“If you want to get better at collaboration or managing or leadership - ask your peers. Go beyond the peers you associate with, find someone who you think is a good manager. There's so much wisdom that people have that we don't ever tap into, because we put people into boxes.”
In this episode
In episode #54, Eugene Eric Kim tells us why we always need to be looking for our replacement and how impactful a person in power can truly be.
Eugene Eric Kim is the co-founder of two change consultancies and has been able to work with thousands of leaders around the world… from C-level business leaders and social activists… to rocket scientists… and spies!
Today, he runs a training program called Collaboration Muscles & Mindsets at Faster Than 20.
In this episode, Eugene talks about why wanting to do more can be harmful and explains why specifics are crucial in goal-setting.
He also shares a practical one-minute drill for managers and leaders to practice flexing their listening muscles.
Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.
Recess is needed at work
A safe working environment
Young and bad at leadership
Don’t do more
Building infrastructure for practice
Workplaces demand performance
Muscles for collaborating
The one minute drill for listening
The value in asking your peers
- Follow Eugene Eric Kim on Twitter
- Learn more from Eugene Eric Kim here
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 01:01
Eugene, Welcome to the show.
Eugene Eric Kim (Faster Than 20) 02:24
Hey, thanks for having me.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 02:25
Yeah, it’s, it’s great to have you here. There’s a lot that we’re going to be talking about today. But I just wanted to start with a fun fact, in digging up and learning more about your background, we found this quote that you had and it’s about recess, apparently over the last like few months, you’ve been creating recess for yourself, you know, basically hopping on zoom, to make art and share, I’d love for you to tell us about that. What is recess in this remote working world?
Eugene Eric Kim (Faster Than 20) 02:55
Honestly, it started off because a friend of mine has been sort of transitioning into becoming a full time artist. They are an amazing artist. And, and I’ve been, you know, wanting to just hang out with his friend more often. So we’ve been doing calls and I was just kind of sick and tired of just talking to people and catching up. So we decided to make some art while we caught up. And in the process of that we were talking about this notion of play and recess and how in school there is actually designated time for play, and how in our regular work lives, much less our pandemic work lives. So much of what we’re doing is Go go go go. And we’re expected to find our own time for a play. And oftentimes, what we mean by play is not just making art necessarily, but it’s actually like building relationships with our peers, or it’s learning something new that might actually apply to our work. And so it became this thing where we wanted to model something that felt like it was well some that have been more valuable in our real working men and living lives. And so we decided to build a recess where we meet every two weeks, we sit down, all we do is we make art together, we catch up a little bit, we just have fun. It’s not too structured. And I timesheet it because I want this to be part of my workday. So I count it as work.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 04:18
Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s, that’s a very, very clever way to and I like the way that you phrase it, which was, you know, I was just tired of catching up with people and it’s much more I guess fun and there’s a lot of side benefits or extra benefits if you can actually work on something fun together so that that’s a super creative take. What tools do you use to do that? Mj? I’m just curious, like, what would you tell everybody else to use in order to experiment with that?
Eugene Eric Kim (Faster Than 20) 04:46
I have a set of watercolors I’ve been playing around with for about three years and I pretty much have that and some paper. My friend, her name is young, and she’s much more creative. She’ll do things like take a paper bag. Shall throw pain all over the place. You know, they’ll do many cool things with the yard. So you don’t need anything. There’s nothing visual about it other than the fact that we’re both on camera,
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 05:12
That’s amazing that you do that, I would have imagined that we’re talking about, you know, you pulled up a Figma document. But that’s pretty cool. I love that. So Eugene, you’ve had an extensive leadership career with companies like Blue Ox and rupiah. And you also run a training program called collaboration, muscles and mindset mindsets at faster than 20. But before we dive in, I’m curious about your career. Who has been your most favorite boss, or leader or someone that you’ve reported to?
Eugene Eric Kim (Faster Than 20) 05:44
I’m really fortunate in a lot of ways. I’ve only had one official boss post college. His name was John Erickson, he was my boss, I worked at a technical publication right out of college, I worked there for three years before venturing off on my own. And he was just incredible. He guided me in so many ways. There’s so many practices that I have today that I learned directly from him. You know, what I joke around so much is that he was so good. And no one else would ever live up to that. So I had to go off on my own and be my own boss at that point.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 06:21
Amazing. So what was it like? What do you think set him apart? Or what is something that you really remember from the way that he would lead his team?
