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Delegation Archives - How to be Awesome at Your Job

929: Ending Overwhelm by Delegating Masterfully with Kelli Thompson

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Kelli Thompson reveals how to beat the cycle of overwhelm through smarter delegation.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why you seem less capable when you don’t delegate
  2. The four mindsets that hinder effective delegation
  3. How to ensure others don’t screw up delegated tasks 

About Kelli

Kelli Thompson is a women’s leadership coach and speaker who helps women advance to the rooms where decisions are made. She has coached and trained thousands of women to trust themselves, lead with more confidence, and create a career they love. She is the founder of the Clarity & Confidence Women’s Leadership Program, and a Stevie Award winner for Women in Business—Coach of the Year. She is the author of the critically acclaimed book, Closing The Confidence Gap: Boost Your Peace, Your Potential & Your Paycheck.

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Kelli Thompson Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis

Kelli, welcome back.

Kelli Thompson

Oh, I’m so excited to talk to you again.

Pete Mockaitis

Me, too. Well, you’ve been talking a lot about shifting from a doer to a leader lately. Tell us, why, of all the topics you could research you’ve chosen this one?

Kelli Thompson

Yeah. Well, I think the things that we need most in our lives, what we’re most guilty of, sometimes become our most common topics. I mean, I don’t know, tell me where I’m wrong. But I just found myself always, and I don’t think I’m alone in this, Pete, in corporate America, I think a lot of times we promote the best doers. And I remember seeing this not only as a leader, I remember experiencing this myself, I remember I experienced this as an HR person. I think we say, “Okay, Pete is the best we have at producing these widgets. He’s amazing. He’s so fast. We should make him a manager.”

And so, I think sometimes what happens in this, we promote this person and we think this magic transformation is going to happen overnight, that tonight you’re going to bed, and tomorrow you’re going to wake up, and go, “Ooh, my new title, my new salary, I’m going to be comfortable delegating, coaching, having hard conversations, and really stop doing all the doing,” when I think, we don’t realize how payoff we get from doing.

Doing feels good. You can check a box. You get a gold star. We were raised our entire lives doing, “Oh, we’re so fast at this,” “You’re so quick,” etc. and it just feels good. And I think, even as a parent, I really have struggled with this, asking myself, “How much am I doing for my child?” So, I don’t think this has leadership implications or work implications. I think, as parents, we see this, too. We see somebody do something that that’s not how we would do it. They do it slower than us. It’s, like, really painful for us to watch. And so, we jump in and we do.

And even now, running my own business, it’s been really hard for me to let go of all the doing. But the problem is my business can’t grow if I’m doing all the doing. And so, I’ve had to hire a lot of help in the last 18 months, and so this topic has never been more important to me, or more relevant to me, in raising a teenager who’s gone off to college, but then also really learning the hard work of letting someone else take care of things for you and do it in their own way.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s really resonant. And as I’m thinking about my kids who are four and six, and then one super young, but it’s like they are capable of cleaning, and yet it is so much harder to ask them 20 times, sometimes literally 20 times, to pick up sort of maybe three key items. It might require 20 requests because they get distracted and they have imaginative play fun, which is adorable, and I sort of hate to put a kabash on that too much but sometimes it’s just not that quick.

And so, it’s like if I actually want the place clean fast, doing it myself is so much faster and less aggravating than asking many, many, many times, as opposed to asking them repeatedly. And so, yes, I could see from an emotional payoff perspective there’s a wide array of tasks in the world of work that would probably feel a whole lot better to just do yourself than to delegate and coach and to feedback-refine through other people to get done.

Kelli Thompson

Absolutely. And you really hit on something important because these are the things that I hear with leaders today, especially folks who are moving into kind of that first jump of leadership. So, they’re moving into team lead, maybe a manager, senior manager, director, is they say things, like, “Kelli, I don’t have time to delegate. I don’t have time to explain this to anyone.” They might say things like, “Kelli, I can’t delegate because people just make too many high-impact mistakes. I have company coming, and so we cannot make any mistakes in this presentation.”

The other thing that I hear a lot is when leaders say, and I remember feeling this, too, and even as a parent, “It makes me feel guilty. I feel guilty that I am delegating this.” It’s almost like I feel like I’m shirking work. But one of the things that I like to remind folks and offer them to consider is that people will make mistakes, expect them. Yes, it is normal to feel all sorts of uncomfortable feelings when you’re delegating because society has told us that our worth oftentimes is tied to our productivity, and, yes, people don’t do things the way that we would do them, and, yes, it can take some time.

But those things are going to be exacerbated when you are delegating and you’re waiting to delegate when the stakes are too high. So, I just want to talk about the overwhelm cycle. So, like, what tends to happen is, let’s just say, we are working on a project, we get more projects put on our plate, and we want to say to all the things because maybe we are in this belief that, “If I say yes to everything, I look capable and confident.” Well, then we get overwhelmed.

And so then, we delegate sometimes out of panic. Even as parents, right, it’s like we hoard and we hoard and we hoard, and, “Oh, my gosh, company is coming in an hour, and I’m delegating out of panic.” And so, when we delegate out of panic, lots of times we’re delegating when the stakes are way too high, when mistakes can’t be made, when it will take a long time to explain something to someone because the project that you’re trying to delegate is just huge.

And so, what happens is the stakes are high, we’re panicked, we delegate, and people make mistakes. Of course, they make mistakes because that’s what we do the first time we try something. And then when people make mistakes, as leaders and as parents, we get frustrated that people make mistakes, and we say, “See, I can’t delegate. I have to take this back. I have to jump in and fix it.” And so, we jump in, and we fix it, and tell ourselves a story, “See, I can’t delegate because nobody can do things as good as I can,” and the whole overwhelm cycle starts again.

So, one of the things I’d offer leaders and parents is to start delegating while the stakes are low. So, I can think of a time where I delegated out a presentation that needed to go to senior leadership, way, way, way too high of stakes because the people made mistakes. They didn’t put the slides together the way I would’ve done it. And so, what did I do? I took it back. And so, I had to learn to say, “Wait a minute. You don’t delegate out a whole presentation. You delegate out one slide. One slide that perhaps the person has expertise or experience in, and you coach them on the delivery of that one slide.”

And we should just hope that people make mistakes because if you’re delegating when the stakes are low, there’s low impact. In fact, those mistakes can be used for learning. When there’s a mistake in that single slide, we can have a coaching moment about it, we can start to talk about it, we can start to talk about delivery and presentation and those sorts of things.

And so, my challenge for you is to really think about, “How can I start to delegate when the stakes are low?” And if you are panicked about someone making a mistake, mistakes are still too high, let’s cut in half. Because here’s the thing, we’ve all learned through making mistakes, and that uncomfortable learning and growth moment, and I think lots of times we feel guilty that we’re dumping or shirking work when, in fact, the opposite is true.

And Gallup research shows us that one of the number-one things that keeps people engaged is the ability to learn and grow on the job. And so, if you’re hoarding all that work, you are not allowing people to learn and grow. And so, how can we create those safe spaces for people to learn and grow, and that’s what’s very low-stakes delegation, so that they can build their rep and confidence? So, when the stakes are high, we’ve got some reps under our belt.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, Kelli, can you tell me, really, what’s at stake for someone who’s an emerging leader who has done a smidge of delegating and coaching, and it’s like, “Nah, this isn’t working so well for me,” so they haven’t really embraced it, and they are continuing to do a lot, maybe 80% plus of what they were doing before? They started taking on the leadership responsibilities as well. Like, just how bad is it to keep on rolling that way if it’s comfortable, and you know you’re awesome at your job?

Kelli Thompson

Yeah, honestly, that, I think is the biggest hurdle is you are, you got promoted because you are awesome at your job. And so, when you get promoted into leadership, guess what? Because you’re awesome at your job you get more projects because they hope that you continue to be awesome at your job. But now, you not only have doing responsibilities, especially if you’re a working manager, but now you also have to hold team meetings, coach your team, develop your team, think strategically, plan for the future.

And so, what I see happen sometimes, and I think what the consequences are of this, is these leaders keep saying yes to these things. And then they often get told, “Well, you’re not being strategic.” “Well, because I haven’t left any time to be strategic because I’m still doing all of the doing.” The other thing that I see happen is burnout. More than ever with my own clients, lots of times they’re coming to me because they are so burnt out.

And when we do a little bit of a calendar audit, one of the things that we see is they are still holding onto and attending meetings that their team members are in. They should’ve stopped attending that meeting six months ago. They’re still hanging on to work projects that are no longer a development opportunity for them. They still just keep doing them because it feels good and they get the rewards and the accolades but they’re exhausted because they’re still doing all the doing, they’re still saying yes to all the things, and they haven’t delegated down.

The real impact, though, and where I see this, especially with the clients that I coach, because they’re coming to me wanting to accelerate in the organization but, unfortunately, it becomes really hard to accelerate in the organization when you continue to hang on to old projects. So, let me just kind of give you an example of what happens. So, they hang on to projects because they are the expert in what they do. And lots of times, that first promotion into leadership, we are managing people in which we have also done the work.

And so, you know what that means, it’s so easy to jump in and do and help and all the things, but as you promote, want to get promoted into leadership, guess what’s going to happen? You are going to start to inherit teams in which you have never done the work. And we see that with senior leaders all the time. They manage teams in which they’ve never done the work. And so, lots of times there’s a crisis of confidence that happens because, before, they got all their confidence and leadership expertise because they knew the work. But now they’re managing teams in which they don’t know the work.

And so, they have to learn how to lead in a whole different way, and that’s why delegation becomes so important. One, because you’re going to need to learn how to expand your leadership team to coaching people in which you’ve never done the work, so you can’t do anymore, but now your job is to coach, to motivate, to inspire, and you can’t do that if you are still hanging on to all those pieces of work that you know how to do, and you can jump in and do it better, faster. It becomes a real kind of skill and confidence crisis as people want to accelerate in the organization. And lots of times, it can really keep them stuck if they’re unwilling to start to delegate when those stakes are low, and test and trust people.

Pete Mockaitis

Kelli, that’s powerful and what a compelling case there. So, when you’re doing the stuff that you need not to be doing, you’re going to burn out, you’re not developing. It might feel good in the moment but developing also feels really good. So, you can just trade it for another source of work pleasure if you’re doing the stuff that is development-y instead of not development-y. And then, ultimately, you’re going to capped in terms of your career progression. It’s like, “Oh, I guess you just don’t have the capability to lead folks doing work that you have not done before because you’re not sort of inching in that direction.”

Okay. So, I’m also curious, could you tell us a hopeful story of someone who was struggling with these very common sorts of challenges and then did some things differently and saw some cool results?

Kelli Thompson

Yeah, so I’ll just throw myself under the bus here. So, I remember early on in my career, I went to my leader, and I said, “Hey, I want to develop my executive presentation skills.” I was that leader who was managing a team that I hadn’t done the work but I had gotten a few other teams, and so I’m thinking big picture, “I want to develop these presentation skills so I can continue to accelerate,” all the things.

And my leader, she was awesome, she goes, “Oh, that sounds great.” She goes, “You know what, all those slides that I have you prepare that I present to the C-suite every month for the month review, I’m gonnahave you come and you just present them.” And I’m like, “Oh, yeah, that sounds great.”

So, I go ahead and I prepare my slides, like I’ve always done, and we go to the top floor of our building, and I’m meeting with the CEO of the company, my boss, my boss’ boss, I think the CFO was there too, and I start presenting, and so far, so good. They’re asking me questions; I know the answers.

Well, what I didn’t know was she had prepped them ahead of time to let them know that I wanted this development opportunity, and I did not know this at the time. But they started to have a little fun with me, I think, and they started to ask me questions that, quite frankly, I didn’t know the answers to. Now, these questions were next-level questions that the senior leaders should be able to know and answer about sales, and revenues, and ratios, and all that sort of stuff.

Pete Mockaitis

“Kelli, how is this going to drive long-term scaleable synergies and keep going on?”

Kelli Thompson
Yeah, it was like that. And so, if you’ve ever been in a meeting like that, like let’s just pause and picture. Like, I’m stammering, my neck is red, I’m pitting out, I’m feeling like a complete idiot. It is so uncomfortable. But I know we’ve all been in meetings like that. And I don’t know who it’s worse for, the person, like me that’s sitting and stammering, or my boss, who is watching the train wreck go down in action.

And I think all of us watching the train wreck, and I know I’ve done this as a leader, have jumped in, interjected, saved the day, answered the questions, but she didn’t. She just sat there silently and gave me space to struggle through and answer the questions. She only answered questions when they were directed at her directly.

And so, the meeting finished, and we get in the elevator and we ride all 40 flights down, and she looked at me, and she said, “So, how do you think that went?” And I’m like, “Oh, my God, it went terrible,” and all the things. She goes, “You know what, Kelli, I prepped them a little bit. They were having a little fun at the end.” She goes, “But those questions are things that you’re going to have to learn how to answer.”

So, she goes, “I have a question for you. Who do you know that always seems to present well in front of senior leadership with those types of high-level questions?” And I actually named off a few people who I really admired. She said, “Great. I want you to go to them, and I want you to find out how they prep. And I want you to incorporate some of those methods so that you can do this again next month when I ask you to do it again.” And I was, like, “Oh, my gosh.”

So, I think we learn a couple of things from that. One, had my manager jumped in to save me, all I would’ve learned was that I only need to prep to a certain amount because, at any point, if this gets too uncomfortable for me or her, she’ll jump in and save. And so, when we do that to people, I know I’ve done that to people, they’re like, “Eh, I only got to do about this much. My manager will come in and take the rest,” and that really limits someone’s development and their learning because we never allow people that uncomfortable space for growth. So, one, she did not jump in and save me.

Number two, she did not tell me what to do. She just said, “How do you think that went? How do you want it to go? Who else do you know that does this well?” Well, she gave me my problem back, she’s like, “You go talk to them, you go figure out new ways, and then let me know how you’re going to present differently the next time.”

And so, she really let me own that discomfort and that struggle. And while it didn’t feel good, she still provided a lot of empathy, “Hey, we’ve all done this the first time. This is totally normal. They were testing you a little bit, so you can relax. You didn’t kill your career.” There’s lots of empathy and compassion but there was also this, “Hey, you have a new problem to solve, and how are you going to go about that for your own personal development?”

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, that’s beautiful. Thank you, Kelli. Well, now can you share with us what are perhaps the mindsets we need to adopt in order to pull this off effectively? And I think the answer to that is mistakes is to be expected, but you have more.

Kelli Thompson

There is. And so, maybe you can ask yourself these questions. I have found in my own life and in all of the hundreds of clients that I’ve worked with, there are four mindsets that keep us saying yes instead of saying no. And when I say, say yes, it’s doing all the doing, saying yes to all the things. Mindset number one is kind of a capability mindset. It’s this belief that, “Oh, if I don’t say yes, people are going to think I’m not capable.”

Then there’s sometimes a people-pleasing mindset, and it’s this, “Oh, gosh, if I don’t say yes, people are really going to be disappointed in me. They’re going to be really unhappy.” We say yes to keep people happy. Then there’s mindset number three. These are our responsible-caretaker mindset folks, where they’re like, “I have to say yes so that I look responsible and people know that I support them.” And then the fourth mindset that I often see is of, like, a perfectionist mindset, “I have to say yes so that I look perfect, and then I’m going to stall and stall and stall in this until it is perfect.”

And so, I think, sometimes, just by recognizing what’s happening in that moment can bring a little bit of self-aware so you can pause, in that way when your leader comes to you, and says, “Hey, can you take on this massive project?” or when you think about continuing to do the things instead of delegating, it’s like, “Wait a minute. Why am I hanging onto this project? Why do I feel that I’m the only one that can do this?”

I know for me, personally, capability mindset was a big thing, “If I delegate this and I delegate all this work, people are going to think I’m not capable, and that’s going to show up in my performance review, and my manager is going to be upset, and then I’m going to get fired,” we go down the whole spiral. So, maybe just really think about what is that mindset that keeps you saying yes, and then ask yourself, “Could the opposite actually be just as true?”

I know one of the things that I learned in my own life, and I know my clients have learned, is that sometimes when I say yes to too much, people actually start to question my capability. Why? Because I’ve said yes to too much. My quality suffers. I turn stuff in late. I don’t get back to people when I promised them. And so, now all my fears of looking incapable have come true.

And so, I think that would be the first place that I would really start is just to go, and we’re going to be like, “Why am I keeping this? Why am I taking this on? Why am I saying yes when I should be delegating and coaching others?” And so, something to take a look at.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s powerful. And it’s funny, when you said when you say yes too much, people’s perception of your capability declines. And where I thought you were going to go with is if there’s a restaurant that has everything in the buffet, like, “Oh, we got pizza, and French fries, and, oh, burgers, and sushi, and Lomi,” it’s like, “Hmm, yeah, I don’t know if you’re actually capable of making all these items well. I actually sort of have less faith in this restaurant as being able to do that.”

So, is that also a phenomenon that happens in the human work perception of each other’s skills domain? I imagine it would. What’s your experience?

Kelli Thompson

Oh, absolutely. So, I often call this rust-out. It’s a type of burnout. And so, you’re right. What can happen? “Because I’m people-pleasing, or I want people to see that I’m capable and responsible so I’m going to say yes to all the things. And now, all of a sudden, I’m running a project, and I’m quasi-managing a sales ops team, and, oh, yeah, why don’t you add in a little bit of training team to that or HR,” right? You have all of these things on the buffet. So, you’re just very mediocre at all of them.

And one of the things that I’ve noticed, and I even notice this for me, personally, especially in running my business because you kind of have to do the buffet of all the things, is those create a ton of energy leaks because my hunch is, and I work on this with my clients, there’s something that probably just totally ignites your energy.

Same with you, Pete, right? You probably do a podcast because you geek out, and it’s exciting, and people know you for it, and every time you come, you’re like, “Yes, this is going to be so fun. We’re going to have a great conversation.” That’s the type of energy that you want to bring into your work because it builds your brand as a leader, is you become known for something.

