Are You A Shortcut?

By: Rebecca Saltman Issue: Global Trade Section: Jewel Of CollaborationAre You A Shortcut Imagine not having to do all of the things that you are terrible at, take enormous amounts of time, effort and make you miserable. If I added up all of the time, money and energy it took for me to maintain my books, let alone the opportunity and emotional costs, I probably wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning. It is a good thing I have chosen to use a Shortcut – a terrific bookkeeper for entrepreneurs (A shout out here to Johnson Bookkeeping) - and not pretend to do this work myself.

Welcome to the world of Scott Halford, the author of the newly released book Be a Shortcut: The Secret Fast Track to Business Success. This book provides tactics to help individuals become the professionals people can’t live without.

I am so grateful for Scott, because reading Be a Shortcut described a trend that I have observed and worked within, while never fully understanding how best to utilize or leverage it. He describes how systems, people, and organizations can be Shortcuts. The book even made me realize that my two degrees in Theatre were actually Shortcuts. They taught me life skills, mental agility, trust and collaboration, all having served as the most significant shortcuts in my life.

I have had the great pleasure of listening to Scott speak several times, but none have been more compelling than listening to his recent talks about this new book. I so enjoyed reading it that I have been using its concepts in my daily work and “shaming” people if they haven’t heard about the theories. Utilizing Shortcuts and collaboration are so inter-related I felt the ICOSA audience needed to hear about it from the author himself.

1. In your book, Be a Shortcut: The Secret Fast Track to Business Success, you have re-framed the term “shortcut” what exactly is a Shortcut and what are their main attributes? A Shortcut is a person, product or organization that effectively provides something we need, when we need it, with less aggravation and more precision than we could do ourselves.

A Shortcut is a person, product or organization that effectively provides something we need, when we need it, with less aggravation and more precision than we could do ourselves. They do it with high quality, grace and intelligence, and they are typically paid very well for it. It’s a combination of high mastery and high emotional intelligence – good smarts and appropriate attitude and interaction skills. In this world, if you or your organization is not a Shortcut to something it’s going to be a rough ride. They are the reliable lawn service; the Grease Monkey down the street; the administrator who predicts her boss’s needs and then exceeds them; the vice president who mentors a team by teaching individuals what she knows and then encourages them to go beyond that point. They are who others instantly think of when they need a particular skill or service or to find a specific piece of valid information in the sea of data. They are there as a resource and sometimes a reassurance as they wade through the piles of things that you need to be effective. They are the expert we rely upon.

These people create the lives they want because they’ve done something the average professional isn’t willing to do: They commit themselves deeply and with fierce focus in a very specialized area. They essentially become the Google of their business. The first step is to find what you love to do and then research it and practice it so you’re the “household” name where you work.

Expertise is only a part of the equation; Shortcuts also have high emotional intelligence (EI). EI is the set of attributes that predict a person’s workplace and life success better than IQ and technical expertise, and like IQ, your EI can be measured. But, unlike IQ, you can grow your EI through practice and coaching. Don’t misunderstand; IQ and expertise are necessary to get you in the door, but think about it - the people you work with are about as smart as the next person, so intelligence isn’t the differentiator.

Research in human performance conclusively shows the big difference is in being able to deal well with the day-to-day hassles and adverse events that come your way. Those who don’t cope well usually have bad attitudes and inappropriate approaches to even the simplest requests. There’s nothing worse than a really smart person who makes you feel like an idiot. Shortcuts understand their purpose in life isn’t to show off their knowledge and expertise, but rather to use them to teach others and to create simplicity in other’s lives. In doing so, they use excellent common sense and the social graces that make them magnetic.

All things equal, most people will use a subject matter expert who exhibits excellent emotional intelligence in difficult situations over the creepy expert who blows his top over a simple request for services. Are You A Shortcut

2. We’ve always heard that taking Shortcuts is not necessarily a good thing to do, why would we want to be one?

It’s true. We always heard growing up that we shouldn’t take or use shortcuts. I’m here to resoundingly refute that! If you were stuck in rush hour traffic and knew a way to get home that might be more miles but quicker in terms of time, you probably wouldn’t say, “I better not. That’s a shortcut, and I’m not supposed to take those.” You would take the shortcut. And so it goes with people who are Shortcuts for us as well. Use them if you want to be successful. It’s collaboration. Be a Shortcut yourself and your value goes up exponentially.

