Marcus Buckingham is back on the Maxwell Leadership Podcast! Join Marcus and Chris Goede as they discuss Marcus’ new book, Love + Work*, and get a sneak peak into what you’ll get to experience at Live2Lead! By the way, Live2Lead is just two days away. Trust us, you don’t want to miss this epic event! Get your tickets here.
Our BONUS resource for this episode is the “Love + Work Worksheet,” which includes fill-in-the-blank notes from Mark and Marcus’ conversation. You can download the worksheet by visiting MaxwellPodcast.com/LoveAndWork and clicking “Download the Bonus Resource.”
Welcome to the Maxwell Leadership Podcast. This is the podcast that adds value to leaders whom multiply value to others. My name is not Mark Cole. My name is Chris Goede. And today I’m filling in for Mark. Listeners, you are in for a treat today. Joining us for the second time on the podcast is author, speaker, and human performance researcher Marcus Buckingham. Marcus is joining us for our live to lead event on October 6, which you can register for at Live2Lead.com. That’s Live2Lead.com.
The link is also in the show notes. If you would like to download the bonus resource for this episode or watch the episode on YouTube, please visit MaxwellPodcast.com/LoveAndWork. And Marcus, I can’t wait to dive into this with you. Thanks again for joining us on this podcast.
It’s my absolute pleasure, Chris. Really looking forward to it.
Yeah. Mark is disappointed he can’t be here today. John sends his hello as well. You are a great friend of our organization and we’re grateful for you. Here’s what I want to start out. Know this love and work this title. It’s an interesting title, right? You think about a lot of people in organizations and they go, you can’t bring that word into what we’re doing on a daily basis. That’s a soft word.
I think I’ve heard you describe that. I talk about it at times as being a soft word. What was the driving factor behind you writing this book and give us the kind of the overview of the book itself.
Yeah. So the reading line of the book is how to find what you love, love what you do, and do it for the rest of your life. And it sounds like a pretty big promise, but as you said, Chris, I’m a researcher. I spent my entire career trying to investigate why people do what they do in the real world, not in some idealistic theoretical world, but in the real world, why do they do what they do? And my focus over the years, really driven by my mentor when I was a Gallup, Don Clifton, who was the chairman, he and I made something called StrengthFinder together. And his focus was always on what’s working, study what works, and you can also study what doesn’t work. But don’t imagine that failure is just the opposite of excellence. Failure is just different. If you want to learn about failure, study failure.
But if you want to learn about excellence, excellent performance, excellence in leadership, excellence in customer service, excellence in creativity, you’ve got to go study excellence itself because it’s got its own configuration, it’s got its own patterns, and you can’t infer those from studying failure. So the focus of my career really has been studying the best housekeepers in the world, the best teachers in the world, the best lawyers in the world, and they do exist, the best leaders, and trying to figure out what exists in excellence that doesn’t exist anywhere else. And when you push and push and push, and you go back through all of the focus groups, all of the interviews, all of the surveys that I’ve done over the years. Chris, and you say, well, gosh, let’s look at the extreme positives, the outliers. Those particular salespeople who are ten xing, 1520 xing, the rest of the salespeople in the company, those leaders that are ten or 20 xing in terms of the quality of the teams that they build, the entrepreneurs that are ten. Xing, let’s go study the extreme positives of any job and see what they have in common. They’re going to be very different because everyone’s unique, but what do they have in common? And when you do that again and again and again, and you really peel the onion. Chris the word that hits you right across the forehead is the word love.
Because at some point during all of these interviews and all these focus groups, at some point, the person, whichever job they’re doing, will say, I love this activity. I love this part of it, I love that part of it. And they won’t use like or really enjoy. They’ll use that word love. And what’s interesting is they’re not saying that about every part of their job. It’s not as though in order to succeed in life, you have to find a job you love. There’s absolutely no data that says the most effective people love all that they do. They don’t.
But they do find the love in what they do, which is really different and really specific, and there’s just no escaping that word, love. There’s all sorts of reasons why that link between love and excellence exists, which maybe we can get into. But the bottom line is, I wrote the book because when you study excellence deeply in the real world, these are people who’ve taken their loves, the activities that they love. They’ve taken those loves really, really seriously, and then they figured out how to weave them into their regular day. Not 100%. In fact, Mayo Clinic research suggests 20% study, they were actually studying resilience in doctors and nurses. And you study the most resilient doctors and nurses. They don’t love all that they do, but they’ve got 20% of the activities of the job that they love to do.
So for us, love and work are integrally linked when it comes to excellence. Like loveless, excellence in anything is an oxymoron. So that’s really what prompted the book, Chris, is that the research and the data says we better take love seriously if we want.
