On this episode of Peak Performance Leadership, we discuss the importance of effective planning practices and leadership strategies to improve productivity within a business or team. We explore how to effectively incorporate AI into processes, address employee concerns and trust, and build relationships among team members in both in-person and virtual settings. Our guest speaker shares the ten core areas of waste that hinder success and introduces his lean strategic planning technique as a simplified approach to planning that can be tailored to any team or company. Tune in for tips on streamlining processes, improving productivity, and seizing opportunities as a leader. All of this with the new hybrid workplace in mind.

Meet Crista

Crista Grasso is an international lean and agile business consultant to Fortune 50 multi-billion dollar businesses, strategic advisor to 6 – 8 figure small businesses and entrepreneurs, and creator of the Lean Out Method®, 90-Day Lean Out Planner, and the Lean Business Scaling SystemTM. She is also the host of the Lean Out Your Business Podcast where she shares her top strategies to simplify and scale a business. Crista has been helping businesses achieve accelerated and sustainable results and increased profitability for more than two decades. Known as the “Business Optimizer”, Crista has the ability to quickly cut through the noise and focus on optimizing the core things that will make the biggest impact to grow and scale a business. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and holds several lean, agile, change management, and program management certifications.

Leveraging Hybrid Work Timestamped Overview

[00:01:39] Meetings can be a waste of time if poorly run, but offer potential for progress if well executed.

[00:03:39] Align on focus time, remove blockers, structure meetings for decisions/actions, use time sparingly for productivity.

[00:07:03] Trust is necessary in collaborative workspaces despite potential abuse, but structure and quick checkpoints help maintain productivity and alignment towards goals.

[00:10:51] Lack of strategic planning is a key cause of waste in businesses, and a lean strategic planning approach can help address this. Clarity on priorities and clear systems are also important for success.

[00:13:32] Good planning starts with clear outcomes in mind and reverse-engineers results to achieve them. Clarity on overarching vision, strategic objectives, and specific goals are vital for proper planning. The path to success involves committing to simpler ways and being strategic with decision-making.

[00:18:39] Hire people who fit the role and can succeed in the conditions they will work in, remote work is possible for most jobs, but hire people who are wired to work well in a remote environment.

[00:19:39] Hire people who fit company culture and job needs. In-person collaboration vs. remote work depends on the person. Have remote team with occasional in-person meetings for bonding and planning.

[00:23:42] Leaders should be aware of AI’s potential impact on their business and employees, and able to address concerns and questions about job security. It’s important to understand the potential changes and be able to support employees.

[00:27:13] Change can be an opportunity or a problem, it depends on how people react to it. People who see the possibility in situations are essential for innovation and moving a business forward. It also helps to bring out the best in people and highlight where someone’s skills are best utilized.

[00:29:29] The speaker received a compliment at a conference and praises people who find opportunities in things.

Guest Resources

If you are interested in learning more about Crista’s resources be sure to check out the following links:

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The following is an AI generated transcript which should be used for reference purposes only. It has not been verified or edited to reflect what was actually said in the podcast episode. 


Scott McCarthy [00:00:05]:

Chris, welcome to the show. So good to have you here.

Crista Grasso [00:00:09]:

I’m so excited to be here today. Thanks so much for having me.

Scott McCarthy [00:00:13]:

Thanks for coming. So today we’re talking about taking back our time. And I’m going to premise this with my week this week. Do you want to know about my week this week? I’m going to tell you about my week this week. Krista my week. So recording. We are the week right after the Easter long weekend, which I get a four day weekend with, by the way. So Friday and Monday for me are holidays. Amazing. Like, by the way, any Canadian government who wants to institute four day weekends, I’m all in. So I have a four day week. Literally half my week is spent in meetings. I am spending half of my week in meetings with zero productivity coming out of me. I got a feeling you’re going to talk something about this, are you not?

Crista Grasso [00:01:07]:

Yes. And I am so sad to say that I bet there’s a lot of other people who had a week like yours, probably, right?

Scott McCarthy [00:01:17]:

How do we go get away from this from your standpoint? How can we stop this craziness of everyone needs to be in a meeting and you need to spend hours upon hours of your days in meetings throughout a week when everyone out there yet still expects results?

