We asked employees when you take a new job, what's the most important thing to you? And the number one most important thing was I want to get up to speed on what's expected of me and the responsibilities that I have. The vast majority of people don't start a job thinking, how can I suck at this, right?
In this episode
Workplace flexibility has a broader definition than you think.
As leaders, we often assume we know what flexibility means to people, but flexibility is more than where you work.
In episode 126, Ben Eubanks shares insights from his research to break down the true meaning of flexibility, work democracy and workplace autonomy.
Ben Eubanks is the Chief Research Officer at Lighthouse, which has been serving HR, talent, and learning professionals with practical research and advice for over the last 10+ years.
Tune in to hear all about Ben’s leadership journey and the lessons learned along the way!
Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.
Hiring for attitude
Mental health while WFH
Future of work
Recognizing good work
- Check out Lighthouse Research and Advisory
- Connect with Ben on LinkedIn
- Listen to We’re Only Human podcast
- Read Artificial Intelligence for HR by Ben Eubanks
- Read Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It by Cali Ressler
- Read The Front-Line Leader by Chris Van Gorder
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 00:47
Ben, welcome to the show.
Ben Eubanks (Lighthouse) 04:16
Hey, I’m so glad to be here. Thanks for having me.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 04:18
Yeah, we were just saying before we hit record that you are another podcast host host of the we’re only human podcast. And I think you guys are sounds like we have roughly the same number of episodes. you’ve cracked the 100 episode mark, right?
Ben Eubanks (Lighthouse) 04:35
Yes, absolutely. Yeah, it’s been a ton of fun doing that. And I don’t know about you, but I love having those conversations and you know, draw things out of people and so many times like how discussion was, was had recorded that one. And so that’s where the podcast started all those years ago.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 04:47
Yeah, excellent. It’s definitely very fun. And I feel like it’s a life hack in a lot of ways. It’s an unfair learning opportunity. It’s great. And so you’re also the Chief Research Officer at lighthouse. And it’s an analyst firm your focus on human capital management. And you’re also the author of artificial intelligence for HR, which I’m going to ask you a bunch of things about. But before we get into all those fun questions, I did want to start with something that we ask all of our guests when they come on the show, which is for all the managers thinking about those very early days, do you remember some of your early management days and what some of those mistakes were that you used to make?
Ben Eubanks (Lighthouse) 05:32
Goodness. So I remember the very first time, it was actually, some of us have a little bit of prep for this and some of the adults that we just get kind of thrust into it. And I found out that my leader was going to be leaving, she was going to go home, stay home with her kids. And she said, I want you to take my spot, like, well, that’s great. But I know some of the some of the stuff that I’ve never led a team before anything else. And so I was thrilled and terrified all at the same time for that new opportunity. And for me, I’m a preparer. I like to read, I like to research I like to understand things. And so I quickly found out there’s only so much reading and watching others that until you just have to roll up your sleeves and do it and start learning by doing so, I found out pretty quickly that I was absolutely terrible at delegating and making sure people had the right things to do and everything else because I just I love to hold on to things. I hope I’m not a micromanager. But I’d love to hold on to things I love to, you know, certain things I didn’t want to let them do, because I wasn’t sure if I trusted them to do it right? Well, that’s the thing that I’m really good at. So maybe there’s nothing they can do better. So that kind of thing I learned very early on. But there were other things that I naturally fell into, that I was pretty good at. So again, seeing a lot of other managers what worked, what didn’t over the years. And my work as an HR leader, before that, I was really good at casting a vision probably because I love to tell stories. So I can talk about how the impact of this person’s work would fit into our team and into the organization. And I’d like to think it did a pretty good job hiring overall, because I was hiring a lot for the attitude, and then could train them for any gaps or anything else they had, but really wanted someone that understood what it meant to serve others and support others. And then I can’t teach you those things. Hardly, if you don’t want to serve, you don’t want to be excited about work, I can’t make you and motivate you to do that. But once you’re in I can teach you how to do how to apply that to the other things you have to do to accomplish. So that’s a fine question to think back, though, because that was so many years ago. And we asked that question, I knew it was coming. I still like to have little bugs pop out in my arms and like goofiness. Little, little sweaty on the back there just because it reminds me of that stress that I had all those years ago.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 07:33
Yeah, it’s a fun question. Because obviously, you never stopped making any of these mistakes. And it’s crazy to think sometimes you feel embarrassed, maybe about those early mistakes. And then you think I’m probably making a bunch of mistakes that I will be embarrassed about in future years. So yes, it’s really fun. You did say something, though, that I want to just maybe dig in on a little bit, which is you said that you can’t really teach people to be motivated, but you can teach them how to do I guess like the right skills once they get on the job. I’m curious about that point of view, maybe you could tell us a little bit more about your insights on that.
