The equation for human performance is the following:
Performance = Potential – Self-Sabotage
That is it. You achieve not what your boss lets you, not what the others let you… you achieve what you don’t screw up for yourself.
In the years since I first wrote this equation up in a class and people said “No… it can’t be that” I have become more and more convinced that the greatest devil in our own lives is the 4 Arts of Self Sabotage.
The 4 Arts of Self-Sabotage
Distraction: Lack of Focus
Fixed mindset: “I have what I have now because of who I am, not how hard I have worked”
Arrogance: sometimes seen as Denial, sometimes as Nostalgia, sometimes as Victim, sometimes as Sole Hero
Inability to Handle Anxiety (or anger, or rage, or fear)
Success in life, whether sporting success, writing success or financial success has more to do with overcoming these 4 arts of self-sabotage than any level of original brilliance or one-time shots of luck.
I heard this question asked to a full conference room recently: “Do you know how to use the internet?”
All hands went up. Everybody in the room felt that yes, they know how to use the internet.
Then, the speaker asked a second question: “Ok, show me what you have created?”
“Show me what you have Created”
At first there were only confused faces in the room. What did he mean?: “what have you created?”
If I say I can use an oven, it means that I can create delicious food with it. If I say that I can use a car, it means I can travel to interesting destinations with it. If I say I can use the internet, what do I mean?
Who uses who with the TV? Do I use it? or does it use me?
Who uses who with the internet? Who benefits most when you spend 10 minutes updating your status on facebook? You, your friends, or the owners and managers of Facebook, Inc?
There is a saying: “On the internet, if it is free it is because it is using you”
What have you created with the internet? It is not ok to just be a giant consumer.
I was teaching a seminar recently and a young film producer told me “I am not a good manager”. I asked him why he believed this. He described a recent series of disasters that he had overseen with his team.
I asked him “who are the people on your team?”.
He said his cousin helped out with finances and his uncle was helping out on sales.
I suggested that his problem had nothing to do with management or leadership skills. It was a HR challenge. This reminded me of this video I recorded on “The 5 Styles of Managing People”:
It’s important to adapt your leading style to each individual and actually it goes more detailed than that it is down to each major task that each individual has so that may be that one person in order to produce the weekly
status report they don’t need any supervision at all you can delegate it fully to them, but in creating a marketing plan for the department its something that they hadn’t done before and they’re going to need a lot more “hands-on” management.
As you think about managing people it comes down to individuals and the tasks assigned to them. With each
task that you assign to an individual: what is important to think about are two things:
the motivation to take on this challenge and,
the experience they have in doing this sort of thing
Motivation: 0, 1 or 2
What i would ask is that you think about for each individual motivation on a scale: zero, one or two
Zero: is they are not motivated. Someone with motivation zero: they really aren’t interested in doing this task perhaps with a particular employee they don’t want to be the one that creates the status report for the weekly team meeting, or you’ve asked them to do a planned visit and write up a report on how things are going and they are really not motivated by that they prefer some other aspect, perhaps the technology is something that turns them on.
So zero is that individual is not motivated by this task. One is there is some motivation there it’s not that they are jumping up and down its not that they are asking you “please please can I do this?” but, there is a desire to grow and two: is that you can see fire in their eyes. They really want to do this, perhaps it’s an area that they really want to develop for their future perhaps its a type of work they really love.
In my case i remember when I first started at Accenture, programming computers was something you didn’t need to manage me to do. I loved doing it. I would do it in my spare time, at the weekends. So, my manager looking at me while he hands me a programming task would see me light up and and be excited almost have to hold me in the room to explain the full project before I could go out and start playing with the computers. Because in my mind it was playing that i was doing when I was programming if that same manager had said “on friday, instead of programming i want you to spend the day with the accounts receivable team drawing a process map of how they conduct the process” – that fire would have gone out of my eyes because it was not something that really motivated me.
So with each task and each employee: it’s important to just think about what level of motivation they have to get this activity done and the same for experience and again we have a zero, one, two scale.
