🚀 Breathe.



There's no such thing as fair. It's really important to think about being fair, it's really important for that to be a criteria in your decision making for sure, but there's no such thing as a fair outcome, because fairness is so many different things.

In this episode

Team misalignment can often disguise itself as trust and dynamic issues.

So how can managers and leaders ensure their teams are aligned and trust one another? 

In episode #146, Liane explains the conflict debt that occurs when we avoid necessary, uncomfortable conversations.

Liane Davey is the author of the book “The Good Fight” and is known as the “teamwork doctor” and has over 25 years of experience working with hundreds of team to help them achieve high performance. 

Liane shares how she approaches dysfunctional teams, why trust is a four-layer cake, and why there is no such thing as being fair as a manager. 

Tune in to hear all about Liane’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.


Conflict debt


One-on-one meetings


Dysfunctional teams


Trust building


Being fair as a manager


Returning to office


What is worth fighting for?



Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  00:21

Liane, welcome to the show.

Liane Davey  04:20

Thanks, Aydin. I’m excited to be here.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  04:22

Yeah, very excited to have you on. You’re known by the teamwork doctor, and that I think that’s like such a cool turn. You have over 25 years of experience, you know, getting the most out of teams, helping them achieve high performance, written a bunch of different books, including the good fight, which came out in 2019, keynote speaker, HBR contributor, lots of fun things that you do but before we get into some of the learnings from all of the work that you do and all the companies that you work with, we usually like to start from the very, very beginning. So do you remember when you first started to manage or lead a team and what were Are some of the early mistakes that you made back then.

Liane Davey  05:03

So there were two that really, as soon as you say that I couldn’t answer to I didn’t manage my boss very well. And I got into what I now I didn’t know at the time, but what I now refer to as conflict debt, there were a bunch of things I really should have been working through with her. And I was kind of afraid, and I didn’t know how to and so things just got worse and worse. So that was the first thing. The second thing was as a manager, I treated people the way I wanted to be treated, because that’s what the Golden Rule tells you to do. And I really remember I had this absolutely amazing person on the team. She was just fantastic. And she did something really above and beyond. And I was so impressed. And so I did the management equivalent of like, throwing her a ticker tape, parade, laser light show, all this attention and everything, which is, of course, what I would have loved. And being an introvert of being a very humble introvert, this was absolutely horrific for her. So I think she resolved to never do a good job again, for fear that I might give her the same. So that was a really great learning about management, which is, don’t treat people the way you want to be treated, treat them the way they want to be treated. So I botched a lot in that first job. But of course, that’s how you learn as a manager is usually the hard way.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  06:20

You know, I’m not sure if it’s actually called this, but I think it’s the opposite of the golden rule. Is it the Silver Rule, which is platinum, the platinum rule, update the update? Okay,

Liane Davey  06:33

I don’t even remember. But yes, somebody wrote about the platinum rule, which is we have got to get away from the golden rule. But the golden rule is present in each of the major religions of the world. It’s a very common thing. As humans, we kind of live through our own eyes. And so we’re pretty self centered. So it’s really hard to learn and hard to practice to treat people not the way you want to be treated, but but the way they do.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  06:56

Yeah, and for those of you who haven’t heard it, thank you for correcting me it is the platinum rule, treat others the way they wanted to be treated. So yeah, very interesting in the context and management. So the other thing that you mentioned, though, was conflict debt. And that just sounds like a super interesting term. So maybe you can tell us more about what that is?

Liane Davey  07:17

Yeah, absolutely. So I am a very conflict avoidant person, I do not like conflict, it makes my palms sweat and my stomach churn. And plus, I just mostly want to be liked. And so it’s not a good position from which to be, you know, having hard conversations. And so what happens is when we avoid conversations that are needed, and those can be business conversations, so we avoid making hard trade offs, and we try and do every strategy. You know, that’s the companies that tell me they have 17 strategic priorities. I’m like, oh, there’s conflict at there. Because you have not had the good fight you need to have about what are we going to do and what are we not going to do? It can be about how you treat one another. So you know, maybe the way someone’s been treating you is really creating friction, but you don’t say anything, you don’t want them to get mad at you. And maybe it’s just conflict at because you need to advocate for yourself, you think you have been passed over for the good work or not given a promotion or not invested in, and you just bite your tongue and have the Sunday scaries instead, and live with the stress of that. So each of those is an example of getting into conflict debt, which is avoiding an uncomfortable conversation that’s necessary. And of course, like when you put things on your credit card, when we don’t have the energy or the resources to have that conflict in the moment, that bill piles up, and we pay interest and we face penalties. And that’s kind of the notion of conflict. So when I coined that term, it was to evoke that same feeling of getting sort of stuck under a big mound of credit card debt, it can feel the same way. And when I mentioned my boss, ultimately, I ended up doing what I refer to as declaring bankruptcy, I left the organization because I didn’t know how to dig my way out of the debt that I was in with my boss. So that’s what conflict dad is all about.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  09:09

So like with other debt is key to try and pay it off along the way and not let too much of it compound.

