Why Wearing The Same Clothes Daily Improves Decision-Making

Here’s an observation: it seems that each day, we get a certain amount of capacity to make decisions — a “tank of fuel” if you will.

Each decision we make, no matter how small, subtracts from our available fuel.  At some point, we deplete our tank and decision-making becomes impossible or severely flawed.

If this is true, it means that to the degree you can minimize the number of decisions you make in a given day, the more you have left for important matters.

And this is why I’ve found that by wearing the same clothes every day (or by intentionally limiting my options), the amount I subtract from my tank is minimal (or nothing at all).  Instead of having to worry about matching shoes, socks, pants, belt, shirt, and coat, I provide myself with a set of clothes that are easy to mix-and-match (or nearly identical).

And this leaves me more fuel for the day.

I’ve also noticed that at the end of a long day of decision-making, I have little left in the tank for my wife. A simple question about a mundane household task can feel simply overwhelming.

Thus, if this crazy theory is true, then we should minimize BS for ourselves (like the hassle of having to put together a new outfit everyday), and therefore improve our ability to make important decisions (as well as have meaningful interactions with our loved ones).

What do you think?  Could wearing the same thing each day yield more capacity for decision-making?  Or is this a weak excuse on my part to explain poor fashion sense?

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Colin Powell’s 4 Rules For Getting To The Point

Colin Powell's 4 Rules For Getting To The Point

Colin Powell: Lots of leadership lessons and tactics

In line with yesterday’s post about handling problems as a leader, I thought it appropriate to share how Colin Powell instructed his staff to bring him problems.  Being a retired four-star general in the United States Army, and having served as the 65th U.S. Secretary of State (under President George W. Bush) from 2001 to 2005, Mr. Powell definitely knows a thing or two about running organizations at scale and getting the best from those around you.

In his new book “It Worked For Me: In Life and Leadership“, Colin shares some simple rules for getting to the point when raising a problem:

  • First, tell me what you know.  He advises asking your team to give you the facts of the situation, as objectively as possible.  He doesn’t want personal interpretation.  He’ll often probe to see how the facts were obtained to ensure that the data are as accurate as possible.
  • Second, tell me what you don’t know.  As important as communicating the known facts, Colin advises asking for clarity around what is unknown.  If you have the right people in the right positions, they’ll most likely realize what they don’t know.  Colin feels that getting people to articulate these things is as important as getting the facts.  The unknowns give way to follow-up actions to obtain that information (if possible).
  • Then, tell me what you think.  This is where the person is asked to add their interpretation of the data, provide insight based on experience, and/or anything else they think is relevant given the situation.  This is where he allows people to use the facts to build an argument, or offer an opinion.
  • And remember: Always distinguish one from the other.  Colin suggests that it is imperative to ensure that you are clear in asking that people provide you information and clearly distinguish which type of information they’re giving.  If they’re telling you what they think, don’t allow them to misconstrue that as a representation of the facts.

I think #4, while subtle, is brilliant and essential.  Especially when situations are stressful, I notice that people tend to add color to a situation by incorporating their personal perspectives, which in some cases is wrong or biased.  I know I do the same and wrestle with trying to keep these things separate in my own head; perhaps it is human nature to immediately draw conclusions (did I just jump to a conclusion there?).

What do you think of Colin Powell’s 4 Rules?  Do you think they are helpful in communicating information and getting to the point?

How To Tell If You’re a Natural Leader

While problems come with being human, I have a theory that the number of problems you face is directly correlated with how you’re viewed as a leader.

Even if your title or rank don’t “officially” make you a leader, but you find that people come to you with problems, there’s a good chance you’re viewed as a natural leader.

I think solving problems is what leaders do.  It’s why they get paid the big bucks.  (I bet some of you are thinking, “I’ve got a buttload of problems, but no money!”)

So what?  If this theory is even remotely true, then the day you’re not solving problems (or up to your a** in fires) is probably the day you are no longer leading.

That’s the day you should be worried.  It means your people don’t think you can solve the problems they’re bringing your way, or you’re putting off signals that you don’t want to hear about them.

Or worse, they may think you don’t care.  Either way it means they’ve lost confidence in you and your status as a leader is in jeopardy.

It’s not easy hearing problem after problem, but it may come with the leadership territory.

What do you think of this theory?  Are the number of problems people bring you an indication of how you’re viewed as a leader?

What If You Gave Yourself Permission To Rest?

Like many of you, I’ve worked hard all my life. I expect those I work with to do the same.

As I’ve gotten older and the demands on my time have continued to increase, I actively ask myself whether (or not) I’m working on the right stuff.  Is what I’m doing right now going to make any difference?

Similarly, when asking others to do something, I try to ensure they are like-wise focused on things that matter.  I’d hate to contribute to someone else wasting portions of their life.

Another way to look at this is that I don’t like to generate make-work. Make-work is the crap we do that consumes our time, but doesn’t really move us forward. It may make us feel good, since we’re working and moving around, but it’s really unnecessary and doesn’t make a darn difference.

As the past 48 hours have once again reminded me, a complete life includes much (much) more than just work.  And certainly a lot more than make-work.

We need our families. We need time to rest. We need to cultivate outside interests and hobbies. We need time to learn something new. And we need the time and space to pursue these things. 

That’s why I believe it is important to cultivate a spirit and discipline of sabbath, both literally and figuratively.

Colin Powell puts it like this:

Don’t run if you can walk; don’t stand up if you can sit down; don’t sit down if you can lie down, and don’t stay awake if you can go to sleep.

Amen.

Where can you cultivate this spirit in your life?  What would happen if you gave yourself permission to rest?

