With Martin G. Moore

Episode #118

Working to Live: Q&A with Marty & Em

When we spend so much time dedicated to our work, it’s pretty common to feel as though we’re neglecting other important areas of our lives: our families, our health, our friends… we can even lose our basic zest for living. We forget that we’re supposed to be working to live, not living to work.

In this episode, we focus on how to have a stellar career, and still be successful in the other critical areas of your life. Our first question from Jay asks specifically about the impact that a high-powered career can have on your children.

We also explore how to get the hiring process right, and work at the right level so that you don’t get sucked into the vortex of a never-ending task list. Like anything in leadership, it takes discipline to create and maintain the right habits.

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Episode #118 Working to Live: Q&A with Marty & Em

Marty:             Hey there, and welcome to Episode 118 of the No Bullsh!t Leadership podcast. This week’s episode, Working to Live, another Q&A with Em. Now, when we spend so much time dedicated to our work, it’s pretty common to feel as though we’re neglecting other important areas of our lives. Our families, our health, even our fundamental zest for living can disappear. We forget that we’re supposed to be working to live, not living to work. And we get listener questions on all different flavours of this issue. So we thought we’d do a Q&A episode to cover off on a few of the common ones and give some guidance on how to make sure you don’t get trapped on this particular treadmill. So, welcome back to the mic, the other half of Your CEO Mentor and producer of the No Bullsh!t Leadership podcast, Em!

Em:                  Hey Marty, how are you going?

Marty:              Yeah really good! I hear you’ve got a bit of a heat wave going on in Sydney.

Em:                  It is so hot here, but that’s what I love about an Australian summer. So look, I can’t complain.

Marty:             Great, so it’s good to be in the cool of the podcast studio for the morning. So loads of exciting stuff going on at the moment, as you know. We’re rapidly closing in on our million downloads milestone and we’re getting really excited about our free virtual event that we’ll be holding in February. Now, you and I were planning it out yesterday morning and it’s really starting to come together, right?

Em:                  Yeah, I know I’m so excited about this because it’s the first virtual event that we’ve ever run. I guess instead of just being part of keynote speaking in someone else’s event, so I’m actually really enjoying the process. Over the past few months we’ve also been crowdsourcing some of the topics that our listeners and our students want to know most about. So if you go to www.yourceomentor.com/stats, you can register your interest for the event and tell us what topics that you want us to cover, because we’re still kind of finessing the agenda. At the moment, the format we’ll start with a keynote from Marty, and this is a brand new one. He’s never done this one before. And then Marty, you’ll do three intensive master classes with a whole bunch of Q&A, so that you can answer attendee questions live.

And we’ve also got some really special guests lined up for some short no-bullshit interviews, which is really exciting. So there’s a lot going on. It’s completely free guys. It’s our gift to you for sharing the podcast with your network, for rating and subscribing, and writing awesome reviews, and just helping us to get to that 1 million downloads point. So I really hope that you’ll be able to join us. Jump onto the waitlist at www.yourceomentor.com/stats, because we are going to limit numbers. Get your team to join and make sure that you show up live because we won’t be making any of the replays available afterwards. So make sure you don’t miss out. All right, we should probably get cracking on this episode, Marty.

Marty:              Sounds good Em. What questions have you dug out for me this week?

Em:                  Alright. So the first one’s from Jay. He sent me this question on Facebook. “Can you please do an episode on being successful, but also making time for family? How do you get the balance right and still be successful and still bring up good kids?”

Marty:              Well, clearly I don’t know anything about that. I failed on the bringing up kids bit, right. But now let’s be serious. Let’s start with the most fundamental principle. You have to decide for yourself, very deliberately and explicitly, what sort of life it is that you actually want to have. And I know this sounds a little bit high level, but you’ve got to work out what your priorities are. What is it that’s really important to you? What’s your level of ambition for your career? And what is it that’s going to bring you that real deep satisfaction? Now, ideally, you’d like to do this early enough to make some choices that meet your higher order drives when you’re thinking about your career. So you might choose an industry or a company, for example, that’s likely to give you the right balance.

I also love using the example of Ivan Glasenberg, who was the CEO of Glencore. I think he still is. Ivan has a reputation for being an extremely hard worker, to the exclusion of almost everything else, and that’s the culture that Glencore has. And Ivan was famously quoted many years ago saying, “If you’re looking for work-life balance, do not come and work here. We expect work to be your life and you’ll become very rich, but don’t come here for work-life balance.” Now I just sort of love the clarity that comes with that, because it’s unequivocal, and you know what you’re getting yourself into. But not everyone’s going to be like that, right. And certainly that’s not a job that would be right for me. But let’s say you’re very, very career focused and you do have a good solid dose of ambition. So you’re going to be motivated and driven to progress. And this is where it can become a little tricky, because you can feel as though in one area of your life, you’re always robbing from other areas, but you don’t know how to change it.

