F*ck Mark Zuckerberg’s T-Shirt

Often in our search to either solve problems, or improve situations we fall into the trap of thinking what works for one person, will work for another. It is understandable as we look for proof of a solutions viability, the fact it has worked before gives us confidence it could work for us.

We also live in a world where this message is used as the hook to sell us the any product even vaguely related to self improvement. Do what I did and you will look like me. Here is the secret for how I became a billionaire. How X went from that to this.

But what a lot of people fail to appreciate is how different we all are. There is no one size fits all model for achieving anything in life. If there was, wouldn’t we all be doing it?

F*ck that T-Shirt

If you follow business press or read biographies you will read a lot about how super successful people achieve so much in their day. And a lot focuses on their daily routine or habits, suggesting that if you replicate them, you too will replicate their success.

If I hear about one more person who has followed the Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg model for wearing the same outfit each day I may strangle somebody with their plain black tshirt.

Equally, another of the more consistent stories you hear is about how these people rise ridiculously early each day and on need 4 hours sleep. Something which many people try and replicate, and will generally tell you how productive it makes them at every opportunity.

I’ve done a fair amount of research into productivity and can tell you that two things for sure:

  1. There is no reason this will defintiely work for you, that doesnt mean you cant be be more productive
  2. It is far more important to understand your own energy patterns

Personally I am an early riser anyway. I’ve never struggled getting up in the morning and find myself most pre noon. But that doesn’t mean I am more effective over a 24 hour period.

I have lulls at other times of the day when my energy levels dip, and past 10pm in the evening I am useless, no matter if I feel alert, I just can’t be effective.

Conversely I know a lot of people who do their best work late at night. But speak to them pre 10am and its a complete waste of time. This isnt because they are any less effective, or any less productive, it means they have their energy peaks at different times.

It irks me to see people handing out blanket advice without considering the differences of each individual. You need to find what works for you, and understand when you have energy. If that’s early in the day and you can crank out a ton of work pre 9am then great, and if its post 9pm and you like to work into the night, then thats fine too.

Don’t build a team of hammers

A widely used quote attributed to Abraham Maslow:

I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.

Often this quote is attributed to tactics and techniques.  Used to profess the virtues of broadening skills, knowledge and approaches.

But this quote can equally be applicable to teams and team structure. If everyone you bring into a team matches a prescribed criteria then that team will become the hammer, and every challenge will begin to look like a nail.

Understanding and assessing individuals skills, capabilities, personalities and approaches is critical is you want a varied toolbox within your team. Ensuring there is variety whilst maintaining a core of values and goals is where excellence exists.

In the agency world this can be as simple as having a balance of thinkers and doers, or a balance of personalities to match against clients.  Taking it a step further you have profiling tools such as Myers Briggs which will give even more detailed view on individuals and how they can be moulded to compliment one another.

However you achieve it, just make sure you don’t build a team of hammers.

Entrepreneur vs Intrepreneur; is there a difference?

The world of the entrepreneur is one which is well documented.  Through the more recent success stories of Branson, Jobs and Gates and the historic much quoted tales of Henry Ford, people have been mesmerised by stories of billion dollar companies founded in bedrooms and garages.  And spawned from these stories are the debates about what it takes to achieve such success and what it is which separates out these successful entrepreneurs from the thousands of people who had similar dreams but ultimately failed.

In recent years there has also been a rise of the lesser quoted intrapreneur .  The person working in a fast paced and entrepreneurial manner but within an established business owned by somebody else.  Is it purely the ownership of the business which is different? Or are there fundamental skills difference between the entrepreneur and the intrapreneur ?

Ali Golds, Managing Director and Founder of Operation Enterprise and The Juno Project, lists 10 key skills she would associate with an entrepreneur whilst admitting “when you look at the list, you will see that we all need these skills on a personal level too…so in theory, there shouldn’t be anything that will take you very far out of your comfort zone.”  Her list is:

  1. Creativity
  2. Good Communication Skills
  3. Can Present Information
  4. Can Present Themselves
  5. Focused
  6. Problem Solver
  7. Intuition
  8. Builds trust
  9. Resilient
  10. Risk taker

Looking at them in slightly more detail, would they apply to an intrapreneur  as well as an entrepreneur?

Creativity: there are undoubtedly many opportunities within an organisation to be creative and indeed often creativity is needed when negotiating procedural and political challenges so I would say the most successful intrapreneur s would rank this up there with their key skills.

Good Communication Skills: essential for the intrapreneur .  Communicated up the tree to influencers as well as communicated within departments and teams is a vital skill to the intrapreneur .

Presentation Skills: Another essential for an intrapreneur .  Whether it is presenting results or plans at a board meeting or to clients and teams the ability to present information that can be easily digested and understood goes hand in hand with communication.

Focussed: I would group this with being driven as a key skill of an intrapreneur  which may be even more important than it is with an entrepreneur. As an intrapreneur  you will face challenges, road blocks and politics on a daily basis which, without this drive and focus, it is easy to succumb to.

Problem Solver: The problems may be different but the skill is the same.  You might not be solving funding or cash flow problems but that doesn’t mean that the challenges are any less, the intrapreneur  needs to be a master problem solver.

Intuition: The entrepreneur uses their intuition to sniff out new market or product opportunities, the intrapreneur  probably does this less.  That’s not to say they don’t use it, but they are often led by an overarching business strategy which diminishes the need for this skill.

Builds trust: Without the trust of peers and superiors the life of an intrapreneur  would be pretty shot lived.  A critical skill whether working inside someone else’s organisation or on your own.

Resilient: Group it with focussed and driven as key, keep knocking at the door until it falls down!

Risk taker: Risks are different for an intrapreneur .  It is not their money they are risking, more their careers and reputations.  You could therefore argue the risks are less, however try telling that to an intrapreneur  who has just put their neck on the line to the CEO!

So all in all intuition and risk taking seem to be the main differences as far as I can see, although another observer may look at this differently and interpret these as vital for both roles.  But if it is not skills which differentiate the intrapreneur from the entrepreneur what is it?  Personality traits? Mindset? Priorities?  Maybe I need to do another post as a follow up, watch this space.