Episode: Michael and Megan Answer Your Questions
Michael Hyatt: Hi, I’m Michael Hyatt.
Megan Hyatt Miller: And I’m Megan Hyatt Miller.
Michael: And this is Lead to Win, our weekly podcast to help you win at work and succeed at life. Today, we’re going to be taking your questions.
Megan: I’m so excited about this, because while we solicited these questions on our Instagram accounts, we actually haven’t looked at the questions you sent in. Our social media manager, Marissa, pulled those for us, so we’re answering these questions blind. We’re in the dark, and it’s going to be really fun to see what you want to know.
Michael: Do you feel like you do better when you haven’t seen the question or when you’ve had a chance to think about it?
Megan: Oh yeah. Totally.
Michael: On Kolbe, we’re both Quick Starts. That’s our MO, which means we typically think better on our feet than we do trying to prepare in advance. That’s why I like it as well. In fact, when I do podcast interviews, I actually request the podcast interviewer, “Do not send me the questions in advance. If you do, I won’t look at them. I prefer to hit it cold.” So, I have a feeling that Larry Wilson, who typically guides us through these episodes, has the list of questions and has reflected on these.
Megan: Just have this feeling.
Larry Wilson: I do have the questions, and unlike you, I have looked at them, and I’m looking forward to asking you a few of these. I’m going to look at Nick, our producer, for permission on this, but I think we’re going to call this “Hot Takes with Michael and Megan.”
Megan: Wow! Sounds exciting.
Michael: Do you remember, Larry, the deal you and I got together on last night, where I slipped you the 20 and said all of the hard questions go to Megan, all of the easy ones come to me?
Larry: I do remember that, and I think you said, “Here’s a 20, and there’s another 100 coming if you follow up tomorrow.” Okay. Here’s a question on leadership. This comes from @eab2222 on Instagram. This question is directed at you, Michael. I’d like to hear Megan’s take on it too, because you have some experience in the same area.
When you look back on your time working in corporate America, what changes would you make to how you worked when you had bosses who had expectations about your time and priorities? Now that you are a boss and you have your own company, you have more control, theoretically, but when you had bosses, you had to meet somebody else’s expectations. How would you change the way you work?
Michael: I love this question, because looking back, I had a whole lot more control than I gave myself credit for back then. You think you’re at your boss’ beck and call and that you don’t have any discretion. Look. That’s mostly an excuse. Let me put it this way: you have more control than you think you do, and you need to be a good steward of what you have control over. So, I think what I would have done early in my career is I would have set hard boundaries on the time I was going to work. I would not have worked evenings. I would not have worked weekends.
I would have made the case to my boss… I would have set the expectations up front and said, “Look. I’m going to be here these number of hours. I’m all in. I’m going to be the best employee you have. I’m going to deliver the results you expect, but I’m going to do it within these constraints, and that’s going to actually help me make better decisions during the day, set priorities so that I don’t waste time, and deliver to you the results you expect.” I’d have to sell it, but I’d have to be clear first on what I wanted for my own life. That’s a sustainable lifestyle. That’s winning at work and succeeding at life, which, of course, we’re committed to.
Megan: Well, along those lines, I think a lot of bosses are not very good at communicating their expectations. They kind of expect you to intuit those things or they tell you passively-aggressively or you hear it through other people. I think I would go back and ask the bosses I had, “What does a win look like to you? What do you want to see me accomplish this year where I know I am meeting and exceeding your expectations?” I never did that, but I think that would have been enormously clarifying, so I would be spending my time on the right kinds of high-leverage activities instead of just trying to guess.
Michael: One example would be to say to your boss, “Hey, look. I’ve noticed that you like to text me, and occasionally this is after hours, or whatever. I know you probably do that for convenience because you’re thinking of something. Is it okay with you, if you send a text message, if I answer it the next morning? If you have something urgent, I want to be available. Give me a phone call, but I’m not going to be taking your text messages until the next morning.”
That gives the boss an outlet if it’s truly an emergency, but it also forces the boss to think, “Is it an emergency or not?” I think most reasonable people are going to admit that if you wait until the next morning, that’s probably okay.
