I have a confession. I’m actually not a big Seth Godin fan. I like him well enough and I think he’s talented at coming up with great analogies not coming up with anything new. I don’t mean to disrespect him, I just don’t think he’s as great as most in the Marketing World seem to think.
But in his book, The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick) I think he has some very valuable advice.
One of the hardest decisions in life is to know when to stick with something that’s really tough and may or may not be going anywhere and when to quit and move on. It’s one of the few books I readily recommend to people, it’s well worth the read and like most of his books lately isn’t much longer than a long blog post.
I bring this up not because I’m in a situation where I’m debating sticking with anything, I bring it up because of a comment that was made by @Biz Stone recently as he announced his “stepping down” from his leadership position at Twitter and joining @Ev doing the “next thing” (emphasis mine).
My work on Twitter has spanned more than half a decade and I will continue to work with the company for many years to come. During this time—especially lately, it has come to my attention that the Twitter crew and its leadership team have grown incredibly productive. I’ve decided that the most effective use of my time is to get out of the way until I’m called upon to be of some specific use.
I’ve seen this a lot with startup founders, entrepreneurs, and intrapreneurs. At some point you can continue on playing a role that may or may not be your strength or you can move on to a new role that plays to your strengths.
Lately I’ve started creating a plan for every new role or long term project I’ve started taking on. That plan usually consists of 3 parts:
The first part of the plan has an expected timeline that represents my learning curve, what value I bring to this stage of the process and what personal value I’ll gain from this new opportunity. For me the learning is almost synonymous with the value I gain and so for me this if front loaded. I still add value but it’s probably at a deficit.
I map out the next phase where the learning curve is flatter, I’m adding more value and still gaining quite a bit of value but the value quotient is about equal between the two.
In the third phase I’m learning far less, gaining less value but giving value that’s about equal to the last phase. An interesting thing happens near the end of the third phase, The value I’m adding drops off significantly at a certain point. It’s not that value to the organization still isn’t there it’s just that the unique value I bring to the situation is gone.
I bring value to new processes or solving difficult problems. Once the process is created or the problem is solved the value quotient for both sides drops dramatically. I’ve been through this enough to know what to expect. The trick is that these are estimated time lines and they’re never right and things never go according to plan. The trick is knowing when to keep persevering and when to move on. For @Biz, he’s decided (probably rightly so) to move on. But it’s never an easy decission to make.
In today’s world of ever changing dynamics, I think it’s a decision that we are all going to have to get better at making and those people who are better at making that decision are the the ones who will benefit the most personally and professionally.