World Domination 101.04: Common Clarity

World Domination 101.04: Common Clarity

Summary: I outline the essential element of clarity over planning for its own sake, and establish my next slightly-mad steps in moving ahead in my design business.

I was thinking about what I wrote just a few hours ago regarding the choice to deliberate not plan too diligently, and instead trust my ability to improvise on-the-fly. It seems so counter-intuitive that I hesitated to even post the idea, and now I know why: it doesn’t work when you are leading a group. If you are working independently, as am I, then it’s perfectly fine. It doesn’t work with a group because if you’re the one leading, the people who are following you need to know what to do. They can’t read your mind. The purpose of planning, in the group context, is to establish several things:

  • To find the best solution by tapping into a multitude of brains. “Two heads are better than one”, says the common wisdom.
  • To ensure that everyone is working toward the same goal. By creating a plan, we all have a common point of reference.
  • To allocate resources in the most optimal manner, which contributes to efficiency and speed.
  • To assign specific roles and responsibilities, so people know what they’re supposed to do.
  • To establish channels of communication and hierarchies of oversight that maintain positive momentum on the project.
  • To define common metrics and standards of excellence, so people know whether they’re succeeding or failing.

I think that I could simplify this entire list by just saying that the point of a plan is to establish common clarity. With clarity comes sureness of aim, and with that come confidence in execution. The actual execution of the task is much easier when you can “see” what you’re supposed to be hitting. Leadership, in this context, is the ability to create clarity so your people can figure out what they can do to get there all by themselves.

In my case, working as an individual, I don’t need to plan as completely as I would if I were leading a team of designers and engineers. I know that if I make anything, I’ve created something that becomes part of my arsenal of success-building tools. However, it is still my responsibility to also ensure what I make is clear in its application; that is, people need to be able to look at what I’m making and intuitively understand how it applies to them. If I can bridge the gulf of understanding and break into the inner chamber of genuine needs/desire, then the sale becomes possible.

If you truly have clarity, I suspect you don’t really need a complex plan. You already know what you need to do. The planning is merely one way to establish clarity. If you plan with clarity in mind, you’ve created a plan for leadership. If you fall short of that, at best you’ll have a good management plan; it probably will work with a little adjustment and hands-on monitoring. If you have people who are possessed of their own clarity, and they can soar within the confines of their allotted resources, you might get lucky and create that home run. At worst, your plan will be a muddy checklist of poorly-rationalized conjecture that people push through to the bitter end.

Clarity. Single-mindedness. Focus. In this case, focus refers to a reduction of scope to the fundamental belief that X leads to Y, and ensuring that the scope of work contributes directly to the actualization of that belief. So, in the context of my Dave Seah is the only designer that does XXXXXXX musings, I’m going to declare my next step and go for it without bothering to outline the overall plan I was going to write out. Why? Because I already have the clarity I need:

Clarity Goal 01 I just scribbled this out on some blank index cards I had on hand. There are three statements here:

  • Create a Design Agency + Design Practices. Fully documented. – This will be documented on a separate blog I’ll set up. It will cover everything, and I’ll be making all source code for projects available. Utter transparency. The gist of my “expected benefits” is that I’ll be forced to relearn and reestablish a lot of what I already know about starting a design shop, from the basic offerings to pricing to marketing. It will be good for me, and I think that others will find it interesting. My goal is education, not world-class design. It turns out that a lot of people just want stuff that works at a good price. There may be a market there. I will find out.
  • The very first offering is Making a Simple 1-Page Website. In the past, I’ve assumed that there’s a certain value for a website; the general market rate in the part of the country I’m in seems to be around $1000 to $2500 for a basic web site with 5-10 pages based on a single master + two sub variants. For someone just getting started on the web, this is too much money. Most web agencies won’t touch a website for under $1500, so the sub-$1500 market pretty much belongs to freelancers on Craigslist, relatives of friends who “are on the web”, and monthly hosted solutions. Although I’m not a web developer, I know enough about design and programming to put together something simple that works well enough for my purposes; while this is not the sort of thing that is newsworthy in the web development world, the mom and pop shop that just wants a simple web page doesn’t care. They just want to be on the web, and they have a speculative advertising budget that is probably less than a couple hundred bucks a year. They think they need an all-in-one boxed solution, but they really also need a guide to gently deposit them on the web. After making that first 1-page website, there’s a natural expansion tree of related products that derive from the base. If you’re a gamer, you can think of this approach as a Realtime Strategy Technology Tree. You start with the basic bit of technology (say, a wooden wagon), and then with that you earn additional capabilities until you get to armored personnel carriers. The single-page website is sufficiently complex in its needs: well-formed cross-browser compliant CSS, W3C validation, semantic HTML and SEO-friendly markup, basic stats, a nice bit of text CSS, hosting, and ease of updating by the client. The next stage is probably the multi-page website, which introduces navigation and menus and their best practices. And from the multi-page website, we start to get into dynamic solutions based on content management systems. And that’s not even getting into banners, Flash, mailing lists, CRM, ecommerce…you get the idea. I need to establish best practices in ALL of those things.

  • The behind-the-scenes element of this phase is Posting source code and engineering documentation for what I’m making. This is the educational aspect of what I’m doing, gathering what I’ve learned from the various people on the Internet and my own experience, and packaging it in a easy-to-deploy form for others to benefit from. There is no direct benefit to me in terms of revenue, but it’s something I want to do and I believe it will lead to different opportunities. I’m sick of simple tutorials that do not explain the higher concepts. I am sure that many people will tell me that posting my sources and revealing my techniques is not a good business move; if people can download what I do for free and deploy it themselves, they can either take my business (by doing it themselves or starting their OWN business from my hard work), or they will assume that the work is not very valuable and therefore will not want to pay for it. This is true, but one thing I’ve learned is that the best clients pay for the quality of work because they don’t have time to do themselves. And I am not really afraid of people who download my work and secretly repurpose it for their own ends; they can’t take away my competence, after all. In the best case, I will find allies among people who appreciate what I’m doing. If 100 unethical moochers profit from my work for every new ally that I meet, I will be way ahead of the game.


p>So that’s the plan at this moment.

(deep breath)

Let the game begin.


  1. Stephan F- 14 years ago

    That is an amazing powerful attitude. Good Luck, you’ll do fine.

  2. CricketB 14 years ago

    Having done a bit of inexpensive website design myself,…

    Don’t underestimate the time you will spend with the customer. Part of the client feeling satisfied is knowing you understand them, but it takes least an hour for them to tell you what they think you need to know. This is before you start asking them about what you really need to know.

    Deciding on even one page of content takes time.

    One newsletter had an article proudly telling how she negotiated a website for her group down from $1500 to $500, after thinking “the ad for free consultation” meant “free website”. She writes about all the bells and whistles they will add later, probably expecting the same price.

    I’ve also learned that “low cost” can mean “Designer doesn’t really know what she’s doing, I’d better teller her how to do her job,” and “Designer’s time is cheap, I can use lots of it.”

    Admittedly, some of it was a learning experience. Two hours checking into the host they chose will now be “Use this host”. Fifteen minutes hemming and hawing about a password will now be, “Here is the password.” (That won’t avoid fifteen minutes hearing about how they record passwords.)

    Another fifteen was pros and cons of PDF for a downloadable user manual.

    Another fifteen was how much detail in instructions on getting Adobe Acrobat and using Save Target As (since their buyers might have slow connections and using Save Target As brings up a progress bar).

    Actually coding the site took thirty minutes. (PmWiki rocks.)

    I used to think basic websites were over-priced, especially given the powerful, inexpensive wiki and CMS software available. I’d like to continue to think that. Maybe the problem is my low-key approach to the clock during meetings.

    Thanks for the chance to share the horror stories.