Ben Eubanks (Lighthouse) 08:14
So it’s a fan with a broad brush all admits. But I much prefer to hire someone who is excited, who is passionate, who really is leaning into whatever those values are that we have as a team. And then I can train you on on whatever those specifics are. Because I’ve never hired anyone who’s fully capable from the minute we bring them on, like just take off, right all of us have bring someone on knowing there’s some kind of gap something to fill. And I found it’s easier to fill those gaps typically, than it is to try to take someone who’s just there for a paycheck or just there because there’s nowhere else to go, we’re just there because no one else is has kicked them out yet. And then trying to get them excited about the work that’s really hard. Humans are wired to stay at a constant state. And so if someone is is doing work, or they’re an organization that doesn’t excite them, it’s really, I have a boss that you say it’s it’s really hard to motivate a rock. Right? And you can’t you can’t motivate someone who doesn’t want to be want to be excited about that. And so sometimes the bad fit with a company or a bad fit with the kind of work they’re doing. But helping them find somewhere else where they can go and be a great, go be wonderful, go and be excited. But that’s the take that I’ve had when it comes to hiring and bring people on my team is I’m always filtering it through people who want to work who are excited about that first.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 09:30
Yeah. The interesting thing about this is that everyone is excited about different things too, right? So it could be that when someone learns about a particular company that they’re not excited, and that’s actually maybe a good sign, but they could be excited about something else. And so I think it’s really important to try and and look for that. What would you say about but you can also become unexcited after joining a company to write you could be Excited for years and then suddenly you hit this plateau. Any thoughts on what people should do? And I’m sure you’ve run into this situation with people you’ve worked with,
Ben Eubanks (Lighthouse) 10:10
come to respect about it, the manager and I have someone that has become disinterested. Yes, as you said, that can come from a lot of things, a lot of variables that play into that, it may be that the work no longer holds a challenge for them. They’ve done everything, they feel like they’ve accomplished everything, and they need something new or different to to stretch them. And if that’s the case, there are ways to approach that here are some development opportunities, here’s some ways to grow yourself, hey, here’s a skill you’re really great at how do we hone that further, so that you can take that and expand your zone of genius in that area, if the person is not interested, because they’re going through something in their life that’s stressing them out, and they just can’t focus on work right now. Right, the way you approach that’s very difference, I tend to give a lot of grace, I tend to give them a lot of leeway when I can for those things. But at some point like that passion has got to come back. If you’re not hitting your goals, you’re not hitting the things that we agreed on, or can work out to find something else for you to do. That depends on what led them to that place and what is triggered there. And I’d like to think a good leader is going to be connected enough to know and see those kinds of signs. If it just happens, you realize, like, you know what, I didn’t realize this, but for last few weeks, has been kind of like disconnected, I can’t connect with you like we used to there’s no report there anymore. And you don’t know what that thing was that drove that. That’s when you have a conversation, try to dive into it. Because if you don’t know, he might try to apply remedy that’s for the wrong wrong kind of problem, right? I’m gonna prescribe the solution, when the problem is something that can’t be solved by that solution. So that’s a really, really good question.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 11:36
Yeah, I think this just points out that there are different seasons, and you just have to be very attentive and really listen in. And there isn’t a one answer fits all solution here. So but one of the things I guess like is you just have to have this flexibility of mindset. And I know that you are, in general, very passionate about the idea of flexibility in the workplace. And I think you actually encourage people to ask, right, like for companies to define what flexibility means, because everybody uses the word everybody’s flexible, right? So yeah, tell me about this. What is flexible in your view? And how should people think about it?
