: powerlessness and unworthiness. We don’t have to pretend to be better than we are. We don’t have to pretend that we don’t do shameful things that all humans do. The only cure? Allowing trusted peers to really know us, and let us see what they see in us.
Benjamin Franklin brought together a peer group of 12 friends who would be fully open about their lives, challenges and opportunities. A group who aspired to live bigger lives, and who worried about the dangers of self-delusion.
I have been part of a peer group forum for 8 years. Each meeting we push each other to share the real person, not the one we have created to impress others. I have found over these years that each time I share something that I am ashamed of, it loses its power over me. Each time I share my real me, the others respond in a more positive way than when I share the carefully crafted impressive version of myself.
For 2016, Get Trustworthy Feedback
In 2016, be sure to surround yourself with people who believe in you, and in turn, make every effort to give them the same gift.
Do you have a trusted group of peers? If yes, let me know how you found this group. If no, I’d love to hear from you – I can share some tools to help you get started.
De duodecim abusivis saeculi “On the Twelve Abuses of the World” is a self-help book written by an Irish author between 630 and 700AD. You could say that it was the earliest precursor to Steven Covey, Brian Tracy or Jim Rohn.
The work was widely propagated throughout Europe by Irish missionaries in the 8th century. Its authorship was often attributed to Saint Patrick (the general view today is that it was not his work).
Duodecim abusivis saeculi
De duodecim condemns the following twelve abuses:
the wise man without works; sapiens sine operibus
the old man without religion; senex sine religione
the young man without obedience; adolescens sine oboedientia
the rich man without charity; dives sine elemosyna
the woman without modesty; femina sine pudicitia
the nobleman without virtue; dominus sine virtute
the argumentative Christian; Christianius contentiosus
the proud pauper; pauper superbus
the unjust king; rex iniquus
the neglectful bishop; episcopus neglegens
the community without order; plebs sine disciplina
the people without a law; populus sine lege
This form of document is part of a broad category of medieval literature called “Mirrors for Princes”. They were developed to educate future kings in the leadership qualities that would be needed in their role as king. The best known of these works is The Prince by Machiavelli.
The title of this post came from a summary of a talk by Pat Murray.
As a leader, people watch every single act. If you are in a bad mood and act out of that bad mood, people think that is who you are. Words are generally ignored, we watch what you allow to happen.
As parents this is even more difficult. If you say “do this and you will not get dessert” and then give them dessert anyway (because you are tired and do not want the fight) you have taught the children a lesson: Your rules are flexible and negotiable. It is hard to trust someone whose rules are flexible and negotiable.
You Stand For What You Tolerate
“The worst use of power is no use of power”
What do you know that is “wrong” but tolerate? What behaviours annoy you, but you don’t address them? If somebody arrives 4 minutes late to a meeting, are they allowed to attend? If somebody sends the report an hour later than agreed, are they sanctioned?
If you allow bad behaviour this is who you are. Words are cheap. What you allow is real.
What are your intolerables? What are the behaviours that you absolutely will not sanction? If you are not clear on this list, then you will allow bad behaviours to creep in to your culture. I learnt one clear lesson during the Organisation Behaviour module of my own MBA: “The worst use of power is no use of power”.
It is really painful to confront another person on their behaviour. It is a lot more painful to be the passive creator of a slowly sickening culture of performance.
What’s the most annoying “little rude behaviour” you see around you?
A recent New York Times article tells me that science is now showing that it pays to be nice to those around you at work. Little rude behaviours generate a group of people looking forward to see you fall on your face. Little kindnesses generate a group of people who want to help see you succeed.
It is good to cultivate little kind behaviours and reduce little rude behaviours. Here’s a list of the most common little rude behaviours.
“Science: (from Latin scientia, meaning “knowledge”) is a systematic enterprise that builds and organises knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe. In an older and closely related meaning, “science” also refers to a body of knowledge itself, of the type that can be rationally explained and reliably applied. A practitioner of science is known as a scientist.” source wikipedia
Kung-Fu is Not a Science
(This post is not really about Kung Fu, it is about Management)
Before we dive into management lets look at Kung-Fu. Or boxing. Or WWF Wrestling. Or rugby.
There might be a man who is studying every book on kung-fu in the library. He is the most knowledgeable person in the world on the facts, the history, the movement theory, the differences between the specific schools of thought. Imagine he takes the floor in an international full-contact kung-fu tournament. I think he’d be smashed in the nose within 5 seconds and on his butt on the floor in less than 10.
He could tell you why he got smashed in the nose and why he was delivered to the floor. He could explain how one should respond. But he still got smashed in the face and is out of the tournament.
Back to Chemistry…
Chemistry is a science. Let’s look at it:
Chemistry is the study of how atoms and molecules react. Water is H2O. That means it has 2 hydrogen atoms and one Oxygen atom. All over the world, billions and billions and billions of H2O molecules fill our rivers, seas and oceans.
