When Leaving Your Desk is the Most Productive Thing You Can Do

It’s billed as the most productive day you’ll have all year: You’ll meet with experts in taxes, invoicing, marketing and sales, legal documents, hiring, storytelling, interpersonal relations. Virtual delivery. Franchising. Social media. Customer service. You name it!

But I wasn’t so sure. I’m a solo operator and have been for nearly a decade, despite invitations to partner with other people to form a larger, more efficient and likely more lucrative organization. I do my own taxes, my own invoicing, my own customer service, marketing, sales and social. I like it this way. I worried that pushing my client work off for a day so I could attend SOHO Summit would decrease my productivity. Whose butt was going to be in the chair, earning, if it wasn’t my own?

It’s a logical way of thinking. But it’s not a growth-oriented way of thinking. Sometimes you have to take a step back to take two steps forward. Sometimes you have to invest — in yourself, in connecting with other people, in the open and unplanned and anything-can-happen space that conferences offer, especially when they’re populated by high-energy entrepreneurs who are all hungry and ready to learn.

Here’s a snapshot of a few things I learned in just a couple hours at SOHO Summit. If I hadn’t gotten my butt up out of that chair, I would have missed these, not to mention some of the city’s most interesting and intelligent presenters and hosts.

  1. More than salary or perks or benefits or time off, a sense of psychological safety at work was found to be the most powerful tool to improve retention, teamwork and profitability. When I read more about the study that brought this result forward (it was done by Google over the course of several years), I learned that effective teams: a) allow everyone to share talk time equally regardless of their place in the hierarchy, and b) comprise people who are pretty good at taking the emotional temperature of others on the team. Nobody feels left out, left behind, or shut down. Everyone feels the team is a safe place for emotional risk-taking. Because they can speak their minds, and not be made to feel stupid. Cool.
  1. People resonate best with stories that are authentic, well-told, and that focus on a single individual. Research shows that what motivates people to action is connecting with that single individual. Case in point? We donate more — far more — to crises that swirl around a single person (e.g. a child who has fallen into a well) than we do to crises that involve thousands of people, no matter how dire (e.g. hundreds of thousands of people displaced from their homes due to civil war). It might not be right, but it’s because we’re human — and because we can more easily put ourselves in the shoes of one.
  1. Successful companies hire their customers. People who buy from you or use your services are already aligned with your values and offerings. They represent your customer base. The “converted” make for excellent strategic business consultants; they can help your organization understand your customers better — which leads to serving your customers better. It’s an ever-improving loop.
  1. Small operators lose productivity by spending time on tasks that don’t advance the business. In my case, this includes bookkeeping and transcribing voice recordings. The most common reason for this is our desire to maintain control over all aspects of the business, and to make sure things get done right. But should I be spending 60 minutes to type out a 30-minute interview when those 60 minutes would be put to much better use building my client base? My SOHO roundtable discussion taught me to delegate those things to someone else. As part of that delegation, I also have to get comfortable with accepting 80% of my ideal results. Any time I step away from part of my business and hand it to someone else, the outcome will not be guaranteed. But if I can be okay with 80% efficacy in that area, then it’s worth it for me to turn my attention to the things that actually generate more income.

And that’s just four. I could give you even more.

SOHO Summit 2017 was an electric, energizing day. I left so inspired to improve my own performance and offerings that I could hardly fit my wildly sparking energy field into the car for the drive home. Productive, for sure. I shouldn’t have doubted the time investment in the first place. I will be back next year. Because I never want to stop learning.

Alexandra Van Tol
Speaker. Writer. Storyteller.

Leave a Reply