Rebel Diaries

Zena Everett - Organisational Drag and Being Crazy Busy

September 26, 2022 Zena Everett Season 1 Episode 24
Rebel Diaries
Zena Everett - Organisational Drag and Being Crazy Busy
Show Notes Transcript

Leave Scott a voicemail and possibly get featured on the show:

Zena Everett is an in-demand speaker on Crazy Busyness and productivity.  Her latest book, the Crazy Busy Cure, was a winner at the Business Book Awards 2022.  As you’ll hear, her style is helpful pragmatism rather than theoretical puffery.

What Scott discusses with Zena

  • The causes of organisational drag
  • What got Zena into wanting to solve busyness for people
  • Getting the right level of collaboration
  • Why there is too much leadership and not enough management these days
  • Why people are disengaged at work
  • How we've become tech centric rather than task centric
  • How people who come from a billable hours culture struggle taking important time out to think and plan
  • And much more...

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[00:00:00] Zena: 60% of people globally are emotionally detached from their work, 19% of people say they're downright miserable.

[00:00:46] Zena: It's insane stuff and I'm joking about it, but actually it's not funny. It's not funny. And we wonder why people leave big corporates 

[00:00:53] Zena: he said, "look, I just hop on projects and when my project finishes, then I have to meander around the organization a bit.

[00:00:59] Zena: Then I hop [00:01:00] on another project and it might be that project gets pulled because somebody says, why are you doing that project? Cause we're doing this over there. And if you do this and we do this, then there's not a lot of point.

[00:01:10] Zena: And it's free. It's used to be called concentrating when I was at school. Now it's called hyper optimum flow, but it's just doing, getting your work done.

[00:01:18] Scott: Zena is a leadership coach, regular public speaker, and the author of Mind Flip, Take The Fear Out Of Your Career and the award-winning best-selling Crazy Busy Cure. We both share a passion for helping people move from being busy, with little to show for it, to achieving their full potential at work. So I'm really excited to share this episode with you. We had great fun chatting and could have gone on for hours. 

[00:01:40] Scott: You'll be glad to know that we didn't though. On with the show. 

[00:01:43] Scott: Hi, Zena. Welcome to the Rebel Diaries Podcast. 

[00:01:47] Zena: Pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me.

[00:01:49] Scott: Thank you for being on the show. So what got you into this? Where you thought "I'm gonna sort busyness out and chaos out for employees"? 

[00:01:56] Zena: I'm a coach and I would have sessions with [00:02:00] people and they'd keep coming into the room and saying, "I'm crazy busy. I'm crazy busy. I haven't got time to prepare. I haven't got time to blah, blah, blah". And I'd say "yeah. How's the laser focus we agreed on that new project or your first hundred days plan" or something else kind of coachy.

[00:02:15] Zena: And they'd say, "yeah, I don't have any time for that. I do it on Sundays" or "I'm now getting up at four thirty" and like mad stuff and people kept saying crazy busy. Like it was a thing to be proud of. And, you can have the best goals in the world and all that kind of stuff, but actually if you don't pay attention to the right things, every single moment of every single day, you're not gonna be successful.

[00:02:38] Zena: So I became quite obsessed and quite crazy busy and investigating. Was it them? Was it, the system is the system we're all in and what are the root causes? And then other people's crazy busyness get in the way of my client's crazy busyness. So that's what I did.

[00:02:57] Scott: Great. And what are those root causes then that you see? [00:03:00] I think they're reasonably commonly known, but it doesn't seem to solve the problem for people. 

[00:03:04] Zena: There's a thing called organizational drag and it's all the sludge in the system that compounds to slow us down. So I think it's digitization. It's great, but digitization layers, a whole layer of extra work on top of the real work. So there's that. There's excessive collaboration and complexity.

[00:03:27] Zena: So just before, send all mail to you to complain, but collaboration is a good thing, but, and it's inclusive, but we don't want too much collaboration. We want tight teams don't we? We're removing features that are just frills. So you wanna make everything tight. So there's way too much collaboration.

[00:03:44] Zena: Just people around a meeting table with loads of competing agendas. So there's that. And I think there's an element of over servicing as well putting way too much effort into the people that scream out loudest.

[00:03:57] Zena: Because we get a dopamine hit of [00:04:00] crossing their name off our list, but they're actually giving us the least amount of value or revenue or whatever it is. So these are the kind of organizational factors that successful companies and profitable companies and those companies that are more profitable per head.

[00:04:15] Zena: Managed to sort out. Ironically, I think it's the tech companies that give us a lot of the causes of the organizational drag in the first place who on this stuff, cuz they know what they're giving us. But the rest of us, there are, those organizations where they add in more people and then productivity and profitability per head goes down.

[00:04:33] Zena: So God I could go on. I also think part of the problem is that we lead, we don't actually manage anymore. So I see lots of people lead, which seems to me that they have a monthly one to one, and then let people figure it all out for themselves. And people are miserable and overwhelmed because there isn't structure anymore.

[00:04:51] Zena: And then also there, we're people pleasing and we can't say no, and we wanna do everything perfectly. And we want to do everything really well, probably you and I have [00:05:00] got none of that. We've grown out of it, but. All that stuff just makes us all of that makes us crazy busy.

