Podcast  /  Work Minus Stupid Stuff With Bill Jensen

Work Minus Stupid Stuff With Bill Jensen

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Are your corporate tools and policies helping the organization, or your employees? Bill Jensen walks us through how to use a BS reader and blast through bad corporate excuses.

Bill Jensen

Welcome back to Work Minus. Today, our guest is Bill Jensen. He’s an authority on making things simple and that’s why I really wanted to speak with him today, and this episode is called Work Minus Stupid Stuff. Hi Bill, how are you?

I’m doing great. Thanks for having me, Neil.

Yeah. I’m excited to talk with you. Well, why don’t you tell our listeners a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Well, thanks for asking. For over 30 years, I’ve been known as Mr. Simplicity as that’s my first book. I’m now writing my 9th. And what I do as a consultant, it’s called change management or helping companies go through change. But, I help people sort through the stupid stuff. Most of the things that come at us are stupid these days, and we’ve got to figure out what’s important, what matters, and what doesn’t. So, I help individuals, executives, and team leaders figure that out for themselves so they can get more work done with less stupid stuff.

Well, start us off with some of your highlights. What are some of the few big winners about some of the stupidest things you’ve seen in organizations?

Well, first, let me clarify the question, Neil. There are really two big stupid buckets and your listeners, depending on how many people they lead, own both. So, it goes into what every individual owns and what every organizational leader owns. So, the two buckets of stupid stuffs are what companies or organizations do that makes work stupid and then the individual, and with the individual because nobody wants to talk about themselves. I’m perfect, you know. I never do stupid stuff. So, let’s start with them which is the organization. But as I understand your audience that are team leaders of up to a hundred and have the authority to change things, you, the listener, also have a responsibility to address this.

And the biggest thing that I find that’s stupid, I call it organization-centeredness. Another way to think of it is how it’s a fallacy that there is no “I” in team, that we need to understand that every team is made up of individuals. And organizational tools, and structures, and processes are designed to make things simpler for 10 people, 100 people, 1,000 people, 10,000 people, but not necessarily for the individual. So, the way most organizations are using technology, tools, structures, and processes makes things simpler for the company to succeed but not necessarily for the individual. So, your job as a team leader is to really understand where are processes and tools and technologies making things more complicated for the individual.

A simple example of this is ERPs, Enterprise Resource Planning tools that are designed to make the most efficient use of tools. And I was keynoting for a well-known global brand and it was about a technology, the ERP technology, that made it easier for people at the top to control everybody underneath. This technology, see how I was going. Look at this cool tool. You can turn this knob and you can change people’s vacations and you can make sure all the resources are in the right place at the right time. I was keynoting after the guy and I said, “Whoa! Let’s be clear. What you just did with that easy little turn of that button that made it easier for you to control resources? One of them was a single mom who’s been planning with three kids, has been planning for three years to go to Disney world and you just screwed up her life amazing vacation. Do you really think that’s simple for her?”

So, we need to have conversations, we in the organization that have influence that, we need to have conversations about how we’re making things more complicated for individuals when we make things simpler for the company. That’s the stupid part that most companies don’t own. And the second part, the second bucket of stupid, is everybody should stop “shoulding” all over themselves. That’s S-H-O-U-L-D, if you didn’t hear me correctly. No, I didn’t curse. You should stop shoulding all over yourselves because most of our behaviors, “Oh, I should do this. I should go to this stupid meeting. I should open this stupid email. I should pay attention to this thing even though I know it’s a waste of my time.”

And this is the actual harder part, you know, getting individuals to change their behaviors. So, one of the things I talk about most often is the most important number in business, and it is 1440. It’s never talked about. 1440, do you have any idea what it is? You guys, even in your studios and in your area, you experienced it yesterday, you’re going to experience it today, you’re going to experience it tomorrow. What’s the most important number in business? It’s 1440.

This is some measurement of time. I’m guessing.