Know. You brought up two things there that stood out to me in doing some research about the book. Number one is I was like, Well, I don’t love everything that I do right. And to your point, just a minute ago, and it kind of released me as I was reading the content of saying, it’s only 20% now, I would love for it to be higher than that, not only for myself, but also for those that I have the privilege of leading at times. But if it gets below that 20%, then we need to look into that. And so that was really good for me to hear. And then the other thing that stood out that you just mentioned is this somewhat of an oxymoron, this loveless excellence, right, that your research and the data and things that you’ve looked into that doesn’t coexist.
Yeah. When you are doing an activity that you love, your brain chemistry changes. So if you’re doing an activity and this goes for every role. So one of the roles that I first interviewed and I wrote about in first break all the Rules, actually 25 years ago now, was housekeepers, the best housekeepers at Walt Disney World. And you’d get them around the room, and it was a focus group, so there was about eight of them and they were just talking about what it is that they did in their regular day. And one of them, as they started talking, remember, these are the eight best housekeepers out of like 3000. And they didn’t know each other, but they were all really good. One of them would say did say, I just love what I love about my work.
I love making lines on the carpet with the vacuum cleaner. I love making lines. I walk into a room, it’s all messy, and then I vacuum myself out of the room and I love that. And I was scribbling away, like scribbling notes and stuff. And I turn around to the other housekeepers, I’m like, oh, do you do that? You all do that. And they’re looking at me like I’m nuts. And one of them says, no, I don’t do that at all. What I love is I love lying on the bed and turning on the ceiling fan.
And I’m like, Why would you do that? And she’s like, well, because that’s the very first thing that a guest does after a long day out in the theme parks. Come back in, flop down on the bed and turn on the fan. If dust comes off the top of the fan, the guest thinks the room is as dirty as the top of the fan. And she said, I just love I’ll sit on the toilet, I’ll line the bathtub, because that’s how the guest sees the room. I love seeing the room from the guest perspective. And you went around the room and they all had something different like that, something really specific and in the job. But it wasn’t all of the job. So what we know is when you study excellence, it’s not like everybody who’s excellent at the same job loves the same things about the job.
That is not true at all. But we know that when you’re doing an activity that you love, let’s say you’re vacuuming yourself out of the room if you’re that housekeeper or you’re trying to imagine the room from the guest perspective, which is the other housekeeper. When you’re doing an activity that you love, you and I would have very different activities that we’d reference your brain chemistry changes. So you have these elevated levels of certain neurotransmitters. Chris, you’ve got elevated levels of oxytocin, of Norepinephrine, of Anandamide, and what they think is happening. And the brain is a mysterious place, super complex, huge. But they think what’s happening is that those elevated levels of neurotransmitters are Dysregulating, your goal oriented neocortex, which is all about getting it done. And it’s opening your mind up, literally opening you up to feeling more safe, more secure, more open for more information, more input, which leads to more innovation, more creativity, more fluidity.
When your brain on love is, you at your smartest, which is why love and excellence seemingly go hand in hand. That your brain on love is the most fluid connections, the speediest connections open as well for more information, more collaboration, more input. That’s why excellence and lovelessness are oxymoronic. If you’re going to excel, you personally as an individual, if you’re going to deliver excellence, whatever your job is, whether it’s housekeeping or sales or leadership or being a dentist or whatever it is, whatever, you got to know what those activities are, where basically your brain chemistry changes. When does your brain start firing in its most productive, most fluid ways? And we know that when you’re doing something you love, that brain of yours does change in these really important and really powerful ways.
John C. Maxwell:
Hello, this is John C. Maxwell. I’ve been teaching leadership for over 40 years. We’re gathering in Atlanta for our 10th Live to Lead Leadership Conference Friday, October the 6th, and I want to personally invite you to join us. Live to Lead is about empowering you to live out leadership, not just learn it. World class leaders Kendra Scott and Marcus Buckingham and Ryan Leake will be joining me to impart wisdom, inspire change, and help you lead more effectively. Hey, bring your team. Groups of ten or more receive a significant discount. So let’s grow together, because leadership isn’t a solo journey. It’s best experienced in community with others. Visit Livetoleaad.com today and let’s make leadership a lived experience.
You well, I think I would want that for myself. I’d also want that for everybody that I have the privilege of leading, knowing that it’s going to be different. To your point, I love that everybody deserves to be led well, and everybody needs to be led the way they need to be led. And to your point, I think, as leaders and we’re going to talk about this a little bit as we get a little bit further into our conversation today as leaders, how we can help people understand that, because that is key. Now, listen, you need to know, when I go home tonight and I offer to vacuum the house, my wife be like, what are you doing. I’m like, I got to test out. I got to test this thing Marcus told me about today, and I’ll just see if there’s a love there. If not, I’ll let you know.
It live to lead, whether or not.
We’Re all different, right? It might not trip your trigger.
So you also talk about, and this is a great segue, because you talk about self awareness, and we often say, and I’ve learned this from John over the years, the hardest person to lead is yourself, and we’ve got to start there. How would you encourage what would you tell our listeners? How do you go about really becoming self aware and understanding what you do love about parts of the work environment?
