Christina Wodtke is an author, professor and speaker who helps groups turn into high performing teams. She is a lecturer at Stanford, advisor to many startups, and is the author of 5 books, including Radical Focus, a bestseller about the Objectives and Key Results , or OKRs, approach to goal setting, and her newest book, The Team That Managed Itself: A Story of Leadership.
Christina previously taught at California College of the Arts and was an executive at Zynga, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Yahoo.
In this conversation, we get deep into what it takes to really build high-performing teams. What is the difference between a working group, a team, and a learning team? When do you need which? How do you go about building a cadence and new set of rhythms for your organization, whether that is in product, engineering, biz dev, or elsewhere? This is a fascinating conversation about what it takes for humans to come together into something bigger than themselves and create amazing things to put into the world.
On top of all that, Christina is just a lot of fun to talk to and has loads of great stories to entertain you. With all that being said, please enjoy this conversation with Christina Wodtke.
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Find a quiet place and record a question about this episode. If we can, we’ll answer it on the air in a future episode. Thanks for listening.
- The Team That Managed Itself (consider leaving a review here if you enjoy it)
- Radical Focus
- Pencil Me In
People, articles, resources mentioned:
- Reboot your team
- Designing the team you need
- The dreaded weekly status email
- Rich Mironov lessons on people and systems
- Nicky Case – parable of the polygons on diverse neighborhoods
- “I drink your milkshake”
- Stanford GSB’s most popular class: Interpersonal Dynamics
- Google’s findings on psychological safety
- “The Executioner’s Tale” — Radical Focus book MVP
- “I am sneakily trying to bring more humanity to it”
- “There’s no such thing as ‘those people,’ there’s just people.”
- ” ‘I’m not in charge’ is just an excuse, an excuse for being afraid…somebody’s got to go first”
Coming to California [0:03:23]
Christina’s start in tech [0:06:39]
How did Christina get here? [0:07:36]
How do older & younger students affect each other in Christina’s classes? [0:11:11]
What is Christina learning from her students lately? [0:12:41]
Christina’s “unfortunate” personal quality [0:16:48]
Managing and teaching — do you need answers? [0:18:58]
What had Christina write THIS book? [0:20:16]
Treating your life like a startup & finding Product-Market Fit in your life [0:20:37]
How to validate a book idea, lean startup style [0:21:15]
Christina’s big realization – what made OKRs work? [0:24:03]
The 3 things teams actually need [0:24:41]
What types of teams are there? [0:26:37]
Moving from a workgroup to a team [0:28:05]
What makes a team into a learning team? [0:28:49]
What makes a mindful, autonomous team? [0:30:16]
Radical Focus vs OKRs [0:32:56]
Trust & psychological safety [0:33:25]
The kinds of trust [0:34:25]
How trust is built differently across cultures [0:36:17]
In America, do we act like everyone is a robot? [0:37:11]
How can I chip away at cultural constructs? [0:38:50]
When is each type of team/group the right choice? [0:40:50]
What does it take to be a mindful team? [0:45:02]
How should people approach implementing these ideas? Giving feedback? [0:49:29]
Christina’s “GASP” feedback framework [0:50:31]
Integral theory: I-We-It [0:57:51]
How long is this going to take? [0:59:50]
Where to start turning around a culture: compensation [1:02:20]
How does this team-level model integrate with the surruonding company environment? [1:05:48]
Can you make a healthy team in a dysfunctional company? [1:06:38]
Which team to start with [1:09:39]
Team health red flags to look out for [1:13:09]
GASP vs GROW? [1:16:15]
Your job as a leader [1:19:58]
The 9X process [1:22:30]
Goals, roles, and norms — and what people miss [1:23:41]
Isn’t this too many meetings? [1:27:07]
How to create a lightweight meeting structure [1:29:28]
The thing that really makes the difference in goals [1:31:51]
Isn’t this stuff all too “touchy feely”? [1:38:12]
Engineers are humans too [1:40:32]
The reality of work: nobody is in charge [1:41:59]
How to make a mindful team happen [1:42:47]
What impact does Christina want this book to have? [1:44:00]
Transcripts may contain typos. With some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!
Andrew 00:01:57 Christina, we’ve had such an adventure getting to this point, but officially welcome to the show. How are you?
Christina 00:02:01 I’m all right. I feel like everything’s been an adventure lately.
Andrew 00:02:04 Yeah. Before we hit record, you were telling me that there’s quite a story about how to grow, how a girl from the Midwest goes from art school to, and painting and waiting tables to Zynga and to LinkedIn and all these big companies and now to Stanford. So tell us about that. Like what, how did how’d you get here?
Christina 00:02:20 Oh my gosh. My students love hearing this story because it’s really funny teaching at Stanford. They all think that they have to get the perfect job and their first job is going to determine the rest of their career. And then I said, I say to them, Oh honey, Oh honey, let me tell ya. So, um, yeah, I went to art school and I, um, I wanted to study painting, but everybody was an abstract expressionist and I wanted to work figuratively. So I switched to photography where working figuratively really isn’t a question. And they were just getting these computers in. And I was really interested in doing computer altered photography and, um, it’s before Photoshop and we’d have these giant Bernoulli desks that we would save our images on that were like the size of a hard back book. And so I was doing that and I thought, well, I could either go to New York or California for tech. Cause that’s where tech is. And I picked California cause I hate to know. And then when I got to California, I was like, you know, I really liked painting. So I started waiting tables and I went back to painting and I just painted for years. And
Andrew 00:03:27 Wait, where were you in California? Where did you land?
Christina 00:03:29 Actually I landed in Sacramento, which by the way, I do not think Sacramento is part of California. I think Sacramento is actually a piece of the Midwest that somebody picked up and dropped in the middle of California, but a cousin of mine invited me to stay with her and she lived in Sacramento and then I fell in love with a boy. And so I ended up there for about two years. Um, and then as soon as we broke up, I immediately went to San Francisco. And when I was in San Francisco, I used to, um, I was waiting tables and I was so broken. So poor that I lived in, um, a part of the Tenderloin. Um, I called it the a hundred dollar hooker area because a little further down, it was a $25 hooker area, which was a bit sketchy, but it was still an area where when I’d walk home from working at Houlihan’s, I would like wear this dirty old trench coat. And I would talk to myself and have my hair over my face so that nobody would mug me for my tips. I mean, it was just an easy life back then.
Andrew 00:04:27 You like literally pretended you were insane, so nobody would mug you.
Christina 00:04:30 Oh yeah. Oh yeah. That was like, I’m coming back at like 3:00 AM. Right. Cause you know, the place closes down. You have to clean up. So at 3:00 AM, I’m so broke. I’m walking home and yeah, I would always pretend. I was like, if only I could fart on demand, this would be so awesome because that would definitely keep people away from me. But yeah, I’d be, I’d be walking home late at night. And um, eventually I worked my way up to fine dining and I was making $80,000 a year work, uh, working 20 hours a week, which even to this day, sounds like a pretty decent gig. Right. But my body was kind of breaking down. I was tired. It was physically very demanding and it was kind of boring. I’d kind of figured it out. And then the best friend of my boyfriend said, Hey, my friend here, he’s building a Yahoo killer.
Christina 00:05:19 Would you like to review websites then Yahoo was nothing but a directory. Right. So what human beings would look at websites and they’d write these cute little things about it. And um, I had to review for the internet once upon a time. Right. Exactly. And so for CNET, I was reviewing websites and I’m telling you like, once you’ve reviewed 15 caffeinated water sites, you’re like, I’m done with caffeinated water now. Um, but yes, exactly. And I’m wide awake. So yes, it’s yes. Caffeine to do to waterworks. Well, but then, um, what happened is I wondered how hard are these things to make? There’s one of those moments where you’re like, these are all kind of stupid and some of them are interesting. What does it take to make one? And so I started, you know, Googling around and taught myself HTML. The hardest thing was actually like, okay, I’ve got the website working on my computer.
Christina 00:06:18 How do I put it up there on the internet? And you have to interpret, this was a time where to go to the internet. You would go to AOL and you’d click three levels deep to find the internet button to go to the internet. And I would then like research what to do. And finally I found FTP and I was like, I think this is what I want to do. So I got a temp job at a place called IE greetings and I got a full time job by being able to do a Marx brothers routine with the founder, the swordfish routine together. And I then found myself doing something oddly, similar to reviewing websites. I was writing the little blurb underneath the greeting cards, like make something these day happier with Woodstock and Snoopy. And, um, I just worked really hard and focused and taught myself more HTML and then moved into the, um, front end department. And I worked for this amazing woman named Juniper. And every time she had to meet with the founders, she would put on lipstick and she’d be like putting on my arm or a gun.
Andrew 00:07:23 I talk to the big guys.
Christina 00:07:25 So I had a really awesome view of like strong women’s, which I feel very grateful for. Cause I know that they’re, they’re not all that rare in tech, but um, I was ready to become, um, an engineer and I had to do all these reviews of designs to make sure they could be built. And I’d been reading so much Jacob Nielsen and so much Don Norman and the creative directors. Like every time you come, you give great advice. Like don’t become an engineer, become a designer. And I had just finished the first polar bear book and I said, I don’t want to be a designer. I want to be an information architect. And he’s like, I don’t know what that is, but sure, because this was the first.com boom. And from there
Andrew 00:08:05 I’ve never had to do it on my team. Let’s do it
Christina 00:08:07 Too much actually. And uh, from there I just got more and more into this IAA thing, went to the conferences, Jeff phene, um, who was, uh, a drinking buddy of mine with a bunch of other, uh, people from wired, et cetera, back in those days. I mean, it’s so funny. Like I told my students today, look around this room, you know, I know the, a lot of famous people, but when I hung out with them, they were just idiots like myself and all the people in this room someday are going to be the VP of this and the CEO of that. And back then, we were just people trying to figure stuff out and including how to pay rent. So Jeff said, you have some smart things to say, you should write a book. And I was like, Oh no, Jeff, I couldn’t possibly. And he said, yeah, you should write a book.
Christina 00:08:52 And so I wrote the, uh, the blueprints for web book and that opened up some more doors. So it’s just funny because if you’d asked me when I was a kid, what I wanted to be, I would have said a painter. And my cousin’s like, well, what should I major in? And I said, don’t worry about it. Take whatever class you like, just take one accounting class. That’s my advice. Please understand how math works, because it will be really useful the rest of your life, get the basics that one’s kind of big. And, uh, and other than that, just wait to see what shows up because my career wasn’t even invented when it showed up for me. And I, I it’s sort of like falling in love. Like I felt like I was dating a lot of other careers. And then when the right one showed up, it was, it was love.
Andrew 00:09:36 There you go. Right. It just fell right off to the races. Exactly. So what I think is so interesting, right? Because you, as a, as a teacher at Stanford, now you, you see these really talented young people in such a formative stage of their lives. What, where, where in their college experience do they encounter you? Are they freshmen? So like where are they in the, in that journey?
Christina 00:09:56 Oh my God, Stanford is crazy. So first of all, the students basically consider prerequisites as more of a guideline, you know? So they just take whatever class they want. So any class I have, I have, I’ve had everything from a sophomore to a PhD student in the same class. And so it’s, it’s really kind of tricky. And when I taught at CCA, so I taught at the California college of the arts for several years, which is actually what got me my job at Stanford, because they were looking for someone with a design studio background. And there, I always knew what other classes they had, but here, you know, I’ll have a poet or I’ll have like anybody who thinks this class is sort of interesting. They’ll show up for it. So, um, I’ve really struggled with this, but I find that if I say, okay, it’s your bad, you didn’t take your prerequisite.
