Drink Like a Lady Podcast

Inspire Remote Teams and Unleash Their Best Work with Todd Henry

January 26, 2022 Joya Dass
Drink Like a Lady Podcast
Inspire Remote Teams and Unleash Their Best Work with Todd Henry
Transcript
Todd:

Activity is just always going to be there. It's like a spigot, you turn it on and water comes out and it's always predictably there. Who knew? Until one day it isn't. And the reason it isn't often is because, uh, we don't just create for ourselves on our own time with our own budget. We have to create on demand. We have to deliver results on time for, uh, you know, according to the expectations of our client or a customer. Uh, and we have to do it over and over and over again, I call it the create on demand world. Um, and so with that comes a unique set of pressures and dynamics that we have to learn to build a bulwark against. We have to learn to mitigate. So. To do that. We have to build practices. We have to build infrastructure, uh, in our lives to support our desire to be creative at a moment's notice. Um, anything that we accomplish in life requires infrastructure and it gets accomplished in society, requires infrastructure. I mean, imagine if there wasn't a food distribution network and it's like, okay, you all the farms are like, all right, there's food here who wants some, right? No, I mean, you can't, you can't do. You have to have a distribution network and the same thing applies to, um, to our creativity. So I teach this is a very long answer. Sorry. I know we have, we have to get the six of them, but I'll, I'll I'll keep going until you cut me off. Just cut me off anytime.

Joya:

Okay.

Todd:

There are five core areas that I teach. Leaders and teams to build practices. And the first one is focus, which is how we allocate our finite attention, which really is about how we define the problems we're solving. You know, some people just jump into doing projects without thinking, what am I really trying to solve here? What is the problem I'm really trying to resolve? And so I encourage people to step back to make sure they're allocating their finite attention in the right place. And by the way, also to push off the, the forces of what I call the "pain." Which is that perpetual, maybe something out there is more important than what's in front of me. Um, and that could be email. That could be Twitter. That could be Instagram. Uh, but we're living in a state that lived the stone calls, continuous partial attention. So we have to mitigate that if we want to focus well relationships, which is why all of you were here, I'm sure because you're connecting with other people who are like-minded, who are in similar situations, right. Entrepreneurial situations sometimes, or at least in leadership situations. And so connecting with other people, we learn more about ourselves. Um, we really see ourselves fully through the eyes of other people. So we need other people to help us stay inspired, focused, engaged. All of that. The third area is energy, um, which is about managing our ability to bring what Lewis, Hyde calls, emotional labor. To our work. I'm sure I saw you had Seth Godin on one of these calls. I'm sure he probably brought up that phrase at some point, cause he loves to quote that as well. Um, that's uh, our ability to put ourselves fully into the work that we do. So we have to manage our energy, um, and how we pour ourselves in the fourth area. There are two more. The fourth area is stimuli. How we manage the stimulus that goes into our head. So are you routinely experiencing things that are forcing you to see the world in new ways? Are you filling your mind with the great ideas of other people, whether that's reading or experiencing some kind of media that's helping you stay inspired? Um, so that's stimuli and there are bunch of things we could talk about with that. And then finally, it's hours. Um, how we spend our time is how we spend our life. Of course, we've all heard that. Um, but the problem is many of us think of our time as something to be spent, not something that also must be invested, just like with our money. You, if you spend all of your money, you're going to run out of money at some point. But if you set aside a little bit of it to invest, then you're going to make more money for future use. And so we have to think about our time, the same way. Some of our time has to be spent inefficiently, listen, investing. It's not efficient. I would much rather just have the money now than have to stick it someplace. And hopefully I'll have more money later. Right. It's more efficient just to go out and spend it now because I've got it. It's right here. We have to think about our time, the same way. Are you investing some portion of your time in generating ideas in strategy, in what I call back-burner creating, which is, uh, learning new skills or playing with ideas and maybe developing products that may not be ready for prime time. You're just doing it for the fun of it, right. Just to come up with some things. So those are the five areas, Focus, Relationships, Energy, Stimuli, Hours. They spelled the word FRESH, not my idea. That was my editor's idea, but that's an easy way to remember each of the five.

