Episode 0012 · January 17, 2023

The podcast about what to do next.

Stopping By

Paul Ford: [00:00:00] Hey, Rich. How you doing?

Rich Ziade: Every so often it just hits like a lightning strike and you, you take a leap beyond just giving advice and instead you just end up changing the world.

Paul Ford: Great, that’s a wonderful way to start this podcast. It sets the stakes very low, and there’ll be no problem meeting the expectations of the audience. I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Rich Ziade: Welcome everyone to the Ziade and Ford Podcast. Uh, we like to give advice, but today we’re gonna change the game.

Paul Ford: We are?

Rich Ziade: Here we go [chuckles].

Paul Ford: Okay.

Rich Ziade: We-

Paul Ford: [chuckles] We should, this is actually how our relationship works. It would be like, “Hey Paul, we’re gonna go have this big meeting with some sort of really important client and I, I know you’re fully prepared and you’ve had a lot of thoughts, but we’re gonna do it actually, um, in using puppets instead”.

And I would go, “Okay, Rich”. [00:01:00]

Rich Ziade: And it’s this afternoon. [laughter]

Paul Ford: Yeah, give me my puppet.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: And then we’d land the business like there is a strategy to it.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: But, woo. Yeah, alright, so here we go. Everyone welcome to our world, Rich is about to blow it up. What the hell are you talking about?

Rich Ziade: We have a startup called Aboard.

Paul Ford: We sure do.

Rich Ziade: And except for Paul and I, effectively the entire team, a team of about 16 people at this point is distributed, fully distributed. And then we came out of the holidays, which is essentially the month of December, which is like a drug fueled haze when it comes to running a company or starting a business.

Paul Ford: You know, have you noticed it? [laughter].

Rich Ziade: It’s like you wake up and you’re like, why am I in Forest Hills, Queens right now?

Paul Ford: So let me-

Rich Ziade: I don’t know how I got here. Let’s talk for a minute-

Paul Ford: I, I need to-

Rich Ziade: About December[00:02:00]

Paul Ford: Hold on, here’s what, here’s what used to happen. “Hey, I’m gonna take the week off between, uh, Christmas and New Years”. And they’d be like, “Sure, Paul, go enjoy a cool nineties band cause it’s the nineties and that’s what people do. And go, you know, go watch Blues Traveler”

Rich Ziade: [laughter].

Paul Ford: And then fast forward to 2022. The holidays begin the week before Halloween.

Rich Ziade: Seriously [laughter].

Paul Ford: Everybody is like, poof boy, a lot of candy

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: Man getting ready for Thanksgiving and it is like a three month period now.

Rich Ziade: Oh no. Thanksgiving is like stepping into a void, of some sort [laughter]. I think part of it is the way they made Cyber Friday bleed into this multinational consumption festival of some sort [laughter]. There’s Cyber – Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and it just goes [00:03:00] on and on, and we don’t know what to do except put shit in our shopping carts [laughter].

Paul Ford: It’s just-

Rich Ziade: Like we could just-

Paul Ford: It’s just- 

Rich Ziade: And then we kind of wake up January 8th. Not the third, by the way, the eighth [laughter].

Paul Ford: Just straight up capitalism, man. Like capitalism is like, look, we’re not getting enough. We need a little more. So hold on, but the other, the other thing I’ve noticed too is because everyone is remote now, I think it actually makes it worse because everybody is like very calendar aware.

Rich Ziade: Yes.

Paul Ford: And so starting in October, they’re like, “Whoof, boy, I’d love to get coffee, but it looks more like February now”.

Rich Ziade: It’s true. So this is my, my big innovation. So, okay, let me continue on the narrative.

Paul Ford: Okay.

Rich Ziade: So we’re back and we’re a startup, and startups have to be nimble, tight feedback loop, in sync. And I just, and I’m a generally paranoid person.

Paul Ford: Boy.

Rich Ziade: I came out of the December haze, just kind of paranoid and anxious about if we were in sync or not. Okay?

Paul Ford: Out of- what I love [00:04:00] is people should just see Slack over the holiday.

Rich Ziade: It’s– I, I think I was good this time, Paul. I was pretty good.