So that’s a hugely important point. I’ve heard John talk about this as well, but it’s incredibly difficult and so sad, I think, that we don’t teach our 1011, 1213 year olds. We don’t start I know actually, John’s doing a lot of work with youth, but we don’t really start to help them know how to self identify. What are the things about you that are unique to you, regardless of your gender or your age or your nationality or religion or your race, which are jolly important things, no question, but you share them with millions of other people. So which parts of you are just you? That’s a very, very important question. If you want to give a person power, if you want to give that person a sense of agency, you want to help that 9, 10, 11, 12 year old to start going, hey, there’s only one of you. Like, you’ve got some super unique ways of acting, of thinking, of building relationships, and your life will be so much more resilient and more productive and happier if you can start to own the you-ness of you.
I just would love the idea that we would change the curriculum so that we’re starting to teach our young people these very acts of sort of self mastery. But if we haven’t started there, even if you’re sort of 2535-4555, it’s never too late for you to get serious about identifying what it is about your actions, your activities, your life that invigorates you, that you love. And the simplest way to start, Chris, if you want to change your relationship to your own work or change your relationship to your own career, you have to start by changing your relationship to your own day. We have to think about our days. Just bear with me on this.
No, you’re good.
We think of a day as like, 24 hours, but it isn’t. A day is actually thousands of activities, interactions, moments. You and me talking right now is an interaction. It’s a moment. There’s an email that you’re going to write, there’s a conversation that you’re going to have. There’s a decision you’re going to make. Over here. There’s a different decision over there.
Every single day is filled with thousands and thousands of interactions of little micro experiences. And you can think of these as threads, like threads in the fabric of a day. And some of these threads are pretty emotionally neutral for you in terms of your feelings. They’re like black or white or gray or green threads. They lift you up a little, down a little, whatever. But some of these threads are red. Some of the activities in your day are red threads. They’re activities that you love.
Three most obvious clues to what you love, by the way, before you do something, you find yourself looking forward to it. So there’s some aspect of positive anticipation while you’re doing it. Time speeds up. What the positive psychologist Mike Chechemahai called flow. Some other folks call it fluidity steps fall away, and you sort of vanish into the activity. You feel like you’ve been doing it for five minutes, but you look up, it’s an hour like that, that sort of thing. And then third clue, of course, when you’re done with it, you kind of almost want to do it again. There isn’t a drained feeling.
There’s a sort of invigorated from the Latin strengthened. So you might not want to do it right again right away, but there’s an invigorated feeling. So if you said to someone, hey, listen, just take a blank pad around with you for a week, draw a line down the middle of it and put loved it at the top of one column and loathed it at the top of the other column, and then just take it around with you for a regular week of your life. Anytime you see one of those signs of love before you do it, you look forward while you’re doing it, time speeds up. When you’re done with it, you kind of want to do it again. Scribble it down, scribble down what you were doing. If it’s something in the middle, loved it, loathed it, then don’t write it down. But if you can savor and pay attention to those particular signs, you’ll get to the end of the week and you’ll see there’s a bunch of very specific activities.
Specific at the level of lying on the bed and turning on the ceiling fan, like that kind of specificity, right? And if you can do that, if you could imagine that your day, every day, wakes up with you and is your smartest, wisest friend, your day is basically trying to put on a show for you every day and saying to you, what about this activity? What about this interaction? What about this experience? What about this moment? Is this a red thread? Is that a red thread? Is this a red thread? And it’s trying to show you how to draw nourishment and strength from life from your day. And what the Mayo Clinic research shows us is that you don’t need to have a red quilt. You don’t need a red quilt, right? But you better have every day, Chris. You better have at least 20% of those red threads. Well, I’ll tell you what, to your point with leaders, leaders are colorblind to your red threads. Even with your kids. You’re colorblind to your own kids red threads. You don’t know what are the particular activities that are red threads of theirs, which means the individual themselves, even the nine year old.
Funnily enough, nine year olds actually turn out to be way better at this, actually, than 29 year olds, but that’s another story. But your nine year old, even at nine, he or she knows what are the activities where time flew by? That guy. That’s actually a great question to ask your kid. When was the last time an afternoon flew by? They’re so vivid in what they describe. They’re so close to their own loves. They haven’t been adulterated yet, right? But for anybody wanting self mastery, as John might call it, you got to begin by really believing that your day is trying to show you that which you love, if you would but pay attention to it.
