Lizzie Penny & Alex Hirst, co-CEOs of Hoxby and Workstyle authors, share how to define your work style, as well as what the future of work looks like — from choosing how and when you work, to the importance of unlocking collective intelligence and how to be more effective and happy in what you do.
Ryan: Hello everybody. Welcome to this episode of Inside Insights, a podcast powered by Zappi. My name is Ryan, but if you're listening, you probably already knew that. And I'm also joined by my co host, Patricia Montesdeoca, the chief growth officer at Aldor and our producer, Kelsey Sullivan. Ladies, they already know who you are too, but how are you doing today?
Patricia: Good. How are you guys doing? I heard you're in the middle of an Indian summer.
Ryan: Indian summer here in Boston. It's October 5th. It's a special day for me. Uh, at the time of recording, it's my youngest son, Callum's birthday today. Uh, my baby as it were, and I don't want him to grow up.
So I wish time would stop moving so quickly. Um, but yeah, it's beautiful here. We're good, but we just got a puppy recently. So we got that going for us and she's eating all of our shoes as puppies do.
Patricia: You know what my puppy's doing?
Eating the underside of all the sofa. You know how sofas got, and all chairs have that black material? It's destroyed. Every single piece of furniture that has that material has been destroyed by the puppy. I mean, it's, I'm talking about, you know I've got a set…
And then I've got a 40 pound dog, and now I've got a 10 pound dog, and the 10 pound dog has destroyed more than Anybody in life. I mean, it's just, hello, you little tiny thing because why? Because he fits everywhere. And because his mama, his mama is more lenient to him because his mama. Is just being a wuss. Absolutely. This is the perfect example of a day in the life, he leaves a trail of terror everywhere.
Ryan: I love that. That's really cute. Uh, if you didn't get to see a picture of Patricia's dog, it's because you're not checking us out on YouTube. So, step it. Step it up. And truth be told, my older son told me that my YouTube at Zappi is whack because we don't have a lot of followers.
Um, and he's comparing us to Mr. Beast. And like, that's not really fair for Patricia and I, but, um, yeah, feel free to subscribe. We'd love it. We appreciate it.
I had fun with this episode and I want to just come clean. I'm doing the outro and intro recording, but you're going to see me in this exact same black t shirt because I'm actually recording our next episode right after this.
You feel me? Like, you know, we're cranking out content here on the Inside Insights podcast. But today's guest uh, Sinead Jeffries is one of my colleagues who I look up to. She recommended this book called work styles to me a while ago.
And, uh, I read the book and it really resonated with me. Anyways, I connected with the authors and, you know, kindred spirit sort of thing. Um, and ask them to join us on the podcast. So Alex Hirst and Lizzie Penny co authored, WorkStyle. They have WorkStyle Revolution, a website that gives you a lot of tooling and a community to be involved with.
And they also consult with people on how to make their work and their life better connect. Uh, with their consultancy, which is called Hoxby and so today's discussion is really us getting into how you can set more intentions of how you want to work and how your life and your work can infuse each other and how you can project those intentions so that your colleagues and your teammates can get it better catch you in stride.
Um, and I thought it was important given a lot of our discussions here in the podcast are centered around. How we all got to change, how we got to up level, how we got to improve the way we work. Um, but I also think, with the rise of technology, with the rise of AI, the promise is that we can do the things we love and not work as much.
Yet so often we're still applying technology poorly, or We're working the same way we did in the fucking 80s and it doesn't make any sense. So, uh, I think you'll enjoy this episode. It's a provocation of how you can better spend time. Uh, if it intrigues you, I'd highly recommend that you buy their book.
It's a great book. But it's also like, you know those books, ladies, that you read them and they feel good in your hands? Like it's like got a nice cover and it's one of those books. Um, so anyways, should we get into the conversation?
Patricia: Let's do it.
[Music transition to interview]
Ryan: Hello everybody. Today we are going to talk about work styles and the future of work. I'm very, very excited. I have the pleasure of having two guests today, Lizzie Penny and Alex Hirst, the co CEOs of the Hoxby Consultancy, but also the authors of Workstyle, a book about the revolution for wellbeing, productivity, and society.
And this is the part for those of you on YouTube where I shamelessly plug their wonderful book. Lizzie and Alex, hello and welcome. Thank you for joining me today. Oh, you're plugging too.
Lizzie: Yeah, we're all plugging.
Ryan: Oh, I love it. I'm very, very excited for today's conversation, folks. I know many of you listening work for very large businesses,and our goal today is to give you some insights of how you can better understand each other, how you can better work with your environment so that you can be more effective and more happy and more fulfilled in what you do.
Katie Sweet, who's on our marketing team told me that I swear a lot more when I get excited. This is a topic that's very near and dear to me. So, uh, this will definitely earn my explicit rating for the Inside Insights show.
But just a little bit of backdrop, Alex and Lizzie, tell us a little bit about yourselves through the lens of what got you to this place where this is a project that you've got, uh, so much passion for and, and what led you to sort of write the book.
Alex: Um, well, uh, I'll start if that's okay. Thank you for having us. Um, we are the co authors of WorkStyle, as you say, um, but I think more than that, we are the creators of the word, WorkStyle, which gives everybody the freedom to choose when and where they work. And we think that that is a word that the world needs now desperately, uh, more than ever before, given that so much of the work people do can be done anywhere and anytime. We think that that is an opportunity for people to start to fit work around life rather than life having to fit around work, as has been the case now for more than 200 years.
Lizzie: And we came up with it in a pub, so don't judge us for it.
Alex: As you normally do. All good ideas.
Lizzie: The best ideas are in the pub. And I would say that we both had kind of separate journeys that took us to that point. And, um, Alex can talk about his, but for me, it was having my first child and it just totally opened my eyes to the inequalities at work. And I'm kind of embarrassed to say that until then I'd worked for big corporations.
I was relatively ignorant about how unequal work was and how groups, certain groups were essentially discriminated against because they couldn't work nine to five. five days a week. And since we had that epiphany in the pub, um, and we started Hoxby in order to test the concept, that was eight and a half, nine years ago now, I also have had pregnancy complications in my second pregnancy with my twin daughters.
I moved across the country to Bristol in the UK from London, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My husband was diagnosed with cancer, all sorts of shit has gone down that has made me really appreciate work style from a personal perspective. So I think for Alex and I, this is very much a, it's been a personal journey as well as a book and a work style, um, or kind of working journey.
