"The number one reason why organizations fail is avoidance. So you need to cringe fast and cringe early, and sit down and have the tough conversations with people and seek to understand, to listen. And this is where empathy transitions from just plain old empathy to radical empathy, actively trying to understand why another person has an opinion or perception about you or something that you're doing. It's about actively trying to understand their perspective."
In this episode
Chaos isn’t usually something we want to attract or even mimic. But what if it can help leaders embrace change?
Hamza Khan is the bestselling author of “Leadership, Reinvented”, “The Burnout Gamble” and is a global keynote speaker – whose TEDx talk “Stop Managing, Start Leading” has been viewed nearly two million times!
In this episode, Hamza explains what a happiness audit is, how it helped him reach his goals, and how you can recreate one yourself.
Tune in to episode 81 to dive into the four hallmarks of inertia and what leaders should do once they see these signs in their organizations.
Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.
You don’t need all the fixings
Take care of your team, they will take care of you
Embrace change, mimic chaos
Active listening, empathy, and compassion
- Follow Hamza on Twitter
- Alvin Toffler on illiteracy in the 21st century
- Carl Jung quote ‘ That which we need the most will be found where we least want to look’
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 00:19
Hamza, welcome to the show.
Hamza Khan (Author) 02:35
Aydin, thank you so much for having me.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 03:15
Yeah, I’m super excited to do this. You know, you have had an extensive leadership career and through your work at skills camp have worked with companies like Microsoft, Pepsi, LinkedIn, Deloitte Salesforce, Tik Tok, literally the who’s who of tech companies everywhere. So there’s a lot that I think the audience can learn from you. And we’re going to dig in quite a bit. But I wanted to start out by saying that Do you remember when you first started managing or leading a team? What were some of the early mistakes that maybe you made? That you can recall that that hopefully you stopped making later on? Oh, my
Hamza Khan (Author) 03:53
God, so many, so many mistakes that I made early on in my leadership journey? Okay. I remember when I was running my digital marketing agency, many, many moons ago, almost another lifetime ago. I was experiencing a surge in media attention. We’re getting a lot of press, a lot of buzz, a lot of spotlights and publications and social media interest in us. And I was well positioned to be the spokesperson of the agency and I kind of started to get drunk off that success a little bit. And I started to believe the hype. And I began to lean into behaviors that were counterproductive. I started to act like the leader that I thought I needed to be instead of being the leader that I should have been. And what this resulted in was me, focusing on all the fixings, the frills, the superfluous aspects of building a team and building a company. I think I was more in love with the idea of appearing to be a leader than actually being no leader. And so my time, energy and attention was spent on, you know, the types of coffee we had in the office, the types of outings we would do. And you know what kind of isms and mascots and the color of the furniture and all the other bullshit that was just such a distraction from the thing that I should have been doing, which is empowering my team, investing in them articulating our mission, vision, values, principles purpose, I was getting distracted during the early days of my leadership journey. So that was a, you know, the first mistake that I made was I was focusing too much on outputs, and not enough on outcomes. Hate it.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 05:39
Yeah, I love the way you put it too much on outputs and not enough on outcomes. You know, I have to ask you, that is a somewhat advanced mistake, like it’s not a very top, you know, easy to diagnose error. So my question is, how did you figure out like, how did you come to that realization,
Hamza Khan (Author) 05:59
almost like an intervention, it’s hard, and especially in a small organization, to not notice the immediate impact, or the consequences rather, have poor leadership, poor management. And you could see the downstream effects right away, the gap between the input and the output was very short. My neglect was resulting in lower team morale, my avoidance was resulting in easy mistakes that were being made at a strategic level than at an operational level. And then at the level of customers, right. And I think it’s ultimately when the people that you serve, disclose that they’re not being seen or valued, or that they’re receiving a subpar experience. And this could be in the form of a customer complaining about a project taking too long, or the quality of the work