  3. Dave Seah 14 years ago

    Stephan: Thanks! :)

    CricketB: Being able to control expectations means a few things that I’ll likely talk about as I work them out, and standing firm. It’ll be an interesting experience…my personal stance toward “inexpensive” clients is that they have their own reasons to stay within a budget, and they have varying levels of available time and comfort with technology. I’m constantly surprised; it’ll be a good experience to really try to meet their needs in a way that meets everyone’s expectations.

    Glad you were able to share some horror stories and get them out of your system :-)

  4. Nollind Whachell 14 years ago

    “improvise on the fly… doesn’t work in a group”

    Yes it does. Just maybe not the way you’d expect though. I’ll elaborate more later when I get the chance to write. This post and your last one lit me up a like Xmas tree. :)

  5. CoolBeans 14 years ago

    “This is true, but one thing I’ve learned is that the best clients pay for the quality of work because they don’t have time to do themselves.”

    Or know they don’t have the ability, opportunity, discipline, leaning, etc.

    That’s why I have paid for products and services.

  6. Maxinger X 14 years ago

    Your usual thoughtful and compelling post. One alternative view: after spending enough time together, musicians and visual artists jam all the time, non-verbally, and seemingly without direction. What makes it work is commonality of influence and experience, implied underlying structure, and a high level of skill which allows everyone to react almost as a single organism. And usually there’s still a leader and pack.

    Just something to think about.

    Also: if you’re going to be transparent, it will be fun to see what your clients think of what YOU really think about them…

  7. Nollind Whachell 14 years ago

    “It seems so counter-intuitive that I hesitated to even post the idea…”

    This is exactly what I’m looking for from you. I’d love to see half of the stuff that you don’t post. Just because something doesn’t logically make sense from your perspective at that moment in time, doesn’t mean it isn’t right or valuable. Some of the greatest discoveries of our time were ignored by skilled scientists because they couldn’t perceive something as logical, so they disregarded it…numerous times. Often times it was the amateurs working under them that saw what they couldn’t see.

    “ability to improvise on-the-fly…it doesn’t work when you are leading a group”

    Actually the best teams are those that can work on-the-fly. In effect, they take a decentralized approach rather than a centralized command and control approach. This obviously can’t be done without training though, as it requires a “shared mental model” for it to work effectively. Research “situational awareness” online to find out more about it.

    But ya teams like firefighters all the way up to military units probably utilize something similar to this. Don’t get me wrong though, prior to engaging a task, all of these teams probably have a plan, even if just a basic one (i.e. firefighter commander recommending way to tackle particular building fire to his team). The reality is that plans never work out like you expect though. Therefore you have to be flexible enough to work on-the-fly and change your plans accordingly (i.e. see the opportunities when they arise). If you force yourself and your team to follow your plan as initially conceived, you can actually do more harm than good.

    I’ve experienced this firsthand while playing Counter-Strike. Our CS clan decided to play a match against another CS clan. We trained for it repeatedly with a set plan on a set map that we believed would work. When it came to the match, everything fell apart. Our plan didn’t work, yet we kept forcing ourselves to following it. After two or three failed attempts, I shouted “Screw it! Do whatever you want!” to our team. Can you guess what happened? We won the next rounds. We did so because everyone had excellent “general” training and knew how to react accordingly. They didn’t need a set plan but could work on-the-fly.

    In a nutshell, that is the greatest ability any commander or team leader can have, yet it is often the hardest for them to achieve. Trust. If you don’t trust those in your team, you’re not going to get very far. No different than a relationship with another person in life. Trust is paramount.

  8. Nollind Whachell 14 years ago

    Leadership, in this context, is the ability to create clarity so your people can figure out what they can do to get there all by themselves.

    Exactly. It isn’t about command and control. It’s about being a resource, guide, or coach. They aren’t there for you so much as you’re there for them. Therefore, give them the tools and knowledge that they need then just get out of the way and let them do the work. Create “flow” rather than being an obstacle.