Ryan: I love it. I feel like any good founder story is sparked with obviously a pint. Or in the case of my business partner, Steve, it was a glass of wine in his garden, but, but also with some passion for the problem, right? And in your case, it's a founder market fit problem. Like we're feeling this and therefore, um, we need to attack this and I'll share sort of my own personal, like passion for this.
So, um, I've kind of, I'm, I'm a millennial, uh, and I'm, uh, not hiding from that. I would say I'm an elderly millennial, but I'm 36, that means I'm a geriatric millennial. So, I've sort of always been like, what's up with all this bullshit at work?
You know, and we were talking about this before we were recording, like, when we were all kids. You didn't challenge work and you didn't challenge some of the things at home. And we were reflecting as parents, the three of us, before we hit record on how interesting it is that our kids challenge us and hold us so accountable.
Which I actually quite like, but you know, I, I sort of, uh, always worked in a business where it was like, you know, dress code rhetoric, wasn't a thing and, and work from home. Wasn't a thing. And, um, but. I spent the first seven years of this journey here at Zappi on a train for three hours a day, missing breakfast, missing dinner, because I felt like as a leader, I needed to be present in the office.
And I didn't realize that y'all started this journey nine years ago, which is quite refreshing because I feel like the impetus for me personally was the same impetus for a lot of people. So I'm not unique. It was the world hit a pandemic. Which forced us to literally question everything. And I have to say, you know, three years later, I'm a remote employee.
I'm home for breakfast. I'm home for dinner and I'm probably way more productive than I've ever been. Um, and that's because of, you know, really leaning into what's best for me and how do I integrate my life around work? Um, so I think I had a convenient excuse, I guess, is what I'm saying.
Lizzie: I think it's interesting that you, that you say that and that's your context, Ryan, because we always say that.
You know, we started this all those years ago, and people thought we were weird for a long time. They like, looked at us weirdly, like, why are you doing this? And then the pandemic came along. And suddenly, everyone wanted to know how we worked. And so we tried to kind of open source that. Alex and I were the limiting factor in doing that.
And so that's where the book came from. To answer your earlier question about, like, how did we come to write a book? We don't consider ourselves to be authors. I mean, we are, and the book's been a number one Sunday Times bestseller in the UK. So at some point, we're gonna need to recognize that we're authors. Um, and so now everyone can read our story and about our big experiment, um, of working this way and all the many things we've learned along the way.
Ryan: I love it. Okay, so just because I've read your book and we've talked socially before, define work styles for me. What does work style mean? And, how does one go about creating and defining their work style? By the way, I'm willing to share mine if you guys are too later, I'll pull it up. Yeah, sure.
Alex: So work style, we define it as the freedom to choose when and where you work.
And what we mean by that is complete freedom as far as possible. We're talking about having autonomy to define when and where you work for yourself. And that represents a big gift in the way that people think about work and their relationship with work, which is anchored in age old, uh, industrial age, in fact, uh, norms, where the work we did, we had to travel to factories to operate machines in simple terms, and it gave rise to industrialization and a whole load of other stuff.
But prior to that, people were working At home in, in cottage industries here in the UK, um, and actually producing, uh, under their own steam and actually what we're talking about is, is actually, is a, is a shift back to those times in terms of individuals taking accountability and responsibility for their own output.
And defining when and where they work for themselves, so as to be able to deliver that output in the best possible way for them, uh, so taking advantage of their unique talents, uh, their circadian rhythm, even where they get their energy from, uh, as well as balancing the things that they've got going on in life, particularly, um, in the way that they get work done, so work fitting around life rather than life having to fit around work, uh, and the friction that that creates, the stress that that creates, and the unnecessary elements to life that it has given rise to.
So for me, a bit like you, commuting to work, uh, back in the day, prior to coming up with WorkStyle, ultimately led to my burnout, because I was leaving the house at half past six and not getting back till half past seven, and having very little time to think or do much other than work. And I think having ownership for your own WorkStyle gives you choices that you can make that you didn't have before to balance work and life in, in the way that's best for your well being. And we conducted some research within Hoxby to explore what that does for your productivity. And to cut long story short, autonomy of being able to decipher in a way you work improves your well being.
And as a result, your productivity, so it is because of an increased state of well being that you're more productive when you have autonomy. So it's better for us as people and it's better for the work we do. But I think also it's worth saying at this point that it's better for society in a number of ways, um, principally because we're removing.
The idea of a one size fits all system of work. So we're saying that actually work shouldn't be one sized, it should be individualized. And if you can break down the stereotype of a one size fits all system and move to an individualized system of work, you can include more people in it.
Ryan: It resonates with me.
I'll tell you what I'm thinking when you're talking like it starts with each one of you defining what's important to you in your life and how you think and what makes you tick and what gives you intrinsic motivation because I think like remember that old book drives the intrinsic motivation plus autonomy.
Plus accountability equals amazing results. And everybody's got their own recipe for that. But, you know, obviously a lot of the folks listening today work for big companies and they're, they're, um, playing by those rules. And we'll talk about that in a moment, but I think what I, what I love about what you said, Alex, is it starts with you and if your purpose and your way doesn't fit within your environment.
Those things are at odds and you have to address that because it's never going to change. Um, and so I think the self reflection of like what's going to work best for your creativity, your motivation, your time really matters. And I selfishly and personally I'm in a place where I'm at harmony with that.
Well, some days better than others, but my intrinsic motivation sometimes means I like to work more than I probably should, but I like what I do. And so there's a, there's a construct there. So how do you recommend people go about thinking through what's best for them in terms of how, when? [00:11:00] And what they're doing.
Um, you know, and I want to, I want to then talk a little bit more about unpacking the differences we all have. Cause that's the, that's the fun of all this, but staying with the individual, how do you go about defining your work style?
Lizzie: So in the book, we talk about this framework set, project and respect. Um, so the first thing is to set your work style.
Now, as you say, not everyone can just set. Whatever work style they want. Not everyone is completely empowered to do that. But we encourage people to start by suspending disbelief about that. And thinking, in an ideal world, where you have 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, when would you like to work? And we recommend we'll start by putting in the non-negotiables for them.
