Ep. 107: Juliet Funt on How To Defeat The Email Beast
In this episode, we revisit David’s interview with Juliet Funt, Author, Speaker, and Advisor to the Fortune 500, where Juliet discusses how to defeat the email beast.
Buy David’s book “Trusted Leader”: https://amzn.to/3luyqf1
A regular feature in top global media outlets, including Forbes and Fast Company, Juliet Funt is a renowned keynote speaker and tough-love advisor to the Fortune 500. As the founder and CEO of the boutique efficiency firm Juliet Funt Group, she is an evangelist for freeing the potential of companies by unburdening their talent from busywork. Juliet’s warm, relatable manner and actionable content earned her one of the highest ratings in the largest speaking event in the world, and she has worked with Spotify, National Geographic, Anthem, Vans, Abbott, Costco, Pepsi, Nike, Wells Fargo, Sephora, Sysco, and ESPN. You can follow her and access numerous resources at JuiletFunt.com.
“A Minute To Think” by Juliet Funt: https://amzn.to/3toq8Km
1. “Space is where strategy occurs.”
2. “Make sure you have a minute to think between opening your eyes and getting out of bed.”
3. “Never let the colors touch on your meeting calendar.”
4. “When we have the right medium for the right message we work far faster and far easier.”
Links Mentioned In The Episode:
“A Minute To Think” by Juliet Funt: https://amzn.to/3toq8Km
Buy David’s book “Trusted Leader”: https://amzn.to/3luyqf1
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Welcome to the Trusted Leader Show. I’m your host, David Horsager. Join me as I sit down with influential leaders from around the world to discuss why leaders and organizations fail top tactics for high performance, and how you can become an even more trusted leader.
Welcome to The Trusted Leader Show. I’m Kent Svenson, producer of The Trusted Leader Show. And for this week’s episode, we’re taking a look back at a previous episode where David sat down with author, speaker, and advisor to the Fortune 500 Juliet Funt. In the episode, Juliet talks about how to defeat the email beast. So sit back, relax and enjoy the show.
But let’s, let’s jump in a little bit to your new book because it’s really cool. It’s called A Minute to Think People Can Get It Anywhere. We’ll put it in the show notes, Trusted leader show.com and everywhere you can find Juliet. But let’s talk about this idea to start with about, you know, you talk about space and oxygen to fuel the fire. Tell us about it.
That’s the foundational metaphor of the book and of everything that we do. So the idea is if you’re building a fire, you need the right ingredients. It’s clear that you need something dry and crumbly, newspaper, pine needles, you have to have good wood. I’ve learned soft wood to catch quick and hard wood to burn long is the perfect combination. But there is an ingredient that if mist will absolutely sabotage every effort that you make to turn a spark into a beautiful blaze. And that is you must add space. There must be oxygenating passages in between those materials for the feeding of the fire to occur. And the truth is that this is exactly the same for us and our minds and creativity and ideas and work. We need space around them for that oxygenating power to infuse the spark and make it into a blaze. But it is what we forget. It is what we’re chronically missing. And in my opinion, that space is the most endangered element now of modern work.
That’s so interesting. In the first book my first book, Trust Edge, I wrote about, and really this was inspired by my wife to full credit, but I, we talked about how music is nothing without the rest, right? Mm-Hmm. , it doesn’t sound beautiful. You, if you just had all the sounds, it would kind of just be noise, but the rest makes it beautiful. And you know, we talk about how people are even after this, or in the process of, of the change of the pandemic. People are like ready to get out, ready to get out. And not even pausing to think, But what did I learn that I could think about ahead, you know, for the future? I think a pause even macro would be valuable. But let’s talk about this because you know, you’ve been challenged plenty of times and I know you’re tough and can handle it. You’ve got, you’ve got the, the CEO sitting there saying, Yes, but I need my people to work more. I need to, we gotta need to get more done. We need, we got quarterly earnings, We got this issue, we got it. That issue. What do you mean? You’re gonna come in and tell my people we need more space? Tell us about it.
