What's It For Series...Billboards

If the goal is to build an audience of loyal raving fans, a public sign is hardly the answer. A billboard can’t replace the hard one on one work necessary to build trust and earn attention. It doesn’t help create a tribe that is looking forward to your next offer. And in a sea of more messaging than ever before, it’s just adding to the mess.

For the Money

I think most people mean to say they’re doing it for some money. For if they are doing it for the most money (or just for the money), it’s almost certain they should be doing something else. So once it’s established that money isn’t the primary objective, there’s room to determine what it’s really for. Worth the exploration, especially when considering alternatives.

Madness

Shut everyone else and their belief system out and you have isolation and complete protection of your own beliefs. No need to consider anyone else’s point of view. No need to be generous and consider the alternative. You’re alone and content. Keep those thoughts to yourself and you’re an obscure hermit. Shout them from the rooftops (or a street corner) and you're seen by most as a psychotic. But not by everyone. Not by those who live in fear or with enough anger to sign-on. 

Thanks to the internet, anyone can have a global street corner. It’s not reserved for people smarter than you, more courageous than you, or more talented than you. And thankfully it’s not just for madness. The question is then…what’s it for? What should you use the platform to offer? 

We need your point of view, your slant on things. We need you to choose yourself. But we also need you to listen and consider the alternative because that’s what leads to meaningful change. Otherwise, it’s just a rant…and sometimes a very harmful one.

The Art of Selection

The hardest part about selecting someone to join your team is dealing with the non-selection. It’s easy to celebrate with the victor…the one that made it. The hard work is teaching the others…explaining why they didn’t make the cut. And more importantly how they can prepare...what specifically they can do to change the outcome next time.  

Authority includes the power to choose. Because in the end, the leader is accountable when it doesn’t work. But authority also comes with the duty to teach and to help people achieve their dreams. This requires a specific vision, enrollment by everyone in that vision and empathy for those that can’t achieve it. Because if there’s a chance someone can get there next time…great leaders ensure they do.

With vs. For

Working with someone is far different than for someone. 

With implies a group effort…people coming together with a common goal. Everyone shares in the load and everyone enjoys a share in the ultimate outcome.

For tells a different story…one of authority, power and non-inclusion. It’s a quid pro quo system. The boss makes a plan, the people below carry it out and get paid for their time. 

People enjoy being part of something…it’s what drives humans towards communal activity. It’s the reason we join book clubs, travel together, and volunteer for a common cause. It’s the purpose behind the activity which creates the enrollment. And so the work has deeper meaning than a paycheck transaction. All meaningful cultural change has this system built in. With requires a purpose. Otherwise the work is simply a transaction.

But there’s a benefit to the For system. Freedom from accountability. It’s clean and much more simple. The worker puts forth effort and is rewarded for the effort. And if the plan fails, ultimately there’s someone else to blame. The greater the effort, the greater the reward. Work faster and solve more complicated problems and we’ll pay you more. This feels safe for a lot of people. But it’s not sustainable. People will run on the hamster wheel for awhile, faster and faster. But over time it’s tiring and unchallenging. And their work diminishes…and a replacement is found.

So there’s a trade-off between freedom from accountability and complete unity around a cause. One is completely transactional and requires cogs. The other gives people a chance to be a part of something bigger than themselves and make a difference.

Words matter…a lot. Choose wisely.

What is Experience For?

The first time you drive a car it’s quite nerve racking. After a few years of experience that fear goes away…until something unpredictable happens. Now it’s new…experience is minimized…what to do next? After twenty years, after dealing with a lot of unexpected situations, there’s far less fear when something out of the ordinary occurs. Now we have experience handling the unpredictable and solving problems in an instant. We’re more comfortable with the discomfort.

Experience is mission critical when life safety is at stake. Heart surgeons and airline pilots spend years training to handle the unexpected. They earn a premium for their ability to calmly handle things when they don’t go as planned. That’s why there are Chief Surgeons and Captains…they have the most experience and we need them around in the most uncomfortable situations to lead us through. Passengers aren't worried about how much the airline captain earns when the landing gear doesn’t deploy properly.

But experience also counts in other work. No matter how much the band has practiced, the tension is quite high before the first concert. Because unlike practice, the stakes change once someone is counting on you..expecting a certain outcome. The same band, playing the same music, is much more at ease after the fiftieth concert. At this point, they’ve felt the fear of the first notes, and the pressure of expectation so often, they can dance with it because they know it’s coming. They know that an amp is going to fail at some point and what that feels like. They know people are going to respond differently, maybe even a boo or two…and they know what that feels like. And they know what it feels like to get to the other side…to lead through the choppy water. 

Experience allows us to become comfortable with uncertainty and give comfort to others by demonstrating that we know what we are doing…especially when the wheels fall off.

Experience creates comfort…and makes room for improv and art.

Content Creating Business

Right now, at this very moment, you’re in the content consumption business. Fifty or a hundred years ago, it’s likely at any given time you weren’t. Back then you were either working, mainly through physical labor or engaging in one on one social behavior. Industrialization, technology advances and broadband internet access have changed all of that. The creation of goods is far easier and cheaper than ever. Simultaneously, the access to goods is far more efficient and also cheaper than ever before. What’s created is a storm of massively produced stuff along with increasing amounts of time spent on getting that stuff…because it’s so easy to do so.  

 

A world full of so much consumption leaves room for a wonderful opportunity…to be unique by choosing to be in the content creating business. The caveat is to challenge yourself to make interesting stuff, something that’s hard, something that might not work. We need people making solutions to interesting problems, leading change for the better.

We need creation more than ever…but please not another smart phone photo layered with filters. 

Make interesting stuff…because so many people don’t.