[00:05:06] Scott: Yeah. Wow. There's a lot to pick apart there.

[00:05:09] Zena: There is 

[00:05:10] Scott: So how do organizations survive then? Because yeah I did 20 years in an organization, public sector and they loved a meeting 

[00:05:18] Zena: Yeah. 

[00:05:18] Scott: and, it's just. You hear people and it's not just public sector hours and hours. I forget the figure. It's four days a month or something are wasted in pointless ineffective meetings.

[00:05:30] Scott: But how can these, public sector isn't going to go bust because it's had far too many meetings but surely like commercial companies, if they're just so inefficient like that, they're just at risk of losing, making people redundant, going bust themselves.

[00:05:42] Scott: Do they realize how serious it is? 

[00:05:44] Zena: We know now what's the figures. Says she looking here look, 60% of people globally are emotionally detached from their work, 19% 19 of people say they're downright miserable. This is Gallup's 2022 reports. It's [00:06:00] not some old 

[00:06:00] Scott: So it's post COVID then 

[00:06:02] Zena: PO yeah, absolutely post Covid. Only 9% of workers in the UK report being engaged.

[00:06:08] Zena: Only 

[00:06:09] Scott: nine 

[00:06:10] Zena: say they are engaged. Okay. So we rate 33 out of 38 European countries in misery. So I think, yeah, people might be surviving with too many meetings, too many emails, endless Teams, messages where they're switching all the time. But we also know that if people make incremental progress every day, Towards getting something meaningful, done, even if they're doing something fairly boring, but they think," okay, that's getting me closer to my end goal, my project, whatever it is", then we can actually feel good.

[00:06:43] Zena: Whereas the, to, to your point, people are in meetings and they're, then they've got emails and they've got, they don't actually spend any time. It's less than 40% of our week on meaningful work, which is really shocking. And we know that we've got a misery and mental health crisis. [00:07:00] We've got a productivity crisis.

[00:07:01] Zena: And I think you look at the causes of organizational drag. It's not, it's not hard. Is it to put the two together, think actually just make it easier for people to do their work. So I work with organizations and I make them say, on average, your people, your executives are doing 23, 23 hours a week in meetings.

[00:07:22] Zena: That's insane, make it 15%. So I think a lot of organizations are putting in real rigor about this stuff, and they're saying, okay, Scott, you're launching this new project. What have you gotta stop doing in order to make space for that? Because you're working at capacity anyway. And Scott, if you are already doing 20 meetings, a week you cannot add on anymore because of your project. So you can come out of those. And some of my clients are actually saying no more than say 14 hours a week. And some couple of public sectors work organizations I'm working with are, have actually said we are going to cut down meetings by 20% in the [00:08:00] organization because they know that they're having meetings about meeting.

[00:08:02] Zena: And it's not difficult, like it's really not difficult. And we also know that in challenging times like this, you actually need more meetings, not less, but that's a proper, Scott, what's what can get in the way. What's what can derail us this week. It's not a kind of chit chat and then let's have a brainstorm about what the agenda could be..

[00:08:22] Zena: We have to sort all this out. I also think we brainstorm way too much. We don't, I used to be in recruitment. And when people got to a certain stage, they always wanted to talk about how strategic they were , and I think sometimes that meant they were just doing strategy, but actually the whole, can we just get stuff done and task execution got that's that they've got a bit sniffy about that, or I don't actually do stuff anymore.

[00:08:50] Scott: "I'm too important to do stuff. I just create visionary things that never happens. "

[00:08:56] Zena: Yeah. I did once say to somebody, "what do you actually [00:09:00] do?" And he was working in a big telco and he said "when do you say, do ? What do you mean?" I said, anyway, joking aside. He said, "look, I just hop on projects and when my project finishes, then I have to meander around the organization a bit.

[00:09:15] Zena: Then I hop on another project and it might be that project gets pulled because somebody says, why are you doing that project? Cause we're doing this over there. And if you do this and we do this, then there's not a lot of point. So the loudest person who's got the most influences project kept going.

[00:09:29] Zena: It's insane stuff and I'm joking about it, but actually it's not funny. It's not funny. And we wonder why people leave big corporates and do something an agile startup.

[00:09:40] Scott: Do you think they get too big then? And there's, I know a lot of the problems that I would see and do see still is a lack of visibility where like the leaders. "Do this and, oh, this is the latest trend. Let's do this as well, do that," but they've got no visibility or the communication breaks down between the teams are going, "wait a minute, we're already doing three things you've asked us to [00:10:00] do. And this boss over here has asked for something" 

[00:10:02] Scott: they need to have that visibility to say, "what are we gonna stop doing? Cuz we can't do everything" that just doesn't happen in what I've seen.

[00:10:08] Zena: Yeah. And it takes a lot of confidence to actually stand up for that. And, leaders have to advocate for their team and say, "we just simply don't have the capacity. We can do that, but we can't do everything". And we, we operate, knowledge workers. We just say yes to everything don't we, because it keeps us in a job. Because I think also people have got that kind of nagging insecurity. There's this whole idea, you contribute to a company and while you add value, then that's great. When that no, no longer happens, then, move on. So we're always looking for ways to be visible and to be seen, to be creating.

