The Engineering Leadership Podcast · Episode 61

The “Energy Audit,” Reclaiming Your Time, & Increasing Ownership

with Brad Henrickson

Sep 14, 2021
Brad Henrickson (Leadership Coach, Former CTO @ Scoop Technologies) shares how to reclaim ownership of your time by using an energy/calendar audit! You’ll learn the mechanics of how to conduct an energy audit and how to transform energy-draining moments engineering leaders commonly encounter, into energy-giving moments. Plus how to apply this at scale to amplify energy AND increase ownership throughout your entire org!
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SPEAKERS

Brad Henrickson Leadership Coach, Former CTO @ Scoop Technologies

Brad is a seasoned technology leader with a broad range of experience from founding companies, to building product, to maturing organizations to driving culture and results in highly dynamic environments.

Brad has an extensive range of skills including but not limited to: building recruiting and hiring pipelines, organization design and SDLC design, people management, product management, board representation, budgeting, performance management, culture advocacy and delivery of critical technical projects.

Outside of the technical domain you will find Brad out rock climbing, surfing and mountaineering. He grounds himself through his connection to the outdoors and through his meditation practice which he has been doing for 20 years.

"What's really interesting, is that most people when they do this the first time... 70% to 80% of their calendar is RED! You end up finding out that you're spending a lot of time doing things that drain your energy...

Because we've just sort of accepted that it's going to be tough. And we're going to be low energy at the end of our week because we haven't taken ownership of our calendar."

- Brad Henrickson


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Show Notes

  • Introducing the “energy audit” (2:31)
  • “Time is an expression of your priorities and values” (4:21)
  • How an “energy audit” impacts how you spend your time (5:42)
  • How to address routine meetings on your calendar that drain your energy (7:25)
  • How to conduct your own calendar review & energy audit (10:55)
  • How to approach a calendar review when you don't have total control of your time (14:36)
  • Common energy audit trends for engineering leaders (18:13)
  • How to transform energy-draining meetings to make them exquisite (19:34)
  • Unplanned energy giving experiences to have on the calendar (22:54)
  • How to transform activities from energy draining to energy giving (25:35)
  • Renters vs. Owners & how to increase ownership in your engineering team (27:37)
  • How to use energy audits at different scales of your organization (32:24)
  • Framework to start a conversation about energy draining activities (33:50)
  • How to get people to share problems without emotion or fear of judgement (37:00)
  • Other contexts to apply the energy audit beyond meetings (39:34)
  • How to use the energy audit to amplify your energy (41:16)
  • Rapid Fire Questions (44:11)
  • Takeaways (48:01)

Transcript

Introducting the "energy audit"

Patrick Gallagher: Just on behalf of Jerry and I, we both wanted to say welcome to the show. We're really excited to have you here. And we've been really looking forward to this conversation and to dive deeper into your story and some of the things that have shaped your leadership.

Brad Henrickson: Thank you. I'm so excited to be.

Patrick Gallagher: I guess to introduce the that we're diving into Brad. So a seasoned engineering leader. You've founded companies you've built, launched, and scaled different products. You've helped mature organizations. Now you help mentor and coach engineering leaders.

today I know we're talking within the world of the energy audit and the impact that practices like that has on individuals, teams and organizations.

I was wondering if you could introduce us to this topic a little bit and the problem here. And so do you have a personal story of when you had to confront this sort of time energy challenge, or if you have a deeper description of this problem and what it's like for engineering leaders, bring us into your world and why this is important to you!

Brad Henrickson: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks, Patrick. That's really fascinating. A problem. Like the core thing that we all have as humans is our time. And sometimes it feels like we're not in control of it and it's just passing by.

I know for myself personally there used to be a time in my life where I would just look at my calendar and plow through the things, just kind of moving from this mode of obligation.

And having this perspective of my real work is going to happen in "off hours." And I wasn't really, I think, fully honoring how I was spending my time. And so it really was this sense of I'm just going to move through this. I have a bunch of things which I need to get done. And I wasn't really making an expression of my priorities and values.

And so I needed a shift of perspective like this wasn't serving me particularly well. I was burning out. I don't think I was contributing or leading in the way that I think honored what I wanted to do or serve my community around me.

And so I started thinking about how can I shift my orientation to that and start really valuing how I actually spend my time and take ownership of the decisions that I make for how I spend my time.

"Time is an expression of your priorities and values"

Patrick Gallagher: I'm really fascinated by the concept of reorienting your time as an expression of your priorities and values. Can you tell us a little bit more about what that means and why that became important for you?

Brad Henrickson: Yeah, for sure. Well, first reason why it's important to me is if I'm going to live my values, it better show up somewhere in terms of how I spend my time. Because if it doesn't then it's not... you're not really living through your values. Right? And so I think this is a very important thing to kind of orient around.

Like, what do you hold to be important. And what you hold to be important, Patrick might be very different from what I hope to be important. And so there, isn't sort of a universal optimization of how we spend time.

So every time you make a decision about, "Hey, this is what I'm going to do." What you're saying is "I'm inherently valuing this..." whether you're doing it intentionally or not is a different question. Right?

So this is very important for me in terms of saying, how do I actually want to live my life? What are the values I actually want to express? And then I need to tie that back to how I spend my time.

For example I really get a lot out of mentoring, coaching. And so for me, it's important to say, "How can I make sure I'm spending the highest quality time with my direct reports to make sure they're getting feedback, they're getting coaching, whatever support that they need."

