278: The Critical Factors Separating High and Low Performers with Morten Hansen

By March 26, 2018Podcasts

 

 

Professor Morten Hansen shares the striking results from his multi-year study that identified the seven factors that explain 66% of the difference between low- and high-performing employees.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The seven key practices that outperformers do
  2. How to work less while accomplishing more
  3. How to win your colleagues over to collaborate better

About Morten

Formerly a professor at Harvard Business School and INSEAD (France), professor Hansen holds a PhD from Stanford Business School, where he was a Fulbright scholar. His academic research has won several prestigious awards, and he is ranked as one of the world’s most influential management thinkers by Thinkers50. Morten Hansen was also a manager at the Boston Consulting Group, where he advised corporate clients worldwide. Morten travels the world to give keynotes and help companies and people become great at work.
He is the coauthor (with Jim Collins) of the New York Times bestseller Great by Choice and the author of the highly acclaimed Collaboration and Great at Work.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Morten Hansen Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Morten, thanks so much for joining us here on the How To Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Morten Hansen
Well, thanks, Pete, for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I am such a dork for great research and I know you put a lot of research into your book Great at Work. Can you tell us a little bit about the five-year journey there?

Morten Hansen
Yes, it took five years though it wasn’t planned to take five years, it’s just that the way it is with research. I wanted to answer a fundamental question, and that is, “Why do some people perform better in their job than others?”

Now there are a lot pieces of advice on that out there, there are hundreds of books and I found 200 pieces of advice when I catalogued them so there’s no shortage of advice. But I wanted to do an evidence-based inquiry to see what really matters. And to do that we started out by interviewing 120 people, we’ve got some hypotheses, we did a pilot project of survey instruments for another 300.

We realized that a lot of the things we thought upfront weren’t correct, were incomplete or downright misleading. We reorganized the hypothesis and then we did a test of a survey instrument of 5,000 people across corporate America, junior/senior roles, men, women, women are 45% of the sample across jobs, marketing, sales, industries, finance, consumer goods sitting in automobile companies and so on. So it’s really a wide range.

And what we have here     is a combination of statistical analysis that can tell us what really matters in driving performance, and we also have a lot of index case studies so we really know what these top performers did or what some poor performers did so it’s a combination of things. And that took in total five years.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that is epic. And you just get to reap the benefits of all that great work. So, do tell, what are the key things that better performers are doing when it comes to work?

Morten Hansen
Yeah, what we found is that there are key, the seven key practices, that together account for 66% of the difference in performance among these 5,000 people, so think about it that way, two-thirds of the performance difference can be explained by only seven key practices.

Now there are other things that matters as well beyond those seven but they don’t count for as much and that’s good news for all of us. It’s not that we have to do 200 things right in our jobs to be a top performer. We can concentrate on a few of those. And I divided the seven into two buckets. And one bucket is mastering your own work, and the other bucket is mastering working with others.

And, you know, almost every job today, you got to work with others to achieve. You can’t just be sitting and lock yourself up in your office so you’ve got to do both for these really well.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Well, then, so can we hear what are the seven within these two categories?

Morten Hansen
Yeah, let me just skip the headline. So in the mastering your own work bucket we got four of them. So the first one is do less than obsess. These people are hyper-focused and then they go all in on a few things to be excellent performers. And the second one is what I call redesign your work for value. They don’t just take a job specification, they actually go in and say, “How can I create more value in this job? How can I change the role that I’m asked to perform, and then create new ways of delivering more value?” In other words, they are innovating how they work.

And then the third one is what I call the learning loop. They’re not just practicing 10,000 hours to master a skill. They’re saying, “How can I have a greater level of continuous improvement if I’m really getting good feedback, modify my behavior and so on?” It’s the quality of learning, not the quantity of learning that matters.

And then the fourth one in this bucket is what I call P2 combining passion and purpose, that you need a drive, you need an inner motivation to get going. And the combination of passion and purpose is what counts. So those are the, in a nutshell, the four in terms of mastering your own work.

And then mastering working with others there are three of those. The first one I call forceful champions, that are really good people, they are able to inspire and persuade others to support their work because in most companies, you need the support of others, and these are people of whom you have no formal authority often. They’re working in different departments, they’re working in different offices and geographies yet you need their support.

