Organizational Psychologist Adam Grant Shares Insights for Succeeding in Hybrid Environments
At our FY22 Growth Summit, our yearly opportunity to come together with our internal revenue team for reflection, celebration and education, I had the exciting opportunity to speak with Adam Grant, a renowned organizational psychologist who is changing the way we think about work. Adam’s work has garnered worldwide recognition through his bestselling books, his chart-topping podcast “WorkLife”, and captivating TED talks, which have been viewed over 25 million times.
Whether he is working with NASA astronauts to discover how they build trust before launch or meeting with the creative team at PIXAR to help them bring out their best ideas, Adam is dedicated to helping individuals and organizations succeed, and, in his own words, “making work not suck.” Now that’s a mission I can get on board with!
In our conversation, Adam was kind enough to share some of his insights on the changing nature of work, how employees and organizations can succeed in this dynamic environment, and some sage advice from one of the world’s most accomplished astronauts.
Take a macro approach to hybrid workers
The studies are clear — most employees want a hybrid work approach where they are given the freedom to work both from home and from the office. However, this can be challenging for organizations and managers unfamiliar with managing workers who are offsite.
Adam spoke about the importance of trusting your employees to work effectively and perform, but also the importance of taking a ‘macro’ approach to management.
“These really talented employees want the flexibility to work from anywhere, and to deliver without a micromanager breathing down their neck. What they are looking for is ‘macro’ management, where someone helps them see the big picture, clarifies the mission and explains why they are important. They also make individual roles clearer, so that I can see a line of sight between my individual job and what the collective goals are.”
Virtual collaboration democratizes the conversation
Organizations are often concerned about whether their remote workers will be able to engage and collaborate with their coworkers without the in-person element of communication. Even Adam shared this same sentiment when he was off to his first day of teaching virtually. However, he found that with multiple channels for communication, he could give everyone a chance to participate.
“I found that virtual office hours were better than in-person office hours, because they could easily show up for a 10 or 15 minute check-in. And for over 15 years of teaching, I’ve called on a random hand that happened to be up. Now with the chat window, I was able to see who had an interesting question or relevant point in a debate, and choreograph a conversation where they built on each other, where they challenged each other, and where they pushed me to think again.”
Sometimes you need to unlearn to move forward
In this time of rapid change, reflecting on our progress to identify areas for improvement and stay on the right track is critical for self-improvement. When I asked Adam about how he reflects on his life, he gave a surprising answer.
“While I was writing Think Again, I realized I needed rethinking time — unlearning time, not just learning time. I have another hour a week which is for unlearning time, where I’ll review some of my old work with a fresh lens on it. What I want to do is find the assumptions I made where I was wrong, or where the world has changed and those assumptions are no longer accurate. I also reach out to my critics and ask them, ‘What’s something you think I should rethink?’ And that way I can identify mental fossils that I need to discard before it’s too late.”
Remaining enthusiastic about the future
Managing all of the transitions and challenges that arose as a result of the pandemic hasn’t been easy for anyone, especially with all the personal stress associated with the pandemic itself. For some insights on how to handle this stress and remote working, Adam contacted a friend of his, astronaut Scott Kelly.
“He’s the astronaut who set the American record for 340 straight days in space, and the guy who lived on a space station for a year knows how to live through remote work,” Adam said.
Adam recalled how Scott recognized the immense challenge of dealing with the unpredictable and stressful nature of space for so long, and that he had to prepare differently to address this challenge.
“Scott said, ‘Instead of just focusing on my mission from NASA, I set a goal that I would have the same energy and enthusiasm as when I left. I knew it would be a slog, and all I could do was manage my own mental state.’ That mental time travel, fast-forwarding to imagine the future, that makes it feel like the future is more real, almost as if you can touch it and taste it. And it also allows you to work backwards and identify things that you can do on a daily basis that will help you maintain your enthusiasm.”
We’re so grateful that Adam could join us during the Growth Summit and for all the learnings he was able to share with us. For me personally, it was a true “AHA moment” and it made me realize how we here at Zoom need to stop and think — about how we engage with our employees, how we can use the Zoom platform to democratize corporate conversations, and how I need to implement my own “challenge network” to constantly refresh my ideas. We gifted our revenue organization an annual subscription to Master Class as part of the event, and I intend to make full use of mine as I drink my own Kool-Aid here and commit to ongoing learning.
For more insights about hybrid work and how you can adjust your operations, please visit our hybrid work page.