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607: How to Make Any Work Energizing and Motivating with Todd Henry

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Todd Henry says: "It's about what you bring to your work, not about the work that you do specifically."

Todd Henry explains how to tap into your personal motivation code to bring more energy and excitement to your career.

You’ll Learn:

  1. What it really takes to create lasting motivation
  2. How our motivations distract us—and how to curb that
  3. The 27 flavors of motivation

 

About Todd

Todd Henry teaches leaders and organizations how to establish practices that lead to everyday brilliance. He speaks and consults across dozens of industries on creativity, leadership, and passion for work. He is the author of five books, which have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and the longtime host of The Accidental Creative podcast.

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Todd Henry Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m really excited to dig into your wisdom but, first, I want to understand, you’ve got a secret music album project you’ve been working on. What’s the story here?

Todd Henry
I’m really curious how you even know about that because I’ve only mentioned it very briefly, like a couple of times but, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
We have a prompt on the form when you booked the interview that says, “Tell us something nobody knows about you.” I stole that from Lisa Cummings, her Strengths podcast. It’s like I’m so thrilled.

Todd Henry
I guess I told you then I guess that’s how it happened. I don’t even remember that. Okay, yeah. So, I think maybe we talked about this the last time I was on the show, but I have a background in the music business. I spent a handful of years after college playing music and traveling and all that, and then, frankly, kind of put that on the shelf for a number of years.

And then, for whatever reason, about seven months ago, right before COVID, I picked up my guitar and I just started writing songs again. So, it’s been a really fun, what I call unnecessary creating project, that’s what I call that discipline, is having something in your life you’re creating that’s not your work, something that’s not about you, it’s not about your clients.

So, for the last handful of months, I’ve been putting together a music project, which is just kind of fun, which, by the way, is for my ears only, and maybe like family and select friends so it won’t be coming to a Spotify app near you anytime soon. But it’s just been fun to really explore that side of my creativity again after 20 years. And, to be frank, I’m like really blown away at how different it is recording now versus 20 years ago. What I can do now in my home office is the equivalent of what I would’ve spent 20 grand on in a studio 20 years ago just because of what’s available, app-wise. So, it’s pretty cool.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah, that is wild. I love playing that stuff, like the iZotope RX7, 8 is out now, just a few days ago in terms of…well, we can dork out. But I think it sets the stage well, like, hey, your expertise is creativity but your latest book is called The Motivation Code. Kind of what’s the connection or how did you scooch on over into the realm of motivation?

Todd Henry
Yeah, this was a very unexpected book for me to write, not just in terms of people who read my work but for me, it was very unexpected. About four years, a friend of mine, Rod Penner, who was a veteran of a management consulting firm, he had left the firm several years before but I didn’t know what he was working on, and he just reached out to me, he said, “Hey, I want you to take this motivation assessment I’ve been working on.” That was in 2016.

And I don’t know about you, Pete, but I’m sort of one of those guys who kind of roll my eyes whenever I hear, “Oh, here’s an assessment you should take,” because I always think like those quizzes in magazines are something like, “Which Harry Potter house are you a part of?” Like, that’s what I always kind of think, I’m like, “Okay, whatever.” And he’s like, “No, no, no, this is different. You need to take this.”

And so, I did. And, frankly, what I discovered completely blew my mind. I mean, it just really, really amazed me how accurately this assessment described things like why I make the same mistakes over and over again in my life, why some tasks are unbelievably energizing for me, and other tasks are complete drudgery. Like, I would stay up four nights in a row until 1:00 in the morning to do some things, but then you ask me to file some paperwork, and it’s like it’ll take me three minutes but I’ll put it off for a week and a half.

I mean, just all of these patterns why I succeed in some leadership roles and I fail in other leadership roles, all of these patterns were just laid out before me. And this assessment was called The Motivation Code Assessment. And so, I thought, “I’ve got to figure out a way to get this into the world, to get this into other people’s hands,” because it really transformed so much about the way I see my day-to-day work, and I wanted to do that for other people as well.

The only problem was I was in the middle of writing a book at the time called Herding Tigers that came out in 2018. So, I’ve been working on this book in the background for about four years. And over the course of that four years, as I dove into the research, realized that this motivation code assessment is based on over 50 years or research, started in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and the outcropping of that work has been developed into this assessment by a team of PhDs and researchers over the course of the last several years, and then I became involved in 2016, and we started working on putting together a book to try to bring this to market, and now the book is available.

So, it’s been a long time coming and an expected twist but it’s kind of one of those things, I’m sure you’ve had this happen to you, where when you come across something that is so unbelievably transformative, you just want to tell everybody about it. And that’s exactly what happened to me with this research.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that is exciting in terms of, aha, the scales have fallen from your eyes, and you see and recognize patterns and explanations for what’s going on there. And, indeed, I suppose why you can accomplish some things quickly and go late into the night and other things if they’re really in a short of amount of time, you’re dragging your feet. Boy, I’ve had that same experience. And I imagine, when it comes to creativity, that’s huge with regard to, “Are you motivated to put in that time to do that in excellence? Or are you just sort of like, ‘Yeah, well, you know what, I guess this is a job and I’m contractually obligated to crank it out, so I guess I’ll do that now.’” And it shows up in both how rewarding you feel and meaningful as well as just how much you put in, and, ultimately, the quality of the work product.

Todd Henry
Right. Exactly. And we tend to think of motivation as being a binary thing, “Either I’m motivated or I’m not,” right? But what we’ve discovered is it’s actually where you get your motivational energy, that there are different flavors of motivation, or as we call them, there are 27 different themes of motivation, 27 different ways you can get your motivational energy. And when you’re consistently operating within your top motivational themes, or what we call your motivation code, you are more engaged, you are more creative, you will put more discretionary energy into the work because the work itself is giving you energy. You’re engaging in work that’s not draining you of energy. Instead, it’s giving you energy, it’s feeding you energy, which is a very different way, by the way, of thinking about motivation.

This is not the traditional way that we think about being motivated. We just need to get motivated. You just need to psych yourself up. You just need to go out there and make it happen. Well, the reality is often we’re working against the way that we’re wired when we try to amp ourselves up, we try to motivate ourselves. But if we understand those themes, if we understand what it is that really drives us, we can structure our lives and our work in such a way that we’re approaching it according to where we get our motivational energy, and that completely changes the calculation.

And the other thing we’ve discovered is that when you are operating, to your point about creativity, Pete, when you’re operating within your motivation code, you’re more likely to experience this phenomenon that we call flow, that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi developed and made popular. And flow is that state where you kind of get lost in your work, where the work is challenging enough to kind of keep you engaged but not so challenging that you lose your interest in it. And we’ve all had those moments where we just get lost in the work, where we forget time and we’re just complete.

Well, what we discovered is that there’s a pretty high degree of correlation between operating in your core motivations, those top three motivations, and experiencing flow in your day-to-day life, which is when you kind of have that sense of getting lost in your work. And, of course, that’s going to lead to better work when you experience that phenomenon.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. That’s good. Well, so that all adds up conceptually. Could you maybe share a specific story of someone who they came to a new discovery via the motivation code, and then, wow, suddenly things were different? They tapped into something big that made a real impact in their work and life.

Todd Henry
Yeah, I’ll give you the example that I’ve been sharing pretty liberally because the example is me, and I’ll tell you how discovering this affected me. So, my top three motivations, my motivation code, are make an impact, meet the challenge, and influence behavior. Meet the challenge is pretty significant. So, make an impact, my number one, is related to the fact that I need to see the direct impact of my work. I have to be able to see that what I’m doing is leaving a mark on the world around me in some capacity.

Number two is meet the challenge. That’s a pretty close second to make an impact. So, here’s an example of how this helped me understand something that was going on in my life. So, in my entire adult life, Pete, I have probably played a grand total of maybe five hours of video games, since I was like 22 years old. So, I’m now 47.

And then about a year and a half a year ago, maybe two years ago, my son introduced me to a game called Fortnite. Are you familiar with Fortnite?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah, I’ve played Fortnite. I played some Fortnite today, Todd.

Todd Henry
Okay, there we go. All right. So, for those who are not initiated, like Pete and I, Fortnite is a game where basically you’re dropped onto an island. You have to basically discover resources and find weapons, and then you have to eliminate other players. And the goal is to be the last person standing or, as they call it, to achieve Victory Royale. So, you want to be the last person standing on the island.

So, what’s great about Fortnite is that it’s challenging, it’s really difficult because you’ve got a hundred other players all of different skill levels. It’s predictable in that there are some pretty clear parameters, but it’s also random because what you do depends on what other people do within the game. And it’s pretty easy to just jump right back in if you get eliminated, so it’s easy access. And then it’s also finite. Like, each game, maybe if you play the entire game, it lasts about maybe 20 minutes, 18 to 20 minutes. So, it’s a really short defined thing.

Well, for somebody who’s wired to meet the challenge, Fortnite is like a narcotic. And let me explain why. So, my son introduced me to this game, he’s like, “I think you might like it. You should try it.” So, I loaded it up on my iPad, and I dive onto the island, and I land, and I think I lasted, like, I took two steps and, boom, I was gone. I was eliminated immediately, right? I was like, “That’s stupid. Play again.” So, I immediately go back into the game. This time I think I lasted maybe like 10 or 15 seconds. By the end of the night, I’d made it like maybe into the top 75.

So, I keep playing this game, and I’m getting better, and I’m getting better, and I’m getting better. And, finally, about a month and a half later, I’m sitting on the couch, my wife is beside me doing something completely ridiculous, like unproductive, like reading a book or something while I’m sitting here playing Fortnite, and so I let out a little whoop. I just achieved my first Victory Royale, Pete. I let out a little whoop, and my wife said, “What happened?” And I explained to her, and her exact response was, “Way to beat that 7-year old, honey. Way to go. Good job.” I’ve never felt so small in my life.

But for somebody wired to meet the challenge, here’s why Fortnite is really dangerous. When I am doing a long-arc project, like let’s say writing a book, that might seem like a challenge to somebody who’s never written a book before, but for me that just looks like a big long-arc project. Something that’s due in a year does not feel challenging to me. It doesn’t feel like an imminent challenge that I need to tackle. So, it’s really easy for me, when I’m working on something like a book project, or something else with a long timeline, it’s easy for me to say, “I’m going to go find something right now I can do that’s  going to feel like a challenge for me.” Fortnite feels like a challenge for me. That’s a distraction that I could easily jump into but there are any number of other things. There are little projects, little things I could be doing that feel like challenges to me right now but are a distraction from the longer-arch work I need to be doing.

So, do you know what I’ve had to do, Pete, is I’ve had to say, “All right. Writing a book is a long-arc project. That takes like a year and a half, two years, from the time you agreed to write the book to the time it hits the market. I need to find ways of establishing little challenges in my work on a day-to-day basis to make sure that my work feels challenging to me.” So, for me, it’s, “I’m going to write 500 words before 9:00 a.m.,” or, “I’m going to write 500 words between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. today. I’m going to write 500 words. That’s my challenge today.” I have to find ways of instilling challenge in my work because if I don’t, I will get distracted by things that are maybe completely frivolous, maybe a waste of my time, but that are satisfying, they’re scratching that meet the challenge itch.

Another one that’s really interesting and unique is, and I hope it’s okay that I say this because we actually share this motivation, as I’ve seen your motivation code report, is make an impact as a podcaster because our podcasts are downloaded a million times a year, and I know yours is as well because I know what your stats are, right? So, as a podcaster, you put lots of stuff into the world but you don’t often get a lot of feedback about the things you’re putting into the world. So, one of the challenges for me, being wired to make an impact, meaning I need to see the impact of the work I’m making in the world, one of the challenges I experienced is that I put things into the world that people don’t respond to. And when people aren’t responding to what I’m doing, I start wondering, “Am I doing the right kind of work? Is my work any good? Should I maybe just sell everything and go move into a Trappist monastery or something? Does any of this make any sense anymore?” Because my motivation of make an impact isn’t being scratched.

And so, sometimes I will do things to achieve an impact just to see that I’m making an impact. I’ll do things that may or may not be helpful to other people just so I can make an impact, or just so I can get some kind of a response from people, because that’s one of my core motivations, that’s one of the shadow sides because you can sometimes try to create an impact where it’s not welcome, because that’s what you’re wired to do.

So, once I began to understand these things and how they play out in my life, and one of my other motivations, my number four is actually overcome. That means I like to work against an enemy. But that means, sometimes, Pete, that I invent enemies where they don’t exist or I invent obstacles to overcome where they don’t exist, and sometimes that can be a waste of energy or a waste of focus. So, once I began to understand how these motivations play out in my life, I began to structure my days, my life, my schedule in a way that was more meaningful. And it actually allowed me to scratch that motivational itch or to get my energy in the right place every day so that my work wasn’t draining to me as much as it was energizing to me.

Now, every motivation is positive but every motivation also has a shadow side. So, once I began to understand some of those shadow side tendencies I just described, I could notice, “Oh, wait a minute, you know what? I’m in a little bit of a funk right now. Does my work feel challenging to me? If not, how could I create a challenge right now? You know what, I’m in a little bit of a funk right now. Am I making an impact and seeing the impact in my work? If not, then maybe I need to find a way to get some feedback about what I’m doing right now.”

Or, for example, I started a folder of feedback letters that people would send me, or emails people would send me, that I can go back and review where people have written to me about what my work means to them. Because in those moments where I’m not getting, I’m not scratching that motivational itch, it helps me to see, “Oh, my work is having impact. I’m still having an impact on people. I just need to remind myself of that.” So, it’s allowed me to structure my life and my days and my work in a way that is more consistent with how I’m wired to get my energy, and this really made all the difference in the world in my life.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s powerful. Yes, I was just going to ask, and I’m glad you shared it. So, if you’re not feeling that make an impact with your invisible podcast audience, how are you getting there? And so, you check out the folders. And it’s true, like I have times where, well, I just naturally think it’s fun to chat with people like you and learn stuff. But sometimes I don’t think it’s so much fun to like hunker down, like, “Okay, what are the teasers? What’s in the opener? What’s in the closer?” Like, to actually take a conversation and get it across the finish line to, and this is an episode that stands alone and is consumable, digestible and friendly to pop up and listen to. Like, that is not as much fun for me than chatting with folks like you and learning stuff I like.

So, then my motivation can fall a bit short. And it’s so true, when I just think about the impact that I make. One of my favorite comments from a listener was, “I wake up every morning early so I can listen to it twice.” Like, for me to think about…because there’s some content I love, too. I don’t know if I’ve ever loved anything that much. Breaking Bad was so awesome for me but I never woke up early to watch it twice.

So, that’s so cool. And then I had even a little printout in terms of, “Boy, hey, what does it mean to have like 20,000 folks, like demographically in terms of male versus female?” So, I just sort of had images, little icons, that would represent 20,000 people, and sort of look at it. And, sure enough, it helped, and then it got torn up by my toddler, so I should make another one.

Todd Henry
But, yeah, see that’s a classic behavior of somebody driven to by that motivation, make an impact, is you want to see a visible representation of the people that you’re impacting because you can’t see them, right? Even right now, people don’t know this because we’re not recording the video, but we’re actually looking at each other. So, typically, I don’t experience that when I’m recording an audio podcast, but I have no doubt that one of the reasons why you want that feedback is partly related to the way that you get your motivational energy, right, because of wanting to connect with the person on the other side in some capacity.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely, yes. And it seems like folks just…they can feel more that I’m on their side because I think I’m hopefully giving you some smiles here and there. Because sometimes I think it can sound like a grilling or an interrogation, like, “Give me your best wisdom now. Give me another example. Give me the data behind it. Have you really thought through that?” So, like if I’m coming across that way, I want to be able to reassure them, “Oh, no, hey, Todd, it’s just Pete here, and I’m really interested in your stuff so that’s why I’m asking these questions.” That’s what I’m going for.

Well, so then you mentioned a number of these themes in terms, and, boy, we could spend, I’m sure, multiple hours just laying those out. So, maybe why don’t we just do the list because they’ll tee up my next couple of questions? Could you take two or three seconds now to just name them all? And maybe they come into some clusters.

Todd Henry
They do, yeah. So, again, this research has been conducted over the course of 50 years. We’ve had over a million achievement stories shared. And the language that comprises The Motivation Code Assessment actually was parsed from those million achievement stories. That’s where we discovered the patterns of where people described what it is that was motivating to them about their achievements.

And so, they break down, generally, into six families, six families of motivations. What we say is while they are in a family because they share some DNA, they’re also very different in terms of how they play out in your life. So, even though they’re in a family, that doesn’t mean that they all behave the same. Just, for example, if you have siblings, you share DNA but you probably look different and you probably have different personalities and different things you’re interested in, and that’s kind of the same way that these motivational themes exist with one another but are very different.

So, the first family is what we call the visionary family. And, generally, the visionary family is focused on the future. They’re focused on what’s next. Sometimes they struggle to be present because they’re always thinking about what’s coming up. Actually, one of your top themes is a visionary family theme, which is experience the ideal. Another one is make an impact, which also is one of your motivational themes. And then achieve potential is the third motivational theme that falls in the visionary family.

And then we have the team player family. And, as you can imagine, team player family, themes are all about being with other people, being a part of something great. They really get their energy from the collective effort. That’s really where they get their motivational drive. By the way, these themes tend to be pretty low on my motivations. Generally speaking, I tend to be somebody who’s motivated to work by myself and to work alone, and I like that. It’s great. With the exception of our first theme, which is influence behavior which actually is pretty high on my list. So, influence behavior, serve, collaborate, and make the grade are the four themes that fall under team player.