That might be sleep, it might be 3 small kids. It might be going to the gym or caring for a relative, whatever it might be, you start with those non-negotiables and then you overlay, actually, what gives me the most energy? When am I most motivated? And so you build out this kind of work style for yourself. Once you've set it, you then project it.
You tell other people about it and essentially that creates a verbal contract which means you're much more likely to uphold it and you also get support from other people in doing so. And for some people if you work in a corporate organization it may not be a case of simply projecting it and saying here this is henceforth how I'm going to work.
It might be a more complicated conversation than that. And then the third step is to respect it. And what's been really fascinating on our work style journeys has been that actually people are amazing at respecting other people's work styles, but they're not that great at respecting their own work styles.
So, through the work style revolution we try and create a framework For people to help hold each other to account, be part of a community. Alex and I, as a pair, we often recommend people come together as a pair to try and support each other because I'm not great at respecting my work style. And it's partly what you were saying.
It's because I love what I do. I want to do lots of it. So it's sometimes good to have someone who can say to you, hang on a minute, you don't want to, you know, work on a Wednesday or whatever it is and get you into good habits because when you're in those habits, it's much easier to stick to them. It's just unlearning a lot of kind of corporate social norms about you work Monday to Friday and therefore you a Wednesday, for example.
So set, project and respect is the framework that we recommend using.
Ryan: I love the respect thing. I, and I, I think I'm shit at it too. Um, if I'm honest, like setting is good because you can be very intentional. Um, and, and, you know, we've done this. So we brought in, um, works. We use internet called motion and.
Many of us are defining our work styles. And like, when I meet somebody new, I tell them a couple of things. I have ADD. And so when we're having a creative conversation, you're likely going to hear me shooting hoops or walking in the woods, cause that's how I think, or I don't work between these times these days.
And here's why. And so projecting that allows people to understand and, you know, speaking personally as quote unquote, the boss. It's even, it comes with a different set of responsibilities, because when I say people hold weight to, in a way, probably they shouldn't, um, so, you know, I, when I'm creative, I'm, like, talking a lot, and this doesn't mean that you need to take it as directive, and, and all these other things, but it's, I think what you say is really important, because, I break my own rules a lot, right?
And so having, and I love that you two have, and so for those of you not watching on YouTube, um, these two have amazing social cues with each other because they clearly are such a good team of like, who's answering a question. It's like actually amazing, but I need to find the right respect partner in my life, um, because it will help kind of, and my wife does that really well, which I think is fantastic.
But an actual business teammate, um, to, to do that is really important.
Alex: I would build on that with saying that the people you live with are really important to your ability to respect your work style. And in fact, to how you set your work style is it can be very much driven by your home arrangement.
And, you know, whether you can work from home, for example, or whether your partner works nights or weekends. All those things can affect what your ideal work style is. Um, for a lot of people, working over the weekend is a great thing. So, as Lizzie said, it can be helpful to start with a blank sheet of paper and treat all hours as equal.
But I think the other thing that we have to do is learn to place more value on our non working activities. So we're quite, we're quite good at saying, yeah, work is, is really important. I've got to do this thing by the end of this day. Cause that's my deadline. Uh, we're not so good at prioritizing stuff for ourselves or stuff.
That's not work, you know, like going to the gym or. Eating a healthy lunch, or, uh, meeting up with family, or, or, uh, picking up the kids from school. What we have to do is get good at prioritizing those things, or putting more value on them in our minds, so that They become a more important part of our work style and our lifestyle across the decisions that we make day to day.
Lizzie: And I would add that I think by sharing those as part of your work style, and it was really interesting what you said just now, Ryan, even just giving us a little bit of insight into your work style, you also gave us a lot of insight into you as a human being. And so, work style isn't just about when and where you work.
It's about getting to know each other on a whole new level, because you understand why someone is the way they are, why they, how they live their life, their other priorities they have going on. It necessitates a conversation that you wouldn't necessarily have. In another organization, if you weren't talking about work style, you people are expected to leave all that stuff at the door, whereas I think culturally what work style does is it brings to the fore who you are as a human and what else you've got going on in your life so that everyone can understand why you want to work the way you want to work, not just how you want to work.
Ryan: Yeah, I completely agree. So I want to kind of unpack both of the things you two just said because they're really important. I think we mustn't We mustn't let our job define who we are as people, and I don't know about you, but there's definitely been years, months, quarters where I'm fundamentally on the wrong side of that shit, and I'm like, Dude, you're like a dad, you have so many other things that are important in your life, but like, I run Zappi, like, who cares?
Like, in a grand scheme that doesn't mean that your work isn't immensely important, because for me, like, I get... A lot of fulfillment from my work. And I would challenge everybody listening. If you don't get fulfillment from your work, really lean into the work style because to what Alex said like 15 minutes ago, we're not running, not all of us, particularly those of you listening most likely, aren't working in a factory on an assembly line, yet so much of the way we work culturally is still running that playbook, and it's like, what are we doing? We're not living in the 1950s anymore. Yet so much of the business books and rhetoric are predicated upon that. And so, I think getting really clear on what's important to you matters.
And like, it's funny, this is like a really recent example. My wife's like, oh, we should go do, um, pickleball. Do you guys have pickleball in the UK?
Lizzie: Yeah, we do. I really want to learn, it's on the rise.
Ryan: It's same here. It's like insane. And, you know, Jill's my wife and she's like, Oh, we should play pickleball one o'clock on Fridays. And I had like the quintessential American guilt like, Oh, like, Oh, you know, it's the middle of the work day.
And like, well, fuck it. Like what, what does that hour and a half really mean? Cause like Alex, to your point, I love to, so Saturday mornings, my kids like to veg, my wife likes to go to the gym and I have the most productive hour of work I'm going to have the entire week with my cup of coffee on Saturday.
Lizzie: And that's a new skill, I think that's something that Alex and I have become keenly aware of, is that actually, this whole way of working requires Basically a new skill set to your point earlier about leadership, you know, traditionally leadership was defined as being in the place of work.
So everyone could see you. Okay. So what are the new domains of leadership? You know, it's something different. And similarly, um, we've talked about having to set your own boundaries and when you love what you do, sometimes that's difficult. In the book, we talk about the dark side of autonomy that, you know, we fiercely advocate for autonomy.