Eugene Eric Kim (Faster Than 20) 06:30
Oh, there are a lot of things. First and foremost, he cared about us as people. He was really clear about that upfront, he saw us as whole human beings. I remember when I was talking to him about possibly joining the organization. He always said, there’s, there’s your job. And I want that to be 80% of your time. And then there’s you. And I don’t know what all those aspects of you are. But I know it’s good for the company. And so I want you to just bring that and develop it and foster it and do whatever you want. He really spent a lot of time with all of us getting to know us as people cared about us. He was loyal. He just showed that we weren’t just cogs in the wheel. We were people. Maybe I took that for granted a little bit. After I left the organization. And I started learning more about other organizations, I realized I was far from the norm. No, yeah, that’s not the norm. Sadly, yeah, I would say the other two things that he did really well, I mean, he did so many things well, but another thing he did well, he really protected us, he created this environment. So we were embedded in a larger organization. We were fortunate we were very profitable in an organization where a lot of kinds of these sub companies were not as profitable. And so we were protected from that, somewhat. But he shielded us from a lot of the kind of Dilbertisms that happen in any large company, and really created a safe, productive environment for us in so many ways. And I think the last thing, just as a manager, and as a leader that I’ve done, so valuable, and I constantly say to other people, is this orientation that he had that he would constantly tell me, which was always looking for your replacement, right? You know, everyone’s going to grow, you want people to grow. That’s part of what your job is as a leader. And so don’t expect people to just stick around forever. That’s not what you want. What you want is to grow other leaders to encourage them to find their own path, and to constantly bring in new people and to encourage them as well. And I think that had a big impact on how I think and how I tried to work.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 08:37
Yeah, that’s super interesting. You know, always be looking for your own replacement. That’s great advice. And just this concept of there’s two, two versions of you, and just encouraging authenticity in that way. I think that’s super incredible. You know, you may be right, maybe you didn’t want to, or you didn’t need to get another manager after that. He sounds pretty incredible. Let’s talk about your leadership career then. So when you started out, so you started with this person who is just amazing and hits the nail on the head? How about yourself? When did you first start leading a team? And what were some of the mistakes that maybe you made in those early days?
Eugene Eric Kim (Faster Than 20) 09:15
I think I was really lucky because I was leading teams back when I was in school as early as junior high school but, but really, More formally, when I was in high school, I was a terrible leader. I was awful. And if you’re going to be bad at leadership, you should be bad in high school, when it doesn’t impact people’s lives as much. And when you can make mistakes and get that feedback and practice and grow. I really learned a lot of lessons in terms of again, like treating people well, I have had that experience so often. Fortunately, in my adult life, I know that’s not a common experience. I didn’t necessarily do that. I think I was very quote unquote, performance driven in my head. When I was a kid. I was a tyrant and I didn’t know how To give and receive feedback well, and so I was pretty bad, be quite honest. And I had a couple of situations where people rebelled. And I’m so fortunate in so many ways that people rebelled. And they gave me that clear feedback, maybe not as skillfully as we might as adults, or hopefully we might. But when I got that feedback, I’m like, wow. That’s not how I picture myself. That’s not what I want to be. I want to change. And when you’re a 14 or 15 year old kid, and you’re getting that feedback, and you’re driven to actually be good at what you’re, what you’re wanting to do to be a good leader, like, that’s a really nice time for that.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 10:39
Yeah, that’s amazing. So how did you do it? I mean, was it just through the feedback that you realized that you wanted to change things up?
Eugene Eric Kim (Faster Than 20) 10:46
Well, I think part of it is actually having a vision for yourself. I mean, I knew I wanted to be a good leader, I thought about it, I tried to understand what that meant. And and then I think what the feedback helps you with is understanding that you have blind spots, if you achieve any level of leadership, at any level, whether you’re 10 years old, or whether you’re 40 years old, you know, you have something to show for it, and probably a lot of luck, right? That goes into it. So you’re not starting off with any skills. And it’s important for you to build on those strengths. But at the same time, there’s so many things you don’t know, you definitely never really know the impact that you have on other people, especially when you’re in a position of power. And so if you care about being a good leader, you have to have the humility to say, Wow, what’s going on in my head, that’s certainly a valid picture of some sort. But it’s not the complete picture. And I need to find ways to create a space where I can get some honest feedback. And when I can really see how I’m doing and learn from that.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 11:49
It’s very interesting that you figured out all these lessons. I feel like for most, it’s, you know, a decade into management that they realize about the blind spots, and then have a vision for their leadership. So yeah, good on you that that’s, that’s very, very early. So let’s talk about that. This other concept, doing more is a terrible goal. I feel like you know, in general, more always sounds like a good thing. But you believe that, you know, sometimes more can actually do more harm than good. I was wondering if you could maybe elaborate a little bit if there is an example that could highlight this, I think it’s a worthy lesson to learn.