Christina 00:10:54 So therefore go read this thing instead. You know, if you don’t understand how usability testing works, so paper prototyping works, I’m sorry. You’re just, you know, you’re, it’s on you go read this thing. And otherwise I try to treat them as if they all came to the class with all the prerequisites and most, I think it’s actually really amazing because I find that the older students bring up the younger students, you might worry about the other students bringing down the older students, but I’ve never seen that happen. What I find is that sort of diversity of age, um, actually helps everybody because it’s fresh insights. And the other thing I’m really grateful for is that in HCI, which is human computer interaction, where I teach, um, you see so much diversity of students, like I’ve had students come to my, uh, to my office hour saying, Oh God, I’m the only woman.
Christina 00:11:44 And the only person of color in this class. And another part of computer science, but in HCI, I’ve got students from all over the world, Stanford really aggressive with their scholarship programs. And I’ve got a student from Palestine and a Hispanic student and students who are first generation to go to college and students who have every generation has gone to Stanford. Like it’s just such a crazy mix. And I feel, I didn’t see that coming when I went to Stanford, I didn’t expect it, but I’m incredibly happy because one of the things I try to teach them is make sure your team is diverse because that way your assumptions will be questioned. Then I feel really grateful that I’m in a situation where they can see that and experience it because it’s easier if they experience it than if I tell them that.
Andrew 00:12:30 For sure. Yeah. One of the things that I can’t remember the exact phrase, but it’s that idea that if, you know, if you really want to learn something, teach it and that the teachers always end up actually learning the most. So, one thing I’m curious about actually is what are you learning from your students?
Christina 00:12:42 Oh my God. So, so, so, so, so very much. So one of the things that’s tricky as a teacher is the game. Some teachers play where they’re like read my mind. Okay. What do you think the most important event in the 20th century is? And they’re all thinking in your head. Like if you don’t say world war II, I’m going to flunk your ass. But instead, if you say, what do you think the most important event of the 20th century was? And you let students talk about it. You end up learning about how people model their understanding of history. Now I don’t teach history. So, um, what I’m finding out is things that I think are great. For example, I’m a huge Nikki case fan. I love Nikki case. And he has this amazing thing called the parable of the polygons. And it talks about it’s a, it’s a very simple, interactive model where when you play with it, um, his point is, if you have a higher tolerance for diversity, we could have more diverse neighborhoods.
Christina 00:13:44 It’s it’s like, if you’re, if you don’t like being around people who aren’t like you, we’re going to have polarization. And so I have my students play it because it’s an example of an assignment we’re going to do later. And I have a student and I’m saying, okay, first, let’s talk about what we liked. What did we notice? We like, okay, did anybody hate it? Did anybody not like it? And I have a student who raises her hand and she’s like, this is minimizing diversity. This is a really complicated problem. It’s making it small. It’s dismissive. She was really insulted. And I wasn’t, I’d never seen it through that lens. I just thought this is a cool thing. And what’s amazing is because she had a different background because she had a different history. She was able to give me a new way to look at this.
Christina 00:14:28 And we ended up having this incredible conversation about how do you make things that help people understand complicated subjects without making the complicated objects too facile to trivial. And it really opened my eyes. And I think that if I was a different kind of teacher, I might have been gone. I don’t know what to do. Now. My perfect example has been destroyed. And instead it was a chance for me to realize I’d been blinkered in my view because of my privilege. And the student opened up my eyes to that and I’m teaching another class. Um, so one class that I’m teaching is this design studio class called design for understanding. So it’s, how do we use design to help people understand complexity? But the other class I’m teaching is teaching how to teach. It was just so meta. And we just keep getting into these moments where it’s like the thing inside the thing inside the thing.
Christina 00:15:21 And one of the things I’ve really struggled with with that class is sometimes I’m teaching people how to teach and then I’m constantly going, but what am I doing wrong? Like, they’re all looking at me. I’m not perfect. What right. Do I have to teach this? And so it’s really important for me anyway, for my sanity. But also I think for the students is to create an environment where everybody’s ideas and insights are equal. And we’re, co-creating an idea of what does it mean to be a good teacher? So kind of invite the students to say, okay, I have some ideas, you have some ideas. I have this experience. You have a lot of experience with students. How can we all come together to say, this is what we think good teaching looks like, and that’s been really positive.
Andrew 00:16:06 No, it’s so interesting. Because one of the, like, as you, as you described it, you could have a very, you could approach it very rigidly. Right. And, and we’ve all had teachers who do, but then you could also go, you can imagine there being chaos if you went the other way and just said like, Oh, it’s a free for all. Um, but I think it’s, it’s interesting to like, be actively exploring in the middle there. And, um, what surprised you about that? Like, or let me ask this, maybe a two parter, which is when you approached doing it this different way, where was there anything you were worried about or afraid of, and then how did that, like, how has it turned out?
Christina 00:16:42 Oh, I have, I have a really unfortunate quality, which is anytime I’m scared, I immediately have to do it, whatever I’m afraid of. Uh, yeah. Well, it keeps things interesting for sure. And so I’m talking to my co-instructor and I’m like, I have this idea for an exercise and she, she has a background in formal teaching pedagogy. So I’m always saying I invented this thing and she’s like, it’s been doing for 10 years, it’s called this, which is fine. Um, yeah, exactly. So I’m like, I want to do this thing. And she says, Oh, it’s a jigsaw and I’ve never done it before. And I thought, you know, this is an opportunity with this class to go before them and say, Hey, I’ve never done this before. We’re going to do it. We’re going to see if we like it. And we’re going to discuss whether or not this is something worth integrating in our own teaching.
Christina 00:17:36 And I don’t think there’s a lot of classes I could do that because, you know, um, with the more junior classes, there’s an expectation that I should be the holder of knowledge. And in this class, the teaching teaching, I like to say, here’s the stuff we know there’s good science behind it. And here’s the conundrums, the great mysteries. And there aren’t any good answers. And then here’s something I’ve heard is good. I’ve never tried it. Let’s all try it together. And, and, and see if we think it’s something that that’s gonna work for us. And I have to tell you, it was the best class. It was an amazing class. We did the jigsaw thing and the conversations were vital. And there was tons of critical thinking and the students were excited and I was excited and I can feel knowledge coming together. And I just thought, you know, if I was worried about looking good, if I was worried about being the person who’s right.
Christina 00:18:33 I wouldn’t, I would’ve missed out on this. Right. But because I was willing to say, Hey, you’re really smart. You’re mature students. Let’s see how this plays out. I got to become better as a teacher. And they all, and we all got to learn something. So I don’t know. I think, I think it’s true in work as well, that when you’re a manager, you think you’re supposed to have all the answers. You’re going to tell everybody what to do. And it’s a lot like being a teacher. And it’s only when you let go of that and you say, wow, I’ve hired these amazing people. They’re really smart. Let me give them my problems instead of my solutions. That’s when really extraordinary things happen.
Andrew 00:19:12 Yeah. And that’s a, that’s a topic we’re going to spend a lot of time talking about in this conversation, because we’re going to be talking about all the things we’ve learned. You’ve learned about teams and management and leadership, um, and, and be going into that at, at, at quite a bit of, um, quite a bit of blank. So that’s actually probably a pretty good transition point into your new book, which is the team that managed itself. And we’re gonna talk a lot about this, but I have to ask, so I’ve, I followed your work for, I dunno, three or four years now. And I was first introduced to your work under radical focus, which for anyone who doesn’t have it is if you’re interested in, um, okay. Ours, which is objectives and key results, I’ve looked, I’ve read all the books on them. I’ve, I’m that guy who goes down very deep rabbit holes on topics that when I get obsessed with them, okay, ours has been one of those topics and I’ve read them all. And Christina’s book is my favorite. So please go by radical focus if you are at all interested in OKR, ours. Um, so what I’m really curious about it, I mean, you can see a link there, but what had you, or what was like, was there a moment or a trigger or something like what sent you down this journey that ultimately led to the book that has just come into the world because you actually in the, in the opener or the preface to the book you talk about, Oh, this book.
Christina 00:20:22 So tell us a little bit about the cursed book, the personal book. Well, let’s, let’s take a step back because, um, radical fork is, I don’t think I’ve told the radical focus story, which is that, um, you know, I’ve been a lean startup practitioner forever. And, um, when I left Sanka, I decided, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m going to treat my life like a, a startup. And I’m going to look for product market. For me, it was like, how do I make sure I have a job that also makes me happy? And so I was working with all these different companies and they were a mess. They were, these startups were a complete disaster area. And I started introducing them to OKR, which we use to sync up and people loved them. And I thought, Hey, this OKR, thing’s pretty cool. Maybe it’ll be a big thing. Maybe I’ll write a book. So I applied to talk at South by Southwest, and I said, I want to give a talk based on my upcoming book, which at the time was called, um, executioner’s tale. I always have a working title. So I applied and they said, we don’t have any slots for talks, but if you’d like to do a book reading, you can. And I said, yes. And then I had to write the book.
Christina 00:21:34 So I wrote like a really fast 75 page, tiny little book called executioner’s tale. I made a hundred copies at a local print shop. I signed and numbered every one of them as if they were prints or something. And I gave my talk and they, I sold some there. And then I sold some over the Twitters. And at the end, everybody who had bought my MVP, if you will, because it really wasn’t MVP. They gave me feedback. And then I wrote the radical focus that, you know, and everybody else knows. And so that was pretty amazing. And it was like, I was so proud of myself. I’m like, wow, I’m a good little lean practitioner. I get everything the way I’m supposed to. And then, um, a lot of people were asking me questions, they’d be like, Oh, so what does this have to do?
Christina 00:22:26 Like, how do I do performance reviews? And I was like, how, how do you do them now? And they’re like, well, uh, I don’t know, what do you think? And I was like, Holy crap. There’s like all these people who did not actually understand good management practices, but it also, um, raised a lot of questions about, okay, RS, which are the classic question, which is, um, what do they have to do with, with, uh, with, uh, performance reviews? How do OKR is effected? Like, are they meaningless if they don’t affect it? Because F you know, the advice is always don’t review your people based on whether or not they make their OKR. Yeah, definitely. But ignoring it completely doesn’t seem right either. And, um, so I’d seen it done a couple of different ways. And again, I tried it with my clients and, um, started to develop something.
Christina 00:23:18 And then I was also teaching creative founder at CCA and developed something else, which was around norms and setting team norms. Cause the teams used to always explode. It was like these students in this class, they’re on the same team for an entire semester, which is 15 weeks. And that doesn’t sound very long to you or me, but you have to remember, these students are used to like four week projects. If you hated your teammate, you just had to wait and they would go away. So suddenly you have a class where you hate somebody and they won’t leave and you have to figure out how am I going to tell them that their behavior is problematic? So we ended up spending a lot of time on feedback on making healthy teams. And I had this big breakthrough realization that what made, okay, ours work was not that the O is qualitative and the KRS are quantifiable.