Ben Eubanks (Lighthouse) 12:17
One of the things that I’ve seen so much, especially in the last few years, is an organization will commit to something at it from a leadership perspective, right? CEO, or some leadership will say, you know, we believe in, we believe in diversity, we believe in flexibility, we believe in whatever the thing is, they can say whatever the heck they want to say, whether it works or doesn’t comes down to that relationship level between that employee and their manager. Because the company I can say, I believe in flexibility. But then the boss says, Yeah, but you still gotta be here at this time. Or you still gotta be here for five days a week, or whatever those things are. So It either makes or breaks in that relationship, proximity there. The thing that gets me is, we as leaders often assume we know a flexibility means people. And most of the conversations last two years have revolved around flexibility in terms of where, where I work, where my rear end is, when I’m getting paid to do my job. If I’m sitting on my couch, I’m sitting in the office, that’s where we talk about mostly, when we ask workers and our research what flexibility means, where I work is number five on the list, the other things that come in above that are flexibility and choices and how I get my job done. So the more autonomy and control in the day to day less micromanagement with more control, when I work, let me have a little bit of flexibility on the wind around that. Let me have flexibility in when I get and how I get to raise ideas or give suggestions back to the company, hey, I have this idea Aiden, can I pass it by you, I want to get your take on that. Right? Some companies, you raise your hand like that, and they slap it back down and said be quiet, get back to work. But if you have a leader that’s open to those things, even if it’s not something you can do right now, getting acknowledged is powerful. There’s lots of ways flexibility fits into this, including like training and career growth opportunities, do we want to develop you and keep you moving into this organization, even if you’d have a flat company with not a lot of layers of leadership, there’s still ways to develop people and to grow them without them ever leaving their current role. And so we ask the workforce, those kinds of things come in above where I work in terms of flexibility. So I get so excited about this, especially I’m talking to those companies that maybe have have some people who have to be on site for certain tasks where they have limitations on how flexible they can be. I used to work for we had our engineering team work for a government contractor doing classified work, are people had to be physically on site at the government site. There was no workaround for that there was no I’ll take a laptop home, that was not a possibility. So we had to look at all this other ways to go to offer flexibility to them to meet that need that all of us really have.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 14:43
I am a little bit I guess, surprised mostly from a narrative of what’s been going on in the media, right? These days, like where you work is the thing that everybody talks about. So I’m surprised it’s number five. I’m not surprised that there are things that are more important but like that, it’s actually number five is surprised To me, that it’s that low in comparison, but, you know, autonomy is a really important one. Like, what are some ways that people may be get this wrong? Because when I think about autonomy, like there’s autonomy at the, you know, if you’re like, maybe junior employee one year out of school, there’s autonomy there. But then I think autonomy applies to even more senior people within the organization to right, I’m wondering, like, in what you’ve seen, when you don’t have autonomy, what does that maybe look like, especially for slightly more senior roles.
Ben Eubanks (Lighthouse) 15:34
So from the employee perspective, it’s like, I’ve got a micromanager, they tell me how I have to do everything. The best leaders I’ve ever worked for are very clear on the what, here’s what I expect for you, here’s what I expect you to deliver. Here’s when it should be here, like all those kinds of details and things, but they leave the house you as much as much as they can, where you can say, Oh, by the way, I need help with this, or I can raise my hand for support, I can come back to them, they’re not going to shut me out. But they leave those things in my hands to figure out some of those kinds of things. I had a project to work on years ago when I was reporting to the CEO. And I was when we started, we had never done this before we’d never even tried it. And so I was like, what do you expect out of this? I don’t even know, we’ll find out. And on one hand that was a little bit scary, like what how bring something he’s not happy with. But on the other hand, it was kind of exciting to to say, whatever I bring back to him was going to set the standard for everything else to come after this. And so it gave me a lot of encouragement, a lot of excitement and inspiration, and motivation and inspiration there to be able to go and explore this and do a justice to the degree I could. So I think the focus there is when it comes to it all depends on where you are in your career, as you said, right, someone who’s very senior, you can give them a lot more rope to run with. When it comes to to autonomy. They know generally, where the boundaries are things like that someone who doesn’t have as much experience, you can’t just say, okay, sky’s the limit, blank slate, good luck, you know, hopefully you can hit that. Because it’s always a trade off between here are the things I expect from you. And here are the boundaries where those exist. But I also want to give you some trust, I want to give you some control where I can so that you feel you feel comfortable stretching those creative muscles that I picked you for. So often, I’ve seen leaders, especially when I was in an HR role coaching other leaders in the business that would say, Hey, we’re so glad you’re on our team, I picked you because you’re you were the best and brightest out of all these candidates. Now I want you to put all that aside that makes you unique and special and just follow our process. And you and I both know that’s happening somewhere right now. And yet we’re missing the chance to really give that person a chance the person that we just hired a chance to flourish and be the best that can
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 17:40
be. There’s so much good stuff in what you said, I wanted to point out the phrase making sure that that person feels comfortable, because you’re right. It’s different seniority will require, like different levels of guidance. But as long as the person feels comfortable in the role, sometimes some might say, Yeah, I actually do want more direction, because this is a very ambiguous area. Even if I’m experienced, this is a brand new space, I require more direction. But in other cases, yeah, if you pick that person, you probably pick them for a reason. And to not give them the ability to do what they were hired to do is kind of silly. Absolutely. So this is interesting. We talked about autonomy. And I think like you said it very well, which is it’s basically the what and the why, but definitely not the how, and that is something that I think we can all take. So when it companies has flexibility, that means that every manager has to think about things that way. The other one is, I guess, like you talked about ideas and how people’s ideas are valued. What are some things that me you gave a, I guess a dramatic example, which is I have an idea. And then you know, you sit that person down. But maybe people don’t actually do that. But maybe they do that in other ways as just like Wonder if you have an example. So it can really hit home. And people can say, Ah, yeah, maybe we accidentally do that.