The misconception of white space. Actually one of the, there’s about three main misconceptions of this open time at work that’s called white space, the interstitial interlaced, beautiful, thoughtful time. And one of the biggest misconceptions is that it is only for rest. And if you think that space is only for rest, if you think that everyone’s just drooling with their, you know, staring out a window recuperating, then I can understand as a leader where you wouldn’t want that to be the dominant usage of space within the workday. It is absolutely critical when 52% of people are burnt out. And when we have so much shame around rest and refueling, we absolutely need some of it. But the truth is it’s only 25%. One quarter of the way that smart people use space at work. Space is also where strategy occurs. It’s where innovation and creativity blossom from inception to true idea. It’s where leaders can be objective and step back and look from a distance at something that they’re about to execute and see if it has validity. So when you do understand that space is also what facilitates thinking and that thinking is time well spent, you begin to disconnect from that. Oh, isn’t this just a soft skill, soft thing that my people don’t need misconception? Because without it, your ideas, your strategy, your planning are all threatened cuz they’re gonna be thin and unconsidered.
So let’s, before I get into a tip with that, how do I tell if I’m burnt out? You said 52% of people are how, how do I even know if my people are burnt out?
If, Well, you asked two different questions. You said, How do I know if I’m burnt out and how do I know if my people are burnt out? So the question of am I burnt out personally, individually is an interesting one because we spend a lot of time trying to decide if the label formally should stick to us or not. But to me, it doesn’t matter if you have crossed the invisible line between wicked fried and technically burnt. I, it doesn’t matter if you are burnt. What matters is that if you are even asking the question, I wonder if I’m burnt out. It’s kind of like I wonder if I’m an alcoholic, I want, you know, there’s something that is stimulating some pain, some awareness, some objectivity about your own day that is stimulating the question that is sufficient. It means you’re fried, you’re exhausted.
You probably used adrenaline and courage to push past levels of you know, earnest work that would’ve been sufficient a long time ago. So if you are feeling that, then there are things that you can do and we can go into those organizationally. If my people are burnt out, that’s a different question. And I’m sure you’ve heard of the term skip level meeting where the big boss skips their direct reports and then has a meeting with the direct reports, direct reports, that’s called a skip level meeting. But we like skip levels meetings, plural. I would like the big boss to go have lunch with people, five rungs down in the organization, or have a virtual meeting if you can’t and say, just tell me what does it feel like? What’s driving you crazy? What are you pretending is okay? That’s really completely not okay? Are you thinking of leaving? Why are you thinking of leaving the great resignation? We’re only seeing people from their backsides as they’re leaving. We gotta get ahead of that. So the, the idea of leaders using the new intimacy of c this way that we’ve all become more real with each other. To go in there and say, I’m gonna make a vulnerable admission. Here’s where I’m struggling, here’s where I’m confused, here’s where it’s been hard for me. What about you? Hmm, what about you? And opening that doorway, that’s the only way you’re ever gonna know.
I, that’s brilliant. What about, how, how are you doing this? Like, let’s, how do you keep the white space? You’re running a company, you’re putting out some amazing work, you’re, you’re running, you’ve got your family, you’ve got your life, you’re traveling, you’re in New Zealand, you’re back in the US in a month. I mean, what, how, how do you, maybe even just jumping into some tips and takeaways that we can all use, but how do you do it?
The most important piece of white space for me is the very first thing in the morning. And everybody can just start here. This is the easiest way to start. Make sure you have a minute to think between opening your eyes and getting outta bed. It’s such a simple and beautiful interval to just pause and use what we call a strategic pause. What kind of day is this gonna be? What do I need to shake off from yesterday or from a bad dream? What anxiety is just waking up right with me cuz it’s been such a difficult time that I need to take a breath and let go of, and how do I wanna show up today? And then maybe another sip at your desk. And then maybe through the course of the day, you take advantage of forced white space that is thrown upon you.
