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KF #16. Drives Engagement

384: Bringing More Joy into Work with Bruce Daisley

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Vice President  of Twitter Bruce Daisley shares the key differences that make the difference between work delight and drudgery.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Two hacks for restoring your personal equilibrium at work
  2. The benefits of connecting with your colleagues through laughter
  3. Why working more than 40 hours a week is a bad idea

About Bruce

As European Vice-President for Twitter and host of the UK’s number one business podcast Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat he is in the centre of the debate about the way work and communication is evolving.

Daisley has been one of the Evening Standard’s 1,000 Most Influential Londoners for four years and is one of Debrett’s 500 Most Influential People in Britain. Campaign magazine asserted that Daisley is ‘one of the most talented people in media.’

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Bruce Daisley Interview Transcript

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

Bruce Daisley
Well, I’m really flattered to be asked, so thank you so much for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, well, I’m excited to dig in. I believe Dan Cable introduced us and his was one of my favorite podcasts episodes, so there’s a big, big expectation Bruce, that you’re going to bring it.

Bruce Daisley
Thank you. Well, let me try my best.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Well, you have defined yourself as “work culture obsessive,” which is a good turn of a phrase. Your body of work seems to show it. On top of a pretty demanding job, you’ve put out a great podcast, Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat. You’ve got a book coming out. What do you mean by being work culture obsessive?

Bruce Daisley
Yeah, I think the interesting thing for me, I work at Twitter. I’m fortunate enough that when guests used to come to the London Twitter office from all around the world, almost without exception they’d say, “Wow, this is just an incredible office. We love the culture here.”

I had heard that previously. I used to run the UK team for YouTube at Google and all the time people used to either wander past my team or interact with my team. They’d say, “Wow, what a special team.” Unfortunately, I was misdirected into believing that that was down to a magical skill that I had.

I think a couple of years ago I became aware that maybe people at my work weren’t as motivated or as happy as they once were. I became obsessed not with sort of drawing on my own hunches about how culture is created, but more thinking, “I wonder how I could arm myself with evidence.” I think that’s the critical thing I’ve done really. With the passion of trying to work out how to improve work culture, I’ve set about trying to get evidence of how to do it.

In the course of the last couple years on my own podcast I’ve really just pestered and tracked down some of the people who’ve written the most interesting books that I’ve found.

I’ve been fortunate enough I think that when you contact someone who’s written a magical piece of research, something that’s just really fascinating and compelling and they’re not in the promotional time for it, they’re often very willing to talk. I’m so lucky to have got people who have written just some of the most fascinating books and got them to talk to me.

I guess, I’ve got a fascination in how to improve work and being evidence led on how to do that.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool. Very cool. I want to do dig into all sorts of fascinating bits of research. Maybe could you orient us right now? You are a vice president of Twitter for Europe, Middle East, and Africa. What does that mean or what does that entail in terms of your job and what are some of the practices that you’re seeing really make a big impact in terms of bringing about the joy of work?

Bruce Daisley
Yeah. It’s a good question. I think when you do an original job like mine, it goes without saying that I’m fortunate that I’ve got very, very capable people in all of the markets we operate in. I’ve got a formidable person working in Spain. I’ve just got an incredibly talented person working in the UK. My job really is to try and provide sort of bursts of energy for those people.

Someone contacted me today asking for some help with a contractual issue. Effectively, I guess, I’m someone that the leaders in those countries can call upon when they need additional support. I’m like a router really. I sort of direct energy and I direct resources when appropriate and try and stay out of the way when appropriate as well, so an interesting role.

I guess the principle thing I would say in terms of how I’ve learned about the joy of work from those countries, I think the thing that the UK is very similar to the US on is that increasingly more and more workers are sort of eating at our desks.

When you go and explain that to someone in France or someone in Spain, you say, “Guys, it’s really important we start trying to take lunch breaks,” they look at you very confused. They don’t really understand what on earth you’re talking about.

It’s because those cultures have really recognized, historically recognized, the importance of lunch breaks and the importance of the social magic that’s created in those interactions. Unfortunately, it’s the more Anglo-Saxon part of the world that’s economized on those things.

For me, it’s understanding work culture and understanding how to improve work culture as being a real excursion into understanding the different national cultures around the world and what we can learn from them.

Pete Mockaitis
I want to touch on that national piece there because the engagement data on workers in the UK is even worse by a pretty good margin than it is for workers in the US. Do you have a comment on what could be driving that there?

Bruce Daisley
Yeah. To give those figures – I think the engagement figures for US workers I think – all of us, if we looked at these numbers cold we’d say – I think the US engagement is 20-something percent. I can’t remember top of my head. The figure for UK workers is 8%. 8% of British workers feel that they are actively engaged in their job.

The only solace that I can provide to the British is that the lowest in the world is actually the French. According to the Gallup survey, the Gallup workforce survey, 3% of French workers are actively engaged in their job.

Pete Mockaitis
Even with the lunch breaks?

Bruce Daisley
I know. How bad. There’s certainly a global crisis of engagement. We seek so much of our own identity from our jobs. If you look at the evidence, people who do jobs are happier, they live longer, they feel more fulfilled in life, then those who don’t do jobs.

Jobs play a really important part in our self-esteem, but quite often they’re not set up correctly, they’re not focused on us achieving things in the way that we would most like, so we end up becoming slightly disengaged or sometimes very actively disengaged in the jobs that we do.

Pete Mockaitis
Right and I’m curious from your observations across countries, are there particular mindsets or policies? I wondered if it’s a little trickier – my understanding is in some European countries it’s trickier to say fire somebody. I think sometimes it’s trickier to find a job. Is that fair to say as compared to the US?

Bruce Daisley
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
I wonder if that had a role with it with regard to finding fit. It’s a little bit of obstacles there. Do you think it’s a factor or what’s behind it?

Bruce Daisley
Yeah, I think – I wouldn’t necessarily say that those things have a direct impact on how engaged people are in their jobs, so you see – you do see a variance across Europe and you do see – it’s not necessarily that when it’s hire-at-will and fire-at-will that workers are more engaged.

There’s definitely cultural factors that play a part. There’s definitely elements in the job that play a part. Some cultures historically have been more hierarchical. Some national cultures have been more hierarchical.

When you look at workers, one of the key factors in people being engaged in work is the ability to speak up to the boss. It’s sometimes called psychological safety. The ability to put your hand up and say, “I don’t think this is right,” when you see something that appears to me maybe slightly against our expectations. The willingness to speak up to the boss is one of the most powerful indicators of workplace culture.

There are definitely some cultures that are more hierarchical. Some cultures where speaking up to the boss is really frowned upon. Definitely that plays a part. There are significant cultural differences between different countries.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. You unpack some of this in your book, The Joy of Work. What would you say is the main idea or thesis there?

Bruce Daisley
I split it into three parts. The fundamental part for me was when I was setting out on my own process of discovery I was interested in finding evidence about how we could bring some of the work that’s being done by experts into the world of work.

There’s no shortage of psychologists, anthropologists, people who’ve studied neuroscience, who’ve given us indications of better ways to be working. The challenge for me was that a lot of that evidence wasn’t reaching the workplace.

I split the book into three parts. The first part is just to try and restore us to a position of a more balanced equilibrium. I think it’s fair to say that the stats suggest that half of all office workers report feeling burnt out, but that’s also common to nurses, that’s also common teachers. The state of feeling burnt out by our jobs, by feeling exhausted by the amount we’re working is becoming increasingly ubiquitous; half of all of us feel it at any point.

The first part of the book is really just very simple ways to try and restore our equilibrium. I call that section in the book Recharge. Some of the sections there are often really small interventions. I’ll give you one example. One of the most effective things that anyone can do to feel less overwhelmed by their job is to turn notifications off on their phone.

Pete Mockaitis
Just like that.

Bruce Daisley
This is a really strange one. Because when you tell people that this is one of your interventions, they often look at me thinking, “Okay, this book’s going to be really trivial.” But let me give you the evidence on that one.

Half of all people – this was done by someone working at a mobile phone company of all things. He’s working at Telefonica, a European cellphone company. He was trying to get people to turn their notifications off for a week. He couldn’t get enough people to do it. He said, “Okay, if not a week, will you turn your notifications off for a day.”

To just give you an indication of how powerful this is, two years after he did that intervention, half of all the people who made that decision to turn their notifications off, still had them turned off.

Pete Mockaitis
One day.

Bruce Daisley
One day, two years. People when they try this they say, “You know what? I was just able to get a bit of calm back to my life. I was able to not keep checking that email icon that kept popping up. Black Friday offers or whatever it was that was drawing me back there. I was given a bit of head space.” Half of all people who did that still had it turned off.

Consequently, with that in mind, as soon as you realize you can improve work with lots of little hacks, with lots of little changes, then it becomes an exercise in finding what are the other hacks.


One of the other things that I found that was fascinating for creativity. When we look at creativity, there’s many different ways to categorize the brain, but one of the most common systems is that scientists talk about the salience network, the executive attention network and the third one, the one I’ll talk about, is the default network. These three networks sort of operate across the whole of your brain, but they do different functions.

The default network is this fabulous part of the brain which is – it tends to be where we dwell when we’re daydreaming. It’s all where thoughts organize themselves and bounce around, but often when you say to people, “When did that idea come to you?” it’s at a time when the default network is running our brains.

I’ll give you an illustration. Often people say, “Oh, had a good idea while I was in the shower,” “Had a good idea while I was going for a walk.” That’s not uncommon because that’s the time the default network is daydreaming and allowing little thoughts to interact with each other, to bounce off each other.

As soon as you know that, as soon as you know that creativity comes from the default network, you start thinking of what are the ways to activate that? One of the most powerful ways to activate the default network is to go for a walk.

If you’re trying to brainstorm, if you’re trying to get ideas down on a piece of paper, then often we find ourselves stranded in a lifeless sort of pretty dull meeting room often frowning into our laptops, or frowning onto a white board. Actually one of the most powerful things you can do is go for a walk. 81% of people saw an increase in ideas. Their ideas went up two-thirds when they did that. It’s a really powerful thing.

But the default network can be activated in so many different ways. My favorite example of the default network is the guy who wrote The West Wing TV show, he also wrote The Social Network film, a guy called Aaron Sorkin. He stumbled upon this. No one told him this, but he stumbled upon the idea that his best ideas came to him when he was in the shower. As a result of that, he had a shower installed in his office.

In a sort of fabulous interview – he was interviewed I think by Hollywood Reporter and he was asked about his habit for showers. He takes eight showers a day. He takes eight showers a day. He was asked about this. He said, “It’s not that I’m obsessively clean. That’s not why I’m doing it. I’m doing it because the sense of freethinking, the sense of sort of free association I have in the shower just gets me past any road blocking, gets me past any sense that I’m stranded in my thinking.”

For me, as soon as you understand that, you start thinking, right, then when am I allowing my default network to play and to create? The answer quite often is pretty infrequently. We fill our day with meetings, with emails. We’re not giving ourselves time to think and dream.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I love that example in that it’s sort of an extreme action. It’s like, “Hey, I’ve made this observation and it’s really working for me, so we’re going to go all in. Install the shower. Do it eight times a day.” That’s such a cool example.

Bruce Daisley
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
I want to dig into that notifications a bit. Not to get too nitty-gritty, but let’s talk it. Now the key thing about the notifications is simply the beeps and buzzes from our phone or is it everything. Don’t pop up on my phone screen visually. Don’t give me red badges. Is it sort of like all notifications or just the ones that can interrupt you from other stuff?

Bruce Daisley
Yeah, it’s all of them, all of them. But what I will say, Pete, it gives you a real mental availability. My own experience at doing this of all the interventions, there’s 30 interventions in my book, which unfortunately it’s not being published in the US for another 12 months. But there’s 30 interventions in my book and I’ve tried all of them out.

But this one is you have to turn off all notifications. You turn off the number that sits on that email app. You turn off the thing that slides down on your screen. What happens is that I find myself in the morning and I go through that routine that we’ve all become accustomed to, which is you wake up, you check your message apps, you check your social apps.

Then it used to be that I always checked my email and increasingly now I forget to check email. I’ll find myself heading out on my journey to work and then an hour into my journey to work or just as I’m arriving at my office door, I think “Oh, I haven’t checked email.”

To me it’s incredibly liberating because often that sense when you’re checking email but before you get to the office, it either disrupts your morning commute and you find yourself trying to answer something badly at the kitchen table or it sort of creates a sense of sort of claustrophobia that you want to answer it but you don’t have time.

Of all the interventions, as I said, this is the most powerful one. It’s just an illustration I think that we can push back against the demands of work. We often feel helpless in the face of work, but this gives us scope to really push back and try and feel more refreshed, feel more recharged really.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really cool. I like that term claustrophobia in terms of right now it’s sort of got a piece of you in term of your mental attention. It’s there. It’s like, “Oh I want to reply to that. I can’t right now. What will I say? Maybe this.” Now your brain is consumed with that and you’re sort of short changing your opportunity in the default system mode of transportation zoning out to get those creative ideas.

Bruce Daisley
Yeah, absolutely, absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
You said 30 interventions, so I know we won’t have time to hit all 30, but if I may invoke perhaps the 80/20 rule. If 6 of them are yielding 80% of the value, can you give us what are the other half?

Bruce Daisley
The first 12 are all these recharges. Then probably the bit of the book that I found most fascinating when I was researching and it was something that the more I researched it, the more I became addicted and compelled to the science of it was this idea of human sync, this idea of human synchronization. The science of this is remarkable.

If you put a group o as soon as you realize you can improve work with lots of little hacks, with lots of little changes, then it becomes an exercise in finding what are the other hacks. f people who are strangers singing together in a choir, you observe that their endurance, their fortitude goes up. I’ll explain to you how in a second. When you put rowers together and you get them to row in time with each other, their fortitude and their endurance goes up. They become more than the sum of their parts remarkably. It’s choirs, rowers. When you put people together who dance, you see the same.

When I mention the fortitude, that’s one thing that scientists have found. They find it very difficult to measure the endorphin levels in people, but they find it very easy to measure the consequence of those endorphins. What they often do – and it sounds a touch callous – but they inflict pain upon people.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Bruce Daisley
Scientists, they tend to put these armbands around people’s arms, sort of things like what you might have worn or taught a child to swim in. But if you imagine you keep inflating those armbands until it starts creating a bit of pain on the arm of the subject.

What they found was that people who had rowed in time with each other could withstand twice the amount of pain of people who just rowed on their own. People who danced together, withstand more pain than people who’ve not danced together. People-

Pete Mockaitis
Now is this while they’re rowing and while they’re dancing or sort of at a resting state?

Bruce Daisley
Yes. No, so immediately when they stop, they can withstand the pain. It creates this magical thing. It’s really interesting. When we’re thinking about teams, the choir is a perfect example. You put strangers together and you get them to sing together and actually when you look at the evidence afterwards, they often say, “I feel a connection to the person I sung with,” even when that person was a stranger ten minutes before.

It has this remarkable quality. As soon as you understand that there is something about us being in sync with others that seems to develop this sort of fortitude, it seems to develop this connection, then you start thinking okay, are there other ways that we can access this. There are.

One of the most compelling bits of science about sync I’ve seen is scientists took about 4,000 unmarried couples who were living in a distant relationship. They were maybe sort of – one was in the West coast, one was in the East coast.

Pete Mockaitis
These are like romantic relationships?

Bruce Daisley
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
So distance. Okay.