Spot on. It’s the number of minutes in a day. And what happens when we wake up, each of us individually are given an amazing gift. We get 1440 minutes every day to use as we see fit. But, most of us should those things. “Oh, I should go to this stupid meeting. I should answer this stupid email. I should be allowing my boss to interrupt my time with my kid because, otherwise, I’ll be perceived as a bad, you know, teammate.” So, what I help people do with the stupid stuff is… it takes courage to say no to things. So, I help individuals realize what matters in their life.

And it always… it’s never work. Work is only secondary. Even if you’re passionate about an entrepreneur or love what you do as work, it’s always family, friends, self, values, religion, community, and then building work into that. And what most people realize is they use work to shove out time or cancel out time with their kids or their community or themselves. So, a lot of what I do when I’m speaking to individuals, not team leaders, but individual performers, it’s like I help them understand how to have self-respect, how to respect themselves, that those 1440 minutes are precious.

So, those are the two big buckets of stupid stuff that organizations need to understand, that team does have the letter “I” in it. It’s individual. And we need to make sure that we understand we’re meeting the needs of every individual, not just the team. And for the individuals, you have some accountability, too. You’ve got to stop, you know, throwing your time away and spending it on stuff that doesn’t matter. And even if that takes courage, you need to do it.

All right. So, you set us up for a ton of follow up questions here. So, I’m going to start with this. You talk about organizational centeredness and I’m thinking of, like, almost the ego of the organization as a whole. What kind of parallels are there between how an organization needs to think of itself and just self-realization? Are there clear parallels there?

Yeah. Well, think of it, again, the use of technology. Little over 10 years ago, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, and ever since then, every consumer out there has learned about user-centered design. We can, whether you use an Android, whether you use an Apple product or some other brand, we tend to go towards things that make things easier for us. Now, you still have an infrastructure that Apple has designed, with the iTunes store and everything else. But, it is designed and it’s made it easier for every individual, to make it easier for every individual. We’ve now been exposed as consumers to that. So, we’re expecting technology and processes to be more responsive to our needs, not just the companies. You know, the company way is, “You’re all going to fit this… you’re all going to apply for vacations this way, you’re all going to apply for expense reimbursement this way because it makes it easier for us to control costs.” Well, the company doesn’t realize things that they’re using a portion of somebody else’s life to control those costs. They’re taking time away from somebody.

So, the solution there on the organizational side is what’s called design thinking. And the essence of that is empathy. Before you design anything that makes it easier for a thousand people to do something, walk a mile in their shoes. See what it’s like to fill out that vacation report. Yes, you do need to standardize how you apply vacation time, or budgets, or expenses. But understand what people are going through. Make it easier. This is what software designers understand. Good ones. If they understand a good UX, or user experience, is key. So, we need to do a lot more of understanding what it’s like to work for your company and have we made the user, that being the work force or the worker team, experience happy, simple, joyous, and we need to spend more time on that.

So, what happens when somebody brings up the excuse that says, “Look, I have so many people on my team. I’d love to tailor every individual experience to be optimal but I can’t do it for everybody. So, I have to take what seems like the easiest route.” How do you combat against that?

BS. BS. BS. BS. Because technology allows you to tailor everything for everybody. The interface, the way, you know, I want things first thing in the morning. You may want certain things in the afternoon. It’s okay. Now, yes. There are certain standard things that can’t be tailored.

Now, I travel for a living a lot and I fly internationally a lot. Now, I would love to bypass security because I think it’s a pain in my ass. But, I can’t. I have to go through security. But, because I’m a frequent traveler, I have Global One pass. I have this thing that makes it easier to check in with my fingerprint and I can bypass a thousand people. Because I’m a frequent flyer, I have travel pre-check and I can go through without taking my shoes off. If I go through a certain airport that has the technology, that’s called Clear, I can use my retinal scan to be passed through.

We can make things easier for the individual if we choose to focus on that. The problem is we don’t. It’s just wherever we can, we are very, very good, between the 80s, 90s and 2000s, we have perfected taking friction, meaning places where efficiency or costs get hung up. We’ve gotten excellent at taking friction out of the systems where it cost the company time or energy or money. We still suck at taking friction out of where it means taking friction out for the individual that saves me, the individual, time or energy or efficiencies. And we need to put a lot more emphasis on that.

