Disclaimer: The Transcript Is Auto Generated And May Contain Spelling And Grammar Errors
Intro: 00:00 From ABC News Radio, KMET 1490 in Southern California, this is BizNinja Entrepreneur Radio, with your host, Tyler Jorgenson.
Tyler: 00:13 All right. I want to welcome everybody out to BizNinja Entrepreneur Radio. We have a special guest today, the author of Great at Work, Morton T. Hanson. Now Morton, do you always use the T initial or is that just for the, the book?
Morten: 00:27 Yeah, just for the book. Yeah, go by Morton.
Tyler: 00:30 Well Morten, we really appreciate you coming out and being willing to share what’s going on. Tell us a little bit about like why you wrote this book.
Morten: 00:39 Yeah, there’s two reasons really. At first when I started my career, I had no work experience and I was entering Boston Consulting Group in London and I had this great idea for how to succeed. I would work crazy hours of so 60 to 70, 80, 90 hours per week. Then I came across some colleagues who were working fewer hours than me They did even better work than me and I find that very positive. I did well, but they did even better. And they weren’t dare you know, at 2:00 AM at night. So I always ponder. No, what did they do right? Later on I wrote a book with Jim Collins called Great by Choice, which was a sequel to Jim’s Good to Great. The book was about, you know, how can companies do better? And then I thought off too. We finished that project. I thought, well what about writing a book like that for individuals, managers and employees and company? Finally figuring out what, I sort of discovered back then in the BCG days, you know, how can you actually do better work? So I set out to study this. I’m in a project of 5,000 people for this book. To answer very simple questions, but fundamental question, which is why do some people perform better than others in their jobs?
Tyler: 01:53 Okay. So that’s a good question. And it does beg the question of defining the word better, right?
Morten: 01:58 Yeah. So the way we did it was just to look at job performance as perceived by your boss or yourself or subordinate, sort of like a combination of those things. Okay. In terms of your quality, in terms of meeting objectives, in terms of results and so on. Right? So it’s a subjective measure. But let’s face it, in most jobs there was a subjective element to someone’s job performance appraisal, right? I mean even in sales we actually have hard numbers. There is some guidance, right? You know, relative to expectations and so on. That’s really what we’re looking at this job performance, right? It’s like why? Why do some people perform better in their jobs? And it’s a fascinating question and they are 200, 300 pieces of advice out there. What you should do? What we found in our study is that we found seven key practices that explained about two-thirds of the difference in performance evolution among those people. So you don’t need to, you know, do well across 200 kind of factors. You could sort of look at a few of them.
Tyler: 03:00 So I appreciate that you took that very economic approach or a scientific approach because there’s so many books that are written on performance are really opinion pieces there. This is what worked for me and that’s great. You know, it’s not time-proven or extrapolated across the population. So you used how many people were in your study?
Morten: 03:21 5,000. So that might be physically significant. Right? And I’m looking for exactly because, um, and, and also the other problem is that we look at sort of success bias. We ask successful people, why are we successful? And they say, well, for example, they say, oh, I had a lot of passion for what I was doing. And while we’re not looking at that, our people were very passionate in their jobs and they failed. Right? Sure. So in the five times we are looking at low performers, mid performance and high performance.
Tyler: 03:52 Fascinating. What was the one piece of data that came out of that that was the most surprising to you?
Morten: 03:58 I think it’s the first principle that I call do less than obsess.
Tyler: 04:03 I see that in your bullet points. I’m super excited. Yes.
Morten: 04:05 Yeah. Yeah. So you know, I think we live in a do more culture, which means we’re trying to take on as much as we can, as many assignments and many task and to impress our superiors and we go to, as we fill up our day with lots of things, right? We say, how much can I do in the hours I have is kind of the way we think about it, right? I did that at BCG, right? I think I can do, I was young and healthy. I could do 90 hours a week. How much can I get done in 90 hours? Right? That’s how we think about it. So we go to more meetings for your business travels. We’ve talked to customers, we just do a lot of things and we spread ourselves fan in the process. What we found is that the top performers do the opposite.