Liane Davey  09:18

That’s exactly yeah. So I always tell people cut up the card and pay in cash, which means, you know, if you’re in a meeting and you’re giving a presentation, and somebody turns off their camera, and that pisses you off, you don’t fester and resent them and hold a grudge. You You know, jump on a quick call with them. You say hey, what was going on? When I started my presentation today? You know, you switched off your camera and I started telling myself that my presentation was boring or threw me off my game or whatever, just like deal with it right then in there. Because when you deal with these things in the moment, they tend not to be as emotional. They tend to be like sort of little bumps in the road as opposed to A massive thing where, where you’ve let it fester and let it affect you. So I always talk about if you don’t like conflict, I think about it as like not liking the dentist, if you’re afraid of the dentist, floss your teeth every single day, because that’s the best way to make the dentist a lot less aversive. Same is here. So if you don’t like conflict, your best bet is to have the flossing version, just give little feedback in the moment ask questions, direct people’s attention, Spot assumptions, all those things in the meeting or promptly thereafter. Because if we don’t do that sort of high frequency, low impact sort of flossing version, you end up with the conflict Root Canal, which is the big blowout, things have been really bubbling under the surface for a while people start yelling or crying or, and it’s ugly. So that’s the root canal version. And you don’t want that. So if you don’t like the dentist, flush your teeth, if you don’t like conflict, have the, you know, mildly uncomfortable conversations frequently, so that you avoid having the big, nasty one. You know,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  11:09

one of the things that may, you know I find sometimes difficult for me is that sometimes I find the things that make me frustrated or upset and these sorts of things like maybe I see them in the moment, but it’s usually, you know, in the evening, or the next day that I started to think about these things. Have you found that there are journaling practices are like are there tactical ways that people can maybe get better at figuring out where the conflict debt is? Do people just know in the moment? Are there ways that you can surface them?

Liane Davey  11:45

Usually not? Right? What you noticed in the moment is an emotional reaction. That’s the thing to notice in the moment, like, Oh, I just noticed my heart’s beating faster. And now we all have these sort of watches that we can actually see it, I have a great photo of something that upset me in the moment. And just for fun, I opened the heart monitor on my Apple watch. And sure enough, it was as if I was doing cardio, and I was like, wow, this is a great form of exercise, I just have to go to meetings with annoying people. Maybe this counts. So you may notice in the moment, that emotional reaction, or all of a sudden you notice you’re talking louder, or you’re leaning into the table, or you know, there’s various other things you can notice in the moment, you probably in the moment, won’t even know where that comes from, like what was I getting upset about? What story was I telling myself? That depends on who you are. So I have a PhD in psychology, psychology, person by background. So for some people journaling is an excellent idea words are going to be their path to making meeting. So if they start to journal about it in their morning pages, they may say, you know, I think the reason I got upset about this is that it really felt like it was impinging on this thing I value a lot. I think this was crappy for our customers. And we talk a good game about customer centric. But that’s just another example of where we’re doing what’s convenient for us. And I think that’s what this was about it. Maybe journaling is the path for other people. It’s not a cognitive intellectual path, like journaling, it’s, you know, you’re gonna get out and get some exercise. So I need a quick walk around the block. And maybe then it’ll just sort of come to me what what I’m upset about. So what you have to know, and I’ve done some blogs and YouTube videos and stuff about what’s your own stress reaction? And what’s the path or the antidote to your stress reaction, depending on who you are and what your style is, there’s no one great answer. But you know, journaling and physical activity are two good options for very, very different people. There’s a third option, some people need a trusted confidant, so more socially minded people, they’re going to get to it by just having somebody, the person probably will never get a word in edgewise be like, Can I just talk to you for a sec? And you just like vent for five minutes? And then you’ve talked yourself to the answer. And you go, thanks very much. And the person just nods and says I didn’t say anything. But so you have to understand your own style. So I’m happy to share that link. We can put the link in the show notes. But knowing your own particular kryptonite, and what the antidote is really helps.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  14:18

Yeah, awesome. And thank you for going through all three types. One of the things that you said which was also very interesting to me was when you have a lot of different priorities when there are 17 strategic priorities, that’s also a sign of conflict debt. And I thought that was a very interesting one. So it’s very interesting to think that if you haven’t been able to boil something down, it may be that you’re avoiding conflict. And I think that’s, that’s something that the listeners should pay a lot of attention to.

