Look Up.

the morning 6 train

I’ve lived in New York City for four years, and in those four years, I don’t believe I’ve ever gone all Tom Friedman and written a post in which I take a tiny public transportation experience and make it into a big thing.

That, sadly, ends today.

So with apologies to the Times’s op-ed page, here’s a story:

I’m riding the subway down to work this morning, and the arrival board on the downtown 6 train has one word on it: “Delay.” I wait for a few minutes, but the subway still hasn’t arrived.

And then a voice comes over the loudspeaker: There’s a sick passenger on the train one stop away, and it’s not moving. If you want to go downtown, please go to the other side of the tracks, take a 6 uptown one stop, and then take an express train back downtown.

It’s annoying. But it is what it is.

So I start walking to the uptown platform, and a handful of people are walking there, too. But everybody else on the platform is just standing there.

The voice comes over again to repeat the message, but most people still aren’t moving.

I get to the other side of the tracks, and I look back at the downtown platform. There must be a hundred people still standing there, completely oblivious to the message from the loudspeaker. I look up and down the platform. Everyone’s in their own world, listening to something via headphones, or loudly locked in conversation with someone else. The trains aren’t moving, and they’re too busy to even notice.

Now here’s where Tom Friedman would make a profound statement about the state of the world based on that one story, and since I’m already this deep into my anecdote, here goes:

We all have ways of building little bubbles for ourselves, and shutting the rest of the world out. You throw on headphones. You hide in our offices, doors closed, or in corners of the building where you won’t be bothered. You tell yourself that you need the quiet, or you need to be productive. You need to get away.

But here’s the downside: That leaves you isolated. You miss out on the things happening all around you — sometimes little, sometimes big and obvious.

I used to laugh about a manager at my office who was infamous for a leadership style called Management By Walking Around. It seemed like such an odd way to lead. But I’m starting to see the benefits. Being visible and keeping your eyes open exposes you to what’s happening around you — at least at the surface level. It opens the door to serendipitous conversations, and as a manager, it’s certainly not a bad thing to be a noticeable presence around the building.

But first you have to open your eyes and ears. Things are happening all around you — it’s up to you to decide if you want to pay them notice.


That’s a photo of my subway platform, taken by yours truly.

Momentum Matters.

locked door

I hate feeling stuck.

I hate those weeks where you feel like things aren’t moving forward — your relationships, your job, your life. You feel like things aren’t going at the speed you want.

I’ve been there enough times to know how to get myself unstuck, and it might work for you, too:

By starting something.

A new series of classes at the gym. A new writing routine. A new challenge: reading a new book every month, cooking a new recipe every week, whatever.

I find that as soon as I get a little energy behind a new thing, even if it’s a small thing, everything else my life tends to open up, too. Motion turns into momentum. I start noticing new ways to attack a problem at work. I start developing new ideas for launches or ways for teams to work together.

There’s something about trying a new thing that kickstarts my brain. I know I can get stuck in my head, dwelling on a problem or project for way too long. Starting something new gets me past that and focused on what’s ahead. And often a simple act — deciding to start — is enough to get me past a big obstacle.


This post got me thinking about getting past the obstacles in your life — hence that photo of a locked door. The photo’s by Cristina Gottardi, and was first published on Unsplash.

Get That Buy-In.


’Tis the season to start setting New Year’s resolutions. Every year, I set several personal goals, but this year, I want to set a few resolutions for my work, too. Here’s the third and final resolution:

I’m really excited about something that’s happening at work this month: Several members of my team are moving on to bigger roles at the company.

I’m absolutely thrilled for them. They’re worked so hard, and they’re going to continue to do amazing work that shapes the future of our company. They’ve got big opportunities ahead of them.

But before we finalize these new roles — or before my team launches any new projects this year — I have to keep my final 2017 work resolution in mind: Before you start, you have to get that buy-in.

Here’s what I mean: Every decision has a handful of stakeholders involved. You’ve got bosses who need to approve things, direct reports who need to get on board with the next steps, and colleagues who can help move a decision along. But before you can make a big decision, you have to get all necessary parties to buy in to the idea.

I’m a believer that many of the headaches that happen at an office could be resolved if managers did a better job of getting buy-in at the start of a big decision. Before anything else happens, you’ve got to sit down with the key parties and listen to them. You have to figure out what they want, and how you can help them. You have to make it known that you’re going to work hard — and work with them — to find a solution that works for everyone.

Once everyone lays their cards on the table, it becomes a lot easier to move forward with a decision. Getting buy-in means that you’re invested in everyone else’s success, and they’re invested in yours. When you get to that place, it changes everything about the way a decision gets made.

Buy-in takes work. It’s a lot of one-on-ones over coffee, and a lot of asking questions. But it can also get obstacles out of your way early on and allow you to focus on making the right decisions for your team. It’s an important and necessary step.

Get that buy-in, and you’ll get things done.

Reset Your New Year’s Resolutions Every Quarter.


’Tis the season to start setting New Year’s resolutions. Every year, I set several personal goals, but this year, I want to set a few resolutions for my work, too. Here’s the second:

In 2016, I set a few different goals for myself. I set a few small goals that I felt were highly achievable, and one big “reach goal” for the year. In previous years, I’d had a lot of success with big, year-long goals, but last year, I really struggled.

What changed? Life simply got more complicated.

2016 was a year full of big moments. I got married. My wife and I attended a wedding nearly every month. We traveled for graduations and vacations. And every few weeks seemed to bring new, unexpected news.

The plan I set out for myself on January 1 was built for the year I expected — but not the year I actually lived.

This year, here’s a different resolution: Set more quarterly goals. I don’t know what’s in store for September or December. But I have a pretty strong sense of the next three months.

So instead of setting year-long goals, I’m setting work goals three months at a time. It’ll give me the flexibility to make adjustments throughout the year. I’ll learn from what I’ve accomplished and set new goals accordingly in the following quarter.

Here’s to setting some big goals in Q1 — and to setting the bar even higher as the year goes on.