I had privilege of hearing Gordon Graham in person many years ago. I can still still him blowing his train whistle. If you can predict it (“hear the train whistle”), you should be able to prevent it (“get off the tracks”). I talk to my kids about this all the time (“we shouldn’t have the dog on the top bunk”). The clip below is directed at law enforcement, but the concept applies to any field.
- Make sure that email is the correct medium (vs. text or call)
- Take time to write a good email
- Craft a potent, informational subject line (e.g. Quick question re: ____”)
- Stick to 5-7 sentences
- Make the ask and/or response needed very clear
- Stick to one question/request per email
Brett & Kay McKay on The Art of Manliness give a good reminder that it is still possible to stand out in today’s hyper-competitive world :
While it often feels there’s a dearth of opportunity out there, the real scarcity in this world isn’t in openings, but in common sense, social skills, manners, reliability, and persistence.
Nail these basics, access to which is inexhaustibly abundant, and you’re no longer competing with the masses, you’re competing with the very small segment of humanity that understands and is willing to execute on the rare, but stupidly simple fundamentals.
Todd Henry talks about the three things a great team leader must provide on the Accidental Creative:
Ensure that your team’s attention is allocated to the right problems at the right time.
- What are we doing? Ensure that every member of you team has a crystal clear understanding of what a successful outcome looks like on every level of their work.
- What are we not doing? Strategic pruning of priorities is necessary to your team’s ability to focus.
- When are we doing it? Expectations around timing effect the choices a team member makes throughout the day. Understand the priorities is critical.
Ensure that your team has the resources and processes in place that it needs to do its work.
- How will we do it? Ensuring that there is a clearly defined and articulated path to accomplishing your objectives. Clear obstacles out of their way.
- What do we need in order to do it? Is there anything your team lacks? Materials? Information? Buy-in from superiors? You have to go to bat for your team.
Keep the team motivated to do the work. You have to diligently tie the work the team is doing to why it is doing it.
- Why are we doing it? What difference will it make to the team, company or the world?
- What will it mean if we actually do this work? What is the change that is this going to make and how does it relate to my personal productive passion? Learn to speak the motivational language of your employees.
Ed Catmull in Creativity, Inc.:
The desire for everything to run smoothly is a false goal‐ it leads to measuring people by mistakes they make rather than by their ability to solve problems.
My own plans are made. While I can, I sail east in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I paddle east in my coracle. When she sinks, I shall swim east with my four paws. And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan’s country, or shot over the edge of the world into some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise.
~ C.S. Lewis in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Peter Drucker in the The Effective Executive:
Effectiveness is a habit. Rather, it is a complex of five habits of the mind, that have to be acquired to be an effective executive. These five habits are
- Effective execs know where their time goes. They work systematically at managing the little of their time that can be brought under their control.
- Effective execs focus on outward contribution. They gear their efforts to results rather than to work. They start out with the question, "what results are expected of me?" rather than with the work to be done, let alone with its technique and tools.
- Effective execs build on strengths – their own, those of their superiors, peers, subordinates and those of the organization. They do not build on weaknesses nor do they start out with the things that they cannot do.
- Effective execs concentrate on the few major areas where superior performance will produce outstanding results. They force themselves to set priorities and stay with these priority decisions. They know that they have no choice but to do first things first, and second things not at all. The alternative is to get nothing done.
- Effective execs make dissenting decisions. They know that this is above all, a matter of system – right steps in the right sequence. They know that an effective decision is always a judgment based on "dissenting opinions" rather than on "consensus on the facts". And they know that to make many decisions fast means to make the wrong decisions. What is needed are few, but fundamental decisions. What is needed is the right strategy rather than razzle-dazzle tactics.