So, reader, last week, I took a look at how my workflow and execution was going in this post here.
After a week of action, and there was a lot of effort, the hard truth is I’ve got a lot of improvement to do.
Part of me still feels like I’m writing a blog for someone else.
Ten years ago, one of my freelancer jobs was ghostwriting a thought leadership blog for a tech firm’s CEO.
As I write this, it feels like I am making this up for him, not me.
But the problems I’m having are mine, and I’m looking to sort them out.
Making my sprint board
Last week I wrote about how I’d sorted out my sprint board in Nifty and had a go at getting all our team into the scrum.
On Monday, at our weekly catch up, I shouted out a few things, and everyone agreed to have a go.
We decided a daily stand up in slack was how we’d start; ten people in five times zones means a written update works best.
Everyone also gently suggested I could give them more work and stop trying to do everything solo.
After 20 years of being a freelancer, the habit of doing everything on my own is hard to break.
And it is not like I was superhuman at it; there is a lot of blood on the dance floor from me working this way.
I made my sprint board public and started to use it.
S&M catch up call
Every two weeks, all the marketing squad has an hour-long call and Jelena, Kristine, and Jeannine join in.
We kicked off this week with a stand-up; everyone shared what they are working on and what is in their way.
It went well, maybe only because I did less talking, so the whole thing was more interesting.
The energy felt good; Sharmae, our Hubspot warrior and soon to be Scrum Master, went off to hunt down stand up apps to plug into slack.
The next day everyone made their stand up in slack, and the same the day after.
So stage one happens fast; people were up for it, and now we need to make sure it makes sense to people.
It works like this.
Sharma sends a reminder message, and by the end of the day, everyone has added what they are doing.
I noticed my anxiety dropped by 70% when I read peoples updates.
This simple share frees up a part of my brain that started ticking about where we are and what we could do.
Soon we’ll stop dicking around writing marketing reports and look at the sprint board to see what has got done.
With the sprint board updated daily, it will be more accurate than a report.
A lot happens in our marketing team; websites, blogs, emails and documents get spat out at an alarming rate.
Some weeks Alex, our founder, starts yet another company to operate in another part of the world.
We have a core group of products around:
- AML (anti-money laundering)
- KYC (know your customer)
- GDPR (I never know what that stands for)
- And a whole load of tech, fin-tech and marketing.
Everything happens fast.
This week we launched Grumble for business formation almost anywhere in the world.
Ask don’t tell
In the JJ Sutherland books about scrum, he constantly rams home about listening to the team and working out how to do things together.
Telling them we’re doing scrum is not going to get the best from people; we’re going to slow down to speed up.
By Thursday, I’d started to get impatient about how we were doing scrum.
Then I realised we’d only talked about it on Friday and agreed to start it on Monday.
Jeff Sutherland, the co-founder of the Agile Manifesto, explains the structure of scrum in this video.
The Gangster content move
One of our team’s best ‘tricks’ is content production.
In the last 12 months, across our company and coworking projects, we’ve produced hundreds of blogs, podcasts, and email newsletters.
We record an interview, send the audio to the Otter app and then editing the transcript.
We used to ask people for guest blogs and spent more time email people to ask where it was, and hardly ever got any.
Anyone can do this, even you.
But getting it edited, so it sounds human and readable, is where the art is and finishing it.
Formula one content team
Watch this video of the Red Bull formula one pit stop team here.
Imagine who many conversations they’ve had as a team to get to this level of flow.
How do they work out which team members makes the best move in which position?
I quickly got thinking if we could get high-quality content production to this level of team flow?
We design an interview system from the questions to the recording to the editing and the featured images to hitting publish.
- Two weeks?
- Two days?
- Two hours?
We have a rock-solid foundation.
Our team has a lot of character, experience and zest, so I am confident no one, apart from me, will turn into a zombie.
We have a lot of technical knowledge inside Velvet Platform and PayPugs.
Our goal is to get on our website to build trust and save people asking the same questions. On the phone with us.
These days 80% or more of the buyer journey happens online, and people research before calling us.
The $10 million blog post
Years ago, when I wrote the CEO’s ghost blog, I also talked at conferences about ‘How one man made $4 million from one blog post.’
People would rush to see the get rich quick tactic I was sharing.
Marcus Sheridan was the one man, and his $4 million blog post was ‘How much does a fibreglass pool cost?’
At that point in 2012, he’d tracked 4.4 dollars worth of sales from people finding that post.
When I asked Marcus in 2020, they’d tracked $10 million of revenue in HubSpot alone.
Drop the est.
People don’t want to know you are the leading, biggest, oldest,
greatest, anything ending in ‘est’ is more of a trust killer for me.
People want to know how much it will cost and work with for them?
Think about when you are looking for headphones on Amazon.
Do you look for things like:
Does the Bluetooth work with Chome Cast?
Is this keyboard Windows compatible?
How many USB slots does this have?
Will this power supply work in my country?
I bet you don’t look for how many awards it has won or if the company say they are the biggest.
What does that even mean anyway?
