How to Manage – Structures vs Rules

[ New Distinctions for Entrepreneurs – Part 10 of 12 ]

Even with the greatest leadership, management at some level will need to happen in any business with multiple people involved. If you are inspired by being an organisational leader who creates success through developing great relationships and taps into the intrinsic motivations of people (as opposed to a carrot & stick approach), then you will want to approach management with more nuance.

The first thing to do is to get in touch with the motivation behind your management.

“Why are you managing these people?”

“Because we need X to happen…”

“Why do you need X to happen…”

“Because if not, then we’ll go out of business…”

If asking the ‘why’ question repeatedly leads you to a fear, pain or undesirable situation, then the management approach which emerges from it will be counter-productive to building a strong team and it will undermine your ability to tap into your employee’s deep inner drive to help the company succeed. People will feel the unconscious purpose behind your ‘managing’ – whether you are aware of it or not.

If you discover that the reason you want to manage someone is something undesirable, then the next thing you’ll want to do is ask yourself: “If I don’t want that, what DO I want?”

Once you have connected with a reason to manage that is oriented around your purpose and what you ultimately want to create, it will serve you to think differently about the ‘rules’ that you are applying to people you manage.

Embedded in the meaning of a ‘rule’ is that something must be protected. We create rules for children to protect them from themselves. We create traffic rules to protect us from hurting each other. ‘Follow the rules’ has a tone of authoritarianism to it. Although many people effectively work with set rules, there is also a cost to this approach. That cost is even deeper and more motivated engagement.

The simple alternative to having ‘rules’ is creating ‘structures’. At the end of the day, a rule and a structure may be the same exact thing. You may have a ‘rule’ that people show up for work at 9am. By having that as the rule, those who ‘comply with the rule’ are doing so in response to the rule and that’s the end of it. Nothing productive is created beyond the rule other than people following it, thus protecting the company from people showing up too late.

What instead would be a ‘structure’ of starting work at 8am? Well, on the surface it’s the same thing. But ‘structures’ are devoid of inherent meaning of authoritarianism and protectionism that rules are imbued with. In fact, ‘structures’ are things that exist to uphold things and to bring things into form, so they at least open curiously towards what that may be.

Experience the felt difference in these two statements:

‘We have a rule where you must begin work at 8am.’

‘We have a structure where we begin work at 8am.’

The difference that you feel in reading those IS the difference I’m talking about here.

Following the first, you feel forced, controlled and at best you settle. You give up a little bit of your soul in the process.

Following the second, you feel engaged and curious. You want to know what is meant by ‘structure’. For what? What are we building? How does that help?

Using structures instead of rules when you manage invites conversation around the purpose behind the way you are managing. The dialogue is thus easily oriented around the larger vision and what the organisation is attempting to achieve.

“Why do you have a structure where you begin work at 8am?”

“We find that our people are more productive in the mornings. We find on average we’re actually able to end the day 30 minutes early by starting the day 1 hour earlier. By starting work at 8am, our people work less and get more done. Also, we are committed to being the number one service provider in our industry this year. Every other company in our industry starts work at 9am. We’re starting before, working less and doing a better job than all of them.”

Where are you managing with rules?

How could you transform these rules into structures?

What could you share with your team about the purpose behind these structures that might create more engagement and intrinsic motivation from them?

Also, be open to the possibility that by sharing the purpose behind your structures, your team may help you to evolve a structure even more effective and productive towards the same end.

How to Decide – Know vs Figure

[ New Distinctions for Entrepreneurs – Part 9 of 12 ]

When, as an entrepreneur, you find yourself having a difficult time making a decision, it may not be that you don’t have all the information you need to ‘figure out’ what to do.

An entrepreneur is someone who creates from a blank canvas. The starting point is completely different than employment in that there is no predefined structure, vision or goals that the work must serve. As an entrepreneur, these things come from you and you alone. You both create the vision, goals and structure and then you make decisions and take action in service of them.

Where do these visions, goals and structures come from then? Yes, of course they come from you, but where within you? Why do you choose them to be what you choose them to be?

You might come up with rational explanations, but the reality is that a large part of this is post rationalisation for something that bubbled up from your unconscious. As an entrepreneur, most of what you create was initially received by you in some emotional or spiritual way. You heard the whisper of an idea and you followed it, nourished it, gave it some light and as it grew and you came to know it better, you put even more attention on it.

Despite starting down this path, entrepreneurs often get themselves to a point where they stop acting on things because it ‘feels right’ or because it seems curious or interesting to them. They start off down the path of their entrepreneurial pursuits that way, but then with a little bit of success, they begin deferring all decisions to rational analysis. The fear of losing what you created has you reaching for reason at every turn.