Eugene Eric Kim (Faster Than 20) 12:34
Yeah, so I’m not objecting so much to the notion of more, as I am objecting to its lack of precision. And so when we want to say, okay, our goals and organization is to generate more revenue, or our goal is to, you know, Jeff Bezos recently had this great, you know, he does a great annual letter to shareholders. And this year was so interesting, because he talked about being the best place for employees, right, and how they could actually improve on that, while to say more to be better, all those different things. That sounds great. And it’s wonderful, especially when you’re in a position of power. It’s a challenging thing to tell to your people, because it’s like, What does more mean? What does success actually look like? How much is more, we all know in the real life and work of just living, frankly, but just in any of our professions, like more is constantly at the expense of something else. It’s always about trade off. It’s always about figuring out how you prioritize one thing over the other? What happens is if we say more, without actually being precise about what we mean by that, then really, what more means is, we got to keep striving until whoever’s in power feels good about where we are. And you’re relying on the fact that whoever is in power, like even has a clear idea of what they mean. So I know just as an individual human being, but so often, I think I want to go one way, when in fact, I don’t really know until I try, right. And if it’s just for myself, then the only person I’m impacting is myself. But if I have people working for me, and if they’re following my lead, and if I’m being ambiguous about it, and if I’m changing my mind, I’m impacting a lot of people as a result. And so really, what I’m saying is not to not strive for more, but just to the extent possible, take the time to try and be as specific about what more means as possible collectively with the people who are going to be impacted by that. Does that relate to, for example, just having very specific goals that are just quantifiable? So I think quantification is an element of it. But I think there are a lot of things where there’s high levels of ambiguity, ambiguity, where it’s just helpful to actually talk about it. I’ll give you an example. That I think is pretty relevant to a lot of organizations right now. And that’s around diversity. And so when we talk about diversity, most of us are talking about, okay, having racial diversity, having gender diversity, maybe having diversity around, you know, just these other elements. And so so there is an extra level of precision that that most organizations are actually getting to, you know, in some ways, but then the question is like, Okay, if I’m an organization right now, if I’m an engineering organization, say, based in the Silicon Valley, I’ve got, like, 90% of my engineers are male, but we know what the numbers are overall in Silicon Valley. And our goal is to be more diverse, like, really, as an organization as a leader, what do I mean by that? Right? And more specifically, what am I holding myself accountable to? If you don’t actually have the conversation, and talk about that, and are actually real about that with the folks who are impacted by it, then you’re just actually hurting people, right? Because you’re striving for something which, like, no one knows what they’re actually striving for, where there’s a ton of complexity, your risk tokenism, your risk, all of these sorts of things. Now, what should the number be? Nobody knows. Like, there’s, there’s no, you know, right answer in all these situations. But what you can talk about is things like, Well, why do we care about diversity in the first place? What do we actually mean? If we have 5050? gender diversity, for example, but everybody has gone to an Ivy League school? And everybody is either from LA, San Francisco or New York. Is that actually the diversity we want? Or is it something else, right? Like actually building a more complex model in terms of what we’re actually going for? And why and how that’s going to help us achieve things? That’s what I’m talking about. And that’s hard, right? It’s much easier to say we want more and to move on.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 17:01
There’s a very good example. And something that you’re right, there isn’t a lot of clarity on in general, what would you say then is this behavior over time graph, that you also that I think relates to this concept.
