Episode: Michael Answers Your Questions

Michael Hyatt: Hi, I’m Michael Hyatt, and this is Lead to Win, the weekly podcast to help you win at work and succeed at life. In this episode, I’m going to be answering your questions. Megan Hyatt Miller is on parental leave, spending some much-needed time with her newly adopted daughter Naomi. She’ll be back with us soon. In the meantime, I have, as always, Larry Wilson. Hey, Larry.

Larry Wilson: Hey, Michael. How are you?

Michael: I’m doing great. I’m looking forward to this. I always like answering our listener questions.

Larry: Marissa, our social media manager, fields them all the time. We get a lot of them through Instagram, and that’s where all of these questions today came from. Hey, guys, if you are not following Michael and Megan on Instagram, you really need to do that right now. Are you ready to dive in?

Michael: We’re ready. Full disclosure here: I have not seen these questions, so I’m going to be hitting this cold, which I like.

Larry: Yeah. This’ll be fun. As always, we get a lot of questions about goals and goal setting, so we have a few of those. I’ll pick one here for you. This is from Andy Comer, and he writes, “Michael, I’ve been a Full Focus Planner user, and I love the system. Obviously, you’ve talked a lot about SMARTER goals in the past. My question is…How do you create meaningful relationship goals, specifically in terms of marriage, in the SMARTER format without having that become a checklist? I know nobody’s spouse wants to be just another item to tick off their list.” So how do you navigate that?

Michael: Well, here’s what I would do. Oftentimes, these are what I would call aspirations, not goals. For example, “I want a closer relationship with God” or “I want deeper intimacy with my spouse.” The question to ask yourself is not how to turn that into an achievement goal, because I don’t frankly know, but how you can reduce it to a habit or a practice that if you did consistently would create the context for creating deeper intimacy. It’s not that the habit becomes an end in itself (I’m going to give you a concrete example in a minute), but it provides the context where it can happen.

For me, when I was trying to figure out how to develop deeper intimacy and get closer with Gail (we’ve been married 41 years, so I want to preserve this relationship), I instituted a simple habit goal of a weekly date night. On Thursday night, at 6:00 p.m., we go on a date. We did it last night. We’re recording this on a Friday. We did it last night. I was telling you guys before we got on we went to this awesome restaurant in East Nashville.

That habit of observing that doesn’t guarantee I’m going to develop greater intimacy. We can just sit there and stare at each other or have our heads in our smartphones over dinner, and it wouldn’t do us any good, but it has created the context where we can deepen our relationship if we take advantage of it. The first step, for us, is just setting aside the time for ourselves and then using that time to get to know each other in a deeper way.

One of the cool things that happens for us… I delegated this out to my assistant Jim, and I said, “Jim, two things. I want you to make reservations at a restaurant that you think we will enjoy…keep it interesting…so I don’t have the excuse of ‘I forgot to schedule that time,’ and if you could come up with a couple of questions we could ask each other, that’d be cool too.” The real value in that time together is getting to ask the question and, more particularly, hearing the answer of the other person.

Gail and I had an amazing conversation last night. We talked for two hours over a great dinner. We do that every Thursday. It’s a little habit goal that now has become very much a habit that we wouldn’t think of missing. It’s very rare for us to miss Thursday date night. That’s how you turn an aspiration into a meaningful practice that gives you a sense of progress.

Larry: Does Gail know you’re not making the reservation or writing those questions?

Michael: Yep, she does. I’ve confessed it all to her. I remember the first time I had an anniversary dinner with her… Not a date night dinner but an anniversary dinner, so it was even more special. We dressed up. We went to a restaurant that was more expensive. It was a bigger deal. Jim came up with a list of 10 anniversary questions for us to talk through. I went through these questions. Some of them made Gail tear up. She was moved emotionally.

At the end of it, she said, “Honey, those questions were amazing.” She said, “I really appreciate you taking the time to ask me these questions.” So then I felt a little guilty, so I had to confess. I said, “Well, actually, Jim came up with that list.” She said, “Well, I know that.” She figures that kind of stuff I’ve delegated to Jim. I still get points for it. The fact that I delegated it is good.

Larry: Here’s something to take away from that. Your spouse may not mind being an item on your to-do list as long as you check it off. If you get it accomplished, paying attention and building the relationship, the system for getting there doesn’t matter so much.