Crista Grasso [00:01:39]:

Yeah, I think it’s so interesting, right? We all know the quote about busy isn’t productive and all of that, and yet I think meetings give people this false sense of having accomplished something. We all got together, we all sat in this room together virtually or in person, and people leave feeling like, okay, we’re moving the needle on things. But if that meeting is not really well run, if it’s not a place where people come and either make critical decisions or end up actually co working and co developing some sort of thing that’s actually moving things forward, all you did was waste a lot of people’s time and actually take them away from the results and the progress that you were actually looking for. So I think meetings are actually a really beautiful and wonderful thing when they’re done really well. The problem is so few people do them really well, and so they’re a big area of waste in a business and a big area of opportunity to reimagine how they’re done and how you bring people together so that they’re useful and help you hit your goals and your targets instead of actually keeping you from them.

Scott McCarthy [00:02:45]:

I liked how you wrote it something there. And that was there also an opportunity. That’s what I want to focus on. I am not a person like, sit, look at the past, wallow, blah, blah, blah. No. Okay. How do we move forward? How do we go after the next thing? How do we make this better, more effective, more efficient, whatever. Let’s learn from the past. But let’s move forward. And when you say things like, oh, there’s an opportunity here, I’m like, so how might we actually take, for example, my week of which was half and my week is not even done yet, half of which is going to be has will be spent in meetings. And how do we take that from essentially a productivity drain and turn it into something where we can seize some opportunity out of it?

Crista Grasso [00:03:39]:

Yeah, absolutely. So if you have a business and your whole business in and of itself is a small team, or if you’re within a team in a larger business, I think one of the key things that you can do is look at how does everybody work best? And typically there are some aligned things where maybe everybody needs a 100% dedicated focus day. There are no meetings, there are no slack messages, there are no pings, there are no abundance of emails. There is dedicated time where people can actually work. I think that if you can align on things like that, that’s really important. So people have the space to play to their strengths and to work really well. Well, in order for somebody to make the most of that focused work time, what meetings or what things need to occur so people have clarity on what those things are that they need to be focused on. They could remove blockers for anything that’s standing in their way from being able to move forward and focus. And how can you put those structures in place to support people working in a really productive and really effective way? And I think that’s something that you need to do and look at for your company or for your team or for your division, whatever that is to say. How can we work best to get results? When do we need to meet and how do we need to come together? Whether it’s to plan, whether it’s to brainstorm, whether it’s to cowork, whatever that looks like, to actually move things forward and get results and put structure in place, put meetings in place, that’s great. But make sure there’s clear agendas. They’re super laser focused. They’re designed to lead to decisions or actions and results and not just people talking and sharing a status update that anybody could have seen through an email or in looking at a tool. And I think if you do those things and you use those times together sparingly and give big blocks of time where people can actually focus and get things done, you will see productivity completely turn around in your business or in your week.

Scott McCarthy [00:05:39]:

It’s really interesting. So what I’m hearing from you is basically prioritized people’s time where it’s not necessarily absolutely structured, but allow them to get on with doing the job per se. And what I see often, and when I talk to leaders often, they get this sense of fear because on a calendar that looks like white space whoa, nothing’s happening, right? Nothing’s happening that you see at your level per se, but things are going on in the background that you don’t see. And if you go and you take that white space, you plug it with something else. Another status update, new TPS review, whatever you have, that’s taken away from the productivity of the team. So how might leaders out there not get sucked into that kind of, like, basically tunnel vision of focusing in on oh, there’s white space, therefore, we need to fill it to make sure that I can say my team. Is actually busy doing things, but rather protect the time so that the people can actually get on with doing what they need to do.

Crista Grasso [00:07:03]:

Yeah, I mean, it takes a little bit of trust in the beginning and the reality is this, right? There are some people that will abuse having open time. Absolutely. But I think that the fear of that one random person that is really far and few between actually ends up impacting all of the other people who are going to show up and do their best and actually get things done. And so you deal with the issues when they arise, but otherwise, I think you do need to go into it with some trust, but also go into it with some structure. Have a daily stand up, a 15 minutes meeting where the day kicks off every single day before the kind of core work day starts with people just popping in with, hey, here’s what I’m focused on today, here’s where I’m blocked or I need some additional support and it’s just a quick alignment. And one of the questions I always love to do is whatever the overarching goals and targets are for that particular quarter, I always have everybody share back to me what they’re doing that’s contributing towards that. So here’s what I’m focused on today. Here’s what I was able to wrap up yesterday. Here’s where I could use your support in order to move forward. And here’s what I’m doing today that’s going to be driving revenue in the business. Here’s what I’m doing today that’s going to be driving us closer to our launch. So it’s a quick 15 minutes checkpoint that just gives everybody that visibility so you can course correct if somebody is, hey, I’m working on this today. And you’re like, the most important thing is this. We all agreed on this. Why aren’t we working on this? It just gives that quick peace of mind, but it’s not disruptive, especially if it’s at the start of the workday so then people can laser focus in for the rest of the day.

Scott McCarthy [00:08:37]:

I love that quick 15 minutes boom. Realign allow them to I often use the analogy of the jet, right, leaving New York or Toronto, in my case, headed for London. And then if you don’t check where you’re at until about 90, 80% intuitive flight, all of sudden, A, you find out. You’re like headed towards friggin Italy. You’re like, whoa. And then suddenly you got to do a big diversion. But if you’re constantly checking, making sure you’re aligned where you’re going, it’s just minor tweaks along the whole way. So I really enjoy that. I also really enjoyed the mention of trust. I often say trust is the cornerstone leadership. And it has to go both ways. I don’t know a person I’ve yet to know a person that has worked for me that has woke up the morning go, yeah, I’m going to mess around and not do what the boss wants me to do today. Right? People generally don’t wake up and think that way. They do generally show up and like, hey, I’m going to try my best and do my best. Now, are there sometimes people need more motivation and then are people actually employed in the right place? Whether it’s their sphere of genius or anything, totally different conversations. But the moral story is this generally speaking, trust your people, because I don’t know anybody who wants to show up and do a bad job. Now we’re really harping at meetings right now. I do enjoy the stand up, the stand up meeting. It actually pairs nicely with something I talk about often, and that’s taking your 1st 30 minutes and talking to your team about non work stuff. Now, obviously they don’t kind of go perfectly together. You’re talking about 15 minutes, okay, let’s get a vector check. Let’s make sure we’re on the right page and stuff like this. But you can kind of do it very synced. So we’ve talked a lot about meetings. So what are some of the other productivity and time drains out there that are really still sucking the life out of us in this kind of old school mentality still lingering around? I’d love to hear some of your aspect, your perspectives there.

Crista Grasso [00:10:51]:

Yeah, absolutely. One of the things that I’ve identified in working with businesses of all different shapes and sizes and types over these past, oh, gosh, almost 25 years now, is that there’s ten core areas of waste that I see in businesses a lot. And if you look at the root causes of those waste, they typically come down to a few key things. And one of those things is either lack of strategic planning or lack of a really effective planning practice. And that planning looks different depending on the size of your company, the number of teams you have. But there’s a whole technique that I developed that I call lean strategic planning, which is a lightweight approach that’s beyond personal productivity, but that’s not so overburdened and overly complex. It’s a lean way to approach planning, where I think one of the things that keeps people from making the progress that people want, one of the times when leaders say, I don’t even know what they’re doing, or what is it that they actually do all day? It’s like when you have those types of things, it’s usually because there’s not enough clarity on what you’re supposed to be focused on. And to your point, sure, every now and then there’s somebody who maybe just isn’t in a really good place in the role and it’s not a good fit and they need to move on. But most people genuinely do show up wanting to do a good job. Do they have the clarity around what they need to do? And then the second piece that’s often missing is clear systems or clear ways to be successful doing the things that need to be done. So do they know what to focus on and do they have the right tools, the systems, the processes, the support for themselves to actually be successful?

Scott McCarthy [00:12:37]:

I got a couple of things I’m really interested in here right now. One is what are those systems? But two, I’m also interested in the planning aspect because I don’t know if you looked up my background, but this is my side hustle. As I said, by day I’m a senior Canadian Army officer. So when you say planning, to me it’s like ChuChu ching. It’s like literally what I do all day long. Right. And my significant other often tells me how much of a planner I am planning. I’d love to hear your thoughts personally about planning and how we might go about planning in this day and age. So that is effective. So it is efficient. Lean in your context, but at the same time guess the outcomes that we’re after.