Christina 00:24:12 Otherwise smart goals would be enough, right? What made ocariz work was the cadence, the weekly check in the fact that every Monday you say, this is what we’re doing towards our OKR. And at the end, you said, this is what we did. This work, this didn’t work. What you were doing was you were living your goals and you were increasing your organizational learning. So if you look at teams, right teams, all the literature says that there’s three things that are critical, right? You’ve got, you got to have clear goals, measurable goals. That’s okay, ours, you have to have clear roles. You have to know what everybody’s doing. And you have to have clear norms, an agreed way of behaving together. And I went, Holy cow, what if we take the cadence that agile uses at OKR CS and apply it to everything. And that’s the moment where everything clicked together, where I said, wait a second.
Christina 00:25:09 So with OKR hours, you set them every week, you set an intention of what you’re going to do. You check in and at the end of the quarter, you grade them. So with performance reviews, you do the same thing you say, okay, here’s your role in the company, right? Every week you have your one-on-one and it’s really lightweight. It’s like super fast. Like, okay, well, what are you running into right now? How are you solving it? And then at the end of the quarter, you do a lightweight performance review instead of waiting for an annual review, with like a year’s worth of resentment. And you can’t even remember what happened in February. Instead every quarter, you have a short conversation. And at that moment, maybe you can give somebody a raise or not, but that’s a much better rhythm. And then with norms before you start in on the team, like, think about how we do teams. Now we say, Hey, you six people get together and just be productive. We don’t spend the time to think about all the ways for different. Yeah.
Andrew 00:26:04 I was curious about that. I remember when I was first reading before, before the book came out, um, when I was first reading some of your articles on rebooting your team and designing the team you need, and we’ll link to all this, all these articles in the book and the, in the show notes. Um, but I remember one of the things that first jumped out to me was in one of the, those articles, you sort of distinguish, you drew some distinctions between, uh, different types of teams and sort of work groups and things like this. And you did it in a way that I’ve never heard. I had not heard anybody else do it. So could you actually walk us through sort of those distinctions and for lack of a better phrase, sort of levels of teams.
Christina 00:26:39 Yeah. It’s funny because I’m now a lot of people talk about work groups versus teams. That’s the civil one. So work group, everybody’s sort of working independently. There’s no interdependence and they all report up to somebody. So think of a sales team or customer service team. And actually that’s what I experienced right now at Stanford is, um, in our HCI group, there’s four of us, but we’re not interdependent. Like I go teach by class. They go teach their classes, they have their labs, their students. And there’s just not a lot of collaboration. We’re not, you know, we may say hi or work on a problem in the hall, but there’s, we’re not really working together towards something. So in wisdom of teams, which is one of my favorite books, they talk about a team has this common performance goals, mutual accountability, mutual accountability is huge.
Christina 00:27:28 Um, and I often say, you know, a dysfunctional team where the engineer, instead of going to the designer and say, Hey, are you done with those designs yet? Can you give them to me? Cause I want to get going. They go to the PM and go that designer still hasn’t given me the designs. I can’t go going, they’re blocking me. And that’s when you don’t have mutual accountability. When the engineer can just go to the designer and say, I need those now what’s taking so long, I’m going to slip my date. Um, so to move from a work group where the PM’s carrying a lot of that weight, you want people to be able to talk to each other and hold each other accountable for the things they’re trying to do. So that’s the base, one of the basic things. But then the other thing, actually, before I go on, the other thing that you see is like with sales and customer service, everybody’s kind of doing the same thing with a team. You have different skills that are complimentary. So you have that collaboration in order to get something done. Like that’s another critical part.
Speaker 3 00:28:24 They actually have to depend on each other because they can’t do each other’s job.
Christina 00:28:27 Exactly, exactly. So then I realized there was a higher level of team, so, okay. It’s great. We’re, we’re all doing our job. We’re holding each other accountable. Great. But then I saw these teams that were just a little better at that. And they were learning teams. And what I saw that was very, very different than, um, that are just a normal team, is that on top of the mutual accountability, they were working very intensely to increase the team’s learning and the organizational learning. And in agile, we see it in the retrospective, right? So if you have a regular weekly retrospective where you say here’s what went wrong, here’s what right. Let’s as a team get better and better and better at what we’re doing. That’s when you see a learning team and I almost called them lean teams as well, because that’s what you see in the startup lean cycle, right.
Christina 00:29:23 Which is that they’re constantly running all these little tests and their focus is really about learning. What do we know about our market? What do we know about our product? What do we know about the fit of those two things together? You know, what are the ways we can extend our product? Like learning teams are not just looking at putting more stuff out there, actually looking at how do we get constantly get smarter. Um, and what are the processes that support that? And that’s where you really see this cadence of learning. And then the last one is super rare. And I, I, I, I drew this as a pyramid, like Maslow’s hierarchy, but I kind of wonder if that was a good choice because everybody always wants to go to the top, whether or not it’s appropriate, you know, like a work group and be perfectly fine.
Christina 00:30:08 And you don’t have to even get to a team, but in a very, very few companies, what you see is a, what some people call it an autonomous team. Um, and I called them a mindful team because there’s an old joke. You know, there is no I in team, but why not? Like a team is made of individuals. And when individuals take care of other individuals and they’re supporting each other and they’re encouraging each other’s learning, that’s where you see these sort of crazy, amazing teams that put out extraordinary products. And I’ve seen it here and there, like sometimes there’s like this magic group, like I think early Slack looked like that. Um, studio archetype is still spoken of in loving tones from the beginning of the web because everybody was helping everybody else be their best self. And that’s when you get a place where I can say to you, Hey Andrew, you know, you interrupted me in that meeting.
Christina 00:31:12 And I just want to let you know that when you interrupt me, I lose my train of thought. But more than that, I feel kind of devalued. And I was just wondering, is there anything we can do to stop that from happening because I’m having a hard time with it. And when I can, it’s not just the engineer says, can I get the thing you said you were going to do, but more, can I talk to you as another human being, um, to say, how can we be better with each other? How can we make our interpersonal dynamics better? And when you have that, when you have that psychological safety that trust the team is getting smarter, the individuals are in the team are getting smarter. That’s pretty crazy awesome. And that I think is what I would call the mindful team.
Andrew 00:31:59 Awesome. And I think the, in the book you call it, is that the same as an autonomous team as you describing the book. Okay. So
Christina 00:32:05 It was a little more touchy, feely, and autonomous is a little more Silicon Valley. So it’s really like which way do you want to go
Andrew 00:32:12 Know your audience, right? There you go. No, I love it. And so I there’s so much to explore and unpack in what you just said. And one of the things I want to talk about a little bit is because I know you’ve been working with, with teams and working with people to actually make this stuff real. Uh, which is something I’ve really like as, as someone who’s been actually applying the work that you’ve been putting out into the world has made a real difference for me, because I could tell, like when I just, as a quick backstory, like the thing that made the difference for me when I engaged with radical was actually what you just called. That was the cadence. And I’m glad you called it out. Cause otherwise I was, I was going to, because every other thing I had encountered on OKR is it was like, okay, cool.
Andrew 00:32:47 Here’s the concept. And I was like, all right, cool. I got it. Now, what, like, what do I, what do I do with this? Right. And, and I think as you said, something to this effect in the book and in radical focus where you said, uh, Oh, you know, okay, ours are a goal setting framework. Whereas radical focus is a goal execution framework, something like that, uh, and goal achieving framework. Um, and I can see the same, the same kind of thinking again in the new book, which I I’m super excited to implement it. And I just got my hands on it. So I’m very excited to lean into the material, but I want to unpack a little bit into, I want to dig in a little, a little bit into two of the concepts that you just brought up, which were trust and psychological safety.
Andrew 00:33:26 So these are very big concepts, very important ones. And we’ll go to, I want to start actually with trust and ask a question that came up as I was getting ready for this conversation and discussing these concepts with a friend. And one of the questions that came up, and this is a friend. So she and I used to work in a, um, that works are, we were in a leadership development program together. And so we we’ve had a lot of the kinds of conversations that you could imagine having in a mindful team, for example. And so one of the questions that came up was about trust and what we mean by this. And I know there’s a, another book you’re fond of called the culture map and they talk about, um, trust as being, uh, for anyone who’s not familiar. That’s another excellent book about what is culture and what are some of the big factors that play into how basically how humans work together to do stuff. Um, and, and especially how that’s different across the world. Um, anyway,
Christina 00:34:17 Or to Erin Meyer’s culture map is the one I’m talking about, but there are two books that are bestsellers.
Andrew 00:34:24 Yes. Well, we were both talking about Erin Meyer’s culture about, I don’t know the other one, but thank you for clarifying that. So my, my question in, in her, in her, um, framing, she talks about trusting being sort of task-based or, or I believe relationship based. And the question that came up when I was discussing this with a friend, uh, yesterday was, well, she said, when you, when you say trust, what do you mean? I was like, what do you mean? And the question was, was really that there she was, she was pointing out that there’s sort of two kinds of trust, right? There’s at least two kinds of trust. I’m sure there’s, maybe there’s more. Um, and the two that she was pointing out were what we ended up calling reliability based trust. Like, you know, you tell me the thing will be ready on Friday and I believe you. And then the other one was what we’ll label as vulnerability based trust. Like I can be vulnerable with you. And I feel like it’s not going to get used against me. Um, can you just sort of unpack a little bit more about like, what do you mean by trust and which of the factors are actually the ones that make the difference in, in what you’ve seen so far?
Christina 00:35:22 Yes. Oh, wow. I actually don’t remember that, but I really love it. Like, um, so I’ll go back to how we’re admired talks about it, which is very much in experience, which is, um, Americans, um, and other cultures, they will trust you based on your role. So you are the designer, I’m just going to trust that you’re capable of doing your job as a designer. Right? And that’s what we talk about when we talk about role-based, right. But if you go down to China or you go down to Mexico and you meet somebody and you think they’re going to help you get your visa or get your work permit or whatnot, first you go to their house and then you have some tea and you chat a little bit and you ask them about their kids and they ask you about your kids. And then it’s almost like they’re doing a Turing test on you.
Christina 00:36:21 Like as soon as I’m sure you’re actually a human being, a real human being who has feelings and emotions and can show some empathy, then we’re going to talk about the tasks that needs to get done. And this can be really hard for Americans. I spend part of my time in Belize down there, they are so much, relationship-based like, you don’t go into the office to talk to. You’re like, I have a woman who helps me with my property management and she’s amazing. But when I go to see her, I don’t go, okay, if those windows been fixed, yet I go in and I say, Oh, how’s your daughter doing? Oh my gosh, she’s getting so tall. How’s it going? Um, you know, I love that dress, you know, and we have some, and then she asked me about my kid, and then we can talk about whether or not the windows are going to be put in.
Christina 00:37:10 Um, and I find that interesting because I feel like in America, we almost act like everybody’s a robot, right. We go in and we don’t really talk to each other as people. And I don’t know if that’s all of America is just a Silicon Valley, but, um, there’s very little humanity to the work. And since I spend more time in beliefs, now I miss that. I miss kind of knowing people as people. And I think that when, you know, somebody as a person, as well as knowing them as a role, it becomes easier to be vulnerable. It becomes easier for me to say, Hey, you said this was going to happen. And when it didn’t happen, I was really hurt. You know? Uh, because we, we have this, this, this trust with each other, cause we know each other as human beings.
