In this episode we discuss what creates great performance at work. Uncover how you can do better work in fewer hours. Get rid of wasted meetings with hacks you can use to make your meetings radically more productive, finally remove the things that are distracting you, learn the recipe you need to say no to your boss the right way, and focus on the biggest things that will create the most value in your work. We share all of these lessons and much more with our guest Dr. Morten Hansen.
Dr. Morten Hansen is a management professor at the UC, Berkeley and a faculty member at Apple University. His academic research has won several prestigious awards and he is ranked as one of the world’s most influential management thinkers by Thinkers50. He was also a manager at the Boston Consulting Group, where he advised corporate clients worldwide. He is the author of the best sellingGreat at Work, Great by Choice, and Collaboration.
Study of 5000 people, how they work, and their performance.
The biggest conclusion… most people work the WRONG way.
Most people think working MORE is better.
More phone calls. More business trips. More time in the office.
The VERY TOP PERFORMERS across PROFESSIONS and INDUSTRIES and AGE GROUPS tend to be those who are really really good at picking the most important priorities, engaging extreme focus, and going all-in on the few things that matter the most.
10-15% of people do this today
60-70% of people are using the wrong strategy.
"Given the hours I have, how few things can I really excel in?"
Productivity is going down in today’s world, it’s not going up.
You have to work hard, but after about 50 hours of work, there are massively diminished returns, and a sharp spike in marginal productivity, beyond 65 hrs per week you start performing less well than someone working 40 hours per week.
It’s not about being a slacker.
It’s not about cramming more hours into your week, it’s about focusing those hours on the RIGHT THINGS and prioritizing appropriately.
Evidence based insights into what it means to be a top performer at work.
“What creates great performance at work?"
Focus is often misunderstood. “Do less, then obsess."
Focus in the workplace means FEWER TASKS and FEWER PRIORITIES.
Obsession is the path to great performance. It’s the intensity of your effort. Going all-in. Paying fanatic attention to detail. In that moment, you excel. To excel requires incredible focus, intensity, and preparation. You can only do that when you focus on a FEW things.
When you spread yourself thin, everything ends up being mediocre and half baked. The real key is obsession.
Lessons from the greatest sushi chef in the world.
“What creates great performance?”
Many people are not good at saying no
“One of the greatest professional skills required to be successful today is the ability to say no."
If you don’t say no, then you start doing mediocre work.
The recipe you need to say no to your boss.
What do you do when your boss fires back “all your projects are important?"
“I can’t get them all done in time, which one should I get done first?"
How do you think about focus in the context of “portfolio” opportunities? (Investors, real estate agents, and so forth).
If the execution of each one of those things depends on YOUR effort, then you should be FOCUSING on that. Whether or not it hinges on your specific effort, that is the key question. Whenever the execution is reliant on you, you have to FOCUS DEEPLY and execute.
What’s the difference between passion and purpose?
Passion is what excites YOU, what the world gives you.
Purpose is what YOU can give the world, it’s a meaningful contribution from YOU.
People who have more passion and purpose don’t work more hours, but they get more out of EACH hour they work.
How do you find passion and purpose in your work every day?
KEY TACTIC: What are the 3 most valuable things I can do at my job?
Value = benefit for others
Step two: Pull up your calendar for the last 2-3 weeks.
Give a ranking to each item in your calendar:
1 = totally aligned with those priorities
2 = somewhat aligned
3 = not aligned at all
Most people spend less than 40% of their time on their top 3 priorities.
How do you change and remove things from your calendar that are distracting you?
What do you say no to?
What do you cut out?
How can you carve out more time for your priorities?
Routine busywork prevents you from taking the time to actually implement these kinds of contemplative routines.
“Tie yourself to the mast” and prevent yourself from falling back into old routines.
More than 65% of meetings are ineffective according to research.
Are you tired of wasting your time daily in ineffective meetings?
Hacks for radically improving the productivity of your meetings:
Ignore the calendar default of one hour meetings
Try cutting your meeting time in half
Try cutting the number of invitees to your meeting in half
Ask yourself: Are your meetings about discussion and debate or updates?
Use the powerful principle of “fight and unite” - nice is not the objective, it’s to have an argument about ideas and then make a decision. “Disagree and commit."
"Consensus is the enemy of good work.” Consensus leads to groupthink.
Don’t do “status meetings / update meetings.” Make those into emails.
Homework: Do Less, then Obsess. Review your calendar for the next 2 weeks and cut out one or two things. Say no to something or don’t accept the invitation. Free up your time and then dedicate it on the most important thing you need to get done.
Thank you so much for listening!
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This week's episode of The Science of Success is presented by Dr. Aziz Gazipura's Confidence University!
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Want To Dig In More?! - Here’s The Show Notes, Links, & Research
Forbes - “Five Questions With 'Great At Work' Author Morten Hansen” By David Slocum
People Matters - Book Review: Great at Work by Morten Hansen
CNBC Make It - 7 ways to boost your success while working less, according to a 5-year study by Ruth Umoh
Thrive Global - Morten Hansen Author Directory
Google Scholar - Cited Article Directory
HBR - “Finding Meaning at Work, Even When Your Job Is Dull” by Morten Hansen and Dacher Keltner
[Podcast] Future Forecast - #18 Morten Hansen: Do Less, Then Obsess. How to Work Smarter
[Podcast] THE BREGMAN LEADERSHIP PODCAST: Episode 148 Morten Hansen - Great at Work
[Podcast] Art of Manliness - Podcast #441: Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More
[Podcast] Coaching for Leaders - 337: Six Tactics for Extraordinary Performance, with Morten Hansen
Documentary - Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Morten’s YouTube Channel
Inc Video - 2 Key Daily Practices of Top Performers
BigSpeak Speakers Bureau - Morten Hansen - Speaking Reel
Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More by Morten T. Hansen
Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck--Why Some Thrive Despite Them All (Good to Great Book 5) by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen
[00:00:04.4] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to The Science of Success. Introducing your host, Matt Bodnar.