Joya:

I love it. When you think about offering your team clear direction, I'm in front of this group every week, Maryanne, we often talk about, you know, the team that she's assembled for her startup and the fact that people, while they get direction, they don't necessarily take direction. So how do you offer clear direction and actually motivate people to act on it?

Todd:

That is a phenomenal question. It's going to be largely dependent on the, the, the, uh, The, the makeup of the person that you're trying to lead. Of course. And this is one thing that I always, uh, am very careful to spell out to leaders is that you don't lead teams, you lead individuals, um, uh, you know, your direct reports have to be led strategically and individually. Um, you, you mentioned the most important word, which is clarity, clarity of expectations, um, clarity of process. Clarity of timeline, um, ensuring that your team knows very clearly what you expect from them when you expect it. Um, that you've set clear leadership principles in place for them, by which they should do their work. Um, I call this establishing a leadership philosophy, so don't tell them what to do. Give them, uh, you know, give them guidelines, give them an outcome, give them guidelines by which they should do their work and let them engage in their work. Right. This is the difference between control and influence. I think a lot of leaders want to step in and try to control the work, whether it's out of insecurity or a general lack of faith in their team. Well, if you put a lack of, if you exhibit a lack of faith in your team, they'll exhibit a lack of faith in you. Um, trust is the currency of creative teams. So the best way to ensure that your team. Is both loyal to you and also producing their best work is to set the guidelines for them. You want bounded autonomy, set the guidelines for them, and then give them some autonomy within that to explore, to create, to do what it is they do best. And then that funnel gets smaller and smaller as you get closer to the deadline, right? There's a lot more room for latitude, a lot less latitude for experimentation as you get closer and closer to the deadline, but at least make sure that your process accommodates some of that. The ability of your team to sort of play within those boundaries. So clarity of expectations, clarity of process, clarity of timeline, and then make sure that you're exhibiting faith and trust in your team to do what it is you're tasking them with doing.

Joya:

How do you define for your team? Uh, we've got, you know, pro skydivers on here. We've got people that own cosmetology schools. We've got artists, we've got partners in law firms. How do you define success? And then how do you define failure or when you're creating those bumper guards for your team?

Todd:

This is a great question. There, there obviously are in different situations. There's a different risk tolerance that is acceptable. Um, you know, I, I once heard somebody say that entrepreneurs are not risk takers, they're risk mitigators. So as, as a manager, you first have to decide what is the level of risk that I am willing to tolerate, um, within the organization, because if you're willing to tolerate it, that means you have to take accountability for it. If somebody fails, it's, it's your failure. It's not their failure, unless it's a failure of effort or, uh, somebody just isn't doing the work. And that's a very different thing, but. If it happens on your watch, you're responsible for it. You know, you, they broke it, you bought it kind of thing. Um, so, you know, I think that you have to determine what is acceptable in terms of risk mitigation, um, for yourself. But then I think, you know, one of the things that is really important for leaders to define for their team is their, their philosophy on failure. You know, um, how do we treat failure as an organization? Um, what's going to happen if I fail, you know, that's the big question mark in a lot of organizations is, you know, a lot of, a lot of people are asking, you know, well, if I fail, am I, am I gonna lose my job? Um, I think what you have to define for your team is what is an acceptable failure? What is an unacceptable failure? What are the, earmarks of those two things? And then what's going to happen if I fail? A senior VP of a company once told me that her early manager, um, instilled in her, this belief that listen, I want you to make mistakes of commission, not mistakes of omission. So in other words, I want you to make aggressive mistakes on behalf of our client. And by the way, If you make an aggressive mistake, if you're doing something that you think is the best thing for the client and you fail, I want you to believe I've got your back. I'm going to go to bat for you. I'm going to defend you with my boss. You're not going to get fired for making an aggressive mistake on behalf of the client. And she said they gave her incredible freedom in the organization because she knew even if I fail, as long as I'm trying to do what I think is best for the client that that's, what's expected of me. I spoke to the Air Force, uh, to Air Academy, which is sort of a senior leadership training school. And, uh, one of the senior leaders said that his general, that he reported to directly, uh, said, I want you to do something every day that you think will get me fired, which I thought was a really interesting philosophy. Um, I don't think I would ever go there, but what it did is it gave this officer permission to try things, to break things, to experiment, you know, within the bounds of what's acceptable, of course. Right. But, um, so I think those are, I mean, those are a couple of things that we can do to relieve the fear. It's not, it's not about the risk itself. It's about the, what if what's going to happen. If I fail when I take a risk. So, um, if we can do our best to create. Some expectation around that. I think it goes a long way toward encouraging risk-taking smart risk-taking but also relieving some of the fear of failure that exists in and often inhibits creative pros.

