Seth Godin: The Race to the Bottom, Why Employee Productivity Is at a 70-Year Low and What To Do About It
Seth Godin: The Race to the Bottom, Why Employee Productivity Is at a 70-Year Low and What To Do About It
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[00:01:14] Seth Godin: You have to have been living under a rock to not realize that lots of people have quit their job. That employee satisfaction is way down. The productivity is lower than it's been in 70 years of measuring it. Why is all of that happening? The reason it's happening is we built work around industrialism, the assembly line, being a cog in the system.
[00:01:34] That kind of work is going away and bosses are freaking out because they only know how to do that old kind of work. Where are the next billion jobs gonna come from? Because since 1960, this planet has invented 6 billion jobs that didn't used to in exist. Going forward, we're not hiring somebody to work in a steel mill and we're not hiring somebody to crank out an [00:02:00] insurance form anymore cuz computers do that.
[00:02:02] What's left is to ignore what they brainwashed you with in school. Look around, find a problem and solve it.
[00:02:17] Hala Taha: What is up Young and Profiters? You are listening to YAP, Young and Profiting Podcast where we interview the brightest minds in the world and unpack their wisdom into actionable advice, that you can use in your daily life. I'm your host, Hala Taha. Thanks for tuning in and get ready to listen, learn and profit.
[00:02:49] Hey, Seth, welcome to Young and Profiting Podcast.
[00:02:53] Seth Godin: It's good to see you again. Hala, how you doing?
[00:02:55] Hala Taha: I'm doing great. Always love having you on the show. So let's dive right in [00:03:00] and set the stage for everyone. You have a new book called The Song of Significance, and based on your research for your new book and your own personal opinion. Let's talk about why work isn't working anymore.
[00:03:12] Seth Godin: You have to have been living under a rock. To realize, to not realize that we've had a pandemic. Lots of people have quit their job that were working from home, that employee satisfaction is way down. The productivity is lower than it's been in 70 years of measuring it. Why is all of that happening?
[00:03:29] And the reason it's happening is we built work around industrialism, the assembly line, making cars, having bosses churning stuff out, being a cog in the system. That's what school is, right? That the number one question you ask in school if you're smart, is, will this be on the test? And if it's not gonna be on the test, you don't bother learning it.
[00:03:49] Who invented the test? The test was invented by factory owners to teach people to be good employees. And what I am arguing in the book is that [00:04:00] kind of work is going away. And it makes us unhappy and bosses are freaking out because they only know how to do that old kind of work. But the work that's actually scaling and creating value is human work is when we treat each other with respect and dignity and build something new.
[00:04:18] And I want to help people have a conversation about that, cuz I think it's urgent.
[00:04:23] Hala Taha: And I think this conversation is so important right now because you all the signs are on the wall in terms of quiet quitting and people becoming entrepreneurs because they're not happy at work. Managers unhappy with their employees.
[00:04:36] Employees unhappy at work. So what a great time to have this conversation. So throughout the book, you talk about this fork in the road that we're at, can you describe this fork in a road?
[00:04:46] Seth Godin: When you see a fork, you should take it left or right, but you should take it cuz standing in the middle isn't gonna do any good.
[00:04:52] And lots of folks are seeing chat GPT right now. If you're a mediocre writer, you need to acknowledge that we can get someone to [00:05:00] do your writing for free anytime we want now. And if you're a mediocre voiceover artist 11 Labs can reproduce the voice of just about anybody if it's average, and if you are gonna race to the bottom by trying to work more hours and sell things more cheaply.
[00:05:15] If you're on Upwork and you're the cheapest person, that's how you get your gigs. If you're a wedding photographer who's half the price of every other wedding photographer. You're racing to the bottom and the problem with that is you might win or come in second. The alternative, the other fork is to race to the top, to be the one and only like you.
[00:05:33] Were the one and only Hala. We haven't talked in three years, and I still remember the last time we engaged because you have chosen to be you not to be replaceable cog. In a giant system, but it's scary. Fish don't want to be on the hook and people don't really want to either, but it's the best place to be.
[00:05:52] Hala Taha: So I'd love to understand, just to continue to set the foundation for my listeners, the industrial revolution or the industrial [00:06:00] capitalism, sorry, versus market capitalism. Can you go over those two concepts and why they're important in terms of what you're speaking about?
[00:06:07] Seth Godin: So Industrialism says we have a factory with people and machines in it, and our job is to make it go a little faster and a little cheaper every day.