[00:00:11] MB: Welcome to the Science of Success, the number one evidence-based growth podcast on the Internet with more than 4 million downloads, listeners in over a hundred countries.
In this episode, we discuss what creates great performance at work. Uncover how you can do better work in fewer hours. Get rid of wasted meetings with hacks you can use to make your meetings radically more productive. Finally, remove the things that are distracting you. Learn the recipe you need to say no to your boss the right way and focus on the biggest things that will actually create the most value in your work. We share all of these lessons and much more with our guest this week, Dr. Morten Hansen.
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On top of tons subscriber-only content, exclusive access and live Q&As with previous guests, monthly giveaways and much more, I also created an epic free video course just for you. It's called How to Create Time for What Matters Most Even When You're Really Busy. E-mail subscribers have been raving about this guide.
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Sign up for my e-mail list today by going to successpodcast.com and signing up right on the homepage, or if you're on the go, if you're on your phone right now, it's even easier. Just text the word “smarter”, that's S-M-A-R-T-E-R to the number44222.I can't wait to show you all the exciting things you'll get when you sign up and join thee-mail list.
In our previous episode, we explored the mind-bending science of genetic engineering and why it’s going to change everything in our lives whether we want it to or not. We shared crazy stories and examples from the cutting edge of science, and looked at shocking examples from around the world of what is going on with human genetic science. We also explored the science of immortality and shared a few simple life hacks that you can implement right now to extend your life and live past 100 with our previous guest, Jamie Metzl. If you want to have your worldview challenged by some mind-bending science, listen to our previous episode.
Now for interview with Morten.
[00:03:19] MB: Today, we have another exciting guest on the show, Morten Hansen. Morten is a management professor at UC Berkeley and a faculty member at Apple University. His academic research has won several prestigious awards and he is ranked as one of the world's most influential management thinkers by Thinkers 50. He was also a manager at the Boston Consulting Group, where he advice corporate clients worldwide. He’s the author of the best-selling Great at Work, Great by Choice and Collaboration.
Morten, welcome to The Science of Success.
[00:03:49] MH: Thank you for having me.
[00:03:50] MB: We’re really excited to have you on the show today. There are so many topics and themes from Great at Work that I think are really important today. I’d love to begin with one of the fundamental premises of the book, which is this idea that many people today are working potentially harder than they've ever worked. They’re working so hard and yet, as you put it, they might be working the wrong way. What does that mean?
[00:04:13] MH: Yeah, we did a study of 5,000 people and looked at how they work and their performance and we found that most people work the wrong way. And the main thing they do wrong is that they think that more is better. So more task, more activities, more hours more face time in the office, more phone calls, more business trips, the more you can do, likely better you will perform. That’s kind of the premise I think of so many people going to work, including myself. I’ve have done it myself. And it turns out to be wrong.
The very top performers across professions, across industries, across age groups, tend to be those who are really, really good at picking the most important priorities and engaging that extreme focus and then they go all in on the few things that matters the most. Those are the top performers. I would say in our data, 10% to 15% of people are able to do that, and then we got a whole group of 60% to 70% who are just doing too many things.
It's an interesting reason why is it like that, and we have this myth that if we can get more done in a day – So we ask the question. Given the hours I have, how much can I get done? As supposed to asking, “Given the hours I have. How few things can I really excel in?”
At a workplace, we have bosses who think like this. And therefore if they think like this, they will have their direct reports. We’ll be doing it as well. So up and down the hierarchy, we get this kind of work performance. What is happening is that productivity is going down. It’s not going up. It comes to, for example, working hours. We think that if you really perform and do really well, work a lot of hours. The ones who work 70 hours would do better than those who work 60 hours. Those who work eight hours will outperform those who do 70 and so on, and it’s not true.
What we find in our data is that there is a threshold. So you got to work hours. You got to work hard. You can't be a slacker, obviously. But if you have a full-time job and you get about 50 hours, that's probably where you should be. Then beyond 50 hours, the marginal productivity goes down very, very quickly and then it turns negative.
So in our dataset, beyond 65 hours per week, people start performing less well overall, which is pretty interesting. You’re adding the hours and you’re just underperforming. Now, 50 hours per week on average, that's hard work. That's not being a slacker, and the question is not to add more hours. It’s more to ask a question, “What should I do in those hours? Those 50 hours?”
[00:06:55] MB: So many great points. I think the notion that it's not about being a slacker is really important, but even what you just said a second ago that it's not about trying to cram extra hours into your week. It's about really intentionally using the hours that you already have and focusing them the right way.
[00:07:14] MH: Yeah, and I had to learn that the hardware myself. When I started my career at the Boston Consulting Group in London, I thought that the way to performance was just to work harder than anyone else. So I was there during the night and early mornings and I worked incredibly hard. Probably putting in 90 hours a week was that kind of work.