Your decisions process devolves from one of exploring possibilities to calculating probabilities. In doing so, you improve the quality of your success, but often at the cost of it’s quality. What filled you with a sense of aliveness becomes burdensome. Like the romantic partner who starts off as the apple of your eye and then becomes your greatest annoyance.

The thing is though, your partner didn’t change. Not much anyway. What changed is how you looked at him or her. You lost that perspective of wonder. You gave it away and replaced it with analysis and judgement.

This is how we kill our decision process as entrepreneurs. Once we begin to build something, we stop acting from our deep sense of knowing. We stop allowing ourselves to move intuitively in the direction of that which calls our spirit. Instead we begin to micromanage our decisions. We insist to ourselves that we must ‘figure out’ the correct and best answer to move forward. There is too much at risk. Too much we might lose.

We forget that not long ago there was nothing to lose. That it was from this nothing that came everything we now have. That something so wonderful came from nothing, not figured out the as the best things to do, but because we acted from a deep knowing about what our step or directions were called to be without knowing what might happen.

Acting from a deep inner ‘knowing’ as to what is true for us to do, paradoxically requires us to embrace not knowing what will happen when we do. It’s knowing that we must turn left without knowing what we’ll find when we follow that path.

When as an entrepreneur you find yourself having a difficult time making a decision, it may not be that you don’t have all the information you need to ‘figure out’ what to do. It may instead be that you have stopped trusting your deep knowing as the place you make the best decisions from.

How to Scale – Axe vs Add

[ New Distinctions for Entrepreneurs – Part 8 of 12 ]

Sometimes I’ll send a razor sharp axe to my Creative Partners. It’s a striking object to receive in the mail. The first time was to a partner who owned a re-growth pine forest. The reality that the axe was used to chop the trees down to sell and to make space for new trees to grow was the perfect metaphor for his own life.

When I send partners an axe, it is because I want to make a point about the power of axing things from their schedule and task list.

Recently I was speaking with the Director of a well-known national non-profit about scaling his organisation. He is a great leader and great at empowering people to take on work, but at the same time he always holds on to a little bit of their work – not because he doesn’t trust them, but because he wants to take care of and support them. As the organisation grows though, he gets more and more bogged down hanging onto helping everyone out. He has less time available than anyone else in the organisation, but to really lead their growth he needs to have more time available than everyone.

The only way for him to explode the glass ceiling he has created for himself is to take an axe to all of the things he is already doing. We spoke about what fears he had in doing that and created some new and powerful personal distinctions that had him excited to delegate more of his work instead of fear it.

As he wields his axe, he creates the space for his growth into new kinds of actions and he creates the possibility for his leadership to grow.

What if the next step to growing your organisation was not to add more stuff to your to-do list and calendar, but to axe stuff from it?

What might that look like? Simply removing it? Delegating it?

What would you do with the space you create?

How to Be Productive – Output vs Input

[ New Distinctions for Entrepreneurs – Part 7 of 12 ]

Contained within the word ‘productive’ is a clue to how to prioritize your tasks to be most productive. When you really consider it, it’s so simple that it’s almost silly that we don’t always automatically do this.

What I’m referring to is ‘produce’. To ‘produce’ something is to create an output of some sort.

Thus to be most productive, we must prioritize our tasks in order of their output.

Despite this being fairly obvious (once we look at it), we often fail to do this. Instead we tend to prioritize our tasks based on the input. Input would be the action we take to produce the output.

We tend to prioritize based on how long something will take us to do, how easy it is, how comfortable it is, etc. These are all qualities of the input and they have no dependable correlation to the output.

The output however is the impact completing the task will have on moving our project forward.

What impact will completing this task have on creating my end result? 1-10?

Try ranking everything on your to-do list this way. Start with the 10’s. Do them all.

Before going on to the 9’s, ask yourself the above question in regards to all of your existing and new tasks again.

You may even find that by only doing the things that have high output, the low output tasks never need to get done.

How to Hire – Forge vs Filter

[ New Distinctions for Entrepreneurs – Part 6 of 12 ]

Searching for the right person to join your team can be a gruelling task. The basic approach is to put a general job description out there and then filter through all the myriad of applications you get.

Some of your filtering will be comparing to tick boxes based on their education, experience, etc. Much of your filtering though, will be based on a ‘gut sense’ as to whether the person seems they might be a good match or not.

Some of this filtering will happen in reading the applications. More of it will happen in interviews.

Filter, filter, filter and hope that, by luck, you end up with someone good or great.

What if you took a slightly different approach? What if instead of wading through all of the responses to your job description, you figured out what the ‘gut sense’ stuff is that is going on inside you, put it to words and put it right out in front?