That is awesome. Listeners, we talk about application on these podcasts all the time, and Marcus just gave you pure gold on a self assessment, how to go about taking application of this lesson today and truly understanding that. I love your statement, and it actually is something that I’ve got to reflect on, where you say leaders or even individuals at times were colorblind to the red threads. And I think going through this excise would be a tremendous asset to our lives and what we’re doing in the work field. And do we really love it, or do we need to change it? Now, before we jump into, I want to talk a little bit about engagement. I know you do a ton of work on that and how this plays into that. I also heard this statistic from you that I thought was fascinating. You said 73% of us have the freedom to maneuver what we’re doing in order to kind of fit what our skill sets are, to fit what we love, to fit the red threads to some extent, but only 18% of us actually do that, actually take the initiative.
And this would be a great exercise to take that first step of trying to understand it. Why is that gap there? Why do 73% of us feel like and know that we have the freedom to do that, but only 18% do, when this is so important to us?
Well, because here’s the thing, Chris. We are not told how to self identify all that stuff that we were just talking about self mastery. What are the particular aspects of activities that are red threads of yours, by the way, if you want to identify a red thread, the sentence stem. If we really want to get into the weeds of this should be I love it when start the sentence. I love it when and then finish the sentence. And by the way, we’ve done so many pre employment job interviews over the years, because that’s what I did while I was a Gallup for ten years. We just built pre employment selection instruments. We’ve asked that question.
I probably coded 250,000 responses to the question, what do you love about your job? By far, the most common answer by far is, I love working with people. And there’s nothing wrong with that answer, Chris. It’s just it’s lacking any specificity at all.
Yeah, there’s no detail which people you love working with which people, and what are you doing with the people? Are you selling to the people, saving the people, leading the people, inspiring the people, challenging the people, coaching the well, what are you doing with to? Or give me a verb. Right? Give me any verb. Give me a verb. By the time we get to be, like, adults, it’s weird. It’s like we’ve become increasingly removed from the vividness that we had at nine. So everything we were just talking about in terms of, like, take yourself seriously, take what you love seriously. Really investigate it at the level of I love it when, what you’re doing what to whom, for what reasons. In the book, there’s a whole red thread questionnaire, I think, on page 78, that’s just pushing you to go, come on, what are the details of that which you love? Because if you don’t take them seriously, no one else will, because they don’t know you.
Like, you know you. So I think the answer to your question, why don’t we do this? And in psychology, we call that an attitude behavior consistency problem. The attitude says, Well, I know, I and by the way, 73% of people in America believe they have the freedom to modify their job to fit themselves better. It’s not everybody. So some people clearly do feel trapped in that. 27% of people, I don’t have any freedom at all, but there’s a good chance 73% of us are like, yeah, I got the freedom. And as you said, the data suggests 18 17 18. Somewhere around 17 or 18% of people say that they have a chance to play to their strengths every day.
So you’ve got this huge gap, really, between the attitude going, I can, and the behavior saying, I do. The reason why we don’t do it is because no one actually tells us that we have a unique way of looking at the world, and that unique way of looking at the world is identifiable, and then it’s applicable in terms of my performance. We don’t tell people, hey, figure out that which you love and turn it into work. Figure out what you love and turn it into work. We don’t tell people that that’s what they should be doing. In fact, what we tend to do is we tend to define jobs through a set of competencies or skills or attributes they’re supposed to possess. We’ll almost ignore the human, and we’ll go, look, before we even met you, we defined as a job, and the job is all these things. So if you want to get good at your job, you’ll try to match most closely the model of what we wrote in the job description, right? And so no one really says to you, well, look, regardless of the job description, who the heck are you? And although there are certain outcomes we expect of you, your path to those outcomes is going to be driven most effectively, but through the activities that you love, not all of them, but you better find some activities that you love as you try to deliver on these outcomes.
What’s your path? What’s your love fueled way of delivering excellence for us? Okay, if you actually had that conversation with people, I’m not saying everyone would find that path perfectly. As you know, life’s complicated and people are tricky. But right now, Chris, that’s not how we talk to people about their work. We define the job in advance, and we say, you’ve got to match the model, and your success is defined by how closely you match a model. The short answer to your question is there’s a difference between the 73% who say they could modify and the 18 who do, because most of the rest of us aren’t trying. And it’s not our fault necessarily. It’s that we live and work in a world which is not terribly interested in our uniqueness. In fact, if you really push on it, not to be too cynical, but a lot of companies see the uniqueness of human beings as a bug, not as a feature, as a bug.
And we’re going to try when you come to work and remove it and take all of your weird idiosyncrasies and grind them down so that you can become an employee who, in a very conformist way, delivers what we want. And that isn’t every job. There are some great teams. There are some great leaders. But if you wanted to explain that statistic, I think that’s what you’d look at. Most of us are not trying because we’re told not to.
Yeah, we end up bringing people onto our team or inside our organization, to your point, and we’re like, man, you are incredible. You’re exactly what we’re looking for. And then we get them in there. We’re like, but we’re going to change you. This is what we’re going to do. And then what ends up happening and this is something that we find a lot with organizations we work with, is that especially now, maybe this has probably always been relevant, but people want to be they want to they want to be seen. They want to be valued for how they are created or how they’re wired. And we tend to forget that as leaders to your point? We end up saying, hey, that’s awesome we hired you.