    The thing to realize though is that clarity isn’t achieved so much by a set plan, as by a shared mental model (i.e. standards). For example, imagine you have a team of designers under you and you’ve just hired a new person. You may have the exact same process as any other firm out there but the small details may be different. For example, your team may have very strict coding standards which lets everyone easily analyze the code. Yet this new person may have sloppy coding practices and thus when implemented within the team, slows everything down because he’s breaking the “flow” and shared mental model of the team.

    This is no different than working within a team playing a FPS game. You need to teach them how to handle common situations and react accordingly so everyone handles it in unison without even thinking about it. For example, in Counter-Strike, if a flash bang is dropped into the middle of your team, how should they react? If everyone reacts differently, that could seriously jeopardize your team.

    “However, it is still my responsibility to also ensure what I make is clear in its application; that is, people need to be able to look at what I’m making and intuitively understand how it applies to them.”

    In a nutshell, this is combination of usability and marketing (communications). It’s the most difficult thing to achieve, yet the most important. Basically it’s the ability to clearly communicate something on a level that another person can easily understand and relate (both without words, i.e. user interface, and with words, i.e. marketing content).

    “If you truly have clarity, I suspect you don’t really need a complex plan.”

    Yes exactly. The shared mental model of the team provides the clarity so that even with a basic plan, the team can still succeed. It’s an amazing feeling when it happens. It’s almost like things just “flow” and there is this symbiotic connection between everyone. You’re just relaying awareness of what’s happening (situational events), instead of relaying commands or orders, and everyone knows what to do without thinking about it.

  9. Nollind Whachell 14 years ago

    “Single-mindedness. Focus.”

    Ok this is something I’m still working on as well. The last few days I’ve been thinking about confidence. In particular, I’ve been asking myself what have I been confident about in my work, things that I believe I can do without a doubt.

    Again even though I started thinking about my work (web design), my thoughts eventually lead to back to gaming. In particular, I kept thinking about my approach to FPS gaming (i.e. Quake DM, Counter-Strike, Team Fortress 2) and how I handled combat so effectively within it. What I realized is that more often than not I take a zen type approach to conflict engagement. My goal isn’t so much to directly engage with my opponents but instead to flow around them and past them. It’s why I’ve never been great at sniping in games because I hate sitting still. I have to be moving constantly to be effective.

    What’s amazing when I think about this is how belief factors in so greatly. In effect, when I consistently believe I will get past the obstacle before me, I eventually do. Even more so, over time, with repeated failed attempts, my ability increased to the point that I could run past an opponent and take them out with just a single burst and not even slow my pace running. It’s an amazing feeling, as though you’re at one with the environment around you and things just flow like you’re dancing. In effect, your belief combined with your skill and awareness makes you achieve amazing things that might normally seem impossible. I remember people saying repeatedly, “How the hell did you survive that?” (as I’d rush through a room taking out three or four opponents and still have a bit of health leaving the room).

    Now back to my work and how this relates to it. In analyzing my problem solving abilities over the years, I realized this same approach was at work. Someone would encounter a problem and I’d quickly analyze it, knowing intuitively if it could be overcome or not. Sure enough though, when I believed I could overcome the obstacle, nine times out of ten I often did. When I did, people looked at me in a strange way. They’d say, “How the hell did you figure that out?” Again my persistent belief, skill, knowledge, and awareness, were all at work to the point that when presented with a problem, the solution was usually almost effortlessly presented to me, as though it was simple “common sense” in my mind.

    All said and done though, what I’m realizing is that even though I use this belief in overcoming obstacles in gaming and in my work, I don’t seem to be using it in overcoming obstacles in my own life. I need to start doing this. I need to start putting my life obstacles in front of me and visualizing myself getting past them. How to get past them isn’t necessary at this point, as it will come in time. All that’s needed is the belief.

  10. Nollind Whachell 14 years ago

    ”…the mom and pop shop that just wants a simple web page doesn’t care.”

    That’s exactly it though. They don’t care. Which is exactly why those coming to their site will see that same “we don’t care” attitude as well. In effect, when you create something with care, it shows. I mean I hear mom and pops say all the time that they care about what they do (and they often do with a passion). Well if they do care, why don’t they care about their site. It is, in effect, an extension of themselves, their identity or presence visually represented online.