So, do you feel like we expect too little out of what technology we have now?

It’s not that we expect too little. It’s the lens we use. Most company infrastructures and tools and technology that they allow or that they endorse or they pay for are corporate-centered. The people that are designing them are thinking, how do we make things efficient for a thousand people? How do we make it efficient for the manager of the team of 100 to manage a team of 100? Not, how do we make it easier for Becky or Jim or Sue to do their lives? So, design thinking is expecting more from a user-centered perspective.

Okay. Well, let’s think more about from the organizational perspective, somebody who’s trying to design a system. What are some of the key questions as they’re going through? Obviously, you know, how do I make this easier for the person is one. But, what are some other questions they can ask to help in this design thinking process?

Well, let me even further simplify. I recognize that for some of your listeners, teams of 20 to 100 or so, that some of them may not be in control of the budgets that they may say, “Yeah, that’s nice, Bill. But that’s not in my sphere of control.” Let me focus on, to answer your question, some things we can make it simpler, on what is in every single manager and team leader’s control. And it’s how you communicate with people. Remember, this can use technology or it doesn’t have to. It can be face to face or doesn’t, or using technology, virtual or face to face. Remember what I said earlier, that everything we do uses a portion of someone else’s life. Make sure you are organized and ready to use everybody’s time and attention. Many team leaders come to me and say, “Oh, I’m so crazy. I didn’t have time to prepare. But, I walked in and I did the best I could without having time to prepare.” Yeah. Well, you just amplified wasting 10 or 20 people’s time instead of just yours. Every meeting, every email takes a little bit of pre-work because what that means is you’re serving tens of minutes or hundreds of hours through the whole system by that organizing.

And the first thing I want you to think about is I take this from how people listen. Most people listen to object or to react versus to really comprehend. Also, how we prepare to communicate, most team leaders and managers prepare to communicate from their perspective, not the individual’s perspective. So, what I do is I teach team leaders how to communicate from their team’s perspective and the instant push back as you did earlier that you noticed, “Yeah, well, I don’t have time to prepare to talk to Becky and Sue and Jim and John and Jane about everything in the team meeting. I got to be more focused.” That’s valid.

Here is a model, two models, that are useful for every individual, and yet, you’re still tailoring for them. One is remember the three to five rule, and this relates to attention span. You, the manager, may be in charge of them and their goals and their responsibilities, but you cannot control or manage how they use their attention. Everybody’s attention, everybody, you, me, all of your listeners, we are all ADD right now. Microsoft recently did a study that we have the average attention span of a goldfish. It’s really just a few seconds. So, the three to five second rule is understanding how to organize, how to communicate something from people’s attention span. And that attention span, it’s maximum three to five seconds for online or virtual texting or anything that’s electronic and three to five minutes for anything that’s face to face.

Does that mean you can only have three to five minute meetings? No. What that means is there are no longer one hour meetings. There’s a meeting that has 12 five-minute segments. And every five minutes or less, you have to compete for attention. You have to make sure you’re capturing their attention. And every three to five seconds, does that mean I can’t write long emails? No. You can write long emails. Of course, you can. But, recognize that nobody is reading every paragraph anymore. They’re skimming. So, make sure that whatever you have that’s at the top of that email is easily skimmable within three to five seconds. Now, I got one more model, but before I go through, did you have a question or something you want to tag on with it?

No. I’m just really taking in this theme of respecting people’s time, respecting their attention and how important that is as a leader. That it is not about getting things out of these people but to really respect them and try to allow them to make those decisions to build more productivity in the organization. So, that’s the takeaway I’m taking right now.

Exactly. That is huge, Neil. And I got to tell you, most leaders don’t get that. I was doing a full day workshop for one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies and the executive goes, “Wow! I just realized something. I do this all the time for my boss because I know my boss’ time is valuable. And I got to be concise and he wants everything on one page, and I got to get to the point, just three bullet points. But, wow. I never realized I need to do that for my team, too. That their time and attention is valuable.” So, the first thing is respect people’s time and that everything you do is using a portion of someone else’s life. So, you’ve got to make sure that you’re giving the most value from their perspective, not just yours, in those three to five seconds, three to five minutes.