Back to my sprint board
So I got to the end of the week, and a lot got done, and I could have tracked more and been more focused.
The true answer is that I did not complete my work that was essential to the team completing their sprint work.
And I’m the team leader.
I am horrified at how many important things like email newsletters and event descriptions rolled over to the end of Friday.
Calls I had scheduled took more time, well they did not take more time. I enjoyed chatting.
I spent more time on my email than I thought.
I said yes to meetings at short notice and spent more time thinking about the appointment than being in it.
I’ve been using RescueTime for a decade now, and this week I paid more attention to it, and the news is not good.
I’m going to ruthlessly reset the focus time to only allow me into the apps and websites I use.
I also noticed I spend a crazy amount of time switching between apps and messaging tools – so I got Shift again.
Another thing I committed to was Text Expander.
It enables you to type long words, even this whole blog post, in a keyboard shortcut.
I’ve used CRM email templates and predictive text for years.
Sending personal emails to people is essential to me. I often include links to projects like this hyperlinked block below.
Now I type ‘cwp’ instead of all the text and hyperlinking.
In 2021, we’re building these coworking projects.
- Coworking Library
- Rural Coworking
- Coworking Symposium 2021
- Coworking Values Podcast
- Inclusion and Diversity Handbook – (listen here)
- Coworking I.D.E.A.Project
- Cowork Tools
- UK Coworking Assembly
- London Coworking Assembly
- European Freelancers Week 2021
Text Expander also auto checks and corrects words from HubSpot to appearance.
Everything I write online, on mobile or on my computer gets a Grammarly check.
The Text Expander features and auto check adds even more speed to writing, editing and all in one screen.
Writing out tasks
I keep a better focus on a task list when it is right in front of my nose.
So this week, I wrote my daily tasks on the whiteboard opposite my desk in our Velvet Platform office.
Also, I went back to the short daily planner sheet that is part of the ‘Hero on a mission’ course.
You’ll find this easy yet profound daily productivity lesson inside Business Made Simple University.
I want to be a bigger man who does not have to fill in a sheet to help him get his work done.
But it makes it happen and stops me from lying to myself and others about what will happen.
Why it is not exceptional
I the mid 90’s worked with a mighty Sous Chef called Chris Pope in the Mayfair Intercontinental Hotel in London.
I worked in the restaurant and the kitchen in my two years there.
We’d serve people like Roger Moore, Lisa Stansfield and Bernie Ecclestone, The Monkees, Gwen Stefani, The Beasties Boys, to name a few regulars.
And these were only famous people; alongside this, there was an endless stream of Royalty and business people.
That kitchen was one of the most significant learning curves of my life; there was no fucking around.
Chris was a total pro; I was still getting over seeing someone famous in the hotel lobby every day.
Being a committed Sous Chef, Chris quickly got to work on me; I’d be all happy I’d chopped some mushrooms in thirty minutes.
Chris would be like, ‘Mitchell, it’s not exceptional; it’s just what we expect.’
He’d often add something like, ‘when you can do it in 10 minutes, you’ll get my attention.’
Commitment vs action
One day he delivered me a stern lecture about the responsibility of committing to the team.
He was more hurt than pissed off.
You see, I thought I’d fully committed; Chris pointed out my actions made it evident that I’d only ‘made a claim’ about my commitment to the chef work and team.
I was chopping up a box of onions and wrestling another Break for the Border; ‘Jose Cuervo induced’ hangover as Chris bellowed this at me.
That was over twenty years ago, and that scene pops in my head when I need the lesson.
My ten-year-old son knows that story and now walks around our house telling me, ‘Dad, it’s not exceptional, it’s just whats’s expect!
And he’s fucking right.
No gold star?
And this is true of my work now; I still secretly hope for a gold star or a standing ovation when I complete a routine task.
So when I:
- Post a podcast.
- Lock the front door.
- Publish what you’re currently reading.
- Get my son to school at 08:45.
- Pay an invoice on time.
A little part of me wants Oprah to surprise me in a TV studio with all my work colleagues and family and give me a car.
Of course, no one gives a flying fuck when or how I do these everyday things.
And it is a pure mental waste for me; it must have a self-induced mental health tax, as well as the time cost.
The concept of a value-driven leader is a Business Made Simple University theme.
Most of all, I am committed to getting my shit working before I start shouting about how great it all is.
It is super crucial for me to change myself before asking other people to adapt.
One of the greatest life lessons I’ve gained from doing the 12 Week year is reflection and review.
I want to write now: I look back at every week in a detailed exercise.
But I rush it every Monday morning with Karen in our weekly WAM – see this post here.
I then reflect by writing posts like the one you are reading, and in the 90-day content challenge, these posts get reviewed.
Even these little pockets of ‘after-action report’, peer review and reflection get me something.
Anger and gratitude
Whenever someone like my wife, son or team member points out a shortcoming or blind spot, I have a wave of anger flow over me.
But I’m angry with myself for not spotting it; I’m grateful that these people give a shit even to want to point it out.
I feel alive and engaged more and more every day, and we’re only getting warmed up!