    That said though. I do understand where you are coming from. The trick is how to make something quick and affordable, yet still create it with care.

    “And I am not really afraid of people who download my work and secretly repurpose it for their own ends; they can’t take away my competence, after all.”

    This is exactly why web design is often so expensive. Anyone and their dog can create a web page. That’s easy. Hell, Squarespace the product I utilize to build websites really allows anyone to build a full multi-paged site very easily. Again though, even though anyone can build a website with it, the question is it built well? That’s where competence comes into play. And just as complex as a single web page is with all it’s components, a full website is infinity more complex.

    Yes anyone can create the pages and give them some basic structure but that’s like a novice making a martini versus a skilled bartender. Same ingredients, big difference. It’s why I’ve seen websites, that for the most part, have all of the basic ingredients but just feel empty and hollow. There is no soul or life to them. It’s all the little things (nuances) that you do that add up to make a great overall experience. And the knowledge of all of those little things takes years of experience to acquire.

    That’s why designing a website that fits the branding and identity of a client takes time. Hell, the actual building of the site (especially using Squarespace) could be done in a day (yes, that fast). It’s coming up with right design that fits the identity of the company and the right words that make you flow through the site as though you are reading a story that take time. That’s why most of my projects take at least a month, as it takes at least a week or two just to figure out what the client truly wants (i.e. relationship building, understand and empathizing with their needs).

    Even with professional designers though, the creative process is always a struggle. But knowing the process and the nuances of design helps you keep moving and get through it. In effect, anything worth of value isn’t achievable without a struggle of some kind. Or as Hugh MacLeod puts it, “The hardest part of being creative is getting used to it” which leads to his other quote of “If you accept the pain, it cannot hurt you.” Thus once you realize and accept the creative struggle, you see it as a natural part of the process.

    “I am sure that many people will tell me that posting my sources and revealing my techniques is not a good business move.”

    To wrap up my comments on this post, this totally depends upon what you do and what you’re giving away. For example, a couple of my specialties are CSS and jQuery coding. Often these solutions are very complex to achieve but implementation is extremely easy (i.e. cut and paste) to the point that anyone can do it. Thus if I continually provide solutions to these things for free, I won’t make any money, no matter how grateful people are for them because anyone can implement them. Thus the “Thank you’s” are nice but they don’t pay the bills.  :)

    But again, it depends what you’re sharing. If I relayed all of my experience on how to design a website effectively (i.e. branding, identity, structure, design, copy flow, etc) then yes, more often than not, I’m not really giving anything away by sharing my knowledge, tips and tricks. That’s because how you utilize the entire knowledge as a whole is more important than just a single aspect of it. It requires years of experience to understand that knowledge and to effectively utilize it as a whole.

  11. Dave Seah 14 years ago

    Coolbeans: That’s an excellent point, and of course is the basis for outsourcing a lot of work. My own perspective, though, tends to include the “lack of capability” in the “we don’t have time to do it” category. I tend to include, “can we LEARN how to do this in-house and/or staff for it” as part of the equation, because one implication is that if the outsourced work is actually important to the client, it’s a critical function. That is something they should have their eye on, and if they are serious about growing it consistently they need to be thinking of having a permanent resource and learning how to keep it in-house. That could be as minimal as maintaining a outward-facing director-level person (an on-site web producer, or a director of marketing).

    Maxinger: Oh, that is an *excellent* point. I’m not sure it really is an alternative view at all. I’m not proclaiming the intention to become entirely self-sufficient independence…I AM PUTTING UP THE BEACON. This is the first step of establishing the jam. Starts with one instrument. I’m finally starting to make noise on mine, but now I’ve got to show what I’ve got so others are drawn to it, know the key I’m in and where I’m coming from, and play or not. And then flow is possible the way you describe. But I’ve got to already be independent and moving.