And so, when you start saying yes to all of these things that are outside your genius zone, at least in my own experience, I face a lot of what I call energy leaks. I was spending my time and energy on things that absolutely drained my energy. And that sort of energy drain creates rust-out. And I call rust-out as not using your talents. You feel rusty, you feel tired, and it’s actually a type of burnout.

And so, I love that you brought up this restaurant that offers too many things on the menu because they’re not known for anything, they’re not doing that one thing that they can do in their genius zone and offer excellently so they become known all over town as the place to go for that thing. And I don’t think leaders are any different. I think it’s so important to find that genius zone. What is it that you’ve been put on this Earth to do? Where do you make the biggest impact for your organization, drive their most revenue, save the most money? And how do you delegate everything that isn’t that?

Because my hunch is, if you’re doing work that’s not in your genius zone, you are robbing the people around you and below you of doing work in their genius zone. I can’t work in a pivot table. But you know what, I’ve got somebody on my team that excel in pivot tables, and numbers is their genius zone. Why would I rob them of that and do it in a mediocre way that just burns me out at the end of the day?

Pete Mockaitis

That is beautiful. And it’s so true in terms of, I think, we can all think of tasks that, really, we’re fired up to do, and tasks that we really, really, really dread doing, and then afterwards we just feel not great.

I also like what you had to say with regards to when you delegate, mistakes are to be expected. And this brings me back to one of my favorite conversations, Episode 528 with Aaron Levy, is that we have an expectation of iteration on certain things, and other things we don’t, and that’s really intriguing. It’s that if you look at that where you have it.

And it’s funny, I’ve been working with a composer to redo the music here – Shoutout to Breakmaster Cylinder – and it’s been really cool how we’ve been going through a lot of iterations, and I don’t mind. I actually really appreciate Breakmaster Cylinder for going through that with me, I appreciate that patience, they’re like, “Hey, here’s the eighth version. Tell me what you think about these things.”

And yet there are other times in which if it doesn’t come back perfect the first time, I’m really annoyed and irritated, and so I’m like, “What’s that about?” I think it has more to do with me than the person who is sending me something. And I think that’s just an intriguing area to explore within our own psyches, is, “Where do we expect mistakes and iterations? And where do we not? And why? And is it fair?” Can you help us sift through a little bit of this mess, Kelli?

Kelli Thompson

Yeah. So, I learned this lesson the hard way, as all hard things are learned. First, when I switched jobs, when I switched careers, and switched industries. And the second time I learned it was when I launched my own business. And so, I remember switching, I moved from banking and I went into, like, a healthcare tech startup.

And in my first 90 days, and I see this a lot with my clients, too, I think there’s this expectation, like, “I’m going to go in, and I’m going to knock their socks off, and I’m going to do all the things and achieve all the results in 90 days or less,” and it doesn’t happen that way. And, in fact, a lot of times you kind of push people the wrong way. People are like, “Gosh, who’s this person coming in and pushing their agenda?”

I had to learn a different way. I had to learn that, actually, your first 90 days should be about learning, “How much can you learn? How much can you ask? How curious can you be?” And when I was working for that tech startup, I had a gift that I didn’t I was going to give me a reading The Lean Startup.

Pete Mockaitis

So good. Eric Ries. Shoutout in the show notes. Link it.

Kelli Thompson

It’s so good. And if you don’t have time to read it, just watch the YouTube summary. You’re going to get everything you need. When I started my own business, I totally had a, “If I’m going to launch this, it better give me all the results I want.” But, thank goodness, I had read that book because I had to change my mindset, that when we try something, when we test something, when we delegate something, our goal should not be results. Our goal should not always be revenue, or perfection, or excellence. Our goal should be learning.

Because if we can go in with that curious, iterative, experimenter’s mindset, Pete, it’s the only reason I’m still in business five years from today, and I haven’t totally burnt myself out, or had unrealistic expectations. But it’s just way more fun. It is just so much more fun to be, like, “I’m going to just test this and just see what happens, see how the world responds to it.” Like, when your only job is curiosity and learning, it is so much more fun. It is so much more freeing.

Like, I know so many people who beat themselves up and it does, it causes depression, burnout when they launch something, and they expect it’s going to be perfect on that first iteration. Like, what a pressure to put yourself under as a leader, and what pressure to put people under us. So, I just find, personally, it is way more fun, and it is so much easier to be a leader for the long game, or be in a business like mine for the long game, when you are just thinking about iterating, and testing, and learning, and just seeing what the world gives back to you.

Pete Mockaitis

It’s so true. And I recently did a keynote speech to a bunch of creators, and it was really fun. And I sort of shared, “Hey, here’s ten of my creations, from books to podcast, to whatever, and you’re going to vote in advance. Was it a hit or was it a dud? And then I will tell you afterwards, and then what lessons I learned.” And so, it’s kind of a fun format we did.

And it was intriguing that, as I took this stroll through memory lane, the majority of the things I created were a dud, particularly the first time around, and then I took some iteration, or you scrap it, like you learn something. And one of the biggest lessons learned is just about sort of validating a concept before you build it. There’s some more Lean Startup action for you.

But what was really cool, some of the audience – shoutout to Jonathan Blevins – said, “You know, this was so encouraging because I’m embarking on this thing, and I put all this pressure on myself, like, this really has to succeed, it really has to succeed. But, no, it could fail and that can be fine.” And it really can.

And so, I loved what you said, in that world of delegating, is you want to give people those opportunities where they can fail and it can be fine because you’ve got some buffer in the deadline, you got a review step before it reaches the super CEO, or the clients who have a huge account with you, or whatever. Like, one way or another, it’s okay to fail, and, in fact, it might even be enjoyable, in so far as you come up with some new learnings and insights and aha-s along the way.

Can you give us some more practical tactical approaches for setting up that kind of safe delegating environmental vibe?

Kelli Thompson

Yeah. So, let me do it from two sides here. Side number one, I just want to continue to reiterate, delegate when the stakes are low. Okay, so let me give you an example from my own life. I didn’t go out and write my book, Closing the Confidence Gap, because it was the first time I’d ever talked about those concepts. Like, “No, we’re not going to go and put that out in a book.”

That book came from years of conversations, curiosity, asking questions, talking to people, and, quite frankly, putting information out. Like, I love sharing content on LinkedIn. I think it’s fun. It’s a good place to iterate and test, “I’m going to share this idea and see if people react to it.” And you know what, the more kind of people engage and react, I’m like, “Okay, I might be onto something. I can expand this and grow it.”

And sometimes, I’ll put stuff out and it is a dud. And so then, I have to ask myself, “Okay, was it tone? Was it too much? Was it too long? Is this idea not resonating right?” It’s really like a lab. And so, I wrote the book through lots and lots and lots of iteration and testing in low-stakes environments. Like, LinkedIn is a low-stakes environment to test ideas. But then we refine those ideas with people and with audiences, and I might share them with a small group, and then it gets into a book.

So, I want you to think about that at work, how we are constantly testing low-stakes environment where we can learn and it feels fun to learn, but I want to flip this and I want to put it also from the person who’s, like, “But, Kelli, I am not a manager. I’m awesome at my job. And because I’m awesome at my job, guess what, everybody wants me to do all the things.”

I want to share with you a tactic that actually my business manager did to me just about a month ago, because, as leaders, I just want to normalize, sometimes we get really excited about things. We read things, and we’re like, “Oh, I’m going to have my team work on this right away,” and we forget everything that we delegated to them the last three months.

So, that was me. I got all jazzed about an idea. I think it was some sort of competitive analysis, and I emailed my business manager, I said, “Hey, Kristen, I just thought about this, and we should do this this week.” And she so beautifully said, “Kelli, here are the three priorities that you gave me in the last month to work on for the business. Would you like me to stop one of these priorities so that you can focus on this one that you came up with today?” And, of course, she was very nice, she was very tactical, and I laughed, I was like, “Well, she’s read my book, and she used my technique on me.”

Because I think, sometimes, we forget, as leaders, what we’ve told people, what people are working on that maybe we forgot to tell them to stop doing, we’re like, “Oh, I forgot to tell them that’s not a priority anymore.” So, I think if you’re an individual contributor who’s awesome at your job, and you don’t want to be burnt out, just have a very intelligent conversation with your leader, and say, “I love that idea. Here’s the three things I’m working on this week because you said they were a priority, and they’re due by the 15th of the month. Is this still the case? Is this still a priority? Or, would you want me to pull one of these off the list so that I can put that one on?”

Like, let’s just have a priorities conversation because, that way, we’re not getting overworked, we’re not getting overloaded. And for somebody who has no one to delegate to, I think it’s a good way to manage up some of those delegation opportunities.

Pete Mockaitis

Beautiful. And tell me, when you’re engaged in some of the coaching, the follow-up, the accountability, the hard conversations, do you have any top do’s or don’ts or favorite scripts you like to use in the course of these conversations?

Kelli Thompson

I like to think of the four P’s. So, when you’re delegating something, talk about the purpose, “Why are we doing this? Why am I asking you to do this? Like, what is the bigger picture?” The second thing that I want folks to focus on is the second P, which is people, “Who is involved?” And when you think about people, “Who are the decision-makers? Who needs to be consulted in your work? And who just needs to be informed?”

And so, that’s a really good conversation to have when you’re delegating something because, then, you can say, “Who is the decision-maker here? Is it you, Pete? Or, is it still me? Do you still need to bring things to me? Or, are you capable of making all the decisions about this project? Who do you need to consult? What stakeholders do you need to talk to before you move forward on any progress? And then when you made these decisions, or you’re doing this work, who do you need to keep informed?”

The third thing is the process. So, I think this is a good conversation to have to say, “Okay, here is where, perhaps, you need to follow some standardized processes.” I used to work in banking, so there were just some rules we had to follow, like, “Hey, here are some rules you have to follow here to get this done, but here’s where you can have leeway.” I think it’s great. Instead of just saying, “Hey, do whatever you want.” I think that can cause a lot of panic in folks. So, let’s communicate what processes or systems do we need to follow here but where you can have a little bit of creativity.

And then the last P is performance. I see people miss this one all the time. I struggle with this one. But be specific about what great outcomes look like, meaning, “What does success look like in this project? Are there ratios we’re trying to achieve? Is there a certain revenue number we’re trying to achieve? Is it a certain number of signups, or money saved, or risks reduced?” Whatever that is, but be specific so that you can communicate to this person.

And I think about, like in my own team, when I’m talking, my business manager helped me implement a customer relationship management system. And so, when I delegated that to her, I said, “We will know we have been successful in choosing the right system because it will do, A, B, and C.” Like, be clear about that so that people aren’t just assuming that they know what the results look like, but we actually have a conversation about what looks like success.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s lovely. Well, Kelli, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Kelli Thompson

I would say, in terms of delegations, I think sometimes, we do, we feel it’s hard. We feel uncomfortable Sometimes we feel guilty. It’s hard sometimes watching other people struggle. It truly is because it evokes feelings in them and in us because sitting in discomfort is not something that we, as humans, enjoy.

But I would really just encourage you just to pause one moment longer. When you’re watching somebody struggle, when you’re watching your child try to clean the living room or use the vacuum, before you jump in, can you pause just one moment longer to allow them to work through that discomfort because that’s where all the learning happens?

Pete Mockaitis

Thank you. Well, now could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Kelli Thompson

Because I love to play the long game. I’ve been really reciting this quote back to myself, which is, “Consistency isn’t sexy but it works. Just showing up every day, playing the long game keeps you from burning out.”

Pete Mockaitis

And a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Kelli Thompson

So, every year, I love the McKinsey and LeanIn Women in the Workplace Report. It comes out every year, usually November-ish of every year. And the one I’ve especially been focusing on is this, is that first promotion that happens. And so, what they find is that the talent pipeline breaks down because, for every 100 men that are promoted, 87 women are promoted. And as those job roles continue to accelerate in the organization to the C-suite, it gets less and less and less and less.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. And a favorite book?

Kelli Thompson

My favorite fiction book I read in the last year was Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus. It is fiction but it does read like nonfiction when it talks about, again, women’s role in the workplace in which it takes place. But the book I waited way too long to read was, Never Split the Difference by Chriss Voss.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah, we had him on the show.

Kelli Thompson

Yes. And so, I won’t give too many spoilers but I will say that that is not a negotiation book. It is an emotional intelligence and empathy book, and I highly recommend all leaders read it.

Pete Mockaitis

And how about a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Kelli Thompson

I don’t know what I’d do without Calendly. It makes everything so easy, so much less back-and-forth.

Pete Mockaitis

And a favorite habit?

Kelli Thompson

My favorite habit is to lift weights almost every morning.

Pete Mockaitis

And is there a key nugget you share, something that really connects and resonates with folks; they quote it back to you often?

Kelli Thompson

“Confidence is a side effect of taking action.” I think, all too often, we wait until we feel confident to take action, but it’s after we take the action that we actually feel the confidence.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Kelli Thompson

You can go to my website, www.KelliRaeThompson.com. I’m Kelli with an I, and then R-A-E. The two places I hang out on social are LinkedIn. So, find me at Kelli Thompson, or Instagram @kelliraethompson.

Pete Mockaitis

All right. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Kelli Thompson
I would say find that one thing, one tiny thing, even if it you don’t manage people, I bet you can do it in your personal life. What’s one low-stakes item that is draining your energy that you can delegate, either to your children, to an outside company, or to somebody on your team?

Pete Mockaitis

Beautiful. Well, thank you, Kelli. I wish you many successful delegations.

Kelli Thompson

Awesome. Thank you.

825: The Six Steps of Masterful Delegation with Aaron Schmookler

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Aaron Schmookler shares practical, hard-won wisdom on how to delegate wisely to minimize time, and frustration.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to get over the resistance to delegate
  2. What you need to do before delegating anything 
  3. The simple trick to ensuring follow through 

 

About Aaron

For nearly 30 years, Aaron has helped people find their intrinsic motivation, their capacity to collaborate, and the fulfillment that comes from harnessing their creativity. As the co-founder and CEO of The Yes Works, he specializes in supporting business leaders who believe that people are their greatest asset to create environments that bring out their best. 

Aaron and The Yes Works serve clients across the country and across industries including Microsoft, MOD Pizza, DiscoverOrg, Burkhart Dental Supply, SOG Knives, 9th Gear, and Textainer to make work good for people and people good for work. 

Resources Mentioned

Aaron Schmookler Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Aaron, welcome back to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Aaron Schmookler
Thank you for having me, Pete. It’s exciting to be talking to you again.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited too. And I was taking a gander at our last conversation. Fun fact, in the transcript of Episode 497, the phrase “Tell me more about that” appeared 13 times.

Aaron Schmookler
Oh, fun that you counted.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I could just do Control-F find. It’s funny because I think we’re both such fanatical fans of the phrase and how useful it is for a variety of purposes. And, listeners, I recommend you check that out. It may transform your lexicon forever. But I’d love to hear, over the last three years, have there been any interesting stories or discoveries or saves of that day that have emerged with you trying out our favorite phrase?

Aaron Schmookler
Boy, I’m sure that there have been countless times that that has come up. I had already experienced the time when somebody called me a jerk or some other less kind, less family-friendly term, and I said something to the effect of, “Well, clearly, I’ve rubbed you the wrong way. Tell me more about that.” And that turned the relationship around.

Since then, I’m sure it’s helped with the health of my marriage and with my daughter. I’m sure, also, that it’s helped with my business partners and with my clients. It’s such a natural and consistent part of my lexicon now that I don’t think that I have the dramatic stories that I might’ve had when I first started to employ that phrase as a tool.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I hear you. Well, it has continued to serve me well also, particularly when I just need a beat to think, to orient, to, “What the heck is going on right now?” as well as, “I genuinely don’t understand what you said,” and it’s much more friendly than, like, “What the heck are you blathering on about now?”

Aaron Schmookler
“What? That doesn’t make any sense,” is what I’m often tempted to say.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, good to know. So, now, I’d love to chat with you about delegation. You sent me a beautiful proposal. Thank you for that. And I thought that’s exactly something that we should talk about, so let’s do it. Can you kick us off with any particularly surprising or fascinating or extra counterintuitive discoveries you’ve made about delegation in your 30 years of working with different folks?

Aaron Schmookler
Well, I’ll skip to the end and say I love the book Who Not How. And I’m trying now to remember the name of the author, but “Who Not How,” the premise or the thesis of the book is, essentially, “Stop trying to figure out how to do it. Somebody already knows and they can do it better than you. So, figure out who should be doing this instead of how you are going to do it.”

Pete Mockaitis
I love that so much that I was frantically Googling in the background. It is Dan Sullivan. I believe that’s the strategic coach Dan Sullivan.

Aaron Schmookler
That’s the guy, yeah. Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
Who’s got a wealth of goodies that I’ve enjoyed.
Who Not How
, I think that really holds true. And I am astounded at how people can often do things so much better than me. Maybe I shouldn’t be astounded. I should just expect that by now, having learned it so many times. Where I thought, I’ve got a rental property in Chicago, and I thought, “Okay, I’ve checked out the BiggerPockets podcast, okay, I’ve got a little bit of sensibility associated with finding a bargain and renting it out and making it look okay.”

And then I get a property manager who just, like, ran circles around me in terms of, “Oh, yeah. Well, that’s actually a two-car garage so you just got to paint a really good line in there.” I was like, “Oh, but it’s kind of tight.” He’s like, “Welcome to every parking space in Chicago. Also, here’s how we can make them pay for their own water.” It’s like, “Whoa, you should be doing this and not me.”

Aaron Schmookler
One of the things that’s coming to the top of my mind as you’re sharing that story, as a counterintuitive truth about delegation, when I’m training managers to delegate effectively, one of the questions that I ask them in kind of preparing before we got to the “What are our six-step model looks like?” is I ask them, “What holds you back from delegating?”