not being up to par, this could take the form of an employee, considering leaving the organization, these are all symptoms of something that’s, you know, going wrong at the level level of leadership. And I like to believe I don’t even like to believe I do believe this firmly that there’s no such thing as bad employees, there’s only bad leaders. And let me qualify that if there is a quote unquote underperforming bad employee, the onus is on the leader to identify that early and then see to it that that person either rectifies their behavior, and if they can, that they help them transition out of the organization as soon as possible to minimize splash damage within the rest of the team and then, especially to the customers. So yeah, you know, I was very fortunate to work in a really small company, where that feedback loop was near instant, and I was able to learn very quickly that my behavior was counterproductive to our growth and our success. It’s not easy, man. Let me just started. Yeah, me disclosing how shitty of a manager I was, in the early days of my career.Nice to meet you. Here’s, here’s all my mistakes. Super manager, more like a super loser manager.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 08:00
It’s very interesting. I love what you said about like, there’s no bad employees. There’s just bad leaders. I don’t know if you’ve heard the story of the GM General Motors Fremont plant. Where, yeah, it was effectively I think it was one of GM worst plants. And it was underperforming, strikes, wildcat strikes, like it was a disaster. And yeah, and Toyota came in and they had, I think, like a joint venture of sorts. And literally, none of the employees changed. But just Toyota came in with their management system, and it became literally one of the best plants, or like one of the top plants within a short amount of time. So it just goes to wow, you know, just what one anecdotal evidence but you know, basically just backing up what you just said. So my question is, like, when, when you realize, you know, some of the things that you did, what were some of the immediate things that that you change, like, what were some of the immediate next steps?
Hamza Khan (Author) 09:05
Reinvesting my time, energy and attention as the resources available to us, not just as leaders, but as people, these are the things that we can control to the best of our ability, I mean, I have more or less the same 168 hours a week as you do, and I can use that to intentionally optimize my energy and then channel that energy into attention. And if I stack my time, energy and attention carefully, then I unlocked the precision instrument notice focus. And, you know, there’s so many ways to say this. And I think the most common adage is, you know, that which gets measured gets done. And you know, I interpret that as that what you focus on gets done, and so I had to immediately change my focus reprioritize get focused on the outcomes instead of the outputs. And I learned that this wasn’t about me, and that I wasn’t being a servant leader. I wasn’t serving my team. And if I didn’t create a people centric team, then there’s no way I could create it. A customer centric company. So I had to take care of my team. And then trust that if I took care of my team well enough that they would take care of the customers, and the customers would in turn take care of the profit, not the other way around, I had some warped notion that me being this high profile leader of a company, would solve all the problems, that I would be the magnet that would draw the attention, I would attract all of the leads. And you know, that was an arrogant thought at the time. And still is for any leader that’s listening to this thinking that that is your job. Well, that’s not your job, that is a byproduct of doing the work. If you are a good leader, like I said, you take care of your team, your team will take care of your customers and your customers will in turn, take care of the success metrics, and the natural byproduct of that will be authentic, attention, genuine interest in you and your company. So I had to quickly, you know, raise my calendar. And look at all of the time that I was spending on the superfluous things, the interviews, the podcasts, and don’t get me wrong, those are important things. But your ship needs to be in order. And that’s what my co founder, Kareem was really big on he said, You know, it’s great that you’re doing all of these speaking engagements and drumming up publicity for the organization. But we have to make sure the ship is in order. And the ship being the company, obviously, before we engage in these things, because nothing works, if nothing works.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 11:22
Yeah, one of the things that you also talked about, and I would imagine that it’s somewhat related is this concept of a happiness audit. I mean, the term is intriguing, I’d love for you to maybe describe what happiness audit is, and how one could do it?