Ben Eubanks (Lighthouse) 19:05
So there’s a term in psychology called behavioral extinction, where if someone does behavior, and it’s not rewarded, or it’s not engaged with it eventually goes away. Right? So we just, it’s what we hope will happen when our kids screaming in the cereal aisle, like they want that cereal or whatever, like, I ignore it long enough. Maybe they’ll they’ll just stop doing this. When our people are trying to share ideas with us. When our to our teams that have got this this idea, can we try this out? And we don’t recognize that. We don’t acknowledge that when I started drawing it out of them, then steadily they’ll do that less and less, because they realized that’s not a valued behavior. And so I worked for a company. And at one point that did this really well, we had the grandiose title, it’s called the Big Ideas database. It was nothing more than a SharePoint site where you could throw an ID in there. And I’ll tell you that we had all kinds of things in there but you were guaranteed that if you put something in there if you felt it was serious enough, you put it in there. It was guaranteed Even review by our executive team, they had a committee meeting on a quarterly basis, they would go through, they would look at those things, and every one of them got consideration. Some of them were in that being kind of silly, right? We need a bigger garbage can in the kitchen. I’m sick of taking the trash out, because more engineers is like, the go to person take the trash out, okay, right, I get it. We had another engineer there one team that said, Hey, I’ve got an idea. If we changed our pricing model on this thing that we’re doing, we could probably, you know, sell it to a different set of customers and being a multimillion dollar line of business for the company, just because we had shown her we were willing to listen when people shared their ideas. So those kinds of things were so, so powerful. So I love sharing, like little tools where I can. And so this was one that I, this is one that’s so powerful that I’ve seen, create some coaching moments where it’s one question that you give to your team? And it’s one question you answer yourself, and you do it independently. So you ask your team on a scale of one to 10. With one being, I have no control over ever anything, everything has to be approved, before I make any decision to 10, where I’ve got a lot of choice, I’ve got a lot of flexibility, a lot of autonomy in my work on a scale of one to 10. Right, your job, and right how you how much control you have. And then you give that manager the same question. On a scale of one to 10. How much control do your people have? And typically, not every time but you’ll see the team that’s coming in, like between three and five, maybe two and five, if they’re they’ve got a challenging manager. And the manager is saying like six to eight. And the bigger that gap is the bigger the coaching opportunity to say, Wow, I thought I was super open. I thought I was giving you guys a lot more control here. Obviously, I’m doing something that’s not that’s not signaling that I need you to help me understand what things I’m doing. Oh, what do you bring the idea of I immediately changed the subject. That’s not intentional, let’s figure out how to circumvent that next, or how to fix that next time, you know, start giving them some tools, a little bit of a little bit of a way a track to run on, if you will, when it comes to creating more autonomy and creating a greater sense of control for their people. So it’s not like every time this happens, that manager does that. This creates a little bit more of a, we’re together on this, I want to make sure that I’m enabling this for you, and not just shutting things down or making you feel like you don’t have any options. Okay, they’re
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 22:08
just a quick note, before we move on to the next part, if you’re listening to this podcast, you’re probably already doing one on one meetings. But here’s the thing, we all know that one on one meetings are the most powerful, but at the same time, the most misunderstood concept in practice and management. That’s why we’ve spent over a year compiling the best information, the best expert advice into this beautifully designed 90 Plus page ebook. Now, don’t worry, it’s not single spaced font, you know, lots of tax, there’s a lot of pictures. It’s nice, easily consumable information, we spent so much time building it. And the great news is that it’s completely free. So head on over to fellow dot app slash blog to download the Definitive Guide on one on ones. It’s there for you. We hope you enjoy it. And let us know what you think. And with that said, let’s go back to the interview. Yeah, that’s super interesting. What a great tool. It is. I’ve heard of tools like this, specifically around different topics, but the using it for autonomy makes a lot of sense. And you’re right, there always is a mismatch. It’s kind of like how everybody thinks they’re an above average driver. But when you actually start to question and bring in numbers, what I like about it is whenever there’s a mismatch, there’s an opportunity to actually, you know, basically do something about it and get feedback there. And the other thing that’s nice is and just emphasize this, did you also say that flexibility was the number one thing that employees craved amongst the things they look for in a job?