I personally get a lot back from that. So for me, it's like, "Let me make sure that my best hours of the day are being spent on THAT." As opposed to something else, which I may value kind of a lot lower in terms of my personal scale.

How an "energy audit" impacts how you spend your time

Patrick Gallagher: The thing I find so interesting is like the level of clarity that it's opened up for you and how that's how you choose to invest things and how that creates a greater sense of fulfillment.

So I know we want to get more into the mechanics of how this works, right. I think one thing I want to learn from you first, Brad, is the impact that it had on you.

And so after you did the energy audit, what became clear for you as a, as a leader, what did you end up finding most rewarding with your time outside of coaching and presenting?

Were there things in way, ways that this impacted how you invest your time now as an engineering leader and as somebody who helps coach and mentor engineering leaders?

Brad Henrickson: Yeah. So I think one of the really big pieces that came out of this was first of all, valuing my time. Being the author of what my day looks like. Not being at the effect of someone else's decisions. Right? I'm not just in a position of just receiving things or things that were current on my calendar saying, "This is just what I'm going to do."

Whatever level of influence I have, or whatever ability I want to chart my course in the world, it really became clear to me that I was able to do that. That if I go into a meeting and that meeting, isn't great. I don't just have to brutally accept that meeting. That I could potentially change something about it. Or I can ask questions and push back on things if it doesn't particularly make sense for me.

And so there's really the sense of ability to effect change that has a really tangible effect on myself and for my community around me, that became really real with this.

Because if prior to some of this, so it was a bit of like, Hey, this is just, what's on my calendar. It's a recurrent meeting that we do every week or two, and I just need to eat it.

And this really shift my mindset to one of, "Hey, I can create something really great and exquisite for myself and for my community by not being passive about it. By saying how can I really take control and ownership of how I'm spending my time and energy in a way that serves me and serves me and serves my community."

How to address routine meetings on your calendar that drain your energy

Jerry Li: Brad, I'm curious to know what are the ways you work with other people to clear some of the items on your calendar? Especially routine ones, because maybe there's expectation being set up. Maybe that's something people already get used to.

One of the challenge for people to do something like that is that they don't know how to break from that... that certainly happens to me. in the past...

Brad Henrickson: Sure. I think it's a good question. I'll guess I'll give an example of, one scenario that I had.

We used to have... it was every week or every other week every fortnight, not biweekly. So go ahead unpack what bi-weekly means and fortnite means.

But we would have a one-hour meeting where for half of that meeting, people were just reporting on status.

People would come in and they would say, "Here's where we are. Here's where we are. Here's where we are." And it was just on the calendar. And we continued to do that...

What we realized was we don't need to spend a full hour of time doing that. No one was calling it out. No one was even raising it as like, this is not really a requirement for us to spend this hour. Let's talk about how we can get what we really need here.

And it could just be, let's just fill out the one pager with our metrics about where we are. Circulate that ahead of time, make a required reading. And then we actually have like a 15 minute or 20 minute discussion instead about like where we are. And now you've just reclaimed half an hour, 40 minutes of time. And you get to the same result. Right?

So that could be an example. That's one, one example.

When someone I was working with, we had a discussion where she was in an organization and she had this meeting every single day that she would go to that ate up an hour of her time.

And in that discussion, it was what I worked with her on was saying, "What is it that you really need out of this time? Like, what is it that the value that you're contributing to this group and what do you need out of here and how can you design things to make sure that it serves your group really well, in terms of their being able to have ownership and not being over-managed and allows you to contribute in a way that's appropriate, that really works for everyone involved?"

But that requires coming to the table and having a constructive conversation about what the needs are and what you're trying to accomplish. That just means bringing people together and being open and honest about what you're trying to do.

As opposed to just saying this is the hour on my calendar every single day. And therefore, I'm just going to sacrifice that hour.

Jerry Li: The other day, I was having a conversation with someone the gist of reflects how lack of awareness there is for people to realize how much impact the time that gets wasted in meetings. The analogy he mentioned really resonated with me. He said "Nobody probably going to raise any concern you have organize a meeting of 10 people seem to get her to talk about what I'm saying.

But if you ask for a team outing budget for like $2000, that's probably less That's less expensive than having ten people jump on call for one hour. But I think that analogy, the translation immediately creates a lot of awareness that actually this is really expensive to have all the people, join the meeting without much impact. Not to mention all thecosts of context, switch that can happen before and after.

Brad Henrickson: Absolutely. Right. So if you're coming into a meeting and even if your goal there is to record what the decision is out of that discussion about budget alloccation for an event. Like maybe act, maybe don't even need to be at the media. Maybe you just need someone to send you afterwards. Like this was the decision. Great. Let me just mark it down. And like now you've just saved someone an hour's worth of time.

Right? There's a lot of different ways when you say, What are the real needs of this time? And like, how can we satisfy those needs?

As opposed to saying "The work is actually just having the hour on the calendar."

How to conduct your own calendar review & energy audit

Patrick Gallagher: I'd love to get into the mechanics of how this works, right? Because from what you're talking about, like time is our scarcest resource. in fact, time wasted or time spent badly can have a negative impact on our energy and our ability to contribute.

And on top of that, like more from a quantitative perspective, Bad meetings are bad use of time has a expensive cost to companies.

bring us into the calendar review and the energy audit... how does it work? Give us some more of the mechanics behind how to adopt this or introduce this personally or within your teams or companies?

Brad Henrickson: Yeah, absolutely. The great thing is, is almost all of us or the vast majority of us are now using calendar like Google calendar or something like that to manage our days.