A hydrogen atom reacts pretty consistently. Chemists can repeat experiments and the hydrogen atom responds just as it did for Marie Curie in the 1890s, as it did for Antoine Lavoiser in the 1770s and repeated by innumerable kids in adolescent chemistry classroom.
Marie Curie dealt with atoms.
An atom doesn’t react differently when he has been going through a difficult divorce and has underlying issues with his father.
An atom doesn’t react differently when he has had a big loss on the horses over the weekend.
An atom doesn’t react differently because he is frustrated with his relationship and feels unloved.
Kung Fu deals with human beings…
A human being reacts differently when he has been out for a big night with his mates.
A human being reacts differently when worried that their relationship is falling apart.
A human being reacts very differently at midday than at nine pm after a stressful afternoon.
Why Does it Matter?
Why do I care? Why does it matter? I think that too many gurus make it sound like if you learnt enough tools and knowledge, you would be able to do a better job in any situation.
Too many gurus promote the kung-fu reader’s approach to management learning.
I think a lot of caring about others and caring about quality results mixed with a little bit of management knowledge is a more powerful mix than little caring, little focus on quality mixed with lots of management knowledge.
Calling it a science makes it sound like a domain of knowledge in the abstract. Maths is knowledge in the abstract. Science is knowledge in the abstract.
Kung-fu is practical wisdom. It is instinctive wisdom based upon hours and hours of stimulus-response, practice in the real.
Management of People is kung-fu type wisdom
Management is a domain of knowledge at the coal face. It is a domain of practical solutions to complex problems with diverse human beings. Libraries are full of nice theories, but businesses are full of complex problems that don’t fit into simple categories.
If you are doing your best in an honest and transparent way and balance your self-oriented questions with a few “what can I do to improve the situation for others?” type questions then you are probably doing a wonderful job.
It is like parenting. The real challenge is not know what the right path might look like, it is to take that enlightened path on the 18th time that your child pushes his sister off of the seat.
Two leaders in the same circumstances doing the same thing can bring about completely different outcomes. I’ve often wondered why.
It is more than just luck. It is an inner quality of certain leaders. There is a quality to certain people’s intent, capacity to observe without judging, capacity to see a new way to put the jigsaw pieces together that makes a big difference in the outcomes.
What can you do to be up with the best Leaders?
There are 2 areas where the best leaders excel:
Observation without comparing to the past; and
Flexibility in Execution.
Observe Non-Judgementally: Quality of Attention
Successful leadership depends on the quality of attention that the leader brings to any situation.
We have 3 major internal enemies to clarity of observation:
VOJ – The Voice of Judgement“why do they always screw up like this!”
VOC – The Voice of Cynicism“what does it matter anyway.”
VOF – The Voice of Fear “who am I to push this? I am not even sure why I believe it is correct.”
Each of these voices stops a leader seeing something new in the situation. They are mapping the data to a past experience, and they will probably reuse a past template for responding to the situation. Old school, reactive communication.
Peter Drucker says that the inability to stop doing anything is the central disease of government and a major reason why government is sick. Businesses are just as sentimental about the past as bureaucrats. Businesses are likely to respond to the underperformance of a product by increasing the activity around it. Organisations have a high regard for “precedent”: how have we dealt with this before?
My father told me a funny story about a blue book and a green book that goes to just how dangerous this inability to stop doing even things that are no longer necessary.
We Love Yesterday
We humans come with a built in yesterday-loving-complex. We will keep doing what we have always done unless we actively identify and stop no-longer-valid behaviours.
Economics eventually either close businesses that do not change or force them to let go of the past. Government is unrestrained. How about you?
I recently posted about the 4 paths of our working lives – and one path is Quit and Stayed. These category of people are those who have emotionally given up on their jobs, but they still keep sending their body in to sit at the desk and collect a salary.
Ridgely shared statistics on the impact of disengaged employees on a company.
An indifferent employee costs you $2,246 per year according to Gallup. An actively disengaged employee costs you more than $25,000.
33% of American employees change jobs every year. 90% leave jobs for reasons to do with “attitude“, not skills.
Recruiting expert Brad Smart (author of Topgrading) shares evidence that 1 bad hire costs a company 5 times their salary (and 10-15 times for senior hires)
Apart from the financial cost, there is a painful emotional cost for all those who must work in close proximity to this disengaged individual – they suck your passion. I know that the best way to increase team performance is to remove the disengaged team members.
According to the AONHewitt definition, engaged employees want to:
Stay (intent to stay with the organisation)
Say (speak highly of the organisation to others) and
Strive (make an discretionary effort to deliver results)
Ridgely shared that engaged employees deliver:
37% less absenteeism and turnover
48% fewer safety accidents
41% fewer safety defects
21% higher productivity
22% higher profitability
How do we Achieve a Culture of Engagement?
Ridgely explained that people are different and seek to express themselves in different ways. If we try to be everything for everybody, we end up frustrated and wasting our time.