Larry: Okay, Michael. So, if I say that to you, “Don’t text me on the weekend,” you’re going to be okay with that?
Michael: Absolutely I’m going to be okay with that, because I want my employees, my teammates, to win at work and succeed at life, and I know they need intentional margin to do that, which is one of our core values. I think it all comes back to selling. If you’re an employee, if you’re working in a corporation and you’re trying to draw boundaries around this, you always have to present it or sell it to your boss in a way that answers the question…What’s in it for them?
Why is it to the boss’ advantage that I have these constraints on my work? I mean, if the boss wants to retain me, if he wants me in good health, if he wants me delivering my best work day after day, week after week, it’s to his advantage. You have to figure out how to package and sell that.
Larry: All right, Megan. The next question is directed toward you, and it comes from Kate Dunning on Instagram. She wants to know, “How can I find a company like yours to work for?”
Megan: That’s a great question. Well, first of all, we often have job openings, so you’re welcome to check those out at michaelhyatt.com/careers, but you can also consult things like Inc. Best Places to Work, things like that, where they’re talking about forward-thinking, entrepreneurial companies. Those are the kinds of companies that tend to have more intentional cultures, better benefits packages, things like that.
So I would consult some of those lists, and ask around too. If you’re in a Facebook group in your area… For example, I have a county-based group here where we live, women in that group. That’s a great place to ask, “What are the best companies in our town that have a great culture?”
Larry: Okay. Next question from @dancingphoenix8 on Instagram, and this is about leadership. The question is, “How can you be a standout leader when you don’t have any direct reports?”
Michael: You don’t have to have direct reports to stand out. What you have to do is exceed people’s expectations. I call that creating “wow.” Figure out what your boss expects or what your colleagues expect, and then just purpose that you’re going to exceed their expectations. I basically made a career out of doing that. You know, having high standards for yourself, higher than the standards of the group you’re in. If you exceed people’s expectations, you’re going to rise in the company.
Larry: All right. Let’s go to a question from @jenniferwhitephotography, this one directed at Megan. This is about the Full Focus Planner. “On the Goal Detail pages, are those for your yearly goals or for your quarterly goals?”
Megan: That’s a good question. Those are intended for your annual goals. The first page of your planner is going to be your list of annual goals, and then the Goal Detail pages are where you’re going to expand on those goals with all the information that’s there. Now, one of the things you can choose to do…
You can fill out each of the Goal Detail pages for all of your annual goals every time you set up a new planner or you could just do the Goal Detail pages for the goals you’re focusing on that quarter. When we talk about quarterly goals or, in this question, asking about quarterly goals, your quarterly goals are really just those goals on your list of annual goals that you’re focusing on for the quarter, and we recommend that that should not be more than two or three at a time.
Michael: I only do the Goal Detail pages for the quarter.
Michael: Yeah. I used to do them all, but I thought, “I’m really not focusing on all of those goals.” Just that annual goal summary at the very front of the planner is enough, because that’s what I’m going to review every morning, but on the Goal Detail pages, I’m only going to really review the goals that are due that quarter.
Larry: This question is from @djrcoach on Instagram, and this again has to do with goals. “How does personal goal planning and strategic planning fit together in the life of a business owner?”
Michael: We recommend that you have 7 to 10 goals per year, but that’s inclusive of every domain of your life, including your vocation or your company. That means that somehow you have to shoehorn the goals for your company and your personal goals into one comprehensive, integrated list of no more than 7 to 10. What that means is that your company is going to have, likely, 7 to 10 goals for the company, but it doesn’t mean you have to be responsible for all 7 to 10.
In my company, for example, of the goals we have for 2020, I’m responsible for one. The others are delegated or assigned to other members of the executive team. That keeps everybody from getting overwhelmed, because no executive has probably more than two goals for the company-wide goals, and the same thing is true down through the team. That leaves a lot of room for me to integrate the other domains of my life.
Megan: If you’re a business owner who happens to be a solopreneur, that means your list of annual goals for your company is going to be not that big. If you don’t have other team members to whom you can assign responsibility for the goals, then you’re going to have to constrain the number of goals to fit within that overall “7 to 10” number of your personal goals. Otherwise, you’re overextended. So, you have to be in reality about the constraints on your time and your own capacity as you’re thinking about the connection between these two things.
