Be By Yourself
Jane Kenyon | Leading A Winning Team | Stop Asking For Maximum Effort | Elsewhere/Elsewhen
Quote of the Moment
Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk.
| Jane Kenyon, A Hundred White Daffodils
In our hyperactive, hyperconnected world, it’s easy to lose the path that animates an inner life. Kenyon reminds us to avoid too much noise, to protect our time, and the deep rewards of time spent on our own.
As soon as I finish this, I will be taking a walk.
Leading a Winning Team
Glenn Kramon interviewed Tara VanDerveer, who will soon be ‘the winningest basketball coach in history’:
Sometime in the next few weeks, when she wins her 1,203rd game, Tara VanDerveer at Stanford will pass Mike Krzyzewski at Duke as the college basketball coach — man or woman — with the most wins of all time.
It took Krzyzewski, who is known as Coach K, 47 seasons to reach that milestone. T Dawg, as VanDerveer is affectionately called on campus, will get there in 45, with 38 of them at Stanford. She will also do it with a higher winning percentage — about 82 percent of her games versus Krzyzewski’s 77 percent. She has won three N.C.A.A. championships, even though many of the nation’s best women’s basketball athletes can’t play for her because they don’t meet Stanford’s academic standards.
Here are her ‘lessons for success’ that she’s learned over more than four decades of coaching:
Hire right. As my dad said, “You can’t win the Kentucky Derby on a donkey.” And not just players but staff. Be sure they complement you more than compliment you.
Have a vision for your players, and give them the tools. Maximize people’s strengths and minimize their weaknesses.
Don’t be the center of attention. Don’t micromanage, and seek input.
Outwork the players on your team. Take care of yourself — eat and sleep right, and exercise — so you can take care of one another. If you can’t swim, you can’t rescue the other swimmer, and you’ll both go down.
You can’t have 15 personalities, one for each player. But you can recognize everyone’s different, and get to know them and understand where they’re at.
Every behavior is communication — not just words but also eye contact and body language.
Know that if your senior leaders are unhappy, your whole team will be.
It’s a great interview, and her strength and supple mind shine through. I hope business leaders — or any who coach others — pay attention.
The subscription is rising to $6/mo in February. Act now.
Stop Asking For Maximum Effort
Greg McKeown has some subversive device: don’t ask teams to give maximum effort all the time. Research going back to the early 1900s shows that doesn’t work:
When managers expect 80+ hours a week from people while offering Friday yoga to combat stress, they unintentionally create a toxic contradiction. It’s a classic example of what we call in psychology a “double bind”: Employees can’t talk about the contradiction, and they can’t talk about not being able to talk about it.
As a result, many well-intended efforts to end the burnout epidemic don’t actually work.
He suggests that the 1980’s motivational speaker hucksterism should be dropped. He suggests a new mindset:
Here’s what actually works: the 85% rule. The 85% rule counterintuitively suggests that to reach maximum output, you need to refrain from giving maximum effort. Operating at 100% effort all of the time will result in burnout and ultimately less-optimal results.
Some suggestions of how to put this into practice. One example: create a “done for the day” time. Don’t make it ambiguous. Don’t be the toxic boss who expects people to miss the family meal every day. Don’t be the transactional manager who begrudged people leaving at a sensible time. Be the transformative manager who insists that people leave at a reasonable time.
His other recommendations are solid, too. Like ending meetings 10 minutes early:
Research from Microsoft’s Human Factors Lab found that our brains work differently when we take 10-minute breaks between meetings. That small break stops stress from building up, while back-to-back meetings decrease people’s ability to focus and engage.
If you want others to tune into the 85% wavelength, you will have to, too:
It’s important that managers also set their own minds to 85% intensity to model to their team that it’s okay not to be stressed out of their minds all the time. When managers say that employees should not work late nights or on weekends, but then send emails at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, their actions speak louder than their words.
He leaves with a quote from psyschologist Stephen Ilardi:
Human beings were never designed for the poorly nourished, sedentary, indoor, sleep-deprived, socially-isolated, frenzied pace of 21st-century life.
‘Offboarded’. The past year involved a flood of corporate jargon as over 260,000 employees were laid off at tech companies, a 60% jump from 2022. A lot of this was due to structural changes and economic reasons. But it’s clear that AI is being used in some cases. This week, Google laid off hundreds of workers across several divisions. According to The Information, the cuts in the Google ad sales division can be attributed to AI automating parts of the ad sales process. Duolingo also “offboarded” 10% of their contractors this week, citing efficiencies gained from AI-generated content as a factor. It appears the labour force disruption of AI has started. Unfortunately, technological disruption precedes employment creation in technological transitions. It might take a while before new roles enter the economy. | Azeem Azhar, Exponential View
And it’s not just in high tech. Nora Eckert reported on plans in the automotive world to deploy much more automation in the production of vehicles, following the UAW contracts with Ford, GM, and Stellantis, leading to a 25% increase in labor costs:
On a recent investor call, Ford finance chief John Lawler pointed to “opportunities in automation” when asked about how the company plans to cover the cost of its new labor contract. He also cited other possible offsets, such as reducing the complexity of Ford’s vehicles.
While automakers have been moving to automation for some time, rising labor costs are poised to accelerate the adoption of such technologies, said Laurie Harbour, president of Michigan manufacturing consulting firm Harbour Results.
“Automation is the future. More so than we’ve ever seen,” she said.
[Originally posted in 2021, which is where I also originally posted the Kenyon quote. Free subscribers should click through to see waht’s behind the paywall here on Work Futures: hundreds of historical posts touching on thousands of topics.]
Adam Kahane in Why Teams Should Argue hits several points, like the need for diversity and respectful working relationships, but the insight on 'horizontal decision making' is the big takeaway for me [emphasis mine]:
One crucial characteristic of many multi-stakeholder collaborations [...] is that they are horizontal. None of the actors is able to control the others — to unilaterally force things to be a certain way. This is why they need to work together with those others, daunting though this often is.
Such true horizontality presents a radical challenge to managers. It requires acknowledging that, in most contexts, we really can’t make anyone do anything: If they don’t want to do it, they will push back or, at best, comply half-heartedly.
Horizontal decision making therefore implies that because we can’t impose a particular outcome, the only way any of us can effect change in our situation is to change what we ourselves are doing. In other words: If you can’t see what you are doing that is contributing to things being the way they are, then you don’t have any means to change the way things are.
Imagine if all business decision-making was approached with the mindset of horizontalism: no participant can truly control the others. Those compelled or coerced are unlikely to support the decision, which is one reason so many initiatives fail.