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Weekly 3: Meaningful Change, Rare Responsibility & Avoiding Competent Assholes

Summary: Create a movement to make change that matters. Be the “rare responsible person.” Pick your p

Idea Journal Weekly 3

February 4 · Issue #20 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Create a movement to make change that matters. Be the “rare responsible person.” Pick your place on the competence vs. asshole matrix. (~8 min read)

#1. Use these steps and principles to build your (micro)movement and create change.
Entrepreneur and marketing guru Seth Godin writes in his book Tribes that leadership is not the same thing as management. 
Management is “about manipulating resources to get a known job done,” whereas leadership focuses on “creating change that you believe in.”
Every leader cares for and supports a movement. But the movement itself doesn’t necessarily have to be as large and influential as the free speech movement at Berkeley, or the push for democracy in Tiananmen Square.
Instead, you can create change through your own “micromovement” with even 10 or 20 people – “most often, it can be the people you work with or for, or those who work for you.”
Godin suggests that you can create this kind of change by doing five things and adhering to six principles.
5 things to do
1. Publish a manifesto – it doesn’t have to printed or even written, but it should represent your worldview, and can be as succinct as a motto. It should be easy to understand and spread, because its job is to unite the members of your tribe and give them a supporting structure.
2. Make it easy for your followers to connect with you – this can be as simple as listing a signature with contact information in your emails, or as involved as scheduled events.
3. Make it easy for followers to connect with one another – these interactions among tribe members can be just as important as those with the leader.
4. Realize that pursuing money alone is not the point – “The moment you try to cash out is the moment you stunt the growth of your movement.”
5. Track and display your progress – make your progress public so that your followers can make contributions to it.
6 principles to follow: 
1. Transparency is the only option – “People smell subterfuge from a mile away.”
2. Your movement needs to be bigger than you.
3. Movements that grow, thrive – they can get better and more powerful every day, and it’s OK to be patient with this growth.
4. Movements are made most clear when they stand in contrast to the status quo or an opposing movement.
5. Excluding outsiders works – defining who isn’t in your movement can matter just as much as who is.
6. Tearing others down is never as helpful to your movement as building your followers up.
#2. To help limit unnecessary operational complexity and bureaucracy as your organization grows, make sure each member of your team is a “rare responsible person.”
Netflix’s original culture manifesto highlights the following trend: as companies grow, both in terms of their impact and number of people, they typically develop ever-more complex processes and rules to help manage the increasingly large organization.
Yet, not all of that complexity is good, or even necessary, if each member of the team has the following qualities of a “rare responsible person”:
  • Acts like a leader
  • Doesn’t wait to be told what to do
  • Self-aware
  • Self-disciplined
  • Self-improving
  • Self-motivating
  • Picks up the trash lying on the floor
For example, as the Netflix manifesto points out, most companies have complex policies covering what you can expense, how you travel, and what gifts you can accept. Many of these companies have “whole departments to verify compliance with these policies.”
By contrast, Netflix developed a policy five words long: “Act in Netflix’s best interest.”
In practice, this means four things:
  1. “Expense only what you would otherwise not spend, and is worthwhile for work”
  2. “Travel as you would if it were your own money”
  3. “Disclose non-trivial vendor gifts”
  4. “Take from Netflix only when it is inefficient to not take, and inconsequential” (Examples include printing personal documents at work or using a company phone for a personal matter – both are inconsequential and inefficient to avoid.)
Beyond helping to reduce operational clutter, having rare responsible people on your team also helps to attract others with the same qualities: “responsible people thrive on freedom, and are worthy of freedom.” 
#3. As a leader, you should strive to be the competent “Not asshole.”
Stanford Professor of Management Science and Engineering Robert Sutton writes in the Harvard Business Review that, “by adopting the habits of good bosses and shunning the sins of bad bosses, anyone can do a better job overseeing the work of others.”
And yet, all the coaching in the world won’t be effective unless the person has a certain mindset.
For Sutton, the best bosses have the following 12 beliefs:
1. I have a flawed and incomplete understanding of what it feels like to work for me.
2. My success — and that of my people — depends largely on being the master of obvious and mundane things, not on magical, obscure, or breakthrough ideas or methods.
3. Having ambitious and well-defined goals is important, but it is useless to think about them much. My job is to focus on the small wins that enable my people to make a little progress every day.
4. One of the most important, and most difficult, parts of my job is to strike the delicate balance between being too assertive and not assertive enough.
5. My job is to serve as a human shield, to protect my people from external intrusions, distractions, and idiocy of every stripe — and to avoid imposing my own idiocy on them as well.
6. I strive to be confident enough to convince people that I am in charge, but humble enough to realize that I am often going to be wrong.
7. I aim to fight as if I am right, and listen as if I am wrong — and to teach my people to do the same thing.
8. One of the best tests of my leadership — and my organization — is “what happens after people make a mistake?”
9. Innovation is crucial to every team and organization. So my job is to encourage my people to generate and test all kinds of new ideas. But it is also my job to help them kill off all the bad ideas we generate, and most of the good ideas, too.
10. Bad is stronger than good. It is more important to eliminate the negative than to accentuate the positive.
11. How I do things is as important as what I do.
12. Because I wield power over others, I am at great risk of acting like an insensitive jerk — and not realizing it.
Writing in his book The Art of the Start 2.0, author and entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki recommends using Sutton’s checklist to help you select the right quadrant in “the only two-by-two matrix you need to know as a leader”:
As an exercise, Kawasaki suggests asking yourself: If your employees were to place you in one of these quadrants, which one would it be?
Quote of the Week
“At bottom, becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It’s precisely that simple, and it’s also that difficult.”
- Leadership scholar Warren Bennis in his book On Becoming a Leader 
Idea Journal
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