Bruce Daisley
That’s right. They tried to understand which of these couples stayed together. What they found was the couples that stayed together over the period of time that they were being observed had one thing in common. It was the ones who phoned each other every day to talk about trivial things.

When we have this human sync, when we take time to get in sync with each other and that often is conversation, but clearly the most magical form is this physical interaction, but we can observe it. The couples who spoke together every day, their relationships were more enduring.

We see lots of examples of this. One of the other bits that you see in this … is that there’s a wonderful researcher who’s looked at a lot of this work, a guy called Robin Dunbar. Robin Dunbar, he looked at animals and he observed that one of the ways that animals get in sync with each other is they do mutual grooming. It’s no longer acceptable Pete, unfortunately for me to stop and pick fleas off of you.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m just thinking I’ve got a great hairbrush, just come on over.

Bruce Daisley
Maybe this is why we see teenage girls do this. We see the endorphin levels rocket through the roof when animals spend time in mutual grooming. However, he said they observed exactly the same behavior when humans laugh together, which is really interesting.

You’ve got this phenomenon of human sync. Chat activates it. Spending time around in synchronized activities with others activates it, but also laughing with others activates it. The consequence of sync is that it tends to make us more bonded with the people we’re working with. It tends to make us have a greater allegiance with the people we’re working with.

Anyone who’s thinking about how to make work better, thinking about how you can build some maybe sort of collective laughter into the working environment is a really important thing.

Of course, strangely a lot of us have stumbled upon that through our own experience. We’ve maybe been in companies where the company meeting at the end of the week, there was always a guy who stood up and made everyone laugh. That place seemed better than this place, but we couldn’t put our finger on why.

I think this for me is a good piece of science that says, as human beings we shouldn’t be ashamed of finding benefit in some of these things like laughter. We shouldn’t be ashamed in feeling more connected to our teammates when we spend time laughing with them.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really cool. That just gets me thinking in terms of how to get that laughter going. I remember one time I was in an office and we had just a little fun event in which everyone – well, you might dig this, former YouTube – everyone was to bring one of their favorite YouTube videos. We just sort of hung out. That’s what we did. There was maybe 20 people. Each person brought a YouTube video they thought was great and we all just laughed together. It was a whole lot of fun.

Bruce Daisley
Well, one of the best books on laughter is by a scientist called Robert Provine. Robert Provine said – it was a really interesting thing – he said even though I think there’s somewhere in the region of 70,000 scientific papers, so peered-reviewed papers into pain, there’s less than 100 scientific reviewed papers into laughter. Scientists often feel it’s a bit frivolous to investigate laughter.

He decided that he was going to do one of the biggest pieces of research into laughter. He pulled together all of everyone else’s research. Here’s what he found.

He found laughter quite often in an office – so I’ve talked there about optimizing an office for laughter – but he said often in an office, laughter is around things that aren’t necessarily the funniest things in the world. We often find ourselves laughing with colleagues at things that wouldn’t necessarily get on their own Netflix special.

But he said in many ways laughter, the way he describes it, is in many ways, laughter is like a human’s bird song. It’s like the sound we make to feel connected to each other.

Actually one of the things that laughter signals – there’s a wonderful bit of science that if you look at how animals play, one thing that dogs do is they often do a thing where they lean forward on their front two legs, sort of very similar to the yoga position, the downward dog.

Scientists who look at that say that that signals that no harm will pass here, that dogs know that if they lean forward on their front two legs, that even if they look like they’re about to bite each other, they know that it’s a signal that things are safe. One scientist said to me that laughter signals the same for humans. We laugh to signal we’re all friends here. This is just – we’re connected with each other.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so good. This is bringing me back to my days at consulting at Bain and one of their best – the best lines in their recruiting materials – I think they’re still using it is “We laugh a lot,” which was true.

Then one of my favorite sort of events we had, they called it the Bain Band in which people would change the lyrics of popular songs to reflect sort of the dorky nuances of the consulting experience, so
Time After Time would be Slide After Slide. It wasn’t super hilarious, but it was your colleagues that you recognized up there being kind of silly on stage. You just sort of laugh a little bit like, “Oh yeah, that’s our life, slide after slide, ha, ha, ha.”

It had such a powerful bonding effect. I remember we would all rush to get with our favorite colleagues and have chairs next to each other. If someone was going to the bar for a drink, nobody wanted to leave their seats, “Oh get me one,” “Oh get me one,” “Oh get me one,” someone’s coming back with seven drinks in their hand somehow. Yeah.

Bruce Daisley
Isn’t it interesting though that so often and especially when times are difficult, so let’s imagine the last few years have been difficult for a lot of businesses, that one of the things that you know there from your own subjective experience backed up by the science that I’ve done is that laughter made you feel connected and made you probably in truth, want to work harder for the people around you.

But when times are hard, we find ourselves saying, “Now is not the time for laughter. Don’t let the bosses see you laughing in the office.” We often have this idea that somehow laughter is frivolous, somehow unnecessary. It’s a distraction from the job rather than it’s forging a link with us and the colleagues we work with that’s going to make us do our best work.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. That is good. Boy, just keep them coming Bruce. Laughter, any other big ones you want to share?

Bruce Daisley
Yeah. For me that was so fascinating because the idea of laughter. But I think probably the one that’s been most talked about in the last few years is the idea of psychological safety. This is the idea, I think I mentioned earlier that the willingness to speak up to the boss. I was really interested.

I met a member of the equivalent of the Navy SEALS, a member of the special forces in the United Kingdom. He told me about their tactic of reaching this. Psychologically safety is this immensely difficult thing to achieve.

When teams feel willingness to speak up to the boss, what you tend to find is it produces a fluidity of discourse. It ensures that you don’t end up in a situation where the whole of the company knows that something’s bad but the bosses are asking them to do it.

If you look back at some of the recent memorable corporate failures, Nokia was famous for it had a culture where people were instructed if they couldn’t be positive, don’t do anything. As a result of that, when they were faced with the iPhone arriving and people starting to question whether their smartphone was good enough, the people who had dissenting voices and maybe wanted to speak up were really clearly told don’t speak up. This is not the time – there’s no value in speaking up.

I think what we’ve learned is the businesses where they can encourage this psychological safety are incredibly powerful. This is when the conversation I had with a member of the elite military came in.

He told me a really simple thing, which was they have a daily debrief. They have a – at the end of every interaction when they’re out in the field, this is the combat field – maybe they’ve just been on a deployment in Afghanistan or in some sort of war-torn part of Iraq or wherever. He said at the end of every day they have a quick standup. They all gather around. He said it should take no more than 10 – 15 minutes. It’s while we’re still in our combat clothes.

He said the way it works is that he describes what happens that day and then he will say what he did wrong or what he felt he could have done better. Then he invites everyone else to discuss what happened that day. The very act of a leader saying, “Here’s what I did wrong,” and demonstrating that they aren’t infallible, that they have got vulnerabilities is an incredibly powerful access point to everyone else doing the same.

Psychological safety is this really elusive quality. You see businesses talk about it increasingly. But I loved his simple access point for that because so often we come out of big meetings and we come out of interactions with – we come of big meetings or client interaction or we come out of a review and firstly we often gather the feedback a week later or we’re send an email round everyone saying, “That went well. Any thoughts?”

Of course you lose specificity in that because you lose the sense of people know that that one answer that one person gave that wasn’t right, you lose specificity. But by taking time afterwards and the leader being the first to step forward and say, “Here’s what I did wrong,” seems to give a really powerful access point to people feeling that they can share the same.

Again, these aren’t – I don’t think these are – they’re not going to be revolutions that are going to be patented by someone. They’re not going to be – on their own, they won’t transform a business. But the thing that was fascinating for me was following the evidence of what other people have done as an access point to improving the jobs that we do.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s fantastic. Particularly when you think about military in which rank is just so clear and you think that you need to be strong and to be a tough leader who’s being entrusted with people’s lives. If they can do it, anyone can do it.

Bruce Daisley
Right. He told me a fascinating thing. He said to me the biggest mistake that anyone makes about the military is thinking that we give orders all day long. He said the decision making is often far more consensual than you think because if we found ourselves just giving instructions that were unwelcome, it would be a failure of leadership.

That was a real revelation to me. We’ve got this idea that soldiers are just given marching orders and told where to go. He said, “No, far from it.” They very much regard themselves as people who are studying and learning from the world of work and wanting to improve upon it. For me it was just a revelation to speak with someone who had that experience.

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

Bruce Daisley
Yeah, look, probably the one thing I will say is that the overwhelming debate right now in the world of work is the amount we work. There’s been certainly a contribution to this discussion this year by Elon Musk. I think he doesn’t make the best poster child for the 120-hour work week.

But Elon Musk has a couple of times this year said he works 120 hours a week and that he feels that nothing good can be accomplished at less than 80 – well, he said 40 hours is not enough to work and he feels that you need to work 80 hours a week to achieve anything.

I think the wonderful thing about that is that there’s no evidence for it at all. In fact, when you actually invite people to make evidence and to gather evidence on these things, you see that either we’re lying to ourselves, that we’re not working 80 hours, we’re – but we’re working 40 hours distributed across a week.

I was chatting to an investment banker today. She was telling me that she used to leave the office at 10 PM every night, maybe 11, sometimes 12. I said to her, “Wow, was it relentless all day?” She said, “No, no, no, no. It was the culture though that you didn’t leave till 10. There were times when we weren’t working especially hard.” She said, “There was a lot of time for downtime and laughter, but the culture was you didn’t work – you didn’t leave till 10 PM.”

Sometimes work is the lie we tell ourselves. We’re not being honest with ourselves. The wonderful thing is the more you look at the evidence – there was some fabulous evidence that I found – that really the most that the human brain can really work and what most of us work with our brains is around 55 hours a week. After that the marginal gains for each hour actually are negative. When we work 70 hours a week, we actually achieve significantly less than when we work 40 hours a week.

As soon as you identify that science, as soon as you realize that that’s the case, you start thinking, “Okay, well, maybe my objective should be to work 40 good hours a week to be energized, but to value my rest as much as my work.” For me that’s the path to enlightenment here.

If we can start thinking rather than doing 70 exhausted hours a week, let’s do 40 good hours a week and that’s a good week’s work. Or less. If people want to work less, then by all means. But I think the more that we can get balanced, it’s going to help us achieve greater creativity.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m right with you there. All right, so now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Bruce Daisley
Yeah. This is a quotation that’s from – they often say, certainly in the UK, they often say that all quotes ultimately are attributed to Winston Churchill. If you say something, people will say, “Yeah, originally that was a Churchill quote.” This similarly, albeit that this is the mantra of the UK team, the cycling team. One of the most – I often don’t use sporting metaphors, but it’s one of the most accomplished transformations over the last 30 years, the medals that the UK cycling team has won.

But their mantra is this, their mantra is “Never stand when you can sit. Never sit when you can lie down.” What they mean by that is effectively, preserve your energy because energy is finite. Use your energy when you’re ready for your most important action. Don’t waste it. Don’t waste it on trivial moments.

For me, as soon as you think about that – there’s a similar quotation about our brains. It was in a book by a guy called Daniel Levitin a couple of years ago, about three years ago. I can almost remember this quote verbatim. He said, “Our brains are configured to make a certain number of decisions every day. Once we each that number, we’re unable to make any more irrespective of how important they are.” Right.

That’s a game changer for me because – the science behind that if anyone wants to look into it is called ego depletion. But as soon as you realize, okay, so me running around and working from seven in the  morning and doing all these things and reading all these papers and doing this then going to this meeting, then answering all these emails, it’s zero sum. You reach a stage in the day where you brain can no longer do any more.

As soon as you realize that then that cycling team mantra becomes really important. “Never stand when you can sit. Never sit when you can lie down.” If we’re going to achieve the most we can achieve in work, it’s not by working longer and harder, it’s by using that finite gunpowder we’re got in our brain for the most important uses of it.

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect. Thank you. How about a favorite book?

Bruce Daisley
Yeah, it changes for me all of the time. I loved – there’s a wonderful book by a professor from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology called Sandy Pentland. He’s called Sandy Pentland. The book is called Social Physics.

He took some badges, sort of like the name badges we might wear around our necks to get into most offices and he turned them into sort of microcomputers. Then he used those badges to start tracking the interactions that happened in offices. I have to tell you, when I read this book, I was blown away by it because it starts telling you the truth about what goes on in offices. Honestly, I sat there like this is like magic.

What he found was emails contribute about 2% of the output to offices. Meetings account for about the same. Most important thing that contributes to what goes on in offices is face-to-face chat, is face-to-face discussion accounts for two-fifths of everything that’s achieved in an office.

Probably, Pete, you’ve witnessed that there’s less chat going on in offices these days. People are busier than ever before. They often put on headphones as a way to cope with an office, an open plan office. People are doing – they’re finding less time for chat. I think for me seeing evidence and he built up the biggest amount of data of face-to-face interactions in offices ever. He was able to track this. It became just – it was eye opening for me what we were able to learn from it.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Thank you. How about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Bruce Daisley
Yeah. That’s a very good question. It’s certainly not – I love Twitter. I work at Twitter, obviously I love it. First and foremost, I used it. Probably the thing that I find has transformed the world of learning more than anything else though is my Audible app. I love Audible. I’m a keen runner. For me listening – sometimes I’m listening to a novel at the moment, which is such a wonderful palette cleanser, but listening to the latest book, for me it’s just a revelation.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Bruce Daisley
I think probably the most important habit that any of us can have is to try and get as much sleep as possible and I try to get seven and a half hours of sleep a night. Normally with good success, but I’m not 100% sure that the sleep is always the highest quality, but that’s what I try to do.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks and they retweet often?

Bruce Daisley
Yeah, the thing for me is that some of the things that I’ve mentioned here to some extent this day in modern work is that we all feel guilty about work. We go home with 40 emails in our inbox. We didn’t get back to that person. We didn’t do this.

For me, the biggest learning that I’ve had this year is that all of the science suggests that creativity is destroyed by stress. As creativity is going to increasingly be the most important asset in our toolbox for managing the world of work, then we need to recognize that stress kills creativity. Focusing on that all the time will help us achieve more in our jobs.

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

Bruce Daisley
Yeah, they can – I always welcome people hitting me up on LinkedIn. I’m very willing for people to connect with me there. I’ve also got social media, so you can find me on Twitter at BruceDaisley or you can search for the podcast which is Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat.

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

Bruce Daisley
Yeah, I would say – the best thing I would say is take another look at the way that you’re working. I found that quite often I felt that I was the exception. We all think we’re the exception. You hear that the most that humans can work is 55 hours and your first response is “Not me. I can work longer than that.” I found when confronted with all this data, I did exactly what everyone else did. I argued with it.

Then I found myself on a Monday night sitting at the kitchen table, emailing at half past nine. I thought to myself, “What have you actually emailed in the last hour?” I hadn’t emailed. I’d reread one email four times. I’d gone and got myself another cup of tea. I changed the music three times. I hadn’t done an hour of work. However, what I’d done is I’d deprived myself of an hour’s rest. I think be honest with yourself about work. Work is the lie we tell ourselves quite often.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. Bruce, thank you so much for sharing this good stuff. It’s a shame that us Yankees have to wait an extra year for your book, but thanks for teasing so much goodies here. I’m really excited to put them into practice.

Bruce Daisley
Pleasure to talk to you Pete. Thank you so much.

345: The Simple Solution to Disengagement with Dr. Bob Nelson

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Dr. Bob Nelson reveals the drivers behind disengagement–and what to do about them.