[00:06:15] That's what McDonald's does. That's what General Motors does. They crank it out. You don't have to be a giant company to do that. You could be a three person insurance agency and do the same thing. Do what you did yesterday faster and cheaper. Market capitalism is there anybody out there who has a problem?
[00:06:32] Maybe I can solve it for them. And finding and solving problems is where capitalism started. It got hijacked by giant companies, the stock market machines and everything else. But now you know who owns the machines. Anyone with a laptop, anyone with a smartphone. So if you own the machine, you don't wanna be a machine. You wanna be a machine owner, which means you have to use that tool to do something that hasn't been done before, something that might not work.[00:07:00]
[00:07:00] Hala Taha: And so can you talk to us about how industrial capitalism really worked a long time ago, but now with AI and computers and the internet, how it's no longer the same and no longer serving us in the same way?
[00:07:14] Seth Godin: It made us all rich. You and I are both wearing clothes that we could buy somewhere for 10, 20 bucks, whereas the same clothes 30 years ago would've cost five times, that so many things that we depend on have gotten cheaper and cheaper, and you can't make them any cheaper.
[00:07:33] We're creating so much trash. We're poisoning the earth so badly, that cheaper is not going to be our solution. There's no question that wealth is unfairly distributed. There's no question. There are people who don't have enough, that you and I have enough clothes in our closet that we would never have to buy another piece of clothing ever again.
[00:07:49] But there are other people in the world who don't have that. I'm not talking about that. What I'm talking about is in the engines of our economy where people have jobs, where are the next billion jobs gonna come from? Because since [00:08:00] 1960, this planet has invented 6 billion jobs that didn't used to exist.
[00:08:06] Where did they come from and what kind of jobs are they going forward? We're not hiring somebody to work in a steel mill, and we're not hiring somebody to crank out an insurance form anymore because computers do that. So what's left is to ignore what they brainwashed you with in school. Look around, find a problem and solve it.
[00:08:27] That doesn't mean you have to start your own business. It's fine with me if you do, but you need to work with people who are aligned in that human activity, creating value by doing something that might not work. Leading instead of managing, creating possibility instead of taking it away.
[00:08:43] Hala Taha: So in your book you say that real value is no longer created by traditional measures of productivity.
[00:08:49] So what would you say the new measures of productivity are?
[00:08:53] Seth Godin: So the old kind of productivity was how many widgets could you make in one hour of work? And now what I wanna know is [00:09:00] for every dollar I'm paying you, how many lives were changed. And a nurse can change someone's life in 10 seconds, or they might be able to change someone's life in 40 hours.
[00:09:09] But if you're not changing someone's life, why are you here? If you're a marketer, why did you send that email if you weren't trying to change someone? And if all you're doing is hustling, you're not making a profit, you're just bothering people. And so this isn't about figuring out how to be the next Kim Kardashian cuz we already have too many Kardashians.
[00:09:28] We don't need another one. What this is about is to say how can I earn the trust and benefit of the doubt from people and offer them a solution to their problem? For me, the real tagline is, and create value, do work that we would miss if you were gone. That you can't say You can pick anyone and I'm anyone and hope for very much cuz I'll just pick someone else.
[00:09:51] Hala Taha: And talk to us about how this is actually economically viable, how companies who are leaning into this strategy are actually doing well?
[00:09:58] Seth Godin: Almost every company that [00:10:00] leans into this is doing well. This is not about free snacks and singing folk songs around the campfiring, letting anyone take whatever day off they want.
[00:10:08] This is about being very clear about the promise you are making. One of the things I talk about in the book is the principle of criticizing the work relentlessly, but never criticizing the worker that we don't need dominance in order to do great work, but we do need standards. What are the standards?
[00:10:28] What does it mean to make the best pizza in New York City? You're not gonna do that if you act like pizza. You're gonna do that if you bring a different kind of care and humanity to what you do.
[00:10:40] Hala Taha: Totally. And of course what you're saying is also gonna make your employees happier, which is gonna lead to much better work and happy customers.
[00:10:47] So in your book you asked 10,000 people, or in your research for your book, you asked 10,000 people in 90 countries to describe the conditions at the best job they've ever had. What were some of the top answers that people gave?
[00:10:59] Seth Godin: [00:11:00] What was the best job you ever had?
[00:11:01] Hala Taha: Me as an entrepreneur, CEO of my company, and this podcast for sure.
[00:11:06] Seth Godin: Everyone knows the answer to that question, everybody.
