I’ve been yapping about my WORK WE - the core values, beliefs, behaviors, traits that define my business. Now it’s time to dive into them in some detail. Not because your values should match mine - they shouldn’t - there is no right and wrong in this stuff. But to give you a real life example.
I’ll start off by explaining how I visualize the components of my WORK WE - KNOW, DISTILL, beDIRECT.
A continuum is…
“a continuous sequence in which adjacent elements are not perceptibly different from each other, although the extremes are quite distinct.”
Think of a line whose meaning gradually changes as you move from one end to the other.
Let's take the concept of “How WE Give Feedback” and draw it as a continuum or line.
On the left extreme we have “Extra Polite“. “Low Emotion”. “Saving Face Matters”.
On the right extreme we have “Brutal Honesty”. “Maximum Emotion”. “Chips Fall Where They May”.
I defined those endpoints as extremes so we could be inclusive of all companies. In reality, zero, or close to zero, businesses live at the edges of this continuum.
My goal in drawing the line was to see where my beDIRECT feedback style fits relative to all other options. To put a stake in the ground around the fact that I much prefer bluntness over political correctness. To embrace that my mark belongs pretty far to the right of center.
Let’s use an example to explore what this placement means. I'll look at the case where an employee repeatedly makes the same costly mistake. The key words being repeatedly and costly.
Left end Feedback - “Everyone makes mistakes, just stay after it.”
Right end Feedback - “You’re a freaking idiot. I could do your job in my sleep. I’m not sure why we keep you on the payroll.”
beDIRECT Feedback - “We need to talk about this. Something isn’t getting through and we need to get it fixed immediately.”
I’ve heard discussions like all three of these at successful companies. They can all work. There is no “universal right”.
For me and my business, the right-leaning beDIRECT response is the clear winner. I assume that's because I’ve seen more damage done over on the far left. Managers that'll do anything to avoid conflict. Letting poor performers or cultural offenders off the hook without a word. Crippling and even destroying businesses that held great promise.
But regardless where my business lies on the line, the act of placing the mark is the payoff in this exercise. Putting pencil to paper forces clarity and commitment.
Which is why I've completed the same drawing and labeling exercise for all three parts of my WORK WE. These three lines are constant visual reminders of the tenets I and my company must defend and live by. They are a key piece of the MapOfMe culture. Accordingly, I must only hire people that FIT these lines. And yes, the FIT will be imperfect. No one will be a perfect match, but the closer the better.
To make this more clear, let’s look at all three of my lines. I’ll start with beDirect because I’ve already laid out the continuum for that factor.
Please note, in this analysis I'm going to look at how these factors play out within the four walls of the business. At another time we can extend the analysis to partners, customers, marketing messages, etc..
To work at MapOfMe you must be able to take and deliver feedback in a beDIRECT fashion. If you think something is a duck, call it a freaking duck. Respectful conflict is not only tolerated, it is encouraged.
I don’t feel this way because I like fighting. I feel this way because it’s been my experience that respectful conflict makes companies better. The marketing speak and bullshit get peeled away. Holes get exposed and probed. And, in the process, good ideas become great ideas.
It’s the crucible I talked about in post #13 - FEEDBACK. And while it can get a little heated and emotional at times, it’s my preferred path to creating great work.
I also think it’s a great disservice to someone to not let them know exactly where they stand. Exactly what you think of their work. And I want them, regardless of their title, to provide me the same beDIRECT style of feedback.
Does that mean it’s OK to hit below the belt? Nope, no need to get personal or talk about anyones mother. Just never hesitate to express yourself on topics you care about.
Sounds simple enough, BUT, as I said in post #24 - WHYs Partner - ME, there’s always a downside to these strong ME/WE preferences.
In this case it's obvious. There are skilled people who won't be able to do their best work in such a blunt environment. They won't FIT and flourish. They'd keep their ideas to themselves rather than engage in the verbal jousting.
My beDIRECT approach means I’m going to miss out on the capabilities of these wonderful people. Which is a real downside given how hard it is to find skilled people.
But I accept that downside because my experience has taught me that sticking to my ME/WE is a recipe for success. (Refer to post #41 - Culture Trumps Skill for a complete discussion on the FIT vs. Skills topic.)
Here's another continuum that's critical to my ME/WE: How Much Homework WE Do.
Left extreme: “Follow the 80/20 Rule”, “Focus On the Highlights and Come Back For the Rest As Needed”
Right extreme: “Achieve Perfect Knowledge”, “Be The Undisputed Expert”
KNOW @ MapOfMe: “Overstudy A Small Number Of Topics”, “Avoid Perfectionism: It’s A Disaster”
Again, the two endpoints are extremes. Not likely to be found in real businesses.