 

You’ll Learn:

  1. Just how critical recognition is
  2. Key reasons managers don’t give more encouragement
  3. Five ways to reward employees at low or no cost

About Bob

Dr. Bob Nelson is a leading advocate for employee recognition and engagement worldwide and the only person who has done a PhD dissertation related to the topic. He has consulted for 80 percent of the Fortune 500 as well as presented on six continents.  He has sold 5 million books, including 1001 Ways to Reward Employees of which 1001 Ways to ENGAGE Employees is his latest. Dr. Bob has been featured extensively in the national and international media including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, CBS 60 Minutes, MSNBC, ABC, PBS and NPR about how best to motivate today’s employees.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Dr. Bob Nelson Interview Transcript

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

Dr. Bob Nelson
Pete, thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m so excited to dig into this chat in many ways, maybe 1,001 ways or reasons why I’m excited. First, not to be too self-serving, but I’m so curious, you have quite a sentence in your bio: 80% of the Fortune 500 has been one of your consulting clients. Wow. What’s the secret behind this?

Dr. Bob Nelson
Yeah. Have good services, good outreach and keep at it. I’ve been doing this 25 years. Along the way people see what you’re up to and they say, “We need help with that,” or “We want your message to go to all our leaders,” or some version of that.

It’s a lot of fun. I really love it, to be able to help someone, a company that maybe can’t see the forest for the trees and they’re in the middle of it and they’re being hammered by different vendors and they’re not sure – they lose their focus and I can help them get their bearings and go through the sea of choices and end up with really what they’re after.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. Not to turn this into a marketing podcast, but tell me about the consistent outreach part.

Dr. Bob Nelson
Oh, I think anyone knows that you have to keep at it for – regardless of how successful your business or your book or whatever you’re doing. I’m constantly promoting. Every time you speak, you’re promoting. Every time you’re consulting, you’re promoting. If you lose sight of that, then you’re going to hit a dry spot.

You hear about people, they’ve got a big consulting project for AT&T for three years and then that runs out and they’ve got no business. You’ve got to be constantly putting out lines. I believe that.

Another thing I believe that as a small business owner, I’ve got kind of a cottage industry in employee motivation and engagement, but within that there’s different strategies that you have to – you can’t just do one thing. You’ve got to be doing different things. I’m not sure – any given year I’ll do five or six major strategies. I’m not sure which ones will hit better, but two or three of them will and it will be – it will keep me busy and provide adequate funding.

I’m a believer in you’ve got to be promoting and you’ve got to be trying different things. You’ve got to be innovating because the market changes, tools change, technology changes. Now we have a whole new generation coming up, so they may not know the things that could help that – from people before them, from research that’s come before them. There’s a lot of – it doesn’t stay static. That’s makes it go a little bit exciting.

Pete Mockaitis
That is exciting. What I appreciate about that, and thanks for going there, is for our listeners who are not small business owners or marketing professionals, I was kind of inspired by what you said there in terms of you try five or six things a year, two or three of them hit. In other words, the minority or less than 50% by a slight margin. That’s just sort of encouraging in terms of trying stuff. Even super rock stars might miss more often than they hit.

Dr. Bob Nelson
Yeah. You talk to anyone that’s had success and there’s a certain element of luck in there, but as Mark Twain said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

I think that for any artist, for a record producer, a song producer, a book producer, you take your bestselling product – or for any company, if any – I was just talking with Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40. They’ve got a fantastic product. It’s a 500 million dollar company. They’re in 300 countries.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s all of them just about. That is more than is represented in the UN I believe. Impressive.

Dr. Bob Nelson
Okay. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’re right on that, but there’s – that was a – but they’re all over the globe. They – talking to them, they’re not resting on their laurels. They constantly, “What are we going to do new this year? What are we going to do-“ They’re using their tax refund to do more on social media.

It’s just you’re constantly refocusing. You’re constantly trying to maximize because we all have limited time, limited resources, limited marketing budgets, so what’s the best position. Because no matter what you do, you’ve got to be doing a little bit of experimenting all the time to test the waters for the next idea.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh cool. Thank you. Now I want to dig in a little bit. Your company is Nelson Motivation. You’ve got a book called 1,001 Ways to Engage Employees.

Dr. Bob Nelson
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
That is a lot of ways.

Dr. Bob Nelson
It is.

Pete Mockaitis
What’s kind of the main idea behind the book?

Dr. Bob Nelson
The main idea of 1,001 Ways to Engage Employees is the fact that we’re in a time where we need people engaged more than ever before, yet it’s at an all-time low. Since the field has come around in the last 20 years, essentially started by Gallup and their longitudinal research came up with what was called the Q12, 12, a dozen key variables that differentiate high performing companies from their average competitors.

Wow, great idea. They’re excellent at measuring engagement. This is the state of the field now that we have a good bead on it. We don’t have enough of it. We need more of it. It’s currently costing our country, our economy 420 billion dollars a year. Wow, bring it on. Although they’re good at measuring, they’re not so good at impacting it, at creating greater engagement.

I kind of looked at that and said, well, I don’t know much, but I know if 20 years into it we have the same number of engaged employees as 20 years ago, the same number of disengaged and actively disengaged employees, give or take one percent, then whatever we’re trying to do isn’t doing it.

I’m trying to bring a practical hands-on approach saying stop measuring and start doing it. Start focusing on the behaviors that gets you the results. This book is about-

Pete Mockaitis
…. Sorry, go ahead.

Dr. Bob Nelson
This book is about doing that. I took the research-based top ten variables, factors, if you will, that most impact employee engagement and systematically with each one of them I show the reader what it looks like through examples and practices currently being done by successful companies.

It’s just a book of practical positive wisdom that can help move the needle for your organization, whether you manage one person, a group, or have responsibility for the whole organization, you can start heading in the right direction where you can get better and better to have a more highly engaged workforce.

Pete Mockaitis
I’d love to dig into first the data piece for a moment. I – we talked about engagement a few times on the show. I’ve received more than 100 pitches from PR folk pointing to the crisis of low engagement.

Dr. Bob Nelson
There you go.

Pete Mockaitis
And how so-and-so would be a great person to talk to. You made it in though. You passed the gauntlet. But what you point out, which is kind of interesting from a historical context perspective, is you say, “Hold up now. Gallup’s been tracking this thing for 20 years and it’s been just about the same for all 20 years.”

Dr. Bob Nelson
Correct.

Pete Mockaitis
So this is not a new crisis that we are thinking about. It’s just sort of like the state of work for two decades.

Dr. Bob Nelson
Yeah. Well, it’s a little bit the emperor’s not wearing clothes. It’s sort of like, if you want to measure it again this year and compare it to last year and look at each other and say, “Well, it really hasn’t changed that much,” and flip the page and look at the next variable, then do it for the next ten years.

But if you really want to change what’s going on in your organization, where you start to impact the behaviors of your leaders that impact how employees feel about working there, you’ll start getting different results, a different buzz, a different excitement that will be contagious.

Let’s go down that path and do that. Do that for a year or two and then measure. You won’t need to measure. You’re be able to feel the difference of what’s happening.

My book is intent on trying to make that connection. Less talk, less measurement, more here’s what is working now for people trying to make it happen. Here’s the results they got. You can probably do this one too. Give it a try. Not every idea in the book is going to work for you, but if that one doesn’t, flip the page, here’s another one.

The book just came out and I just saw someone yesterday, a head of HR for a large high-tech Fortune 500 company. She just got the book. It was like five days ago. I saw her copy. It had dozens of Post-Its, and tabs, and paper clipped, and folded ears. I’m going, “Yes.”

Pete Mockaitis
There you go.

Dr. Bob Nelson
Yes. She’s in it. That’s – I write books that are meant to be used.

You can – I have managers that say, “Hey, I took your book I passed it around to my workgroup. I had people initial ideas they like in the margin. It doesn’t mean I have to do any of them, but if I want to do something to thank them, to engage them, to tap into their ideas – wow, here’s something that they checked themselves. I can make the connection a little bit easier.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah, that is handy. Kind of outsource a little bit of that decision making. Get that flowing.

Dr. Bob Nelson
Well, the best management is what you do with people, not what you do to them. I’m trying to share the techniques that you can be doing, not as a force people, not to surprise or trick them to working harder, but to say, “Hey, how would it feel around here if we – who feels we need to have more recognition?” If everyone says, “Oh no, we’re fine,” then forget about it, but I haven’t seen that happen yet.

Actually, if you’ve got any credibility with them, someone’s going to raise their hand and say, “Well, boss, I’ve just had it up to here with you telling me how good I am.” That’s not going to happen.

You’re going to find out about, “You’re quick to find mistakes. You’re kind of, truth be known, a little bit of a micromanager. You actually – through your behaviors you show that you don’t trust us. That’s why you get us very defensive trying to minimize our commitment, so we’re not the person that you find fault with.”

We’re spending more time KYA and protecting ourselves and emails to show that wasn’t our decision and stuff like that instead of tapping into improving processes and serving the clients and ideas for saving money.

It’s all around us. Which way – where do you want people focused? Well, if you want to lead the charge, you’ve got to start getting in front of them and catching them doing things right that are in line with the goals of your group, and the organization. That will naturally bring out more of that behavior.

The greatest management principle in the world is you get what you reward, what you thank someone for, what you inspect, what you acknowledge, what you incentivize-

Pete Mockaitis
Measure.

Dr. Bob Nelson
Which is the best way of telling them on the front end what you’ll do for them on the back end if you get the results you wanted. You do any form of that, you’re going to get more of that behavior. Not just from that person, but from other people that saw you do it or heard about it.

As you systematically send the message, “This is the type of thing that gets noticed around here. This is the type of thing that we’re talking about. The excitement about how Tony achieved the goals that we were after or the core value so important our company’s success.”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s a great lay of the land there. I’m curious in your example there, you sort of spoke from the vantage point of sort of an individual employee sort of sharing with manager, “Hey, here’s actually what’s up and what’s going awry.”

I’d love to get your take to speak to that person first. If we’re talking about an individual contributor, who’s feeling disengaged at work right now, what do you think that one individual should do when they find themselves surrounded by a vibe that is not so engaging?

Dr. Bob Nelson
Yes. Well, that’s a great question. It’s very on point because the forward for my book is done by Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, who’s the – considered the number one coach in the world. What he wrote about was who owns engagement.

It was fantastic because the way we have it – and again, going back to Gallup, if you ask people, “Are you getting enough recognition? Do you – are we giving you the skills you need? Do you have adequate authority? Are we doing the right things?” It’s very, very easy to say, “Mm, yeah, not really. Why don’t you work on that?”

You do some things. You come back. “Eh, it’s a little better, but work on it more. I’d like more money too.” They’re off the hook. Engagement needs to be owned by every employee.

If you’re not getting the recognition you feel you deserve, bring that up to your boss. Have a discussion in your group. Bring an idea for how we can start sharing praises to start our staff meeting.

I worked with ESPN and they had a manager that said, “Whenever we start a staff meeting we always start the same way. We start with listing, as a group, five things that are going well. Usually it’s pretty easy, but sometimes it’s not. We’re kind of struggling on some stuff. We still don’t skip that step until we name five things as a group because that’s our touchstone. That’s our homeroom that allows us to take on the next challenge.”

Or I worked last fall with NASA Johnson Space Systems in Houston, which is ranked the number one best place to work in federal government, by the way. Didn’t surprise me in the least because you could feel it walking into the place. You could see it on the walls, how people talked to each other. You could feel a culture that’s positive and people are engaged.

One of the things that they do that I loved is that whenever they have a manger meeting, here’s 20 managers and they always save, as is their custom, 10 minutes at the end of the meeting to go around the room and ask everyone to share something they’ve done to recognize someone on their team since we last have been together. Wow, ten minutes. They said you could just feel the energy and pride of the group rise.

They said they noticed something else that their leaders will take notes on each other’s ideas. “That’s a great one, Tony. I’m going to try that.” They’re constantly becoming better and better. They’re becoming – they’re a self-learning organization on the concepts that made them great to begin with. I love it. I love it.

There’s so many organizations that are kind of stuck in the mud and the problem is somewhere else’s and not theirs and everyone is pointing fingers at each other. It’s more of a blame game. You’ve got to get out of that – you’ve got to get out of that hole and start looking at the power of positive consequences and how to systematically bring them to bear in whatever you’re trying to achieve.

I’m talking a lot about what actually turns out to be, from the research, the number one variable that most impacts engaged employees: recognition. 56% of what causes engagement comes from people feeling valued, praised, thanked from their manager, from those they work with, from upper management, privately, publically, in writing, in emails, whatever.

It’s a constant. It’s a constant. It’s not something once at the end of the year at the Christmas party. It’s not, “Hey, I’ll praise you when I start seeing something worthy of it. Just assume that you’re doing a good job unless you do otherwise because I’m going to be all over you when you make a mistake.” That’s the natural tendency by management.

In fact, I worked with Ken Blanchard, who wrote The One-Minute Manager, for ten years. He used to say the leading style of management in America is – he called it ‘leave alone, zap.” We leave people. We don’t give them great direction or tools or support, but we let them have it when they make a mistake. We zap them and then we keep going back. We hardly ever use the tools that most drive, most pull the performance and those are the positive consequences, which are all around us every day.

I like opening people’s eyes to that. In my original 1,001 Ways book, 1,001 Ways to Reward Employees, I just had this epiphany that said this is the most proven principle of management. It’s easy to do the best forms of it. They have no cost.

I actually did my doctoral dissertation on a simple question: why don’t managers do this? I did a three-year study to try to … common sense notion, but common sense isn’t often common practice. As Voltaire said in the 17th century, so is the case today that the things that sound like common sense –

A lot of times I’ll talk to a group and I’ll say “The things I’m going to share with you, I know you can do. I’m not here to see – I already know that. That’s a given. I’m here to say, ‘Will you do them? How will you hold yourself accountable as an individual, as a member of the team, as an organization to this standard?’”

Now I worked with Disney organization for 15 years. To work there, they had a standard for leadership. They didn’t care how you were managed where you came from, what you bring with you in your own suitcase. “Yeah, yeah, that’s nice. Here’s how we manage here. If you want to be a manger, you’ve got to do these things.” Then they hire for it. They train for it. Then they evaluate leaders for it.

If someone doesn’t do it, they’ll call them out and say, “Hey, maybe you thought we were kidding about this or we’re just going through the motions, but we’re serious. You need to do these things. You need to be a visionary. You need to be supportive. You need to be a cheerleader. You need to be a career developer. Your job as a leader is to help other people be successful.”

Peter Drucker, my professor, defined the role of management as getting the work done through others, not doing – being a super worker and doing it yourself, not running yourself ragged, not chewing people out until they do it right, but getting the work done through them, which means helping them, which means showing them, which means encouraging them, counseling them, whatever it takes.

If we’re really stuck and we’re up against it, I’m going to take off my jacket and roll up my sleeves and dig in with you. We’re in this together. It’s wherever people are at, showing them what it looks like to get in the game.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. There’s so much I want to dig into there.

Dr. Bob Nelson
I know, you can ask me one question, I’ll talk for an hour.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Let’s-

Dr. Bob Nelson
I’ll try to keep it short.

Pete Mockaitis
I want to talk about – so recognition is the biggie.

Dr. Bob Nelson
Yes. ….