[00:11:09] And then I gave people 14 choices as to what made it the best job. Like I got paid a lot. I didn't get fired. I got to travel. No one picked those. Those are what bosses think people want. No one picked those. What they picked was, I accomplished more than I thought I could. I worked with people who treated me with respect and I did work that matters.
[00:11:31] So if we can build an institution like that, we will be more proud of our work and the people who work for us are more likely to bring magic to work, not just their bodies.
[00:11:43] Hala Taha: And you have a great analogy in your book that describes some of the songs that you lay out. You talk about the song of Increase, the Song of Safety, the Song of Significance, and you use honeybees as an analogy to get your point across.
[00:11:55] So what can humans learn from honeybees?
[00:11:59] Seth Godin: I love. [00:12:00] The bees, I've been obsessed with them for a while, a hive of bees, which is almost entirely run by women. By the way, a hive of bees. If it makes it through a long winter, we'll have to make a decision. And that decision is, do they have enough resources? To sing the song of increase, and in that moment, 12,000 bees will leave the hive in 10 minutes.
[00:12:21] They will leave behind all the honey. All the baby bees, a new baby queen. They'll just leave and they will go swarm to a tree about a hundred feet away. To see this, to witness it is an extraordinary thing. This leap. Then they form a tight ball in that tree and have to huddle together to maintain a body temperature of 98 degrees.
[00:12:40] Now they only have three days to find a new place to live. If they don't, they're gonna die. And during those three days, just a few of them scouts go out and look for the new place. But everyone else is basically freaking out and hiding up. And we're not bees. But we've been singing the Song of Safety for too long.
[00:12:56] For too long, we've been huddled at home hoping that [00:13:00] everything will get better, but we aren't easily capable of singing the song of increase either. So what I talk about in the book is a song of significance, singing to each other about possibility, about being surprised about doing things that might not work.
[00:13:16] About eliminating false proxies, about deciding we're gonna make a change happen, and we can do that, but first we have to talk about it.
[00:13:25] Hala Taha: And so let's stick on this idea of safety. What do workers need in terms of feeling safe? And once those needs are met, what do? What do we want?
[00:13:34] Seth Godin: I think that for too long, at least in this country, we have over-indexed for, I don't want to get fired.
[00:13:41] That turnover is a horrible thing. But when I was coming up, the average person had a job that lasted 20 or 30 years. Now that's insane. No one has a job that lasts 20 or 30 years. Turnover is a given. If you look at almost anybody on LinkedIn, you will see that turnover is a good thing, not a bad thing.
[00:13:59] Safety [00:14:00] comes from, are you being manipulated, criticized, or attacked for who you are not for the work you do? Safety means being in a place, where it's understood that we tell each other the truth. It's understood that part of what it means to discover. The next thing is to fail. On the way that failure is not a bad thing if we take responsibility and talk about it.
[00:14:26] And so when we feel these safety things around our identity, we are far more likely to sing, than if we are constantly on defense because we don't fit the dominant paradigm.
[00:14:39] Hala Taha: Let's hold that thought and take a quick break with our sponsors.
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[00:19:23] Okay, so let's talk about significance. Why do we need significance in our work? And then how do we create the conditions of significance as a leader or a manager?
[00:19:32] Seth Godin: I think that there's a long history of people like 10,000 years not having significance in their work. If you are a hunter or gatherer, if you're collecting berries or chasing down a buffalo, thank you.
[00:19:45] You fed the family, but that wasn't the purpose of your life. But as the years have gone by, A, we spend way more time at work in the days of the cavemen. Cavemen worked about an hour a day, maybe two. We worked nine [00:20:00] or 10 or more. And number two is it's become much more intellectually rigorous and rewarding.
[00:20:06] So you're gonna spend 90,000 hours at your job before you die. And if you wanna say I'll just get that over with and then I can go home and watch Netflix, I'm afraid you've given up an enormous portion of your life for no good reason. And when think about the hive. The point of a beehive isn't to make honey.
[00:20:24] The honey is a byproduct of a healthy hive. The honey enables the hive. It's not the point. And I think we should think the same thing about our jobs.
[00:20:34] Hala Taha: And then how would you say that managers and leaders can create a culture of significance or ensure that there's significance in their employee's work?
[00:20:44] Seth Godin: I think it, it's a trap to wait for your boss to announce this is going to happen.
[00:20:49] We can each find significance, whether we're a barista or a surgeon, simply by claiming responsibility, making things better, giving away credit, doing it again. [00:21:00] What's the smallest single unit of innovation you could bring to your work? The smallest, not the biggest possible thing that would change everything, if you showed up on your next podcast and introduced a feature.
