Our son, Trevor, has worked for our company twice—once right after he graduated from college in 2015, and again in September 2021 after working three years at a non-profit. His official title is Chief Storyteller.
Since working for us, Trevor has written and published two books, re-illustrated a third, and is actively learning the publishing business. He also has a goal of writing young adult books, and as of this writing is working on his first fiction piece.
Trevor was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at age 6, and throughout his life has had his share of challenges. When we first hired Trevor, we were faced with how to align on goals, give him some flexibility as to how he achieved the goals, and avoid micro-managing him with frequent “What are you working on today?” requests.
To address the need, we devised something we call the “dones” process, which aligns us on long-term goals and short-term deliverables that align to the long-term goals. We have successfully been using this throughout his employment tenure, and it has proven to be effective in keeping my wife Patty and I aligned with Trevor’s work.
After I told a few colleagues about the process, I consistently heard how valuable this could be for neurotypical people, not just for people on the autism spectrum. So I wanted to explain precisely how we manage to dones and provide a tool you can use with your leader (or if you are a leader yourself, use with your staff).
Read more on ProjectManagement.com.
Early in my career as a leader, I adopted the popular phrase, “My door is always open.” These magic words were intended to be a sign of support that, as a leader, I would be available for my team. It just felt so good to say that—to know that if a team member wanted to come in to talk about something important or just shoot the breeze, I would be there for them whenever they wanted.
Then reality struck.
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We all know a procrastinator . . . the person who does Christmas shopping on December 24th, pulls an all-nighter to get a report done, or avoids making even the simplest decisions. Many times the procrastinator puts forth a defense of, "Well, I do get it done, don't I?" Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Even if things do get done, though, the stress put on the procrastinator (and those around him or her) is greater than it needs to be. If you know of a procrastinator (or are one yourself), use these tips to help make life a bit easier for not only the procrastinator but for those around him or her as well.
Through my years I’ve seen many leaders at all levels struggle with getting things done either by having to work late in the evenings and on weekends or by completely missing due dates. As I’ve talked with these leaders, they just consider it part of the job, unable or unwilling to do anything about it. I found myself early in my career doing the exact same thing; setting unrealistic expectations and killing myself to try to meet them, only to have a limited success rate of delivering on time. I hated that hamster wheel.
The good news is you don’t have to accept this as the status quo. Here are six simple principles to get better control of your work and be more deliberate about what you get done:
On a recent project my company was working with a frozen seafood manufacturer to help them bring a specialty frozen seafood product to market.
A huge component of getting this project done was the packaging; it had to be eye-popping and appealing while protecting the frozen seafood pieces inside. After a number of design sessions with the packaging manufacturer, we received the finished packaging. What was initially exuberance during the design session turned into disappointment when we saw the finished product. Some of the graphics were a bit blurry, a re-sealable zipper wasn't included, and a clear window to view the contents inside was missing. Our emotions went from disappointment to anger as the manufacturer told us it would be a number of weeks before a new delivery of the packaging could be done. If we took this route, a key delivery to a very important customer of ours wouldn't be met. What a pickle.
It’s Monday morning and Joe gets up at 6:00. He showers, eats breakfast and
makes his way to the train station to catch the 7:20 into Chicago. During the 40-minute train ride, Joe takes out his planner and lists out all of the things that he wants to get done for the week. He writes down all of the people that he needs to call, meetings that he needs to schedule, and reports that he needs to write. By the time the train pulls into Union Station, he has his entire week planned out and is feeling very good about his plan. His 20-minute walk from the train station to his office is pleasant and energizing, and Joe arrives at his office ready to get going on his plan.
In 2004, my wife Patty and I decided to team homeschool our autistic son because we knew he would need more help as he entered middle school. I had spent 20 years in corporate America, working for both Accenture and Microsoft, but in the Fall of 2004, I became his part-time math and science teacher, spending the remainder of my time doing business consulting and writing books.
Up to that time I always had either a client or office to go to. With the change to homeschool teacher/author/consultant, I now had no place to go each day. My office was either our playroom where we homeschooled, our home office, or local coffee shops. It was definitely an adjustment and I learned a lot about how to be effective without going to a workplace. Now I can’t imagine it any other way.
Within a few months of my open door policy, I saw my own productivity drop and my frustration level rise because I kept getting interrupted by people taking me up on my open-door policy. My open-door policy soon turned into a series of random interruptions that caused me to not get my stuff done. I came to recognize that I needed to be accessible to people but that I could control the accessibility through scheduled time. Open-door means be accessible, not come in whenever you want.
Talk about your character-building experience...
I was a young hot-shot project manager on an engagement that I had sold to a client. I had it all planned out and had delusions of completely delighting my client with an issue-free project. It all seemed so simple, then the project started...and never finished.
I'll spare you the gory details of my harrowing experience but what I can tell you is that I put more focus on selling and planning the project than I did on its execution. I took a naive attitude of the project being able to pretty much run itself with some junior analysts running the day-to-day aspects of the work. It blew up in my face and I got booted from the client never to return again. It was my inaugural visit to the project management guillotine.
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