Chantal: I am incredibly excited. Now I’ve gotta tell you that in the time that I was doing a little bit of research for our interview today, one of the pieces that I jumped online and had a look at was your TED talk, and I have got to tell you that you are the most incredibly captivating speaker. It was not only a joy to listen to the content that you were talking about but it was actually a joy just to listen to you speak and to watch you speak. I am so excited for IRHSA next year.
Lisa: I’m excited too! Thank you for those kind words, I appreciate it.
Chantal: Now, you’ve written a book called “Why Simple Wins” so can you start by telling us, do most people generally over complicate business?
Lisa: Here’s the simple answer: yes! Most of complexity that we experience every day is self-imposed and unnecessary. That’s the bad news. The good news is that we as individuals have control over it so every time we put in place an extra meeting or report, poll, PowerPoint, process … those things are driven by personal behaviour … risk, fear, power control, and they are things that we can take back, take control of, and we as leaders can eradicate. The good news is while we create a lot of complexity, we also have control over many of the simple things we do every day and can eliminate.
Chantal: You’ve got a simplification talk here. Try to tell us a little about that and how it actually works.
Lisa: Yes. You know, it’s interesting. I had no intention of creating a tool kit … just a book. All I wanted to do was write a book! That was enough, but we did all this research and it was amazing to me how much research there was on complexity and how little there was on simplicity. People can tell you exactly what the problem is but they’re really bad at what the solutions should be, and I said, “You know, I’m someone who’s very practical and if I’m gonna help someone with a problem, I wanna give them the tools to solve it.”
So we took the time to also create tools that people could actually start getting things done. They had to be simple, and what they were designed to do is create awareness of where your problem was … there’s a diagnostic, there’s a task diary that lets you diagnose if you actually are spending your time on valuable things or not, and there’s action tools too, like 100 questions to simplify … how to create a simplification code of conduct with your team so we know what behaviours to do more of or less of if they’re creating complexity.
There’s tools like killing stupid rules that are really easy to start killing rules right away and making the space change and there’s even a whole tool on topics to simplify where you can steal best practises from hundreds of other people around the world. It’s all designed to be simple, easy to use in your next status meeting or at your desk so you can get going killing complexity right now.
Chantal: You know, I truly believe that any business can benefit from this because when I was listening to another interview that you did and you were talking about the killing stupid rules … We’re gonna chat about that in a second … It was fun because as you were talking I was reflecting back to my corporate days and I was thinking to myself, “I can relate to so much of this and I wish that someone had that meeting with me that said ‘Okay let’s just put it all out on the table and let’s talk about all the stupid rules that we have in this business right now.'”
Chantal: Because I can guarantee there were so many things that we were doing at that time that were slowing us down. I know that is the case for so many fitness business because we do get caught up in all of the processes and that type of things, so let’s talk about that identifying stupid rules, which you talk about in the book. Do you want to tell us a little bit more about that and perhaps even a few examples that you’ve encountered and why they should be eliminated?
Lisa: Absolutely. I will tell you this is our number one tool that people love, or technique, it’s not really a tool teaching people that they have the permission and the ability to kill stupid rules. It’s not that they’re always putting stupid rules in place, it’s just that many rules just outlive their time. We never go back and weed the garden so making a practise of … You know I said earlier “deleting things” but killing things is really key because it creates the space for meaningful work.
Killing stupid rules is great because especially with yourself and with your team it forces you to go and say, “Hey, what’s not working? What would really happen if we just got rid of them?” What you do is you get your team in a room or have yourself think about if you could kill any two rules that are holding you back from doing more meaningful things or reaching your goals, what would they be, and why? What you will find is you’ll come up with more than two rules. You’ll come up with many and a lot of them aren’t rules. A lot of them are assumptions around how you think work has to happen.
They might be meetings, processes, reports, decision making structures … those are things that you can kill right away. What I found really interesting is whenever we do this with teams even the CEOs get into it because it drives efficiency and CEOs and leaders love efficiency … it also drives morale and culture that people know it is their job to get rid of stuff that is inefficient and when they identify it they have permission to let it go. Let me give you some examples that are great.
