Ed Muzio, CEO of Group Harmonics which provides Analytical Solutions Maximizing Human Potential. He is the author of the excellent book Make Work Great: Supercharge Your Team, Reinvent the Culture and Gain Influence - One Person at a Time. And he joined our show last week to talk about his company and the solutions he offers in his book for those who want to Make Work Great!
You can listen in streaming mode at this link.
Good morning, Ed. Thank you for being on our show.
Good Morning Zane, ... Thanks for having me....I've been excited about this all week, especially after reading your last blog post about it.
I don’t encourage stalking but where are you and what projects are you working on now?
Ha, I think the information age mandates stalking. So, that’s ok. Anyway, I’m in my office in downtown Albuquerque this morning. This week I’m gearing up for a few upcoming sessions I’m giving for clients, and also working on the instructor certification materials for the seminar based on Make Work Great. We just began offering instructor certifications and we’ve already got people asking for them.
When did you begin to think about offering instructor certification programs?
We do it for all of our programs. It’s always been part of the plans. for this program. The reception has been warm for this program. So, we pushed it in the schedule a bit.
Who did you write this book for? Describe the reader you pictured as you wrote this book?
It’s initially geared for people who have a true desire to do something in their workplace. They wanted to make things better at work but felt trapped between a rock and a hard place...
Why do they need to read your latest book?
The why is in some ways self-evident. But in other ways it’s not.
I think there’s a drive to make work better. After I wrote the first book which was 4 Secrets to Liking Your Work ...but have you heard that people complain about their job? If you write a book named 4 Secrets to Liking Your Work it’s an invitation to complain about your job. Everybody comes up to you and tells you what’s wrong about their job...it’s not a bad thing. I learned about what what’s wrong in work and what people are struggling with and it’s a good path towards fixes. But there was one subset of those people who would come up and say you have a good set of ideas for improvement but I can’t do anything because...someone else, the employees, the leaders, the management someone else controls everything and I can’t do anything until they fix it.
And, I would say...
- Well, do something anyway.
And, they would say:
- I can’t; I can’t do anything.
And, I would say:
- Well, quit.
And, they would say:
- I can’t.
And, I would eventually say:
- I guess I can’t talk to you anymore....
Eventually, my friend and advisor, Dr. Deb Fisher who was a co-author with me on this first book, said you can’t do that. You’re telling them to shut up and do it any way. And you can’t do that. You have to give them the answers. You have the answers anyway.
And eventually I wrote what she described as the Ed Muzio guide to do it anyway and that’s Make Work Great.
My friend Erika Andersen coined what’s become a favorite phrase for me. That’s reasonable aspiration or hoped-for future. What was your reasonable aspiration or hoped-for future when you wrote Make Work Great?
I can share with you the purpose of my company. That’s to change the way America works and that’s to put companies back in control in the information age, and put individual people and employees back in control of their careers and their lives. A lot of people don’t feel that way right now.
More reasonable – I view my purpose in this book is to help leaders increase their group’s output and reduce stress, for themselves and their groups. I’ll help a few people, today, then I know I did something and if it spreads from there, that’s the goal.
What are some of the metrics you’ll use to measure your progress?
There’s a lot of ways to look at progress. My favorite metric is voluntary reporting. Just last week somebody posted on my personal Facebook page that said something like:
I put the book to work and started making my cultural crystal and I immediately saw and felt the changes in myself and externally saw the results.
If my goal is one person at a time, that’s a good metric.
What’s been the biggest or most common obstacle? Is it from the management side or the employee’s side?
The biggest obstacle I have to overcome is that initial sense that I can’t do anything until management fixes things. That is really a crippling belief system. That’s
If I can get somebody in a room and start to experiment with some things they can do then they can leave with a smile on their face saying I can do this or I can do this tomorrow.
But getting them in that room sometimes is tricky. But people are really firmly set in their belief system that it’s somebody else’s job, that it’s Management’s job is to make me happy.
And that’s not a good place for management to be and it’s not a good place for anybody else to be, either.
There’s no idea that there’s a put your head in the sand and ignore structural problems. I would never recommend anyone ignore problems. But at the same time there are things you can do no matter what the problems are that can be useful.