And, very often, I get responses like, “I don’t want to give people things that I wouldn’t want to do. I don’t want to just push the scut work off onto somebody else.” And the remarkable truth is all the stuff that I hate doing, somebody else loves.

Pete Mockaitis
It is remarkable and true. Hence, a remarkable truth.

Aaron Schmookler
Right. I thank God every day for inventing accountants, for example.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yes. You’re speaking my language, and I love accountants too. I hope I haven’t been harsh on them just because I dislike doing accounting work so much, but if it’s in the realm of bookkeeping or compliance-y things, today, we had to find a title for a car in order to renew a thing, I was like, “What? Is a paper I was supposed to have received in a mail and then held on to for a year? That’s really pushing my capability.”

Aaron Schmookler
As my friend Dave would say, “I resemble that remark.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right, so that’s cool. So, it’s who not how, and Dan Sullivan wrote a great book called just that, which is nifty. And some things we sure dislike doing, other people love doing. That’s cool and a blessing. So, then lay it on us, is there, maybe, a particularly inspiring story to tee this up and get us going, “Oh, yeah, I’m fired up to delegate”? Maybe there’s someone who’s overwhelmed and transformed their effectiveness and their stress levels with delegation. No pressure, Aaron.

Aaron Schmookler
I’ll tell a story from my own history. I don’t know if we talked before, Pete, about the fact that I come from a theater background, and my primary training there was as a director, but on the way, I was also a technical director. And one of the things that the technical director is responsible for is, at the end of the show, the very night that the last audience sees the show, as soon as the audience is out the door and those doors are closed, at that very moment begins what’s called strike and they start tearing down the set.

A lot of it goes, ridiculous amounts of the set goes into the trash, all the lights are removed, those that aren’t part of the regular repertory in the theater. And the technical director’s job at strike is, essentially, to make sure that it goes and that it goes off without a hitch. And the first time that I ever led strike, I remember standing on the stage, I’ve got my tools in my hands, I’m spending a fair amount of time working on the materials myself, and pointing and telling people, “Okay, go do this,” and giving them a single task to do, and people would be flocking to me.

I, eventually, had to put my tools down, and it was just so much work for me to try to direct 23, or something like that, people to go and do this task and then this task, and then this task, and then this task. I was so exhausted at the end of that night that I might as well have done the strike myself in order to have gotten that exhausted, and it wasn’t very effective. And we were there much longer than we should’ve been, and we made much less progress than we should’ve been.

So, I called up the last tech director that I remembered working for and really enjoyed, and I said, “What did I do wrong? What do I need to do better?” And he said, “Okay. Well, tell me about what you did.” So, I told him the story of the night, he said, “You are assigning things task by task. And then he said, “You got to break things down into objectives, what’s the result that you want to see, and put somebody in charge of that result.”

“And when somebody comes to you and says, ‘What do I do next?’ you say, ‘Go join Mary over there,’ or, ‘Go join John over there. He’s got this project and he’ll put you to work.’” And so, by delegating objectives, I was able to create mini-teams of my team. And the next time, we got more done than we had anticipated. We got out earlier than we had anticipated.

And so, just that one shift from delegating or assigning tasks, and this is a distinction that I was expecting to talk to you about by the end of our conversation, this distinction between assigning tasks and delegating end results, delegating outcomes, was tremendously powerful for me in an instant.

Pete Mockaitis
I love it, and it really does resonate. I am thinking about events. When you talked about striking the stage, like, “Oh, I did some theater stuff back in the day.” And some events, like putting on these, it was called HOBY, Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership, sophomore leadership seminars for high school students, as well as my wedding. Like, one of my favorite things to do was carve out zones of responsibility for people.

And sometimes, I even like to make up new names. It’s like, “Okay, Michelle, you’re fantastic and I’m going to trust you to be the person who answers all of the guests’ questions that they would like answered when me and my bride would rather not be tied to our phones on our wedding day.”

Aaron Schmookler
There you go.

Pete Mockaitis
Because I’ve been on both sides of that equation in terms of, “Oh, I’ve got some questions but it’s not quite clear. Like, where do I go? What do I do? Can I do this at the wedding? I don’t want to bother the bride and groom but I kind of like to know.” And so, I was like, “Michelle, you are the director of guest experience. That’s your role. And we’re letting all the guests know, ‘If you have any questions, you call Michelle.” And so, that was really cool.

And for HOBY, we got someone who’s talented with design things but she didn’t want to be in charge of the whole programming thing, so we said, “You are the artistic director. If there’s any sort of color or logo or design or image that goes on a T-shirt or a booklet or a nametag or a door decoration, you are the master of that.” And she’s like, “Oh, sweet.” I knew it was fun for both of us because it decimates ambiguity, it was like, “Oh, that’s me.” It’s like, “Oh, lights? You say lights, Aaron, that’s me.” “Oh, did you say the huge backdrop? Oh, that’s me.” And you get to feel good when you own that thing.

Aaron Schmookler
That’s right. That’s right. And I’ve created an event recently that we called “I’m not participating in this recession.” And it was an event for C-suite folks to come to. I had a CEO, who had been the CEO of SOG Knives, to come because he had taken his company through some recessions. And one of the things that he shared with our attendees was that he likes to make people the CEO of their realm within his company because it just creates so much leverage for him to be able to say, “You handle this.”

And one of the things that I advise, when people are contemplating, “Can I delegate this?” is that if somebody can do a job up to 75% as well as you can, 75% is a good marker to say to them, “You, go take care of this.” Because if you can delegate to three people 75% of what you could accomplish, well, the leverage of all that multiplicity is tremendous.

Aaron Schmookler
Seventy-five percent of three things is much better than 100% of one.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I dig that. And I think it’s really useful to note, “The thing that you’re delegating, is it super crazy mission-critical?” Like, there are very few things in this world, although there are some, in which if you do it a hair better, the rewards are huge. I’m thinking about maybe direct-response copywriting. I’m thinking about Google search engine optimization. I’m thinking about Olympic swimming. Hundredth of a second, like, gold versus nothing.

Aaron Schmookler
Yes, that’s correct.

Pete Mockaitis
But almost everything else is, “You can do this 75% as well? Well, then have at it, and away we go.”

Aaron Schmookler
Especially within our companies, part of the time and effort that we put in our companies is on the core competency of our company, “This is what we do. This is what we do different from other people. This is what we do better than other people. This is what you have come to us for. Everything else in our company is not that.”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right. Bookkeeping, you didn’t come here. Or, invoicing. Yeah, that’s good. All right. Well, lovely concepts. Now, you actually have a pretty precise five or six, depending on how we’re counting, steps for effective delegation. Can you walk us through these?

Aaron Schmookler
Sure. And you’ve hinted at the idea that this is a six-step model with five steps, in a way, because step zero, I’m considering step zero because, though this is the first step in delegating, it is just you, all by yourself, getting yourself ready to go and do the delegation. And there are some questions for you to answer before you go and do that.

One, “What is the desired outcome? What do you want? What is the end state that you need to have accomplished?” In the military, they call this commander’s intent, “What’s the commander’s intent?” It sounds simple but it’s often very hard, and one way to get there is to think about, “Why do I want this done?” That will help you to conceive what is the end result look like.

So, then when you’ve got your end result mapped out, you also need to answer the question, “When do I need to have this result in hand? And, therefore, what’s a decent margin for failing?” So, if I’m going to delegate something to you, Pete, that I need on Friday by 3:00, if I asked you to deliver it to me by Friday at 3:00, I’ve set us both up to be in real trouble. Better that I should ask you for it by Thursday at noon so that we’ve got time to look it over, make some adjustments, figure out that we’ve got problems, resolve them before I need the thing.

The next question to ask yourself, and we’re still in step zero, is, “Who will be served by taking on this responsibility? And who is able to serve the purpose?” That’s kind of a two-part question. So, who is the right person because they’re going to be served by this? Maybe they really enjoy this kind of work. Or, when I have somebody working for me, I ask them, “Where do you want your career to end up? Where do you want your career to be a year, five years down the line? Okay, what skills and talents are you going to need to get there? Oh, well, this project is going to serve you developing that. So, that is a good reason to give this to you, also, because you’re going to be capable of serving the purpose.”

And then the last question to ask yourself, but still in prep, is, “What are they going to need to succeed? What’s the information that they’re going to need? What resources are they going to need?” And do not skip this one, “What authority, what decision-making authority are they going to need in order to succeed?” That’s step zero before you even begin to delegate, preparing yourself to be ready.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And then, I’m wondering, for those who have a hard time letting go, delegating, they might say, “Well, nobody is sufficiently qualified or able to handle this.” How do we respond to that?

Aaron Schmookler
Two things. One is, “Are you sure?” We talked already about that 75% rule. If somebody is going to be able to deliver 75%, then maybe it’s time to reassess what nobody looks like. The second thought that I have is Dennis Bakke wrote a book called Joy at Work in which he suggests that you push decision-making down. And in delegating, he says, “You can set parameters. Without withdrawing the authority to make decisions, you can set parameters.”

So, if I delegate to you, Pete, and I think you don’t have the judgment yet, I might say, “I want you to talk to Betty and Bob about everything that you’re considering before you make the decision. At the end of the day, the decision is yours, and I want you to have the benefit of their insights before you make the final decision.” So, that’s another way of cranking up people’s capability while leaving their decision-making authority intact.

And I’ve actually thought of a third thing to share, which is, “If they can’t do the whole thing, what parts of it can they do? What parts of it can you delegate and then maybe you retain the rest?”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. All right. I like that notion of the parameters. So, one of it could be, “If it’s you get the input from these people, another one could be if it’s over X thousand dollars or whatever, then you check in with me,” or, “If it’s concerning super client A, B, or C, I want to know about it. If it’s any dozens of other clients, have at it.”

Cool. So, we’ve got the parameters, so it’s not a sort of 100% carte blanche, “It’s all yours,” but rather, “Okay, here’s a slice of it,” and it may very well still be the vast majority, which is cool. All right, so that’s step zero. What’s our step one?

Aaron Schmookler
Step one, and this one is a little bit counterintuitive, is to ask somebody, to give them something to do without giving them any details. And this is counterintuitive on a couple of levels. When we’re training managers, some people push back on the idea that they should ask anybody anything instead of just simply telling them, “Hey, here’s what you’re going to do.”

And then the other reason that they push back is they say, “What do you mean with no details?” So, here’s what I mean, “Hey, Pete, can I get your help with something?” “Pete, may I give you a project?”

Pete Mockaitis
It’s so funny, like, when you asked me that, you’ve galvanized my attention but maybe in an anxious kind of a way, it’s like, “Ahh, what do you have in mind exactly, Aaron?” And maybe…

Aaron Schmookler
So, the maybe is important because the maybe is correct, and we’ll get to that in a moment. The galvanizing your attention is the biggest part of this. One is I’m treating with respect by asking for permission. And then I can’t count the number of times, somebody will poke their head into my office and simply start to ask me questions, and my attention is on whatever I’m doing, and I have no idea what they’ve said, it goes in one ear and out the other.

And with my attention deficit disorder, and I’m very much like this, and even neurotypical people are like this as well, we all need a basket to put things in. So, when you say, “Can I get your help with something? Can I give you a project? Can I give you a new responsibility?” I now have a basket to put all of the details that you’re going to give me in and create order for my brain, and that’s going to serve everybody.

And with respect to the anxiety that I’ve created, largely that’s because you and I don’t have a relationship where we’re doing this, where you know what’s going to come next. So, one of the things that I recommend to any manager or anybody who’s in a position to be delegating is to tell people in advance, “Hey, when I delegate to you, here’s what it’s going to look like. I’m going to go through these six steps.”

“And what this step I’m going to do before I even get to you, then I’m going to come and I’m going to ask you, ‘Can I get your help with something?’ I’m going to ask you, ‘Can I give you a new responsibility?’” And no is a perfectly good answer, and here are the other steps that I’m going to go through so that that anxiety is alleviated in advance by your knowing, “Okay, this is just step one in a five-step process.”

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. And then I think you say no is the acceptable answer to, “Can I get your help with something?” I guess, also, maybe any number of context-sharing things, like, “Well, I feel wildly overwhelmed by this crazy important task that’s due in two hours, but what did you have in mind?”

Aaron Schmookler
Right. And if you tell me you have a crazy important task that’s due in two hours, I’m going to say, either, “Thank you for telling me, Pete, you’re not the right person,” or, “Oh, well, this is not pressing. Why don’t I come to you three hours from now to give you a chance to get that turned in and catch your breath?”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good.

Aaron Schmookler
So, that takes us to step two, which is now we’re going to lay out the details of who does what by when, what is it that I’m asking you for. And there’s another podcast called Manager Tools, and one of the things that they suggest at this point in any delegation is that instead of delegating the task be done, delegate the reporting that it is done.

And I think that is just a brilliant insight to say, instead of, “Hey, Pete, will you do this?” to say, “Hey, Pete, please tell me by 3:00 p.m. on Thursday that this is complete,” or, “Please send me an email with the file of this report by 3:00 p.m. on Thursday.” So, you’re delegating the reporting because if I don’t know it’s done, it has no value to me.

So, delegate the reporting, “Tell me as soon as this is complete. Here’s the outcome I’m looking for,” the manager’s intent, what is the end state, rather than all of the meticulous details, “Here’s the deadline and here are some resources, here are some considerations, here’s the authority that you have.” When I say consideration, that might be you might be tempted. If I’m asking you to rent us a truck, I might say, “The last time we went to U-Hall, we had these problems, so consider looking at Penske and Budget before you go talking to U-Hall.” So, that’s step two, is to lay out what it is that I’m asking for.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So you’re elaborating, so who does what, by when, to what standard, for what reason, with what resources. Can you elaborate a little bit on the standard? Like, how can we go about unpacking and delineating what is good optimal acceptable versus what is not?

Aaron Schmookler
So, you’re going to want to ask yourself the question of, “What do I need to see?” So, the standard for a truck might include it needs those rails on the wall that you can latch things to. The standard might include the budget. The standard might include the size of the truck. If I’m asking you to create a report, the standard might include margins for error.

Or, if I’m asking you to design something, the standard might be, “I want this to look opulent.” What are the ways that you can describe what it should look like, what it should feel like, what it should be like? And what are the questions that you’re going to be asking when you assess its success?

Aaron Schmookler
In other words, how do we know if you’ve succeeded at the end? Are there no grammatical errors? Are there no spelling errors? Does that matter? And perfectionism, when we talk about perfectionism, perfectionism is somebody insisting that they go beyond the standard, which wastes time, effort, and peace of mind.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, okay. Cool. Well, now, can you share with us the step three, negotiate?

Aaron Schmookler
Yeah. So, step three, as you said, is to negotiate, “I asked you if I could give you something. You said yes. And you said yes sight unseen, or maybe you said it depends, so you don’t know what…you didn’t know until now what I was asking for.” So, at this point, the negotiation includes asking the questions, “Okay, now that you know what I’m asking for, Pete, are you still in? Does this still work for you? Do you have what you need?”

“I’ve told you about these resources, I’ve told you about that authority, I’ve given you these tools. Is there anything else that you need that I haven’t thought of? Do you need help? Do you need people? People are some of the resources that you might need. And if you’re tempted to say no, and/or if you’re not sure how to meet the rest of your obligations, then we may be reallocating your other priorities and your other responsibilities.”

“I don’t have time to do that because I’ve got this.” “Oh, well, let’s delay the deadline on that,” or, “Okay, let me take back this thing that I was trying to delegate to you because, clearly, this isn’t going to fit on your plate,” or, “Let’s take this other thing off your plate and give it to somebody else so that you have the bandwidth to handle this.” So, the negotiation is, “Okay, what will it take to make this work if, in fact, it does?”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And then step four?
Aaron Schmookler
So, step four is to keep in touch, and this is very often an overlooked step because people say, “Okay, go do this. I’ll see you at the end.” Tools for this include if you’re a manager having weekly one-on-ones where you’re checking in with your direct report, or the weekly one-on-one is focused on your relationship in general where you keep touch, “How is this going?”

Or, if this is a longer-term project, you set, “Here’s the final deadline,” that there are benchmarks along the way, “Here’s how we know we’re on track. This is going to be accomplished three weeks away from the deadline,” “This is going to be accomplished four weeks away from the deadline,” “This is going to be accomplished five weeks away from the deadline.” So, you’re keeping touch of, “Are we on track at each of those benchmark locations?” And you’re checking in on the standards at those times as well.

So, you create a channel for reporting and keep in touch at least weekly, at least briefly. So, that’s step four, is to make sure that you’re keeping in touch.

Pete Mockaitis
At least weekly, that’s handy. And then you mentioned that fine is not a status report in terms of, “Hey, how are things going?” “Fine.” What more precisely are we looking to hear when we’re keeping in touch?

Aaron Schmookler
Here’s where the benchmarks come in, “Oh, well, I’m two days behind on this benchmark,” or, “I’m two days ahead. I’ve reached this benchmark even though it’s not actually due until two days from now.” So, that’s one thing. Or, a status report is, “We’re on track and, in terms of we’ve hit all the benchmarks, up until now. And there’s an obstacle emerging that I didn’t anticipate. Let’s talk about how I might get around this obstacle. Can I have your insight?” Or, “I’m going to need a $100 or $1,000 to level this obstacle that’s come up.” “The price of lumber has changed.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And then step five, debrief?

Aaron Schmookler
Step five is after the fact. So, arguably, this isn’t part of a delegation model. It’s part of a checking in, and I think it needs to be there because I don’t consider it complete until we’ve learned what there is to learn from the process that we just went through, “What worked and what didn’t? What worked in terms of how our communication went? What worked in terms of my execution of what you delegated to me? What worked in terms of did our standard actually meet the need?”

“I delivered this entirely on standard. This is exactly what we designed and it still didn’t solve the problem that this project was intended to solve. So, what needs to change?” So, a few questions to ask here, “What do we need to keep? What do we need to stop, to just get rid of this entirely? This was completely extraneous. What do we need to add? What wasn’t there that needs to be there? And what do we need to adjust? We got the blue one, it was the wrong blue. Or, we got these but, instead of five, we need seven.”