The next family is called the optimizer family. People who are motivated in this way, tend to be people who are good at taking something and making it great. So, taking something that might be operating okay and making it great, perfecting it, tweaking it. They tend to love working with systems and trying to squeeze maximum efficiency out of systems. So, you have the themes improve, organize, develop, make it work, establish, and make it right.

And then we have the achiever family. The achiever family is driven about moving forward, about persevering, about accomplishing things. And the themes in the achiever family are bring to completion, meet the challenge, advance, and overcome. And then the final two themes, or two families, I should say, are the key contributor family. Key contributor family, these are the people who like to be at the center of the action. They like to be the people making stuff happen. So, you’ve got excel, bring control, be central, gain ownership, be unique, and evoke recognition.

And then the final family is the learner family, and these are people who love to explore, they’re people who love to ask questions. These are the people who often get into conflict with the achiever family when they’re working on a project together because they’re asking, “Why are we doing this? Let’s try seven other ways before we settle on one.” And the achiever family people are like, “Let’s just get it done.” But the themes that fall under the learner family are explore, master, demonstrate new learning, and comprehend and express. So, that is all 27 themes in a nutshell, and all of the six families along with them.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I guess where that leads me next is, so that’s a nice rundown, and we can see that, yes, those are different. And so, with mine, I’ve got them scored from the top ten: experience the ideal, and then make an impact 9.6, and then on mine on the bottom, evoke recognition 5.2, and make it right 5.1, which is true, I don’t really care about things the right away. In fact, I kind of like it if we’re breaking new innovative territory, and it’s like, “That’s not how it’s done.” It’s like, “Yeah, I know and I love it.” So, it doesn’t really motivate me when it comes to like accounting stuff, like I’m not going to commit fraud or anything, but that doesn’t fire me up, like, “Oh, man, we just really stated those financials perfectly in accordance with Gap.” Like, “Oh, I don’t care. As long as I’m obeying the law and not being a taker or a whatever, I’m all good.”

So, I guess my question is, well, I think it’s a mark of a good assessment is I read the top results, and I say, “Yes, but of course…” and, “Aren’t we all this way?”

Todd Henry
Right, of course. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
And I want to get your vibe in terms of is it fairly evenly distributed across the population? Or are there some folks who make it right is their number one, and there are just as many of them as there are of me?

Todd Henry
Oh, absolutely. No question. And not only that, but there are people…I mean, we’ve given this assessment now to tens of thousands of people. What we’ve discovered is there are people with every one of these motivational themes as their top theme in almost any role you can imagine, right? Because it’s not like, “Oh, if your number one is experience the ideal, then you should be a podcaster.” It’s about what you bring to your work, not about the work that you do specifically.

Now, let’s say that you are an accountant, as you just mentioned, and let’s say that your top theme is collaborate, which we have certainly had accountants who are high on collaborate. And let’s say during tax season, you’re stuck in a cubicle doing work, you’re cranking out tax returns in a cubicle by yourself for eight hours a day, you’re probably going to go into a funk and maybe not even know why. You might think you hate your job. You don’t hate your job. What you hate about your job right now is the fact that you have no human interaction for eight hours a day, and you’re fundamentally to get your energy from collaborating with other people.

So, where this is very helpful is in parsing the difference between, “I hate my job,” or, “I hate my tasks,” and, “I hate the way I’m approaching my job,” or, “I hate that I’m approaching my tasks.” Those are fundamentally different things. So, if that is your job, and, for example, you’re wired to collaborate, so you’re going to be in a cube cranking through tax returns all day for eight hours a day, you need to be disciplined about saying, “You know what, I’m either going to, A, find a way to maybe find another teammate that I can do these tax returns with, or in proximity with, or, B, I’m going to structure a social lunch every day. I’m going to take a break in the middle of my day, and I’m going to have social lunch where I get to interact with people, talk about things, we get to collaborate on what’s working, what’s not working, so that I, at least, have some motivational reprieve from these tasks that are going to drain me by the very nature of the tasks because of the way I’m wired.”

Now, somebody else, to your point, who’s wired, say, for establish or to make it right, they might love just being in a cubicle all day just getting it right. That’s all they care about, “If the number is balanced, I’m experiencing nirvana,” because that’s how they’re wired. It doesn’t matter if anybody is around them. They just want to experience getting it right or making things the way they’re supposed to be. So, this is where the difference is between motivational themes and how you score on the motivational assessment. This is how it makes a difference in terms of how you approach your work. It’s not so much about the task you do.

We spend so much time looking for the perfect job, Pete, and that is like chasing vapor. There is no perfect job. Any job you do is going to have tasks you don’t enjoy. But if you learn what drives you, what motivates you, you can begin to structure how you approach your job in a more meaningful way, in a way that will allow you to activate those core motivations more intentionally, more purposefully, and more consistently. And when you begin to approach your work that way, suddenly, you’re going to find, “I’m enjoying my job. I’ve always hated my job but, suddenly, I find that I’m enjoying my tasks more.” Well, it’s because you’re thinking about how to more strategically approach your work according to your motivational types instead of waiting for your job to scratch your motivational itch, which it’s probably not going to do with a few exceptions.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And it really is pretty eye-opening there in terms of what I’m drawn to and then what I’m not. And sometimes it’s sort of like, in running a business, it’s like for the goal of running a profitable business, I know that using the metric of expected profit generated per hour demanded of me is the optimizing metric to utilize to get the most of that result.

Todd Henry
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
And sometimes that is quite motivating in terms of I say, “Oh, look, there’s a really big opportunity to make a big impact. Go after it.” And sometimes it’s just sort of like, “Yeah, I know there’s profit there, but I just don’t really care.” And so, it’s actually hard for me to find the discipline to do the thing that I “should” be doing when there’s not a lot of motivational code alignment embedded within them.

Todd Henry
As I’m just looking right now, because you gave me permission, I’m looking at your top motivations, that’s not what’s going to drive you. If you were driven to gain ownership, for example, or if you were driven by any number of the achiever family themes, you would be somebody who’s like, “I don’t care how many podcast downloads I have as long as I have more than that person over there.” Like, that would be what drives you, “I don’t care how many downloads I have as long as it’s 20% more than what I had last year.” That’s how you would be wired, but that’s not what your motivational themes tell me about what matters to you. Those aren’t the things that you’re measuring.

The challenge is the things that are motivating you are a little more difficult to measure. I have a feeling that you’re never 100% satisfied with any episode that you put out in some capacity. Is that true or is that false?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s absolutely true. Sometimes I don’t like to listen to them too closely because then I’ll start…

Todd Henry
Because you’re judging yourself.

Pete Mockaitis
…critiquing the bejesus out of them.

Todd Henry
Yeah. And part of that is the experience of the ideal motivation which is your top motivation, meaning that you are still chasing the perfect podcast episode, which is why your listeners love you, by the way, that’s why you have raving fans, it’s why you have amazing swag for your show, it’s why all of these things, is because you’re trying to create a best possible version of what a podcast could be, which is fantastic. The problem is that you can’t really ever get there because that’s sort of an idealized understanding of what podcast is. And so, as you’re chasing that, the goalpost just kind of keeps moving. But that also energize, I assume that really energizes you as well. The idea of chasing after the ideal version of a podcast is probably something that really energizes you.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely, yes. And so, experience the ideal, I guess this is maybe more for me, so that’s both about experiencing, making real my ideals, my values, and such, as well as experiencing the ideal – am I using this philosophy term right, the platonic form, huh, maybe – of podcast to make the ideal podcast that is part of the game, in addition to the fact that making this podcast speaks to the values that I hold dear.

Todd Henry
Yes, absolutely. So, what gives you joy is the process of creating the thing that was in your head and putting it into the world, and then obviously making an impact, that’s your number two, but seeing the impact of the thing that you’re putting into the world. But it’s the process of doing that that really gives you joy of chasing after those ideals, of chasing after the vision that you have in your head, right? That’s what really gives you joy.

And so, some of the traditional metrics that we use to determine success or failure, or on podcasting or any business, quite frankly, are not the things that give you joy. Whereas, somebody else, quite frankly, they don’t care what they’re putting out. Their numbers are going up. They’re great with it. Or if they have 20% more than they had last year, “Great, that’s all that matters. That’s what gives me all the energy I need.”

And so, when you ask the question, “Well, aren’t we all kind of like this?” Well, we’re all motivated by a blend of themes, and all the themes modify one another, but we each have sort of a unique code that really describes where we are when we’re operating in our sweet spot, right? And so, when we begin to understand that, and understand how these top three to five themes really play together in our life, it begins to explain some of these patterns, some of the things, the tendencies that we have, some of the ways that we maybe get ourselves into trouble sometimes, but also those moments when we feel really, really alive.

It explains, for me, why I cry every time I see The Pursuit of Happiness or Rudy or some of these movies, right? It’s because, well, overcome is one of my top themes. Of course, I’m going to be motivated and moved by some story of somebody overcoming the odds. Of course, I am. Whereas, somebody else thinks, “That’s really cheesy.” “What do you mean? What are you talking about?” But, like, yeah, that really…it doesn’t just move me. It moves me to my core, and I never had terminology to explain that before. But now, suddenly, I realize that’s because that’s how I’m motivated. That’s where I get my energy.

Pete Mockaitis
Boy, when you talk about like movies and strong emotions, like, well, hey, I’m a big advocate for, “Hey, man, do some introspection or reflection on that stuff. It’s telling you something.” And it’s funny, so my favorite movie is Life Is Beautiful. And if you think about, oh, geez, I’m tearing up just thinking about it. If you think about the ideal of a father, wow, I mean, what that guy does for his kid, it’s hard to imagine a more challenging circumstance and an ideal response to it for a child. Wow, there you have it. I’m going to have some water, Todd.

Todd Henry
I have no reaction to that. See, that’s what’s interesting. You’re tearing up thinking about it, whereas I’m tearing up thinking about Rudy and all these overcomer movies because that’s such a core part of my motivation, right? And so, in many ways, these motivational themes help us define things that we’ve always sensed but never had language for, which is what makes it so powerful and also so practical, because then not only do we understand but we actually have some stuff we can do about it to make sure that we’re experiencing them more consistently.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Well, so Todd, let’s see, so if folks who want their motivation code, they get the book, or what’s the easiest cost or most cost-effective way to get as many of the goodies as they can get?

Todd Henry
Yeah. So, there is a version of the assessment in the book, it’s a free version of the assessment that basically gives you your top three themes, tells you what your top three themes are when you take the assessment. So, if you go to MotivationCode.com or just anywhere you can get books, you can buy the book. In there, there’s a link to take you to the free version of the assessment to give you your top themes.

We also have, like you took, Pete, we have a full version of the assessment that you can take as well, but as a good starting point, I think the free version of the assessment will you your top three themes, and really begin the journey of understanding more of what it is that moves you to action.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, it sounds like, to summarize, the general parameter here is you get that understanding of what are your top motivational themes, and then you start looking for ways you can align more of your work and life with that, and it may involve trying to do different tasks, or may just be change the way you’re doing your existing tasks.

Todd Henry
Unquestionably. And there’s an entire chapter in the book that’s based on, “So, now what?” Again, we’ve all taken assessments, and then we sort of attach some letters to our name, like, “Hi, I’m an INTP. You?” That’s fine. Not always very practical. Not always very useful. So, really, what we wanted to do was make sure that the book explains to people, “Okay, what can you do about this?” And one of the things we know for certain is that we learn and we grow best in community.

And so, one of the things we recommend is talking to somebody else about what you’re discovering, “Hey, Pete, I just discovered that my top motivation is make an impact, and I’ve noticed that I’m in kind of a funk lately because I’m not seeing a lot of the impact in my work, and I just want to talk about that with you.” Or, “Hey, this thing came up and it didn’t really seem to make sense for me.” I mean, we do have that happen from time to time where people…I was a given a workshop a handful of months ago, and somebody was kind of arguing with me, like, the specific theme was be unique. And they said, “Yeah, but I don’t have a drive to be unique. Like, I don’t wear weird clothes and I don’t have like spiked pink hair. I don’t really have that drive to be unique.”

And this person happened to be a pastor, and I said, “Well, tell me about what you do.” He said, “I’m a pastor, and I give talks.” I say, “Okay, tell me this, if I told you I’m going to write a sermon for you, and I want you just to kind of go out and read that sermon, or deliver that sermon, you’re going to deliver it however you want, but you’re going to use the words that I give you, and you’re going to use the terminology I give you. Would that be satisfying to you?” He’s like, “No, because what I say has to be a unique expression of how I see the world and who I am.” And I said, “You just used the phrase in describing back to me.” It’s like, “You’re arguing to be unique isn’t your motivation but you’re using that exact phrase to describe back to me what it is that drives you.”

And so, sometimes people, when they first discover what their motivational themes are, they don’t necessarily understand what it means to them, and then in the course of talking with others about it, they suddenly realize, “Oh, this does make sense,” because people can reflect back to them what they see in their life in a way that helps them contextualize what these motivations actually mean in terms of how they’re playing out in their day-to-day life. So, that’s one of the things that is really important.

And, listen, we learn and grow in the context of community in any way. I need you, Pete, you need me in order to really fully see ourselves. Like, we do because we all have blind spots. And so, that’s one of the main things I want to make sure people take away from this, is don’t just go do this and then say, “Okay, that was interesting,” and then walk away from it. But, instead, talk about it with someone else and invite them to speak into your life as well, and say, “Hey, where do you see this playing out in my life? How do you see these things playing out? And what do you think I can do to better position myself to experience these motivational themes more consistently?”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. That’s good. Todd, any final thoughts before we shift gears to hear about some of your favorite things?

Todd Henry
I think the main thing is just recognize that, especially if you manage people or if you’re somebody in a role where you have organizational responsibility, I think traditionally we have relied on blunt force methods to motivate people, whether that be pay raises, words of encouragement, flexibility, things like that, and the reality is those things work for a season and then everybody reverts to the mean. They don’t last because they’re blunt force.

If you want to engage your team, and if you want to engage the people around you, the absolute way to do that is they understand the specific code that unlocks their motivation, and you owe it to them. If you’re a manager of people, you owe it to your team to understand what it is that uniquely drives them and brings their best work out on a day-to-day basis.

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

Todd Henry
Yeah. So, my favorite quote in the world is actually from Thomas Merton. I don’t have it in front of me so I might get it wrong, but it’s, “There can be an intense egoism in following everyone else. People are in a hurry to magnify themselves by imitating what is popular and too lazy to think of anything better. Hurry ruins saints as well as artists. They want quick success, and they’re in such a hurry to get it, they cannot take time to be true to themselves. And when the madness is upon them, they justify their haste as a species of integrity.”

So, what’s interesting about that is they want quick success and they’re in such a hurry to get it, they cannot take time to be true to themselves. I think we have so many people around us who are in a hurry to become successful to the point that they forget who it is they are and what they value, and, in the end, they may achieve what they were going for and realize it’s hollow because they abandoned everything that they value in order to accomplish it.

And so, I’m a firm believer that who you’re becoming is much more important than whatever it is you’re accomplishing in your life.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Well, now, could you share a favorite study, or experiment, or bit of research?

Todd Henry
In the book, I talk about the work of Deci and Ryan and some of the work that they did in exploring motivation, and kind of how motivation plays out in our day-to-day life. And they were some of the first people to discover that any kind of extrinsic motivation imposed upon someone, extrinsic motivation meaning something that you sort of do to prompt motivation, so it could be a pay raise, or words of encouragement, things of that nature, is short-lived. Very short-lived and doesn’t last for very long. In fact, even words of encouragement, over time, eventually lose their impact on people because people grow used to them.

And so, if you’re going to use that, if you’re going to use either pay raises or words of encouragement, you better be prepared to continue doling out more and more raises, more and more words of encouragement over time because, eventually, they will lose their impact because that’s just the way that we’re wired as human beings.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Todd Henry
So, right now I’m reading a book called Why Information Grows, which is blowing my mind, but it’s about why information, specifically on earth, why information grows here but it doesn’t grow on other places in the universe. And it all has to do with, I won’t go into the specifics, but it all has to do with the fact that information is encoded much more readily in solids than it is in gases, and our planet is, the conditions are just right for the right kinds of solids to exist to allow us to encode information. So, it’s a really fascinating book. It’s a little technical but a really fascinating book.

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

Todd Henry
The Techo Planner by Hobonichi is my favorite little tool. I use it for journaling, I use it for tracking my dailies. It’s really like the perfect little notebook, a little paper planner to sort of carry around and use to help organize my life and my work.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit, something you do?

Todd Henry
So, I may have mentioned this in the last episode, but about 17 years ago, I began a habit of every day study in the morning. It’s the first I do in the morning. I get up and I read and I spend some time thinking and writing in the morning, and it has fundamentally transformed my life. If you want to learn how to think systemically, if you want to learn how to see bigger patterns, if you want to advance in your career, if you want to have better relationships, the absolute best thing you can do is make an investment in your intellectual self. And that begins by having a regimen of regular study in your life.

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

Todd Henry
Yeah. So, it’s funny, the one thing that was like an off-the-cuff article I wrote like five years ago, the title was “Don’t Let Your Rituals Become Ruts,” and that is the most quoted thing on the internet for some reason, I think, because the Get.Momentum app on Chrome uses it as one of their screensavers, but I see it tweeted more than anything else.

But I think the thing probably that I’m seeing resonate most often is our early book called Die Empty, which is really about making sure that you’re not taking your best work to the grave with you. And I’m seeing that growing in momentum around the world. Actually, it’s fun. I’m seeing it, it’s been translated into, I forget how many languages now, but it’s really cool to see people talking about, like, “I’m not going to take my best work to the grave with me. I’m not going to take my best work to the grave with me.” And that’s been kind of a fun thing to see growing as a movement around the world.