Liane Davey  14:49

Yeah, so the word priority comes from the Latin that means one, not 70. And so your team is looking to you for what’s the most Most important thing they need to be paying attention to right now. And if your answer is these seven things, you are killing them with the dilution of their attention. So you know, one of my favorite articles I’ve written in the last little while is called, it’s not our workload that’s killing us, it’s our thought load. And so if you’re worried about seven things, first of all, it’s very anxiety provoking for human to be worried about a whole bunch of things that you’re not taking action on. But the second thing is that the more worried we are, the more distracted we become, and the less productive we become. And therefore the less work we get finished. So in fact, the mountain of this piling up work is getting higher and higher, because we’re fretting and worrying and that sort of thing. So as a manager, if your people don’t know what the most important thing they need to be paying attention to in any given moment is you’ve abdicated your responsibility. So just think about that, like if and test it go out, have a conversation, have a coffee with your folks and say, if you were to say the single most important thing you need to be paying attention to right now, what would it be? And if they can’t answer it, you need to help them answer that question. So that I feel really passionately about that. And often, so I was working with a huge retailer, and the CEO really was in conflict at didn’t like conflict at all. And so wouldn’t hash it out about whether the most important thing they needed to be doing at the checkout was getting a credit card application, or asking for a charitable donation. Or in this case, they wanted to build new stores. And so they were asking for where people had come from, so that they could kind of map out new stores. And the executive team wasn’t willing to say which of those was the most important to do first, which was the priority. So it was left to checkout people making minimum wage to figure out which of these was more strategically important to the business. So conflict that has really profound profound impacts. And the ability to prioritize is sort of the one where it shows up first.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  16:59

Thank you for explaining that. And yeah, certainly, that’s a yes, if you don’t resolve the conflicts, it may get resolved in ways that maybe you weren’t anticipating. And so I think that that’s super helpful,

Liane Davey  17:10

the cashier was a great example, right? Because if you think about it, that conflict debt is being paid off, it’s being paid off by people who don’t have the same experience, who don’t have the same context, don’t have the same skin in the game there. If I’m making 15 bucks an hour, I’m like, I’m going to do the one that’s easiest for me to do. And if I asked for the credit card application might be the most lucrative and important thing that you want people asking for, but I was gonna create a lineup in the checkout or raise ice cream is going to be melting and, and that’s a hassle for me. So that’s what happens if you as a manager, don’t make those calls you abdicate them to people who probably have less context to make the decision that you would support.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  17:52

So just playing on this for a little bit, if you were able to go into or have access to every listeners, one on one meeting agenda, as managers, what question would you put in there so that they can ask their teams this week?

Liane Davey  18:08

Yeah. So can I do a two parter? So I’m going to do the first question is, you know, what’s the single most important thing you need to be paying attention to this week? You can do that. But let me add to it. So turns out, we have some really interesting research published in Nature, the scientific journal, that humans when we ask them to make things better, they add more, they make it more complex, they add things on as opposed to subtracting, and only when we prompt them to do less, do they consider options that are simplification as opposed to, you know, making something more complex. So the second part I want every manager doing, if I had my magic wand, would be to say, Okay, this is the one thing that is the single most important thing you need to pay attention to this week. But then to explicitly name three things that you want them to pay less attention to, because they’re just going to read your most important thing as an and as I let me put that on the plate with everything else that’s on the plate, unless you explicitly say this thing. You know what, I don’t even want you to think about this. Until next week, I want to delay it, I want all your attention on the priority, or this thing. You know what? I’m going to give that to Sally, because it’s not as important. It’s not as unique to you this other thing, nobody can do that. But you so I’m going to actually delegate that distributor. You can just say, You know what, you’ve been working on that for a while now. And I think you’ve got 80% of the value out of that. Let’s just delete that off your task lists all together. Or you might say this one thing, a meeting a meeting is a great example. I know we have a standing meeting for two hours. And I really want your attention on the priority. So I’m going to move around the agenda items. So you can come for the first 30 minutes and then get out of there and go focus you can actually sort of diminish work. So what I want every manager doing is I asking about the single most important priority. If they can’t answer, I want you to answer it for them. But I really, really, really want you to not leave not move until you’ve put as much attention on what you don’t want them doing what you don’t want them paying attention to. Because if you don’t say that, that’s going to be in their thought load, and it’s going to be slowing them down. So that’s my magic wand moment.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  20:25

Yeah, I like it. I like it. So I’m sure lots of interesting conversations will come out of that. And we will have a discussion for those who are part of our Slack workspace. We’ll also have a discussion about that and see what kind of interesting answers were given with that prompt.