  12. Dave Seah 14 years ago

    Nollind: Let me clarify my meaning of “improvise on the fly…not working in a group”. I’m presuming that the protocols of group leadership are not being practiced by the improviser. That is, in the situation where I change my mind and do something else, I just do it without communicating the reason why or even that I did it. That doesn’t work if you are actually the group leader. It works if you are just being followed by people without you asking them to; it’s their responsibility to keep up then, because they are satisfying their own curiosity.

    The team aspect you describe, though, is something that I’ve always been in search of. Had it a couple of times. We weren’t tight or in sync, but the potential was there had we been more attuned to the needs that team excellence entailed. We individually had elements of that excellence, but we never learned to mesh it.

    Maybe it makes more sense to describe what I’m doing as the *pursuit* of a leadership framework. It starts from what I can do myself, right now, and I think I’m deciding to give myself a stress test by running a gauntlet of my own manufacture. From this, certain data will be acquired that tells me what my performance envelope looks like. Observers may also make their own assessment, and this could draw people together in unanticipated ways.

    I’m not going to reply point-by-point to the rest of your observations because while they’re interesting, they are tangential to my main thrust of making and remolding the “common wisdom”.

    Although, the discussion about caring I’d like to add to. I said “mom and pop shops don’t care about the quality of your website”, and you said “they should, if they care about their business.” There’s an important, ugly distinction that we have to make: there is a difference between caring and wishful thinking. I’m with the mom and pop on this one, when they are looking at a $2500 for a 10 page website packed with a bunch of stuff like “corporate branding”, “copywriting”, “content integration”. They don’t care about all that stuff. All they know is that they want to be on the Internet, and not have to pay $2500 for a bunch of stuff that they don’t understand. Now, as a visual professional, my first reaction is that this is all important stuff that’s necessary to optimize their online presence and increase their odds of being successful. My more mature reaction is, “And they probably don’t need it at this stage. Let’s just get them online first so they know what it feels like. If they like it, they’ll expand.” It’s a different take on education, in a way. And that can be done VERY CHEAPLY, without devaluing the rest of the industry. In fact, it’s already out there in the form of easy templates, website builders, and so forth. There’s so much of it out there that none of it stands out, and creates confusion. What I’m building should be a place of stability and simple understanding, at a fixed price, no more, no less.

  13. CricketB 14 years ago

    Larger groups need more structure. Within that, more skill and more experience together can reduce the need for structure, but don’t eliminate it. The structure can become more subtle and part of the framework rather than in-you-face, but it has to be ther.

    The amount of detail changes. I can tell one camp leader, “Buy for the weekend, 24 girls, stove and fridge.” Another I have to go over Canada’s Food Guide, quantities, and how to keep all the milk cold. Even at an advanced camp for leaders, someone has to make sure all the jobs are taken. Taking turns with dishes happens automatically, but we won’t even notice if the advance paperwork wasn’t done.

    Dave, you say you’re putting up a beacon and hoping others will gather around it. I suspect they will, but have you also looked at others beacons? Maybe there’s one you want to join, maybe it will help define your group, both in similarities and differences. (I hate defining things by differences, but sometimes it’s a good place to start.)

    I agree with you about Mom and Pop just not having the time and interest to become website experts. They don’t have enough money to hire different people for each job, and even if they did they don’t have enough work for them.

    One of my favourite knitting shops has a very unprofessional website. Default colours and lopsided. The links across the top aren’t consistent, the photos are from a cell phone, and the spinning page is still under construction. However, the site does the job. She updates it quarterly. Hours and contact are one link from the main page. The photos show a wide selection of lovely fibres and good quality tools. The newsletter includes news from the groups she hosts, new products, and the class schedule.

    Yes, my first reaction was, “Do I want to buy from such an unprofessional store?” I went anyways to compare prices. After visiting it was, “Yes, I want to buy from this knowledgable and helpful store, even if their advertising budget barely covered the cheap sign in the window.” I’ve spent more there in the last year than I spent on knitting in the last ten. I doubt a highly professional site would fit the relaxed personality of the store.