One day I worked on a project with another teammate and one night I went looking for and I couldn't find her. I saw kind of some of her work output and it was incredibly good. She was a top performer on that team, on that project. I asked her, “Cubicle mate, where is she,” and he said, “Well, she goes home every night at 6 PM. She works from 8 AM to 6 PM.”
It just struck me, “Wow! She's the top performer, yet she is working about 50 hours a week at BCG, which is a very sort of hard-working place.” I was up there at 90 hours doing well, but not as well as she did. I always pause and I think, “What did she do?” I never found that out, but I did find out that if I did a study of 5,000 people, I could come up with evidence-based insights into what it means to be a top performer at work. So I had to modify my own approach not working those 80, 90 hours a week.
[00:08:34] MB: And you just touched on something that you said at the very beginning of the interview, but it really bears repeating and extrapolating a little bit more, which is that this is not an opinion. This is data backed. This is evidence validated. You did a study of 5,000 people and came back with these conclusions, these insights. This isn't just a pie-in-the-sky pontificating. It's something that's really concretely grounded in evidence about performance at work.
[00:09:01] MH: Yeah, and I started by saying what creates great performance at work. In my previous book, I had done a book called Great by Choice with Jim Collins who offered Good to Great. I think many people know that book, and we wanted to do a follow-on book called Great by Choice and then studying why are some companies much better performers than others. We compared the top performing companies to the rest.
Then I want to do this other study, this graded workbook, where I want to do the same methodology for individuals and leaders and teams. So comparing the contrast between all kinds of people and all kinds of performance. You can't just study the very best and see what they have in common. That’s a flawed methodology, because you don't know what the underperformers are doing. They might be doing the same things. So you need to study people that or both low performers, mid performers, high performers and then you need to figure out is there anything that they do that is different, that differentiates the top performers and do they actually lead to the performance? What do they do? Are they connected to the performance?
That's a study I did of the 5,000 people, and is evidence-based, and I didn't set out with an opinion that I wanted to prove. I just ask the question, “What do they do differently?” What came back was this, the fact that they focus and that they work hard, 50, 60 hours a week, but not more. If what I come back was, “You know what? They worked the hardest of all. They are the most hours of all. Well, so be it. That will be the finding and we have to live with that.” But is not the case.
So this is evidence-based, and that to me as an academic is very important. It's interesting to me too that so many people in the workplace are working in the wrong way when the evidence suggests otherwise. So the first principle I have which I think is important. I would like to unpack it, because I think it's misunderstood a little bit, this idea of focus. I call it do less then obsess. The question is why focus?
So I was actually perplexed by that, because people before me, even Stephen Covey many years ago in the Seven Habits of Effective People, terrific book, published 30 years ago, said, “You should focus.” So many other authors had said focus. But what focus means in their workplace is that I do fewer things. Fewer tasks. Fewer priorities. Now that doesn't mean that you're doing better. What about your colleague down the corridor who’s doing five projects and I'm doing one project, or he or she is doing 20 sales calls to customers and I'm doing five? They’re doing more than me. So they should, in theory, perform better than I do.
So it's not clear that focus is a great strategy to work, and you also had to say no to your boss. That’s the other thing. You might upset your boss, because you have to focus and prioritize and say no to your boss. So it wasn't clear to me, and when we started looking at just the focus, “Do you prioritize at work?” is the question. There wasn’t not a big performance difference between the people who were focusing and those who weren’t. So that’s not the answer. It’s not the choice of focusing. That's where we had gotten it wrong. It's not like I say, “You know what? I only want to do three projects and not five or six.”
The question, the real insight is this word I use, obsession. That sounds like a little strange word. Why should I obsess? Obsession is the path to great performance. It’s the intensity of your effort and you’re going all in. Paying fanatic attention to detail, making sure that whatever you do, whether it’s creating a PowerPoint slide, or making it customer call, or being in a meeting, that in that moment, you excel. And to excel in that moment requires incredible preparation, incredible focus and intensity of effort, and you can only do that if you work on a few things.
When you start taking on many things at work, you spread yourself thin and every one of those things you do half-baked. You’re mediocre in many things. So the real key is obsession, and obsession requires focus. I tell a great story in the book. It's not my story, but it’s a great story about the greatest sushi chef in the world. It’s from a documentary movie called Jiro Dreams of Sushi, probably many of your listeners have seen that movie, and this is at three-star Michelin restaurant sushi chef in Japan. He has a tiny little restaurant in the subway station in Tokyo. It sees about 12 people, and he serves 20 pieces of sushi, but incredibly focused. There’s nothing else 20 pieces of sushi. Each piece is made to perfection, absolute perfection.
For example, the octopus sushi piece, he has figured out that what you have to do is to hand massage the octopus for 50 minutes, like 5-0 minutes. So here you have the chef standing there and hand massaging the octopus in order for that to be perfect. Now you can only do that if you're really, really focused. If he's serving all kinds of things, he can't do that.
So I want to people, and this is a good question for your listeners. Do you massage the octopus in your work? What’s equivalent of that in your work? So the route to performance is really around that obsession.
[00:14:50] MB: That's a great question. I love the idea of massaging the octopus. It's a great visual that really helps bring that out and jars you out of the complacency that you might be being about what you're really focused.
[00:15:04] MH: Yeah. The other thing is – So the question we asked in this research was what creates great performance? That was the only thing, and this is the do less, then obsess is one of the key ingredient. Many people today feel overwhelmed at work. They feel like they're doing too many things. There is not enough time to get it all done. One of the things that they do badly is that they are not very good at saying no.