[00:10:42] Zena: Value and making a difference in other words, to be busy. So the whole kind of busyness is encouraged. Whereas I think it takes somebody really brave to say, "we can't do that now we'll do that. We can start doing that next month or next quarter or next year, but we've just got too much on our plate.

[00:10:57] Zena: We need to land this stuff." You [00:11:00] sometimes you've gotta have really good people at the top of organizations to encourage that.

[00:11:04] Scott: Yeah. And also see beyond the whole thing. I, that gets my goat. Is the chief execs acting on assumptions " do this because" 

[00:11:12] Scott: "why" 

[00:11:13] Scott: or "because we should". 

[00:11:14] Scott: "Why?"

[00:11:14] Scott: "Because they're doing it." 

[00:11:16] Scott: "But why?" 

[00:11:16] Scott: And I would be that annoying why person, because , you're right. You have to protect the team and say "we're doing something that we think is pretty high value, and we've got evidence that it's gonna be effective.

[00:11:25] Scott: You're asking for something on the back of something you've heard that someone else is doing. 

[00:11:29] Scott: We need to have a, an intellectual conversation about why you think that is more important and gonna be more effective than what we've currently got in the pipeline."

[00:11:38] Zena: no, you've got it, crazy busy people. Haven't got time to do that because they are literally they don't, they're fighting fires and their own heads are on fire. And so they haven't got time to just ask those, five whys. But if they ask the questions that would save them so much time in the long run, that I'm fascinated by my clients who can spend hours in pointless [00:12:00] meeting two hours.

[00:12:01] Zena: And the next time they send you and they say, "oh, look, Scott, how did it go?" And you say, you tell them in two sentences, don't you, this is what we agreed. You think," oh, how come you're in that meeting and all that time". But they spend hours in meetings, but they haven't got time to ask, why are we doing this?

[00:12:18] Scott: No. 

[00:12:18] Zena: we, why are we absolutely doing this? What are we trying to achieve here? What's the real challenge we're trying to sort out. Is this the best way? Is this the quickest way? And people also don't talk about time and they don't say, "listen, Zena, write that report, but it should only take you half an hour". It's "copy Scott's last month, the way he does it and see if you can get it down to half an hour", they just say, "write the report."

[00:12:39] Zena: And I could take ages, faffing over it and procrastinating and doing everything else. And you could do it, you could do it really quickly. So we don't talk about time enough and also you don't say to me," look, do you know what? You spend half a Friday writing this report and I don't read it cuz I don't, can you just send me a chart? "

[00:12:58] Zena: So the number of people [00:13:00] that write reports 

[00:13:03] Scott: that no one reads, 

[00:13:04] Zena: that no one reads, but it's true, isn't it?

[00:13:05] Zena: And then people say, "God, I've gotta read. this report every Friday and I don't really understand it and I don't wanna hurt their feelings". And you think, "why don't you just send a voice note? Actually, that would be much quicker. Take five minutes" anyway.

[00:13:17] Scott: So the organization I worked for, they have very senior meetings very regularly, and the whole day was dedicated to those meetings back to back 60 people in a room all day. 

[00:13:27] Zena: Yeah. 

[00:13:28] Scott: Sometimes it would overrun. And before everyone got laptops, they would literally be given a binder a fair few inches thick, all prepared with little tabs and color coded, all the stuff printed out, dread to think the impact of the environment on paper and what would happen to that after that meeting, probably that would just go straight in the recycling and it would.

[00:13:47] Scott: Oh, it's just frustrating. and then you get onto people in meetings now with the laptops who are disengaged, cuz they're in a meeting they don't need to be at so they're chatting to other people in the meeting on Teams or saying "this is boring, isn't it?" Or [00:14:00] they're doing their emails because they know their email inbox is chaos.

[00:14:04] Scott: It's just so dysfunctional.

[00:14:06] Zena: it is. It's bonkers stuff, isn't it. And then they've got then HR, because they know that they're just alienating half of my clients here, people who pay my bill, but then HR, he knows 

[00:14:17] Scott: I'll edit this bit

[00:14:18] Scott: out. It's fine.

[00:14:19] Zena: But yeah. Yeah. They've got really low engagement score. They think, "oh, look it's okay. Because you've got, when you come outta that meeting, you've got mindfulness."

[00:14:27] Scott: yeah, we got a beer fridge and a table tennis table. 

[00:14:29] Scott: That'll make it all. Okay. 

[00:14:30] Zena: It's Okay. We've got, yeah, I know. Yeah, I know. It's funny, but it's not funny is it because I think people are really stressed and upset and we've got the figures they're disengaged, aren't they're overwhelmed. They're exhausted. They haven't got worklife balance. And, you mentioned the pandemic.

[00:14:44] Zena: I think. I think what happened I think at the, what I'm seeing is that people have got many more meetings, even more meeting time and no time to do work, no time to do deep work and get into flow because since the pandemic people have just, I dunno, they've stopped calling [00:15:00] each other, drives me mad.

