Episode: Ask Us Anything

Michael Hyatt: Hi, I’m Michael Hyatt.

Megan Hyatt Miller: And I’m Megan Hyatt Miller.

Michael:  And this is Lead to Win, our weekly podcast to help you win at work, succeed at life, and lead with confidence. This episode is going to be a little bit different as we dip into the mailbag and answer your questions.

Megan: Every time we do a live event, we get a lot of questions from attendees, usually more than we have time to answer. At our Achieve Conference, our producer Nick Jaworski opened the mic and asked attendees, “If you could ask Michael and Megan anything, what would it be?” We also got a lot of questions through social media.

Michael: So we’ve asked our senior writer, Larry Wilson, to select a few of those questions for us. Welcome to the program, Larry.

Larry Wilson: Thank you. It’s really great to be here.

Megan: Glad to have you.

Larry: It was really hard to sort through all of these questions because there’s such a variety, and a lot of them have real passion behind them. People are really working at using some of the products, some of the questions we’re about to ask, but really about getting focused, getting my goals in order. A lot of that gets to real life change, so people are really asking in earnest about some important themes here. We got some really interesting questions. Let’s get to the first one. This comes from a lady named Patti. She was one of our Achieve attendees who lives in New Orleans. She recently had a tragedy in her family, and her question is related to that. So let’s listen to what Patti asks.

Patti: My question for Michael is: Has he ever encountered a personal hard setback where he has had to strategize and come back from? Losing your spouse will take your confidence, your enthusiasm, and everything you know. So my question for Michael is: What personal setback, tragedy has he had to climb back from, and what were the three most important tools he used?

Michael: Well, I’ve never experienced a tragedy like the loss of a spouse or the loss of a child, that’s for sure. I can’t even imagine what that would be like or how you would climb back from that. I have tremendous empathy for that, but I don’t have experience with that. All I can relate to is my own setbacks. I have gone through some that, at least for me, felt very significant, and there were times when I wondered if I would be able to come back.

I remember when my biggest, most important client fired me. Literally for weeks I wandered around in a daze because it felt like it destroyed my why. It was a huge motivation for me to serve this individual, and when he fired me, seemingly out of nowhere, inexplicably, it really confused me. It made me angry, and I just wanted to give up. I thought, “If I’ve given my best work to this individual, if I’ve done my best work, if I have served him, from my perspective, tirelessly and he didn’t see it as that, then what’s my work worth? What am I doing?”

For me, it just took a while. I would say anytime you go through a setback you have to be kind to yourself. I would start there. It’s going to take some time. Time doesn’t heal all things, but it does help most things. For me, it was just time to work through the emotion of that. Every day was a little bit of a step forward, and over time it really helped me. I couldn’t do this immediately, but I also had to reframe it.

I had to ask myself… This is a hard question to ask, and I don’t know how you’d answer this question if you lost somebody, but for me, I was able to ask the question, “What’s the gift in this?” Again, a very hard question. You don’t want to ask it too soon. For me, in the loss of that client, it helped me reevaluate everything in terms of “Why am I doing what I’m doing? Why am I doing it when I don’t get the accolades or when people don’t recognize the contribution I’m making? Am I performing for a bigger purpose than that?” So, what was the gift in this?

It was really a gut check and a motivation check for me. I had to also go back and evaluate the process. “How did I end up in this situation?” Once I stopped blaming and started owning, everything began to shift. Like, “Was there anything I could have done differently in this that would have resulted in a different outcome?” As it turns out, there were a lot of things.

I could have done a much better job communicating on the front end. I didn’t do a very good job of giving him or his family updates on the progress I was making on their behalf. I kind of assumed they could read my mind and that they knew what I was doing. The whole point is not exactly what I did, but the point is it caused me to go back and reevaluate, kind of take ownership and reevaluate what I could do differently.

Then I started setting some new goals. The key thing here is I had to process the past. Frankly, there were some things I did well that I didn’t want to lose, but there were also some things I didn’t do so well, and those are the things I wanted to process and get better at. So when she asked about three tools… Those are kind of the three things I did. I gave it time, and then I processed the past and asked myself what I could do better the next time. I reframed it. Then the third thing was I began to set some new goals.