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

Todd Henry
Yeah, if you want to know more about motivation code, just go to MotivationCode.com is the best place to learn all about the assessment and the book itself and the company. And you can find me at ToddHenry.com, and also my podcast, The Accidental Creative, where we list the podcast.

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

Todd Henry
Yeah. Listen, the work that you do, the things that you produce, that really, really important project you’re working on right now, I mean, no offense, but nobody is probably going to remember that in a hundred years. I’m sorry, but they’re not. I’m sorry, Pete, nobody is going to probably remember your podcast, or my podcast, or any of my books, or any of that stuff in a hundred years. I’m sorry. I’m sorry to say that.

But, listen, the impact that you have on the people around you will resonate for generations to come. You don’t have a responsibility to change the world but you do have a responsibility to change the world around you. So, be the kind of person who makes echoes in the lives of others. And if you make echoes in the lives of others, those echoes are going to resound for generations to come.

And generations has a great quote, it says, “A society grows great when old men plant trees and whose shade they will never sit.” As you create echoes in the lives of other people, generations down the line, people are going to be sitting under a tree that you planted, that you had no idea was even planted, right? So, just be the kind of person and be the kind of leader who makes echoes.

Pete Mockaitis
Todd, this has been awesome. I wish you all the best in your adventures.

Todd Henry
Thanks so much, Pete. And thanks again for having me on the show.

602: Finding Greater Enjoyment and Fulfillment through Capacity Building with Robert Glazer

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

Robert Glazer says: "You got to know your values."

Robert Glazer discusses his simple framework for achieving greater clarity and accelerating your development.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to know if you’re living below your potential
  2. How to clearly define your core values and purpose
  3. The small wins that lead to tremendous growth

About Robert

Robert Glazer is the founder and CEO of Acceleration Partners, a global partner marketing agency and the recipient of numerous industry and company culture awards, including Glassdoor’s Employees’ Choice Awards two years in a row. He is the author of the inspirational newsletter Friday Forward, author of the Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller, Elevate, and of the international bestselling book, Performance Partnerships.  He is a sought-after speaker by companies and organizations around the world and is the host of The Elevate Podcast. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, sponsors!

Robert Glazer Interview Transcript

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

Robert Glazer
Thanks for having me, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I want to dig into so much of your wisdom. But, first, I got to hear, you biked from London to Paris within 24 hours. First, how is this possible with water? And, second, tell us the story.

Robert Glazer
Yeah, our London team created an industry event, it’s a fundraiser, to bike in 24 hours. I get to hang out with the London team, support the industry, so I flew on the first day of school. So, yeah, you bike from London to the south, and then we slept on a ferry for what I thought was three hours but we lost an hour, so it was even less than I realized. And then, basically, like pitch black at 5:00 in the morning, we were on the other side and started biking, and you wake up and you realize you’re in the middle of Normandy. So, it was pretty crazy. It’s technically 23 because of that hour. We finished right down the Champs-Elysees, and right under the Eiffel Tower, so it’s a pretty iconic finish. I had never done anything even half that amount of distance.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. Very cool. And can you orient us a bit, for those who are less familiar with you, in terms of the London team and the industry? Where are you situated there?

Robert Glazer
So, yeah, I run a company called Acceleration Partners. I founded it, it’s a marketing agency, and we manage what’s called affiliate programs, large-scale affiliate programs, so kind of digital partnerships between brands and all kinds of different publishers. And we’ve been expanding in Europe, and I built up a Europe team. Our MD in London is a big cyclist so she had this crazy idea. But it was awesome. I mean, from a bonding standpoint, there were some people I was biking with in the middle of the night, in the middle of the morning, and had some great discussions. It was actually a really cool experience.

It’s not something you can do without the infrastructure, so there’s a company that sort of provided the infrastructure, but it was awesome. I tell a lot of people: good learning. I didn’t really read very much, like I’m not big on instructions, like I didn’t read a lot of the instructions and what we were doing until I was packing. And then I was like, “Crap. What have I signed up for?” So, it’s good learning there. Sometimes it’s better to just sign up and say yes and not know all the details because if I had read all the warnings and the things and the rest, I would’ve probably scared myself out of it.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s really true. I think in terms of if it’s…I guess if you don’t have to have a lot of technical knowhow, like just keep paddling or pedaling, that works in terms of if there’s a risk of you psyching yourself out, that might be wise. Well, very cool. So, let’s dig into you make great promotions happen and you pulled that off with your book Elevate. What’s the big idea behind this one?

Robert Glazer
Yes. So, Elevate came out of something called Friday Forward, which was a note that I started sending my team about five years ago every Friday. It was originally called Friday Inspiration. It had tips, self-improvement. I decided to improve my morning routine, and was told to read something positive, and a lot of the positive stuff I was reading was a little rainbow and unicorn-y. It didn’t do it for me.

So, I decided I would write something that would encourage our team to kind of want to get better, do better. It wasn’t about our business. And it started to get shared outside the company, I realized it, because…

Pete Mockaitis
Without your permission.

Robert Glazer
Without my permission. The teammates would write back and they’d say, “Yeah, I did that. That’s really cool. But, also, I shared this with my husband, and he shared it with his company.” And I sent it to a few entrepreneurs after a conference because I said, “I’d been doing this with my team and I’ve gotten really great feedback, and I’ve enjoyed doing it.” And they said, “Yeah, well, send it to us,” and it was like four entrepreneurs, “and we’ll take a look. Maybe it’s a great idea.”

And one started his own and has done it till this day, and the other three are like good entrepreneurs, said, “This is great. We’ll just send this to our teams on Friday.” That made me think that it might have value outside the company so I sort of opened it up so other people could sign up for it, and renamed it Friday Forward because it had been forwarding. And I look up five years later, and there’s a couple of hundred thousand people in 60 countries reading it on a Friday, which is just totally crazy.

Pete Mockaitis
That is awesome. Well, so then what are some of the main sort of themes and messages that are resonating so much and being useful for people here?

Robert Glazer
So, now, I realized I failed to answer the question. So, I went to write a book that was sort of a synopsis of Friday Forward and an agent sort of pushed me to what was the story. And what happened was I spent some time thinking about “What were we doing as a company to grow so quickly? And how were we investing in our people? What did I do? What have I done to really make huge changes in my life a couple of years since I’d started it? Why were these notes having an impact on all these strangers that I didn’t know? All these high-performing people I saw, like what do they have in common?”

It really all came down to the same thing, which is this concept of capacity building, about how you get better, and these four elements of capacity building which are spiritual, intellectual, physical and emotional. And it was a framework that, for me, covered all of self-improvement and showed you kind of clearly like how it was connected and where you might be doing well and where you might be out of whack. So, I’d say nothing in it is new itself. I just think the framework has not been presented in that way for people to understand “Here’s how you can actually get better in service of what you want most.”

And that was, as I said, that’s actually the approach we took with our team which was “How do we invest in them holistically and build their capacity, and get them to grow along with the business rather than just trying to make them better at their jobs because their jobs would change as the business grew?”

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Well, there’s so much in there that I love. So, let’s just sync up on a term for a moment. When you say capacity, I have a definition in mind for that. What do you mean by the word capacity?

Robert Glazer
There’s a long definition but I actually think capacity is how we get better, that ability to. One key though, it’s not more. I think one of the aspects of building capacity is like, intellectual, it’s like getting a faster chip, is that you should be able to do the right things faster and with less energy. I think people correlate it with volume versus it’s really more of ability. How do you increase your ability in these areas to do more, think smarter, and act faster. Physical capacity, we understand, like that bike race. If I trained an hour a day for 60 days, suddenly I have the capacity to bike 170 miles which I did not have before.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, it’s just sort of like your ability, what you are capable of pulling off, and so that’s exciting. Well, lay it on us then, you mentioned you get an understanding of where you might be doing well or not so well across each of these four dimensions. And how do you gauge that? Like, hey, spiritual is rocking and intellectual is lagging. How do I get to that conclusion?

Robert Glazer
Yeah. Well, would it help if I define them first?

Pete Mockaitis
Sure.

Robert Glazer
So, spiritual capacity is not religious. To me, this is just your north star. It’s usually core values or purpose. Like, what is it that you want and who are you? And if you don’t have clarity on that, you probably are already very wobbly because you may not be going in the right…. You may not be wobbly. You may actually be doing a great job going in the wrong direction. So, to me, that’s first.

Intellectual capacity is how you plan, learn, think, execute with discipline, accountability, set goals. So, now we know what we want, and this is like, “How do we get smarter and faster and better in pursuit of that?” Physical capacity is kind of your health, wellbeing, competition, resilience. How does our body hold us up in this process? And then emotional are the things outside of you. So, your relationships, whether those drain energy or bring energy, and how you react to external events and things that you don’t control.

So, yeah, I think my example before, it’s probably more rare. But if someone hasn’t figured out who they are and what they want, they may be considered successful but they may be like crushing intellectual, physical and emotional capacity in a direction or something that gives them no enjoyment. They’re doing what their parents wanted them to do, what teachers and the society, and they’re just…they’re a world-class doctor and they want to be a writer and have a house in Montana and a cabin. And so, it just doesn’t provide them fulfillment.

But for most people, I think, you got to know your values because that drives your key decisions, then you get excited about what it is that you’re going to accomplish, then you pay attention to your emotional and physical capacity. So, physical capacity is the easiest one because this is out of whack I think when we’re tired, when we’re stressed, you think about that like you lose control of the big picture, you’re not learning as much, you tend to fight and argue with everyone. So, that’s when you can see it’s out of whack.

And if your emotional capacity is maybe out of whack, maybe you’re probably on an island, you’ve been kind of detaching yourself from the world and from other people and just trying to go at it, and you need those people in order to have the kind of success that you want to have. So, I think sometimes it’s easier to notice where we may feel a little bit out of whack. Intellectual capacity, COVID is a great example, right? Restaurant industry, you had people shut down overnight, and there are people who sort of give up their hands and say, “Well, guess we can’t be a restaurant.” And there are others who are like, “We’re going to figure out what we’re going to be to keep people employed,” and they learned delivery the next day, and they setup meal kits, and they just dove in and said, “We got to do what we got to do to keep our people employed.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s great. Well, so then let’s see. So, thinking about our audience and your people in terms of professionals, is there an area you tend to see more often than the others popping up as needing more of a boost than the others?

Robert Glazer
Yeah, I think physical is the one that we particularly now that can easily get out of whack on. It’s like the chiropractic fix of getting back into that. Spiritual is not one you kind of fall in and out of. For most people, they just haven’t done the work. If you ask most people, “What are your core values?” 98 out of a 100 would look at you with a blank stare, or maybe sputter out a word. Two of them will say…

Pete Mockaitis
Integrity.

Robert Glazer
“My core values are A, B, C, and D, and my core purpose is X.” And I promise you, they’re on a really definitive path. So, I think a lot of people, they know it. I always say it’s self-discovery. They know when they get into situations where their core values are violated, but they don’t have the language to make those decisions and stay away from their electric fence until they cross it. And so, they make a lot of bad or wrong decisions on the journey. So, I encourage a lot of people who want to get better to make sure you figure that out because I think it’s really hard for you to live somewhere, have a relationship, have a job that’s fundamentally misaligned with your core values.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so we talked about values a few times, and I love the different angles that people sort of approach it from. So, could you give us some examples of, well, I guess we can hear yours in terms of purpose and values, as well as where do people…? It sounds like you’ve done the research, 98% of people just sort of have nothing.

Robert Glazer
Better than scientific but, yeah, for most.

Pete Mockaitis
But we’re pegging you, we’re citing your name in studies with the parenthesis (Glazer 2020). So, yeah, let’s hear, like, how do you get there? And if you have 20 values, you sort of have none is sort of the way I view it.

Robert Glazer
Yeah, like if you have 20 goals, you have none, right?

Pete Mockaitis
And I think Brene Brown said in one of her books that she did some research that most superstars have like one or two or three, it’s a very small number, and then they have real directional power. So, lay it on us, some examples, and how we get there.

Robert Glazer
Yes. So, less is more in this, and we’ve done this with our leaders at Acceleration Partners for years. Actually, I had a hard time, I went to a pretty hardcore leadership thing. I was determined how values were important and to figure it out, but they actually didn’t tell us how. And so, I went through a process over a year or two, and then started doing that with my team and built it out. I’ve actually just turned it into a course that’ll launch in a couple of weeks because it’s the thing I get asked most about in Elevate. There are some tips in Elevate to get you started.

But my core purpose is to share ideas that help people and organizations grow. That’s why I’m on this podcast, that’s why I’m writing these books. And my core values are find a better way and share it, health and vitality, self-reliance, respect for authenticity and long-term orientation. And I think there are a couple principles to values. And there’s a way I figured out kind of how to get it out of people, but they need to be definitive. Like, things like integrity, it’s like a company. They actually need to describe how you’re different, and they also can’t be one word because I talk a little bit about in the course about the core validator, and there are a couple things like what makes it a good core value.

So, you got to be able to look at it and say, “I’m doing a good job with this,” or, “I’m not doing a good job with this.” It’s almost like your report card. You’ve got to think about the inverse value of that and it should really rub you the wrong way. And then, also, could you make a decision on it? So, when somebody says something like visionary, you’d say like, “Well, was I being visionary last month? I don’t know. If I have a choice, did I make a visionary decision?”

So, when I came up with a long-term orientation, I realized that was something that was really important. I was thinking about that. That’s usually a really good test. Like, if I have a choice of a partner, an investment, or something I can think about, how is this…what is the long-term aspect of this decision? Am I thinking about the long term? Have I done a good job doing that? And that counter core value. If I’m at a party, I always say, “Imagine the sort of inverse of your core value as a character.” And I’m talking to short-term Pete, and Pete’s talking about, “Oh, I’m making all this money on the…”

Pete Mockaitis
Bitcoin.

Robert Glazer
“…investment stuff, and I’m driving a bus through this…” and just everything Pete is doing is like taking advantage of the short term before it ends. Like, I need to get away from him as fast as I can. That’s a good test of that person actually. The archetype of that person embodies the violation of my core values.

So, one of the tests that we do when we’re trying to see if it’s a core value is we sort of tell someone to come up with that inverse person, “How do you feel when you…?” Some people picture a relative, literally, because the whole thing about a core value when violated, it’s just you’re not comfortable.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And I think integrity is sort of everything. When I think about values, I think my first kind of aha moment with values, it’s funny, from a business perspective, my company mission is kind of similar to yours – to discover, develop and disseminate knowledge that transforms the experience of being alive. And I really do. I get jazzed about that, and it doesn’t happen very often. And when it does, these interviews don’t air. Don’t worry, you’re going to make the cut. You’re good.

Robert Glazer
I had a couple of these, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
You know what, I don’t think we didn’t really discover anything, we didn’t really develop anything, this isn’t really worth disseminating. I’m just going to have to let it go. And that feels uncomfortable in terms of I’m a bit of a people pleaser. But it’s necessary, otherwise I would feel bad, I would feel very yucky if I created something lame, and consumed people’s time, which is so precious, on something that was inadequately valuable and they regretted spending that time. I regretted spending the time watching the movie Uncut Gems, personally.

Robert Glazer
I was just talking about that yesterday. I think it’s pretty dark.

Pete Mockaitis
It didn’t do it for me. But more to the point, I remember I was a senior in high school, and I was in my car, just parked, eating ice cream from the Custard Cup in Danville, and I came to realize that, yes, when I’m living in accordance with values, my sort of baseline how I feel outside of some really good news or really bad news, it’s good. I’ve just got kind of happy groove. And when I’m not, it’s just kind of blah.

And at the time, they were one words at the time. I think they were defined as integrity, service, growth, and optimality. And by integrity, it really means like not being sort of shady, or deceptive, or lying. And there’s many shades of dishonesty, like not just saying no when the answer is yes, but like what you omit and what you imply. What did Bill Clinton say?

Robert Glazer
“I did not…”

Pete Mockaitis
“I did not perjure myself. My answers were legally accurate but they were misleading.” I was like, “Okay. Well, you’re right. There’s many flavors of dishonesty here.” So, that’s great. So, in terms of the report card, I’d love it, so how do you, I don’t know, measure or score or quantify for your kind of reporting? Do you do check-ins? How does that work?

Robert Glazer
For reporting on like…?

Pete Mockaitis
Like, you do a report card on your values, like, “Hey, how am I doing this month or quarter?”

Robert Glazer
Oh, yes. So, to me, it’s actually when I say the report card, it’s if I had to look back on a decision, like could I have objectively used that as a decision point? And so, that’s why I kind of try to push people. Again, if I had time, I’d go through with you against the word integrity. I could probably get a little more out of you on that, and you could say, “Did my decision to go on that podcast or not have that personal podcast have integrity?” or probably some other phrase that really nails down what that is for you.

So, the report card is pretty binary, as you said. You’re going to feel really good when you’re doing things in service, and you’re going to feel pretty bad outside. So, if you’re in an environment, if you live in a place that people don’t share the values, if you’re in a relationship, or if you’re in an office environment, that’s a really hard thing to work its way around. But if I have a decision, if I’m looking…my decision to continue with Friday Forward when I didn’t know what it was, I didn’t know how it would make money or anything, I sort of scanned across, I’m like, “Is this encouraging people to be healthy? Is it finding a better way in sharing it with them? Is it encouraging self-reliance? Is it about being respectfully authentic? Is it about long term?” Yeah, it’s all of those things. So, I should keep going with that.