Liane Davey  20:41

Awesome. I have a YouTube video all about the technique. I call it one yes. And three less. So you know, what’s your one? Yes, for this week? And what are three less so happy to share that video if people want to use it with their teams, they’re welcome to and I can’t wait to hear what happens in the slack conversation about it.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  20:58

Yeah, for sure. And we will also link to the video and excited for people to check that out. The other thing I mean, we started the conversation by telling everybody how you were the teamwork, doctor. So I think it’s time for us to talk a little bit about teams. Absolutely. Why our teams sometimes dysfunctional? I mean, I know that’s a very difficult question to answer. And it’s not one simple thing, but what might bleed to think about to start with,

Liane Davey  21:23

in some ways, it is simple. And it’s one of two categories. So obviously, within that, because I the scope of dysfunction is always turning and changing. But really, we can talk about it in two categories. One, that there are problems with alignment. So that is we don’t know what we’re supposed to be doing. We don’t know what our priorities are. We don’t know our roles. We don’t know how our roles play off against one another. We have shared accountability. We’re not aligned to other teams in the organization, which is a very big problem. So often leaders, our planning gets done kind of in silos, and so marketing’s goals make no sense whatsoever with engineering goals. And certainly sales as goals make sense with no one else. And so those sorts of things. So there’s a whole category of things, which is we’re working at cross purposes, we’re either stepping on each other’s toes, or there are gaps, and no one’s covering something important. So one category is teams are dysfunctional, because they’re not aligned. That’s one. The second category is everything around the dynamic. So that’s everything around we’re not communicating. There’s no candor, there’s a lot of friction, we’re having unhealthy conflict, we don’t trust one another. So those are kind of the two categories. And pretty much every dysfunction I’ve run into in the 28 years I’ve been researching and working with teams kind of falls into. And of course, the unhealthiest teams. Both of those are the problem. One of the interesting things is a lot of teams call us for things that they think are trust issues, but really beneath the surface, it’s that they were never aligned. And so they’re not meeting one another’s expectations, they’re disappointing one another. So a lot of things you probably think our trust and team dynamic issues are actually failings of of poor alignment.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  23:15

Hey, they’re just a quick pause on today’s episode to let you know that we’d really appreciate you helping us spread the word about the Supermanagers podcast, if you’re enjoying what you’re hearing so far, dial into your podcast app of choice, whether that’s on Apple or Android or Spotify. And just leave us a quick review. Now back to the interview. So alignment is a very interesting one. And, you know, sometimes it’s your silo team. And of course, you know, you need a team goal you need to all be focused on, you know, some outcome. And sometimes, alignment gets a little bit more tricky when there’s cross functional teams, right? It’s a little bit more work.

Liane Davey  23:56

It’s a lot more work.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  23:58

It’s a lot more work. Okay, good.

Liane Davey  23:59

Yeah, it’s not even like a multiplier, it’s exponentially harder,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  24:03

exponentially harder. So my question for you is, when you have cross functional teams, and a bunch of them, Whose job is it to get them all aligned? Like how do you think about you know the answer to that question, is it always because I know that sometimes solving a problem can be Oh, we just need those three teams to report to the same person that’ll solve it. But is that you know, the answer one should look for, you know, how do you get those teams cross functional teams specifically to be aligned? Yeah, I