And then the next one is what I call fight and unite. I love this one. You’ve got to have a good fight in meetings and with colleagues to have that. By that I mean great conversations, great discussions and debate, and not just be nice to each other and not being able to challenge one another. But then, of course, you need to unite, you need to commit to a course of action.

And then the last one I call disciplined collaboration. There is an interesting observation out there which is that people either under-collaborate and they often over-collaborate, it happens in lot of companies today. We’re just doing too many collaboration efforts. And so you’ve got to be able to discipline and just work on a few but the right ones and go all in on those.

So these seven are, together, account for a lot of the reasons why we have top performers and others are not. Now, for each of these seven, there are specific practices that you can actually engage in to be able to do this well.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yes, I would like to hear about each of those. And so, then, do less than obsess. You know, that’s reminding me of the 80-20 Rule here in terms of, if I’m understanding that correctly, it’s like you’re zeroing in on the thing that matters the most, those key few things, and then just doing them. So obsessing so much and doing them so well, you know, some might say, “Oh, that’s a bit much,” but it’s a bit much in exactly the right places. Is that what you’re after there?

Morten Hansen
Yes, yes. So let me qualify that a little bit. So the first thought that pops into your head is you’ve got to focus on a few things. A lot of people said you should focus. There are books out there saying that, there’s the 80-20 Rule, there are many other ways of thinking about focusing. But we’ve got this sort of wrong because focusing is about choice. It’s about setting priorities.

And it’s true. The top performers in our study did do that. They were hyper-focused. Now whether that is 80-20 or 60-40 or 99-1 depends entirely on the situation so you’ve got to be able to really, really have focus on a few priorities.

But what we found is that that is not enough. That is just half of the equation. There is another half, and that is the idea of obsessing, that the top performers were going all in, apply intense targeted effort at the very few things they were doing. And we had people in our dataset that were focusing, they were doing the 80-20, but they weren’t great performers it’s because they weren’t obsessing over what they have left over. And so you’ve got to be able to do both.

And I chose that word obsession deliberately because it’s a bit harsh. It sounds a little extreme and it’s supposed to be, because if you’re not obsessing over the few things you’re focusing on you’re probably not going to do great work. And if you’re going to do a few things you’ve got be doing them well, exceedingly well, because they’re going to be other colleagues out there, some other competitors that are doing more.

They are doing five projects when you’re doing one project. They’re calling 10 customers when you’re calling five customers. And the only way you can be better than them is that you’re exceptional in the kind of work you do.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Understood. And so then I want to get to the point. I know you also have some good research when it comes to longer hours and working smarter. So how does that fit into the obsession and the being exceptional part of things?

Morten Hansen
Yeah, that’s a great question. So, you know, we think that one way to obsess is just to work crazy long hours, right? So it’s about, you know, 70 hours a week on average, for example. And that’s not what we found. What we found is that people obsess, is that they do work hard. In fact, there’s probably kind of guidelines around 50 hours per week on average, and that’s hard work. That’s not being a slacker at all.

In fact, we ran a statistic analysis, and there’s a chart in the book that shows that if you’re working 30 hours a week on a full-time job, it pays to increase your hours to 30 to 40 and to 50. So there’s a big upswing in performance if you go from 30 to 50 on average in our dataset. But from 50 to 65 hours per week on average, there’s actually the upswing, it kind of flattens out very quickly. You’re not getting a lot of bang for the buck in that intervals.

And beyond 65 hours per week on average, we actually find that quality goes down somewhat. So there is kind of a sweet spot of around 50 hours. And then the question we hear is, “What are you doing in those hours?” It isn’t working more hours.

So what these people do that are obsessing is that they are paying attention to detail, they are going the extra mile, they would rehearse a presentation, they’d be very well-prepared for meetings, and so on. And you can do that if you’re not doing too many things. If you’re constantly running around spreading yourself too thin, from running to meeting to meeting to meeting, you can’t prepare every meeting really well.

But if you’re doing fewer things, you actually have that time to go on and saying, “I’m going to be extremely well-prepared for this meeting. I’m going to have the question. I’m going to think about the topic. I’m going to read all the prep materials, etc.” Now you’re obsessing and you’re doing far better work.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s good. Thank you. And I’m curious with that 30 to 50 hours there. Are we talking about hours of like you showed up or hours in which you’re actually doing stuff?