I don't know about you, but almost every day, sometimes with in the first hour of when I've woken up my calendar has been pulled up and I'm looking at what is actually going to happen.

Patrick Gallagher: Yep... by 15 minute increments... the day is planned out! Definitely.

Brad Henrickson: Absolutely it's all, it's all been turned into little blocks. And so there's a, it's a pretty easy process to actually follow.

So the first thing you need to do is go find yourself two different colors. I prefer red and green markers or crayons or whatever that you might have around. The second thing you do is you just print out your calendar for the next two weeks.

If you , don't have a printer, maybe you can just like write it out on a sheet of paper and go about it that way. But the goal is to basically have a physical recording of what your next two weeks of time looks like.

From there now you get to use your colors. So you just get to say for every single block of time, that's on your calendar. When you exit that meeting, does your energy go up or does it go down? If it goes up? Great. Make it green. If it goes down, make it red.

It's a pretty simple process. Usually can just do a quick check on that. You don't have to have a bunch of metrics pulled together to see if you're a green or red, because you'll do this process multiple times.

Once you've done that. Everything that's green, leave it green. Great! Keep them on your calendar. It's net positive energy for you. It seems like a good usage of your time from an energy standpoint. For everything that's red, you kind of have three decisions. You have three different things that you can do.

The first thing is "outsource it."

So this is saying, "Hey, someone else could pick this up. Not me. Let's see if there's someone else who can take over this responsible."

The second one is "eliminate it." Like if you don't actually need to be there, don't go! Right. Have the conversation. Maybe if it's like an optional thing that you're going to and it's... and you really don't need to be there. Just don't go anymore. It's that simple. And you'll reclaim some of your time.

The third thing... so this is, you really actually need to attend this thing and it's red... Figure out what actions you can take to turn it into be something that is great. Right? So this is the part where you're actually engaging and saying, "This is worthwhile use of my time. I'm losing energy when I'm doing this. But there's some concrete things that I can really do to transform how I'm allocating that time."

So track those things, write them down and then follow up and do those actions.

Then you do this exercise about every two weeks to a month, kind of depending on where you are.

So that's the practice.

What's really interesting, is that most people, when they do this the first time... 70 to 80% of their calendar is red! You end up finding out that you're spending a lot of time doing things that drain your energy. And then Friday comes about... I don't know how many times that's happened to you or, or loved ones or friends that you know... where it's Fridays. Like "ah man, I'm just burned out on a Friday. Like I'm not good for anything on Friday. Like, let's do something Saturday or Sunday..."

Because we've just sort of accepted that it's going to be tough. And we're going to be low energy at the end of our week because we haven't taken ownership of our calendar.

How to approach a calendar review when you don't have total control of your time

Patrick Gallagher: I love this so much because I've, I just have think there are different times of my life where I have tried to introduce the same thing... and even just a small, incremental change in doing less energy draining activities has a huge impact.

One quick question about introducing this. Because I, I imagine that for somebody at different levels of management and leadership, there seems to be like an inherent, greater control over time. Like CTO or VP of Engineering seems like they may be able to, know, make a decision on, "I can spend more time on this versus that"

Versus maybe a frontline manager who is sort of existing within a system and an existing within a schedule. Do you have advice, like integration advice for somebody who maybe feels like they don't have structural ownership over their calendar, or a way that they could introduce it in an effective way if they're kind of working within that structure.

Brad Henrickson: Yeah. So it's uh, it's a good point. I will say that even at the CTO level, you're definitely working across organizations and CEO level you're working with people in other functions. But it's a good point.

And one of the things which is really great about this is that Everyone's in a meeting with other people. You're not in a meeting with yourself and there's other people to engage in dialogue with.

So if you're meeting, if you're saying this meeting is actually red for me. And it's net draining for energy. You're probably not alone in that experience. And I, I almost guarantee you, other people in that meeting are having a similar experience as you. And engaging in a conversation with people about making sure people's needs are getting met appropriately, opens up a lot of different avenues in terms of how do we make this time more constructive?

Because there's very few people who are attached to "let's actually just keep things as they are and absorb as much time" and are not responsive to people saying "this meeting is not working for me."

Because it's not just a top-down power thing. It's like, how do we make sure that this meeting and the time that we're spending here is really well used.

So I would say start small. It could be small things like, "Oh, I come to this meeting... And look, I need to go to this meeting and I don't have a whole lot of control over it, but you know what? I actually have like a treadmill and I have it near this meeting and I can hop on the treadmill and I can listen to this meeting and get like a little bit of exercise during the day."

Or it could be one of those means where like, "look, I can induce meaning, and I'm fine having my lunch hour during this meeting. And so like, I'm going to go and do that."

So there's a lot of small things that you can really do to try to make your time allocation more effective.

But I think the really the strong point here is that, there's a bunch of people in that meeting. And whatever your experience is, other people probably have some level of that and are very interested in figuring out how can you make this time more effective for ourselves and for the community.

Jerry Li: That's really helpful. The other way I find it really useful is the perspective shift that your time is not really your time. It's really the asset for the company. So, you're not just being responsible to your own outcome but also the companies. I feel that's really empowering to think that even though I'm new to this company, I'm the... probably just in intern. But I want to get the most out of my time for the company. So that empowers me to think that way. Being aware that there's something you can change.

Brad Henrickson: Yeah, absolutely. I think one, really a beautiful thing that I've seen happen during locked down in pandemic has been a lot more walking meetings, frankly. Like there's so many people who, if they have access to the outdoors, we'll hop on an audio call and they'll go on a walk.