So if you’re anything like the rest of us, you’ll tell yourself a few little lies to make it all seem okay. So for example “I’m working this hard because of my family. Everything I do, I do for them.” Now, in some cases, I’m sure that may be true, but in most cases it’s a rationalisation. When I’m 100% honest with myself, all the time, energy and skill that I’ve invested in my career over the years, was for me. Pure and simple. It was to achieve my goals and my ambition. So I of course recognise the benefits for my family, but that wasn’t my main driver. So I guess the big question is how did that feel from your end Em?

Em:                  Yeah, we’ve had this chat before and I honestly don’t remember being a kid and feeling as though I wasn’t prioritised, which is probably pretty interesting now that I’m older and I understand how much time you did spend at work. I think the one thing that you did really well was that when you were with us, you were a hundred percent with us. There wasn’t social media to distract you, or 50 notifications popping up on your phone with emails every hour. So I guess it was probably a bit of a different world when I was growing up. You know, parents these days, they have a lot more distractions and I know that’s something I’m really conscious on with my girls is making sure that when I’m with them, I don’t have one phone, one hand on my phone, waiting for the next ping to come up. But look, I think you did pretty well Marty.

Marty:              Oh, thanks for that. That’s a good scorecard. I like it. Look, the one thing that worked for me really well, was to set some fairly immovable boundaries. So for me, no matter what was going on in my day or my week, if I was in my own city, I would be home for dinner every night. So I’d plan to get home by about 6:30pm. I’d connect with the family, and I’d sit down and give full attention to the family meal. When you and Liv were younger, you’ll probably remember, that every night I’d put you to bed and read you a story. Now the time commitment to these things was minimal. Let’s say it was only two hours per day, and that left me 22 hours to do everything else. But it was the discipline of protecting those two hours that was important because that gave me the opportunity to spend real quality time with the people that mattered most to me.

Em:                  Alright. So I can see how that worked for you, Marty, protecting those two hours for quality time with the family, but many people can’t limit their commitment to two hours. I’m thinking in particular of working mothers. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Marty:              Yeah. Look, the situation can be much, much tougher depending on the environment you work in and your personal circumstances. And I guess everyone’s got to try and work that out. And it will definitely impact the amount and concentration that you can put into your career at any point in time. But we know the commitments come and go. There are times when commitments are really, really heavy that are going to constrain how much you can put into your career, and times when they’re a little bit lighter, for example, when the kids might be a little bit older. So realising it’s a point in time, but, you know, we should never diminish the fact that it is a really difficult issue to get across and it can really hamper your career for a period of years. So I don’t have any answers for that, otherwise I’d be making a gazillion dollars doing something else.

Em:                  So really just having that patience of, when things get quite tough and quite busy, being patient to work your way through that, and I don’t want to say put your career on the back burner, but just accept that things might be going a little bit slower, but still keeping that main goal in mind as you move forward.

Marty:              Yeah, absolutely. And there’s been times in my career where things have gone slower, but you’ve got to keep your eye on the long game. You know, your career doesn’t unfold in 18 months, it unfolds over 30 years. So having that long-term view and getting, you know, really, really, focused on that and knowing that you’re heading in the right direction, even if you’re choosing at any particular point in time, to take a slightly backward position because you’ve got other things on.

So for me, look, I found something that worked really well was tailoring roles to my constraints. I always took roles that minimise travel. And that was one of the things that I just did. So, instead of being like a lot of my colleagues, who would often spend, I don’t know, 150 days or more travelling each year, I would probably do no more than 50 on average.

Now I don’t know if this placed any serious limitations on the speed of my career growth, but that was a trade-off I was entirely comfortable to make, and I didn’t regret it for a second. Once that boundary was set and everyone around me understood it, it’s surprisingly easy to manage. And what was the other thing? Oh, yeah. Health, which it’s no wonder that I just forgot about it for a second because I did tend to forget about that during my career, right. I worked out pretty early on that when it came to exercise, if I didn’t do it before 6:00 AM, it wouldn’t happen at all. So look, I got into this discipline of getting up pretty early every morning and getting some exercise in first thing. Now I’ve not been as strong with this discipline over my career as I have with the family time at night.

