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How To Work Asynchronously In The Future Of Work (with David Hanrahan, Former CHRO At Eventbrite)

Has your organization successfully figured out the world of asynchronous work? Learn from David Hanrahan, former CHRO at Eventbrite, how to implement asynchronous work in your organization and the three ways you can embrace the future of work.

Interview Highlights

  • For David, leadership is a great responsibility. A leader is a role to be a servant in service to others. [1:20]
  • The more that we have empowered people and that we’re trying to help them unlock their potential, the greater the individual can perform and the greater the teams can perform. [3:13]

Building a better world of work is really about unlocking people’s potential.” — David Hanrahan

  • The idea of experimentation as a mode has been one of the biggest unlocks for Eventbrite. [5:43]
  • David shares that the way that they used to work was increasingly in a rear view mirror. They’re not going to go back to an in-office culture and they’re going to really lean on choice. They will choose where they want to work, and everyone in their company has that choice no matter their role, level, or function. [6:56]
  • One of the experiments that they ran on Eventbrite was called “async week”. They did a pre and post-survey of all employees by function and by level. And they asked questions around, how well do you feel you’re performing versus your potential? A series of questions just about their general engagement and how things work. [9:54]
  • Async Week was no meetings a whole week. No internal meetings. And in general they found something pretty remarkable, which is that everyone felt that they were much more productive by not having meetings. [10:24]

The idea of doing anything big or wide on changing the way that you work is going to encounter resistance.” — David Hanrahan

  • If you feel like we have to change how we’re working in order to become a high-performing company, you’re going to have to take risks. [14:44]
  • Data shows that working more hours doesn’t yield greater productivity for the individual or the company. [15:27]
  • One more of experiments that they did at Eventbrite was taking off the first Friday of every month. The whole company. They took it off to just recharge. So literally they’re not allowed to work. [18:10]

When people like their job, when they feel like they’re taken care of and the organization does things that helps them, they wind up just doing better.” — David Hanrahan

  • Your great performance is not coming from when you were expected to do something, but when you were unexpected. [20:04]
  • Some research shows that the async and the hybrid environments really leans so much on the leader creating an inclusive team. So regardless of time zones, the leader understands what inclusion looks like. [24:34]
  • Doing experiments doesn’t have to be run at the whole org level. You can choose certain teams. Maybe not all seven of the C-suite members are interested in this, but one is. [30:00]

Meet Our Guest

David is a Senior HR leader adept at building strong People teams and innovative talent practices in rapid environments (at both start-up stage and at scale). IPO and post-IPO experience. Proven success in private and public companies in the technology and media space. Excellent communicator and strategic partner seen as both a creative visionary as well as a focused executor. At ease interfacing with all levels including C-Suite, Board of Directors, and staff. Known for building processes to drive high performance and accountability. Analytical thinker who applies a critical lens to both HR and business strategy. Respected coach and manager who fosters a collaborative team culture while building a sense of urgency and drive to succeed.

photo of david hanrahan

A leader is someone who’s in service to a team. And so that role, in my view, is not a command and control type of thing.”
— David Hanrahan

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Read The Transcript:

We’re trying out transcribing our podcasts using a software program. Please forgive any typos as the bot isn’t correct 100% of the time.

David Hanrahan

I think if you find yourself in a mode where like, we do have to change how we work, we’re just not working well anymore. And you could point to attrition, great resignation, or your attrition data. You can point to engagement, you can point to whatever you want. If you feel like we have to change how we’re working in order to become a high-performing company, you’re going to have to take risks. 

Tim Reitsma

Welcome to the People Managing People podcast. We’re on a mission to build a better world of work and to help you build happy and productive workplaces. I’m your host, Tim Reitsma. And today on the show, David Hanrahan — former CHRO at Eventbrite and an HR leader with over 18 years experience, and I talk about async work and how organizations can embrace this in the future of work.

Three things that you will learn when you listen to this podcast are: experimentation, engagement, and where to start designing your organization for the future.

David, welcome to the People Managing People podcast. How are things going today? 

David Hanrahan

Tim things are going great. Thanks for having me. 

Tim Reitsma

Yeah. I’m excited to get into our conversation today, just about, you know, async work in the future of work. It’s something that, you know, it’s maybe it’s an overused term where we talk about a lot.

And yet when I’m talking to peers or people in, you know, this work industry are still trying to figure out how to make it work. And so we’d love to hear from you and your experience and what you’ve done in the past. 