Maybe that rainbow spinning ball can be your friend instead of your enemy, or you’re waiting in line instead of reaching for the phone. Start realizing that there are a lot of times where we’re gifted space and we’re waiting or we’re thinking. And if we don’t pick up that phone to fill it, space is ours for the taking. Now, in terms of a specific tool, this all is training wheels that I’ve just described to you to get you to the basic starter tool called the wedge. And the wedge for most of your audio listeners are not gonna see me. Now I’m, I’m making a triangle upward with my fingers and I’m pointing upward with this wedge, I want you to imagine a little wedge of open time, unscheduled fluid, open time inserted in between two activities that previously would’ve been connected. So this is to open up things that would’ve been touching between a meeting and a meeting between getting a bad email and responding quickly between, oh, I have an idea and I’m gonna execute on that idea. Just little wedges inserted and opening. And what happens is we begin to have this interstitial space, not the big scary 30 minute executive block of white space, one hour executive block of totally unattainable white space. Three seconds, eight seconds, a minute and a half, five minutes. And now there starts to be a little bit of oxygen in the system and that’s where we begin.
I remember you speaking when I was listening to you at one point at least even kind of making the recommendation. I think this was more recently because with all the Zoom meetings, even saying something about between Zoom meetings, you recommend 10 minutes. Is that right?
Well, there’s a cardinal rule and then you can design a custom application of it. So here’s the cardinal rule. Never let the colors touch on your meeting calendar. I wanna see a nice stripy calendar from this day forward for every single one of your listeners. If it’s 5, 10, 15 minutes, whatever it is, when the colors don’t touch, the day can have some oxygenation in it. And as you’re going back to the office, if you’re used to top of the hour to top of the hour, you now you’re gonna have to move to a different room. You’ve, we’ve forgotten how to, you know, how that we’re not gonna be clicking on and off. So we, we start with those stripes and then if you like, we can break down what occurs inside each stripe to really utilize it properly. Shall we go there? Let’s
Okay. Cause it’s very important when you have a stripe of white space, it is not intended to just you, you know, go on TikTok, that’s not the point of the time. The point of the time is to do three things that really, really start to change the nature of this maniacal workplace. You look backward, you look within and you look forward. So in a typical slice of white, let’s say we’re gonna do 10 minutes, about the first three minutes should be looking back, who did I just talk to in the last meeting? Do I need to make a note, enter something, send a calendar invite? Or do I just need to think about how did that really go? What could I have done a little bit better with David? Then look within time to check into the human being. Am I hungry? Do I need to close my eyes for 30 seconds?
Do I have to get ahead of a bio break before the next meeting? And then we look forward the most important part for business and sales and building relationships. Who am I about to sit with? What human being is gonna bop into that waiting room in three to four minutes? Who, who do I need to be for them? Cause we all have different aspects, different colors of our personality that we bring to light with different people. More casual, more serious, more data filled. And then what do they need? What do they want and how can I serve them? And so when you do that, look back, look within and look forward. Wow. Do you show up as a different human being to that next meeting?
Talk about a way to be more present. Wow, I love it.
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So any, any other tips on meetings? I want to ask you about the, you know, I’ve heard you speak and see some of your writing on two big thorns for people. I think listening, and these are getting into the weeds here, we could have talked to so many things to Juliette. Should we, we’ve got, we need like five episodes, but, but ba meetings and emails are, are thorns for a lot of the people, right? So let’s, let’s talk a little bit more. Is there anything else with meetings that we should think about as far as creating healthy white space or better meetings
So much? Yeah, we could do about five. Let’s, let’s think about this guy I met named Devon. Devon is a senior executive. He’s a definite big shot at a large company. He told me this story when we were writing the book. He said he was sitting in a meeting sequence, large accounting firm, four meetings in the course of a day that were all the same presentation. They were these upward approval cycles where you convinced the rung and then the next rung and the next rung and the next, he only needed to be in the last meeting. He’s the big shot. But they begged him to give the face time of, you know, just sitting in the other ones. And by the fourth meeting he was reciting the deck. He was mouthing the words. He knew this content so well. There was no tactical reason for him to sit in any of those other meetings.