Morten: 04:47 They have hyper-focused. They select a few things that’s do less thing, right? It’s not like they’re slackers working less. They’re just narrowing their scope. Right? And figuring out what is the most important thing I can do? What is the most valuable thing I can do? But that’s the first component. I mean, we always heard his priorities right. You should choose a set of priorities. Yes, they’re doing that, but they’re doing it more intensely than most of us. But that is not enough. If that’s all you do. And then you sort of have average effort, you’re not a top performer. You need to do the obsession part in addition. And that’s I, you said we’re a deliberate thing. It’s, it doesn’t sound healthy, but it can be, right. Which is the way to find that is targeted intense effort into those few things. And that’s really what creates the best performance.
Tyler: 05:34 I’ve heard that described this concept as looking each day for the one big domino where if you knock that domino over all the other little dominos and little tasks become either take care of themselves or become obsolete.
Morten: 05:46 Yeah. And I think, right. Yeah, I would qualify that as a little bit. I would say that, first of all, um, I think it depends on the job, how many dominance we’re talking about. Right? So in my, I’m writing a book, you have one thing to get done, right? But if you’re, you know, handling 10 customers, you got to sort of have these 10 customers, not 50 but 10 sure. It depends. Right. And then I would also say we also need to think about sort of like long term. Okay, so what is the most important thing I need to get done in the next six months, a year? And just putting out fires on a daily basis. But with those qualifications I, yeah, totally. Yeah.
Tyler: 06:21 So would you say that in your study you found that the people that the top performers than ones that were more successful, not only did this on a daily basis, but also understood what the one biggest goal for the year was? And one biggest goal for the month was like they understood right macro and then letting the little stuff get out of their way.
Morten: 06:39 And, and actually, and this is the second principal, they actually did something even more important, which was they ask themselves, not what am I goals for the year or for the month or for the week. Because those goals are set by someone else. They usually a job specification, the conventions, you know, we actually do x, y, and Z. Yes. Instead that took a step back and said, what’s the value I can create here? And that’s very different question. And there’s different metrics because you’re saying, okay, I got this job. Okay, but maybe there is more value, more, in other words, more benefits I can provide for the people who are the beneficiaries of my work. It could be customers or internal, uh, people, right in your own company. And then I say, okay, if I can provide that value, maybe it will change the way I work. Now, what is the one or two big things of value that I can provide is really the question.
Morten: 07:30 You give an example. Yeah. So one of the managers in this study is heart with Garrett, who is a manager of a, a container terminal in Tangier. In Morocco. Okay. In APM terminals, they were on 55 terminals around the world. It’s a very large company. There are many here in the United States now when he came to this terminal, so this is a large container terminal where ships come in and they offload the containers and the off the go on trucks. The predecessor has sort of looked at many different ways to improve revenues by adding services. In other words, doing more stuff, right? Weighing the trucks, taking things out of the containers, all kinds of things. And he said, well, what is the one thing that our customers really want us to excel at? And it’s basically what they call throughput, which is get the containers off the ship onto the trucks as soon as possible and out of to the destination.
Morten: 08:23 And the way, the other way around, right? It just had all the second stuff is creating distractions. So let’s get rid of that, close it down and focus on the one valuable activity. And once we’ve got that, let’s improve it faster, better, higher quality, more accuracy on and on and on. And you’ve worked on that. Any improved the throughput rate by 33% with the same resources, the same staff, the same equipment and so on. And that’s a great example of someone who says, this is the one valuable thing that we need to get done here. This forget about all the other declutter our kind of um, activities.
Tyler: 09:07 So they go beyond just what the task at hand is, right? And they look more in the why and the who they’re serving and what the bet. Like what the real reason for that task existing is. Right? And exactly. Great value from tasks,
Morten: 09:20 right? And, and, and what it creates is innovation, innovation of work. Because if you say value, you start thinking, well, what is it I can do here that is different? And back to heartmath go. It’s one thing. So he was responsible for this, a terminal sitting in tons of the air in the city of Tangier, right? And it’s okay if throughput is what matters. What if there’s a labor strike in my terminal? What if the weather is bad? The ships cannot come in? Well, I need to think about this differently. Maybe I need to work with the other terminals in the area so those ships can be rerouted. So He created a rerouting service so that these containers can come on and off those ships very quickly. Oh Wow. Very valuable for customers. But again, it’s an innovation, right? Because your thinking value.
Tyler: 10:07 That’s fascinating. Yeah. Really thinking beyond that task and what I’m one of the other things that I see kind of listed and any, we heard it more and more, I think we’re in an era where people are understanding the work smarter, not harder. You’re right though in what you said earlier about the qualification of the obsess, right? Is it’s easy to say people are very quick to jump on board to not working as hard, but they have to then apply the working smarter. Yeah. So what does your study kind of uncover about that?