[00:15:01] Zena: Even my friends will send me a WhatsApp saying, "can you talk", and you think god just ring me? And if I can't talk, I won't answer. It's really not complicated. Not that scary that people have just, By the time they've set up the call, you could have solved the problem couldn't you and moved on.

[00:15:17] Scott: Yeah. So we talked about dysfunction of the organization. I'm gonna label it that do you think also the individual. Partly to blame in terms of, it's easier to deal with your inbox than do the hard thing. Come in the morning and turn on the email. And, but partly because they've got that pressure, I know there's probably gonna be 50 emails overnight I need to deal with, but there's that really important thing you should be doing and I'm guilty of it.

[00:15:40] Scott: Sometimes it's " oh, I'll just get lost in my inbox. Cuz I know I'm busy 

[00:15:44] Zena: Yeah. 

[00:15:44] Scott: dealing with that, but ignoring the really hard thing. I don't really wanna do."

[00:15:47] Zena: yeah. Yeah. We've become totally tech centric as opposed to task centric. Hark at me, or centric. Yeah. No, we have, we've be, we are, our lives are dictated to, by our inbox and by team's [00:16:00] interruptions. Of course, it's really hard to do something and the brain can't tell the difference.

[00:16:03] Zena: We still got a dopamine hit of crossing, any old thing, off our list. I've got, write a proposal to that client. That's gonna feed the family for a month versus, clean my kitchen with a damp cloth. The brain can't sell the difference, whatever I cross off it thinks whoa. 

[00:16:18] Scott: achieve something? 

[00:16:19] Zena: And still achieve something.

[00:16:20] Zena: Yeah. Yeah. So it's, and I think when you are tired and overwhelmed, you, also our brains are there to keep us safe. So if you've got difficult person sending you stupid emails and then saying, oh, thanks your email, Scott. And I go no, right back at you. And then you sell me a smiley face. All that stuff is just making it hard to think and hard to focus.

[00:16:39] Zena: And we get, we really get ground down and we're not meant to be set in front of screens all day. I think it's, I just think, yeah, it's really hard. We've got to be, my clients that are super successful will know what's, they'll know what's in their inbox roughly, but they're ruthless about, and we shouldn't even use the word ruthless.

[00:16:59] Zena: They're just structured and [00:17:00] disciplined, but it's gotta be ruthless these days about putting in the boundaries and knowing what's really important. So like a basic hack is, are, most of our diaries are full of meetings, aren't they and calls but we don't actually block out time to do our tasks that just finish fits in all around the sides, the important stuff.

[00:17:23] Zena: And I also say to people in, in group crazy busy master classes. What's the one thing you really need to get done that would have a, a massive impact on the, your team, your business, your career. You probably keep moving it from one list to another, every quarter, every year you keep shifting, it really need, there's a system I need to sort out, or there's a client I wanna go after or whatever it is, book, I need to write whatever.

[00:17:47] Zena: And they say this and I say realistically, how much time do you spend on it? Think, look at your calendar for the last couple of weeks. And if it's a, the really big thing, invariably, they've spent less than [00:18:00] 5% on it. It's really sad and that's because there's no time left to figure it out because we are just hard wired. Now, if we're not busy, then we're not working. 

[00:18:08] Scott: Yeah. 

[00:18:09] Zena: Have you ever worked billable hours?

[00:18:11] Zena: Have you ever worked in one of those cultures where you are, you've got a time sheet?.

[00:18:16] Scott: I had a secondment for about six months to a commercial company. It was a joint venture that was working with the public sector company I worked for. So this big company said "we wanna track every 15 minutes of your time on a spreadsheet".

[00:18:29] Scott: And we were like, "what the hell? This is just alien to us". And it didn't last long. 

[00:18:34] Scott: Luckily we managed to escape.

[00:18:35] Zena: People who I find have been, have come from a billable hours culture. So maybe , lawyers, accountants, whatever it is, but they really struggle with thinking we're thinking , you can't block out thinking time, figuring out time, sitting quietly, working all this out.

[00:18:50] Zena: Because going for a walk and figuring out for 10 minutes, it's gonna save me so much time in the long run. And actually then I track my productivity in the afternoon and that's great taking a break [00:19:00] that is an anathema to them because they're trained simply not to do that. Time is money. Time is money. It's all this kind of crazy busy stuff.

[00:19:06] Zena: That time is money, but actually the, the endless doing is the problem.

[00:19:13] Scott: Yeah, and I think it's tied into that still a lot of managers are stuck in that industrial age thinking aren't they, the whole productivity just produce more stuff. So 

[00:19:23] Scott: I used to lead a development team and very early on, I thought, oh, if they're not all typing all the time, then they're not doing stuff. But rapidly learnt.

[00:19:32] Scott: If they spend 90% of their time having a conversation, solving the problem, getting their brains together, and 10% 

[00:19:38] Scott: doing the coding. That's brilliant because we've saved pain in the long run. We're not then having a buggy product 

[00:19:45] Scott: and it's, again, it's protecting that team and not seeing hands on keyboard equals value.

[00:19:50] Scott: It's about the team working together, and those kind of relationships. But yeah, 

[00:19:54] Scott: Take your point about the busyness thing is "what will boss think if I'm not sat at the computer" 

[00:19:59] Scott: and [00:20:00] think about Teams and, having that green dot, on video calls, all that stuff.