Paul Ford: Yeah, you were, but, but there is like December 26th, 7:00 AM “I’m worried. I’m worried”.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Paul Ford: Those will just be the words in this-

Rich Ziade: So, no but I, yeah, and, and, and nothing’s wrong. It’s just, it’s just not, it’s, it’s that, it’s that ambiguity that breeds the anxiety. And so-

Paul Ford: Well, I think you and I as partners, I used to wake up, get that message and go, “Oh my God, I need to be anxious too”. And now I go, Rich is an anxious person. Let’s figure out what’s making him anxious and talk about it and figure out what’s real. And it’s usually really productive.

Rich Ziade: It’s usually really productive.

Paul Ford: So there is just, just a little as we’re advising, getting to know the other person’s psychology is really useful.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, good advice.

Paul Ford: Alright, so here we are.

Rich Ziade: So I, I decide, I said, and, and the good news is we synced up with the leadership of Aboard and they were all in agreement. They’re like, “Yes, we need to sync up well, here, there’s too much ambiguity. We’re moving [00:05:00]forward, but are we moving in the right direction? Are we making, are we prioritizing right and whatnot”.

And so I put together essentially a series of two hour meetings every day for the week following.

Paul Ford: Mm-hm.

Rich Ziade: So there was like Monday at 2:00 PM Eastern Tuesday, 2:00 PM Eastern Wednesday. Essentially, it’s like, let’s get in a room and hash this out. And-

Paul Ford: There’s an element of re- you’re, you’re rebooting, right? Like, let’s look at each element of the app. Let’s talk about our strategy. What were, what were we trying to do? Where did we end up?

Rich Ziade: That’s right, that’s right.

Paul Ford: Because things drift. They naturally drift.

Rich Ziade: They naturally drift. And so by Thursday we didn’t need all five days of meetings. I had scheduled five days and we, by Wednesday, end of the Wednesday meeting, we kind of knew what the plan was. And by Thursday we were just sort of checking it, all the, checking all the boxes. But I-

Paul Ford: This is the mark of the– this is a true, great executive move where you overschedule everyone and they’re kind of exhausted just thinking about it. And then you give them back a couple [00:06:00] days.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Paul Ford: Yeah. 

Rich Ziade: Sure, sure. I think, I think car dealerships do this too with like rims [laughter].

Paul Ford: It’s just like everyone, everyone is so appreciative.

Rich Ziade: Well, it’s the extra frying pan on the late night TV ad, right? So, But, and so it was immensely productive. It felt clarifying, the team was relieved, actually, not just us. And so I think this got me thinking, and this is a very, it’s been a long unwinding world to get to this revolution in meeting, ready?

Paul Ford: Okay, okay.

Rich Ziade: We– something is broken with remote work. This isn’t about trust. This isn’t about whether people are productive. I don’t care about how people use their time. As long as good things happen and the output’s good, I don’t care about that. So it’s not about that. It’s not about holding people, like making sure they’re putting their hours in. I’m not interested in that. Okay?

Rich Ziade: This is about what has been lost, [00:07:00] um, since remote work took hold, which is that environment that just by design breeds collaboration and discussion. And the problem is, is that when you schedule a meeting, think about what you have to do– first off, you have to time bound it. Number one, meetings can’t go on forever. So you’re like, we’re gonna get an hour. Number one, number two– and this is the next thing that happens that sort of destroys collaboration, you have to give the meeting a title, and if you veer off that title, you’re, you’re viewed as noisy or distracting, or not staying on the same page or whatever. So look, think about what’s happened, we’ve essentially told one another that we’re gonna meet and we’re only gonna talk about a particular topic, and then we’re gonna disperse and then hope for the best. And what’s been lost are those environments of discussion, debate, disagreement, meandering [00:08:00] off the topic because it’s, there is no topic, we’re just in a room and they’re hugely important. And this isn’t about, “oh my God, I don’t trust my director of this or that, I need to go see”, this is about connecting, and I think that’s been lost and I have a solution.

Paul Ford: Okay, I, I, I don’t really have anything to say at this point. I want to know your solution to human communication.

Rich Ziade: You set up a meeting called Chance Encounters.

Paul Ford: This is something you can do on Craigslist when you see someone on the subway and you’re like, “Hey, I, I’d like to get to know you better”.

Rich Ziade: Oh okay…

Paul Ford: Oh, sorry that’s-

Rich Ziade: Let me rename the meeting, let me rename the meeting.

Paul Ford: Oh, no, no. Sorry, sorry, I’m wrong. That’s missed– missed connections or something like that.

Rich Ziade: Missed connections, yeah. Uh, maybe Chance Encounters does sound like a romantic novel. Let me think of [00:09:00] another name. Um, Stopping By the meeting is called Stopping By, okay?