Morten: 10:37 Yeah, I mean you have to work smarter, right? I think the whole book is, is is I sort of start framing the book by saying, Hey, these principles in this book are about working smarter and big. What does that mean? It’s kind of a bit of an empty slogan and, and the opposite would not be true. I mean who wants to work dumb, right? There’s nobody say that. Right? So, so I’m trying to fill that kind of slogan of concept with very concrete practical at advice that is evidence-based. And so it’s true. We have this, um, you know, we don’t want to work less and be slackers, right? That doesn’t produce pop performance. Let’s be clear about that. But obsession means you got to put in that Mack that high degree of effort into few things. Now what I did find, which is very interesting, is that those to do that, so they are obsessing and they’re putting in all that intense targeted effort.
Morten: 11:32 They are still able to take some extra time off for the private life so that work does not encroach on their private and family life. And so the are top performers and able to carve out that extra time and if we start thinking about it, it makes sense because if I’m very and applying a lot of effort to excel in those few things, I can then get more control over my life. I don’t have to take that, you know, join that a phone conference at nine o’clock on a Sunday evening to join a collaboration project because I said no to that because I’m focusing on the few things that matters. Right. So you are, you’re kind of controlling work and it gives you this extra family time.
Tyler: 12:19 So you just brought something up very subtly about being willing to say no to certain tasks or notice certain things. Um, how do top performers and you know, how do you recommend handling that and in balancing, um, the, you know, the expectations that are already therapy advice based off of your manager or your coworker?
Morten: 12:37 Yeah. Well, I mean if you’re going to do less or focus it means that you have to say no. I mean that’s what the operating word becomes. You’ve got to be able to, to discern what to do and what not to do. And of course that’s difficult. And now if you have a, what I call a Doulas boss, they are hyper-focus. You’re in luck, right? It’s easier. But if you have a, what I call a do more boss, somebody who is delegating a lot of activities and piling on more work, right? The priority list, it grows, it doesn’t shrink, then it’s hard. And this is where you need to learn to manage up. I think one of the most important professional skills today in our hectic 24 seven work life is the ability to say no and to say no in the right way.
Morten: 13:22 Because let’s think about the opposite. If you become a yes person, it means that you know, even if you do really good work or maybe especially because you do good work, people would actually just give you more stuff, right? You become the go to person because you get it done right? Then you sit in at 2:00 AM on a Friday evening, you know, punching work. So what you need to do is to be able to do the opposite to say no appropriately. So if your boss comes to you and say, can you do this additional project? How do you respond? Right? Yeah, it is that what, you know what the tactic kit could be to say, alright, what should I get done first you want to give him a two projects? Now you giving me a third, what do I need to get done first? What is most important along those three?
Morten: 14:06 And then yeah, and putting the burden back on the boss because the job of a manager is to prioritize, right? No, of course they might come back and say, come to do all three, right? Yeah. They have to say no, not if I want to do exceptional work. These two require my full attention. So, and a third one means that we have to postpone or we have to get more resources or we have to prioritize different things. And again, you had not having a dialogue, but how are we going to get this done? And you have a common interest here with your boss because you’re both looking after maximum results. You’re not looking to slack off. Right. And you need to communicate that. You need to say, you know, the reason we need to bore to us here, is we’re looking for the best result, not because I don’t want to work. Right. Very different. Yes,
Tyler: 14:58 very driven. That’s fascinating. I think managing up is probably one of the greatest hurdles, right? So you’ve got, I think people can buy in to working smarter. They can buy into doing less and then obsessing and maybe even focusing on value, but that, that power struggle that exists with a lot of people that have managers that may not be bought into the same philosophy. Let’s talk about the challenge. And so I like how you gave a few tools there for people to work on that by just asking them the question but keeping the burden back on the, yeah.
Morten: 15:26 Right, exactly. Yeah. And if you’re a manager, you know, if you want to produce better results in your team, then you need to be more able to prioritize. I mean that is a technique that would create more results. And it’s a little counterintuitive because you think the more we can give people on your team and more stuff to do and the more they can produce, the better you’re all going to be. And the opposite is actually the case. Great performance does not come from piling work onto people. It comes from prioritizing.