[00:20:04] Zena: Was just going to say that's my pet hate is I think we just interrupt each other constantly. And so we're switching all the time, which doesn't sound like a big deal, but if we're, if our train of thought is interrupted and it takes us 10, 15 minutes to get back to where we are, there's figures that say up to 40% of the time, we don't resume what we're doing because you interrupt me.

[00:20:29] Zena: I'm writing something and thinking. And then I think, "okay I don't wanna start that again because I've got a meeting in half an hour" or whatever, 

[00:20:35] Scott: or just check my

[00:20:36] Scott: inbox quickly. 

[00:20:36] Scott: Oh, dear down the rabbit hole. 

[00:20:38] Zena: Yeah. down the rabbit hole. And then they also say, when you look at something on your phone, you get a WhatsApp, we need to respond straight away.

[00:20:45] Zena: We do two other things before we go back to the task that we're doing. Try it. Not now. 

[00:20:52] Scott: We interrupt this podcast for 10 minutes. We'll be back in a minute. I'll just check my phone.

[00:20:57] Zena: Yeah. What's Megan done now. Let's have a [00:21:00] look . Yeah, exactly. So you're interrupted and you do two other things and all that stuff. It's okay. But you just added up over a day and a week and so on. And that's where our time goes. I am a big advocate for a four day week, cuz I think if organizations could eliminate so much of this drag and look at how they communicate and shave wasted 15 minutes from the start of every meeting. You've actually got a four day week right there. So you can at least, because if you look at how we squander our human talent in pointless activities, you could easily have them spending a four day week and getting paid for five and going out and re-energizing and, however you want to cut the time, but re-energizing spending money, having a life, getting curious and coming back fresh and full of ideas. But I think we're just really wasting our time and talent in a way that we wouldn't waste any other resource.

[00:21:56] Zena: They say that the drag work, the crazy busy work can [00:22:00] be up to 60% of our time in the week.

[00:22:02] Zena: We'd never, I wouldn't waste 60% of my money. I wouldn't, or anything else, would I, you wouldn try out 60% of your food. But if you actually look at what we do, you look at your calendar and think actually "what of this was really meaningful. And I felt great". In other words, I was in flow and I was doing some deep thinking, 

[00:22:20] Scott: Why do you think it just carries on it sounds so obvious. Doesn't it? Like people are in the meetings themselves and they're walking out, going well, that was a waste of two hours, but nothing seems to change unless people like us come in and say, " this is shit, frankly".

[00:22:34] Scott: I'm sure you're not quite so blunt, but 

[00:22:36] Zena: I, you am. I think you're on something there. Maybe I should be everywhere. I do know. do think people are having really good conversations about this stuff now. And I, I also think there's a problem with gurus isn't there. Everybody wants some kind of wonderful silver bullet.

[00:22:51] Zena: Whereas actually this stuff is just so obvious. It's saying why, like you said, "why are we actually [00:23:00] doing this? 

[00:23:01] Zena: What is it that we wanna have at this end, the end of this meeting that we don't have now? "

[00:23:05] Zena: You know what "actually have you got an agenda for that meeting haven't got an agenda? Why are we having a meeting?"

[00:23:10] Zena: All those kind of questions, Actually thinking" I'm not gonna respond to your email that you've sent me at nine o'clock in the evening saying I'm doing this in my own time. I'm not expecting a response." Don't send that. You just press delay sending it's not complicated.

[00:23:26] Zena: I just think it's about I think it's about like everything, good leadership and good boundaries and people standing up for themselves. And I do think people are walking with their feet now and saying, look, It just not gonna work like this anymore.

[00:23:40] Scott: Yeah. And yeah, there's just like bad behaviors and etiquette issues where, I would get it. I'd get an invite to an a meeting with no, it would just be the invite.

[00:23:50] Zena: Yeah.

[00:23:50] Scott: I'd never heard of the meeting before and it'd be like, why do you need me? I'd tentatively respond and say, "okay, what's this meeting about what do you [00:24:00] need me for?", rather than just, you're expected to just turn up and then you'll sit through a two hour meeting you never normally attend to be given one action still you pick up actions when you're not even at the meeting go, "oh yeah. This meeting you weren't at here's three actions for you."

[00:24:12] Zena: Yeah.

[00:24:13] Zena: Yeah, I know, but I you wouldn't get on a plane if you didn't know where it was going. And it's the same philosophy. What's even worse, I think is when people allow other people to have access to their calendars. So a lot of this stuff that we thought would be great and time saving isn't.

[00:24:28] Zena: So we've got to get in the habit of pushing back. We've got to learn to sequence and say, "yeah, I can do that, Scott. I can't do it till Tuesday". I always use this analogy. If we were running a testing lab and you came to me and said, "can you put my test tube on right now? Because it's super important and really interesting."

[00:24:44] Zena: And I'm me. And I'm so special. I wouldn't say. "Yeah, absolutely. Let me just, Ugh. Stop the whole line and have all the test tubes crashing off to put yours in because you are lovely". We just say, "yeah, of course I can. It starts tomorrow morning at 7 30 and I promise you'll be the [00:25:00] first test tube on and the first test tube off."

