LEAP Panel: The Future of Work, According to Four Very Smart People

April 13, 2017 Heather Hurst

leap panel jay baer terrir trespicio raj raghunathan

What’s coming up next in work? Are your employees working the “right” way for maximum productivity? How can we all work “better”? Those are some of the themes that emerged in the perennial Future of Work panel at Leap. Hosted by our amazing CMO, Joe Staples, this year’s panel featured:

Here are a few of the thought-provoking takeaways this panel shared with the 1,200 attendees at Leap...

What makes a great team?

Jennifer’s perspective on a great team is that it takes three components:

  1. EQ (emotional intelligence)

  2. Trust

  3. Discipline

She went on to say that self-awareness, common sense, and respect make up EQ, and can all be so impactful around the way that you work with others. Add to that trust among team members and discipline to make and follow process, and you have a great team.

What are the biggest obstacles to managing work?

Raj, author of If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?, said that it’s all about finding space to center ourselves. He made the point that, “Technology is helping us achieve more than we could. And it’s all good, but there’s a dark lining on a silver cloud. We aspire too much and expect too much of ourselves and our subordinates.”

Jennifer said that managing work well is about being focused on visual management and discipline. “Today, more than ever, we need to make sure we’re transparent. Be smart about what we’re communicating. Relay important data. Continuous communication is really the key.”

Jay made the point that if we get better at work, we have more levers:

  • Be more efficient, and do more in less time

  • Collaboration, where teams can interact

But with these opposing forces, does that mean that if we get more efficient, we will be less collaborative? Jay said that the magic bullet is to “build collaborative layers into your work that don’t slow down the train”.

What skills and abilities do knowledge workers need to evolve and progress their careers?

We’ve heard a lot of talk about knowledge workers, since Peter Drucker coined the term. But what are they exactly? According to Terri, “Unless you’re hauling rocks for a living, you’re a knowledge worker.”

She went on to say, “The challenge for the knowledge worker is to not fall into the trap of thinking compliance and efficiency is enough. It’s not enough. Can we stay curious? And engaged? And empathetic? You start to be a bystander of your own work and think nothing you do matters.” It’s a problem of disengagement.

Jennifer said that we need to come back to the employee experience. “Now it’s about the ability and knowledge to learn and having time to focus on the right things.”

How are the dynamics of work changing?

Do we need shorter work days? Or flexible work hours? Raj discussed an experiment he performed with two of his classes. One class was told that they had total flexibility around deadlines—they would choose when to turn in papers, when to take exams, etc. And they started out really happy.

The second group was absolutely regimented. Deadlines were completely set. Have a wedding on the day of the exam? Too bad. That group heard the rules and wasn’t so thrilled.

By the end of the class, however, the groups flip-flopped. The flexible group was stressed because they left everything to the last minute. The regimented group was happy at the end of the class, having everything evenly spread out.

In the end, Raj concluded, you have to find what works for your team.

Only 39% of a worker’s day is spent on the job they were hired to do. How do we raise that?

Jay made the point that team members are often tasked to do things that aren’t really a part of their job function—with meetings being one of the biggest culprits--because the time isn’t assigned to a project. “People don’t understand how much that impacts productivity.”

Terri pointed out that you should build on the strengths your employees have. For example, if they are most productive in the morning, make that a meeting-free time. “Why squander that precious mental real estate? In my fantasy world, we would create meetings like parking meters. You only get a couple of quarters a week. If you have to judiciously choose how to spend those quarters, can it wait?”

There’s also the angle of setting priorities. Jennifer made the point that you could follow the stand-up model used by Agile teams: do a daily stand-up where you set priorities and identify what’s working (without sitting down, of course).

How will the management of work differ two years from now?

According to Raj, there’s going to be more attention paid to employee wellbeing. In one study, stock market prices were directly impacted by the general happiness of employees, because happy employees naturally provide better customer support. 

What parting advice would you give this group of work management experts?

Jennifer: "Don’t lose sight of the importance of standardization and discipline, and ensure employees have the right tool sets. Have focused feedback. Don’t wait until annual reviews to speak with your team members about improvement."

Raj: "In the end, you’re one person. If you aren’t harmoniously balanced in yourself, it will come out in your functions. It is so important to understand what determines your physical and mental well being."

Terri: "The nature of our work is connection. Your job is to make sure you own the communication."

Jay: "Every organization is a collection of extraordinary people. It’s your opportunity—and responsibility—to demonstrate that. Teach everyone on your team as an individual. Treat them in the way that motivates and retains them."

Our LEAP panel seemed to agree that employee engagement, communication and culture are the best path to a successful business. What are your thoughts? Do you agree with our panelists? Tell us in the comments below!


About the Author

Heather Hurst

Heather has enjoyed playing the game of marketing for the past 15 years, at the agency and corporate level, in both B2C and B2B companies. She's run PR campaigns that took her from the MTV Beach House to NASDAQ and many media outlets and content channels in between. She is currently the Corporate Marketing Director at Workfront.

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