Week 193 in Detroit.
This week I’m thankful for people. The week ended catching up with my friends & colleagues in New England. It was a great to see my former leader and partners. I was lucky to have dinner with my best friends from law school the night before.
Earlier in the week, it was time spent with my team. My team who spent the last few months preparing for a 2020 strategy of product development and strategic partnerships. Those products and partnerships are moving forward and we’re now connecting with internal champions across the company.
Despite writing the Saturday Cup of Joe every week for the last 193 weeks, I never thought to identify a theme for each week. This week the theme is people. In many ways, it’s always been the theme. I appreciate your reading this each week. Sharing the thoughts, articles and feedback.
Exploring in 2020: A staple of the Saturday Cup of Joe is lists, within lists — travel lists. Always clicking on them. Many of the travel lists are worth sharing. For instance, this week in travel lists takes us around the globe on a budget. The 20 affordable trips in 2020.
A subject that has been coming up more and more in my work has been the role of psychology and behavioral economics. Toward the end of 2019, I completed the book Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely about the choices consumers and employees make that seemingly don’t make sense. A consultant has pitched my team a workshop on similar traits that we can understand and employ in our business. Calling it bias, while accurate, also gives the wrong impression. The outcome is not often wrong, per se, but instead just telling. Paying an extra $1.59 for a bottle of SmartWater than Poland Spring water might be called irrational by some; however a third person would call paying for water at all irrational when you can fill and refill a Nalgene or Hydroflask water bottle. Who’s “wrong”?
What’s really going on is how we deal with assumptions and presumptions. For instance, take the subject of success. Success, our evaluation of our own, as well as our evaluation of others, is riddled with assumptions. For starters, we tend to attribute our own to hard work and skill. We attribute others’ success to fortune or luck. At least to some degree. As we become more success, we apparently lose sight of how hard it was to achieve or how easy it is for others to achieve.
Perspective is a beautiful thing. When we don’t try to evaluate who deserves what and simply pursue our own goals, it makes things a lot easier. Ego can be avoided or managed. Distraction and distortion associated with obsessing over someone else’s path or someone else’s “luck” gives way to preparing and planning your own success.
It starts with self-awareness. Self-awareness is to be objective (or as objective as possible). For me, self-awareness feels like distance. I create distance between myself, my emotion and the situation or the decision. If I missed out on an opportunity at work or had a job offer rescinded, my reaction is — what would have to be true for the other person or the other side for this to make sense? If someone does something that is confusing or causes pain — what must be going on in this other person’s mind? What would have to be true for them to hurt someone like that?
Example — there is a meeting with several leaders on a topic that my team and I have been working on for months and we are not invited to the meeting. Instead of getting frustrated or preoccupied with guessing (perhaps to the point of obsession) of why we were not included, I would determine that there must be a good reason I was not included. Starting from an objective place — no one here is intentionally trying to keep me out of the room — I can start to evaluate reasons. What do I know for sure — my work was not so top-of-mind or relevant to senior leadership that I needed to be included.
Perhaps my opinion or work on the topic is not valuable enough? Perhaps its low level and not getting the leader’s attention? Perhaps the leader is not even aware of my work at all?
Surely now is the time to get frustrated and upset.
Take a step back and consider — what do I need to do to ensure my work is so valuable and visible that I cannot be overlooked? This is incredibly valuable because it requires reevaluating and, in some cases, getting more creative.
The pursuit to be indispensable must come with clear vision for what is valuable.
Indeed, you may find that your work was right on point and was of the highest quality. Great!
Now is the time to get frustrated with your company or your leader.
Now is the time to decide how important it is to you that this work or your work is recognized each and every time. If recognition or approval from leadership is a top priority for you, it is possibly time to leave the company. Not because “no one around here respects me” but because “the company clearly has different priorities than I do.” The subtle change in perspective makes a massive difference in real-time and forward-looking analysis.
In fact, it makes you a better employee and/or candidate for the next role. Imagine leaving that company, walking into your next interview and calmly describing the way you look for adding value to a team and how you’d like the company to align with your vision for your career. A much more powerful message than “they did not appreciate me so it was time to move on.”
Courage to release the ego and emotion that tends to dominate our self talk can actually create more meaningful and articulate results in your work. As long as you are aware, intentional and certain in your choices, no one (not even the boss) should be able to undermine your perspective.
It’s one reason that I’m often challenging my team to #BeIndispensable. It demands alignment between what we think is important and what the company thinks is important. I heard a football coach recently call it “good on good.” The idea that one team’s best player is going against the other team’s best player. Don’t you want that for your team and yourself? Why work on anything else?
Top CES-inspired design trends in 2020: The Consumer Electronics Show is probably the largest or one of the largest trade shows all year. One reason is that technology has become so integrated in the consumer experience that every industry — healthcare, mobility, financial services, retail, entertainment, media, etc. — attends.
FastCompany identified 3 trends that we’ll start to see in our tech this year. I was fascinated by all 3.
1. Dystopian design — in 2020, our tech is going to start looking like the cinema tech of the future.
2. Convenient means foldable — apparently we need to be able to fold everything up this year.
3. Design can overcome privacy concerns — functional and helpful design will distract from the idea that tech is collecting personal data all the time.
Welcome to 2020!
