How to Manage by Doing Nothing

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Mark Zuckerberg may be the poster child for entrepreneurial success as a young person, but he had to hire a CEO coach and learn how to lead.  Along his meteoric rise, he had to get an education on how to be a manager—simply being the founder and CEO of a hypergrowth company wasn’t enough.

No doubt, leadership is tough, even for the most naturally gifted business people. That’s because it feels unnatural.

You have to train yourself to overcome the innate responses that accompany regular social interaction and contend with the instinct to be liked while continually evaluating and providing feedback.  Plus, you also have to fight the inclination to always be producing.

Hard work likely got you this far, but once you take on the CEO reins, your job as a manager won’t resemble work as you know it. In fact, it may not resemble work at all, and that can be incredibly uncomfortable.

To Andy Grove, a management legend and former CEO of Intel, a manager’s fundamental job of information gathering can be one of the most unnatural and awkward. Yet dealing with that awkwardness, even inviting it, is also a fundamental part of being a good leader.

Grove tells us, that there’s an efficien —but underused because it’s uncomfortable—way to get and disseminate information: To be out in the open in your company, doing nothing.

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The Science Behind Why Slow Thinking Lowers Your Stress

success vs happiness

Jess Lee of Polyvore on why success doesn’t equal happiness

As an entrepreneur, you spend a lot of time psyching yourself out. You’re your own harshest critic.

However positive your intentions, however driven and wonderful your team, every day is not a good day. And because you’re the founder, overseeing the life of your business, those bad days can be terrifying.

Jess Lee, CEO and co-founder of style and social commerce platform, Polyvore, explains this familiar mental trap, where founders often fall into “moments of extreme unhappiness” and stress — even when your company is doing well.

Why does this clash happen? Lee explains: “Humans are terrible at understanding absolute values. We are best at understanding acceleration and deceleration, or rate of change.”

In other words, your state of mind pegs itself to whether your company is doing better or worse than yesterday, rather than overall. It’s easy to lose perspective.

The risk of being too hard on yourself and getting knocked around by rates of change is possibly making poor decisions and feeling miserable, which can also have serious implications for your mental and physical health. The counterintuitive solution that leads to better decisions, increased motivation and less unnecessary stress is not to work and push harder, but to slow down your thinking.

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Don’t Just Build Product, Build the Machine that Builds the Product

First-time entrepreneurs often think building a product is the same as building a company, but experienced entrepreneurs know better.

To 3 seasoned entrepreneurs, building product is just the first step in a long journey, and it’s not even the hard part.  Building product is hard, but building the machine that builds the product is even harder.

Dennis Crowley, Foursquare, on how to build product

“The hard part is building the machine that builds the product.”

Dennis Crowley, Co-Founder/CEO of Foursquare

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How to Work Quietly

Here’s an excerpt from our fresh-of-the-presses eBook, What You Don’t Know About Management: How to Take Back Your Work Day. If you like what you read, download the 50+ page eBook for free!

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While teamwork is exciting and camaraderie a wonderful source of intrinsic motivation and purpose, getting stuff done also isn’t a matter of adding more people to the tasks at hand. In fact, collaboration can be too noisy.

What with all the open offices, unwelcome chit-chatters, dreadful meetings —not to mention the digital inundation of posts and pings of a never-ending stream of information — it can be near impossible to hear yourself think.

Ultimately, productivity requires producing, creativity creating — and while interaction is a key part of these processes, it isn’t everything. If you don’t actively think and process, if you don’t actually turn input and inspiration into something, if you don’t take time to reflect and analyze, then you’re shortchanging yourself.

It sounds so simple and obvious, but it’s easy to forget these days that we need solitude, quiet and time. 

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Don’t Manage Projects or Tasks, Manage People

Here’s an excerpt from our fresh-of-the-presses eBook, What You Don’t Know About Management: How to Take Back Your Work Day. If you like what you read, download the 50+ page eBook for free!

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One of the biggest misconceptions of management is about what really drives people. In a survey of hundreds of managers by Amabile and Kramer, 95% failed to correctly identify the best motivator at work. This has huge consequences.

The most powerful motivator isn’t monetary incentives or even beneficial management techniques such as providing recognition or interpersonal support. The best motivator is simply making progress on meaningful work.