Crista Grasso [00:13:32]:

Yeah, I think the outcomes that we’re after is the most important and distinctive piece of that sentence because so often people just plan or they avoid planning, but they don’t ground their activities or their planning in the outcomes that they actually want. So I think a good plan is a plan that starts with the end in mind and reverse engineers your results. So what is it that you’re planning? It’s not about planning for planning sake. It’s about having clarity on what the overarching vision is, what your strategic objectives are, what your specific goals or revenue targets are. Whatever that core focus area is that you want your entire team or your entire business aligned around. Do you have clarity on what that is? Great. Then how are you going to get there? There’s a lot of different ways you can get there without a clear plan. I guarantee you’re going to spend a whole lot of time on things that are never going to get you there. But with the right planning, you can look at and explore those different opportunities and you can set yourself up on the path to actually be able to achieve what you’re trying to do. And I think the biggest mistake that I see quite often is people either don’t have that clarity on where they’re going, they don’t have a vision, they don’t have those strategic objectives or goals or they do, but they’re completely disconnected from the day to day activities that people do. There’s no bridge between that vision and the things that people are spending their time on. And that’s where I think good, solid strategic planning practices come into play. So you want that clarity of where you’re going, and then you want to look at what’s the simplest way that we can get there? What are the things that we can commit to as a team within the capacity that we actually have to be able to get ourselves there? And that’s the way that you want to approach planning. And you don’t need to lock yourself in a room for an entire month out of the quarter in order to plan that quarter. It’s about really being strategic about your decisioning and really just committing to what you can do within the time you have.

Scott McCarthy [00:15:35]:

Did you serve in the military by chance?

Crista Grasso [00:15:41]:

Maybe in my head.

Scott McCarthy [00:15:44]:

Because that is very similar to how we go about planning. We look at what we refer to as the desired end state. Where do we want to finish? That is the first thing we look at. And then we employ a backwards planning approach. So where do we want to finish? What is the last step before we get there? And then, okay, what needs to occur in order for those steps to occur, what needs to occur for these steps to occur, so on and so forth till we get to essentially where are we today? So that’s very obviously very overview, but it makes so much sense. And I was like, all right, feels good to me because always fine. It’s like, all right, let’s go in. Let’s plan the quarter. And if you look at it from the beginning, you just go on these weird tangents, you end up in weird tangents and suddenly there isn’t necessarily any guidance and direction per se, right? Because everyone’s looking at it from their lens, but they’re not looking at it from their lens per se, of where we are going. What is that desired end state? If you don’t work your way backwards, they’re just kind of looking at it from their lens and trying to move forward, and all of a sudden you find a lot of team members end up splintering off and then it takes a lot more work to get them back together. So absolutely love it. Moving along, productivity, lean, basically having a lean workforce. A lot of people are saying right now, virtual work, virtual workplace. A lot of people either say it’s efficient or it’s ineffective. And there’s kind of like these two camps they’re fighting. You got the older generation like, oh, face to face is the only way to go. And then you got the younger people going like, no, I want to work from home. And at my computer I can teams call or zoom call anyone, and it’s fine. I generally stand in the middle, kind of like face to face, get some things done better. But you know what? For example, tomorrow I’m working from home because I’m going to be able to crank out so much stuff tomorrow because I’m not going to have people coming up to my door going, got a second, got a second, got a second of effectively ineffective chitchat. Right? So where do you stand on how might we effectively employ this new reality? To me it’s here, it’s not going away. Hybrid work is here, it’s not going away. So how do we effectively employ it so we get the maximum productivity of our teams out of it?

Crista Grasso [00:18:39]:

Yeah, I think it really comes down to what fits the role and making sure that you’re hiring people that can be successful within whatever the conditions are that they’re being asked to work in. And so what I mean by that is obviously there are certain jobs that are just in person jobs. Like you physically have to touch it and do it in person or you can’t, but for a job that can be done remotely, which the reality is most of us have jobs that can be done remotely. And so if you know that you have a job that can be done remotely and you’d like to explore having the teams work purely remotely, then you have to make sure that you’re hiring people that are wired to work well in that environment because some people gravitate more towards in person. They are the I just need to okay, am I back? Oh, I can’t hear you now.

