Sunday, January 3, 2010

Fire Yourself

Ron Ashkenas wrote an interesting article for the Harvard Business Review. He recommends firing yourself from your job, re-evaluating the job requirements and deciding what you would do if you were coming into the job fresh.

“First, take a deep breath and fire yourself. That's right — take yourself out of your job so that you'll get some distance from it. Second, consider what you would do to reapply for your job. What are your qualifications? What would you say in an interview about the changes you would make and the improvements you would engineer? What unique "stamp" would you put on this new job? How do you feel about the business strategy and the quality of the leadership team? What would you change?”

The holidays have given me the opportunity to sit back and assess not only how I am building my freelance business but also how I am choosing to live my life, and I’m going to try and refocus my energy in the new year.

I’ve realized that although it’s important to be disciplined when you have a home-based business, you also need to be able to let go and be flexible. I don’t have to be at my desk at 8:30 every morning so long as I get the work done. And I do better work if I relax a little and am not quite so driven.

Time to Reflect
I’ve really relished my quiet retreat days when I deliberately stayed at home and read and listened to music. It’s so easy to let external stimuli drive your actions; it’s far more difficult to slow down and reflect and explore. But in the long run, it’s far more profitable.

Believe in Yourself
If I were to start my business over again, I would be far more self confident. I would emphasize my higher-level skills of research and analysis and teaching. I excel at collecting and synthesizing information and then using my communication skills to share that information with others.

One of the highlights of the past 10 days has been listening to online dialogues in Spanish. I've found a website that offers interesting discussions of current topics using colloquial Spanish, and I’m enjoying listening and looking words up in the dictionary and trying to copy their accent. But it also feels like a complete waste of time. I'll never use Spanish in my work, and I know that I need an opportunity to speak as well as listen, but it’s fun!

I have learnt over the years that the straight path between Point A and Point B may be the quickest, but it’s not always the best. Sinuosity, a curving path that meanders in various directions, represents flexibility and endurance. So I’ll trust my instincts and make time for Spanish study every week.

What would you do if you fired yourself and took a fresh start?

1 comment:

John B. said...

I like that.

Starting to work for yourself is a big adventure. Not everybody can take the risk - a dependent family makes the attraction of a 'safe' job greater. There is little though sadder than the man in his his forties with a family and a mortgage who has been made 'redundant' as they call it here in England because his firm has been acquired by another. Paradoxically the self-employed today enjoys greater security - he or she can be fired only by the customers and then only if they all do it at once.

There are two reverse problems in working for yourself. The first is getting down to work without an immediate external stimulus. Many people cannot look that far ahead.

The other problem is as the old saw says, "The man who works for himself has a hard master." There is the need to pace oneself. As you rightly observe the ability to take things easy is important as well as the ability to pull out all the stops and give maximum output when needed.

I myself am not good at getting started but faced with a deadline I can do wonders.

Most people also need the stimulus of belonging to a group and having other people around. This is one reason why I go London to work at LSBU (London South Bank University) rather than do much the same at home as I can nowadays. I do learn too by talking with my colleagues.

People who work at home in a family environment also often complain that they have difficulty in making it clear that they need a room to shut themselves away and not be disturbed by domestic problems or callers.

All this is a long way from the original topic of re-evaluating what you are doing. Any employment where there responsibility for deciding how the job should be done within often a vague job description needs that sort of strategic thought.

In retrospect I see when I was a wage-slave (emotionally loaded word that) I was too occupied with the wrong short-term objectives.

Of course the objectives of the employed are not the same as those of the employer unless they are the same person. In a good organisation the difference is not great.

As someone(who?) said "Si la jeunesse savait, si la veillesse pouvait".