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The Leadership Workshop—one more time

Several weeks ago, we launched an experimental new form of seminar, an online sprint that ran entirely in a Slack room. As far as I can tell, this has never been tried before, but the 600 people who attended figured it out and it was an amazing afternoon.

By popular request, we're going to do it one more time. Last time we had attendees from more than a dozen countries and it worked, helping people see and act in ways they didn't expect.

Here's what I wrote about that workshop:

Where does leadership come from?

Leadership is a choice. This is apparently controversial, but more than any other element I can track, leadership occurs when someone decides it's important that they lead.

The challenge, then, is in making the choice to lead.

I'd like to invite you to a new real-time online workshop on leadership. The goal of this group sprint is to create an interactive, real-time environment where you can safely explore what the leadership choice is capable of accomplishing, what it means, and how to get there.

The workshop takes three hours, and my hope is that with your contribution (of time, content and energy), it will become an important part of the + Acumen series of courses. We're doing this as a fundraiser, hoping it will raise enough to allow Acumen to double the reach of their already essential online workshops and courses. Tickets are limited, and sign ups end next Friday.

I'll be in the Slack room for this launch session, and I hope to see you there.

The workshop takes place at 9 am NY time on Thursday, February 18th. We are doing this at a different time slot and day to make it easier for people who were unable to attend the last session.

You can get tickets here.  We've made it easy for you to sign up multiple members from your team in one step this time.

Because this is a brand new experience for everyone, there are a lot of little things to understand. As a result, the ticketing page is longer than you might expect, but if you spend about twelve minutes reading it through, it'll all fall into place.

Looking forward to seeing you leap.

Pattern recognition is not the same as pattern matching

Pattern recognition is a priceless skill that comes with practice, with the experience of noticing. Noticing what works, what you've seen before, what might not work.

Because pattern recognition is so valuable, some people have erroneously concluded that the way to succeed is to slavishly follow what's come before. Pattern matching is for amateurs. It rarely leads to the creation of much that can stand the test of time.

The art is to see patterns, but to use them to do something new, something that rhymes.

Audience participation

The way we engage with the humans who make stuff directly influences what we receive.

Arms folded with a scowl on our face and skepticism on our minds… we get what we deserve.

It’s up to us. Just about everything is ultimately a singalong.

“I”, “We” and “You”

One of the most profound ways to change your posture and the way you and your organization interact with customers and partners is to change your pronouns.

Instead of saying "I" when you're ready to take credit, try "we."

Instead of saying "we" when you're avoiding responsibility, try "I."

And, every time you're tempted to depersonalize the impact of your actions, try "you," while looking the impacted person in the eye.

Words matter.

What investors want

They want you to put the money to use building an asset, something that works better and better over time, something that makes your project more profitable and more efficient.

And they want you to use that asset to create value that will pay them back many times over.

Most small businesses ignore both of these desires. There's so much stress from being on the edge, it feels like money will relieve that stress. And in the short run, it will. But if it doesn't build an asset, soon you'll be back to the edge, with the added problem of having an unrepaid investor as well.

Assets (buildings, machines, powerful brands, new technologies) are less essential than ever before. For many organizations, a laptop is worth more than a building or a punch press. That's great if you're getting started, because the connection economy has made the cost of entry lower than ever before.

It also means, though, that the easy-entry business you're in might not respond well to the investor's money. If there isn't an asset you can buy and build and defend and monetize, you're much better off not chasing one.

“There’s no need for alarm”

Alarm is overrated.

People say, "there's no need for alarm," as if that rule only applies right now, as if sometimes, there is a need for alarm.

It turns out that there's never a need for alarm, because alarm doesn't do us any good. Alertness, awareness, action… there's a need for this. But alarm?

[Completely unrelated, Roger's new telemarketer hack is pretty clever.]

Anchoring can sink you

Canny negotiators know that people respond to anchors. If you tell me that your baseball card is for sale for $18, I'm unlikely to offer you $3. Your offering price anchored the conversation.

The thing is, we do this outside of negotiation, whenever we ask for insight.

If someone says, "can you review this slide deck?" there are a bunch of anchors already built in. Anchor: there are slides. Anchor: there are six slides. Anchor: the slides have text on them.