Morten Hansen
Well, we did ask people to report their hours and asked their boss to report hours, and, yeah, in those hours it could be a lot of wastes, absolutely. I mean, it’s not effective hours, meaning the hours you’re really working. I mean, there’s so much wastes obviously. And that is one of the problems. When you’re working 80 hours a week, you’re probably wasting a lot of those hours. And I’ve been there.

When I started out in my own career, I joined a management consulting company, I had no real experience so I thought I had a brilliant strategy for success – work crazy hours. I was doing 70, 80, 90 hours even for a week, when I think about that. And, you know, I did well but there was a lot of wasted time. But the question here is it’s not how many hours you worked, right?

We have this idea that to succeed in your career, you should do more and put in more hours and work harder than anyone else. That’s kind of the paradigm we’ve been sort of taught, and it’s wrong. It doesn’t lead to better performance. I mean, that’s the point. It is to work hard 50 hours a week and then it is about what you do in those hours that count.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I’m with you. Well, let’s talk about some of the practices when it comes to redesigning your work for value. So you say you’re not just content with, “Okay, this is your assignment,” but rather you push farther. How does that work in practice?

Morten Hansen
Yes, so, first of all, we have to focus work on value which is very different from reaching your targets and your goals and the metrics that you might be pursuing. So let me give you a brief example to illustrate the difference. One of the people we come across was a person who was running a logistic function in a warehouse, and his job was to ship these industrial products from their warehouse onto the corporate customers. And he was following one metric.

And the metric was the number of times that those shipments leave on time, so percentage on time shipment from the warehouse. And on that metric, he was really good. He had 99% success rate. But then they surveyed the customers, and the customers said that only 65% of the shipments received when they needed them. In other words, a third of the shipments were late. And that is value.

Now you’re thinking about the value metric, “When does the customer need the shipment?” as opposed to my own internal metric, “When does the shipment go out of the warehouse according to schedule?” And so much of work today is around these internal-oriented goals. HR people delivering training programs. Check the box. Going to meeting or making a customer call. Check the box. Medical doctors, physicians use the metric of the number of patients seen in the office during a day.

Pete Mockaitis
Yup, what gets you reimbursed.

Morten Hansen
Right?

Pete Mockaitis
Yup.

Morten Hansen
Versus the number of times I’ve actually had an accurate diagnosis and provide kind of treatment. These are more difficult to track but those are the real-value metrics, and we don’t. So we sort of have the wrong metrics. So what you have to do to get out of that kind of metric problem, is say, “Okay, in my job, if I’m sitting, and I’m a software coder sitting in Ford Motor Company, and I’m in charge of delivering some kind of feature for a product, what is the value I can create in this job?”
And every job has a value-creation potential. Meaning, if you are the beneficiaries of my work outfit, and how can I create far more benefit? So that shipment person in that warehouse then shifted the task to on-time delivery by the customer metric, not his own metric, now you have to redesign how you work, right? Your schedule has to be different. You have different targets. You need to have different metrics and so on.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that is so good, Morten. You’re bringing me back to when I was doing some strategy consulting with a British van group, and we’d harp on, again and again, outputs versus outcomes. They’re not the same thing and you’ve got to get your head on straight with that, and that is so good. Beneficiaries and benefits, well-articulated. I like it, so.

And I think a lot of times that requires you to proactively say, “Hey, boss, this isn’t…” I don’t know, you’ve got say it nicer, I guess. But it’s like, “You know, just hitting that target doesn’t sound like it will optimally delight the customer or what we’re really going for here.”

Morten Hansen
Yes, exactly. That is exactly the point. And so we’re trying to – you’re trying to get the value metric, is kind of what you’re looking for. And it requires you to maybe re-educate your boss, it requires you to re-educate maybe the customer of your product. So there are a number of ways in which you can do this far better and it’s a challenge but it can certainly be done. And you need to be more creative in your job, and that is a key thing.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I like it. Now let’s talk about the learning loop. You say it’s important that you just don’t gain mastery at something, but you be a little bit more strategic in the learning. How does that go?

Morten Hansen
Yeah, so the top performers are very, very good at practicing high-quality learning. We always have the idea that you should practice for 10,000 hours and you will master a skill. That’s about the quantity of learning.

