What Debating Can Teach Us About Ourselves

Series 1: Episode 3 | 19 April 2022

Show notes | Transcript

In one of the past episodes, Bob and Greg interviewed Katherine, one of the Principals at The Re-Wired Group. In today’s episode of the Circuit Breaker, the roles are reversed, and Katherine takes up the show moderator role.

This is the pilot episode for a new segment whereby Greg and Bob dig into their experiences and answer different questions from their audience.

You’ll learn steps you can take when you get stuck and are not making progress in your work. You’ll discover how to prioritize your tasks effectively and get more things done. 

Join us for this fascinating and insightful discussion on how we navigate some of the challenges we face in our everyday work at The Re-Wired Group.

What You’ll Learn in this Show:

  • The difference between being “stuck” vs. being “unmotivated.”
  • How to stay motivated even if you have a very demanding work schedule.
  • Different prioritization strategies Greg and Bob use to stay ahead of their work
  • What’s the role of debate or discourse in the workplace?
  • And so much more…

 

Quotes:

 

…for us, it’s prioritizing what are those essential five or six things we have to do either every day or every week? And then from there, it’s then being able to understand kind of the impact we’re going to have. what’s the progress we’re really trying to help somebody else make?” Bob Moesta

 

“…so I find out where there’s interdependence, or where if this happens, it automatically feeds the project. And I do that one first. And why do I do that one first? Because it moves all of them. So I actually get to move the ball forward, and all of them…” Greg Engle

 

“...arguing is a two-fold thing. It’s trying to get your point across but then also learning about the other person and that’s what jobs and innovation is about, or building a company. Any of those things that we help people with…” Greg Engle

 

Hosts

What Debating Can Teach Us About Ourselves: Transcript

Katherine Thompson  

Today, I want to pose a couple of questions to you to Bob and Greg, this is the beginning of a series on this podcast of Q&A which we will solicit from our audience. So stay tuned for instructions on how to submit your Burning Question to Rewired for a Podcast Answer.

Today I took the liberty of formulating my own questions. I’m pretending I’m a presidential debate monitor moderator and coming up with my own things I want to ask you to based on my experience working with you guys for a couple of years observing and working the Rewired way. I have some thoughts I want to hear you share that I think will be helpful to the audience.

So where do we begin?

 

Katherine Thompson  

The first thing I want to talk about is something I think everyone struggles with from time to time. And that’s the feeling of being stuck in the mud in your work, not being able to make progress or move forward. And I’ve seen both of you tackle being stuck in different and unique ways, I think, that are quite different from what I’ve seen in my prior life in the corporate and education world. So tell us, we’ll start with you, Greg, tell us how do you approach getting unstuck.

 

Greg Engle  

So when I get stuck in in something I’m doing, like a process or a piece of a project or something, I always go back to the four questions:
Why am I doing it?
What is the thing that I’m trying to get done?
What are those forces acting on me?
And what are the things that are causing me the angst of not being able to move forward?

Right, it’s really getting below that waterline is the important part in that. Because you have to understand why you’re stuck. What’s going on? 

Is it a lack of motivation, which is different than not knowing where to go? 

Or is it that people are putting roadblocks in your way? 

Why are those things happening? 

And you have to understand why you’re forced to progress, you have to understand why you need that thing done, and what’s going on and then understand that under the water of the things holding you back – is it something you don’t want to do because it’s habit? So if I do this, then it’s going to destroy other things I’m used to doing, like doing videos. When I do videos, actually the habit is not do videos and just talk to people over and over again. And the video has to be so perfect. 

 

So I have to go back and really understand why am I doing the video? Why? Why am I stuck doing these videos? When I talk about this stuff all the time? Well, it usually comes back to things like it has to be perfect. When I’m in front of somebody or doing it live, it’s okay to stutter, but on a video is it? And once you get past those things, and you say what’s okay, and you put those metrics of how you’re going to measure it being good enough, then you can move on.

 

Katherine Thompson  

Yeah, so when you say below the waterline, what you’re really referring to is those habits and anxieties. 