[00:25:03] Zena: That's the way it works. But in offices, in knowledge work, we just say yes to everything and we don't push back enough. And we don't, I say to people just automatically ask for it, to push it back, sequence it." I can, I can start that this afternoon or tomorrow morning or next month."

[00:25:18] Zena: 2025, whatever it is or why, how long should it take. And I think there's also, there's also this whole thing about leadership training. I say I'm a leadership coach, but actually I don't think I am. I think people, I think I, I show people how to manage. I help them figure out, oops. I helped them figure it out from themselves, had to manage the, again, there's this whole thing people say, oh, look, I, I coach somebody how to do stuff.

[00:25:42] Zena: I. You don't sometimes you have to tell people what to do. I think we've got so wishy washy and we don't manage. And a lot of the problems is at the kind of junior management level who are really busy, who haven't got time to explain things have never been taught how to actually give feedback and [00:26:00] help people with their performance.

[00:26:01] Zena: We were frightened aren't we.

[00:26:03] Scott: Yeah. And just on the point about the pushing back it as I said earlier, that the visibility's key. So one of the things that I help teams with now, is getting that visibility. Cuz when I had, in the early days of my career the team were in a bad place. So I didn't wanna be like you were saying earlier, I don't wanna be the ones to say no, cuz we already weren't particularly popular cuz we weren't delivering cuz we were in crazy busy chaos 

[00:26:25] Zena: land. 

[00:26:26] Zena: Yeah. 

[00:26:26] Scott: But we started to get some structure and started to push back. We started to get results and then having that visibility of here's all the stuff we're working on, prioritize the single list. You've just asked for this and I would get that person to look at the list prioritized and say, where do you think yours fits in 

[00:26:43] Scott: to actually get them to collaborate on the decision?

[00:26:45] Scott: And quite often they'd go, oh yeah, I can see you're working on this thing. It's really important. I'll come back to you in six months time and it does come down to that visibility I think.

[00:26:54] Zena: Why do you think you were able to do that? And other managers weren't able to do that? 

[00:26:58] Scott: I think, cuz we'd got to such [00:27:00] a burning point. I spare the long story, but we discovered agility, but proper agility and saying, test and learn, be comfortable with not being right. Be comfortable with not trying to do everything and getting burnt out. 

[00:27:15] Scott: And it just, we just started to, I guess I got a bit more brave as a leader to say this.

[00:27:19] Scott: This is just can't go on. The team have burnt out. I'm stressed out. I was doing the whole, I can only do any work on weekends cuz in the daytime it's too chaotic. And then, yeah, it just evolved into actually starting to get results. And people would say, Scott's team are really good. They're actually delivering stuff.

[00:27:36] Scott: And, they had visibility of the work we were doing 

[00:27:38] Zena: Yeah, 

[00:27:39] Scott: pushing back " , we can't do that. We can't do everything". And being comfortable with that 

[00:27:43] Scott: and not feeling you have to do everything.

[00:27:45] Zena: And did you. 

[00:27:46] Zena: Did you have a difficult conversation with whoever you reported to, to say, right? This is how I'm gonna operate from now on? 

[00:27:52] Scott: Not directly, it just evolved and so yeah, the teams I help teaching them about this kind of stuff is this isn't gonna [00:28:00] be a magic silver bullet overnight. This takes time to build the trust, 

[00:28:04] Scott: to have the transparency of work to get the organization to see the regular delivery of value, which is, the whole agility thing is small literative steps 

[00:28:11] Zena: Yes. 

[00:28:12] Scott: eating the elephant, one bite at a time.

[00:28:13] Scott: So no, I didn't have a stark "things have to change". We just started to change. And then the organization came with us like, oh, and then I would get asked by other teams completely outside of my sphere. Because I was in digital, they were like, HR, oh, can you come and tell us how all this works? 

[00:28:29] Scott: I was like yeah, here's, some key principles don't do everything say when you, why you can't do it, say no politely, but there were still people in the organization culturally, who were like, oh, we can't say no.

[00:28:39] Scott: If you don't say no, you're just gonna burn everybody out. 

[00:28:43] Scott: And it's not in the interest of the organization. 

[00:28:46] Scott: And as a public sector, organization, taxpayers money. Let's stop wasting it. And let's focus on being good at a few things rather than trying to do everything and do the badly is the principle. 

[00:28:56] Zena: And is your principle to go for the biggest possible impact [00:29:00] and aim for that or to go for smaller kind of transformations that have an iterative effect.

[00:29:08] Scott: So generally in the space we were operating in was new territory. We're building stuff we, that hadn't been done before. So it had to be that minimizing the risk was about testing iterative steps, but absolutely obsessing about the outcome and the value and saying that's our benchmark. We have to move the needle for the public and the customer, and we need, it's a combination of highest value versus what's realistic how complex it is.

[00:29:34] Scott: What's the team's capacity. What's the team's skill set. What's the support from the organization to do it. So all these things, my role was like guardian of that. So so I was Product Manager, so I was responsible for the strategic vision. That's the strategic's an overused word, but thinking long term. Create an environment for the team to be super successful, protecting them from all the corporate noise.