Paul Ford: Okay.

Rich Ziade: It is, it is one hour every day of the week at a set time, okay?

Paul Ford: Okay.

Rich Ziade: Now, hear me out– I know. You can’t opt out of the meeting.

Paul Ford: Stop hitting, stop hitting your desk. You’re being very emphatic and it’s upsetting the audio.

Rich Ziade: Uh, you can’t-

Paul Ford: Okay.

Rich Ziade: Message everyone and say, “oh, I can’t make it today”. You’re not allowed to do that. You have to come to the meeting. The meeting may be five minutes, it may well be five minutes, that’s okay. But you have to see each other everyday, you have to see each other every day, and you have to look at each other, and you may tell them, you may tell everyone about a movie you saw last night, or you may say, “look, I had an idea and I wanna share it with you”, or “I’m concerned about something”, there is nothing worse than the meeting that gets scheduled where the subject is “Need to Chat”.[00:10:00]

Paul Ford: It is terrible. Now, hold on, I have a few thoughts here. One is, this is a tough one for the very shy person. Hey, easy for you and me. I, I got five minutes you put open– somebody once said, I think it was like Debbie Reynolds once said, famous actress if you’re young, once said she did 20 minutes every time the refrigerator light came on.

When it open [chuckles]-

Rich Ziade: [chuckles].

Paul Ford: You just like you, you and I, It’s just, you put us in front of a room of people and we, we explain why platforms are important or talk about what we did this weekend. I think so, so there’s that. Okay, so not everybody is like conversational and chatty, okay? There is a context for this and I’ve seen that people do like, kind of study together.

There’s like tools and apps and networks where people just kind of hang, right? Because some kind of social progression– social connection makes tasks that are challenging easier.

Rich Ziade: Mm-hm, mm-hm.

Paul Ford: So there’s an ambient mode for this kind of interaction, which is, boy, I’m having trouble getting stuff done cause I just keep reloading Twitter.

“Well come on [00:11:00] in to the study group, we’ll listen to a song and we’ll all just kind of boost each other as we get it all done”, so there’s that. What is the, what is it? So let, let’s do it. Let’s do it.

Rich Ziade: Well, let me ask you this, Paul.

Paul Ford: Rich, let’s have a Chance Encounter, come on.

Rich Ziade: Oh, okay.

Paul Ford: Okay. But the first of all, are you on time?

Rich Ziade: I’m on time.

Paul Ford: Okay [chuckles]. 

Rich Ziade: Always on time.

Paul Ford: Okay, Richhh [chuckles].

Rich Ziade: Right on time.

Paul Ford: Rich.

Rich Ziade: Actually, you know what? No, let’s make it a little looser because we want to blow up meetings, okay?

Paul Ford: [chuckles].

Rich Ziade: There is– you have to show up between three, and three 15. You have to show up in the first 15 minutes, and you can’t be late. If you come in, in those 15 minutes, everyone has to be in a place for 15 minutes. If you come in at 3:08, that’s okay.

Paul Ford: Okay.

Rich Ziade: It’s about-

Paul Ford: Okay, alright. 

Rich Ziade: It’s about that-

Paul Ford: So it’s 3:05.

Rich Ziade: Let me, let me-

Paul Ford: It’s 3:05 and Chance Encounters has popped up in my calendar.

Rich Ziade: Yup.

Paul Ford: I go into the Google Meet.

Rich Ziade: Yup.

Paul Ford: “Hey, how, how’s everybody doing?”.

Rich Ziade: Ah, I’m having a tricky day today. Susie [00:12:00] is just, I don’t know what’s going on, I think she’s distracted my, my gut is telling me she’s not happy and I’m trying to talk to her, but I just need this work done for now, and then we’ll sort it out later.

Paul Ford: Wait a minute, is Susie on the call?

Rich Ziade: No.

Paul Ford: Okay. That’s important, because it’s much, much, much less

Rich Ziade: Awkward [chuckles].

Paul Ford: Dramatic. Yeah. Um, oh, so, so it’s not for everybody in the company, it’s for a cluster of people.

Rich Ziade: It’s for a cl- absolutely, it’s for, for people that do better when they are working together, which is so many people.

Paul Ford: Alright, let, lemme start. Okay, so-

Rich Ziade: Let me-

Paul Ford: Okay, so what are you gonna do about Susie? I don’t know. She’s, you know, actually Rich.

