Dispersing energy

How much energy do we spend trying to come out on top?

Being the best in our class, in our team, in our company; walking faster than others to try to get a best spot in the queue; paying for something we don’t need with money we don’t have; winning that argument that is draining the energy of our peers; speeding up as the traffic light gets yellow to pass just in time; refreshing the page to buy the tickets first, or to comment on the video first. Is there satisfaction in this? And if so, how long does it last?

How much energy to we spend giving external factors the keys to us being on top?

Wishing our partner would be more loving, our boss more caring, our colleagues more helpful. If only that thing would work out this way. If we could only win one more customer. If only the weather could be good tomorrow. I wish I had 10,000€ more to afford that car. Or some more time to spend with my family. My team won, and I am happy!

I choose to be responsible for my experience. In other words, the weather does not upset me. I upset myself because I am attached to beliefs about the weather. I believe it should be sunny and not cloudy. I am the source of my beliefs, and I am attached to being right about my beliefs, and when the world does not cooperate, I upset myself.

Jim Dethmer, Leading Above the Line

Coming out on top and letting external factors determine what the top looks like are incredibly tiring activities. Most of us live in a constant fight, one in which we have no power (we don’t get to change the weather) and the prize for which is not really something we are looking forward to.

There’s value in coming out second, third, fourth or ninehundredninetyninth. It’s for us to decide.

A better marketing culture

If you’ve worked in marketing, you have certainly experienced assembly line marketing.

That feeling all you are doing is repetition, with no real purpose or strategy, focusing on finding new ways to say old things that lost their effect long ago. Nobody really asking how you would go about solving the problem, and when finally somebody does, they also make it very clear that the urgency of the end of the month, end of the quarter, end of the year does not allow for any approach but the known, trite one.

It is a sad feeling, it’s the reason why marketers have a bad reputation, it is the place where product-focused marketing blooms. Because of course, what else should you talk about when that’s all you know and the next campaign is launching tomorrow among unrealistic expectations?

But in addition to what most of that article suggests, assembly line marketing often starts within the marketing department itself. It might still be due to external pressures, and yet assembly line marketing is a way for marketing heads and leads to keep their people busy, to avoid answering important questions, to give the impression that everyone is working hard, and eventually to keep their job.

There is a huge need for a better marketing culture, for a deeper understanding of what marketing is and can achieve. Real marketing touches hearts and builds relationships, but it takes time to plan, execute and grow. Yet, once it’s established, it cannot be unlearned or abandoned, because it’s the difference between aimless growth and change.

Concerted efforts

Management has gotten a bad reputation, while leadership is on the mouth of every person inside modern organisations (often with a mistaken sense).

And yet, both management and leadership are needed. In different moments, though.

Leadership is what happens in between the moments we are managing. Managing is helping people what they did yesterday, but faster and cheaper. Management is staying the course. Leadership is taking the leap, doing something that might not work. Pointing to a problem, a challenge, an opportunity, and saying “I am going over here, who wants to come?”.

Seth Godin, Akimbo s4e14

A good question for a leader is “where do we go next?“.

A good question for a manager is “how do we serve more people?“.

Managers and leaders can work together. In fact, an organisation is better off when equipped with managers and leaders that interact, work together, respect each other. And appreciate when it’s time for the other to take the stage.

In both cases, though, it’s important to remember that one of the key resources a manager and a leader have to allocate, motivate, deploy is people. Indeed, the main problem today is that we have managers and leaders who barely understand their role, and certainly do not grasp people. Both “where do we go next?” and “how do we serve more people?” are concerted efforts not formulaic spreadsheets.

Feeling in charge

I have done some of my best job under pressure and deadlines. Thing is, that pressure, those deadlines, they were not imposed from the outside. They were consequences of me feeling responsible for a project, a document, a team, a deliverable.

If you impose pressure and deadlines, particularly when you do not share clear reasoning (as in “we do this because it helps us this way”), people might still do the job. Great job, though, needs internalization.

Want a book?

I am turning 40 in few weeks, and instead of getting some gifts, this time around I would be happier to actually give something. Books, specifically.

Through my LinkedIn page, I am giving away four copies of Linchpin and three copies of What to do when it’s your turn. Both books are by Seth Godin, and I want to extend the invitation to grab one to those who read my blog as well.

Linchpin is a book about a different approach to work, one that goes beyond the 9-to-5 task orientation, and that could transform you in somebody people will actually be said to lose (professionally speaking).

What to do when it’s your turn, on the other hand, is a collection of thoughts and ideas from Seth’s blog. It is pure inspiration, something to open every once in a while, at a random page, just to make sure you are on the right track.

If you’ve followed this blog, you’ve probably understood by now that Seth Godin is a pretty huge inspiration of mine. Now I’d be delighted to share these books with you. If you live in Finland (Helsinki area, possibly), I’d be happy to meet you to deliver the book, and maybe grab a coffee and have a chat. If not, I’ll post the books to your address, no matter where you live.

Reserve your copy here. No registration form, no emails required, no bait and switch. Just first come, first served.