Week 180 in Detroit. This was a week that tested my time management and multitasking. My daughter had a severe fever and ended up on the couch for several days. We had to split up coverage on Monday and Tuesday. All working parents know how hard it is to manage work and child care with a sick kid.
In some ways the displacement allowed for more focused review and writing. In other ways being out of the office half days made it difficult to keep up on the day-to-day questions that pop up.
Time constraints, sometimes, sharpen the analysis. Forced to respond without overthinking can actually produce work that has been refined down to the bare essentials.
That said, the busy week ended with me breaking one of my own rules of the office — no running. I remember early in my career I once ran from one side of the office to another to respond to some email. In the midst of my urgency, I was literally running down the hall when I realized that nothing could be so unmanageable that I needed to be running to write an email. It distracts and creates a false sense of importance that actually worsens the quality of the response. No running in the office. I made one exception to the rule (though later regretted breaking the rule) when I spent 2 hours on a conference call reviewing some edits to a key regulation in our industry and needed to use the restroom. Without letting others on the call know, I did run to the restroom. Literally. I’m not proud of it, as I said, but it does serve to put things in perspective.
For instance we can do serious work without taking ourselves too seriously. We can do important work without over inflating the big picture. Whether I’m overbooked or running around (literally or figuratively) I’m reminded that my work product worsens the less I’m able to focus.
Any sharpening gained by not overthinking is quickly lost when I’m rushing or distracted.
One trend I’ve been reading about lately is “near-constant communication” that we have access to. The average “knowledge worker” must organized the day around multiple meetings, checking email, chatting or using Slack, and checking in with others. What time is left for work?
The risk here is the constant access lowers quality discussions and creates suboptimal solutions. A culture of constant communication prioritizes being connected over being productive. Beyond the results, this type of environment creates unnecessary stress.
Prioritizing a full answer over a quick answer or following up a quick answer with a deeper answer ensures better results and improves your internal reputation. I know when I’m off balance important things are missed. Whether that’s an email that needed my attention or time with my family, I know I’m the only one capable of striking that balance. No one is going to discipline my time for me.
Next week good luck defending your time and defending your schedule to be productive and provide the highest quality responses you can. As always, #AnswerWell.
This week FastCompany published one woman’s perspective on how to assert herself as a young woman in the workplace. Whether it is tech or finance, women are underrepresented across the workforce and especially in the C-suite. “Given that women hold only 9% of senior roles in venture capital, 6% of senior roles in private equity, and 16–25% of management roles in the major consultancies, odds are good that most young female employees in these professions will be managed by older, male managers.”
Here are some tips and advice from Lorelei Wang for all of us to understand and share with our colleagues, peers and leaders:
1. Reiterate your point — it will take sticking to the point to be heard
2. Be overprepared
3. Push back
4. Identify your strengths and lean into them
5. Develop your voice
6. Find allies
7. Be persistent
Strength in understanding. This week I saw a Wall Street Journal cover with Vice President Mike Pence staring seriously and sternly in the face of Turkey’s President Erdogan. There is no question it was a time for strength. Overall, it got me thinking about leading with strength. Or worse, feigning strength because it is believed to be the ONLY characteristic of leadership. There is a time for strength and a time for understanding. There are a lot of leadership books on empathy and connecting and I don’t disagree with the importance of the humanity of leadership.
In fact, former Quicken Loans CEO Bill Emerson often says “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” That quote stands out to me as the reason it is important to recognize mistakes as experience. I’m a stronger leader for having made mistakes and for being ashamed of my doubts and fears. It makes me stronger because I can better gauge the significance of a situation having been through both good and bad experiences. It makes me stronger because I can understand where my team members are coming from if they make a mistake. I know the feeling. I can understand, explain, and lead.
Strength, especially in foreign affairs is critical, but strength without humanity is ridiculous.
Speaking of making mistakes, this short video of comedian Zach Galifianakis talking about his failure on his first Saturday Night Live sketch is a great example of how it made him better. He gathered understanding and therefore wisdom. It made him a better performer, better writer and eventually better leader (on set) to other actors and comedians.
We need to find language and framework for talking about our failures in a way that celebrates the added value rather than exposes us to fear or shame.
Co-Living: One of my favorite housing topics in the Saturday Cup of Joe is communal living. Shared resources, shared space, shared stories make roommates into friends and friends into family. I think my experience is informed, in part, from having been a dorm parent at a boarding school in Connecticut. Over my time there, I lived in large buildings with 3–4 faculty apartments and 30+ students as well as smaller buildings with 1–2 other faculty members and around 10–12 students. In all cases though, the rest of your co-workers (and friends) live within walking distance.
I loved the social aspects and the sharing aspects of the community. I loved that it was unusual for a newly married couple to be living with 12 high school sophomores. Several of our closest friends, to this day, are from our time on campus.
So it is not surprising for me to see that more and more co-living spaces are popping up. The article focuses on another benefit — affordability. Co-living allows rent payments and other ancillary housing costs to be shared across everyone and therefore lower. For example, “PodShare DTLA is 2,000 square feet of rented space housed in a former commercial building. It has a communal kitchen, two bathrooms, two showers, a hang-out room, and twenty bunk beds in a totally open U-shaped room.”
This example is a bit extreme.
At the same time, the concept is there. Imagine repurposing old commercial buildings in small to midsized cities throughout the country. Many cities have older buildings with historic character that could have small, individual living spaces and large common areas. Communal living can access the lifestyle many young people want — urban, diverse, instagramable — without demanding 60% of your take home pay on rent.
Of course, I’m not suggesting communal living is for everyone. To work at scale, there would only need to be enough people who do want a co-living arrangement to ease the supply burden overall and lower the demand thereby lowering overall housing costs. Affordable and sustainable. As people grow older and want more of their own space or owning a single-family home, they are replaced by younger renters or shareholders (in the event of an owned co-living building) and the cost remain manageable.
The fact is the millennial lifestyle as we’re seeing it play out in the media, at least, is not sustainable. The Atlantic published a piece this week declaring the millennial lifestyle a bubble. Much of what we know or see of the so-called “millennial lifestyle” is from social media. Startups and social media have combined to portray an attainable life that’s just not affordable. The question is whether the bubble will burst first on consumers or startups? Consumers have the weight of student loans and stagnant wages weighing on their debt burden as credit card debt and other forms of debt continue to rise. Startups burn capital imagining you must acquire a critical mass of loyal fans before the company will start making money. If you are continuing to acquire customers at, say, $450/customer but the average customer only spends $400 with your company, there is a problem. Long term you will go out of business.
Unit economics is the difference between customer value and customer cost. If value does not outweigh cost, even widely popular ideas won’t last.
Show me how and when you will start making money on a single unit in your business and then we can start talking about long term trends or investments.
“Delivering a product late means missing by a few days but delivering a product broken or wrong means missing altogether.” — David Saint John, a friend of mine who did not take credit for this quote but did vouch for its truth.
It made me think of one of my favorites that I also cannot take credit for but which I agree with: “Being first and being wrong feel the same.”
So there you go, I hope one or both of those are helpful.
“Humans are the reproductive organs of technology. We multiply manufactured artifacts and spread ideas and memes.” — Kevin Kelly
Bonus Content: How much sleep do you need? Apparently if you need less than 6 hours a night, you might just have your genes to thank.
Continued success and continue to answer well,