Flexible work is a win-win

Yoga Near Lighthouse

What if you, as a worker, could do the things that mattered most to your boss, all the time, and do them using your best possible skills, all the time.

What if you, as an employer, could get all your staff to work great – for themselves and together – all the time.

That’s what happens when work is flexible.

Work doesn’t happen 9-5. It happens whenever, and when people are best prepared to do it. Sometimes that’s in a spare moment on the train.

Sometimes that’s during a 2pm afternoon status meeting.

It can be whenever.

Be flexible in your work and in what work you expect of others.

You’ll be happy (and likely surprised) at the results.

You’re a consultant

If someone pays you for doing something, you’re a consultant. That’s true even when the IRS calls you an employee.

I used to put this different – telling people that every employee is an entrepreneur, for example. Or by talking enthusiastically about how everyone at the office is really a customer support representative (N.B.: The definition of “customer” changes depending on who you are and what you do).

You could also say, everyone’s a freelancer (or “free agent”? :-)).

It’s about individualism.

Maybe you know what I mean, maybe you don’t. What I’m getting at is that whatever you do, you’re responsible for what you do (your work), you have complete control over what you do, your compensation (dollars or otherwise) depends directly on what you do, and you alone carry the burden of the risk that tomorrow your “job” will disappear.

Wow – that’s a lot of loaded statements, and a few of them definitely need a bunch more discussion before they’ll make much sense. Plus, all this applies to information, knowledge, and service workers, not so much to folks who are purely manufacturing goods (although even being a manufacturing employee still involves a lot of service to your company and those around you).

The point is, work – your work – is not something you do, and then just throw over the wall while you wait for your paycheck. It’s also not something you do in hopes that your grumpy manager or cost-cutting finance department won’t whimsically decide to eliminate your position tomorrow.

Work (your work!) is something you do, under your control, and with benefits directly related to the care and thoughtfulness you put into the work. Yeah, 80% of most jobs is fairly routine, stuff you don’t really have to think much about – but still, that 80% is directly possible because of who you are and what you think about.

I always tell people that the best companies go in whatever direction their best employees (or consultants… :-)) take them – despite what those companies think their original plan was and despite how the execution of the business plan is later described in reports and press releases. Companies go where their employees take them, because that’s all they can do – the company doesn’t exist without the people and the people, even under the best guidance and most wonderfully strategic direction, still do what they do best, which is sometimes a little or significantly different from the original plan.

They consult. By providing their best service and ability to help the folks who pay them get to where they all, collectively, are able to get to, by each making use of what they individually can do best.

Learning about what makes a healthy suburban downtown

It’s a beautiful sunny day. Walking around town, stopped in for a chat with a local business owner who is working on transitioning / re-opening a business on our Main Street in Metuchen, NJ.

There’s a lot of complexities to opening and running a business – many of them are ones I wouldn’t have thought about. And the health of our Main Street’s businesses is really critical to the health and appeal of our town. The businesses aren’t just there for our convenience in shopping, they are there to support the healthy town community.

Lots to learn. Looking forward to learning what I can.

Attack of the One-Sided Agreements

There’s a bad trend going on in the world of agreements and contracts. It’s the trend where two parties are signing a contract and one of them specifies all the terms without any negotiation or expectation of compromise. And it’s the trend where a customer and a vendor, during a business transaction, end up using an agreement that was written by the vendor – again without any negotiation or compromise with the buyer or customer.

It used to be (or at least in my idealized view of the world’s past…) that when you entered an agreement it was actually an agreement. A way of coming to terms that were mutually agreeable. No more. Agreement means, what you agree to that I specified. There’s no empowerment on the side of the buyer, in many cases. The vendor or seller simply specifies.

And I think that’s unfortunate.

If most of the email you receive is irrelevant to you, you might want to question the list of people who send you email!

If you don’t trust an employee enough to give them the authority and tools they need, you should fire them and hire someone you like better.

It Always Works When You Are Here!

The dreaded words: “It always works when you are here!”

I don’t remember where I first heard this – it was a number of years ago, when I was doing a lot of desktop support for a small-ish office. The kind of office that could afford to buy and for which it was practical to provide boutique-level tech support.

Many of the users became very dependent on me. For some of them, minor problems (what we in the techi-world often call “training issues” or “user error”) would become blocking obstacles to their work. Often, the problem was temporary or would go away if the user just slowed down a bit.

So I’d trudge over to their desk – completely understandable, the job of an IT tech is often to simply find a way to help non-techie users to navigate the horribly fragile and quirky world of technology. Once I’d get there we’d chat, they’d be happy to see me. I always managed to take a little stress out of their day just by arriving and smiling with them.

And then we’d just, carefully, go through the same steps they had already done. And it would work.

Not always, of course, but many times.

I never minded it – technology work is people work, believe it or not. But I would occasionally worry that people were becoming too dependent on my welcoming smile and losing ground in their own ability to keep up with the modern world.

Of course, that’s ridiculous. There’s nothing wrong with being non-techie in today’s world. In fact, the non-techie and “earthy” people among us – the ones who don’t see the value in banging away on a keyboard all day… those are, arguably, the ones who will help the rest of us to see clearly at those critical moments. When the War Against the Machines rages, the people who can’t work a keyboard and mouse might be our only hope! 🙂

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