There's loads of good stuff about it. But one of the things is about. Taking responsibility for yourself for knowing that you're not going to work on a Friday afternoon, but you are going to do a couple of hours on a Thursday and having that accountability. So I think it's partly about, partly about culture, but it's also partly about us each kind of adopting the skill set we need to effectively work this way.
Ryan: Yeah, it's true. Cause, cause autonomy isn't like, [00:20:00] uh, isn't designed. At least from my perspective, to not be productive, it's basically saying you're an adult and we trust you do your thing. And those are very different things. So, for me, the prerequisite is like, you're skilled, you're intrinsically motivated, you're clear, you're intentional, and you do your own shit.
And then I don't really give a shit if you do it on a Saturday, a Sunday, you work four days, five days.
So, I want to come back to the leadership point of this. Because, you know, I think this has gotten a lot harder in the recent paradigm that we find ourselves in.
And maybe a lot harder, but maybe equal parts, it just wasn't something we discussed. It's actually understanding each other. So, let me give you an example. Our head of sales, Glenn, and I work together. We talk every day. We couldn't be more different in terms of how we think, how we like to work. And so we have to be very intentional about, like, Is Glenn, so I'm somebody who really values asynchronous communication. I like time to think, I don't really like being presented to, and I don't like showing up to a meeting, not, like, having thought through something.
Glenn is somebody who likes to talk through his ideas and do the work in the scheduled time that he has it, and so you can imagine, on paper, our work styles are diametrically opposed. But it's only by us two being very comfortable acknowledging those things are we able to find contracts with each other.
And it's not to say some days we're not, he's not like, fuck's sake, with another Notion document. Or I'm like, dude, dude, I don't really sit on a call with you, but that respect for each other is actually really important because we're all actually different. And this is an opportunity for us to acknowledge the difference, to find ways to work.
But I think, Lizzie, to what you say, it's not just about work, it's about... Well, why do I like to do that? And why does he like to do that? And what about him makes that true so that we together can have a better work product. Um, and that's a really important thing. And it's like, you know, any of these business books of like, five dysfunctions of a team or whatever, they start with trust and how do you trust somebody you don't know intimately and understand intimately?
Alex: Good question. Absolutely. And, and you're, it sounds like you two are doing what, uh, leaders need to do, which is role modeling the behavior across the business that you want to see. And by bringing your work styles out into the open, you are able to, understand one another to such a level that Your ways of working can, meet in the middle, and you don't finish an interaction, uh, cursing the other person, uh, and feeling stressed about it for the rest of the day, which is probably what would have happened if you weren't openly sharing your work styles and building an appreciation for one another and your differences.
So, kudos to you guys doing, doing a good job on that front. I think something that really helps with that, uh, is a topic that we talk about in the book, which is collective intelligence. Which is the idea that... If we all agree, and we organize ourselves into organizations of people who look, think, talk, and act the same, we get lots of agreement, and we get groupthink, essentially.
If we organize ourselves into more diverse groups, then we get differences of opinion. But it is in those differences of opinion that we can increase our collective intelligence. Yeah, so by not agreeing... But by learning to communicate in a way that makes us smarter as a team, that's when we start to unlock our collective intelligence.
And that's something that organizations have really lacked or have been missing through the one size system of work, which essentially limits the talent pool to those people who live within a commutable distance of the office and invariably. Um, word of mouth kind of leads to recruitment and you get lots of lots of kind of group think happening whereas through individualizing work, you can tap into a global workforce that is geographically dispersed, highly diverse, but therefore you need to create the conditions for those diverse minds to collaborate.
But if you can, and, and work style is a really important part of being able to do that because it opens up these conversations that enable you to work together despite your big differences, then you can start to be collectively more intelligent and that's a competitive advantage from a business point of view.
Ryan: Massively, right? Like the convergence of disciplines is where innovation comes from. I don't want to be around a bunch of yes, men and women. I mean, cause then you, what are you going to do? Like my shitty idea is going to be what we always do. And I think like a lot of the corporate structures are designed to, um, to propel that I can't tell you how many of our customers, you know, our customers are amazing, big, iconic brands that are trying to transform how they work culturally, digitally, etc. And there's, they're mired in dysfunction as a result of that. Like how much of today's corporate America is going to be predicated about the meeting, about the meeting, about the meeting, about the PowerPoint deck to placate the executive.
And then the only way you thrive in that environment, particularly when we're probably doing more and more of it on Zoom or Teams or whatever is to be a loud mouth. And like how many people, like I've learned to love this, about our culture, we've got 20 different countries on the staff and It's the first time I've ever had to lead engineering teams and they think differently.
And so by leveling the thought playing field, you can, you can really get everybody's ideas. So things like we do a lot of silent meetings, we'll read, do post it notes, dot vote. But again, not knowing Glenn's work style, that doesn't exactly work for him either, right? Because he's somebody who's like, dude, I need to think through that and talk it out.
And so it's, it's a really important leadership burden, right? So to really understand. Everybody on your team and how they need to be coached and led and then how the team communicates together. I mean, like, doing stuff like getting the whole team together and actually sharing their work styles would be a good use of time because then they understand, like, so and so goes skiing in the morning, then they, they're ready for live time from 11 to 2, then they need to think from 2 to 4, whatever. Well, if you know that, you can sort of catch them in stride.
Okay, so I want to talk to you guys about two tensions. Because, um, I'm obviously drinking the Kool Aid. Tension number one is, uh, which one do I want to start with? Let's stick with people because we're already talking about people.
We are all wonderfully different. The Glenn and Ryan example I intentionally share because Glenn wouldn't care and it's a good juxtaposition of two geographically aligned, he lives in New York, I live in Boston, very different people. People today Are being asked to do more faster, more digitally, more efficiently than they've ever done in work.
Being asked to change and fly the plane at the same time, I mean, there's no business that's not transforming, innovating, and trying to make money in this quarter that's out there. We, we, Zappi, and many other businesses leaned into geographic, um, dispersion during COVID. I mean, I've got, there's no, like, I have basically no office culture to speak of.
And I used to have a company that we built that was really centered around humans coming to the office every day. And as a byproduct of that, we had a company that was built on human connection. And we have four total hours of synchronous time a day. Between Asia, United States, South Africa, Europe, and that's really hard. We have people at varying stages in their career who might need apprenticeship who might need help. And so that sort of digital hybrid dynamic is challenging.