Scott McCarthy [00:19:36]:

You’re back.

Crista Grasso [00:19:39]:

Okay, cool. All right, I got you. I’ll keep rolling. Sorry, I don’t know what happened. My video went out. Okay, so I think you need to make sure that you’re putting the right people in the roles to align with what’s needed for success. Some people are wired to really be that person who can knock on somebody’s office door and pop in and they’re more of an in person collaborator. Whereas other people can be highly productive and highly focused and not distracted. They’re actually better and less distracted when they’re working remotely. So I think you have to look at what fits the culture of your company, what fits the needs of the job, and then make sure that you’re aligning and bringing in and hiring for the right people who can be successful within those conditions. But one thing that I do in my company and I really, really love this, and this works well, I love in person, but I also love being able to have a global and remote team. Right. I have people all over the US. I have people in the Philippines. We’re very spread out. But what I do is we all come together in person at least twice a year to do our planning and to bond as a team. And then the rest of the time we work remotely. So if you do have a remote workforce, a remote team structure. I think if you can have key points in time where people come together, even if everything can be done remotely, I just think it strengthens the team dynamic and it strengthens everyone’s alignment and buy in to the vision and where you’re trying to take things.

Scott McCarthy [00:21:08]:

Yeah, I definitely agree with that. These team building activities definitely work a lot better in person, right. You get to really know other people, but at the same breath, I know people I am fully friends with, people I’ve never met. I’m sure you understand what I mean. I have never met them in person. But you know what? They called me up and said, hey, I need you to do this for me. I’m like, yeah, done. Consider it done. I trust them. I’m closer to them than some people I see literally every single day. And so to me, that says, yes, those relations can be built in the virtual world and stuff, but at the same time, if you’re able to make those in person meetups happen, then it definitely behooves you to do so. Just to bring that camaraderie even to the next level, because I shouldn’t say there is no substitute for in person, but at the same time, it really is hard to do team building activities virtually. I haven’t seen anyone crack that nut yet. I assume the person who does crack it will become a wealthy person once they launch their platform or whatever have you to be able to do that? That actually really brings teams together. But at the same time, I like to try to mimic as much as possible the real world with the virtual world. So I remember when COVID was in its height, we would have virtual drink nights and get some friends together or whatever, coffee time with the team, stuff like this, right? So there are ways to go ahead and build it. But one of the things that really I liked what you were saying there is basically getting the right people, making sure that you have the right people put in the right job into the right place. Right. Making sure that they’re employed properly. I really enjoyed that. So, no, that’s a lot of great advice out there for leaders moving forward. Now I’d like for you to think what’s coming up and what’s coming down the pipe, what’s going to be that next thing that really leaders need to kind of keep an eye out for and how might they kind of take advantage, seize the opportunity, as we talked about earlier in Moving forward. So I’d like to hear your thoughts there.

Crista Grasso [00:23:42]:

Oh, gosh, I think there’s no conversation that does not bring up AI, so I will bring it up in this one. And not that I am an expert on the topic by any stretch of the imagination, but I think the reality is anytime everyone is talking about something and anytime. Something that can so fundamentally shift our future. It’s something that leaders need to be aware of, they need to be able to speak to because their people who are working for them are probably sitting there and thinking, is my job going to go away? Are things going to change? Is AI going to do this? What’s going to happen with this? And I think people right now are in different places. There are some people who are super excited about it. I personally am excited about it. I know there’s some people who are downright terrified of it and there’s other people in the middle that are curious, cautiously curious, but wondering what is the impact going to be for them? So I think as leaders, it’s our role to really just understand it, understand how it may affect what we do within our business, understand how it may affect our teams and any maybe things that might be lingering or even if they’re pretty solid, they might be hearing the naysayers being like, what about your job? Pretty soon computers are going to be doing everything and you know the way that the conversations go. So I just think that we need to be sensitive to and aware of that so that we can best support our teams and really be able to answer their questions or head off some of their worries that may be completely unnecessary or may actually be something that may shift in their role depending on how things evolve over time.