So as opposed to being like in an office, like this is the office I'm in all the time, I can hop onto my phone and then go on to walk outdoors and then do that instead. And that'll be bore energy. That's coming into me as opposed to saying, well, I have to sit in this office.

Jerry Li: Yeah, I was in start up building something specifically optimized for that. Like, you can take notes by calling out something, like I just mean keyword uh, so that even though you're away from the computer, but it can still take notes.

Brad Henrickson: Oh, wow. Yeah, that sounds cool.

Common energy audit trends for engineering leaders

Patrick Gallagher: So you were calling out a couple of different areas. You've shared some examples of different areas where oftentimes people encounter sort of energy draining activities.

there any trends or common areas from engineering leaders on the audit that you've seen? Any like to call out that if you're doing this, you are likely draining people's right.

Brad Henrickson: Yeah. So I think recurrent meetings is one of these big ones, right? So recurrent meetings for instance, if you have a, every fortnight staff meeting, for example. Like that's one of those things where if you're not constantly being diligent about, "Are we really getting value out of this time"

And checking in on it that it can become draining people end up becoming very mechanical about it. They'll show up. They'll kind of go through the motions. And kind of pop out the other side. And be like, "Well, I just paid the tax for being in the organization."

And so you'll see be very regular kind of a thing. You might see it in stand-ups you can see it in... all hands are particularly challenging because there's so many people that are there. That's a lot of times I'll see people kind of dialing into all hands and then they'll just go do other things during all hands. Cause it's one of those things that's really hard to affect change for. So that's a really great place to look for places to make impact are those recurrent meetings.

The one-off meetings look, usually one-off meetings show up because like there's something very specific you're working on. You're really trying to like get that thing done and they tend to be higher energy. Or more of like, Hey, we really needed to do this.

So I'd say focus on those recurrent meetings, but that's where the biggest return typically is for this sort of work.

How to transform energy-draining meetings to make them exquisite

Patrick Gallagher: The follow-up question I have, cause you've mentioned this a couple of times, Brad is about the personal responsibility to make things exquisite. I love your usage of the word exquisite here.

And, I think there's so much opportunity for how people and teams and organizations spend their time. And they default to just norm like default to patterns or habits. And don't actually intentionally leverage the moments in time that they're asking for their team members to contribute.

Right. What have you found to be ways to transform some of those moments or those meetings to make them exquisite? What are some of the best practices or the modalities or activities that you've seen people introduced to transform those moments that suck into really cool energy giving and energy breeding moments.

Brad Henrickson: Yeah. So I think the first of what really came up for me, as you're asking that was about "on-call."

I have this very strong resonant memory for me when I was in a smaller organization, where we just had this on-call process. And it was just accepted that it would be this terrible experience that on-call is going to be terrible. Our meetings about on-call are going to be terrible. And it's just this tax. And that is just the way it's going to be.

And basically every single technology organization has "on call." And most leaders that I've met, just accept that it's going to be a rough experience. And it's just one of those things that happens in the kind of in the shadows in engineering organizations.

The first thing which happens to be able to really make things exquisite is to re just sort of name the problem. Name, the thing that is there. And then being able to have a vision of "this can be different." Right?

On-call is a really fascinating one because this is something where you have a community of people who are all involved with it and engaged in this particular practice. You can actually look around the room and you can have a bunch of people who say "this is terrible." And then you can also say, "let's make this better! Like, this is our on-call, how can we affect this? So our lives are better. And that we can do a great job for our organization, for our team."

It's a great conversation to have because then all the different stories that people have about what on-call needs to be like can really come out. And you can say, well, what are the things that we might be able to actually do to make this experience exquisite? What can we do to make our our postmortems really exquisite? Well, how can we change it? And then you start getting really creative ideas.

For example this one org I was in, we created a, like an on-call health score. Right. And so when people came off of on-call like, that's how you would start the sort of on-call debrief discussion. Which were like, I think one or zero was I quit. And nine or 10 was, this was the, this is like the best experience... this is the best week I've had at the company! And people will be very honest about it. And then we talk about how can we actually drive to make us better? And it was really energizingfor people.

People love being in that meeting. Cause they could say, "Hey, how could we actually make our experience that we're having every time better. How can you actually spend our time in a way that really works for us?"

And so people get really engaged by this idea of how can you make our time better spent, especially if it's painful.

So I think that's a big one, right? Just being able to see here's a problem that we can name something that's not working well for myself or even better for the community. And then being able to say, what can we do to change this? What can we do to improve it, to serve our community better or serve myself better?

Unplanned energy giving experiences to have on the calendar

Jerry Li: What I like about the approach that you gave a score to when people are coming out of the on call rotation. Is that I think answering that question, the score actually provide opportunity to be more aware of where you are in terms of energy level and knowing the possibilities.

And I have a related question on that. I think that's a good example. of... the energy audit, the calendar audit, you get rid of a lot of meetings that are red.

The example you mentioned is turning something energy draining to energy generating.

Do you have other examples that are typically not something on the calendar... but it's really good to have.

Brad Henrickson: Yeah, so there's definitely a.... the last organization. I think this is true for a lot of engineering organizations... If you're an engineer in an organization, you do a lot of, and you're doing a lot of software development, like one meeting on your calendar... is terrible. Right? Like if it's in the middle of your day, it splits up your day and you end up saying, "well, I was trying to get work done and all of a sudden have to stop after, go do this silly meeting. And now my entire flow is disrupted."