Michael: I think it’s like any kind of practice that becomes a habit. It can be mindless and we can leave our heart out of it. I don’t care if it’s going to church or if it’s spending time with your kids or spending time with your spouse. You can set up the practice, but you have to bring your heart to it.

Larry: Our next question comes from Jordan Brittley. She asks, “How do you set a goal for your business revenue? What steps do you then mentally take to adjust it and hit it?” She voices this concern. She wants to stay focused on revenue goals, but she says, “I don’t want a revenue goal to run my life.”

Michael: The first thing I would do is I would look at the revenue you did for the prior year. You have to have a baseline, and now you’re going to want to make an improvement. In the SMARTER system the R stands for risky. You want your goal to be in the discomfort zone. It can’t be something that’s a slam-dunk. It has to be something that forces innovation. I would say you have to answer the question…Why is it important? You don’t just want revenue growth for growth’s sake. There has to be a reason behind it.

This is where we talk about fleshing out the goal and identifying your key motivations. Why is that revenue growth important? Maybe it’s going to be because it’s going to enable you to fund some other new initiative that’s critically important or maybe it’s going to allow you to implement a benefit for your employees that you know would be meaningful to them. Maybe it’s going to enable you to retain them by implementing the benefit. You can peel the onion on this and go a lot of different levels deep in terms of asking why it is important, but I think that is important.

I’ll never forget that I was at a conference one time with Amy Porterfield, and we had both come off a very big year. She said, “Well, when is enough enough? Why is continued revenue growth important to you?” It was a great question. I said, “I’m going to tell you why it’s important to me. It’s important to me to continue to grow as a person, and when I’m growing my company, it’s going to require a different version of me to show up this next year than was in place this last year.” That’s one of the reasons I like growth, just one reason among many. Identify your why. That’s the key.

Larry: Let’s move to the subject of leadership, which we’re all about here on Lead to Win. We have a few questions on leadership. This one is from Sprout Marketing on Instagram, and they write, “I’d love to know how you transition as a leader as your company scales. At the beginning, you interact with everyone and you know a lot about each individual, but as you scale and as you add remote employees, it becomes more difficult. How do you keep a personal connection as those one-on-one interactions become less frequent?”

Michael: Well, I think you have to realize, you have to face the fact that it’s not going to be possible. There’s only so much of you that can go around. We’re facing this in our company now. We have 40 people, and there are some times when I’ll bump into somebody I haven’t seen for a while and I kind of have to jog my memory to remember their name. That’s just normal. What is important is that you segment who needs access to you and who you have to know more intimately.

For me, I make myself available to the executive team in a way that I don’t make myself available to every employee in the company. That’s just natural. If you want to get spiritual about it, if you look at Jesus, he gave more of his time to the disciples, and even within the twelve disciples, there were three he spent more time with than the other nine. So I think this is important to realize, and it’s okay. I just think you need to be deliberate and intentional about it. Who needs the most access to you, why do they need access to you, and how are you going to spend your time with them?

We do this with our natural meeting rhythm. I spend time one-on-one with my direct reports every week. I spend time with the executive team every other week. I spend time with the leadership team, which is a little bit broader than the executive team, every other week, and then with all of the employees, every month. Those are regular, formal times. That doesn’t count bumping into people at the office, but that’s regular, formal time. So I would just recommend being intentional about it.

Larry: Another question on leadership, this one from Tom Tonkin. He makes a comment first about the fact that here on Lead to Win we address what he calls organizational leaders, or positional leaders, people who are in positions of business leadership, CEOs and business owners, and so on. He brings up the fact that there’s also this other definition of leadership, which is leadership as influence. So the question is, “What’s your definition of leadership?”

Michael: Well, hopefully, leadership is not either/or. There are people who have positions of leadership who don’t have a lot of influence because they think the position is the leadership. There are people who have influence who don’t have a position in leadership who are enormously influential and are exerting their leadership through whatever means is at hand.

I actually have a fivefold definition. I’ve written an article on this. I won’t go through it here, but we’ll have a link in the show notes. You can look on my blog for the “five marks of leadership.” One of them is influence. I don’t think it’s the only one. I think, for example, initiative is a mark of leadership. Leaders go first. Leaders take initiative. Leaders have impact. Again, there are five of those, but influence is definitely one of the big ones.