Joya:

And I heard you say earlier that it's important to allocate time for creativity. And I feel like this is also allocating space for creativity because I'm giving you room to fail.

Todd:

Yeah, absolutely. And that has to be baked into the process. You know, th this is why a lot of organizations don't do this. You know, a lot of leaders aren't willing to do this is because. Everything is timed out to the minute and everything has to go right in order to deliver for the client. And when I talk about energy management, one of the important things is pruning. We need to be able to prune back even good ideas, good things, good projects, so that we have the space for something better to be born. If we're trying to do too many projects all at once, we're going to be mediocre at all of them. Because we're going to take risks cause we don't have time to risk and fail. We just have to jump in, make it happen and just go. Um, which means we're going to probably go with the safe idea because that's when we know we can execute. If you want great ideas, you have to take the first risk by giving your team clear direction, but also by carving out the space for them to try and to fail and to iterate, to do all those things that are necessary in order to get to that great work.

Joya:

That dovetails nicely into my next question, which is how do you role model that leadership behavior for your team? Um, I mean, I listened to everyone throughout the week. They're just going a hundred miles an hour, but how do you stop to role model that behavior?

Todd:

Well, I think it's a matter of the will, uh, from many leaders I'm working with an organization right now. I'm actually spending time with all of the different divisions in the organization. And, um, the, the CFO of the organization said, I am mandating, I'm doing it myself. And I'm mandating that the organization take three hours. Every week for themselves to think, to develop themselves, to problem solve, to, to just come up with ideas for the, for the organization. And I thought that's, that's brilliant. That's exactly what has to happen. If somebody says that, Hey, I want you to take some time for yourself. You've come up with ideas. I want you to, to, um, you know, try to carve out some space to study or develop some skills, but then, uh, every time you do that, they say, yeah, I know that's important, but I really need you to do this thing for me right now. Right. Um, then they're not going to believe you. They're not going to trust you. And again, trust is the currency of creative teams. So, um, it starts with you, it starts with what you model and it starts with accountability as well, you know, accountability for doing it. So you can't just say something, you have to say it and then you have to follow up on it and you have to ask, Hey, what did you do this week during your idea time? Did you set idea time? Oh, you didn't set idea time. I told what happened that I told you to carve out that time. Why didn't you do that? Oh, well you're too busy. Well, I'm making this a priority. You know, we need to do this because this is how we're investing in the future of our organization. So it takes persistence. It takes consistency. And more than anything, it takes modeling from you that this is not only what I'm saying. This is what I'm doing. Um, as a way of showing people I'm serious.

Joya:

Now, when you think you say something that I think is interesting, you have to earn the right to be followed every day. And build trust. You already touched on the trust part, but what does that mean that you have to earn the right to be followed every day?