Tyler: 15:57 Well that brings up the point that this, which I hadn’t thought about yet, that not only are these great tools and ways to look at work as an employee, but if you’re a manager, you need to have these things in mind. How do I get my, my staff and the people reporting to me to focus on value? How do I get them to focus on, you know, prioritizing and those sorts of things. And I’ve thought about that manager needs to do these things.
Morten: 16:19 Right? Exactly. And so one, one thing, I think we need a metrics revolution in management today. We have the wrong metrics. So as a manager is a great question. Do you have the right metrics, the ones that produce the most value or the just volume metrics, checking boxes, you know, you know, did you get that training seminar down if you’re an HR, okay, yeah, check the box.
Tyler: 16:39 Yes. The [inaudible]
Morten: 16:41 value or that training seminar,
Tyler: 16:43 the check bar that like the checkbox task system, it has crept through our entire society, not just in work but in other things where we, we think by creating a checklist and checking things off that we’ve had a successful day. But if you don’t look at actually what those, if that, is that the right metric? Yeah. Just accomplishing tasks what you wanted to do that day or did you actually want to have meaningful relationships or create actual content or you know, actual good value. Those are the metrics. So how do you make that shift?
Morten: 17:12 Yeah, so I think of it as we have volume metrics which are check the box or other volume metrics. And then we have value metrics and I was assigned to work as a full of volume but not volume metrics. So given a good example of what I mean by the difference here. So one of the people in the study, you know, he used, uh, running a logistics operational warehouse. He was plausible for shipping products out of the warehouse to corporate customers, buy the equipment, and his metric was, uh, on times get a shipment from the warehouse, right? And very sensible metric, right? A lot of people use that. Here’s my schedule. And did it go out when it was supposed to? Yup. 99%. I’m on time shipment. Impressive. Right? That’s a volume metric. That’s internal goal. Then they went and surveyed the costs and asked the question to them and only 65% of the customers said they got the equipment when they needed it. That’s a value metric. That’s about when the customer needs it, which was completely different.
Tyler: 18:12 Yeah. It’s funny is even applying that back to a volume based like are you, is your volume based metric even accurate? Right. On time,
Morten: 18:24 I’m going to think about a medical doctor. You know, they have a metric of the number of patients seen in the office, right. That’s very productive, right? There’s one every 15 minutes. But that’s a volume metric. What about the number of times you actually diagnosed correctly? On a number of times the remedy was correctly administered, right? A lawyers, uh, billing by the hour, right? While you versus the number of times to solve the legal problems for the clients. And we can go on and on and on and in, in work-based, many people actually don’t even have that. They have business. How busy I am is a measure or proxy for have successful. And then they brag about how many freaking fly miles they have, you know, racking up the miles traveling on business. I mean flying is not an accomplishment
Tyler: 19:07 that unless you’re the pilot, unless you are the pilot. Exactly. Exactly. Yeah.
Morten: 19:13 So we need you to have a shift. We need to, and the, the, the, the problem is the challenge is the value metrics are more difficult to measure sometimes. Of course. Sure. Yeah. But we can’t just say we should measure what we can measure. We should measure what is important. So the management challenge is to find the right measures.
Tyler: 19:31 That makes sense. And so, um, and I think that comes down to your next kind of bullet point here of like having purpose at work, right? And so in order to like, really get down to each person in this machine, right, if you’re in a large company, it really each person who started understanding their purpose, what the goal, what their role is and, and getting back to the value, do you think that that’s an easy, uh, an easy road ahead for large companies and even small companies to make that shift?
Morten: 19:58 No, I don’t think it’s easy, but I’m hopeful because I think that there’s a lot of work we can do to improve sort of the sense of purpose. Now, what I show in my, my study here and other people have shown that people who have passion and purpose perform better. They, they’re applying what entity per hour they work. So we want to infuse work with passion and purpose in order to improve performance. And, and also, you know, to give meaning to people. So he said, job of a manager is to infuse that purpose. Now there are, I talk in the book about number of ways you can do that. And it’s not an easy thing, but I think here, a lot of managers, they, they, they neglect it, they ignore it. They think it’s all about setting goals and having bonuses and, and, and people will, you know, have the carrot, right?
Morten: 20:46 But people want meaning. They want to understand how do actually this would, I do provide significant impact in the world and for others. I would say one more thing about purpose else. I think we get the, the notion of purpose wrong. We think it’s about social mission only, right? So I, my helping the poor, am I helping the environment? Right? And most jobs are not doing that. But if at the site defined purpose as do, what contributes, then what contributions are I’m making in my job that matter, right? That’s a much more, perhaps mundane, but much more realistic definition of purpose. And if you use that definition, we can find, you know, avenues where people will find their work to be much more purposeful.
