Motivation is no less precious than execution

Changing jobs is one of those times when one cannot escape the task of going over the contents of My Documents folder and making sure that one’s contribution is not lost for humanity. I had the honor of doing that last week, and here is what I found.

In the last 2+ years I have generated a total of 20 proposals. Most of these were in the form of preliminary product definitions or product visions, as we liked to call them. That’s right, twenty of them. That means on average I came out with a new proposal every two months.

Talking about ideas being cheap…

It’s often said that execution is everything. Turns out motivating your team to take interest in something is just as challenging. Just because  you are surrounded by smart people doesn’t mean that they have any interest in taking your brilliant product ideas forward. Regardless of the quality of the team, people tend to  contribute when either of the following conditions is met:

  • Their manager directed them to get involved.
  • They cannot help but get involved because the idea is just so awesome.

As I looked at my twenty sad little babies, I realized that not all of them were dead in the water. Some of them were actually getting the attention they deserved. For some of them, things were progressing swimmingly. In some cases, oh miracle, someone was working on them!

So what was the difference between those proposals which got traction and those which didn’t? I skimmed all twenty proposals and saw that the in-progress ones all had one thing in common. The person I managed to enthuse about them first and foremost was myself. 

The only ones that got any action were those where I went above and beyond just presenting my vision to the team. I actually did something to execute that vision. Where I executed a part others executed the rest; where I invested sufficient time and effort others matched that investment.

I knew enough to realize that no man can possibly drive 20 projects while actively engaging the customer base, attending industry conferences, answering support questions, and launching existing products. What I didn’t know was that motivation often costs just as much in terms of time and effort as the execution itself.

All this means that before you commit another epiphany to paper and present it to the team, you need to make sure that (1) you are motivated enough t to take it forward or (2) you can motivate and inspire someone to do it for you. If neither of those conditions is true, don’t waste your time. You’ll have fewer things to trash when you leave.

And remember, ideas are still just as cheap.

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