I think to rebuild your confidence, that’s what it’s going to take. You’re not going to drift into more confidence by doing nothing. You’re going to have to begin to start achieving some things. The goals need to be in your discomfort zone, but don’t get them in your delusional zone, because, again, you want to build confidence. So go to your comfort zone, tweak them up a little bit so they’re in your discomfort zone, and then begin to pursue them. That will open up a new future for you.

Megan: The only thing I would add to that is avail yourself of outside resources. When you go through something that is tragedy level, devastating, the loss of a spouse or a child or a business or an illness or things of that nature, you probably need some outside help. You may need practical help, but you also may need some psychological support. You and I have both done extensive therapy and benefited greatly from that. There’s a real value in giving yourself the time and space to go through that process.

Michael: I really believe in that too.

Larry: Michael and Megan, you have talked a lot about the Eisenhower Matrix, the 2×2 matrix of importance and urgency that you use to filter tasks. Our next question comes from Tandi, and she has a question that has to do with that importance and urgency as it relates in the workplace. There’s not always agreement about what’s important and what’s urgent. Let’s listen.

Tandi: My question is how to deal with people who want to ask you to do things that are in the Level 3 quadrant that are not important but they are making urgent. They’re not on my list. They are not my superior, but they act like they are, and they try to treat me like they are. How do you tell them “No”?

Megan: This is a great question, and it’s one we get a lot. Certainly, if your boss is asking you to do something they consider to be both urgent and important, then you have to respond accordingly to that. That’s critical. If there’s an issue there, then you have to navigate it with their best interests in mind, but if you’re talking about a peer who’s asking you to do something that is not important or urgent to you but is urgent to them, first of all, you have to start with an adult conversation.

The book we have loved in the last year is called Radical Candor. It was in our LeaderBox in the month of December and has gotten great feedback. Just to be very direct and say, “I’d love to help you with that, and I can do it at such-and-such a time.” Just because someone asks you doesn’t mean their priorities are more important than yours. Also, I think trying to find a way, if it’s possible and it’s not a boundary issue on a regular basis, to create a win-win solution is very helpful. If you can find a way to meet that need but in a way that doesn’t disrupt your own priorities…

Again, not just a flat “no,” unless it’s truly an issue of violating your boundaries, but “I can get that to you by this time,” and then follow through on it so you can follow through on your own commitments. Sometimes all they need is a commitment to do something by a certain point that feels reasonable to them. Their default is “right now,” but if right now isn’t an option to you, then 4:00 this afternoon or end of business or tomorrow or the end of the week would also be satisfactory. To put a definite time on it can be very helpful.

Michael: I have at least one thing to add. If you can put a pause between their request and your response, it gives you an opportunity to dial down the emotion of it and not feel the need to do something rash and stupid. If you can say, “Well, let me think about that…” This takes discipline. “Let me think about that, and I’ll get back to you tomorrow.” Then all of a sudden you don’t have them right in your face where you’re feeling the urgency of it viscerally, but it’s something that takes the emotion out of it. Then you can respond in a way that is better for you. The second thing is I also like to have my most important time already scheduled, even if I’m only blocking time for myself.

Megan: This is a really important point.

Michael: So I can say legitimately, “You know, I’d love to help you, but I already have another commitment.” I don’t have to go into detail about the commitment. By the way, this happened to me just this week. I don’t go into detail about the commitment. The commitment, in my case, was that I had an appointment with myself to work on an important project that, for me, was important but wasn’t urgent and I kept postponing it, so I wanted to get to it.

So I just said, “I have another commitment then. Could we talk about something maybe the week after? I don’t really have any other time this week.” Well, what are they going to say? They’re not going to say, “Well, I expect you to bump that other person or bump that other commitment.” Everybody understands that kind of language. So I find that’s a really practical way to deal with that kind of situation.

Larry: We talk a lot about culture here at Michael Hyatt & Company, and we’ve talked a lot on this podcast about culture. This question came in through Instagram from Will who is a creative director. He wants to know how to create a positive culture when the boss seems to have little or no interest in it.

Michael: That’s not that unusual. I would say for the vast number of business leaders, they’re unaware that culture is even a thing. It’s like the fish swimming in the water. It’s just the environment they live in, and they’re completely oblivious or unaware about what’s happening in the culture. It takes real intention to be aware and to begin to shape culture, which you absolutely can do.