And so I'm not surprised when I see so many businesses saying you must come back to the office for three days a week. I get it because you know, it seems more controlled.
So, I'd love to just unpack the people side of this. Like, how can we help people grow, be more effective, be better leaders, if they only have four hours a day and they all like to work differently?
Lizzie: I mean, I think it's really interesting that the concept of connection is something Alex and I are asked about all the time.
People read WorkStyle or hear about WorkStyle and they think what we apply for is entirely remote all the time. And I think firstly we don't advocate that we like being around people, you know. We have Hoxby home meetups happening around the world on any given week. We host one big meetup once a year. But when we come togetherWe come together as Brian Elliott said in his book about the future of work is to break bread. We come together to build those relationships and to build a connection with one another that then we can go away and we can still feel connected. And then, when we're digital, we go out of our way to build a sense of connection.
And that just doesn't happen by itself. Like, that's about role modeling from leaders, but it's also about investing and taking time as a leader to spend your time doing the things that purely build connection, not just the things that drive revenue or make sure that you've got a healthy bottom line. So, for instance, at Hoxby, we've got a water cooler channel.
Alex and I hang out in the Watercooler channel quite a lot, um, we have some bad, you know, bad chat, gifs and babies and cats and dogs. You haven't posted one of the cats recently, Alex, that's long overdue.
Alex: I've literally just filmed them, uh, as it goes for a piece, piece of content later today.
Ryan: Yeah, he's working on that. He's going to pick up his kids first.
Lizzie: Yeah. Yeah, that's true. How did you know he's going to be with his kids in 50 minutes? Um, but basically you can connect profoundly when you're digital, but only if you go out of your way to create a culture where that is facilitated. For instance, I went through early menopause after my breast cancer treatment and there's an interest menopause group at Hogsby.
I have never met the 20 people in that group. But I have been absolutely blown away by how supportive they've been of me and each other, and how open they've been on their journey. And I think you can kind of decode that in a few ways. Firstly, there's a bit of anonymity about being digital, that you can post something on your terms.
There's also, you can take the time to like, word something carefully. Whereas if you're in real life, You might feel intimidated to share it. You can sleep on it, think, do I definitely want to share this? How do I want to tweak it? And so I think in some ways you can actually build deeper connections, but you can only do it when there's the right framework.
And we often say, and we've got a stat in the book about it, That actually, more than half of Brits suffer from loneliness in the workplace, and people, I think, think being in the same place is a proxy for connection. But it's not if you're all sitting next to each other with your headphones in on different Zoom calls.
Ryan: Exactly. Exactly. So, I'm fully aligned to what you say. Like, I want to spend time and frankly T& E money, sorry for the business acronym, travel and entertainment, on human connection. And there's only one thing I would add, which is breaking the back of hard problems. So, like, we're, we're, we're redoing something big in our data collection space, and I want our partner and our teams together in London for a week, because they'll converge.
But to your point, I don't need to sit next to you if I'm on Zoom all day, or I don't need to sit next to you if I'm writing, and I don't need to leave my kids, and so that's, that paradigm really works for me. Sorry, Alex, you were going to jump in and say something.
Alex: Yeah. Well, I was just going to say that I think we, as a workforce, are learning new skills at this point in time. So when we started working this way, we weren't using Slack, uh, or, or any sort of messaging platform to begin with. So there's a newness to even what we're doing and how we're advocating, uh, that people work, which I think means that we're all, we're all kind of in this together, which is about learning about what it takes to make.
These new tools really work for us, and we've got lots of learnings from how we've done it at Huxby. Central to that is people thinking about that tangibly. About, about, okay, I used to work in a certain way when I had to go into an office, and before we had all these amazing tools. Now, I really need to work a different way because all these tools are here that change the way I can work, they change what I can do. And very often what happens is, organizations will adopt a technology, like Slack, for example, and people will use it, probably, I mean, I'm going to make it a massive sweeping statement now, but because perhaps they're told to.
But what happens is, broadly speaking, communication falls into a reactive, rut, whereby you basically respond to messages a lot of the time, but to Lizzie's point, you don't necessarily think about what you should or could do proactively to build connection with the people you're working with. And that's why we hang out a lot in the water cooler, because it's a place where we can proactively set the culture of an organization that has no offices.
We can bring people together behind conversations about anything. And those people can be anywhere, and access that conversation at any time. And that is magical. It's so much better than the three or four people who happen to be passing the water dispenser at the time when they all need a drink. You know, that is limited, right?
Versus the exponential potential we have. To collaborate in this digital birthed world. But we just need to realize that there's this opportunity in front of us, but we need to change our relationship with technology and with work to make the most of it.
Ryan: It's funny. You'd think I was happy to sell software. That's what I talk about a lot, but most of the time we're talking about change. Right. And I think oftentimes it's about the intentions. So that's why I love the set project and respect framework, because you can do this with many things. But as your two are talking, like I have some like very close friends at work because of.
Not because we even talk together at work because we're in special interest slack groups and we talk shit about the Boston Celtics because I love the NBA and sound like those are like people that I know and so like I have like a different relationship with them and I think encouraging people to lean into that is really important.
But I think the other thing is like being intentional about when you use different vehicles. So, our chief people officer, Tom, who I think, I think you folks have met, like, he's trying to get much clearer, like, what do we use live time for, because you spend a lot of time in meetings, and if meetings aren't effective, then everything else sort of goes off.
But, like, think of all the wonderful asynchronous technology we've got now, like, voice memos, Loom videos, vidyard videos, things you can do to, like, capture an idea, and I happen to be, and this is in my personal work style, I suck at writing. And so... I engage with the staff in a lot of ways, but it's usually like a voice memo.
Like, Hey, have we thought about this? What are we talking about? And I think for me, given I'm like, not a great written communicator, it's very helpful, like to get the tone and sort of everything else, but all of this stuff requires intention.
So I have only seven minutes left with you two. And by the way, can we have a beer in London? Because I'm all fired up.
Lizzie: We'll take you to the pub where we came up with the idea.
Ryan: Yeah, exactly. All the world's problems in that pub. I'm very excited.
Lizzie: It's actually not a very nice pub, Ryan.
Alex: So maybe we'll go somewhere else.
Ryan: Zappi's global headquarters is in Camden, and our local is called the Camden Head. Which is a wonderful shithole. It's the best. I mean, I love a pub. I mean, again, my mother, my mother's from inner city Dublin, so like, I love a leaky pub with a pint.