Hamza Khan (Author) 11:38
Very timely question, I must say. And I actually recently revisited this document. So years ago, when I was just starting my career, and I felt like I was at the proverbial bottom, looking up at where I want it to be. I needed a way to track progress toward my current station in life. And that early time in my life, during that time in my life, I was hyper aware of how far I was away from where I currently am, and frankly, it was demotivated. It was demotivating. The scale of the mountain that needed to be climbed was discouraging. But I also realized that if I look down while climbing up that I get vertigo, and potentially fall off the path, you know, if I looked up instead of a head, then I would continue to be discouraged. And so as a way to keep myself grounded and focused on taking one step at a time, I did the following. So I had a spreadsheet. And that spreadsheet I articulated a perfect day in my life, what would an ideal day in my life look like? Now the happiness audit is done for things that involve some sort of financial costs, right? These are things this is the sort of happiness that money can buy, just just so unclear. And so I articulated a perfect in my life, where did I wake up? Where was I living? What kind of house was I in, you know, what kind of, and I created a color coded system to indicate which things I had in my possession, which things I didn’t have, and which things I almost had. So then this talk would give me a glimpse into the measurable happiness that I had or didn’t have, or was in the process of acquiring. And I would revisit this quarterly for several years. And I stopped using it actually in 2019. Here we are recording this in what November 2021. And like I said, I recently revisited this document, and then it was so humbling. It’s so humbling. And it’s so surreal for me to share with you and listeners that according to this happiness document, I have become who I thought I was going to be just in terms of happiness, that money can buy the intangibles, and the true happiness that comes from nothing material things. That’s another question. So I remind myself of that exercise, whenever I catch myself, you know, slipping into negative thoughts and having bad days, about my economic station in life. But at the same time, I’m also rebooting that happiness audit to be more in line with my vision of success beyond what I’m currently experiencing. So that was, again, a very helpful exercise to guide my focus for the things I needed to achieve that are material. But now that I’m here, I guess I got to think about how do I get to the next level?
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 14:10
Yeah, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So I think the concept of the the happiness audit is very interesting, because, you know, everybody should I think everybody’s entitled to have an ultra happy life. And I think as leaders and as managers, you know, part of our responsibility is to also contribute to the happiness of people on our team. What are your thoughts on on helping, like people on your team actually do happiness audit of sorts to make sure that you know, they’re being challenged and you know, whatever else that the company in the team can do to make them happy?
Hamza Khan (Author) 14:50
I think that’s a very honorable, very noble undertaking and for two reasons, right. One of my one of my friends, dear friends, Zachary hammer, Roger, who you might know actually ate in the CEO of Rubio, another Canadian success story just like yours. And I remember the early days of the company I was asking him about, like, why he started the company in the first place. And he was very honest. He said, You know, there’s the problem that I want to solve in the market, and improvements that I want to make in the lives of customers and by extension, the world. But at the same time, it is also a wealth creation exercise for him. And I thought at the time, that was really interesting to hear, like an entrepreneur speak, so candidly, about the business being an instrument of happiness, something that he uses to enhance his own material happiness. And I thought that was really refreshing. And it has changed the way that I think about business. For the years that have followed, right till the present, we spend most of our time at work. And I imagine if you’re listening to a podcast titled Supermanagers, that you are involved in the world of work in the future of work, your knowledge worker, there’s something about you that I’m able to easily gauge and that is, you know, you the listener spend a lot of time at work, or doing work. So why shouldn’t this thing be complementary to our overall conception of happiness? Why do we separate, you know, the human being from the human doing, they’re one in the same. So I think it is very noble, very honorable, for a leader to want the same things for them as they want, they should want the same things for their employees as they want for themselves, they should want for their teams, managers and leaders should want for their teams, the things that are true for themselves, which is a sense of purpose, connection, you know, a transcendent, why being addressed through the work that they do. And the research is very clear, you know, when people feel connected to the work that they do, and the outcomes that are true, as a result of their work. They’re happier, they’re more productive, they’re less likely to burn out. I mean, I could go on and on, there’s countless benefits to being engaged and being happy at work. And I’m really glad that you asked that question, because I think that it’s something that we have forgotten during the pandemic thing during the early days of COVID-19, the refrain from managers and leaders was roll up your sleeves is about to get really tough, all hands on deck, let’s hustle, this is going to get worse before it gets any better. You know, for many companies, they were able to get out of that rut very quickly. But they have insisted on that same level of intense work that has carried on two years later. And