Here’s the good news: No matter where you are in the organization, you can have an effect. You can shape culture. I think it requires a couple of things. I’ve done this myself in a previous assignment where I was kind of in the middle of the organization. I didn’t like the culture. The leadership seemed oblivious to it. I was very much aware of it. I experienced the negative impact of it every day.

So for me, as a leader (I had a small department at the time), I had to get crystal clear on, first of all, what I didn’t like about the culture. That’s the easiest part, because you see stuff that you don’t like; for example, gossip or backbiting or a lack of transparency or just a really hierarchical relationship where there’s no collegiality or collaboration. Get really clear on what you don’t like, and then create a twist or a shift.

So you say, “Okay, what’s the opposite of that?” If I don’t like opacity, for example, or a lack of transparency, what would be the opposite of that? Well, it would be transparency. If I don’t like a stilted formalism, what would be the opposite of that? Maybe a casual kind of openness and authenticity. So get clear on what you do want, and then here’s the most important part: you have to start living like the thing you want.

In other words, you have to manifest the behaviors of this different kind of culture you’re trying to create, because the biggest influence you can have is going to come out of your life, not out of your head. You can talk about it until you’re blue in the face, but unless you’re living that different reality, you’re not going to be very persuasive and have an impact in the culture.

Megan: I like that, because even if you don’t have authority you can still have influence.

Michael: Definitely. And that’s leadership.

Megan: That’s leadership. That’s so empowering, and it means that no matter where you are you can shift things, even if you can’t ultimately control things.

Larry: Megan, I want to direct this question first to you, because it comes from Nick in Fresno, California, and he says, “Any advice for parents of four kids, ages 4, 2, 1, and 3 months old?”

Megan: Hang in there. It gets easier.

Larry: You are a mom to four kids, and you may know something about that. What would you say to Nick?

Megan: Seriously, though, it does get easier. You’re in the thick of it right now. I have a lot of empathy for that, and I can remember those days, for sure. My kids are a little older. I would say you have to set a low bar for yourself. When you hear us talking about things, you have to remember that it needs to be adjusted for whatever season of life you’re in. This can also be true, by the way, if you’re older and you’re caring for aging parents, which is much like caring for young children in a lot of ways. You have to be adjusting your life constantly to whatever the demands are on the personal side in particular.

Michael: You’re about to get experience with that with me.

Megan: I’m not ready to think about that yet, probably because I still have kids at home. For example, practically, that means in your morning routine it may need to be very short. When my kids were the ages of your kids, I was doing about a five-minute morning routine. I felt like a total champ if I could make coffee and do a five-minute devotional alone without being interrupted by children. That’s where I started, honestly. It was that small. Over the years, I’ve added to it. Now I have exercise as a part of it. I work on my planner.

I tried to figure out what I could do consistently day after day that no matter what happened and who was up in the middle of the night and how early they got up I could consistently repeat it day after day. That gave me enormous momentum and confidence that I was able to build on later. For example, in the planner, just focus on the Big 3 each day. Set your Big 3 for the day, and once you have that you can always add something else, but you want to give yourself small wins you can build on over time, and just be kind and patient with yourself. My guess is you’re probably not sleeping more than two hours at a time right now, and that’s a lot. It’s challenging.

Michael: I would say the most important thing at these ages is spend time with your kids. I wish I could go back and recapture some of that time. I thought so many other things were so important, like career advancement and making my mark on the world. All of those are important. You’ll have plenty of time for that, but you’re never going to have this moment again.

Megan: I agree. Slow it down.

Michael: Slow it down. Spend more time than you think you need with those kids. The investment will head off a lot of problems later on too.

Megan: That’s so true. And with your spouse, because you guys are in this together, and it’s a lot. Those investments will also pay off in the future. If you kind of abandon her with the kids because you’re at work or just overly consumed with something, it’s going to cause problems later on. So keep the main thing the main thing.

Larry: We have talked a lot on the program about the value of hiring an assistant. Michael, you’ve preached this from the early days of starting a business. You need help. Even a part-time virtual assistant is a big help. But a lot of people have a huge hurdle in getting to do that, so I think Tanya is asking for a lot of people when she’s asking this next question.

