The “red tape” danger

The problem with too much process and red tape is that it creates excuses for not getting problems solved:

“Our processes dictates that I must do this”, “I am not measured on doing that”, “I cannot do anything about it, it’s the rules”, “We have a policy that…”.

Etcetera etcetera.

Of course there needs to be rules and processes, and sometimes they’re even defined by law.

But having said that it is also important to reiterate that just because you can push a set of rules, a boss or even the law in front of you, it doesn’t mean that you can’t show empathy for the person(s) in the other end obviously experiencing a problem.

One of the reasons why startups even stand a fighting chance against much larger and more resourceful organizations is that they don’t have all these rules, processes and KPIs in place.

They’re just trying to do what they think is necessary to enable them to solve issues and move forward. By showing empathy and some sort of efficient pragmatism whenever they encounter a challenge or – most importantly – a customer experiencing a problem and in need of a fix to it.

When companies grow and more people get onboard, the need for processes, policies and rules will grow – sometimes almost exponentially.

That may be fine in itself. But it should never be an excuse for throwing empathy and the ability to act and fix issues out the window.

If you start doing that you will enable precisely all the behaviour internally in your organization that you DON’T really want. And absolutely don’t need to succeed.

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A question of empathy

When you are a parent, your biggest anxieties are always related to your kids. You want them to be healthy, do well, grow and be liked by their surroundings, and when something is off it is just a killing feeling that truly and utterly hurts.

The other day my eldest once again experienced a play date being cancelled on her. It was one with her friend, where the feedback from the friends parents were that they were currently exploring expanding their daughters circle of friends and had thus already made alternative arrangements with another girl.

While my rational side could understand and perhaps even sympathize with what they were trying to do, I felt hurt on behalf of my daughter. Not only because it was a deja vu feeling dating years back when I myself struggled to make friends and have play dates, but also because of something else;

When you are two parties or business partners, and one of them unilaterally makes a decision to do something else and explore other options, it may feel good and right for the one who makes the move.

But the other one gets left behind. Outside. Abandoned. Perhaps even due to no fault of their own.

You can make choices. And you absolutely should. It is only natural. But choices have consequences. And at the end of your choice, the consequences are being felt by real people.

If the relationship is strong, important and have been built over time, you should at the very least make the effort to empathize and see the situation from the other partys side, before you make your call.

Some times it will not make a dent, and you will stick by your original. For a number of whatever reasons.

But other times just turning the tables and looking at what the consequences are for those, your decision has a direct impact on, will help you get a new perspective, think about the relationship and what’s really at stake.

Maybe you could get inspired and learn something new. And perhaps even get to a different decision.

A decision that may be a small contribution to a more compassionate and caring world, which I would argue we could all benefit from.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Feel the problem

When you’re trying to solve a problem for someone, it helps a lot if you can empathize – even feel – the problem yourself.

Because it’s when you have a real sense of the problem, you release all those creative juices that allows you to not only look at the problem from different angles but also come up with ideas for how to try out different solutions in easy, creative and quick ways.

On the other hand, when you don’t feel the problem, it can be hard to not over-strategize and overcomplicate how you go about trying to solve it.

It just doesn’t feel natural to you, and when you’re stuck creatively, your only fallback option is the complex process, you bank on to see you well through to the other side.

When you do feel the problem, what you need to do next becomes more natural to you. You have an easier time setting the necessary wheels in motion, getting people onboard to help you and in general just get s*** done.

So make sure you can feel the problem before anything else. It will make the road ahead so much easier.

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Put yourself on the other side

Years ago I worked at Microsoft in an international role. I had a lot of dealings with US colleagues, and one thing that always puzzled me was how resistant they were to change or doing something differently.

That lasted until someone explained to me that in the US, the time is takes from a boss tells an employee he’s fired until the time, the employer is resolved from all obligations towards the unfortunate individual, is litterally the few seconds it takes to say “You’re fired”.

So when they resisted change, they were really just scared of potentially losing their jobs.

The experience made me realize that you always have to take a shot at trying to understand where the other side is coming from. Because while it can be super easy to get frustrated, there is usually an explanation behind it all; a context.

Sometimes it is even good and valid, and it always demands being treated with respect.

Does that mean that you should change the ways you think, the ideas you put forward and the way you see things being able to happen just to always suit the other side.

Not at all.

But it means you need to make sure that you don’t scare people off, so they jump to the wrong conclusions that could ultimately lead everything you’re working on astray.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Ego eats impact

You either love life or you are afraid to die.

That’s how a Danish politician tried to frame the peoples response to Covid-19 on Twitter yesterday.

Naturally, it is both a false, primitive and superficial way of putting it.

I could just as well say that there are those that are full of themselves and only care about what’s good for themselves – and then there are those who think about others and want to look after each other. And I would be equally right. Or not.

It got me thinking though. About what kind of personality it takes to build and grow something for the benefit of others; a startup that can truly get to a point where it delivers the maximum impact.

Can someone obsessed with ego do that? You could argue, yes. History is full of them: Steve Jobs of course comes to mind. Maybe our own Jesper Buch too. But are they the norm, or are they truly outliers?

I ask because I don’t know. But I am both fascinated and curious about it.

My logic would assume that in order to truly due something for others and have the opportunity to create real impact, you need to be able to put your own needs and wants to the back of the cue.

Exceed for the need to do something good for others, of course. Call it having a vision, if you will.

I see a lot of talented people in the startup community struggle and (sometimes) fail, because they are more obsessed with living the startup ‘dream’ than they are with putting the needs of others – their customers – first.

It remains a recurring theme and one of the primary reasons why so many startups end up failing.

And it is just a crying shame, if your ego and inability to serve others before yourself end up being the thing that kills you.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Lead by experience

Yesterday, the company I chose to deliver fiber to my home made their best effort to loose me as a customer. Due to unfortunate circumstances I narrowly missed a visit by a technician, and when I called them to figure out what went wrong, the customer support was rude and hung up on me.

Companies behaving that way may have a good or even great product. But they have a shitty customer experience. And in a day and age where basically everybody can do anything, the true differentiator between winning and losing as a business with the customer is precisely what happened to me: A shitty customer experience.

Whether you are in a corporate or getting your own startup off the ground you should aim to lead by experience; be the most open, accommodating, empathetic and what have you. Because even if I as a customer come to you with a problem, I will remember you cared – and I will our relationship an extra shot.

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Treasure the soft skills

When you’re looking to solve a problem and improve something for someone, empathy matters. You need to be able to put yourself in the shoes of the customer, feel their pain and use the insight generated to fuel your product development efforts.

When we fail to employ empathy and other soft skills like it, we may get to fabulous solutions but we run short of understanding the problem. Solving a problem. And when we do that, the odds for success are very much stacked against us.

So treasure your soft skills. And if you don’t feel you have too many of them yourself, treasure the ones in your team who do. Because you need them in order to be successful in a truly outstanding way.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)