 

Greg Engle  

I talk about habits and anxieties being below the waterline because mostly I picture a duck on the water. And you can see where they’re going. They look really calm on the on the top. But under the water, their legs are turning like crazy, right? They’re moving their legs or they’re going different directions. And that’s what I visualize when I visualize the force of progress. 

 

People talk about the things above that line all the time. But they don’t talk about the things below the line. They don’t want you to know what’s actually below the surface level of “Well, yeah, this is going on in my life and I want this to happen.” They don’t tell you all the other stuff – the more emotional things or the things that might be holding them back, because they’re afraid that you’re going to judge them. Or they have anxieties about the new things because maybe they haven’t thought about them. But maybe they don’t want to admit to some of them. So I think of that as the waterline – when you look at the force of progress, we usually draw pushes and pulls on the top. And then we usually draw a line to put habits or anxieties, and I view that as a waterline.

 


So I get stuck for three main reasons.

One is something becomes too big, meaning those anxieties either come in or the scope is changed, or all of a sudden, I find something that I didn’t know before, and it just gets big, and then you get overwhelmed.

The second one is really that I don’t have enough energy, like I’m stuck because I just don’t have the mental energy to go and do the work that I have to go and do. And so there are strategies for that.

And then the last one is when the context is changed, and something else now has either a higher priority, or is taking my mental energy away to go do something else.

And so part of it is to take the time to acknowledge I’m stuck, then to really understand which kind of stuck I am and then the strategies for each one of them.

So for example, when it gets too big, and there’s too much, one of the things I’ll do is I’ll break it into smaller pieces, and be able to say “Alright, all I’ve got to do is get this part done today, or this part done now, and then we’ll worry about the rest of it later.” So it’s almost building a time wall and saying, in the next hour, what I can get done.

One part of the luxury of being and consulting in the work we do is there are just so many different places. And so when I don’t have enough energy, typically what I have the ability to do is move to a different subject or a different topic, and do other things and then come back to it. And so part of this is to assess my energy, but to really know when I would be most motivated to do this kind of work, especially the harder work.

And then the other thing is, is a lot of times, things around us will change. And we’ll have a new priority, or we’ll have something else we’re supposed to be doing. And so it pulls my attention away from the work I’m doing. And so part of it will be “Well, you know what, I just have to pause, and we’ll sort this later.” None of the work we do is technically urgent. And so part of this is to realize it’s about sequencing and reading your energy and kind of the progress you’re trying to make and then adjusting accordingly with different strategies along the way.

And so for the most part, people always ask “How do you get so much done?” I think part of it is, we don’t, we don’t try to make everything linear, and we mix it up all the time.

 

Katherine Thompson  

You’re also quite intentional about how you structure your day  – coming in early, doing your thinking and doing other tasks later in the day. You have an idea of how you want to work and how you work best.

 

Bob Moesta

Well, I think it’s not how I want to work, but how my brain in my body works the best. And so it’s one of those things where I’ve found that sweet spot. And although it feels like we’re impromptu, one of the things I’ll do is when I’m thinking about something, or I’m doing a presentation, is I’ll iterate a lot on it. There are certain times when I can do that, and certain times when I can’t do that. And so I’ve almost got the day planned out of “What do I need to be thinking about this morning?” “What do we need to be doing when we’re together?” Near the end of the day, as my energy gets lower, I think “What are those other things I have held off that I can do almost with one arm tied behind my back?” And so I’ve learned how to match my energy to the task.

 

Katherine Thompson  

Have you been stuck recently? Do you have an example? 

 

Bob Moesta

Yeah, so I have four conferences I’m going to and I have a conference that’s out in California in two weeks. And the presentation was due yesterday. And I still don’t have it done. But I worked on it yesterday. And today. It’s one of those things where I get stuck because they want to put too much into the hour that I have. And so I’m in this mode of prototyping back and forth. I can send them something to ease it off and then basically modify it between now and when I present but I’m still trying to wrestle with all the different things we’ve done in the last six months and mash something together to make it fit the audience that we’re talking about.