Eugene Eric Kim (Faster Than 20) 17:17
This notion of a behavior over time graph, it’s a tool that a lot of systems thinkers use, and it’s a pretty straightforward idea. The idea is, again, to have a little bit more precision about what you say you’re going for. And then to work backwards, and to say, Okay, if this is what we’re actually trying to achieve, then, you know, are we going in the right direction, the simplest example the one I like to use, I have, for whatever reason, a lot of runners in my life, I myself am not a runner, I hate running with a passion. And I run on occasion, because what I like to do is I like to play sports. And unfortunately, I’m at the age where there was a time when I could just play sports, and that’s what would keep me in shape. And now I’m of the age where if I want to continue playing sports, then I have to actually keep myself in shape to play. So every once in a while I run and so the question is, okay, as a runner, what is my goal? Is it to run more? Well, no, I think the simple way to break it down is like, Are you trying to just be in shape, which is my goal? Are you trying to run a marathon? If you’re trying to run a marathon, then my favorite, occasionally running, if I can motivate myself to get up and maybe averaging like one run a week, you know, for a couple miles. Like, that’s probably enough. If your problem is just it’s not your problem. But if your goal is just to be a little bit healthier than just running once a month, you’re going to be healthier than if you’re just sitting on your couch all day. If your goal is to run a marathon, that’s not going to work, right? You’re never going to be able to run a marathon if you’re running like a mile a month. So now let’s think about that in terms of our organizational goals, like what are the things where we’re saying, okay, we want to make, you know, X percent more revenue, or we want to generate like higher customer satisfaction numbers on this, it’s fine to actually set the targets, right? This is sort of that hand wavy process that like all of us are involved in, but what’s that next level of thinking around like, okay, realistically, can we get there by doing the things that we’re already doing? Can we get there by making incremental changes? Or does it require massive upheaval in terms of how we’re doing things? And I think so often, what we do in our goal setting processes as we say, in our heads, at least we say like we’re trying to run a marathon, but we’re not actually examining whether we’re training for a marathon versus we’re just To be healthy.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 20:01
Yeah, you know, it’s also interesting, you can’t have, you know, super, I guess, having the same level of, I guess, goal target for every single thing in the organization, right. So, like some things, I mean, if a lot of resources go into one thing, you do have to make prioritization decisions. And at the end, it is important for you to say, this is the most important thing, so we’re going to run a marathon here. But over here, we’re trying to get a little bit healthier. And I think I love the running analogy, and I think, you know, putting it that way, and, and prioritizing, you know, makes a lot of sense.
Eugene Eric Kim (Faster Than 20) 20:39
Yeah, I mean, that’s, that’s all it takes the that, that way of explaining things is all it takes to give clarity to the people in your organization like marathon versus getting a lot healthier, right, they don’t have to have an actual number to be able to adjust how they’re prioritizing things.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 20:54
[AD BREAK BEGINS] Hey, there. 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 and 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 a 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. [AD BREAK ENDS] So over the past seven years, you’ve been applying a practice orientation to collaboration, instead of a knowledge centric approach. I’d love for you to explain, you know what the difference is between these two approaches? And why the collaboration approach?
Eugene Eric Kim (Faster Than 20) 22:12
Yeah, um, to end I’m curious, do you play an instrument?
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 22:16
I do not actually.
Eugene Eric Kim (Faster Than 20) 22:18
Yeah. Do you play a sport?
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 22:19
Yes, I play tennis. I ski. I’m also a runner. I will add to that, you know, the meme of everybody in your life is a runner.
Eugene Eric Kim (Faster Than 20) 22:28
So it’s, it’s uncanny? It’s uncanny? How often do you run?
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 22:31
Actually every day? Yeah. Yeah.
Eugene Eric Kim (Faster Than 20) 22:34
How long? Have you been doing that?
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 22:36
Well, every day has been since the pandemic because all you know, my other sources of exercise have disappeared. But you know, before that I was, you know, maybe once every two or three days. But yeah, now it’s, it’s this addictive thing. So it doesn’t go away. Now. If I don’t, I feel awful. So to feel normal now, I need to run every day.