That we want diversity on our team, but we don’t know how to lead inclusively, right? And create that inclusive dynamic inside the team. And this is a great way to be able to do that. What I love about the application, the red thread, is leaders. If you are struggling with this, this is a great exercise for you to do. And then go have a meeting with your leader, go have a meeting with your significant other, go have a meeting with your peer, your mentor, and start talking about this to kind of bubble it up. I think this leads right into something that you do a lot of work with, which is really talking about employee engagement, which, by the way, the statistics there would align with exactly what we’re talking about. They’re so low. The engagement level is so low, and it is because people probably are below 20% in how much they love and what they do.
And so there’s a dynamic between loving what you do at work and then this engagement level and the effectiveness of that. Team member. Talk a little bit about that with all of your research over the years of engagement and how this plays into.
You know, it’s funny, if you think about how people excel, how does excellence happen? You can almost bifurcate it, Chris, into the individual who’s just moving through the world, either aware of their red threads and what they love and thoughtfully and intelligently turning them into contribution. Of course, that’s by the way, that’s the reason that you focus on their red threads, not because we’re trying to I mean, yes, we want you to be seen, but of course we want you to contribute. Love is a precursor to contribution. I mean, let’s just make sure that the listeners understand that. We’re not really saying, find what you love because it’ll make you happier, although it will. We’re saying it because the brain is smarter and wiser and more creative, more efficient, more resilient when you’re doing activities that you love. So it’s your job not just to find your red threads, but to then weave them into contribution. And that’s not always easy, but we’re doing this because love is a precursor to expression and contribution.
So one part of work is that is the individual and how are they basically contributing their uniqueness to the world. But the other part is the world is the world they’re moving through. And that’s really where engagement lives, right? It’s like, what’s the water you’re swimming in? Or to keep using the love language, if you found that which you love and you’re taking it seriously, but you work in a loveless place, love dies through forgetting. I think the poet Pablo Naruto said that love is born through savoring, lives in intelligence, and dies from forgetting, which I think is kind of a beautiful way of thinking about. It. When you work in a loveless place, if you are a leader who’s created a loveless environment, you’ll crush even the best people. And I think as we look at those engagement statistics that you talk about and you really push on those, I think where we can get to and I know I’m going to talk about this at Live to Lead, though. If you think about what happens on the most engaged teams and you push on that over the last 25 years, you keep bumping into that same darn word love.
A lot of us had a lot of different managers, but what’s the manager? Where you go, oh, God, I love working for him. I loved working for her. Same with teachers, had a lot of teachers. Learned a lot from that teacher. Learned a lot from that teacher. That teacher was jolly interesting, but how many teachers we go, I loved her. When we use that word love, Chris, it’s not just liking. Turned up to eleven.
It’s not just satisfaction on steroids. It’s a different category of thing. It’s like water. When you heat water up and it’s 210, it’s not boiling. It’s 190, it’s not boiling. It’s 211. Only once you’ve hit 212 does the water boil. Everything below 212 is just not boiling.
It changes its state when it gets to 212. The same is true, by the way. Sorry for diving into statistics here, but when you actually measure engagement on a scale of one to five, five being strongly agree. Same with customer satisfaction, by the way. If we have a customer satisfaction survey, one through five five being strongly agree, we tend to operate as though fours are like fives and threes move performance about as much as moving a three to a four moves performance as much as a four to a five. Which is why we combine the fours and the fives into top two box or percent favorable. I’m sure you’ve seen that. And then we try to move the twos to the threes and the threes to the percent favorable bucket the fours and the fives.
But actually, the world doesn’t work that way. When you look at the data across many, many studies, it’s clear that when you’re moving someone from a two to a three, you get very, very little increase in performance. If you move them from a three to a four, you get very, very little increase in performance. It’s only when you’ve created a set of experiences on the team where the person goes five that you see the jump in terms of productivity, retention, accidents on the job, lost work days, quality. Fours are like threes, they’re not like fives. When somebody can go five, that was the best team I ever worked on. I can’t imagine working for a different team. I loved working with when you tie that word love to it, that’s a five.
And so as we think about leadership, what we’re really trying to do to build teams. You’re trying to build a team that is so compelling, moving someone from a three from an average team to an above average team, three to a four, I’m sorry, that doesn’t drive behavior at all. And if that’s all you’re doing, trying to go from below average to average, above average, average to above average, you’re not going to get any increase in the productivity of your team. You’ve got to be super interested in what can I do to make this? And I know it’s a high standard, but the best leaders have super high standard. How can I build the kind of team where people would go in ten years time? They would go, I loved working on that team because when you look at what can we do to get someone to feel that? That’s a really interesting leadership question because love is the most powerful force in business. I know we don’t think about it that way, but love is the most powerful force in business. If you’re trying to drive human behavior, customer behavior, or employee behavior, love is the most powerful driver, most powerful predictor of employee and customer behavior. So as a leader, you got to ask yourself, what the heck can I do to create a loving team? And don’t shy away from the word.