[00:21:11] That lasted 30 seconds at the end of the podcast that no one had ever done on a podcast before. It would be pretty scary. And if it worked, that would be great cuz you could do it again. And if it didn't work, you wouldn't have to do it again. No thing bad would happen. But if we are so indoctrinated into reading the script, we never experienced that feeling.
[00:21:30] So then the second part is, let's get real, or let's not play, let's talk about it. Let's have. A discussion with coworkers. Let's organize whatever it is, a book group it does. No one ever got fired for organizing a book group at work. Organize a book group, talk to other people, find their humanity. Figure out where possibility lies.
[00:21:51] Pick up the phone and answer the customer service calls, even if you're not the customer service person, do it one day after work for 15 minutes. You'll hear from [00:22:00] customers and learn things you didn't know before. All of these things are possible, but we've been so indoctrinated into doing as little as possible cuz the boss keeps taking from us that we're exhausted and we remain cogs in the system.
[00:22:13] Hala Taha: So I know that one of the key concepts you talk about in terms of having significance at work is to make sure that employees have agency and dignity at work. Can you talk to us about why those two things are really important?
[00:22:24] Seth Godin: Because we're humans. Agency is the freedom to make a decision that's what we all make.
[00:22:30] Actually. We don't make kettle bells, we don't make chairs. We make decisions and machines or factories make the stuff. And dignity is something that human beings crave, but it's very hard to claim it for yourself, but it's very easy to give it to someone. And what we could do is build an institution that is functioning at a high level. That is profitable, whether we're a freelancer with two or three clients, or someone running a big company where our [00:23:00] nature is to engage with other people in this sort of dance.
[00:23:05] I remember coming up in my twenties, starting my first companies, it's so easy to just buy the cheapest, work with the cheapest, be very dictatorial, and you're atkin cuz you're not. You're not making an enormous amount of profit. It doesn't cost more for the people you work with to have agency.
[00:23:24] It costs less. Because when you offer people the chance to contribute, they're so eager to do so that productivity goes up, knock down.
[00:23:33] Hala Taha: I totally agree. So related to this, you talk about this Japanese concept, Kokoro. I hope I said that what is Kokoro and how can we employ it?
[00:23:42] Seth Godin: It might be pronounced Kokoro, but I have seen different pronunciations.
[00:23:48] It's a idiom fund, the Chinese, and it's a picture of a house and a heart, and what it says is that wherever you are in the world, if you can be in a place where your heart is [00:24:00] as well, your life is better. It's a form of love and belonging and activation, and for too long we've been confused, either we say don't bring your full self to work because they're gonna beat you up.
[00:24:14] Or we say you should be authentic at work. Which is selfish because what you really need to be at work is eagerly empathic. You are not at work to help you. When you're dealing with a customer, you're there to help them. And so if we can find heart in doing that, if we can find heart in the connection, that we get to make with our coworkers and our customers, everybody comes out ahead.
[00:24:38] Hala Taha: So next thing I wanna talk about was really interesting to me. So you debunked the fact that people don't wanna work hard these days because you actually put together a volunteer organization for the Carbon Almanac, and you were able to get a lot of people to work together for free for this project.
[00:24:55] So I would love to understand what you learned from putting on this project and [00:25:00] how you created this culture of significance to get the project done.
[00:25:03] Seth Godin: I love talking about this. I need to clarify. I didn't get people to work really hard for free. I also worked for free full-time, for over a year to build something and what I did, my contribution was to create the conditions for people to do what they wanted to do all along. Which is connect with other people to work that matters.
[00:25:25] And make a difference. We had 300 volunteers. Now it's 1900 in 40 countries working 24 hours a day around the clock. We had not one meeting, not one for the entire crew. It was all built online and. We beat our deadline. We wrote a 97,000 word almanac. We footnoted it. We illustrated it. We fact checked it.
[00:25:47] We didn't make one significant error, and it was translated into languages around the world, including Italian and Korean and Czech and Chinese. And we did all that in just five months. And the way we did it [00:26:00] was by following the precepts in this book. Page 19 thinking, seeing other people, offering them dignity, figuring out how are we going to raise our standards in a way that thrills us.
[00:26:14] And the output speaks for itself. That doesn't mean people should work for free. That's not what I was implying. We did this for free so that we could spend every penny, we earned to promote the book itself, cuz that's why we did the project to change people's minds. But the same thing happens at a community orchestra.