And that was a huge inflection point when I said, “Why am I doing this?” Similarly, I think there are some other things you could look in your life and say, “Wow, it’s zero out of five for me. Like, I got to stop that.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, how about we just, you know, let’s get into it a little bit, shall we, in terms of integrity and saying, “All right, we can do better than that”?

Robert Glazer
Do better than that? Okay.

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s do it live. See what we can do.

Robert Glazer
All right. So, you gave some descriptions but I always feel like it needs a couple words. So, when you say integrity, integrity is also really tricky because I think there’s cultural implications, and there’s people who have different definitions of what’s integral. So, what is the core aspect of integrity? Can you think of a situation or a story where you’re like saying with Clinton, but a personal one where you’d say, “That one is against my values”?

Pete Mockaitis
Sure thing. I guess I’m thinking about times someone asked me a question, and I knew what they wanted to hear, and I told them a version of things that was sort of shaded than what they wanted to hear, as opposed to the most factual, clear picture of reality, and that felt yucky. I don’t care to do that.

Robert Glazer
So, I often gear people towards because mine is very specific, but the word authenticity has a modifier. It tends to work better than integrity, because I think a lot of people, it’s like mine is respect for authenticity. The core values is a unique blend of, and you can see this in my report card, I’m on five, and you can see some of the things we’ve done. I like being honest with people, I like being direct with them, but also respectful and in a way that is helpful and not like…so a lot of people who are direct, who sort of don’t mind hurting people or leaving them in the process.

Pete Mockaitis
“Robert, you suck! Fix it.”

Robert Glazer
Versus like, “You might not have a career in this. Let me figure out how you can have a career in something else.” So, it’s important for you to be authentic. It sounds like it’s important in your voice. Why, in that case, did you tell the person not what they wanted to hear?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I guess it’s the temptation towards people-pleasing as well as sort of maybe there’s kind of opportunities that I want, and I don’t want to see it disappear.

Robert Glazer
You probably actually will have the rarer thing, and this is very similar with someone on my team that had…you’re going to have core values that are in conflict, and so you need to be clear about hierarchical.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah.

Robert Glazer
So, being authentic, she had something very similar, “Like I like to please and make people feel good, and I like to be authentic.” And I said to her, “So, what happens when… What if telling them the truth means not making them happy in the short term, and she was really clear that if push came to shove, it’s the other one. So, probably similar for you in terms of verbiage but you have one around making people happy or making them feel welcome, or something like that. And, usually, that will tie to something childhood, like direct experience, or something maybe where you weren’t welcome, or your feedback wasn’t welcomed. But then that authentic piece will conflict with that sometimes a little bit too.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s good. That’s good. So, let’s maybe completely shift gears in the sense of so we talked about values and purpose, and how that takes some deep reflection and work to arrive at it and get it. What are some of the quick wins, the tips and tactics and practices that can give us a boost to some of the other dimensions of capacity in a jiffy?

Robert Glazer
Yeah, like I said spiritual is one that requires some work. The other ones you can kind of make some quick wins each day. That one is kind of different. And I do think that’s a process you should go through each day. You make a list, you do that. In the book, I explain about how to start the list, building, and look for themes. But a common one in intellectual is just changing your morning routine. Getting up, not turning on the TV, not turning on the news, not turning on the phone, reading, writing, making maybe a list of the top couple of things you wanted to do today, kind of improve your morning so that you improve your day. I think that’s a quick win for a lot of people on intellectual capacity. If they haven’t tried journaling in the morning, or haven’t tried meditation, or just not waking up to the kind of onslaught of everything coming at you.

Physical capacity, similar to what I said before, one of my biggest hacks there, and not that people are joining gyms now, but the best investment you can make is put down 50 bucks on some event four months in the future, whether it is a 5K, a 10K, a London to Paris bike ride, because that’s going to create this future commitment for you that encourages you to do the work the next couple of months. And it’s actually the training and the practice, not the event, that gives you most of the value. And if you’re running or training or going to something that really helps build your resilience and your capacity, you’re going to feel better.

And then really easy one on emotional capacity is this concept called a relationship dashboard. One of the things I’m talking about is the notion of these energy vampires. Like, do you have people in your life, family, business, where you feel worse after spending time with them? You actually feel worse. And make this list. I wouldn’t leave this one on your desk necessarily.

Pete Mockaitis
“What’s this?”

Robert Glazer
I’ve done this with people. So, just five names on each list. Who are the people that you need to spend less time with? This doesn’t mean you need a breakup. This doesn’t mean you need to have a whole thing. It just means like, “I’m doing the thing every four days with this person and I’m fighting. I’m just going to slow down the cadence, remove some energy, kind of pull away from that.” And who are the five people that you feel awesome when you spend more time with, you learn, it’s great, and you just haven’t had that time? And you reallocate that, and you send them an email, and you set up a phone call, or you set up a coffee or beer with them outdoors, and you really just reapply that energy towards the people who are really pulling you up, not dragging you down.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s excellent. And so then, I’d love to get your take then, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Robert Glazer
No, I mean, it’s an ongoing process. I think one of the things about capacity building, and when you sort of read about how I describe it, is I don’t think you ever master it. I think there’s a shift, you get out of whack, you notice. Even COVID, I’ve had a really hard time with physical. Both times that I’ve gone to launch my books about capacity building, I’ve burned out my physical capacity in the name of doing that. So, you don’t win this. I think it’s this constant recalibration just to make sure your ball is gaining momentum and rolling down the right hill for you.

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

Robert Glazer
Yeah, one of my favorite quotes is, and I heard it in a yoga class years ago, and I always gave credit to teacher in yoga class, but then I found out it was actually a pretty famous quote. But it’s, “How we do anything is how we do everything.”

Pete Mockaitis
Whew! Yup, I can sit with that for a while. And how about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Robert Glazer
I’m fascinated with all the research on cognitive dissonance, and I think one of the best books I’ve ever read in terms of real-world applicability is called Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me). It’s on cognitive dissonance. And it actually kind of explains I think a lot of what’s going on in society now with our entrenched positions and our sort of defense of the indefensible sometimes, which is that one of the things they show is that when you’re kind of in too deep on a position, you need an out because you don’t want to believe like you’re a fool.

So, cognitive dissonance is our inability to hold these two incongruous ideas at the same time. So, one of the things that she notes in her studies is that when these come out and predict the end of the world, you know they’ve done over time, and all of the followers sort of follow them, and then the world doesn’t end, and they say, “Oh, I got it wrong,” and they pick the next date, everyone doubles down on them.

Pete Mockaitis
No kidding.

Robert Glazer
Because it’s psychologically…when you think about it, your choices are, “Oh, they got it wrong and whatever verse is like. Oh, I was a total idiot, and I was duped by this person.” So, it’s really…I actually think that…

Pete Mockaitis
Wow, that’s eye-opening.

Robert Glazer
…everyone should study cognitive dissonance because if you’re dealing with other human beings, and you understand…The other study from that book that I found equally interesting was that when DNA evidence came out, and they went back and let people out of prison who had been wrongfully put in jail for life, the prosecutors who were all retired, who put these people in jail, came out of retirement, doubled down and tried to prove that they were guilty even though there’s evidence exonerating them.

And it’s the same concept because they were saying these two ideas is like, “I’m not a bad person. I wouldn’t have put the wrong person in jail. Therefore, they have to be guilty,” right? That was the only way that they could reconcile that, not that they had made a mistake but that something was wrong with the DNA evidence so they were going to double down and try to prove that they were guilty.

Pete Mockaitis
Boy, that’s such a wakeup call in terms of like our humility and being able to adapt and change our view, and to be able to say, “I was wrong.”

Robert Glazer
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s that, as a human species, we don’t do that so well. Like, that’s eye-popping, that stat. I thought half-ish of folks would say, “Oops, wrong guru. Boy, is my face red. I guess I’ll go find somebody else.” But, no, you’re saying just about everybody stuck with them.

Robert Glazer
They doubled down. And think about this, think about what we’re seeing now with COVID-19 and globally, there’s some pretty clear playbooks about what works. But how many leaders just want to make up their own thing and say that they didn’t know? It’s kind of fascinating how much reinvention of the wheel there is, and sort of denial of reality, and, “I didn’t know.” And you say, “Look, call Taiwan and ask them how they have 200 cases and 4 deaths in a country of 25 million and their plan.” I just think a lot of leaders have gotten themselves stuck in this rut of wanting to think that they know the better way to do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Boy, I think it might’ve been the movie or documentary The Fog of War which talked about like military leaders and just sort of the hard reality that you’ve got to face up to is that over the course of your career, you’re going to make mistakes that get people killed, and that’s the weighty responsibility that’s on you there. And to not sort of sugarcoat it or run from it or justify. Ooh, this is…you’re giving me a lot to chew on already from a quote and a study.

Robert Glazer
That is part of this thing called the Stockdale Paradox from Jim Collins, which is Admiral Stockdale who survived, I think, 10 years in a labor camp and tortured, and he just said he was resolute that he was going to get out, and it was going to be the defining part of his life. But he was always realistic as to that it was going to be bad. And everyone who didn’t make it through was overly optimistic. So, he always talked about the remaining optimistic in the long term but sort of accepting the brutal facts and the reality. Yeah, a lot of people have made mistakes in this, and certainly they should make mistakes in something that’s totally new. But very few have been willing to say, “We made a mistake and we’re switching it,” or, “That was wrong,” or there’s just that dissonance of “I wouldn’t do that.” I think we would understand how people who’d did something they’ve never done anything before would make some mistakes.

Pete Mockaitis
And I think we remind them all the more for their courage and humility and honesty. Well, thank you. And how about a favorite book?

Robert Glazer
I do love that book Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me). That’s the one I tend to recommend. Also, I like Atlas Shrugged, I’ve read it twice. It’s such an amazing story if you haven’t read Ayn Rand’s book. It’s just great. I know some people don’t agree with her philosophy, but I just think her writing and character development is amazing.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite tool? You’ve got a book about how to make virtual teams work, so I imagine you’ve seen a lot of tools. So, lay it on us, what are some of your faves?

Robert Glazer
I’ve always loved my OneNote or Evernote, I mean. It’s amazing how much if you organize something, you always go back and find it. But in the virtual world, I actually think some of these video software, asynchronous video, where you can send someone a note, reach out to them. People use it for sales and for marketing, and it’s always very personable. I’ve even used it because the need for communication in virtual environments goes up, and there’s things you need to communicate, and it’s nice to have the context of the meeting, but I don’t need to get everyone on that to listen to a monologue. So, sometimes I’ll just record the pitch I want to give and the note I want to give, and just send it out to everyone to listen at their own answer.

Or, someone wrote me an email a month ago about a really complicated issue. I had been doing more of this asynchronous email. I realized that that email reply was going to take an hour because it was like it had to be delicate. I just turned on the video and I said, “Hey, X, I know this is complicated, but I’ve been thinking about it. I really want us to do this. Here’s why I love it.” And it doesn’t have to be clean in a video. I’m not going to send an email with tons of mistakes or uhms or whatever. So, just that five-minute video, she went back, she’s like, “I got it. We’re on the same page.” And that’s when I started to realize just changing some of the modalities about how we communicate in that environment.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, totally. And from a word count perspective, most of us can speak about three-ish times faster than we type. Automated dictation isn’t the best. So, for asynchronous video, I’m loving Loom, my stuff. What is it that you’re using?

Robert Glazer
We use Loom. Vidyard is another one that’s popular.

Pete Mockaitis
Digger?

Robert Glazer
Yes, it’s called Vidyard.

Pete Mockaitis
Vidyard, okay.

Robert Glazer
I think V-I-D-Y-A-R-D. I might have the exact spelling or pronunciation wrong. Sometimes I’ll just pop on Zoom and record.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure.

Robert Glazer
But, yeah, Loom. Our team has used Loom. And you stand out. I mean, think about all the sales pitch emails and the stuff you get today. And I’ve always laughed when someone sends me a video, or it’s interesting, or it’s personable. Look, in a tough time, it is better doing something quality at a lower volume than relying on low quality, high automation. It just doesn’t…

It’s funny, for about two months into COVID, I feel like people laid off their automation and felt a little bad about it. Then they just started like throwing, “I know these are difficult times for you, but are you interested in a blah, blah, blah?” You’re saying about the spirit and the letter of the law, I know you just threw the sentence in there, but you really didn’t seem very authentically like asking me how things are going for me.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, totally. Very good. And a favorite habit?

Robert Glazer
Favorite habit is I think journaling or morning routine. And even for me the Friday Forward. Anything that can become that keystone habit in your life where you do it really well and improves all of your other habits.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that you’re known for, people kind of highlight a lot in your books, or tweet back to you frequently?

Robert Glazer
No, I think the one thing is they just appreciate, particularly in everything that’s going on, focusing on the aspect of building other people up and trying to help them be better. We just have a massive, and I just get lots of thank you notes, they take the time to do that. When you think about what’s going on in social media these days, it’s like everyone’s tearing each other down. And just think about how much energy that takes versus if you were to go online and actually try to prop someone up for a day, and the vicious circle versus the vicarious circle.

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

Robert Glazer
Yeah, so I’ve got everything all integrated at RobertGlazer.com. You can get and try the Friday Forward there, see the books, join my podcast and some other articles and interesting stuff there.

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

Robert Glazer
Yeah. I like “How do you anything is how you do everything.” I think, really, take the little stuff, the thing you don’t want to do, just do the little things better every day. And one of my favorite stories of Friday Forward is Ann Miura-Ko who’s actually going to come on my launch party, one of the top female venture capitalists in the world. She got a big break like as an intern in an engineering office, her dad was always about doing everything well. Like, I was going to make really good coffee, really good donuts, and she got asked to give a tour, and the guy turned out to be the CEO of HP, and he invited her to come for an internship, and it really like kicked off her whole career.

So, just always reaffirms to me, you have the ability right now in what you’re doing today to do a good job at it, or the ripple effect, or sort of mail it in and then have the ripple effect of that.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I love that so much. It reminds of my mom’s story. She worked at Credit Union, and then she noticed that the CEO of the Credit Union was vacuuming the floors after work, she’s like, “Why not? I vacuum floors.” And so, she volunteered to vacuum the floors. And because she showed that initiative, she was just like above everybody, and, thus, was sort of selected, groomed, to be the successor, and it just shows what that can do when you put in that extra effort and go for excellence there.

Robert Glazer
Absolutely. It’s actually often the little stuff that sort of builds our personal brand, and that we’re definitely living in a world of personal brands these days.

Pete Mockaitis
Robert, this has been a treat. I wish you lots of luck with Elevate and all your adventures.

Robert Glazer
Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.

595: How to Beat Burnout and Restore Resilience with Adam Markel

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Adam Markel says: "There's no way to win a race if you don't finish."

Adam Markel shares how to create more moments for rest and build your resilience in the face of burnout.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The most valuable skill for any professional
  2. The massive costs of burnout culture 
  3. Quick recovery tactics to boost your resilience

About Adam

Bestselling author, keynote speaker and resilience expert Adam Markel inspires leaders to tap the power of resilience to meet the challenges of massive disruption — for themselves and their organizations. Adam is author of the #1 Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, and Publisher’s Weekly bestseller, Pivot: The Art & Science of Reinventing Your Career and Life. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

Adam Markel Interview Transcript

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

Adam Markel
Pete, it’s a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig into resilience. And maybe, could you start us off with an inspiring story of someone who is able to build up resilience?

Adam Markel
Wow, that’s such a great way to begin. I think of my dad, he’s the first person who just comes to mind, he’s been a writer for most of his adult life. And, like many writers or creative people, couldn’t make a living at it and, ultimately, did other things to earn a living. He was actually a parks department supervisor and a preschool teacher, and loved that work, and was basically side hustling at night doing his writing. And over the last 50 years or so that I can sort of consciously remember my dad writing and staying up late at night doing so much editing, he’s rewriting, as has been said, he just was the model of perseverance. He just was constantly preparing himself for the next level of his development as a creative writer, as a fiction writer, and plays and novels and poetry, and all those kinds of things.

And he must’ve gotten, I mean, I’ve never actually counted or asked him, how many rejections along the way he’s gotten but it’s got to be in the thousands, I would suppose. And it’s just never daunted him. He has been the model, for me, since very, very early on in my life of what perseverance looks like, what tenacity looks like.

And resilience, in many ways, is about that. It’s not something that it’s in your DNA. It’s definitely something that you can learn. It can be taught to others. But, yeah, my dad has been that guy for me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I’d love to get an understanding then when it comes to resilience, just sort of what’s the impact in terms of being awesome at your job, and career of being resilient versus not so resilient?

Adam Markel
Well, it’s the difference between being around to figure out what works versus not. There’s no way to win a race if you don’t finish. And whether it’s in sports, or it’s in a career context, or entrepreneurial context, we really have to be around long enough to learn what doesn’t work. In fact, one of the things that we often will work with teams and individuals on is how you create clarity out of the things that have been your greatest challenges, how do you create clarity out of your biggest mistakes.

And the premise of that, to just sort of cut to the juicy bits, is that when you know what doesn’t work, we find that you know what does work. When you know what you don’t want, you know very clearly what you do want.

So, my belief is that there’s no sort of shortcut to success in anything. There’s no shortcut to success in the arts, or in any kind of important endeavor in your life whether it’s being a parent, being a great spouse, being a great friend, being a great leader in business, being a great employee or a great manager, or a great salesperson. It’s a hard-fought, hard-won success when it comes, and you can’t get to the point where you actually experience what that is without having put the time in, without having been able to endure quite a bit of pain along the way, suffering along the way, and many hills and valleys.