All right. So I got time for one more question and it's a big one. So we're going to do some exercise and see how fast we can all talk. Everybody listening here is probably like, yeah, I want to have more control. I want to be more intentional. I want to connect with my colleagues.
I want more time to have deep work and also fulfill myself. But I work for a big company that's mandating me coming back into the office three days a week with a boss who might not be willing to be vulnerable and a CMO who erodes our strategy. Can you give some folks some advice on what they can do to influence a situation that they might not be in control of?
Lizzie: I think, I think that what we would say is start a conversation. that actually, you know, we wrote the book for individuals. We had a decision point when we started writing the book.
Do we write this for organizations? It's like a kind of HR manual, or do we write it for individuals? And we chose to write it for individuals because ultimately it's individuals who create change and that can come from anywhere. And so for us, The book is there to kind of provide that armory and the community as well, the Works of Revolution community as well, so that people can be equipped with the tools to have those conversations.
Now, depending on the organization, it may be, uh, I want my own full work style, or it may be more of a business case for why this is the right way to do it. And I think the book essentially lays out the business case so that it is, there's a clear benefit to the organization as well as to the individual.
Alex, is that what you were going to say, or were you going to say something completely different?
Alex: No, yeah, I was, I was going to say, um, read the book first and foremost, um, there's lots of thought provoking stuff in there, questions for you as a starter pretend to just re evaluate life in, now that we're in the digital age, now that we've had a pandemic, which has taken a lot of the blinkers off people's perceptions of work.
But I think, to your point, Lizzie, about, um, having the community. So, we've started a community around this subject called the WorkStyle Revolution. You can join it via workstylerevolution.com. It's free to join. It's people who believe that the future of work is... a work style future of work, they believe in autonomy and enabling autonomy as far as possible.
Principally, they're there to support one another. So with questions like that, so if you find yourself in that situation, then you can say, Hey, here's my situation. You know, I'm getting a lot of resistance from the conversation so far. Here's what I've done. And the work stylists will rally around that conversation and share what they've done, what they've learned, what might help useful resources.
Anything that you might need to have the next conversation or prepare the business in a different way. So all the time, those conversations are happening within the work style revolution community. Lizzie and I are taking all of the good stuff and turning it into more tools and resources and things that we can share publicly.
So that's happening. And we think that that's the start of a revolution. That's why we've called it a revolution because Fundamentally, it's on people to believe they have agency over this, believe they can bring about systemic change. And so we're here to equip people with the tools. to make that happen because it's in our collective best interests to do so.
Ryan: Oh, I love it. I love it. So I know we're out of time. I wish we weren't. And I wish we did have a pint of Guinness in front of us.
Just a couple of thoughts, my piece of advice on this, having really leaned into work styles and sort of been on my own journey. All of you work for big companies, but you work in a small team in a big company. Set your own personal intentions, then have a team conversation. Because it's pragmatic, it's something you can do. Isolate your stakeholders and see what you can do. Get engaged in WorkStyleRevolution.com.
And I think I just want to end with what Alex said: People are what is going to change the world. Technology is what will enable us.And so it's what we make of it.
So,Alex and Lizzie, uh, what a wonderful way to start the day. So much respect for the work that you're doing and, and I know you're super busy, so thank you very much for taking the time to join me and to share your wisdom with our listeners today.
Lizzie: Thank you so much for having us. It's been such a pleasure, Ryan, and we look forward to that pint in the pub when you're here next.
Ryan: Yes, I'll definitely hit you two, up, cheers. Thank you very much. Bye everybody. Thanks for listening.
[Music transition to takeaways]
Ryan: So, I wish we had more time, um, but we actually ran out of time because that always happens. The challenge is you always shoot the shit with your wonderful guests because you don't get to see them and then you're like, oh my god, I'm going to hit record. And that happened today.
But Patricia, I want to get your views on this topic, obviously, as somebody who's worked inside a large corporation, Zappi, your own independent consultancy, and now back in a large corporation as the boss and like how you view that.
And I think one of the things I'd love to debrief with you on a little bit is how can, how can people listening that work for the Cokes of the world or the Pepsis of the world or the P& Gs of the world, you know, the big companies, how make sense of this wonderful lesson that we just heard, but bring it to their own ecosystems, which might be more, um, structured, more traditional, more hierarchical, um, et cetera.
Patricia: This was a challenge. This episode was a challenge for me because, um, and I'm going to start from the end right now. I'm in a space where I am absolutely. Loving loving what I'm doing. So I found that with maybe 5 percent exception, I've loved every single job I'm in. So I've been privileged in that. Right.
But there's stuff here that it made me think, Hmm, how can I do better? But there are phrases I want that I want to highlight so that we can set the stage for what we're about to talk to you.
Number one, work should not be one size fits all. It should be individualized. Absolutely correct. There is no one size fits all, because as we all know, humans learn differently, they work differently, they interact differently, and some people are 100 percent virtual, 100 percent local, some people are early birds, some people are late, so we should not ever think that work is one.
And as a boss, I have to understand that. So much better than I ever did in my life. Not only do I have to understand me, but others, or keep that in mind.
Number two, people are amazing at respecting other people's work styles, but they're not great. That great respect for their own work styles. I'm quoting you guys, right from the interview.
I, something about that makes me just happy. The fact that we are able to respect others more than ourselves makes me happy because it makes me think, okay, we're still, we're still human. Right. But now let's turn back and let's respect everybody. Let's respect ourselves as well. So we're starting from a great place.
Now, this episode started, it said, this is to give you insight on how you can better understand each other, how you can better work with your environment so you can be more effective. And I thought, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. That's not what this episode was all about. So I reframed it.
I mean, I'm unquoting you. So what this episode was all about is how you could be more effective, happy, and fulfilled in what you do by working better [00:48:00] with your environment via understanding yourself and others. That's what this was about. That is the golden nugget in the conversation that you had in the book, in the concept work styles and in the understanding.
There are very few problems in life that I think could not benefit from this thinking. Think about it. Understand yourself. Check. Understand others. Check. Work better together. Check. We can avoid so many friggin wars just with that, right?