Experience: 0, 1 or 2
Someone who has done many years of this, perhaps someone on your team has been creating the minutes for the team meeting for a couple of years they do it well: their experience is two. They’ve got three or four years of experience doing it, they’ve got the template, they know what goes in there, they know what doesn’t go into there they don’t need to ask for help.
Maybe there’s someone has just started on the team, they’ve never created minutes and they don’t know what it quite looks like: their experience is zero.
Maybe there is someone on your team that for a programming task they really haven’t got a background in this, they don’t know the language or they have not programmed in this particular language before so their experience is zero or one or two. So you need to think through…
What’s what’s this skill level of this person how much experience are they bringing to get to this particular activity and you score for each activity and each person:
where they are on motivation: zero, 1 or 2
where they are on experience: zero, 1 or 2
This will give you some basis, so perhaps you have someone who is zero and zero…
The Leaders Window: Management Matrix
Lets move that onto our our management matrix: so you have taken a particular task and an employee… and and you have done the sums, and you have looked at how their motivation is to do this particular task, how their experience is to do this particular task and maybe the sum of motivation and experience is zero:
You decide this person is not motivated by this particular task. They have got no experience: zero plus zero leads to zero.
Motivation + Experience: Zero
When you are faced with an individual on your team that is not motivated and that does not have previous experience there’s nothing you can do as a manager to get them to do this well. So, a zero is a HR problem
A zero: there is no management that you can do to get good work out of this individual. It’s a waste of time giving this piece of the activity to that individual employee. So your best decision, if this is a very important piece of work for the team, is to give it to someone else and if you don’t have someone else to do it
you need to replace this individual on the team because there’s no short or long term solution under which
someone who is not motivated and doesn’t have a good level of experience is going to be able to contribute anything worthwhile to the team so if it zero for motivation and zero for experience you need to find someone else to do this work.
Motivation + Experience: One
Let’s say they’ve got a little bit of motivation but no previous experience; or the other case
they’re not really motivated but they’ve been doing it for long enough that they can do it fairly simply
the case of producing minutes from a team meeting the individual is not motivated but they know generally what it looks like which case you’ve got a one as the sum.
In the case of “1” we move to micro-management in the case of micromanagement you’re going to have to supervise quite closely you going to have to set the activity weekly set the timing and describe how you want it done and audit and look over it anyone who’s in this “1” level whether it’s because their experiences is zero or their motivation is zero it is going to be hard work.
Micro-Management is not something you have an enormous scope to be able to to do much of. So the only reason you will allow someone to be in this micro management level is because either some things is going to change or you can see a path for them either to be more motivated or to gain the experience to be able to do it unsupervised.
Your objective is to move people away from micro-management and move them to level “2”, so level “2” is perhaps there’s a little bit of motivation, a 1 score in motivation and a little bit of past experience: so
one and one gives you two maybe its someone who is young who hasn’t done this before, but is very, very motivated to learn so their motivation is 2 but their experience is zero or somebody who’s not very motivated but they’ve been doing this for a long time and have a great deal of experience and know how to get it done, in which case your score is 2 and that 2 an activity, and an individual with a score of 2: you can Manage.
Motivation + Experience: Two
In the case of Manage, you are delegating the “how” to them so the individual it’s up to them them to decide how they want to do it but you keep control of the when and the what. So its the status report: “I want it 10 minutes before the team meeting on friday”, “I want it to look more or less like what we have always had”, “It’s up to you when and how do you do it”.
Or marketing plan, you set the when: “its due in two weeks time” the what: its a market plan. I’d like it to look to looks somewhat like the template we did last time but you leave it up to them to come to you with the how. but you are available for helping with the how, but that is delegated to them.
In the case of management you’re still keeping control of what is being done, you’re still keeping control of the deadline but you’re passing over the day-to-day work on the project to the individual and again this with the accountability question needs to be reinforced each time they come to you you’re pushing back the problem to
“what else do we need to do?”
“what other things could be done?”
“what do you need to get it done?”
Anyone that you are managing: you really want to be looking at how you can move them to to level 3. Because level 3 is where you can lead. The key here at the management level, and at the micro-management level; this side of this quadrant you have a scarce amount of energy and time to dedicate here once you move your employees, the people reporting to you over into the style of leadership of “leading” or fully delegating; you can start to have many, many more people on your team because they’re not sucking a scarce resource that you have in terms of energy, in terms of time.