But, before we get into that, I always have a couple questions that I’d love to ask people. One is — what does it mean to be a leader?

David Hanrahan

Well, I think leadership is a great responsibility. And I think, as someone who is, has tried to be a servant leader, the sort of the leadership, you know, sort of definition I have is someone who’s in service to a team. And so that role, in my view, is not a command and control type of thing that people might associate leadership within the past. 

But for me in sort of the era that we’re living in, it’s a role to be a servant in service to others. Make sure they have the information they need, the tools they need, the feedback, the direction, you know, the sort of, the hurdles, you know, unblocked for them.

And so I think of a leader as really as a servant. 

Tim Reitsma

Yeah, I love that. Yeah. Just that, even the phrase, servant leadership, you know, just resonates so much with me. It’s not that, you know, just if I’m a leader doesn’t mean, Hey do as I say. It’s, Hey, I’m here to help. I’m here to guide you, to give you the tools, direction, feedback, and, you know, feedback, whether it’s positive or negative, but to help our teams excel. I think that’s the essence.

And it sounds like, you know, we’re pretty aligned on that. 

David Hanrahan

Yeah. Yeah. That’s my view. 

Tim Reitsma

Yeah. And another question I’d love to ask is, know, we’re, at People Managing People, our purpose is to help build a better world of work. And when you hear that phrase, what comes to mind? Build a better world of work?

David Hanrahan

Well, you know, if I think back to like the long history of the science of management and industrial psychology, and the sort of the evolution even of what we call it, the people function. You know, maybe it used to be called HR or human personnel in the past. The question was, how do we think about work? 

Tim Reitsma

Yeah. When you hear that phrase “build a better world of work”, I am really just curious what, you know, kind of what comes to mind?

David Hanrahan

Well, I think, you know, the, in long history is alluding to. You know, we’ve really upended a lot of traditional concepts of management in the long sort of yearning to really unlock people’s potential.

And so the evolution of scientific management, for instance, Taylorism, you know, where I’m just gonna, I’m gonna sort of command and control, and I’m going to give you a little, you know, treats as you complete certain tasks. To, now this, I think a realization that the more that we have empowered the people, the more that we have empowered people and that we’re trying to help them unlock their potential, you know, the greater that the individual can perform and the greater the teams can perform when they are empowered and they’re individually and collectively unlocking their potential. 

And, I think of that as, you know, building a better world of work is really trying to find ways organizationally that we can unlock people’s potential. Hard to measure.

What does that even mean? You know, is it intrinsic or extrinsic? You know, I think that there’s a, such a sort of pioneering, you know, future there to unlock potential. And I think of that, I think about, you know, a better, building a better world of work is really about unlocking potential.

Tim Reitsma

Yeah, it is. And yeah. It’s that big age-old question of how do we do that? And I think there’s a lot of ways we can do it. If we just think of a leader, even tied back to leadership is more than just a command and control. It’s really knowing, you know, what our teams’ good at? What are they passionate about?

Where do they want to grow and learn and creating space for that? Because you know, we know if, when we support our teams in that way, it just helps our companies. And if you’re listening to this thing, how does it help my company? Well, you know, happy, motivated employees helps the bottom line. Just simple as that.

You know, it does tie all the way even into, back into that, that financials metric. But even it ties in with our topic today is this async, right? It’s, Hey everyone, we’re now going from, in an office, synchronous work to asynchronous work. You know what I know at Eventbrite when you were there, you played around with that and played around and did some experimentation around it.

So walk us through that. How did you go from that synchronous to asynchronous? And was it just a matter of sending off a Slack message or an email saying, Hey, guess what? This is what we’re doing. 

David Hanrahan

Well, I, I would say that you know, whenever this is published, I guarantee you that inside the walls of Eventbrite, virtual walls, if you will, it’s not yet complete, the experimentation.

So, I think the idea of experimentation as a mode has been one of the biggest unlocks for Eventbrite. You know, maybe in the past we said, Hey, we just got designed this, documented how, you know, sort of hybrid work or async work is going to work for us, and then, you know, done deal, we’re done. To realizing that we’re just never going to be finished with, you know, finding the way that we should be working asynchronously. New practices things that we need to abandon that are no longer working, things that we need to start doing.