Do not shy away. We don’t when it comes to our own faith, like, love is everything. And it’s the first thing we reach for when we’re born, and it’s the last thing we cling on to before we die. And yet in business, somehow we push it aside and we don’t actually take it seriously as the powerful business force it is. So for leaders out there, you’ve got to hold yourself to the highest possible standing and go, what could I do to build this team? Lovingly. What does lovingly mean? Because it doesn’t mean soft, right? You can lay someone off lovingly. You could fire someone lovingly. You could promote someone lovingly.
You could give them coaching lovingly. But what does it mean to have a team where somebody in five years time would go, I love that. Oh, gosh, I loved working there. If you really want to in this world of very tight labor markets, if you want to attract top talent, you’ve got to become increasingly fluent in what does it mean to lead a team lovingly. And I’m not suggesting that’s an easy answer, but you will never get those fives unless you engage with that question, because that’s really the we’ve been so used to swimming in polluted waters. We’re so used to swimming on teams that don’t want us to be us, that are impatient with our Idiosyncrasies, that try to drive them out of us. We’re so used to that. It’s almost like we’ve stopped being able to describe what would it mean to work in the best team I’ve ever worked on? What would it mean to work for a team where I loved it.
Some of this I’m going to be talking about, I’m sure, at Lip to lead. But that’s a really interesting question that the best business leaders will engage with, with great seriousness.
I’m sitting here and I’m smiling as you’re talking because I’m thinking about those teams I’ve been a part of. And then there’s the opposite. We’re not talking about that today, but there’s the opposite. And I can just feel that emotion when I think about those teams. It’s interesting. And I want to talk about this. How do we lead people in a way that allows us to do that? We have a statement of saying people will join your team, your leadership, your organization for one reason. They don’t stay for that same reason.
And this is what you’re hitting on here. What are we doing as leaders to continue to look at making sure that our people are in that spot? And you talk about in your book, you talk about this as from a leading standpoint. You talk about a mindset and you talk about the frequency. Will you talk just a little bit about this? Because I think this is fascinating and I think that leaders around the world take for granted that they just are leading people and they’re not intentional about what that looks like. And you really made it very simple and very clear about the way that we can help people understand that there is a percentage or how we can help people understand what they do need to be doing in order to love what they do at work. Talk a little bit about those two words.
Well, the mindset is and we just don’t think about ourselves this way as leaders, but we should. Leaders are experience makers. If you want to get the best out of a human being, some part of that, yes, we talked about this is the self, the individual, and they’ve got to take their own red thread seriously and no one can really do that for them. But a big part of it is the experiences that you’re creating as a leader. And you’ve got to understand that as a leader, you’re designing experiences whether you know it or not. People are watching you all the time. You’re on stage all the time, every meeting you hold. Every ritual that you have, even if it’s an accidental ritual, becomes a ritual and people watch it and it becomes part of their experiences.
One of the things the best leaders seem to understand is that every touch point is designable. Every single leader touch point is designable. If you don’t design it, then something else will happen with it. If you don’t think coherently about a certain meeting and how you’re going to run it, if you don’t think coherently about who you’re going to talk to first, who you’re going to talk to last, if you don’t think about your rituals, then they’ll just haphazardly happen it won’t be that they won’t happen. It’ll just be out of your control, which is a shame. As a leader, you’ve got to take responsibility as an experience maker. And if you push on that and go, what’s the most important, what’s the most loving experience that you could instill in your team? Where you’d go with that is to attention. Loving is attention.
The opposite of loving isn’t probably unloving. It’s ignoring. Humans need, from little humans all the way up to adults, we need attention and we die. I mean, literally, our health goes out the window. When we’re lonely, when we’re deeply, deeply lonely and friendless, everything starts falling apart for us. Humans are heard creatures. We need attention. So when if you look at one of the practices the best leaders have to turn love into work and have that be a ritual, while always knowing that the leader won’t be able to tell someone else what their red threads are, because you can’t get it.
You can’t even get inside your own kids heads, let alone somebody that’s working for you. So I can’t do that. As a leader, I can’t tell you who you are, but what I could do is have a ritual once a week with you, where for 15 minutes every week, I just ask two questions what did you love and loathe last week? Or if you don’t like that language, I don’t know. What did you get a kick out of last week? What did you really love last so some emotional retrospection rep from last week, and then, what are you working on this week? How can I help? What did you love and load last week? What are you working on this week? How can I help? 15 minutes individually, every single leader does a team meeting. Fine. Team meetings are fine. The best leaders, though, know that what people need the best team ritual counterintuitively is an individual ritual. It’s where I do a check in, a one on one, a touch base, call it what you will, but it’s not 45 minutes every six months, it’s 15 minutes every week.
