Following the rules or sticking to the norm doesn’t make for a good story
A note on purists: I consider a purist the type of person that needs everything “by the book” and is overzealous. When you look at their camping gear, they have different gear for the season and are not themselves avid campers, going only a couple times at maximum per year. If they pack for the weekend, they bring different “running” shoes for walking, running, hiking, and in between. When they cook BBQ, they have many thermometers to ensure the optimal temperature. They will inconvenience themselves by smoking the food by starting a day in advance with many more steps than required to eat a delicious meal. A purist is not bad, but too much of a good thing can be less of a good thing. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I don’t admire their sense of perfectionism and commitment to methodology, but in the end, I emphasize results over the “how.”
Run a marathon without training
More than a decade ago, I decided to run a marathon. I was aware that you “needed to prepare” for the marathon, but to me what was even more interesting was to simply run a marathon, not train for one. The goal wasn’t to run faster, beat some time, or change the morphology of my body, but to indeed just run a marathon, all 42.195 KMs (or 26.2188 Miles). I leave in the decimals because any (non) runner knows that every inch counts – especially one who has not trained. Today, I can proudly boast that “I ran a marathon,” and best of all, when I talk about it with friends and even colleagues, the story has us in tears of laughter: Imagine me. Running a marathon. Without ever training. Once. (cue the laughs)
I didn’t have a heart attack, or even close. I didn’t run fast at all. But what I did was achieve something I was not even sure I could achieve by using my grit, determination, and general unwillingness to fail.
A couple of examples of purist vs. trailblazing stories:
- I trained for a marathon and finished it vs. I didn’t train for the marathon and didn’t die.
- A detailed business plan with a market study that expires by the time the plan is ready vs. testing your market by trying and failing quickly.
- Overplanning your fishing/hunting/hiking trip and catching enough to eat vs. unplanned everlasting got-lost, found a waterfall and ran away from the bears, anecdote.
Are you the office party “pooper”?
“Every party has a pooper and that’s why we invited you” is the person who sticks to the agenda at all costs. They make sure your catered lunch is within budget even if it’s crappy, has a rigid schedule even though they claim to be flexible, is proud to be a perfectionist, and generally just sucks the life out of anything fun. While all those things are important, they are not the most important. What is?
More important than being perfect, is actually learning from your peers. Coaching your mentees, empowering your team to do their best, investing in processes to simplify the life of your peers, motivating people by empowering them, hiring the right people, and ensuring your culture is strong and fits your “raison d’être” (purpose) of your business. It might not always be comfortable, but in the end, what is created is better than you could ever imagine or plan. More than that, an interesting story shared among peers establishes a bond that cannot be shaken – from peers to friends.
Your (business) marathon
At the beginning of the C19 pandemic, I decided to take the time to communicate with the entire team to mobilize the troops to sustain our business to emerge stronger after the crisis. As a team at Big Bang, we said that it would certainly not be a boring road ahead, and we all understood we shared skin in the game – to keep our jobs. In that meeting, we shared our past challenges and were able to demonstrate how we overcame as a team and were rewarded for our hard work. Example: Being the first cloud consulting service provider who is entirely agnostic to the software has been an enormous challenge. When it comes to managing our partners’ expectations, investing in much more training, and creating best practices that consider our customers’ realities, without even mentioning all the efforts on the marketing front. Today, we are proud to have the certifications to support this positioning, and our customers are all better off for it. We may have struggled, but in the end, we have a story to tell, get behind, and share together, and we have a unique service offer and positioning in the marketplace.
Business operators should really see their company as a good story to tell. The more the story is interesting the stronger the culture will be cultivated because your team will build the culture around the story. So even though Big Bang started in a garage reselling only one software, today we have over 15,000 square ft of office-space spanning three continents and our culture is stronger than most because we haven’t limited ourselves to the traditional path or sticking to the norm – we adapted and we are proud of it.
Bottom line, what is your next marathon, and what entertaining story will you have to tell?