I believe that one of the greatest professional skills required going forward in today is the ability to say no. No to your colleagues, to your boss, to your customers, to your suppliers, whatever line of work you're in. To do that, you have to do it appropriately. Not in a bad way so that you accept people. But that ability is so fundamental, because if you don't say no, you just take on so many things and what you end up happening is spread yourself thin and you start doing mediocre work and people will notice that. It’s going to backfire on you.
Now, people ask me, “Well, so how do I say no?” and it’s difficult particularly if you are young, you're 25, 30-years-old and you're trying to climb the career ladder at work and boss comes in and you’re doing 2 or 3 projects and you think the plate is full and your boss comes to you and say, “Hey, can you take on an additional assignment?” You know if you say yes, you’re going to struggle to complete everything. But it’s harder that moment to say no.
So here is my recipe for how to say no in a proper way. So your boss comes to you and say, “Can you take on additional assignment?” What you have to say is. “Okay. How important is this in relationship to the other ones that I’m already working on? Which of these should I do first?” When you ask that question back, you're putting the burden of prioritization on the shoulders of your boss, and that is actually your boss’s job. A manager’s job is to prioritize.
So, now instead of supposing to say yes or no, you put the burden back with a question. That's the right tactic. Now, your boss might say, “All of them are important. Can you get them all done.” Then you have to kind of challenge again, and the question is, “I cannot get them all done in time. Which of these should I get down in the first couple of weeks?” If you ask that question, again, back to your boss to prioritize.
What we found in our research, surprisingly so, because we talked to a lot a bosses, is that they accept that. They understand that you can't get it all done right away. Then they start thinking about it and then they make the prioritization for you. And now you are able to focus. This is a really good tactic. We found several people, many people in our study that did this and they did it well. Those are the kind of the performers who are able to stay focused.
[00:18:03] MB: Yeah. That’s such a great tactic, and saying no is something that I know I personally struggle with. I know so many people struggle with, and it's so hard in today's world, especially when you push back, you say no to somebody and then they fire back, “Well, aren't you talented? You do such a great job. I think you can handle all of these projects.”
[00:18:24] MH: And that’s the irony. I call that the curse of competence. The cursor competence is that you sit there and you do some really good work and people start noticing, “Wow! This person is really good.”
One of the reasons where you’re doing good work is because your focused on a few things, and then they come and tell you, “Well, I think that person can do something else. Let's get John that assignment. He’s doing such great work,” and then John gets a couple of more assignments and then we’re spread too thin and then we can start doing mediocre work. That’s the curse of competence. People come to because you are good, and then you rode the competence and you rode your performance, because you cannot say no.
Here the other day I spoke to somebody who's landed her first job. Very excited, starting a career and really liked to job, and was overwhelmed. I said, “What's going on?” She said, “I just got a few more assignments I need to do.” I said, “Why didn’t you say no?” She said, “You can’t say no. You cannot say no in your first job to make an impression.” That's actually wrong. I understand it’s difficult. That's why he had to be tactical about it. But now you’re getting the other problem, is that you can't complete those assignments really well.
The other thing we found in our studies at bosses and peers, they do noticed whether work is sloppy or whether it's done really well and they start forming opinions about you. They may not tell you, but they start forming opinions about you. You’re unprepared for the meeting. You hadn't really done all the readings and all the memos and all the documentations before the meeting and you sit there and you're not as sharp as you should be, or your PowerPoint slides have spelling errors and people start noticing.
[00:20:00] MB: So I want to contextualize this in a particular context, and I'm curious what your insights might be. I completely understand this for somebody who's an individual contributor in a specific role really executing working on projects and so forth. For somebody who has a broader purview. Let’s say they're an investor in multiple different companies, something like that. How do you apply or think about that same lens of focus in that context?
[00:20:29] MH: Yeah, focus depends on the context, right? So if I'm a junior person sitting somewhere, I should be doing a few things, few tasks if I can. If I’m more senior, I can take on more. Bigger companies can take more things than a startup and so on. If my strategy is portfolio investment, whatever that portfolio is. I mean, it can be a real estate agent. You're not just pursuing one property. You have to have a whole set of customers. If you’re an investor, you’re investing in several stocks. So whatever it is.
Of course, you have to have a portfolio. But the key here is if the execution of each one of those things depend on your effort, then you should be focusing. That's the key thing. You might invest in a few things is a passive investor and then you might as well be broad, because you are not involved in any one of those assets. You're not running the companies. You're not trying to do – To execute on the strategy of these companies. So your effort is not required.
But if your effort is required, for example, if you are dealing with customers, what is your customer portfolio? Let’s say you work in a company and you have 10 corporate customers. Now, your effort to make them happy really, really matters. So you’re spreading your time across 10. Can you go to 20? It’s going to be much more difficult for you.
You take on 20 customers, then you have only half the time you had before, and so on. So you need to kind of make a tradeoff. It’s a judgment call in the moment. But a lot of people ask, “How many can I take on?” The better question is, “How few can I take on and still excel?” Maybe you don’t need to go from 10 to 20. Maybe you should go from 10 to 8, and those eight will be so incredibly good, those customer relationships, that you would excel sell so much more than anyone else.
[00:22:24] MB: That's a great example. In the portfolio context, it makes total sense that it's really a question of whether or not the activity hinges on your specific effort. If it does, whatever your effort is going into, the research shows you have to be really focused on that.
