The 4-Hour Workweek really comes down to one thing: successful use of Pareto's Principle.
Roughly one third of Tim Ferriss' book reads like an infomercial but one can see example after example of how applying Pareto's Principle to everything we do in our work and personal lives gives us the opportunity to maximize our return on effort.
In the interest of being brief, here is my distillation of the key points raised in The 4-Hour Workweek:
Some other useful things you'll find in this book are various websites and services which are listed in each chapter with reviews, helpful hints and potential pitfalls, so that you can make immediate use of the strategies you're exploring.
If you are a person dedicated to getting things done I'm not sure that The 4-Hour Workweek holds an abundance of wisdom for you since you likely already employ many of the concepts in the book. One of the major weaknesses of the 4-Hour sales pitch is the assumption that everyone detests their job but lacks the creativity or desire to do something about it. The concepts and habits that Mr. Ferriss asks you to adopt would be quite unmanageable for most people, in my opinion, because they are too aggressive and emotionally uncomfortable.
A few weeks ago I attended a local Chamber of Commerce meeting and one of the attendees joked that she had received a copy of 4-Hour Workweek several years ago as a gift, had read a few chapters, and the book still sits half-read on her nightstand. During this time she has grown her educational services business from a one person operation to dozens of employees, with recent state accreditation. She enjoys what she is doing and has no need for the deceptive escapism that is often part of the 4-Hour plan.
The 4-Hour Workweek has plenty of interesting things to say but I would advise you to figure out what it is you love to do (Eustress), and go do that. The rest should follow.
I've attended some Webex Sessions at work on various topics ranging from Safety & Security to How to Apply The Oz Principles of Accountability. I discovered recently that the Webex site has many free training sessions on various topics. If you learn well in this format I suggest you check out what they have to offer and take advantage of some free training opportunities from the comfort of your own living room. The training session I attended was hosted by Phil Reynolds of The Ken Blanchard Companies.
So, a few of the things that were covered which you would do well to keep in mind about offering feedback to employees are:
As with most of us delivering negative or "constructive" feedback can sometimes be an anxious prospect when you anticipate the types of responses you might get when you inform someone that they're not doing a very good job. If you have just arrived at your post, and don't know your staff very well, or for very long, it's awfully difficult to feel and sound credible when dishing out negative feedback, even when your eyes and gut tell you that what you've seen is justifiably bad. If employees haven't received clear instructions, or are otherwise foggy about what the departmental goals are for performance you face a possibly difficult situation, but one better to be regarded as a chance to outline and reinforce what messages that need to be conveyed. In future meetings you can then be certain that proper communication has occurred and your report knows what is expected of them.
Preparation prior to a feedback session would be key to helping you gather yourself and understand what is smart to say and what is wise to omit. For example, running down a list of documented deficiencies or demerits, while merited by the floundering employee, is unlikely to turn things around. Much better to be factual, objective, recent, and focus on future outcomes and results. Preparing for a feedback session inspires me to think about a negotiation where two parties are representing their interests in the hope for mutual gain. The employee hopes for a healthy raise and the manager for a clear understanding of the employee's mental state and commitment as well as hope for greater future performance.
Consider a collaborative effort when planning your feedback session but keep in mind that people must be held accountable for their actions if your culture and performance is to remain healthy.
A few posts back I wrote about Steven S Little's book "The Milkshake Moment". Just the other day an article caught my eye on Yahoo directly related to Mr Little's book. Entitled "What Businesses Won't Let You Buy" , Joe Mont describes some factors that get in the way of customer satisfaction. Let's take a look at some examples from this article.
First we have examples of businesses built on cookie-cutter templates of success: McDonald's and KFC. Both of these companies have limited flexibility in what they are willing to offer their customers. McDonald's won't offer onion rings with regularity because it ties up a valuable resource- the fryer. Fryers at McDonald's are valuable equipment dedicated to producing fries to accompany the burgers they sell. Interrupting the ready stream of burgers and fries to the anxious and hungry customers would cause more dissatisfaction than the satisfaction caused by offering onion rings. At KFC the restriction against mayonnaise is more a matter of style or taste. Supposing Joe Mont's assertion that mayonnaise is not offered because it would be offensive to Southern tastes we'd have a really silly barrier to customer satisfaction, except that you'd have a hard time convincing me people won't eat at KFC because they can't get mayonnaise.
