How to Inspire Your Team to Put In More Hours (Though I Don’t Think You Should)

In startup culture, it’s an unspoken sin to leave the office before 6PM. When a few people start doing it, the trend spreads. Before you know it, you can hear a pin drop beyond the nine-to-five. Where did everyone go? Do they not care anymore?

Every boss I’ve ever had addressed clocking out early in only one way: complaining. Sometimes passive aggressively (ugh), sometimes by email (cowardly), sometimes at full company meetings (awkward). When these announcements spread, everyone takes the punishment, returns to their work with heads down and obliges like spiteful children – at least for a while.

Every time, individuals punished most by this approach are almost never the guilty ones. The goody two-shoes who always work hard hear the message and work harder. Those at fault for bailing early in the first place continue to rebel against Mom and Dad, never taking the message to heart. Complaining about early clock-out culture always results in the opposite desired effect: infractors keep infracting and you burn out your best.

As a leader, how can you keep people invested enough to stick around?

Lead by example. If, as a manager, you’re not the hardest worker pulling longer hours than anyone else, no one will hear you.

Reward visible hard work. Develop relationships with those who stick around late, engage yourself in their contributions, talk them up to their supervisor, privilege their projects over everyone else’s and move their career forward. Play favorites. When others ask why he or she deserves special treatment, make it clear. Time is scarce as a leader and the goody two-shoes stuck around after hours when you had the most available time. Everyone will start getting the idea.

Inspire with grand vision. No human will genuinely give their life away for quotas. When it comes to a greater sense of self purpose, who truly cares about percentage market share, impressions or sales? You think our soldiers risk their lives for America’s GDP? No, they fight to make America the greatest country in the world. If you lean on numbers for your company mission, you suffer from vision deficiency. Colonize other planets. Teach everyone to grow food. Cure cancer. Make everyone laugh. Raise the bar so high that you can’t possibly measure it. Keep your people looking up at the sky and they might stop looking down at their watches.

Set an example, reward good behavior and reach for the moon. Don’t punish the children.

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Back in Business

Many have asked why I stopped blogging. Thank you dearly for enjoying and supporting my writing. While there were many excuses, the biggest one was simple: I needed to invest the 5-10 hours per week spent blogging into another personal project. Fulltime work for Sympoz demanded 60-80 hours, and I found myself battling for spare minutes.

Right before the holidays, I resigned from Sympoz (a decision I may explore in a later post) and will start a new adventure next week. I cannot promise you that I will blog about it, but I will certainly try (a lot depends on access to wifi and how easy it is to write with the WordPress mobile app).

Stay tuned!

Setting Your Own Expectations

The industrial era taught us as employees to wait around for someone to tell us what to do. Hell, the contemporary education model taught us that. We spent the better part of our lives under the pressure of other people’s deadlines, rubrics and expectations. As we get older and “treated like adults,” people tell us what to do less and less. In life, at home and in the workplace, very few people will babysit you or outline a clear path for your success. It’s up to you to do both of those things.

If no one is setting expectations for you, outline your own and hold yourself accountable. If you’re unemployed and single, you have no choice but to do this (until of course the feds knock at your door). If you’re employed and getting no love from your supervisor, take a chance on that lack of structure to build your own world. If you’re not yet buried in a bureaucratic mess of paperwork and process, build your own. Strategize your own roadmap for success.

How do you think people build huge businesses from scratch? They unlearned to wait for other people to set expectations for them and did their own thing when and how they wanted to. They found a way to give a damn on their own terms.

Chase the Currency That Matters Most To You

Money isn’t everything. Time, knowledge, happiness, autonomy, geography and output are all currencies that can be measured and prioritized in different ways. When job hunting, you look at more than just the salary – how much time you’ll get to spend with your kids, how far away it is, how much you’ll be able to learn and grow, what autonomy you’ll have and what you’ll be able to build. Sometimes, money is the most important and necessary thing to you. Other times, you might be willing to make a salary sacrifice to learn something specific or work closer to a place you call home. What matters most to you now? How does that affect your decisions? I find it useful to rank the currencies that matter at this moment. Do you need time more than money now? Do you want social outings more than the number of books read? Do you want a job that constantly teaches you new things or do you want an easy commute? Write it all out. Prioritize your life and make important decisions accordingly.

A Job Is A Lifestyle Choice

While everyone may suggest that day jobs are the answer, they are not for everyone. Many of us were raised to think there’s no other way. That couldn’t be further from the truth. There are many legal and non-humiliating ways to make an income. You can consult, provide a service or build an empire of your own. Specialize, mix it up, split your time however you want. There are no rules (except perhaps the law).

If you find yourself in a day job, be careful not to get too consumed by it. When all you see everyday is your desk, it’s difficult to believe that there are other options out there. It’s difficult to remember that you made this choice and could have made others. It’s up to you to decide if a job is the right lifestyle choice for you. If you decide that it is, embrace the choice with confidence and be at peace.

Trial & Error

Trial & error has two parts: trial and error. You must accept both before you embark on an experiment. Stand behind both as they happen. Separate yourself emotionally from failure – few experiments in this world have great batting averages. Remind yourself that every action comes with a reaction you often cannot control. Have fun with it.