Ben Eubanks (Lighthouse) 23:47
Yes, so we did a study recently, and we said, We gave them a ton of answers and talent to answer choices. And some of them were kinda like red herrings in there. So I want a job where I never have to move up, I never have to have any responsibility, right? Things like that, that most of us would, would kind of steer away from, but all other kinds of choices as well. And the one that ended up coming out more than anything else was, I want to work for a company that gives me choices like filling options. And that was really broad and wide. And then we asked the following question, we already talked about where we started digging into, okay, what does that really mean to you? Because I don’t want a leader to hear choices, flexibility and options and think, well, that must mean where they can work from home or not. That’s all that matters. That does matter. Absolutely. Although there’s some interesting data, I could share with you on that if you want to hear it from a new mental health study. At the same time, there’s always other things we can offer them besides that, when it comes to flexibility that really matter and really create some levels of trust and transparency that are desperately needed in those companies.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 24:45
Yeah, so I mean, it’s really nice to paint it in that way, which is So flexibility is the most important thing. Number one on that list, when you’re thinking about flexibility is autonomy. And now we have a quiz that we could take Come and figure out where we rank on the autonomy scale, a great thing to do in a one on one meeting, and basically work off of that. So I will bite though, what did this study is show on mental health and work from home?
Ben Eubanks (Lighthouse) 25:15
Yeah, so we did the study, recently, we asked 1000 workers about whether they’ve had a job situation change, not a job change, necessarily, but a job situation change where they went from, they went to remote or they went to hybrid, or they went to working back in an office or on a job site. And for those people who went remote, they were more likely than any other segment that we surveyed to say this is a positive change. They were happier about that change than anyone else. But they were also more likely than any other group that we surveyed, those people who went remote, are more likely anybody else to say they’ve thought about quitting their job in the last 12 months because of mental health and stress. And so the couple takeaways from me, number one, even change we think is good, is still hard, there’s still stress aligned with it, there’s still stress associated with it. And change is tough. We as humans are, as I said earlier, we’re built to find a groove and stay in it, we get out of that aren’t we want to bring ourselves back to that groove as quickly as possible. So change even in something that we we think we’re gonna like even something that may work out better for us long term is still challenging and can cause us to have these things, even if you don’t perceive those at a surface level, that it’s potentially causing us to feel like we want to quit our jobs. So there’s some really interesting things I’m trying to tease out of the data. Now, you got what other kinds of insights I can pull from people who have changed, especially for those who have gone remote, because it’s such a big push that you mentioned earlier. And I’m curious to know if that’s we both know that everyone’s not suited for that kind of work, we both know that every single person may not be the best at remote working, they may want to be more comfortable with other people around them. I have good friends in the last couple of years when they were when they were kind of forced to remote at their company, they would find a co working space just to be around people or they work in a coffee shop just to be around people, even though they weren’t working with those people in reality.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 27:03
That’s super interesting. And certainly, yes, we’ve had this shift to all remote work. But we’ve also had the great resignation. At the same time, it’s kind of interesting that a lot of change has happened in the last little while one thing’s for certain, there’s still a lot for us to learn, because most of human working history has been in the office. And so a lot of the norms and things that we’ve learned, the management science is largely centered around how to build culture in those places. There are other companies that have pulled it off. But a lot of those companies, you know, when I think about the Git labs of the world, for example, or the automatics of the world, a lot of them very much in the early days self selected for people who wanted to work remote, and were good at working remote. Whereas now, you know, it’s just a larger population. So there’s still a lot for us to learn. And it’s not a solved problem yet. Yeah, for sure. So let’s talk about you know, and I think this goes hand in hand with a remote work environment, which is the concept of ro aro W E. What is that?
Ben Eubanks (Lighthouse) 28:11
So our LW E is results only work environment, it was created coins, developed, whatever you want to call it, more than 10 years ago, by this team at BestBuy of all places, some of their people on their team, were trying out this way of working, where we make you very clearly aware of the what these are your responsibilities, these are the goals, these are the objects we have for you, you have to hit these numbers, these metrics. But we’re going to whatever else is up to you, the results matter but nothing else does. So if you want to work remotely, you want to do this from your couch. This is one of the earliest really, really focused flexibility offerings out there. And a couple of key tenants of that results only work environment or row. One of the key tenants is managers are super clear with their people that what their results need to be. Because for many of us, that’s a struggle. I know again, I mentioned at the outset today, that was one of the struggles for me is kind of figuring out okay, what do I make people accountable for? And how do I hold them accountable to those things? How do I clearly define what success looks like? Because in my head, I’ve got this picture and, you know, the brain, the Iraq exercise, I’m sure have you heard that one?