We’re experiencing a pretty prolific change time right now, a change that most people did not predict or anticipate, and that often is the case about change. We have to be able to ride those waves of life. And, ultimately, when we are able to do that, we learn things, we gain clarity, we gain tremendous insight, understanding, sometimes great wisdom. And that enables us to not only learn how to do better at our jobs, but it enables us to mentor and lead other people. And that is the most valuable skill there is, that any of us can attain or aspire to.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And I’m intrigued, when you mentioned that you can’t finish a race or win a race that you don’t finish, what is not finishing a race look like in practice for professionals?

Adam Markel
Burnout in a word.

Pete Mockaitis
You just say, “I’m done. No more working. Can’t.”

Adam Markel
Well, you know, so many people are a product of a culture of burnout. They don’t call it a burnout culture in any company.

Pete Mockaitis
“We have a burnout culture. Come join us.”

Adam Markel
That’s it, “Come join us,” right? “We got a burnout culture.” Well, I guess from back in the ‘70s or ‘80s, a burnout culture would’ve meant something different then maybe that would’ve attracted people. But the cost of exhaustion is massive. It’s so many multibillions of dollars that companies are expending needlessly because their workforce are exhausted. So, the health and safety costs, the turnover costs, the toxicity, meaning workplaces that are not performing at the level that they could, they’re not engaged at the level that they’re capable, their capacity is nearly what it could be, kind of people.

If you can imagine if you had a hundred employees and only 60 of them showed up to work at any given time, how successful could the business be? Or let’s say the average of the capacity of that group of a hundred is 60%. I mean, 60% on a test would be not a great grade, and it’s certainly not something that a company is consciously looking to create, but unconsciously, by default, they exhaust their workforce. And then, ultimately, wonder why they don’t have an engaged and productive team, and why they’re missing their KPIs, and things just aren’t as good as they think they could be.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, 60%, intriguing. Can you share some of the underlying science behind that figure and how it’s derived?

Adam Markel
Well, when we work with teams and we work with organizations and test them for their resilience, on average, it comes up between 60% and 65%. We used sort of a MEPS process where, MEPS being mental, emotional, physical and spiritual. So, in those four quadrants, we look at how they’re performing, and what it is that they are doing on a habitual basis, and what are the things that they’re actually doing on a habitual basis are producing more resilience or producing the opposite.

So, ultimately, when the data is analyzed across a very wide group, so our datasets are quite diverse, but it’s thousands and thousands of people, somewhere between 60% and 65% is average. And so, again, when you think of a workforce that’s performing at that level, or if only six out of ten, or seven out of ten of your employees were showing up, you just couldn’t perform well.

It’s an interesting thing for me that I sort of back into that conversation when I’m doing a virtual keynote or I’m leading a group in a workshop, I’ll start by telling a story from my days as a lifeguard. I was 19 years old, and I worked at a place called Jones Beach.

And it’s the Atlantic Ocean, and the rip currents are very, very strong. And there was a day in July where I heard a sound that we didn’t hear very often at the beach. Lifeguards communicate by whistles. So, one whistle meant you were looking to get somebody’s attention, two whistles was a signal that we were making a rescue, that one of your lifeguard colleagues was in a water probably making a rescue or just about to go in. And three whistles meant that someone was actually missing.

And it was on this day in July that I heard three whistles, and I ran down to the main stand where the captain of our field was shouting orders to our crew, saying that they had lost somebody in the surf, and we need to all get down there immediately to start a search and rescue, which we did. We ran down there.

And when we got to the spot that we thought that missing swimmer was, we started a search pattern that we had practiced previously. And, briefly, what that involved was we dived down into the water, 10 feet or so deep, and this is the Atlantic Ocean in the summer, it’s very cold even two, three feet below the surface, and 10 feet it’s quite dark and quite cold.

And so, we dived down and then we would swim into the current with our arms stretched out in front of us, hoping that we would actually touch someone. And it’s kind of a horrifying thought but that’s the search process, is to just try to get this person who might be under the water, and get them in time to be able to revive them.

We did that process, again and again and again and again. We did that for more than an hour. Needless to say, we’re all kind of blue and shivering, and then we heard the whistles again, which was a signal for us to get out and the search was over.

And I just remember being pretty devastated. It was an awful, awful feeling in that moment that we hadn’t found this person. And we ran back to our beach, and the captain of our lifeguard crew led us in a moment of silence. And when we opened our eyes, he looked at each of us, and he said some things that I will never forget. He said, “No one goes down on our watch at this beach. No one goes down in our water,” was what he said. And he said, “You either make the save…” the expectation was that you either make the save or you die trying, which is a very, very intense thing to say.

And he said to us, “We’re going to have to get back up in the stand now. This has happened and we got to get back up in the stand now, and we’re going to have to get back up in the stand again tomorrow, and the day after that, and so on, so we need to learn something. We need to learn from what just happened, and we have to do better, and we have to make sure that we have each other’s backs more than anything. We’ve got to have each other’s backs, because if we don’t, there’s just no way that we could be successful. And refer back to what I said at the beginning. No one is going to go down on our watch ever again.”

And so, that was the intensity of that talking to, and that mantra became something that we, as a lifeguard crew, adapted. And so, this was really my first model of what resilience look like, and it’s been something that had a huge impact on me.

And, as a footnote to that, for those seven summers that I worked at that beach, we never lost anybody again. We had an impeccable record. But we could be impeccable because, as a crew, as a lifeguard crew, we developed resilience.

And we didn’t call it that at the time, but looking back, that’s exactly what we developed, and we’re able to then not perform at 60% like we were talking earlier. We performed at a 100% or near to it as a group, meaning collectively. We had bad days. People had bad days. People weren’t always at their best but we were encouraged by our superiors to be at our best. And given some ways in which to do that, and the record spoke for itself.

Pete Mockaitis
Great. Thank you. And to dig more into this 60%, so what’s the numerator and what’s the denominator there?

Adam Markel
Well, again, it’s the collection of datapoints from four different areas. So, we typically will start people off with an assessment. So, for example, it’s 16 questions. It takes about three minutes, but you answer four questions that are in the quadrant that has to do with your mental habits. You answer four questions about your emotional habits, the way you see the world and what you do and how you respond to things. And then the same thing for your physical habits, like the amount of sleep that you get, the amount of time that you spend on your technology or off technology, things of that sort. And then four questions that are based in the spiritual realm, which is not actually spirituality or religion certainly. It’s actually alignment with values.

So, a good example of that would be you’re a family-oriented person. You want to spend time with your family, your kids, or your friends, or others, and you work all the time. So, even though your values would be to spend time with those people, you are acting in a contrary way. And so, that sits in that category of spiritual because it’s, in essence, a conflict within you, or within a person, at the level of their values.

Pete Mockaitis
So, then what does 100% represent?

Adam Markel
One hundred percent would represent someone who was answering those questions and then the follow-up on each of those different quadrants in a way that signified that they were recovering. Ultimately, resilience is about recoveries, the opposite of exhaustion. So, similar to how an athlete gets ready for, let’s say, an Olympic event or professional sports, they don’t run themselves rugged and expect that they’ll perform well.

Olympic athletes, they make the Olympics, with the goal being that they win the gold medal. And the margin for error is so thin that they’ve got to take the best care, they’ve to be in the best condition they can be and mentally and emotionally, physically certainly. And, again, at a level that we’ll call spiritual, so that they can, on the day in question, just perform at their absolute level best.

Versus, again, in most corporate culture, what they reward is kind of the night owl. They reward the billable hours. They reward your willingness to work on the weekends instead of being at your kid’s soccer game. They reward all kinds of things that don’t, ultimately, produce the highest long-term performance and longevity in their valuable resources, their human resources.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so I’d love to hear, so it’s all about recovery. What are the top things we can do for recovery? And are there particularly leveraged practices within each of those four domains? Like, I guess I’m thinking, what gives me maximum recovery per minute I’m investing in each of these?

Adam Markel
I think it’s more about what will work for an individual. There’s no one activity that I would say is going to work for everybody.

Typically, we’ll lead people through a process to create a recovery map. And, again, using those four quadrants, we ask them to both think about the things that are possible for them. We brainstorm and mastermind about the myriad ways that you can create recovery in those four areas.

So, for example, taking 20 minutes to put your legs up a wall. You lie down on your back, and you scooch up to the wall, and just let your legs rest on the wall for 20 minutes, and you cover your eyes. In 20 minutes in that position with your eyes closed, and something usually covering to just sort of create a blackout environment for you, and you can turn on a meditation, you can turn on the Calm app, which I’m not pitching the Calm app but I just love it, it’s so easy to do. And you set a timer for 20 minutes because it’s not the kind of a nap where you, let’s say, got an hour or two hours or whatever it is to sleep in the middle of the day, but that 20 minutes of closed eyes, feet up the wall, produces the equivalent of like, for many people, the equivalent of four hours of sleep, and the blood flow becomes better. Your blood is going towards your heart. You’re taking pressure off of your legs, off of your knees, even off of your hips.

And so, you can emerge from 20 minutes in that position more energized and more capable of being at your best. Whereas, many people, they get to the sort of the middle of the day, I mean, it hits people at different times, but they get to a place where they need a nap or they can’t one or they won’t take one because they don’t have a process for that, or permission even. Again, in those cultures of exhaustion, you don’t really get permission to do something like that.

And, ultimately, long term, when you become exhausted, when that person is exhausted, when they become burned out, what do they do? They perform less well. They are impacting others, kind of infecting others with maybe negativity and negative attitude. So, all those things are just easily impacted for the better by small changes.

That’s the thing that we’ll often tell folks is that a drastic change isn’t what’s required. In fact, it’s just creating small changes so that the recovery map that we ask them to do is to sort of pick one thing, one thing that you could do in each of these areas. So, on the mental side, that might be that they just still their minds and call it meditation. I’m not a great meditator but I believe in stillness, and I like to just sit quietly for periods. I’m a person that appreciates prayer, so I’ll sometimes sit for five or 10 minutes and read something and quietly pray or just be still. And the benefits to my clarity, to the level of my attention, even to just the energy that I have, after I emerge from 10 minutes of just some stillness, is really profound. So, that might be something that sits on the mental side.

On the emotional side, there are a lot of people that are not dealing with their emotions very well from early on in their lives, from situations and often traumas that occurred during childhood, so for somebody else, on the emotional side, it might be how it is that they let go of things. And a practice of being able to consciously let go of things that are bothering you, or forgiving things that you are still holding onto, hanging onto, whether they’re things from 10 minutes ago or from 10 or 20 years ago. So, again, it may be that someone is going to commit to that kind of practice, that each day, their new habit will be to check in with their emotions, to just sit with them even, not try to change them, not try to figure things out, not try to reconcile what they’re feeling, but just feel how they feel. That’s a simple practice.

On the physical side, it could be that they’re not getting enough sleep, it could be they’re not drinking enough water, it could be that what they’re eating is really not the best things that they could be putting gin their body, it could be simply taking a 20-minute walk, really 20 to 30 minutes as we’ve come to understand it. We used to think it was 20, now it’s more like 30 minutes. Brisk walk. Not running, not kind of breaking a sweat even, but just a brisk walk for 30 minutes during the day.

And the benefits to people with hypertension, people that have anxiety, and I think a lot of us have some low levels of anxiety that kind of, almost all the time, cortisol is kind of coursing through our bodies often these days, and some people even greater levels of anxiety or even depression. And so, walking for 30 minutes a day has massive impact on their ability to handle stressful situations and, in fact, puts their body in a state of alertness but not in a state of fight or flight or freeze. And, again, that’s a small, small change that they can make that creates a significant positive impact on their ability to stay focused, to be able to work more productively.

I, personally, like The Pomodoro Technique. So, 30 to 35 minutes, and then you take a very concerted disciplined break for five or 10 minutes. And every 30 or 35 minutes, you work with this intensity, and then you take a break, and often switch your focus to something else. So, you don’t try to multitask, like 35 minutes and you’re checking email and you’re answering phone calls and you’re writing some sort of paper or something, and that’s what you’re doing in the course of 35, or 40, or 50 minutes, something like that, which is what a lot of people do.

No. Instead, you pick one of those things and you work at it with extreme focus for that same 35-minute period, and then you take a complete break. You can close your eyes, you can take a walk, you go have a conversation with a colleague about something entirely unrelated to that, or even unrelated to work. And then when you come back, you reengage either in that same thing because maybe you haven’t finished it, or, as often the case, it’s advisable to just switch focus to something else, and you go through your day using these little sprints, these Pomodoro sprints, or as we used to say at the beach, we would be up an hour and down an hour.

And on the last side, the spiritual side, again, it may well be that the new habit would be being home for dinner. That was my thing when I was a lawyer. I was a workaholic like a lot of people, and I would get really productive. In about 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon, 4:00 or 4:30, I would hit my stride, and it was usually like about 10 minutes after I would tell my wife on a phone call that I’d be home for dinner. So, that was the recurring habit. And, of course, I don’t have to tell you, I hit my stride at 4:30, I wasn’t home for dinner, I wasn’t seeing the kids at dinner. And some nights, I didn’t even make it home to kiss them goodnight or read them a bedtime story, which was devastating to me.

I remember about a year ago, I delivered a TED Talk where I talk more specifically about an anxiety attack that I had that was masking itself as a heart attack and ended up in the emergency room because these things were just troubling me so much. I was exhausted and I was also doing work that it was not my calling to do, and it was not something that I had in my heart in, and so I was falling out on that spiritual side of things. It was a misalignment for me, and I was really feeling it.

So, the essence of this is making small changes. And when you put those altogether, you create a recovery map, what you find is that people can perform longer, better, in ways that just makes sense for them. So, that’s back to that whole idea of you can’t win the race if you don’t finish it. Ultimately, in a business, you want people, you want a team of people that can go the distance but not because you’re driving them to perform while they’re tired, perform when they haven’t eaten, and when they haven’t slept, and when their kids have important things, when there are other important things in their life that they want to participate in, because that just is counter. It’s absolutely the opposite of what will draw the best performance for the longest period of time, and most of them are people.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’d love to hear, emotionally, how does one let go of something?

Adam Markel
It’s an interesting question, Pete, because I’ve shared this with people for a number of years that it’s a little bit like, just to give you a physical example, if you’ve got something that you can grab at your desk like a pen, just hold onto a pen right now. And there’s always a funny question about whether the pen is holding you or you’re holding the pen, right? So, I’ll ask you that question, Pete. Are you holding the pen or is the pen holding you?

Pete Mockaitis
I’m holding the pen.

Adam Markel
Right. So, imagine that pen is something like anger at a parent for abuse or for neglect or for some other thing. A lot of people have issues related to money, and let’s say there’s just an anger about that. It’s similar to the pen. The situation in question is not holding onto the person. It’s the person that’s holding onto that situation, holding onto that anger. I’m not dismissing the fact, and I purposely used something extreme because we hold on to lots of little things, lots of insignificant things.

So, to me, on the emotional side, it’s a combination of two things. It’s the…and, by the way, Pete, just go ahead and let go of that pen now.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Adam Markel
Just release it, open your hand, let it fall out. I just did the same thing. It’s so easy to just let go of something. That’s all letting go is, the conscious decision to just release it, the way you just released that pen. And there’s a second piece which it’s not the thing that everybody is ready for but it is the magic key, as a mentor of mine has taught me over the years, forgiveness is the magic key. Forgiveness is not about a person or the situation in question that might’ve caused anybody a particular harm. It’s about you. The forgiveness is for the person who’s been hurt. And that’s why it’s magic.

There are some old study years and years ago about people and their anger, and how they were able to capture the chemical reaction in a person from just a few seconds of anger. And that chemical that they were able to extract was then injected into laboratory rats. And just a few seconds of that chemical was enough to kill a rat.

So, that’s what’s in us, that’s what’s in each of us when we are holding onto, feeling anger. It’s just this awful chemical reaction that is certainly not helping us to be anything that we really consciously seek to be.

So, there’s a book that I absolutely love. I recommend it. It’s called The Presence Process, Michael Brown wrote it. Great, great book in regard to how you process emotional things and, ultimately, you’re able to integrate them. I love Michael’s philosophy on it because he doesn’t believe that you need to be sort of healed of anything, nobody is really broken.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Great. Well, that’s your favorite book. Why don’t we keep rolling with your favorite things? Could we hear a favorite quote as well?

Adam Markel
I love the quote from Yogananda that said, “Environment is stronger than will.” If you want to create a high-performance workforce doing great work in the world, you got to create the environment to match that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And how about a favorite challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Adam Markel
A favorite challenge. Well, I mean, the challenge, to me, we’ve given you this assessment, this resilience leader assessment that people can take. That’s a challenge. Take three minutes, 16 questions, and see how you score. See whether or not you’re actually at a level that’s acceptable to you.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, Adam, thanks so much for taking this time, and good luck in all of your adventures.

Adam Markel
Thank you so much, Pete. It’s been a pleasure.

541: Increasing Your Contribution and Fulfillment at Work with Tom Rath

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Tom Rath says: "You can't be anything you want to be... but you can be a lot more of who you already are."

Tom Rath discusses how to find greater meaning in your job.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to find your unique style of contribution
  2. Two easy ways to recharge your energy
  3. A powerful way to make any job feel more meaningful

About Tom:

Tom Rath is an author and researcher who has spent the past two decades studying how work can improve human health and well-being. His 10 books have sold more than 10 million copies and made hundreds of appearances on global bestseller lists.

During his 13 years at Gallup, Tom was the Program Leader for the development of Clifton StrengthsFinder, which has helped over 20 million people to uncover their talents, and went on to lead the organization’s employee engagement, wellbeing, and leadership practices worldwide.

Most recently, Tom co-founded a publishing company and he is also an advisor, investor, and partner in several startups. Tom holds degrees from the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania and lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife, Ashley, and their two children.