So, what do we need to keep, what do we need to stop, what do we need to add, what do we need to adjust. And that takes us, Pete, through six steps if you include step zero to prepare yourself for the delegation.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And then maybe zooming out or cutting across all these steps, what are some of the top things that make all the difference for preventing disasters, disappointments, oopsies, and stressful moments?

Aaron Schmookler
So, I’ll start with perhaps the answer that people are going to like the least. I remember when I took my first advanced level biology class in college was a genetics class. And I sat down for the first exam, and I looked at the cover sheet of the exam, and what it said was, “This is one test in one class, in one part of your schooling, which is just one part of your life. Your performance on this exam, while it may be important right now, is not critical to the outcome of your life, so don’t fret.” That was the cover page of this exam.

And then I opened up the exam, and the first question was, “For ten points, what color is a Golden Retriever? Hint: Look at its name.” So, that story is intended, Pete, to illustrate that part of how you can prevent disasters is by chilling out, both because the things that you’re thinking of as disasters are probably not as disastrous as you think they are, and because fearing disaster makes disaster more likely. And so, one illustration that I love about this, I used to be a hang glider pilot.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, cool.

Aaron Schmookler
And when you land a hand glider, generally, you’re looking for a big open field to land the hang glider in. And what happens more often than you would imagine is that there’s a big open field with one tree in the middle, and the hang glider pilot hits the tree in the middle. There’s lots of open space, and the hang glider pilot flies right into the tree.

And the reason is that in the fear and anxiety of not wanting to hit the tree, the pilot looks at the tree. And your brain is designed to take you where you’re looking. Millions of years of evolution have made our brains direct where we go to where we’re looking. So, if you’re looking for a disaster, you are much more likely to steer into it. Look instead for the clear open field, and you think, “Open field. Open field. Okay, there’s the tree, that’s where I don’t want to go,” and then you spend the bulk of your time and attention on, “Here’s where I do want to go. Here’s where I do want to go.”

Another part of the answer to your question, Pete, is to consider those benchmarks, and to really not get lazy about checking in with those benchmarks, and assessing along the way, as part of your keep in touch step, “Do these benchmarks still make sense or do they need to be reassessed? Are we still on target to meet the deadline? Are we still on standard? Are we getting further and further? If we start to fall behind, are we getting further and further behind, or are we finding that, over time, we’re catching up?” So, those are a few of the thoughts that I have about that question.

[39:21]

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And then when it comes to micromanaging, I think folks don’t like being micromanaged, and, on the flipside, managers are scared to be micromanaging. How do we make sure we strike this balance appropriately?

Aaron Schmookler
Micromanaging is about backseat driving. It’s about checking in so regularly that people can’t get into a flow. Micromanaging is about making decisions that other people could make. It is not about the frequency of your check-in, provided you’re allowing people to accomplish stuff and get into a flow state before your next check-in. People are so afraid of micromanaging in my experience. The tyranny of micromanagement is the fear of micromanaging far more often than the tyranny of micromanagement is actual micromanagement.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so that’s reassuring and comforting. So, then any maybe pro tips or indicators, like, “Oh, you might be getting close to that line”?

Aaron Schmookler
Of micromanagement?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Aaron Schmookler
If you are tempted to take back the project that you’ve given to somebody, think twice. Taking back the delegation is often a piece of micromanagement. If you are trying to get marginal improvement by changing the decisions that they have made, you’re very likely micromanaging. And it’s important to think about… micromanagers are very often, what they’re trying to do is risk management, “I don’t want this to go badly. I want this to go as well as it possibly could. I want the outcome to be 100%.”

The risk there, the risk that you actually attain is demoralizing people, is losing the leverage that you have as somebody who can delegate, to get more than one thing done at a time. And so, if you are wasting human capital, if you are wasting people’s potential and fulfillment in pursuit of marginal accomplishment, you are a micromanager. It’s time to rethink your priorities.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, now, Aaron, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Aaron Schmookler
I’m glad you brought up micromanagement because that probably would’ve been how I would’ve answered that question. I think I’m ready for favorite things.

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s do it. Could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Aaron Schmookler
This quote is often attributed to Goethe and it, evidently, is not his, and it’s not known where it came from. So, it is, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Aaron Schmookler
there’s an experiment around something called enclothed cognition.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah.

Aaron Schmookler
And enclothed cognition is, essentially, enclothed, meaning the clothes that you are wearing, cognition, meaning thought. And so, this experiment took people and put them in a smock, like a painter’s smock, and asked them to do accounting work, like work on a spreadsheet, the kind of stuff that you and I were talking about we don’t really like.

And wearing a smock, they were worse than if they were just wearing their normal clothes at doing that task. And wearing a lab coat, they were better than they were at doing that task than if they were just wearing their normal street clothes. And by contrast, if they were asked to do something creative, like create a painting, then they were better wearing the smock than they were in their normal street clothes. And if you put them in a lab coat, they were worse at being creative and original and interesting in creating their art than they were…worse in a lab coat than they were in their street clothes. Fascinating.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite book?

Aaron Schmookler
Today, I’m going to name Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss. A very compelling book about negotiation.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job.

Aaron Schmookler
I love Calendly. I’m not that great at tracking administrative details, so being able to give somebody either a link to go and book time on my calendar, or Calendly gives you this one-off meeting thing where I can tell you, “Here are a bunch of times. Click one and you’ll appear instantly on my calendar.” Very, very useful for me.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite habit?

Aaron Schmookler
“One more” is my favorite habit right now. There’s a lot to do in my life, as there is in all or our lives. And I might go to the sink that’s maybe full of the day’s dishes and start to wash the dishes and start to be tempted to go, “I’m feeling hungry. I want to go dirty another dish.” And I just say, “One more.” And one more will often get me all the way through all the dishes, or all the phone calls that I need to make, or any of those things. So, I have a habit right now of saying, “One more,” when I start to feel like, “I’ve got to move on from this.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And is there a particular nugget you share that seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often?

Aaron Schmookler
I’ve mentioned some of the manager training that we’ve been doing lately, and this is something that hits all managers, I think, where they live. I’ve had CEOs audibly kind of get hit, they sound like they’ve just been punched in the stomach when I say, “If there’s no consequence for consistently missing a job requirement, then that thing is not actually a job requirement. It’s something that you’ve put on your wish list and it’s a resentment-builder.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, yeah. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Aaron Schmookler
You can find me on LinkedIn. I’m the only Aaron Schmookler on LinkedIn. And you can find me on all the work that we’re doing at TheYesWorks.com.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Aaron Schmookler
Yeah, I’ll stay in keeping with the theme of the day – delegate. Go delegate. Are you not good at it? Delegate it. Are you not interested in it? Delegate it. You don’t have time? Delegate it. Delegate it. Go delegate. There’s almost nobody that I know who delegates too much, but there are lots of people that I know who delegate too little. Myself included, by the way.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Aaron, this has been a treat. I wish much luck and fun in all your delegations.

Aaron Schmookler
Well, thank you. Likewise, right back at you.

594: Achieving More by Embracing Your Productivity Style with Carson Tate

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Carson Tate says: "There's no one-size-fits-all approach to productivity."

Carson Tate discusses the four productivity styles—and how to pick the best tools and practices that best suit you.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to pick the right system for your productivity style
  2. The top tools for keeping your inbox under control
  3. How to work in harmony with opposing productivity styles

About Carson

Carson is the founder and Managing Partner of Working Simply. She is the author of Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style. Her views have been included in top-tier business media including Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, CBS Money Watch, Fast Company, Forbes, Harvard Business Review blog, The New York Times, USA Today, Working Mother and more.

Prior to starting Working Simply, Carson worked in Human Resources and sales functions with Fortune 200 firms. Carson holds a BA in psychology from Washington and Lee University, a Masters in Organization Development, and a Coaching Certificate from the McColl School of Business at Queens University.

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you Sponsors!

Carson Tate Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Carson, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Carson Tate
Thanks, Pete. I’m glad to be with you today.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m glad to be with you and to get into some of the mess that is our lives and productivity and such. But I understand you also love the mess of mud runs and more. What’s the story here?

Carson Tate
Yes. So, a couple of my girlfriends and I got bored a few years ago with just regular road races and we decided to branch out, and it is some of the most fun that we have, and we are literally cleaning mud out of our ears for days afterwards, and obstacles, and you push yourself, but it’s great fun.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Let’s see, I’m familiar with the Tough Mudder. What are the other big names in mud running?

Carson Tate
So, the Tough Mudder is the one that we’ve done. And there’s also, in North Carolina, a couple of just very small local races as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. Well, that’s some fun background. I want to get your view here, so you’ve done a lot of work about work, researching people and productivity, and kind of what makes us tick. What would you say is maybe the most surprising and fascinating discovery you’ve made about people and productivity from all of your explorations?

Carson Tate
If we really want to be productive, you’ve got to align your tools and your strategies to how you think and process.

So, what often happens is people try a new app and it doesn’t work for them, and then they think they’re not capable of getting organized or there’s something wrong with them. No, it’s just the tool that doesn’t work for you. So, it’s about aligning your tools to how you think and process, and then really creating a custom toolkit.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so in your world, you defined four different productivity styles. And I’d love it if you could, call me a skeptic or what the word is, but I’d love to hear a little bit about the underlying research in that. I guess for like with the Enneagram, for example, I’m like, “Who says there’s nine types? How do we know there’s nine? Why are there not eight or 12? Why are they not like 34 like the Strengths?” So, can you lay it on us, how do we come up with four?

Carson Tate
Absolutely. So, first of all, my graduate research looked at cognitive thinking styles, so this is different than personality. This is literally how you think and process information. And so, I looked at the research, neuroscience and research, into how we think. And so, the concept of left brain and right brain, it’s not technically accurate but that’s easy classification, and then started digging into an instrument called Hermann Brain Dominance Inventory that looks at thinking style, and realized that that’s a great instrument, and there’s a gap, and that that instrument does not tell you how your thinking style informs how you work. And by how you work, I mean how you think about time, how you structure your day, whether you like to take notes or not, what your inbox looks like, and whether or not you like file folders.

So, using what I understood around our thinking styles, I developed first-tier assessment in grad school and then tested it out, and realized that there really are topologies, there are four different styles that broadly characterized these thinking styles. So, one is prioritizer, analytical, linear, fact-based. These are the folks that like spreadsheets and data and details. Then planners, organized, sequential, detailed. These are the folks that have never met a checklist they didn’t like. These are the project planners. Arrangers, these are your intuitive, kinesthetic, relational folks. They do their work with and  through people. They like colorful pens, they’re visual. And then visualizers, these are your big-picture strategic thinkers. They are the ones that are pushing the envelope, “Why not?” They don’t like structure. They think in big, broad concepts.

So, first iteration, tested it, had to refine the topology. Tested it again. And now we’re on an iteration, this is our third iteration. We’ve had over 2.5 million people take it and validating the results.

Pete Mockaitis
Wait. What’s the number again?

Carson Tate
Two and a half million.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Good work. Cool.

Carson Tate
So, it’s working. It’s definitely working. And, Pete, I think what is helpful about it, like any of these assessments, and I hear you on what’s the science behind it. Fundamentally, it’s just an awareness tool. So, if you’re my client, I’m coaching  you, and I can help you see how your thinking is informing why you do not want to schedule your day in 15-minute increments in a way that would better help you optimize your time, that is what’s going to lead to your productivity. So, that awareness. So, it’s just an awareness too. It’s just access into how you think.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, I would love it if you could sort of make that come alive for us here in terms of if you could maybe share a story of maybe someone who was doing something and it wasn’t working for him, and then they made a discovery about this, and then they saw some cool results from there.

Carson Tate
Yeah, absolutely. So, I was working with a client, we’ll call him Bill, he worked in the nonprofit sector, and Bill, very tech savvy, Bill had probably tried every app that’s out there, every to-do app, and he would stick to it for like a week or so, he’s so excited, and then the wheels fall off, and he’d be crazy it’s not working out. He could never find an email. He’d taken plenty of email management classes, he was late on all of his projects. And so, when I met with him, the first thing I realized was that he was a visualizer, really big-picture thinker. So, an app that was very linear and very designed for really discrete details, it went counter to how he thought about things.

He thought about things in terms of ideas, so this was how he was going to solve the waste management issue, like these big concepts. So, what I’d asked him to do was try mind-mapping software so he could anchor the central concept, and then from it, pull out things that needed to happen around it. So, making these really graphical charts he could see. And the second thing we did was we removed every single folder that he had in his inbox because out of sight was out of mind. He’d get an email and then he’d file it away in the to-do folder, but he’d forget about it because he was visual.

So, we turned his inbox into a visual to-do list by changing the subject line of his email messages to his next action steps so he could see them. They never went away. He could search them and see them. And then we reconfigured his calendar. So, these tight little very structured meeting, meeting, meeting didn’t work for him. So, we started thinking about his work in terms of theme days. So, Monday’s theme for him was admin, so all of the internal work, the internal meetings, the one on one’s. Tuesday, he was out in the field, he did some work out in the field inspecting job sites. Wednesdays was back in the office. Thursday was another field day, so he could kind of group and organize things based on themes.

So, fits and starts. Three weeks later, I checked in with him, and he’s still on those early stages of trying to get it to work, but what had happened is that his manager noticed that he was arriving on time to meetings, and that he’d actually turned in two things early. He was so proud of him, super proud of him. Fast forward six months later, he’s hitting all of his marks, he’s up for a promotion, and he actually had started working on a book that he was talking about for his nonprofit that he had setup because he created the mental space and the time space to also start to pursue some of his personal passions because he got work dialed in.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, there’s a lot in there. And it’s funny because I’ve heard about how grand mind mapping is, and I haven’t really had much cool results with it, part of it is like my writing is hard to read and it gets kind of crunched. I could try the big piece of paper. So, yeah, I haven’t personally had a mind-mapping session that knocked my socks off in terms of, “Wow, that’s so cool. I’m glad I did that.”

And, yet, when you first mentioned the prioritizer, I am in so all about finding sort of the 80/20 high-leverage thing that does it. And I do have a spreadsheet that estimates the profit generated per hour invested of various business initiatives and then that gets me fired up, like, ‘Holy smokes, that one is worth ten times what that one is worth.” So, as you laid this out, it makes a lot of sense how, hey, mind mapping is game-changing for some but, for me, it hasn’t been resonant yet.

Carson Tate
Right, because it’s not quantifiable for you. So, as a prioritizer, you need to quantify your efforts. So, we either quantify in terms of minutes, we quantify in terms dollars, we quantify it in terms of emails processed in minutes, number of items checked off, how quickly you achieved an objective, how many minutes were shaved off of a meeting. So, that is speaking your productivity language. But for Ben, he doesn’t care. That doesn’t motivate him. He doesn’t care about that. He’s more concepts, “What’s next? And how do we build a system for him?” And he actually used a whiteboard, and then there’s also a software called MindJet that you can do mind mapping on the computer.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, okay, since you opened up that door, I can’t resist. Let’s hear the tools because it can be tempting to play tools all day long, but if we can have just a couple of minutes. So, MindJet is cool for mind-mapping individualizers. Is there any other sort software or tools you recommend for each of the other three?

Carson Tate
So, I like Trello for planners, and arrangers can use it a little bit. Evernote is great for arrangers and for visualizers because they have blank pages. And prioritizers, you can use Todoist, you can use Things, and there are a host of them that are designed for prioritizers.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s funny, I think that I love OmniFocus and just a spreadsheet most often because I can see those numbers.

Carson Tate
Right.
I would say that you’re definitely onto something but it really doesn’t matter what the tool is as long as it works for you. So, Excel, a great tool for you, but it might not have the flash or the name recognition, but it works for you. So, part of the push and the struggle on productivity is, can you stand on the ground of, “Hey, you know what, I use a legal pad. It works for me”?

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Understood. Okay. Cool. And then I guess I’m also thinking that, I guess, in some ways, different projects and different outputs that you’re shooting for sort of seem to align more readily to different folks. I guess I’m thinking if I’m trying to say, “Hey, manufacturing plant manager, I need you to optimize our outputs and shave off all the time associated with cranking out the widgets,” going on a visualizer style, or maybe just my bias as a prioritizer, but it doesn’t quite seem like that’s ideal but maybe all roads lead to Rome or something. Like, there’s multiple paths that will end up doing the same thing. What’s your take on that?

Carson Tate
All roads lead to Rome, and each of these styles has a strength. So, if we’ve got to optimize throughput on a manufacturing line, I’m going to strongly encourage that we have a prioritizer to think about that. If we need to redesign the line, then I’m going to suggest we have a visualizer to think about a new approach. And if it’s about, “Do we have a team that’s highly functioning on this line?” I’m going to ask the arranger to do that work.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so then I suppose, tell us, how does one learn what their style is?

Carson Tate
So, we have the assessments on our website WorkingSimply.com, you can go and take it on the website. Then we also have multiple articles on our blogs that talk about these styles and questions you can ask to help you determine your productivity style.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so then, can you tell us, once we are aware of our productivity style, I guess what are some of the sort of top do’s and don’ts that we should keep in mind? Either things that are sort of universally applicable to all or the particulars, “Hey, prioritizers probably do this and don’t do that.”

Carson Tate
Yes. So, universal, I have two universals across the board for all four styles. One is the concept which, I think, Pete, you are 100% in alignment with, which is time is a commodity. And so, we talk about it with our coaching clients and our training clients that time is non-renewable resource, “We all have the same 168 hours in a week. How do you choose to invest it for your highest ROI?” So, that’s across the board best practice, “Can you make that paradigm shift to being as intentional and as thoughtful about your time spent as you are your money spent?” What you’ve done with your spreadsheet is you’ve quantified time. You know what an hour of your time is worth and you make your decisions based on that.