So you can actually do the opposite of this, which is just block out your calendar, right. And say, "Hey, you know what? We're actually going to block out this time for heads down time."

Sometimes in my last organization, we had no meetings on Wednesdays where we would actually say," Look this time isn't to be allocated. Just to whatever someone else might want. This is actually create space for people to do other things which are important for them for generating energy or to do critical work for them."

That might not be a meeting. And this becomes more and more relevant. When you end up being in one of those roles, which has fewer meetings, and there's more like hands-on work that you need to do

How to transform activities from energy draining to energy giving

Patrick Gallagher: I'm really curious to dive more into some of the examples you've seen about flipping different energy draining activities to energy giving activities...

I think specifically you were mentioning earlier the status update type meeting. Do you have any stories or examples or practices you've seen from people specifically for like the "status update" meeting or the "all hands" meeting to make or transform those to be exquisite?

Brad Henrickson: From the all hands meeting, it's a, it's a really challenging one, but something that's really great there is to make them showcases of what's actually happening to the organization. That's a great one.

If you have the same people up there every single week, doing your all hands or every other week during the all hands. That's probably gonna, people are going to tune out really quickly.

But if it's other people in the organization presenting and showcasing what's happening, what's the real work that's getting done. People get really energized by that! Like they're in the company because they're excited. Ideally, because they're excited about the mission of what you're creating and for the community that's there. And being able to showcase those things really creates significant changes in terms of how people engage with that sort of a thing.

In terms of like status meetings those are challenging ones, right? Like there are things on the calendar, which are things that are difficult to move through that are part of, kind of, part of the landscape. There's a little bit of like, "Hey, look, we do actually need to do 'status stuff'

But if you turn that status meeting into let's bring any blockers that we have. And the role of this group is checking on that. And then to move through any blockers that are there, that the teams aren't able to move through. That makes it more engaging. Then people are like, "Hey, look, this is an issue we're moving through. We have this partner who's... like, we've been trying to work out... we've been trying to figure out how to get past this, but this deal is currently stuck because of X, Y, Z is coming up."

Maybe the Head of Partnerships can say, "You know what? Like I can hop on the horn and help out and unblock this thing and help move this forward."

And then it becomes a lot more engaging.

It's like, okay, what's the status. You're not here. Just reporting out to it. We're here to support. The team in terms of where they're trying to get to. And that can be more engaging as opposed to people just with their arms folded saying, "Tell me your status."

Right? Cause that meeting like doesn't really need to happen, Like report the status somewhere else , just send out the email with where we are and then let's figure out how we can support the team to move forward

Renters vs. Owners & how to increase ownership in your engineering team

Patrick Gallagher: I love that, like in thinking about the, just the tool and then the impact. Yeah. This tool has on the organization, like both secondary and tertiary impacts is that in essence, you're having people reflect on their time and if it's being used valuably.

But then it becomes an anchor point to prompt conversations to have a discussion your team, with your manager, whomever! About the valuable use of that time. And then that opens up all of these other really interesting opportunities for impact. And that you're introducing these other meetings that allow for a better exchange of ideas.

I think one of the things that's been interesting that that you've mentioned, Brad is impact that this has on ownership in like a very subtle way. In that as people reflect on their calendar and start to have these conversations and take control and responsibility for their time and making it exquisite.

That's sort of reinforcing this idea that you can take more ownership over different parts of the organization. And this has been a big question that's come up in the last couple of peer groups is these relationships where people are like, "Aw, man, like I just wish this person would take more ownership."

So this seems like a really interesting way to start to reinforce that culturally. And as a way to start to get more ownership from the different people that you're working with.

So I wanted to open it up to you... how do you get people to take more ownership or increase their personal responsibility in their organization? Yeah. either with using this tool or if there's other ways that you've seen people just better create ownership across their teams and organization?

Brad Henrickson: Yeah. So I think this is a really fascinating idea, right? So I think about this in terms of like Renters versus Owners in an organization. Where like a renter's like, "Hey, I'm just here. I'm showing up. I'm kind of doing the work. I can't really affect sort of how we actually operate."

Right versus kind of a little bit more of an owner mindset, which is I can really come in and really shift things here. I'm not just showing up and, you know, plugging in and taking off. Like I want to really be able to help author our path forward.

I think this is a very important separation that can happen. And my bias is very much towards the owner mindset about how are we able to take on responsibility and really shift in terms of how our organization operates?

And usually when people are saying, "Oh, I wish we had more owners." Like, they're usually talking about big things. But then if you look on the small side, it's like, well, do you force people to come to all the meetings? Like, do they have really, are you actually creating space for people to take ownership? Are you just hoping that all of a sudden on these big issues that are convenient for you that to take ownership.

That guess what, like, if you haven't shown or demonstrated or created a culture of people taking ownership in the small, they're not going to take it in the large. It just isn't the patterns that they learned to have.

And so that thing, which I think is really great about the energy audit. It starts showing that you can start small with how your time gets allocated. And that's the main thing that we have is our time. And so once you start effecting that... people start understanding they can take more and more ownership of what's happening in the organization.

It's like "This meeting and this time isn't just something I have to do. It's something that can engage in discussion with my community and we can figure out how we can shift. So I think that's a big one.

And what that it really points to is this notion that our time and our organization is ours. It is a shared ownership. And it is something that we can author and change. And I've seen this over and over again, for example, with engineers as they come into an organization, right?