a lot of the clients that I consult with a lot of the events that I speak at, it’s very clear that many employees, not just here in Canada, but around the world, have lost their sense of happiness. And I think that this is resulting, or contributing, at least, to this trend that we’re seeing a ton. And I’m sure that you’re seeing it on the ground floor as well. You know, across all the interviews that you’re having, and even in your peer communities of the great resignation, it was ongoing trend of people leaving organizations voluntarily from as early as spring of 2021. And this trend is continuing even in the face of wage subsidies ending. So this is really something that boggles my mind. Think about it all the time I even lose sleep over it. And I think the answer is somewhere within what we’re talking about right now about a reclassification of what work is and how it fits into the lives of people. And maybe that’s not even the right way to say it, I think that the onus isn’t necessarily on human beings to fit into the world of work, I think it might be the other way around. The work needs to serve us first.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 18:33
Yeah, I think Reid Hoffman had a book called The Alliance fair, I remember correctly, and there’s this concept of a tour of duty, and that employees do a tour of duty. And, you know, part of that tour of duty is you also as an employer, as a manager, you have a responsibility. And you know, part of that is to help your team grow. But you know, another part of that is to help them feel fulfilled and, and then give them the resources to continuously be happier. And I think, you know, it could be basic things like making sure that they’re working on challenging problems, making sure that they’re being heard. You’re making sure that you’re giving them feedback that they can grow. So there’s a lot of stuff surrounding this.
Hamza Khan (Author) 19:22
And Aydin, also recognizing when you have reached the edge of your mentor mentee relationship, and you can no longer offer them, the runway that they need to continue to grow and be happy. And then having the humility to let them go and engage in that tour of duty. Like you said, you know, there’s a famous cartoon cartoonist, I can’t remember the name. I’m blanking right now, but I’m sure you’ve seen this cartoon. It’s the CEO, asking, What if our bad employees are sorry? What if? What if our good employees leave? And I think it was in the context of professional development investing in professional development? The CEO asks, What if our good employees leave and the CFO counters by saying what if our bad employees stay you know, What I mean by bad employees in this case are the employees that are unhappy that are resentful that have sunk into patterns of active inertia, doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. And in trying to dig themselves out of a hole, they’re just deepening it. We’ve all worked with those employees, some of you listen to this podcast might even be managing those employees. And some of you even as managers and leaders might be those employees. And so, you know, leaving an organization should be seen in some cases, or in all cases, actually, as a positive on both sides. It’s going to help you break out of whatever plateau you’re experiencing as an employee and for the leader, it also frees up their capacity to reshuffle the deck and to, you know, exercise any operational inefficiencies caused by an employee that is underperforming and stuck.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 20:51
[AD BREAK BEGINS] Hey, they’re 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.[AD BREAK ENDS] I wanted to also ask you about an acronym that I believe comes from the Canadian Armed Forces. V U C A.
Hamza Khan (Author) 22:01
VUCA, I learned it in the Canadian Armed Forces. But if I’m not mistaken, it has its earliest origins. Hailing from the US military, if I’m not mistaken. VUCA describes the characteristics of our ever changing world right, the more volatile the environment, the fact for their conditions change the more uncertain the environment, the harder it is to forecast the more complex the environment, the harder it is to analyze in the more ambiguous the environment, the harder it is to decipher it. And I would say like Luca is chaos and chaos is this primordial force. If you trace it back through its etymology, you will end up at the 14th century Greek origin chaos, kh als meaning the abyss, that which gates wide open. And another way to conceptualize VUCA is as entropy and scientific concept that explains how if left unchecked, disorder tends to increase over time. And so we can’t really control chaos, we can’t control VUCA forces, they are inevitable, in a sense, the most we can try to do is anticipate where the world will be, how chaos will present itself, how VUCA will manifest and try to prepare ourselves, our team and our organization by extension, for those shifts in the market. That is might be a little too abstract, but I’m just gonna go for it. We’re dealing essentially with cosmic forces like these are, these are very at home in the Marvel’s eternal universe. The Metaverse we’re talking about, this is a, this is an ancient foe that we’re dealing with, that has been in existence for as long as the Universe has been expanding and fading over an incomprehensibly long period of time. And it’s just so funny to me, whenever leaders try to control VUCA, it’s just so futile. And so when we talk about the future of work, we need to accept that the only constant about our world is constant change. And any philosophy which insists otherwise is very counterproductive, in my opinion, and COVID-19 has shown us that in the most raw set and the most raw way possible,
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 24:00
Practically speaking, knowing that there is this constant change, what would you say leaders should do to basically uplevel themselves, make sure that they’re constantly having the right skills and are ready and like, how did they just prepare for this?
