Managing Partner at Blue Book Ventures. Inspirational Business Leader, Workplace Pundit, Best-Selling Author & Venture Capitalist
A Little About Me
Richard A. Moran is a San Francisco based business leader, workplace pundit, bestselling author, and venture capitalist. He is best known for his series of humorous business books beginning with bestselling, Never Confuse a Memo with Reality and is credited with starting the genre of "Business Bullet Books."
We hear all the same well-worn business phrases all the time. We’ve become soooo accustomed to hearing them that we don’t really hear them. Take the phrase, “At the end of the day.” Unless you’re speaking about the company happy hour that starts at 6 p.m. stay away from using “at the end of the day.” The phrase started out meaning “ultimately,” or “When everything else has been taken into consideration.” Now the phrase means, “I am about to yammer on.”
We have all been “thinking outside the box” until we get “thrown under the bus.” So let’s “open the kimono” and “take this discussion to the next level.” The phrase I want to explore is “It’s not rocket science.”
Sometimes organizational issues that we incur do require rocket science. Well, not exactly, but sometimes we need to act like we think rocket scientists do. Put another way, although rockets or space exploration may not be involved, some organizational issues require the same rigor of thought and thorough analysis as a scientist may apply. Think of complex matrixed organizations that are trying to determine clear accountability. Think of software companies that are battling cyber security threats. Think of social media companies that are sorting out privacy and political issues. Think of a stodgy company that needs forward looking research in order to grow. I would compare some of these problems to rocket science.
When the “low hanging fruit” went away, rocket science began to be required. Although it can be a relative term, applying rigor and creative thinking to problems, like rocket scientists do, will make your organization more effective and efficient. I highly recommend it.
When you hear the phrase, “It’s not rocket science”, maybe if you approach the problem with the zeal of a rocket science, it would stay solved.
Needless to say, I am not a rocket scientist and I am in awe of those who are. Maybe if I had passed college Physics I could have been one. But I didn’t, “it is what it is.”
Have you had someone tell you, “he or she has a ‘good job?” You don’t know what it means, but you are jealous. Have you ever accepted a new job and on your first day at work you realize immediately that you made a mistake? Have you ever taken on a new assignment and realized you should have asked more questions? Have you ever felt joy when you left a job that you never liked, to take one that you know will be better? Have you ever had a job that you couldn’t imagine not being a part of your life because you enjoyed it so much? (Lucky you!)
Sure, you may have a short commute and good pay and benefits and free coffee but does that make for a good job? Not necessarily. Based on my observations over the years and lots of research, here is what makes for a good job:
Start with the people you work with. Colleagues who support you, help you and are generous with time and expertise are only the beginning. All of your best friends don’t need to be at work but you should look forward to being around your team. And if your boss is interested in your career and supportive in your day-to-day you will truly enjoy your work. If you dread being around your co-workers or boss, could be trouble.
Then, the autonomy you have over your work life is key. Consider the decisions you can make in dealing with customers or in how a project is completed or how and where your day is spent. The more control you have over your schedule, routine and decision making when it comes to your job, the more you will like it. If you hear the phrase, “Check your brain, at the door”, it may be time to check out.
Lastly, and most importantly, meaning is what puts the joy in a job. Ask any firefighter or special education teacher who are always the most satisfied of anyone who works. You might be curing cancer or the environment; but deriving meaning from a career could be as simple as feeling like you are contributing in a meaningful way to the organization’s mission. Meaning could be derived from the satisfaction that you know you are doing a good job. Meaning could be derived from the sense that you are providing for your family. You define what meaning is for you.
Now you have the answer to the eternal question, “what is a good job?” OK, maybe it’s not just three factors. Depending on the career, there could be hundreds of additional things that make for a good job ranging from foosball tables to safety. But without people, autonomy and meaning, that good job might just be an aspiration.
No matter where you work, some people are offensive. But the word offensive has many meanings. Usually, when it comes to work, offensive refers to the person who reheats leftover fish burritos in the microwave or yells in meetings every day. Being offensive under this definition will guarantee that you are well known in the office. Just not the way you want.
A friend introduced me to a better way to be offensive. I asked him why he gets into the office so early every day. He usually arrives before 6:00 A.M. He said, “When I get in early I can be on offense. I can send out my raft of emails before others get in and be ready for the day. If I get in later I am finished before I can start. I play defense all day.” Well put.
On reflection, those who are most successful are always on the offensive. They are always a step ahead and putting a plan in place each day. They are the ones that people follow. No big secret is involved and it is just common sense. The reasons why you should consider going on offense are simple:
1. You set the agenda. What is most important to you and your group’s success becomes the focus when you set the agenda. The things that get done are the things you want to get done.
2. You get things done. You can plan. You can be organized and most importantly, you can check things off the list. The work world admires people who are known for implementation.
3. You enjoy your work more. When you are on defense you are always back on your heels waiting for the next thing to come along. What can be more satisfying at work than to be setting the agenda and getting things done? Not much.
Of course, there are intervening variables like the boss who is also playing offense and setting a different agenda or the customer who needs immediate responses. Being on offense doesn’t necessarily mean you are in the office at 5:00 A.M every day. You can find your own way of getting onto offense depending on your style and the culture of the workplace. The world isn’t perfect when you are on offense but being out front can make work more satisfying.
Just stay away from the other definitions of offensive.