So, a little bit of history. Eventbrite, before the pandemic, about 97% in office. So a very small percentage of the workforce before the pandemic worked what I would call it remotely, meaning they were working from home, not going into an office, you know, far away from the temporary offices. That’s now changed. I think we’re probably up to about a quarter of our workforce is nowhere near an office now.

So, you know, more than quadrupled in a very short period of time and just, and no end in sight there. Then we can talk about how that’s been really beneficial but, through the past two and a half years, I’d say early in the pandemic onward, we realize that just the way that we’re going to work was, it was going to be a thing of the past.

The way that we used to work was sort of increasingly in our rear view mirror. We were not going to go back to an in-office culture and we were going to really lean on choice. So like a lot of companies we debated, you know, Hey, when the pandemic ends should we require people back for a certain period of time, three days per week?

Should we go back fully to the office or should we do something else? And so we made a choice that we’re going to be really like leaning on choice. You choose, where do you want to work within some reasonable limits, like we have to be registered there to pay you. But you choose if you want to move from this state to that state, if you want to work in an office or not. Your choice.

And everyone in the company has that choice, no matter your role, your level, your function. And so from then that, that opened up a lot of conversations of like, okay, well, how was this going to work? What happens when, you know, a team of 10, one person is in the office and the rest of them are all over the place.

We were in a couple of different countries with different languages spoken. So we’re Spanish-speaking countries in Argentina and Spain. We’re in some English-speaking countries like UK and in Australia, Ireland, the US obviously, and now we’re entering into India.

So, you know, truly we’re moving into more and more distributed. Async has got to be the thing that we have to lean on. And so I’d say probably, right before we moved to India we started to do, I had some conversations with managers around what were they currently struggling with before we even opened up a whole new time zone. What were they currently struggling with and what were, what was working?

So this became a program called Lead to Win, and it was essentially our leadership building program that we started in the middle of pandemic you know, over zoom. And we didn’t have all the answers. Really, the secret sauce here was just get all our managers in a room together to start talking.

And capture the notes from those conversations, what were, what was working for them, and what was not working. And from then we started to develop some thesis that we need to test out through experiments. What are the things, was that obviously that we were having like, we’re stretching the work day.

So, listen, even before we moved into India we heard in our engineering teams, as an example, some of the teams in Spain were having like 12 hour days. And that was, we were having a hard time, you know, grappling with that, having a hard time reading that in. This is kind of a long explanation, but, you know, that backed up by and this is probably not just an, a temporary phenomenon. 

The Microsoft research on their future of work stuff, they’d released multiple versions of this, but Microsoft found that union generals, since the start of the pandemic, people are in two, two, and a half times more meetings and the work days getting longer by about an hour. That’s Microsoft, their research of everyone using their teams product, which is like Zoom. And so we’re like, wow, okay, we’re not alone. The work day is getting longer. People are in more meetings and we’re about to get into a whole new time zone with engineers in India.

This is going to be really hard. So let’s start to experiment. Let’s start, just try and find to break up the old ways of working. One of the experiments that we ran was called async week. And we did a pre and post-survey of all employees by function, by level. Are you a manager? Or are you an IC? And we asked questions around, you know, how well do you feel you’re performing versus your potential?

How productive do you feel you are? A series of questions just about you know, kind of their general engagement and how things work. And then async week was no meetings a whole week. No internal meetings. So we would still have candidate meetings obviously, but internally, if it’s an internal meeting, you’re just leaning on your Slack, you know, Jamboards, you know, G docs, you know, instant message.

But we’re not going to have any meetings. And so, and then we assessed at the end of the week, the same questions, we asked the same questions. And in general, we found was something pretty remarkable, which is that everyone felt that they were much more productive by not having meetings. 

Now, so productivity, you know, like engagement, just sort of even connection within the team was strong and managers and ICs scored favorably on this. And the key thing here is managers, in general, are in more meetings than, than ICs, what we found. So, everyone pretty universally loved this. The one caveat I would say is like, there’s a, there’s, we found that like, there was a balance to strike. A whole week of async was hard for people towards the end.

They’re like, I just wish I could just talk to someone. You know, and so maybe a couple of days here and there, but not a whole week, but in general, a really fantastic result. Now we’ve since done other experiments, including core working hours. So we, another experiment was let’s compress all meetings in a week to just the three-hour window. That is probably best for most time zones.

So it prevents situation where the team in Spain is late. It prevents them from like working late. It sort of keeps people into a reasonable timeframe, and found similar results, both anecdotally and quality, like, wow, new ways of working are yielding promising results.