And so a lot of times I’ve come in the last three in the morning and kind of built something and it just didn’t feel like it was tight enough or it was there and so I’ve been able to back off. It’s one of those things where it’s that aspect of stepping closer or stepping farther away, getting some perspective, and then eventually getting your guys input to it as well. But I don’t feel it’s ready to go to the show yet.

 

Katherine Thompson  

You’re making trade offs. You’re prototyping, you’re moving forward. Yep.

 

Bob Moesta

Yep. And I think the other thing around getting stuck is, we don’t try to make anything perfect. We all believe in this notion of iteration. And it’s almost like we time block or build a time wall for everything to say we’re going to do as much as we can within this time window. And then from there, it’s “Okay, we’ll come back to it.” And it’s that iterative. It’s the right amount of iteration that helps us be ridiculously productive.

 

Katherine Thompson  

Yeah, so let’s go to my next question in my mailbag. You know, something that often goes part and parcel with this notion of being stuck in your work is motivation. How do you keep motivated, and going through such busy work we do here teaching, coaching, consulting, writing, podcasting, now software, all kinds of things.

 

Back to Greg.

 

Greg Engle  

So the first thing is, we have to define what stuck and motivated are, right? Because I think Bobby used a lot of words that were interchangeable there. And I think what he was actually describing to me was more of how does he stay unstuck? Not how does he get unstuck?

He plans his day to make sure he doesn’t get stuck. That’s right. So it’s not about getting unstuck for him, it’s more preventative. 

 

When I say I’m stuck, when I’m talking to you all or to people that know me well, what I mean is, I don’t know what to do. Or I don’t know how to do it. That’s when I’m stuck.

Motivated is when I don’t want to or I don’t know when to is motivated. Right? So they’re different, and they take different things to get them done. So we are blessed with what we do and how we work. I can help myself stay motivated, or just pick things that motivate me, because of the way we are able to pick and choose projects. That’s one way I’m able to do it. That’s preventative, right, we’ve set up our lives to do that, and you can’t do that all the time. That’s not something that everybody can strive for. But when you get it, you realize how great that is. And a lot of people have it in their personal lives, maybe not in their business lives. They have some of those things in their personal lives.

What I try to do to stay motivated or when I’m when I’m demotivated is again, I go back to the forces, but this time, when I look at them, I don’t look at them through my eyes, I look at him through others. I have to look at it like “Who am I doing this for? And what are they expecting from me?” Or “How am I going to help them be satisfied?” because motivation is about me, getting myself to go and do something, I have to do that through others. Getting unstuck is about me just doing it. I look internally, so it’s based on where I am, and you have to make sure you’re defining those things correctly for yourself – stuck or unmotivated- to understand what you’re doing. So if I’m stuck, I look in; if I’m unmotivated, I look out, and I say “Who am I doing this for? And how is it going help them?” because me wanting to help them will keep me motivated or keep me moving forward.

 

Bob Moesta
Right. And the other part is when you start to look at who you’re doing it for and I always end up in this realm of well, this is what we think they want. And then we go “We’ve got to go and talk to them or have a conversation or something like that, because a lot of times our standards are higher than what we would say most people’s are.

And so part of this is adjusting our expectations to basically make sure we’re helping them make progress and not necessarily make it perfect. Greg always tells me that I have very little anxiety forces. So progress for me is very easy. And I think I think that’s right, I think the bigger issue for me is trade offs of “Where do I spend my time? And how do I make sure I’m making enough progress in any one thing at a time that it’s meaningful enough, right?” And so part of this is – you can balance 20 things, but the reality is that 19 of the 20 things are sitting in inventory waiting to get done, right until basically you’re done with that last task. So to me it’s about having the right portfolio of things.

There was a study done by Kim Clark, he talks about engineers and how engineers basically are most productive when they have five different projects. The fact is that they need that contrast between the things like I do. But when we have 20, then it becomes overwhelming and we don’t make enough progress. You’re better off not working on the other 15 and just getting those five done. Then you can get to it – otherwise it just all stretches out for a long period of time. And so for us, it’s prioritizing what are those essential five or six things we have to do either every day or every week. And then from there, it’s being able to understand the impact we’re going to have and the progress we’re really trying to help somebody else make.