I love the definition of influence. It comes from the same root word as influenza. It’s a good thing. You want to be contagious as a leader. You want to be able to spread your ideas, spread your impact, and all that comes through influence. John Maxwell says influence is everything. I don’t think it’s everything, but I do think it’s the most important part of leadership.

Larry: That’s a great answer, and that leads us to another kind of subcategory of leadership, which is leading up. So, being an influential leader even if you’re not the positional leader in your organization or your company. This one is from Katie Eckleman, and she says, “I’m a lower-level employee, but I have a few ideas on goal strategy for my company thanks to listening to your podcast.” So we’re reaching someone.

Michael: Awesome. That’s good.

Larry: “What is the best way to approach this topic with upper management?”

Michael: One of the things we’ve talked about on a prior episode is, basically, the idea of how to sell your boss. The best way to sell anyone on anything, but especially your boss, is to ask yourself the question, “What’s in it for them? How can I sell this in a way that helps them get more of what they want?” In other words, if you’re trying to sell a goal-setting methodology, you have to explain to them how doing this is going to help them accomplish their goals and get the results they want. Nobody cares about what you’re interested in (I hate to say it) as much as they care about what they’re interested in. So if you can frame it in terms of that, you can make the sale.

Larry: Heather Button has another question about leading up. “What happens when HR isn’t leading effectively?” Now, she used HR (human resources) as an example. I think we could probably substitute any department or function in a company. What do you do when this area of the company really isn’t functioning as it should be?

Michael: Do you think she’s talking about in the context of somebody who’s presiding over or leading that area of the company that’s not functioning or is she talking about somebody who’s a peer?

Larry: I don’t think that’s what she’s saying, but you could split the question and direct it on two fronts.

Michael: Okay. Let’s just say it’s a peer. Let’s say you’re running some division or some department of your company, and you really need HR to step up in a big way, because maybe you have some hiring aspirations and they’re just not helping you. What do you do with that? Well, here’s what I wouldn’t do. I wouldn’t go complain to my boss. I would go have a sit-down, face-to-face, adult conversation with that person first. That’s how I would want to be treated. I don’t want somebody going and tattling to my boss.

I’d appreciate if they would do me the honor of coming directly to me and speaking face-to-face and telling me where I’m not hitting the mark. I think most people want to do a better job. They want to know they’re meeting the needs of the people they’re in the organization to serve. If HR is not meeting your needs, tell them. Tell them what your expectations are, and just ask them the question, “Do you think this is something you could do?” Now, if you have a disagreement or they say, “You know what? That’s not something we do…”

“Well, I need that from you.”

“Well, that’s not something we do.”

Okay. Now I can go have a conversation with my boss, because now we have a disagreement. Now we need to have somebody help us get aligned, because they have one set of expectations, I have another. But don’t jump to that until you’ve had an opportunity to see if the person can self-correct.

Now, if the person is working for you…in other words, they’re running a department of your division, let’s say, or running a division within your company and they’re just not measuring up to your expectations…then you have to ask yourself the question what it is about your leadership that’s leading to that result. In other words, maybe I’ve not made clear my expectations to that department head or that division head, and I need to start there. Do we have a misalignment of expectations because I’ve not been explicit in what I expect?

Maybe I’ve not put into place performance criteria, maybe I have the wrong person in place, but the key thing is you have to confront it. If you have a performance issue, if somebody is not meeting your expectations, you have to give them the opportunity to course-correct, and you have to bring it to their attention. They can’t read your mind. We’ve said that a thousand times on this show. They can’t read your mind. You have to be explicit.


Nick Jaworski: Hey, everyone. It’s Nick Jaworski, and I’m the producer for Lead to Win. I have two quick things I want to cover with you. The first thing is I’m the producer of Lead to Win, and my job is to make this show as useful as possible for you, the listener. I don’t know if you remember, but all of the questions on today’s episode came directly from Instagram.

So if you want the chance to have your question answered by Michael or Megan, then you need to go to Instagram and follow Michael (@michaelhyatt) and Megan (@meganhyattmiller). Sometimes they’ll answer questions in real time on Instagram, and other times we save the questions so we can share them with everybody here on the podcast. So make sure you’re following them on Instagram so you can help us make the best show possible.

Also, we have another podcast. You may have already heard about it, but I’m telling you again that if you’re not subscribed, you need to go. It’s called Focus on This. It’s hosted by Courtney Baker and Blake Stratton. It’s like a morning drive-time show, but it’s about productivity, people talking about their planners and their Big 3 and how they’re productive.