Motivation + Experience: Three
Leading: if you look at a task, and this task + person: they are highly motivated, they are really motivated to learn, and there’s a little bit of experience so you have given them 2 on the motivation, given them 1 in terms of experience: “3”, you’re leading.
In the case of leading, you are handing over even more responsibility, you are delegating the “what”, you are delegating the “when” you are delegating the “how” over to the individual and you are being there just to
to make sure that they are being supported to remove obstacles and help them be successful so, you’re role is no longer manager but moving more to coach and pushing the ownership of all of the task over to the individual
and if you’ve got an activity where someone is fully motivated: motivation level 2 and they’ve got plenty of experience: experience level 2 you start to get to 4.
With 4 you can delegate and ideally you want to move everyone into this phase: into delegation
Motivation + Experience: Four
You are now handing over full control, and you’re trusting, you’re trusting and doing some regular verification.
The important thing in delegation: the difference between an employee, a team member feeling that they’ve received something delegated to them, or the negative, they have received it dumped onto them it is a very different feeling as a team member to have something dumped on to you.
The big difference between dumping and delegation: in delegation you tell the individual:
“I have specifically chosen you”
“I trust you to do it”
“I am here if you need anything”
“I know you could do it better than I can do it”
You need to come back regularly with praise. Let them know you are aware they’re working on it. Let them know that you think they’re doing a good job. Dumping is a very horrible feeling. It feels like someone has just
passed, thrown the work over at them because you don’t want to do it yourself.
Having something dumped on you is a very un-healthy feeling. Having something delegated to you and someone look you in the eyes and say
“I have specifically chosen you”
“you can do this better that I can”
“I trust you to come to me if you hit an obstacle”
“if you need some support to think through the problems”
“I trust you to get it done”
“I am not going to follow up, I am not going to check up”
“This is yours to get done”
When you get your team into leading and delegating as the main styles that your working with them as the team lead you now are freeing up your time to really look ahead you are not stuck in the details of day to day
and you are going to be able to start to look ahead and create time really make those that work for you successful.
Freeing up time for the Future
The real job of a leader, a great leader, is someone that everyone underneath them is even more successful than they are without you as the leader that can only happen when you start to move most of the activity that is being done by your team into these modes of leading and and delegating, and giving you the time and the energy to look up to see the roadblocks, remove the obstacles, praise, and reward and really boost the team into a high performance team so these are some important things to think about as you are giving the work to each member of the team and each activity, and each individual team member will need a different style in terms of how you relate to them how you help them take responsibility for their work.
The objective is always to be moving people out of micro-management into management; out of management into a style of leading and as soon as possible moving them from leading to a style where you can delegate.
Delegation can only happen when the individual team member is motivated and they have enough experience to know more or less how to get the job done so your job as a leader is to make working on their motivation and on working on giving them the skills so that they can be a 2+2 person; giving them a “4”, keeping them in the delegate box
if you can achieve that: you’re going to be really successful as a team leader.
At the end of every course I teach at IESE Business School, all participants give extensive feedback on their experience of the course, the facilities… and on my role as a teacher.
When the summarized feedback reaches me a couple of weeks later, I open the pdf in a state of nervous tension. I am preparing myself emotionally for the news contained in the report. If the report is positive, I start to relax and enjoy the feeling of professional competence.
However, the last few quotes on the report are always the “areas for improvement”. I get tense again, and start already to justify myself before I even start reading.
I love positive feedback. I hate “developmental” feedback. I pretend sometimes to appreciate it, but I resist it fiercely inside my mind.
I am pretty sure that I am not alone.
I rationally know that it is the developmental feedback that can most help me improve, but I find it very hard in the moment to accept it and work with it. I feel it as a personal attack, not as an objective opinion of a friendly student who wholeheartedly wishes to see the institution of IESE Business School improve with their advice.
What do you do to “accept” developmental feedback? Are there any things that have changed your willingness to be open to and even seek out developmental feedback?