The second thing is, how do you, you know, “Bill, how do you tailor something for… I’ve got 100 people that report to me. How do I tailor everything for 100 people?” Well, the secret is not tailoring for 100. It’s recognizing human nature. It is a very simple model that’s built on the human design, not on organizational design. And I’ve teached this all around the world. It works in all cultures, companies, languages. It’s universal because it’s human-based. And how to communicate to anybody is three things. Know as in knowledge. K-N-O-W. Know, feel, do. Everybody is made up of those three components and they want three things from you as quickly as possible. What’s the one thing you want me to know or understand or think about? Why should I care about it? Or connect with me emotionally, make sure you tell me I’m doing good or that I matter. Some variation of EQ, connect with them emotionally. And then the last thing is do. What’s the one thing want me to do?

So, your goal as a communicator into whether you’re having team huddles that just last 10 minutes, whether you’re having a long rollout meeting, whatever it is, or you’re sending something virtually, make sure you hit all three of those components as quickly and as fully as you can within a brief time frame. Here is the one thing, Neil, I want you to know. We led up to it, by the way. This was my punch line you got there. The one thing I want you to know about this stupid stuff segment that we’re doing right now, it’s about respect. You nailed it in the middle. But, that’s my punch line. The one thing I want all our listeners to know how to get rid of stupid stuff, it’s respect yourself more. It’s respect others more. The one thing, feel… I can’t make you, Neil, or any of your listeners feel something but I can be empathetic. I can be caring. I can be funny. I can be serious. I want everybody, every listener right now to feel that their life matters and that it’s their job to get rid of the stupid stuff for themselves and their teammates because their life matters.

And what’s the one thing I want you to do? Here’s two things. Start remembering people’s time and attention is precious. Remember the three to five rule. And when you try to write or communicate or stand in front of people for an hour at a time, remember, know as in knowledge. Know, feel, do. Because everybody is all three of those components. And if you miss any one, if you just focus on do, do, do, do, you become that hard ass manager. If you just focus on feel, you become the touchy feely, non-efficient, non-effective manager. If you focus just on know as in knowledge, you’re intellectual but you’re not helping people get their work done. All three are crucial.

That’s a brilliant framework to use when you’re communicating to the people that you’re leading.

I’ve tried to practice what I preach. I don’t know how you would compare my speech pattern with other people you’ve interviewed, but I recognize I’m speaking faster right now than I normally would to a group, because I recognize audio or webinars people are multi-tasking. All of you listeners, I know you’re multitasking right now as you listen to this. I know you are.

Don’t take your eyes off the road.

Part of what I try to do is make sure that I’m competing for the listener’s attention. So, I’m speaking faster. I am speaking with more punch at certain times, more calmness at certain times. So, I’m trying to model what I’m talking about.

Yeah. But, what you’re saying is it takes a lot of work to be a good manager, a good team leader in this way. You have to really think through things. You can’t just send off emails or throw up some slide presentations. You really have to think deeply about these things and then bring them in.

You, as the manager, are the ultimate simplifier. You are standing there in between two funnels with the narrow neck of the funnel coming at you. You’ve got all this organizational and marketplace and customer data and demands coming at you. It’s a huge funnel and it narrows down to you and you’re going to simplify and synthesize and organize the entire marketplace and the entire organization down to your team, one day at a time, one hour at a time. And on the other end, you are the funnel of 20 to 100 or more teammates. All their stuff and their family stuff and their personal development stuff, all coming at you in a big funnel and you need to be organize it and simplify it. So, you are the ultimate simplifier. That is your job, is the simplifier of all of the stuff in the two funnels to make it easier for both the organization and the individual to get things done.

Wow. These are really powerful concepts. You have not disappoint me, Bill. I was really looking forward to this conversation and it’s been great to get your insights from this. Where can people go to stay in touch with you if they want to attend one of your workshops? Where should they reach out to you?

My website is simplerwork.com and my email is [email protected]. And, you can look me up on LinkedIn, Bill Jensen.