Liane Davey  24:35

don’t think you need to report to one person and treat everything as having a single decision maker, but I think you need to get at the decision level and have one clear decision owner for any given decision. So it’s not necessarily that we all report up to a senior vice president and everything has to go up to like mom for the final decision that’s very unhealthy and inefficient. But for a certain decision, it needs to be very clear who owns this who gets to make the decision? And then who are the people who need to be engaged who need to be part of the deliberations. So I often hear teams talking about, you know, when I say, Okay, what’s the unique value of this team? Like, why do you get together? What do you do? And they’ll often say, decision making. And I’ll just stop them. I’ll say, teams don’t make decisions. It’s not a democracy. It’s hopefully not a consensus building strategy. But what I want you to do is know who’s the decision maker? And then what teams do is they deliberate, so they put tension on the various different options, they come at things from different perspectives with different expertise. So cross functional teams, the most important thing you can do is know what’s the purpose of us coming together, whether it’s a program project, a particular decision that needs to be made, understand who’s in charge of the program, the project or the decision, who’s making the calls? And then what are the different stakes and the different expertise? And what’s the tension that all of the different stakeholders need to put on the deliberations? That’s a much healthier team. But the vast majority of matrix situations, I see, they never take the time to say who owns which decisions, they don’t create the forums for people to have that sort of dynamic tension around the deliberation. So that’s why we get into a whole lot of trouble with those cross functional teams.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  26:32

And, you know, also talking about the trust component, what are some tactical ways that you can build more trust within your teams?

Liane Davey  26:41

Yeah, so let’s go level by level. So trust is in my world, a four layer cake. So let’s take the bottom layer, the bottom layer of trust is just about how predictable somebody’s behavior is to you. Right? When somebody, even somebody who’s a bit of a jerk, if you’ve known them for 10 years, they’re predictable, it’s easier to trust them. Like I know what I’m in for. So all of the tactics around that the best tactic around that which is hard in a virtual world is just breaking bread together, we know the human brain, we’re animals, and when we eat beside other people, something in our brains makes us trust them more. So find downtime, it’s okay to just say we’re gonna have a pizza party over zoom if you want. But we need downtime, to create that first level of trust connection, second level credibility. So you know, the first level is Do I understand you? Can I predict what you’re going to do? The second level is, Are you up for the task? Are you capable of doing what I’m depending on you to do? So the tactics they are one of the coolest ones I’ve seen is a technique that is, was created for virtual teams. And what you do is you partner up random pairs of employees that can be engineers, or you know, salespeople, marketers, HR people, it doesn’t matter. And you have them answer two questions. What’s something that you’ve cracked recently, like something that you figured out? And, and what was it? And secondly, what’s one thing you’re still wrestling with? And then in pairs, they interview each other to share this. And it’s really interesting in the research that we’ve seen, we’re getting massive bumps in productivity that last for months and months and months from people, first of all, just being aware of what they’re solving and feeling proud of themselves, but also being aware and articulating what they’re struggling with. And then they just help each other. Have you talked to so and so or have you tried this or so that technique as we kind of work together, share with each other, we begin to trust in one another’s competence more. So that’s a good one.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  28:35

That sounds like a really fun exercise. So you pair people up, ideally, from different teams, and you say, what’s something that you’ve recently solved? Everybody comes up with that, and then you explain it to the other person is that the idea?

Liane Davey  28:49

So what we’re trying to counteract with this method is what’s called Social friction. There’s a lot of social friction, particularly if we’re working remotely from one another, which means I don’t even know who to ask for, I know who to ask. But in a virtual world, it’s going to be a meeting scheduled three days from now, because our calendars are so full, or just, I’m worried to admit that I don’t know this. So there’s a lot of friction. So if we say everybody gets buddied up once a month with somebody, or once a week, or whatever you want, there’s no social friction, because everybody has to answer these two questions. So that really helps. So that’s one benefit. Second benefit, it causes you to actually reflect on what did I solve and what am I struggling with? And then it’s that cross pollination. And you know, you can imagine if somebody tells you something they’re struggling with, you might not have anything really useful to say in the moment, but two days later, you overhear something in another meeting, and you’re like, Oh, I know who would benefit from that. Let me hook you up. So yeah, that’s the technique. You can do it within a department. So the original research looked at doing it with salespeople, and, you know, the jump in actual measurable revenue that came after this that lasted for the entire length of the study, nine months absolutely profound, what’s possible with this technique that just builds trust at this, you know, it’s gonna help with connection as well, because you’re sharing, but it’s really about improving people’s confidence in one another’s capability.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  30:10

Yeah, so I guess we’re gonna have to add this as a second homework item for people is try so we have stuff to add to your one on ones. And this is a group activity. So very excited. I wonder if there’s going to be more probably

Liane Davey  30:22

because I’m all about that kind of stuff. The practical what can you do? Yeah,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  30:26

very cool. So, you know, we have to trust in each other’s capability and what comes after that?