Andrew 00:38:00 Yeah, no, I love that. And I completely resonate what you just said very much resonates with me because I I’ve had, um, a similar experience right. Working in, in technology. But I also grew up internationally and I think I am a little bit more relationally oriented than your average white male working in technology to, to be blunt about it. And it’s, it’s painful. At least for me, like my experience, it can be painful. Sometimes we were like, wow, I really want to connect to these people as people, but it’s just sort of not, it’s like, it’s off the table somehow. It’s not done yet. It’s just like, it’s just sort of not on the menu. And that I was like, wow, I’ve yet to understand really the source of it, but I can just, it is definitely a recognizable phenomenon.
Christina 00:38:41 Well, it’s a cultural construct really. And I think that the way to deal with it is just be like the world’s best listener. Like what I found once I had this structured for me, I started thinking, can I chip away at this a little bit? And I find that when I go into work, stopping and saying hello, Oh my God, Oh my ex-husband’s French. And I went, when we were living in two different countries, I remember going to his work with him. And when somebody gets into the office, they go to everybody’s else’s office and they shake their hands and they chat with them every single morning, he worked in a university and then at 10 o’clock, everybody stops and they all go to the coffee room and they have coffee and they chat together and it’s so different from here. And so I think, well, what could I do?
Christina 00:39:28 So what I do is, you know, I’m in the hall, I try to say hi to my colleagues. We have an open door policy. Usually if we’re not podcasting and you know, I’ll say, hi, how are you? How’s the kids. And I just am sneakily trying to bring more humanity to it. And I don’t have anybody complaining. Like, you feel like you can’t do it, but test it, you know, test, test that border, push it a little bit, ask somebody, Hey, you know, if you have something about the kids, trust me, you’re gonna have pictures, but we ask them to say about their dog. You’re going to see pictures. And when somebody showed you the pictures of their dog or their cat or whatever, you’re just a little closer. And you’re just, it’s just a little easier to ask for what you need.
Andrew 00:40:08 Yeah, no, I totally agree with that. It’s, it’s a, I think it’s exactly the right suggestion as well. Is that, is that actually true or is that just a cultural assumption, right? It just cause that’s the way it seems to be. Doesn’t mean it’s way. It has to be. Um, I love, I love that, that sense of pushing it. So of the various sort of flavors or types of teams one might participate in and play on, you said, um, you said something a minute ago. Like when, when you draw something as a hierarchy or a pyramid, at least in America, everyone wants to just shoot right to the top, but that doesn’t always necessarily like the right thing, the right thing for you or whatever. So when, when are those different options, like a work group versus a mindful team, or when, when do you think those are actually the, the right choice for someone and in a situation?
Christina 00:40:55 Yeah, absolutely. So what you see is a work group is fine when you have a bunch of individuals and they’re basically acting on their own and you Jew and they’re all doing the same thing. Like I said, like sales groups, uh, uh, customer service, you know, everybody’s kind of doing the same job, but it’s worth thinking, okay, everybody’s doing the same job, but could there be a little more learning? Maybe we don’t need the mutual accountability, but maybe we should meet once a week and talk about the hardest call we took this week. Right. And how did you handle it? And good brainstorm. Like I start to think that even though I dropped with hard lines, so if you can kind of fuzz those lines a little bit, that you start seeing better results. So even though all you need is a work group, could they, could they be a little more learning?
Christina 00:41:40 Could there be something that could happen to it? And then you always get a team whenever you’re making stuff like, um, you know, whether you’re putting on a play you’re putting on Hamilton or whether you’re building some new building, you’re going to be looking at a bunch of different skill sets. And once you have a bunch of different skill sets and you have to ask yourself, okay, how do I cohere these different skill sets? So I don’t run into the problem of people not talking to each other, being in silos. So the moment you have different skill sets, you have to start thinking of them as a team. And you have to make sure that you’re doing the clear goal and the mutual accountability. And you start to look for those roles that are, um, they aren’t explicit roles. For example, if you’ve ever been in a situation with your, it was your team, you’re like, somebody’s got to take notes and then everybody looks at the woman, you know? Um, I’ve I haven’t personally, but I have seen it.
Andrew 00:42:36 Um, I’ve heard of, I’ve heard of this enough times that it, I, it clearly happens a lot. Yeah.
Christina 00:42:41 Oh yeah. It was funny. I was at a faculty retreat and I was the only woman in the group that the work group I was working and they’re like, we need to know keeper. And I was like, just ask me, just try it. But luckily,
Christina 00:42:56 Yeah, I ain’t doing that. Um, but you have to be careful like, um, there are all these unnamed roles, so it’s worth taking the time with your team to say, okay, note taking something, we care about agenda, sending somebody to care about, shall we rotate it? Should we do a different person every week? Like making sure those things are done fairly and equitably. Um, so somebody just gets stuck with extra work. So that’s a piece of the role piece that I think is important in just a normal team. Learning teams are incredibly vital when you’re dealing with a changing landscape. So it’s absolutely critical. Like I said, for startups, because you’re very quickly trying to figure out where’s the money going to come from? What do people actually need? Let’s not build more software than we need. You know, you’re just, you have to be optimizing learning, but you can also see that in a big company where you have a group that’s also dealing with moving into a new market or dealing with a changing market.
Christina 00:43:55 Right. And that’s, those are there’s these points where learning becomes incredibly critical. Um, you could argue that every organization should be a learning organization. And I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t argue with you. Um, learning is clearly valuable. Um, the mindful team I can’t, I know it’s great. I, it’s hard to say when you’d be aiming for it. I think if you want to harness the power of the diversity of your group, if want to let go and make amazing things happen. Um, I think that the mindful team is the answer. The thing is that in order to get to the mindful team, you’re going to have to teach people management skills. Um, what we think of as management skills
Andrew 00:44:59 Say more about that in, in which people,
Christina 00:45:02 So for a mindful team to work, everybody is an employee and everybody’s a manager at the same time. So, um, back when I was at Yahoo and I was very first a manager, I was matrix, right, is the classic story. Like I reported into the design group, but the reality is my general manager had control over my everyday skills. And I was just like, Oh, what do I do? Like, you know, here’s people telling me what to do here. And people telling me what to do here. And I have all these people working for me and I just kind of lost it. I was like, I don’t even know what to do. And then I thought, well, when I work with my people who reported to me, I tell them what I need from them so I can be successful. And I asked them, what do you need from me?
Christina 00:45:48 So I can be successful. I thought, well, why don’t I just use that on my variety of bosses? And so I would talk to my general manager and I’d say, okay, how can I help you be successful? How can I in my role make you successful? And then I’d say to him, now, let me tell you what I need from you. And I did the same thing with my boss and I realized it didn’t matter if they reported to me or I reported up managed up as long as I was really clear about this is what I need from you. This is what you need from me. This is how we’re working together towards a shared goal. Everything just sort of magically started working better. So when I think about a mindful team, let’s take that one notch higher. So not only are we talking about the work that we do, but I’m starting to talk to you about interpersonal dynamics.
Christina 00:46:36 Um, I’m starting to tell you that there are behaviors that you’re showing that are making it harder for me to work with you effectively. And when I care about you as a human being, and I want you to be actually successful in your job, I can let you know that you’re interrupting or your assumption that I’m going to take the notes or that I’m going to plan. The office party is damaging to you in your dream of becoming a CEO in your dream of having a diverse team. And the only way I can actually get to that point where I can be telling you this is I have to know what your goals are. I have to know what you’re trying to do. I have to know you as a human being. And so instead of waiting, I could go to your boss and I could say, dad, Andrew.
Christina 00:47:24 He always interrupts me, but imagine how powerful it is when I can say, Hey, you know that thing you do, it’s not super awesome for me that, you know, is there anything, you know, is there anything I’m contributing to it? Is there any way we can fix this together? And that’s the point where everybody’s taking care of each other and everybody’s taken care of the business and everybody’s committed to everybody’s success. And we’re moving out of that competitive. And we’re moving to hyper cooperative, which is incredibly successful, but it does mean that I have to learn how to give you feedback. Well, I have to learn that. I don’t want to say you ignore me all the time and you don’t value my voice. I don’t know your intent. I have to learn how to say, this is your behavior. This is how it’s affecting me.
Christina 00:48:11 This is, uh, something I want us to work on so that it doesn’t have to happen anymore. And, and that’s not how people normally get feedback. What they do is they resent. They make up a bunch of stories about what’s going on in your head. And then they explode, right? Or they complain to their boss. So once the people on the team learn how to give effective feedback to each other and learn how to communicate in a way that’s vulnerable and genuine, then you get the trust and then you get the mindful team. But part of that is also there has to be psychological safety, because if I think I’m going to tell that to you, and you’re immediately going to go to the boss and make up a bunch of shit about me. I can’t be telling you that either. And that’s what makes it hard. It’s not, it’s not simple. It’s a journey.
Andrew 00:48:58 Yeah. Everything you’re saying. I mean, when, when you, when you have a conversation like we’re having right now, it sounds amazing. And you’re like, yeah, that just, it makes sense. You can see how the pieces fit together. And then you go back to work and you’re like, Oh God, how do I do this? Right. And I think that really is the, the question. Um, certainly that I, in my journey find myself dealing with, as you know, as I go for is like, Oh man, like this feels out, no. Now this feels out. And it’s a sort of like juggling act. What I’m curious is, um, maybe we could touch briefly on, on how you would suggest people approach giving feedback, because I think that’s an area. I know that there’s a book you really like called thanks for the feedback. Um, but I’m curious if you, yeah. How would you suggest people approach giving feedback? Because a lot of people aren’t good at it. Haven’t trained in it. Haven’t practiced or even really thought about it. And then from there, how do we, you know, if someone’s listening to this and they’re saying, man, I love what Christina is saying right now, but this just seems like a lot. How would you recommend that person begin? Like what, what’s the, what’s the starting point. And then we’ll just kind of see where that leads us.
Christina 00:50:02 So one of the gosh, um, what are the first steps? What are the easiest things to do? I think is starting with work the work, right? So starting with critique. So when you look at work, you need to learn how to give decent critique. Whether it’s B, whether it’s some code or it’s a product project plan or a product plan, or it’s a design, you need to go in there. And I made up a little acronym for my students, which is called gasp, which first you have to ask yourself, the person who made this, what are their goals? What are they hoping to get out of this? And it’s worth asking you don’t want to make assumptions because that’s where we get in trouble. So I might say, Hey, you’ve got this, this, this product plan. Um, what are you hoping to do with it?
Christina 00:50:49 Even if I think, duh, you want to get it approved by the product council so you can launch it. I’m going to ask you and I might learn something about that. Right? And then I want to say, well, what is he attempting to do? Is his attempts matching his goal? So he has this whole crazy section about the stuff that has nothing to do with anything. Okay. Well, that’s not working so well, here’s this other part that is working well. Okay. I’ve got my head around it. Okay. Here’s some things that are working well. Here’s some things aren’t working. Well, here’s a piece I don’t understand even a little bit. So then you want to look into you ask some questions, so you make sure you understand everything. And then you do S successes. What’s working really well because, and it’s funny because everybody thinks that you say positive things.