Now, in a learning loop it’s about seeking, doing something, measuring the outcome, seeking feedback, and modifying. Now, I’ll give you an example. We had a supervisor at a hospital, and she was in charge of about 20 people to deliver all the food services to the patient in this hospital. And they weren’t doing so well. The food was kind of late. It was cold. It didn’t get there on time, etc.

And she was trying to get her staff to propose more ideas for how they can improve. So she got her staff together in a huddle and she asked for improvements and she didn’t really get any ideas. In other words, she wasn’t leading those huddles in those staff meetings really well. And then she decided, “I’m going to try to improve this.”

So she started out by, “Okay, what questions am I asking?” She asked the question and she gets very little response. And then she got some feedback on the question she had asked, and people said, “You know, you’ve got to ask the question differently. It wasn’t inviting. It wasn’t open-ended.” Then she modified her question.

Now she got one idea in the room. And then she just dropped it and nothing else happened. Then she got some feedback, they said, “Well, you’ve to follow up.” Next day she asked a question. She got some more ideas. She got some follow-up voice to implement these ideas, and then she got some feedback saying, “You know, you’ve got to be more systematic. You’ve got to ask to different questions, you need to get different ideas, you need to enroll different people.”

In other words, constantly getting feedback on how she was running these sessions, and then slowly, but surely, she improved. And within 12 months, they had implemented more than 80 new ideas for how to improve food delivery. And in the patients’ score you could see it, they went from being dissatisfied to high satisfied with the food quality.

And now she’s rated as a top manager in this hospital and she is seen as a terrific leader, but she wasn’t a year and a half ago. And this is the power of the learning loop. If you take the time to focus on a few skills and really pay attention to how you learn and improve, then you can really improve your performance much faster. And we don’t do it in business but we do it elsewhere – sports and so on.

Pete Mockaitis
Interesting. So then you’re applying the learning not just to kind of any skill that is popular or, you know, the next thing in the Korn Ferry lineup of competencies, but rather the things that are most important and just loop, you know, iterating on it again and again. And in this story, it was cool that she was getting the feedback. You know, sometimes that’s hard to come by.

Morten Hansen
Yeah, you know, you’re right. And you have to seek it out, and she had a benefit of a coach in the beginning, he said, “You know, you’re not doing it correctly,” and so on. So we need the feedback. And the feedback system in most companies is kind of broken. I mean, we have the annual performance review.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah.

Morten Hansen
I mean, that doesn’t work. Let’s face it, you can’t just get feedback once a year. Now you might be lucky that you have a mentor, a colleague, or a boss that gives you continuous feedback. But for the learning loop to work, you need to do something, and then you need to have immediate nimble and quick feedback. And then you need to modify your behaviors. It’s sort of like on a daily basis or weekly basis.

But here’s good news. What we found is that top performers, by and large, only spend about 15 minutes a day trying to learn this way, because they’re doing the job anyway. I mean, the supervisor, her job was to run those huddles and create new ideas. But the way she had questions and the way she organized it, well, there was an additional bit of effort of 15 minutes. It doesn’t take a lot of time. We just need to focus on a few things that we want to improve.

Pete Mockaitis
Just to clarify. You say 50, five-zero extra minutes?

Morten Hansen
No, 15, one-five.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Morten Hansen
Yeah, 50 that’s a lot. But, no, one-five, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good.

Morten Hansen
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
In terms of like that’s kind of a nice rule of thumb in terms of to keep the learning loop alive and well, maybe aim for 15-ish minutes of kind of feedback seeking, reflecting, “how can I improve this” kind of thoughtful time per day, and you’re off to the races.

Morten Hansen
Yes, exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Morten Hansen
And add one thing. Use the power of one as a quality. Focus on one skill at a time. Don’t try it with 10 skills. One skill, 15 minutes a day, get that quick nimble feedback, and that’s the way to improve on the job.

Pete Mockaitis
Are you thinking take one skill for a month, or six months, or as long as it takes?

Morten Hansen
No, I would say about six weeks, five to six weeks. And depending on the skill, maybe just four weeks. No, no, you don’t have to – so she was spending maybe several months but they were different skills getting these ideas implemented. But first you’ve got to get the ideas out there in her team, and that was sort of like took four or fives weeks to make sure that she got that going.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s good. Thank you. Okay. Well, now, let’s talk about a couple of the work with others. I’m going to fast forward a little bit. Forceful champions, I think we like some more of those. How can you make it happen?