Ben Eubanks (Lighthouse) 29:18
And have not heard that?
Ben Eubanks (Lighthouse) 29:19
So there’s this exercise that they do sometimes in leader training, the military will say, hey, go bring me Iraq. They’ll go out they’ll bring a rock back. No, not that one. I wanted to hit rock, cover me Iraq. And we do that as leaders. Sometimes we’re like, I want this but we don’t define it well enough that someone knows when they hit success or not. So that’s a key part of RO is saying, don’t just bring your rock I need a gray rock that’s if the size of my fist and it’s got too sharp edges on it. Right? Then we’re more likely to get the specific thing we’re looking for. And so row really focused on that results piece of it, and seven just being a freewheeling, hey, go do whatever you want to. You knew at the end of the day, whatever you do, you’re still going to be held accountable and very, very high standard for those cific results that you’d agreed on with your leader in advance. So I love the idea. And it’s funny because when 2020 hit and everything kind of blew up, one of the first things I did is went back to the authors of the first book about the topic of row and interviewed them said, Okay, you have been talking about this kind of thing. How do we make sure managers are ready for this? What should we be doing to enable them all those kinds of things, because for many of them, it was a big transition if they had never had a team member who was not sitting physically with them. And it helped us to bridge that gap a little bit and think about some of the key aspects of what that would take to be successful.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 30:32
I have to ask, what are some of the key aspects of that?
Ben Eubanks (Lighthouse) 30:35
In the book they talk about? They’ve written two books, one is called my work sucks. And it’s it all comes down to that we focus all mostly on where someone is when they’re working, and not on the actual work they’re doing. And so again, some of the early thoughts around that really helped to influence my thinking on this topic. And the second book, because the biggest question I got was, okay, have we set these expectations, and he talked about so much. The second book was my managing sucks, because managers are pinned with, hey, you’ve got to grow, develop your people, help them move on to other things, make sure you’re working on career mobility. But also make sure you hit every single one of these tight deadlines that given you at the same time. And the managers feel like they’re always stretched and pulled in all opposite directions. And the big part of this is giving them some tools to think about how do I talk about performance and on people in a way that makes sense to them. And instead of creating this kind of butting heads moment between staff and their leaders, is supposed to bring them together. So they’re talking together about what those outcomes realistically are, and how to make sure they can actually meet those things. And so the manager isn’t just the bad guy, or the bad woman, right. And this, they’re also a coach, they’re also an advocate, they’re also a supporter, whenever that person needs that additional assistance, but they’re very, very clearly casting a vision for what success looks like on their team. And there’s never any ambiguity, there’s never any questioning, there’s never any worries or wonders. And if those ever come up, they should be there immediately addressed. Because that’s a key part of this, you can’t hold me accountable for something you didn’t tell me Alice has to be responsible for in the row environments. And so while you can challenge it, and it’s not probably it’s not perfect, like, no, none of these systems are ever perfect. But it’s a great way of thinking about work and getting really focused on the results piece of that. I had to start earlier today, because talking with a technology company that helps with managing employee performance to track employee performance. And I said, Look, we can also integrate with Salesforce. So you can see the performance of your salespeople. Everybody uses that example. Because we don’t have great success metrics on any other kind of role. Hardly, right? Maybe developers, you can say, well, we can look at the quality or the quantity of your code we’re tracking over here. But beyond those sorts of things, most people don’t leave this trail of exhaust behind them in their daily work that we can say, You know what? Successful, right? podcasters get some but the rest of us don’t.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 32:55
It’s presumably easier for sales, because there are exact numbers. But even then, I mean, there’s so much nuance to it, because you know, the person has to be set up for success. And but you’re right, for a lot of other functions, it is so much more difficult. And especially for developers, you like lines or code is not a thing that you can rely on. You want ideally like people to write very efficient code. So it’s less lines of code. And so it’s, we have to change the way that we think about outcomes. One question that I did have on this, like, would you say that the modern OKR frameworks and things like that, are they a good way to, like create a results oriented work environment,
Ben Eubanks (Lighthouse) 33:40
everything’s a spectrum, right? And there’s, for one, it is like, super mature, very structured, very rigid, like we all understand everything. The other end is the Wild West, no one has any clue what they’re doing around here. Hopefully, someone eventually tell us because we’re always waiting until they do. And so I think any of the OKR tools, things like that are a step in the right direction, for sure. Because they’re helping to create a level set of expectations. They’re giving us a shared language, where we can talk about what work and good work actually looks like. So I’m absolutely a fan of any of the tools that are helping us to get more concrete, we’re talking about work, and helping the people that were working with the employees, we’re working with employees, we’re serving as leaders, to help them understand what that success looks like. Because so often, they’re like, I did that experiment I mentioned earlier with with my CEO, like, I’m going to deliver this and I really hope it’s what he’s hoping for, even though he hasn’t told me what he’s hoping for. In that case, a lot of people are just feel kind of lost a little bit so that OKRs and things like that can give them a little bit of framework to help make sure that’s a little bit more a little more structured and more comfortable. And they know what each of them are accountable for in
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 34:45
that. Yeah, it sounds like I mean framework or not. You have to maybe ask the question. I mean, maybe a simple question of how clear is it? You know, the outcomes that we expect for your role, and see how someone answers that question. Yeah, it’s interesting, because I find that when you’re hiring for a new role, a lot of times it’s commonplace activity. I mean, certainly something that we do, for example, where we will write a one or two page memo that also talks about outcomes, you know, that we expect from this role, or, you know, if we hire this person, what kind of magical things are going to happen as a result of it, right. But maybe this is something that, of course, gets lost over the course of time. Whereas like, those outcomes have to really be clear on an ongoing basis. And sometimes, maybe OKRs will do cover some of them, but maybe not everything, and maybe not holistically.