What if instead of throwing a big net and hoping to catch someone good, you crafted a job description in such a way that it called out greatness from people? What if what you wrote spoke to the heart of the ideal team member in such a way that when their friends read it, they sent it to them because they could see so clearly it was them?

Even more so, what if your job description was not simply an advertisement cast like a small net into the world aimed at catching that one right person, what if instead it was actually a spell of creation that was cast into the world such that when it contacted the right person, it created them into who you want and need them to be?

What I mean by this is what if your language inspired people to be who you are really looking for?

If you are willing to dream big enough with who you want to work for you – and if you are willing to speak that out into the world – you can create that person.

The distinction here is subtle, but it is an important and powerful distinction. It is the difference between trying to ‘find’ the best person for your team and ‘creating’ the best person for your job.

Trying to ‘find’ the best person is like searching for a needle in a haystack.

Creating the best person has you strides ahead. It saves you time because people filter themselves (more of the ones who your gut would have said ‘no’ to don’t contact you) and it has you invite people to step up to be their best.

If you were to begin forging your next team member instead of trying to ‘find’ them, what would you change in your approach? How would you speak about the position differently? How might you ask for referrals? What possibilities might you speak into the world?

How to Write an Agreement – Record vs Defer

[ New Distinctions for Entrepreneurs – Part 5 of 12 ]

Some years ago, I decided to stop using written contracts in my business.

As my professional relationships have become deeper and more personal, the written contracts felt more and more like a ‘pre-nuptial agreement’. The idea of having a contract between me and creative partners to help keep us connected was inadvertently a weakening of our human to human trust.

This is the way I believe most contracts between people operate. They collapse the quality of a human relationship into a quantified list of this’s and that’s, OK’s and NOT OK’s.

Throughout the years, I have also become more and more orientated around creating very clear agreements with the people I work with. At the start of a new partnership, in fact, I spend close to an hour in conversation creating clear agreements with my new partners. We do this verbally, eye to eye and heart to heart.

Although these situations sound the same, they are actually quite different. Most written contracts are created as an alternative to what might be an uncomfortable or confronting person-to-person conversation.

Nobody wants to discuss the possibilities of things not working out at the start of a relationship. It doesn’t feel good. ‘Things are going well. Knock on wood. Why curse it?’

There is a cost to deferring the conversation to a written document though. Through that deferent a little bit of trust is lost. Deferring the difficulty to a contract is an alternative to vulnerability and authenticity – two of the most powerful bonds of human relationship.

Ironically, when we invite legal documents to replace the development of human relationship, we strip the relating of the fought bumps and edges that actually create the hitching into each other. As we round the edges, the surfaces of our connections smooth out. It may look like we are staying close together, but there is nothing holding us in place.

The moment friction arises, we look not to each others eyes, we seek not to each others voices…instead we refer to the document that is the fallback of our relationship.

In my work, I do not want a fallback. I want the human relationship to be the totality of our commitment to each other because in what I do, the partnership itself is a functional part of the work. I need flexibility. I need people having the total legal freedom to walk away so that I can have the space to ensure their staying happens only through their own internal personal commitment.

I’ve allowed this idea of not using written contracts to influence other areas of my life too. Recently I sub-let a studio on the beach in Santa Monica from an attorney. He sent me a list of terms outlying a written agreement. I responded saying, “I’m much less interested in terms and price than I am in creating a relationship with you. Let’s meet for coffee.” He obliged and the next day we were shaking hands as ‘partners’. No contract and I now I have a view of the Pacific Ocean from my desk.

A few months back, I was invited by a friend to publish a short fiction story I wrote. The editor sent me a contract with many pages outlining the terms of the deal. There was a lot of publishing business lingo and many terms that felt awkward to agree to, especially never having spoken about them.

I wrote back saying I didn’t want to sign it, but I was interested to know what things in it were important to them. They responded admitting they didn’t know what was in it and they just sent what the publisher said to send.

After an in-depth conversation, we decided instead that they would decide what is important to them, I’d decide what was important to me and then we would discuss. We did this and we came to agreement on a number of points. After that, we then recorded those points in a document and both signed it.

In the end then, we did have a written agreement. My insight thus is that it’s not whether I have a written agreement with people or not, it’s where that agreement comes from.

Was it created as a way of deferring uncomfortable conversation into blocks of text?
Or was it created as a record of things that we have already spoken about and come to agreement on?

The latter is supportive of a powerful relationship. The former, I believe, is in opposition to such.

When writing written contracts, how could you start recording agreements instead of deferring them to legal text?

What conversations might you need to begin having?

What kind of impact might this have on the professional relationships you create?

How to Negotiate – Path vs Deal

[ New Distinctions for Entrepreneurs – Part 4 of 12 ]

Negotiation in the western world is entered into as a kind of civil combat. It is a game where two or more parties battle for their interests, taking where they can and giving up where they feel they must to get the most that they can.