[00:26:32] You've got a hundred people who are paying a conductor so that they can perform in an orchestra like they did in school. Why would someone do that? Some people get paid to play the flute, but people are paying to do it with passion and love because they can. So where we started this conversation a little while ago, it's not a good job cuz they pay you a lot of money.
[00:26:52] It's a good job cuz you made a difference.
[00:26:54] Hala Taha: It's so true. I have to tell a personal story. So I, when I first started Young and Profiting [00:27:00] Podcast, I had 20 volunteers who used to help me on the show, and that turned into my company two years later. But for two years, 20 people worked for free for me because I had no guidelines for them.
[00:27:12] It was like, what do you wanna learn? What do you wanna do? I'll teach you this. Sure, you wanna do that? Go ahead and do that. That makes you happy. Okay, cool. And it was just so flexible and everybody worked together and still some of the same people work with me, but as soon as we were a profit generating company, the whole culture changed.
[00:27:29] And we are still a great culture, but it's just different because people can't do exactly what they wanna do. Or now that I read your book, I'm gonna try to think about that a little bit differently. But it's just so interesting how well things ran for a really long time, when nobody was getting paid.
[00:27:46] Seth Godin: And one of the things I want to highlight is if you're doing productive work in a team, nobody gets to do exactly what they want to do. That's not what's on offer. What's on offer is helping people choose, what they want to do based [00:28:00] on what needs to be done. So as we were exploring the stuff in the Carbon Almanac, we learned a lot about climate, but that doesn't mean the readers knew what we knew.
[00:28:11] So we had to say based on the person we're imagining is going to read this, what needs to be on page 25. You might not feel like writing what's on page 25, but you do feel like making the change we seek to make. So knowing that there is a hole on page 25, if you enjoy that thing, go do it. The difference between surfing and golf is really important.
[00:28:32] Most profit making institutions think they're playing golf. And golf is, how do I beat the other person by a half a percent? And if they wanna change the golf course, they have to have a meeting and it's a big deal to move the little cup by a foot. Whereas in surfing, every wave is different, and that's the point.
[00:28:53] There's no bad oceans. There's just surfers who don't know how to surf what's right [00:29:00] in front of them. And so a surfing champion actually built a surf farm in California on an abandoned farm, and he installed train tracks and a full size locomotive with a snow plow in front of it, and then he filled it with two feet of water.
[00:29:14] So the snowplow comes down and makes a giant wave and you can surf the same wave over and over again, cuz that was gonna be the future of surfing. You don't hear about that place very much because surfers like the idea that they don't get to pick the wave, they just have to surf it as well as they can.
[00:29:33] Hala Taha: And that's also why machines and AI aren't gonna necessarily take over every single job.
[00:29:39] Seth Godin: They're gonna take over all the jobs where people have been trying to fit in that. If you look, 80% of the stuff that's on social media could have been written by anybody. So now it will be written by anybody, a computer.
[00:29:52] Whereas if you are distinctive in your point of view and are connected in a way that shifts over time, [00:30:00] and AI can't do that because AI's only look backwards. And what we need to do is look forward.
[00:30:07] Hala Taha: So you alluded to this concept of the page 19 principle that helped you guys get a lot done for creating this almanac.
[00:30:14] How did that principle help you guys overcome overwhelm and perfectionism?
[00:30:18] Seth Godin: So on the third or fourth week, a few of us were talking and I said this Almanac has to have page 19, but there's not one person in the entire community, who knows everything they need to know to make page 19 happen.
[00:30:31] There's not one person who can write it, edited it, footnote it, copy edit it, illustrate it, chart it, and finish it. But there will be a page 19. So how are we gonna get from where we are to where we need to go? And the answer is page 19 thinking, which says, if you can write a paragraph of it, please do and then share it with us.
[00:30:49] And if you can make that paragraph better, please do. And if you can footnote that paragraph, please do. And so the idea of here I made this doesn't mean here, this is done and [00:31:00] it is perfect. It's here. Can you please improve this? When you improve it, I won't feel bad. I'll feel good because that's what we do around here.
[00:31:10] And too often in big and small companies. The opposite is true. We're afraid to show our work, and if we do show our work and someone improves it, we feel badly. And that's because we've been indoctrinated to feel that way.
[00:31:24] Hala Taha: So I'm gonna switch gears a little bit here and let's talk about the four kinds of work.
[00:31:28] So in your book, you have a two by two grid with stakes and trust as the two axises. I'd love to understand these four kinds of work and why a significant organization is one with high trust and high stakes.