So this is what we’re just continuing to do is run these experiments and then for things that are working, we implement that. We implement them either at the organization level. So all company where we implement them in teams. If for whatever reason, like, Hey, for this function, they can, they really can work more asynchronously than other functions.

We sort of bend it depending upon whether the function, you know, prefers it more. So in any case, a long explanation, experimentation mode is kind of what we’ve been waiting on. 

Tim Reitsma

Well, I like that. Right at the beginning, you talked about, how you’ve pulled people together. What are your pain points? What’s working, what’s not working? Instead of, Hey, just locking yourself and your team in an office, developing this whole strategy and presenting it to the organization having it flop. 

But, you know, getting curious, asking the right questions, doing the pre-survey, the post survey on the experiment. And so yeah, if anyone’s listening and you’re thinking, okay, how do we get this off the ground?

Well, you know, talk to your people. It’s as simple as that, right? It’s what’s working, what’s not working. 

David Hanrahan

Talk to your people. You know, the one caveat is I’d say, is that it hasn’t like, what’s not been easy, I would say, is getting universal agreement to do the experiments. So, you know, what happens is, okay, we’re hearing that people are in too many meetings. The work days getting longer, particularly for certain time zones. We’re gonna run an async week and then behind the scenes, like it might sound on the podcast, like, oh, brilliant, like everyone just like, loved that idea, I’m assuming. Not at all. You get all this opposition.

It’s like, Hey, this is a bad week to be doing that. Can we do it next week? And then these are the people that you’re like, no, this is a bad week over here. Should it be five days? Should it be four days? Core working hours? Can we not do it in my team, please? Can we, can you exempt us as we, you know, we really don’t think we have a problem in my team with this.

So, the idea of doing anything big or wide on changing the way that you work is going to encounter resistance. And it’s like, you know, the Ford quote, if I asked people what they wanted, they would’ve said faster horses. And so a little bit of like the future of work is, people, you know, like you’re gonna have to, I think take some risks. You know, if you’re in a, if you’re in the role of like, we got to, I’m in this kind of future of work role here where I’m being asked to, you know, sort of design how we’re going to work down in this weird new future.

You’re going to hit resistance and I don’t think of the goal as being like, you know, like let’s negotiate until we have a vanilla, like the most vanilla thing so that no one disagrees with this one experiment. You’re probably not going to result, it’s not going to result in anything game-changing.

And I think if you find yourself in a mode where like, we do have to change how we’ll work, we’re just not working well anymore. And you could point to attrition, great resignation or your attrition data, you can point to engagement, you can point to whatever you want. If you feel like we have to change how we’re working in order to be a, become a high-performing company, you’re going to have to take risks.

And you know, behind the scenes, exhaustion has just been that of the sort of like hitting the wall of like, okay, well, this is a brilliant idea, but no one’s game for it. Or there’s a lot of people game for it, but some key people are not. I think my prediction for a lot of companies is shortening the work week from five days to four days, let’s just say. 

Years from now, we’ll be like, I can’t even believe they debated that. You know, years from now, it’s just going to be more commonplace. My prediction that people are not working nearly as much as they are right now, because the data shows that working more hours doesn’t yield greater productivity for the individual or the company.

And so we already know we have plenty of data just to suggest that people could be like really unlocking more of their potential right now, if we just organizationally put some more guard rails into how much that they work. And yet that the sort of the antithetical thing there is if you’re a C-suite position or you’re a board like that doesn’t sound good to the shareholders.

That sounds like you’re going to work class. That doesn’t, I’m scared. I’m really scared of that. And so, you know, that, that’s my, that’s one, just one example of something I think organizations should be leaning more into and you’re going to encounter resistance. 

Tim Reitsma

There’s always going to be resistance. I was talking to somebody recently, a senior people of culture person just had a giant company and she was talking about a new initiative. And everyone in the room, all the leaders were saying, this is great, but here’s why it’s not going to work. And just the resistance and when I was talking with this person recently, it was just that exhaustion as you said, it’s, but we need to embrace change. If we don’t, I think our organizations are going to be left behind. 

You know, I work at a small organization. People Managing People’s part of an organization called Black and White Zebra. And in January we got rid of work hours. Our CEO or founder said, Hey, I don’t want work hours. And so we talked about it from a leadership and it’s like, oh, well, geez.