Christina 00:51:28 So you can say the negative things. So you don’t feel so bad, which is totally wrong. You say the positive things. So they don’t throw out the positive stuff. Like you can say, this is working. This is working and don’t touch it. Don’t change it. Or this is so close. Just one little tweak. It’ll be there. You want to talk about the successes? Cause you don’t want them to throw the baby out with the bath water. And then instead of saying negative things, I like possibilities. So the acronym is gasp goals, attempts, successes, possibilities, okay. This is what you’ve made. How could it be better? How could it be more awesome? And that mindset shift, which is from saying, this is good. This is bad. You’re a judge. If you move from a judge to a coach, so I’m looking at your product plan and I’m like, okay, this is working.
Christina 00:52:15 Have you considered this? Have you tried this? Have you looked at this? Um, this is a place where I got lost. Have you thought about setting it up like that? You know, start looking for the possibilities where it could become as good as it could. So that’s a great way to start. Cause work is one degree of not us. So even though some people do take work sensitively, if you’re just talking about the work and you’re talking about the work with the frame of, I am here to make your work as good as you want it to be, that mindset will help. And it’s easier for people to take feedback. Cause I’m telling you, people can totally tell people can totally tell when you have good wishes. So if you clean up your own head first and think I’m going to look at Andrew’s product plan, I keep picking on you about a fan and I’m going to help Andrew make the goddamn best product plan ever.
Christina 00:53:04 And I’m going to help him. And then he’s going to be awesome and we’ll be awesome together. Cause I know I helped him and he’s going to help me when I need him. If you have that attitude, you can tell, you can tell that I have positive attitude. So that’s kind of like phase one of practicing and you try to, and you try and you’re in. You’re always saying like, you know, you’re really understanding of their person and you’re helping them be good. Then phase two, that’s easier for people. Again is instead of individual feedback, let’s talk about team feedback. So that’s when we’re starting to use the word we, so first we’re using the word it, the product right now, we’re going to move up to we. We, so what did we do as a team that worked really well last quarter? What did, what could we make better?
Christina 00:53:46 So you’re doing these retrospectives, but it’s never, you’re always late. And therefore we are, therefore this meeting starts late. It’s we seem to be starting later and later anybody have ideas on how to fix that. And again, it’s easier to talk about a week than it is about a year. And so you want to do that for a while. You want to have your weekly retrospectives. And what I like with retrospectives is I like to make them hyper lightweight. Okay. So I like to say what’s something that we worked that worked last week that we should keep doing. And what’s an experiment we could run next week. Like let’s try making presentations only five minutes. Let’s try doing stand up. Let’s try doing stand up at 10 o’clock instead of at 9:00 AM, whatever, you know, like what do we wanna try? And then at the end of the quarter, or end of the week, you can say, Hey, okay, do we want to adopt it?
Christina 00:54:34 Or we want to try something else. So again, it’s not bad and good. It’s more like working and experiments. We want to run. Then again, it’s getting you more comfortable with feedback. We’re talking about us, we’re talking about, we were not playing fingers. Then once you’re really comfortable making your team good, you can start exploring the feedback. And um, I do have a very elaborate way to do it, but I think three 60 degree feedback is incredibly vital. It’s just so important to get all the different ways people see you. And so in the book I have this model where, um, I’ve used it with clients. I’ve used it with students, but it is something that’s sort of like one of the last stage. I like to think of it as the boss battle work was a game where you, um, for everybody you say, what do I know about this person?
Christina 00:55:27 Like, do I know they’re married? What are their goals? What are their hopes? What do they need from the job? What are the things they struggle with? What are things are good at? And then once you’ve gotten your head in that space, you can say, this is a behavior that is not serving you. And I’m gonna hit that fairly strongly because it’s not, you suck. It’s not, you’re rude. I’m not judging you. I’m saying this is a behavior you have right now that is not serving you in your goals to become a CEO of a company someday, or to become the best engineer anybody’s ever seen or whatever your goal is. Um, and that is a gift. Like everyone kept saying, feedback’s a gift and I’d be like, I want to return this gift.
Christina 00:56:14 But when I’m acting again in that coach mindset, which is, I know what you’re trying to do. And the sing you’re doing is not helping you. You want to hear that, right? Yeah. You want to, you want to know about that? And that’s a place where feedback becomes useful. So you just gently build up to it and you can, you can try something lightweight. Like after a meeting, I could just grab her real quick and say, Hey, this thing happened, you know, and this is how I perceived it. And you not want to think about whether or not you want to do that in the future because I, I kinda didn’t dig it. You know? And I think one of the things I struggled with is a lot of these techniques I got from the graduate school of business and a class called interpersonal dynamics.
Christina 00:56:56 And the language they use is so stilted. It’s like, well, Andrew, when you interrupted me, look at my list of emotions, I felt hurt and annoyed. And if you do it again, I’m not sure I can keep working with you. And I find it’s just better to like put it in your own words and be like, you know, dude interrupt me. And again, you come from a big Italian family, but I don’t really care for that. Is this, you know, side, I’d love it. If you could, like, what can I do signal you or something smack you upside the head. How can I get you to stop doing that? You know? And when I’m talking to you like a normal human, we’re just two humans trying to figure something out and it’s just better.
Andrew 00:57:37 Totally. No, it’s I love the way you kind of laid that out. It reminds me of something that I have heard about for years. And I know so little about, but I have a friend who keeps bugging me to read about it, which is, um, uh, what is it called integral theory by a guy named Ken Wilber, which is basically a little bit, I understand that that is it sort of maps everything into these three dimensions. It says everything exists simultaneously in the dimensions of I, we, and it, and they’re all interdependent and constantly influencing one another. Right? So it’s, and when they talk about it, um, in the context of work, you know, it is all that stuff we usually think of as work, right? Like the OKR is and the deadlines and the projects and the whatever. And then we, as the team, the interpersonal, the relational, and then I, as the individual experience, like, what am I experiencing?
Andrew 00:58:24 What is Christina experiencing? How is my experience affecting Christina’s experience? You know, so on and so forth. So I just thought that was really interesting, cause that just kind of hit my radar a couple of days ago. And I was like, Oh wow. She’s seems like that’s what she’s speaking to. And it’s interesting kind of the order. It seems like the order you’re laying out, they’re going it to, we, to I is, is one sort of, it seems like it’s optimizing for psychological safety and building up those, like building up that, that comfort of this type of conversation.
Christina 00:58:53 Absolutely. And you’re not going to do it today. You’re going to do it over months, you know, move slowly, make sure everybody’s doing okay then up the stakes a little bit that up the stakes a little more and you gotta be patient a lot of, I mean, I’m the most impatient person in the world, so it’s terrible that I’m giving this advice, but it really, it really is a marathon and you gotta be constantly checking in with people. It’s not enough just to say things to people. You’ve got to listen to them and, and get that feedback complete so that, you know, when everybody’s comfortable enough to shift to the next phase. For sure.
Andrew 00:59:26 So let’s, I want to, um, want to ask a question that I wanted to actually kind of do a little quick little case study here. So the question is, and maybe this will flush out in the case study, let’s say right now let’s, let’s take a hypothetical team and let’s say, they call you up and they say, Christina, we read the book, we dig it. We’re in, right. Or let’s say you get this call from, from a CEO. She calls you up. And she says, Christina, I’m in, but I need your help. First question. How long is this actually going to take? Of course the marathon for the, for the inpatient people?
Christina 01:00:00 Yes. How long is this going to take? I don’t know. How long does it take for you to write a song? How long does it take to cook dinner? I don’t know. You know, um, it really depends on the people. And also are you trying to undo damage? Like if we only take, okay, ours, if we only take the simplest, it’s like, gosh, after this, like, okay, ours now looks simple to me. Um, if you only take OKR, it’s the question is, have you tried them? And it goes sideways. Like you wouldn’t believe how many people come to me and say, we tried to implement okay, ours and the entire company rebelled and refused and threw them out. But we want to give it another go and how are we going to do that? And I’m like, Oh, okay. So yeah, it’s sorta like, okay, let’s see if we could figure this one out.
Christina 01:00:52 Um, a lot of what you have to do is regain trust and build trust. So the question for me would be like, there’s some company, if I can go in tomorrow and we could be doing mindful, teamship immediately because for whatever reason, there’s a culture of trust and a culture of psychological safety. And then there’s another team that I’d go in and, Oh my gosh, like one group’s blaming another group for when things are going wrong. And people feel like they’re competing to see who’s going to get a promotion because if one person gets a promotion, somebody else won’t cause there’s a zero sum situation set up. And so it really depends on where you started from. So one of the things I see people make the mistake of, and we talked about this briefly earlier is assuming everything that’s being done has to be done that way.
Christina 01:01:48 So if you have an, a competitive culture, you probably have this mindset that all cultures have to be competitive because that’s the best practice. Well, if you look at the literature, of course, it’s a worst practice. The best thing you want to do is have a collaborative, a safe environment. So now how are you going to entangle that? Like, how are you going to change the culture from one where it’s every man for himself? And, um, if you get a bonus, I don’t get a bonus, et cetera, et cetera. How are you going to start shifting that culture? And it’s really, really fricking hard. And what I find is you have to start with how people are being compensated. So I’m going to say no, of course not. Because the thing is you can talk all day long, but if compensation is different than what you say, nobody going to believe you.
Christina 01:02:39 So for example, I go, I talked to my students and I say, I would love to give everybody an a right now. It’s not going to be graded on a curve. It’s just not going to be that kind of class. And here’s all the ways you can stop me from giving you an a, which I would rather give you. And I’ll go through all the things that like, you don’t do the work. How about that? Yeah, actually do the assignments. Um, so when you’re saying, okay, we’ve got to turn this company around, you have to ask yourself, how are people compensated? Because that’s where people look for truth. So if it’s just about, uh, how much did your team make that? And you’re talking out your ass about collaboration and what makes us powerful is all the different groups work together. But you’re actually rewarding the people based on how well their individual group goes, guess what they’re going to do.
Christina 01:03:37 It’s not that complicated. So if you step back and you really ask yourself, what are my goals for this company, right? And what have I been doing and what needs to change, you’re going to look at things like compensation. You’re going to look at things like packages. For example, Google will pay for you to take any class. You want it. They don’t care. Is it painting class shirt, TaeKwonDo, shirt, they just don’t care. Okay. And that’s part of the message that we believe in learning, Google believes and learning. So when you say, okay, we want to send a message to our company that we believe in learning or that we care about. You, you have to have some teeth in that statement. So if a CEO came to me and said that, like, I’d have to understand about their company. If there’s a lot of competition, then you have to change. People are come say to based on how well the cooperate, boom, right.
Andrew 01:04:33 Dig in on something really quick. So I was, um, two, two things came up, came to mind as I was listening to you right there, one, it reminded me of something, a lesson that came up in a recent conversation. When, on another episode of this podcast with a friend of yours or someone who I think is a friend of yours, which is rich Mironov
Christina 01:04:49 Oh, I hate him. No, sorry.
Andrew 01:04:52 And so rich and I were talking and one of the big lessons or aha moments for me in that conversation was, Oh, wow, don’t blame people for the system. Right? Like you can have very good people put in the wrong structure and you’re screwed. You’re just screwed. Right. And persons of my career have looked like everything you were just saying around, you know, compensation. That’s one of his classic, one of the classic cases. He looks at it with like enterprise sales teams and product issues. And so that’s, what’s one sort of lesson that I’m hearing again here, let’s say you’re looking at a company that has a really competitive culture. Right. And that’s, they think that’s their jam, but we have lots and lots and lots of good science that shows that that’s really not the ideal, um, environment for people to, especially to do kind of any sort of creative, collaborative type work.