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Tom Rath Interview Transcript

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

Tom Rath
Thanks so much. It’s a pleasure to be with you.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to be chatting with you. I have enjoyed reading your books for years and have taken the StrengthsFinder multiple times, so I was excited to dig into your latest work. But, maybe, let’s go back in time if we can, because I understand that some health news you got as a teenager really played a prominent role in how you think about your work, and life, and this particular new development.

Tom Rath
Yeah, a lot of my early experiences shaped especially this most recent book Life’s Great Question just to give you a short summary of it for your listeners, when I was 16 years old, I was having trouble seeing out of one of my eyes, and I was eventually diagnosed with several large tumors on the back of that left eye, and lost sight soon thereafter permanently in that side. And the doctors told me that that was likely indicative that I had a very rare genetic disorder that it essentially shuts off the body’s most powerful tumor-suppressing gene, and they said, “There’s more than a 50% chance you’ll have kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, cancer in your spine,” and a host of other areas over whatever lifespan I might hope for. And I kind of did some research back then and realized that the over-ender was probably between 35 and 40 years.

So, what that did in retrospect, as I’ve kind of looked back on, as a part of this recent project is it certainly helped to get me focused on two things. And one of those things was just reading as much as I could every morning about what I could do to keep myself alive a little bit longer and help people to live longer in good health. That was part of it. And the second part was it really did help to get me focused even at a young age and early on in my career on, “What are all the things that I can work on each day on kind of an hourly or daily basis that contribute to growth in other people that I care about or serve, that can continue to live on whether I’m actively involved with that or not, a week, a month, or a decade down the road?”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that is some great guidance there. And it seems like you’re statistically probabilistically you’re doing great, huh?

Tom Rath
Yeah, I’m doing really good. I have battled kidney cancer. Still, I have cancer in my spine and in pancreas recently, and I’m continuing to kind of fight through that on a bunch of different trials of drugs and trying to do everything I can to stay as healthy overall as I possibly can.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m glad to hear that there’s reason and room for hope and that you’re still here contributing, and we’re very grateful for your contributions. I know I am. And I want to give a shoutout to my buddy, Lawrence, who brings up strengths just about every week. And so, yes, it’s been quite a contribution. We appreciate you. So, yeah, let’s talk about this Life’s Great Question. What is it?

Tom Rath
Life’s great question, which a lot of this was inspired by one of my favorite challenges and quotes of all time from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who, I think, he put it so eloquently when he said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?’” And when I first thought about that question, it kind of haunted me for a few years. Then I realized what a powerful rallying call that can be on a daily basis. So, every morning for the last few years, I’ve tried asked myself, “What am I working on today that will contribute to others in their growth, in their wellbeing over time?”

And what I’ve realized is the more time in a given day that I can spend on things that just directly in a way that I can see serve others instead of worrying about my own priorities, or focusing inward, or trying to get through a bunch of busy work, the more time I can spend on that, the less stress I have, the better I feel about my days.

And I think all of us want to be able to do that on a daily basis and to do some work that matters for other people. We just don’t have a very clear way to talk about it and think about it, especially in teams and groups when we’re working on things, and as a result, we spend maybe too much of our time focused inward on ourselves and our own development instead of outward on, essentially what the world needs.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, you’ve got a number of ways that you recommend that we go about gaining some clarity on that. Can you share with us, you’ve got a phrase eulogy purposes? What are these?

Tom Rath
Yeah, you know, one of the things I realized quickly when I was talking with some organizational leaders and CEOs about this is that right now the main way that we have or the main method for summarizing a person’s life and work is a resume. And if I were to go back and try and create the most detached, clinical, sterile, lifeless thing I could, it would be the form of a resume of today.

So, the more I got into that and had some of these discussions, I realized that we need to help people put together a profile of who they are and why they do what they do, and what motivates them, and how they want to contribute, and to have that be as kind of robust from a detail standpoint as a resume is so that we can make the focus on contribution just as practical and tangible as we have when we assemble resumes and profiles today.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’ve taken this profile, and it was fun to dig into and think about. You’ve got a number. I believe it’s about a dozen different flavors or modes of contribution. My top were scaling, visioning, and adapting. So, can you maybe help us think through a little bit about what’s the goal here, so we’re going to understand those things and knowing them, what do we do?

Tom Rath
What I was trying to do to help readers, give readers something practical to do as a part of this book, and I have a code in the back where they can login and build this profile. But the profile also asks about, “What are the big roles you play in life?” So, as a spouse, for me, as a researcher, as a writer, as a dad. What are those big roles that are really the, as you mentioned earlier, the kind of eulogy values, the things you want to be remembered by?

So, to start there and then also bring in, “What are the most important life experiences, or miles, throughout your life that have shaped who you are and it could help other people understand why you do what you do?” And then we also ask readers to add their best descriptors of their strengths. As you’ve talked about, I think strengths are maybe the most important starting point for aiming a lot of your efforts in life.

And then, the fourth element, that you were just getting into is, “How can we help people to prioritize how they want to contribute to a team?” What happens so often right now is we get teams of people together to accomplish something because we’re all wound up and energized about a given task or priority and we all just hit the ground running and start moving forward and working, and we don’t take the time to, A, get to know one another, and, B, most importantly, sit down and say how each one of us wants to contribute to the effort in a complementary way.

So, if you’re helping our team, if we have four or five people on the team with scaling, for example, and that’s a big part of operating and making something great and helping it to grow over time, how do we also have people who are helping us to make sure we’re energizing the team and building closer relationships over time, and taking care of some of those fundamentals? And how do we help people to ensure that we’re teaching others about what we’re doing and challenging us to make sure that we’re focusing on the right priorities as we go along?

So, I started, instead of starting with who the person is, with this project I started with, “What are the things that the world needs?” And I went back and looked at thousands of job descriptions from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and try to kind of build those into big buckets and categories about what our society values and needs from people who are doing work. And then I think the challenge is for each of us as individuals to kind of go through a series of prioritization questions like you did and decide we’d like to contribute given who we are and who else is on a given team.

Pete Mockaitis
And is the concept there that certain modes of contribution will be more life-giving, energizing, enriching for us as compared to others?

Tom Rath
Yes. One of the things that gets ignored often when we go through inventories and prioritization exercises is there’s not a lot of work on what motivates us to do our best on a daily basis. So, I did tie in some questions in there about what motivates you to do your best work, and then how you want to contribute.

We all have very unique and different talents, and the way I contribute to one team may be different from how I’ll contribute to another one 6 or 12 months down the road. So, we really built this to be a team activity that a person can go through in unlimited number of times if they’re thinking about a new job, a new project, or a new team, because there is a balancing act, for lack of a better term, that needs to occur if you get three, five, seven, ten people around a team so that you’re all working as seamlessly as possible based on what you’d want to do and what you’re good at with as little overlap as possible essentially.

Pete Mockaitis
And so then, you’ve, in fact, I understand, defined five amplifiers that help us see our jobs as more than just a paycheck and are bringing some of those cool vibes and enthusiasms for folks. Can you walk us through these bits?

Tom Rath
Yeah, you know, the first one that I think is important for people in the work world, in particular, is to, as much as I’ve talked to a little bit today about making sure that you’re focusing your work on others, the one place where I’ve learned where we really do need to put our own needs first is when it comes to our health and wellbeing and energy. It’s really the energy. We need to prioritize things like sleeping enough, eating the right foods, moving around throughout the day, in order to have the energy we need to be our best. Even if our sole intent is just to help other people, we need that energy to be our best. So, that’s one of the big elements.

Another thing in the workplace is that we need the freedom to do work in the way that matches our style. And so, one thing that’s been refreshing as I’ve learned about how people can uniquely contribute is most managers and leaders are very open to a conversation about, “How can you do your job in a way that fits who you are even though you may have the same goals and outcomes and expectations as ten other people?” You don’t have to do it the same way. So, a piece that I think has been underestimated and measured in more places is we need the freedom to be our best every day, and a lot of that is about finding the right work environment, the right manager or leader and so forth.

Another really important element that in all of the wellbeing research I’ve been a part of is probably the most common core that cuts across wellbeing and work experiences, we need strong relationships to not only get things done but to add more fun while we’re doing it. I have a good friend I have worked with for almost 20 years now, and I can call him up, in 15 seconds, I can get more done than I could in a 15-minute conversation with a stranger. And so, those relationships create a lot of the speed and trust and wellbeing, it keeps us going.

Another central element is that we’re working each day to ensure that we have kind of the sense of financial security and stability that we need to keep moving through the day. There’s a lot of talk about money shouldn’t be the only outcome and the sole basis of a contract between a person and an employer. I think those days are past us and we’d evolved from that, but we do need to make sure that early on in our career we’ve got enough money to pay for basic needs and food and shelter and the like. And until we get to that point where we’re not stressed about money on a daily basis, a lot of these other things are secondary. So, those are a few of the kind of basic needs in there.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I’m intrigued and I know wellbeing is a big theme and an area of passion for you. And I‘m right with you in terms of, boy, your energy levels make all the difference, and you did tons of research in your work. So, I got to know, do you have any secret strategies, tactics, tips in terms of having and bringing more energy to each work day? I mean, I think sleeping and eating well are critical and, at the same time, I think people, and maybe I’m guilty of this too, we want the cool new thing. So, is there a cool new thing and/or what should we be thinking about with regard to sleeping and eating well to maximize energy?

Tom Rath
Well, I learned a lot about this when I worked on the book Eat, Move, Sleep that kind of tied in some of those healthy experiences we’re talking about. The good news is one good night of sleep, even if you’re on a bad streak, one good night’s sleep is kind of like the reset button on a video game or a smartphone where it gives you almost a clean slate the next day. You’re more likely to be active throughout the day, eat better food, and so on. So, I think we really undervalue sleep at a family level and at a workplace level. It needs to be a part of the conversation because if people are half-asleep and nowhere near as creative or sharp as they need to be at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon in a meeting, that’s not good for anyone.

And someone I’ve worked with, former Army Surgeon General Patty Hororo, she talks about how in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan that she knew the troops needed ammunition for their brain, and that’s how she prioritized sleep. So, I think we need to make sleep a critical ammunition for our brain-level priority, that’s one thing.

The second big one, I think everyone should be able to do their work without being chained to a chair for eight hours a day. The more I’ve studied this topic, and I started working sitting and standing 10 years ago, and I’ve been working 80% of my time on a treadmill desk for five years running now, and there are bolts falling out of the bottom of the thing now, but it still gives me so much more energy, it’s not even comparable to days when I’m stuck in planes and meeting rooms. I think we need to re-engineer our immediate environment it’s really about variance, or up and down and moving around every 20, 30 minutes throughout the day.

The good news is I think it’s more important to just build a little burst of walking activity throughout the day, and that’s more important for human health than the intimidating goals of 30 or 60 minutes of extreme cardiovascular activity, for example. We just need to find ways to have conversations with people and get work done while we’re up and down and moving around quite a bit more.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. Well, so I think that might transition into something. You had a very intriguing book bullet point about how we can turn the job we have into the job we want. It sounds like one way is to re-engineer so you can move a little bit. What are some of the other main ways that we can see an upgrade in that department?

Tom Rath
Yeah, one of the things that I think we all need to dedicate more time to in that regard is to bring the source of our contributions or the people that our work is affecting, lives it’s improving, back into the daily conversation. So, when people in food service roles were preparing food, chefs and cooks, if they can see the person they’re preparing the food for, they make better-quality meals, they make more nutritious meals, and they feel better about their work.

If radiologists who are reading scans of MRIs and CTs all day, if someone is a part of an experiment, when they append a photo of the patient to the record, they write longer reports and it increases their diagnostic accuracy. And I’ve seen this across every professional, it’s been studied. The closer we can get to the source and see the people we’re influencing, even if they’re just internal customers and clients, for example, the better work we do and the better we feel about it when we get home each evening. So, I think that’s one of the most practical places to start. And if you struggle to do that yourself in a workplace, my best advice would be help someone else to see why their efforts are making a difference tomorrow. And just in doing that, you’ll set something in motion.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah, that is powerful. And so, certainly, and so there’s many ways you can accomplish that goal. You can actually sort of rearrange the office so that you are getting a visual, or you can just have photos of those folks that you’re serving right there. So, you mentioned in the medical example, just having photos of the patient there made the impact. And so, that’s inspiring. It’s, like, I got to get some listener photos in my work environment.

Tom Rath
Photos and stories, I mean, there’s kind of the stories and legends we tell ourselves. The other is I talk about this a little bit in the book, but because I don’t have vision on my left side, I have a prosthetics so people think I can see out of both eyes. But I accidentally bump into people all the time because I don’t see them coming on my left. And it’s always an interesting experiment for me psychologically because I’m always the same but that person, sometimes they’re in a really bad mood, sometimes they’re frustrated and didn’t have the time, sometimes they’re very kind and apologetic. It varies so much.

But I get to see, even when I’m in a coffee shop or a grocery store like that, I can kind of see how if I react as good as I possibly can, and I’m really apologetic and tell them I’m sorry and everything else, in some cases I can take someone who’s kind of in a bad mood and diffuse it and turn it around where it’s a little bit better. And I think we all have, I don’t know if it’s 10, 15, 20 moments like that with strangers and people we know throughout the day. And, in any case, if you leave that person in a little bit better state than when you first engaged in the interaction, that is a victory that we probably need to do a better job of acknowledging in the moment.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I love it. Well, that’s the, “How full is your bucket stuff?” in action.

Tom Rath
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
So, in the realm of those small but sort of uplifting, bucket-filling things we can do in the workplace, could you give us just several examples of things that really make a difference and we can do all the time?

Tom Rath
Yeah, like we just talked about, I think it starts with those very brief exchanges and saying you don’t get to control the emotional tone that someone else brings into a room or into an office that you’re in at the moment, but we always do have control of our response. And I think if you start to view those little responses as an opportunity to turn things around, that’s one good starting place.

The other thing that I’ve learned a lot from over the years since some of the work on that How Full Is Your Bucket? concept is that if you can make it a goal to spot somebody else doing something really well that they might not have even noticed, ideally try to do that once a day, that’s one of the more powerful things that can have a real lasting influence on people over time.

I think we talked briefly about some of the strengths work, and because of my involvement with that, people often ask me, “What’s the most valuable strength? What’s the best one? What’s the most productive, and so on?” What I’ve learned and my real quick answer is the most valuable talent is spotting a strength in someone else that they had not been able to notice and encouraging them to build on that because, boy, when I’ve seen people do that, it’s so powerful it can kind of last a lifetime and change the trajectory of a career.

So, I think to look for those two things in a given day and then at least three, four times a week to look for moments to just recognize in an audible, in a written, or an electronic form great work, and to recognize and appreciate someone for specific efforts. And when you’re doing that, to try and connect your recognition with the contribution made to another person gives it a little bit more amplification.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yes, I love that. Boy, Tom, there’s so much good stuff here. Maybe you could just regale us now with a couple of stories in terms of folks who had some career transformations in terms of before they did not quite have that clarity on how they want to contribute and what they’re going to do with life’s greatest question, and then they got it and it changed everything? Could you give us a couple of fun examples there?

Tom Rath
Yeah, you know, the one that’s most top of mind for me when you talk about kind of figuring out contributions as they went along it, a friend of mine I talk about in the book, I’ve started working with him maybe 20 years ago. His name is Mark. And he was really involved in Young Life, which is a student kind of a faith-based group and efforts to help kids get involved in communities and give back and do more. When I started working on some of the very early strengths work, Mark was passionate about college freshmen, and said, “I think maybe we could put something together that helps them figure out how to use their strengths to pick better classes and have better relationships.”

He was a pragmatic guy, and said, “I think if we can just get plug into these freshmen experience classes, maybe it could make a difference. We’ve just got to get a handful of professors to assign it as a textbook.” And that’s now helped, I think it’s two or three million kids in their freshmen year or two, essentially get a better handle on what they’re doing, and navigate, and hopefully end up in a little bit better careers as a product of that. It started with someone who had a real passion for doing things in kind of a pocket like that, and said, “How could we scale this out and have a huge outsize influence on the world?”

I had about a 20-year friendship with Mark and he’d battled a heart transplant and cancer a few years ago, and he passed away just a little bit over a year and a couple of months ago. I write about this in the book, but when I went to his memorial service, you know, usually you think of it as one of the sadder moments, but it was one of the most inspiring things I’d ever seen in my life because student after student after former student got up and talked about how they were doing things so differently in their relationships and their careers and their education because of the specific influence that Mark had had in his mentoring. As we talk about contribution here as a topic, it was just kind of a summary of an entire lifetime of enormous contribution to other people.

I know, for me personally, it was deeply inspiring and kind of what I hope to be able to continue to do over the remainder of my life is to make those kind of both broad directional contributions and the real specific deep individual mentoring contributions like Mark both did. So, that’s kind of the top of my radar right now.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, that is powerful. Thank you. Tell me, Tom, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Tom Rath
No, I think we’ve covered the main topic here.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, then can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Tom Rath
Ben Horowitz was giving a commencement address at Columbia two, three years ago now. And he talked really eloquently, if listeners have a chance to check it out, about real growth is the product of not following your passions but following where your contributions lead you.

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

Tom Rath
You know, I think what’s influenced me most in the last few years is some of the very important distinctions between daily wellbeing versus how we look at our life satisfaction and wellbeing over many, many years in a lifetime. For so long, scientists have just been saying, “If you look at your life as a ladder with steps numbered one through ten, where do you stand essentially?” and they ask people to look back retrospectively.