 

Katherine Thompson  

So let’s talk about that portfolio. How do you prioritize whether you have five things or you’re a little overwhelmed with 20 or more? How do you go about prioritizing?

 

Bob Moesta
So in my world, mine and Greg’s (Greg will call BS on this if it’s not true), part of the portfolio is “What is the One Thing?” “Where is the biggest payoff in terms of making progress today?” “What kind of energy do I have?” And then basically “What is the list of things that I have to get done?” And so part prioritizing is being able to focus and then intentionally delay things.

So for example, I know I have sales calls I have to make today. And, you know, I could have made them yesterday, but I looked at the week and said Wednesday is going be better, everybody’s going to be coming back, here’s where this fits and I carved the window for that. And so to me, it’s about fit of what I need to do and where I need to do it, and what things need my attention.

And I think the other thing is the way that we manage. We don’t manage by checking in to say “Hey, where do you sit on something?” It’s like, whenever we’re giving tasks, we’re assuming it’s done unless you come back to us and ask for help. And so there’s that aspect of not micromanaging, like, “Hey, did you do this? Did you do that?” And so that enables me to actually prioritize those right things for the moment. And sometimes it’s 30 minutes, sometimes it’s 10 minutes, sometimes it’s 20 minutes, with picking the right windows of time to help us prioritize, and get stuff done. But the prioritization is all around matching my energy, my brainpower, if you will, or my brain; how well my brain is working at that point in time, what I’ve done before, what I’m going to do next. I look at the day, I look at the week, I look at next week, and then after two weeks, it’s bigger rocks that are out there. But for the most part, I’m trying to make sure that every day and every two days is set up pretty

 

Greg Engle  

The big prioritization tool we use is we look at what we’re working on, and we chunk the work. Let’s just say I want to do videos to explain jobs to be done, I want to work on proposals, I need to work on an output for a client, and I have podcast ideas. These are the five things I’m going to work on (or however many there are I just rattled off). We look for which ones have interdependence between them. What can I work on, that actually helps me solve one or two problems? So if I work on the videos to explain jobs to be done, I can use that in proposals, I can use that to explain to people, I can use that in whatever I’m doing it for. So I have three different places I can use that and move that ball forward even further on all of them. So I find out where there’s interdependence, or where if this happens, then it automatically feeds this project. And I do that one first. And why do I do that one first? Because it moves all of them. So I actually get to move the ball forward on all of them. Then whichever one has the least amount of impact I wait on. And that goes back to motivation a bit, right? If it doesn’t have much impact, my motivation is not going to be as strong,

 

Bob Moesta
Or the effects might have a lot of impact, but there’s a lot of other work you have to do, to unlock that impact. And so the highest priority thing we need to work on might be actually the last thing we have to do. And so this is where people confuse priority with sequence. And so this is where we would use things like the interrelationship tool, or other tools to help us understand what we would call the natural priority of the work, which is the sequence of things that need to get done because they build on each other. And then

 

Greg Engle  

And then the next thing I do once I understand that pattern, is I look back to what I answered with stuck and motivated, right. Which ones do I know? Do I know how to do it or can I do it relatively quickly, or am I going to get stuck? Because if I’m going to get stuck, then I shouldn’t prioritize that one. If I know it’s going to make me stuck, why would I waste that time? I also then match them with that interrelationship diagram that Bob explained, to figure out which ones to work on. I then have to look and say, “Do I have the energy to do it? Do I have enough knowledge?” “If I do this, I can actually do it, get it done? Or will I get stuck? If I get stuck – how many hours is that going to cost me? Is it going to cost me days, hours, minutes, seconds?”

 

Katherine Thompson  

You have to figure that out, you have the notion to think maybe we’re not smart enough yet, to tackle something.

 

Bob Moesta
That’s very true. I think the aspect of being able to just understand yourself, and understand what you can do and what you can’t do is important. And so the one thing I would say that we’re actually really good at is asking for help, right when we need it. And, if I see you delaying something, or you see me delaying something, you’re like “Okay, what’s going on?”

 

Greg Engle  

Well, I’m going to do that to you right now. Because you use the example of your presentation.

 

Bob Moesta
Yeah, I knew that. I knew that.