Before we can even have a conversation about whether or not there should even be a presentation, or whether the content is worth presenting, we're already anchored into slides and text and length. The right feedback might be: Do a presentation, but no slides. It might be: Use 100 slides. But these things rarely come up because the entire discussion was anchored at the start.

Great editors, great strategy consultants, great friends–they're generous enough and bold enough to unanchor the conversation and get to the original why at the beginning of a string of decisions.

Once in a while, start with zero, not with what might be the standard right now.

[More from Devra]

Loose/tight, thoughts on management

If you have a pad of Post-Its, a watch or a car, it's unlikely you hired and managed a team of people to build it for you. That makes no sense. You knew exactly what you wanted, and you bought a finished product that met spec.

If you do online banking, payroll or even printing, you're doing the same thing. The people at those institutions don't work directly for you, instead they provide a service at arm's length.

So why hire employees?

Sometimes, the work is so custom, we can't easily outsource it.

Sometimes, the work is so time critical or location dependent that we need a staff person here and now.

But mostly, we need the insight and judgment and leverage that employees bring us. All of us are smarter than any of us, and adding people can, if we do it right, make us smarter and faster and better at serving our customers.

It can't work, though, if you insist that the employees read your mind. If you have to spend as much time watching and measuring your team as the team spends working, then you might as well just do the work yourself.

Effective post-industrial organizations have overcome this hurdle by differentiating between the loose and the tight.

Tight control might be appropriate for items like: promises kept, or how we treat our customers, or financial rigor.

Loose principles, on the other hand, might be applied to the way people approach problems, communication methods or less standardized matters like setting and tone.

We fail if we misjudge what ought to be tight. And we guarantee frustration when we're unwilling to let the humans we hire be humans.

The thrill is gone

Of course it is.

The definition of a thrill is temporary excitement, usually experienced for the first time.

It's thrilling to ride a roller coaster. The fifth time you have to ride it, though, it's more than a chore, it's torture.

The definition of the thrill is that it's going to be gone soon.

You might have been thrilled to go to your first job the first day. Or thrilled to see the first comment on your blog or thrilled the first time one of your books was translated into another language.

But after that? How can repeating it be thrilling?

The work of a professional isn't to recreate thrills. It's to show up and do the work. To continue the journey you set out on a while ago. To make the change you seek to make in the universe.

Thrilling is fine. Mattering is more important.

Living with your frustum

David Bowie left behind an estate worth about $100 million.

And there were perhaps five hundred musicians of his generation who were at least as successful. From Brown to Dylan to Buffet to Ross, there were thirty years of big hit makers.

That's the top of the pyramid. Lots of people tried to make it in the music business, and there were many thousands at the top, hitting a jackpot.

In geometry, a pyramid without a top is called a frustum. Just a base, no jackpot.

The music industry is now a classic example…

The bottom is wider than ever, because you don't need a recording studio to make a record. And you don't need a record store to sell one. More musicians making more music than ever before.

And the top is narrower than ever. Fewer hitmakers creating fewer long-term careers. Radio is less important, shelf space is less important, and so the demand for the next big hit from the next reliable hitmaker is diminished. Without Scott Borchetta or someone similar leading you to the few sinecures left, it's almost certain that you'll be without a jackpot.

A similar thing happened to the book business, of course. The big bookstores needed a Stephen King, a Jackie Collins and a Joyce Carol Oates, because they benefitted from having something both reliable and new to put on the shelf. Printing a lot of copies and using a lot of shelf space is a gamble, best to bet on the previous winners. The ebook world doesn't care as much.

The long tail, easy entry, wide distribution model does this to many industries. It's easier than ever to be a real estate broker or to run a tiny dog shelter–easier, but harder to get through the Dip.

While the winner-take-all natural monopolies get the headlines and the IPOs, it's not surprising that many industries are frustrating frustums.

The frustration, though, doesn't come from the lack of a top to the pyramid. It comes from acting as if the peak is the point of the entire exercise. For more on this, check out Derek Siver's honest and generous book.

The good news is that it's entirely possibly you don't need the peak of the pyramid. The leverage that comes from digital tools means that it's entirely possible to do just fine (and have a powerful, positive life) without being David Bowie. Once you know that this is it, perhaps this might be enough.

Enough to make a difference and enough to make a life.

The way music used to be. And is again.

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