Hamza Khan (Author) 24:20
Excellent question, I believe it was Alvin Toffler, a futurist who said that the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who can’t read or write, but it will be those who can’t learn, unlearn, and relearn. And what I extracted from that was that the future leaders or future professionals period will need to mimic chaos rather than trying to control it and counter it. And, you know, pretend like they have any influence over the forces of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity. What they need to do is learn how to dance with it, how to be in sync with it, how to mimic it, how to anticipate it and the leader specifically then need to develop a culture that is human centric, values driven, change friendly, and especially self disrupting. And I want to expand on that last attribute in particular, right. So every organization and none are exempt must face the same inflection point, following their introduction, growth and maturity, they’re faced with the option, the same set of options that every other organization, past, present and future will face. Option A renew option B decline, there’s no in between you either renew as an organization, or you decline. And if you don’t believe me, you’re not going to cross the chasm of time. It’s that simple. When you consider that it’s something like 88% of fortune 500, companies from the mag magazines first publication to the list in 1917, have gotten broken up, they’ve been acquired or gone bankrupt, and in one way or another, they again failed to cross the chasm of time. And so to increase the likelihood of renewal at that fourth stage, what leaders need to do is prepare their teams well in advance, they need to increase their team’s capacity for change, they need to increase their team’s ability to anticipate change, they need to increase their team’s harmony with the inside and outside conditions of the organization. And anything less they’re going to fall victim to again, fortunately, you know, they said this in 2002, I believe their number one reason why organizations fail is avoidance of the changing world around them. Leaders engage in avoidance, knowingly or unknowingly. And they lose sight of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity and how that presses upon the organization. And I think it was, yeah, it was Jack Welch X CEO of GE, who famously said, if the rate of change on the outside is faster than the rate of change on the inside, the end is near and I think Indra Nooyi remix that for this current era. So one more time, if the rate of change on the outside is faster than the rate of change on the inside the end is near. In other words, disrupt yourselves before you’re disrupted, and change before you have to. And by the way, fun fact, GE is the one and only company which remains on the fortune 500 List till this day, from the publications first listing back in 1917. And in light of what we’ve been talking about, that really shouldn’t be a surprise.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 27:08
Yeah, no, that’s really cool. I know that I think the average period of time that companies say on the, the the fortune, while the s&p 500 has declined. And you know, if I lost Remember, it’s under 15 years now. And it used to be a lot higher, but like, 60, right? Yeah, I did. I did not know GE was, was was the one company that that’s been there the whole time. So that’s pretty cool.
Hamza Khan (Author) 27:31
The vanguard, how long is Fellow.app in an existence?