Morten Hansen
Yeah, so one of the things that’s important to today’s workplace is that you need to be able to inspire/persuade others or assuming you have no formal authority. Because we work with so many other people, colleagues in different departments, they may be your peers, but it doesn’t mean they will support you. They have different agendas. They might be naysayers. They might even be opposing your project, your initiative because it clashes with theirs.

And so you need to be able to navigate that political landscape, if you will, and you need to be smart about it. And so I’ll give you an example of a person, kind of a junior project manager in Dow Chemical, in the name of Ian Telford, that he had his new business idea to create an online store for one of the chemical products they were selling.

And so he proposed his idea to the management team, and they voted him down right away, they didn’t like it. And in the beginning he was very frustrated, he said, “Oh, they are just the old-school type. They don’t understand the internet,” and blah, blah, blah.

But that, of course, doesn’t get him anywhere. So then he started thinking, putting himself in their shoes, he said, “Why would they be against this?” Then he realized that they didn’t like this thing because they now were displaying a lower price online that some of the offline customers who were buying.

So, in other words, they were getting great offline. But, nevertheless, there was that fear that these customers are just going to migrate from the offline high premium high service thing to this online thing. In other words, their concern was completely legitimate if you took the time to put yourself in their shoes.

And then he said, “Okay, given that, I can find a compromise solution, a different pricing scheme. It will work for me.” And then he went back to the management team and now they approved it. And what that story illustrates is that we must take the time to put ourselves in the shoes of other colleagues who have different priorities and get different performance metrics. And if we do that, we can understand why they might be against us or not supporting us. The first step to be a forceful champion.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So you get that understanding and then I’m imagining then…

Morten Hansen
And then you have to tailor your tactics. Now there are two parts to this. One is to inspire people. Now it’s about stirring emotion in others in a right way so they say, “Okay, I am really, really stirred up about this. I’m excited about what you’re trying to do so I’m going to support you.” And here we often appeal to people’s logic, rational mind, and we provide them with numbers, “This is why you should be doing this.”

And that’s not enough. Emotions are not, you know, you speak to the heart, you can’t just use numbers. I’ll give you an example, a terrific example of somebody who did this. There was a low-level purchasing manager in a company, and he was sitting in the office of this global company in Germany, and he was giving this very boring task/project to convert all the paper forms to electronic documents. So you can imagine sitting in that project, and nobody wants to support him and he couldn’t get the resources needed and so on.

So one day, he learned that the CEO of the company was going to come to that office, and he booked a conference room next to where the CEO is going to be for the day. And so then there was a break, and he went up to the CEO and he introduced himself and said, “I just want to show you something next door. It will just take two minutes.”

She he walked with the CEO into this other conference room, and there, on a gigantic table was a mountain of paper, from the table all the way to the ceiling. And the CEO says, “Holy cow, what am I looking at here?” And he said, “You are looking at all the paper forms that we use in this company.” And the CEO, and I spoke to the CEO afterwards about this, and he said, “You know, there was this kind of visceral reaction I had of emotions like frustration and anger, and how can we be so slow. Why do we have all these forms?”

And from that day onward he received the support he needed to complete his project and be successful. And it’s a great story because it illustrates, you need to show not just tell. We want to stir emotions. You’ve got to find a way, whether it’s a pilot project, a demo, or a stunt like this one, to show people what you’re trying to accomplish. And that’s a way of inspiring, and oftentimes we don’t think. But with a little bit of creativity we can easily come up with our own version here.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that is good. And you’re right, it might just be a matter of, “Hey, there are customers who are frustrated.” They’re like, “Okay, yeah, they’re frustrated.” As opposed to you could maybe get a video, it’s like, “Look at the customer and hear the outrage,” or, “Look at the mess that she has to deal with because we can’t modify our service in some simple way.”

Morten Hansen
Yeah, that’s a great example. I can tell that the customer is frustrated, where if I show you in some way, you’re going to have that reaction. It’s a great example. And there was another person who said, you know, she was in charge of office kind of re-modeling, putting people into cubicles and change the office landscape.