Well, Bill, it’s been fantastic to talk to you. I have a lot to think and to process through all this. So, I really appreciate you sharing your knowledge with us.

Thank you so much, Neil. I’ve appreciated your time.

Welcome back to Work Minus. Today, our guest is Bill Jensen. He’s an authority on making things simple and that’s why I really wanted to speak with him today, and this episode is called Work Minus Stupid Stuff. Hi Bill, how are you?

I’m doing great. Thanks for having me, Neil.

Yeah. I know. I’m excited to talk with you. Well, why don’t you tell our listeners a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Well, thanks for asking. For over 30 years, I’ve been known as Mr. Simplicity as that’s my first book. I’m now writing my 9th. And what I do as a consultant, it’s called change management or helping companies go through change. But, I help people sort through the stupid stuff. Most of the things that come out us are stupid these days, and we’ve got to figure out what’s important, what matters, and what doesn’t. So, I help individuals, executives, and team leaders figure that out for themselves so they can get more work done with less stupid stuff.

Well, sorting stuff is some of your highlights. What are some of the few big winners about some of the stupidest things you’ve seen in organizations?

Well, first, let me clarify the question, Neil. There are really two big stupid buckets and your listeners, depending on how many people they lead, or both. So, it goes into what every individual owns and what every organizational leader owns. So, the two buckets of stupid stuffs are what companies or organizations do that makes it work stupid and then the individual, and with the individual because nobody wants to talk about themselves. I’m perfect, you know. I never do stupid stuff. So, let’s start with them which is the organization. But as I understand your audience that are team leaders of up to a hundred and have the authority to change things, you, the listener, have a responsibility to address this.

And the biggest thing that I find that’s stupid, I call it organizations-centeredness. Another way to think of it is how it’s a fallacy that there is no “i” in team, that we need to understand that every team is made up of individuals. And organizational tools, and structures, and processes are designed to make things simpler for 10 people, 100 people, 1,000 people, 10,000 people, but not necessarily for the individual. So, the way most organizations are using technology, tools, structures, and processes makes things simpler for the company to succeed but not necessarily for the individual. So, your job as a team leader is to really understand where our processes and tools and technologies making things more complicated for the individual. A simple example of this is ERPs, Enterprise Resource Planning tools that are designed to make the most efficient use of tools. And I was keynoting for a well-known global brand and it was about a technology, the ERP technology, that made it easier for people at the top to control everybody underneath. This technology — see how I was going. Look at this cool tool. You can turn this knob and you could change people’s vacations and make sure all the resources are in the right place at the right time. I was keynoting after the guy and I said, “Whoa! Let’s be clear. What you just did with that easy little turn of that button that made it easier for you to control resources? One of them was a single mom who’s been planning with three kids, has been planning for three years to go to Disney world and you just screwed up her life amazing vacation. Do you really think that’s simple for her?”

So, we need to have conversations, we in the organization that have influence that, we need to have conversations about how we make things more complicated for individuals when we make things simpler for the company. That’s the stupid part that most companies don’t own. And the second part, the second bucket of stupid, is everybody should stop ‘shoulding’ all over themselves. That’s S H O U L D. If you didn’t hear the correctly, no, I didn’t curse. You should stop shoulding all over yourselves because most of our behaviors — Oh, I should do this. I should go to this stupid meeting. I should open this stupid email. I should pay attention to this thing even though I know it’s a waste of my time. And this is the actual harder part, you’re getting individuals to change their behaviors. So, one of the things I talk about most often is the most important number in business, and it is 1440. It’s never talked about. 1440, do you have any idea what it is? You guys, even in your studios and in your area, you experienced it yesterday, you’re going to experience it today, you’re going to experience it tomorrow. What’s the most important number in businesses with 1440?

This is some measurement of time. I’m guessing.