Eugene Eric Kim (Faster Than 20) 22:58
There’s this funny thing, I find when I ask this question of folks, I usually ask like do you play an instrument, do you play a sport, those are the easiest things, but it applies to so many other things in our lives, whether it’s cooking, whether it’s knitting, whatever your hobby is, right? Singing, most of us have some experience or something that we do, where we all understand that if we want to be good at it, or just add a certain threshold, we just do it every day, right or every other day, or you know, once a week, right? It’s something that, like, if if you were to advise me on how to be a better runner, you probably wouldn’t tell me to go to a one week training, to learn how to run. So it’s like, go out and run, right and start a little bit and then and then build it up. It’s pretty ironic to me. And I found that the same trap that we all have this experience around the importance of practice in so many aspects of our lives. And yet, when we talk about the elements that make up healthy collaboration, especially in the workplace, our orientation around how we get better is let’s go to a three day training. What are the books that you have that are going to be teaching you how to be a better manager, or how to lead a better team or how to be better at collaboration? Right. And it’s not that those things are valueless. In fact, most of the things that I see out there, around better communication, better leadership, whatever element that you want to focus on as being for collaboration are generally good. I don’t see a lot of bad articles out there, necessarily some mediocre ish, same goes for training, but a lot of good stuff is out there. But it’s not going to help you if you don’t have the opportunities to actually practice. I think this goes back to what I was saying earlier about recess, which is that so often our expectation is that in our professional lives, practice actually happens. On our own time, not on work time. And that doesn’t make any sense. If you look at professional musicians, if you look at professional athletes, right 90% of the time that they’re spending is training, its practice is doing all those other things, the actual percentage of time, which is performance is so small. Now compared to what we’re doing in our regular lives, if you’re a knowledge worker of some sort, and you’re out there and you’re doing whatever it is that you’re doing, those numbers are typically in reverse 90% of what we’re doing is performance, not practice. And again, if we’re practicing, we’re doing it on our own time. And so what I’m trying to do, what I’ve really invested the last seven or eight years trying to figure out is, how do we turn those numbers around? What does it look like? And really, what is the equivalent in terms of infrastructure? So if a five day training, right, it’s not valueless, it’s not that that’s not helpful. But that’s not really going to give you the infrastructure you need to practice, like, every day, once a week, whatever it is you need to do? What are the kinds of infrastructures that we can build into the workplace that might encourage that? And I think there are a lot of similarities. I think, you know, when I run, I don’t necessarily like to do this, but I often do this. I run with my sister or a friend or with my girlfriend, right? You know, running with a buddy motivates me to run more often, right? So encouraging more practice by pairing people up. What’s the equivalent of a gym, right, we have the equivalent of like a boot camp, right, a music boot camp where I can go and go off in the woods somewhere and play guitar for a week and learn from a master. But what’s the equivalent of a gym where I can show up, you know, three times a week and just jam and play on my guitar? Like, what’s the equivalent of that in the workplace? I think there are a lot of opportunities to build infrastructure that actually encourage practice. And if we did that, then I think we could have a huge impact on performance,
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 27:08
you put it really, you know, really well. It’s funny, I was seeing this graph that was showing, I think it was Lebrons. Either it was his free throw average, or, or something like that. And they were showing like, since he got into the league, and over time, how it’s actually improved. And like, even the improvements are astonishing. And he’s always been obviously great at his craft, and it’s improved. And so it’s just and I think the tweet was, you know, what, if all of us, you know, basically got to improve that, you know, that our practice in the same way, what if knowledge workers put in the same type of practice that athletes do and the same type of coaching that they get? What if knowledge workers did that? I think that’s super powerful. And you’re right, like most of the time, we’re actually performing, and it doesn’t leave much time to sharpen the saw, which can be dangerous.
Eugene Eric Kim (Faster Than 20) 28:03
And that LeBron article, did you have to see how many free throws he shoots a day?
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 28:08
I know, how many does he?
Eugene Eric Kim (Faster Than 20) 28:09
I have no idea. But it’s a lot, right?
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 28:13
It’s definitely a lot. And I think the trouble is that most workplaces basically demand performance, right? And so you literally have to, you know, make time out of your day. And you know, that might be challenging to do on a consistent basis. Now, if you, if you love what you do, maybe you make the time, but certainly you’re right, that the infrastructure doesn’t exist for it, for it to happen at a large scale for everyone.