[00:22:40] MH: Yeah, because the execution matters, right? So I tell the story. It’s a great story in the book about the race to the South Pole in 1911. There were two teams racing. There was one, the British timber, Robert Falcon Scott; Roald Amundsen. Back in those days they had five transportation methods they could choose from. They could pull the sled themselves. They could dogs, ponies, the motor sledge and ski.
The question then is how many of these should you actually take? Should you take all five methods and try to go to the South Pole will all five or should you just pick one or two? It’s a portfolio question. If you pick five, you have backups. You have options, because you don’t know what’s going to work out there. If you pick one, the problem is that if it doesn't work, you're not going to get there.
Now if you take five, then you become – You risk becoming mediocre in all, because how well you execute each one of those depend on your effort. So it’s a real great tradeoff between the two, and taking five turn out to be very, very difficult. Robert Falcon Scott on the British team, he took five and he slowed him down, because he became mediocre at five methods.
[00:23:49] MB: It makes total sense. Don't be mediocre at five things when you could be great at one thing.
[00:23:54] MH: Absolutely, and that's one of the keys to great performance. Now, then the question is,, going all in and becoming really, really good at something requires a drive, an effort, grit, tenacity, ambition, all those things. Otherwise you will not become really, really great. So the question is where does that drive come from? Does it come from a promise of a greater paycheck? Promotion? Status? Climbing the career ladder? Yeah, of course, those things matter. Let's be honest about it. But we also found that what matters the most is – I call it the inner drive.
It's the strong sense of passion and purpose in your job. Those are different. Passion is what excites you. It is what the world can give you. Purpose is what you can give the world. A sense a meaningful contribution to something beyond yourself, your company, your customer, society and so on.
What we found is that people who have both, they a sense of passion and they have a sense of purpose. They have what we call focused energy, that when they get up in the morning and they go to work, they have that focused energy, and it prevents them from procrastinating. It prevents them from being easily distracted. Like they sit in front of the computer at work and they’re trying to get something done, and you know how easy it is to check your social media.
You go to Instagram, you go to Facebook, whatever you do, or check on the Internet, the latest news and buzz, that distraction. It’s just right in front of you. But if you have focused energy, you’re much more less likely to do so and you get your stuff done. Here's the interesting thing, people have purpose and passion. They don’t work more hours than others. They just get more out of each hour they work, because of that focused energy.
[00:25:50] MB: That's a great way to define. Those words are so often used synonymously, and I really like the distinction between the two of them. One of them being passion, being more self-centered, and purpose being more about what you're contributing.
[00:26:04] MH: Yeah. The great thing, like we did, we studied 5,000 people and we asked them about passion and purpose, because this are personal kind of experiences. We could disentangle the two, because we found people that are low on both. We found people high on passion, but low purpose. People are high on purpose, but low on passion, right? They're not always the same. What we found is that the worst place to be is to below on both. Those people don't have energy at work. That's kind of obvious.
The next one up is to have high passion and low on purpose, then do better. You’re excited about what you do even though you don't feel it purposeful. You might be selling stuff you don't believe in. The third thing is to be high on purpose and low on passion. You really feel like what you’re doing is really important. You’re working on a biotech and you’re creating medicine, but you yourself are not excited about your job and what you do. Then the last thing is what I call P-square, having both. Then that's where you get the real performance boost, because you have both. So we could actually separate out the two. Purpose seems to be more important than passion. People feel like they have purpose, they tend to perform a little bit better than people who have passion only, but not purpose.
[00:27:20] MB: So how do we – Anyways, this is the age-old question, right? How do you start to find passion and purpose in your work, especially if you don't have it today?
[00:27:31] MH: Yeah, that's a great question, and a lot of people, millennials and others are looking for this. This has become far more important in your work than it used to be. On the passion part, what we found is that there are different kinds of passion, and one is the obvious thing. You actually like the task itself. Your work that you're sitting and doing every day.
But there's also people passion. Are you excited about the people you work with? Then there is creative passion. Do you feel creative at work? Then there is success passion. Do you get the thrill of success really excites you? Passion is about excitement. So I'm in sales. I'm closing a deal. I'm going to bakeoffs. I'm really excited about it. That's another kind of passion, and do you feel that?
Then there's a learning passion. Do you feel like you're growing in your job and developing? If that's so, then your job gives that opportunity. If you look at passion like that, there are many dimensions of passion, then you can start crafting more passionate activity in a current role. So you really get excited about learning new things and growing. Well, you can ask to go to training seminars. You can ask to go to conferences. You can sort of try to broaden your current job. We found people who are trying to do that, they’re just thinking about it as a circle. I can become bigger and bigger and bigger because I'm finding you things to do. So that’s the thing about passion.
Then on purpose side, I think we have defined purpose incorrectly. Purpose, I call it the pyramid of purpose. At the very bottom of the pyramid is do what contributes. Are you providing value in your job. If you're sitting around doing things that other people don't find beneficial, you’re filling in forms and checking boxes and you get that done, but nobody really cares whether you're there or not. You have no value contribution. So you need really need to think about, “Am I creating value for my company or for my organization in what I do?” If that's true, then you are actually having some kind of purpose. That’s kind of the bottom layer of your pyramid.