An engineer comes into an organization. They first show up to like the org is kind of where it is a code base is where it is. It's just how it is. And then the light bulb goes on the minute like they really start realizing... "Wait a minute? This is all mutable. I can change this stuff!"

Let's see the same thing happens from management and leadership standpoint, when there, when you get to this point of how do I actually. Affect change in terms of how time is spent and how our community operates. It just takes longer.

And so this practice really helps people to start effecting that change a little bit earlier and figuring out how to engage in productive conversation with people about it. But the real key part here, it's our organization. It's our time and how we actually spend that adds up over time. And then those patterns of behavior can say, "How can we actually make larger changes in the organizations?"

So you asked a bit about like, what are some of the things that you can do to help make it? Some of these changes...

What is asked for people's feedback? For instance, if you are actually running a meeting... ask for feedback about what is, or isn't working in that meeting! And then show, take actions based on feedback, if that's really, if it's your meeting to own, right. Like start demonstrating that people's feedback really makes a difference. That people say this isn't working for me can really change things. Sit down with your direct reports, sit down with your peers and have conversations about what do we want to be, different.

And these sorts of actions really start telling people that it really matters what they think. It really matters how they spend their time and that they can affect change in it.

So if you don't create those windows, you can't just expect people to start taking responsibility to change how the org really operates.

How to use energy audits at different scales of your organization

Jerry Li: Have you seen or envisioned that there's a way to do energy audit at scale across teams? Because I think it feels like this could be a really helpful process to have to gain more visibility in how the organization feels about the things they do.

Brad Henrickson: Yeah, it's a good question. As I conceptualize that energy audit I'm just to be, to show sort of how I orient on this stuff. For me, the community is the thing. The community is the piece which really drives all of it. But the way that happens is through dialogue.

And so, Jerry, for example, if you and I worked in an organization together, what does it mean is something that I have. If we have one calendar audit, energy audit. And for me, it's red and for you, the median score.

Well, the only way for us, for me, from my mental model... for us to really move through that is for me to show up and say, this is where I'm at with this. And you just show up, this is where you are at with this. And let's have a discussion about it. Let's start understanding each other's perspective more.

And so it's by a bunch of behaviors like that, which works really well.

So what I typically do is like, I will have people who are around me, people who report to me or demonstrate the tool to others in the organization, so that they can start with.

Like, I, I don't know what's red or green for them... but I can give them a tool to help them to be able to orient themselves and then be able to start having taken actions or dialogues to create, start creating that change.

Right. It's not like a centralized control thing. It's very distributed in terms of how I see this tool working within an organization.

Framework to start a conversation about energy draining activities

Patrick Gallagher: Can you tell us a little bit more about the framework you would use to approach that conversation where you'd be sharing the results of your energy audit with say somebody who may be is either calling that meeting or. Is getting energy from that meeting... how would you enter into that conversation to help create transformation around the structure of that meeting or how to broach the conversation about making it exquisite?

Do you have like a certain

Brad Henrickson: Sure. Yeah. Yeah. So let's take a type of an example right? What I'm hearing from you, there's a meeting that I'm read for. And other people seem to be green for like, how do I actually engage with that? Yeah.

So for example, let's say I'm in an exec meeting... this has happened, uh, at, and the exact meeting where I go in and I'm like, "This meeting is really a mess. It just seems to be people talking. We're not focused on the really core issues that are here. I feel like I'm just, I'm showing up. But I feel like we're just, there's no rails here. Like we're just, or just spending lots of time."

For me. It's to sit up it's to stand up and say, "Look, I have these stories about how I'm spending, how we're spending this time. And I have a vision that this could be better and it could be different. I feel like I'm spending a bunch of time here and either I'm not contributing in a way that really works for me. And I feel like it's just, I'm just thinking my time here.

And so what I really want is to be able to create a meeting here that I feel really engaged and energized. That I feel like I can contribute my best work to this meeting because this meeting is really important. And the reason I care about this and Reese I'm right about this is because I feel like I'm not getting the value or giving the value that's really crucial. And I would love to work with this group to figure out how we can really get there."

Right. So you notice there is that I'm stating that it's red. I'm stating that I care about this. I'm not just rage quitting on this meeting. I think it's important. And I'm also stating explicitly that I want to work with others to figure out how to change. Right. Or how can we really end up moving there?

And that allows us to open up in a conversation, which isn't like, "Hey CEO," or, "Hey CFO, you're a terrible person. You're destroying this meeting..."

If I start that way, like I guarantee you that conversation is going to go badly. But if I really name it in terms of... "it isn't serving me. And I want this other thing, which is better. How can we get there? Because that's really what I'm aiming for."

It allows more degrees of freedom in terms of how we engage to figure out how we can improve that meeting.

And the answer might be yes. They everyone else at the meeting might say, "This is working really well for me."

And then the media, it comes back a little bit more to me about, okay, so what I want to do with that? Like, "What are, what am I willing to be able to propose? Or how am I willing to engage to be able to potentially make change."

But I don't control the outcome necessarily. Right. But I do have the role of being able to show up into the conversation and trying to get as low as to figure out how we can shift it.

And for what it's worth that meeting, we ended up moving from this very unstructured exec meeting. To having a really tight agenda, time allocations, different roles. People would like have materials to present for it. It got to be a really fantastic meeting. But it required naming the problems that we were having. Like how it wasn't serving the group.

Cause I would also be like, "Well, we just have the exact meeting. We just have to keep on... We just have to accept the tax."