As a manager, understanding that you can have a large impact on people’s sense of progress can transform and clarify your focus on how your team gets stuff done. Your job isn’t so much to manage the tasks themselves or be “inspiring” or dictate turn-by-turn directions on what to do. Your job is to manage people and facilitate their progress by providing support, tools, resources, and feedback.

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How to Go Beyond Trust Falls to Strengthen Your Team’s Camaraderie

Here’s an excerpt from our fresh-of-the-presses eBook, What You Don’t Know About Management: How to Take Back Your Work Day. If you like what you read, download the 50+ page eBook for free!

buffer team trust

For the amount of our lives that we spend working, you’d think it would be more common to spend time tending to our coworker relationships. Yet, the default is to treat the social aspects of work as a given instead of managing them in any significant way.

Team-building goes way beyond trust falls. Successful people recognize the importance of establishing and cultivating meaningful connections.

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3 Practical Mindsets to Empower Introverts to Succeed at Networking

I’ve never been good at networking. I’m usually standing in the corner talking with a friend at parties, if I’m at a party at all. I get worn out from being around people and need my alone time to recharge.

There’s a certain efficiency in the glad-handing ways of a freshly-minted MBA because knowing the right people is in large part a numbers game. But to an introvert relating to people in that way isn’t just uncomfortable, it seems morally repugnant. The introvert aspires to treat people as ends themselves and not as a means to feed the ego or further our careers.

The problem is that not networking, bluntly, means stunting your career and financial prospects. Not networking may sound noble to you, but all that it amounts to is a litany of missed opportunities.

introvert networking mindset

Not to worry, networking doesn’t mean changing who you are, 95% of it is in your mindset and approach to it. Here are 3 practical mindsets that’ll empower you not just to network, but to make you successful at it.

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Writing is Power

Guy writing in notebook

We’re writing more than ever these days. Every day, you’re texting, emailing, and chatting. As many of us sit at our computers at work all day and our phones everywhere else in between, we’re writing.

Successful leaders believe writing is a crucial ingredient of great work. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, for example, insists that writing replace other forms of communication to make the most of meetings. Instead of jumping straight into a conversation, or snoozing through bullet-pointed sentence fragments in a slideshow presentation, he requires his senior executives to write six-page narrative memos.

He explains in a 2012 interview with Charlie Rose, “When you have to write your ideas out in complete sentences and complete paragraphs, it forces a deeper clarity of thinking.” In this age of knowledge work, we’re hiring people to think and communicate those thoughts — which means people who can write have a leg up.

Like most things worth doing, writing can be a chore. But the more fluent and practiced you become at the writing process, the more you’ll be able to own your success.

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The Science Behind How Emotions Lead to Smarter Decisions

Range of Smiley to Angry Faces

There once was a man named Elliot. An intelligent, pleasant thirty-something guy, he had built a pretty good life for himself, with a family and a good job. But his life started to fall apart when he got a brain tumor the size of a small orange that compressed his frontal lobes — causing debilitating headaches and an inability to focus.

Even after a successful surgery to remove the tumor, Elliot’s life continued go downhill. His relationships unravelled, he couldn’t hold a job, and invested in a disreputable business scheme that lost him his savings. Something was still wrong with Elliot’s brain — damage to parts of his frontal lobe somehow resulted in an inability to feel emotion.

You’d think that this might have been beneficial at least for his work ventures, some ability to make calculating, rational, optimal decisions. But the opposite was true. After losing his emotions, he’d become hopelessly ineffective at business.

That can be a jolting lesson for many of us who consider emotion something to regard very lightly in the workplace. Emotions work, not as a barrier to getting things done, but to help us reason at a basic level and thrive.

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Stop Telling Yourself These 3 Productivity Lies

Pinocchio statue

One of the trickiest things about trying to be more productive is how much we deceive ourselves along the way. It’s like trying to eat healthier and then convincing yourself after one walk up the stairs that you totally deserve a donut.

Productivity lies can be sly, wolves in sheeps’ clothing, making you feel better in the moment, even as you’re actually falling behind and letting priorities slip.

It’s better to work smarter than work harder — and part of working smarter is to be more truthful about why you’re choosing to do, or not do, something and whether you’re actually spending your time wisely.

Outsmart your lazier, sneakier self. Here’s how to face the truth when you catch yourself claiming these three common productivity lies.

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