Finally, we’re not talking about shortcuts of the easy-way-out variety, shoddy quality or questionable ethics, but rather Shortcuts with a capital “S”: Individuals who are the professionals their organizations can’t live without.

3. Why are Shortcuts so important right now?

There is an enormous need for Shortcuts for a few reasons. First, employees are being asked to do the added work of those laid-off in this recession. Shortcuts are the ones called upon because they were willing, during better times, to work at a few things very passionately and personably. We need Shortcuts in the organization of this new era so that the lean machines can operate efficiently and effectively. My prediction is that they will operate much better with fewer people with the higher dose of Shortcut behavior in the organization.

Second, consider that more people have access to more information than any other time in history. The astonishing level of information overload coupled with still needing to act and react with speed, brings about intense worldwide competition and more constantly stressed-out lives as a by-product. It’s more difficult to even be an average competitor. We need people who become intense subject matter experts – the go-to resource that can hone in on what we need quickly and then deliver it.

4. At ICOSA we believe that collaboration is often the key to success, describe how Shortcuts use collaboration as a tactic to succeed?

Remember the discussion on emotional intelligence? One of the factors that is not directly measured in emotional intelligence, but is usually a by-product of it, is likeability. Likeability has been shown to be one of the most powerful influencers. We enjoy being around people we like. They make us like ourselves better. One attribute of likeability is collaboration. People who work together on a goal and do it in a positive fashion are engaged in likeability. Another piece of research that shows why collaboration is so critical to success is the data on negative and positive emotional contagion in groups. Negative emotions narrow abilities, and positive ones broaden them. When people collaborate appropriately, they grow their collective abilities to solve problems and create new ideas. Thus, Shortcuts instinctively collaborate. They have learned that the input of many will always outperform the brilliant idea of one.

5. Can a company or an organization be a Shortcut?

This Darwinian-like business climate is mandating the kind of organizational culture that focuses on leanness, expertise-precision and sticky client relationships. The Shortcut Culture in companies rarely finds its place by default. Organizations that do it by design utilize their human resources more effectively to add stakeholder value more rapidly. As leadership scrambles to clarify directives in these very unclear times, the one concrete concept that is redefining the organization for the post-Darwinian business climate is the creation of the Shortcut Culture. It’s a top down proposition.

The Shortcut Culture is not the next wave of flavor-of-the-month corporate psycho-babble. It’s what companies and individuals do to survive tough conditions, and more importantly to thrive in them.

It is a way of operating that is measured and maintained. It’s about your company and its employees working toward indispensability – an “I-can’t-live-without” entity by your customer’s and constituent’s standards.

6. How does being a Shortcut assist organizations in developing systems like free trade or fair trade?

To be a Shortcut is to embrace the altruistic behaviors that Abraham Maslow described as highly evolved individuals. Things like corporate social responsibility, fair trade and free trade require the evolved behavior of the Shortcut individual and Shortcut Culture. Organizations that embrace the Shortcut Culture have more bandwidth and resources to get involved in business savvy activities like the ones I just mentioned. Corporate social responsibility is one I’m very familiar with. Research shows that organizations that are involved in community support, outside of the purview of their product or services, have higher retention rates, they are more productive and they attract top talent. They attract Shortcuts!

7. Is there a formula to being a Shortcut?

There are a few simple things to consider in terms of being an invaluable Shortcut. Here’s the first part of the formula. People use Shortcuts most when:

They don’t have enough time.

They are lacking talent or skill in a needed area.

Their desire to do something is low.

Lack of time, talent and/or desire indicates a good opportunity for a Shortcut. Ask if your service or job falls into one of these areas. The other part of the formula is when, as a Shortcut, you make other’s lives:

Easier, because they don’t have to do the legwork.

Better, because the quality of their life goes up, or they look good to those they wish to impress.

More money, because they make more money.

Frame your job, service or product in a way that it addresses this part of the formula and your influence and value go up. Of course, you have to add a big dose of positive attitude and emotional intelligence that make dealing with you such a pleasure.

Rebecca Saltman is a social entrepreneur and the President and Founder of an independent collaboration building firm designed to bridge business, government, non-profits and education. Contact Rebecca at