Blog Recruiting Thought Leadership

The science behind a healthy work-life blend

The science behind a healthy work-life blend

What’s the perfect recipe for the most delicious work-life smoothie? There isn’t just one, but here’s ours.

Add equal parts rest and humor. Mix in a spoonful of time with friends (furry and human). Fold in some quality alone time. Fill it up with focus and concentration on whatever work task needs to be done or problem that needs solving. As the famous viral series for Blendtec asks, “Will it blend?” It will. 

That’s great, you may be saying. But can you give me some more concrete ideas? Yes. We totally can. See them below or watch the video I shared on this very subject. 


TIP 1: Naps

Sounds simple, right? So…do you do it? It’s culturally curious how we privately want that precious sleep but publicly celebrate the worker who is “so dedicated” that exhaustion is a status symbol. So let’s celebrate the celebrities who prioritize neuroscience over passé cultural norms: Bill Gates, LeBron James, Arianna Huffington, Sheryl Sandberg, and NASA… to name a few.

NASA’s research shows that just 26 minutes of sleep improved job-performance by 34%. Companies bent on performance started changing norms by adding sleep pods. One company had to also put in screens to shield people from being identified when they walked to the nap pod, as the social science around “taking a break” had not quite overtaken the neuroscience of “but aren’t I judged on the quality of my work?” One plus  in the surge to work from home during the Covid era? Your bed is only a few steps away. Seize the daily nap. 


TIP 2: Ban the word “busy” (+ two solutions for it…)

We prefer other four-letter words to this one. Busyness can sometimes be a shortcut to letting the world know that you’re a) very important and b) a teeny bit out of control. 

When you think of the leaders who inspire you, do you imagine them saying to others “I’m too busy”, or do you imagine them talking about their priorities and kindly saying “no” to requests that don’t fit their priorities. Because busyness, in some measure, is within your control. Consider how you could prioritize the things that are important to you, and take back a little bit of control. 

Also, consider saying “life is full right now” to adjust your mental state (feeling more fulfilled than overwhelmed) while communicating to others that you can’t take on any more at this point. Language is powerful. 

Our team uses our calendars not just for work, but to block out time for hanging out with family and friends (outside, six-feet apart), eating lunch while not on Zoom, and exercise. We’ve found by reserving a designated time to do our high-priority actions, it’s easier to not let them slip by the wayside when you feel pressure to “get more done” at work.

A key part that is often missing in banning “busy” is our dedication to our work and our teammates. We want to be available, jump in to help, and so we remain incredibly busy. But this is where science helps us see our blind spots. Because when teams take on time constraints around how much they work, and have constraints around when they collaborate (or are entirely offline—gasp!), the quality of work goes up. Leslie Perlow’s longitudinal study of Boston Consulting Group (and she has since replicated the findings in a variety of companies) found that when teams were required to block more time off from work not only did the quality of their work rise but also employee retention increased. And Morten Hansen who has worked with Apple did a large study that also revealed how longer hours do not equal better performance. 


TIP 3: Know (and choose) Multipliers over Multitasking.

Take a walk with a friend (bring your cute new puppy along). Host a reoccurring, virtual happy hour with co-workers. Volunteer in your community with your loved ones. Have more meetings by phone while you’re walking outside. Cook dinner while video chatting with your parent(s). 

Multipliers are when you combine activities that fulfill multiple goals, not switch tasking that we know from neuroscience only lowers your IQ (and depletes your energy). Embrace your time affluence with super fun math.  

There’s no perfect recipe for the right blend. But no matter how you make your own work-life smoothie, it’s sure to be delicious. Have any tips you’d like to share? We’d love to hear them. We’re all in this together.

Recruiting Thought Leadership

Hiring? Consider the Individual vs Team Sport Approach

Hiring? Consider the Individual vs Team Sport Approach

Sometimes, we all need a hero. But other times, we need the entire Justice League. We (the royal “we”) used to think of hiring talent as an individual sport. Meaning that if you found that one brilliant, successful, super-performer, they’d win at any job they were put into.

The truth is… it’s not that easy. In fact, it’s super messy. Some people will thrive in one environment but completely wilt in another. That rock star executive (who seemed like a slam dunk on paper) didn’t mesh with your culture and fell apart. Why?

Well, we’ve come to see hiring as a team sport. But each team is different. Some of them have one super player who just doesn’t quite mesh. And others will bring in a star who integrates with the team and lifts everyone up to play their best. So when you’re hiring…

consider who will come into your team and raise everyone’s game. 

So first, let’s reverse the rules. What if you *started* with outlining who the cultural complement is for your particular team? In the art and science of most professional work, there is a plethora of science on the critical link to culture to back it up.

Also, there isn’t “one way” to do any of this, so you can take a deep breath and think creatively. It’s fascinating to see how very different cultures can scale and thrive. Apple has a focus on secrecy and a functional organization, whereas Google is open-source and matrixed. The key here is to find the right hire for your unique team and company. 