Spot on. It’s the number of minutes in a day. And what happens when we wake up, each of us individually are given an amazing gift. We get 1440 minutes every day to use as we see fit. But, most of us should those things that, Oh, I should go to this stupid meeting. I should answer this stupid email. I should be allowing my boss to interrupt my time with my kid because, otherwise, I’ll be perceived as a bad, you know, teammate. So, what I help the people do with the stupid stuff is — it takes courage to stay to say no to things. So, I help individuals realize what matters in their life. And it always, it’s never work. Work is only secondary. It’s even if you’re passionate about an entrepreneur or what a lot of what you do is work, it’s always a family, friends, self, values, religion, community, and then building work into that. And what most people realize is they use work to shove out time or cancel out time with their kids or their community or themselves. So, a lot of what I do when I’m speaking to individuals, not team leaders, but individual performers is like I help them understand how to have self-respect, how to respect themselves that those 1440 minutes are precious. So, those are the two big buckets of stupid stuff that organizations need to understand, that team does have the letter I in it, its individual. And we need to make sure that we understand we’re meeting the needs of every individual, not just the team. And for the individuals, you have some accountability too. You’ve got to stop, you know, throwing your time away and spending it on stuff that doesn’t matter. And even if that takes courage, you need to do it.

All right. So, you set us up for a ton of follow up questions here. So, I’m going to start with this. You talk about organizational centeredness and I’m thinking of like almost the ego of the organization as a whole. What kind of parallels are there between how an organization needs to think of itself and just self-realization? Are there clear parallels there?

Yeah. Well, think of it, again, the use of technology. Little over ten years ago, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone and ever since then, every consumer out there has learned about user-centered design. We can, whether you use an android, whether you use an Apple product or some other brand, we tend to go towards things that make things easier for us. Now, you still have an infrastructure that Apple has designed, with the iTunes store and everything else. But, it is designed and it’s made it easier for every individual, to make it easier for every individual. We’ve now been exposed as consumers to that. So, we’re expecting technology and processes to be more responsive to our needs, not just the companies.

You know, the company way is, you’re all going to fit this, you’re all going to apply for vacations this way, you’re all going to apply for expense reimbursement this way because it makes it easier for us to control costs. Well, the company doesn’t realize things that they’re using a portion of somebody else’s life to control those costs. They’re taking time away from somebody. So, the solution there on the organizational side is what’s called design thinking. And the essence of that is empathy. Before you design anything that makes it easier for a thousand people to do something, walk a mile in their shoes. See what it’s like to fill out that vacation report. Yes, you do need to standardize how you apply vacation time, or budgets, or expenses. But understand what people are going through. Make it easier. This is what software designers understand. Good ones. If they understand a good UX or user experience is key. So, we need to do a lot more of understanding what it’s like to work for your company and have we made the user, that being the work force or the worker team, experience happy, simple choice, and we need to spend more time on that.

So, what happens when somebody brings up the excuses, says, “Look, I have so many people on my team. I’d love to tailor every individual experience to be optimal but I can’t do it for everybody. So, I have to take what seems like the easiest route.” How do you combat against them?

BS. BS. BS. BS. Because, technology allows you to tailor everything for everybody. The interface, the way, you know, I want things first thing in the morning. You may want to certain things in the afternoon. It’s okay. Now, yes. There are certain standard things that can’t be tailored. Now, I travel for a living a lot and I fly internationally a lot. Now, I would love to bypass security because I think it’s a pain in my ass. But, I can’t. I have to go through security. But, because I’m a frequent traveler, I have Global One pass. I have this thing that makes it easier to check in with my fingerprints and I can bypass a thousand people because I’m a frequent flyer. I have travel pre-check and I can go through without taking my shoes off. If I go through a certain airport that has the technology, there’s called Clear. I can use my retinal scan to be passed through. We can make things easier for the individual if we choose to focus on that. The problem is we don’t. It’s just wherever we can, we are very very good between the 80s, 90s and 2000s. We’ve perfected taking friction, meaning places where efficiency or costs get hung up. We’ve gotten excellent at taking friction out of the systems where it cost the company time or energy or money. We still suck at taking friction out of where it means taking friction out for the individual that saves me, the individual time or energy or efficiencies. And we need to put a lot more emphasis on that.

So, do you feel like we expect too little out of what technology we have now?