So, I mean, those are two common words. They're in English. Everybody understands it. But what they're talking about work style together. It's all about how you define your own. It's an autonomy to define. But with. Autonomy comes so much responsibility, right? You can, you can say, okay, I'm going to take care of myself. And this, you have to make sure that you understand the pros and the cons of autonomy. You have to know that you're ready for it, right?
You can define your own work style. You can be autonomous, but you've got to be ready to be accountable and responsible. So this is not all, you [00:49:00] know, roses and, and caramels. This is all about, okay, fine. Big responsibility comes with this, which is in my opinion, makes it all the sweeter, but that's just the way how that's how I am.I'm hyper. And I want to have both.
Ryan: You can't have both the freedom. Without the accountability, like I'll give you an example. Yesterday I had a bunch of stuff to do, but it was 80 and sunny. And so I went on a boat with some colleagues and had a few drinks. It was great, but it mean I had to do my shit still when I woke up this morning.
It doesn't like the accountability. I think a lot of times people want the harmony without the accountability, whether that's, you know, your family, colleagues, et cetera.
Patricia: And that responsibility goes back to respecting others and respecting yourself. I can't turn this all around and all of a sudden me, me, me, me, me.
No, that doesn't work that way either. My freedom ends when it starts infringing on your freedom and that's really important. So I wanted to focus the outro on this, this [00:50:00] conversation on how to make this come to life in a safe way. And I don't want to use the word safe in a oh, I'm so boring, right? I don't want to take risks. No, I want this to work because I've made it work for me and I am a gazillion times happier.
And one of the things that Zappi taught me was this road. I started this journey at Zappi. And you know me well because you helped me, you know crack my shell and come out and, be more me and understand where I like to work best.
So that's where I started this journey. And so if it wasn't for Zappi, if it wasn't for being independent, I wouldn't be able to take on the responsibility that I have nowadays and still be me and still be happy. So I want people to understand that this is possible even in a large corporation, but you have to be respectful of yourself and of others, because only only when you're totally independent can you just kind of be you right?
So what, what happens? Number one, start with you, right? What are your non negotiables? What's important in your life? What motivates you intrinsically and extrinsically?
What makes you motivated? Is there a time of day or time of life that you are? What gives you energy? Is it sun? Is it water? Some people only think When they are in the shower, you were, for example, Ryan, I know it's in the outdoors, right? For me, I've got to be in motion, right? For me, my office, I had the walls painted so that I could write on them.
That's what gives me motivation, writing on the walls and thinking big, because I don't like, I don't think well a little, but these are things that I learned when and where and how do I learn? I am an absolute morning person at four o'clock. I started my God restart. I need caffeine, right?
So I've understood my circadian rhythms and how I can, you know, so once you understand that, set your intentions, you know, make sure you know what they are and put them right there in front of you, not aside in front of you to who's your others.
Now, the next part is others. Who are your others? Is your boss is your others, your partner is your others, your team is your others, your company, who are your others? Right? Then have a team conversation. Be honest about you, but let them be honest about them. All those questions you asked yourself, have them ask themselves those questions too.
Now, this is scary as all because you're thinking in your mind, Oh my God, this is exponentially complicated. This is going to be crazy. Everybody's going to have no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Don't forget the bell shape curve. I'm in math. I'm a, I'm a researcher. The bell shape curve is true for everything. There's going to be much more that you have in common than you have difference.
And it's all going to wash out, but let them all decide and let's ask them the questions after you figure out who your tribe is, who your people are, right? When you have that. Group up who's who, what's what, who's more similar between them and then organize them. Now, this is me interpreting the work styles book and the team, because this is how I would do it.
If I were, you know, I'm trying to do it here, right? But then once you have that all together, find a way that it will work together, find a way that it'll work.
Ryan: And that might mean some give and take, like you heard me use some examples on the, on the conversation of like my work style and my, one of my colleagues is completely different. And so we have to decide when we're going to meet each other. And those strides example, I hope he doesn't mind me calling him out, but like, it's a real thing and like, how do you actually, uh, cause that's one of the challenges inside of a bigger organization is.
You're part of a team that might be a service to another team that might be adjacent to another team. And what you're saying, it's the stuff that is similar to our discussion about managing transformation. It's the basic shit people don't take the time to do that allows you to move faster and understand each other better. Um, really important.
Patricia: Because it needs to be win, win, win, win, win, win. What does that mean? It has to win for you. You have to be. So maybe you don't get 100 percent of what you need. Maybe you get 80 percent of what you need. 80 percent is pretty damn good if you ask me. Right.
If your other team has to win for others, if the others get 80%, that's pretty good too.
So now you're not getting, you're not getting 80 and 80, you're getting 160 is what you're getting, which is even better. It has to work for your company because at the end of the day, even nonprofits have to make money. It's just, I mean, we're here in business. Things have to work. Objectives have to be met.
I'm in a situation, for example, where I've got people in Columbia and I've got people in South Africa and I've got people in different countries. I've got to find the same as you, those small hours where everybody's awake. And so if I have cross functional, I can't say I'm global and then not respect that little tiny space.
So that space in the calendar has to be, has to be clean for everybody. Right. And once you've got all that, that you're winning. The team is winning and the company's meeting its objectives. Set it, project it, and respect it. That was beautiful. The framework that they have, I loved that. Set it, project it, and respect it.
I think that there are very, that's, that's the best tagline I've ever heard. I love it. But how are you going to do that? That's the hard part. I mean, of course, read the book. Yes, but more than just the book. It's the support team. Why? That's a different tribe. It's a different tribe. You're going to have a new tribe that's going to help you.
And leverage tech for God's sake. Leverage tech. Tech is there are so many tools. Leverage it. Learn to place value on all those things.
But talk to people who are on this journey. This is a new journey. I hope that it spreads like wildfire, right?
So I'm grateful as hell because my generation and the one before me were all like, suck it up buttercup. This is work. This is what we get paid for. Do that shit. Everybody has to lift bricks. You be quiet. You're getting a paycheck. Right. And so I've eaten a lot of mud pie, right. I am so grateful that these young people are now thinking, wait, wait, wait, wait a minute.
I count too. I count too. That is so good. As long as the company and your team doesn't suffer, I get to count too. And I love that.
Ryan: You know what? I've got to tell you something.
I agree with you, but I haven't, I have a slight niggle, so I'll just share it. And I'm actually, I wanted to do this on the podcast, so I'm going to read everybody my work style because it's actually written on notion for the entire staff of Zappi's 300 plus employees to read whenever they want.