Tips For Running A Sprint Planning Meeting

Tips for running a Sprint Planning Meeting

Build better software, more quickly, with less risk

For the past 2 years or so, we’ve been using an Agile-ish methodology for the development of our marketing automation platform.

I’ve described how we use daily stand-ups (here’s a real-life video example) during development of our MVP (minimally viable product), and today I’ll share how we run our Sprint Planning Meetings.

Here are a few things about Sprint Planning that we’ve found to be uber-helpful: Read more of this post

Gmail Productivity Hack: How To Get Unlimited Email Aliases

Gmail Productivity Hack

Gmail Productivity Hack

Here’s a productivity tip I just picked up from Amir, one of our marketing automation engineers: say you’re in a situation where you need a bunch of email addresses (for QA-ing your apps, or testing various marketing automation personas, etc.).

You could certainly create a bunch of free email addresses, but it can be a pain in the butt to monitor a bazillion email accounts — not to mention the time it takes to create each account.

Here’s how you can create an unlimited number of aliases, using only one Gmail account:

  • Grab yourself a Gmail account (say, billgates@gmail.com)
  • Anything like billgates+whatever_you_make_up@gmail.com will route to your billgates@gmail.com email address

Google is smart enough (go figure!) to resolve anything formatted in this way to your address.  Using this method, you can create virtually an unlimited number of aliases.

This is especially helpful if you’re testing a series of marketing automation workflows, where you’re creating a series of test Contacts that each manifest a different behavior.  Using this method, it is pretty easy to test these scenarios with different email address while minimizing the amount of work you have to do.

Pretty cool, huh?

What other Gmail hacks do you use to increase productivity?

Eloqua CEO: “We Had $200k in Bank Day Before IPO”

Joe Payne, Eloqua, Says Company Had $200k in Bank Day Before IPO

Joe Payne, Eloqua

Talk to most entrepreneurs, and you’ll likely hear incredible stories of near-death experiences.  I can’t think of one entrepreneur I know who hasn’t stared failure in the face (in some cases, multiple times).  It’s scary, sometimes nearly incapacitating — but you somehow find your way through and life goes on.

Here’s an anecdote to remember next time you’re feeling down: Eloqua (who happens to a quasi-MindFire marketing automation competitor), had a successful IPO in August of this year (they raised $92 million).

But according to Bill Flook of the Washington Business Journal, Joe Payne (CEO) reports that they only had $200k in the bank the day before going public.  Holy cow!

From looking at Eloqua’s SEC filings, I don’t think they were in any near-death situation, but it just goes to show that to be an entrepreneur, you need guts (and tons of help — it’s very difficult to do on your own).

Kudos to Joe Payne and the entire Eloqua team for their continued success. Here’s the full article on the Washington Business Journal.

What about you?  What near-death experiences have you had?  Do you agree that nearly everyone goes through them?

V2MOM: How SalesForce.com Went From Idea to Billion-Dollar SAAS Company

Marc's book on Salesforce.com and V2MOM

Marc’s book on Salesforce.com and V2MOM [Amazon]

One area that we spend a lot of time thinking about (and working to improve) is our ability to communicate our company’s direction in a way that aligns everyone.

We use the word “alignment” a lot around the office, and we’ve made a number of changes that have helped us improve in this area, like daily stand-ups (video example here).  Alignment is critical for start-ups and companies going through rapid growth.

In “Behind The Cloud“, Marc Benioff (co-founder of Salesforce.com), shared the V2MOM planning process he and his team used to grow Salesforce.com into the largest SaaS company in the world.

The acronym stands for vision, values, methods, obstacles, and metrics.  The purpose of V2MOM is to create alignment, from the leadership team out to every team member.

Here’s how the V2MOM process works:  Read more of this post

Should Our Egos And Positions Be Kept Separate?

A way of thinking and living that I’ve been trying to cultivate is the idea that our positions (meaning our beliefs about an issue), and who we are as people (our ego, for lack of a better word) — are two separate things.

In other words, if I allow my ego to become tightly coupled to an idea or position, it is easy to lose objectivity and the pursuit of the higher truth or reality. This can look like trying to prove you’re right just because you’re the one with the idea.  We’ve all been there.

Further, if your position is later refuted or proven wrong, it’s easy to become emotional and feel a lack of worth as a person.  These feelings can haunt us and further corrode our ability to think clearly.

Decoupling ourselves from our positions is much easier said than done.  Here’s what I’ve found helps in these types of situations:

  • Foster a culture where ideas are the things that may be right or wrong, not where people are good or bad because of their ideas. Don’t attack the person, but rather seek to understand why they believe the idea is true.  Instead of going after the person, keep in mind that it is likely they have reasoning that seems perfectly logical to them, and that you need to uncover those reasons in order to fully understand the idea.
  • Be open to the idea that your position may be flawed.  Lead by example in actively seeking input from a variety of sources to gain perspective.  Don’t attach your personal ego to the position, but float the idea as a thing of itself.   You may begin to see others doing the same.
  • Build a culture where the data are used to get at what is true. Otherwise, you may run the risk of succumbing to your own weaknesses and blind spots, or the opinion of your HIPPOs (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion). Data can become the great equalizer, helping you get to what is true and beyond personal biases.

What else?  Do you believe that keeping our egos and positions separate may help us make better decisions?  If not, why?

Mind Hack: Increase Your Ability To Foresee The Future By 30%

I’m not a negative person, but here’s something I’ve noticed: projects fail at an alarming rate.  One reason seems to be that people are afraid to speak up during the planning phase.  Unless you’ve fostered a safe environment that encourages people to raise issues, concerns may fester in silence and only become evident when its too late.

A premortem is a technique (pioneered by a psychologist named Gary Klein) for minimizing this kind of risk.  Instead of being held after an event like a postmortem, the premortem is Read more of this post

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