Ben Eubanks (Lighthouse) 35:40
One of the things we saw in data is we asked employees when you take a new job, what’s the most important thing to you? And the number one most important thing was, I want to get up to speed on what’s expected of me and the responsibilities that I have? Like those kinds of things? Because there probably is someone out there, but the vast majority, people don’t start a job thinking, how can I suck at this, right? They say I want to succeed, they go through the time, the effort, all of the emotional toll of changing jobs, those things are hard. And they make this commitment to this company was some portion of their life, they can never get back. And they are saying, I hope I can do whatever this leader expects of me. And the more we can create clarity around those things be very clear and transparent about what sort of things we’re looking for, and successes we’re talking about here. So over and over again, here, the more we can make those things clearer, the more likely that person will actually be able to be successful. But I agree with you, there’s a different nuance between, okay, then sleeving, we’re hiring someone else to come in and take Ben’s role. We knew what then did we knew what kind of results Ben had, we can compare this person and benchmark off of that, versus we’re hiring a brand new thing we’ve never been hired for before. What do we expect? What’s realistic? What can we actually get out of that? And that’s a different prospect entirely.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 36:51
That makes sense. And so in terms of other things that may be important for people at work, we talked about the concept of people being able to contribute ideas, I have a note to also ask you about the concept of workplace democracy. And to be honest, when I first heard workplace democracy, I questioned it. And so maybe that’s a place that we should start with, which is what is workplace democracy should work places be democratic? How democratic should they be?
Ben Eubanks (Lighthouse) 37:26
So I use the term because it’s, it’s different. And it gets your attention, like, oh, I want I’m curious about that. Right? So as we all know, right, you learned in civics class in sixth grade democracy is where everyone, everyone has a little bit of say, but no one has all of the say, and I don’t know that I would, I would say every workplace decision needs to be, let’s all put it up for a vote, you know, probably about wins. I don’t necessarily agree with that. But every person should at least have a voice. And that voice should be heard when it comes to decisions that are made in the company. One of the things we found in this new study we just finished recently is there’s a significant portion of people that say, my company, never lets me share ideas. My company does not basically want to hear from me, essentially. And the people who feel like you’re most connected with the company, most supported by their manager, the ones who are more likely to stick around at the business are the ones who say, not only do I have a chance to share my ideas, or share my feedback with a company, my voice matters, but it also aligns with some sort of expectation that I have for how often I want to give that feedback. So if they want to give it on a monthly basis, like I’m sharing it monthly, or have a question asked to me monthly, it’s open ended, if they want that, and the company only asked them once a year, that’s a thumbs down, buddy, that’s not a fit, they’re not happy, they don’t feel connected. Even if it is entirely on the company. They say don’t they don’t feel connected to their manager because of that. But there’s if there’s alignment, and there’s in that, and there’s a sync between their frequency and their expectation, then they’re much more likely to have all the positive outcomes that admission a minute ago. So this isn’t just another like, let’s all hug, you know, company, HR guy over here. It matters on all these kinds of levels. And we’re seeing some surprising outcomes, honestly, because I didn’t expect to see a connection that was that deep
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 39:09
there. Yeah, it’s very interesting to hear you cite the data and just see what data says. But I also liked the phrase that you use, which is it’s not about putting every topic to a popular vote, you know, 51% say we should do this, but it’s that everybody needs to feel heard. And I think that is a very important point. And it makes sense that, you know, if we want people to be bought in, we kind of have to listen to what they say and encourage them to be able to bring their ideas. So I think that puts it really well. Then I did want to also ask you about your work at Lighthouse. It sounds like one of the things that you’re able to do is you have access to all of the studies. You kind of have this nice pulse of what’s going on in the world of work. I did want to ask you a two part question. One is, you know, for people who just want to engage in sounds like you have a lot of great research, how do they find you? How do they find the research? And then I also wanted to get your views on, you know, if you were to kind of look forward, you know, a few years, I know, you also wrote the book on AI in HR, I just did want to ask you, you know, what do you see is the future of work? So a two part question there.
