Business and work Mindsets

“Freedom and responsibility aren’t given, they’re taken”

I dipped into my unread Seth Godin items and read his post titled “Freedom and responsibility”. Like most of his daily posts, it isn’t long but it is worth reading. These two paragraphs stood out for me:

Responsibility without freedom is stressful. There are plenty of jobs in this line of work, just as there are countless jobs where you have neither freedom nor responsibility. These are good jobs to walk away from.

Freedom and responsibility aren’t given, they’re taken.

Read “Freedom and responsibility”:

Image credit: Pixabay

Business and work Mindsets

If you want capable teams, don’t boss them around

If you want a capable team, don’t boss them around. This may come as a shock to some “managers” who believe that their function as “managers” is to tell their subjects precisely what to do and how to do it. That isn’t managing a team, that is bossing people around. There is a big difference.

Every time I think about this bossy “management” style, I think about that Princess Leia quote in Star Wars:

I wrote before about the benefits of not treating your team like they are children and this theme is a gift that keeps on giving. What bosses seem to be ignorant of are the effects of being bossy and overly prescriptive when directing their teams. It is stressful being on the receiving end of that and the more layers of bossiness you add to the mix, the waves of stress become utterly counter-productive; almost enough to stop fusion in a star.

HubSpot has yet another great post, titled “The Psychology of Teams: 9 Lessons on How Happy, Efficient Teams Really Work” which is a must-read for managers and their teams, alike. One of the key factors of an effective team, for me at any rate, is a healthy degree of freedom and responsibility. HubSpot quoted Dennis Bakke’s book, The Decision Maker, on what this freedom and responsibility means in the context of a functional team:

You’ve got the responsibility, but you’ve also got the freedom. Think through these questions. Figure out what you think will work best. Do whatever you need to. If you want to connect with other people who are thinking about this, get advice from other businesses, you let me know. Whatever research you need to do, we’ll make it happen. And then come to me with your decisions about how to handle human resources going forward.”

“So you can sign off on them?” Angela challenged.

Tom shook his head. “Nope,” he said. “So I understand what’s happening in the business.”

This is a subtle but important shift from a bossy approach where the boss wants to review and sign off on every activity because he feels the overwhelming need to control every aspect of the team’s work. It is tempting to be so controlling. After all, it’s your business and you want it to succeed. It is so much like raising children and I’m beginning to think that, even there, it is easy to make similar disempowering mistakes. Take a look at this short video of the late H. Stephen Glenn speaking about developing capable young people:

After watching this I want to try a very different approach with my children (as nerve-wracking as that is). The thing with children and pets seems to be balancing their need for structure (I’m still making this up as I go, like most parents) with granting them freedom to grow.

When it comes to adult employees, bossing them around is just stupid. It doesn’t work. It dumbs down teams; discourages innovation and assassinates productivity. Often this form of “management” is really stressful and that creates an unhealthy work environment for now reason other than to satisfy the boss’ need to control what he can’t meaningfully control anyway.

Manage your team, lead them, if you want a capable team. Don’t boss them around. Don’t be that boss.

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Business and work

Plotting a course around business failure

Nathan Jeffery is an entrepreneur, developer and speaker (among other things) who I have mentioned a couple times in the past (including when he basically saved this blog after I almost killed it). He recently published a series of blog posts that essentially plot a course around business failure that every entrepreneur should read – yes, every single one! 😉 – and I want to share them with you:

Micro Failure

Nathan tackles the popular notion that failure is something to be embraced, even sought after. While there is certainly value in the lessons you learn when you fail and not repeating those mistakes, it is a mistake to romanticize failure. As Nathan puts it:

When you fail in business you lose money and often wreck the lives of your employees. The current flippant and arrogant approach to failure is disrespectful to everyone who works with and depends on you for their livelihood.