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 27:34
85 years now? No, I’m 85 years? No, no, it must be what 108, I look very good. For me, we launched the product, like officially the product came out in 2019. That was kind of like the version 1.0 launch. Yeah, and obviously, we were working on the product a lot before that I was
Hamza Khan (Author) 27:53
told in the startup world, especially with tech startups that most tech startups fail 50%, or half of them fail within the first year of business. And then the remainder, say, for the last 10% fail by year five. And if you’ve made it to year five, then you have the components necessary to make it the year 50 At that point. So you know, fingers crossed, I think that you’ve built a tremendous application. You know, the culture that you’ve created around it. And you know, it’s very clear, just in the very few minutes that we’ve been talking, not just here in the podcast, but even in the interactions you had before then I can, I can genuinely sense that you have all of the makings of a change friendly leader. You’re seeking out information you’re doing exactly what Alvin Toffler is saying, that leaders need to do into the future of work, which is learn, unlearn and relearn. So, I have every faith that fellow is going to be here 50 years from now, you will be around for 85 years. At some point,
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 28:55
I love it. Well, thank you, that’s, that’s very kind of you. You know, I love the I love that that concept of if the rate of change outside is faster than the rate of change inside the the other thing I wanted to say is, you know, obviously some of this is you we have to go out and seek information especially a senior leaders interacting with the outside world. You know, we were constantly faced with information and we should get it and synthesize it and understand how we should change things. But the other thing is we just have to be really good at listening to our internal like our teams because I think a lot of times the signs are there within the company. But if people come in with problems and you’re not just you’re just not hearing what’s actually being said and you’re not digging deeper, yeah, you know, people bring problems and you get upset or and you shut it down in maybe subtle ways. And maybe over time, these less of these problems come to you, you know, this is how this stuff creeps up on you and I know that you know at scale Camp. I mean, one of the things that you do is you help people with soft skills, right? And so I’m just curious from a, you know, how can we all be better at, at hearing our employees and really listening to what they’re saying so that when their signals of change, we can actually understand them and synthesize them better? Like, what advice do you have for people to encourage that more
Hamza Khan (Author) 30:28
so much? And honestly, I could do like another two hours on just this topic alone of active listening and more empathy and compassion in the workplace. But let me try to give like maybe one or two specific tactics, right, you’re absolutely right. These things creep in. And they creep in even for the most well intention of leaders. And there’s this concept that I talked about known as active inertia, which is essentially doing things because that’s the way they’ve always been done. And there’s four specific hallmarks of active inertia so that if you’re listening to this, and you notice this happening at your organization, this should be a sign that, you know, active inertia is creeping in, and you got to address it right away, because this problem can fester. It’ll happen gradually, and then the failure will happen suddenly. So the four hallmarks are blinders. So this is people becoming closed off the feedback, as you said, Aiden, and there’s routines people become hypnotized by processes. The third is shackles. People become overly dependent on the ecosystem that has been created. And don’t think Imagine a system beyond that. And then finally, you have dogmas. This is when the leaders become stubborn and double down on counterproductive measures, so blinders, routines, shackles and dogmas, watch out for those four things bubbling up at your organization, because those are evidence that active inertia starting to settle it. So what can leaders do to prevent this from happening to undo it, I’ll give you two tactics right away. I think that leaders need to assume the practice of cringing fast and cringing early. What do I mean by that? If there is something that you need to hear, and it’s uncomfortable to hear, you just got to break past your ego break past the optimism bias that prevents us from seeking out that information. And optimism bias is this 10,000 year old defense mechanism against adversity and change, right. It’s this self persuasion and sometimes self dissuade self delusion, that bad things only happen to other people, and they’ll never happen to you. Like when I think about my early days, as a leader, I believed that I was perfect. Everything that I was doing was fine. Everybody at the company was okay. But that was not the case. Right. And I was just avoiding change, I was engaged in fortunes, number one reason why organizations fail, which is avoidance. So the thing that you need to do is just cringe fast and cringe early, just rip the band aid off and sit down and have the tough conversations with people and seek to understand seek to listen. And this is where empathy transitions from just plain old empathy, which is seeing with another person’s eyes and feeling with their heart and standing in their shoes to radical empathy, which is crossing that threshold of discomfort of comfort rather than entering into discomfort and truly actively