I will read it here so if you ever want to work with me, you know how I like to work.
But I think so in the intention setting, the projecting of intentions and respecting them is so important. The understanding of people so you can catch each other and drive is so important. The fact that we are, and people listening to this podcast, myself included, are knowledge workers, so we mustn't follow nine to five playbooks.
I'm with you. My niggle is there's too much entitlement in the world that all those things are a replacement for hard work and that there's a lot of assholes and pundits and thought leaders on LinkedIn talking about get rich quick schemes and it's all bullshit. You still gotta put in the fucking work.
And so as long as that's why I like what I really loved about what Lizzie and Alex were saying is the quid pro quo of accountability within that because you still have to work dude like this is not like Whatever you're doing, you could be a solopreneur. You could be at a big company that makes candy.
You could be in the software business. Um, it's not the same as an overnight success. So, but just do it in a better way. Make yourself happy when you do it.
Patricia: Make sure that your freedom doesn't encroach on somebody else's freedom.
Ryan: Yes. Yes. All right. You want to read it? You want to hear my, uh, my work styles?.
Patricia: Yes, I do.
Ryan: Okay. So, we use an intranet at Zappi called Notion. Um, and this, this is something that many of us have experimented with, but it's certainly not, like, ubiquitous yet. But, uh, it basically starts with, like, You know, how do you like to work? Where are you in the world? Are there days and times you find better or worse for having meetings?
Are there times of the day that you'll definitely be offline? Are there things that would be people would be helpful for people to understand about you? And so that's section one, how I like to work.
So mine is I am based in Boston. I have three little kids that I like to eat breakfast and dinner with so I work my day around that. I often respond to Slack and emails between six. to 7 a. m. And then I usually have calls from 8 30 to noon, leaving my afternoons free for more topical conversation or deep work. I will usually respond to you within a day and I will try to always make time for you within two days. If you would like advice on something, that's part one.
Part two vulnerable. The truth is, I have ADHD and I also like to get outside. So if you see me pacing off video or even if you hear a basketball bouncing or birds chirping, don't worry, I'm probably more focused than ever. That's just how I get my energy.
Equally, if you see me with a scoward face... I'm likely just thinking I'm not shy. So if I don't like what you're saying, I'm just gonna tell you. 'cause I pride myself on being direct for better or worse.
So if you read that, you can know a lot about somebody and you would not think everybody's gonna be comfortable saying that the stigmas of mental health and all the other stuff .
So then the next section is my communication strengths and preferences. So the advice here is use a bullet point style list to be very specific. About what you have clear preferences and or strengths when it comes to communicating. This is about receiving and responding to information, sharing your point of view, engaging with others across the business, keep in mind, everybody has their own style and preference.
And if we can understand and embrace those, we're likely to work together much more effectively.
Okay. So I do really well with written documentation or a quick voice memo or video to explain a concept. It then helps me think and give you clear feedback. I don't mind. And oftentimes value talking ideas out with people, both my own ideas and others. I just, I also just value time to think.
I love dealing with tension head on. If I pissed you off, if you're upset with me, unsettled, let's talk. You can share a frustration on Slack or email, but I'd prefer to talk it through so that we don't linger attention. Uh, cause that gives me anxiety. Uh, escalations: Before you… don't escalate to me. If you, before you've truly tried to connect with somebody, we're going to align with their cross functional team. If you need help approaching that conversation, I'm very happy to do that.
I do not like live presentations. I find them to be extremely wasteful of our unlimited synchronous time. I think all meetings should have a clear agenda, a pre read, and a framing of its discussion of whether it's talking through an idea, taking advice, or making a decision.
I really, really value open space on my calendar so I can focus and think. With that said, if you need me, I'm here. I enjoy spending time with you on a personal level to get to know you. That's why I'm in the office. When I'm in the office, I'm not trying to sit on Zoom.
And then the last is important for all of you bosses out there.
Especially, like me, who are assertive and loud, naturally. Okay? Given my role, I am trying to be careful of how I engage. I am vocal when I'm thinking through an idea and sometimes people mistake my energy or my idea as a directive. So you might oftentimes hear me caveat with something like I'm thinking out loud.
Please tell me that I'm wrong and challenge me so we can make the best decision. If there's a decision I've already made, I will tell you that. So that you can not waste your time.
So this, imagine if everybody on your team had something like this written out, you had that level of understanding with and that level, it's be so much fucking easier to work together every day.
So,, you should read this book. You should, you should set your intentions, you should project them to your teammates, and then you should respect that shit and you'll be happier as long as you do the work.
Patricia: Do the work.
Ryan: Do the work. Um, this was fun. I'm all, I'm all wound up now. The good news for all of you listeners is I'm all wound up and I'm about to go in 15 minutes to record our next episode, which is with my friend Simon Berg. Simon Berg is the CEO of Ceros. Um, you thought we swore a lot when we had Mark Ritson on the podcast.
Oh boy. I think Simon and I are in for trouble this afternoon. Simon is an entrepreneur. He is the CEO and founder of Ceros, um, which is a business that serves marketers.
We are going to be talking about creativity and artificial intelligence and how those two worlds converge. And it is my second least, second least structure, second most least structure, I don't know how to say it. It's not a structured conversation because I just want to talk to him about AI and creativity for an hour, and I think you'll be in for a treat.
We've got several episodes remaining on this seventh season of Inside Insights. We're having a lot of fun. I hope you are having fun. A lot of you have been, um, sending, uh, sending love for some of the conversations. Um, the conversation about the transformation playbook.
I really appreciate that. It helps Patricia and I sharpen our editorial focus and make sure we're delivering value. And as ever, if you want to be on the podcast, if you know somebody who you think should be on the podcast, tell us why, and we'd love to interview them.
Patricia: If there's a topic that you want to talk to us, to talk about, to go deeper into, let us know. Tell us. We can help. This is all about being useful.
Ryan: I actually had Oksana, Oksana shout out because I know you're listening, uh, recommend a guest to us just yesterday, who I will be emailing back. Um, but, uh, everybody, thanks for listening. Ladies, it's good to see you.
And Patricia, Kelsey and I are waiting for some Aldor merch in the mail. So don't forget.
Patricia: I won't forget about you.
Ryan: Bye everybody. Have a good one.