Then the next level up office is, is it personally meaningful for you? It may not be, but it might be for others. On that level, there is this study of zookeepers out there and they’re sort of asking zookeepers, “What do you think about your job?” One-half of them said, “It's a totally meaningless job and I’m only doing it for the paycheck and I'm literally just shoveling shit.” That's what they do, and the saw the job like that. Then the other half said, “This is my calling. I am saving endangered species by having this job.” So the same kind of people, but totally different interpretation of the same kind of job. So the question you have to ask, is it personally meaningful for me?
Then there’s the third part of the pyramid at the very top is a strong social mission. What I do I think contribute to society beyond making a profit for my company? Of course, people in healthcare, who work in a hospital. I have that. But people have it in other places too. There was a person we interviewed who was working out of a national rental car place in Alaska and she said, “Most of my customers, they need a car, because their other car has been in an accident and they come to me. I provide a service for them when they are in dire need of that service.” That's a different way of looking at something that looks like a trivial job. Then you kind of have that sense of social mission at the top of your pyramid.
What you have to do is to sort of look at these three questions for yourself. Do I really contribute value to my company and how can I do more of that? Second is what I do meaningful to me? Third, can I find that social mission in my job?
[00:31:29] MB: Great strategies, and I really like how you give the example of the same job and yet people have very different responses to it. I want to come back and share a strategy that you talk about, which is – And this is coming back a little more towards focus. But the strategy of looking at your calendar and figuring out where you're currently spending your time and matching that up with your current goals and priorities. Tell me will bit more about that and how to implement it.
[00:31:57] MH: Yeah. Let me turn that into sort of a tactic that the listeners can use, because I use this with a bunch of management teams at this point in time after we’ve figure out what people do after this study. Here are the steps. First of all, you have to ask and answer the question. What are the three most valuable things that I can do in my job? Value here is defined as benefits for others, benefits for your company. You kind of write those things down, three things.
Then you pull up your calendar. This is step two. You pull up your calendar for the last two weeks and you roughly go through and you checkmark each activity. You give it a one if it’s clearly aligned with those three top value creating activities. You give it a one. You give it two if it's somewhat aligned with those three activities. Then you give it a three if it's clearly not aligned with those three.
So you go to a meeting, and a meeting has nothing to do with the three. You have lunch with a colleague or you do other things. It’s like in your three bucket. Now, once you've done that, it shouldn't take that long. You add up all the hours that were in category one, two and three. Then you take category one and you ask yourself, “How many hours did I spend in category one?” Those that are clearly aligned with your top three, value creating activities. Then what percentage of your time?
Now, when I do this would managers, like a team, usually what happens is that people don't have more than 40% of their time in category one. Sometimes this is a revelation for people. They said, “I can't believe it. I was meeting with that person three or four times the last two weeks and why did I do that? Totally unnecessary, and it could have been one meeting. I could have saved all the time. Why did I go to this other meeting? Stuff I had to do maybe, but I can also excuse myself. Why do I meet with this person for an hour where it could have been 15 minutes?”
So people find a lot of time-wasting activities. In other words, they are spending most of the time at work not on the top three value creating activities. So then you get to the kind of step, the last step, which is, “Okay, how do I change this?” Here you have to sort of first start by cutting up things you can’t cut out that are fluff. I don't really need it. I can find a way out of it.” That’s the first thing.
Then the thing is you have to say, “Okay, how do I get more time and effort for the top three?” This is difficult, but this is where you free up time in order to focus on the top three value-creating activities. What prevents people from doing this is that they're busy with busy work. Routine staff meetings that take up too much time and they feel like they have to go to all of these. If you’re a manager, do you actually are scheduling all of these? That's the stuff that has to go. So it becomes about disciplining how you spend your time.
Now, I've done this with many people by now, this activity, and sometimes it comes to a shock to people. So, for example, I did with a management team in a high-tech company in Silicon Valley. We went through his activity. We actually went back for a month. Not two weeks, but a month. Not a single person on that team spent more than 30% of the time on the top three.
So you start thinking, “Okay, how do I shift my time I spent? What do I say no to? What to cut out and what do I spend more time on?” It's a fairly simple exercise. It's a very tangible concrete. We can all do it. I do it myself. Personally, I fall into this trap myself. So in my job as an academic, it is how much time do I spend on creative writing and producing of new knowledge? It’s a constant struggle to keep that. My goal is to keep that at about 40% on average and I do other things. I do speaking. I do other activities, the sort of traveling that takes time away. So then you have to be disciplined saying, “Okay, I need to find a way to spend more time on that.”
So, for example, one strategy I have, one tactic is that I don't spend two hours every morning checking my emails. It is so easy to get into the email trap in the morning. You get up, you check your email. You’re curious what did people told me, and you lots of emails. Then you start answering them. Before you know it, 90 minutes has gone by, and all you have done is to answer email. That may not be a top three value-creating activity. So what I do instead is I reserve the morning, about two hours every morning if I can, for my kind of creative part of my job.
[00:37:10] MB: Hey, I'm here real quick with confidence expert, Dr. Aziz Gazipura, to share another lightning round insight with you. Aziz, how can our listeners use science to get more dates with people they really want?
[00:37:24] AG: I love that question, and the answer is the science of confidence. So whenever we’re struggling, we want to date. We’re afraid to put ourselves out there. We’re worried on some level that we’re going to get a negative response. If you didn't have that worry, if you knew that this person you’re going to ask out was going to say yes and be excited to go out with, we’ll all be doing it without hesitation.