Andrew 01:05:36 How does the process that you’ve laid out in the book here? How does this, which, which is really focused at the team level, right? It is. How does that fit in integrate play with sort of the over the surrounding environment of the company, which, you know, then you get into values and mission and vision and all that, all those types of things, which as you were just alluding to with the Google example, when done well, they are not just values like stuff on a wall they’re values, plus behaviors that put those values into action. Like we will pay for you to take any course you want done. We don’t care what it is. So yeah. Could you talk a little bit about that? How does, how does someone who wants to apply what you’ve, what you’ve presented here? How should they think about integrating that into the surrounding ecosystem at the company or organization?
Christina 01:06:23 So, gosh, one of the things I chose to do, which made this book hard to write, and that is a list, um, was that I wanted to write about how can you make a healthy team in a dysfunctional company? And every time I’d tell somebody that at a conference, I’ll be like, I’m writing this book. It’s about somebody who’s trying to make a strong team in dysfunctional company. They’d be like, that’s my life. Oh my God. That’s I I’ve been married.
Andrew 01:06:56 Please tell me the answer, please.
Christina 01:06:58 Exactly. And um, I think that a team is the smallest atomic unit of work in a lot of ways. So if you can get the team right, and you have a lot of good teams, you can have an incredible company, but if you can get your team right, and there are bad teams, you can still get some stuff done. What’s hard. Well, there’s so many things that are hard. Um, what’s hard is when your good team is banging heads with a bad company, which has been known to happen. And I don’t want to give away the ending, but a lot of people were felt the ending was a bit controversial. They wanted to see like a hundred percent happy ending as opposed to the ending I wrote. And I believe that a dysfunctional company, you always have to get out of in the end. You can only do so much.
Christina 01:07:55 You can make a good healthy team. But if the company is truly, truly broken, are you really doing anybody? Any favors? In fact, Laura Klein, who’s another one of my friends said, um, it’s, it’s a sin. Cause then people stay much longer than they should have. She didn’t say sin because she just believe in sin. But she said, yeah, you can’t do that. You can’t make, uh, making a healthy team and started to sweat because the company is just making it worse for longer. Um, so if you’re a CEO and you have an unhealthy company, the very first team you have to clean up is yours. So I think Patrick Lencioni, who obviously was an inspiration for me since I like writing business fables yeah. Is five dysfunctions of a team. He, he was spot on with that because he said the very first team, his executive team, and the problem is most executive teams act like work groups, right?
Christina 01:08:47 It’s like, you all get together. And you’re like, well, I care about my people. And then there’s your people. And your people are messing with my people and all that crap. So the very first thing you have to do as a CEO is you have to transform your execs into a team. You have to have mutual accountability. You have to have psychological safety, you have to start working with them so that they’re taking care of each other as opposed to either competing or ignoring in silos. And so every company is made up of teams, of teams, of teams, of teams. So all, so all you have to do as if there was an all you’re gonna have to do. All you have to do is get all the teams working well. And so what I find is useful is if it’s a CEO, you got to clean your own house first.
Christina 01:09:35 Um, but you can also give this model to some of your stronger teams. And this is counterintuitive. I always tell people to do this was okay, ours too. I’m like give your OKR to your best team. Because what I find is in most companies, everybody wants to emulate success. So if you give okay, ours to your best team and they become more best, they become even more high performing. And then you spend all your time talking about this team. Who’s so amazing. All the other teams are like, you never talk about me. I’m going to do okay, ours too. And then I’m going to be high performing. And then you’re going to brag about me. So that’s another thing to think about. So you might clean up your own team, you get some of your best teams to become even higher performing than you brag about them a lot. And other people want to be on board and you can get people to want to adopt these best practices as opposed to shoving them.
Andrew 01:10:25 Yeah. So here’s a question let’s say that you, I’m trying to think of a, um, a accurate, like a case, an example case that is both hypothetical, but also totally plausible. Um, sure. So you’re someone who’s. Yeah. So you’re in Silicon Valley, right? You meet lots of people working in technology all the time, whether it’s at a meetup or at a thing at Stanford or wherever the case may be. And let’s imagine that you meet a CEO of a, let’s say they’re a small company, let’s call it head count between 20 and 50. They’ve raised a series, a marching towards a B, not quite there yet, you know, working, but it’s not a home run yet. And they, and they kind of know that. And let’s say, they’re not, you know, they’re not a maniac. They’re not a, they’re not a Rick to use the character from the book. I’m sorry, Rick, Rick not rich by the way. Uh, so there, um, I guess my question here is how do you, let’s say that you’re talking to the CEO, how do they know if they have the problem?
Christina 01:11:30 Huh? How do they know they have? Which part?
Andrew 01:11:35 Good question. Um, what is my question? I guess my question is, okay, let me, let me rephrase the question differently. I’m gonna throw out the hypothetical. Cause it didn’t didn’t really work. So I meet a lot of people where things are fine. You know, things are, things are fine, things are good. Um, but you know, if you look in their, in their team where you spent some time around their, their, their team or their, their organization nothing’s really wrong, but at the same time, you can feel like it doesn’t have that, like that magic mojo of a, of an autonomous team of a mindful team of that. Like, Holy crap, Holy shit. Where am I? What is this place? It doesn’t have that, but it’s just, okay, is that a bad sign? Is that a good sign? Or is there like some sort of, you know, the, the phrase that comes to mind is, um, from a, from a guy named Martin Seligman, who’s talking to studies, sort of psychological flourishing and human flourishing. And he had a phrase, one of his books that went something like the absence of disease does not equal health or does not equal flourishing. And does that, do you see that dynamic in teams and organizations as well? And if so, what should they do about it?
Christina 01:12:43 Yeah. Yeah. I do see it. And I don’t know if the word is quite high. Like sometimes a group is just, they’re going and they’re going in. They’re going. But you see all these little moments of tension. Like what I was talking about earlier, where somebody doesn’t go directly to the person they’re having a problem with, but they go to the product manager or they go to the CEO or they go to somebody else to solve their problems. Like that is for me, the classic sign that your team isn’t healthy. Anytime you’re asking somebody else to solve your problems for you. That’s usually a sign that the team isn’t healthy now that’s different than coming to you and saying, I’m having trouble with this person. Could you give me ideas about what to do? Right. That’s just asking advice. That’s just asking for coach. But if I come to, if, if somebody comes to me and I’m the CEO and they say this, person’s late to all my meetings, they’re not coming.
Christina 01:13:43 In fact, sometimes they refuse to even come to my meetings, make them come to my meetings. I’m like, Oh yeah. Now we’ve got a problem because something’s going on. Like that person either doesn’t respect the other person or the meetings are not good. Something’s profoundly broken there. So that’s one of the sides. If you’re asking somebody else to just wave their magic wand and fix it, I know that the team isn’t healthy enough to have real conversations with each other. So that’s one of the other one is that the team is producing, but they tend to be passive. That’s another classic problem I’ve seen with people. So, um, anything the team does, it’s something the CEO came up with or the VP of product. And you know, if you’ve hired smart people, they should be producing ideas. Which means that if all they’re doing is executing your ideas, something’s wrong in the dynamic, right?
Christina 01:14:44 Because you, you can’t survive in today’s market just with your, your loan beautiful brain. I don’t care if you have Steve jobs, Steve jobs was made great by people like Jeff Raskin and Don Norman and others, right? So that’s another sign that you’re wasting potential. You’re, you’ve got these amazing brains and you’re throwing them away. And that’s when you want to try to move to autonomous variance. And that’s the moment that can be really scary for CEO’s because what you have to do is you have to sit down with your team and go folks. I’m really worried that we’re not going to be able to accomplish X. What should we do about it? And there’s going to be a few moments where people are going to be like, is he actually asking our opinion? And then you have to be like, no, really come on. Like, you know, let’s get some ideas out and, and start handing over to your team, your problems as opposed to being the master of all the questions. So that’s another one. So those are the two big ones that really are at the top of my mind that suggests that you’re not realizing the potential of the
Andrew 01:15:50 Yeah, no, thank you. So, um, I want to actually sort of shift to start starting to wrap up a little bit here. I want to shift to some more rapid fire questions that have kind of come up. As I’ve talked to people about these ideas have worked with some of these ideas, myself are short questions, your answers don’t have to be short. They can be however, overlong you, uh, you, you feel, you feel appropriate. So one was, we talked a little bit earlier in this conversation about, um, your model for feedback of gasp. How is that re how is that related? Or how do you use that in conjunction with a model that I in the book, which I believe is grow?
Christina 01:16:24 Yeah. So, Oh my God, I’m the model and mnemonic, like I have no memory. So I love models and I love it when they have mnemonics to them. So gas is feedback for stuff grow is something completely different. So this one I did not make up. I made up gas, but I did not make up, grow, grow, comes out of the coaching industry. And it comes as particularly from the inner game of tennis, which is this idea that everybody can coach themselves. And, um, your job as a coach is more to create a framework for reflection than it is to provide answers. So G is still for goals, right? But is reality. So ed are you come to me? And I say, Hey, what’s on your mind today, Andrew, my lovely employee. And you’re like, God, I’m really stuck people. Aren’t signing up for this new product.
Christina 01:17:13 I don’t even know what to do. And I could be like, well, you need to start a marketing plan and do this and this and this. But if I do that every time you have a problem, you’re going to come find me and that I’m going to become a bottleneck. And I don’t want that cause I got other shit to do baby. So what I would say to you is I would say, well, what’s the re what do you know about this problem? What information do you have? That’s are for reality, what’s the reality of the problem. And you’d be like, okay, we read these tests, we’ve got this, we got this. And I’d be like, Hm, super fascinating. I’m gonna move to, Oh, what are some solutions you tried? What are the opportunities to try to address this? That’s the, Oh, so I would say, Hey Andrea, so now you’ve done this test.
Christina 01:17:50 Do you have any ideas that you think might work? And you’d be like, well, I could do a cross product marketing thing or I could do an email blast or what have you. And I’d be like, what are the pros and cons of those? And you’d say, well, this does this. And then this does this. And I’d be like, so what are you going to try next? And you’d say, I’m going to try to email blast. And I’d be like, let me know how that turns out. Look at that. I’ve now taught you and gotten you to think through your problem and you over time are going to get better and better and more resilient at working through those problems without me. Um, and maybe I know something you don’t know because I’m older or I see more parts of the company or whatnot. And I might say right at that, Oh, before I go to the what’s next, I might say, you know, I have a couple ideas.
Christina 01:18:37 Would you like to hear them? And you’d go, Oh yes, dazzle me. And I’d say, well, there’s this little thing you can do called the K factor, blah, blah, blah. And you’re like, DEET, I’ll try that too. And we all are happy ever. Um, it’s funny because, um, I think product people like us, we like we’d love solutions. We’re so solution-oriented, we’re like, yeah, let’s just do this and this. And we can launch it. Yay. And it’s really hard to step back and, and help somebody else work through a problem. But the power of that is that you can scale as a boss and you give your employees more autonomy to solve their own problems. And that’s critical. So no matter how much you want to just go this, this, this, it’s better to get your employee to talk through. And if there’s something that they didn’t cover, I am a big fan of consent. I’ll be like, would you like to hear it? And that way you’re still in power. You’re still in charge. And that way I’m not taking away that power and pulling it back to myself and I’m leaving you in a position where you can make decisions on your own new can make great things happen on your own.
