When was the last time you read the fine print? The legalese. The terms of service.
Who has time for that!
For years, I thought specs were exclusively for engineering and legal… and not us. We're the leaders. We hire the others to write the spec, don't we?
Seth Godin has influenced my business and creativity-thinking more than any living human. But, whenever I heard him talk about spec — i.e., the need to write a technical standard — my mind would kind of short-circuit.
To me, spec is a trigger word… about as interesting as an owner’s manual for a dishwasher.
It didn’t make sense to me how spec would help me become a better leader.
So, if I'm honest, I never really paid attention when he'd write about it.
Thankfully, Seth didn't care. Of course, he kept writing* about it anyway.
Then, just like that, I finally got it.
It turns out spec has nothing to do with dishwashers. It has nothing to do with manuals either.
It’s actually about empathy.
Caring enough about the guy doing the dishes.
Spec is about deciding before you begin who, what and why you're creating in the first place. It's settling in advance what success looks like for you, your team, and your customers.
A well-designed spec thinks about the people affected by what you're making. You get to build the thing with them in mind. It only makes sense then that if you want to build a great company — where your employees love their jobs — coming up with a spec is non-negotiable.
It’s also not nearly as tough as it sounds.
Previously on TMYD
We ended the last newsleader with the promise of helping you help your employees to love their jobs. Designing a culture where people find purpose and meaning at work will require a little pre-thought. Hint: That pre-thought is your spec.
Before we get to that, there's probably a more pressing question for some of you…
Why in the world would you even want your team to love their job?
Let's double-check: Do you really need your employees to love their job?
Here’s what we’ve discovered at TMYD…
- When employees love their work, they tend to give their maximum, not their minimum.
- When employees love their work, they talk to their friends about how great their jobs are, transforming your company into a talent magnet.
- When employees love their work, they may not stay at your company forever, but they tend to stick around a lot longer than they would have.
The short answer is you don't have to build a company where your employees love their job. You get to build one. So, how exactly do you write a spec where your employees love their job?
TL;DR… Align incentives.
Every company has a mission of some sort. Make more money. Be the best. Change the world. Each is important enough to pay employees to help accomplish these things. Think of your mission statement as the organization’s dream.
As leaders, it's our job to enroll our employees into caring about that dream with everything they've got. But when was the last time you paused to care about your employees' dreams just as much?
“Wait a minute…” you might protest. “Isn’t that why I pay them?”
The short answer is, “Of course.”
That’s the minimum legal requirement to get folks to show up and press the buttons.
We're not shooting for the minimum, though. You signed up for this conversation because you're interested in excellent, not good enough.
“But how would I know what the dreams of my employees are?” you reply.
You ask them.
In a sense, that’s all we do at Tell Me Your Dreams. Sure, we have great workshops, training, coaching, and conversations that scale. But if you boil it all down, most of what we do is ask (and then help) your people get after their dreams.
We could have bought alignincentives [dot] com, but that's not all we do. We align dreams. So, when your team’s dreams are aligned, guess what happens next?
Your employees start internalizing that you care (think: support). You buy permission to ask more of them (think: challenge). You help them live extraordinary lives (think: great company).
Want to know the quickest way to crush your Glass Door ratings? Want to have your most talented people give even more? Want that talent to stick around longer?
Help your employees achieve their dreams.
It’s a simple spec. And, it works.
Creating a culture of Perpetual Dream Achievers (PDA's) isn't nice to have, by the way. It’s a minimum spec to build a great company.
Your employees loving their job is a massive strategic advantage, especially in a tough labor market. It’s also a differentiator.
The fact that you're thinking about this while your competition is distracted already makes you stand out.
But there's probably one more thing a few of you are thinking...
“But if I encourage dreaming, won’t I encourage leaving?”
At TMYD, we get this question all the time. It’s completely understandable.
When we started this project, we assumed the answer would be, “No way, Jose!”
We were wrong. In the work we’ve done now with hundreds of dreamers, we can confidently tell you that the answer is more complex and way more interesting than a simple yes/no, especially for leaders interested in playing a bigger game.
Ultimately, I think the answer will surprise you.
That's not just a cliffhanger. It was a surprise to us, too.
The answer is so interesting that we decided to dedicate an entire newsleader to give it the space it deserves. We’ll address the “talent leaving problem” next time.
Until then, you have our best,
P.S. This was Season 01, Episode 04 of your Strategic One-Pager. You can access the whole through-line of past episodes at TMYD.news.
PPS. The response to these newsleaders have been incredible. Thank you for forwarding them to your friends. Thank you for your feedback. Thank you for encouraging me personally.
PPPS. As usual, if you have any follow-up questions or comments of your own, please hit reply. Better, click here and say hi. Yep, that rhymed.
*Here’s more from Seth on spec: Here’s a post on how you build one. Here’s a post on how to create a spec. Here's a post on why spending double the time writing a spec will save you half the time on execution. Here's a post on why you want to go even further than spec. Finally, here's a post on how not meeting spec leads to good people quitting their job.
Dane Sanders is CEO of TellMeYourDreams.com. His team of certified mental health professionals and coaches - trained in TMYD's motivation modality - offer workshops tailored for organizations looking to become great. Tom Rodriguez is TMYD's Chief Mental Health Officer. Comments, questions, and inquiries are always welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This newsletter comes out every couple weeks. It's for leaders looking to build great companies - that's why we call it a newsleader. Think of it as a strategic one-pager that substantive enough to be interesting and practical enough that you'll actually do something with it. You're receiving it because you either signed up directly, subscribed to one of our initiatives in the past, or someone shared this with you (because they love you). If you'd like to receive your very own in the future, sign-up at tellmeyourdreams.com. All past posts are available here: https://danesanders.ck.page/posts
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