What you don’t do

We think in life about what we have done and it’s influence on who we are. The flip side is what we don’t do. What we don’t do defines us just as much.

What we didn’t do: the conversation we wanted to have, the followup we missed, the extra effort we could have made, the thought we overlooked, the ideas we never shared, purpose unmet, and the plans left unfulfilled.

What we can’t do: the skills we haven’t yet learned, the practice not yet perfected, the knowledge unknown, the bias & privilege we can’t see, the conflicts avoided, the sponsorship we missed, the advice unheard, and the deadline that’s gone.

What we won’t do: the values we will keep, the choices rejected, the beliefs unquestioned, the paths abandoned and the changes embraced.

Not all of what we do we control. Some opportunities depend on others. Some moments are so deeply held that they don’t feel like a choice. Whether we control it or not, what we don’t do affects us and deserves attention.

The Purpose of Procrastiwork

Procrastiwork is a term coined by Jessica Hische to describe the work you do when you are avoiding the work you should be doing. This blog often forms a part of my procrastiwork. I love the opportunity to work out loud, to clarify my ideas and the conversations that are spun up from these blog posts. I learn so much from my procrastination that it can be quite addictive.

Jessica Hische’s point in coining the phrase is to point out that procrastiwork is a great hint to the work you should be doing. If you choose that work, it speaks to you. I’ve experienced the power of finding purpose in the work. This blog is a big part of my personal purpose of making work more human and it was through posts here that those ideas were surfaced from my work.

Procrastination can be purposeful if you ask yourself the right questions. Work out loud on the work you do to avoid work. The repeated process of transparency and reflection will help you find insights as to purpose.

The Four Capabilities of a Social leader

Senior executives need new mindsets and new capabilities to be effective in the networked work of the future. Four capabilities will help e executives make the most of their networks:

Personal Knowledge Management: Personal Knowledge Management gives executives the personal learning skills to manage the flow of information and to deepen their personal networks. As executives personally learn to Seek>Sense>Share they develop critical digital skills for network leadership.

Working Out Loud: Working out loud is a practice that helps surface the value of work and learning in networks. Leaders are already the focus of attention. Making their work in progress visible to others is a highly valuable step because it accelerates trust and learning.

Leading in Networks: Network leadership requires leaders to surface shared purpose, build trust and influence and enable collaboration. Expertise, rank and orders are replaced with adaptive leadership techniques that manage learning, tension & alignment.

Creating Value in Networks: Leaders need to be able to set a strategy for their and their team’s engagement with networks. They need to be able to accelerate the maturity of value creation in those networks as they develop through Connect>Share>Solve>Innovate.

Developing leader’s practice of these key capabilities will enhance their effectiveness in enterprise social networks and the future of work.

By definition to be exceptional, you have to be the exception, not the rule – Dharmesh Shah in Inc Magazine

Traditional organisations push people to fit in, to fit boxes and processes. The future of work organisations push people to realise their human potential.

Boxes and processes can be automated, copied and commoditised. Unique value is in the grey space of exceptions, obstacles and other human forms of mess. Insights, innovations and incremental value aren’t mechanistic process outcomes. They are human flashes of brightness in the grey.

Those flashes take work and new capabilities. Find the exceptions and exploit them. Push yourself to work into these grey spaces around your role, your customers and your organisation. Be led by purpose. Leverage your potential and the potential of others. Learn and build systems to learn together. Purpose, practice and mastery of working in the grey spaces are underpinnings of the new work.

A Hole in The Bucket List

Plug the purposeful hole in your bucket list.

On the weekend, I made english muffins. I have now made four of my big five baking goals. After sourdough bread, bagels, pretzels, crumpets and now english muffins, I only have croissants to go.

Hang on a minute. Big five baking goals? That sounds like a bucket list.

What’s wrong with a bucket list?

Even if I put aside the morbid nature of a death checklist, the problem with bucket lists is that they have become part of our consumer society. Bucket list moments are experiences that you are meant to have. They are not who you are.

Because bucket lists are consumption driven, they always grow and there is no pressure to have a consistent logic for inclusion. (For example, croissants is the 6th member of my big five baking goals). Your bucket list can never be complete. More unique experiences are always being created. Bucket lists creep into every aspect of life. Bucket lists run on ‘keeping up with the Jones’ logic. If everyone else is running with the Bulls at Pamplona, then we should too. (Why didn’t I include doughnuts?)

All these experiences are an effort to fill a life that lacks the satisfaction of purpose. Bucket lists leak through the lack of purpose.

Plug the Purposeful Hole in the Bucket

A life lived with purpose is not about what you have. A life lived with purpose is about who you are. Purpose defines the reason you do what you do. Purpose is our chosen effect on others and the world.