But when I’m really on my game, I’m up before 4:45am, I’m doing something for my health and wellbeing before the day gets going in earnest. And in the old days it was running 15 kilometres through mountain trails. These days, it’s walking, and pilates, and golf, much more civilised pursuits. But I was much more likely, not to be disciplined around this, because it was just for me. Whereas the family time was preserving the relationships with the most important people in my life. In my experience, we really run into trouble when we do two things or rather don’t do two things. When we don’t know how to say no, that causes problems for us because we don’t say no to our boss and we don’t keep those boundaries firmly in place. Or the second thing is when we aren’t strong enough to maintain the disciplines we’ve set because it is a discipline. You’ve got to work at it. It’s a discipline and it’s a habit, like many other things.

Em:                  Yeah. And I can recommend James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits. I really love that for implementing disciplines. So Marty, that’s managing the downside risks, but what are the upside benefits of being a career-driven parent where children are concerned? I know that having you as a dad taught me to have a really strong work ethic, and that drive was important, and I probably, I think in hindsight, I learned a lot about business and work anecdotally, because you spoke about a lot of the things that were happening at work really openly either with us or around us. It gave me a really good idea of what to expect if I wanted to be successful. And looking back, I think I always thought that you were the CEO, even when you weren’t.

Marty:              That’s because I was always the CEO in my head! Yeah, you’re right, it’s not all doom and gloom. And children learn through osmosis and they get to see some pretty positive behaviours if you’re doing this the right way. So they do get to see your work ethic. They get to see resilience and ambition. And I’m talking about, you know, ambition for money and promotions. I’m talking about the ambition to do bigger things and to be better. They see you as a leader of other people, not a follower, and they can see you’re making an impact on the world, you know, not just cranking the handle. But I think the biggest thing, that is learned by osmosis by the kids is, the internal locks of control rather than the external locks of control. So in other words, I can shape my environment and that’s what I’m doing.

I am not a victim. I’m making decisions and taking conscious action and I’m moving forward the way I choose to move forward. I’m not waiting for someone else to make my life come true for me. So I think that’s a really, really important learning, and I think you and Livy both have that. But ultimately, you know, in raising kids, my view is that the object of the exercise isn’t to protect them from life’s challenges, but to help them to learn how to deal with them. So I’m proud to say that both my daughters have turned themselves into caring, strong, capable, and resilient individuals.

Em:                  Awww Marty. That’s cute.

Marty:              Well, I think it’s true, isn’t it?

Em:                  Yeah, I’d say so. I think we’re definitely both very resilient. And hopefully caring, strong and capable. Look, Marty, my final commentary on this, I think you did a really good job of balancing work and home life and it’s not easy. Going through it myself now there’s some times when I’m really nailing it and I’m like, yep, I’ve got everything under control, and then there are other times where I go, my life is a complete mess. So I think you did pretty well. I don’t think that your work was prioritised over us. I don’t feel that way. So I’ll give you an 8 out of 10 for that one Marty, excellence over perfection.

Marty:              Thanks for that. That’s all. I need 8 out of 10. Thank you.

Em:                  Alright. Let’s crack on to our second question. This one is a great one. I felt like it was, it had a similar vibe to question one. This is from one of our Leadership Beyond the Theory students, Angus. “Can you please give me some guidance on the concept of recruiting to freedom?”

Marty:              Yeah. So this is a really interesting concept. I hadn’t heard this expression before, but I do like it. And Angus, just like in my early career, is a professional IT leader. Now I assume what Angus means is you’ve got to get the right people in place, through recruitment, to build the right capability so that you aren’t constantly in the firing line. And the important thing here is to recognise the outcome that we’re after. So if we focus just on that object of the exercise, freeing up some time so that you can do other stuff and reallocated elsewhere, you know, family, friends, hobbies, health there’s more to this than just the hiring process. Now it all goes way back to the basic strategy for your organisational team. What are the most important things you should be doing? You’ve got to only focus on those things, the things that deliver the biggest licks of value and stop all the other shit. Now, this is really hard. I tell clients all the time. The most difficult thing you can do in your organisation is to stop the stuff that doesn’t add value. But if you can scope down the work programme, you’ll be much more likely to deliver value for a whole range of reasons. The second step, once you know what the value is, is to work out what capacity you need to deliver it. If you’re serious, you’ll break any of those false constraints that normally hold leaders back.

Em:                  What do you mean by that Marty? What’s an example of a false constraint.