We were working with a pharmaceutical company and one guy gave an example of, “Why is there this rule that I am able to approve 5,000 tech purchases but when it comes to hotels I have to get permissions to go above 200 dollars?” Right? When you say it out loud everyone goes, “Yeah, that is pretty stupid why is that?” Somebody said, “Why do we have to have status meetings every week for an hour even when we don’t fill the time?” And everyone said, “You’re right!” It’s just always been on the calendar, in that instance they said “I don’t want to kill that meeting but why don’t we just do it every other week?” So that alone saves time because it allowed them to question why and give permission to cut back or kill. I know you would be able to find a million things in everyone will say the same thing. It’s really cathartic.
Chantal: I love the concept of also giving that responsibility to people within your team because –
Chantal: Because I find often when we are the business manager or the business owner we have a tendency to take a helicopter view on a lot of things and sometimes we are not necessarily exposed to some of those little rituals or habits or processes that are eating away time so by turning that responsibility and giving our team the opportunity to say, “Hey, here are a few stupid rules that we’re encountering day-by-day.” It gives them that little bit of autonomy, that little bit of say in what’s going on in the business and then it gives you as the manager or the owner exposure to things that as I said perhaps you haven’t been aware of.
Lisa: You just hit the nail on the head. That’s exactly right. What’s interesting about it is empowerment in a good way. Most people when they hear their leaders say “You’re empowered to do something.” All they hear is, “Oh boy, he just added more to my to-do list. I don’t wanna be empowered in fact, I want to be less empowered.” But when you empower them to kill things or get rid of things or eliminate a barrier that really drives them crazy they are just so excited they love you that much more as a manager and they like their job. It’s just the best kind of empowerment you can give people … Creating this space to do more valuable things.
Chantal: Yeah, I absolutely love that example. Thank you so much for going into that with us Lisa. Out of interest, have you ever worked with any fitness organisations or health based organisations and gone through this process with them?
Lisa: I have, in fact, here what we had done is we had worked on a health programme with New York schools, which was very interesting. So, not necessarily fitness centres but also doing health and wellness programmes within companies like Time Warner for example. How can we actually create mind, body, spirit, and efficiency all the way around as a total human being. The way that we did that with them is we said that it is not just about physical wellness but mental wellness. Part of the things that drive people down emotionally are all of these burdens and rules, so that’s why … you know I say this as people think of this as a business exercise but it’s also a wellness exercise getting rid of these barriers that hold us back.
Chantal: You know, it’s funny because what’s coming to my mind as we’re speaking is in the fitness industry at the moment we’ve kind of seen this movement in the last six to twelve months where there is a more and more often demand for us to supply shorter more efficient workouts and that is largely due to the fact that so many of our clients don’t have time to spend an hour working out or forty five minutes working out. A lot of facilities have introduced these thirty minute quick hit classes. In our business for our clients we have listened to that feedback and we’ve found a way to adapt for our customers so really I see this as a way to do that internal cleanup and doing that same process for our business and saying “Okay, how can we be more efficient? What ways or things can we implement to bring the time down in order to still get the job done but to do it in a more efficient way in a shorter time?”
Lisa: I love this example. I love this example because people have what we call adult ADD. Everyone wants things literally what used to be a two day learning into a one day learning into what we now call micro learning. They want everything in one hour sessions … all the videos we create on simplicity are no longer than sixty to ninety seconds. It’s good and bad. People want immediate results that might not be realistic. On the other hand, the people creating these workouts like yourself and me creating these learning modules is that it really makes you focus on what matters.
Lisa: You cut away all the noise. There’s pluses, there’s minuses, but what it really does is it gets us focused.
Chantal: Yes, I absolutely love that. It’s funny, in one of the interviews you did, I think it was on a podcast that you did, you referred to yourself I think as a wardrobe or closet organiser for business.
Chantal: Was that the term?
Lisa: Yeah. (Laughs.)
Chantal: There’s things I heard you say that I’m like, “Yes! That’s exactly what this is all about.” This is like someone coming through your business and just going, “Right, okay we’re gonna throw away the old stuff, the stuff that doesn’t work, doesn’t look good anymore, and we’re gonna stick to the stuff that really works.”
Lisa: That’s exactly right.
Chantal: It’s such a good analogy. Now, I’m hoping that you can actually take us through some tips on really embracing the simplicity mindset.