Larry: Let’s go to a question about rituals, one of our favorite topics. @coachjph asks, “I travel a lot for work and am curious about how you set up morning and evening rituals, also workday startup and shutdown rituals, when your routine on the road is not the same as your routine at home. Is there a difference or do you use the same rituals?”
Michael: I have an abbreviated form. I use that abbreviated form at two times. One is when I’m traveling and I have a full day of commitments that start early, and then I also use that when I’m doing our BusinessAccelerator coaching when we start early and go all day and we do that for nine days in a row. Yeah, I have an abbreviated morning ritual.
Larry: What’s different about your abbreviated morning ritual?
Michael: There are certain things I don’t do, and there are certain things I do for a shorter time frame. For example, when I’m home, I have the luxury of having an extra 45 minutes to an hour to write. When I’m on the road, I usually can’t do that, or when I’m doing the BusinessAccelerator coaching, I can’t usually do that. I will do shorter exercise periods. I have an abbreviated routine I do on the road as well. Same thing for prayer. I don’t usually pray as long on the road as I do when I’m at home. And I make it okay. That’s the great thing about having a different ritual. It gives me permission to not feel like I’m cheating the system. I’m just using an alternate ritual.
Larry: One of the things I do with my rituals… And this is true at home as well but on the road especially, because you don’t know what your front-end schedule is going to be. Sometimes you have an early call and you don’t know what it’s going to be like on the back end, when you may be working later on the road. I already know in my head what I will cut first from my rituals. So if it’s shortened by half an hour, then I know what I’ll cut, and then second and third. I already have them prioritized so I know which to keep, if at all possible, and which should be the first to go.
Michael: That’s good.
Larry: Okay. A question from Matthew A. Anderson. He asks, “Is it okay to request another position in the company if you just don’t have the passion or drive for the position you’re in now?”
Megan: Yes. Please request another position, because probably, if you have the self-awareness to realize that you don’t have the passion for the position you’re in, that’s kind of the first step to leaving or, hopefully not, finding yourself being terminated because there are issues in your performance.
I would always rather someone come to me and apply for another position or ask if there’s a way to adjust the position they’re in in some way so we both have a chance to collaborate and look for other opportunities rather than just have someone leave. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen often, but I’m disappointed when someone leaves because they’re dissatisfied with the position when that’s usually a solvable problem, if you’re in a large enough organization or a high growth enough organization, if you know ahead of time.
Larry: What would that kind of conversation sound like?
Megan: Well, if I were going to have this conversation myself, I think I would go to my supervisor and say, “Hey, I want to share something with you that I hope we can find a great win-win solution together about.” I would start with the things I love. “I love serving this company. These are the things I enjoy the most about my work here. These are the things I’m really grateful to have been a part of.
But one of the things I’m learning about myself is I feel like I can make my greatest contribution in this area, because while I’m proficient at doing this other thing, I’m lacking passion, and I know that passion and proficiency together are the duo that makes me really effective, that makes me able to make my highest and best contribution to the company.
I know that’s what you care most about, so I’m just wondering if there are perhaps some other opportunities that exist or will be existing in the future that I could apply for or be considered for, because I love this organization and I want to stay, but I just don’t have that feeling that I’m making my greatest contribution.”
That language of contribution is really all about what you’re bringing to the table for the benefit of the company, not coming to the conversation with, “I don’t like my job, and it’s your job as my direct supervisor to fix that for me.” It’s not my job as your direct supervisor to fix that for you. That’s your problem.
Michael: The thing I would add to that is I think I would say to my supervisor, “Look. This isn’t urgent. This is something we can take some time to think through. I’m certainly not giving you an ultimatum, because I’m committed to the company and I’m willing to continue to serve in this role until we can find something else, but I’m just trying to give you a heads-up so we can make the best and highest use of me so I can benefit the company even more.”
Larry: It’s a little bit back to what you said a bit ago. It’s about selling and showing your boss or your supervisor what’s in it for them and for the company, not just you.