Eugene Eric Kim (Faster Than 20) 28:38
It’s so unfortunate, in a lot of ways, it’s unfair. I mean, I generally think that organizations don’t invest enough in development and leadership, you know, some of the organizations who tried to do that, again, like they’re, they’re investing in training, or that sort of thing. But I told you that story about how when I was a kid, you know, I sucked at delivering feedback to people, right? I see this a lot in leaders that I work with. And so people send people off to like, again, three day five day training and try to learn how to better communicate. But what’s the practice infrastructure with LeBron is shooting 1000, or however many, we should look this up at some point, right? How many free throws he shoots in practice, if you took any leader, and if you gave them 1000 reps a day, to practice better feedback, that leader is going to be good at giving and receiving feedback honestly, in a couple of weeks. They’re doing like 1000 reps or the equivalent. And yet, what we do is we send people to training, we don’t provide infrastructure for the reps. And they’re not going to be able to perform purely based on the three day training and they’re punished for that. Right. And so it’s just hard. I think if we can find ways to create those reds for people, then then we’d be a lot better off.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 29:57
So, on this topic of you know, basically a practice centric approach? What is it? What is the collaboration muscle? How do you define that?
Eugene Eric Kim (Faster Than 20) 30:08
Hmm, that’s a really great question. Because collaboration actually takes a lot of different muscles, right? So, in my quest to try and figure this out and experiment more closely, basically what I did was, I took my metaphors. And I went, and I tried to look at other things with metaphors applied, and I tried to steal as much as possible. And so in terms of muscle groups, for example, right, like or muscles, like I was using this terminology to collaborate and muscles, I tried to break it down. Like when I think about the collaboration process, what are the things that are actually happening? How are we using those things, and then break them down into muscle groups. And so I’ve broken them down into kind of like muscle groups. And again, this is just, this is a framework that I’ve been using, it’s got a lot of flaws in it, you know, constantly trying to refine them. But the way I’ve kind of broken them down are into core muscles. Same way, we have core muscles in our body, right? They’re the muscles that kind of touch everything. There are task muscles. So in our work, there’s always task specific stuff that we do. As knowledge workers, there’s some commonality in terms of the kinds of tasks that we do. But you know, if you’re a programmer, if you’re a, you know, it’s whatever yet designer, you’re going to have specific domain specific things that are task oriented. There are relationship oriented muscles. So this is the thing. It’s like giving and receiving feedback. And then there are sense making muscles or learning oriented muscles, right? And so within those four different groups, like when you think about collaboration, right? If I’m bad at being relational, right, if I’m bad at developing relationships, communication, asking for help, whatever it is, that involves other people, I’m not going to be good at collaboration, I think most of us understand that. But if I’m bad at my job, I’m not going to be good at collaboration either, right? But tasks oriented stuff matters. In knowledge work, if you’re bad at learning, since you think all those other things, then you’re also not gonna be good. And so really understanding like, where you are right now, what are the things you have to work on to prove like, that’s going to help you in terms of getting better at collaboration. And then those core muscles are the things that always apply. I talked about listening, right? That’s sort of like the fundamental muscle that I tried to work out with folks navigating power. I think it’s a huge one, understanding recognizing car dynamics, learning how to navigate that. Those are some examples of muscle groups that I’ve tried to identify and develop workouts around.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 32:54
I love that muscle groups and then developing workouts for the muscle groups. And I wonder if we can dive in a little bit to the, to the listening one. So for example, if we were to say, what’s a practice that we can do to become better listeners, because I would venture to say a lot of people need help in this particular area, especially, you know, coming from a manager or leader, it’s probably a really important one. But what’s an example of practice that we could do?