And when you ask people that question, it’s usually a very highly-correlated income. The more you make you buy more points on that ladder essentially. And countries like Sweden and Denmark and Norway are at the very highest of the wellbeing rankings when you look at rankings based on that broad evaluation. But, in contrast, when you ask people, “Are you having a lot of fun today? Have you smiled or laughed a lot today? Did you have a lot of negative emotions? Do you have a lot of stress?” And you really look at that daily experience to where you or I had a good day today, it looks very, very different.

And the happiest countries on a daily basis are Costa Rica and Panama and Uruguay and Paraguay, these Central American countries that are at the very bottom of the wealth rankings of gross domestic product per capita. So, I think that daily experience can be a great equalizer where even in the United States you don’t need to make a great deal of money to have really good consistent days. And once you do make enough money to stop worrying about your finances every day, the more you make an income doesn’t really make that much of a difference. In some cases, it might even lead to more stress and issues.

So, I’ve really been intrigued by a lot of emerging research, the body of it, on the influence and importance of just daily positive affect, as what researchers call it, versus negative affect, and how that can…I think the accumulation of those days may be a lot more important than how we evaluate our lives once at the very end.

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

Tom Rath
If I can, I’m going to do a paired trade of two books I read back-to-back, one being now getting a lot of press with a movie out Just Mercy. And the second one being Hillbilly Elegy which they are two night and day different books about two completely different experiences on different ends of social geographic and demographic continuums in the United States, but I’m really inspired by true stories that help me to understand experiences that are very different than my own. So, those have been well-written moving books I’ve studied recently.

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

Tom Rath
Over the last 10 years, everything I’ve read both in print and online, and conversations I’ve had, I’ve stored everything in Evernote, the app. And I was just joking with my mother-in-law over the weekend that when I’m her age, that’s going to be my memory because my memory won’t be that good. So, that’s been a great repository for all of the research and studies and things that I’ve been collecting over the last decade.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I want to dig into that a little more. So, in terms of you just sort of drag and drop a PDF of the thing you read into a given note then make your notes on top of it? Or how does that work if you have the actual documents in there?

Tom Rath
Yeah, online I can drag and drop PDFs or just clip any webpage directly from a browser with one button. And when I’m reading things in print, I still get some newspapers and magazines in print, I tear pages and shoot them through a scanner that goes directly into the cloud in Evernote just based on some tags and so forth. Even everything I get in the mail goes right through that scanner unless it’s just junk mail ad, for example. But it’s been a great way to kind of have my own kind of a separate Google for my own experience and everything that’s gone through my head but, by no means, will I be able to locate and process and search for without a lot of electronic help.

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

Tom Rath
My favorite habit is I think I spend 80% to 90% of my time in a given day working while I’m moving around. And so, whether that’s having a conversation on the phone and walking around, ideally, outdoors. I try to get, all the time, outdoors every day. Walking. I try to walk my kids to school any day that we can just so that we all get a little head start on our mental energy let alone the physical exercise that helps. So, my favorite habit is just minimizing the time I spend completely sedentary in a chair in a day.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget that you’ve shared in your books, in speaking, that really seems to get highlighted a lot, or retweeted, or quoted back to you frequently, a Tom Rath nugget that you’re known for?

Tom Rath
Yeah, I think the one that I see most commonly highlighted out there, kind of posters and internet stuff, is the quote about “You can’t be anything you want to be but you can be a lot more of who you already are.” And I talk about that a little bit in this most recent book that I’m really confident, and I first wrote that maybe 10, 15 years ago, but I’m really confident that people, counter to some conventional wisdom, you really can’t be anything you want to be, if you think about it.

But I do worry a little bit about when people just try and be more of who they already are. I’ve seen that in some cases pull people too much towards looking inward. And that’s why in a lot of the recent work I’ve been focusing on trying to help people to say how can they take who they are and quickly focus that as point A outward to point B which is what the world around them needs, because I think the more they focus and hone their energy towards what their family, their organization, their community needs, it leads to even more productive application of their strengths.

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

Tom Rath
I’d point them to TomRath.org for any of the books that we’ve talked about and then Contribify.com for the new Life’s Great Question book and the companion website that goes with that.

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

Tom Rath
I would challenge people to spend even a little bit of time today determining how they can get even closer to the source of the contribution they’re making to the world, because the closer you get to that source, the more you can do for others over the years.

Pete Mockaitis
Tom, this has been a pleasure. Thank you. I wish you the best in health and all the ways you’re contributing in the world.

Tom Rath
Thank you so much. It’s been an honor and fun talking to you.

533: How to Identify and Eliminate Friction with Roger Dooley

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Roger Dooley says: "Ask: 'How can I make your job easier?'"

Roger Dooley talks about how eliminating friction at work can lead to better productivity.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The cardinal rule of friction
  2. How to reduce the friction of meetings
  3. How mistrust creates friction

About Roger:

Roger Dooley is an author and international keynote speaker. His books include Friction: The Untapped Force That Can Be Your Most Powerful Advantage and Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing. He is behind the popular blog, Neuromarketing, as well as a column at Forbes.com. 

He is the founder of Dooley Direct, a consultancy, and co-founded College Confidential, the leading college-bound website. He has an engineering degree from Carnegie Mellon University and an MBA from the University of Tennessee.  

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you Freshbooks!

  • Freshbooks Cloud Accounting Software gets you paid twice as fast. Free trial (no credit card required) at freshbooks.com/awesome.

Roger Dooley Interview Transcript

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

Roger Dooley
Well, happy to be here, Pete. Thanks for the invite.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m so excited to dig into your stuff. And I understand that you currently operate as a behavioral scientist but that was not always your path. You started as a chemical engineer. Can you tell us how did you cross over and do you see some natural crossover ideas between the two?

Roger Dooley
Sure. And to clarify, I only play behavioral scientist on the internet. I am not actually a behavioral scientist. Although, I do write a lot about behavioral science and certainly try and convey some of the ideas from great scientists to business people in ways they can understand. But, yeah, I did start off life as an engineer, a chemical engineer, and only did that for a few years. But, Pete, I think that being an engineer and training as one kind of gives you a worldview, a way of looking at things, that serves you well regardless of your profession. You really sort of have to deal with reality.

Engineers can’t do stuff based on faith, or based on, “Well, this seems like a good idea,” or even sort of argue their way through it. If they’re going to build something, it’s got to stand up and not fall down. I was a chemical engineer and, if you’re designing plants or reactions or whatever, they simply have to work. So, if you can bring that same kind of thinking to the pursuit of business and other topics, I think it’s still valuable.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I’m with you. And so, one such concept is friction and we’re going to go all over the place with this. But why don’t we kick it off by sharing how do you define friction and why do you say it’s the enemy of business?

Roger Dooley
Well, the simple definition is any unnecessary effort to perform a task. And the reasons it’s the enemy of business is because it is everywhere, even where we don’t see it. If we saw it and recognize it, there’ll be a lot less of it, and it’s funny, because people think they see it.

A couple of years ago, I was getting ready to speak at a conference, there was a mastermind, a group of very smart people, and the organizer wanted me to record a promo, he said, “Okay, I want you to share your best idea in advance.” I said, “Okay, I’ll do friction.” He said, “No, no, no, everybody knows about friction. You got to do something else.” So, I humored them and I did something else, but there is that attitude that we know all about it, that, yes, okay, you have Silicon Valley trying to make things frictionless and so on, but the reality is, in our daily life and daily interactions with businesses, there is a lot of friction both as a customer and as an employee.

Think of all the bad processes you encounter on websites and mobile apps where you can’t figure out what to do, or you try and do something and it doesn’t work. And within companies, there is perhaps even more internal friction in the vast majority of companies, according to Gallup, something like 85% of employees are disengaged with their employer, they aren’t actively engaged, which means they’re not going to be loyal, they’re not really going to deliver that great customer experience, and a big reason is so much of their time and, more importantly, effort is wasted.

It’s wasted by meetings that don’t get anything done. It’s wasted by dealing with emails that they really don’t accomplish anything, bad processes internally that waste their time, rules, ways of getting things done that don’t make sense. It’s just amazing how much time is not really productive. And people realize that, and if the company is not working to cure that, then it’s no wonder employees become disengaged.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I think you’ve done a fine job outlining some of the key examples of friction that we all encounter and what can be at stake with regard to engagement. Could you maybe make this come alive for us with a compelling story in which you saw the power of friction in great force?

Roger Dooley
Well, I think maybe the best examples are ones that our audience is familiar with, and I’ll give you two from business examples dealing with customer experience and friction and also with the invisibility of friction.

One is Uber. Nobody thought about all the friction there was in the taxi process. Taxis were pretty much unchanged for, I don’t know, 50 years or so, and people just accepted that they were the way they were and occasionally you might get aggravated if you couldn’t find a taxi at all on a rainy afternoon in Manhattan or something. But most of the time, we just figured, “Okay. Well, this is the process. This is the way it is. There’s not a better way.”

It wasn’t until Uber came along with such a smooth experience, even from hailing the ride in the first place, to paying them at the end where there is no payment process at all. That’s the easiest process when there is no process. You just get out and say goodbye. Suddenly, people’s eyes were opened, and they said, “Whoa, wow, those taxis really weren’t that great, were they?” And that accounts for Uber’s tremendous popularity and also of their somewhat smaller competitors. They just changed this where people had not even seen it to begin with.

And I think the other sort of mega example is Amazon where they have put so much effort into minimizing customer effort. There’s many reasons why they’re successful, but that is one of the biggest ones. When you ask people what drives loyalty, they may give you, say things like, “Well, boy, a really outstanding experience, having my expectations exceeded.” Research shows that what drives customer loyalty are low-friction experiences, minimum customer effort.

Gartner, the big research company, did some phenomenal research that showed when people had a high-effort customer service interaction versus a low-effort, the high-effort customers were 96% of customers who had a high-effort experience were likely to be disloyal compared to just about a tenth of that for low-effort customers. When it comes to repeat customers, 94% of low-effort customers were likely to repurchase compared to just 4% of high-effort customers.

And we can see that at Amazon. They have gone out of their way to minimize effort starting with one-click ordering. Way back in 1998, they patented one-click ordering that I know I thought at the time that’s kind of goofy. He can’t really patent that, can you? Well, it turned out they could. And when Barnes & Noble implemented it on their site, Amazon and Barnes & Noble got in a huge legal battle. Ultimately, Amazon prevailed after spending millions of dollars to defend that patent. And what did they accomplish with that time and trouble and expense? All they accomplished was forcing their competitors to add one tiny little click to their process.

Now, if you talk to the average IT person and say, “Well, gee, I have to click that, it’s only three keystrokes,” they’d say, “Oh, hey, three keystrokes, who cares? It’s nothing.” For Amazon, it was worth that huge legal battle to defend disadvantaging their competitors by a single click. And beyond Jeff Bezos and other smart guys, Steve Jobs saw that at the same time he was launching his music store, and he didn’t try and fight the patent, he didn’t try and come up with some kind of workaround. He went to Amazon and paid them a million dollars so that he could implement one-click ordering in iTunes. And we know how that worked out.

So, to me, Amazon does it in so many different ways. They came up years ago with frustration-free packaging. They saw that people were really frustrated by these plastic clamshells that you can’t open with your bare hands. They’re great for retail, I guess, because they’re sort of hard to steal and they show the product off. But when you get the thing home and you’ve got to use some kind of sharp instrument to get them open…

Pete Mockaitis
And their plastic is sharp. I cut myself with the plastic I’ve cut.

Roger Dooley
…and they’re terrible for the environment. Yeah, if you don’t stab yourself with the knife you’re using, you stab yourself with the plastic shard. And Amazon said, “Well, we don’t need that.” They came up with frustration-free packaging. Just simple cardboard packages that you can open with your bare hands, they’re better for the environment, very minimal risk of injury. And the amazing thing is this, not only did people liked the packaging better, Pete, but there was a 73% reduction in negative feedback on products that were packaged that way. So, people actually liked the products better that were packaged that way.

They have focused on this since day one. Way back in 1997, Bezos was talking about frictionless shopping, and one of my favorite quotes is from Jeff, he said, “When you reduce friction, when you make something easy, people do more of it.” And that is pretty much the theme of the book, and it’s a lesson that not everybody has learned.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, I appreciate you sharing all these examples, and it really does resonate in terms of in many, many different implications and applications of when you reduce friction, you make it easier. Like, podcasts have been around for, I guess I should know this, but more than 15 years and, yet, it’s only the last few years that they’ve “exploded, taken off” like all these things. And, in many ways, that’s just because it’s become easier. Like, there’s a podcast app natively on iPhones.

There is plentiful bandwidth available from your cellular towers as opposed to Wi-Fi so that you can just listen anywhere, no problem, without really stressing so much like your data limits. It’s like a tiny fraction. You don’t need to worry about it. Whereas, several years ago, you might say, “Ooh, I’ve only got one or two Gigabytes a month.” Well, now more people are having more. So, it totally adds up that there’s less friction, the more people will do that thing.

So, let’s talk about, now zooming in on the workplace, how can we apply some of these principles so that we get more great stuff done, so that our teams are more effective? What do you see are some of the top sources of friction at work and the best solutions for lubricating it?

Roger Dooley
Well, I think, often, organizations that start off lean and mean and very effective where people are totally engaged and working really hard, they tend to grow if they’re successful, and the bigger companies get, often be more bound by rules and procedures and processes they become. And to some degree that’s necessary. If you’re going to have a large organization, often you do have to have some standardization and processes. You do have to have guidelines for new people and so on. It’s sort of goes with the territory, and that’s okay. But often people, managers in particular, don’t even know why they are doing things.

There was one, I’m thinking it was by Bain, but I’m not sure if they ask people about which rules they were following that were either pointless or wasted their time. And so, a bunch of employees said in this survey, they nominated various rules. And what they found was that half the things that people mentioned weren’t even rules at all. They were simply the way things had been done, and they’ve been done that way for so long that they had somehow become codified into a rule. And people didn’t think it was a good way to do it but they just kept on doing it because they thought that that was what the company wanted.
I think meetings are a horrendous waste of time. Fortunately, I’ve been an entrepreneur for probably, I don’t know, 35 years or something, and I had a brief stint of a few years where I’ve built a business and ended up joining a very large company that purchased that business as part of the deal, and, by and large, it was a pretty good experience. They’re good people and certainly not as dysfunctional as many businesses but they had some of the typical big-company problems, including meetings. And I had a person working for me who’s a product manager, and she was a smart person, but she was not really succeeding in innovating new ideas, and we talked about it, and she said, “I don’t have time.” I said, “Well, why?”

We looked at her schedule and she had as many as 32 hours of meetings in a typical week, which is insane because how much time after that do you have left for productive work or, as Cal Newport would say, deep work, which is what you have to do if you want to be creative. You’ve got to have that time set aside. And, instead, it was difficult to keep up just with the flow of paperwork and stuff, and email, and everything else, and the meetings. That is not an atypical situation. Stats vary on that but many, many people spend half, or two-thirds of their time, in meetings. And you simply can’t be doing deep work when that’s happening.

Now, meetings can be very useful. If you can bring a team of people together and discuss something quickly, reach a conclusion, establish a course of action, that’s really valuable. But so often, they become just sort of institutionalized and people come and they really don’t accomplish much. All the people that attend really don’t have to attend. They’re there because, well, something might come up that would affect them and so on. And you can even go down the list.

But, to me, the one question that can help people uncover where the sort of least-productive highest-friction aspects of a job are to ask a simple question of one’s people, and that is “How can I make your job easier?” Now, a lot of people have never heard that question or have never had a boss ask them that question because they’re basically used to a boss saying, “Well, how can you get more done? How can I help you work harder?” And that is what people expect but that is not really the question.

When you ask people that question, it does two things. First of all, it can help you identify bottlenecks or bad processes that are wasting time that you can’t see but your people can see. No manager can really understand what everybody that works for them is doing or having to cope with, at least in most cases, unless they’ve done that particular job. But when you ask the person who’s doing it, they know where the problems are. And not only that, when you ask them that, you are showing them that you are on their side. You are not the boss saying, “How can you work harder and get more done?” Instead, you’re asking how you can make their job and, by extension, their life easier.

So, to me, it’s a double win. You find those friction points and you also help increase the engagement of that employee because once they believe that the company cares about them and is trying to make their job easier, not just make them work harder or be more productive, then they can feel that bond and be more engaged.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, I dig that. And so, that’s a powerful question right there in terms of, “How can I make your job or your life easier?” And so, I think in the realm of meetings, what sorts of solutions have emerged when people approach that problem with that question?

Roger Dooley
I think that there are any number of approaches. First of all is to, I mean, there have been some sort of mechanical approaches, like saying, “Okay, no-meeting Mondays,” for example, or in one extreme case, “Meetings only on Wednesdays” where they really wanted to cut down on the number of meetings. And those things can work and they can help. I think that really expecting each leader to manage the meetings they are responsible for and to view them from a standpoint of having a big impact on the people that they invite.

Another sort of interesting little technique is to limit the number of people that can be invited to a meeting. Yet another one would be to show the cost, sort of have a cost factor for each person. It wouldn’t necessarily have to be down to their salary level, but show, “Okay, if you’re going to invite a senior engineer to the meeting, that is worth 123 bucks an hour or something,” so that people could see the cost of the meeting that they’re calling.

And scheduling software is great, things like Outlook and some of the other tools that are available that let you easily connect. If you recall the old days where if you wanted to set up a meeting, you, or somebody working for you, would have to call around and try and find a common time, and you get a couple people lined up, and another third person can’t do it then, so you have to kind of change the time. With a scheduling software, it makes that easy. The problem is it treats any time that you are not in a meeting already as available for scheduling, so blocking out time and that schedule for deep work, saying, “Okay, I’m not going to be available during these times.” Now, assuming that you have the ability to control your life that much, that’s another great technique for ensuring that you’ve got the bandwidth to do good work not just go to meetings.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, that’s great when it comes to meetings. Can you share what are some other common causes of friction at work and common solutions for them?