He knew he was wasting his time sitting in those other meetings. He was sneaking peaks and his phone trying to not be bored. But even with his power and even with his authority, it never even occurred to him to opt out. And if you think about the concept of opting out, if Devin can’t do it, I promise you most of the people sitting at their desk without that kind of agency can’t do it. And we have an entire culture of people who never even think about tiptoeing into the world of, I don’t think I’ll be adding value at this meeting. I’d like to decline. And so if you’re going to have the colors not touching as a beginning, we also wanna have some places where there are no meetings. So we can think and strategize and write and be creative and go deeper and build.
And in order for that to happen, there has to be be control at two junctures. We have to be able to control who we invite and we have to be able to control what we accept. And for most people, it’s the second one I mentioned that is the scariest. Opting out is very intimidating, but it’s an absolute necessity in the world of work that we’re in. And so the safest way to get used to it is to find what I call a nobody. This is a pal that you say, I’m thinking of saying no to this thing. Can I talk through the way that I’m gonna say no to see if it sounds good to you? Does it sound authoritative or high maintenance or, or receivable to the person that I’m about to say to. And you can practice saying no to meetings. You can even practice saying no to projects or certain client demands. And and we need this kind of scaffolding support because we’re in a culture of yes, we’re in a culture of I win points by being the most miserable in some ways, you know, the Olympics of pain that we’re all showing off. And so learning how to opt out and then having the support of a nobody or two really important techniques,
The Olympics of pain we are showing off. It’s totally true. Yeah. We don’t need to get medals in that. I’ve often said the most difficult word for, or the most important word for leaders is not yes, as many think it is. Actually no. The ability to say no creates a space for the best. Right? So saying no to good, saying no to this saying no. But I can tell you, even as you say it, I’m thinking Juliette’s talking to me, I still, I will, You
Asked how how, Oh sorry, go ahead.
No, i i I just have an issue myself saying an owner right to certain things
And we talked, I was just, that was what I was gonna say is we talked at the beginning about our keynote schedules and you said something like, I do a hundred keynotes and I, and, and you and I would do one, I try for one a month is my goal if I can, but everybody has, it’s probably one of the ways that I do protect white space. You asked me how I protect mine is I think my boundaries have gotten really, really strong. I definitely have my weaker spots, my tech addicted nature pulls me too quickly into my technology in those, in those moments. But it, once you start saying no, and once you start seeing the benefit, the incredible benefit they’ll see in the book a tool called the Hourglass, which is much too complicated for us to break down on a show that’s audio only. But there are techniques that we’ll make saying no easier the first time and then like riding a bike and then easier the next time. And even easier and even easier. We just need to build the muscle.
Let’s jump into it. One of those challenges, and I will say this to my benefit, I, the tech addiction is not my, my my pain point. I, I I I run from it all the time when I probably should check it. But it is, we all have different, different challenges and reasons and and whatnot. But let’s talk about this, this tech piece of email because you’ve given some great tips and ideas on how we tame even as you talk about in the in the book defeating the email beast. And what are, what are some tips and takeaways we can think about as far as taming that email beast but not at the expensive relationships that we need to keep?
Sure the philosophy is more important than the rules. Everybody wants to start with rules. We really need to start. It’s like holding a rosary. When you don’t have a religion, it’s backwards. It’s the wrong way to start. The philosophy is one of less emotional connection to email. And when we can start releasing emotionally, it reminds me of this story in the book that I love about this guy named Maurice. He had this really relaxed quality about email, even though he was a middle manager in a car company and middle managers usually get really, really hooked cuz they feel that pressure from both sides. I asked him how he became so in control and he said that when he was young and he was selling cars, he was on the floor and they would get these manila envelopes on Monday and Friday. This is pre email and it would have all the memos and xeroxes and updates and things that company thought he should read.