Andrew 01:19:46 No, I love that. I love that. It reminds me a lot of, um, uh, so funny enough, we talked about it earlier. I was in a leadership development program and, um, the whole idea when, once you really got into it, the whole idea was your real job as a leader is to create other leaders. Right? And so it’s not just teaching people how to do stuff. It’s over time, teaching them how to think the way you think that’s how you actually it’s like the way you scale is you teach somebody to show up the way you would. So you don’t have to.
Christina 01:20:12 My big goal has always been as a manager to be able to nap under my desk in the afternoons, whether it happens or not is another story. But, uh, it’s kind of nice when you’re no longer putting out fires and maybe you’re napping, or maybe you’re just working on strategy. But I think that’s a pretty good goal.
Andrew 01:20:30 Yeah. I know. I, I think so too, in, in, because it, what it does is it really forces you to take on a lot of these other types of questions and challenges as a leader that are far too, you know, what, actually, it forces you to be a leader and not just a manager, I think is how I might make it as a distinction. I’d also,
Christina 01:20:49 When I wanted to do my subtitle, I was like, I want a story of leadership. Cause that’s what it is. It’s exactly what you said is it’s about leading, not about managing.
Andrew 01:20:57 I found myself as I was writing notes and questions down for this. I kept writing down the title as the team that led itself. But the title is the team that managed itself. I was curious, why did you choose that title?
Christina 01:21:10 Um, it was the one that people understood when I said it to them. I do. I mean, I am a lean girl and I do test it. So, you know, I test it. It was originally called continuous feedback. That was its working title. Just like software always has. It’s a little code name. All my books have their little code name because otherwise I find, I don’t really know what the title is going to be until after I’ve written it. And then I’m like, the title shows up and I liked continuous feedback and I really thought it was going to ship that. But then I started coming up with other titles and tested them and the teeth that led itself, for some reason, doesn’t resonate as well with people. So then I added the story of leadership so that you get the leadership idea and the management idea we’ll see.
Andrew 01:21:54 Totally, totally. So I have to kind of, as I was just realizing, I have sort of three, three groups of quick, rapid fire questions. First ones are about the content of the book itself. Second are about, um, I want to basically take down the objections that I can imagine someone having or, or the excuses someone might throw up or that might come up for somebody if they’re like, this sounds great. But, and then the third ones are just one or two sort of general questions. I like to ask people.
Christina 01:22:19 I love big butts, but I cannot lie. Sorry.
Andrew 01:22:23 Perfect. So, um, in the book you there’s, there’s what I believe you call the NYNEX process. What is the NYNEX process? And is there a step one?
Christina 01:22:35 Actually, it’s so funny. So I thought about, I almost called this the NYNEX team and everybody’s like, no, you cannot call it that. So apparently the book could not be called the NYNEX team, but, um, I was like, well, I have the 10 X team. Oh, the TEDx engineer. Yeah, that’s true. It is one less than the 10 X engineer. Um, you know, when it’s, it was that moment when I cadence was the answer. So I had these three things like goals, roles, and norms. And then I realized that I had set check and correct, and that McEwen nine squared. So it’s the NYNEX team. So what you, so it’s not that there’s a first step in a second step. It’s more that there are three areas that are really critical to pay attention to. And we haven’t really talked a lot about norms. Um, but you absolutely have to have clear goals and everybody’s down on OKR. So I don’t have to sell that everybody understands roles. Everybody’s looking for an engineer or they’re looking for a good designer. I think most people have bought into roles. Um, what people don’t think about is the fact that everybody has assumptions about what normal is like you think interrupting is fine. I don’t know why you’ve never interrupted me, but I keep,
Andrew 01:23:56 It must happen a lot on people. So,
Christina 01:23:58 Oh my God. Yes. Um, so if you can get a word in edgewise, um, so with norms, it’s just a way of saying like, in some countries being late is perfectly fine. My ex husband, his friend, she said, um, I was like, shouldn’t we be getting going? We should, they said six o’clock. And he goes, if we show up at six o’clock, they’ll still be in their underwear. Like nobody shows up at six o’clock. So there, so there’s countries where on time means six o’clock. And there’s times where countries were on time in six 30. And that’s a problem. If you think somebody is late and they’re distant, you, maybe they just don’t think about time that way. Or how do we decide, you know, some places it’s a consensus driven in some cases it’s hierarchal driven. So it’s really important to say, how are we going to be?
Christina 01:24:44 We know there’s a lot of different ways to be out there. How are we going to make decisions? How are we going to move things forward? How are we going to, uh, you know, if we say we’re meeting at one o’clock, are we actually going to meet at one o’clock or we do really mean one 10. It’s so funny. I was doing a workshop with a company and I swear to God, they talk for 40 minutes about what on time met. And I was like, Holy cow. Okay. That was interesting. Um, cause they’re like, well, it’s a big campus and some people are coming from here, but what, and I was like, okay,
Andrew 01:25:15 Okay. Does it mean on like what it says or 10 minutes after that? Yeah. Like you get two choices to just simplify this.
Christina 01:25:22 So there is, there’s such a thing as too much, uh, too much consensus, but, but it was, it is interesting to make sure that everybody agrees what, how you want to be. So now let me know. There’s the three areas. Then we get into the cadence, which is where the super powers come in. Right? Like I keep saying, it’s all about the cadence, so, okay, ours, you check every week, you know, what are we doing towards it? Are we getting closer, further away at the end of the quarter, you do a formal retrospective to solid-state learning and get a deeper understanding of what does it mean to be successful with roles, same thing you want to do quick. One on ones you want to do your team retrospectives at the end, you’re gonna say, what do we think? You know, what are you, what are your areas of strength? And with norms, we’re going to check in with our retrospectives in the quarter, we’re going to say, okay, stepping back a little bit, have we fallen into bad habits? Are we making things normal that we don’t really want to make things normal? And that’s why it’s nine X, just a three by three instead of a two by two, every other manager consultant has a two by two and I have a
Andrew 01:26:27 Heard it here first folks. So I actually pivot right there. Cause I, I love the, that core insight that the cadence really is the thing that makes the difference. And that was my, as I said earlier, that was exactly my experience implementing radical focus in, okay, ours was, Oh, wait a minute. Like this changes it. When there’s a understandable, simple rhythm, it changes the game in a way that just having a concept does not, I know shocking. So my, my question is I want, this is your, I want to take down some of the things I can imagine, someone, um, concerns that people might have. We’ll just call them that. So, you know, if I’m, if I’m sitting here, if I put my skeptic hat on and I’m sitting here listening to you, Christina, one of the things I’ve heard you talk about a lot is, you know, the Monday commitments meeting and then the, the retrospectives and these sort of things. And gosh, it just sounds like a lot of meetings. And like, you know, what are these rituals that people are always talking about? Like, doesn’t this take away from, from like doing my actual job and how much time does this actually take every week or every quarter, whatever the case may be
Christina 01:27:25 For a lot of people, meetings are part of your actual job. So, and you have to remember Lazarus rituals come from agile and being agile is about not having useless meetings. So the question is how are you making sure that the meetings are incredibly impactful? So the Monday commitments meeting, um, it’s just one of those things where you say these are the three top things that I’m doing towards the OKR and holding each other accountable. So a weekly status emails are something I’ve written about. And the problem with most weekly status emails is people are like, I did this and I did this and I did this and I walked the cat and I made a phone call and I did it. You know, they’re just like, they’re trying to justify their 50 hours a week. But, um, if you change that to be, here are the big things that I wanted to do.
Christina 01:28:17 And here’s the big things that either worked or didn’t work. And this is why you’re simplifying and prioritizing and streamline. And it’s the same thing with the meetings. Like don’t talk endlessly about every single damn thing. Um, and when I was working with a couple of companies that were asking me the same question, we’d look at that, okay. Our Foursquare and I’d say, Hey, if every single one of the, okay, ours is going forward, don’t talk about them. Only talk about it when it looks like it’s not going to happen. Team health, you know, the health metrics. If they’re green, don’t talk about them. If they’re red, talk about them. If you look at the three things people are doing, if they all look vaguely sensible goat. Sure. And if something crazy, say, could you tell me more about that one? Like you really don’t have to be labor every aspect of it.
Christina 01:29:07 It’s just a quick moment where you go, it looks essentially right. Can you tell me what that is? Okay. I’m good now. And it’s just an alignment meeting. It’s sort of like stand up. It should be so fast that you could do the whole meeting standing up retrospectives. I spoke a little bit about this. Don’t go through every element of the last week to say, what’s one thing that worked, that we want to codify into. This is how we are. And what’s one thing we want to try to do differently next week. Keep it lightweight. Each of these meetings should be fairly lightweight. And that’s the advantage of having them regularly. If you have an annual performance review, you have to talk to everybody, get your three 60 days collected, all check in with HR, see what, how you’re able to compensate. What part of the budget can you use?
Christina 01:29:51 Then you sit down with this person who has this Epic, long conversation. They get angry. Performance goes to hell, but if you’re meeting every quarter, it can be fairly painless. You can have a quick conversation and say for this quarter, I really want you to focus on your sales skills or this quarter. I really want you to focus on this. And it’s about having a very lightweight tendons of small meetings that just keep moving things forward as opposed to wandering or Brown in the dark and then coming back and going, Oh, you know that last three months. Yeah, you were totally doing the wrong thing. Like that’s, that’s a waste of time. So it’s really about a lightweight way of moving things forward. And I just want to tell a quick story, because this was one of those moments where I’ve always been a fan of the cadence, but then I realized the cadence was everything.
Christina 01:30:43 Okay. So I’ve been doing, um, I have, uh, two other women and every Monday we send each other our personal, uh, priorities towards our OK, ours. Right. And it looks just like the status email and, and radical focus. Usually when I do it anyway, I say, here’s my OKR for the quarter. And here’s the three things I’m doing. And here’s the three things that I did or didn’t do last week and why. And one woman is like a total getting things done, woman. She’s like, I completed it to this percentage and here’s my blockers and everything. And the other woman is like,
Speaker 4 01:31:17 Oh, I don’t know. Um,
Christina 01:31:19 I should really write them. Shouldn’t I, well, I thought maybe I tried this this week, you know? And he just ignores the format completely. Well, we’ve been doing this for two years. And in the two years when we first started doing this, the woman who’s like, I don’t know, maybe I should say some, okay, ours. She went from, um, working in a company to having her own business coaching with enough clients that it’s paying for everything now. So even though she never formatted her OKR correctly, the simple weekly check in to say, Hey, you had a goal, are you doing anything towards it? Turned out to be the thing that really made the difference for her. And I’ve thought about that a lot, because you know, sometimes some of us who are like advising others get really fussy. Like I don’t know that objective doesn’t look aspirational or the KRS and very good measure. And the reality is just remembering that you actually have a goal. And remember, you should do something about, it seems to be the magic part of, okay. Ours.