And that’s a great ritual to get established, because if you’re thinking to yourself, well, I don’t want to do that. That sounds like I’m going to be bored by what they tell me every week, then that’s a good clue for you, that you shouldn’t be a leader.
Because that’s what leading is. And if you’re bored by that, go do something else, which is fine.
And if you’re thinking to yourself, well, I’d love to be able to do that, but I can’t do that because I’ve got too many people to do that every week, then you’ve got too many people. So the age old question, Chris, about what’s the perfect span of control for a leader? It’s kind of the wrong question. It’s not span of control, it’s span of attention. What’s the right span of attention? And the right span of attention for you is the number of people that you can check in with every week. And some leaders are incredible. They could do it with 20 people. They’re just that good at playing chess. They can see the uniquenesses of each person.
They love touching base, by the way. You’re not checking up on people. This isn’t micromanagement. It’s the same sort of thing that Phil Jackson was doing with Michael Jordan after every game. By the way, michael Jordan doesn’t need Phil Jackson to tell him what to do when he was playing, but Phil Jackson every game, actually, it wasn’t even every week after every game, checking in with Michael, what worked, what didn’t, what should we do next game? It’s that kind of frequent, light, touch, future focused attention that the best leaders do. If you can do it with 20 people, your span of attention should be 20. If you can do it with only two, then your team should be a size of two. But leading is leading is this activity.
What was last week, what’s this week coming up, what’s one by one by one by one with each of your people? And if that doesn’t interest you, then go do something else. When we start seeing stuff like that, Chris, when you realize that leading really is frequent, light, touch, attention, love to work, love to work. 52 weeks out of the year, you start realizing why certain professions are so deeply disengaged. The most disengaged profession, by the way, by far, is nurses, which is kind of weird mean, I think, rightly? Simon Sinek always says, start with why, and that’s a good place to start. And obviously, those nurses have a very good, strong sense of their own why. But obviously, once you’ve started with that, it’s not enough, because if it was enough, all of these nurses would be like, I’m so juiced because I know my why. But these poor nurses, they believe in the why. But they go to a work environment where the average nurse supervisor to nurse ratio in hospitals in the United States is one to 61 nurse supervisor to 60 nurses in some places.
I was just talking to the CHRO of a big health system in the Northeast. It’s one to 85. Well, if you define leading as frequent, light, touch, attention toward near term future work, check ins, touch base, and you think, that poor nurse supervisor, well, she or he can’t check in with 85. He can’t do it, so they don’t do it. So these 85 nurses come in every day, and they know they’re not going to talk to anyone about them and their work for months upon months upon months. And then we wonder why nurse resilience is so low and burnout so high. It’s built in. We’ve built an organizational structure that makes sense on a balance sheet, but doesn’t make sense in a human heart.
And then we wonder why the human heart breaks, okay? We’ve designed it in, guys. We’ve designed it in. It’s time to redesign.
That’s good. And you talk about this, too, and we don’t have time on today’s podcast, but you talk about that feeling, then they take home with them, right? That is something that we say, hey, don’t bring home to work. Right? But whether you know it or not, what’s happening at work, and that feeling you’re taking home with you if you’re not aligned there, here’s my last question on that.
Go ahead real quick, Chris. People often say, well, look, I don’t love what I do right now. I don’t really love any part of what I do right now, but I’m going to suck it up for ten years, and I’m just going to earn as much money as I can in ten years, and then I’m going to quit and do what I love. Then my family will benefit. Um, you hear that a lot. That’s a terrible trade. Yeah, because if you have loveless work for 40, 50, 60, whatever, hours a week for ten years, then that’s not neutral. That is psychologically damaging for you.
And the people that are receiving end of the damage are the people at home. When we looked at that Mayo Clinic research, that 20% isn’t three days a month, and the rest are loveless days. No, that’s 20% daily. That’s every day. Every human being needs to have some activities, some moments, experiences, situations that nourish them. You got to move through life and be nourished through the movement. It’s like life isn’t about finding balance. Balance is stasis.
When you look at health, healthy living, successful living, that’s all about motion. How do you move through the different domains of your life and yet be nourished through those different domains? Well, ten years of loveless work, and yet somehow you think your family is not going to be on the receiving end of the damage that done to you. I’m sorry, that’s a fake trade. It doesn’t mean you have to love all you do, so let’s just be clear about that. But it does mean that every day for you as a human, you’ve got to find some activities, moments, situations that invigorate you. We need that. It’s psychological fuel. And if every day empties you out, at some point, we know this willpower is a finite resource, at some point you crack.