[00:31:42] Seth Godin: Okay, so there are stakes. High stakes and low stakes. It is low stakes to go to the local coffee shop for your morning coffee.
[00:31:50] If they're closed, you can get it at the coffee shop next door. If the coffee's not that good, it's fine, but then there's high stakes work, like open heart surgery or [00:32:00] a jazz quartet. Playing at Carnegie Hall and recording a live album, it's pretty easy to understand. There's high stakes and low stakes, and then there's high trust and low trust.
[00:32:09] Low trust work is surveillance. So if you're taking an airplane, you know that nobody in the entire thing got to make stuff up. As they went along the pilot, the baggage handlers, the schedulers, everyone had to do it based on how it has been done before. And you like that because planes don't crash and it's quite likely you're gonna get to where you're going.
[00:32:29] That is high stakes. Low trust and it enables our world to work cuz there's lots of transactions we have where we can't be sure and we don't get a do-over. But you don't have to work at an airline. I hope you don't. Cuz airline employee satisfaction is very low. People are mistreated by their bosses and by their customers.
[00:32:50] It's not fun. On the other hand, when a jazz quartet is trading fours on stage at Carnegie Hall with people they know and respect, and the bass player [00:33:00] throws a riff to the trumpet player, that's magic. That is high trust. High stakes, or if a barista greets you, even though it's not in the manual, smiles at you, says, Hala, welcome back.
[00:33:12] I hope you had a good trip this weekend, that was worth more than the cost of the coffee, and it was worth more to you and to the barista because they got to do high trust work, even though the stakes were low. And so what we seek. When we are a customer with a choice and what we seek, when we're looking where to work is high trust work and maybe high stakes, maybe not, that's up to us.
[00:33:39] But if you're under surveillance, you don't have any agency and you're unlikely to find joy or growth at work.
[00:33:46] Hala Taha: I love that.
[00:33:47] So one of the biggest ways to create a significant organization is to remember that humans are not a resource. Can you talk to us about the concept of human resources and why it's flawed and outdated?
[00:33:58] Seth Godin: So you've heard the phrase, [00:34:00] he was jerking me around.
[00:34:01] Hala Taha: Yes.
[00:34:02] Seth Godin: That came from the assembly line in 1920. Someone visited the Ford plant and saw the workers being jerked around like they were strings, marionettes with strings this way, that way, this way, that way. And someone with a stopwatch measuring every motion.
[00:34:18] Because if you could get the human to act like a machine, you could make more money. And that's when the phrase human resources was born because the job of the boss. Is to get the person to be a reliable machine and just like the honey isn't the point of the hive. Humans are not a resource. Humans are the point.
[00:34:38] Humans are why we are here, and if we can make productivity go up, that's great. If we can use machines in outsourcing and AI, that's great, but sooner or later, the reason we are here is to dance with other humans.
[00:34:54] Hala Taha: We'll be right back after a quick break from our sponsors.
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[00:37:41] Voice Over: Quentin here runs a sustainable clothing brand. Hi there. He's excited that his shipping company, FedEx, has set a goal of having carbon neutral operations by 2040. Impressive When an influencer tweeted about his recycled bamboo t-shirts. Quentin unexpectedly became quite popular. [00:38:00] I'll take it. He uses FedEx to reach new customers around the globe while making earth a priority.
[00:38:06] FedEx, where now meets next.
[00:38:13] Hala Taha: And as we start to close out this interview. Seth, I'd love to understand from you your best advice to leaders and managers who wanna create a culture of significance in their organization. What should they do next as an actionable step other than read your book, of course.
[00:38:27] Seth Godin: I would say the most important first step is to realize that you're either in any given moment, a leader or a manager.
[00:38:33] They're two different jobs. Managers have a spot in the hierarchy. They have power and authority, and they move ahead by getting people to do what they say. Leaders do something voluntary and optional. They explore what might not work. They get voluntary cooperation. You can be a leader with no employees.
[00:38:51] That person who organized the book group at work, they're being a leader in that moment. And then the second part of it is once you decide to lead [00:39:00] the work is to talk about it. What does it mean to work here? What is it like around here? How do we have meetings? Why are we having meetings? What are we doing where we criticize the worker?
[00:39:10] When we really should be criticizing the work? What are we measuring? Who we here to change? My book has more than 150 questions in it because we're not talking about it. And the reason it's worth you and I talking in this setting is not because. I like hearing the sound of my own voice. I really don't.