From the outside, this is functional, but it is absolutely a zero-sum game (where the net result benefit of both parties is zero). Even when people negotiate saying they want a ‘win win’, it’s usually just a way of being nice and having some empathy for the other side. The truth is, in most every ‘win win’, somebody wins at least a little bit more. And usually it’s the person insisting on the ‘win win’, the other side feeling a debt for their purported good nature.

What makes most negotiations zero-sum is not the function or even the result (ironically). What makes them zero-sum is the intention from which the parties enter the negotiation. If the intention is self-interest (i.e. winning), then the result is inevetibly someone getting more than the other. In a positive-sum game however (where the net benefit of both parties is positive), there is no winning. Winning only exists in a binary.

So what if we thought about negotiation as a positive-sum game? What if instead of it being a battle, we took negotiation to be a kind of exploration? What if we saw it like negotiating a winding path?

I like to imagine that everyone in the world is on a path of their own values and desires and that all these paths eventually intersect (since we live on a sphere). This place of intersect would be where BOTH all of your interests AND all of their interests are met.

What if when you went into a negotiation you could come from a place of exploration along your path to the place where your path crosses the other’s path?

What if you committed yourself to locating that intersect as the highest priority?

Your consideration and your inquiry would immediately transform. The questions you ask would be different. The offers you’d make what be different.

What if instead of entering negotiations to make a ‘deal’, you enter them to negotiate your path until your found the place of intersect?

How to Sell – Serve vs Sell

[ New Distinctions for Entrepreneurs – Part 3 of 12 ]

Convincing someone to pay you so that you can serve them has always seemed ass-backwards to me.

Asking other people to ‘go first’ in the trust building ritual of reciprocity is, in itself, counter-productive in building trust.

What if instead of ‘sales’ being about convincing people to pay you so you can serve them, ‘sales’ was another name for ‘free service’?

What if instead of trying to ‘convince’ people to buy what you have, you simply gave it to people?

Or if in your business, if the cost of giving what you’re selling away is too high to make this work, what if you found other ways to serve people for free instead of trying to convince them?

If sales is about building trust, then a ‘convincing’ orientation is like kryptonite. A convincer needs to come up with all sorts of clever brain wrangling persuasion techniques to overcome the innate human sense of distrust. It’s a lot of unnecessary effort. (Not to mention the indirect cost of living in the world as someone who constantly sacrifices the quality of the means for the quantity of the ends.)

What if you stopped trying to ‘sell’ to people (as in convince them) and focused instead completely on ‘serving’ people?

I hear your fears about giving it all away and not getting anything back.

First of all, when it comes to resources like time and money, be careful not to spend a lot serving a few. Instead, spent a bit serving many.

Second, you drawing the line in the sand as to what is free (sales-service) and what is paid (service-service) is key. Be bold in your giving and bold in drawing and standing for your line.

Finally, you asking for the money in your marketing or sales conversations is key.

“_________ and you shall receive.”

Most people mistake the blank for ‘give’. It’s not ‘give’, it’s ‘ask.

“Ask and you shall receive.”

As Gary Vaynerchuk once wrote: Give, give, give, ask.

How to Market – Generate vs Locate

[ New Distinctions for Entrepreneurs – Part 2 of 12 ]

The typical first step in marketing is to identify or ‘locate’ your market. It is to investigate and inquire as to who wants what you’ll be selling. Who needs it? Who would buy it?

While there is absolutely important value in this step, it misses out the fact that marketing is (or at least can be) a dance of creation.

It’s not that looking for existing markets is bad, it’s that if you are focused only on this you will miss the fact that what you put out into the world changes the world.

When your business launches – when you begin providing your product or service – you impact the world. You will do so somewhere between imperceptibly and massively.

What if instead of focusing on ‘finding’ people to buy your stuff, you focused instead of creating people to buy your stuff?

Focusing on your uniqueness in the service or product you provide often creates a paradox where it becomes simultaneously more valuable to people and less obvious to people what the value is. The onus thus is on you to communicate that value and create your market.

What if you were to generate a market instead of locate one?

How might this change your market research?

How might this change how you describe and advertise what you do?

How to Pitch – Impact vs Impress

[ New Distinctions for Entrepreneurs – Part 1 of 12 ]

The typical orientation when ‘pitching’ your business is to impress your audience so that they will want what you have.

What if instead of pitching to impress, you pitched to impact?

What if the pitch itself could add value to someone’s life or business? What if it could deliver an experience, be it the experience your business offers or a different, but relevant one?

What if instead of your pitch being an attempt to impress people with your ability to deliver value, you exemplified that ability by actively delivering value?

How might your pitch change?

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