Sacrificing or Suffering? [Petriglieri]

If you’ve been following this publication for a while, you should know by now that I love distinctions.

Our lives our nuanced and subtle, but we often seek to make generalizations and abstractions that help us reduce the complexity and see the bigger picture better. However, sometimes going the other way and adding back that nuance helps just as much. Which is why I love distinctions.

And Gianpiero Petriglieri introduces us to a very powerful distinction in:

Are You Sacrificing for Your Work, or Just Suffering for It?

The core distinction is captured in the following paragraph (emphasis mine):

Not all pain and suffering, however, amount to sacrifice. The difference is not just philosophical. It is practical. Sacrifice might be hurtful and exhausting, but it is a conscious choice. Suffering is the result of feeling that we cannot slow down or else we will be shamed and lose control. Sacrifice makes us who we are. Suffering keeps us captive. When putting our bodies through hell at work, at least for a while, is worth the rewards we get and the contribution we make, it is sacrifice. But if you can come up with many reasons for hurting at work, but see little purpose in it, then it is not.

Petriglieri argues that suffering is more pervasive than sacrifice in the business realm, and hypothesizes the causes for it by contrasting the dynamic in it and those in the realm that’s often cited as having mastered sacrifice — elite athletes:

  1. Lack of discipline in seeking of and working on our limits
  2. Insufficient respect for the criticality of pace
  3. Underinvestment in seeking out the help and support needed to improve

This ponderous note is a good place to pause and reflect…

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Sacrificing or Suffering? [Petriglieri]

People as Vectors [Fishkin]

Source: SparkToro

A neat post by Rand Fishkin, expanding on an analogy from a conversation between Dharmesh Shah and Elon Musk:

Why Elon Musk’s “People as Vectors” Analogy Resonates

The most useful insight from the post is explaining what we mean by the word “alignment” using this (overly-)simplistic analogy:

We can think of the people on any given team as vectors

People vectors have both direction and magnitude

When people all work in precisely the same direction, their magnitudes are added to each other

When people have any degree of deviation, the varying directions subtract (at least somewhat) from the maximum amount of productivity that could be achieved

The original talk covered alignment in three levels:

  1. Align people with the organization’s goals.
  2. Aligning individual teams (product, marketing, sales, service, etc.) with the organization’s goals.
  3. Aligning the organization’s goals with the needs of the customer.

And Fishkin offers decomposing each further to assess the level of agreement on the following questions:

  • Why are we on this team together? (motivation)
  • For whom are we building this? (customer)
  • What are we creating? (product/service)
  • Do we have shared respect, trust, and empathy for one another?

The last one seems a bit like the odd-man-out and ties better to the next section where Fishkin lists out the things that drive/hinder getting aligned:

  • Trust
  • Agreement on values>goals or goals>values. This one was not easy for me to understand, but it seems to have to do with deeper shared beliefs that the participants have on whether “where are we going?” (goals) is more important than “how are we going to get there?” (values), or the other way around.
  • Psychological safety

Lastly, Fishkin covers the importance of emotional buy-in and why he believes “disagree & commit” hurts alignment. This is the piece on which Fishkin and I are not aligned 🙂 This may be because I support a narrower definition of “disagree & commit” which may mitigate most of the down-side that troubles Fishkin.

People as Vectors [Fishkin]

Pitfalls in Performance Feedback [Sinofsky]

Steven Sinofsky is crushing it this year penning several thoughtful posts on the performance management process that’s at the heart of so many organizations.

His latest is

Pitfalls in Performance Feedback

Where he covers, well, the common pitfalls in giving performance feedback.

The first part of the post calls out behaviors that in his opinion tend to be (wrongfully) rewarded in performance feedback:

  • Visibility of the person
  • Self-promotion
  • Handling real-time exchanges or “thinking on your feet” well
  • Heroics. Over-promising
  • Goal-setting gymnastics. Over-delivering
  • Arguing (as opposed to debating)
  • Writing skills
  • Presentation skills
  • Confrontation (as opposed to providing feedback)

The second part makes a broader observation, that a common pitfall in performance feedback has to do with its focus. Sinofsky discerns between three aspects of a work an employee does:

  1. Deliverables
  2. Process — which is poorly worded, in my opinion, and actually refers to teamwork, collaboration and overall good corporate citizenship
  3.  Style and Technique

He then argues that the rough focus of performance feedback should be ~80% deliverables, 15% process and 5% style and technique.

This deeper insight contextualizes the list in the first part and refines the argument there a bit, since it’s clear that most of the pitfalls listed in the first part have to do with “style and technique” and a handful has to do with “process”. So even if the feedback there is valid (some roles do require strong writing skills) — it should not be the primary focus of the feedback.

Pitfalls in Performance Feedback [Sinofsky]