  14. Dave Seah 14 years ago

    Cricket: On larger groups: yes. It’s an interesting topic to figure out how run a larger group…deserves its own discussion!

    re: “putting up a beacon”. I came to the conclusion a few years ago that putting up the beacon yourself is far more efficient. It goes back to my mantra that tangible things you can make and sharing them face-to-face with people is what tends to make things happen. That’s part of the beacon behavior.  When I say I am the beacon, that doesn’t mean that I won’t be aware of OTHER beacons that I come across. But since I’ve started my own beacon, I now have resources that I can show the other beacon holder, which results in a much more productive exchanging of resources and ideas. Looking is not enough.

    Re: Mom and Pops. I love visiting stores and meeting the people who run it. I used to make website and interactive media for companies at various web agencies, and I know firsthand that the website may not have anything to do with the entity it represents. And that’s why I’m thinking the needs can be very minimal and informational.

  15. Gary Constantine 14 years ago

    The beacon strategy is a winner, its complimentary to my “shotgun” strategy (ie: produce/fire alot of higher quality attractively priced products out to the market and see what happens, then adjust the “sights” as necessary).

    The markets for high quality/lower cost residual cash flow products are huge, there is room for alot of players, some go away, new ones come in, technology/apps change all the time etc etc. You can’t worry about who else is doing what.

    In parallel the beacon strategy allows for one to attract the kind of “competent” talent that may add value to your products/projects/future plans, including the occassional bluebird biz opportunity that flows in as a result from being a “beacon” out there.  In those cases you scale up/forward when/as needed, forming a temporary collaborative contract/agreement, keep your costs/overhead low, head down, and execute!. 

    Over time you essentially develop a roster of individuals with whom you know can/will, and will at a predictably self guided pace will execute, with minimum supervision, and on schedule.  The beacon strategy allows for you to develop various rosters of individuals with whom you can/could/should grade at various “competency” levels, and you pull from that list as needed, start with the ideal, check availability, set expectations, and execute.  You want to develop a “frachise level” team of A players, you don’t have any business going out there with the B squad, so set/make your “beacon” draw out both customers, as well as franchise players for your team/s.

    “Leadership” debates are played out.  Leadership is not necessarily about; herding cats, playing therapist with complex personalities, managing difficult intelligent types, or being sensitive to managing friends you might bring into a project.  Leadership today is mostly about fundamentals (think like a world class general contractor here folks); assessing your resources, always upgrading your resources/alliances/contacts, so that you know that (when needed) you can set expectations (to the customer!) of higher levels of probability (based on various tested/proven data points) that your outcomes will be highly successful.  If/when things start to get too personal among your team, or wishing a C player was a B player, or an A, thats when your problems start.

    Its basically “fun” when you can scale forward and manage the bigger projects, with capable competent and talented staff, and especially when you can choose which projects you “want” to undertake, thats when your worklife has a greater sense of fulfillment and purpose anyways.

    So until those franchise player models can develop, keep firing away at the residual cash flow work, and listening to customers and what they want, and set holistic boundaries around what comes with a product/service.  You might be surprised just what happens when you are doing great work just in those areas!  Good luck out there people!

  16. Dave Seah 14 years ago

    Gary: great comment, dude! Although I tend to think in terms of A / B / C level players also, I think it’s worth pointing out that the distinction is up to the person who’s in the leadership position, and varies by individual. In other words, my idea of an A player is going to be someone else’s C player, or we might both consider the same person a B player for different reasons. If you’re in the leadership position, and you know how your team fits together, you should feel confident in your assessment abilities.

    This is a lesson that took me quite a long time to learn, and it required me to break free of the notion of “democracy”. If you don’t like what the leader does, you should leave the group; the only vote you get is with your feet. Or, you can do what you were going to do anyway, but don’t be surprised if the leader fires your ass. Again, it’s your choice.

    It might be a good exercise for me to create a list of qualities that I consider as my “A” team.