Great bosses will want you to work less

Not more.

Great bosses leading successful companies won’t want you to work more.

They want you to be more productive. To bring better results in less time. Since…

Productivity = Work done / Time spent

Dilbert's Pointy-haired Boss asking you to work 178 hours a week

When some kind of (pointy-haired) boss asks you to spend more time at work, they are asking to increase the divisor. Increasing the divisor, by itself, will only DECREASE productivity.

Some other type of boss (not as pointy-haired but still kind of) could ask you to increase both the divisor and the dividend. The trick then is that if you would spend an extra 20% time at work, you would need to get at least a 21% increase in the work done to be more productive. This could seem plausible… but by definition extra work is done AFTER you’ve work your normal hours, so it’s unlikely that those extra hours would be the ones getting the most work done.

And all of this leave great bosses with the only strategy able to let them increase productivity. They must make sure to leave alone the divisor. The people is working as much as they should. So they need to INCREASE THE DIVIDEND. More work done in the same time.

How can you accomplish this? Let’s see some strategies:

  • Automation. Every time you need to have something done several times a week (or a month, or a year), please, automate.
  • Change the point of view. People shouldn’t wonder how many extra hours do they need to get this work done, but how is the best way to have this work done in as few hours as possible.
  • Remove obstacles each time tech people is stuck doing other things than their work. E.g. blurry requirements, old-fashioned hardware difficult to work with, dealing with licenses that expired, tough procedures to ask for holidays or reporting progress, …
  • State clear channels for communication. Avoid email lists. Define information radiators. Death penalty on the bosses who arrange long meetings with everyone involved.
  • Focus on focusing. Everyone working in one task at each time, until it’s done.







You can be Bart, or you can be Lisa


As a manager you could trust more in some members of the team.

As a team member you can trust more in some colleagues than in others.

As a contributor you could gain the trust of your boss, or not.

When wondering about why trust is earned, remember this dialogue between Marge, Lisa and Bart from The Simpsons.

  • Marge: Ready to go back to school?
  • Lisa: [ Weakly ] Oh, I don’t know. [ Coughs ] I mean, I could risk it, but…
  • Marge: No, no. You just stay put.
  • Bart: Wow. You didn’t even feel her forehead. How do I get that kind of credibility?
  • Marge: With eight years of scrupulous honesty.
  • Bart: Eh. It’s not worth it.
    (The Simpsons, Lisa gets an A)

Remeber. You can be Bart. Or you can be Lisa. Every role has its advantages and drawbacks.

Choose. Bart or Lisa. Because you can’t be both at the same time.

Trying is harmful

Do, or do not. There is no try.
(Master Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back)

  • We’ll try to meet tomorrow
  • I’ll try to be on time
  • We try to improve every day
  • I’ll try not to let you down

The verb ‘to try‘ is the shield behind which we hide when we are not sure, when we don’t really feel like doing something, when we try to avoid uncertainty, when we don’t want to make a commitment.

The verb ‘to try‘ is a wild card, is the way we can walk through without burning any bridges.

Up to what point does inserting to try into the sentence affects our mood, our will, the results of our actions?

Are we doing our best when we are just trying? Or are our words leading to a path of failure?

How different do the words sound when we rule the lack of commitment, the laziness and the fear out!

  • We’ll meet tomorrow
  • I’ll be on time
  • We improve every day
  • I won’t let you down

How different do they sound when we stop trying and start doing!

Embed purpose beside the goal

Every project, every plant, every firm has one goal.

So this is the goal: To make money by increasing net profit, while simultaneously increasing return on investment, and simultaneously increasing cash flow.

Eliyahu M. Goldratt.

Sometimes you don’t agree with the goal. Sometimes you don’t understand the goal. Or even you don’t know about it.

But whether you are aligned with the goal or not, you can always work beyond the goal. You can always embed purpose on the project. On your work.

What is purpose?

Purpose is not the goal. Is beyond the goal. And it touches everyone involved in a deeper, more personal way.


Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out was a milestone on videogame development.It probably fulfilled its goal.

But the people working on the game also instill purpose into it by inserting an inspiring declaration from world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson into the box.


Quitting is for people who are not serious about their goals. If you give up trying, you will never achieve your goal.
Mike Tyson.

Maybe you can’t choose the goal of your project. But you always can choose which kine of purpose you instill on it.

Who is your sidekick?

As Batman has Robin, as Maverick has Goose, as Frodo has Sam… chances are you need a sidekick.

On one hand, a sidekick will be at your side whenever you’re in big trouble.


On the other hand, a sidekick is someone you can train as your replacement.

If you don’t have a sidekick, you’d better look for one.

Don’t give up, don’t let others give up, and absolutely never make others give up

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”
Henry Ford

Don’t give up.

Don’t let others give up.

And most important; Don’t MAKE others give up.

Like a tennis player who always run an extra step and returns one more ball, this resilience will give you an extra chance to get your project’s goal. As an individual contributor, you always have the option to never give up.

When a colleague is in trouble or has failed, you can always show up and offer some help, whether it represents a helping hand, a good piece of advice or just listening to some whining. As a team member, you always have the option to support the rest of the team.

Finally, as a boss or a leader, you have the power to MAKE others give up. Everyday, intended or not, you are leading by example. If you are not recognizing their good work, if you look depressed or desperate, if you just punish the one who tries to make a difference or goes the extra mile, you are setting the stage for people giving up. And there’s no bigger single tragedy for the performance of a team, that having team members who doesn’t feel like doing their best. If someone doesn’t think the work is worth the effort, they won’t fight enough to get the task done. As a leader, never ever allow yourself to make your team give up.

Never give up. Don’t let others give up. And absolutely never MAKE others give up.

Quote on accepting blame

Rita Hayworth playing Gilda (via wikicommons)When they had the earthquake in San Francisco
Back in nineteen-six
They said that Mother Nature
Was up to her old tricks
That’s the story that went around
But here’s the real low-down
Put the blame on Mame, boys
Put the blame on Mame

Gilda Mundson (singing on 1946 film Gilda)

A leader is eager to let team members make their own bets.

A leader is willing to accept the blame when some of the bets go wrong.

If you want the team to grow, you need both sides of the equation.

So be always ready to sing the song.