Andrew 01:32:19 Fascinating. Because I actually was dealing with this like last week with, with, uh, one of the, okay. I was one of the teams I work with and I was looking at KR number one, going like, Hmm. And, but to your point, right now, I’m sort of challenging my own thinking. I’m like, well, are they, are the people working on the right things? Or at least what we believe are the right things. Yes. All right. Leave it alone. Like don’t futz with the Lea who cares, how exactly how it’s written. Like if they’re doing the right stuff, they’re doing the right stuff
Christina 01:32:45 And you know, next round you can tighten it up a little bit more. You don’t have to fix everything today, which is hard for us, a patient type.
Andrew 01:32:51 Oh yeah. Definitely struggle with that. So quick clarifying question about the, the, you were describing some of the rituals in the meetings. Um, clarifying question is, let’s say I’m doing the cadence as you just described, is everybody like let’s and let’s say I’m a product manager and I’m leading a team of, you know, call it 10 people. Is everybody in all those meetings? Or is it just like the area leads, you know, for the, for the parts of the product or, and, and are they, is there an overlap between the status email and the, and the Friday wins? Is that the same thing or are those different?
Christina 01:33:22 Um, so it really was. Um, so it really depends on where you are. Like, there’s a point where you can’t fit everybody in a room and the leads have to take it on. This is really hard for startups because startups often have effortlessly everybody at every meeting. And there’s this point where like, none of your conference room rooms hold everybody. And then it’s like, everybody’s paranoid. Like, what are they talking about in that conference room? And why am I not there? But it’s a natural move. So yeah, it should be basically the leads. Um, you can roll it up. It just reminds me of how I used to do status emails at my space. Everybody would write like this 50 item list. And then my project manager would, um, roll them all together into one gigantic email and everything that was done. And then I would read it all and I’d write a summary and I’d send it to my boss. And then one day I forgot to do it. And he never asked where it was. This is the most unnecessary thing I’m ever doing. So that’s why I like it.
Christina 01:34:27 So you could skip the status email if you’re a really small company. What I found it to be super powerful for is sending the status email to either, um, you have something in subject line, so it can be filtered or send it to a channel if you’re doing Slack. But what I found myself doing or using these super hyper lightweight status emails is I will read everybody’s because it takes me 30 seconds to look at them 20 seconds maybe. And I can, so I can flip through one after another and I’ll start to go, Oh my God, that person is doing something that’s going to destroy my team. I need to go over and chat with them. And that’s a big advantage of lightweight thing. So I think of the status emails, or if you prefer status reports, so Slack or whatever you want, it’s really nice for you as a manager to go flying through them and see what other people in the company are doing and what kind of progress was they trying to do and see if you can help, or if you need to throw your body in front of a bus to stop them, um, with a commitment that has to, that is better face to face.
Christina 01:35:25 I won’t say it has to, cause I know a lot of remote teams are having a lot of success with it, but that’s, it’s like stand up. It’s one of those moments where you’re committing to your team, that you’re actually going to get this done and that makes it more like you’re going to do, but again, keep it really lightweight. Um, I find retros to be one of those things. You just kinda like slide at the end of the meeting, like give yourself five minutes at the end of your Monday commitment meeting. If you want to, to say, what did we do last week? What do we want to do this week? Like piggyback it don’t make it as own big, separate, giant thing, you know? So piggybacking is really effective.
Andrew 01:35:57 Nice. Okay. So if I’m tracking with you so far, just trying to like make this super, super actionable for the listener. So you have your Monday lightweight, check-in commit Monday commitment meeting. This is all described in the book and in much more detail. So in that would be, imagine it’s it’s the per the lead and then their, their leads for the project or the company or whatever, right? So maybe you have your tech lead and your design lead and your customer success lead and whatever. And every, and that Susan, that the Monday meeting saying, this is what we are collectively doing to move the ball forward. Maybe a piggyback on the end of that five, 10 minutes, tops of the retro for the week before everyone goes off and does their thing, uh, you know, maybe, maybe, maybe the tech teams have their daily standups or however they want to manage their own stuff. That’s that’s their business. Um, and then Friday, anybody who’s in the company is doing show and tell, is that right? Yeah. Awesome. So we want to show off the good stuff.
Christina 01:36:48 And when you get bigger, um, I’ve seen a lot of teams do it just within their team. Like, um, I always like to tell the story like at SINGA, um, our team who is working on cigna.com, we’d have what we called wine down and there’d be wine and there’d be cheese and stacks and everybody be doing their demos. And then one day I needed to run down to biz dev to ask him a question about something. And it was that Friday and they were standing in a circle and each one of them had a shot of tequila. And if you had anything to brag about, you could do the shot, but if you had nothing to brag about, somebody would steal your shot and do it for you.
Andrew 01:37:23 So did I drink your milkshake moment?
Christina 01:37:25 Oh, you got that. And I thought that was really interesting with this moment of celebration was modified based on the culture of the group within the larger company. So the important thing is seeing each other and celebrating how awesome we all are and feeling that sense of camaraderie and progress. Cause the problem with OKR is of course is their stretch goals. And the problem with stretch goals is you don’t always make them so celebrating what you did accomplish is an antidote to the feeling that you’re not making your goals.
Andrew 01:37:52 Yeah. You gotta, you gotta have those bright spots. Otherwise stuff gets, you can get a little grim. Let’s put it that way. Yeah, for sure. For sure. I love that. Um, and then, so one other thing that this is an objection. I’ve heard people, not, not specifically to your work, but did this kind of thing when they say, Oh, this is like, this is, you know, ah, this is all like very touchy, feely. What do you say to that?
Christina 01:38:17 Uh, it’s it’s just funny because the graduate school of business, the most popular elective and what is arguably one of the best, if not the best business school. Yeah. Cause I’m in California and I’m at today.
Andrew 01:38:32 I don’t think you’re not to a lot of people aren’t doing that one. So let’s go ahead and assume it
Christina 01:38:37 Popular elective, interpersonal dynamics. It’s nickname, touchy, feely. Like we’ve got business schools that have acknowledged the fact that if you’re not good at interpersonal dynamics, if you’re not willing to get a little touchy feely, then you’re going to fail as a leader. It is in the literature, the schools respect it, high performing companies, respect it. I mean, my gosh, what could be more touchy, feely than psychological safety and Google. One of the best companies in the country says the number one predictor of teams is psychological safety touchy. You cannot pretend we’re all robots. We’re frigging humans and humans have emotions and they have feelings. And if we really want to do great things, we can’t do them by herself. And if we’re going to do it with other people, we have to respect that they are human beings and we have to get good at that touchy feely thing or else you’re not going to succeed. And that is just a fact. And sometimes we’ll see little jumps from people who are jerks and we can think of a few companies that had rapid growth, but that always catches up with them in the end. And if you want to build something, that’s going to be strong fast-growing and sustainable. You got to suck it up cowboy and learn how to be a good person. Even engineers, engineers are human.
Andrew 01:40:04 I was just, I, the reason I was asking that is because I think that’s a good point. Actually. That’s a, that’s an even better one. Um, I think it’s an interesting point because you know, I’ve worked with, uh, people in every week. We’ve both worked with people in all sorts of different roles and functions and um, you know, I think engineering is one of the groups that gets very stereotyped about like, Oh, whatever, they just want to code. But I find that even, you know, engineers often tend to be a little more introverted, but when you actually have real conversations with them, guess what? There are people too.
Christina 01:40:35 Yeah. I think it’s a huge mistake to think about like a lot of our ideas about what engineers are like, they’re incredibly creative people. Like my God, they’re inventing entire universes. Right. Um, so they’re not just, they’re not just coding. They’re, they’re, they’re creative. They care about the business model. They care about the users. They get really excited. Like this whole thing of engineers are like the comic book guy on Simpsons or something. That’s such a lie. And I’ve worked with so many amazing ones in business too. Although they tend to be a little more mercenary occasionally. But, um, yeah. I think it’s a mistake to say those people because there’s no such thing as those people, there’s just people.
Andrew 01:41:18 Oh, I love it. I think it was the best way that I could possibly have been said. So last, um, last two objections that I’ve heard and then we’ll go ahead and wrap up here. So the other one is, but I’m not in charge, you know? So, so if someone let’s say someone hears this or they come across your work and they’re like, man, that sounds like, wow, that mindful team thing that Christina is talking about. Sounds fucking awesome. And I want that, but you know, my company is not into this stuff. My manager doesn’t give a crap, whatever, what should they do? Or what would you say to that person?
Christina 01:41:49 How do product managers get things done influence. So yes, exactly. I mean, the thing is the reality of the reality of work is that nobody is in charge in that nobody can just say, make this thing happen. And it happens like when I first was a designer, I thought, well, if I become a product manager, then I can make shit happen. And that became a product manager. And I realized nobody reports to me and it’s all in. I thought, well, what, I’m a general manager then people report to me and I can tell people what to do, but no, you got to make nice with the other teams and the other groups. And it’s all about influence and it’s all about social. And then I thought, and by then, and once I was a general manager, I could see the CEO and I realized the CEO is like balancing all the people who report to him and balancing the board.
Christina 01:42:40 So guess what nothing happens because you’re in charge. Everything happens because of influence, influence without authority. So if you want to make a mindful team happen, you start by being the kind of person who would be on a mindful team. And then you recruit somebody else on your team and say, you know, maybe they comment. Maybe they say, I really love the way you were giving the feedback or I love the way you act. And I say, you say, well, you know, I’ve been trying out this new thing and what are you saying? Should we like try to bring it to the team? And you talk to the team and you say, Hey, what if we start doing a retrospective and start like, that’s a really lightweight thing to do. Let’s, let’s just spend five minutes at the end of the week, figuring out what should we try to become a better team and just sneak it in, sneak it in. And then one day you wake up and you’re like, Oh, you know, you’ve replaced the building brick by brick. And it’s a new building. So everything, everything in business happens through influence everything. So being in charge is just an excuse for, um, for being afraid. And some, somebody has gotta be first. So I’m just gotta be brave enough to say what if we did it a little bit differently? What if we try something? Yeah,
Andrew 01:43:52 No, I’d love that. And I think that’s, that’s the perfect, perfect place where I want to go and wrap this up. And so I guess my last question for you, Christina, is, um, what is the impact you hope this book makes.
Christina 01:44:06 There’s a saying that I really love, which is be kind to everyone you meet for they too, are fighting a great battle. And um, I hope people read this book and start thinking about how everybody on the team as a human being and everybody wants something and everybody’s trying something and we all are at this company because we want to make something that’s genuinely good. And I’d love people to read this and say, why don’t we try this one thing? Why don’t we just try this setting norms for our team this quarter? Or what if we just try doing this retrospective and talking about behavior instead of just code quality, I’d love for people to read the book and stop thinking that soft skills are easier than hard skills, just because they’re called soft skills. I’d love people to read this book and say, when I have a great team, everything is possible and I want to start making things better tomorrow. That’s what I’d like.
Andrew 01:45:17 I love it. I love it. Beautifully said, well, Christina, thank you so so much. And to everyone listening, thank you for listening. I think you can tell the depth of caring that Christina brings to her work and the impact she’s trying to make. Go buy this book, read it, review it and live it even more importantly, live it. And then tell, tell Christina, send her your stories because I think there’s nothing I hear from authors all the time that that’s one of their favorite things to hear about is the difference that it made for people. So Christina, thank you so, so much for sharing your wisdom for your time. And it’s been a real pleasure.
Christina 01:45:49 Thank you Andrew so much for having me.