Question from Alaina Frederick who asks, “What do you do when you have a toxic client but you aren’t able to fire them yet?”
Michael: That’s tough, because that toxicity will back up into your own organization.
Megan: Or your personal life.
Michael: That’s right. First of all, I would start by trying to have what we like to call around here an adult conversation with the client. Again, you could do it in a way that shows them how it’s to their benefit to not have that toxic culture that backs up into your culture. Sometimes you have to just draw boundaries. We kind of get the behavior we tolerate.
Sometimes we just need to draw a line in the sand and say, “Look. This isn’t working for us. We’re not doing our best work when you’re coming to us (for example) at the last minute and your hair is on fire (I wouldn’t quite say it like that) and you’re expecting us to drop what we’re doing, including work for other clients, and do this work for you.”
I would just have an adult conversation first. You might try to soft-pedal it initially, but then I would definitely get myself in a position where I could get other clients that meet my criteria so I could ultimately fire them, because long-term, that’s not going to be good for you. I’ve had to do that several times: fire clients that just didn’t meet our criteria, that were making our lives miserable. It’s never easy, but I’m going to tell you something: that hole fills in very quickly.
Here’s the thing. You think, “Well, I can’t afford to fire that client.” When you’re having to hyper-serve a client because they’re toxic, there’s a lost opportunity cost. Instead of spending that time, if it was suddenly removed, finding clients that better fit the profile, you’re spending all your time and energy serving your worst client, and your other clients that might could be really substantial, important clients are not getting your best work, because all that is being sucked up by this other client.
Megan: I totally agree with that. It’s, honestly, a belief to be challenged that you can’t get rid of a toxic client. It’s a challenge to overcome, for sure. Obviously, there are financial impacts to that, maybe PR impacts, but you have to figure it out. What you don’t realize is keeping that client is costing you money. It’s costing you money and time and opportunity, and every day you don’t make that decision, every day you stay in a place of scarcity and fear about it, you are rejecting better and bigger opportunities in the future.
Michael: Can I say this? I have never fired a client… And I’ve fired probably two dozen in my career. I have never fired a client and lived to regret it.
Larry: And you’re still here.
Michael: And I’m still here.
Larry: I think it was Seth Godin who said something to this effect: You choose your clients. You don’t sit around and wait for them to choose you. It sounds like you agree.
Michael: I do.
Larry: Here’s a question from Maggie on Instagram: “Do you have any tips on giving difficult feedback?”
Michael: Do it.
Megan: As a leader, this is something we all have to do often. “Do it” is right. The biggest mistakes I’ve made in my career have been directly related to feedback I did not give soon enough. It built up over time or there were performance issues that were not addressed or problems that were not addressed. You have to learn this skill. You don’t have to get comfortable with it. You don’t have to have that as your goal. I’m not sure you ever get comfortable with it.
In fact, I remember I was talking with an HR consultant once, and he was telling me that in his career he had laid off over 1,000 people. He had worked in a big corporation and just had a long career. I said, “Man, is it, like, not even a big deal at that point?” because we were talking about how it’s difficult to fire people. He said, “No. It is as hard today as it was the first person that I had to let go.” He said, “If it ever gets to the point where it’s not hard, there’s something wrong.”
I think that’s true. That’s obviously the most extreme example of a hard conversation, but I think that’s true in any kind of coaching. When you’re speaking into someone’s life, delivering difficult or loaded feedback, it’s reasonable that it feels weighty. It doesn’t need to be easy for you to be good at it and ultimately develop your skills there.
Michael: I learned early in my career this whole idea of the sandwich approach. It’s kind of cliché now, but I really think it’s valuable. That is, if you can start with something positive, something you like about that person in terms of their performance, or whatever, and then have the difficult conversation, and then affirm them as a human being at the end, it certainly does make the medicine go down a lot easier.
Megan: One of the things you taught me (and I think you learned this from your coach Ilene years ago) is the idea of taking a stand for people. You treat people as though they can handle difficult conversations, that they’re not fragile. Therefore, as someone who is for them (which, as a leader, that’s really what we’re supposed to be doing with our people; we’re supposed to be for people), you are willing to share difficult feedback because you believe in their future and you know this is necessary for them. You’re kind of standing for their future self, is the way I think you shared it with me. I think that’s a really empowering way to think of it as a leader.