Tanya: My question for Michael would be how I educate myself to take advantage of a service like BELAY, which can offer me a virtual personal assistant, which I so desperately need. I have to learn to give up the control and the trust to let those things happen, and I cannot quite grasp how to do that.

Michael: Let me start by recommending two books. One is a book I wrote called The Virtual Assistant Solution. It’s a small book, but it talks about my experience having hired a virtual assistant for the first time. It’s a little bit different than a person who’s not virtual, but the principles still apply, and I think it’s a great place to start. Another book is a book called Virtual Freedom by my good friend Chris Ducker. It’s very powerful too. In fact, I love the title: Virtual Freedom.

It shows you how to start small. It gives you the vision for what you can do with a virtual assistant and why it just makes smart economic sense to hire somebody to whom you can offload the stuff you hate so you can focus on the stuff you love and, more importantly, the stuff you can bill for. There’s a lot of stuff we do that somebody else could help with that we can’t bill to anybody. As an entrepreneur, the more you can focus on revenue-generating activity, the faster your business is going to grow, the better your profit is going to be, and the more your business is going to move forward. So I would start there. Do you have anything to add, Meg?

Megan: Well, as far as I know, BELAY has a whole process of onboarding through their relationship managers that will help automate this process for you, so you don’t really have to figure it all out on your own. Certainly, those are great resources and you want to avail yourself of them, but there’s some built-in support that BELAY Solutions offers, and I would just take full advantage of that if you’re a new client with them.

In terms of giving up control, first of all, you do it a little bit at a time. You start with something like your calendar, and then maybe you move on to your email, and so on and so forth. As you see those wins, you get in a position where you can’t not do it. It’s too beneficial and too rewarding. You have to take kind of a risk at the beginning, but then the rewards are just a no-brainer after a while.

Michael: A thought I had, too, as you were talking about that is I treat everything in business, every new initiative as an experiment. It might work; it might not. If it doesn’t work, no big deal. I’ll go back to how I was doing it before. If it does work, it might be a game changer and really advance my business. So when you hire a virtual assistant, just… This is how I started. I said, “I’m going to try this for five hours a week.”

I would think of it as an experiment. Give it a try. You owe it to yourself. You hear people like me and other people saying you need an assistant. Give it a try. If it doesn’t work, what have you lost? Maybe a little bit of time, maybe a little bit of money, but I’m promising you I’ve never had anybody who has done it who has gone back.

Larry: I think we have time for maybe one more question. This one again comes in through social media. If you’re not following Michael Hyatt on Instagram, by the way, it’s a great follow, so I think you should do that. Robin from New York has a question about meetings. A lot of people do spend a lot of time in meetings, as you know. She wants to know, “How do you run a meeting with people who don’t want to be there?”

Michael: Fire them. Maybe not.

Megan: Well, first of all, I would ask why they are there if they don’t want to be there.

Michael: Well, you can see why. If their boss makes them come… For example, the weekly status update meeting or production meeting. Everybody rolls their eyes before they get there, but the boss requires it.

Megan: There are probably two solutions to that. Either you need to figure out how to make your meetings more interesting and run them more efficiently or you need to help those people connect with their why or they need to leave. I don’t know what else you’re going to do. You can help people connect to their why by talking about what’s in it for them, how this benefits them. Kind of reverse-sell them so they understand the connection between their work and what they’re responsible for and what they’re passionate about and the reason for attending the meeting.

Michael: This is the work of the leader.

Megan: It is the work of the leader.

Michael: It’s critically important. We constantly have to be connecting people’s actions that seem mundane and maybe not purposeful… We have to inject purpose and meaning into those by connecting them to the larger mission of the organization.

Megan: In terms of the meeting itself, you have to have an agenda. You have to have a very clear purpose and very clear outcomes. It is amazing how often this does not happen and how not common sense it is. When you’re showing up to a meeting without an agenda, it can be really frustrating to high producers. It can be really frustrating to people who are very action-oriented, and it just feels like you’re wasting their time. If you’re a leader, you cannot waste people’s time.

Michael: I said to somebody the other day… I was in a meeting. This was a nonprofit where I’m on the board. Somebody called for a meeting, and I said, “Okay, great.” I said, “Do you have an agenda?” They said, “No.” I said, “Well, first of all, how are you going to know when the meeting is over?” The way most people know when the meeting is over in most organizations is the clock tells them. It was a one-hour meeting. We’ve had a one-hour meeting. Now we’re done.