Pete Mockaitis
You spent three years studying why don’t managers do it. I want to hit that on from two angles. One, in fact why don’t managers do it? And two, again, if you are that individual contributor and you’re not getting it, how can you have that conversation? What’s sort of like the best practice or script or means of asking for it well so you don’t seem like, “Oh my gosh, what a whiney, needy, whatever person,” so to avoid that kind of reaction.

Dr. Bob Nelson
Okay. Well the 20-second survey on my three-year study is why managers don’t do it. Number one, they weren’t sure how to do it well. Number two they really didn’t believe it was that important as the research indicates. Number three, they didn’t feel they had time. Who has time to do things they don’t believe are important to begin with?

They didn’t feel anyone did it for them, so when they start getting it, they’ll start giving it. They’re afraid of leaving people out. They didn’t feel the organization supported it. The list kind of goes on, a whole list of really excuses where, “It’s not my job; it’s HR’s job or the CEO’s job or corporate’s, any of them but me.” That’s – there’s a lot of people, that can’t. No.

For those leaders that use recognition, there’s just one thing going on and that is to a person, the common denominator, they internalize the importance of doing recognition. They felt that as a leader of a group that they’re in charge of the motivational environment for the people that work for them, not the CEO, not HR, not corporate, but them. It’s their baby. They believe that they have to impact that.

Their beliefs they started – our behaviors follow our beliefs. Their beliefs are not “This is a waste of time. I’ve got better things to do.” They go, “This is the most important thing I need to do.” To be a leader, you are a person that is inspiring others. Everything else is mechanical. Anyone can do that. Not everyone could be a leader.

They believe that to the point where it impacted their behavior. They actively looked for opportunities to recognize people when they did a good job. Not just be nice, but contingent. When they did a good job, displayed the proper behavior, the core values, got the results, finished the project, whatever it is.

They’re constantly in their day scanning for that, when they’re reading, when they’re talking to people, when they’re in meetings, when they’re in the hallway.

Then when they hear or see something about a good job that was done, they act on that thought. They don’t make a mental note, “Oh Jerry did it again. He’s one of my best people.” They actually say something to Jerry or bring it up at the meeting or jot him a note or an email. They do something to connect back with the person that did the performance.

There you go. That’s the long and short of it. They try to do that every day. Not every person every day, but every day someone. That becomes part of their behavior – they’re behavioral repertoire, I like to say, of how they manage. They’re constantly on the lookout and acting to make the connection.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, cool. I like that notion that hey, every day there’s going to be some act of recognition. Your other book 1,501 Ways to Reward Employees, you’ve got many in mind. Can you share what have you found to be some of the most powerful and simple means of doing that, such as maybe the biggest bang for your buck recognition practices?

Dr. Bob Nelson
Sure, yes. Well, let me tell you and you’re going to love this because the most powerful forms of recognition and engagement for that matter, tend to be the things that have little or no cost.

When someone says, “We don’t have the money to motivate people here,” they’re assuming we’ve got to pay them more, we’ve got to throw a big party. Last year it was a buffet, so this year it’s got to be sit-down. They’re chasing this dream. Whatever they’re doing, they’re spending more and more money. Years of service awards. They’ll start doing stuff around people’s birthdays.

It’s like, no, that’s not where it’s at at all. Where it’s at is behavior. You’ve got to show people that they’re important to you through your actions and the things you say and do.

Number one on the list is a simple thank you, a simple praise. Be a leader that is quick to catch someone doing something right and to call them out for it in a positive way, one-on-one in front of others even when they’re not around, knowing that word will get back to them, etcetera.

Jot a note, send an email, text them on their cell phone, do a company announcement, call their mother and tell them what a great job their kid’s doing and thanks for bringing them up right. I know managers that have done that.

Let me tell you, there’s a lot of stuff like that “Oh, that sounds silly.” It’s not silly to the mother that got that call. The next conversation she had with her son or daughter, it wasn’t silly to him either. It made their month. It’s like, wow, what a cool thing to do. It’s not hard to tap into it. That whole recognition is a starting point.

Of course you can spend money. If you’re doing something, you can do something more. You can – a simple gift. I work with a company called Snappy Gifts that has just wonderful, unique products all under 20 bucks. You can’t get one and not be delighted by it because it’s just fun and it’s a celebration. On up to point programs and gift cards. A lot of companies do trips for top salespeople. That type of stuff.

There’s no lack of places where you can spend the money, but again, there isn’t – I haven’t found the correlation between the amount of money that is spent and the amount of motivation and engagement that’s going on.

My advice is to start the foundation be the behaviors that are most critical and then you can layer on other stuff as someone really goes above and beyond. That’s number one.

The other things that are truly engaging, again, all no cost, ask people for their ideas and opinions. If they’ve got a good one, give them permission to pursue it. It’s called autonomy. Give them the resources to make it. See if you can help them do it. See if anyone else wants to help them do it.

Having two-way communication is a big one, talked about in the book extensively. If you’re making a decision, involve the people that work for you in that decision, especially those that are going to be impacted by it.

Again, feels like common sense, but a lot of managers, “Oh, I’m the person in charge. I’m the decision maker here.” Yeah, yeah, yeah. Even say that, “You’ve got to make the final decision. That’s your responsibility. But you know what would be a better decision, if you get impact from your team. That’s why you wanted to ask”

In that simple action of doing it, you’re showing trust and respect. You’re being open. Wow, that’s the type of person everyone wants to work for, that is walking the talk of treating them as a partner on the team, not as a replaceable body.

If someone makes a mistake, already said the natural tendency is for people to jump all over them, embarrass them in front of their peers, prove that you’re the smartest person in the room. Bravo, bravo. They’re getting their resume ready because they can’t take it anymore.

But try this instead. The next time someone makes a mistake, take a breath, take a step back and say, “I don’t think I would have done the same thing, but what did you learn from that? That could be the best training we had for you all year. I’m glad you made that mistake.” Wow.

That manager through his actions is saying there’s something more important going on than something that happened in the last ten minutes or the last day. We have a long-term relationship. You’re important to me. I’m important to you and I hope that’s going to be true for years to come. I’m not going to dump all over you here because you did something wrong. I make mistakes too. Everyone does.

In fact, if you’re not making enough mistakes, you’re not pushing the fold enough. You’re not – it’s a little bit too safe. You’ve got to stretch. You’ve got to try things new. You’ve got to experiment. You’ve got to do something you’ve never done before.

Sometimes that idea can come from the newest person on the team, the person that isn’t biased by all the policies we have and how we’ve been doing it for years and “I’m just wondering, why don’t we try this?” Well, you take that person, new person, any person and you say, “Well, Sally, let me tell you why we don’t do that. We tried it two years ago. It didn’t work. It won’t work now.” “Oh, okay, I’m sorry. Sorry for – it won’t happen again.”

Pete Mockaitis
Don’t you worry. I won’t speak after sharing the ideas.

Dr. Bob Nelson
Right. We’re done. Now she’s going to check her brains at the door. How about saying, “Well Sally, that’s an interesting idea. Why don’t you check into that and see what you come up with?” What did that cost you?

Now because who’s got more energy for an idea than the person who came up with it to begin with. Now Sally may come at it differently than the last person that tried it two years ago. She might do an internet search. She might check with a dozen friends at other companies, “How do you guys handle this?” Who knows what she’s going to do? But she might come back and from her energy and her research do something that does work.

I was working with Johnsonville Food, the maker of great brats up in Wisconsin. They’re CEO, Ralph Stayer, told me that he had his admin once say, “Mr. Stayer” this was back a few years ago. She said, “We have such a great products. I’ve always wondered why we don’t market those more online.”

He said, his inclination to say, “Well, Betty, that’s why upper management is paid the big money. We make those decisions,” but he didn’t say that. He caught himself and said, “Betty, check into that. See what you come up with.”

Fast-forward 18 months later, now Betty, formerly an admin, is now running a new division on online sales, one and a half million dollar product line and growing much larger since then because she had the wherewithal and the support to make it happen.

Every company has that possibility. Every employee, I go so far as to say, every employee’s got a 50,000 dollar idea if you can find a way to get it out. It’s not by shutting them down. It’s not by saying, “Well, that’s not – that’s only a 10 dollar idea. We’re looking for the 50,000 dollar idea.”

Well to get that one or the five million dollar idea, you’ve got to develop a process, which means you’ve got to look for any ideas and acknowledge people for submitting those even if it’s not one we’re going to do or can do. But “I like the way you think. I’m looking for more from you.” Game on because they’re going to come up with them.

Let’s help them. Let’s help everyone on this. Someone in accounting, do a bag lunch next Tuesday, talk about cost-benefit analysis. Whoever wants to learn more about sizing up their ideas, come to the cafeteria. We’re doing a brown bag lunch. Give them the support and tools along the way.

I worked at a company in Connecticut, Boardroom Inc. They have five of the six largest newsletters in the country. They do these large books, hardcover books. They do a thing called ‘I power,’ where they ask every employee, every employee, to turn in two ideas every week.

Well, I talked to …. “Could you do that with your employees, your team, your …?” “Well, of course you can.” “How about next week? Can you do it again?” “Yeah, maybe.” “How about the week after that?” Well, how many ideas can someone have?

This company’s been doing this for 17 years. They ask every employee to turn in two new ideas every week about how can we be better, how can we improve process, how we can save money, how we can delight the customer, how we can get new business. It’s all around us every day. Allow people to grab on and run with it. That’s just one example.

I was there. They got a recent idea they got from the one guy, a shipping clerk, hourly paid employee, one of his two ideas one week was that he said, “Next time, this book we got, this big book that we ship, next time we get it printed by the printer, if we can trim the page size,” he calculated a 16th of an inch, “you’ll fall under the next postal rate. I think we’ll save some money in shipping.”

The CEO said well they looked at. He’s right. They cut up a book and he’s right. They made that one simple change, in the first year alone they saved a half million dollars in shipping costs because of that idea. Their chairman-

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. The 13 ounce threshold, I know it well. It makes a world of difference.

Dr. Bob Nelson
There you go. There you go. The CEO, Marty Edelston, he told me, he said, “Bob, I’ve worked in direct mail for 27 years. I didn’t even know there was a fourth-class postal rate.” But to the kid that’s looking at the chart day in and day out, he knew it. If we could tap into what he sees and what ideas he has, that’s the power.

Doing that simple thing. These are simple concepts, but doing it well. They had a couple false starts and they kept at it. They were able to increase their revenues fivefold in three years just by tapping into the power of ideas from their own employees. There you go.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. Thank you. Tell me, Bob, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Dr. Bob Nelson
Lay it on me.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. How about a favorite quote?

Dr. Bob Nelson
Favorite quote. One of my favorite – I’ve got a lot of favorite quotes. One of them is from Bill Hewlett, cofounder of Hewlett Packer, he said “Men and women want to do a good job, a creative job and if they provided the right environment, they will do so.”

I love that quote because just in one sentence it says where we’ve come from, where we are, where we’re headed today. For the longest time managing in our country was basically telling people what to do. My way or the highway. I’m the person in charge. You take orders; I give them. We don’t need any creative thinking here. We don’t need your – that doesn’t work today.

Today we need everyone in the game because things are changing, environments are changing, competition is changing. Your competitors now might be from Thailand or from a different state. You’ve got to be on the game, which means everyone on it. That’s a keeper.

I want to go back to the other question. I think you’ve asked me twice and I haven’t answered. That is what can an individual employee do if these things – if they’re in a place where these things aren’t happening. My advice on that is to bring it up to your immediate manager and to make the case for it. Even if it’s like recognition that might sound like “I want my own horn tooted.”

I’ve had people tell me that they’ve talked to their boss said, “We’re doing a lot. I love working here. I love working for you. I’d be able to do it better and do more for you if you could tell me when I especially did something well because then I’ll know what to do more of and then – yeah, I could do that boss,” and start doing that. Sure enough, her performance rose accordingly.

It’s – tell them we’re in it together. You can be the employee that shares this with your boss or with the team. Say “I heard this interview, I read this book. It sounded like something that could resonate with us. Could we try some of these things?”

That’s how you get in the game and have the – all work – that same … in Ralph Stayer. He had a quote. He said basically all we’ve got is conversations. Let’s start to impact those conversations. Let’s start having different conversations and not ones where we’re complaining and griping about management and politicking.

Let’s talk about things that are working, and things that we’re excited to be a part of, and what’s in store for us for the future, and how much fun we’re going to have getting there. That all becomes very contagious.

If you’re working in a place where it’s very cynical and it’s negative and everyone’s kind of dragging into work and waiting for Friday and fortunately the commute isn’t too bad, you can shake it up. Anyone can shake it up. I’ve worked with companies that one person, not the CEO, grabbing hold, was able to change a culture.

True story. I was speaking in Seattle to 800 people. Five weeks later I was back and I look at the crowd I go – this woman in the first row I go, “You look really familiar.” She goes, “Yeah, yeah. I heard you speak five weeks ago. I wanted to come back and tell you what happened.” I was like, “Well, what happened?” She goes, “Well-“ she described what she did and it was fun because I said, “Well, what did you-“

She said, “I started using the stuff you talked about. I started doing more recognition with my group.” Oh, she said, “I left with seven pages of notes and one intention. I said I’m not going back and asking permission. I’m going back and doing this.” That’s what she did. She did it in her workgroup.

I go, “Well, like what? What did you do?” She said, “Well, we’re in downtown Seattle. We did a picnic up on the roof. That was kind of fun to celebrate something. We did a barter for meeting space for the company on the next block that had a limo company that didn’t have any meeting space. We let them use our meeting space and they gave us free limo rides that we give people for different things.”

Just on and on and on. Just went for it. As a result, she said a noticeable difference in her group: energized, fun, excited, to the point where other managers are saying, “Hey, what are you doing over there. You people are-“ “Well, hey, come to the next meeting. We’re not trying to hide anything. We’re making stuff happen.”

Literally, this one leader made it happen first in her group and then in her facility and then the company tapped into it. She helped to make it happen across the country to all their facilities. 18 months later, from the first time she heard me speak, they entered the list of best places to work in America, number 23, Perkins Coie, a law firm. It was really through the efforts of one person.

People say, “Well you can change a culture. It takes eight years. It’s got to start at the top,” and this and that. Well, it can do that, but you can also have – one person can change a culture, one determined, focused person.

I have examples – I use examples in my books where that’s done from the bottom, from the middle, from – there’s a lot of ways to get there. That’s kind of the fun of it too. You can create your own journey to being excellent.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Thank you. How about a favorite book?

Dr. Bob Nelson
I’ve been very influenced by, well, some people I’ve mentioned. Marshall Goldsmith wrote What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There. Brilliant book. Ken Blanchard, The One-Minute Manager. Peter Drucker, Concept of the Corporation. He’s – and on and on.

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

Dr. Bob Nelson
I’ve got a website. That’s probably a good place to start. www.DrBobNelson.com. Go figure, right? That’s DrBobNelson.com.

You can find out – I’ve got a lot of resources and articles posted for free. I’ve got all my books there at discounted prices. I’ve got information about all of my presentations, consulting, etcetera, etcetera, and my contact information, so you can call me, you can send me an email. I try to help everyone that comes my way, if it’s just answering a question or if it’s doing something further.

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

Dr. Bob Nelson
Yeah, I would say, again, as an employee if you want to be awesome, start – do some things different. Start asking your boss what you can do to help them. I probably have managed 30 – 35 employees in my career. I only remember one doing that. It was a breath of fresh air to say –

And something else she was good at too because I would come in and I would be all excited about stuff I’d need to have done and “Katie, can you do this?” She would listen and she goes, “Bob, I’d be delighted to do that. Let me show you what I’m working on now. You let me know which you prefer to have me do.” Then she would – I kind of, “Hm, okay.” Then she’d show me. Every time I’d say, “Oh, keep doing what you’re doing. This can wait until tomorrow or next week,” because she was on it.

