Listened to this today over lunch. The parts about delayed send, setting time boundaries are great. I have been trying to do this as of recent and it can really help.
Leaders: try not to email your people at night, or the weekends, or holidays. Delay send in Outlook and let it hit them when they are in. Why add stress to a time when they should be de-stressing. Yes, I understand there are emergencies (and they should be rare) but lets step back and give people mindshare for their lives and space to do things besides “always be working”!
The key part of the conversation:
Well, I definitely feel like I’ve learned some things over the course of the last two years. One of the biggest new things that I do is what I call time blocking. I don’t even know if it’s a thing, but it’s a thing for me, and this is really limiting the amount of time I give work, which sounds counterintuitive, but I feel like it’s helped me to be more productive. So I’ve limited my working time from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and not outside those boundaries at all. That’s in contrast to lots of people. We even see in the data [that people] post some time in the evening, will go back and do email or work on projects. And I certainly used to be in that camp.
Exactly. I think we all are, right, but I’d really try to take a hard line of, Hey, I just do that. It has made a tremendous difference for me. I mean, it just allows me to feel like I have a break. My direct reports and the members of my team tell me, ‘Wow, it’s just nice not to get email from you during that time,’ because it creates this impression that they should be doing something, too. And so even when I do get messages from them, I don’t answer them, which I think is creating a different feeling on the team. And then because of that, we’ve created this little email truce, where, look, don’t email each other on weekends. We have really made liberal use of the delayed send feature of Outlook, which makes a huge difference. You can process your email on weekends, just delay send for Monday morning. And I know when I get about three emails from a couple of my directs on Monday morning, I’m like, Well done. And then no nighttime. We’ve said after 6:00, we don’t want to email or contact each other unless it’s really an emergency. So those are small things, but they’ve made a really tremendous difference. And of course you have some exceptions when you really have to go after it and there’s a pretty intense time. But I think making those the exceptions rather than the rule has changed culture. It’s definitely had an impact on my life.
So does offering that flexibility you speak of come at the individual leader level, you know, a manager to their small team? Or is it more effective, more systemically or structurally, at the corporate level?
You have to set the culture for that at the corporate level. You have to have the senior-most leaders paint that picture and help people understand, not only is this okay, this is what we want. You know, one great example is in my work with Satya Nadella, who is the CEO of Microsoft. He always is asking us, the senior leaders, ‘Hey, what do you want out of this job?’ He tells us, ‘What is it going to do for you? If you find that answer and understand it, well, I think you’re going to be a better employee here.’ And I’ve never heard a business leader talk to me like that. The first couple of times I heard it I thought, I wonder if this is part of his speechwriter’s talk track for us, you know? And then I realized, No, he’s serious. In interactions, he’s serious. So I think you set the tone at the corporate level. If you don’t set that tone, everybody kind of wonders when the crackdown is coming, when the reality is going to hit. But then I would say that the rubber hits the road at the individual manager level. That’s where the moment comes for us to live the culture. And so it’s this really important give and take between that corporate and then that individual frontline manager. That’s where I think we can see a big change, but that’s a cultural shift for lots of organizations. They may not have operated that way previously. But I do think that you need to do it like that. If you don’t, you end up with all sorts of variations on that that get wobbly. And so you need to have that alignment and also that empowerment down to the frontline manager.