Our next example is probably more common, something you've likely run into whether you know it or not, which is laziness. Yes, big surprise, laziness can be a barrier to service. Here is an interesting example form Mont's article that explains what happens:
"One reason a merchant might hedge against giving you a cup of water has more to do with laziness than cost.In some establishments, movie theaters in particular, daily inventory is tracked by having a set number of stacked cups. Subtracting the number of cups that remain from the original stack gives a quick measure of sales to balance against receipts. Giving away a cup (or popcorn container) means having to fill out a slip to record the missing cup, something a slacker staffer may simply not want to be bothered with."
The last example that I think is worth a glance is Mont's experience with a fancy restaurant that won't let you make substitutions, or deletions, from menu items. Stories about the lofty egos of chefs are not unheard of but I think you are much more likely to run into a problem with substitutions at regular restaurants, quick serve, casual, and greasy spoons in your area for a different reason. It's hard to find good kitchen help. It's also very hard to pump out scores or even hundreds of platters, sandwiches or other culinary creations with a consistent look, portion size and speed that will please your customers and the kitchen manager. Shooting for consistency sometimes means that substitutions aren't allowed simply because they throw a cook out of rythm, and that means other customers suffer a long wait time as a result.
While not getting precisely what you want at a restaurant might be a reason never to return, it also may mean that a majority of the customers who do walk in the door get pretty much what they expected. Making a majority of your customers happy is what will pay the rent, after all.
So maybe it's not such a bad thing to try to be all things to all people?
Anthony Tjan is CEO, Managing Partner and Founder of the venture capital firm Cue Ball. What stands out to me in this article is Tjan's assertion that employees should undergo a "Fit Point Test" at some point in their career to determine what path delivers their best potential success within a given company. Basically you determine where an employee would excel and given the opportunity cost of time, allow them to make a switch or move toward that role which is assumed to be a best fit for them.
What a wonderful world we would live in if your employer was able to determine where you fit, where you perform, where you might excel, and then works with you to make that change possible. I'd love to work in an organization like that. I can't say that I've ever had such an opportunity, nor have I known my direct manager to have the time to conduct such a survey of my talent with either efficiency or expertise.
This leaves me wondering- in which organizations do these types of evaluations occur?
I found this article fascinating! Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson prompted me to think about how I am going to approach sales opportunities from now on. The whole idea of introducing "constructive tension" into the sale leads me to think that all of the "constructive" and "active" strategies I am supposed to be using aren't leading to results.
This article is a quick read and refreshed me even though it's 9 at night and my eyelids are getting heavy. Emphasizing the benefits of thinking differently and how easily you can achieve breakthroughs by experimenting with associational thinking, Jeff Dyer and Hal Gregersen from the HBR Blog inspired me to daydream tomorrow! Simply by exercising our ability to think about typically unassociated words or concepts and trying to associate them, we enhance a usually dormant adult skill.
First, I'm going to look for the iPod App they talked about, which is an easy way to begin practicing. Second I'm going to take license to daydream a bit and see what provocative ideas I can reformulate in my tiny little brain. Pretty easy two step process if you ask me. Just rinse and repeat.
I have to start my first post by telling you a little about what inspired me to get this website posted. For the past several years I have been increasingly interested in becoming a more capable and effective manager/leader at my workplace. I always felt I had the ability to do great things if I was only given the chance. Well.... now the chance is available to me and in order to make the most of it I've decided to give myself the best free education I can.
For several years I wondered what gave really smart business people the acumen to make the right decisions. How did they weigh the options and choose the correct action when faced with complicated decisions, data or personnel? Knowing that business school is a basis for many of today's business owners and leaders I enrolled as well...briefly.
Here I sit with the conviction that my education can come free, by easily obtainable materials, and a little hard work. In recent searches for what I started to term in my own mind as a "Do It Yourself MBA" I came across Josh Kaufman and his PersonalMBA program and website. I'm very impressed with Josh's site, his idea that you can access the same information available to anyone with a public library card and give yourself a fantastic education, for free!
Well, if you've got any ideas experiences or notion you want to discuss or debate I invite you to comment here and get a conversation started. Sharing knowledge can be a great way to learn quickly and inspire others as well.