[00:29:56] Scott: Yeah, you're interviewing me now. It's great. 

[00:29:59] Zena: Yeah. Now [00:30:00] I know I'm a coach I can't help it. I love to , I'm just the nosiest person. So I've got best job in the world, but what I've also noticed about a lot of the companies I work with is they've got a lot going on people are, and I think this is particularly acute at the moment, coming back from a pandemic, we want a little safety and security, whereas they've got so many projects and so everything's changed, isn't it. If you change the chairs and receptions, somebody writes up the transformation project on their LinkedIn profile or something 

[00:30:30] Scott: They employ people specifically. Your job is to deliver change. Now 

[00:30:33] Zena: Yeah, 

[00:30:33] Scott: the people who actually are gonna have the change done to

[00:30:35] Scott: them. Get them to do it. They're the ones. Anyway. 

[00:30:37] Zena: Yeah no. I'm with you, but I think also. The, of course change is a constant and all this kind of bingo cliches, but I think there's often just too many projects going on and they are often there to keep managers in work. That whole thing you just got rid of them, it would make no difference and probably would take a lot of friction outta the system.

[00:30:59] Zena: But I [00:31:00] do see that happen quite a bit. And some of the organizations I work in have got managers that have recently, that sort of great resign that was going on. So they've got these people in their first a hundred days and they've got all these great things happening and they've taken over teams like you were talking about, who are already overwhelmed, and now they're putting a new stuff that's going to, that people can talk about, but simply they can't land everything and they've got miserable, overwhelmed people.

[00:31:26] Zena: So I think that's a big cause of organizational drag as well. That's number four. Just simply too much, too much complexity.

[00:31:33] Scott: And that is driven by that kind of ego. It's " I'm new in role. I need to make an impact. I need to do something different. I need to put my mark on it. I need to launch a new brand or I need to like", no, you don't but that's, that's what they wanna do, especially if they're in role, certainly in the organization, I was in you, weren't in senior leader roles, particularly long.

[00:31:53] Scott: You had Two three years and then you moved on. So it's like, what can I do in this time that I'll be remembered that I'll make an [00:32:00] impact? 

[00:32:00] Scott: And that drives the wrong behavior. Sometimes it's what they do is impose all these new ideas, but don't give people permission to stop doing the other stuff and as you said, it then just crams in more and more.

[00:32:11] Zena: So I think it's sometimes just about just slowing down, isn't it talking to the people who've got the problem and saying why don't you think it's working because they've probably got A, the right solution and B a kind of simpler more immediately implementable solution rather than I think just going for.

[00:32:30] Zena: Going for quick wins, which may or maybe not be right, but they're not scoped out properly. Your five whys if everybody asks why I'd be out of a job most often, because I think that's, when you get down to what the, you boil down the syrup, don't you to make the jam and you find out actually what the real issue is.

[00:32:47] Scott: Yeah. Yeah. So it's things like "why", "how do we know this would be successful?" "What evidence do you have?" " what should we stop doing?" It's all those really 

[00:32:56] Scott: powerful questions that take bravery. 

[00:32:58] Zena: yeah, 

[00:32:59] Scott: To [00:33:00] be able to ask. And it's not always easy, depending on the organization you're in, if your boss is an absolute nightmare, you just may not be able to ask those questions and keep your job, frankly, but then I'd say get out, run away as fast you can 

[00:33:12] Zena: Yeah. Yeah. So would I find a project within the business that you can go and work for somebody else and sideways move? If you have to. Yeah, I agree.

[00:33:22] Scott: So are there any key tips, like takeaways that you can you give to people to, to get off that crazy busy bandwagon? 

[00:33:30] Zena: Yes. 

[00:33:31] Zena: The first thing I say is go back to your job description. And if you haven't got a job description, cuz you've worked there for so long and you've taken on different responsibilities, then write one because people say they can't prioritize and they're overwhelmed, but actually you think right?

[00:33:46] Zena: What is right at the top of my job description? Not on page three, but the first couple of lines that if I nail this, I am an outstanding performer. Then you think does how I spend my time reflect. So [00:34:00] once you've got that, it sounds so basic, but trust me, people don't do this then, actually out of everything I do, this is really significant. So I, they might be involved in extra projects because they think if I organize this committee, that's gonna increase visibility. It might be. But actually you just might be the lovely person that we can always dump this stuff on.

[00:34:22] Zena: Meanwhile, we're promoting them over there because they've delivered. Whatever we need them to do. So be clear on that. Then I think people have to block out a couple of hours a day to think, and to get into flow. Ideally, two hours, I try and do 90 minutes, but at least block out some time to think during the day and time to get your real meaningful work done, not clear your inbox.

[00:34:45] Zena: Be really clear who your stakeholders are. I always say we've gotta make the lions and only go after antelopes. So you've gotta know what those antelope priorities are, and you've gotta know who the antelope people are and make sure that you're [00:35:00] chasing those. And not all the small stuff that's on our todo list because they don't, there's not enough calories in there for us to feed off.

[00:35:07] Zena: And I think, basic time management 101, isn't it. If it's not scheduled, it doesn't happen. You've gotta block your diary put in calendars in there put in your tasks in there to make sure you do them and you've allowed a fair amount of time. You've also got to do one thing at once and do it properly.