I was like, "No, let's shift it." And I think the organization really benefited from having a discussion.

How to get people to share problems without emotion or fear of judgement

Patrick Gallagher: I had a follow-up question about naming the problem, because what I've encountered some folks in our peer group what has been shared with me is that there's a little bit of a hesitancy to directly say, like, "there's a problem here."

And fear sharing and getting too wrapped up in the story.

Do you have a way... or insights on how to help somebody dissociate from the story and emotions around why something's not working and to help them get to just like sharing that there is a problem, but without the judgment, without the baggage that can come with saying, Hey, this isn't working for me?

Brad Henrickson: Yes.

Patrick Gallagher: Does that make sense?

Brad Henrickson: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there's a... we could spend a long time on that. Particular that particular one, because it's a very, it's really a big art too, to be able to share that sort of a thing.

To kind of do it somewhat quickly. You really need to show up with, "this is my experience. And like, this is what I'm seeing."

Like you don't make it about someone else. It is something which is coming up for you. And it's important for you to state "How did you help create the situation?"

Right. Like, if you can name that and not just blame other people for what the situation is, it enables more freedom in terms of how do people engage with it and move it forward.

Because if you just show up and say, "This is terrible, you did this, add like this, that makes, this has destroyed my week. And like, there's nothing to be done about it. And I hate you."

Like this, not going to be constructive, but if you say, "Look, I come to this meeting every week. I noticed that it's really unstructured. I'm finding that I w I leave this meeting really low energy. And what I've noticed is that I haven't proposed an agenda. I've noticed I haven't brought this up to the group. And I just haven't really engaged with discussion for it. So I've actually helped create the situation. And I want to be able to change the situation."

That enables that degree of like, look, you're not just blaming someone else. You're saying "I helped author some of this. And I'm interested in changing this."

That's a really powerful move that lets you take some responsibility for what the situation... what the state, currently is.

Patrick Gallagher: Taking responsibility for something like that. I feel there's so much more freedom and space just in you sharing that framework. I'm like, "Oh my gosh, we can tackle any problem that way!"

Like that's great!

Brad Henrickson: Well, we disarmed the problem, right? It makes it it makes it name. That thing. It doesn't make it a fight between you and me, Patrick. It makes it about the topic or the issue that came

Jerry Li: And that something really learnable. People can get used to it is a framework. I think that's something people can leverage in many diverse scenarios. That's really actually.

Brad Henrickson: Yeah, it's a really, it's a really important one, right? Like avoiding those types of conversations don't really serve people well. So it's definitely an art in terms of building that muscle. And it's really important. I think, as a leader, to be able to have those conversations.

Other contexts to apply the energy audit beyond meetings

Jerry Li: I think we have few more minutes for one more question before we move forward to the rapid fires.

I have one question Brad for you. We talked about energy audit would look at on calendars, meetings.

Are there things that should be considered in terms of energy audit beyond meetings?

Brad Henrickson: Well, I certainly think there's this idea of, I touched on it briefly earlier.

Like there's time that our hours at work really well for you, right? Like maybe you're the person. person like me, where once you wake up and you get your day started, you want like a block of time, maybe to meditate, to like figure out, be really clear what your priorities are.

And make sure that you have that time, make sure you're, you're aware there of what really serves you well. Because three hours between seven and 10 at night is very different between three hours between 6:00 AM and 9:00 AM.

Right. So it's not just time. Like each person has their own... it's not just a certain number of hours. It's like, no, your natural flow of things.

Maybe you're a biker. Maybe you like to go biking first thing in the morning. And that just gives you tons of energy for the rest of your day. Great! Like figure out a way to be able to get those long bike rides in early. Maybe your first, maybe you figure out how to push your meetings back. So they start at like 10 30 or something. And then you're going to have a lot more energy for your days.

So be kind of conscious about a lot of the decisions that you end up making and how they really impact your day. Like, if you're a biker and you like to do those long rides and you're just sort of saving them for like Sunday afternoon, and I'm just going to grind through the rest of the week to make this happen.

Like, no, one's no, one's really winning from that. Right? Like you're punishing yourself. Your organization is probably not getting the best from you. And so you really need to get creative and understand what best serves you and serves your company.

How to use the energy audit to amplify your energy

Patrick Gallagher: I love that! Cause the question I was starting to think about was, you know, we spent a lot of time talking about how do you transform your energy draining activities to ones that give you energy.

But we didn't spend a whole lot of time really diving into how do you the things that give you energy and it in a way that amplifies their ability to give you more energy?

And so it sounds like one key way to do that by orienting it to a prioritizing your time to do that. Do you have other interesting ways you could help amplify the energy giving activities to be able to have greater impact you and your wellbeing?

Brad Henrickson: I think just like, if you look outside of the meetings, you can like, look at the set of things that really give you energy. Like. And you look at your calendar or you're just like, "Oh man, I really want to go surfing. Like, there's this great wind..."

Like I'm a surfer. Right? And so if there's good surf conditions out, like basically the rest of the world doesn't exist while the conditions are good. Right. I know I'm going to prioritize that. That's just the way I am when I set up my life that way.

But like, know those things about yourself so you can really create that time. Like I know people who really love their coffee. And so for them, they'll spend like 30 minutes, , or whatever it is, like getting their hall, coffee ritual together, and they know that about themselves and they create the space for that.

Right. Or maybe it's like, maybe you get a lot of energy from going to seeing the symphony. Right. And so when the symphony starts playing again, I don't know if they are not like you end up figuring out how to create space and time for that.

