Growing responsibilities and scope

The default approach to growing responsibilities in organizations is often focused on two dimensions – i) breadth – i.e. broaden scope and ii) layers – i.e. add layers and build a team.

What is fascinating is that consistent personal and professional growth in the long run tends to skew in another dimension – our ability to go narrow and deep. Doing so means asking difficult questions, pushing boundaries, and demanding excellence (even when it is unpopular) over a sustained period of time.

When we demonstrate the ability to dig deep into narrow areas over a sustained period, we provide great leverage to the organization. As a result, we are trusted to broaden our aperture and hire others to provide more leverage.

The other benefit of this approach is that expansion of this sort tends to be organic and, by definition, healthy for the organization we are in. But, as it is built on trust, it doesn’t show instant results.

Instead, like most good things in life, this trust builds and compounds over time. Slowly at first. Then quickly.

Satya Nadella and bad days

I was recently reminded of a line about bad days from an interview with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

He was talking about what changed when he became CEO and he said (paraphrased) – “One of the things I realized is that I can never have a bad day.” He went on to explain that the ripple effects of his bad day were too large for it to ever be an option.

It is a simple and powerful idea – one that is applicable well beyond work and the teams that we run.

We don’t control what happens to us. But, we do have options on how we respond…

Mistakes, chatter, and showing up

The more time we spend trying to build new things or get work that matters done, the more mistakes we are inevitable going to make.

I’ve come to realize that the key is to not let the chatter (both external and internal) about the mistakes and the stuff that is broken to get in the way of showing up every day with enthusiasm.

Every day, we get the opportunity to solve puzzles that involve continually prioritizing between fixing what’s broken, plugging short term gaps, and investing in the long term. We get to do this in our products, in our communities, in our families, and within ourselves.

We (and what we build) are always going to be work in progress. Once we accept that, it follows that the best thing we can do is to make the most of that opportunity and continue to earn it every day.

In the long run, it turns out that becoming is far more important than being.

Strategy and trade-offs

Good strategy involves making explicit choices that are backed by a clear articulation of the trade-offs that accompany those choices.

Articulating strategy well isn’t about listing everything required to be done to win. That part comes easy.

The challenge with crafting good strategy lies in picking the path to winning with the limited resources (and they are always limited) at hand. More often than not, that path involves investing heavily in your own strengths while doing just enough so the weaknesses don’t get in your way.

There are obvious trade-offs with that (or any) approach. But, again, if there aren’t clear trade-offs, it isn’t strategy.

Change and resistance

We cannot effect the change that we seek to make without fighting the inertia that accompanies attempts to break unhelpful habits and destroy existing patterns.

The inertia is universal – it applies just as well to changing how often we exercise to reinventing how our teams do work.

So, if you are trying to effect change and are sensing resistance, that’s just a sign that you are on the right track.

Instant perspective

A simple approach to gaining instant perspective is to ask ourselves – “Will this matter in 10 years?”

The question’s power lies in its ability to instantly expose what is trivial – usually matters that touch our ego and insecurities.

It thus enables us to focus on what actually matters – usually matters that involve love and relationships.