Like, you know, what are we going to do? And we got to make sure people are working. And in my organization we have seen productivity skyrocket. And, but we’ve also seen people, I feel that people feel like they’re taken care of. Recently, somebody said, Hey, I am, it’s Friday and I am burnt out. Like, okay, take the day off. 

You know, my boss has said that to me numerous times, like I live on the west coast British Columbia and, you know, we love to be in the mountains in the winter. And he said, oh, it’s a nice day tomorrow. You go on snowshoeing? Like, oh it’s Tuesday. He said, yeah, it’s Tuesday. Why aren’t you doing that?

Because we know that we have, when you set goals and good goals, he know where you’re going with your organization. You have that sense of clarity. It helps drive. So if you’re thinking about async and working asynchronously or getting rid of work hours, or even going to four days a week, it’s possible, but it’s a bit more work on the front end of things.

Man, the results are, I think are exponential. Would you agree with that? 

David Hanrahan

A hundred percent I agree. I think in our own small way, one little the ball forward over the past year, one more of our experiments was what if we just took off the first Friday of every month? The whole company. What if we just took it off to just recharge. So literally you’re not allowed to work. You’re not, like close your laptop. No one’s emailing CEO on down. 

Let’s survey. Let’s see what people think. So, you know, sort of their engagement, their sort of their own sense of personal productivity per se potential, you know. So like lights out, one of the best decisions we ever made.

And that was an experiment and now we’re doing it. And I would say, okay, that clearly did something for us. Because in the qualitative and quantitative data, it was just like lights out from like leaders, managers to ICS. Like I’m so much more, I’m so much more effective now because we all just, I know that’s a day that we’re going to take on.

I can go reach out. People will talk about, like, they went swimming in the north sea and they had this idea that came to them because they were swimming in the north sea on a day that we typically would work, but they’re recharging. And so like breakthrough innovation, just like, okay, I finally got my head around this one problem.

You’re not supposed to be working, but yet people, when they like their job, when they feel like, like, to your point, they’re taken care of, the organization does things that helps them grow, helps them unlock their potential. They wind up just doing better. And the, and like, you know, like when you really like your job, sometimes just crack open your laptop at night.

And like, I’m just going to like, Hey, I just thought of something. I’m going to write this down. Is that work? Or is that just you’re doing something that you like. When you have work hours, when you have these legacy structures that are like, oh, you got to work nine to five, Monday through Friday.

Are you really working? Or are you just part-checked out? Because I have to put on the face of like, got my laptop open here if people see me online on Slack. The real like breakthroughs are really like, you’re, your really great performance is not coming from when you were expected to do something, but kind of when you were unexpected. It was just sorta like, Hey, this is like protected time here.

We’re protecting time. Now I’ve got this breakthrough innovation that just happen. So anyway, it’s kind of just, you know. 

Tim Reitsma

No, I think it just makes sense. And so I think of, you know, but I also know that there’s people listening to this podcast who are going, I don’t know how we can make this work.

Like we need to be in the office or we need to have these core work hours. Or, you know, I do like core work hours. I’ve worked in those environments and they’re extremely helpful when you cram everything into. It’s like between this hour and these hours, this is when we were going to set up meetings and the rest of the time I’m heads down, you know, getting work done.

And so when there’s naysayers, right, how do we convince? I think that’s the biggest thing is. You know, we could show data, you know, survey data, like all day. We can show engagement data all day, but how do we actually drive that shift? Or if I’m just in a, an IC in an organization and I want this in my organization, how do I drive that change?

David Hanrahan

It’s a good question. I think about separating like practices from a philosophy. So an example would be, you know, the idea of going to a four-day work week or just work whatever you want, you know. And let’s just say I’m an oil refinery, because I used to work in oil company where they do 12-hour shifts and they’re working around reactors. 

And they have to rely on people showing up, you know, at certain times in order for the, you know, for the refinery to continue to run safely. That’s different. That’s a complete different world. The practice might not scale at that company. So you have to find the practices that work for you and your industry. 

But the philosophy is, we’ll pin them back to empowerment, choice, finding through science how we’re going to unlock people’s potential in this industry. Oil industry or tech industry. And what I mentioned at the top of the hour, servant leadership, the idea of thinking of my roles, I need to enable the best, like I need to create the best possible team I need to enable them.