Economist Andrew McAfee suggests that, yes, probably, droids will take our jobs — or at least the kinds of jobs we know now. In this far-seeing talk, he thinks through what future jobs might look like, and how to educate coming generations to hold them.
Are you Bill or Ted?
There is a big and growingseparation between the fortunes in the western world for “People like Bill” and “People like Ted”. (Defined at 7:00 in Andrew’s video presentation).
“People like Bill” – not college educated, low-level blue-collar work
Will be replaced by droids. Increasing divorce, increasing underemployment, increasing social exclusion.
“People like Ted” – College educated, professional type, engineer/doctor/lawyer
Have a great future. Increasing opportunity, improved lifestyle, great social life.
What do you think?
Is the future this clearly win/loss?
What is the role of education in preparing “People like Bill” for a better inclusive role in the digital droid future?
I often blog about productivity, about removing purposeless-busy-ness from our lives; but sometimes I don’t car and I want to give the impression that I am really working hard.
Here are 10 golden rules for looking like you are working hard:
George Costanza’s 10 Commandments For ‘Working Hard’
Never walk without a document in your hands. People with documents in their hands look like hardworking employees heading for important meetings. People with nothing in their hands look like they’re heading for the cafeteria. People with a newspaper in their hand look like they’re heading for the toilet. Above all, make sure you carry loads of stuff home with you at night, thus generating the false impression that you work longer hours than you do.
Use computers to look busy. Any time you use a computer, it looks like “work” to the casual observer. You can send and receive personal e-mail, chat, and generally have a blast without doing anything remotely related to work. These aren’t exactly the societal benefits that the proponents of the computer revolution would like to talk about but they’re not bad either. When you get caught by your boss — and you will get caught — your best defence is to claim you’re teaching yourself to use new software, thus saving valuable training dollars.
Keep a messy desk. Top management can get away with a clean desk. For the rest of us, it looks like we’re not working hard enough. Build huge piles of documents around your workspace. To the observer, last year’s work looks the same as today’s work; it’s volume that counts. Pile them high and wide. If you know somebody is coming to your cubicle, bury the document you’ll need halfway down in an existing stack and rummage for it when he/she arrives.
Use voice mail. Never answer your phone if you have voice mail. People don’t call you just because they want to give you something for nothing — they call because they want you to do work for them. That’s no way to live. Screen all your calls through voice mail. If somebody leaves a voice-mail message for you and it sounds like impending work, respond during lunch hour when you know they’re not there — it looks like you’re hardworking and conscientious even though you’re being a devious weasel.
Look impatient & annoyed. One should also always try to look impatient and annoyed to give your bosses the impression that you are always busy.
Leave the office late. Always leave the office late, especially when the boss is still around. You could read magazines and storybooks that you always wanted to read but have no time until late before leaving. Make sure you walk past the boss’ room on your way out. Send important e-mail at unearthly hours (e.g. 9:35 p.m., 7:05 a.m., etc.) and during public holidays.
Use sighing for effect. Sigh loudly when there are many people around, giving the impression that you are under extreme pressure.
Opt for the stacking strategy. It is not enough to pile lots of documents on the table. Put lots of books on the floor etc. (thick computer manuals are the best).
Build your vocabulary. Read up on some computer magazines and pick out all the jargon and new products. Use the phrases freely when in conversation with bosses. Remember; they don’t have to understand what you say, but you sure sound impressive.
Don’t get caught. MOST IMPORTANT: Don’t forward this page’s URL to your boss by mistake!
“It’s extremely difficult to do something big. I think setting out to do something small is easier and more likely to work.” Seth Godin
If you are reading this, I will assume that you writing a book or are thinking about writing a book. What is holding you back? What obstacle sits between you and a flow-like state where all is clear and the words come?
I believe the biggest obstacle is not outside of you. I believe the biggest obstacle is inside of you.
Your anchor is dragging. More power to the motor won’t help. You must raise your anchor: The Resistance.
Stephen Pressfield says that our purpose lies behind what we most fear. The book we are most scared to write is the book we should be writing. If there is no fear related with the writing, it is probably not important.
Our ego is so determined to undermine us, that it will justify all forms of procrastination. The excuses will be rational. They will be true. They will be well argued. If we engage on their level, they will always win. Seth Godin calls this The Resistance. The closer we get to achieving our purpose, the louder the Resistance will rebel.