For example, we’ve met incredibly talented alums from Apple who would never thrive at Google and vice versa. But we’ve also met people who would fit in brilliantly at either company. Our advice? Start with the reality (with brave honesty) of what your organizational context and culture is. Next, sprinkle in the cultural specifics of the team you’re hiring for and what experiences and perspectives would complement that team. Now, you’re set up for hiring an executive who will not only add to the diversity of the team but will (more likely) feel included and amplify what makes your team rock and roll. 

Here’s the easy part. Now, you can outline the critical skills and experience you’re looking for from a resume. We recommend picking your top five—a short list of skills and experience widens the aperture (versus the laundry list of requirements) to attract people who nail the key elements—and who might bring other talents you never dreamed of including. Long gone are the days of verbose job descriptions. We’ve learned.

To be sure, we want individuals on our team to perform in outstanding ways. We love a super star just as much as anyone (who doesn’t love that game-clinching play or phenomenal heroic save). But we also don’t want individuals so bent on individualism that they diminish the rest of the team, or act according to values that are not congruent with your team. 

You want to hire the person who is the best for your team, not just “the best in the market” (which is highly subjective anyway).

We don’t just hire this way because it feels like the right thing to do. We do it because it works. We’re determined to make work better which means setting individuals and teams up for success. So join us in embracing the messy, tricky, and complicated. Because often, the easy way isn’t the best way (unless we’re talking about downhill skiing or pre-made cookie dough).

Blog Thought Leadership

Want to Give Feedback that is Heard and Acted On? Look to Science.

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. You’ve told the same employee the same feedback approximately 5 million times (give or take). And yet, nothing changes. Maybe you get a blank stare, or if you’re lucky, a head nod. You feel as if your employee isn’t really listening, maybe doesn’t care, or possibly needs a different job entirely. What’s going on? 

First, consider how it’s possible that you may have a teeny bit of responsibility in this dynamic. It might not be what you’re saying that’s the problem. It could be how you’re saying it. Or it is likely a little bit of both. 

In a season where many leaders are preparing for, or already giving, performance feedback to teams, this is an ideal time to step back and strategize so words turn into actions that everyone feels great about. So let’s tune in with our employees to weed out our biases as step one, so our teams feel it. With this important first step, they’ll be much more likely to light up instead of shutting down and tuning us out.

Giving people fair, honest, and helpful feedback can be surprisingly complicated, so we need to know our blind spots. If you haven’t thought about how unconscious bias seeps into feedback, we have a concrete example to share. A study was sent to legal partners to review. They were told one was written by a white person and the other by a black person. The reviewers found 51% of the errors in the memo written by the white writer and 81% of the errors written by the black writer. The clincher? Both memos were exactly the same. The reviewers scrutinized the black writer’s work more. 

Unconscious bias is a brain on auto-pilot. Our big brains like to make decisions easier and faster, and Daniel Kahneman (Nobel prize winner) wrote an entertaining book on it called Thinking, Fast and Slow. Guess which thinking approach we want to use when giving feedback? As hard as it is to slow anything down in our digitally-warp-speed world, this is where taking it slow to mitigate unconscious bias is an investment, not a cost. So, let’s talk about some ways to work on keeping those pesky biases out of feedback.

  • 5:1 Ratio
    The frequency of positive to negative feedback matters. Employees want to be seen for all their contributions, so use the research-backed 5:1 ratio. 
  • Emotions vs Data
    Good for sports. Bad for feedback. Focus on the work, not your feelings about the person. If someone missed a deadline, talk about the importance of deadlines. Try to keep frustration out of it (read: don’t call it out as something about their character).
  • Empathy
    Listen. Give the person a chance to respond and take time to see it from their perspective. Think of it as a problem you can solve together. You’re on the same team.
  • Expectations
    When you assign something, be crystal clear on what result you want. Muddy guidelines create muddy end products.
  • Action-oriented, with a positive orientation (neuroscience!)
    What do you want them to do? Instead of “stop showing up late” say something like “please be at the meeting by 9:00”.
  • Consistency
    Clear evaluation criteria created ahead of time and communicated with your team saves time and energy and provides a sense (and more likely achievement) of fairness.
  • Evaluate
    Really reflect about your feedback before you give it given your awareness now of how unconscious bias works. Be bold with yourself and ask, would I judge this work/person in the same way if they were a different identity? 
  • Tools
    Invest in performance evaluation tools that prime for inclusion and disrupt bias the moment it might occur. (hint: we can help here if you need…)
  • Specifics – in both positive and “developmental” areas
    Avoid generalizations and labels such as “high potential,” “superstar,” “cold,” or “abrasive.” Instead, focus on observable examples such as “Last quarter she led a successful initiative that increased inbound leads by 25%.”

Need more feedback tips? Check out our article, “Why Every Excellent Leader Is a Behavioral Scientist.” Or send us a note. We would love to know what you think. What tips do you have to add?