The air force adopt servant leadership, right? So servant leadership, just as one philosophy is not some sort of hokey thing that just a bunch of, you know, California and, you know, sort of Northern Canada tech companies are doing. But it’s actually like the philosophy there is, has found that like, wow, when we empower teams, we empower them and we give them more choice over their job, how they’re going to work. The great things come from it. 

In the oil industry, know, they’re one of the first to really experiment with self-directed work teams. You know, where they’re given more choice at the team level, rather than having to always lean on a manual. For instance, to, you know, to kind of, to overcome certain problems.

And so I think of that as the conversation. If this four-day work week or whatever, it doesn’t where this sort of work whenever you want, doesn’t work in our shift industry, in retail, in the oil industry, whatever. You can bring it back to the philosophy. And then, well, well, what, you know, for us, you know, in a retail world, what would empowerment looks like?

What would giving greater choice to our, you know, our retail workers on the floor, you know, who are helping customers? What would that look like for us? Might look like something different, but the philosophy is probably, you know, cuts across those industries. 

Tim Reitsma

It’s when you talk about just the retail industry or shift work industries, I remember hearing stories about Zappos. You know, giving customer service reps a lot of choice in how they handle complaints or handle, you know, customers who want to return things.

And there’s so many stories of those, you know, it’s not just a matter of him not being measured on, you know, I have to do 200 phone calls in a day and each one has to be 30 seconds. It’s, no, if I’m going to take three hours to be on a phone call because somebody is having a crisis, that’s what I’m going to do because it’s the right thing to do.

It’s providing that choice. And I love that you’ve brought back or brought in, it’s like, you know, getting rid of the manual, so to speak. And having these self-directed teams and saying, not saying like, okay, you have to move this here at this time. It’s well if there’s a better way to do it, I want to hear from you.

And I think that’s how we can continue to move to this idea of these async but also, as you said, unlocking that potential. So what I’m hearing is it starts from that leadership and that direction. So it’s on all the leaders. 

David Hanrahan

It is. And I think what we’ve found, I think probably others have found I think this is even backed up in some research that in the async and the hybrid environments so much really leans on the leader creating an inclusive team.

So regardless of my time zone, the leader understands what inclusion looks like. Very simple example. If you have a team half of them are going back into the office and half are not, are we all logging into our Zoom? Or, you know, it’s by people in that one room, they’re logging into their Zoom and they’re talking with each other.

And the five people that are on their Zooms are like, wait, crosstalk, I can’t, what are you talking about? Insight, Joe, get in here. So, when the leader says, Hey, no, we’re all logging into Zoom. We’re creating an equal environment here, even if five of us are in the same room together. So much relies on the leader to create to foster connection in that really distributed async mode, to foster inclusion, to have inclusive working practices and to foster psychological safety, which, you know, as Google found is a key ingredient for high-performing teams.

All of those really wind up being even more important in the async and the hybrid mode, than perhaps when we were all just in a room together. 

Tim Reitsma

Yeah, I love those, I kind of summarize that into three points. You can drive that inclusion in your team, right? It’s and I’ve been there and I’m sure people listening have been there where you’ve got one, one laptop or a camera at the very front of the room, and everyone looks so tiny on the screen.

And I’m sitting here in my home office and can’t really hear what’s going on, but I think there’s something going on. And so being able to drive that inclusion foster connection in async you know, we recently launched a series about how to build a better world of work. And one of the interviews was talking about, Hey, I’m remote, but I, and I need to feel connected.

I love my job, but if I don’t feel connected, I might not stay. So I thought, you know, that’s a brilliant point. And then that psychological safety, I mean, that is reducing the fear in organizations and empowering people. And I think, and not just saying it, but actually living it and creating that, that 

safe environment isn’t just a nice environment, but it’s a place where you can share, you can get feedback and not be afraid of getting that feedback.

David Hanrahan

Yeah, I think of those teams that have it right now, if you’re listening and you’re like, yeah, we got that. Or we don’t have that. It really is palpable when you think about the energy level, I mean your virtual environment where like we’re sharing ideas with each other, like we’re criticizing things like, Hey, this is no longer working.

And I feel comfortable like speaking up and I’ve got a better idea. And my boss and the rest of my team members, like we have each other’s back on this stuff. It’s energized. Because you don’t know who’s going to bring the next best idea. You know, the conversations are going on in Slack. You like, you almost kind of don’t, you almost kind of like, you don’t miss the, you know, office anymore because we’ve got psychological safety.