Liane Davey  30:32

Okay, so connection at the bottom competence, second reliability. So there may be somebody who you really like you know them? Well, you may think that they’re super smart and highly capable. Reliability is will they deliver? And the problem with Will they deliver as it gets into? How much do they have on their plates? How many competing priorities do they have, you know, is this as important to them as it is to me, so that’s another really one that gets violated a lot these days. So you know, just a simple thing I want to share with your audience is I think a lot of the time managers will give some kind of an instruction, this is what we’re doing this what they need you to deliver. And then they do some kind of equivalent of like, so we’re good. And they just wait for the heads to nod. And usually the heads nod. Again, we’re back to social friction, because you look like a loser. If you’re like, I have no clue what you just asked, right? We tend not to say that. So what I want you to do, unreliability is just this tiny thing, which is people become more reliable if they are clear on what’s expected of them. So instead of doing the We good, go with, okay, so like, what did you hear? And what are you to do first? Or what’s one risk? You see, in trying to do this, ask questions that force the people to process what you told them to actually work with the information, you will get much better alignment, people will be much clearer on the expectations and therefore much less likely to let you down. So if we’re promoting reliability, there’s lots reliability is a lot about alignment. But just this one simple thing you can do in your meetings, in your one on ones is to stop handing out statements, or closed ended questions to know if people are clear, and instead switch it to open ended questions that force people to work with the information. And then you’ll see if it didn’t really land, they’ll be much more likely to deliver for you, if the expectation really landed.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  32:31

You know, we had David Robinson, who’s a former commanding officer at the US Marine Corps on the show. And he used this phrase, which I really, really enjoyed, which was, he says something on the order of, I’m not always the best communicator. So to help me get feedback, can you explain to me what you understood from what I said, but it’s just he’s taking the blame for it not to say like, tell me if you did a good job understanding? It’s, you know, did I do a good job of explaining, but I do agree with you. And I totally make that mistake. So

Liane Davey  33:05

I think we naturally do. Because what we’ve said, makes so much sense in our own heads. The best book, if I can recommend a book for folks, there’s a book called Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath, I think it’s probably their first book. And they’ve gone on to write many great books since, but they talk about the curse of knowledge. So what happens is, when you understand something, it’s so clear in your head, that it’s impossible to imagine what it’s like not to know. And so they use this great experiment to explain that where they show that it was a bunch of Stanford undergrads and they said, Okay, here’s the song, the song is Happy birthday, and we want you to knock Happy Birthday on the table, like literally like, and they asked them, Okay, what percentage of people who hear that are gonna guess it’s happy birthday. And of course, they were like, like, 80%. Everybody knows Happy Birthday. But of course, that’s because as they were knocking it, they’re singing it in their heads. And it’s clearly Happy Birthday, if you’re just hearing somebody knocking notes on a table, or beats not even notes. So I don’t know, it could be a million things does it Mary Had a Little Lamb. And so it’s such a great book, because it really helps you kind of realize the mistakes we make in communication. And the curse of knowledge is when we have all the time. So if you want to bump up reliability, trust at the reliability level, you got to get away from the curse of knowledge. You got to do what David’s doing, and get them to articulate it in their own words. He’s a master. I love that. That was. That’s a great line. It’s not you. It’s me.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  34:35

So what is the last layer?

Liane Davey  34:37

Yeah, so the last layer is I don’t have tips or tricks on the last layer, because the last layer of trust is integrity. And maybe my hack on integrity is be vulnerable, which we’re back to my psychology roots here. But you know, what’s amazing about the human brain is vulnerability begets more vulnerability. So if you want people to trust you to trust you at that level of integrity, Be vulnerable to them admit when you’re struggling, tell them something they did that was hard on you something that was hard for you to hear. And that actually is a bit of a hack, because that doesn’t take too much to admit when you’re struggling or things like that. But the whole concept is, when you show them that you’re willing to make yourself vulnerable to them, their brains say, oh, this person must be safe and must perceive me as safe. And so the connection between you goes up and the trust goes up. So it’s so the opposite of what we think like, as managers, we want to show we’re strong, and we want to show we’re on it, and all these sorts of things. And that just, you know, puts up a wall between us and other people. So in the formula I talked about as the magic formula is to be both vulnerable and accountable. So I’m not saying I’m not gonna figure it out, or I’m dumping my problems on you. But I’m saying, Here’s what I’m struggling with. And, you know, here’s what I’m doing to get to an answer. So as a manager, if you’re having a really hard time making a trade off, another one I hear all the time from managers is they’ll say, I have to make your call. And I’m really worried that what I’m doing is unfair, or I’m worried about making an unfair decision, be vulnerable. I’m really struggling with this. I want to make a fair decision. But I can’t figure out in this situation, if what’s fair is being consistent with everybody? Or if what’s fair is kind of having a different but equitable answer for different people be vulnerable, and say, you know, I’m owning this, I’ll have the decision to you by Tuesday, but I just wanted to share with you how challenging this is for me, or that sort of thing. So integrity, the closest thing I can come to a hack on something as fundamental as your integrity, is to show some vulnerability with lots of accountability as a side dish.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  36:45

