Monthly Archives: December 2010

//December

All I want for Christmas is a new career

With Christmas approaching, many people are thinking about their careers, their next step, even perhaps the thought of living the entrepreneur dream?

But far too many people select their careers like selecting a CD in a record store, randomly jumping from one title to another.  ‘This could be good’, or ‘I wouldn’t mind trying that’… These are all wasted efforts unless of course you are seriously taking a long hard look at yourself and to where you are going in life.

I have a bottom line rule, ‘if you do not understand what the job is from its description, then it is probably at least one step too far away from where you are right now’ but this only a generalization and assumes that the job description was well written in the first place.

Question: If someone were to ask you right now “how do you see your career progressing in 2011?” could you answer them clearly and succinctly (i.e. in one simple sentence)?  If not consider it before someone does ask you, because ask you they will for sure in the next eight weeks or so.

And what about the entrepreneur’s dream? Well if you are thinking along those lines then there are two new things you might like to check out or contribute to: 1 a new blog for would be entrepreneurs: www.StartupBreaks.com and 2. An event in Brussels: http://brussels.startupweekend.org  both these things are in their infancy so do not expect too much, however: For every entrepreneur there are four important questions:

  1. Why do I really want to go it alone?
  2. Who will be my customers?
  3. Why would they do business with me, rather than my competitors?
  4. What will be my measure of success for my business?

Something to consider, over the holiday break?

Have a good week (and a very enjoyable Christmas for those of you that celebrate it)

Harley

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Just long enough

Too short is too short, too long is too long. So just long enough is what you should be aiming for.

When you want something from someone, I find getting to the point quickly and keeping there is important. However, because the communication channels we use determine the length (Twitter, SMS etc) it is important to choose wisely.  Too often people use a short e-mail from a mobile phone to ask for something and wonder why it is turned down.

Very short messages are fine when simply stating facts: ‘my train will arrive in ten minutes’.  But if you want someone to do something for you, you need to add some flourishes to wake up their emotional responses.  Just like an energy saving lamp, they only reach their full potential when given a little time. 

‘My Christmas shopping trip went fine, bought some lovely presents, but bags are heavy and my arms are tired, my train arrives in ten minutes – any chance of a lift from the station :- / ?’

I have a number of stock e-mails in my head that I work and re-work for every occasion.  And these come in very handy when one wants something in a hurry. However these are no longer enough.

There was a time when the art of letter writing was one of the most important skills of leadership and management (getting people to respond in a way you want).  But then came telegrams and now we have e-mails, blogging, texting, tweeting and commenting.  Each requires a structure and more importantly a purpose. Mix them up and you’re left standing in the snow at the station, weighed down with heavy shopping bags, waiting for a taxi.

Have a good week,

Harley

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Dump truck Joe

Meet dump truck Joe, he’s really a special person.  If you’ve got some rubbish that needs clearing, he’s your man. He doesn’t care what it is or where it came from he just likes dumping stuff.  For dump truck Joe the faster he can dump it the better.

Back in the eighties I was working in London near a massive building site, later to be known as Canary Warf. One of the biggest tasks the contractor had was to remove literally hundreds of thousands of tons of earth, to make way for the foundations of skyscrapers.  A handful of haulage companies were recruited.  Each in turn recruited an army of independent truck drivers to transport the unwanted earth to land fill sites, 40km away in Kent.  Because the drivers were paid by the load, if they could, they found places to dump them much nearer by.  Some literally emptied their massive loads of stinking mud into the front gardens of homes just around the corner of the site.  It was not uncommon for local residents to come home to find that they could not enter their house due to a massive pile of earth and building rubbish piled up as high as the first floor window, right in front of their door!

Of course the haulage contractors knew what their drivers were doing, but they conveniently turned a blind eye for as long as possible.  I was thinking about this situation last week when I witnessed a manager receive a task from his boss.  No sooner had he received it, he had found someone to dump it on. It was then it occurred to me that this was culturally acceptable in that company.  It is normal for everyone who is given a task to just go around dumping it on anyone they had some kind of authority or influence over.  No ownership; no real care if their choice was suitable and absolutely not a seconds thought that they might conceivably actually do it themselves!

Do you have dump truck Joe’s in your company?  In many countries the name Joe is both attributed to men and women, and so it is that I see dumping tasks and responsibilities as both a male and female phenomenon.  Some are able to do it better than others; with a smile and a pat on the shoulder – but dumping is what they are doing none the less.

I like running businesses and projects where the underlying culture is of people taking on and actually delivering their responsibilities without the kneejerk reaction to delegate them.  Companies where people (even managers) actually do things, where the underlying culture of ownership, responsibility and pride runs so high that delegation has to be encouraged, on the basis of being overworked.

In dump truck Joe companies the doers are often seen as hero’s, as people to award medals to.  That they will somehow be satisfied with a shiny bright coin, hanging on a piece of colored ribbon, handed to them by a deputy, while their boss is away on a business trip.  

Meet dump truck Joe – he’ll clear your problems for you, but just don’t ask how and where he dumps it, after all it’s gone and it’s not your responsibility anymore!

Have a good week,

Harley

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