In our new book, I Hate People!, Jonathan Littman and I take pains to make sure that our protagonist, the Soloist, is not painted as some kind of recluse, loner or freelancer. Our idea is more along the lines of a musician. A first chair violinist is the example we use -- a respected figure in the orchestra who both ably guides the other players in his section and who is singled out to play magnificent solo passages.
In other words, somebody like you. Somebody adept at working both with a group and by himself. And when the Soloist rolls up his sleeves and gets to work, what he sets out to do we call Solocrafting.
While this method of working seems second nature to some, others struggle in today's team-infested, meeting-saturated corporate environment to figure out how in the world they can get two spare minutes to rub together to create a little Soloist heat.
You have to act as a Soloist to be one. While some savvy upper management people may support your transition from Sheeple to Soloist, no one at your company is likely to show you the way to Solocraft. With that reality in mind, we've put together five steps to jumpstart the Soloist in you.
1. Start Your Day As A Soloist
Status meetings. Conference calls. Morning roundups. The business day often starts with you barely awake, in a meeting room surrounded by compatriots also struggling to get up to speed. Shake out the cobwebs and grab some Soloist traction. Get to the office a little early and bang out some e-mails, or get that presentation in order at Peet's before setting foot in your interruption-ridden cube. Putting in some quality "me time" before being slammed with "we time" lets you start Solocrafting early in the day.
2. Grab Yourself A Quick 10
We have a section in the book devoted to the Quick 10 -- ten minutes you set aside for yourself in the morning to really focus on whatever you want to do. It may be a work task that needs to be finished but it can also be time for a much-needed break without people in your face. The important thing is to pick your Quick 10 break, stick with it, and make sure that co-workers and superiors alike realize that you are serious about those precious ten minutes.
3. Float An Ensemble
Unlike a company-mandated team, a herd of Sheeple thrown at a problem, an Ensemble is a crew of no more than four people hand-picked by the Soloist. Pick a challenge -- maybe it's something at work, or maybe it's a keen interest that may or may not be business-related. Figure out the one, two or three people you think might enjoy kicking it around and try your first Ensemble on for size. Meet at lunch, or after work. Keep it brief, keep it fun. And you will be surprised, when Soloist meets Ensemble, how much more quickly the goal is realized.
4. Clear Your Plate
One of the things that keeps a Soloist from achieving liftoff is all the stuff on his plate. Start Solocrafting to clear yours. First stop others from pushing more tasks from their plate onto yours. Let them know you've got all you can handle. Ask if they've got some time to take care of something for you. It never hurts to ask, especially when you realize their plate-clearing exercises are often just a way for them to take a longer lunch or skip out of the office early.
5. Finish The Day As A Soloist
End your workday as you began -- as a Soloist. Whether that means hanging back until everyone's gone home or making a task outside of the office your last move of the day, do what you can to be by your lonesome. The solitude allows you to collect your thoughts, take stock of what you've completed and what still needs to be seen to when you return. Get yourself organized and set up for the next day, and prepare the one or two things you can begin Solocrafting when you first get in and start your second day as a Soloist.
Marc Hershon is the co-author of the new book I HATE PEOPLE (Little, Brown and Company; June 2009) with Jonathan Littman. Marc is a branding expert who, through his Simmer Branding Studio, has created such memorable names as nüvi, Crackle.com and the title for Dr. Phil's book "Love Smart".