So the thing that stops us is anxiety, is fear, is self-doubt, and that is a confidence issue. So we build our confidence all of a sudden. We’ll have way more opportunities to put ourselves out there and to date. So sometimes we think, “What's the pickup line? What’s the thing I should say? How do I approach the person?” We get so focused on the how, and what we want to do is we want to take a step back and say, “How do I actually change what’s going on inside of me to feel more confident?”
There are so many ways we could do, and I have a course called Confidence University where I have a whole course on dating mastery. But one major tidbit out of that one is right now you have a story in your mind about why you're not attractive. Why someone wouldn’t be over the moon to go on a date with you? You want to find that story and take it out, uproot it.
So right now think about why you not attractive and how can you change that story to see yourself as someone who’s actually highly desirable? What are your qualities? What do you bring to a date or a relationship that would make someone love spending time with? If you get more clear on that all of a sudden, a lot of your anxiety and fear are going to evaporate.
[00:38:51] MB: Do you want to be more confident and get more dates? Visit successpodcast.com/confidence. That’s successpodcast.com/confidence to sign up for Confidence University and finally master dating.
[00:39:09] MB: What are some of the things that you’ve seen that stop people – Let’s say someone implements his exercise and then a week, a month later they fall back into some of these old habits and routines. What are some of the biggest failure points you've seen for people who start down this journey, but then it ends up being a false start?
[00:39:27] MH: Yeah, that's the habit question, right? Changing habits. It turns out to be so difficult to do. I think you need to have some kind of device, some kind of thing that prevents you from falling back into old habits.
So for my own writing activity, this is what I did to just give an example of that, because of course I was starting checking emails after a week of discipline. That’s what everybody does. But I wanted to write for two hours every morning. So I took an old computer, I stripped it of browsers, of everything that could be connected to the Internet. It only had word processing left on it. Then I left my phone behind and I went to Starbucks and I sat there for two hours with this barring computer. Then I get itch to go and check my email or go on Instagram, but I couldn't, because I have tied myself to the math to use that Greek mythology kind of parable, which is I have prevented myself from doing that.
So that's one thing. I think you need to find that thing, that kind of a rule. This goes to exercise and diet. This is same kind of routine. You had to find yourself. So you go to find a rule that works for you. So my wife, for example, she wants to go in stationary biking every day, which is a hard thing to do, because it’s boring. But then she has a rule, she can only watch your favorite TV show on an iPad while she's on the bike. Those two go together, and that iPad stays on the bike. So then I want to see the TV show and I'm on the bike, and then I put the two together, it’s easier now.
Exercise in the morning, what I do is I get up and I just go straight to the health club and I shower there. So then I get out of the house, grab a cup of coffee and go. Then it’s easier than saying I'm going to do later in the day, because I won’t do it. You go to find those little routines, and we found people – I have been very creative at work and how they do this. One cubicle open landscape, a cubicle office, they had a routine there. You had these arm bands around your arm, and if it was red, if you put on the red, you shouldn’t be disturbed. You’re on focus zone. With green, you can come and ask people questions. So it’s a signal to your coworkers. Stuff like that helps people focusing.
[00:41:56] MB: What about somebody who's a manager that has to spend a lot more their time in meetings with team. The vast majority of their work is taking all these meetings? Because I think that it intuitively makes sense to me to have a schedule like this for someone who's more of a creator that needs alone time, productive focus time. What about someone who needs to have a huge chunk of their calendar dedicated to checking in with team members and managing people and meeting with their boss and so forth?
[00:42:24] MH: Yeah. I mean, for managers, part of the top three value-creating activities is to focus on people, is to have those meetings and check-ins with people. That is the job. But here, again, people are incredibly unfocused. When we speak to managers, of course, their days are filled with meetings. But the question then is are those meetings effective? More than 65% of meetings according to our data are ineffective.
So what they do is that they spend their day wasting their time in ineffective meetings. That doesn't mean you shouldn't do the meetings. It just means you should turn them effective and have few things that people can do so.
It turns out, which is incredibly surprising, that people have a default on how long the meeting should last, and usually it’s driven by the software the company has implemented. So, if you have Google Calendar in default in the calendars is an hour. Then people schedule an hour meetings, which is crazy. Why an hour? I met so many companies now that they have an hour as default, or maybe 45 minutes. But meetings, some meetings should only take 15 minutes. You don't need the half hour or the hour. Some meetings should take five hours. But it seemed to be driven by the default of the systems. You need to change the default of the system.
So one rule I have for manager. I say – Or I provoke them by saying, “How about start cutting your meetings in half?” so half the time. If it’s an hour meeting schedule. Try half an hour. If it’s half an hour, try 15 minutes. Then the question is, if it’s one-on-one, fine. But if there’re a lot of people in a meeting, what about cutting the number of invitees in half? Because do all those people need to be there? That's a very good question. Maybe they don't, or maybe you could have sort of like a two-hour staff meeting and you can have people come and go. You’re freeing up time. You’re much more effective. So there are these simple things you can do to turn meetings more effective.
Then the other thing is a lot of meetings are scheduled, because you want to have a discussion, a debate about important topics. That’s why you call people into the meeting. Those kinds of meetings, decision-making meetings, debate meetings, discussion meetings. I have a whole chapter on this in the book. This is one of the key principles in the book, is how do you lead those meetings properly? Because most people don't. I call that principle fight and unite.
what you need in meetings or that kind is a good fight. That people feel they can speak up. That people feel that they can contribute. That the manager is asking the quiet, the introverted to speak up and invite them to be part of it. That you have a debate, we are building on each other’s point of view, as supposed to shutting down each other. Those elements of a great debate, and it’s a good fight. You don't want to have a culture of being nice. Nice is not the objective. It is to have a fight around ideas and arguments and not make it personal. Lots of people are really bad at that. Sometimes companies call this principle disagree and commit, and then you have to make decisions.