Todd:

Yeah, I think most leaders think that trust is a little bit like a bank account. Right. Um, as long as I put some in, I can occasionally take some out, you know, out of my trust bank account and that's okay. As long as I keep a positive balance, then I'm fine. That's not really in my experience the way that trust works. In organizations, trust is not like a bank account. It's more like a water balloon. You fill it, you fill it, you fill it, you fill it, you fill it. But then if you puncture it, even in a tiny way, you're likely to lose it everywhere. You're likely to lose it in places where it really matters, even if it's a small thing. And there are a couple of ways that we do this. We're not even aware of. Um, one of them is what I call declaring undeclareables. You know, this means that we're saying things we're making promises, that we can't absolutely guarantee that we're going to deliver on. And it could be something as simple as we're absolutely going with your idea for this project. Oh, you know what, actually, the client changed their mind. We're not going to go with your idea. We're going to go with another idea, but Hey, you're a professional. Suck it up, right. Or I will definitely meet with you next Tuesday at 2:15. Oh, you know what something. Can we just push our one-on-one this week? Those seem like really small things. Matter of fact, the last one was one I was guilty of when I was leading a team of about 40 people, handful of years ago. And, um, I found out that one of my reports went to my manager and said, you know, if you ha, if you have a meeting with Todd, there's about a 50% chance it's going to happen. Now, I thought my perspective as a manager was, Hey, I'm giving that time back to my team member. Right. I'm canceling our one-on-one so they can have the time to do their work. And what was an amazing manager I am because I'm giving them back this time. This is what I'm thinking. Um, little did I know that. They all saw it as a violation of trust. They were looking forward to that face time with me. They were looking forward to asking me questions for me, sort of just building relationship for me, you know, being involved with them. So what I thought was a gift to them actually was seen to them as a slap in the face. In some ways it violated trust. It was a little puncture of that water balloon. And so we have to be very careful that we don't allow these little things that we do. To violate trust in big ways. Uh, well we need our teams to take a risk on our behalf. We have to earn the right to be followed every day, which means, and by the way, when I say, um, earn the right that's about action, not about intention. Your team doesn't care about your intentions. They don't care if you're a good person and if you like them, and if you want what's best for them, they don't care what they're, what they're seeing are your actions. And that's what they're going to follow. Um, and so that's why we have to make certain that we're, we're fertilizing the things that we want to see more of and we're pruning the things we want to see.

Joya:

It's almost like being a parent kids do as they see, not as they're told. Right?

Todd:

That's exactly right. Yeah. It's like, it's like that a boy I'm going to really age myself now, but this like that, um, that commercial, the public service announcement from the eighties where the kid, the parent walks in and the kid doing drugs, he says, who taught you to do this? He said, I learned it from you, dad. I learned it from watching you, right. I mean, that's true. That's people catch culture in the organizations; they catch expectations from you and how they watch you behave as a leader. And so that again, we talk about earning the right every day. That means you, you can't afford to let your guard down as a leader, you will make mistakes. And when you do call it out, apologize. And move on, that's going to happen, right. But you have to approach it with this mindset of I'm going to earn the right to be followed. And by the way, when you choose to lead, you give up your right to a fair trial. You just do. I mean, leadership is like living in a fishbowl in the middle of a firing range. I mean, it is, you know, everybody can see you all the time. They see what you're doing and they feel free to take shots at you anytime they want to. So you just have to give up, you have to forfeit your right to a fair trial and you listen. I know people are going to think things about me that are unfair and untrue, and that's the price of being in leadership. But I have to continue to model what I believe is right. Do what I believe is right. Earn the right every day to be followed, be clear with my team. Be direct with my team, not be the kind of leader who just needs to be liked, but the kind of leader who wants to be effective, you can be liked and effective at the same time, but you can't chase both of those at the same time. Sometimes you have to be disliked temporarily so that you can be effective. Right. Um, and when you chase being liked too much, um, which, by the way, I love it when people like me and I love it as a leader, when people like me, that's a good thing. There's nothing wrong with that. But you can't chase that at the expense of doing what's right for your team and for the organization.

Joya:

The last thing I want to ask you before I move to questions is something that we all struggle with. How do you take care of number one first? And I know that that this one of your tenants that I heard in your talk.