Yeah, I really, really liked that the vulnerability plus accountability, I think this is for everybody. Right? Even if you’re being vulnerable with your own manager, it’s also I got this, but you know, so on and so forth. I do want to talk about return to the office. But before we go there, we talked about being fair. Is it important to be fair, or like, what does it mean to be fair, as a manager,

Liane Davey  37:10

so here’s my hot take, there’s no such thing. There’s no such thing as fair. So it’s really important to think about being fair, it’s really important for that to be a criteria in your decision making for sure, there’s no such thing as a fair outcome, because fairness is so many different things. So I do think it’s really important to wrestle with it, which kind of fair makes the most sense. In this case. You know, certainly we’ve all seen now this some the cartoon in the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion space where it’s little kids trying to see over the fence at a baseball game, and fairness is kids of very different heights have the same size box. And so some of them can’t see over the fence. And the other one is kids of different heights have different height boxes they can stand on, so they can all see over the fence. Well, equity versus equality as two different definitions of fairness, sometimes one makes sense for managers, and sometimes it’s the other. And so just understanding there’s room for people to criticize any decision you make. So what I encourage managers to do is, first of all, say, I care about fairness. Second of all, to present this situation, and talk about how in this case, I’m really wrestling with whether the fairest thing to do is x or y or whether to use, you know, this definition or that definition. So being very transparent about your thought process. And then don’t be afraid to make a call, be decisive, make a decision, own it, be open to feedback about the negative impact that that call had on people. But don’t be sheepish about saying, you know, I felt that there would be downsides to any decision I made in this situation. I chose the equity version of fairness, this time, because of x, y, and Zed, I value your feedback, thank you, it might be that I use a different way of thinking this through next time. But thinking that there is something that’s fair or unfair, when it comes to management decisions, I just don’t buy it depends on which angle you’re looking at it from. So best way is to use it as a criterion think hard about it. wrestle with what that particular business decision calls for. And then be very transparent and then learn and don’t be afraid to change. You don’t have to use this you know, well, I’m all about consistency. So you know, it always now has to be the same no, just say you know, I don’t think consistency serves us here. This decision I made this way for this reason, you know what the next decision I may make in a different way because it’s suitable to the scenario we’re in then so I think we get too wrapped around the crank on what’s fair or not and, and you know, as managers we want to be liked. We want to be respected. We’re afraid of someone getting angry at us. It’s just comes with the job. It comes with the job so you know what, make the right call for the business. You implemented in a way that’s right for the people and move on. There’ll be another thing to decide unfairly later,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  40:06

there’ll be other things to worry about. Yeah. So Liane, I know we started up before we hit record, we were talking about return to the office, one of the things that you do amongst many things, and many companies that you advise, you’re now talking to a lot of companies about how to make this decision of return to Office. And it feels like this. Everybody’s got a different viewpoint in every company is different. Like, how do you think about this? Or how should people think about this going forward?