Consensus is the enemy of good work. Consensus leads to groupthink, where people are just going along to get along. They don’t want to rock the boat. I don’t want to be the spoiler of the consensus. So let's not have the debate. Let's not say no to something, because I want this group to come to consensus. We don't want consensus. But we need people that are decision-makers in meetings and they say, “We’re going to make a decision. Once we made a decision, we need to fall in line.” There's been a time for debate. There's a time for decision. There’s a time for implementation, and that’s where we need to fall inline.
Some people in some companies, they don't. They have rematch, “Okay, I didn’t like the way the decision went, so I want a rematch. I want another meeting.” That's not okay. So it's about having a great fight and then unite behind that decision being made. When you have meetings like that, what we found, which I found we had a great number of interviews around this, I found it really interesting, is that you have fewer meetings, because you had one meeting. It’s a good debate. We decided.
But in other companies I have people telling me, “You know what we do? We come to a meeting. There are 10 of us sitting in a meeting, and we discuss. It’s a bad discussion. We don't go anywhere. After an hour, we had to say, “We didn't resolve the issue. So we need to schedule a follow-up meeting.” In the next two weeks, there's a follow-up meeting and sometimes that goes badly. So they had to have third meeting for stuff that could have been done in the first meeting. So now you’re wasting time.
[00:47:11] MB: Should people have meetings where they are essentially update meetings?
[00:47:16] MH: No. It’s a ton of those meetings. I have a great I bought – I bought this mug. You can get it on Amazon. It’s not my mug, but it’s great. I bought one because I want to have one on my office desk. It says, “I survived another meeting that should have been an email.” I like that. These are status meetings. If you go to a meeting and you call in 15 people, and as a manager you sit there and you say, “Let me update you what happened,” and then you start reading down the list. Why have you asked 15 people to come and sit and listen to you? I mean, you could have recorded your own little self a video if you want to make it more animated and send that video out.
Let me tell you about this thing. Now, you could have schedule a meeting, say, 15 minutes or half an hour if people had questions, or you could have said, “If you have questions or concerns about what I just said, email them to me, and then we can have a meeting.” But people sit there in status update meeting and they just read down the list of stuff and then people get bored and they start asking questions and then derail the status update. It’s terrible. You should not have those. To be disciplined around the way you use your time is to be disciplined about the kinds of meetings you scheduled.
[00:48:32] MB: So coming back and making this really practical for somebody listening. What is one actions step that you would give them today, right now that they could start implementing to begin to make progress on one of the core themes or ideas that we’ve talked about today?
[00:48:51] MH: Right. I think it’s the do less and obsess idea, and this is what I would do. Take a look at your calendar next two weeks and ask yourself what are the one or two things I can cut out? And cut those things out. Say no to something or don't accept the invitation. Then you say, “Okay, I’ve just freed up four hours of my time.” Then you say, “Instead of wasting those four hours,” you say, “Okay, what is the most important thing I need to get done the next two weeks, and now I just got four more hours to do that.” Then you go and you spend those four hours on that one most important thing.
If you do this, this one practical thing, then just do it over the next two weeks. Then you say to yourself, “Okay, how did that feel if I accomplished that one task? I freed up for hours and a focused on my most important thing those four hours.” Then the next two weeks again, you can do the same. Maybe free up another hour. Because these things I'm talking about, these principles, the seven habits that we talk about the top performers in our book. They are behaviors. They are not innate characteristics. They can be improved upon bit-by-bit every day.
So that practical thing of saying no to two things the next two weeks is at path to rewards becoming incredibly focused and going all in on a few things. That is the key to this. Because none of us or very few of us can sort of switch from being really bad at something to incredibly good at something over the next week. It takes time and practice. It’s a muscle that needs to be developed. So try that principle, that one tactic and see how it felt like having those extra four hours and spending them on the most important thing and then do it again the next two weeks.
[00:50:46] MB: For listeners who want to find you and your work online, what is the best place for them to do that?
[00:50:50] MH: Yes. Going to my website is the best place, and that's mortenhansen.com, M-O-R-T-E-N H-A-N-S-E-N.com, and we have a free resource that I think a lot of listeners would like. We have created a quiz, a very quick sort of five-minute assessment tool that you can take online about how you stack up currently on the seven habits that are in in the book, Great at Work. Once you done it, you just go in and punch in the numbers where you fall and then it gives you a report card on how you stack up against the more than 20,000 people who have taken it so far. So you get a little bit a benchmark of yourself, where you in relationship to everyone else out there.
[00:51:32] MB: Well, Morten, thank you so much for coming on the show, for sharing all these wisdom. Some really important research, really important data, and hopefully people listening out there really take this to heart and implement these ideas.
[00:51:44] MH: Thank you for having me. It's been great.
[00:51:46] MB: Thank you so much for listening to the Science of Success. We created this show to help you, our listeners, master evidence-based growth. I love hearing from listeners. If you want to reach out, share your story, or just say hi, shoot me an e-mail. My e-mail is email@example.com. That’s M-A-T-T@successpodcast.com. I’d love to hear from you and I read and respond to every single listener e-mail.
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