[00:39:29] It's because we are modeling something that should happen in every break room, in every review session with every boss, at every board of director's meeting, which is why are we even here? The goal of a company should not be to maximize its short term profit. Goal of a company is to create the conditions for better, and that means better for the planet, better for their employees, better for their customers.
[00:39:54] If you do those things, the profits will take care of themselves.
[00:39:58] Hala Taha: There is a company that you [00:40:00] talk about in your book that is employing this strategy really well. It's called Arvind Eye Care, so I'd love to understand what they're doing and how we can learn from them.
[00:40:08] Seth Godin: So if I add up the total population of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, that's how many people our event has restored eyesight to.
[00:40:16] Hala Taha: Wow.
[00:40:17] Seth Godin: They are a hospital chain in India that does cornea replacement and operations. And if you go there, these are numbers are a little old, but pretty close. If you go there, you have a choice. It's either $130 or it's free up to you. You get exactly the same surgery. Either way, the only difference is how nice the recovery room is.
[00:40:38] Now you take a look at what is it like to open an eye hospital. The thing you should be the most afraid of is that you will make someone's eyes worse. And the way that could happen is with an infection. The rate of infection on the eye surgery at Arvind is less. Than the infection you would get rate in London.
[00:40:56] So they have rigor, they have [00:41:00] high standards. They are operating at such a high level. That if you go to an ophthalmologist in the United States, it's likely they studied at Arvind in India. At the same time, the nurses, the staff, they have agency. Their job is to make that patient feel like they're the only patient.
[00:41:19] Their job is to find new ways to create possibility. So they are balancing high standards and humanity, and the output is that they have restored the site of more people than any institution in the history of the world, and they do that every single day often for free. So this is doable. It's not just doable in Chicago or New York.
[00:41:39] It's doable in small villages. It's doable for big companies and little ones if we decide it's important.
[00:41:47] Hala Taha: And I think the big thing with this organization is that they don't have like really strict rules. From my understanding. They're all acting in their best judgment and getting the job done.
[00:41:57] So it's high trust, high [00:42:00] stakes, which is pretty unusual, right?
[00:42:02] Seth Godin: Yes. But I have to balance this with. Except for that 20 minutes of the actual surgery, then the standards are insanely rigorous because the only way to reliably do this at high output is to learn from the people who came before you. So if you have a improvement, they add it to the system.
[00:42:22] But the system is a system and they relentlessly criticize the system. They keep improving the system. But if you are doing eye surgery at Arvind, you do not get to do it your way. You must do it their way.
[00:42:34] Hala Taha: Okay, one last question on the road to significance, and this is the idea of avoid false proxies.
[00:42:41] How can we avoid the trap of measuring the easy measurements and instead focus on measuring the health and output of our culture?
[00:42:47] Seth Godin: I'm really glad we're including this. This is the cause of so many of the problems in our culture. We need proxies. You're not allowed to read a book before you buy it, and you're not allowed to taste the ketchup in the [00:43:00] store before you take it home.
[00:43:01] So you have to judge a book by its cover. You have to judge the bottle by the label. Proxies are important. If we were hiring folks to work in a factory with heavily. Manual labor, we would hire people who were strong and that's an easy thing to measure and an accurate proxy. But when we started working in the office, we have no clue.
[00:43:21] So what you know what we did? We started hiring people who looked like us. We instigated. All sorts of prejudices. We brought misogyny to the table. We gave attractive people the benefit of the doubt. We reinforced caste systems. We discriminated against people with disabilities that were totally unrelated.
[00:43:38] We rewarded people who went to a famous college or didn't have a typo on their resume. None of which has to do with your actual job. And just cuz you're good at interviewing doesn't mean you're good at your job. And then add to that, once you have your job, we're measuring easy things as opposed to the things that the customers actually care about.
[00:43:58] So how long, if [00:44:00] you work in the call center, how fast did you get that person off the phone? That's a proxy for one thing, but it's not a proxy for customer service. Customer services. Did you delight this person? The end? That's what you were supposed to do. We need, now that we have all this surveillance, now that we have all these measures to ignore the easy ones and focus on the important ones.
[00:44:21] Because yes, some people perform better than others. We should find out who those people are and learn from them, not get confused by plugging into old-fashioned cultural tropes.
[00:44:33] Hala Taha: I totally agree on that. So I asked you a question about leaders and managers, Seth, but I haven't asked you about what employees, people who are in the corporate world.
[00:44:43] I have a lot of listeners. What can they do to contribute to this and make sure that they're in a workplace that has significance, that gives them dignity agency and so on.
