One of the hardest things to do is to not take credit for success you caused.

One of the frustrating things in life is not getting credit for the work you do. Married couples know this to be true. I still feel the need to be praised for emptying the dishwasher without being asked. Parents know this to be true as it isn’t until later in their lives that kids truly can appreciate the impact their parents had on them. Anyone with a job knows the frustration when their boss takes credit for their work.

Credit is one of those issues that is extremely difficult to navigate because it comes in many forms and often follows a hierarchy. The boss gets credit for the work of her team. The CEO gets credit for the successes of everyone in the firm. There’s nothing either right or wrong with this system, just the way it usually works.

The desire for credit comes from the need for our work to be rewarding. No one wants to work most of their life at a task that isn’t appreciated. If you develop software, you want users to appreciate your systems. If you run a bank, you want customers to trust you with their money. If you answer phones, you don’t want everyone you talk to complaining about you.

When we have big successes, whether individually or as part of a team, we really want that success to be recognized. Big successes don’t come along every day. But the thing about credit is that the more it is shared, the less anyone actually gets.

All of the above is true for a view of credit as something that comes from above. I’ve developed a different philosophy though:

The most valuable credit you can receive is the type that is never spoken.

The credit that comes from being trusted, given the hard tasks, asked for help, and generally counted on to be there in tough times is better than anything else. Reflected credit cannot be taken away because it’s not just one-time. It comes from building trusting relationships that makes all work better.

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“Technology” is not a valid substitution for “Process”

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. -Arthur C. Clarke

It can be very easy to think that a new technology is going to solve your process problems. This is a drastic mistake. Technology can do a lot of things, but it cannot remove the human element entirely from any problem it is being put toward.

Many systems have developed a reputation for solving process:

  • Slack solves the communication process.
  • Google solves the search process.
  • SAP solves the finance process (or just makes it worse?).
  • Oracle solves your database processes.

Slack can actually lead to new and more complex communications issues. Google still requires you to know what you are searching for and type in phrases that will give you the right results. Finance is not a process that can be solved by technology. And Lord knows, databases are not clean or easy.

Process involves everything before, during, and after the particular actions being performed by technology. Process includes the humans involved in clicking buttons, submitting data, or running reports. Process includes understanding the outputs and making sure things are happening as intended.

Technology can do a lot but it is always a mistake to believe that Technology is the same as process.

It’s impossible to be behind schedule if you never commit to deadlines to begin with.

The easiest expectations to fill are the expectations that don’t exist. Just because an expectation isn’t written down doesn’t mean that one doesn’t exist. Managers will often have a deadline in their head for delegated tasks even if it isn’t clearly communicated. But for some projects, the schedule is firmly in the hands of the project team.

A schedule with no deadlines or commitments will always be the easiest to meet. If you don’t have to do anything, then there is no point when you can be behind. Every Red/Amber/Green report can be shown as green. Every status update can be given an “everything on track” statement.

Eventually, the process will always catch-up though. Someone will get around to asking “so what have you been doing all this time.” The answer cannot be that you were just having meetings and developing a plan. The moment the question is asked “what you have been doing,” an expectation has officially been established. Unfortunately for you, that expectation will be something better than where things are at.

It’s always best to establish firm expectations up front even if they are aggressive and cause you to go Amber/Red on your updates. At least that shows that you are trying and tracking. That’s how things get done.

When should you value specialized experience versus generalized experience?

Not all experience is created equal. In the real estate brokerage world, some end up specializing in a subset of their local market and other specialize in the general needs of a business. If you need to understand the exact nuances of the medical office building market in Alpharetta Georgia, you are going to have a small list to reach out to. If you want to understand the typical real estate needs of a Fortune 500 company, you would reach out to a different set of people.

Neither experience is better or worse than the other but the localized broker has developed a very specific and specialized experience. If they were to branch out into other areas they would suddenly have less time to devote to the constantly changing world they had just left but would gain an additional degree of generalization. This is specialized versus generalized experience.

Some problems that we need to solve may require a degree of both specialized and generalized experience. If I were plotting a data center strategy for a Fortune 500 company, I would start with company needs but quickly require more specialized knowledge as the strategy got more and more specific. This type of project requires both needs but it’s easy to see where to start.

If, however, you were starting by trying to determine a strategy for a specific site within the portfolio you could start with either specialized or generalized experience. Both are equally valuable for getting the final answer but would approach the problem very differently.

This difference in viewing the world is one of the most fundamental differences between the two groups. People with specialized experience deeply understand the problems and issues that impact their world but can often have difficulty elevating themselves from the weeds to understand the broader implications of a problem. Generalized experience can lead you down the road of understanding broad problems but can cause you to miss the details that will impact the on-going day-to-day. Not everyone fits this pattern, but generally, this is how each group would first approach a problem.

It’s important to understand the perspectives of the people solving your problems. Are they looking at the micro or macro level of the problem? Even if they are looking at both, are they giving each side the same weight? Should they be giving each side the same weight? Are they changing their view as the project goes on?

If you can balance this problem then you’ve started down the road of either leadership or Program Management, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Attention goes a long way to things getting done.

Attention is a precious commodity from leaders. As a rule, what they choose to give their attention to gets done. Tasks with no attention have a low success rate.

Time is the most precious commodity in any business. Time used well translates to efficiency, value, and ultimately profit. Poor uses of time results in waste. When a leader chooses to focus their attention on something, it means that they are choosing to invest their own time in it. Attention is the fuel that gets things done in business.

When leaders set priorities other than the things they give their attention to, it sends mixed messages. It’s not uncommon for some items to be “set it and forget it.” These items can often be the unsexy things that keep things moving.

In the real estate space, this could be the utilization rate of existing offices. If no one cares about a low utilization rate, why fight the business to try and push for higher density? Sometimes the law of “he who yells loudest wins” rules the day. If leadership isn’t giving any attention to the problem but the business is going to turn it into an issue, why fight it? But if leadership is keeping an eye on it, there is motivation to push for the right answer.

We all have limited time to invest in the things we do. It should be used where it creates the most value, even if we’d rather focus on just the fun things.

Oblivescence

Word of the day: Oblivescence.

Definition: The process of forgetting.

When I heard this word and read the definition, it sparked a highly visual response in my head. There is a process for forgetting and someone had coined a word for it. Brilliant!

Some problems cannot be solved with IQ and require high EQ.

To many people, a high IQ is strongly correlated to that person being more right than wrong. Surely smart people are going to know more things than others. Book knowledge is different from many types of common knowledge.

There are broad swathes of significant problems in this world that cannot be solved through traditional intelligence. You cannot comfort a sad person with book knowledge. You cannot overcome hatred with facts. You cannot fight intentional ignorance with philosophy.

EQ (emotional quotient) is the balance to IQ (intelligence quotient). People with a high EQ are able to understand emotional situations. It’s through EQ that we solve the problems listed above. Only by understanding why people choose to act a certain way can we help them move forward.

If you don’t focus on developing your EQ, you will not improve your ability to handle the “soft” situations that come up in life.