It’s not that we expect too little. It’s the lens we use. Most company infrastructures and tools and technology that they allow or that they endorse or they pay for are corporate-centered. The people that are designing them are thinking, how we make things efficient for a thousand people? How do we make it efficient for the manager of the team of 100 to manage a team of 100? Not, how do we make it easier for Becky or Jim or Sue to do their lives? So, design thinking is expecting more from the user-centered perspective.

Okay. Well, let’s think more about from the organizational perspective, somebody who’s trying to design a system. What are some of the key questions as they’re going through? Obviously, you know, how do I make this easier for the person is one? But, what are some other questions they can ask to help in this design thing in process?

Well, let me even further simplify. I recognize that for some of your listeners, teams of 20 to 100 or so, some of them may not be in control of the budget that they may say, “Yeah, that’s nice, Bill. But that’s not my in my sphere of control.” Let me focus on to answer your question, some things we can make it simpler, on what is in every single manager and team leader’s control and it’s how you communicate with people. Remember, this can use technology or it doesn’t have to. It can be face to face or doesn’t ever, or using technology virtual or face to face. Remember what I said earlier that everything we do uses a portion of someone else’s life. Make sure you are organized and ready to use everybody’s time and attention. Many team leaders come to me and say, “Oh, I’m so crazy. I didn’t have time to prepare. But, I walked in and I did the best I could without having time to prepare.” Yeah. Well, you just amplified wasting ten or twenty people’s time instead of just yours. Every meeting, every email takes a little bit of pre work because what that means is you’re serving tens of minutes or hundreds of hours through the whole system by that organizing.

And the first thing I want you to think about is I take this from how people listen. Most people listen to object or to react versus to really comprehend. Also, how we prepare to communicate, most leaders and managers prepare to communicate from their perspective, not the individual’s perspective. So, what I do is I teach team leaders how to communicate from their team’s perspective and the instant push back as you did earlier. “Yeah, well, I don’t have time to prepare to talk to Becky and Sue and Jim and John and Jane about everything in the team meeting. I got to be more focused.” That’s valid. Here is a model that is — two models that are useful for every individual and yet you’re still tailoring for them. One is remember the three to five rule, and this relates to attention span. You, the manager, may be in charge of them and their goals and their responsibilities, but you cannot control or manage how they use their attention. Everybody’s attention, everybody, you, me, all of your listeners, we are all ADD right now. Microsoft recently did a study that we have the average attention span of a goldfish. It’s really just a few seconds. So, the three to five second rule is understanding how to organize, how to communicate something from people’s attention span. And that attention span its maximum three to five seconds for online or virtual texting or anything that’s electronic and three to five minutes for anything that’s face to face.

Does that mean you can only have three to five minute meetings? No. What that means is there are no more longer one hour meetings. There’s a meeting that has twelve, five-minute segments. And every five minutes or less, you have to compete for attention. You have to make sure you’re capturing their attention. And every three to five seconds, does that mean I can’t write long emails? No. You can write long emails. Of course, you can. But, recognize that nobody is reading every email anymore. They’re skimming. So, make sure that whatever you have that’s at the top of that email is easily skimmable within three to five seconds. Now, I got one more model but before I go through, did you have a question or something you want to tag on with?

No. I’m just a really taking in this theme of respecting people’s time, respecting their attention and how important it is as a leader. That it is not about getting things out of these people but to really respect them and try to allow them to make those decisions to build more productivity in the organization. So, that’s the takeaway I’m taking right now.

Exactly. That is huge, Neil. And like I tell you, most leaders don’t get that. I was doing a full day workshop for one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies and the executive goes, “Wow! I just realized something. I do this all the time for my boss because I know my boss’ time is valuable. And I got to be concise when he wants everything on one page, and I got to get to the point, just three bullet points. But, wow. I never realized I need to do that for my team too.” That their time and attention is valuable. So, the first thing is respect people’s time and that everything you do is using a portion of someone else’s life. So, you’ve got to make sure that you’re giving the most value from their perspective, not just yours, in those three to five seconds, three to five minutes.