That was – basically I’m making the point that whoever your manager is, they’re trainable. You can be the person that trains them. If it’s not working for you, start trying to do something different, starting with talking to that person and give them some input for how they can help you be more effective. More times than not, I think you’ll see a positive response to that.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. Well, Dr. Bob, thank you so much for taking this time and sharing the goods.

Dr. Bob Nelson
It goes so quick, doesn’t it?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. I hope that there’s lot of engagement and rewarding going on for you and your employees and clients and everybody.

Dr. Bob Nelson
Yeah, well anytime you want me back, I’d be glad to continue the conversation in all its different forms.

309: Preventing Burnout in Yourself and Your Whole Organization with PwC’s Karlo Siriban and Anne Donovan

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PwC employees Karlo Siriban and Anne Donovan share their story of preventing burnout within themselves and transforming a whole work environment to prevent it for others.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Key signs that burnout is looming near
  2. How to talk to your boss about your burnout
  3. How PwC rolled out a broad flexibility initiative and saw retention soar

About Karlo & Anne

Karlo Siriban transforms businesses. He understand companies’ missions and develop strategies to achieve and frameworks to execute their visions successfully. He is a strategic, creative thinker, not afraid to challenge the status quo to achieve more effective and efficient results.

Anne Donovan is the U.S. People Innovation Leader at PwC. She’s responsible for strategy and innovation around culture change. She has a strong background in operational effectiveness and in engaging and supporting the firm and its people in leading positive change, including a variety of initiatives related to the work environment, workforce demographics and business model change.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Karlo Siriban & Anne Donovan Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Karlo and Anne, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Karlo Siriban
Thanks for having us.

Anne Donovan
Happy to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
I think we’re going to have a lot of fun with this one. A little different and but different good. First Karlo, I want to hear where are we with the Hamilton audition process? What’s the tale here?

Karlo Siriban
Do you want the whole background of it?

Pete Mockaitis
I’d like to hear – you’re into music. How did you say, “You know what? This is a thing I’m going to go for?”

Karlo Siriban
Yeah, I’ve always been into performance, particularly in stage musicals and singing. I used to do it all throughout my schooling, from elementary school all the way through college. Then when I started work it all just stopped. Work was my number one goal and wanting to do well was what I wanted to do. I found myself just wanting to – naturally wanting to go back into performing.

Hamilton, this was I think two and a half – three years ago, Hamilton was just becoming big in New York and they were having open casting calls. Unfortunately, I travel for work Monday through Thursday, Monday through Friday every week, so I couldn’t go to the open calls. My fiancé, my now fiancé, luckily saw some fine print at the bottom that said if you can’t make it please send in a video audition.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Karlo Siriban
I was very hesitant to. I didn’t want to, but she pushed me to do it. My video was sitting out there for a couple of months. After about three – four months I got a call that they wanted me to attend some callback auditions. About 12 auditions later I was at the final callbacks for Hamilton.

Pete Mockaitis
12.

Karlo Siriban
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh man. Well, they’ve got to do something to justify that high ticket price.

Karlo Siriban
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. The excellence that goes into it. 12, wow. What happened after the 12?

Karlo Siriban
After the 12 unfortunately my journey ended there. I’m still in contact with some of the casting agents there.

But for the past year I’ve really been focusing on my career and getting a promotion. That was my goal this year, which fortunately I’ve gotten.

Karlo Siriban
Now that I’ve achieved that I’m going to be going back into auditioning for shows, not just Hamilton but Off Broadway and Broadway shows. Luckily I’m based in New York, so makes it a little easier.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. Talk about career. Can you orient us a little bit to PWC and your role within it?

Karlo Siriban
Yup. PWC, big four public accounting firm. We structure ourselves within three lines of service. Assurance, which offers your basic accounting services. You have tax and you have advisory which covers consulting. I work in our advisory line of service. I’m an advisory consultant and I focus on large-scale business transformation.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. All right. Well, I worked in strategy consulting at Bain. You say you travel a lot. You’re on the client site and you’re meeting with executives and such and plenty of slides I imagine.

Karlo Siriban
Oh absolutely. My life is on PowerPoint.

Anne Donovan
You know it well.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so I see the picture there. I want to hear the story of you notice you were starting to feel kind of burnt out. Can you share with us what was going on and what were sort of the indicators like, “Uh oh, something needs to change here?”

Karlo Siriban
Yeah. This was about three years ago. Just the general travelling every week it started to take a toll on me. Waking up on Monday mornings to go catch a plane wasn’t as enticing anymore. I was having trouble focusing at work. Then even outside of work in my personal life, I found myself not as willing to go try new things, willing to go out with friends and family.

I realized something was wrong. I didn’t know what it was. I think most people when you hit that point, you sort of think, “Oh, what are the stressful things in my life.” For me that was work. I realized here’s my burnout. Something I don’t think a lot of people realize is yeah, there may be things stressing you out, but sometimes adding things to your life can help alleviate that burnout.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Karlo Siriban
For a lot of people, and I think this is said very often, is “Oh, go, wake up in the morning and go exercise.” That can really help you gain more energy and more happiness throughout the day. I tried that for a little bit, wasn’t working.

I realize what makes me happy. What is it? It was music. I turned back to music. It started with joining an a cappella group and just practicing and playing music in my house, finding time to play music in my apartment and at some pubs around New York City.

Slowly that just added up to the Hamilton audition and getting involved in more and bigger things. But I found myself having added that to my life, it was giving me more energy within work and it was helping me focus. It was just keeping me happy and keeping me satisfied, keeping my whole self-satisfied.

Pete Mockaitis
That is an awesome insight because when you’re in that mode, that zone of burnout, overwhelm, there’s too much, the thought of taking on an additional thing is like, “Are you crazy? I’m just trying to keep it together right now? I can’t imagine adding something.” You’re saying, “Oh, no, no. Adding something, in fact, is an improvement as opposed to more overwhelm.”

Karlo Siriban
Mm-hm, absolutely. I think it’s because when you add something that you’re passionate about, you’ll naturally find time to make it happen. That means saying no to things and managing your time a little more effectively just by the nature of wanting to do something you’re passionate about.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. I want to hear about the part in which you shared this with some folks at PWC, like I imagine that could be a little nerve-wracking in terms of saying, “Hey, I’m feeling burnt out.” You’re just like, “Oh, they’re going to think I’m weak,” or you’re not up to the high standards of performance or not an achiever, high potential.

What was going on inside your head and how did you have that conversation?

Karlo Siriban
I think that’s a very natural thought to have. You described it perfectly. Just going – the way PWC is structured, it’s a partnership structure. The partner is the be all, end all to your group and feels like your career sometimes.

I was saying to myself, “I need to make this – I need to have protected time for myself to be able to do this, to be able to pursue this.” Because traveling every week and working 40 to 60 however many hours a week, it becomes a lot.

My partner, very high performing, very focused on results. My career up until that point, I had also been focused on that. I had been very aligned with the firm first and work first and wanting to be a high performer. I thought that my idea of making time for myself wouldn’t gel with what I thought was the firm’s idea of what an employee should be.

I had spent time talking to a coach during one of our leadership conferences, talking to a coach about how I structure this and how I can present this. A week afterwards after some intense structuring sessions and messaging sessions, I went up to my partner and talked to him about it expecting the worse. It ended up being extremely easy.

He was extremely supportive of what it is I wanted to do and the passion I had. I think what helped that conversation was the fact that he knew I was devoted and dedicated to work and still performing at a high level. He also knew how passionate I was about music, and about singing, and about performing. He saw that as a way for me to sort of flex my creative muscle and flex my professional muscle.

I think the coaching that he received and the coaching that I received, it’s just a – there’s this culture of everybody’s a person. Our number one piece of capital or our number one investment at the firm is people. If you don’t keep your people happy, if you don’t keep your people trained, if you don’t keep your people whole, then what good is having them in a firm like this at PWC?

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. I’m intrigued. This coach, that was provided by PWC?

Karlo Siriban
Yes, my coach was provided by PWC. There is a – when you make senior associate, so this is about three – four years into your career, you’re sent to a leadership conference to sort of develop – it’s called Discover.

It’s to develop yourself, to discover within you what drives you, what motivates you, why are you here and what best parts about you can you bring back to your professional life and to your personal life to improve everything.

In that session, it’s about a week long, they assign everyone a career coach to help talk to you about those topics. Your career coach is – most of them I believe are non-PWCers if not all of them are non-PWCers. Anne, you can keep me honest on that one.

Anne Donovan
Yup.

Karlo Siriban
Yeah, they have a very objective point of view in how you can develop yourself, which I think is refreshing.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s great.

Karlo Siriban
That the firm would do that.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. I’ve done some coaching and I would love to be participating in that. That sounds really cool. Were there some follow-ups then or it all happened within the context of that one event?

Karlo Siriban
That one event is where it – where that idea blossomed. Towards the end of that week I had a formal discussion with my coach. Probably four weeks afterwards there were follow-up sessions, where we just spoke to each other over the phone, over Facebook, over text to help me build up the courage to actually have that conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. You said you worked a lot on the structuring and messaging. Were there any choice words, phrases, sentences that you thought, “Oh yeah, that’s perfect. I’ve got to make sure to say that,” and you thought that they landed outstandingly when you had that conversation with the partner?

Karlo Siriban
Yeah, actually in forming my thoughts and my message, initially I had completely neglected to address the fact that I still wanted to be at the firm and I still wanted to be a high performer. Initially it was all about I need to go into music and I need to spend my time making music.

He helped me form it in such a way that I do want to make music but it doesn’t mean I want to leave this behind. It doesn’t mean that I – that you should expect less from me. In fact, you should expect the same from me and this will help me focus and help me deliver for you and for the firm.

Pete Mockaitis
That is a nice turn of a phrase. You should not expect less from me. In a way that’s kind of inspiring on multiple levels in terms of 1) you’re making a commitment and so you want to rise up and live up to it and 2) it’s like oh good, this doesn’t mean – “Karlo’s great, but hey, I guess not everyone can be the hardcore rock star, all-star, so I guess I’ll have to put him in the sort of maintenance mode as opposed to gunning for it mode.”

That’s really cool. You had the conversation, went super well. Any kind of pro tips when it comes to if others are feeling the burnout kind of beginning to settle in, how should they go about doing some reflection or engaging in that conversation?

Karlo Siriban
Yeah, I think everyone should take some time to slow down first. When people are approaching burnout mode it’s often when they’re very stressed. When you’re stressed you get into this panic mode and you need things to happen fast and you want things to happen fast. When that happens, you have a tendency to take missteps or to make decisions irrationally.

I think when that happens it’s important to take some time to breathe and to, like you said, reflect on everything about your life, not just work, but home and your friends and your community, and your spirituality, reflect on all of that and understand where your life stands on all of those places. Once you have that view, then try to build a plan about how you try to improve it. It’s all – just take that breath.

Pete Mockaitis
That is good, yes. When it comes to the fear, I guess bosses come in all shapes and sizes and varying levels of receptiveness to such a conversation, so any thoughts in terms of – that was a great sentence in terms of “don’t expect less from me” but any other thoughts to address the fear like, “I can’t tell my boss that?”

Karlo Siriban
That’s a tough question because you’re right every boss is different. I think if you build an open, honest – if you’re lucky enough to be able to build an open, honest relationship with your boss, that conversation will always be easier in real life than it is in your head.

If you have a challenging boss or if you have a challenging work environment, regardless I think it’s important to be open and honest with yourself first and to assess how your view of what will make you happy in the future fits in with your career.

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hm.

Anne Donovan
Pete, can I add something here?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah.

Anne Donovan
I just can’t help myself. What I always advise our staff is if they don’t step up to ask for what they want, the end result is they’re going to quit the firm. They’ll go along and keep doing what they’re being asked to do and do it really, really well, and get into burnout mode. Then the end result is they quit the firm. Then the firm ends up being the loser.

I actually believe in most cases the staff ends up being the loser too because they end up quitting the firm at the wrong time. Because I do believe that most people end up quitting the firm. We don’t have a partnership that has thousands, and thousands, and thousands of partners. Ultimately we know people will end up leaving the firm.

But you want to leave the firm, and I tell staff this including my family, who are staff, you want to leave the firm at the right time, when it’s the right time and you have the right job. If you leave the firm at the wrong time, you’re the loser.

If you don’t ask for what you want and get the work environment that you need, then you’re going to end up leaving at the wrong time. There is absolutely no harm in asking for what you want, no harm at all. You might get a no, but probably you’re not going to. But if you don’t ask, the answer is always going to be no.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Karlo Siriban
Yeah.

Anne Donovan
I just – I say this every single time I sit in front of anyone who will listen to me. You must ask the question. You must ask for what you want because probably what you’re asking for is absolutely not unreasonable. You’ve got to ask for it. You’ve got to create the work environment that you need to make your life happy. It will more than likely be accommodated.

Karlo Siriban
Yeah, that’s extremely true, what you said. The worst that happens is they say no. What happens there is now your want and your passion is out there and people are thinking about it and people have talked about it rather than you’re in the status quo and nothing changes.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly and you have some more clarity for your own decision making. It’s like, “Okay, well-“

Anne Donovan
Absolutely. Now you know.

Pete Mockaitis
“I need this and I can’t get it, so maybe I should-“

Anne Donovan
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
“-put a little more effort towards …”

Anne Donovan
That’s exactly right. But at least you know as opposed to making up in your head what the answer is going to be.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great.

Anne Donovan
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Karlo, can you give us the lay of the land now in terms of your burnout-ness in terms of – the Hamilton audition has come and gone but there will be new opportunities? How‘s your day-to-day in terms of energy and stress and motivation?

Karlo Siriban
It’s – I’ve become much better at identifying when I’m getting close to burnout. I’m happy to say in the past two years I haven’t approached burnout at all.

Also, just having put out wanting to perform out there, I’ve been more involved in internal PWC initiatives for performance. For example, this summer PWC has what they call a Promotion Day, where everybody who’s getting promoted gets promoted at the same time.

In New York they throw a large event and I’m leading a band, a band of about 12 of us. We’re playing a 45-minute set for all of our colleagues in New York.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s fun. That’s really cool. Could you unpack a little bit of what are some of the early wanting signs? Before full burnout is upon you, what are the little indicators like, “Uh oh, getting kind of closer?” What is that for you internally?

Karlo Siriban
For me it’s if I find myself waking up later and later.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, that’s very specific. Thank you.

Karlo Siriban
Yeah, very specific.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Any other indicators?

Karlo Siriban
It’s waking up later. I find myself being unable to focus at work. Just little things. If I have a quick – usually I’m pretty good about if I have a five-minute task that’s something that I can complete right away. I take that time out of my day. If I find myself those tasks are taking longer, I push them off further and further, then I find myself I need to reassess what’s happening in my life and refocus.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Cool. Awesome success story. So glad to hear it that you came to the brink and came back and you’re wiser for having done so and have a more fun work and life situation going on there.

Anne, could you maybe broaden the scope of the conversation a little bit, so beyond Karlo’s story. You’ve got a full blown flexibility initiative. What’s the story with that at PWC?

Anne Donovan
Yeah, we are in year six of that initiative. I will tell you that seven years ago we could not spell the word flexibility at PWC. We did some work, did lots of focus groups, kind of travelled around.