Rich Ziade: I don’t know.

Paul Ford: She, um, was in a terrible grain threshing accident yesterday and, and so I don’t think you’ll have that problem anymore.

Rich Ziade: Oh, I didn’t know, that helps. Thanks for explaining that.

Paul Ford: Doesn’t help Susie, she got caught in a grain thresher.

Rich Ziade: Do it again, Paul 3:07 PM.

Paul Ford: Okay. “Hey Rich, how you doing? You see the game? Uh, what sport are they playing right now in this season? When, [00:13:00] where are we now? It’s January”.

Rich Ziade: Oh-

Paul Ford: Football.

Rich Ziade: Giant’s upset the Vikings last night. It was a good match.

Paul Ford: Yeah. New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings. Two teams. Yeah. Pretty great

Rich Ziade: Okay. Um, listen man I was thinking a lot-

Paul Ford: I love this. Yeah, okay, okay, okay, keep going.

Rich Ziade: I was thinking alot about the app and had a thought. I have an idea. I wanna share. I wanna share just to get your thoughts, and I want to get your reaction to it. This is not formal, just gonna throw out the idea. Okay, pause the simulation for the second.

Paul Ford: Okay, I, I do like that. I do like that. I like the- because what happens, you are correct. You have an idea about the-

Rich Ziade: I can’t schedule a meeting, I can’t schedule a meeting called “Idea”.

Paul Ford: This is real. You have an idea, well, here’s, here’s the, here are the patterns that work today. Slack– “hey, do you have a few minutes?” At which point the person goes, “You’re my boss. So yes I do”.

Rich Ziade: [chuckles].

Paul Ford: And then they’re braced, right? Like they’re braced for some sort– you have a few minutes means put on your armor. If you are like a designer or engineer, put on like [00:14:00] five inches of plate metal because here it comes.

Rich Ziade: It doesn’t even have to be a designer or engineer, right? That’s just, that’s just org chart.

Paul Ford: So that’s, do you have a few minutes? Okay. So then there is, um, and then there’s the more formal like product roadmap, planning and standup where it’s very task oriented.

Rich Ziade: Mm-hm.

Paul Ford: This is real. The thing that you are discussing is out of our world. And here is the thing you are discussing. I’m gonna– I’ll give you some examples– “I read an article”, boom, and now when the boss reads an article, again five alarm fire because it’s just-

Rich Ziade: It’s true, you can’t share anything [laughter].

Paul Ford: No, but if you come into a context and you’re like, “I was reading this thing, I want to know if you think that this, if this approach would let us have faster development times”, and usually like it’s a way to introduce an idea without enforcing a policy.

Rich Ziade: There are no expectations, Paul, and, and the other thing is, it– look, there are power dynamics [00:15:00] at play here. Some people are managers of other people, and the fact that you’re just even giving that person some face time is a big deal. I have been, I’ve, I’ve managed many teams in my career, many people in my career, you know, you can almost feel that moment, they feel like this is my chance to share why I’m pretty good at this thing in this moment. And that could be in the kitchen or that could be injected into a meeting, it’s so forced. It’s so, um, there’s no need to have that pressure. People want to impress other people, that is still a thing, right? And the fact that you’re like, you know what? I’m gonna use today’s 4:30 stand up to inject my idea, and it doesn’t go well, it’s not fair to that person to not have that space to spitball and talk because there’s an agenda.

Paul Ford: I actually, I came into this rolling my eyes [00:16:00] and the gaps that you’re talking about– here it is, I was reading this article, maybe we’ve been doing it all wrong, like to play with big ideas without consequence.

Rich Ziade: That’s right.

Paul Ford: What has happened with everyone being distributed and everything being very structured and with chat and so on, is everyone has decided that every speech act has to create a response, and it– what happens is all of those interactions actually pick up the hierarchy in the organization because of the way the meetings are scheduled.

Rich Ziade: Without a doubt.

Paul Ford: So whereas, I think you have to actually then make a secondary deal in your Chance Encounters, Missed Connections, whatever we’re calling it, which is that nothing will be particularly binding out of that meeting. And that’s the hard one. You can look someone in the eye and, and now they can say, “I’ll send you an email”, or “I’d like to discuss this later”.

Rich Ziade: Yeah. Mm-hm.

Paul Ford: But the, it is not a place, it will only work if it is not a place to assign work or to create structure. [00:17:00] So are we doing this at Aboard? Are we like now one of those startups that’s like, “We have a new management strategy, it’s called Holo Democracy and we’re gonna”.