Lisa: I’d be happy to. There’s … We did all this research on what are the skills a chief simplifier has and one of the things I loved and in which everyone on this podcast listening needs to do is become your own chief simplification officer. To do that, you need to have a few skills. This is what you really need to embrace in my opinion. The first is having a minimalist mindset so everything you do is about simplifying, eliminating, deleting, et cetera. So how can you get in the mindset that less has value, not more? The next thing is focus. Once you parse away the noise and you start to minimalize you can focus on what really matters. Part of focus is not having any distractions. Don’t multitask, work on one thing at a time, get a job done and have a satisfying outcome, and then move on. Then the final thing I’d say … First is minimalist, second is focus, the third is decisiveness.
One of the biggest things we find, for example, within big companies is yes people complain about meetings and emails and PowerPoints and all that kind of day-to-day fatigue but what really drives them crazy is the lack of decisiveness. Part of being focused is being able to be decisive and making a decision and moving on. Maybe it wasn’t the right decision but it was a decision and you can always go back and revisit it. Giving yourself permission to make a mistake and really being decisive so you can finish a task, check it off the list, and move on to the next.
Chantal: Lisa, can we go back to that number two there? You talked about focus and I think that this is a really interesting area to explore because I know for me personally in my career one of the things that I was brought up doing was you’ve gotta learn to multitask, you’ve gotta be able to do multiple different things at the one time. That’s gonna make you more efficient, but we’re kind of flipping that on its head, right? We’re saying, “Actually, no. Stop and focus on one key area.”
Lisa: You need to focus on one key area and the reason why … The science shows us that multitasking doesn’t work. It actually diminishes our ability to do any task effectively versus if you had just done it on its own. So it is actually more productive and effective in the long run, more efficient, for you to do one thing at a time because you really give it its due. A lot of the organisational experts will tell you to touch everything once. Don’t touch it and come back to it, open your email and come back to it, address it, open it, read it again later and come back to it. Just do it! The problem with multitasking is it allows us to do everything kind of half versus whole. I think that there’s this oxymoron that happens with multitasking. I think in some [inaudible 00:13:42] things, those are things you just know how to do … brush your teeth, I don’t know. When it comes to really business things, I think multitasking can be a hindrance.
Chantal: Lisa one of the things that I have learned over the years and it has been largely through this podcast is to move from having a to-do list that is two pages long to just focusing … What I do now is just have three key tasks that I know I must complete each day. That’s part of my morning ritual is going through and doing that. What’s your advice on that? Do you have a morning ritual or do you have a way that you recommend that people should start their day so that they can keep that focus?
Lisa: Well you are officially a chief simplification officer. I love your focus on your three key outcomes versus your to-do list. One of the things I always say to people is, “Being a simplifier isn’t about … yes it’s a productivity exercise, but it isn’t about doing more on your to-do list. It’s about knowing what should be on that list in the first place.” I know a lot of people that get a lot done during the day but when you ask them what they did or what they accomplished that day it’s funny how they can’t seem to name anything, like “I did so much, but I can’t really remember! I can’t really recall it, it felt like I was busy. I know I’m exhausted.” That’s because I don’t think they’re really accomplishing meaningful tasks. They’re just checking things off the list. So your ritual, which I think is great is “What are the three big things I need to tackle today?” That’s focus. That’s really a compass versus a to-do list and I like that. That’s a very good ritual.
Chantal: Brilliant. I’ve gotta tell you before I started chatting to you I said that I was really excited about your IHRSA presentation and now after chatting to you I’m even more excited about your IHRSA presentation. Do you wanna share with all of the listeners of FBP what are you going to be speaking about at IHRSA? Give us a bit of an overview.
Lisa: Absolutely. It’s going to be a couple things. I’m going to talk about making simplification a habit, and so you can get to the work that matters. One of the things we’re gonna do around that is talking about things around killing your company. What’s really interesting about that is so much of what we do today around innovation is we focus on the mundane and we spend a lot of time not clearing the space for change to happen. By giving people the permission to kill rules, kill meetings, and actually kill their company, which allows them to actually attack the weaknesses in their company, eliminate them, and then make the space for change to do more valuable things … that is really going to be the focus. I wanna be productive. I wanna teach people about less is more, and I want to give them really practical things they can do to make that change to happen.
Chantal: Lisa I just want to say thank you so much, it’s a real honour to have you on the show.
Lisa: Thank you, I really appreciate it. Thanks for the time.
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