I was sold on your book with your first section: It Starts with You. Personal responsibility is bandied about a lot these days. But it’s rarely bandied about in the workplace. Your two books clearly point to that personal responsibility. This sounds like a silly new-age, pop psychology, question but where and when did we forego personal responsibility for our happiness and performance at work? Forget life. Let’s just deal with work.
You know, it’s funny. It seems we have foregone it in a lot of areas. And, much of what I do is in the work context. For example, I have a very popular seminar around reading behavior and responding to it to better engage people in communication. I finally had to put a policy in place to offer the tools and materials to spouses for graduates for my class.. Because after each seminar a couple of people would come up afterwards and says please could I have these tools for my spouse because I need it for that person . . My policy ends after I provide the tools I stop talking. And the focus is work and when I get asked for marriage advice, that’s where I stop talking!!
The focus is what you can do and not what others are going to do.
On the other hand your first sentence is You’re not as autonomous as you think you are. So...personal responsibility is just a nice phrase for the employee putting the yokes on themselves?
Haha! The yokes are already on you, or not, depending upon your perspective. In reality, we’re all somewhat free and we’re all somewhat yoked. That whole first section of the the book that says you’re not as autonomous as you think you are goes through some of the reasons that you have forces acting on you that are real and strong and are not all you. You have some freedom and you have some constraints. What the book is about, what Make Work Great, is about taking advantage of the areas in which you’re already free and leveraging that to make yourself even more free.
I saw, but now I can’t find it, an article that said 30% or more of those currently employed will leave their job once the economy turns around. And in a recent 4-minute video your host shared that 75% of currently employed are looking for new jobs.
Yeah, that 30% sounded low to me. It’s definitely 30% or more and maybe as much as 3/4’s looking to get out.
Why are so many of those currently employed thinking that in order to Make Work Great they need to work someplace else?
...Well, it’s really easy to say “things are better elsewhere than here,” because I’m here, I’m not elsewhere and I can see and fell all the problems that take place. And you’re comparing all the problems you can see “here” with your ideal version of “there.”
But the statistics suggest that’s not an accurate perception. If 3/4’s of the people thinks it’s better elsewhere, where is elsewhere?
I read where companies hold in excess of $2 trillion in cash. Clearly they’re waiting to invest in productivity assets. Clearly the companies are getting productivity from their employees. Are those companies putting too many demands and too much stress on those employees?
...Either the companies are putting stress on the employees, or the employees and managers and leaders are putting it on themselves. From what I’ve seen, if you look at it that way, it’s both.
But, I think that’s a confusing lens to look through, because either way, the fix is not for “the company” to do something different because “The company” isn’t a person, it’s just a bunch of employees. You have to ask yourself who’s on the other side of the question? When the employees start doing something differently, increasing output, reducing stress, that changes the company.
That’s the critical ratio, the output divided by stress, you talk about, isn’t it? Define your critical ratio.
Right! The critical ratio is output versus stress. This harkens back to my engineering background.
If you’re a leader or an employee in a company, you’re trying to do something useful, I hope – that’s output – and you’re trying to do it in a way that doesn’t burn you out – that’s stress.
You’re engaged in an optimization problem.
Maximum output minimum stress is the only way to survive over the long term in the information age.
Companies create less in relation to the stress their stakeholders experience or create. Their key stakeholder, employees, have had enough.
Stress is not just a new age notion, it has direct impacts to family and friends and health. It’s real. Studies have shown we’re all overstressed, and we shy away from those companies or situations that add to it.
It’s not a position you want to be putting your employees in or customers in...to be adding to their stress.
How does Make Work Great address that?
What’s different about what I’m doing is that this is not a stress reduction program like meditation and deep breathing. Not that those aren’t valuable. . What this says is we’re going to optimize that balance. We’re going to make the most of that control you have. What we’re doing is maximizing the most output with the least amount of stress.
Should it address that? I mean if so many companies are so poorly managed that they motivate their most important asset to flee at the first opportunity...can these brands be rehabilitated to or with Make Work Great?
...That’s creeping up to the question, on the individual level it’s the question of should I quit or stay, which is always an interesting one, and of course the answer is different for each person and each situation.
Of course it’s an unique question for every person and every situation.
I would never say if you should or shouldn’t quit because how would I know.
If you’re going to work and stay there then you should do these things. You practice the behaviors that give you more output with less stress that will be good for your career and that would be good for your health. There’s no reason to do it if you’re not going to stay employed.
