‘How’ is the only question that matters

You don’t need risk takers, you need solution seekers

There are two ways people apply their significant intelligence and energy:

1. In figuring out excuses about why it can’t 1 be done


2. In figuring out solutions for how to do it

I call them the excuse generation and the solution exploration behaviours.

I explicitly say – two kinds of ways people think. Not, two kinds of people. Because, more often than not, we see both these behaviours in the same people.

Some of the most intelligent, determined, driven people I know are also the ones I often see working smart to come up with unquestionable excuses for why-not-to, instead of solutions for how-to.

A big task for a successful leader 2, then, is to give people a reason to switch from excuse generation to solution exploration. To motivate the best thinkers and doers with incentives 3 – emotional, financial, egotistical, or other – that helps them realign their thought process towards the target the leader wants achieved.

Most specifically (the usual):

Nurture a culture of solution exploration, with

  • big, and highly visible, rewards for success
  • little or no punishment for failure 4

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Startups: On Boarding Employees

Many startups tend to keep the employees (usually devs & designers) focussed too narrow, never letting them expand to other roles, or keep them doing everything (usually non-tech employees/founders), without giving them time, resources or backing to develop expertise in one area.

I believe that there are no strict job descriptions or siloed roles in a startup – everyone does everything, at least some of their time. And it’s all for the better – of both the enterprise and the individuals. Everyone learns & grows, faster.

However, experience tells me that starting your stint with a specific role or project greatly improves the chances of a successful on-boarding. A specific project lets the new joiner do a deep dive and learn quickly about one specific area (become go-to person for that small, specific area), show some deliverables (thus earn cred in the new team), while also learning about rest of the roles (to get an idea of where they want to grow/expand).

Once a bit settled, more roles and responsibilities can, and should, be added. Not letting employees expand beyond their early roles, is just as bad as getting them to work on *everything* from the moment they step on-board. You never know, that backend dev could have evolved to become the best product manager or business development manager money could ever hire.

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Time-zone: EST

Over the weekend, dining out with friends suffering in high-paying, corporate jobs, I had a realisation: There’s a big difference in how you measure time when you’re owning a business versus working for one.

When we work for someone else (usually something else – the money), we want the time at work to shrink. We wait for the lunch hour. We want the end of work day to arrive quickly. We look forward to the weekend all week. We want month end, and salary, to come quickly. We plan the time between vacations thinking, dreaming and planning the next vacation. We wish the clock just moved faster. A lot faster. We’ll call it Employee’s Shrinking Time. Or EST.

When we own what we are doing – our team, our firm, our idea, or our dream – we want the same time to expand. We don’t want end of month to come any time soon as that just means you’ve lost another month of critical time… even if we’ve been working 100 hour weeks all month. We want the day to have more than 24 hours, and sleep to vanish. We want the weeks to be longer and weekends shorter. In fact, we don’t just want the time to expand, we want it to just stop. Till we’re finished. (Which, if you’re good, is never.) We’ll call this Entrepreneur’s Stretching Time. Or EST.

So, which EST time-zone do you follow?

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