What does tomorrow's workplace look like?

  1. Flat. Small teams of cohorts around a mission.
  2. Titles are tied to functions and not status. Doer, Team Lead, Builder, Tester, Programmer, etc. 
  3. Decision making is federated and consensus driven (think Paxos in computer science, if you know that).
  4. Responsibility before authority
  5. Open culture. Data is shared about customers, about problems, about performance, about salary, etc.
  6. Everyone is a leader or a potential leader.
  7. There are no specialists. Only problem solvers.
  8. People don't work for bonuses or payouts. There are way too many options to make money.
  9. Artificial pressures won't work. Passion and ownership trumps authority.
  10. More beneficial to collaborate than compete.
  11. No need to stay within any walls. Literally and metaphorically.
  12. No unproductive meetings. Small cohort stays focussed on the problem and always collaborating.
  13. The barrier to building tools to get a job done more efficiently is low.
  14. People will not be dependent on managers to solve their problems or approve a request for tools or software.
  15. There will be no managers. Only leaders.
  16. Companies that intersect where technology is heading will be relevant. Others not so.

 

Creator, Consumer and Spreader

Who are you? Are you a creator of content, consumer, or a spreader. All three always? Do you switch roles time to time?

But are you honest being who you are? Creators need to create something that does not push an agenda of self-interest. They need to truly create content because they believe what they are creating makes the world a better place.

When you are consuming content, are you also actively spreading content that is worth spreading? Are you switching roles to support a worthy artist? Are you spreading stuff that think make the world a better place? Consumers are also curators for better information and they should actively spread good ideas that they encounter.

In every place, we have a gap. Good artists go unnoticed because someone does not take the extra step to switch roles from a consumer to a spreader.

In the same note, if we as consumers, are not serious in our jobs as curators, we will easily miss seeing the aggrandizing agenda of someone. It is a serious job.

This probably is a rant. Maybe because I see there are too many artists in the world who are toiling away without a break. Maybe because there are too many stories that go unshared and the one that is being shared is not worth sharing. I don't know. But, I do know that this is a problem we should definitely think about.

Kindness vs righteousness

I am working with my son these days on 'choosing kindness over being right.' In some places, it is obvious and he sees it, and it is easy for me to work with him. In some places, it is extremely hard because his sense of righteousness kicks in. It is an area I have to walk very carefully to balance between his sense of being morally right and choosing kindness. 

I see this in workplace as well. Businesses are optimized for results and kindness becomes a nebulous grey area that leaders have to tread carefully. This can be related to culture, bad performers, management, etc. While there is no template here, the general framework becomes, how can you continue delivering results for the company while being kind and empathetic to people's lives.

It is important to constantly probe ourselves in this area. Kindness and empathy leads to a stellar culture, which truly can become a unfair competitive advantage for every company. 

Where is your attention?

What matters to us is important.

It will be reflected in the work we do, the books we read, the friends we make, and the things we touch.

What matters to us is important because it controls what we put in our head and what we put in the world around us. 

But, how often do we think about it? In a culture where attention is quickly becoming a currency that is scarce, how often are we able to divert our attention to understanding what is truly important to us rather than responding to every stimulus that comes our way? The constant beeps of a phone, the unanswered emails sitting in an inbox, endless tweets and posts are always fighting for our attention.

And, they get our attention. Not because they deserve to, but because we think they do. 

What matters to us is important. But we will never to get to the truly important things if we don't change the status quo on who gets our attention.

Learn and teach

Learning and teaching is a powerful cycle. There are two types of people, one who want to always learn but not teach, others who want to learn and immediately teach what they learned. Of course, there is a third kind, of people who are not interested in learning, and we are not talking about them here.

What is the point of learning without teaching? If for nothing else, teaching allows you to talk about what you learned and it can serve as a great way to validate our learning and also create discussions that will allow us to learn more. 

Teaching does not necessarily have to be through one particular medium (blogs, videos, group settings etc). It can be any medium which brings people together with various perspectives and skillsets to synthesize on the core message you are presenting. It is very powerful.

Do you have such a medium where you talk about your work? Your learnings?

Do we want our employees to fit in?

Or do we want them to stand out?

Because fitting in is to fit in our way of thinking, our way of solving problems. Fitting in is to make our lives easier because we have designed the system and it is a pain to work with outliers.

If they stand out, we need to cater to their needs. We need to adjust our system to accommodate. And, sometimes we are not willing to do that. We need to tweak the rules of our carefully crafted assembly line of processes that industrialization has taught us. 

It is good to desire excellence and innovation. It is good to desire uniqueness and perspectives. It is. Desiring is one thing. Accepting and rolling with it is another.

 

Doing less is the way to win

There is a plan. There is a plan B. There is a plan C.

Those are three things.

Now, your team does twenty things. For everything, there is a plan A, plan B, and plan C. Sixty things. Your company has ten teams. Six hundred things.

Of course, this is an exaggeration, but also not. Companies fail because they try to do more and not be good at anything. The secret to winning is in fact no secret at all, it is just to "do less and obsess."

Read the book Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More. It's worth your time.

Don't confuse truths with opinions

Don’t confuse opinions with correctness. You have a voice and a voice gives your thoughts wings. Don’t cage your thoughts because you are not sure if you are right.

You don’t have to be right all the time. But, your voice should be heard. Your voice will change as you grow, mature and learn new truths both about yourself and the world. A changing voice does not mean lack of conviction, it merely means personal growth, new truths, new ideas. Over time, you will find that your voice will settle down into few themes that you deeply care about. But until that time, there is no point in worrying about what that voice should be and what is the story you are telling.

The story you should tell is the story of yourself, your growth, your work, your community. Just be honest and your honesty will give uniqueness and strength to your voice.

Don’t keep quiet because you are not sure if you got it right.

We need women leaders who are free

We need more women leaders who are free.

I have a mentee, who thinks she is not good enough, when in fact she is really good at what she does. She has an opinion about things and perspectives that are nuanced. She tells me that she wants to be like me and I tell her that she should be like herself.

I have another mentee. Her manager is a woman who is stressed out, trying to prove herself. She transfers her stress to her team all the time. She makes life harder for the women in her team, telling them that they are aggressive if they are opinionated, and should speak up more, if they are silent. 

I recently had an hour long conversation with a woman CEO around organizational culture, team building, product management, etc. She was awesome. She was humble and to the point and I felt refreshed after the conversation. Unlike a lot of conversations with male leaders, where gloating or name throwing happens every five minutes, she hardly talked about her accomplishments but rather kept the focus on her company’s vision. 

I have heard conversations across the board from women leaders telling the women in their team that with every child they have, their career takes a two year hit. What a load of crap! Your career does not take a hit because of the child, it takes a hit because of lack of support. Let’s solve the problem of support by creating programs where we support life changes (See PayPal's Recharge program). And, by the way this cannot not be a general rule of the thumb. If it is, then we all should be embarrassed to have contributed to this rule.

We need leaders with perspectives, empathy and humility and in other words, women leaders. But we need these leaders to be free and not under stress to fit in and prove themselves at every step. The free women leaders at the top are key to balancing the playing field and making it level so that everyone is held to the similar standards. 

Leaders (both men and women), your team looks up to you. Your voice becomes their voice. What you tell them shapes their world. Tell them stories of hope, tell them stories of leadership and courage and tell them that it is OK to have an opinion, be original and stand out. And, support them while they do that.