And she walked around telling people what she was going to do. And everybody says, “Oh, I don’t want to be doing this. It doesn’t sound good.” And then she sat down on a computer and did a little mockup on sort of like a digital design on how it would look like, not even being an architecture herself, she just did it on her own. And she started walking around with that photo of how it might look like. And people looked at the photo and said, “Oh, boy, that looks nice. I’m on board.” Right? Showing not telling.

Pete Mockaitis
So that’s the inspiration part. Now is persuasion a little something different you want to talk about?

Morten Hansen
Yes, it is, because you can inspire people but if they’re really against it, you need a little more of a forceful tactic there which I call persuasive tactics. And here it’s about understanding why people are against you and they come up with some political maneuvering. So it could be compromise, it could be co-opting people, it could be basically challenge them directly on, it could be building allies so that you are actually are able to overcome the opposition, not do the work on your own.

So, as an example, back again to Telford. He had another problem which was that the IT department in Dow Chemical didn’t want him to build this new website, they didn’t want to have this kind of fragmented approach to IT, and this is kind of entrepreneur out there in one department doing it on his own so they were against this idea.

So, then, Ian Telford, what he did was that he decided to become a model internal customer for the IT department. He went to them and he understood their needs, and he came up with – instead of being nasty with them, he started using their language, started using their forms. And when they first got some customers, he called them up by saying, “This is as much a win for you as it is for me.”

And over time, they became one of his supporters. So he did it by bringing them into his tent and inviting them and trying to understand their concerns again, and he won them over. And had he not done that, they will eventually shut it down, shut his venture down. That’s called co-optation in the academic language. I mean, to be a little, let’s say, crude about it.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I love it.

Morten Hansen
L. B. Johnson, the former president, apparently, he said the following, he’d invited one of his political enemies into his cabinet. And people were looking at this and saying and telling him, “Why did you bring your enemy into your own team?” And he said, “You know, it’s better to have this person inside the tent pissing out than standing outside pissing in.” Apparently, that’s what he said. And, you know, there’s some truth to that, right? You want to win people over, especially enemies.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, this is so good. Well, Morten, I think I could chat with you for hours. But could you give us maybe the one- to three-minute version of fight and unite, and disciplined collaboration?

Morten Hansen
Yeah, I’ll give you the short version. So fight and unite is about having better meetings. We have lots of bad meetings and people report a lot of unproductive meetings. Okay, how can we make them better? Well, meetings should be for one thing only – having a great debate. It should not be for state of something. A state of something you can put in an email.

Okay, how do you have a good meeting? Well, it’s either, say, two people, or it’s ten people. You’ve got to have a good discussion. You’ve got to have a good fight. Not a bad fight, but it’s got to be a good fight. You’ve got to be able to ask questions and solicit minority points, scrutinize assumptions, and have a rigorous debate of the best ideas and arguments emerge.

Then you need to unite. You commit to the decisions made because, otherwise, you’re just not implementing what you decided to do. That’s the fight and unite. And that chapter really talks about particular techniques and tactics you can use to do that well. So that’s the fight and unite to improve the meetings and your results because you have better meetings now.

On the collaboration, I talk about the concept of disciplined collaboration which basically boils down to a set of rules for how to collaborate well. The first one is, only collaborate on activities with a great business case, great compelling values, say no to the rest. And then set sharp unifying goals around those collaborations. And then align your sentence, people are actually willing and able to work on this. So you try to staff it correctly and so on. So those are set of rules to do that well.

And with those two, you’re working more effectively with others and, thereby, you’re proving your own results and the results of your team.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I like that. Any pro tips on saying no to a suboptimal collaboration in a prudent diplomatic way?

Morten Hansen
Yeah, I do it all the time myself. So I noticed some very effective managers, they do this way. So somebody might call up and say, “We’re forming a new taskforce and we like you to be on it.” And then you’re saying, “Okay, so before I do that, what are you trying to accomplish? What is the value of it?” And if they cannot articulate that, right, sharply then you’re saying, “Wait a minute. Shouldn’t we be doing this?”

You’re asking questions as opposed to saying, “I think it’s a bad idea. I don’t want to do it.” Because when you’re asking questions, people are forced to say, “This is a great collaboration activity.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I like it. Cool. Well, Morten, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about a couple of your favorite things?