Top of the Org Chart

is reserved for people who…

  • teach
  • take responsibility
  • give credit
  • create enrollment (to do something which might not work)
  • help others solve problems
  • establish and lead cultural change 

Turns out you can do all of this without being on the top. At this juncture it’s a choice. But once other people count on you...it’s a duty. Please don’t let them down.

The Stalemate of the Suggestion Box

Top Management

We would love to hear your ideas…bring ‘em on.

Middle Management

We don’t like new ideas because we already have too much work to do…and their isn’t anything in it for us.

Employees

Why bother, nothing ever happens anyway.

The only way to solve this is to gain enrollment in the purpose of the idea by everyone involved. Everyone needs to have skin in the game (share in the risk if it doesn’t work) and be rewarded when it comes to fruition. This requires leadership by someone to create a meaningful vision (to create the enrollment) and to gain participation by everyone to do the required heavy lifting. 

Leadership isn’t reserved for those with titles…and either are the most effective ideas.

Low Wages

…are caused by people, not companies.

Dispensable people (who do just enough) are in higher supply than indispensable ones. And they can be had for less. If you fall into the dispensable category it is very likely you can and will be replaced by another…for less. This happens at all job levels. Most companies are willing to trade higher turnover for a lower price…because they can…lot’s of mediocre people to choose from.

On the other hand, indispensable disrupts the status quo. It creates a different paradigm by being remarkable. This type of work commands a premium because it is in shorter supply and thankfully some companies care enough to seek it out. Over time, as it infiltrates the work category it pushes the production to a higher level (experience, care, quality, quantity, etc.). And this translates into higher compensation on a broader scale and a better experience for the consumer…along with a higher price. And then the cycle begins again.

The choice then (and it is a choice) is to either be in the business of pushing the bar higher…or not. Choose wisely.

Placeholders

Each project or job you choose stands a chance to be the most important work you’ve ever done or to lead you to it. If not, it’s a placeholder. Placeholders are sometimes important for survival. But they should be seen for what they are…placeholders, a stopping point, a distraction. They are not for fulfillment, happiness or generosity…only found in work with a cause with people aligned around the same idea.

Every time you choose, you can choose not to settle. Choose wisely.

Perfectly Imperfect

Perfect can’t be perfect for everyone. Because everyone doesn’t have the same problem to solve. Because everyone doesn’t have the same taste, or the same world view.

But perfect can be perfect for someone. So, the challenge isn’t to make something perfect. It’s finding someone who sees and believes exactly what you do…then make something for them. It will be perfect.

The Interview is for

determining if we should do work together…and as a result work together. It’s a time to determine if working together as a team will result in our best work.

Conversely, if the work is already determined, and we’re merely finding a person to do it, we might overlook the opportunity to create something entirely new together…more meaningful work and an experience we haven’t imagined yet. That’s a journey reserved for groups of people who come together because they are aligned in purpose and core values…and that’s when the magic happens.

We (I) want to do work with you because…

A meaningful interview occurs when both sides answer this question with something they have to offer (other than pay, skills and solving an immediate problem)…and when both sides come prepared to walk away when they can’t.

The Job Interview and Culture

The perfect job interview, where everyone tells the truth, is a rarity. It only happens when both sides are completely secure, neither is going to “win”, and there’s no transaction at stake. At this level it’s not about a “job”. It’s about the alignment of goals and purpose and building trust. It’s less about the work, and more about the culture. Every job interview should be this way. But it’s not.

It’s not because a job is also about solving an immediate problem. Job seekers are solving the problem of paying bills, obtaining experience (so they can earn more to pay more bills) and relieving peer pressure to be successful. Companies need someone to answer the phone, serve a customer, bake cookies and solve math problems. The work is done for now, not later.

But later matters…a lot. Without later, now is irrelevant. Other than mere survival, the present is meaningless without a thought about later. Culture is later brought forward. It’s the version of the future we are working to create today. It’s what gives us and our work purpose. It creates challenge, tension and fear. But it also leads to excitement about the prospect of meaningful change. And it’s the toughest thing to talk about.

The job at hand is important. The work needs to be done. So there needs to be a discussion about that role. More importantly though is how the work is to be done…what’s the posture of everyone in the mix. And that’s defined by culture…so best talk about that first.

Are You Going?

I often ask people about their dream…their overarching goal, their purpose. And while the answer tells a story about what drives them, their true compass, more importantly it tells us that they are going. 

Rest is important. But other than a refresh, it doesn’t lead to change. It’s less important what you are doing. It’s really important that you are doing it.

Go be seen. 

Make One

What would change about your offering if you could only make one?

What would change if your legacy was based on one performance? One interview, one record, one customer transaction, one sales pitch?

What would change about the packaging? The marketing, the advertising?

Would the cereal box look the same if it was meant for a specific child? How about a magazine? Or an airline flight?

Most marketers don’t have trouble making one. You can pour yourself into it...your purpose, your best focus and energy. You can spend more on making one thing work. The obvious problem is making it scale. The inherent problem with remarkably interesting stuff, stuff worth doing and talking about is that it isn’t easy to sustain. It’s far more manageable to do one of almost anything than multiples. So In order to scale we make sacrifices...and down the line the thing feels different than the first one.

The more your 5,000th one is like your only one, the better chance of making something personal that leads to meaningful change.

Now what will you change?

Frolic and Fun for Everyone

As long as you’re bright.

It’s sad that most of our education system is still framed this way. Meet spec, and you’re celebrated. Otherwise, keep learning how to march until you’re in lock step. Fall too far behind and you’re left out altogether. In the USA you don’t have much choice for twelve or so years. But after that the rules are changing…thankfully.