Ben Eubanks (Lighthouse) 40:25
Oh, my goodness. So I’ll try to turn to justice. So first one, if someone wants to connect or learn more at Lighthouse, one of the things we’ve committed to is that all of the research we do on the workforce, with their with their thinking, everything else, all that is made freely available, so we don’t charge for any of the research. You google Lighthouse research and advisory you’ll find us but it’s L H. R A IO is the website. Also connect a lot of people on LinkedIn share the research pretty regularly, they’re so happy to if someone has a question or something more deep, they want to understand about that. Happy to open the books on the app. It’s it’s a ton of fun, and I love being able to share, as you can probably tell, in the conversation, in terms of what I think is next for work. Yes, I’ve written a book on AI for HR, I definitely think the tools and technologies are going to continue playing a bigger part in what happens at work. I have a new book coming out later this year called Talent scarcity, because the answer is the question I’ve gotten from more leaders in the last two years than any other question, which is where all the people, and I think that piece of it, there’s fewer people at work. And there’s going to continue to be based on all the demographic changes and everything else I’m seeing as leading indicators in the data. And because of that, it’s going to push more focus towards technology more focused towards automation, more focused towards how do we blend the things that we are uniquely gifted and designed to do as humans with those things that the algorithm tools and systems are uniquely designed to do and support, I get so excited about talking about those pieces of it, because it sounds like a paradox. But it’s my firm belief that leveraging these kind of technologies can create a more human workplace, not a less human one, because we’re doing the things that we’re really great at, and the systems, the tools, the platforms are doing the things they are well designed to do. And we’re not getting in each other’s way trying to do that, if that makes sense.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 42:04
Yeah, I mean, it’s such an intriguing topic. And certainly I’ve heard and asked the question world, the people, many times, especially in the last two years, so I’m very excited for the book to come out. Yeah, maybe we can have a chat again, once that’s out and talk more about the book. Ben, this has been an awesome conversation. We’ve talked about so many different things. We’ve talked about flexibility at work, but like really breaking it down. And you even gave us you know, tool that we can all use. Going back into our one on ones this week. We’ve talked about row we’ve talked about democracy in the workplace, the future of work, and what we usually like to end on, the last question that we asked all the guests on the show is for all the managers and leaders constantly looking to get better at their craft. Are there any final tips, tricks, or words of wisdom that you would leave them with
Ben Eubanks (Lighthouse) 42:57
spend a lot of time just like pulling out some of these kinds of things, I’ll tell you really quickly that for employees that don’t feel connected to their leaders, the number one thing they say their managers can do to connect with them more deeply to rebuild that relationship is to see them good, doing good work and recognize them for it, paying attention to them, which sounds like such a low bar. But just paying attention to them would change that. Fundamentally, we see in the data, that there’s almost a 0% chance that a manager who doesn’t understand their people will ever be able to support them. So if you see each of the people on your team as a bundle of skills that you’re renting for the duration of their employment, and that’s all you see them and all you treat them as and you don’t take it a layer deeper and know what motivates them, what drives them, as we’ve talked about in this conversation. So those things really matter. What gets people excited about work, if you don’t understand those things, you can’t support them well, and I’m a big reader. I love books, and I love really exploring them because there’s always some good lessons and things. So one of them I recommend, sometimes is frontline leader. It’s a great book that talks there’s some great candidates and ideas. And they’re written from a CEOs perspective, and really pulling in some ways to lead well, and also love books like endurance by Ernest Shackleton, which is the story of how his ship endurance was crushed and ice and Antarctica on the first trip down to try to get to the South Pole. His ship was crushed. It’s a history book, but it’s also a story of leadership about how he led these people out of that. And it’s a really, really incredible and so there’s a whole range of things. I would encourage anyone out there that wants to get better at this though, there are plenty of tools. It just takes a little bit of commitment a bit of time and be willing to say, I don’t have it all figured out. But I can’t get better.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 44:40
Ben, this is awesome. Thank you so much. Great advice and a great place to end it. Thanks so much for doing this.
Ben Eubanks (Lighthouse) 44:47
Absolutely. This has been a pleasure.