Do what you love

I believe strongly in doing work you are passionate about. When you do work that doesn’t challenge you and doesn’t tap into your passions, it can be soul destroying (almost literally). At the same time, there are some practical considerations and a different way to think about fulfilment in your work that aren’t usually mentioned in the myriad articles about doing what you love.

You need to get satisfaction from producing quality work; this is especially true for the creative industries. Your clients will hardly ever comprehend how much effort you’ve put into your work, and quite often they won’t really care, many won’t even thank you. You need to be happy within yourself and get joy from the work you do.

Take Ownership

This short piece is really about taking responsibility. When you take responsibility for what you do, take ownership of your decisions, you make the choice to take more control of your life.

Taking ownership, to me, is more than taking responsibility and being accountable for your actions or lack thereof. You need to constantly be learning and questioning situations, especially when things go awry.

Focus and Commit

There are many ways to distinguish between businesses and one perspective that is increasingly relevant is to distinguish between businesses is between those that specialise and become experts and those that try to do everything and don’t do anything particularly well. I thought about specialisation and hyper-specialisation often in my previous career and I see it in my new industry.

Do one thing, maybe two but whatever you do, do it so darn well that it’s all you need to do. You can expand your service offering once you have a big enough team to handle it. There’s enough work out there for specialists to exist.

Hire a boutique accounting firm

Accounting is not even remotely something I enjoy dealing with or even have a clear handle on despite needing to understand legal accounting in order to set up a practice as an attorney. At the same time, having your books in order is essential if you want your business to function effectively so make the right decisions about who manages those books.

You need to know and understand what is going on in your business’ finances. Accountants can make mistakes. By understanding what is going on in your business’ books, you’ll not only be in a better position to manage your business but you’ll also have a better chance of spotting mistakes in your financial statements should your accountant slip up.

Pay for good contracts and use them

On this I am more than a little biased. In my previous career (and in one aspect of my current role), I wrote contracts for my clients that were intended to give their commercial relationships better structure and protection.

Unfortunately contracts are perceived as largely superfluous, to a large degree because they are often badly written and poorly understood and, as a consequence, regarded as “necessary but preferably no longer than 1 page”. Contracts are a critical component in business, it is worth having them done properly.

Hire a good lawyer, pay for good contracts and use them.

Image credit: Map by Unsplash, sourced from Pixabay and released under a CC0 Dedication

Mindsets Policy issues Social Web

Why are we abdicating responsibility online?

Woodrow Wilson, One of Leakey’s Local Characters, in His Pickup. He Never Works, But Sits Staring at the River from 7 A.M until Sunset 06/1972

Last week’s European Court of Justice ruling that Google must remove search result listings that EU citizens require it to remove (subject to their requests passing a test the court proposed) touched on a trend I’ve become increasingly concerned about: our collective reluctance to take direct responsibility for what we share online and where we share it and our insistence that online services be held accountable for what we ultimately endorsed when we shared our data with them. We need to decide what world we live in. Do we live in a world where we are willing to take responsibility for our activities and make deliberate and empowered choices in the process or are we happy to surrender our autonomy to institutions and expect them to make decisions for us? We seem to be collectively opting for the second option and I wrote about this in my most recent column on titled “EU search results censorship is about our irresponsibility with data, not Google’s“. Here is a preview:

Last week’s European Court of Justice ruling that a Spanish citizen (and, by extension, all European Union citizens) could require Google to remove search results pointing to content about that person was not the “clear victory” for online privacy protection. Quite the opposite.

For the most part we rush to submit as much information about us as we can because we want to use these services without much thought about the implications for us down the line. Then, when we feel that our trust has been betrayed, we are outraged and the object of our frustration changes something and we fall back asleep. We find ourselves in this position where vast multinational companies have tremendous amounts of information about us because we gave it to them with our blessing, thanks even. Instead, perhaps we should consider whether handing over so much really serves us? Do we really need to disclose so much? Should we not insist on other ways to share that don’t leave us exposed?