Liane Davey  40:35

Okay, so number one, we need to stop talking about productivity. So even in the executive team meeting I was in yesterday, the CFO was like, people just aren’t as productive when they’re not at the office. Well, you know what, that’s just not true. We have a lot of research evidence that people produce work more productively when they’re working remotely, about 9% of the gain is from the fact that they work more hours because they invest 42% of the commute time in working more about 4% is because offices are really distracting, noisy, crazy places. And so we’re more focused. So we need first thing, we need to stop talking about productivity, it’s not a productivity issue. Okay, so what we have actually been fighting about, which we really need to talk about is we’ve been fighting about control. And managers used to feel they had control, I don’t think they ever really had it. But when they could walk around and catch people playing solitaire, or whatever else, they felt like they had control they saw who was in their desk, at what moment. And now employees have gained some control over their lives. And they don’t want to give it up. And so just for a moment, let me sensitize your audience to some of the things that they’ve gained control over. So used to be that people in the sandwich generation, we’re, you know, having to take a day off work to take a parent to a doctor’s appointment or a kid, you know, if you’ve ever sat in a pediatricians waiting room with a bunch of snotty infectious kids, that’s not the best way to spend a vacation day, but they have working remotely is they can just nip out go to the doctor’s office tech on the hour at the end of the day. And nobody’s the wiser, that’s controlled, it’s nice to have. People who are neurodiverse, who struggle with all of the distractions of the office do better with like actual written content can set up a home office with the right setup to make themselves productive. I don’t want to go back to this open office space that’s just absolutely this frenetic thing for their heads. And the last one I’ll mention is, you know, I’ve heard so much from visible minorities who are saying, I didn’t realize how many micro aggressions I was dealing with, in the average day, one indigenous woman, I read an interview, she said, I have a very senior role in the organization. But at least two or three times a week, someone walks up and treats me like the receptionist. So I didn’t realize how that was affecting my self esteem. So we as managers, we can ask people to come back to the office. And I think it’s reasonable, we can’t do it without empathizing with some of the things that they will give up. And the sacrifices they’re making in coming back. Not to mention, it’s about $7,000 a year the average employee needs to invest to come back to the office, which is more than half of the average family of four food budget. So if you think about we’ve now got wicked inflation, mortgage rates are going way up. And now we’re saying you’re gonna have to spend $7,000, you didn’t spend in 2020 2021, and 2022. So we have to think about that. So that’s the next piece. The next problem for managers is we have been so obsessed with smart objectives and accountability and performance that we’ve got everyone’s contributions so narrowly defined, that what they’re saying to us is, I can do my job from home, because they don’t think about integrating a new teammate as part of their role. They don’t think about overhearing conversations and chiming in with ideas as part of their role. They’ve lost all of the organizational and team behaviors. They don’t think they’re accountable for those. So they think they’re doing their role fine. When they’re not. They’re not contributing. So I think we need to change the conversation managers need to do a better job of saying, here’s what’s expected when you’re a member of our community, whether that be a team, a department, an organization, and then where I’m kind of netting out is, you know, something like three days a week is probably optimal for hybrid. So three days, we’re in the office, using that time to connect, collaborate those sorts of things, but leaving you a couple of days where you’re allowed to turn off the notifications, get into flow, produce your individual work more effectively use it as the place to balance your personal commitments. So that’s kind of where I’m netting out, but we are just doing this all wrong fighting about if they don’t come in, I’m going to fire them or if they don’t come in, they’re probably just slacking. Microsoft says 85% of managers are paranoid that remote workers are not Working at 5%. And that’s just awful. So we got to completely reset on this conversation.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  45:07

I think you brought up all the good points. And specifically, I liked how you’re shifting the discussion away from productivity, that myth has been dispelled. So it hasn’t

Liane Davey  45:17

the data have been collected. But somehow the myth persists.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  45:21

Oh, no, the myth. And the end, this has been an awesome conversation. We’ve talked about so many different things, we have homework for everyone, what are you going to do more of a most important priority and three things that you’re going to do less of? I love the term social friction that we talked about. I mean, this is one of those hidden things that everybody has to think about in the remote environment, we really define trust, we had a book recommendation Made to Stick. And we talked a lot about conflict debt. And, and of course, you know, I want to make sure that everybody goes out and gets the good fight, which is your book. And rumors are that you may have something coming in the next year or two. So whenever that happens, we’d love to have you back on. But as a final question, we ask everybody on the show, you know, we’ve talked about a lot already. But any final tips tricks were or words of wisdom that you would leave us with?

Liane Davey  46:12

Let’s go back to the conflict one, because that’s kind of home base for me. And I think so many of us don’t like conflict. So we get into conflict. And so the mantra I want to give you is, if you figure out who that isn’t in the room, are you fighting for that technique of saying, you know, there’s lots of other people in this conversation, but there are people who aren’t in this room. And if I don’t fight for them, no one will. That may be your shareholder. It may be employees who aren’t in the room, it may be customers, or suppliers or partners or anybody else. But when you can key in on who and what is worth fighting for. You’ll create a breakthrough, you’ll just be a different person. It won’t be that conflict is you being annoying, or a pain in the butt. It’ll be no, this is my obligation. I got to stand up for this because nobody else in this conversation, we’ll see if you can get to some things and some people are worth fighting for. Think you’ll create an entirely different relationship with productive conflict.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  47:14

That’s great advice and a great place to end it. Liane. Thanks so much for doing this.

Liane Davey  47:18

Oh, my pleasure. And thanks so much.

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