The Wisdom of Horses
Ranulph Fiennes is the oldest British man to have climbed Everest. He climbed it at his 3rd attempt when he was 65 years old. What changed on his 3rd attempt?
Ranulph’s wife is a horse trainer. When he was setting out on this last attempt, she said “do it like horses”.
Ranulph asked “what do you mean, do it like horses?”
His wife explained to him that a horse runs with no thought for the finish line. A horse runs until it drops from exhaustion. She told him to only ask himself “can I take one more step?” and if the answer is “yes”, take that one more step and repeat. Don’t allow your mind to consider more than the next step.
Great endurance athletes have learnt this. They have learnt to cheat their mind by refusing to allow it to think about the sheer scale of what they are taking on. They look at the summit of Everest and don’t really see it again until they are standing on it.
Prolific writers don’t think about the 60,000 words they need to write for the book, they think in pages or paragraphs or just word by word. John Grisham wrote one page per day before starting work at his day job. One page a day.
If a Gap Opens, The Resistance will win
The moment a gap of thinking is opened, the Resistance will step in and will win. If I stop to edit, I will kill this writing session. If an ultramarathon runner thinks “how much more have I got left?” his Resistance will win. The moment that the pause comes in, is when the Resistance has a chance of winning.
The Resistance will win in any argument. It has no morals nor any type of excuse that it will not use. It can only be conquered for moments when you commit completely to the flow, to the production of words, to the practice of piano, to make the sales call, to finish the drawing.
Performance = Potential – Self Sabotage
I spent some time last year interviewing successful endurance athletes like Kilian Jornet. I wrote about the Mental Models of High Performance. How do they manage to do the “impossible”?
The answer was quite simple: They don’t think. When they are running, biking or swimming they don’t let their mind wander off into the future. They stay present in this moment. At most the next stroke, or at the very most the next pause for a drink.
How to write a book?
Write like a horse. Can you do one more word? Write one more word. Keep going.
My last post was on Meaningful Contribution. I talked about three questions about the work you are doing: does it serve others? do you do it well? and do you love doing it?
The 4 Paths in our Working Life
Taking two of those questions: does it serve others? and do you love doing it? I put together today’s 2×2 graphic.
The man in the middle is like a new employee starting first day at a new company. Which path will he take?
The 4 Paths are:
Quit and Stayed – he will keep showing up for the job, but do the minimum possible effort in order to not lose his job. He is not satisfied. He is not contributing. He is worried about showing up on time, looking busy when the boss is watching, sending emails at 9pm to let everyone see that he is busy – but he is not contributing. He is a cancer to those around him. He will suck their satisfaction. He will work to ensure that others are being regularly interrupted and unproductive so that he can feel comfortable in the company of slackers.
Coasting – he enjoys his job, but has been focussing on the aspects that benefit him. He is not there to serve the team nor the customer. He doesn’t do a bad job, but is not going to spend more than the minimum to hit minimum quality.
Burn Out – he is good at his job, but has not taken his own growth as a person seriously. He is running like a sprinter, not a marathon runner. It is his responsibility to work at a rhythm that allows him to contribute more each day. If he has too much work he needs to improve his work tools, his work methods.
Engaged – he has found a good balance between enjoying the work, doing it well and improving his work. His energy serves as a boost to those who are around him. His contribution is sustainable and growing. He is on the path to being an “A” Player – Self-Motivated and Experienced.
Bosses, Environment and Culture
The man in the central box could go any way.
Lou Holtz once replied to an Accenture partner’s question: “What do you do with unmotivated players?” with a snort of derision. “Un-motivated players!?! This is their dream.”
He returned to the question later and said “I guarantee that day 1, every new employee that walks through the door arrives motivated, with a desire to contribute. If a year later he is no longer motivated, it is something you guys have done that has removed that motivation.”
Our parents, our school teachers, our past bosses, our current friends all contribute to our current state of contribution and satisfaction. We can push our kids, our friends, our employees out of the middle circle into any of the 4 paths.
What do you do to make the top right path the most likely?
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