The car of the future doesn’t need to be an almost-indestructible steel cage and crash tested at 150 mph if all cars are autonomous. The accidents will be less frequent and at lower speeds. With that in mind, will style also change? Is the autonomous car of the future actually just a nondescript box? According to this article, cars may go the way of airplanes. 99% of airplanes are made by 2 companies (and who can tell the difference anyway?). Of all the things we consider to reflect our personal style, cars might be one going the other way. Less stylish, more function. Transportation as a service.
Starting a business in 2020: 50 best places in the US to be a founder.
Top 3 — Austin, Salt Lake City, Raleigh.
#NextBelt is well represented with Columbus, Milwaukee in the top 30. Cincinnati on the list as well.
Factors include — rate of entrepreneurship, population density, funding opportunities, wages & jobs, etc.
Someone once told me there’s never a good time to plan for having a baby. You just have to choose to do it or not. Having never started a business, I can’t say for sure whether it’s the same. My sense is that most don’t have the opportunity to choose to move to Detroit or Austin or wherever to start your business. You just have to do it.
If you can choose, I’ll definitely make the case for Detroit. But the point is — there are no perfect conditions. Just go for it.
A return to the mean? Derek Thompson of The Atlantic wrote a thought-provoking article on the nature of free time and of work. We have more tools and support for household and other tasks than ever before, yet we’re working more and “busier” than ever before as well. He theorizes several explanations.
One reasonable explanation is greater capability creates higher expectations. Technology has only sparked fascination, in all of us, about what is possible. Now we’re utilizing technology and expecting EVEN MORE.
Also, external forces still dictate how your time is valued. Whether a boss, company or government, the expectations of a particular job are not yours to define. If you don’t do the work, someone else will.
In this context, then, it makes sense for Thompson to write, “Americans tend to use new productivity and technology to buy a better life rather than to enjoy more downtime in inferior conditions.” Once we accomplish achieving a standard of living, we immediately move to increase our status or class.
Without a change to norms or social expectations, no fundamental changes to workload or hours at work will change. My best friend, Brad, used to define opportunity as the ability to “live the life you wanna live.” So, why do we so quickly move on once we’ve done that?
Hard to tell what’s more impressive here: the actual job of a “knocker-upper” or the fact that Mary Smith did it with a pea shooter! I mean, I’m as classic a night owl as you’ll find. Check that. I’m a night owl who needs 6–7 hours of sleep. My wife is a night owl who only needs about 5–6 hours of sleep. But who’s counting? The fact is neither of us are morning people. I’ve always wondered what two morning people are like…then I realized, they probably sit together with coffee & books or news in the morning instead of what we do, sit together with tea & laptops or Netflix at night.
I’ve actually gone back and forth on my evening and morning routine. On one hand, there’s “peer pressure” toward being a morning person. In the oneupsmanship of business, early risers are seen as much more productive. Almost super human. CEO profiles tend to include the hour the leader rises to start their day. It’s almost always like 4 or 5 am. In reality, though, the solitude of late nights allows for just as much productivity (and perhaps even more creativity!). So that reduces the argument to one about personality. Each person is different and should avoid fighting their nature chemistry simply to conform to some unlikely (unreasonable?) standard.
So, that’s what I’ve been doing. Working late into the night and getting up at the last possible moment to get my daughter to school on time. Would I like a little more time in the morning? Sure. But I’m hesitant to give up the late night excitement of writing (usually this!) and “one more episode?”
Have you ever changed your routine? Were you a night owl in college only to become a morning person later in life? How did you do it? Or visa versa?
Hiring in 2020. I spent about 2 hours in an interviewing techniques class within our leadership development journey at my company. We rolled play, walked through differing scenarios and discussed those standard “off limits” areas not to ask about.
One key question that came out during the class and was explicitly reinforced in a Harvard Business Review article that I found later was — who is this interview for? Clearly, the ideal answer is both candidate and company. Evaluate each other to make sure this is the “right fit” for both of us. Certainly we’d all agree that alignment between personal goals and company goals is the most efficient and effective insurance of performance.
The most intensive and selective employers, top tier consulting firms, use a strategy called case interviews. Using a case study to have the candidate produce actual work product on the scenario. According to researchers, “Case interviews have long been part of the ritualistic hiring process of elite consulting firms.” However, these are not the most effective way to evaluate someone’s likelihood to be a long term, top performer. In fact, case interviews tend to do the opposite opening the door to biases inherent in the interviewers evaluation of the work. Two candidates addressing the same issue in the study might be noted as “intellectually curious” by one interviewer and “too theoretical” by another.
At the same time, we know “Since the pace of change in the business world is ever more rapid, general problem-solving skills are highly valued by employers.” Evaluating problem-solving is important.
Turns out there are better ways — like aptitude tests — that are much better predictors and eliminate the interviewers biases. Unless you work at McKinsey, you may not have as many qualified candidates interviewing for your positions and so selecting is even that much more critical for you. Where McKinsey can miss a great candidate, there is a high likelihood there’s another great candidate they did select. Might not be as easy for you and your business.
How do you standardize the framework, identify problem-solvers and avoid biases? Hopefully this article helps in some way.
“If it’s coming near the end of a chapter and I’m really getting into it, I tend to get up earlier and earlier, just because I’m excited to get to work. “
Bonus Content: Good tips and tricks for public speaking. If you are asked to present or are working on public speaking there’s some good stuff here. The article is long but even the section headings make a good checklist.
Continued success and continue to answer well,