Tyler: 21:30 And we’re going to get that pendulum swinging back, right? It’s gonna move slowly, but we’re good. If we can move them back. We can’t all of a sudden day one say, Hey, I want all of you to apply all of these things and make an entire shift across the 5,000 person company. But no,
Morten: 21:43 no, it’s a, it’s a, yeah, it’s a step by step thing and, but management here, you know, as with many other places, right? We back in the day, we didn’t have quality a, you know, controls, you know, we had port qualities, then they come the quality movement and it took many years and it became a lot better and the same year right there, step by step. And I think we can learn how to work better. And these, uh, seven evidence based practices in my book really helped a person to work better and produce better results. And I would say you start with one or you start with small steps, right? You don’t sort of start and shift Friday
Tyler: 22:16 single thing. Yeah. Yeah. So, you know, I think whenever somebody takes about writing a book, like what you’ve done with great at work, um, there’s obviously the benefit that the reader can get. But I think typically the author tends to grow and change too. Right. And what major, like how did you change, what was your biggest shift that happened from size of writers?
Morten: 22:38 Yeah, so I, I make a confession in the book that if you look at that, do less than obsess. I struggled with it. I say yes to many things. I’m curious. I like to do things. So I like so many others. I’m spread too thin. Sure. So I’m trying to constantly, um, focus and, and, and obsess over a few things as opposed to doing too many things. And I think the other day my wife said that I’m, I’m, I’m progressing, so maybe I am.
Tyler: 23:05 Yeah. Good. What a, I always ask this question because I think it’s really important that business and all these things that we do in our careers are about creating a life, right? And so without accomplishing personal things, you know, maybe we don’t have that purpose. So what’s one major item on your bucket list or, or you know, call it whatever you want, what’s made one major thing when place you want to go something like that in the next 12 months.
Morten: 23:29 So I would, uh, really, really like to go to the Galapagos and uh, but I have not, you know, that would be on my bucket list list and the other place is in the South Pole because I talk about it in the, in the book, but I think that’s more challenging to get to the south pole. Well, you know, you can try to, I like traveling and seeing the world and um, and that would like to go there.
Tyler: 23:52 Awesome. Very cool. How about you? For me? Yeah. So I’ve got a few couple of places I really want to take my wife to Italy this year for our 15th anniversary. Um, and that’s where my ancestry’s fun, but I’ve never been there and so I’m really hoping, hoping to get there. So that’s my big one for the year. And then, um, yeah, I’ve got four kids. So life’s just fun chasing all of them.
Morten: 24:13 Yeah. Right. Yeah. But that’s achievable, you know, to go to,
Tyler: 24:17 yeah, look the list is long but that one I think it, yeah. Yeah. What a, I really appreciate it. Obviously you guys, the book is great at work. More than that, people want to learn more about you and find you. How did they do that?
Morten: 24:30 So the best place is to go to my website, which is my name. So is www.mortenhansen.com and let me spell that. M O R T E N H A N S E N.com and we have some resources there including a quiz. You can take a brief sort of seven minutes quiz to see how you stack up on those seven practices vis-a-vis the 5,000 per person data that we have. And that gives you a little bit of a of an indication where you should start focusing to improve.
Tyler: 25:01 I love that. So I encourage everyone to check out mortenhansen.com take the quiz and go grab. I saw Great at Work actually at the airport when I was driving or flying through the other day. So I know it’s available wherever you get your books. So check out Great at Work and mortenhansen.com and I appreciate you. Thank you for coming out my listeners. It’s your turn to go out and do something.
Tyler: 25:23 Thank you for tuning into BizNinja Entrepreneurial Radio with myself, your host, Tyler Jorgensen, and I wanted to offer you a special gift. So if you go to bizninja.com/dreamline I’m going to give you a calculator that will allow you to calculate where your ideal targeting the income is in order to live the life that you dream of. They may live in business is all here. Just that we can create the lifestyle that we want. So you’re not doing now probably because you don’t know the exact things that you need to put in place to make it happen. It all starts with beginning with the end in mind to create your dream line. Who your dreams on a timeline at bizninja.com/dreamline.
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