Eugene Eric Kim (Faster Than 20) 33:25
The most basic and fundamental workout that I have, and that I incorporate in any kind of training that I do with groups? It’s, I call it the one minute drill. And it’s pretty simple. You do it, the baseline version of it, and you do it with another person. But you can actually do it with larger groups. If, if that’s the situation you’re in. And all you’re doing is you start with a question: could be anything? And could be like, What did you eat for breakfast this morning? Or what do you like to eat for breakfast in the morning is probably a better question or, like, you know, how was your week, last week, whatever. And then one person assumes the listener role, the other person as soon as a speaker role, the other minute, and the speaker just answers a question for a minute. So then the listener now gets a minute to reflect back what he or she heard from the speaker, and the listener gets immediate feedback. 125. Right, how well did that person reflect back and you only give people a five a perfect score if you captured every single nuance? When so you get the score. And if you didn’t get a five, you get another minute to try and do it better. Right? That’s it. The whole workout takes about 10 minutes, right? It’s really easy to do. And what people recognize immediately when they’re doing this workout, is first of all, Oh, I’m sorry. There’s one other aspect of it, which is that you use Which roles, right? So each person gets to do it. So the first thing that people often realize is that they may self identify as being a good listener. But there are so many things that are often interfering to be fully present with someone. The simplest example is like, if you both have a question that you’re supposed to answer, we’ve all been in that situation, we’ve been in a meeting, maybe someone asks an icebreaker, right? And everybody in the room is supposed to go around and say what their answer is, but you don’t give people a minute for everybody to come up with their own answers. And so what happens is everybody is speaking. And while everybody is speaking, you’re thinking about your answer to that question, right? So you can’t be fully present. Other issues that come up, just like the nuance, I might have heard the majority of what you said, I might have projected things here or there, I often do. That’s how we all kind of Listen, we’re trying to fit what we hear into some mental model, what happens is, our mental model might not be the same as other people’s mental model. And those tiny things, the difference between getting a four or five and our scores, right? Those are the things that often build up into bigger problems. You know, one thing that comes up often for me, or came up often for me as I was doing these exercises, because again, I really self identified as someone who has a good listener, and I am a good listener, generally, like when I’m present, I’m pretty good. But one of the things that came up often when I was trying these workouts with other people, is I would orient more towards what the person was saying, and not what the person was feeling. And sometimes what people want is an acknowledgement for not what you did, or whatever, but like you did something, and I feel really crappy as a result, right. And they just want to acknowledge that they feel crappy, right. And so I’m so focused on the substance of what they’re saying, I sometimes forget to acknowledge, like the feeling part. So there’s all of these aspects of what it means not to be a good listener, not just to be a good listener, but also to support other people and feel heard. And it just, it’s amazing how much as this comes up just through this simple 10 minute exercise performed over and over again,
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 37:20
What an incredible exercise. And I love the point that you make, sometimes it’s not even about what you’re saying, it’s, it’s maybe the emotion you’re trying to get across, or you have to try and understand like, why is this person telling me about this? Do they want me to help them solve this problem, give them advice, or just listen, and it takes a lot more? You know, I have to ask, so, you know, if you take a random group of 50 people, and I feel like most people think that they’re good listeners, what are the scores like?
Eugene Eric Kim (Faster Than 20) 37:53
So I don’t work with random groups? Sure. I don’t know how society speaks. I often work with groups that are decently skillful. And so the scores are generally pretty high, but not necessarily fives. And like I said, the difference between four or five can actually cause a lot of problems, really is sort of the challenge with groups. And again, it has to do with power. It’s like you might have a group of 10 people who work together who, and nine out of those 10 people regularly score fives, and one person regularly scores a three. And if that one person who scores a three happens to be the leader of the team, that dramatically Yeah, impacts the group. So yeah, I would say when people are given the space to actually be present with each other, like the folks on board with generally have high scores. Cool.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 38:59
Yeah, no, that’s awesome. I think it’s a really cool experiment and, and good homework for, for all the listeners and viewers to, to go practice. Eugene, this has been awesome. We’ve touched so many different points. We even have exercises and practices to take away some frameworks. One question that we ask all of the guests on the show is for all the managers and leaders out there looking to continuously get better at their craft, what tips, resources, tricks, advice, or just word of words of wisdom would you leave them with?
Eugene Eric Kim (Faster Than 20) 39:34
One of the most undervalued resources out there? If you want to get better at collaboration or managing or leadership or whatever it is, ask our peers and I would go even further than that, and go beyond just the peers who we associate with like if I’m trying to be a better manager, finding someone who I think is a good manager. Asking them, I would go beyond that and say, I can go talk to your parents, right? And ask them like, what is what makes a good parent? What made you a good parent? Right? Or go ask your partner, you know that question. Go ask your kids that question. I think there’s so much wisdom that people have that we don’t ever tap into, because we put people into boxes. And we’re looking for some, you know, divine answer from someone up top, who has been appointed to be like the expert at something or whatever. So really, go to your friends, go to peers, try to go to someone who you wouldn’t normally ask these questions, and ask them and see what insights you come up with.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 40:50
And you might be surprised by the responses.
Eugene Eric Kim (Faster Than 20) 40:53
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 40:57
Eugene, this has been incredible. Thank you so much for doing this.
Eugene Eric Kim (Faster Than 20) 41:00
Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it. It was fun.