[00:35:25] Zena: So if you're going in the office to have some meetings, make that a day of meetings, have one, to ones do your flow work at home when you're uninterrupted, because you've switched off notifications. And I actually think we all need a bit more structure and rigor in the day. I think people want the reassurance of some structure. So we know where we.

[00:35:44] Scott: Brilliant. That's really helpful. I'm sure the listeners will act on that. It's just those things can just make all the difference. Can't they it's like just start the day, as well 

[00:35:52] Zena: it's the phones, the phone, we are all so distracted by our phones. Aren't we? And the whole switch tasking. What we've [00:36:00] the research tells us that we're getting our work done, but it's taking longer and longer because we're dicing backwards and forwards. But also that people have this kind of low level of anxiety kind of rumbling away because we don't have that satisfaction of deep work.

[00:36:15] Zena: And when we're in flow, we get dopamine, oxytoin, serotonin, endorphins, andandamide and norepinephrine. So I dunno what your life is like, Scott, but I can assure you, I don't get any of those kind of legal highs these days. So so all the things, we say, oh, go for a walk. It makes you feel. We don't need to have those.

[00:36:35] Zena: What were you talking about? Kombucha and table tennis tables and all those things that mindfulness and yoga. And actually, if we just gave, if we said to people, "look it's okay, go and have a think, write that I'm not gonna interrupt you for an hour. Get on with it." That's that would make a massive difference to wellbeing.

[00:36:52] Zena: And it's free. It's used to be called concentrating when I was at school. Now it's called hyper optimum flow, but it's just doing, getting your work [00:37:00] done.

[00:37:00] Scott: that's the thing, isn't it just, if you can achieve.

[00:37:05] Scott: Just one thing a day. 

[00:37:06] Scott: And at the end of the day go, "I actually achieved something today." 

[00:37:10] Scott: Not "what did you do today?" "I spent literally all day in my inbox and didn't achieve what I'm employed to "do is just scary. 

[00:37:18] Zena: Oh yeah. And pick up the phone, talk to people. What's that rule three, when it's gone backwards and forwards, a couple of times just pick up the phone, the number of times, back and forward emails. Can you do a meeting and you think, oh, just ask me the question.

[00:37:30] Zena: Yeah. 

[00:37:30] Scott: You'd have done it in a minute on the phone versus however much time in emails. 

[00:37:34] Zena: Yeah. And I think I think people are having conversations at work about saying, " why have we got this meeting at nine o'clock on Monday? Actually I wanna be getting on with stuff at nine o'clock on Monday. Why don't we have it at four o'clock on Monday?

[00:37:47] Zena: Give me a chance to move things forward and have a clearer picture "

[00:37:50] Scott: brilliant. I could chat you for hours putting the world to rights.

[00:37:53] Scott: So one of the things I ask all my guests, I know you've got a couple of books. We're gonna get a link to those in the show notes at the end. But if you [00:38:00] had one book you could take to the desert island, it could be one of yours if you wanted.

[00:38:03] Scott: But if there's a book you wanted to take and have that for the rest of your life, what would it be? 

[00:38:09] Zena: Does it have to be a business book?

[00:38:10] Scott: No, whatever you would be happy to keep you going those lonely days. 

[00:38:15] Zena: Alright, I'm gonna sound really. I'm, I've got to read Ulysses James Joyce's Ulysses for a course, I'm doing on our history and it's really difficult. No punctuation. It's rambling. It's about 700 pages. And apparently as I work in efficiency, I've already factored out. It's gonna take about 14 hours to read. So I might have a miserable time on the desert island, but if I could have that would fine in a big pot of coffee, but you might not enjoy it, but at least I'll be using my time wise.

[00:38:46] Zena: What fun am I

[00:38:50] Scott: there's plenty of paper for a fire if you needed it. 

[00:38:53] Scott: It's that big? 

[00:38:54] Zena: Yeah. So it's a big book. I could throw it at a passing duck or something and knock it out with it.[00:39:00]

[00:39:01] Scott: Brilliant. So if anyone wants to work with you. How do they get hold of you?.

[00:39:05] Zena: 

[00:39:07] Scott: Okay. And you are on social media?

[00:39:10] Zena: No, funny enough. I'm not given what I do for a living. I hate Facebook. I think I think social media is a kind of massive time suck, but anyway. Yes, of course. I'm on Instagram. I spend hours on it.

[00:39:23] Scott: Brilliant. I'll get those links in the show notes. 

[00:39:25] Scott: Brilliant Zena. it's been great. chatting thank you for being on the show. 

[00:39:28] Zena: It's a pleasure anytime. 

[00:39:29] Scott: A big thank you for listening to the Rebel Diaries show, your time is precious. So thank you. It is appreciated. 

[00:39:36] Scott: The show has a new Facebook group for you to engage with others, discuss topics, and let me know what you think of the show. 

[00:39:42] Scott: There's a link to the group in the show notes or search Facebook for Rebel Diaries community.

[00:39:47] Scott: It'd be great to see you there .

[00:39:49] Scott: Until next week take care, be a rebel and deliver work with impact.