The second thing is, how do you, you know, “Bill, how do you tailor something for every — I’ve got a hundred people that report to me. How do I tailor everything for 100 people?” Well, the secret is not tailoring for 100. It’s recognizing human nature. It is a very simple model that’s built on the human design, not on organizational design. And I’ve teaches all around the world. It works in all cultures, companies, languages. It’s universal because it’s human-based. And how to communicate to anybody is three things. Know as in knowledge. K N O W. Know, feel, do. Everybody is made up of those three components and they want three things from you as quickly as possible. What’s the one thing you want me to know or to stand or think about? Why should I care about it? Or, connect with me emotionally, make sure you tell me I’m doing good or that I matter. Some variation of EQ connect with them emotionally.

And then the last thing is do. What’s the one thing want me to do? So, you as a communicator into whether you’re having team huddles that it just last ten minutes, whether you’re having a long rollout meeting, whatever it is, or you’re sending something virtually, make sure you hit all three of those components as quickly and as fully as you can within a brief time frame. Here is the one thing, Neil, I want you to know. We led up to it, by the way. This was my punch line you’ve got there. The one thing I want you to know about this stupid stuff segment that we’re doing right now, it’s about respect. You nailed it in the middle. But, that’s my punch line. But one thing I want all our listeners to know how to get rid of stupid stuff, it’s respect yourself more. It’s respect others more. The one thing I want feel — I can’t make you, Neil, or in any of your listeners feel something but I can be empathetic. I can be caring. I can be funny. I can be serious. I want everybody, every listener right now to feel that their life matters and that it’s their job to get rid of the stupid stuff for themselves and their teammates because their life matters.

And what’s the one thing I want you to do — here’s two things. Start remembering people’s time and attention is precious. Remember the three to five rule. And when you try to write or communicate or stand in front of people for an hour at a time remember, know is a knowledge. Know, feel, do. Because everybody is all three of those components. And if you miss anyone, if you just focus on do do do do, you become that hard ass manager. If you just focus on feel, you become the touchy feely, non-efficient, non-effective manager. If you focus just on know as a knowledge, you’re intellectual but you’re not helping people get their work done. All three are crucial.

It’s a brilliant framework to use when communicating to the people you’re leading.

I’ve tried to practice what I preach. I don’t know how you would compare my speech pattern with other people you’ve interviewed, but I recognize I’m speaking faster right now than I normally would to a group, because I recognize audio or webinars people are multi-tasking. All of you listeners, I know you’re multitasking right now as you listen to this. I know you are.

Don’t take your eyes off the road.

Part of what I try to do is make sure that I’m competing for the listener’s attention. So, I’m speaking faster. I am speaking with more punch at certain times, more calmness at certain times. So, I’m trying to model what I’m talking about.

Yeah. But, what you’re saying is it takes a lot of work to be a good manager, a good team leader in this way. You have to really think through things. You can’t just send off emails or throw up some slide presentations. You have to think deeply about these things in and then bring them in.

You, as the manager, are the ultimate simplifier. You are standing there in between two funnels with the narrow neck of the funnel coming at you. You’ve got all this organizational and marketplace and customer data and demands coming at you. It’s a huge funnel and it narrows down to you and you’re going to simplify and synthesize and organize the entire market place and the entire organization down to your team, one day at a time, one hour at a time. And on the other end, you are the funnel of 20 to 100 or more teammates. All their stuff and their family staff and their personal development stuff all coming at you with a big funnel and you need to be organized and simplify it. So, you are the ultimate simplifier. That is your job, is the simplifier of all of the stuff in the two funnels to make it easier for both the organization and the individual to get things done.

Well, that was a really powerful concept. You have not disappoint me, though. I was really looking forward to this conversation and it’s been great to get your insights from this. Where can people go to stay in touch with you if they want to attend one of your workshops? Where should they reach out to you?

My website is simplerwork.com and my email is [email protected]. And, you can look me up on LinkedIn, Bill Jensen.

Well, Bill, it’s been fantastic to talk to you. I have a lot to think about into the process through all this. So, I really appreciate you sharing your knowledge with us.

Thank you so much, Neil. I’ve appreciated your time.

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