trying to understand why another person has an opinion or perception about you or something that you’re doing, or something that company that you disagree with. It’s about actively trying to understand their perspective. So cringe fast cringe early, cross the threshold of comfort into radical empathy, and truly try to understand the other person. And then how you do that at scale. My second tactic is a listening tour of your team. And not just of your team but of your customers of the ecosystem as a whole. You know, leaders think that they have the ideas are they have the all the information that they need? And they get it through reports, they get it through conferences, trade publications, fellow leaders and whatnot. But the answers are a lot closer to home. They’re with the people that you manage. They’re really your frontline staff. They’re with your customers and go ask them the tough questions, remix the SWOT model, you know, what are our strengths? What are weaknesses? What are opportunities for growth, what are threats, and then go even deeper with that, how am I doing as a leader and give them the permission to be critical of you, and to be critical of you fear from any potential consequence to how they’re perceived in the workplace and their opportunities for mobility within the company. So that you’re actually getting them to say the things that you need to hear and you’re not just propping up this Emperor’s New Clothes illusion of yourself. So those two things I would just leave you with over there and like I said, I could do another two hours on just this topic alone, but at the individual level cringe fast cringe early. And then if you want to do this at scale, engaging the listing to make feedback consistent, not occasional. Yeah,
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 34:38
I think there’s so much good stuff there. I mean, I love some of the terms used. And I think a lot of times it’s when you hear something described with the right language it it tends to stick. I love the idea of a listening tour that just, I mean, so descriptive like that, like those two words describe a lot of what people can do, and I did want to dig in on another word or phrase that you use, which is radical empathy. You know, we’ve had Kim Scott on the show. We all love radical candor, yes, radical empathy,
Hamza Khan (Author) 35:14
radical empathy, like I said, it’s going beyond simply trying to understand from another person’s perspective, their view or experience in a situation or of a thing, person, event or series, it’s about crossing that threshold, overcoming your own feelings about the subject, you know, almost killing your ego entirely and fully immersing yourself into their context. And, you know, radical empathy especially happens when you disagree with what the other person is say. So I can empathize with you, you can empathize with me, but the minute you start disagreeing with me, then the empathy starts to give way to some of the barriers that lead to active inertia. But radical empathy is about truly trying to dismantle your own mental constructs, and seeing the world from another person’s perspective, in spite of your disagreement with that. And you know, one way I like to do this, and this is maybe a third tactic for engaging in consistent listening, have your team be very intentional about how you structure your one on ones. So a lot of times, first of all, leaders are terrible at this, I have found that more often than not, leaders don’t have one on ones with their staff. And if they do have one on ones, they’re malleable, they’ll often get bumped, they’ll get shortened, they’ll get rescheduled ad infinitum. Your one on one should be non negotiable, because like I said, the feedback needs to be consistent and not occasional, you can’t wait for a 360 review. You can’t wait for an annual report to get a sense of how your team is doing, especially with these condensed timelines like we’re living in the age where Boston Consulting Group said that changes that were planned over the next five years, it’ll be made in the next two. So why would you wait for, you know, an inordinate amount of time to learn about how your team is doing this, why people are quitting on mass because they don’t feel seen, heard acknowledged. And what you need to do in these one on ones is structure them do 30 minutes once a week with your direct reports, for the first 10 minutes, make it entirely about them. Don’t even let them ask you questions about yourself, or about the company make it about their health, their well being their family, their experience working at the company and ask the tough questions, you know, straight up, ask them the thing that you’re afraid to ask, which is, are you happy here? Are you looking for another job? And that is such a tough question to ask, because like I said, optimism bias. It’s alive and well. And all of us, myself included, we don’t want to believe that people in our teams are looking for other jobs. But why do we suddenly think that the great resignation doesn’t apply to our companies and to our people, we have to get real about music experiences happening universally, especially on our teams. And what does that quote, I think it’s from Carl Jung, no, I could be wrong, I’m gonna I’m gonna, I’m gonna miss attribute this. But it’s essentially this, that which you most need to find is where you’re least willing to look, the things that you most need to find are found in filth, you have to go deep, you have to go into the abyss, you have to get your hands dirty, to extract the information that you need the most. I
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 38:08
love that quote, by the way, we’ll look it up and put it in the show notes. But what a great quote.
