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What if X was dead?

There are probably a million and one things vital to success. However I'm obsessed with one: motivation.

Over the years I've constructed a lifestyle that leaves me very motivated, I thrive on challenges and I am hungry to get things done. Yet there are limitations, I've realised that I can only do so much in 24 hours.

For Apply to have an impact on the property market the business needs a highly motivated team. I firmly believe that all businesses are driven forward by the people within them. Good businesses have people who are productive, they prioritise their to do lists, and execute tasks that will 'move the needle'.

There is a lot to learn in building this kind of team. Firstly there needs to be clarity in mission. There must be a vision for the business, and a strategy showing how goals will be achieved. Without these how can team members be expected to build a to do list, prioritise their work or track their progress?

It's taken a while but I think at Apply we've created a clear vision, we want to sell a tool that converts viewing enquiries to confirmed viewings. This works by automatically responding to emails with an agents calendar availability. We've got milestones in our product road map, and our sales plan. Our main goal is to break even by reaching 443 paying users.

Within the team everyone has a job description, and every month we review the job description ensuring that responsibilities and deliverables are accurate. At a start up roles and responsibilities can be very fluid, so it's important to keep them updated on paper.

We use an awesome project management tool called Asana to keep track of our to do lists, prioritise tasks and set deadlines to keep ourselves accountable to the team and to manage a healthy workload.

Figuring out how we best work as a team has been a learning process for everyone, and we're starting to get pretty good at it. However I've noticed a HUGE threat to our productivity. It's 'barriers'.

These come in a huge array of shapes and sizes everything from:

- I couldn't log into that email account.

- My computer doesn't have a program to open that file type.

- Before I do that I need time to speak with 'insert name here'.

- My computer is too slow to keep that open in the background.

- I couldn't find the password.

- I'm waiting to hear back about 'bla bla bla'.

Pretty much ALL of these barriers are factitious, they are made up. Our brains are brilliant at justifying laziness with excuses. We can create an internal narrative in which we're completely in the right because something out with our control, a third party is responsible for blocking our productivity.

It's these kind of excuses and delays that kill businesses. So I'm searching for solutions. Firstly I think it's important to train the team to recognise when they are creating a barrier for themselves. Humans are excellent liars and we're best at lying to ourselves. So teaching people to call themselves out is key. Once a barrier is identified it can then be removed. There is a couple of ways that i've been trying to do this. Thought experiment one...

Team member: "I can't do this because I need time to speak to X"

Me: "What if X was dead? What would you do then?"

Team member: "Well I guess I would do Y and Z"

Me: "Great well let's do that then"

Another thought experiment, that I think will work for every barrier.

Team member: "I can't do this because XYZ"

Me: "Imagine that someone has a gun to your head, and they are going to BLOW your brains out unless you solve this problem, then what would you do?"

Team member: "Comes up with a great solution"

I'm only just scraping the surface of team motivation. I suspect that there is a huge amount to be learned in balancing 'the carrot' with 'the stick'. I expect there is more we can do to excite the team with stock options and more we can do to scare the team with cash flow forecasting.

But I'm still grappling with the question, are A players born or made?


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