Roger Dooley
Well, okay, one thing to clarify, Pete, in my book, I do not deal with interpersonal friction. That’s sort of either a boss or the passive-aggressive coworker, that sort of thing. Those are real issues but those are not the kind of friction that I deal with. That would be a whole another book, and that book has been written too, I think. But the idea of finding rules that people are following, that they find unproductive, is a good one. Asking people, if they can eliminate one rule, what would that be, that’s wasting most of their time or is most annoying to them?

I’ll give you an example from my own experience. Again, this is with that big company that I worked for for a bit. They had an expense reporting process like every large company, and I would travel on business occasionally, and even though I was a VP-level person, as they brought me in, I had to report even the tiniest expense if I want it reimbursed. So, if I bought a $2 coffee at the airport, then if I want to be reimbursed for that, I would have to not only put that on my expense report, but I would have to furnish a receipt for that. And this is way beyond IRS guidelines. IRS guidelines do not require that. They set some limits on which expenses required documentation and which don’t.

This really was super annoying. It added a lot of time to the expense-submission process. I know I lost a bunch because either I just didn’t get a receipt, or I lost the receipt, or something, and I always wondered if anybody looked at that. And, one time, I found out that they did actually looked at that when I stapled a quarter-inch of little papers to my expense report, somebody did look at it because accounting came back and said, “Oh, hey, you do not have a receipt for this $3 item here.” I don’t know where it went. I had it when I was doing the report, but it got lost somewhere. So, not only was it wasting my time but it’s wasting somebody else’s time who was reviewing all those.

And then, to cap it off, they came up with a solution to make it more efficient, where there was an electronic process that you could scan these receipts, take photos of them, you could then attach these JPEGs or PDFs to your electronic document, and it would go into an electronic workflow, and it was all wonderful except that was very efficient for the accounting people because you were documenting it in a very clean electronic way, you were assigning account numbers that were really cryptic to the average person, like, “What kind of expense is this?” You’ve got all these accounts that have accounting names, and you can’t really figure out where it goes.

So, basically, what they did was created a process that was efficient for them, but for the employee made it even more onerous and inefficient. And the point is, there was not a reason for this. Ultimately, I ended up asking the financial guy after he had left the company and I had left the company, I said, “Why did you guys do that? That seems crazy.” “Well, they did not trust the employees not to cheat on their expenses or put stuff down that they didn’t actually spend.” And, Pete, that brings us to the issue of trust, which I find underlies a lot of friction inside companies.

Roger Dooley
Now, I know you’ve had Paul Zak on the show, and his book “Trust Factor” is really amazing. And, as you know, he found that high-performing organizations have high levels of trust. And the converse is true too, and obviously if you’re asking your employees to submit $2 expense receipts and then denying expense reports because they forgot a $2 receipt, there is not much of a trust factor there, and this is limiting the performance of these organizations.

So, looking for those things, there is a great story in my book from GE way back in the Jack Welch days before the turn of the last century, and they asked that question that I mentioned, “How can I make your job easier?” to a group of union workers in manufacturing, not the most cooperative folks in dealing with management. And one guy spoke up and said, “Yeah, I handle sharp metal all day at my machine and I wear out a pair of work gloves every week or so. To get a new pair, I’ve got to shut my machine down, leave the building, go to another building, go to the tool crib, fill out a requisition form, find a supervisor to sign the requisition form, take it back to the tool crib, where then they will issue me the gloves, and I go back to my building and my machine, and that can take an hour or two depending on how hard it is to find a supervisor where there’s a line at the tool crib.”

And it turned out that the reason they had this rule was because they were afraid that people were going to steal gloves. So, the solution was put a box of damn gloves by the guys’ machine. And it turned out, he did not steal all the gloves every day, and they saved hours of time per week, plus they established that, “Okay, we trust you. We’re not making you go through this horrible procedure because we don’t think you’re going to steal a $2 pair of gloves.” It’s crazy.

So, I think that when you look at those procedures and see how many are based on lack of trust, when you fix those, not only are you saving time, but you are indicating that you trust your people.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, that’s really resonating, that many rules come about from lack of trust. And so, underneath it all, if you have the trust in place, then you may not need those rules. That’s great. So, I love your question there on, “How can I make your life and job easier?” I’d love to get your view on what are some other ways that we can spot friction and common means of reducing it?

Roger Dooley
Well, I think that spotting it in the customer experience is both easy and potentially a trouble point. We have so many metrics now from our digital tools we can see where customers are slowing down, whether they are clicking on stuff that shouldn’t be clicked at because it can’t be clicked on.

Roger Dooley
If they are bailing out of a process, there are so many tools we can use that can give us some of this friction information. We can also ask them. But one thing that I’ve seen is even as we try and improve customer experience, and I call this the Heisenberg effect because Heisenberg says, “You can’t measure something without changing it.” He’s referring to subatomic particles, and I apologize in advance to any actual physicists who would say that’s an oversimplification of his Uncertainty Principle. But, basically, what I see happening is people try to measure their customer experience and end up affecting it.

Net Promoter Score is a decent metric, that’s where you ask if somebody is likely to recommend your company to someone else. And it’s, certainly, better than doing nothing, but sometimes the way people try and capture that is you go to a website with the intention of getting something done, you want to place an order, you want to get some information, what’s the first thing you see? A damn pop-up that is asking you if you want to do a survey when you’re done. Nobody clicks yes.

I’ve got that on slides that I do in my speeches, and I’ve shown that pop-up, or an example of that pop-up, to thousands and thousands of people, and I always ask, “Who actually clicks, ‘Yes, I’ll do the survey’?” And in all of those, I probably have like two or three people raise their hands and everybody else doesn’t. Nobody does that. So, you are annoying 100% of your customers to get a return of a fraction of a percent of them, and the fraction of a percent that answers is probably not representative.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, exactly.

Roger Dooley
They’re probably already pissed off at you for something and they’re looking for any opportunity to tell you that. And even worse, these things like hotels, or airlines, or cruise lines send you after your experience, I mean, normally I delete those things. I stay in hotels a lot when I’m traveling for speaking and such, and every time I get them, “A brief survey about your stay.” And I found these surveys are never brief, there’s always a million questions.

But I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express which enabled me to be on your show today. I’m significantly more intelligent because of that. And I found that the lighting in the hotel that I stayed in was kind of strange. It was cold lighting temperature, felt very industrial, and not warm and cozy, so I said, “Okay, I’m going to tell them about that. Maybe they don’t know that.” So, I actually opened the thing when they said, “Tell us about your stay,” and there were a few questions. Everything is on a scale of one to ten. Can you really rate whether your front-desk experience was a 7 versus an 8? You’re forcing people to really think about this, which is cognitive friction or cognitive effort that’s wasted with those fine gradations.

But, again, I get into it and I answered the first few questions. Then I get to this thing. It’s like a 10×10 matrix, asking me to rate all these different things and one big thing, again, from a scale of one to ten, and things like the pillows, the electrical outlets. And I didn’t even notice these things. I didn’t want to talk about them. I tried to skip over that so I could get to a form field that I could just type in my comment but it wouldn’t let me. I had to answer every single question to proceed with their stupid survey. And so, I just bailed out of the whole thing. It was just too much effort.

And when you make customers work like that, you are actually affecting their customer experience negatively when maybe they did want to tell you something but you just made it too difficult for them. United Airlines, I’ve been a 1K for five years and I have a special customer service line I like to dial into. It’s answered immediately every time, always with a competent US-based representative, so it’s a great service. But, amazingly, even though they recognize me when I call in, a little robot voice says, “Hello, Roger,” because they recognize my mobile phone.

And then before they connect me with a representative, I have to listen to a 15-second recording asking me if, at the conclusion of the conversation, I would like to answer a survey about the experience. And in order to say no, even though I’m on my mobile phone I’ve got up to my ear, I cannot use a voice command. Up to that point I could use voice commands to ask for a representative, but I have to take the phone away from my ear, open the dial pad, and click 2 to decline to do the survey.

And the crime in this is that these are their best customers, their most loyal customers, their highest-revenue customers, and they are slowing down every customer service interaction by about 15 seconds, at least, because of their desire to ask about the experience. I was tempted to say, “Yes, I’ll answer the experience,” and then say how annoying their little message was, but I suspect if I did that, that would not be an option. They would want me to rate the representative on whether he or she was helpful and so on. So, we see this just all the time, and companies are not aware that, even as they’re trying to make their service better, they’re making it worse.

Pete Mockaitis
Boy, there’s so much in there, and I appreciate sort of like the broad span of examples. It’s sort of like, “Who are you making things easy for? Are you making it easy for the employee who processes that data?” “Yeah, we sure are. They’re able to say, ‘Cool, I’ve got my 10×10 matrix, I could see that pillows are really our problem here so effortlessly because of how that survey was formatted so I can just get right to it.” But you’re making it very not easy for the end party.

And so, it’s sort of like if we were to flip it around, the easiest possible thing they could do would be to say, “Hey, what do we need to know about your experience at our hotel?” And you can say, “The lighting was ghostly weird and I didn’t like it.”

Roger Dooley
Yeah, you’re exactly right, Pete. What I advocate is maybe a very simple checkbox. If you’ve seen those things at airports or other kinds of facilities where…

Pete Mockaitis
The happy face?

Roger Dooley
…they have like three or four emojis ranging from happy to sad with neutral in the middle, “How’s your experience?” People can relate to that. They don’t have to think about it. They can choose the happy one or the neutral one almost on autopilot because they know what kind of experience they had. And then give them a big empty blank space where they can say whatever they want. The problem is this doesn’t fit neatly in spreadsheets. It’s hard to take those answers. It takes extra effort, so that’s why I think companies don’t do that. They like to have that granular information of, “Hey, our pillows are up 10% from last year.” But that isn’t really helping the customer.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. And, in a way, I guess I always come back to it doesn’t really take that much financial investment to turn that into something more usable because, you know, a temporary employee, an intern, could go ahead and say, pull themes out of these data, and then tell you, “Hey, out of 200 responses, 14 of them were about the pillows, and 70 of them were about the lighting.” It’s like, “Okay. Noted.” That took you some effort but not a lot of costs for that time to get there. And, boy, I, too, love those emojis. I love them so much I took a photo. And so, that can give you your quantitative stuff real quick. And then you really do need to get out of the way to provide an opportunity for that feedback.

And you got me thinking right now, I ask people to email me, “What do you think about the show?” pete@awesomeatyourjob.com. It’s like, “Can I make it even faster and easier? Like, tap a button or a link in the show notes description in your app player, and then write two words.” You got my wheels turning, Roger.

Roger Dooley
Right. You said you took a photo, I did, too, and I posted it on Facebook and said, “This is what survey should be like,” because it was like a three-button, three-emoji set of buttons. And a bunch of people immediately replied and said, “Boy, I never touch those because they’re outside the restroom, and I see all the people don’t wash their hands.” But if it’s a digital thing, you probably don’t have to worry about contamination.

Pete Mockaitis
We’re really covering our bases here. I love the thoroughness. Well, you tell me, do you have any further tips on when it comes to identifying and eliminating friction? Any top suggestions you want to make sure to cover before we hear about some of your favorite things?

Roger Dooley
Well, sure. I think there is something. We talked about Net Promoter Score, and I don’t have a problem with Net Promoter Score. I don’t think it’s the sole answer to whether you’re doing a great job or not, but it’s better than doing nothing for sure. There’s also something called Customer Effort Score that is designed in the same way that NPS does, measure how customers perceive their effort. And it is the perception of effort that counts.

You can say, “Well, boy, we’ve got best-in-class processes for our digital customers. We’ve looked at the competition.” They are not measuring you against your competition. They’re measuring you against Amazon and Uber and others. So, if somebody thinks they had a high-effort experience, that’s what counts. Even if yours is best of your breed, it doesn’t matter. If they thought it was high-effort, it was high-effort. And that happens to be a product, like Net Promoter Score is a product. You don’t have to use that particular product. But measuring customer effort in some way, I think, is good, or customer perception. Google does that.

I had a support session, I need some help with Tag Manager, which I would say is a pretty high-friction product if you’re not highly technical. And after it, they did not ask me a lot of questions about the person that helped me. They asked me whether I found the experience to be effortful or not effortful. I don’t recall the exact terms they used. But I thought, “Wow, this is really brilliant.” I see so many companies, after you complete an experience, they’ll ask you about it. And they won’t ask the right questions because I don’t think they want the answers.

I had a really awful interaction with my internet service provider where I could not find online what speed I was paying for, and it turns out that that information is not available online. You have to get it from a representative, which is bizarre to begin with. But I went through this conversation. The representative was fine. She’s very helpful and it was just their bad process. I had to come up with a four-digit code from an invoice and all this ridiculous stuff just to get the information, the bandwidth I was paying for. It wasn’t like I was trying to hack into the account. I just want to know what my speed was because I wasn’t getting it. And it turned out I was not getting it.

But, at the end of the process, they say, “Would you like to comment on this?” I was ready to comment at that point, having wasted 20 minutest just to find out my internet speed. So, instead, they did not ask me about what I thought about their company, whether I’d recommend them or anything like that. They asked me about the rep, whether the rep was courteous and helpful. And then they gave me like a thousand characters to talk about the representative. This is not the problem. I think that they did not want the answers to the real questions. They don’t want to ask people would they recommend them because they know that, typically, not just my particular one, but, in general, internet service providers and cable TV companies are at the very bottom of customer satisfaction scores, and so they don’t want that data. They ask about the rep.

And if you’re mad and you ding the rep, “Well, hey, okay, that was the rep’s problem.” It’s crazy but I think that asking simple questions and honest questions is the way to go. And ask about effort, then give people a chance to explain why. If they thought it was high-effort, it doesn’t seem like it’s high-effort, give them a chance to explain. You may find out that there is a reason for that customer it did seem like a lot of effort.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, Roger, that’s so much good stuff. Now, can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Roger Dooley
Well, I will go to Richard Thaler, our Nobel Prize winner in behavioral economics, and he sort of echoes Jeff Bezos, but he actually won a Nobel Prize for this. He said, “If you want to encourage some activity, make it easy.” And that, I think, is a very powerful quote. It is repeated by behavioral scientists in various ways, but he is the voice of authority on that.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now, could you share with us a favorite book?

Roger Dooley
Yeah, there are so many. I would have to go with “Influence” by Robert Cialdini just because it’s the basis for so much. And if you read just that book, you will understand a lot about human behavior and, in particular, about how to change that behavior, about how to be persuasive and be influential.

Pete Mockaitis
And could you share with us as well a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Roger Dooley
Probably a Pocket would be my number one. Pocket app, which is a reader app that when you see an interesting article someplace, you can save it to Pocket for later consumption. And this really increases your productivity in two ways. First of all, instead of being sidelined when you’re in the middle of something, and you see an interesting article, and pausing to click through and read it, which will interrupt your flow, you can just save it. So, you are staying in the moment, but not necessarily losing track of that article.

And then when you read it, Pocket strips out all of the unnecessary stuff, all the ads, the sidebar stuff, the links and everything else so you just see a very simple article. You can switch to a web view if you prefer, but they give it to you in a bare bones view as a standard. So, again, you aren’t distracted, you can consume it pretty quickly. And then you can consume it at your leisure. So, to me, that is a huge timesaver. And if somebody is looking to be a little bit less distracted in 2020, that would be a good place to start.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite habit?

Roger Dooley
Well, building on the Pocket habit, every day after breakfast, I will sit with my dog on the couch and he will typically snuggle up. And I don’t know if you discussed that with Paul Zak, but when you snuggle with your pet, you both see a boost in oxytocin, so that’s one part of the good habit. And I read articles that I’ve dumped into Pocket over the last day and so I get some little productive time while I am snuggling with my dog. So, it’s a win-win.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks?

Roger Dooley
Yeah, I think the theme of my book “FRICTION” can be expressed in a simple sentence, and that is, “Friction changes behavior.” And to build on that, even a little friction makes a difference. Going back to Jeff Bezos and one-click ordering, it was worth so much to protect that one tiny little bit of effort for Amazon, but people just don’t realize that. If you realize that by eliminating tiny, tiny bits of effort, you can be more successful. That’s really important.

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

Roger Dooley
The easiest place to start would be RogerDooley.com, and there I’ve got links to my other content, my blog at Forbes, my neuromarketing blog, my podcast is there, and my social profiles are linked, so a pretty good place to start.

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

Roger Dooley
Yeah, I would try and find at least one element of sort of pointless friction in what you’re doing, something that you can control or perhaps bring to the attention of somebody who can fix it. It can be something small. Maybe it’s a rule that doesn’t make sense. Maybe it’s a process that you can see a way to improve, it’s just that nobody has improved it. And even if it is not in your own organization, maybe you’ve had a bad user experience or a customer experience someplace else, don’t be afraid to call it out.

If it’s not within your company, call somebody out on social media and say, “Hey, look at this on your website, or in your mobile app,” or whatever the problem was, and there’s some chance that it will get fixed eventually. I found that I’ve done that a lot, and oftentimes it does not happen very quickly, but a couple of months later, I go back and, hey, they’ve fixed that. Now, was it my input? I don’t know. But, to me, I think it’s always worth trying.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Roger, this has been so much fun. I wish you much joy and little friction in your years to come.

Roger Dooley
Well, thank you, Pete, and I wish you, too, the same. And I really appreciate you having me on the show. It’s been a blast.