Todd:

Yeah, this is so important. Um, you know, we've all heard the phrase as goes the leader, so goes to the team and I think many people in their, in their very good desire to want to serve their team and serve the organization and serve your clients and do all of that. I think sometimes we put ourselves last and we sometimes think that's what leaders are supposed to do. I'm supposed to collapse. On my pillow every night, completely exhausted and not sure how I'm going to do it one more day, but you know, I did it for my team. Um, the reality is if you want your team to get the best of you and you want your team to have the best possible opportunity to succeed, you have to take care of yourself as a leader. Number one, it's about modeling the kind of behavior you want to see. And number two, it's about putting yourself in a position where you can actually be an effective leader. If you are going through cycles of crash, burn, crash, burn, crash, burn, refresh. You're you're not going to be effective for very long because you're not a machine. So what does this look like? Um, number one, you need to build some time into your life to fill your well. So what is it that energizes you that, you know, there's difference between rest and recreation? Sometimes we rest as leaders, but we. Recreate recreate literally means to recreate yourself. Right. So what do you do for enjoyment? What do you do to build into yourself to experience new things, to recreate your perspective on the world? Um, that could be a hobby that you enjoy and most effective. Successful leaders that I encounter have some kind of hobby in their life that nobody ever knows about. Nobody sees nobody, you know, it could be watercoloring could be gardening. It could be, I don't, I don't care what it is, but they have something they do that allows them to disconnect from the pressure of their work and just pour themselves creatively into a project for a while. So do you have something like that in your life? Second question I would ask you is, are you ever off the grid? Are you, is there any time in your life when you're not at the whim and wish of whoever happens to fill your inbox at that moment? Our biological adaptation is being outpaced by our technological advancement. So there are people strategizing 24 7, how to keep you addicted to your devices, how to keep you addicted to your social network, how to keep you addicted to whatever it is out there. That's pinging you, you have to, as an act of the will carve out space in your life to be off the grid. This is by the way, the way it's been for. 99.9 9 9 9 9 9. And then a 9% of human existence. It's only in the last 10 years. We've had to deal with this thing of anybody can reach me anytime They want to, I can know anything anytime. I want to know it just by pulling out my device and looking something up. Um, I mean, This is not normal human behavior, but we're being trained to adapt to it. So we have to carve out the space in our life for dots to connect for patterns, to emerge for creativity to emerge. That only happens when we remove ourselves a little bit, right. Move ourselves from all of those pressures and allow ourselves to just be with our thoughts. Journaling is a great way to do that. Meditating. It's great way to do that. Whatever works for you is perfectly fine, but I just encourage you to find some time to be off the grid.

Joya:

Oh, before I open up to questions, I had taken some notes about this and it was about mapping. Driving. And I forget what the third thing is, and I'm just looking through my notes, but why was that important for leaders to know?

Todd:

Yeah. So there are three kinds of work that we do. Um, and this is from my book, Die Empty. There are three kinds of work that we do Mapping, which is planning. It's the work before the work, it's developing a strategy, developing a task list, and we have to do that. There's Making, which is executing. Um, so, you know, doing the tasks that are on our list, executing our strategy. Now, most people, when they think about their work, they think about Mapping and Making a plan. And I do, I strategize and I execute, and those are any organizational theorists will tell you those are the two arms of any organization, strategy and execution, but there's a third kind of work that we ignore. And it's the third kind of work that positions has to be effective. When we're Mapping and Making, it's what I call Meshing. Meshing are the little tasks we do to stay aligned to our productive passion, uh, to ensure that we're spending our time in the right place to ensure that we're filling our well, all of these things we've been talking about, we're developing new skills that may not be relevant now, but we are extremely relevant a year from now. These are all things that we have to do to position ourselves, to be in a place, to be able to execute our work effectively when you map and you make it the expense of meshing when you don't do those other activities that are important, but don't show up on your organizational priority list. Then I call these people. Drivers. Drivers are people who are, I will walk through you and the brick wall behind you to get it done, kind of people. And that's great. Love that energy, but over time, drivers tend to become decreasingly effective. Uh, doing increasingly efficient things, you know, there are no longer producing disproportionate value. They're just cranking through their work and that's fine if that's what you want, but that's not the way that you build a body of work you can be proud of. So you have to map, you have to make, and you have to mesh. And I'm happy to dive into that more. If anybody has a question about it.