The second universal principle is around inboxes, and we believe that your inbox is the best personal assistant you’ve ever had.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you mean email inbox or…?

Carson Tate
Your email inbox, yes. And so, to use all of the technology tools that are available in your platform, to automate as much as possible of your email management.

Pete Mockaitis
Don’t even know we’re going to go here. Let’s go there now.

Carson Tate
You want to dig into email? Let’s talk email. Let’s talk inboxes.

Pete Mockaitis
So, there’s the tools. I mean, hey, I love my email tools. I like Superhuman to fly through them, and I like SaneBox to filter. I guess, what are the other tools, and what are the other just sort of approaches in terms of what you’re doing in there, kind of regardless of the software you got?

Carson Tate
So, regardless of the software, we suggest a process we call the email agility process. You read it. You decide what it is. Does it require action by you? If action is required by you, you do it, not channeling Nike. You just do it if you do it under five minutes. Delegate it if you can, if you don’t have the knowledge and authority. Don’t have the knowledge and authority, you delegate it or you convert it to a task. So, convert them to task in Gmail, Outlook, you can send it to Evernote, but you are making that decision around the action step because what we don’t want to do is re-read the email. And if no action is required, you delete it or you file it. And then the final step is to contain and think thoughtfully about how you want to store and retrieve your messages.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, how do I arrive with that decision, the containing?

Carson Tate
The containing, yes. And this goes back though, Pete, the containing piece is where it becomes really personal. So, for you as a prioritizer, it’s going to look different than my example Ben, the visualizer. So, he doesn’t use folders. His containment method is everything lives in there, and he uses search functions. It works great for him. You probably have some folders, yeah, or nothing in your inbox.

Pete Mockaitis
It depends on what day you catch me.

Carson Tate
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, search is the primary way I pull one up although I do have the labels and the archiving. Okay. And so then, you say it’s the best personal assistant we have in the sense that it’s kind of like bringing to our attention that which we need to deal with or…

Carson Tate
Right. So, I’ll take Outlook, for example. So, in Outlook, you can use a function called conditional formatting. It’s very similar to labels in Gmail. And we can set it up so every time Pete emails me, that email comes in in bright red. So, what I’m doing is I’m telling my assistant, “Flag Pete. Turn him this color.” And when you come in my inbox, I now have a visual prioritization. I’ll read red first, then blue, then I’ll deal with the black ones. So, my assistant, I’ve told my assistant what to do, and then my assistant does it over and over again with no input from me, saving me that step of getting in and prioritizing every time.

And so, it’s thinking through if you always file this email, well, write a rule. Don’t do it. Have the technology do it for you. Another example we use with all of our clients, a lot of the emails that we send, and I can imagine for you, a lot of these are the same thing, “So, here’s the logon, here’s the link, here’s what you need to do as a guest on my show.” You’re written it. It’s a template. Well, save it as a template in your email program so that you can just use it over and over again, just like you would a Word doc or an Excel doc. So, we want to eliminate rework and automate using the tools as much as possible.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Thank you. Well, so then when we got the productivity style of your own self, and then you’re interacting with others, how do you play that game? Because I imagine some people are pretty kind of chill, “Hey, man, however you want to do it. Just get it done by this time according to these principles.” And others are going to pretty precise, it’s like, “Hey, I need you to do…” I’m thinking about podcast sponsorship now, “I need you to do an air check, and you download reporting at this time. And I’m on this platform and this system.” So, yeah, I imagine that can create either harmony or irritation when these things come together. How do we navigate that?

Carson Tate
You’re exactly right. So, harmony when you’re working with someone who has the same style as you or similar style. So, Pete, if I was a prioritizer, and you and I are paired up on a project, we end up speaking quite the same language. We’re focused on the outcome. We want the data. We want to be quick. We want to be efficient. So, it’s very easy for us to work together. We’re pretty aligned. We get it done.

But if you were working with an arranger who’s focused on the people and wants to get everyone’s opinion about what the objective is, that’s going to be pretty frustrating for you. Very frustrating. And for the arranger, they’re going to be frustrated because you just want to get to work, and they don’t feel like they’ve built the team and aligned around the team. The planner, detailed, organized, who wants to put together your project plan, when they work with a visualizer, the visualizer doesn’t like structure, they don’t want a project plan, they don’t want details, so that’s going to create a pretty predictable clash. So, when you work with someone like you, easy.

When we talk about going cross-quadrants, so prioritizer to arranger, that’s the most significant difference, the biggest clash. Planner to visualizer, going that way, other very significant clash. It’s just going to be harder to work together.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so, acknowledging that’s going to be harder, what do you do about it?

Carson Tate
What do you about it? So, first, you got to communicate. So, each of these four productivity styles has a central question they want answered. So, you as a prioritizer, you want the what, “What’s the goal? What’s the objective? What’s the data?” The planner, how, “How have you done it before? How do you want to do it? How do we need to produce this deliverable?” The folks on the process, the how. The arranger’s focus is on the who, “Who’s on the team? Whos’ involved? Who are the stakeholders?” And the visualizer is asking those big-picture questions, “Why not? Why are we thinking about this? Why does this matter? How does this connect to strategy?”

And so, if I’m a planner working with a visualizer, I need to be thinking about and answering those why questions, talking about strategy, talking about big picture, creating opportunities for innovation. And, vice versa, if the visualizer is working with a planner, they need to be comfortable talking about the how and the details and being willing to work through a sequential process with them.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Yeah, understood. And you also had a note associated with a master task list, an acronym, TASK. Can you unpack this for us?

Carson Tate
Sure. So, I’ll give you the why behind it and then we’ll unpack it. So, the why is because our brains are terrible at to-do lists, right? I mean, how often have you sat on your desk, like, “Oh, I forgot to do this on the way into my office.” Well, we all have this happen. So, the master task list creates one central repository to capture all of your commitments, both personal and professional, in one place. So, the T in task stands for think, and this is when we ask our clients basically do a brain dump, get it all out of your head everything you need to do.

The second step is the A, is the action because a lot of the stuff in our heads will be a project. So, for example, clean out the garage. Well, you’re not going to do that. That’s a big project. So, what we have to do is determine the next action step. Well, the first action step would be maybe to measure the wall. If you want to hang something up, we got to measure to figure out how many hooks so that I can start to create some organization.

And then the S is just sort. So, once you’ve done your brain dump and you’ve need to determine next-action steps, we have to create a list that’s actually manageable and that you can get in and out of. So, the sort is just a grouping or a classification of like items. So, it might be podcast prep, it might be calls, it might be research, it could be a project name, but you group all of those action items under that category. And then the last one is you keep one and only one list. So, we don’t have a list in this app, a list in your pocket, a list on your refrigerator. You’ve got just one master list.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And since you mentioned multiple lists and multiple places, I’m thinking about sort of the paper versus digital part of this all. How does that sync up to, do you find that some of the four styles prefer one versus the other? Or is it just sort of that’s a whole another dimension there, prioritizers who love paper, and visualizers who love computers, and it’s all over the place?

Carson Tate
it’s all over the place, absolutely, with an asterisk. So, all over the place. We have folks in each category that like paper or tech. The asterisk would be the arrangers. They tend to be kinesthetic, so they have very nice writing utensils. You will see them touch and feel objects. They’re very visual dashboards. They are more likely to use paper than the other four styles.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, tell us, Carson, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Carson Tate
Just excited I’ve got a new book coming out, October 6, called Own It, Love it, Make it Work: How to Turn Any Job into Your Dream Job. So, it is the roadmap if you do not enjoy your job or you want to enjoy your job even more. This is the tool to help you get there.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Well, now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Carson Tate
I’m going to say, “Just do it.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And how about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Carson Tate
My graduate research on cognitive thinking styles was my favorite research project I’ve ever done.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Carson Tate
The Awakening by Kate Chopin.

Pete Mockaitis
And you’ve mentioned a few of them, but how about a favorite tool?

Carson Tate
Paper.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And with a paper, how specifically do you use it in a way that’s great for you?

Carson Tate
Yes. So, I actually have a paper to-do list because I have a little notebook I’ve created and leaves with me wherever I go.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite habit?

Carson Tate
Early morning meditation.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect, it resonates with folks, and they quote it back to you frequently?

Carson Tate
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to productivity. You must personalize it based on how you think and process information.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Carson Tate
WorkingSimply.com or on LinkedIn, Carson Tate.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Carson Tate
Yes. Figure out how you think and process information, and then align your productivity tools to support you.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Carson, this has been a treat. I wish you lots of luck and fun in your productive adventures.

Carson Tate
Thank you, Pete. I appreciate it. Thanks.

573: How to Leverage Your Time by 6000% through Effective Delegation with Bill Truby

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Bill Truby shares the simple trick to getting better results when delegating tasks.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The biggest mistake leaders make when delegating
  2. The most crucial thing you need to delegate
  3. The only four reasons why people fail to follow through

About Bill

Bill brings the background of common-sense learning (being raised on a cattle ranch), a B.A. in Theology, an M.A. in Psychology, the experience of a MFT (Marriage and Family Therapist), and nearly 30 years of business practice to the table.

These multiple perspectives and backgrounds synergize to bring amazingly simple, yet powerful tools to leaders and managers – tools that have been proven over and over for nearly four decades.

Resources mentioned in the show:

Bill Truby Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Bill, thanks for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Bill Truby
Well, my pleasure, Pete. I’m thankful to be able to talk with you, and I guess it’s been a while since we’ve began to connect, and now we’re really voice to voice.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I am thankful too because I remember I’ve discovered you in my very first batch of guest recruitment. It was in the For Your Improvement book by the Korn Ferry folks. It had a nice bibliography of folks and books and resources associated with each skill I thought I might focus in on. Yours is one. I looked, I liked it, didn’t work out. But four years later, well, here we are. I’m glad that we both stuck with it.

Bill Truby
Well, I embarrassingly apologize, Pete. There was a lot going on in life back then.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, me too. And I didn’t really follow up much. it was like every, I don’t know, year, “Hey, Bill. I still want you.

Bill Truby
Well, I am thankful too. And, yeah, it’s the way things are meant to be, I suppose.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so we’ve got a lot of fun to get into when it comes to delegation. But I want to hear just a smidge about… you grew up in a cattle ranch in Texas. And my experience with ranches is limited to the Nickelodeon program “Hey Dude” I watched as a child.

Bill Truby
Oh, you poor soul you.

Pete Mockaitis
So, tell us about this.

Bill Truby
Well, I tell you what, I attribute most of who I am and how I am to my cowboy background. And I didn’t grow up in Texas but I have roots in Texas. If you look at a map of Texas, about two hours north of Abilene, you’ll see a little town called Truby, Texas. And there’s a little book written by the Arizona Historical Society about the Trubys and the Coxes. The Trubys were the cattle ranchers, the Coxes were the sheepherders. And if you know about American history, they were at war, when guns ruled the land.

I mean, it was late 1800s and the Trubys and the Coxes were both bull-headed and they were shooting at each other, and the local sheriff finally rounded up the most offending Trubys and the most offending Coxes and put them in jail. And in those days, you couldn’t convict them till the circuit-riding judge came around, which he finally did.

Well, the judge finally said, because cowboys are loyal, and apparently sheep herders are too, and people were lying for their family of support and their family of choice. So, finally, the judge said, “There’s no getting the truth here. You’re free to shoot it out.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, wow.

Bill Truby
Yup. So, everybody left the courthouse. The book talks about it. And Trubys, apparently, were smarter than they looked because they left, and they went to New Mexico, and that’s where my dad was born, and he was raised on a little ranch there and a sod house. And then he moved to northern California where I was born and raised on a cattle ranch in Humboldt County. And I end this little story by telling you that the Texas Historical Society allows you to adopt a small town. So, I adopted Truby, Texas. I have a town.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, there you go.

Bill Truby
But, apparently, Trubys weren’t worth much because it only cost me 25 bucks to…

Pete Mockaitis
Well, what are your responsibilities if you’ve adopted a town, you’re the father? Like, do you have to pay for things?

Bill Truby
Yeah, I have a certificate. That’s it. That’s it. And there’s 24 people that lived there so they had to split that last dollar, Pete. So, that’s the beginning of my heritage, and a lot of things I learned though, Pete. Hard work. Honesty. Integrity. My word is better than a contract.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Excellent. Well, let’s hear your good word when it comes to effective delegation. it’s a universal skill. We need some more, great wisdom, on how to do it well. you’re one of the guys. So, your book has a compelling bullet that says “Effective delegation can leverage our time by 6,000%.” That’s quite a figure. It’s kind of specific. Where do we get it?

Bill Truby
Well, that book, first of all, was written long ago. And one of our claims to fame long ago was the ability to teach people how to delegate effectively, and always get follow through, or if you didn’t, you were able to fix it with one or two times, and it’s powerful. So, our co-author at the time, I’ve written some other books, but I did a co-author at the time, and he did some research on some of our folks that used the tool and multiplied their time that they used to take to fix delegations that just didn’t work well, and did the old math. I don’t know how he did it, but it was a pretty impressive number, but I know intuitively, and I know empirically that over 40 years of doing this is it just proves this tool. It works. It always works.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, I imagine, you know, 6,000%, 60X, I mean, if you’ve got 60 people and you’re delegating well, then that would do it and work out there. So, I want to really dig into a whole lot of the particulars, for what’s the system and how we can utilize it. First off, I think maybe could you frame it up for us? Like, I think we probably all know delegating is handy as opposed to trying to do everything yourself, and yet it seems hard. So, can you share what makes it hard? What’s holding us back? What are some of the mental blocks? Like, why don’t we just do this?

Bill Truby
That is an excellent question, and it’s excellent because it sets the premise. If we don’t delegate, then we have to do it ourselves. The only way that a leader, the only way that a father can leverage his or her effectiveness is by working with people and through people. So, it’s absolutely imperative that we delegate in order to be successful. We are self-limiting by self-doing. If we try to do everything ourselves then we are limited by the capacity that our energy and that our time extends to. That’s it.

So, the only way that you can play a beautiful orchestra is by not playing one instrument but leading and directing the delegation of a variety of instruments who all play the same song.

But your question, “Why don’t we do it?” Well, that’s a multifaceted answer. Some people are just too controlling. They will not let go. Other people are trying to make it perfect and they don’t think anybody else can so it’s a self-esteem issue. There’s a variety of issues, Pete, that cause people to not delegate. But the number one consistent theme that I’ve seen throughout all my years of teaching people to delegate is simply they don’t know how.

They’ll try to duplicate themselves. They’ll try to get people to do things exactly the way they would do it. They try to micromanage. They try to just give them a little, few pieces of information and tell them to go, and they don’t give them all the information. So, our tool has been built to cover every eventuality of delegation, and, thereby, make it successful.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Exciting. Well, so then you got a lot of reps of experience, a lot of clients and students who’ve picked up on this. Could you share with us maybe an inspiring case study of someone who was having some trouble delegating, but then they saw some really cool things happen on the other side just so we can get a taste and feel some inspiration for it?

Bill Truby
Sure. There’s a man named Mike Solano who owns a $14 million hardware billing supply enterprise. He has a rental center, two billing supplies, two hardware stores, etc.

Now, this man worked six to seven days a week, every day spending eight to ten hours a day. He was overwhelmed because he wanted everything to go well, and he was successful. But he was overwhelmed, tired, weary. He was not going to be able to keep up this pace. Now I want to say something right now, Pete, about delegation, and that is delegation is a tool. What you delegate is also very important because you just don’t delegate tasks. You delegate roles. You delegate departments. You delegate businesses.

So, Mike learned this tool. He used it at the core of all of our other processes and teachings and tools that we use to run a business, and this was the core, and now Mike works two to three days a week if he wants to. His delegation process has empowered people. People have a sense of ownership. People have a sense of accomplishment and achievement and they enjoy going to work doing their role, their job, and reaping their results. And he’s allowed them to feel that kind of ownership.

We teach people, we teach leaders, we teach managers that you need to lead accountable people and not hold people accountable. That’s a core concept that we teach always. If you hold people accountable, you’re the one holding the accountability. If you lead accountable people, then they’re the ones holding the accountability. And that’s a whole other subject.

But Mike’s people have learned to be accountable and he doesn’t have to hold them accountable, and this tool is the core of how this process works.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Okay. Well, so then lay it on us. What is this tool, this process? How do we go do it?

Bill Truby
Well, when your listeners go to the delegation flowchart link and download it, they’re going to see what I’m talking about, but it truly is a flowchart, Pete. It starts at the top with what you do and then it flows down the page, and it teaches you what to do at each stage of the delegation process.

And at the very top, there is the point that you need to delegate. Accountability. Notice you’re delegating accountability. You’re not delegating just a task. You’re delegating accountability and you’re including responsibility and authority. Now that’s an important point. Sometimes people try to delegate by giving people a task to do but they don’t give them the authority that’s associated with the responsibility.

And here’s one of the first points. Sometimes the person doesn’t have literal authority. For example, there’s a safety officer in a big company. The safety officer doesn’t hire and fire, but the safety officer is charged with going through the facility and making sure people are doing safe practices and following safe protocols.

So, what happens if Mr. and Mrs. Safety Person says to John or Jane Doe manager, “Hey, you need to stop doing that”? If safety officer doesn’t have authority, that person doesn’t have any teeth in their words. So, how do you give the safety officer authority? You give it to him or her as vicarious authority, no different than air traffic control.

I’m sure you’ve flown a whole lot, Pete. When I listened to the pilots, air traffic control says, “United 73, descend and maintain 10,000.” I have never once heard a pilot say, “You’re not my boss.” And, obviously, they follow the instructions of air traffic control because of two reasons. One, there’s benefit. They’re not going to run into another plane. And, number two, FAA and the United Airline, or Delta Airlines, or whatever company you’re looking at, have given the air traffic controller vicarious authority to give orders to the pilots.