So go to Apple Podcasts, to Spotify, to Stitcher, wherever you listen to podcasts, and subscribe to Focus on This, because we promise it will get you loving Mondays again. Okay. Let’s get back to more of your questions.


Larry: You recently launched a book, Your World-Class Assistant, which is about hiring and leveraging an executive assistant. Chad Ingels has a question about assistants and delegation. He says, “I’ve followed you for a long time, even back when you were a one-man show.” Sitting here doing this podcast with Nick, our producer, and with the various people I know are involved in this, it’s hard to believe you did this as a one-man show.

Michael: Man, I can’t believe it either. I mean, I was crazy. By the way, if I had to do it all over again, I would have gotten to this place faster, because it would have freed me up to do the other things that generated income.

Larry: Let’s get to Chad’s question. “As your brand grew, what specific tasks did you delegate to virtual and in-person assistants?”

Michael: Okay. I have followed the advice of Dawson Trotman, whom I’ve quoted here many times, but I want to quote it again because it’s very appropriate for this question. “Never do anything that others can or will do when there’s so much of importance to be done that others cannot or will not do.” The question I’ve always asked myself is, “Is this task I’m doing something somebody else can do or will do?” In other words, I want to be focused on the things I’m uniquely qualified or uniquely talented to do and stay focused on those areas.

Now that’s a journey. Where I’m at today, where I’m really focused on three main areas of expertise…that’s a journey. I couldn’t always do that. I mean, as he points out, I was a one-man band where I had to do everything, and a lot of those things were in what we call now my Drudgery Zone. They were things I didn’t have any passion for, didn’t have any proficiency for, but they had to be done.

As soon as I could, I delegated those things. Well, actually, I either eliminated, automated, or delegated them. It’s key to stay focused or at least to know, even if you have to do other tasks, what you’re uniquely qualified to do and move as quickly as you can to where you’re doing predominately those things. Does that make sense?

Larry: Yeah. I think what you’re saying is the tasks will vary by person that you hand off to your assistant. There may be some that are very common, but it just depends on your abilities and where you find leverage in your work.

Michael: That’s right.

Larry: Well, let’s go back to where it all started and talk about productivity.

Michael: Okay. My favorite topic.

Larry: Kim Metzler says, “I am addicted to all things productivity.” Kim, we know exactly how you feel.

Michael: We’re fellow addicts.

Larry: We are total addicts as well, but she adds this: “I struggle with organization.” She says, “I would love to hear more systems, processes, and hacks for those of us who struggle in this way.”

Michael: Here’s the best hack: Find someone who doesn’t struggle with it and employ them. I mean, seriously. You don’t have to be great at everything. Endlessly organizing things… Probably your clients aren’t going to pay you for that. They’re not going to see whether your file cabinet is a mess or not. They may feel the effects of it. But why not hire that? I know not everybody can, but you don’t have to be good at anything… I think this is the myth that, frankly, works against our productivity. The sooner we can realize that, the faster we can become truly productive.

Larry: Our next question is from Belinda, and she asks, “How do you determine if a project is worth your time? In other words, how do you let go of a project?”

Michael: Well, this is the value of setting goals, because when you set goals, you know where your primary focus needs to be. The problem is most people don’t know where to focus, they don’t know what demands their attention and what to say no to because they haven’t identified what really should command their attention. This is why we advocate setting two to three goals per quarter, two to three priorities per week, and your Daily Big 3, and what falls outside the scope of those things are candidates for elimination.

Larry: Here’s a question on employment, and this comes from Dee. He says, “How do I land a job? It has been six years since my first job.”

Michael: Wow. Well, I’m sorry. That sounds challenging. I’m not an employment expert, but the first thing I would do is buy the book by Dan Miller called 48 Days to the Work You Love, because Dan will help you think through this topic and hopefully give you some creative ideas on how to seek employment.

This is easy for me to say because I’m not in that position, so it may look easier than it really is, but I would start looking at my mindset. If you go into that next interview or make the effort to contact that next employer and you’re already defeated before you start and have the expectation that you’re not going to be hired or aren’t going to get the interview, I think you telegraph that in ways you probably are not aware of. Unconsciously, you’re telegraphing that you don’t expect to be interviewed.

