“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” — Stephen King
Long ago, after I had already been teaching Agile Results to many teams at Microsoft, I was asked to present to an even larger group.
Normally, I would just show up and present, but in this case, this particular group wanted to do a dry run.
This group has been heavily promoting the event.
It was a fairly large group at Microsoft, and it was more of a hand-on training session with exercises, than a typical presentation.
So this group was stacking the deck to ensure success with some proper preparation.
I learned a lot from this exercise, aside from scaling my presentation to a large room of attendees.
I learned how important is for the people in the room to know who you are, and why do you do what you do.
It caught me a bit by surprise, because I wasn’t focused on me— I was focusing on giving everything my best stuff so they could be their best, most productive selves at Microsoft or wherever they go in this lifetime.
Productivity is, after all, a lifelong skill. (Too bad, most of us learn it and master it, so late, if at all.)
Who Are You?
I started my presentation like I normally do and jumped right into Agile Results.
While I knew a few folks in the room, there were many more that I didn’t.
This was a dry run, so I was trying to dive into Agile Results as quickly as possible.
But the group hit pause.
They wanted to know who I was, as this was really our first introduction.
They wanted me to share my background at Microsoft.
Even at Microsoft, people still want to know who you are and what you do as Microsoft is a really big place.
Partly they were curious, but they were also wondering if my experience would be relevant for their productivity challenges.
Was there something I could possibly share that could help them with their daily pains and challenges?
My Microsoft Story in a Nutshell
I summarized my Microsoft story for them, I had already been at Microsoft 10+ years.
I led high performance teams working on big challenges like security, performance, application architecture, team development, the early Cloud, and more.
If I remember right, at about this time, I was working in a group called Enterprise Strategy. I explained it as a group where we were working with business leaders to change the world–“business before technology” style.
In other words, helping business leaders use technology to create their future.
But I added that I was still leading large v-teams, orchestrating large sets of stakeholders, shipping under tight deadlines, dealing with competing priorities, getting swamped with email, working through massive backlogs of tasks, and dealing with all the regular productivity challenges that we all faced at Microsoft.
I added that I had also studied extensively success patterns at all levels of the company, as well as inside and outside the company.
Impressive. But still…
Why Do You Teach Agile Results?
Why is JD here teaching us Agile Results? It sounds like he’s a seasoned Softie, but why teach us about productivity?
I thought everybody knew why I was there to teach it.
But all of a sudden, like 5 different people asked very seriously why is this guy here teaching us this stuff?
I suddenly realized they weren’t looking for more explanation about what I do at Microsoft.
They were looking for what did I learn that was so different, or so unique, or so powerful, that they should spend their time learning?
I launched into a story from the heart.
My Personal Productivity Transformation
A story of personal pain.
My personal story of productivity transformation.
I used to be the king of the 120+ hour work week at Microsoft. Seriously, I would be the one to turn the lights on in our hall early in the morning, and turn them off late at night (and I lived close by, so no problem),
And I worked through the weekend, so that added my hours up.
Then one day, my manager said, “I don’t want you working more than 40 hours a week. And, I want you to get the same amount of work you’ve been getting done from you… and team. In fact, I want everybody as productive as you, without adding hours.”
To some people, that might sound like a celebration, especially if you were working 50, 60, 70 hours.
But for me, this was a nightmare.
When You Can’t Throw Time at Problems, You Discover Another Way
I was used to throwing hours at problems to solve them.
My manager just set a limit on how many hours I could throw at my week.
He just gave me a 40-hour timebox to achieve all my results in.
I couldn’t throw time at problems anymore.
I had to figure out how to use my best energy for my best results.
I had to innovate in how I spent my time, my energy, and my focus to achieve more in a smaller box of time.
Long story short, the typical program manager on our team shipped 1 or 2 projects each year (these were big multi-million-dollar projects).
That’s the year I shipped 18.
My manager said, great job, whatever you are doing is working — go teach the world.
He told me to mentor as many as I can and teach the world from Getting Results.com (and write the book, too).
That’s why I’m here.
The Room Looked Stunned
First there was silence across the room. Then I heard a few people say, “18 projects at the same time???
I just said, “Yeah, I learned some stuff. Necessity is a great mother of invention.”
But then I added, “Seriously, when you flip some of the typical productivity models around, you can change your game.
Worse, we don’t usually learn the productivity skills we need in school, and, at work, you are lucky if you learn from those around you.
I was lucky in that I was able to experiment fast and learn what works in some extreme scenarios.”
I remember thinking were lots of other stories about why I created Agile Results to begin with, and why I teach it, but I remember how much that story of my personal productivity transformation was such a big deal.
Productivity is a Personal Journey and a Team Sport
And I think that, in the end, I have hope that somehow, I can unleash or unlock everybody’s personal productivity transformation.
I did make sure to tell everybody that while I am giving them personal skills for productivity, they work at the team level, too.
And I told them that productivity is a team sport that works best when everybody is empowered to play their best productivity game.
I’ve always respected and valued, and supported that productivity is a personal journey with a wide variety of styles.
But I also am quick to remind people that while what works for you may be very personal, there is a powerful toolbox of proven practices for productivity to draw from.
Everybody Deserves a Chance to Flourish
And so, I share my proven practices for productivity that I have learned from my personal journey in work and life, and from studying patterns from very different walks of life, and from very different disciplines.
And I’ve helped artists, musicians, athletes, software builders, corporate warriors, CEOs, team leaders, teachers, students, Moms, and more.
I believe everybody deserves their best chance to flourish.
Productivity is one of the greatest skills you can master in your lifetime, for work and life.
Not just to achieve more.
But ultimately, so you can be more.
I love what you are capable of– if you have the right stories, strategies, and skills on your side.
And, that, is why I teach Agile Results to help every person to be more and achieve more in work and life.
Call To Action
- Start with What Life is Like with Agile Results to learn about what life could be like for you.
- If you want to get started with Agile Results, just read and do Getting Started with Agile Results.
- If you want to level up your productivity this week, then try 7 Days of Agile Results (free, no sign up, friction free).