Self Inflicted Complexity

If yesterday’s post on timing pulled you up short, and maybe left you feeling a little awkward as you reflected and thought, ‘yeah – I do some of that dumb stuff’, then there is a real danger you wont like todays post much at all. If that is the case, I apologise in advance for what you are about to read.

Self Inflicted Complexity

Rick King¬†gave a short talk at the opening of the latest Thomson Reuters unconference I facilitated. He recognised that in order to be more effective, we have to learn to simplify. The general buzz in the room indicated to me that a lot of the audience felt he was right. Then Rick landed a killer question, and it’s one I want to share with you today. He asked,

So how much of your complexity is self inflicted?

You could have heard a pin drop. It’s a fantastic question – one that requires us to front up and be really honest with ourselves. It’s a tough one to answer. Our job is a big part of what we do, it is key to what defines us, and over the years I have observed many people convolute, layer, and stretch tasks and activity way beyond what is necessary to get the job done well.

Leaders need to be critically aware of the tendency to over complicate within themselves. It has a corrosive effect on trust and leads to lots of ineffective, unhelpful behaviour. When you trace a lot of ‘cover your ass’ type activity back along the line, you frequently find the fear that drives CYA is borne out of a lack of understanding amplified by people’s self inflicted complexity. Over complicating stuff doesn’t make you smart, it makes you the A in CYA.

So – how much of your complexity is self inflicted?

Size Isn’t Everything…

…but sometimes it helps! A huge thumbs up to the team at Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins, for granting us access to their massive jumbotron screen for the Thomson Reuters Project Management Unconference this week. Have you ever seen a bigger twitter wall?

Giant Twitter Wall

More to follow soon – right now though my jetlag has knocked me straight out of the ballpark!

How Did You Get That Gig?

I’m packing my bag getting ready to head for home. I have a 13:00 local time departure from St Paul, then an 18:00 from O’Hare which is due to get me into London Heathrow at 06:45 Thursday morning. I’ve had a great time meeting some friends in real life for the first time and I’ve enjoyed some fascinating work and learning with the project management community of Thomson Reuters and beyond. When I get home I’ll write more on both of these things.

For now though – I want to try and answer a question I’m often asked, namely ‘How did you get that gig?’ In all honesty I don’t have the answer totally nailed, but here are a few things that seem to bear fruit, eventually.

Be open to possibilities. I think social media can be a great enabler for this, and I love the chance to forge lots of weak ties (as written about by Malcolm Gladwell, Joe Gerstandt and Jason Lauritsen), some of which will strengthen in time.

Be patient. I choose to come from a place of trust, that is to say that my tendency is to trust you first, and ask questions later. However when you’re engaging with others who act on behalf of their professional body, or their company, they may not have that latitude. Give them the time and the means to get to know you and see the trust you place in them. Don’t push it…too hard.

Hustle – very gently. Neil Morrison once referred to me as the least pushiest sales guy you’ll ever meet, and whilst I like that, I also need to remember that it’s OK, maybe even essential to nudge things along at times. I’m rarely that important to someone in a busy working environment, and neither are you. So don’t take it personally, but do take the time to check in.

Practice your ass off. The feedback I get is that people appreciate the adaptable and flexible nature of working with me. And that flexibility is only achieved through hours and hours and hours of practice. Most of what you practice you’ll probably never need, but whether you are speaking, facilitating or consulting, you need to be confident that you are the best prepared person in the room. That way you can relax (a bit!) and both give, and help co-create great value.

Be humble. My work is all about you. I exist to serve and I consider that a huge privilege. I have never knowingly accepted work unless I genuinely believe it is in the client’s best interest. I’ve turned opportunities down and walked away from an assignment when it became clear that the time for me to add value had expired, even though the client was willing to continue. For it to be right for me – first it has to be right for you.

So there you have it. Five things that sometimes, kinda seem to work. And yet here’s the rub. I’m often wrong, I’m often right, I rarely know which is which and I reserve the right to change my mind. If you are happy to share what works for you, I and others would I’m sure appreciate that. And if you have experiences of me you are willing to share, particularly if you think I can learn and improve from them – well that would be great.