So just name those pieces and prioritize those things. I think people discount them a lot and they're really crucial pieces to our lives. For me, I think it's really important to elevate those pieces.

Patrick Gallagher: I felt like I just got called out because I love, I have a coffee defined coffee, ritual bread. So I felt like you were describing my my morning routine there...

Brad Henrickson: Definitely called you out Patrick!

Patrick Gallagher: But in a great way, I love talking to people at coffee, so yeah...

Brad Henrickson: That's wonderful.

Patrick Gallagher: Just to validate a little bit, Jerry and I did an event in New York a couple of years ago. And one of the things like one of the engineering leaders that was speaking there. He showed there was some non-negotiables for him and it was like you had to do those five things... I can't name all of them.... it's like movement meditation, nutrition, and sleep it's for and that those are nonnegotiable.

He would have to do those. And that's the first place he looked. If things felt out of balance or he felt bad. so that self-awareness around the things that give you energy and the non-negotiables that give you a great day are really powerful tools to tap into as a leader.

Brad Henrickson: Yeah, I completely resonates with me. I remember one before I was much better at, I'm not perfect about it clearly at this point. But when I was much worse in terms of managing my time allocations, I remembered I used to love to cook and I still love to cook. But what happened in this role? I got to this place where I stopped cooking.

Like I got so burnt out, that I was compromising on my non-negotiables. And like, it was like a red flag for me. It's like, I'm cutting into the bone here. Like this is clearly not serving me. So like, knowing those things that are really important, you need to prioritize and can really come signals for you if things are going well or not.

Like, they're kind of like the the things that you really say, "I'm not willing to compromise here."

Patrick Gallagher: Absolutely.

Rapid Fire Questions

Patrick Gallagher: Brad, are you ready for some rapid fire questions?

Brad Henrickson: Yeah. Let's go for it!

Patrick Gallagher: All right. So the first question we have for you, what are you reading or listening to right now?

Brad Henrickson: Too many things that's for sure. So I'll just name a couple. One is the Farnam street podcast. So it's this really wonderful podcast about learning faster and thinking better. So I really recommend that.

And another book that had just finished that I really loved it was about making better decisions called " Far Sighted

Patrick Gallagher: Interesting.

Brad Henrickson: Great.

Patrick Gallagher: Two, what tool this is Jerry Li Jerry's laughing because this always happens when we do these rapid fire questions is the most, like there's four questions that I have to ask about the next thing.

So, as you can see, we're getting off track. So second question, Brad, what tool or methodology has had a big impact on.

Brad Henrickson: Yeah. So in the last few years I've been involved with something called The Conscious Leadership Group, and that has a really big impact right now in terms of how I think about leadership. And what it means to be a conscious leader.

So that's about a really big impact.

Patrick Gallagher: There was somebody who joins for the podcast, not too long ago, who had referenced the above the line concept from the conscious leadership group. I think it was Tia Caldwell. And so just double clicking that the work coming out of the conscious leadership group is having, has had a really big impact on many engineering leaders.

Brad Henrickson: That's great. Yeah, it's a really wonderful group. It's I think there's just a lot of growth there to be had. I encourage people to check it out if they haven't heard of it.

Patrick Gallagher: Awesome. So next question, what's a trend you're seeing, or you're following that's interesting, or hasn't hit the mainstream yet?

Brad Henrickson: Hm, there's a behavior that I've been picking up lately. Even more lately than I have in the past, which I think is really interesting and undervalued... which is being able to argue fiercely for the other perspective.

So, find perspectives that you disagree with and then learn enough about it to be able fiercely argue it. And that's really crucial because of allows you to be able to really understand what's really happening. Right. So I think that's a really important thing.

Patrick Gallagher: No one's ever called out a behavior before. really appreciate that.

Brad Henrickson: You're welcome.

Patrick Gallagher: What's been your favorite or most powerful question to ask or be asked?

Brad Henrickson: I think the most powerful question I ask myself is what is there for me to learn in this moment?

This is particularly happens for me if I'm getting really upset at something or really emotional about something. It's something that's going on in here. And it's like, what is there here for me to learn? What is there, here for me to grow out of this?

Patrick Gallagher: It seems like a really like in context of what we're talking about with the energy audit, seems like a good way to at least help people extract value out of the red times or the energy draining.

Brad Henrickson: Certainly like there's a whole discussion about how did it become red? Like what were the behaviors that showed up to create it to make this moment for you? And so there's a lot of learning in there. That's important, but I think that ability to say. Hey, there's a crucial learning moment here. What is there that I can actually take with me is really important. The question I ask myself a lot.

Patrick Gallagher: Great. last question, Brad. Is there a quote or a mantra that you live by or a quote that's really resonating with you? Right.

Brad Henrickson: I think the biggest one for me is to be curious. It's just become so foundational for me. Like when someone . Hey, someone disagrees with about this. Why is that? Like, tell me more. I want to understand, or someone's upset here. Or someone's really excited about it. Like what, why are they excited? Like, I want to understand more. I want to really get a sense of perspective what's going on. As opposed to trying to make myself, right. So for me, it's really about getting curious

Patrick Gallagher: That's great, Brad, thank you so much for an incredible conversation. And for one of those, is one of those conversations that really opens up freedom for people. To claim ownership over their time and to introduce greater ownership in their organization. Just want to say, thank you. This was an incredible conversation.

Brad Henrickson: Thanks, both of you. It's really great to be on here and to have this conversation, I really enjoy.

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