Larry: Let’s move to a question from @fireborninspirations. The question is, “I would love your thoughts on transition from leading to retirement. Should it be phased out or announced in advance?”
Michael: First of all, I don’t believe in retirement. I don’t envision a time when I will not be active pursuing my vocational interests. It doesn’t mean it will always be in the current context, but I think retirement is an obsolete idea and a very new idea. It came about as a result of the Industrial Revolution when people had to do mindless kinds of jobs, repetitive kinds of jobs that were soul-numbing, soul-crushing work.
The promise from the factory was, “If you’ll do this work for a couple of decades, then we’ll reward you by putting you out to pasture and giving you the time that you’ve always wanted to pursue the other things in life that you feel like you need.” But the reality is that the average person only lives five years past retirement. It’s because their mind is not occupied. They don’t have anything to do. They don’t have a sense of purpose and meaning.
So, again, I don’t intend to retire. However, I do intend and am planning for succession in my own company. That’s a reality, honestly, that every leader who’s sober-minded has to face and is obligated to their company… If they love their company, if they love the people who are in that company, they’re going to plan for their own succession. I don’t care if you’re a divisional manager or you’re a CEO. There’s going to be a time when you’re not in that role, and you need to be thinking about it consciously.
Here at Michael Hyatt & Company, we’ve announced a secession plan. There’s a point at which Megan is going to become the CEO of this company. It doesn’t mean I’m going to not do things related to the company, but I’m going to have a much diminished role in the company. I’m going to pursue some other interests and all that. This isn’t a big announcement. This is something we’ve talked openly about now for two years.
I think that gives the company confidence, that there is a future, that we’ve contemplated it. What so often happens in many organizations is that’s never considered. In other words, everybody is kind of pretending that this guy is going to live forever, and it’s just a topic that’s not safe to discuss. As a result of that, it makes it very difficult for the company to recruit new employees, because people outside the company can see more clearly what people inside the company are unwilling to admit. So, it makes recruitment difficult.
I can tell you, in a previous context, when I was serving a really old boss in a public company, that was the number-one question I got from investors. “What about that guy? What’s going to happen after he’s gone or what happens if he bites the dust?” We had to have an answer to that.
Megan: Yeah, I think this is one of the things you need to think carefully about how you roll out internally for your people. First of all, they are going to ask about it even if you don’t talk about it. They’re not going to ask you about it, necessarily, because that might be insulting to say, “What happens if you die?” for example, but they’re going to ask your HR team about it. They’re going to ask their direct supervisors about it.
So, the best thing to do is to get ahead of it, to have proactive communication, specifically with their interests in mind. You know, what does this mean for them and for their future? And to plan accordingly, and to communicate not just once about it, because you’re probably having people come in regularly to your company. Communicate openly and often about it so that people understand that their future is secure, that there is a plan, and that they’re going to be taken care of.
Larry: I heard someone who worked for a very high-profile leader say that leader was tired of being asked the question, as a relatively young man, “Well, what happens if your boss gets hit by a bus?” He said, “Why does it always have to be getting hit by a bus? What happens if I win the lottery and just leave?” So there are positive reasons to make a transition besides retiring to do nothing.
Michael: By the way, I don’t object to a transition. Maybe you’re in work that you don’t really love and you see an opportunity to “retire” in terms of how the company sees it or the military sees it, or whatever, but now you’re going to go into a new season of your life where you can get much more in your Desire Zone where your passion and your proficiency come together. That’s fine. What I’m really advising against and what I can’t embrace for myself is sort of the “Buy a place in Florida and just sit around and play cards all day,” or something. That sounds mind-numbing to me.
Larry: Well, a wide range of topics and some really insightful answers, so thank you both.
Megan: That was super fun, Larry. I loved that.
Michael: Thank you, Larry. Thanks to all of you who submitted questions, and thanks to you guys for listening to it. I hope you enjoyed it, and we look forward to seeing you next week on Lead to Win.