Morten Hansen
Yeah, I think that just one more remark. What we found is that small steps can actually produce big results. So when you look at all of these practice, you might say, “Boy, this is a lot. I don’t even know where to begin. It’s overwhelming.” And it isn’t because what you can do is that you can start small and, step by step, you will actually improve your results. That’s what we found in all our case studies.

And so that’s a hopeful message, and I’m doing that myself. I’m saying, “I need to be better at this. And what are the few steps I can take in the beginning and then improve over time?”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I like it. Well, now, could you share with us a favorite quote, something that inspires you?

Morten Hansen

Yeah, I think there is a quote in the book, and I just wanted to think about what is a great sort of way of talking about the do less and obsess. And it comes from Henry Ibsen, who is a Norwegian, he’s one of the most famous Norwegian writers and poets. And he says, “Whatever you are, be out and out, not partial or in doubt.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. And how about a favorite book?

Morten Hansen
And that can be a fiction, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, absolutely.

Morten Hansen
Yeah, Beloved by Toni Morrison.

Pete Mockaitis
And what do you love about Beloved?

Morten Hansen
Just, I mean, writing is so beautiful. I mean, the story, too, of course, but the writing is just incredible.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Morten Hansen
I have a barren computer that has nothing on it except word processing. No internet. No texting. I take it to Starbucks and I can sit there and use it, and I don’t get tempted.

Pete Mockaitis
So there’s like literally no wireless card inside it?

Morten Hansen
Yes. Nothing. I’ve stripped it completely. And if I leave my smartphone at home, I don’t have any connection to the outside world.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that is excellent.

Morten Hansen
You should think, “Neat,” folks. It’s just an old computer.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, if somebody attempted to just like swap out an old laptop into, I’m saying, like monitor, keyboard setup on my desk, they’d have to go all the way over, you know, to the other room to get the new laptop to replace it in order to access the internet. That’s fun.

Morten Hansen
And it’s actually quite difficult to get stuff off it. You know, somebody should come up with a service that will disconnect these computers.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s clever.

Morten Hansen
To allow us to focus and concentrate.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite habit?

Morten Hansen
I think that’s a good question. What is my favorite habit or a favorite I have? I, very much, like to go for a walk in the morning. So I work and then I just go for a walk for 10 minutes, and it helps me to just have a break, a small break.

And I was reading Dan Pink’s book, you know, When about the timing of things, and I just learned there that there’s a science behind it. If you have small breaks, you rewire yourself.

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect. Thank you. And is there a particular nugget or articulation of some of your favorite messages that you find really resonates with folks and you hear it quoted back to you often?

Morten Hansen
Yeah, I was thinking about that and I do have a favorite from my own book, I mean, a nugget that I think is important, and people seem to resonate with it. It’s not the magnitude of your effort that counts; it is the magnitude of the value that you create.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes.

Morten Hansen
If we can live by that, we can have so much more impact in our working life without spending all that effort and killing ourselves in the process.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, and it’s interesting because, in a way, what you say, it rings so true and resonates so much. And then in another way it’s like the American work ethic, you know, is like, “But you got to work hard.” It’s like, “Well, not necessarily. If the hard work is producing greater value, well, then, yeah, that’s good. But if it’s not, it’s not.”

Morten Hansen
Exactly. If we can stay focused on the value creation and not just the hard work and the effort, we can do so much more with our working life. And, let’s face it, we spend 50% of our time, half of our time on this earth as adults working. Think about how much more impactful we can be if we really apply that dictum.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Thank you. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Morten Hansen
The best place is my website. We have some additional tools and we also have a quiz. You can take a quiz that takes you five minutes, and you can score yourself against these seven practices. The website is MortenHansen.com. So www.mortenhansen.com. Let me spell that M-O-R-T-EN-H-A-N-S-E-N.com, and you can find a quiz there.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, excellent. And do you have a final challenge or call to action you’d issue to folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Morten Hansen
Find one specific thing that you can improve and focus on that one over the next four weeks.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Perfect. Thank you. Well, Morten, this has been such a treat. I wish you lots of luck with this book and much congratulations to concluding a five-year plus journey of research and synthesizing all these insights for us. It’s much appreciated.

Morten Hansen
Well, thank you so much and thanks for having me on your show.

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The Gold Nugget

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