Marty:              Oh, well look, it’s a constraint that you put in your mind and you don’t consider that you can change it because you think that it’s a given, and most things aren’t a given. So one of the classics is the people you have in your team. Now, it doesn’t matter whether you have a team of 3 or 300,000. The principle is exactly the same. We feel as though we have to make the most from what we’ve got right now. And we don’t necessarily think to shape our teams to what we really need. Now we may need completely different skills configurations to align the capability of the team, to the strategic value drivers of the company, to deliver on that work programme. But that’s hard, right? Which is why I said, if you’re serious, you’ll do that. Most leaders won’t do it. It’s really, really hard to say, “Here’s the people I’ve got now, but they might not be the people that I ideally need, to deliver what I have to deliver.” But I guess the question is how much do you want to recruit to freedom?

Em:                  Yeah. So I can see this shaping up. We’ve got less workload by getting some simplicity and focus into our delivery programme, which we talk about all the time. Then we work out what skills and capabilities we need on our team, and then we go and hire them. Is that right?

Marty:              Yeah. Almost Em. Look, we need to find the right people, and that’s not easy. Which is where Angus’s question comes in. Now we’ll be constrained by a few things in terms of people quality. We’re not all working for Google where there’s a queue of the best and brightest talent on the planet lined up outside our door, begging to join us. We did a podcast episode really early on. I think it was Episode 12 The War for Talent. So you’ve got to be realistic about, you know, the quality of person you can hire. But having said that, you’ve got to be highly selective and very ambitious about who you’re going to recruit. So you don’t want to fill any role with just a warm body. You’ll have lots of time to regret that if you do. Only bring people on who can genuinely make a difference, obviously within the pool that you can get at. But the recruiting isn’t the end of it either.

Let’s say you managed to hire exactly the right person and you feel as though freedom is within your grasp. Then you have the potential to get a lot of your time back to reallocate into something else. But the next big step, and where a lot of leaders fall down, is that then you have to let go. And, you know, I see many leaders struggling with the concept of letting go of control when they delegate work to their people. So they become really ineffective. They micromanage, their time is sucked up in work that should be done by people who work for them, who aren’t doing their jobs. But often this is a lot easier than leading, isn’t it?

Em:                  Yes. My favourite concept; working at level. It’s definitely worth going back to Episode 7 on this. And I’ll put that episode in the show notes so that you can get it really easily. Marty, can you give us a quick rundown on working at level before we wind this episode up?

Marty:              Yeah, sure. So working at level means you’re paid to do a certain job and the people below you and above you are paid to do their jobs. And every layer has a unique purpose. Now you shouldn’t be doing the work of the people below you. You should be leading them to do their work. What we do a lot of the time is when someone below us can’t do their job, we step in and do it for them. We correct them. We redo their mistakes. We make decisions for them when they can’t make them themselves. We do a whole lot of things that aren’t our job. And that just sucks away a lot of our time. And as long as we’re doing the job of the person at the level below us, guess what? We’re not doing our own. So as a leader, you really have two choices. You have to lead your people to do the job that they’re paid to do. If they choose not to meet that standard, you need to put someone in that role who will meet the standard. Otherwise you’re going to end up constantly dipping down. So quite often we’ll see a situation where you do everything right. Everything you need to do to get the work programme in place that delivers the most value. You get the right capability in place to deliver it. And then you spoil it all, because you can’t get out of your own way.

Em:                  Spot on Marty. Great tips across those two questions. I’m just going to summarise them really quickly because we went through so much.

Number 1: Work out what’s important to you.

Number 2: Make the choices that recognise those priorities. So put some boundaries in place that support them.

Number 3: Only do the things that matter the most. So coming back to our old friend, simplicity and focus.

Number 4: Get the right people on your team to deliver.

Number 5: Have the discipline to stand back and lead rather than to step in and over-function for your people. There’s a reason why Module 4 of Leadership Beyond the Theory is called Work at Level. It’s because so many leaders have problems with this. So it’s a really, really important one to look into.

Marty:              Oh, that’s a great summary Em. Look, I reckon that’s a wrap. All right, so that brings us to the end of Episode, 118. Thanks so much for joining us. And remember, at Your CEO Mentor, our purpose is to improve the quality of leaders globally. So please share this with your network because this is how we get to reach even more leaders.

Em:                  Guys. Of course, you know, I’m going to say it. If you haven’t subscribed to the podcast or rated or left to serve you, please take a minute now to do it. It would mean so much to us. Thanks for having me on the podcast again Marty. Great chat.

Marty:              Yeah, always good to have you Em. We’ve got to do more of these. I think they go really well. I’ll look forward to next week’s episode: Change Fatigue; Is it a thing? Until then, I know you’ve taken every opportunity you can to be a no bullsh!t leader.


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