Actually we did a lot of work studying our Millennial population and did some actually pretty scientific work, taking a look at what our Millennials wanted verse our Gen-Xers and got some pretty good data around the kind of top three things our Millennials wanted.

We’re pretty – got some pretty solid information that although they certainly wanted to be paid well and wanted stuff that the rest of us wanted, flexibility was in the top three things that Millennial wanted out of the workplace.

Pete Mockaitis
What are the other two things and how did that compare to the other generations?

Anne Donovan
Yup. Top three things Millennials want out of the workplace based on our study: flexibility, appreciation and support from their supervisors, and teamwork. They wanted to work on teams that they felt worked well together. It was really about the work environment for Millennials.

For Gen-X it was about having control over their work, working on good stuff, so really good kind of developmental stuff, and pay. For Gen-X it was about the real kind of traditional stuff that we had set up the work environment around, the traditional work environment which was like, “We’re going to pay you well and you’ve got a lot of autonomy. We’re going to give you good stuff.”

Then Millennials come into the workforce and they’re like, “Well, we want to feel good and we want you to appreciate us. We want flexibility.” Those two things had a – there was a big gap between those two things.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood.

Anne Donovan
We had this data and said, “Whoa, we’ve got to change the work environment.” Because we had autonomy, we had good pay. We still have good pay, but we had this setup that was appealing to the prior generation and we had this entire set of workers who said that we want to feel good. We changed the entire – we shifted the entire environment.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. What are some of the prongs or components of the flexibility initiative?

Anne Donovan
Well we started our work. We started at the top. Got our partners all understanding the business case for it, all understanding that if we wanted to keep this entire new generation of worker, we had to really completely turn the environment on its head.

It all was based on trust, first set of rules was you didn’t have to earn flexibility. You walked in the door earning flexibility. Everyone is trusted with the work that they’re set out to do. You don’t have to have face time to earn your stripes.

We’ve got all the technology in the world. You can do it sort of whenever, wherever, however. I say however, we have all of our standards, etcetera, but what I mean is you don’t have to sit next to the guy to get your work down.

Now, that doesn’t mean that every single day we’ve got people working all over and wherever they want. But it means that in general if you’ve got to go leave tomorrow at 3 o’clock and our people work hard, but if you’ve got to go leave at 3 o’clock and you’re going to come back online at 7 o’clock to make your life work.

By the way, making your life work doesn’t mean you have to have a doctor’s appointment. It means I’m going to go play softball. We were very careful about that, Pete, because we don’t – it doesn’t have to be an emergency.

It doesn’t also have to be childcare. It doesn’t have to stuff that’s another job, that’s another thing to do. It can be because I want to do this thing that’s fun. I want to go audition. We were very careful to make sure that people understood that. It’s because you want to have life. We were very explicit about that.

We just started talking about it. We started making the leaders and the partners and the managers understand that that was how it was going to be from here on out. It really did take us three – four – five years to get the culture sort of inculcated with these messages, but we’ve done it.

I will tell you, flexibility is on every single person’s lips in the firm. You do not have to ask for it. You do not have to apply for it. You don’t have to plan for it. It’s just there.

I work from home. I don’t – I don’t hide it. My dog barks in the background. I don’t care. It’s where I am. I get on video. I’ve got bed hair. It doesn’t matter. It’s just the way it is. I’m so, so proud of it. It’s just fantastic because it’s who we are. We trust each other. We don’t have to slap on a uniform to get the job done.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really cool. I’m curious to hear during that kind of transition time, were there some key kind of rocky moments or rocky obstacles or leaders who weren’t on board or abusers of flexibility? How did that emerge?

Anne Donovan
Actually we had less abusers than we had leaders who weren’t on board. We definitely had guys and gals who took a long time to come around. But that’s just – that’s the way life is. Change is hard.

It just took – it really took our leaders at the top, our senior partner was all about it and he pushed us hard to – he made every day a flex day. We actually changed our time reporting system that you didn’t have to report time every day. He pushed us hard to really change processes and procedures and to just push the firm to make things happen.

Eventually – I suppose there’s some pockets out there where we’ve still got holdouts, but they’re pretty few and far between. I will tell you, we have not had a – we have not had abusers.

I now speak too in front of groups frequently and I speak to clients who are interested in what we’ve done. We get asked about what policies we put in place and what are the written rules. I’ll tell you, we were lucky. We did not put policies in place. We did not put written rules in place. Like I said, you don’t have to apply for anything. It’s all based on trust.

Now, we are lucky, Pete, we don’t – these are all salaried employees, so we don’t have a lot of wage and hour laws and things like that. We don’t have union workers because we’re a salaried group of people. We didn’t have a lot of those kinds of things to worry about in our work environment.

But we really – we didn’t deal with a lot of rules. We left people up to their own devices and we let groups of people out there on client engagements make their own rules and make it work for themselves and just hit their own deadlines. It magically worked very, very well.

Karlo, I will ask you to hold me accountable if that was not true on the ground, in the field.

Karlo Siriban
No, I think definitely the adoption took a while. You are absolutely spot on. But yeah, at this point, you’re right. It is on everybody’s lips. It’s on everybody’s mind. It holds true.

Pete Mockaitis
I want to hear a little bit more about – so previously there was a policy or rule to report time every day. What’s the new situation with regard to time reporting?

Anne Donovan
The new situation is you report your time in a week. As long as – if you’re a 40-hour worker, and most of us obviously report way more than 40 hours, you just have to cover your 40 hours some time over the week.

If you happen to cover those 40 hours in a two-day timeframe, the other three days don’t have to show the 40 hours. In other words, you can flex your time however it flexes for you. It used to be that you had to show how you covered those hours in five-days’ time so that you had to account for where you were. Now it just doesn’t matter. It’s just flexibility.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s great.

Anne Donovan
I know. It’s really cool.

Pete Mockaitis
You said many are reporting more than 40 hours.

Anne Donovan
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
What’s kind of the – I know, hey accounting, right? Folks can get fixated on numbers.

Anne Donovan
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a sense – maybe either of you can tackle this one in terms of a number of hours that is good or too few versus too many or is it just kind of like, “Hey, it’s different every week and we’re all good with that?”

Anne Donovan
It is different every week. In general I would say most of our employees work more than 40 hours a week. It’s just how we run.

But if you’ve got weeks that aren’t as busy, certainly we want you to work 40 hours. That’s – we want people to take advantage of times that aren’t as busy knowing that if you’re working on a deal and you’re an advisory or if it’s busy season and you’re in auditor or tax, insurance or tax, you’re certainly going to work more that. It’s kind of an up and down business.

Pete Mockaitis
Sure. For the non-intense weeks are you still shooting for a 40 hour minimum?

Anne Donovan
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Or it’s kind of like, “Hey, last week was 70, so this week 20 is cool?”

Anne Donovan
No, I think we in general shoot for the 40.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. I’m with you there. I’m curious to hear any other kind of pro tips or best practices if you say your clients are starting to ask, “Hey, how’d you pull this off?” in terms of having success with this kind of a shift or intervention.

Anne Donovan
Well, I just think that I have not met a group of workers and I’ve not met a client group that was not interested in this topic.

I think and I say this to these groups, if you can figure out a way to bring this to your organization, it’s really important. It is free to offer your employees. Again, if you can bring this into your workplace and you’ve got the kind of workforce that makes it easy. Again, not dealing with hourly employees or employees that clock in, I recommend it because it is free to offer and it means a lot.

Giving your employees the freedom to have some kind of flexibility in their work day, it really – it hits home. It’s a home run. Again, it doesn’t cost money to do it.

I will tell you, we took flexibility to the next level when we introduced flexibility of dress. We have what we call dress for your day now at PWC. That includes jeans. We just got rid of that whole concept of sort of the uniform. In all of our PWC offices we’re a jeans firm now.

We’ve always been a you’ve got to dress like your client. When we’re out at a – we-wear-suits clients, then we have to wear suits. But when we’re in our offices, we wear jeans too. That was a big home run with our staff as well.

Because, again, whatever kind of breath of fresh air you can bring to your staff, why not do it? Again, a freebie. We can bring it and make our staff happy, so we did it. We’ve kind of brought that in under the flexibility umbrella as well.

Just trying to – life is kind of hard enough, work is kind of hard enough, anything you can bring in that just breathes some air into the place, that’s what we’re trying to do.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. Can you share a little bit from all of these efforts, are you seeing – what’s the lift looking like in terms of before/after attrition or retention rates?

Anne Donovan
We’ve got really – we’ve had some really good impact on our retention. That’s one of our – both our retention and our engagement scores on our annual survey. For us retention is a big deal. Turnover is very costly in a firm like ours. We’ve had a big hit on our retention rate. We’re seeing actual very nice dollars flow straight to our bottom line, which makes me very happy.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Could you give us a rough sense of what kind of proportion lift you’re talking about here?

Anne Donovan
Yeah, well. Yes. The sort of conventional wisdom is then when someone walks out the door it costs the firm about 100,000 dollars. Every head that stays around is a savings to us and that’s all – that includes all kinds of things: training costs, replacement costs.

When you can keep someone around it saves a lot of money. We have 50,000 people, so when you think about even saving 1% of your people, that’s – on 50,000 people that’s a lot of money.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh certainly. Roughly what extra percentage of your people are you saving as a result of all this?

Anne Donovan
Well, we’ve certainly seen a good – probably – my boss probably wouldn’t want me quoting our retention rates, but I will tell you that we’ve seen some really good savings on retention rates. I better leave it at that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, then. Well, any final thoughts before we shift gears to hear about some of your favorite things?

Anne Donovan
No, again, I just – I think we’re afraid – we’re afraid of change. We as leaders think that these kinds of changes are going to wreak havoc because we’re going to see abuse in the system.

I guess my advice to leaders is that I think you’ll see less abuse then you think you’re going to see. I would take the leap on something like flexibility because I think you’ll see much more benefit than you’ll see abuse. I guess that’s my big piece of advice.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh cool. Thank you. Well, now Anne or Karlo, whoever’s feeling it in the moment. Let’s hear about some of your favorite things. Is there a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Anne Donovan
Karlo, I’ll let you go first.

Karlo Siriban
The quote I always say is, it’s a Rolling Stone quote, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.”

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome.

Anne Donovan
Oh, I love that, Karlo. It’s so much hipper than anything I was going to come up with.

Mine’s not a quote. I just try every single day to remember what I’m grateful for because I think we can get caught up in how hard life is.

I really – before my feet hit the ground in the morning, I don’t let myself get out of bed before I remember the things for which I am very, very grateful. However small those things might be, that might be my wonderful soft pillow, but I have a lot to be grateful for and I just really, really try to live in that gratitude.

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

Anne Donovan
Oh my gosh, mine is the Millennial study. I’m happy that is a public report. I’m happy, Pete, to make that available if anyone wants to take a look at it.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yes, please. We’d love to link to that.

Pete Mockaitis
Fair enough, fair enough. How about a favorite book?

Anne Donovan
Mine is Maya Angelou, Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Karlo Siriban
Mine is How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston.

Pete Mockaitis
I met him at a book signing and I have a signed copy of How to Be Black on my shelf.

Karlo Siriban
Really?

Pete Mockaitis
I did, yes.

Karlo Siriban:
Oh you lucky duck.

Pete Mockaitis
He’s good friends with my buddy, Mawi, who was episode number one. Small world. He’s a funny guy. He deliberately said the opposite of what I asked him to say in the inscription. I said something like, “Can you say that I’m tough or a baller.” I don’t remember what I asked for, but he said, “You are so not a baller.”

Anne Donovan
I love it.

Pete Mockaitis
I guess I have to get rid of this book now. Very good.

Anne Donovan
I love it.

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

Anne Donovan
My phone. I can’t live without it. My phone, which I look at every day for everything.

Karlo Siriban
Mine is my new ergonomic mouse.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, tell us all about it. What is it? Where can I buy it?

Karlo Siriban
I got it off of Amazon. Without plugging too hard, it’s an Anchor mouse. It turns your wrist so it’s like you’re shaking a hand.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, right. Yes.

Karlo Siriban
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool.

Karlo Siriban
My arms feel so much better now.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a good move. Yeah. Let’s link that too.

Tell us, is there a particular nugget that you find yourself saying often that really connects and resonates with people?

Anne Donovan
Breathe. Just breathe everybody.

Karlo Siriban
Yeah.

Anne Donovan
Oh I actually – no, I shouldn’t say this on the air. I have three staff and they are all women. They all happen to be women. I have two grown kids. I have 21-year-old twins.

Every time my kids irritate me I always type to these gals in text #don’thavekids. These three women all have young babies at home so that’s our team motto #don’thavekids. We always laugh at each other #don’thavekids. That’s our motto – team motto to all of us who have a bunch of kids.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s too late I have a five-month-old.

Anne Donovan
Oh my gosh, Pete, I’m going to put you on our Twitter – on our tweet #don’thavekids there you go.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m honored. Thank you.

Karlo Siriban
I have one from my grandfather. He always says “ayos lang” which is Tagalog. It’s the Filipino language. It just means it’s going to be okay.

Anne Donovan
Lovely.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Thank you.

Anne Donovan
Lovely.

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

Karlo Siriban
Anne, I leave that to you.

Anne Donovan
Well, follow me on Twitter because I’m always tweeting about staff that we’re finding interesting. I’m going to send the study, Pete, so I’d like you to take a look at that.

I just think keep plugging away on the flexibility stuff. I guess that’s it. I think you’ve got to keep trying and ask for what you want people. Ask for what you want in your workplace because you have to be happy at work.

Pete Mockaitis
Karlo, any final thoughts in terms of a challenge or call to action?

Karlo Siriban
I challenge everyone to be more mindful of everything outside of work and outside of the things that stress you. You’re a whole person; treat yourself like a whole person.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Karlo, Anne, this has been a whole lot of fun. Kudos for the good work that’s producing good results for people and profits. Keep it up.

Karlo Siriban
Thank you.

Anne Donovan
Yay, thank you for the opportunity.

Karlo Siriban
Had a great time.

288: Managing First-Timers in the Workplace with Chris Deferio

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Coffee shop guru & latte art champion Chris Deferio speaks on leading people who are at their first “real job” and keys to thriving in a chaotic environment.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Best approaches for managing first timers
  2. How to offer feedback so it’s received well
  3. Tips on how to keep sane and focused in a chaotic environment

About Chris

Chris Deferio is the host and producer of the Keys to the Shop podcast. He lives in Louisville, KY with his wife and son and has been in professional coffee service for 17 years. He provides training, consultations, and wisdom to owners, managers, and employees across cafes worldwide. His podcast is dedicated to the success of coffee shops and the professionals that make them work.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Chris’ championship-winning latte art

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Chris Deferio Interview Transcript

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

Chris Deferio
I’m honored to be on your show.  I really love and I’m looking forward to talking about this subject today.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, sure.  Well, I was honored to be on your show, Keys To The Shop.  A good spot, and so, folks, check that out.  But first I want to talk about you being a champion in latte art.  How does that come about, and what does a latte art contest look like in practice?

