15 Minutes of Madness

Non-stop, no edits

Maintain a consistent publication schedule to engage your audience, they said. Well, didn’t they have a day job? I’m slammed this week, and was about to give up on this week’s edition. But then I thought: why not see what content I can produce in just 15 minutes? I have 15 minutes.

So here we go, a possibly disturbing 15 minutes (well 13:48) now in my head.

We’re doing job descriptions wrong

A lot of modern companies have gotten the message around OKRs etc., and focus their company goals around outcomes rather than outputs. And yet, when it comes to writing a job description those same companies often forget everything they’ve learned and instead produce a long list of expected tasks and activities.

Not only do I not really care how a person gets their job done, in many cases I don’t even know how they’re going to do it. As a hiring manager, what I usually have is a problem: a capability gap in the organisation that I know needs to be filled. I have a rough idea about the type of person who may be able to fill it, but beyond that I don’t really have all that much of a clue. I’m not the expert! They should be telling me how to best spend their time.

So: a good job description should focus on the organisational role a person will be playing, the responsibilities they have, and the problems that are ultimately theirs to solve. That’s enough! These sorts of job descriptions are much easier and more fun to write than (hopefully) exhaustive lists of duties. And I will also tell you this: good candidates will get very excited about a job description that doesn’t tell them what to do, but instead what to achieve.

Loosen the filter between your brain and your mouth

People who are gaffe-prone are sometimes referred to as having “no filter”. I.e. real adults have a filter between their brain and their mouth that moderates their words and stops them from saying stupid shit.

What I’ve observed though is that for most people in the workplace, that filter is altogether too effective. Due to a variety of social queues, a lack of psychological safety, and impostor syndrome, the much more common problem in the workplace is that so much good shit stays locked up in people’s brains.

Loosen that filter! Note the asymmetric payoff here: if you open your mouth and say something stupid, all that’s happened is you’ve said something dumb, can laugh it off, and get on with your day. But if you keep your mouth shut when you had something important to say, the consequences can be a missed opportunity, or even a catastrophe.

If enough good stuff comes out of your mouth, people will either quickly forget the stupid stuff or (even better) dismiss it as an adorable character quirk.

Oh and if you think this doesn’t apply to you as a senior leader, you are very very wrong. The asymmetric payoff still exists, but the coefficient is even larger! A leader who is afraid to say what they think comes across as inauthentic at worst, vacuous at best.

Embrace complaints

I tell my team that there is no such thing a complaining if a person’s motives are constructive.

The single worst bit of management advice in the whole entire universe: “Tell your people to come to you with solutions, not problems”. A thousand times no! The people who identify problems and are brave enough to come forward and, as it were, speak truth to power, are probably your most valuable employees. Over the years I have noticed a strong correlation between the people who raise the most problems, the people who care the most, and the people who get the most done.

I am coincidentally reading “Measure What Matters” at the moment and just got past the chapter on “Project Crush”, where a single problem escalated from a sales representative got the whole company to change its objectives within just two weeks and ultimately saved the company from being rendered irrelevant by a competitor.

Don’t shoot the messenger. But also don’t tell the messenger to shut up until they have a solution to the problem they’re telling you about.


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