Hamza Khan (Author) 38:14
And just one quick corollary to that as well. This is actually from my dad, it’s how you can avoid reality, but you can’t avoid the consequences of avoiding reality. And I think this is so true for leaders that are engaged in avoidance and not listening to their teams. You know, this is happening with a with an organization that I consulted with during the pandemic. And I ultimately had to leave, because the leaders couldn’t get out of their own way. And now it’s happening at scale. They’re they’re hemorrhaging talent. They’re losing not only their eight players, but they’re losing everyone top to bottom. And the leaders are caught off guard, they can’t understand why these people are quitting on their watch. These are the people that they described once to me as the lifers, the people who love the company would be there until the very end. But little did they know had they checked in with them, not just once or twice during the pandemic, not just through a random survey, or through a town hall meeting where they say, does anybody have any questions? And of course, nobody’s going to pipe up because of the power imbalance. You have the CEO over there asking the question, and you have all the employees just twiddling their thumbs wanting to voice concerns, but they don’t feel the psychological safety necessary to do that, which is why the one on ones are so important. Yeah, yeah, no,
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 39:21
I 100% agree. Couldn’t agree more with what you’re saying? I think it’s really interesting, just this, it’s almost like you’re just going back to your cringe fast and cringe early. I guess it’s like the cringe early part, which is go and look in the past. Is that your least willing to look and yeah, if you’re if you’re afraid of what the answer might be, maybe you should actually try and ask it. Maybe that should be a homework assignment for everyone. Go ask that question that you’re not sure what the answer might be. And, and and even if it’s uncovered Maybe you should just do it. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. This has been super fun. We’ve talked about so much, we started off talking about how not to focus on outputs and instead focus on outcomes. We talked about listening to a radical empathy, cringe fast and cringe early. This has been VUCA. I mean, so many different topics we talked about today. Lots of insights. One question that we like to ask everybody on this show, is for all the managers and leaders constantly looking to get better at their craft? Would you have any final tips, tricks or words of wisdom that you’d like to leave them with?
Hamza Khan (Author) 40:38
Yeah, be kind, and patient with yourself. You know, I describe who I was in the early stages of my evolution as a leader and, you know, I’m cringing at at, you know, how I was acting, what some of my behaviors were at the time and, you know, a lot of the people I let down and the mistakes that I made, but that was part of the journey, right? More often than not, the work of a leader is thankless. So be kind and patient with yourself, you’re exactly where you need to be right now. And your awareness that there is room for growth, your awareness of things that you don’t know is the best demonstration of knowledge. Now, think about the Dunning Kruger effect, when you achieve a little bit of competence, boom, you shoot up in confidence and you achieve the height Do you You’re, you’re on the peak of Mount stupid, that’s they call it. And then from the peak of Mount stupid, you’re able to look out at the valley of despair, and just how big the landscape of potential knowledge acquisition is. And then you sink into the valley of despair, and you get stuck over there. And this is where people get defeated, they get depressed, they shut off and you know, they give up. But that is part of the hero’s journey, that’s part of the leaders journey, you’re supposed to be in the valley of despair, and then gradually work your way up the slope of enlightenment towards the plateau of sustainability. And the only way that you’re able to raise your true confidence is through competence. So these mistakes that you’re making are all part of your journey, you’re adding more perspective, you’re coloring your your you’re getting to see more of the picture, you’re taking a wider view of things, you know, maintain that change friendliness, that we’ve been talking about Aiden, and I promise in time, your competence and your confidence will sync up and you know, until that time, it is okay to emulate other leaders it is okay to listen to a podcast like Supermanagers and take notes and copy verbatim with someone like myself or any of the other guests have been talking about Aaron Barry, Michelle Romana, you name it, yourself Aiden as well. It’s not fake it until you make it. It’s fake it until you become it. And until then just act as if
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 42:41
that’s great advice and a great place to end it Hamza. Thanks so much for doing
Hamza Khan (Author) 42:45
this. My pleasure. This was a lot of fun, time really flew. So thank you for the opportunity. And thanks to all the listeners, and I’m really excited to check out Fellow and give it a whirl.