Chris Deferio
Well, we can define the terms.  Well, I work in coffee.  And in coffee, and specialty coffee in particular, there’s this thing where you steam milk so that the foam is tight enough and flows enough to be able to form ribbons on the surface of beverages, specifically espresso drinks.  And you can see rosettas, what we call leaves, hearts, designs like that – usually symmetrical leaf / heart designs on the tops of coffees.  It’s actually pretty popular; so popular now, weirdly, you’ll see it on International Delight creamers.  They’ll hire a barista to do a heart and they’ll use in their marketing.  So that’s latte art, so milk art, because “latte” is Italian for “milk”.
So, we have competitions for these types of things, of course, because we’ve got to entertain ourselves, and there’s money on the line.  And I won my first one back in 2004 and I ended up winning two times after that, so three times total latte art champion.  And just sounds really funny to say, but the skill involved in it is one of just becoming sort of familiar with what the two liquids do when they meet in the cup, and it’s important.  I don’t want to downplay it too much, because a well-presented coffee is one that you’ll talk to your friends about, which means repeat business.  So it translates into something practical, and it’s fun to do.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I want to know what are the game-changing, winning designs that capture the judges’ hearts?

Chris Deferio

Well, speaking as a judge – I run a competition now with Coffee Fest tradeshows.  And I’ve been a long time judge before; I’m back again leading the Latte Art Competition as a judge, head judge, and there’s a lot of things we look for.  My designs when I won were basically variations on a leaf pattern that involved a lot of layers from the outside of the cup into the middle.  So, just a nice base, and I’m speaking in coffee terms – symmetry is really important, striking contrasts between the brown of the coffee in the white of the milk is also very important.
In the competition we judge on speed and also a general kind of flexible category, depending on the judge, of aesthetic beauty.  So, those are some of the categories we look for.  So there are some game-changing designs out there where people will do multiple different designs in the cup at the same time.  I was one of the people – old guy in coffee – that have pushed some of those designs out there into the industry, and now it’s really just about perfecting.  There’s not a ton of brand new stuff, just variations on classics, as far as I can tell.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, do you have some photos we could see in the show notes?

Chris Deferio

Oh yeah, I’ll send you some of mine and I’ll send you some of the winningest baristas’ examples.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s good.  Well, I’m trying to imagine, because you don’t have a lot of space to work with, and I guess it can’t get too out there, in terms of, this is a portrait of a person who is running on the beach.

Chris Deferio
Oh yeah.  Well, it does in some ways, it does, because people do one of two types of latte art.  You have etching, which uses a tool to draw a design like you’re describing.  You theoretically could do that.  The drink might be cold by the time you’re done, and it might not taste great.  I don’t know what they’re using for drawing, but we do free pour latte art predominantly.  I think that in competition may be the more respected version of latte art. So there are two types of latte art – there’s free pour and there’s etching.  So etching is just using a tool, so you could draw that.  You could draw yourself in a cup of coffee if you really wanted to.  But we do free pour latte art, so there’s no tools involved, just the flow of milk.

Pete Mockaitis

Cool.  So, you are coffee master and professional and you share some of that in your podcast Keys To The Shop.  What’s that all about?

Chris Deferio

Well, Keys To The Shop I’ve had for the last year or so – back in January 2017 – is a podcast that I run collecting best practices essentially from the industry to help people.  My tagline of the show is to give insights and inspiration and tools to people who work in retail, especially coffee retail.  And my audience is built, it is made up of owners, baristas, managers, people who would one day want to own a coffee bar.
And we bring in not only just industry experts to talk about workflow behind the bar, like how to build a drink quickly and well, or conflict resolution and things like that.  We bring in outside experts as well – authors of books dealing with management, or like I said conflict resolution is one.  Tom Henschel of The Look & Sound of Leadership did an episode on the podcast about conflict resolution, which translates into whatever industry you want to, because you’re working with people.  So, the point is, I want to provide a really focused podcast to equip my industry with the tools they need to succeed, and tell the stories of people who have succeeded in the industry as well.

Pete Mockaitis

Very cool.  Alright.  So now when we talk about some of these management issues, one thing we were discussing is that you have lots of experience and see lots of coffee shop owners doing leadership of folks who are at their first job.  Maybe they are interns, maybe they’re in college or they’ve recently graduated.  And so I thought it would be great to really dig into your wisdom on this point.  So maybe you could orient us first of all, how does managing folks in their first job substantially differ from those who have maybe just even one or two or three years under their belt?

Chris Deferio

Well, I think the way it’s different is that the structure under which they’re used to operating is just alien and different.  l like to think about, if they’ve come from a school environment, where there are things set up for them to go to, there are classes – you’re not really having to think about it, in fact you’re part of a group – there’s not a whole lot of individual attention in most cases.
And so by and large I’d say once you’re behind the bar and a lot depends on you individually, there’s kind of this deer-in-the-headlights.  There’s just so much to take in.  It’s not necessarily unique to them, but I think it’s times 10 with somebody who’s not used to being on display and being the focus of the individual attention that a manager has on them, because that manager is responsible for the owner’s business and the business is on the line.  And they understand that responsibility but don’t necessarily know how to function under that weight.  And so, sometimes it does feel like you’re drinking from a firehose and they can act that way.
So, there’s a lot of things that you need to bear in mind when you’re managing somebody who doesn’t have a lot of employment experience.  Even if they’ve had like a summer job, a job that’s a full-time job, even their first quote-unquote “real” job, is quite different.  And so, how you approach them as a manager has to bear that in mind.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, and I’d love for you to expand a little bit upon, we talk about the deer-in-the-headlights or the overwhelm or the reactions of the new employee.  Could you share a little bit there, in terms of… I imagine some of them are probably jarring and not what you want to see.  So, could you maybe highlight a few of those?  Maybe they’ll be some twinkles of recognition from listeners to say, “Oh, okay, okay.  Maybe I should have a touch more patience with that at first.”

Chris Deferio

Sure.  So, I’d say a good way to recognize this… Or let’s just say a common way to recognize that – you’re dealing with somebody who’s under that kind of situation is that, like I said, deer-in-the-headlights, but in the restaurant industry they call them “pan shakers”, or people who would start cleaning something that doesn’t need to be cleaned; they’re just looking for something to do.
There is just a general lack of awareness, the peripheral awareness.  Even though you’re in a busy cafe, none of it really affects you much.  And it should, and it’s odd that it doesn’t, because there’s so much stimulus going on you don’t know what to focus on.
And so, I think a manager who’s in that situation needs to be able to have a strong hand of guidance on what is it that they should be doing in that moment.  Having a good onboarding process for example is a great way to kind of counteract the confusion and the shock of being in an environment where now we really are relying on you to make this rush of customers work, or this cafe work.

Pete Mockaitis

And so when you say “manager” here, the manager is the person who is the first real job person, kind of working for and reporting to the owner.  Is that how you conceptualize this?

Chris Deferio

Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, got you there.  So indeed, intriguing.  So there’s a whole lot of stimuli, and it seems like folks in that position where they’re unaccustomed to it may just sort of start doing something, even though that something is not at all the right thing.  Any other kind of key symptoms or behaviors you notice?

Chris Deferio

I would say emotional is another one.  In any case where somebody is under that kind of pressure there’s going to be overly emotional responses to things that are just commonplace work-related tasks, that you and I, having been through the ringer maybe for years, or at least some experience, might not take it personally.  But I’d say taking things personally is one of the symptoms that I would see.  It’s like, “Okay, this is…”  They maybe weren’t expecting it.
I know I felt that way when I had my first job, which was in a grocery store just stocking things in freezers and fridges and milk cartons and what not.  The pressure was just so great to perform that you just kind of took everything to heart.  And there’s really no stopping that; it’s almost a rite of passage, I think, when you have your first job.  But where it can go south, I think, is when a manager then takes them taking it personally, personally. [laugh] And then it kind of goes off the rails.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, that is interesting.  So, could you maybe paint a picture there, in terms of an example, where you’ve seen this happen with folks either in some of the shops that you’ve worked with or consulted for, in terms of making it all come together?

Chris Deferio

Well, okay.  So, I would probably just use an example of when I was a trainer and I had some experience in coffee, when we brought on new baristas.  This was actually an example of one of my failures, in that I was so confident – having some experience I just had too strong of a hand in my management.  But the individual was performing the job okay, but not really to my standards as a manager, and I was kind of arrogant at the time anyway.  But tamping is an example of something we do – we press the coffee down into a filter so that it could be extracted.  And I was noticing that the tamping was off or lopsided so that it wouldn’t extract properly.  And I brought it up in a way that maybe in hindsight wasn’t the greatest, but they took it so personally that…

Pete Mockaitis

“You’ve got a problem with my tamping, bro?”

Chris Deferio

“How could you notice that from where you’re standing?”, or… There was a lot of pushback, and I realized what I had done was I stepped on the only security that they had, because they’d just been trained by the manager at that store.  And what I was doing was coming in and essentially removing the only security that they had, without care for what it would do to the rest of what was built on that foundation.

Pete Mockaitis

Now we say “the only security”, you mean like he’s coming from a perspective of, “Tamping is the one thing that I have nailed.”  Is that what you mean?

Chris Deferio

Yeah.  Well, if you call into question parts of what they know to be true, then you might as well be calling into question the entire thing.  So, “If my tamping is off, maybe my milk is off, and if my milk is off, what am I doing here being a barista?  Maybe I was taught wrong.  I’m not ready for this.”  Your mind can kind of go a million miles an hour down the wrong path.  And it all kind of stemmed from a non-empathetic approach to an issue that could have been resolved by some other means that reinforced what they had learned, or added to rather than stripping it away simply to be right.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, intriguing.  So I’d love to hear, in retrospect, how would you address this issue, because you can’t have a sub-optimal temp at the end of the day.  Right, Chris?

Chris Deferio

No, I don’t think you can.  In the moment, I either could have… I think this would have been the best way to do it, is to investigate what kind of training the person had, before assuming what they had first.  So if I had questions for the manager as to how much training the person had, I should have asked.  Instead of addressing it with the individual first, I should have just let it go, because by the time I got there they had probably already been making drinks that way for hours, if not days.  And my stepping in in the middle of making drinks for customers is not going to solve it in their mind.  It might solve my personal need to sort of get my fidgety, “Ooh, you’re not doing that right” out there into her world, but it really didn’t accomplish what I wanted it to long-term.
So, I think having a more patient view of that situation and allowing myself to shoulder the burden of having unresolved tension, rather than just kind of chucking that tension right onto what was happening in the moment, if that makes sense.  I, as a manager or a leader, there’s this tension you would have that you want to see people do something right, but sometimes you have to let them do it wrong a little bit longer in order to wait for the right opportunity to show them in a way that’s effective.  And so it forces you to question, “Do I just want to talk, or do I want to affect change?”

Pete Mockaitis

Intriguing.  So then, what might be some indicators that this is the right time?

Chris Deferio

I’d say when things are more calm, when people are in a good mood, and when you are not upset.  Because you might be responsible for the bottom line of your company, you have to know yourself well enough to know when you can not sound like a jerk, or be passive-aggressive, or give somebody the feedback, a crap sandwich with the critique and the praise.
There is a bit of self-knowledge that’s needed to know how you sound first of all, and when’s the right time for you to do it calmly.  And then, like I said, when things are calm in the store, when there is a time that talking about technique is brought up, in fact – that’s a way.  Hopefully you have mechanisms or systems of communication in place, where feedback lives, like a one-on-one every week with the manager, or an ongoing training session.  Those are perfect times and require forethought as an operator to say, “You’re going to have these conversations with people, so where do those conversations live?”  They can’t just be invented on the spot; they have to have a place for your peace of mind and the security of the barista.  So, I’d say rather than indicators, maybe just dial back even more and say, “Have I built a system in my shop or my business that allows for a safe space for feedback, both from me to the barista or employee, and from the employee to me, to critique me?”

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, thank you.  Well now, you used the phrase “safe space”, so I am thinking about South Park – that’s the name of the show – where they did this song, “My safe space…”  And I want to touch upon the word “Millennials”.  I guess I am one, but in a previous episode we had Lee Caraher say like 72% of Millennials don’t like the word “Millennial”.  They don’t want to be called a Millennial, because there’s so much baggage and negative associations with it.  So, I’d love it the more that you could be fact-based, experience-based, research-oriented to this.  To what extent is there something real when it comes to the difference in managing Millennials or folks who are fresh out of college?  Are they still Millennials or are they the next one yet?

Chris Deferio

Maybe, and maybe it’s Gen Y, I’m not sure.  Or Gen Y is the same thing.

Pete Mockaitis

So what’s real and what’s just a bunch of stuff that people cook up to sell books or to try to stereotype and sort of offload responsibility?

Chris Deferio

Yeah, it’s a good question because we like to categorize.  Part of the human mind is all about, “This goes in this section of my brain, and this goes in the other.”  And if we need to understand people it’s easier to have a sorting mechanism, and so that’s what these names start to become.  And in no other time in history, especially with the rise of the Internet, do we have as much access to articles that kind of form our thinking towards people before we even meet them or know them in reality.
So, the reality of Millennials, I think, is simply that they are young, and I don’t know that there’s that much of a difference outside of the world they interact with.  They’re not not humans, and they have the same drive for success and love and acceptance and to interact with the world around them.  And they have the same idea that they want to change the world the way that any other generation did.  So, I think Millennials as a group have been given a bad rap by people who don’t want to take responsibility for leading Millennials.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay.

Chris Deferio

Yeah, so on the show I had Bruce Tulgan, who’s the author of a book which I think every manager should read.  The book is called It’s Okay to Be the Boss.  I bought that for all of my managers in the store I worked at, and they all agreed it’s a fantastic book, practical.  The author also works for… His company is called Rainmaker Thinking, and they authored this incredible long-term study on the workplace opinion of Millennials toward management.
And what they found is essentially that Millennials want leadership, they want to be told how to succeed in the workplace, and actually are looking for people to, as the book that Bruce wrote says, to be the boss.  And they say in the book that there is an undermanagement epidemic, not a micromanagement one; in other words people are abdicating their responsibility to be leaders within an organization.
And Millennials I think are, just based on this study and my own experience – like I said, they’re people who want to do a good job.  And when somebody says to you, “I want to come in your company and deliver a ton of value, and what do I do, where do I sign up?”, and they’re eager – if you look on that with distain, there’s a lot of issues there.  You need to be prepared to help that person succeed.  So I view Millennials as eager and will not take lack of clarity for an answer.  So the mystery of just figuring it out on your own – hey, we have Google.  That’s gone.  Figuring it out on your own looks more like YouTube than just hacking away at it.
So yeah, Millennials I think have been given a bad rap and they are young people looking to be led, and then to lead themselves.  They want to make a difference in the world and we have an opportunity in jobs like coffee that are historically transient jobs – they’re not the jobs that they’re going to have for the rest of their lives – to shape people for the career that they actually are going to be spending a lot of time in.  So, managing first-time people, first-time employees, especially young ones, as impressionable as they are – they have a ton of energy and they have a ton of vision to contribute to a company if you’re up for the challenge of continuing to actually work in your company.

Pete Mockaitis

So that doesn’t sound unique at all to Millennials, in terms of if you’re young and inexperienced, “Figure it out” isn’t great leadership, management, guidance, at that sort of stage in a person’s development.  I mean you might say “Figure it out” in a nicer way, which was, “Why don’t you take a rough draft at a plan of attack and we’ll sync up in a day?”  That’s maybe a nicer version of “Figure it out.” [laugh] I’m not 100% abdicating my responsibility for getting to the bottom of this thing, but I would like you to take the first approach there.  Well, cool.  So then, you’ve got some takes on how one manages expectations optimally in the first real job environment.