 

Greg Engle  

He didn’t know if you’re stuck. Or if the motivation isn’t right. Which one? Is it? Really,

 

Bob Moesta
I think, in most cases, the fact is, I’m trying to have the biggest impact for a very broad set of audiences. And so I’m trying to pare it down to “What are the three things that I really have to do, to have that impact, in terms of changing their paradigm?”

And so part of it is I want to be able to tell there’s an interview, I want to be able to do a half an hour block, and part of it is being able to understand how do I make sure that in that hour, I can actually have the greatest impact. And so and again, so I’m trying to size up that. And so what I’m learning is I don’t know enough about the audience. And so I’ve got a call set up to talk to the coordinators, just to make sure I get clear on the audience. 

 

Greg Engle  

I was going to ask, who have you talked to, in order to figure out what are the right criteria to do this? And then the other thing is, have you have you looked at it and said, “I want to do these things for me” or “I want to do these things for the people”? So you mentioned interview. Generally, whenever we say we want to do an interview, that’s usually easy for us.

 

Bob Moesta
It’s easy for us. But it also has an impact where people realize they don’t have the whole line of “Well, the next question should be this”. And it’s like, no, we’re going to ask a different question. And so it helps them see the line of questioning. The case studies help. But the fact is, it’s that subtlety of realizing like, boy, I’m not asking the right questions, and I think that leaving them with that will help. And so just talking this through is helping me realize it but part of is to realize I’m stuck, and that I’m not wasting time at it. But I’m going to move to something else. So I can come back.

 

Greg Engle  

So is it motivation to where it’s not like you don’t want to do it?

 

Bob Moesta
It’s clear, it’s just clarity. It’s the clarity of the outcome.

 

Greg Engle  

So it’s actually a combination of the two. So you need to take different strategies to get this one done. Because it’s a little bit of stuck, a little bit of if I don’t understand the audience, I don’t know what to do. So then I lack motivation.

 

Bob Moesta

And I think the other part is to realize when we’re speaking or we’re teaching, it’s the feedback we get from the students, from the audience that actually helps us guide the way. So part of this is being able to make it flexible enough that as I read the audience, I can go left or go right. And so that’s the other aspect of it.

 

Greg Engle  

But how is reading the audience more difficult now that it’s a virtual?

 

Bob Moesta

It’s not going to be virtual, it’s face to face, it’s my first face to face in a long time, So that’s the other part is I get nervous, obviously speaking in front of people. And so it’s one of those things which I haven’t done in a while and I’m like “Oh, do I still have it or not?” There’s a little bit of doubt.

 

Greg Engle  

So you’ve been doing virtual now for a year or more? Yeah. And now you’re doing a live audience? Yes. Is that causing part of the angst? Yes,

 

Bob Moesta
That’s part of the angst as well. And it’s just me, where for the last year, it’s been you or me, or Katherine and me. And so it’s I’ve never really been alone. And so it’s one of those things going on.

 

Katherine Thompson  

So I want to ask one last question from the bottom of the mailbag about something I think that’s very unique about how we work here, and that’s the role of debate, discussion, arguing. We argue all the time about everything from words, language a customer used in an interview, to best pastrami sandwiches, to what is art? All kinds of things! That doesn’t happen in every workplace. Let me put it that way. So what does that help us do here? What role does that play that time spent debating and arguing?

 

Greg Engle  

So I think it’s twofold. I look at our arguments as a break. And I look at arguments as practice. So what I mean by break is, we’re doing a lot of things. And by being able to distract ourselves and talk about something like pastrami, or a word, or a concept that is not attached to our work, it gets us away from the work. And it allows us to think about something different than the work, which helps with motivation and stuck, right. So we need those micro times we do that, and we’ll do it over. We’ll do it anytime, quite frankly, I think we’re all up to an argument now and then

 

Katherine Thompson  

We’ve already done it several times this morning. Yes, we have. It’s not even 10

 

Greg Engle  

Then the other is practice, practice, what we do, because arguing is a two fold thing –  it’s trying to get your point across, but then also learning about the other person. And that’s what jobs and innovation is about, or building a company, any of those things that we help people with. That’s what it’s really about. It’s about, can you describe what your position is, in a way other people can hear you? But they can? Can you also hear what they’re saying? To either help them see where your idea is different or better? Or maybe you come up with a thing of saying, hey, look, maybe what they’re saying makes sense. But let me reconcile it with what I’m saying and come up with a better thing. And we do that a lot around words. Right? We’ll debate words. Like crazy, and I can’t even think of one in the last week we debated on.