Here’s the cool thing when you have an agenda. I ran another meeting for another board I’m on (and this was my meeting). I had an agenda. We had set aside an hour for the meeting. We finished in 35 minutes. The meeting was over. Everybody got 25 minutes back because the goal was to get to the agenda and accomplish the outcomes, not just to mark time.

Megan: Absolutely.

Larry: Can we do one more question?

Megan: We can do one more question.

Larry: Nick, our producer, has a question burning on his mind.

Megan: Can’t wait.

Nick Jaworski: This is so exciting. Hi, everybody. I’m clearly a very accomplished individual in that I am sitting in this room, so that’s very exciting, but from being at the Achieve Conference and talking to some people who were also there, people who were taking this need to be organized very seriously, I know some of them are like me who get things done but it often can be chaotic.

We look at people like you, and the goal of being organized almost feels like an end point. The goal is to get organized so you can accomplish other things, but for those of us down at the bottom, we’re like, “How does it feel to be so organized?” That feeling alone would be so gratifying. So do you derive joy from that? “I’m so organized. Look at me. I’m proud of this.” Or is it just a tool to get to the end?

Michael: Okay. It’s a total illusion. I’m honestly not that organized.

Megan: Yeah, I’m not either.

Michael: I think people perceive that I’m super organized and super detailed. I’m really not. For me, I want to be as organized as I need to be to get the job done, but no more organized than I need to be. I don’t just enjoy…

Megan: It’s not like a hobby of being organized.

Michael: It’s not like a hobby. If you walked into my closet today… Periodically, all of my shirts will be lined up, all of the colors the same, but it’s a total mess right now. I just got back from a trip, and I dumped a bunch of stuff in there, and my shoes are all disorganized, but it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t slow me down. Where disorganization bothers me is when it impedes my progress. For me, I get really fixated on organizing when I should be doing something else. Like when I should be writing a book, all of a sudden I decide it’s time to declutter the office, because that’s a whole lot easier than writing the book, but it is not an endgame for me. Is it for you, Meg?

Megan: Well, I’ll say this: clarity is an endgame.

Michael: Okay, that’s fair.

Megan: Clarity is a blast, because when you have clarity it’s like being aerodynamic. You can just move through life faster and easier and with less friction, and that, I would say, is all it’s cracked up to be. So that’s really what I’m striving for: clarity and reducing friction. When I think about being organized, where I get frustrated with things not being organized and really take action to make them organized is where I can feel the friction of inefficiency.

There’s some process that is slowing me or the people who report to me down. There’s something that makes it difficult to find or things that are just broken. That stuff drives me crazy, and I am all over fixing it. When I have fixed it or, more likely, have delegated it to someone else who’s expert at fixing it, it is like a high. That feels great, but not for its own sake.

Michael: This is another thing you and I both do: we pay people to keep us organized. For example, I just got back from New York. I went up there and did a speaking engagement. Jim, who’s my assistant, prepares this thing called an event briefing form, which is basically everything I need to know about that event organized by day, all of my confirmation numbers, all of the important documents related to it.

Megan: Like, if you lost your total memory and had amnesia, you could wake up that day and still go do everything you were supposed to do.

Michael: It’s a work of art, but here’s the truth. I don’t look at that until I’m on the plane going to the destination. I don’t know who’s going to pick me up at the airport, I don’t know what my first meeting is, none of that stuff, because I’m not really that organized. But Jim organizes me, and I know exactly what’s next because of Jim’s work. Does that make you feel better?

Nick: Yes.

Michael: Good.

Larry: I think that’s going to make a lot of people feel better, because the goal is not to be super organized; the goal is to get things accomplished that you want to get accomplished, and these tools are just that: tools to help you do it.

Michael: Exactly.

Larry: We really are out of time. Thank you, Michael, thank you, Megan, for your answers and being candid and helpful, and thank you for the invitation to join you today.

Megan: Thanks for being here.

Michael: Thanks, Larry. Join us next time when we’ll talk about a secret weapon that can boost your leadership, your well being, and your enjoyment of life. I’ll show you why every leader needs friends. No, not that kind.

Megan: Sorry, guys.