Scott McCarthy [00:25:20]:

Yeah, it’s definitely the hot topic. Especially chat gdgpt. I always get that mixed up just because I’m a car guy and there’s a model of the car that’s GTP anyway that’s not here in earlier, but it definitely is the hot topic. And I use AI now for this business. A lot of my work that definitely I had people helping me with, I don’t need them help because it does it so much quicker, easier, faster, better, to be honest, than people were doing it for me. So it definitely is the hot topic. What I say to people when we get in these kind of spirals is every time some kind of new technology shows up, yes, it may take away an occupation, it might literally wipe out an occupation, right. But at the same time it creates others and other opportunities spur out of that. And I think this is as leaders, for the leaders listening there, you kind of have to look at that and like, okay, AI is here. How might we incorporate it? How might we bring this into the fold? How might we use this so that it is a part of our process, but it doesn’t have to take over, but it can augment, it can streamline, it can make us more efficient so that we actually do the work better, quicker, easier. Doesn’t have to mean job cuts, in my point of view.

Crista Grasso [00:27:13]:

Yeah, I think it’s anytime there’s a change. It’s always an opportunity. And there’s those that take advantage of the opportunity and look for the opportunity in the situation, and then there’s those who fall into more of the woe is me kind of this is going to ruin my life kind of mentality. Right. And so I think sometimes times like this also really help you to see the people that you have on your teams and the people that are around you. And I think most of us do want those people who live in a place of possibility, especially if you have a small business, like I do. Having people who live in that place of possibility and that place of opportunity is really, really critical because that’s what we need to innovate and to bring our and move our business forward. And so I think it also kind of helps to bring out the best in a lot of people. It forces innovation, which is really a great thing, and sometimes it just simply highlights where maybe somebody has served their time in what they’re doing and maybe it’s time for them to find something that’s better aligned somewhere else.

Scott McCarthy [00:28:20]:

There’s also that, right, or a function that is no longer needed because it just simply no longer exists. Right?

Crista Grasso [00:28:28]:

Yeah, exactly. And some people will innovate. And they should, right? They really should. It’s a great opportunity. No matter what is changing around us, there’s always an opportunity to be found in it.

Scott McCarthy [00:28:41]:

It’s all about, as you said near the beginning, taking the opportunity, going after the opportunity that exists. Right. And to me, I’ve always said, and I say to my clients, I run a mastermind community, the leader growth mastermind. And I talk to those folks, too, and I say every challenge, there’s also an opportunity to it. And to me, this is what it’s all about. AI you can look at it as a challenge. Potentially losing people or losing your job could be a challenge, but it also provides an opportunity at that. So sees it, go after it. That’s kind of the theme of today. I feel like christine oh, go ahead.

Crista Grasso [00:29:29]:

I was going to say, I met a woman at a conference and she gave me, I think, the best compliment anybody ever gave me. At one point, she just looked at me and she said, if I would give you a nickname, it would be Krista. Never miss an opportunity. Grosso. And I just absolutely loved that. And I think that when we just look at people, we want to surround ourselves with people on our team. I think if you can find those people who look for and find the opportunity in things, it’s just such a refreshing group of people to work with. So I will leave it at that.

Scott McCarthy [00:30:02]:

That’s awesome. That’s a great way to wrap up this show today. But before we do hit end, here a couple of last questions for you. The first being a question. I ask all the guests here at the Peak Performance Leadership Podcast. According to you, Krista Grasso, what makes a great leader?

Crista Grasso [00:30:21]:

To me, leader is about vision. To me, leader is all about that person who can communicate where things are going and can inspire people to show up as their very best and do what it’s going to take to bring the company or bring themselves to that next place.

Scott McCarthy [00:30:40]:

Awesome. And then finally, how can people find you, follow you, be part of the journey. It’s shameless. Plugs are allowed now. Have at it.

Crista Grasso [00:30:48]:

All right, well, you can find all things@leanoutmethod.com and while you’re there, if you want to dive a little bit deeper into those ten areas of waste that I mentioned earlier, that will get you time back, you can find that@leanoutmethod.com waste.

Scott McCarthy [00:31:04]:

Awesome. And for the listeners, always, it’s easy. The links are in the podcast description. So if you go to lead, dopeboss.com two, five, 8258. The links are right there. Chris, again, thank you. Thanks for taking time and thanks for taking time to tell us how we can win some time back.

Crista Grasso [00:31:24]:

Thanks so much for having me.