How many times have we heard the phrase, “First, we’ll go after the low-hanging fruit”. Arrrgh. It’s a big mistake. Do not go after the low hanging fruit. Two reasons jump out.
First: Low-hanging fruit does not exist. The mere phrase implies that there are certain things that are easy to do. That there are goals or thresholds, which are easily achieved. I’ll do that, no sweat. Wrong! All the low-hanging fruit was picked long ago, if it ever even existed. Could have been during the last layoff or the latest CRR update or the TQM phase or when the new CEO arrived. It doesn’t matter when or under what mantra. Just the mention of low-hanging fruit sets unrealistic expectations that there are easy and simple things to do.
Second: The low-hanging fruit implies which things we should do first. That is, the fruit that is easiest to reach should be picked first. Not so. Often, the first things that must be done are the most difficult. Quick wins can be good but if they are at the expense of important wins, then we are not making progress. Ask any fruit picker, they will routinely begin picking at the top of the tree,where the fruit is hard to reach but it has been exposed to the most sunlight and is usually the ripest. That’s what they pick first. It makes sense to pick the low-hanging fruit last, since it requires more time to ripen
What do we really know about low-hanging fruit that can impact the organization? On the positive side, we might walk by the low-hanging fruit every day and ignore it. Once picked, it shows that change is about to happen. Organizational low-hanging fruit can include simple things like fixing something that’s been broken for a long time. When fixed, everyone notices the change. But that “pick” needs to be followed up by more significant change. Always choosing the easiest thing to do can be seen negatively too. Sometimes it makes sense to go for harder options that take longer and where the effort could have a big payoff.
Selecting the easiest targets with the least amount of effort might get things started but may not amount to much. And, unless you live on an orchard, your encounters with real low-hanging fruit don’t actually come very often. So before you start talking about low-hanging fruit, remember it may not be the easiest or the right thing to do.
When it’s time to change jobs, any number of variables enter the decision. Key among the variables is the nature of the job, the brand of the organization, compensation, title, location, culture of the company, and the boss. That is, who is my supervisor and what is he or she like?
All of these factors combine to form a diagram of sorts that inform the decision – take the job or not? We are easily distracted by the glitz and often don’t pay enough attention to the boss question. I learned that the hard way. Early in my career, I made the mistake of ignoring red flags about a future boss, but it was a mistake that once committed, has helped me ever since.
It wasn’t that I missed it. As I was considering the new position, my due diligence about my prospective boss sent up some red flags. I learned he was a bully and prone to outbursts but if you were one of his favorites, you never saw that behavior. I learned he was dismissive and borderline abusive to executive assistants and the people who were on the lower ladders in the organization chart. I learned that he managed up well, with a smile and that the senior managers were blind to his behavior. I learned all of that, and I took the job anyway. I ignored my own due diligence because I was blinded by the promotion the new position represented and the glitzy brand of the new company. It was a mistake. Everything I learned was true. He was a bully and I, like others, suffered. BUT, within three months of my arrival he was walked out of the building, fired, for sexual harassment. I didn’t even know about that part of his persona.
I made the mistake of not paying attention to my diligence. I made the mistake of not following my instincts. I made the mistake of not recognizing the importance of my supervisor in the decision making process. So why was taking this job one of the best mistakes I ever made? Because I learned some valuable lessons that I still apply.
- When considering a job move, never underestimate the importance of your new boss. Your supervisor will have the biggest impact on whether or not you will like your job. It is among the most crucial variables in any career decision. Move past the recruitment dinner.
- Bullies don’t win. When one is around, everyone knows it and it’s only a matter of time before he or she will meet an unhappy end. However, never underestimate how miserable one can make you while waiting for the bully to be fired. (Unfortunately, there are exceptions to this rule.)
- You don’t need to tolerate bully behavior. Talk to those who can make changes.
- Don’t be a bully. It is possible to be an effective leader and get desired results without leaving wounded people along the way.
Maybe the last lesson is that workplace lessons come from all different directions and people. The lessons are not always from the paragons of success and leadership. The lessons can come from the dark side, too.
Acronyms have created a new language and we all speak that new language. Some letter phrases are so widely held that we use them in speaking. Phrases like LOL, FYI, BTW are second nature. Others are not as widely used, like @TEOTD (At The End Of The Day) or YKWYCD (You Know What You Can Do), but even those are creeping into the language.
Each one captures a sentiment in a few letters that is both direct and efficient. And somehow the group of letters doesn’t seem as bad as the hackneyed buzz words. Twitter and the constant barrage of instant messages have helped create the new language. It is ever expanding and here to stay AFAIK (As Far As I Know)
But there is one rarely used three-letter designation that can kill a career. Sometimes it is not used explicitly but it is always there, lurking in conference rooms and project plans. The worst three letters in business that can be assigned to your name are: DNF.
DNF stands for DID NOT FINISH. Anyone who ever enters a race knows those three unfortunate letters. Whether the race is running, swimming, bike riding or formula one racing, it doesn’t matter. When the results are posted, DNF next to your name means you started something but didn’t finish. And in a race, just like any project, one either finishes or does not. Swimming half way across the English Channel doesn’t count as swimming across the English Channel. It means DNF, Did Not Finish.
At the office the DNF letters may not be placed next to any name. But the label exists. The DNF label means you start things and that is as far as you got. It means you are good at thinking but not at doing. It probably means no one wants to work with you and it could mean you will be out of a job. You may think others don’t notice or that it is NBD (No Big Deal). It is a big deal and should be avoided.
Don’t be caught in the DNF box. It’s more important to tackle projects that you know you can finish than it is to start huge projects that everyone knows will never be completed. The BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) can be tempting but don’t make the goal so hairy that it will never be achieved. Sometimes you don’t have a choice of assignments but always avoid the dreaded DNF label. Crossing the finish line is a great feeling.
GFN (Gone For Now)