So I think people who are worried about async, you know, is like, man, at a certain point, the energy level just drops and you can never get it back. We’ve got to get back to the office, cause the energy level is just not there. Has nothing to do with where you sit, I think it has more to do with those things like psychological safety, inclusion, you know, and connection.

And the thinking that we need to be in the office to get that again, is this kind of legacy, you know, thing that we’re holding on to. And but when you have it, you know, it’s like, it doesn’t matter where I’m working. I could be at the beach, like I know we have this. It’s like it’s super energized. 

Tim Reitsma

Yeah. Yeah. I love it when a team member will just throw an idea in our Slack channel and then we just ended up running with it and it’s either becomes a new product or a new whole new piece of content. Or, Hey, I actually don’t like that. I think you, I think we misspoke here, so let’s take that down.

It’s a safe space. And when you have that, it’s yeah, I think magic happens, but also that drive of engagement. So it’s, it creates that space of, hey, we got each other’s back because we know where we’re going, right? Within our organizations driving that clarity is so, so important. And I would say that’s a kind of that foundation of async is here’s where we’re going.

Here’s what you’re responsible for and here’s how we’re going to measure success. 

David Hanrahan

Totally. Yeah. And when you have it at the org level, it’s also just like it’s gold because you can log into the quarterly all hands and just know there’s gonna be some good questions. Like, wow, who’s going to ask that tough question this time around, because we’ve got psychological safety.

We know that like, people are not afraid to speak up and make things more interesting. You know, it kinda organization at the board level when you don’t have it, you just know all hands are going to be boring because it’s just going to be the show, you know, the scripted show with no one asking any questions.

No, one’s on the hot seat, you know, and like, we’re not, I can hear anything interesting. So any case. 

Tim Reitsma

Yeah, so, so one last thing, if somebody is listening to this podcast and going, okay, I’m headed to the office or I’m, you know, I’m just walking out to grab a coffee, you know, and you know, maybe struggling with this async or this idea of going async. Know, what is, where do we start? What’s the one thing we can do today to move towards this future of work?

David Hanrahan

It’s a great question. I have to go back to the idea of experiments. And experiments don’t have to be run at the whole org level. We can choose certain teams. Who’s the one leader, you know, who is interested in this?

So it may be, maybe not all seven of the C-suite members are interested in this, but one is. And I can lean on her and we can do some experiments in Q2. And like, Hey, what will be one thing, what new way of working that would make you really afraid but you think it would be interesting to explore in Q2? And we’re gonna, we’re going to measure this.

We’re gonna, we’re gonna ask a few clever questions and we’re gonna measure it. That for us was the real big unlock. Finding who are your champions, who’s got you back so you’ve got, you know, your tribe, if you will. You choose a time you sit down and you have conversations with the leaders before you start doing anything.

So you know what problem we’re trying to solve for, so we’re not just blindly trying to do things that we think are clever and cute. And then you measure it and then for those things that work, what we’ll wind up happening is, Hey, I want to do that too in my team. Can we do that? Hey, let’s have a conversation at the executive level.

Maybe that’s just something we should do for the whole company. But the idea of, of boiling the ocean probably prevents a lot of people from taking any step forward on, on async work and hybrid work. Whereas, you know, you can tack it in small chunks first with people who’ve got your back and then it kind of, it blossoms when you find something that is actually working.

Tim Reitsma

I love that. It’s just getting comfortable with the uncomfortable, but you got to start somewhere. You got to ask the questions and drive that culture forward. Know, it’s not just, you know, HR has job to drive the culture or the CEO’s job to drive the culture. It’s everyone in an organization, in my opinion.

And so if there is a better way or a different way, or a challenging new way to work, have fun exploring it. It’s part of the experiment. It might fail, but guess what? You’ve learned something. You’d much rather try something and fail and know it didn’t work than to not try something at all and just wonder, what if?

David Hanrahan: Yeah. And make it fun. 

Tim Reitsma

Make it fun. 

Well, David, I really enjoyed our conversation today. Thanks for coming on and taking the time out today. 

And for those who are listening, again, we’d always love your comments, your feedback. So please head to our website peoplemanagingpeople.com or drop me an email, tim@peoplemanagingpeople.com. Or connect with us on social. We’d love to hear from you. 

So again, David, thanks again. 

David Hanrahan

Thank you, Tim.

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