Chris Deferio

Yeah.  So, managing expectations is a great place to start because as I was just touching on how we as an older generation – myself turning 40 here shortly – have a responsibility to manage ourselves first, so that we can lead others.  And that means if we have expectations of people that are unreasonable and are secretly based on our desire to just not have to do as much as we actually have to, then we need to deal with that so we don’t pass on dysfunction.  In today’s day and age there’s a ton of leadership dysfunction, and leaders in restaurants and coffee bars and politics are under fire.
And so, all eyes are on people who have authority and power, and we need to be able to have some kind of forethought about the people we’re bringing into our organization and stop being surprised by what happens when we bring young people into an organization.  You can’t really be effective as a leader or as a company if you’re constantly just scratching your head and complaining and surprised by something that you knew was going to happen.  So, embrace it, prepare yourself for it, and be the leader that’s necessary for what you’re going to inherit.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, so the managing expectations there – you’re talking about what it’s fair for you to expect of someone who’s newer, younger, inexperienced from the get-go.

Chris Deferio

Yeah.  So, they’re going to make mistakes, no doubt, when you onboard somebody.  In coffee for instance a lot of us have labs, and we have labs for a reason – because we don’t want people experimenting on the customer.  Or we have shadow shifts for instance, where you are on with the manager and they are watching you to make sure that you are performing in the critical areas.
However, you don’t want to rob people of their failures; you don’t want people to only do exactly what you say in every case.  You want to see them spill milk or you want to see them kind of strain to figure something out and not just jump in and not let that muscle develop, because then you will never be truly confident in that person’s “a-ha” moment, because they could fake it.  They could just say, “Oh yeah, I understand now”, but when you’re gone, because they didn’t develop the muscle of understanding through failure, then it’s just going to crumble under the pressure, especially if it’s one of their first jobs, like we were talking about earlier.
So, having a lab for another company might look like just an entry level position within the company, where consequences of failure are not dire – you’re not going to pass it on to your big accounts.  But you have somebody there that can walk them through the process and explain, as failures are made, how to do the job from A to Z.

Pete Mockaitis

Yes, that’s great.  Don’t rob them of their failures – nice turn of a phrase there.  And so, when you say a “lab”, can you help me visualize?  I’m imagining a lab coat and a white room and…

Chris Deferio

It’s exactly right, that’s what we do.  We actually recreate, so the speak, the coffee bar.  So it’s like a micro coffee bar, and sometimes it’s behind glass and other times it’s just hidden in the back corner.  It’s not usually the prettiest place but it’s got an espresso machine and a brewer, it’s got a couple of tables, and you schedule sessions with baristas when they are new employees, or existing employees that need work on one particular area.  You schedule some time in the lab to work on your tamping, to work on understanding a particular policy.  A lot of meetings are held in labs.
So, a lab for a coffee bar I think is critical, and the equivalent in any organization like where does the training take place, helps kind of anchor the idea, like, “Yeah, I’m here to learn right now in this space.  And we can just bang around in here and nothing is going to happen in the outside world, except I’m going to learn and bring what I learn to that outside world.”

Pete Mockaitis

It’s interesting when you describe the lab, it conjures to mind almost like a movie montage, like there’s music playing and someone is failing repeatedly and spilling it all over themselves.  And then the wise mentor is frustrated but sticks it out until there’s a maestro coming out on the other side.

Chris Deferio

Yeah, this is very much like Rocky.  Ivan Drago versus Rocky lifting logs in a log house.  It’s an approximation.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s great.  Okay, so we talked about not robbing people of their failures, managing the expectations, giving some protection so there’s not dire consequences if things go awry.  I’d like you to also kind of unpack a bit, you’ve got some takes on when it comes to the follow-through.  Not just saying, “Hey, do this”, but what comes after the “Hey, do this”?

Chris Deferio

Yeah.  This is a super hard one, and it is one of the things that erodes trust the most between direct reports and managers, or baristas and managers, however you want to phrase it.  When you tell somebody to do something and they do it – let’s say they do it well.  And nothing happens, except they do it well and they know, but nobody sees it – that is going to demoralize the individual, because nobody is there to see their victories.  I think you get some satisfaction out of it, for sure.
Yeah.  So if you are on the bar and you are not having follow-through from your manager, what that looks like is like you said – just “Do this” via text message.  You get a text message or an email that says to do it this way.  You need to have the presence of the manager there to follow up with you in order to either correct you or praise you, to guide you or affirm you.
And the present leadership is a good phrase for this.  A shop I worked at used the phrase “present leadership”, because often times what we have is a secondary culture form around this abdication of leadership to follow through.  So, for us it happens on closing shifts, when management is home – they try to get themselves on a 9:00 to 5:00 schedule, and then the closing shift is there by themselves.  And what you’ll find is that it’s kind of like a different culture, and they don’t have the kind of contact with the leadership as their counterparts in the morning do.  And the difference is that the people in the morning get the benefit of getting to see the manager every day, so there is a natural built-in opportunity for follow-through.
You can’t really judge an employee’s performance if you haven’t observed their performance in a consistent way.  So when you give them a raise and you tell them they’re doing a good job, but they know that you haven’t actually followed through and seen how they’re doing, if they need help, and been there along the process – they know you don’t know what you’re talking about, and it’s hollow.  And so you erode trust, they don’t trust you when you say “Good job”, because they know you haven’t even seen them do their job.
That’s part of what I mean by “follow-through”.  For managers who really want to be there for their employees, it’s going to take a lot of work upfront, but you build momentum in the future so where you might have to schedule yourself to come in during a time where you normally don’t come in to the store – maybe it’s a closing shift for coffee bar examples – just to make yourself known, to ask how things are going, see if there’s any questions, observe them in action.  Do that for a week or so, two or three times a week.  And that person will get the drift that you are concerned about their progress and you’re building rapport with that individual and following through on the thing that you said they should do or how they should do it, etcetera, if that makes sense.

Pete Mockaitis

It’s interesting.  It sounds like this sounds pretty, I guess, fundamental and just, “But of course leaders should do that.”  And yet at the same time, I think there is a healthy opposition force that would say, “Oh my gosh, Chris, that is just too much work.  Why do I have to do all this handholding?  Come on, we’re grownups here.”

Chris Deferio

Well, yeah.  Grownups who can plan ahead of time, like we said manage your expectations – well, part of the expectation is that you’re going to have to spend some extra time with people who are new.  And I think the thing that really throws people is the minutiae of their job as a manager, because so much of our job in management has to do with reacting to situations and putting out fires.
And if you never really get that under control and don’t have control of your own schedule, keeping on human relationships on top of just ordering these other things for the office and responding to emails from people who may or may not want to buy your coffee or your product – there’s no room left for the people that you hired.  And there’s this weird relief – you come in and they’re doing fine; you’re like, “Oh hey, how are you doing?  How are you doing?  Good?  Are they taking care of you over here?  Great.”  And then you just walk away.
Now you’ve abdicated your responsibility as a leader to the people they’re working with, who have become the sort of surrogate managers for you because you can’t get it together with your schedule.  So it all kind of comes back to the leadership and what you expect from yourself.  It all kind of comes back to leadership having their stuff together, so that they can actually help other people form their careers and their understanding and their skillsets.

Pete Mockaitis

Now that example you used, in terms of, “How are you doing?  Are they taking good care of you?” – that’s an example of abdication.  Can you expand on that?

Chris Deferio

Yeah, so not in all cases, I think, but I see it a lot of times in coffee bars, where you throw people on to a bar and you hope that the most senior barista there will kind of show them the ropes – show them all this stuff about the POS and show them this other thing over here too, and, “By the way, I just remembered, can you show them this?”  Now, that might be delegation if it’s done with clear intent and structure, and always done that way, if that’s purposeful, but often times it’s just Plan B or Plan C when it comes to what the manager maybe ideally wanted or found out that they don’t have enough time to spend to walk this person through the POS system, the register.
So, what I say is advocation I mean naturally when you’re entering into an office or a service industry or whatever it is, the manager is the person you understand to be the source of knowledge, the one who is going to help you understand how things are, at least at first.  But when you never get that and they’re just the person that has you sign your tax forms, and then they just kind of throw you on bar but then show up at your review, it just feels like, “Why are you even here?  My coworker should be reviewing me, because they’re the ones who taught me, corrected me, were there with me during that really crazy rush, where we all burned ourselves.”  There’s rapport, and managers often times miss out on building that rapport, because they unintentionally, I’d say, in most cases, give away their opportunity to build those relationships.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, that’s good.  And I kind of finally want to get your take on when it comes to retail or coffee environment, there are times where you mentioned the rush.  In a realm of crowds and chaos and a whole lot happening real fast, what are some pro tips just for keeping your cool and your sanity and focus about you with all the stimuli?

Chris Deferio

Two things.  One – have workflow already in place.  If you own a bar, if you manage a system where you have to deliver a result, you have to have a workflow.  And that workflow has to actually be taking into account different situations that you could come up against.  For us, let’s say you have a menu of 15 items with four different variations on those items, okay?  So, you’ve got to practice all of the ways that people can alter those drinks, and maybe there’s ways that they’re going to… How is it going to be in the worst scenario and what do we do?  What’s the plan?
Too many people just cross that bridge when they come to it, and if it’s on fire they don’t cross it at all.  The workflow is a critical one.  And that was one of our first episodes actually on the show Keys To The Shop, with my friend Ryan Soeder on mastering workflow.
The other part is managing yourself emotionally.  You need to detach, essentially.  Not in a robotic way, but if you’re working the workflow, if you’re working behind the bar and you have a line out the door and you know you’re doing your best – there’s no reason, logically, to stress out.  You can’t go any faster, and everybody understands that.  And they keep coming every day, so they know.  They see, they have eyes, they understand what’s going on.
And somehow what happens when we forget that – we try to rush the process, we don’t fall into a rhythm.  And when we do that, we don’t do the other thing also – I had a third – is, communication.  Our communication can either come from a place of fear and insecurity, or it can come from a place of, “We’re in this together, we’re doing the best we can and we’re going to lean into the pressure rather than trying to run away from it.”
I’ll give an example.  There are times when I have personally been really stressed out on the register, and when I’m that way what I like to do is… I don’t know how to describe it, but I just kind of smile to myself and I overexaggerate my hospitality as a way of reminding myself what I’m doing here.  I don’t go goofy or anything, but I turn an inward switch.  And I think it’s important for people to figure out, “What’s my approach to the chaotic workplace environment and how will I pull myself away from that, observe it as an outsider, so to speak?  And not become out of control emotionally, but lean into the fact that this is what’s going on and it’s not going to define us.  We’re not going to let the shift run us; we’re going to run the shift.”  That’s a good way to just remember it.

Pete Mockaitis

Lovely.  Well, Chris, tell me – anything else you want to make sure to highlight before we hear about some of your favorite things?

Chris Deferio

Yeah.  I just want to encourage everybody who works with young people and transient employees – it kind of goes hand in hand – that they are training up a future generation of leaders and owners and managers, people who will influence the course of history.  And it sounds really dramatic to say it that way, but every person who you know who you read a biography about who’s inspirational, worked at a deli, worked at a restaurant or a coffee bar at some point.
And maybe not everyone, but they had jobs that were kind of what they might consider menial.  But have had lessons that shaped them in the dish pit, in the mop closet, in a one-on-one with a manager; kind of like your favorite teacher in elementary school.  So our responsibility to actually take up a mantle of leadership and lead young people well in these jobs is really, really critical.  And it’s all about relationships and allowing yourself to be vulnerable, while at the same time being a strong leader that will help shape the next generation.

Pete Mockaitis

Lovely, thank you.  Now, could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Chris Deferio

Yeah.  So, I think my favorite quote comes from David Whyte. David Whyte is an English poet and I think the quote is, “You must learn one thing: the world was made to be free in.  Give up all other worlds except the one in which you belong.” So his book, if I could recommend it, is called Crossing the Unknown Sea, and it’s kind of a philosophy on vocation as a way of becoming, a journey into meaning through your work.  And so I really, highly recommend that book.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh great, thank you.  And how about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Chris Deferio

I don’t have a… Okay, tool would be just pen and paper, honestly.  I don’t thrive in digital environments as much as I thought I would, and I do have things.  I love my high-end drawing pens and special graph paper notebooks for organizing my thoughts.  I’m not full into bullet journaling or anything, but I do like to braindump onto paper and organize myself that way.  And sometimes it makes it into my reminders on my phone or something like that, but more often than not I’m trying to write something down.

Pete Mockaitis

Thank you.  And how about a favorite habit?

Chris Deferio

So, I guess a favorite habit of mine, besides coffee, would be – which is a great habit, it’s very healthy for you – I try to get up early.  It’s something I started doing a couple of years ago, actually started to try to adopt a way to kind of embrace the day.  Now I know this is not unique to me, but when I started doing it, it really turned my world upside down that I could actually start my day well by just getting up early and stretching and drinking a lot of water and thinking, including things like morning pages is a huge one, stream-of-consciousness, because I don’t get a lot of time, especially at a coffee bar, to create and to express.  You’re always reacting to outside situations.  So it’s nice to have some space where you can set your trajectory internally, and then embrace the day.

Pete Mockaitis

And tell me, is there a particular nugget that you share that really seems to connect and resonate and get folks quoting yourself back to you?

Chris Deferio

Yeah.  There is something that I used to say in talks and I think I should bring it back, and that is that the customer has been hurt in the past by coffee.  The customer has had some kind of a traumatic experience in a coffee bar and they bring that experience in with them.  So, we have to approach them from a position of owning the stuff that our industry sort of did to them and earn back their trust.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, I’m so intrigued.  I can’t recall an experience of my own.  Are we talking about hot spills, or what do you mean?

Chris Deferio

I mean emotionally, like you go into a specialty coffee shop and often times what you find is maybe the barista is not as welcoming as you thought they should be for the price point of the coffee.  We promise a special experience a lot of times and when somebody walks in, the expectation is set so high by the marketing that the actual reality of the experience is disappointing.  And so, knowing that people are sort of accustomed to dealing with disappointment when it comes to something that’s so hyped as specialty coffee with all these latte art flowery drinks and what not, we kind of have to approach it with some empathy and realize that A) it’s not personal, B) let’s make that up to you; let’s make this the best experience that you could possibly have.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Chris Deferio

Well, I would definitely recommend they go to KeysToTheShop.com, and the podcast the same name on iTunes.  It’s just KeysToTheShop on Instagram and Twitter as well.  And those are the best places.  My email is chris@keystotheshop.com.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Chris Deferio

Be patient with yourself, be patient with others, and take a look at the big picture on a regular basis.  And learn to be happy with the work that you’ve already done and hopeful for the work that you’re going to accomplish.

Pete Mockaitis

Awesome.  Well, Chris, thanks so much for taking this time.  Lots of fun.  I wish you tons of luck in your coffee adventures, and you are a champion in more ways than just latte art!

Chris Deferio

I really appreciate that.  Well, thanks for having me on the show.  It was really fun.

232: How to Be a Better Leader by Being More Positive with Brenda Bailey-Hughes

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Professor Brenda Bailey-Hughes explores the scientific connections between positivity and being a better performer at work.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The real science behind the power of positivity
  2. How to halt compulsive worrying
  3. Power words for positivity

About Brenda

Brenda Bailey-Hughes teaches communication and leadership skills at the Kelley School of Business undergrad program. She also teaches global leadership and emerging markets for Kelley Direct, the working professionals’ MBA program.

She’s authored 8 LinkedIn Learning courses. She specializes in communication training  and coaching for Fortune 500 executives –  such as P&G, Samsung, Cummins, and John Deere.

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