So, what that looks like is John or Jane Doe’s CEO says to the company, “People, Martha or John, this is my safety officer. When he or she is asking you to do something, it’s as if I’m asking you to do it.” So, that’s the first mindset that needs to be delivered in the context of delegation. We’re delegating responsibility and authority.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. So, responsibility, authority, accountability, and so it’s sort of like the whole enchilada. It’s like, “You own it. It’s yours.” And that’s really handy in terms of there’s not a lot of excuses that emerge in that, that’s like, “Well, I just did this because that was what was on the process sheet I was supposed to follow,” as opposed to, “Well, no, you own this sort of domain so, yeah, you’re going to follow the process but you’re also going to kind of exercise some judgment to do what clearly needs to be done to make it work out well.”

Bill Truby
You’re right, Pete. And that’s a very insightful way of putting it. The person who it’s been delegated to feels ownership of that enchilada. But the most important point is that other people know that he or she has that enchilada. If they don’t know, then that person is limited in their ability to carry out the task or the project. So, that’s the first mindset.

Many things that we teach, Pete, have to do with mind shifts. It’s sort of like leading accountable people rather than holding people accountable. That mind shift alone changes a ton of behaviors and beliefs and attitudes. So, that’s the top of the flowchart, delegate accountability, including responsibility and authority.

And at that point, you create what we call a contract of expectations. There’s never an assumption. The person being delegated to never walks away with a question. It’s a two-way communication, and this is where our communication tools come in, but you must create a clear contract of expectations. The core of a contract of expectations, or CoE as we call it, is a, “What? By whom? By When?”

Pete Mockaitis
Who will do what by when?

Bill Truby
Correct.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Bill Truby
Included in that is the purpose and context. Because if I just asked you, Pete, “Go do this,” and you say, “Okay, I’ll do it,” and you have no purpose or context, then you cannot be creative in the obstacles that may come your way. If you know the reason, the why, the purpose and the context where it fits in, then you can be a little bit more creative in your work as you encounter the unknown, which is always the case.

Pete Mockaitis
That is so valuable and really worth, I think, underscoring because a lot of times we don’t know the why behind the request, and we just sort of kind of do it. But I think I’ve been on both sides of things in terms of being the doer of the task and not really knowing, it’s like, “Well, I could go either way but I don’t know. Is this in my thing? So, my instructions are I’m just going to make a note and kind of keep on rolling.”

And then, as a leader, when I have been so wise as to share the purpose and context, to be surprised and delighted with people that I’m managing, say, “Hey, I bumped into this and so I did that.” And I think, “Well, that is perfect. Thank you.” It just feels so good, like I don’t have to say anything, and it came back even better than I had imagined it could have from my just process instructions, so this is really cool.

Bill Truby
Purpose and context has many psychological benefits. It increases ownership. It shows respect. It feels like you belong, that you’re included. But, more importantly, if the percussionist in an orchestra doesn’t know the song, all he can do is play the music. And if you don’t play the music in the context of the song, you might play too loud, you might play too soft. Same with a violin, same with a piccolo, same with a French horn. We must understand the purpose and context of the notes that we’re playing in order to make it effective in the long run.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely.

Bill Truby
So, this is the first thing that happens in the delegation process, it’s preventative. So, there’s this clarity of what, by whom, by when. There’s a purpose and context. If it’s a long project, then you clarify when you want reports, and you always ask the person to do it. You don’t tell. This is about leading accountable people.

Pete, if I said, “Pete, go do this or that,” then you’re just a puppet, you’re just a person that’s doing a job. If I say, “Will you do it?” and you say, “Yes,” now we have a contract and you own it. So, when you don’t do it, if you don’t, I don’t say, “Didn’t I tell you?” I keep the accountability where it belongs. I say, “Pete, didn’t we agree?” And where does that put the accountability? Right on you. Okay, so that’s the first step.

So, we build all of this, it takes a few minutes. Obviously, it could take hours depending on if it’s a large project but there’s clarity, there’s absolute clarity, no assumptions ever. Clarity, clarity. Pristine, clear communication and an agreement. Now, when you do that, one of two things happen. If the person follows through, and if you look at the delegation flowchart, you’ll see on the right side of the page there’s a box that says, “Follow through.” And when a person follows through, then the arrow goes down to what we call a continuous improvement celebration.

Obviously, the type of celebration depends on the extent of the delegation. If I asked you to go get lunch for the team, that’s different than solving world hunger. So, the celebration is congruent with the task. And I don’t know if we want to get into all the details of a celebration at this point but just to earmark the four parts, there’s the party factor because everybody wants to have fun. There’s the recognition and appreciation, people need to be recognized and appreciated. There’s the learning what went well, what didn’t go well. What didn’t go well so you can fix it. What did go well so you can repeat it.

Because if something went well and you don’t know why it happened, you’re not good, you’re lucky. And then you transfer that knowledge to other people in the company, or other friends, somebody else who could benefit. So, that’s the right side of the flowchart, follow through, and then the last thing you do is to have some kind of a celebration, which gives closure and recognition and that motivation to want to be delegated to again.

Now, the left side, is when somebody may not follow through. This delegation process always works but what happens when somebody who doesn’t follow through is that you follow this chart and you’ll fix it typically one time. There’s a circle that goes on. So, if there’s no or limited follow through, there are four reasons. You know, Pete, I’ve never heard anybody talk about this, I’ve never heard anybody write about it, I’ve never heard anybody speak about these four concepts. But there’s only four reasons why someone won’t follow through, only four.

And I’m talking about anybody. Your friend, your neighbor, your spouse, your kid, your employee, your employer. Human beings have four reasons why they won’t follow through. A wise delegator will search for the reason in the order that I’ll give them to you right now. The first is, and they all start with lack of. The first is lack of awareness. They weren’t aware.

Now, typically, we’re communicating when we’re delegating, and humans aren’t the greatest at communicating. And so, if it’s lack of awareness, it’s often some glitch that occurred in the communication process, “Oh, I didn’t know you meant that.” We could use the same word success and you could think of different criteria for success than I do. So, the first is lack of awareness. And you never demand, you always ask questions, “So, what was your understanding of the task?” to see if there was awareness.

If there was awareness, the second reason a person won’t follow through, or can’t follow through, is lack of training. They thought they knew how but they didn’t, “So, did you know how to do this?” The third reason is lack of resources. They didn’t have enough time. They didn’t have enough equipment. They didn’t have enough staff. They didn’t have enough money. Something was lacking that wasn’t prevalent or wasn’t known at the beginning of the delegation process. And the only other reason a person won’t follow through is lack of accountability.

So, lack of awareness, number one; lack of training, number two; lack of resources, number three; and lack of accountability, they’re just not doing it.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, let’s define accountability there in this context. So, is it they don’t feel like or what do you mean specifically by accountability here?

Bill Truby
They just didn’t do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Bill Truby
It’s just the outcome wasn’t there, “You didn’t bring lunch.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I guess, well, call me a stickler as a former strategy consultant about when you lay out, hey, there’s four reasons, I get really excited about a mutually-exclusive collectively-exhaustive categorization set because I’m a dork that way. So, lack of accountability, they just didn’t do it. That almost feels like an everything-else bucket, I guess, in a way, you can maybe subdivide that. Like, there are multiple reasons why they just didn’t do it. They didn’t feel like it. They weren’t motivated, and they don’t care. Yeah, can you unpack the lack of accountability a little more?

Bill Truby
Sure, and I love all those big words you used to identify this set. That was awesome.

Bill Truby
Okay. Remember what we delegated at the beginning of time, at the beginning of this delegation process. We delegated accountability. Well, there’s an obvious finishing of that sentence. The accountability to do blank. So, you and I are climbing a mountain, and I delegate you the holding of the rope to belay me as I climb.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Bill Truby
If you do not adhere to that accountability, you just don’t hold the rope, I don’t really care why because at this point, we’re not talking about the why. We’re simply talking about the outcome. Period. So, if you don’t hold the rope, there’s danger. If your hands hurt, if you’re sad, if you sneeze, if you don’t feel like it, those are all beside the point. When you’re out on the football field, and the ball is thrown to you, it doesn’t matter how you feel, your job is to catch the ball. And if you don’t go up to catch the ball, then you have not been accountable to what you’ve agreed to be accountable about.

So, it’s really not a catchall. It’s specifically focused on the task that was delegated. In some ways, I suppose the four reasons are the why, but they’re all about behavior and resources to do the behavior. They’re not diving into the emotional or psychological or relational reasons.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure. I guess what I’m driving is, what I love about the first thing is lack of awareness, “Oh, okay. well, we’re going to have a clarifying conversation, we’re going to have some more detail, and we’re, okay, good, good, good. We’re all on the same page. Solved.”

Lack of training. “Oh, I’m so sorry. Well, here’s an instructional, a tutorial, a class, a course, whatever. Okay, now you know. Okay, good to go.” Lack of resources, “Oh, shucks, you’re right. We’ve got to free up some things from your plate or get some more people or budget under your purview, so that’s solved.” But how does one solve a lack of accountability?

Bill Truby
This, again, insightful, Pete. That’s fantastic, because if you’ll look at the chart, you’ll notice that the first three items, awareness, training, and resources, are typically one-time things. Once you find that that’s the case, then you provide the fulfillment of what was missing, awareness, training, or resources. And then you re-negotiate the contract, it goes up, you re-negotiate the contract by saying, “Okay, let’s look at the contract of expectations again, and re-enter your delegating process, your process of doing what I’ve delegated you to, given your new resources, or your new training, or your new awareness.” So, that one is a one-time loop. One-time loop.

Now, the lack of accountability, that one is fixed by using a separate tool. Now, first of all, I want to make sure that we understand that lack of accountability is binary, they either did it or they didn’t. And if they didn’t, they agreed to, so the first thing we do is to ask the question, “Didn’t we agree?” Right now, we’re working with a $440 million 2500-person nonprofit dialysis company. That entire company is using this particular process to fix people who are not performing effectively, who are not being accountable.

And, HR, if you call HR, the first thing HR will say is, “Have you asked them if they agreed to the contract of expectations?” So, we keep the accountability where it belongs. And, quite frankly, that’s respectful. If I take your accountability away, and say, “All right. Now I’m just going to demand this, and I’m going to make you do what I’m wanting you to do,” then you’re a slave, you’re not a fellow human being.

So, how you fix a lack of accountability is through this process. Number one, “Didn’t we agree?” and the person says, “Yes.” Then, secondly, “Then what happened?” We don’t ask why, “Then what happened?” We give a chance for a person to give their reasons. Then, third, “Then let’s re-negotiate the process here. Will you do A, B, and C by X, Y, and Z with J, L, and K outcome?” So, you’re basically revisiting the contract as well, but this time the person is simply agreeing again.

Now, let me get a little more practical. Let’s say that you asked somebody to do something, they didn’t do it, they weren’t accountable, so you ask these questions. Then they don’t do it the second time. Now, it’s your wisdom that has to determine how many times you loop. If it’s very, very important, it may be one or two times. If you’re trying to grow something, somebody, maybe it’s 12 times. But you will never ever, you can never ever, and this is the beauty of this tool, you can never ever, ever say, “Oh, well, that’s Johnny.” Because if we do that, everybody around us knows that we broke the contract and we perpetuated Johnny’s behavior, we’ve allowed it to happen to other people, we destroy our own ability to delegate if we break the contract ourselves.

So, whatever your wisdom says, one time, two times, 12 times, there comes a time when you say, “Didn’t we agree?” “Yes.” “Well, what happened?” “Well, A, B, and C.” “Well, let’s agree this time that if you don’t do it, that…” and then you have to default to your discipline process, “…that you’re going to be getting your first verbal warning.” Let’s say it’s a verbal written writ and termination. So, the person says, “Okay.” So, if the person doesn’t follow through, they know before you do, that they’re not following through so they’re managing their own discipline process. So, they come back, “Didn’t we agree?” “Yes.” “Well, then you remember, too, I’m giving you a verbal warning. Let’s agree that if it doesn’t happen again, you’ll be getting your first written warning.”

So, people either step up or step out. And here’s the good news, Pete. Most people step up. We don’t lose good people. They step up. They just needed boundaries, they needed clarifications, kids need boundaries, our employees need boundaries, friends need boundaries. And when we put a boundary in this tool, a person steps up or steps out. And so, that’s what you do when there’s no or limited follow through, you find the reason, fix it one time with the first three, use wisdom to fix it for the fourth reason, the lack of accountability, and then one or two things happens. The person follows through, which happens most of the time, or the person doesn’t, and they’re terminated from the team, they’re demoted, they’re not allowed to be on the team anymore.

And so, the delegating of the task always works. The person who is in the process of being delegated to sometimes might change if they’re not willing to step up.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, this is really stretching my brain in some great ways, so thank you. I guess I’m wondering if, let’s say, they do the work but the results are not as grand as you’d hope. I don’t know, maybe in terms of like the quality, like, “Oh, I asked you to write up this document, and the writing is lackluster.” Or maybe it’s a higher-end result, like, “Hey, you were supposed to run this business division and generate $10 million in gross profit this quarter, and you got 8.” So, I guess, in a way, they do the work but they don’t get the results. How do we play that game?

Bill Truby
Well, two things. One, we must look at the delegator first, because you’ve got to be sure and have a clear contract of expectations at the beginning. So, lackluster of a writing material is a bit fuzzy. So, it’s up to the delegator to be clear and precise in communicating what needs to be done. The $10 million is rather clear and precise. So, the first thing, we’ve got to look at the delegator to make sure that the delegator is clear in his or her communication about the contract of expectations.

And then, secondly, part of the contract of expectations at the beginning, I mentioned just briefly in passing, if it’s a longer timeline, you want to get reports. And so, the $8 million at the end of this stretch of time should not be a surprise. The first benchmark, the first waymark, if the person was not on track, there’s a communication that goes on with the delegator and the delegate as to what’s going on. And one of two things happen. Either the goal begins to be adjusted or it is strengthened by some other resources to allow that goal to be reached.

So, the delegator in both cases, the lackluster in the writing or the diminished return on the 8 million versus 10 million, is involved in the process of guiding and helping along the way. But the key thing is the delegator is not doing it. The delegator is leveraging him or herself by delegating to the person who’s trying to play the violin, “Oh, you’re not playing that note quite right. Here are some techniques that you could use. Go practice those and then come back.”

I will tell you this, that through the delegation process, we do find that some people just are not bad people, nor are they unwilling people, but they don’t have the capacity. It’s up to the leader and manager to understand this over time. I didn’t mention this earlier but I have a master’s degree in psychology, and I was a marriage and family therapist in the early ‘80s for a couple years. And I’ve always needed to know the intent of a person not the behavior of the person.

In fact, my dad taught me that on the farm, he said, “Billy, always know why people are doing things. Don’t just look at what they’re doing.” So, I look at the why when a person isn’t following through, and it could be those four reasons, like I said. But we’ve entered into another little dimension here. If a person doesn’t have willingness or capacity, they won’t do it. In fact, they can’t do it. Even relationships. Relationships can only be successful if both parties have willingness and capacity. And I’m not talking just about a married couple. I’m talking about business and customers. Both sides of the equation, both people, have to have willingness and capacity.

So, in our process of delegating, everything might be going well but then we realize, “This person, no matter how great they are, no matter how talented they are, no matter how willing they are, they just don’t have the capacity,” and that’s where we have to adjust who we’re delegating to.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, Bill, thank you. Tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Bill Truby
The core concept of everything we teach is to be other-centered. I want to just highlight that. That’s embedded in this. It’s clearly seen in leading accountable people. It’s clearly seen in asking the person to agree. It’s clearly seen even in the disciplining process if a person has lack of accountability. But I believe that the most successful businesses, the most successful leader, the most successful delegator will do so in the context of where the other person is coming from, how to communicate to them.

We’ll communicate to a 12-year old differently than we will a 48-year old. We’ll communicate to a person with a different skillset differently than a person who has a limited skillset. So, the delegation process is a tool. It’s like a shovel but you dig differently in sand than you do in clay. So, we exercise our interaction with the other person using the same tool, we exercise it a little differently based on that other person’s needs and wants. And that’s how we make them successful is that we’re always other-centered in our application of this tool.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Now, could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Bill Truby
I suppose my favorite quote in all of my life has come from my dad, and I’ve illuminated it earlier. He always said two things, “Billy, always understand why the person is doing what they’re doing. And that understanding breeds empathy, acceptance, and the ability to lead them.” Then he also said, “Billy, if you can’t do anything about it, it doesn’t exist.”

And what that meant, I grew to learn over time, is that I deal with what I can do and I don’t take your stuff. And that gives respect. And that particular quote has caused boundaries that are freeing. It enables me to not have to run to the rescue. It’s like, if it’s not mine, I’ll care but I won’t carry. I’ll love but I won’t take it back from you. So, that’s a roundabout way of saying my dad gave me those two quotes that I live by, and they are very, very meaningful. They’re very deep in my soul.

He said, “Always know the why, and then you’ll understand the person. And if you can’t do anything about it, it doesn’t exist.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. And how about a favorite study, or experiment, or bit of research?

Bill Truby
I love the book Thinking Fast and Slow. Daniel Kahneman wrote it, and it tells you what goes on in your brain, very fast when you encounter something, and then what happens after you think about it. And that research has literally changed my life on how I teach, on how I think, on how I do what I do.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And, tell me, is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate, and people quote back to you often?

Bill Truby
Well, there isn’t necessarily one, but I will tell you this little story. There was a man in one of the large companies, 8500-person company, that had this Christmas party, and this man went as Bill Truby, though nobody knew he was Bill Truby.

And he was dressed in a tie and shirt and overcoat. And people said, “So, who are you?” This was a dress-up affair masquerade-type thing. He said, “I’m Bill Truby.” And they would say, “What do you mean?” And he’d open up his coat, and in there were 3×5 cards that he called Trubyisms. So, apparently, I say things all the time that people remember and, yeah, I don’t think there’s one, Pete. I think that there’s things.