But I’ll tell you this: if you’re gonna stay, do these things. Do them for your company, do them for yourself, whatever – it’s just practical common sense that you do them because they make things better for you.
What are the four simple guidelines that define the process to Make Work Great, a process you call a special type of moderation?
The four things are:
1. Don’t put your career in jeopardy. Do things that help you, not hurt you.
2. Don’t compromise your ethics. Never. Again, common sense. The book talks about ways to be overt and honest about the work you do.
3. Don’t use all your time. Don’t look at it like you’re going to spend 20 hours a week or 40 hours a week and change the culture. Make small changes and realize the benefit. This is about slow changes with lasting effect, not quick changes or programs du jour. Make small changes, realize the benefit, then change again.
4. Don’t get impatient. That's the flip side of don’t use all your time. Develop good discipline and then wait for the rest to take care of itself. It’s like planting a tree. It won’t grow if you keep digging it up and looking at it.
Of those 4, which one presents the most common, greatest challenge?
Well, I don’t know about other people, but for me patience is my greatest struggle. I’m one of those people who want things to happen RIGHT NOW.
Unfortunately it’s that short-term thinking that gets companies into messes in the first place. We think if we can throw more resources at it it will go faster.
Company culture is an organic process, and you can’t shortcut organic processes. In business, we have a hard time with this idea. We tend to think you can speed up anything by throwing people and money at it. But it’s like Fredrick Brooks said, “nine women can’t make a baby in one month.” You can’t change the culture faster, just because you want to, or because you try to hurry. All you do is stress yourself out.
So, If you want long term changes to your workplace, you have to be okay with making small incremental steps and watching the progress.
You outline the personal responsibility with 2 big steps: Overtness in Task and Clarity within Relationships. Tell us about those two.
Sure, well overtness about task is about being clear and overt about the work you’re doing and the task. There are 6 principles involved:
- What you’re doing (purpose),
- Why it matters to the company (impact),
- Why it matters to you (incentive),
- Whether or not you’re doing it (progress),
- What you need from the company to do it (resources),
- What you need from yourself to do it (capabilities).
Overtness about tasks is I’m talking and syncing with these issues all the time with as much overtness and obviousness as I can. If nothing else I’m thinking to myself all the time about these with as much clarity and overtness as I can muster.
And this inevitably leads to questions. You don’t know exactly what you’re trying to do or why you’re trying to do it. Those questions lead to conversation with others who can help you get what you need. Those questions with others lead to ...clarity within relationship: clearly define the purpose of your interaction, the approach, and be very limited in seeking need for agreement.
For example, if you and I are managers and we have an employee whose workload we want to share.
I should be clear with myself of what I’m wanting to do, I want 5 more hours of their time, and I’m careful to approach you in a way that makes sense, and I’m going to limit the need for our agreement. I’m going to try to keep our agreement focused on that one employee and their time and not our management philosophies.
All of this sounds so simple. Be clear, honest, transparent. Don’t compromise your ethics. Why is that so tough for so many?
It’s all about discipline. Overtness about task and clarity about relationships is a discipline. And disciplines are tough. I often tell people, for example, that I go to the gym a few times a week. Many weeks that’s true. But it’s amazing how easy it is to say those words even after a two or three week run in which I haven’t managed to get to the gym at all.
This is the same thing – overtness, clarity, honesty, and transparency are a discipline, and one you need to practice on a regular basis. Easy to say, not always easy to do. Job or life will sometimes try to pull you in another direction.
Another thing I liked about your book is you addressed that this is hard. You have a chapter titled When Growth is Difficult. Which of these two steps, Overtness in Task and Clarity in Relationships, presents the biggest challenge for people? Why?
...Well, we’ve talked a little already about the purpose piece and overtness about task. Again, I can’t speak for everyone, but it does seem like a lot of people have trouble with the relationship part of the puzzle. Figuring out what you don’t know about your work and all the 6 aspects of overtness about task getting ...then finding the people who have the answers, and getting them to give you those answers, can be tricky.
That’s a lot of what my firm does is help companies deal with those issues or better yet avoid them in the first place by having good tools in place so when conflict comes up in the workplace they are prepared to deal with it.