Don’t chase a random list of experiences. There’s no chance it will make your life complete. Start by doing one purposeful act instead. One purposeful act might be all it takes.

I’m not looking to bake my way up culinary peaks. I’m just aiming for one joyous family meal at a time. Now about those croissants…

Sharing is not Enough

All over social networks people share links and opinions. Meet ups are held to enable more sharing face to face. Networks share information every day.

Sharing is happening more than ever but it is not enough. Sharing information is a critical part of the value maturity model. Sharing builds trust, deepens understanding and fosters connection. Sharing should be a sign the network is taking off.

You only take off if you have somewhere new to go. A lot of the networks sharing information never mature beyond a flurry of content marketing. Their links and messages are the same as every other network.

Shared Purpose and Collaborative Work

Any reason will bring you together to share information. Before people can work collaboratively they need some overlap of their personal purposes. They need to have some commonality of the change they want to make. Shared purpose takes the conversation deeper and creates incentives for action.

As obvious as it sounds, people won’t do collaborative work unless there is work to be done. In dispersed networks, don’t assume everyone can see the work opportunities. Mostly people will see the barriers to work.

The role of Change Agents in a network is to connect people around shared purpose and to help everyone to see the work to be done. The generative leadership of change agents will help lead people to new ways of interacting by solving real problems. If you don’t yet have change agents, community managers and other leaders will need to show the way.

Links, pictures, jokes and opinions are a good start but not enough. The purpose is in the work.

The Exception Ends in Transparency

The power of culture is it changes our behaviours without us always noticing. Take care your culture is not creating exceptions from social norms. If so, transparency will hurt you one day.

Yesterday, I posted on the exception we have in business for the use of arbitrary power that would be unacceptable anywhere else in society. We allow this exception because we see the use of arbitrary power as part of the expected behaviours at work, part of the culture of work. One reader commented that the use of arbitrary power in business seemed ridiculous when you think about it. That’s the problem with culture. Most of the time we don’t examine our expectations. We just align our behaviours.

Over and over again organisations don’t see the issue in their culture until the light of transparency is shined on their behaviours. Suddenly their actions are judged not by their own internal norms and expectations but by the public social norms of the community. Too many organisations are shocked to see their own behaviour in that light.

Before you get caught by surprise by your own culture, open it up to discussion and reflection. Work out loud to engage customers and community outside the organisation. Keep the boundaries of your organisation porous. Listen carefully to the rebels and change agents bringing you news of issues. Most of all do purposeful human work in the real world. That’s the best way to keep yourself honest.

Purpose isn’t intellectual

Purpose isn’t a theory or even a hypothesis.

It’s not an idea you had. 

Purpose isn’t a competition to make the biggest dent or be the purest soul. 

Purpose isn’t found in a book, on a poster or on the internet. 

Purpose can’t be begged, borrowed or stolen. 

Purpose isn’t where you came from or where you want to be when you get there.

Purpose is. 

The throb of meaning when the work matters.

The rush of energy to do more of just this.
The elation when you achieve for others.

The will to go on when you can’t see why.

Purpose is yours.

Your purpose is unique.

Your purpose connects you with others.

Your purpose is in your work.

You can’t think it.


From Bucket List to Purpose

I am beginning to have a problem with the bucket list. A bucket list is a list of experiences or achievements to have fulfilled by the time you die. My problem with bucket lists is that they are too often laundry lists of notable achievements, socially recognised moments and exotic travel destinations. It is rare to see a bucket list with an internal logic.

If a bucket list takes this form, then it is simply another manifestation of the overhang of expectations.  The image of the grim reaper cutting short bucket lists creates an unnatural urgency.  That urgency can be used to create consumer demand. Promoting experiences as ‘bucket list-worthy’ have become a way to market experiences from the mundane to the sublime. The bucket list is the latest manifestation of consumer marketing, the experience you have to have. There is no end to things that we just have to have on our bucket lists.

Life isn’t determined by what we have to have. There is precious little that we have to have. Once we move beyond meeting the needs of living standards, quality of life is determined by more than what we have. Quality of life is determined by the impact we choose to have on the world.  

Those choices arise as you make each decision on work, on relationships and on living. Many of these choices are the mundane, everyday living choices that are a far remove from the exotic one-off experiences of the bucket list.  However, over time what these choices will share in common is your personal sense of purpose.  Realising a personal inner purpose over the many obstacles is how each of us can help realise our potential. That is far more important than the fleeting experience of ticking off a random list.

A fully ticked bucket list will keep you busy but won’t necessarily let you die happy. A life of fulfilling purpose will.