Do you understand the different personalities of the people that you work with? I have done so many psychological tests that I assume that everyone knows these tools (I studied psychology at university…). When I was 14, my father brought home a Myers-Briggs test and did it on all of the family.
What about you? What are you? What types do you get frustrated by?
The Why types
Ridgely worked through a short coaching process where each participant was able to identify their primary “why” from a list of 9 “Whys”. The 9 whys are:
By the way, I came out as a 7 – Master. My “why” is to seek mastery and understanding above all else.
Infographic: Employee Engagement
One of the challenges of important life lessons is that we need to be reminded every day. Now that I have just written a blog post about how people are different, I am primed to not over-react when I meet someone who is a “5 – Right Way” and has a constant focus on what the precedent is, what is proven, what is low risk… all perspectives that I find tiring. However, tomorrow I will forget and will overreact again.
What can company leaders do to create a culture where we actively seek to empathise with each person’s primary purpose?
I found an infographic that describes the problem of employee disengagement and 6 things that CEOs can do to create engaged employees. Click on the infographic to get a large version. (Personally, I think that the yellow colour scheme is a bit aggressive):
Inspire employees through purpose
Align employees behind your strategy
Develop line managers
Be Fair (in process, in resource distribution, in relationships)
First, you may ask, what is “Strategic Unavailability” anyway?
What is Strategic Unavailability?
If you say “yes” to every request for your time, money or attention you will have none for the areas that are your own personal priority. If you want to achieve success, you must retain most of your resources and dedicate them to one to three areas of your choosing. Thus, you must learn to say “No”.
Saying “No” is hard. It also has several negative consequences in polite society.
Far better than the use of the word “No” is the use of a series of tactics that come under the general concept “Strategic Unavailability”.
At the very simplest, the idea is to avoid being there when someone might make a request that will take away your time, money or attention. The key is to retain “plausible deniability” during your use of the tactic. Some tactics require greater acting capacity than others. Beginners would be best avoiding these high acting requirement tactics.
The aim is to keep time for the important 1, 2 or 3 priorities that you have decided for yourself in your profession. It is a total waste if you use the freed-up time to watch CSI Las Vegas or re-runs of Downton Abbey.
Some simple ideas for achieving “strategic unavailability”
Go to the toilet when you know someone is approaching your desk
Work from coffee shops, other people’s offices or meeting rooms during dangerous periods
Return phone calls when you can see that the person is away from their desk (go to voicemail)
Return phone calls after work hours
Delay email responses until tomorrow morning (you can write them today, but don’t let them leave your outbox until tomorrow morning)
Receive an important phone call just as a meeting is reaching the moment where actions will be assigned to people (either phone a friend style, or develop your acting abilities)
Use an old iPhone that regularly runs out of battery (this is a highly plausible tactic, mine is down to about 2 hours of battery)
Always ensure that you are involved in at least 3 projects, and demonstrate massive productivity in the first week of exposure to any new manager or colleague.
“Forget” to switch off the direct to voicemail setting on your phone
Tell your colleagues/team that you have an open-door for them – but that you request that they batch their problems into groups of 10… they can’t interrupt you unless they have accumulated 10 specific issues that they cannot address without your input (usually #1 gets resolved before they get to #5…)
Regularly ask “what could you do to move this forward that does not require anybody’s approval?”
Work with headphones in (whether you are listening to music or not, this also works on airplanes when your neighbour aims to talk for 14 hours)
Keep a charity box on your desk and ask for donations whenever anybody approaches (if you have kids, then ask visitors to your desk to sponsor your kid in a race or something). Bonus edition is to have stickers so that when one person donates, you give them a sticker and then they let others know to avoid your desk unless you wish to donate.
Cultivate a freakish interest in Star Wars, or World Wrestling Foundation, or ancient Greek philosophy, or NLP, or furniture upholstery and engage all visitors in a deep discussion about the merits of your hobby. Freaky hobbies with a plausible connection to your work are ideal.
When asked if you are available to meet, say “yes, I am free this Friday at 6:00am” – puts off all but the most keen time thieves. You will very rarely have to do it.
Bring a regional speciality food to work – I recommend any Icelanders to use “rotting shark meat in vinegar” – and request that anyone who comes to your desk try it.
Have a large audio recorder device and make a big show of switching it on when anyone comes to interrupt you – tell them that you are on a personal efficiency drive and are making a detailed study of all your interactions and all requests
Cultivate a mysterious illness with unclear symptoms
Remove all other chairs from your office (this made a massive improvement on my meeting time when I was running an airline); another variant is really uncomfortable chairs (especially very low seats)
Eat a rich curry or garlic dish for lunch in your office
Keep saying “that would make a great tweet!” and write down some banal saying from the other person
Advanced Strategic Unavailability
I need your help. What else works for you?
PS You better be very good at establishing a great reputation before you engage seriously in these tactics. If you are not viewed as a strong performer, if you are not delivering measurable results and if you are not gaining good exposure to senior influencers – fix that first (check out The PIE Model). These tactics only work if you are perceived as an “A” player…
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