I make them up. I go to a company and I’ll “efficiefy” them, and then people start using that word, “Okay, we’re going to get efficiefied.” “And I’m here to bring you to a state of efficiefication,” so I don’t think I’m stuck on one.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Bill Truby
TrubyAchievements.com. And this delegation flowchart can be found there.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Bill, this has been a treat. Thank you for sharing the good word, and good luck in all you delegate.

Bill Truby
Thank you, Pete. I really appreciate you hanging in there for four years so we can meet each other. I do appreciate what you’re doing and I’m glad that I could help support it.

423: Becoming Free to Focus with Michael Hyatt

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Michael Hyatt says: "What I'm after is... the double win. I want to win at work, but I want to succeed at life. I'm not willing to compromise either."

Michael Hyatt offers useful concepts to upgrade your productivity and focus, including the  freedom compass, the zones of desire and drudgery, and more.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to do more of what you want with the “yes, no, yes” formula
  2. Three beliefs that prevent you from delegating your tasks effectively
  3. How to feel like you’re winning each day with the daily big three

About Michael

Michael Hyatt is the founder and CEO of Michael Hyatt & Company, a leadership coaching and development firm twice listed on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing US companies. A longtime publishing executive, Michael is the former chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson, now part of HarperCollins. He is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of several books, including Your Best Year Ever, Living Forward, and Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World.
Michael is the creator of the Full Focus Planner, which combines quarterly goal-tracking and daily productivity in a proven system for personal and professional achievement. His blog and weekly podcast, Lead to Win, are go-to resources for hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs, executives, and aspiring leaders. He has been featured by Forbes, Inc, Entrepreneur, Fast Companyand Wall Street Journal. Michael and his wife of 40 years, Gail, have five daughters, three sons-in-law, and eight grandchildren. They live just outside of Nashville, Tenn.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Michael Hyatt Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Michael, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Michael Hyatt
Thank you, Pete. I appreciate being on.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh boy. I think we’ll have a ton of fun. But first I want to hear about something fun in your life. You mention your dog, Winston, is exceptional in your About page and I want to know why.

Michael Hyatt
He’s the perfect dog. His temperament is fantastic. He’s just so easygoing. He always obeys. I don’t know. I feel like we won the lottery with him. He’s an amazing dog.

Pete Mockaitis
How did you get him?

Michael Hyatt
Well, we found out about a breeder in Indiana, who bred Australian Labradoodles. We got the dog from her. Then we sent him to a trainer in Indiana, a lady who actually is a Russian immigrant, who trains dogs for the federal government and for state agencies and therapy dogs and all that. She had him for about six weeks. I don’t know what she did, but some kind of Russian thing, but it’s amazing.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh Michael, I just love that so much because it’s like you eat, sleep, breathe people, development, and now even dog development. We’re going to find the best trainer in the world. We’re going to spend some deep focus time immersed and come back a renewed dog.

Michael Hyatt
Dog hacks. What can I say?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s fantastic. You’re unveiling some more wisdom in your latest book, Free to Focus. What’s the main idea or thesis behind this one?

Michael Hyatt
Yeah, the main thesis behind this is you can actually achieve more by doing less if you have the right productivity system. The problem with most productivity systems today is that they’re designed to make you more productive. Maybe you’re thinking, “Well, yeah, what’s wrong with that?” Here’s the problem.

People start out working a 12-hour day, they get some productivity hacks, adopt a few apps, they reduce it to eight hours and then they fill it up with more work. They try to be productive so they can be more productive.

I say productivity is a means to an end. You’ve got to be very clear about what the end is otherwise you’re just going to fill your life with work, you’re going to be overwhelmed, you’re going to be burned out, and you’re not going to get the kind of work-life balance that makes life rich and meaningful.

Pete Mockaitis
When you talk about defining the end, can you give us a couple of examples of how that gets articulated?

Michael Hyatt
Yeah, absolutely. In the first part of the book I talk about stopping and kind of taking stock. Get off that hamster wheel and ask, “Where’s this hamster wheel going? Why am I running this race? What’s it all about?” I say the end game needs to be about freedom. More productivity should lead to greater freedom and specifically freedom in four areas.

I talk about the freedom to focus. Focus is a super power today in our distraction economy. If you want to move the needle in your business and in your life, if you want your business to grow, if you want to get ahead in your career, you’ve got to be able to focus and do the deep work, the creative work that really creates the breakthroughs in your business and in your personal life. The freedom to focus.

You also need the freedom to be present so that when you’re at your son’s Little League game, you’re not on your phone thinking about work or you’re out for a day with your spouse or you’re significant other, you’re not thinking about work or when you’re at work, you’re not thinking about something that’s going off the rails at home. The freedom to be present.

Then third, the freedom to be spontaneous so that your life’s not so managed and not every last second is so planned that you just can’t stop and enjoy life, smell the roses so to speak.

Then finally, the freedom – and this is really underrated, but the freedom to do nothing at all. All the brain research says that we’re the most creative, we experience the biggest breakthroughs when our minds are the most relaxed. That means we’ve got to intentionally have that white space where we do nothing.

I learned this when I was in Italy a few years ago. They have a saying in fact. They talk about a dolce far niente, which means the sweetness of doing nothing. It’s true. You think about when you have the breakthrough ideas, the most creative ideas, often it’s in the shower or out for a walk or doing something that amounts to nothing. That’s what I’m after is freedom. I think productivity should lead to that.

Pete Mockaitis
That is a lovely turn of a phrase, the sweetness of doing nothing. I’m reminded maybe when you said Italy, it brings about images. I’m just thinking about just sort of strolling, just walking with a good friend, catching up and chatting. It’s like I enjoy doing nothing in those moments so much. It’s like I don’t even want to be burdened with having to think about where we’re going and where the restaurant is, just having faith that a good eatery will appear if that’s kind of what we’re up to. It’s much more fun.

Michael Hyatt
Yeah, and I don’t think they have bad food in Italy.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, in Italy you’re covered. Sure.

Michael Hyatt
Yeah. Everything I ate there was phenomenal.

Pete Mockaitis
Totally. That’s cool. That’s the process in terms of the steps as we’re stopping. We’re taking stock. We’re pointing to greater freedom and a few kind of particular forms of freedom. What comes next?

Michael Hyatt
Yeah, in that same section, under Stop, talk about formulate, so formulate a clear vision for what your productivity, you want to accomplish with it. Then secondly, evaluate. This means taking stock of our workflow, our work style. I talk about a concept there called the freedom compass, which I think is really a big paradigm shift and a way to think about your work that makes it possible for you to focus on your highest and greatest work because not all work is created equal.

I talk about kind of a two-by-two matrix, where you have passion intersecting with proficiency. There’s some tasks – and imagine this rotated 45 degrees and you’ve got a compass, where true north is where your passion and your proficiency come together, the things you love, the things that you are deeply satisfying, that you enjoy, plus proficiency, the things that you’re good at.

Not just proficiency in your subjective opinion, but in an objective reality, where people are willing to pay you to do this. That I call the desire zone. That’s where you want to focus the bulk of your time and the bulk of your energy.

Directly south, directly below that is what I call the drudgery zone, things that you hate, you don’t have any passion around it and you’re not very good at. It’s going to be different for everybody, but for me it’s things that look like administrative kinds of activities, like managing my email inbox, managing my calendar, booking travel, even finding the FedEx box, just running errands. All that’s in my drudgery zone. It’s kind of a grind when I have to do that.

Then there’s also the disinterest zone, where you don’t have any passion, but you might be pretty good at it. A lot of people get trapped in this because maybe they were good at something, they lost the passion and they keep doing it because it keeps making them money, keeps bringing home the bacon.

For me, when I started out as an entrepreneur this was accounting. I did it because I didn’t want to pay somebody else to do it and I was really good at it, but I didn’t have any passion and that leads to boredom.

Then on the opposite side of the freedom compass from there, due west, would be what I call the distraction zone, where you like doing it, but you’re not very good at it and you end up escaping there and then it wasted a lot of time.

Again, the key, and it leads to the next part of the book, but the key is to eliminate everything that’s not in your desire zone, the things that you’re passionate about and proficient at, because that’s where you’re going to see the biggest growth, the biggest progress, the most results. That’s the chapter on evaluation.

Pete Mockaitis
That is a nice two-by-two matrix and a clever rotation that makes it a compass. When you talk about doing more of the good stuff and less of the drudgery, what are some of the best ways that we can accomplish that? You have some things about saying no and some things about outsourcing. How do we systematically get our proportions more and more in the desire space?

Michael Hyatt
Yeah. One of the things is I think to set ourselves up for success. That’s actually that third chapter in that first section before we get to the Cut section, which is about rejuvenation. This is one of those things that’s easy to overlook because we live in the hustle economy. We’re encouraged to burn the candle at both ends, to work evenings and weekends. Elon Musk said unless you’re working 80 to 100 hours a week, you’re not going to make the progress you need to.

One of the most important things you can do is take care of yourself if you want to be more productive. Getting a good night’s sleep, something as simple as that, can make the difference between whether you’re focused or productive the next day. I talk about sleep, nutrition, exercise, relationships. Those have a lot to do with how productive we are. That’s all the rejuvenation chapter.

But then moving into that second section, the section called Cut. The first one’s Stop. The second part of the framework is Cut. How do we prune all that stuff that’s not in our desire zone? It really does start with elimination. We’ve got to eliminate the stuff that doesn’t need to be done and the best way to do that is to head it off at the beginning by getting better at saying no.

Warren Buffet once said that “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything,” but how do we do that without being a jerk? In the book, I talk about how to do that. I talk about how to give a graceful no. I talk about it using a formula called Yes No Yes. It’s the positive no that William Ury talks about in his book, The Power of a Positive No.

Let me illustrate. I spent most of my career in the book publishing industry. I still to this day get a lot of requests from aspiring authors, who would like me to review their book proposal before they send it to an agent or a publisher. Now, I don’t really have time to do that. I don’t want to be a jerk, but I don’t have time to do that. I have an email template that I use. I respond with that formula, yes, no, yes.

Here’s what it looks like. First of all, I start with an affirmation. I start off not resenting the fact that they asked me to review this proposal. But I’ll say something like, “Hey, congratulations. You’ve done what 97% of most aspiring authors will never do and that is create a written book proposal. That is a phenomenal first step. It’s a foundational step and an important one. Way to go.”

Then I move from the yes to the no. Here I want to give a very firm, unambiguous no, so there’s no misunderstanding. I’ll say something like this, “Unfortunately, in order to be faithful to my prior commitments, I have to say no.” I’ve made it very clear that I’m a person of integrity in terms of trying to be faithful to my other commitments, but I give them a firm no.

I don’t say, “Check back with me in a month. I’m a little busy right now,” because in a month it’s going to be the same story, so I might as well cut it off right now.

Then I end with a positive with a yes so that I leave a good taste in their mouth. I’ll say something like, “Best of luck with your publishing product. Let me know when it comes out. Can’t wait to pick up a copy. All the best. Thanks for honoring me with your request,” something like that.

I’ve never gotten a negative response when I follow up with an email like that. For the most part, people are just glad that they heard back from me because so often we send a request like that and we don’t hear because the person is procrastinating because they don’t know how to respond. They want to say no, but they don’t know how. I make it very clear.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I really like that. I find that when you talk about we don’t know how to respond and we procrastinate, I find that I get a lot of requests, it’s sort of like someone’s presenting me with an opportunity, but I don’t think that they’ve given me nearly enough information to even evaluate if it’s worth talking for 15 minutes about the thing.

I’m trying to craft my TextExpander, generic response, which says, “I will need to know more before I can tell you whether or not I can talk to you about this,” which feels a little bit like, “Oh well, someone’s really busy,” but that’s really how I feel. It’s like “You know your product/service/offer better than I do. What you’re saying might be cool, but I really have no idea what this is supposed to be. Where’s the value here? Could you explain that so that I could tell you if we can find 15 minutes?”

Michael Hyatt
See, that’s a perfect example of what I talk about in the next chapter on automation, where you take something like TextExpander or you could use your email apps signature capability, but come up with a list of email templates so that you can respond to the most common kinds of requests so that you don’t have to create it from scratch every time.

I’ve tried to develop sort of this template mentality, where I ask myself if this task I’m about to do if I think I’m going to have to do it again in the future, why not take a few extra minutes now, do it right, save it as a template or a TextExpander snippet so that I can reuse it in the future and not have to reinvent the wheel every time.

For that example, a great way to deal with that using the Yes, No, Yes framework would be to say, “Hey, thanks for thinking of me for your podcast. I’m honored. I would be happy to consider it, but I need just a little bit more information.” Then you’d go through the information that you need and then let it go from there.

Pete Mockaitis
There you go. That is a nice sentence. “I’d be happy to consider it. I need some more information.” Tell me, what are some other top templates you find yourself using again and again?

Michael Hyatt
Well, here’s what I did, how I started this. This is probably about 15 years ago. I noticed that there was sort of a limited range of requests that I was getting. I would get requests from people who wanted me to consider a speaking engagement or wanted me to consider serving on a non-profit board or make a charitable contribution or just have coffee with me so they could pick my brain. There were about 40 or 50 of these as I catalogued them.

Then what I tried to do – I didn’t sit down and write all these templates at once – instead what I began to do is incrementally populate a template database. At the time I was using email signatures to do this. Now TextExpander makes it even cooler. But to write these one at a time until I had a library of templates.

Every time one of those requests comes in now, I look for the template where I can respond, very rare that I don’t have a template. Instead of taking 10 or 20 minutes, now it just takes a few seconds.

But it’s not just email. For example, I use Apple Keynote for creating slide decks. If I public speech that I’m going to give or a webinar that I have to give, I always start with a template, like with a webinar. I’ve got seven main parts to all my webinars. They always start the same way. They’ve got the same transitions and the same pivots and the same ending and all that.

It’s kind of like paint by numbers, but again, I’m starting with sort of that template mentality of if I’m going to do this again, how can I do it right the first time so I can reuse it, polish it, improve it, and get better at this and take less time as I do it.

Pete Mockaitis
There’s so much good stuff here. I want to dig in in all kinds of places, but it would be too scattered. First, let’s chat a little bit in the realm of going back to stopping for a moment. You mentioned rejuvenation. I think that we’ve heard from a few sleep doctors, a lot of good tips there and I’m a huge advocate for that. It’s so important.

But I want to get your take on when it comes to nutrition and exercise, boy, there’s a lot of advice out there. What have you found ultimately really yields good quality rejuvenation, energy, and freedoms?

Michael Hyatt
First of all, disclaimer, I’m not a physiologist or a doctor or a fitness trainer or any of that. What I do know is what works for me and I have studied a little bit.

But with regard to nutrition, I found that one of the best things to do is to really take it easy on the carbs. A high-carbohydrate diet creates a lot of problems in terms of focus and productivity. It’s why when we eat lot-quality carbs and we eat a lot of these kind of carbs like at lunch, like I’m talking about white bread, pizza, mashed potatoes, pasta, that’s why we kind of go into that funk in the afternoon and get sleepy because that turns to sugar very quickly. It burns up fast and it just doesn’t keep our blood sugar level at a level where we could be really productive.

One of the things I’ve done, and this is – I may lose some of your listeners here – but one of the things I’ve done for several months now is I’ve been on the keto diet. That’s a high fat moderate diet, a moderate protein, low carbohydrate diet. One of the things I had no idea about was how much brain fog I had until I started doing this diet.

It was actually developed back in the 1930s to help epileptic children deal with seizures. There’s a cognitive relationship between this diet, high fat, and your cognitive function. That’s been helpful to me.

I’m very careful about taking supplements, about checking my blood a couple times a week with my physical – or a couple times a week, a couple times a year with my physician, just making sure that my markers are right so that can serve as an early warning sign to head off problems before they happen.

Then I work out five to six days a week usually about an hour, three days of cardio, three days of strength training. All that just keeps my energy level up. It’s important to move in some way like that.

Pete Mockaitis
When you do the cardio or the strength training, what kind of intensity are you shooting for?

Michael Hyatt
Well, I would say moderate intensity. I’m kind of an achiever, so I’m always trying to beat my personal best. I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life that I’ve ever been in. I do work with a trainer, who prescribes a program for me. We get together once a month and reevaluate the program and see where I want to go from there.

I was training for a half marathon this spring, but I injured my foot, so I’m going to back that off till this fall. But typically what I’ll do on the cardio before I had the injury is that I’ll run about 30 minutes of interval training twice a week and then I’ll do a long run and a progressively longer run on Saturdays. Yeah, it depends on what I’m training for.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, very good. Well, so now, talk about cutting again. You mentioned that there’s something that we should permanently remove from our to-do list, what is this?

Michael Hyatt
First of all, you should remove the drudgeries of stuff. That’s where you really start is with the drudgery zone activities. Those are not the best and highest use of you. They’re not going to create leverage in your business or your personal life. You’ve got to really focus on those desire zone activities.

Again, that begins with elimination and it goes to automation, and then that final chapter there is all about delegation, which one of the things I found with people that have businesses or leaders, until you can scale yourself, you can’t scale your business.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. All right, so when it comes to that delegation, any particular tips in terms of where to get started if you’re having trouble letting go of anything?

Michael Hyatt
Yeah, I think the first thing that we’ve got to do, Pete, is confront sort of the limiting beliefs or the way that we think about delegation. In my experience with coaching now hundreds and hundreds of entrepreneurs there’s usually three sentences that rattle around in their head. The first one is “If I want it done right, I have to do it,” what?

Pete Mockaitis
Myself.

Michael Hyatt
Right. Or here’s another sentence that they have. This would be a second sentence. “It takes longer to explain how to do it. I might as well just do it myself.” Or they say, “I can’t really afford additional help right now. I guess I’m going to have to do it myself.” As long as yourself is at the center of all this, you’re not going to be able to grow, you’re not going to develop additional capacity, you’re not going to be able to accomplish what you want to accomplish.