And he’d read the Wednesday one, like a good little boy. But then by Friday he hadn’t even gotten through it and he’d get the Friday one and then they would start stacking up and then by Wednesday he’s still et cetera. So he went to this guy, Maurice, old guy on the team, what do you do? And Maurice just smiled and he said, Come with me. And he walked him to the parking lot and he opened the trunk of his car and revealed exactly three things, a case of water, a jack and a giant box of unopened manila envelopes. And he said, I put the date on and I throw it in here. If nobody asks me about anything in three months, I throw it away. And I tell this story in corporations, people get a little ruffled cuz they think I’m minimizing the importance of all the stuff coming from the corporate mothership.
But the truth is that a lot of it is over communication. And when we can just sort of relax our relationship with how important our email is, then, then next we can go, Okay, now let’s try some tools. Interval checking is a dominant tool for every smart person I know, which means you choose when to touch it once an hour at meal times, morning and evening, some, some form of interval. The more nuance tool that we really put our whole company around when it comes to email is called the yellow list. The idea of a yellow list is that you need a repository for things that you thought belonged in email but really don’t. Now when you’re about to send an email, what we teach is that you should go first through the decision tree of how time sensitive it is. If the thing, if you’re literally poised about to type and you stop and you say, first of all, is this time sensitive?
Cuz if it’s truly time sensitive, it should not be in a digital medium. It should be in a phone call or I guess a text is digital, but an immediate frame, not in asynchronous medium. Now we’ve decided it’s not time sensitive you’re about to send it. The next question is, should it be an email? Is there a reason? Is this email, is this communication email ish? Does it have an attachment a forward, a copy, a link, something that lives inside the world of email, if not most of the time. Instead you can put it on a yellow list. And what that is is just a document you keep for everybody you relate with frequently. Let’s say I have a David yellow list and I have a Jake yellow list. If I can just put it on my yellow list. I’m just gonna talk about it with you later.
So I’m gonna go, Oh, I really, really wanted to ask David about that thing about Willow Creek. And then I go, Nope, I’ll just put on the yellow list. Boom, boom, boom. It gets a little longer. Eventually, maybe once a week I call you, Hey David, can we have a yellow list debrief? I guess my phone is out of date, I’ve got my . But I, and then we just go through it verbally. No threads were created, no ccs were ever added. You can’t cc someone on a conversation, big bonus, and you just boom, boom, boom, boom, move through it verbally. Other bonuses, you get to have three dimensional communication, which means that if we wanna talk about something that’s nuanced or difficult or creative, we’re gonna talk through it in a much more thorough way, being able to speak directly to each other. So this yellow list idea is absolutely at the core of the way we work, it can transform the amount of cumulative email that you get. Yes, caveat, some things need to be in writing, legal, et cetera, but it’s by far the exception, not the rule.
Let’s go one more step here because you get into elevating communication. Tell us a bit of what, how the, you know, how the best teams talk.
The best teams know that you match the medium with the message. We just kind of talked about it a little bit. Yeah, there are two dimensional messages and there are three dimensional messages. A two dimensional message is static or fact driven or simple. Meet me at three o’clock. Did you send the report? What day is that special offsite? That’s two dimensional. Three dimensional is I’m a little upset with the way you behaved in front of that client, or I have a fantastic idea for a new product. Those are three dimensional topics. They’re rich and creative and challenging. They belong in three dimensional mediums. So 2D belongs in email, text chats, 3D belongs in face-to-face meetings, phone calls, video conferences. When we have the right medium for the right message, we work far faster and far easier. And when we don’t, we have two prices that we pay.
If you take 2D content, short fact driven content and you shove it into a 3D medium, that’s when you waste time. That’s when you’re sitting in a meeting going, this could have been a memo, right? That’s that old mug. I’m sitting in another meeting. That could have been an email. If you take the other direction and you take three dimensional content, you try to shove it into a 2D medium, that’s when you compromise richness. And the reason that you get email threads that are 35 volleys long is cuz someone’s trying to work out the nuance of something difficult in a completely flat medium that doesn’t support it.
That’s it for this week’s episode. Be sure to check out trusted leader show.com for all the show notes and links and information from anything mentioned in today’s episode. And if you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to The Trusted Leader Show on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google, or wherever you get your podcasts so you never miss a new episode. But in the meantime, that’s it for this week’s episode. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, stay trusted.