And once again, my preference favors the right side of the continuum. Information is my security blanky. I’m willing to spend too much time heads down on topics to make sure I understand them. I’ll read five or six books on a subject instead of two or three. Those extra viewpoints give me more confidence in my work. Which sounds, at first blush, like a good thing. The more you know the better.
By the time I hit book four or five most of the information is repetitive. I would logically be better off spending my time elsewhere. It teeters on perfectionism which is considered damn neared a disease. So be it, I accept this downside. I accept that the ROI is probably negative.
It’s my business and this “wasted” time gives me a comfort that I need. And I would require the same inefficient overstudying from everyone that works here - an obvious downside to my KNOW fixation. Not everyone wants to “waste” this extra time. Or maybe I should say not everyone would appreciate this extra homework. Meaning I’ve just eliminated even more folks from my potential employee pool.
And that’s not the only downside to my KNOW focus. This slow, methodical approach is also going to limit the number of topics I/WE can cover. And such narrow specialization is risky. It makes for a tiny potential market.
But I accept these downsides because my experience has taught me that sticking to my ME/WE is a recipe for success.
Here's the final continuum that's critical to me: "How WE Handle Complex Stuff".
Left Extreme: “Embrace Complexity”, “Don’t Waste Time Interpreting”.
Right Extreme: "Simplify to the nth degree" (no room on the diagram for this one because my dot is so far to the right)
DISTILL @ MapOfMe: "Remove Unnecessary Complexity", "Find And Probe Contradictions". "Simplify What's Left"
Again I'll repeat, there is no "right answer" on any of these continua. No better or worse. It's all about personal preference. And my happy place, what I call DISTILL, is on the extreme right end of the line.
Over on the far left are people that think, speak, breathe complexity. Not to be superior, but because their topics are deep and that’s how their mind works.
I've crossed paths with lots of folks like this in the tech world. Super bright people whose brains function in complex chunks. And many of them aren’t great at spoon feeding their genius to a muggle like me.
They'd rather spend their time working with other wizards solving tough problems. And to do this efficiently, they speak in their own shorthand. They make references that a commoner won't understand. They assume a baseline of knowledge and a vocabulary that many don't have.
That’s perfectly fine. These tend to be the folks who make breakthrough changes in the world. They are awesome. I admire them. I'm jealous of them. I'll buy their products and I’ll pay to read their research or to hear them speak. I’m just not wired to work with them day in and day out.
Unlike these folks, I spend ridiculous amount of time deleting unnecessary complexity. Removing a single wasteful word from a sentence or a diagram makes me giddy. Whether it’s worth the effort or not is irrelevant. It’s what I must do to enjoy my days.
The way I’m wired, I can’t lock something in until it’s DISTILLed. My mind only retains stuff in simplest form. Call me stupid, basic, whatever. It’s how I work, and that’s not going to change.
I'm a big believer in this loosely derived quote from Albert Einstein..
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
And, even though I think I have Einstein on my side, I realize there are downsides to my fixation on DISTILL.
The most obvious limitation I’ve already pointed out, lots of bright people aren’t going to like my style. They'd be frustrated by having to interpret for me. So I’m going to miss out on their amazing skills.
And there are more bummers. DISTILLation takes time. Which, as I already described in the KNOW section, means we would be slow and our expertise would be narrow.
Also, this depth of study would make us pretty sure of ourselves. In less kind terms - stubborn. If I’ve read 10 books on a topic, spoken to a dozen business owners, and boiled something down to a few points that I deeply believe, you’re going to have a helluva time changing my mind.
Those are some pretty rough downsides. But I accept them because my experience has taught me that sticking to my ME/WE is a recipe for success.
(This site is all about building a Map that will help me do work and life better. So at the end of each post I check in to see if any changes / insights come to mind.)
Let’s be clear that these three continua matter to ME. These definitions are made up by ME to serve ME. You should not use these verbatim for your map.
You must uncover your own. And I think this continuum drawing exercise is a great way to test your results. I found the process of drafting and labeling them to be a real challenge. Finding the right spot on the line. Choosing the best phrases. Questioning whether I was really OK with the downsides.
And if you do it with gusto, I bet you'll find that your preferences are double-edged swords. My three key components, beDirect, KNOW, DISTILL sure are.
On the bright side you could describe MapOfMe as…
Clear, Deliberate, Focused, Informed, Confident
On the flip side you could also describe the place as...
blunt, slow, narrow, opinionated, stubborn
Both are correct. And both are exactly the company I aim to build. That’s the way ME and WE work. They provide a REAL picture of the person and the company. A REAL picture that will attract employees, partners, and customers that FIT. Which just might make your life and business a whole helluva lot better...
That’s all for today. Stay tuned for next time when I wrap up some odds and ends on the ME/WE topic and cover some objections.
***Note: This site works best when you read the posts in order. So please head to the ARCHIVE to get started.