Working to Code – An Example of Defining the Basics

My partner and sweetie introduced me to the concept of knolling (a method of organizing objects). She is a university professor who teaches a creative design-heavy capstone marketing class. Turns out that knolling is only Bullet #7 in Tom Sachs “The Code”, the rules for being a successful employee at his design studio. It struck me how fundamental these rules were, The Basics if you will, and how important he must believe they are to the success of his company for him to codify them in this way.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every company or organization were this clear on their values and expected behaviours? That they understood what drives their success? Many organizations do, but most don’t. At least not in a living and authentic way.

What are you personal, team, or company bullets/basics/code? What disciplines, processes, and tools drive your success?

p.s. Tom also has a “How to Sweep” video. I would argue that if you or your company cannot thoughtfully and elegantly describe its work in a similar way, you might now know what you’re doing.

 

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Mistakes to Avoid: 5. Play Not to Lose

There is a difference between playing to win, and playing not to lose.

If you’re playing not to lose, you work hard to avoid making mistakes. You will also be less likely to admit mistakes (even to yourself), won’t ask for help or apologize for mistakes (because it makes you look weak), or try new things (it’s a risk).

If you’re playing to win, you’re more like to try new things (in small experiments), drop what doesn’t work (change tactics but stay focused on the goal), learn from your mistakes (even if it’s “Let’s never do that again.”), evolve and move on.

It’s about having the courage to set the example, not the cowardice of being perfect. It’s about modelling the behaviour you want from your team. Think about how you want them to behave, and think about how you creating the environment and example to make that happen.

 

*Imagine my delight when Trent asked me join a podcast on leadership. The question Trent was asking was “what mistakes should leaders avoid?” I jotted down five headlines inspired by my new-found fame. This is the third.

Mistakes to Avoid: 4. Ignore Your Commitments

Ever work on a team or in a partnership where the trust has been lost? Or there was never any trust to begin with? Yea, that. Not fun for anybody involved.

There are many ways to build trust – showing vulnerability, asking for help, including people, admitting mistakes – but the fastest way to lose it is to not keep your word. Not just about the big things, about all things.

Be very clear about what you can and cannot commit to, and once you’ve made a commitment, make every effort to live up to it. If you can’t, you make sure you are explicitly absolved from that commitment (not ignore it and hope it goes away), have an alternative to offer, or otherwise authentically show you’ve made your best effort.

Likewise, expect the same standard from the people you work with. Leaders who “go easy” on their people are respected less. Leaders who have high standards and push their team to do their best are respected more. You just have to have the courage to hold yourself to that same standard.

It’s called “setting the example”, aka “leadership”.

 

*Imagine my delight when Trent asked me join a podcast on leadership. The question Trent was asking was “what mistakes should leaders avoid?” I jotted down five headlines inspired by my new-found fame. This is the third.

Getting Things Done is Easy, Building a Culture is Effective

Many leaders I work with are frustrated that the people in their organization aren’t being accountable, responsible, have an “ownership mentality”, aren’t entrepreneurial enough. And then, sometimes, they create processes and rules to try to cover every contingency to set clear expectations, which leads to more frustration.

My first Sergeant once told me if you lock an infantryman in a room with a cannon-ball he’ll either break it, eat it, or lose it. Which seems ridiculous until you’ve tried to make any non-trivial system “idiot-proof”.

Maybe focus on building an effective culture instead?