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?

How to Not be Jealous – Live Q&A

While speaking at the Inside Out Movement in Zurich earlier this year, someone asked me “How can I observe others’ success without feeling envious?”

It’s always a bit strange for me to be asked questions about how to ‘do life’, as if I might know the answer. I’ve never purported to know the answers or to know how to ‘do life’ well or right. Having spent years sharing insights that I’ve had about how I’ve been able to do my life and work better however, I suppose people assume I might have something to say about what they are facing.

Recently, when on a stage, I’ve given up deflecting such questions or turning them into an opportunity to ‘coach’ people to find their own answers. (I still very much do this in dialogue, but even then not always.) If someone asks me a question and something from my own experience comes to mind now, I just share it.

The key for me in this is not losing myself in the process. It is important to me to not fall for the story that ‘I have the answers to people’s questions’ – be them about life, entrepreneurship or whatever. It matters to me to share what I can see, while at the same time, not buy into my own bullshit.

Having said that, in this video I describe how I deal with (and avoid) jealousy…

How to Love Everyone You Meet – Live Q&A

While speaking at the Inside Out Movement in Zurich earlier this year, someone asked me, “I want to love all humans. How can I get to that point?”

In watching this clip of myself, I had to cringe a number of times.

Firstly, because I spend the first two minutes giving the guy Florien a hard time for asking the question the way he did. I’m framing my response up as trying to help him ask more empowering questions, which is true and useful, but in hindsight, I can see also that my motivation was to remind myself not to buy my own bullshit when people ask me advice.

Ironically, after beating him up for asking my advice, I ended up giving him some advice anyway…just in the form of a question.

Through dialogue, I shared my ideas on how loving people is not about what we need to do, but what we need to STOP doing.

The even bigger and final cringe for me is how the video ended. After our five minute conversation, Florien is even more confused. I decided to take the route that this was a good result, which in many cases can be true, but in this case I think it was a cop-out.

It would have been useful if I followed my own advice in this moment. If I had loved my inner judge of myself as ‘someone who has the answers’, maybe then instead of trying to stop that self from showing up, I could have actually heard Florien. Maybe if I’d been easier on myself, I wouldn’t have gotten in my head so much.

I think the truth is I didn’t have a good answer because I struggle with the same thing.

So much so that I once asked a mentor of mine a very similar question!

“How can I create in myself a desire to serve everyone I meet?”

His response was simpler and much more useful:

“Think loving thoughts.”

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