You talk about Conflict in the Crystalline Network. You reference and summarize some excellent researchers in this field of conflict. You discovered commonalities among them all. What are some of these commonalities they? Why are they important?
After reading quite a bit about conflict, I came up with my model which I called the building blocks of reality. It’s 5 pieces.
In every situation, you have:
- the objective data which is what is going on,
- the situational factors,
- your interpretation of the situation,
- your preferred approach,
- your deeply held beliefs.
You can conflict with someone on any of those levels, whether you know it or not. You may be conflicting over the objective data, you may be reading it differently. You may be conflicting over your deeply held beliefs. or you may be conflicting anywhere else in the middle.
The key is to be overt and transparent in your communication about what issue you’re talking about. First we talk about the objective, then we talk about the situation and then the interpretation and if we need to go further then we can go into our driving approaches and beliefs, if we can.
Basically if we’re clear about what part of the situation we’re talking about we’ll at least know where the conflict is that we’re talking about and address it appropriately.
Otherwise if I’m concerned about the data and you’re concerned about my beliefs we’re just going to go in circles.
What tells us our crystal we are now building will turn into a network, a lattice if you will?
The idea of what I call the cultural crystal is that you start to practice the disciplines yourself and over time they start to spread out. And when you see other people copying your patterns of behavior, that means your influence is spreading.
If you attend one of my sessions or you watch the video titled Say no without saying no and you learn about this 90-second format for talking about your output and you start to use it you’ll see this pattern start to spread out.
The key is to not try to push it, and not to try to take credit for it, rather, just be happy that you are making a difference. And just know that the patterns are starting to propagate.
A recent guest here was Molly Anderson, co-author of The Corporate Lattice. You offer complimentary perspectives on how to create lattice networks of engaged employees in cultures of learning that unite to create passionate brands. You both deserve more than that one sentence summary. But I hope one day you two connect. I think you’d have a lot to talk about.
I’d like to meet Molly, The lattice metaphor works for me, although I think in some cases it may suggest a little less randomness than what is actually in play. But it’s definitely a far superior metaphor than a ladder or a hierarchy.
We haven’t talked about social media. Your book doesn’t discuss it either. Even though I’m a big fan of it, I’m glad you didn’t. However, that seems like a perfect resource to expedite creating crystals, building networks, moving from contributor to advisor.
Well, I think you’re right and you’re very perceptive for noticing it. I made the conscious choice not to talk about today’s social media sites likeTwitter or Facebook, because we all know those can be different tomorrow.
But those are just mechanisms, anyway. I didn’t talk specifically about public speaking, or e-mail, or telephone etiquette either, because those are just mechanisms.
What I tried to do was talk about the contents of communication, what you talk about and how you talk about it and leave the reader to select the mechanism.
I see you have just begun to wade into the social media pool.
I’ve been on Facebook for years, but only got my company on it and started the Twitter stuff this year. I’m surprised how fast our following is growing, but it’s still pretty small.
Of course I’m doing my best to base my self worth on how many followers I have, so please, follow me somewhere!!
Jim Rohn said that Leaders are Readers. You’re a leader. Judging from the footnotes and references in your book, you’re an avid reader, also. What are you reading these days?
Thomas Kayser’s follow-on to “Mining Group Gold: How to Cash In on the Collaborative Brain Power of a Team for Innovation and Results. I’ve been asked to endorse it, so I’m reading that right now. It won’t be out until next year but so far, I’m seeing a balance between theory and application for getting groups of people to do something useful.
I also just read “The Big Short:Inside the Doomsday Machine” by Michael Lewis, a book about the subprime mortgage collapse, because I’m intrigued by how systems of people make decisions that are ultimately bad for nearly everyone within them.
I haven’t written it up yet, but as I read the story of what happened, I was struck by the lack of overtness and clarity being practiced by those who set up, ran, and ultimately suffering under the subprime mortgage bubble.
Let’s revisit who should read your book and why should they read it.
Anyone who has a job as a manager, leader, executive, or even individual contributor in a workplace that is complex and multifaceted. What I’ve been told is that if someone has a sense of wanting to make the workplace better for others, or even just make it a little better for him or herself, my book will help.
Where can people find you on the web?
The company's website is Group Harmonics and from there you can click through to the book websites, and also to my social media. And, we just added a free giveaway too.