 

Katherine Thompson  

We debated what is his drama?

 

Bob Moesta
Yeah. And when is it not pastrami?

 

Greg Engle  

So we use those things to just understand it. And I think it’s also a rapport builder for us as well. Yes, you get to know the person’s thinking, you get to know those things. But the rule is, you can’t get pissed off.

 

Bob Moesta
Well, if any of you get pissed off. For me, I get pissed off at myself, like I can’t either articulate it clearly enough, or I don’t understand enough. And so a lot of times, I will raise my voice, but it’s not because I’m mad or angry at that person. It’s like I don’t understand, or I don’t have the right perspective. Or, when we debate, it’s also in my mind, and in your mind, I know we actually have systems in mind. WE need to have trust. 


So is trust an input to this process, or is trust an output of the process? Because it’s very, very different activities that we do, depending on where trust is, is as part of the process of whatever we’re doing. And so a lot of times, we’re just trying to make sure we have clear meaning from a cause and effect perspective. But how does the arguing help that? The arguing helps us understand where and when people talk about healthy versus healthier? But if it’s just us, how is it helping you? It helps all of us actually understand each other, and at the same time allows us to realize there’s certain words that we should not be talking about, because they actually have so many meanings that they don’t actually help us.

 

So like, like the word of “boy, this is healthy” we’ve banned the word healthy from this office- it’s healthier than what? Right, because there is no absolute healthy, it’s all relative, because your definition of health and my definition of health are very different. And so whatever we would build would never actually satisfy both.

 

Greg Engle  

So I go, I go back to that practice. So we are practicing the tools that we’re using. And that’s what we’re describing here is practice in thinking about those things and using your knowledge even when you don’t think you are. And that’s what actually builds the muscle.

 

Bob Moesta
Right. And I think the other thing, though, is we also realized that, that, you know, nobody is really actually using the dictionary definition of words. They’re using approximations. And it’s the other words wrapped around the word that actually help give it context and then ultimately help us understand intent. Intent is where we’re really trying to get to so we can get to reasonable scope, and understanding what has to be done, or what we could do next, as opposed to just it’s an observation. So part of it is that we have a debate but the debate has some forward motion of progress embedded in it. So like when we’re talking about pastrami sandwiches, we had a bet and our friend lost and he’s going to buy us lunch from Carnegie Deli.

 

Greg Engle  

That’s not what happened. What happened was he bought us $100 million. And you settled on a pastrami sandwich, a good pizza sandwich. I’m from Carnegie Deli. But is that good from your definition or my definition? Well, because I don’t eat pastrami. So.

 

Bob Moesta
Yes, but what we’re getting lean dollars would have been better. He’s never gonna pay it. So the whole thing is, it’s really kind of a joke. And so if we can get something out of it, that’s progress to pay Bob

 

Greg Engle  

Next time we’re negotiating something, don’t go down to a pastrami sandwich. 

 

Katherine Thompson  

Don’t do it alone.

 

Greg Engle  

Okay, sounds good. $100,000

 

Katherine Thompson  

I’m going to blow the air horn on this debate. Thanks, Bob and Greg, for giving everyone an inside look into how Rewired works. Stay tuned for opportunities to submit your own questions and to hear from Rewired about jobs, innovation, working, and working virtually. All your questions that might be of interest to the whole audience.

 

Bob Moesta

Thanks for listening to the circuit breaker podcast. If you haven’t already, please subscribe so you won’t miss an episode. If you know somebody who’s stuck on the innovation treadmill, please share it. If you’d like to learn more information, visit us at www.therewiredgroup.com. Join us next time as we trip the circuit breaker to help you recharge, re energize and refocus your new product development.

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