I’ve heard people… It shows up in their language sometimes, like when somebody says, “You probably wouldn’t want to hire a person like me” or they have this limiting belief where they think, “I’m overqualified” or maybe in this situation, “I haven’t held a job in six years. Who would hire somebody like me?” I think you have to spin that around and take those limiting beliefs and turn them into liberating truths. I explain how to do this in my book Your Best Year Ever. I think you have to get the mindset right first.

Then, I would say, and this is just random advice, but I would approach it almost like I’d approach sales. One of the things I know about sales is that, fundamentally, it’s a numbers game. In other words, if I get in front of enough prospects, I’m going to make the sale eventually. Even if somebody randomly says “Yes” when maybe they should say “No,” if I get in front of enough people, I’m going to get the sale. So I would do everything I could to get my résumé, to get in front of people, network with your friends, all of that. But, again, I’d start with Dan Miller’s book.

Larry: This question comes from Greg Brown, and he says, “How do you balance your focus on the controllables and the uncontrollables?” What he’s getting at there is the things you can control, which is what you do, and the results, which you can’t often control.

Michael: Yeah. Well, I try to focus on what I can control. For example, to go back to that previous example of making sales calls in an employment context, I can’t control whether an employer says yes or no, but I can control how many résumés I send out. I can control how many networking functions I attend, how I show up for an interview. I can take control of my mindset. I can take control of my appearance.

Again, take control of what you take control over. There is a sense in which we have to leave the results with God and focus on what we can control. I don’t disagree with that philosophy. The problem is we usually have more control than we think. If I don’t make the phone calls, if I don’t get out of bed in the morning, I can’t blame that on God because the results don’t happen.

Larry: Is there a sense in which the results, though, have to inform what you’re doing? If you’re consistently getting good results, that must tell you something is working, or if you’re not getting good results, then you go back and adjust what you’re doing. So you have to pay some attention there.

Michael: Totally. They do matter. Like, if I was in a sales situation and I was consistently getting “noes,” I would have to ask the question, “Is it a matter of my lack of persuasion? Maybe the product is not quite right. Maybe the fit is not quite right.” Absolutely I would be taking in the feedback or the input I was getting after every one of those calls and adjusting. “What is it that’s keeping me from making the sale?” You might even ask the person who’s saying no. “What is it that kept me from getting this job?”

Larry: Wow! That’s a risky question.

Michael: Well, I’ll give you a concrete example. When I was trying to sell my first book, I had 29 publishers in a row send me a rejection letter, and most of them didn’t give me a lot of information, but a few did. So I asked them specifically, “What is it that made you say no?” That gave me hugely helpful data. Now, it took me 29 times before I got a “Yes,” but it was totally worth it. Each time I learned, and that helped me progress and incrementally improve the proposal until I finally got the “Yes.”

Larry: Well, let’s go for our last question to Kevin Gomez. Kevin says, “I’m currently in a growth plan for leadership, and I feel I’m outlearning my supervisors and leaders in regard to leadership and managing people. What do you recommend I do?”

Michael: Congratulations. You’re normal. I think anybody who’s committed to personal development is going to feel that. Larry, I’ll ask you this. Don’t you often feel like… I mean, not in your current situation, but you often feel like, “I’m working for somebody who doesn’t know as much about this as I know”?

Larry: I have often in the past really felt that. Frankly, not since I took this job, but give me time.

Michael: Joel (your boss), watch out. I’ve felt that way so many times, and that’s just normal. I think you have to have the humility to realize they probably know some things that maybe you’re not giving them credit for or maybe know some things you haven’t seen yet, but it doesn’t matter. They’re in a position of authority. They’re worthy of your respect regardless of whether you know more.

The truth is we all know a lot of smart people who aren’t very successful at life, because knowledge doesn’t always correlate with success. What really does correlate with success is if you can take that knowledge and translate it into behavior that leads to results. If you can translate it into results, that’s going to get you promoted, and eventually, those people you think now are knuckleheads may be working for you or you may be in a position to let them go. That has happened to me in the past.

Larry: Thank you, Michael, for answering these questions. I feel like these episodes are like the Talmud.

Michael: How so?

Larry: You have the body of knowledge we teach. So, we have our books and we have the podcast and the things we put out into the world, but this is a chance to give some commentary on that in real-life situations that people wonder about. I think it’s very helpful for our listeners. I know I gain from every time we do this. So thanks for your input today.

Michael: Thank you, Larry, and thank you guys for listening to us. Until next time, lead to win.