So for that idea, like, well, don’t bring home to work. It’s like oh, no. It is much more the flow the other way. You’re bringing what happens at work home and what you need to do if you want to support your home. In every way that we describe support, not just financially, but morally and spiritually and psychologically, you got to take seriously what you’re doing at work. And that’s why red threads are so important for you. It’s not a nice to have. It’s a must have.
Because if you don’t find that at work, those things that you love, love can turn into a poison really quickly if you don’t have a chance to express it. It’s like any force of nature, it needs to be expressed. If you dam up water, at some point it will push through because it’s got to be expressed. Love is the same thing. If you go to work and there are some things that you love and they never have a chance to express them, it will burn you up from the inside out. Anyway, I think that’s the point you’re making.
Yeah, I love it. And listen, if you listeners, those that are watching on YouTube, if you don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for your family. Marcus just gave us a great reason and understanding on why it’s so important to be able to do that. Okay, Marcus, I know you got a lot more coming our way for live to lead. My last question for you, the book and the concept, love and work. And for those that are on YouTube, I’m holding up the book right here. Fascinating concept, because the first thing you do when you hear the word love is you discount it at work. And there’s so much really good stuff in here that you want our listeners, you want people that read the book to have tons of takeaways.
But if you were to kind of boil it down and saying, what is it that you want them to do? What is it that you want us to do? What is it you want me to do when I’m finished reading the book, what would it be?
Well. So if you are watching this on YouTube, I’ve just got a red thread string bracelet that I’ve got on my left wrist, which is a gimmick, really, but it’s a good gimmick in that it reminds me every day. That the people that love me the most, the people that care about me the most, the thing that they would want the most for me, is that when I get to the end of my life, I have the feeling that I’ve had a chance to express the very best of who I am at my best. That these people, if you like, are waiting for me to do that every day. They want me to wake up and try to find ways in which I can take love and offer it to the world, take red threads and offer it to the world. And it’s not that everything I’m going to do is going to work out. Some things will be amazing, and some things won’t work out the way I want it to.
But what the people who love me the most want for me is that I think about my red threads every day and offer them up to the world so that I don’t get to the end of my and then this goes back to your first question. Why did you write this book? During the pandemic, I lost my cousin, I lost my dad, and it forced me to go. I don’t want anyone to get to the end of their life and say, I lived a second rate version of somebody else’s. I didn’t live a first rate version of mine. I don’t want that to sound idealistic. That’s why you can get really into the granular detail of Tuesday. It’s a Tuesday. What are your red threads this Tuesday? You want this job? Okay.
What are the red threads you’re going to find in that job or you’re in a job right now? Can you maneuver, find ways in which you can identify a red thread so that you can turn it into contribution? Can you become more masterful in the way in which you unleash love? And let’s not shy away from that word. Can you do that every day? Take it seriously every day. And because you’re moving, you want to move. You’ll move from this job to another job to another. That’s life. Life is motion. How can you keep moving those red threads right along with you? So that if you think about your career, Chris, you’re thinking about your career not as a climb, not as a clambering up to some destination, but you’re thinking about your career as a scavenger hunt for love. Every role you’re in, you’re looking for those specific activities that, for whatever daft reason, whatever the clash of the chromosomes, the mind of the creator has caused in you this really weird combination of ways of thinking and acting.
Behaving. Can you be on a scavenger hunt at the two foot level, not 30,000 foot up in the sky, the two foot level of like, what are the specific activities today that are red threads of mine, and how can I contribute them? Just that red thread bracelet, for me, is a way to think every single day. I can be on the hunt for activities that I love so that I can contribute, so that I get to the end of my life and my friends and family go, you know what? He lived a first rate version of his own life. What a beautiful thing that all the people that love us the most are waiting for. And the point of this book was to say, please don’t make us wait too long. Life’s short.
That is great. And listen, if you’re listening, if you’re watching, go get some red thread and put that around the wrist. Marcus I want to just take on behalf of John and Mark and take a second to say thank you again, not only for the podcast, but the content that you continue to put out that’s making us better leaders and then taking time away on this October 6 to join us at Live to Lead.
So I appreciate you.
Thank you very much. Well, listen, if you are listening or if you’re watching on YouTube, I took a page of notes just trying to be here and interview marcus. I’m going to go back and listen, not to myself, can’t do that, but I’m going to fast forward and listen to marcus, and I’m going to take additional notes. But if this content resonated with you, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to go to Live2Lead.com, and on that site, you’ll be able to purchase tickets for the October 6 event that marcus and I have been talking about, whether you can join us in person or maybe you just want to do it virtually. Either way, if you will go to Live2Lead.com, you’ll be able to find out more information on how to join us on october 6, as marcus will then unpack even a little bit further on what he shared with us today. Well, listen, you know, you hear mark talk about all the time we’re in this, and this topic today goes right along with that. We want as leaders to help you, and we want to be a part of creating powerful positive that have changed because everybody deserves to be led well.