Let’s look at those one at a time. To the person who says “It takes longer to explain how to do it. I might as well just do it myself,” it’s true. It does take longer to explain it the first time, but once you explain it the first time and give people an opportunity to do it so that they can be trained, then you save yourself all the time because you never have to touch it again.

“In terms of if you want it done right, you’ve got to do it yourself,” here’s the beauty of the freedom compass. What’s in your drudgery zone, might be in somebody else’s desire zone. If you hire right so that you have compatible people that offset what’s in your drudgery zone with what’s in their desire zone, then not only can they do it as well as you could do it, they can do it better than you could imagine doing it.

That’s basically how I’ve grown my entire business. I have 35 full-time people. Last year we grew 62%. I hire specifically for people that are doing their desire zone activities so that everybody’s functioning in their strengths and doing the things that they love and the things that they’re proficient at. That’s a real key.

Then the whole thing about affording, “I can’t afford somebody to do it,” you can take baby steps. I’m not advocating going out and hiring a big staff or even hiring somebody full time. You can start as a solopreneur or as a leader just with a part time virtual assistant. That’s how I started.

Back in 2011 when I left the big corporate world, where I was managing a large company where we were doing a quarter of a billion dollars a year and then I stepped into a solopreneur job, where I couldn’t even find a FedEx box. I had to start small. I hired a virtual executive assistant, who worked five hours a week. I did that for a couple of weeks. I saw the value of it. Then I upped their time to about 10 hours a week, then 15 hours, and 20 hours.

But here’s how the conversation often goes. I had a client by the name of Greg. Greg said, “Look, I’ve got a business where I have to have a web presence. I know just kind of enough about web design and web development to do it myself. It’s probably not the best use of my time, but I really don’t feel like I can afford somebody else to do it now.”

I said, “Well, let me ask you a question, Greg. How much do you bill for? What’s your hourly rate?” He said “150 dollars an hour.” I said, “Okay.” I said, “What would it cost you to get a WordPress developer, somebody that was really good that knew what they were doing? They could do a little bit of design work too.” He said, “Probably 50 dollars an hour.” I said, “Then why are you paying somebody 150 dollars an hour that you admit isn’t that good?”

The lights went on. He went, “Wow.” I said, “If you hired somebody at 50 dollars an hour, it would free you up to bill for that additional time and you’d come out ahead 100 dollars an hour.” That’s how we have to think about delegation. It requires an investment first, but boy, that’s when we begin to reap the rewards and that’s when we begin to clone ourselves in a sense because we’ve got other people that are helping us.

Pete Mockaitis
For folks who are professionals and not business owners, what are some key things you’d recommend they delegate?

Michael Hyatt
I think the same thing. Go back to the freedom compass. Start with the drudgery zone because your company is probably not paying you to do those things that you don’t love and those things that you’re not proficient at. If they are, you’re in the wrong job. Get rid of those things because it’s not the best and highest use of you.

Then go to the disinterest zone, then the distraction zone. Again, focus on those few things that really create the leverage, the things that your employer thinks the results you ought to be delivering. That’s where you’re going to see the advance in your career.

Pete Mockaitis
Very good. When it comes to cutting, how do you recommend we cut distractions?

Michael Hyatt
Well, you’ve got to have an offensive plan to begin with. I talk in the book about how to design your quarter, how to design your week and how to design your day. Once you have a good offensive plan, then you’ve got to come up with a defensive plan for the interruptions. I distinguish between interruptions and distractions, two different things.

Interruptions are the external things. It’s people dropping by to visit. It’s that text message you get. It’s people interrupting you. I often talk to leaders who say, “I can’t get my own work done because I’ve got so many people interrupting me to help them with their work.” I think one of the best strategies is to have an offense on those two.

First of all, schedule time to get your most important work done. Make it a commitment and put it on your calendar. What gets scheduled is what gets done.

Then, preempt those interruptions by going to the people who are most likely to interrupt you, and you know how they are, go to those people and say, “Hey, look, I’m about to do some really important, focused work. It’s important that I don’t get interrupted, but I want to be available to serve you, so are there any questions you have, anything I can help you with before I go into this session?”

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Michael Hyatt
This is awesome because, now all of the sudden, you’ve put them on notice and you’ve also not been a jerk about it. You’ve communicated that you want to help them, but you kind of want to do it on your terms.

Then you’ve got distractions. Now distractions are all the stuff that look external, but are really a problem with ourselves with self-control. This could be jumping over to Facebook. The problem is we’ve got multi-billion dollar-social media companies, who are doing a tremendous amount of research and whose entire business model is built on high jacking our psychology and manipulating our dopamine.

They want us to spend as much time on those platforms as possible. Why? Because they’re repackaging our attention and they’re selling it to the highest bidder in the form of advertisers. We have to combat that. The best way to do it, I think, is to use technology to fight technology.

For example, my smartphone, it looks like a really cool device. It does a gazillion things. I’ve got an iPhone XS Max. It does a bazillion things, but it’s a very sophisticated distraction device if I’m not careful. On my phone, I’ve removed email. I’ve removed Slack, which is our internal communication program. And I’ve removed all social media with the exception of Instagram because I’m trying to build my Instagram following.

But even there I’ve used the technology to fight technology. I go into settings, screen time, and I limit my use of Instagram to 30 minutes a day. Even better, I gave my phone to my wife and I said “Set a passcode for that so that I can’t cheat and don’t tell me the passcode.” When my time is up on Instagram, my time is up.

There’s a great app for the desktop that works on Windows or Mac or any platform called Freedom. You can find it at Freedom.to. I don’t have any relationship with them except that I use this program and love it. But it allows you to selectively turn off apps and websites for a specific period of time, which allows you to stay focused when you do your most creative breakthrough kind of work.

The only way to defeat Freedom is to completely reboot your computer. That gives me just friction so that I can remember my intention that I’m trying to get focused work done. It enables me to avoid the distraction.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. What do you think about mindfulness practice when it comes to building the capacity to resist distraction?

Michael Hyatt
I think it’s really important. I meditate every morning for 15 minutes. It just gives me the opportunity to collect my thoughts, to kind of get centered, to get focused, to get re-connected with my most important priorities. Again, it kind of goes back to the freedom that I talked about before, the freedom to do nothing. It’s often underrated.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, I’d love to dig in for a moment now. When you say meditation, are you referring to more of a mind training exercise or more of a prayer exercise?

Michael Hyatt
Well, I actually do both. I do pray. I also do just straight up meditation. I use an app called 1 Giant Mind. Are you familiar with that?

Pete Mockaitis
I know a couple. I don’t know that one.

Michael Hyatt
It’s awesome. If you’re familiar with Headspace-

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Michael Hyatt
It’s kind of similar to that, but I actually like it better and it’s free. But 1 Giant Mind. It has 12 initial lessons and then you can go into a 30-day challenge, but the instruction is fantastic.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh lovely. Well, thank you. I’ve enjoyed a little bit of all of them in terms of Calm, Simple Habit, Headspace. They all give me a little bit of a different perspective. I go, oh yeah, that’s a really good one. Thank you. Much appreciated. We’ll check out another one. Cool.

Michael Hyatt
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, so we talked about stopping. We talked about cutting. Now what?

Michael Hyatt
Yeah, so now we get to that third section of the book, which is called Act. It’s a little bit counterintuitive because you’d think that Act ought to come first, but I find that you’ve got to stop, kind of reflect where you want to go, then you need to cut or prune because anything that’s healthy has to be pruned from time to time, but now it’s time to act.

Now, hopefully, you’ve gotten rid of all the stuff that’s in your drudgery zone, a lot of the stuff in your disinterest and distractions zones and now we’re going to focus on how to get more done in your desire zone, the things that you love and the things that you’re good at. That begins with a chapter called consolidate. This is all about designing your ideal week.

The idea is that you want to design a week as if you were in 100% control of your time and resources. What would that look like? If you really wanted to give it some intelligent design and not just be reactive to what came over the transom and schedule those things, but actually we’re very proactive about it.

Here’s how mine works for example. First of all, I’m going to start with on Mondays is when I have my internal team meetings. I batch all these together for one simple reason. It’s the concept of context switching.

In other words, anytime I switch a context, for example, I go from a meeting to I go to some time where I’m working on a project to maybe I’m going to record some video, anytime I go to a different context, there’s a certain amount of ramp up time, a certain amount of time to kind of get into the groove, find my equilibrium and get into flow. Well, the less you can do that, the more momentum you can build.

When I get into that space in my head of meetings and I’m in meeting mode, then I just batch them altogether. Internal meetings are all on Monday.

Tuesday, is all about what I call backstage time. This is my time for preparation on the front stage. Everybody’s front stage is going to look different, but the front stage is what your employer or your clients are paying you, that’s what you’re delivering, but there’s always some backstage work that has to be done in order to do that.

If you’re a lawyer, for example, your front stage might be arguing a case before a court or negotiating a contract on behalf of a client, but there’s a lot of research in the backstage that has to go into that preparation. For me, Tuesday is all about that preparation.

Wednesday and Thursday for me are front stage activities. For example, when I record my podcast, I do that in a day and a half once a quarter and I record 13 episodes in a row. It takes me a day and a half, but then I don’t think about it for another quarter. I get into that headspace and I stay focused and knock it out.

Then on Friday is when I try to consolidate my external meetings. If anybody wants to meet with me, they come in from out of town or a vendor or a client or whatever, I try to move those to Friday. Why? Because I don’t want those meetings interrupting my progress on my front stage days or my back stage days.

Then, of course, I have – and a lot of people don’t know about this – but there’s actually an offstage. All of life doesn’t have to be work. On the weekends, on Saturday and Sunday for me, I’m not thinking about work. I don’t talk about work. I don’t read about work. I don’t do work. Why? Because I want to get back in on Monday morning totally rejuvenated and ready to hit the ground running.

That for me is my ideal week. This could be a game changer for people to begin to get some sense of control back. I would say, Pete, probably in any given week, I’ll probably approximate that about 80%. Things are going to happen. I don’t try to be legalistic about it. But boy, going into the week with a plan is a whole lot better than just reacting to what comes over the transom. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
I like that a lot. Yes. What do you think about in terms of total hours of work in a day and a week, energy levels and optimizing that?

Michael Hyatt
Yeah, I keep my work to 40 hours a week. I can tell you that the science and I quote it in the book, but once you get past about 55 hours a week, there’s an inverse relationship between the amount of time you work and the level of productivity you have. It actually goes backwards after you give 55 hours. There’s been a lot of study done on this.

But the average person is buying into what I call the hustle fallacy, where you’ve got to work 80 hours, you’ve got to work 100 hours. That’s a recipe for burnout. It’s also a recipe for screwing up your life, screwing up your health, screwing up your most important relationships.

What I’m after, personally, is what I call the double win. I want to win at work, but I want to succeed at life. I’m not willing to compromise either for the sake of the other one.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I’d love to get your take, I don’t know if you would liken yourself to this, but I think of, hey, Michael Hyatt, Elon Musk, two titans, very different perspectives. I guess, when it comes to Elon Musk it’s like I cannot deny that is one successful dude, who has made a lot of things happen and he espouses very much the hustle mentality.

Michael Hyatt
He does.

Pete Mockaitis
How do we reconcile that?

Michael Hyatt
Well, I think it depends on you define success. He’s blown through a couple marriages. He, by his own admission, doesn’t talk to his kids hardly. He’s sleeping at the factory so much so that his fans started a Kickstarter page to buy him a new couch, kind of as a joke, so he’d have something better to sleep on. He’s appeared in the media and said some crazy things, which have led even to fines from the SEC and other federal agencies.

I think it depends on how you define success. Look, I’m not holding myself up as a paragon of virtue, but here’s the thing. Here’s what’s possible. Last year I took off 160 days, now that counts weekends, so 160 days including a one-month sabbatical, which I’ve done every year for the last eight years and my business grew 62%.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome.

Michael Hyatt
I really think this idea of achieving more by doing less – the hustle fallacy, I want to keep my health. I’d like to live a long time. I’ve been married for 40 years, almost 41 years. I have 5 grown daughters, who I adore and who like me. This doesn’t just happen by chance. It’s not because I’m lucky, but I’ve tried to focus on those things.

Again, I’m not trying to hold myself up as the paragon of virtue, but I’m just saying that there’s a different model for success than the one that Elon Musk espouses. I’m not trying to judge him, but just look at the fruit, look at the results.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well done. Thank you. Well, tell me before we sort of shift gears and do your favorite things, any sort of key mistakes folks make when they’re trying to say, “Heck yes, I want to get free to focus and do these things.” What are some roadblocks or some fumbles folks make along the way as they’re trying to enact this stuff?

Michael Hyatt
Well, I think the biggest tip I can give people is to get a plan for your day. This is where you’re going to get the biggest leap forward. I advocate something called the daily big three. Here’s how it goes for most people. They start the day – if they have a to-do list, and not everybody works with a to-do list, which is also a guarantee for being reactive, but let’s say you have a to-do list. The average person’s going to have somewhere between 20 and 25 items on that list.

Pete Mockaitis
No kidding.

Michael Hyatt
Yeah. Before they begin the day, they’re already feeling overwhelmed, like there’s no way that I can accomplish what’s on my list. They get to the end of the day and even if they’ve done half of it, where do they focus? On the half they didn’t get done. They go to bed defeated. This becomes a vicious cycle. It creates a lot of dissatisfaction, a lot of frustration and ultimately leads to burnout.

But the problem is they’ve created a game, they’ve set themselves up to fail by creating a game that they can’t possibly win. What I suggest is instead of that, go ahead and identify the three highest leveraged tasks that you can do today. Not all tasks are created equal. We know from the Pareto principle that 20% of the effort drives 80% of the results.

Let’s just go ahead on the front end and say “What are the three most important things that I can do today?” Now all of the sudden that seems manageable. At the end of the day when I accomplish those three things, even if I didn’t do all the other trivial things, at least I got the most important things done.

You do three important tasks like that a day, you do it 250 days a year, which is the average number of workdays people have, that’s 750 important things per year. That, more than anything else, will give you a sense of control and give you a sense that you’re winning. When you feel like you’re winning, it builds your confidence and it builds your momentum.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. I like feeling like I’m winning. Well said.

Michael Hyatt
Me too. Me too.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Michael Hyatt
Yeah. I think one of my most favorite quotes is one by Warren Buffet. He said that “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Michael Hyatt
I would say the research that I’ve done into sleep has been probably the most rewarding, especially into naps because I sort of knew intuitively that napping was a powerful way to rejuvenate and kind of reboot in the middle of the day. I’ve faithfully practiced it for about 30 years.

I took a nap today, so between interviews I laid down for 20 minutes, fell to sleep – I trained myself to fall to sleep quickly – I wake up and I’m a little bit groggy maybe for about ten minutes or so, drink a cup of coffee, and then it’s like I’m rebooted.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now I want to know, how do you train yourself to fall asleep quickly?

Michael Hyatt
It’s not unlike training yourself to meditate. I don’t put a lot of pressure on myself to fall asleep. What I do is kind of try to focus on my breathing and focus on relaxing. If you do that and do it routinely, you’ll find yourself falling asleep. If you don’t fall asleep, it’s still rejuvenating, even if you do nothing but put your feet up and relax.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite book?

Michael Hyatt
I’m one of those guys, I read a ton. I tend to focus on the books that I’ve read most recently. The book that I love that I just finished here about two weeks ago was Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. Have you read that?

Pete Mockaitis
I have perused it. Can you tell me maybe a takeaway that was particularly valuable for you?

Michael Hyatt
Yeah, the biggest one was on the value of high-quality leisure, so really being intentional about your leisure time and how it correlates to our work, it makes us more productive at work. But that was really challenging and really exciting to think about.

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

Michael Hyatt
Let me think here for a second. I would say the tool that I’m enjoying the most right now is a tool called Notion. Have you heard of it?

Pete Mockaitis
No.

Michael Hyatt
Notion is kind of like a personal Wiki. It could be. A lot of people are using it as an Evernote replacement. I’m still using Evernote, but only as a digital junk drawer. Notion is where I put structured information, information I want to get back to. It’s a whole lot of fun. It’s an outstanding tool.

Pete Mockaitis
Interesting, thank you. How about a favorite habit?

Michael Hyatt
A favorite habit without question is my morning routine, just going through my drill every morning, setting myself up for high performance. Again, I learned this from the world of athletics, where the world’s best athletes have a pre-game ritual. I think of my morning time as a pre-game ritual. That’s the time when I’m going to pray, the time I’m going to meditate, the time I’m going to exercise and get fueled for the day.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate and get quoted back to you frequently?

Michael Hyatt
I think it’s that one about winning at work and succeeding at life. I think that with my clients, that’s just captivated their imagination and gets them really excited because I think most people have kind of fallen into this idea that you’ve got to give up one or the other. You can’t have both. I think when people are given a model, and that’s what I try to do in the book, Free to Focus, for how that can be done, it resonates with people.

Pete Mockaitis
If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Michael Hyatt
Well, in terms of the book, I would go to FreeToFocusBook.com. It has links to all the places where you can buy the book, but more importantly, it also has 500 dollars’ worth of free bonus material related to the book that you can get just by turning in your receipt. That’s all you’ve got to do. Turn in your receipt, claim the free bonuses. It has some amazing stuff including the audio version of the book for free. Then for all things related to me, just MichaelHyatt – Hyatt with a Y, not an I – MichaelHyatt.com.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Michael Hyatt
Yeah, I would say that in this kind of distraction economy where people are so sidetracked and there’s so much sideways energy and so much fake working going on, if you can learn to focus, that could become a super power.

I would just encourage people to differentiate themselves from their competitors and from their peers by being the person that really can deliver the highly creative, deeply important work that moves their business forward, that moves their personal work forward because so many people are sidetracked and distracted. You can differentiate yourself and make a real difference in the world.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Michael, this has been a ton of fun. Thanks so much for taking the time.

Michael Hyatt
Thank you, Pete. Appreciate it.