[00:44:53] Seth Godin: Yeah, this is the whole point. I could have written a blog post, which would've reached far more people than writing a book. I'm don't write a [00:45:00] book because I wanna chop down trees.
[00:45:02] I write a book because it's a way to have a conversation. You don't have to have your boss tell you it's a significant organization for you to make it one. That in five minutes a day or 10 minutes a day, or 15 minutes a day, you have enough agency to do something that matters to someone. And if you take responsibility for that, give away credit, take responsibility, do it again.
[00:45:24] Do it again. Then they're gonna start asking you to do it. And I have worked at some big companies and some little ones, and I have seen millions of people at work, and people are happier, unhappy in the same job because they have chosen to bring significance there. And yes, bosses are gonna figure this out and one way is you can leave a copy of this book on the desk, but what's really gonna happen is that workers are gonna show up and make things better.
[00:45:53] By making better things and working with people they care about, and that is already changing our world.
[00:45:59] Hala Taha: Thank you Seth, [00:46:00] so much for your time. The last question I ask all my guests is, what is your secret to profiting in life?
[00:46:06] Seth Godin: I would say my secret is being really clear about what profit means and if you can leave things better than you found them, you have created a profit.
[00:46:14] Hala Taha: I love that. And where can our listeners learn more about you and everything that you do?
[00:46:18] Seth Godin: If you go to seths.blog/song, you will find videos and links about the new book and it says.blog. There's 8,000 free blog posts that should keep you busy for a little while.
[00:46:30] Hala Taha: Amazing. Thank you so much.
[00:46:32] Seth Godin: Thank you. What a pleasure.
[00:46:38] Hala Taha: Ladies and gentlemen, Seth Godin on YAP for round two. Always a blessing to have him on the show. And I really love this conversation because it was important for leaders and employees alike. The nature of work is changing. For a long time, we measured productivity by how much stuff we could produce and how cheaply we could produce [00:47:00] it.
[00:47:00] We were once the machines, but now we own the machines. So we need to find new ways to measure our human productivity. Seth argues the goal of work is no longer to maximize short term profits as it was back in the Industrial Revolution. Work now that's actually scaling and creating value is human work.
[00:47:21] When we treat each other with respect and dignity and build something new, this is what it means to sing the song of significance. We need to find the humanity in our work. Instead of racing to the bottom, working more hours, making things faster and cheaper, competing against other companies and AI. Seth argues we should race to the top and try to be one of one.
[00:47:46] He also believes that future jobs are gonna require a lot of problem solving. Technology has and will take over more and more jobs, whether that's factory jobs or selling insurance. But this doesn't mean you [00:48:00] have to become an entrepreneur. Seth says, you need to work with people who are aligned in that human activity, creating value by doing something that might not work, leading instead of managing, creating possibility instead of taking it away.
[00:48:15] His page 19 principle really sums up this idea nicely. 300 people and 40 countries showed up to build the Carbon Almanac with Seth Godin. No one knew how to write, edit, fact, check, or illustrate page 19 of the Almanac alone. But it needed to be done so each page was started and then improved and polished by more than a dozen people.
[00:48:38] The page 19 metaphor is the antidote to paralysis, overwhelm, and perfection. It's not about getting it right the first time. It's about saying, here, I made this team. Please make it better. It's about creating a process and then giving people permission to take action and advance a group's goal. It's about criticizing the work relentlessly to make it [00:49:00] better, but never criticizing the worker.
[00:49:02] Today. Nearly everything is built this way, not just almanacs. No one built Nike or Google from a singular plan. No one builds great organizations alone. And I'll leave you with this. Young and Profiters. Seth asked 10,000 people in 90 countries to describe the conditions at the best job they've ever had.
[00:49:22] And the top answers were I surprised myself with what I could accomplish. I could work independently. The team built something important. People treated me with respect. So like Seth said in our conversation today, it's great to be young, it's fine to be profiting, but the real goal is to create value. And to do work that others will miss if you're gone.
[00:49:46] Thanks for listening to this episode of Young and Profiting Podcast. If you listen, learned and profited from this episode, please thank us by sharing a five star review on Apple Podcast or your favorite podcast platform. If you like [00:50:00] watching your podcast videos, you can find us on YouTube. Every single episode is uploaded to that platform.
[00:50:05] If you wanna find me on social media, my Instagram handle is @yapwithhala. Or you can find me on LinkedIn by searching my name, Hala Taha. I wanna shout out my amazing YAP production team. You guys are so talented. This is your host, Hala Taha, a.k.a, the podcast princess signing off.
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