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Rethinking The GSD Mentality

Posted on the 04 November 2013 by Beingunordinary

One of the most overused terms is 'get shit done' (GSD). This term is so well known it's turned into a motto at many a startups. However, at what point is GSD a poor management choice. Telling employees to GSD without some direction is rather pointless. Think of it as telling a fat person to “just lose weight” or a kid to “just get better grades”. It shows a disregard for the actual context of the situation.

If you have someone working with you or for you, that you know is talented but just hasn’t been as productive as they were in the past, they’re probably wondering the same thing… “Why am I underperforming?” It’s not like they want to be a poor performer.

A true manager will actually seek out the root cause of the problem, and solve for those issues. Obviously, if they could perform better, they would. Understanding WHY they haven’t is the key to solving the problem.

There aren’t just productive people and unproductive people. Everyone has the potential to be productive or unproductive. There aren’t people who are A players and C players. Just people who are performing at an A level and at a C level.

If somebody isn’t performing up to their potential, it could be for a lot of different reasons. Most likely it has something to do with their environment or their personal routines and systems.

There are a great deal of external factors that might be affecting their performance. Maybe they’re having trouble at home, like a sick family member. Maybe they’re having relationship issues.

Maybe it’s your office environment. Are they having trouble communicating with other members of the team? Are they afraid to ask for help since everyone is heads down “getting shit done” and won’t make time?

Maybe their life priorities just changed and they’ve become more motivated by something else. There’s a chance that a change in their environment caused a sudden shift in their productivity. If so, determine whether or not you can alter the environment or wait it out.

If you can, great. If you can’t, it may be smart to go your separate ways. A person’s routines are what empowers them to improve over time. They work their skills out, becoming stronger through consistent repetition.

If someone is becoming less productive over time, it’s very likely that their habits have changed and they haven’t properly addressed the state of things. This happens all the time in startups.

Here’s an example inspired by my personal experience a while back. Does this situation feel familiar?

You start a new job at a startup. At first it’s great, there’s a high expectation of performance, you’re hustling, you’re bringing in new ideas and you feel yourself growing quickly as a professional. You work a lot of hours, often sticking around the office until 8-9 but that’s alright, you’re getting your shit done. You get a lot of emails, maybe 30-50 every day. You have anywhere from 5-10 different projects on your plate at any one time. You’ve been asked to manage a small team and so now you have 3 more people’s agendas to concern yourself with.

Slowly you become more responsive instead of proactive and reflective. You’re always on the move, trying to catch up. You fail to take the time to step back and formulate a system. You develop bad habits like constantly checking email, working long hours, eating lunch at your computer, focusing on 2 projects at once, etc… You sleep less, you stop working out, you don’t take breaks to clear your mind, you can’t separate your work from your personal time. Your energy levels start to fall, you feel on edge, you give off a negative energy and the people you work with and manage are feeding off that negative energy. Your performance starts to falter and you feel workloads and expectations piling up on top of you.

Now imagine a manager coming to this person and saying “You’re not performing well. You need to GET SHIT DONE!”

If anything, the “Get Shit Done” mentality is what caused the problem in the first place! Telling someone who’s failing to manage their time and energy to just get shit done is simply adding fuel to the fire. It’s only a matter of time before everything crashes and burns.

Instead, what a good manager does is help this person identify the things that are causing them to be unproductive.

They’ll help them develop new habits and encourage them in their efforts to adopt them. They’ll force them to take a step back and see the bigger picture. They’ll work together to build new systems that will help them be successful. Shit, at the very least they’ll recommend a good self help book. Or they’ll determine that they don’t have time to help the person and they’ll fire them. That’s better than “just get shit done”.

People get shit done when they’re motivated, they see the results of their work, they can communicate openly, they believe in what they’re doing and they know why they’re doing it.

They get shit done when they first make sure that they take care of themselves physically, mentally and emotionally.

To be a good manager and leader, you need to help them reach that goal.

Invest the time to help them become the A player you know they can be or that they have been in the past.

You might be thinking, “I don’t have time to help people change their lifestyle just so they can perform better. I just need to find people who are already performing at that level.”

That’s fine and that’s your call. If it’s not worth your time, then fire them. That’s okay.

Just know, as soon as you start using “Get Shit Done” as a management tactic, you’ve already doomed that person to failure, it’ll just be a lot messier.

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