Rich Ziade: You know what, I threw it out into our Aboard Slack, and my team will hate me for mentioning this, but it was radio silence. In fact, Slack stopped working for half a day, I think-

Paul Ford: Well, it, it kind of proves the point that you need the meeting.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: This is, this is the terrible thing about proposing that in Slack.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: Because if everybody’s like, “yeah, we need it”, then maybe you don’t. But if they say nothing, then you probably do.

Rich Ziade: Exactly, and so there’s just gonna be more meetings and those meetings are gonna have a little less structure. And it’s funny that you’d say, “You know what one of the requirements is nothing is binding”. That’s like saying “When I see you in the kitchen and we chat for a bit, nothing is binding”. Like that’s how insane that sounds, right?

Why? Because you’re working back from the calendar invite paradigm, right? Which is a very formalized, structured thing that are really for strangers to connect, [00:18:00] not strangers, but like, org A needs to talk to someone at org B, they coordinate calendars, but teams, and when I say teams, I don’t just mean peers, I mean, your team of six should connect with you.

They value that time, that free flowing time to say some things. Do you have to buy into everything- no, you won’t, actually. Sometimes you’ll be like, “Hmm, I think you’re onto something. I don’t know if I agree with how, how you wanna solve it, but I agree there’s a problem”, for example, and that space is gone. It’s truly gone.

Paul Ford: You know, no, it’s, it’s, everything is assigned now or, or it’s weird, right? Because-

Rich Ziade: It’s anti-process what I’m talking about and I think that’s the difference.

Paul Ford: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And everybody got super excited about how working from home would demolish hierarchy, but as far as I can tell, it has really created a whole new kind of hierarchical structure, and it’s great. I love working remotely.

Rich Ziade: Mm-hm.

Paul Ford: I, I get it. I go to an office with you four days a week, so [00:19:00] that’s a little less remotely.

Rich Ziade: Mm-hm, mm-hm.

Paul Ford: I do miss having an office. I don’t mind it. I don’t know, I go back and forth.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: I don’t mind. I, I have no problem working with people remotely. I think I need other people, but, um, alright, so Chance Encounters.

Rich Ziade: It is, you know what, this is akin to just to close this, uh, close this out, and I, I, obviously, I’m, I’m– I do this, by the way, it’s a management trick I do, which is I come forward with very like, clear, tangible plans as if like, I’ve been thinking about them for six months just to spark conversation. Um, and look, you know what, this reminds me of– recess.

I think recess is one of the most important times of the school day, for kids. I really do. It’s that it’s less structured, it’s more social, connections are made. Sometimes kids keep drawing even though they just finished art class during recess, and I think that’s hugely important, and I think it’s missing now.

Paul Ford: You know what people used to do is they would go to lunch and they would complain about their bosses, and then they would talk, ideally-

Rich Ziade: [00:20:00] Yeah, that’s gone now.

Paul Ford: They would stop complaining about their bosses for five minutes and talk about something they care about.

Rich Ziade: That’s right, that’s right.

Paul Ford: And it doesn’t, it could be sports, it could be their work, it could be the thing, most people care about their disciplines and their crafts, and they want to talk about the things that they’re interested in.

Rich Ziade: Mm-hmm, yeah, yeah. And, and I do think there’s something that’s– pause. I, I do believe something’s been lost. How do we get it back? I don’t wanna be orthodox about, oh, remote work is bad, I’m not getting into that. But there is something that is now missing, that is real.

Paul Ford: I think it’s okay for us to have a startup and to have one little management quirk concept that we’re trying out. Most, most startups are like, everyone has to drink only pro- um, soy protein beverages, and we all worship a cube.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: Like, I mean, they, they get bananas.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: And so this, the one little weird thing where we’re like, “Hey, now this is something we do for our culture”. Let’s have a [00:21:00] culture, that’s okay. We’ll try some stuff.

Rich Ziade: Um, great.

Paul Ford: Okay, so when’s the first one?

Rich Ziade: In 20 minutes.

Paul Ford: Oh, God. Alright, alright, let’s do it, let’s do it.

Rich Ziade: Get ready.

Paul Ford: Okay.

Rich Ziade: Alright, uh, reach out to us, sometimes we’ll give advice, sometimes we will revolutionize how people communicate.

Paul Ford: Very true.

Rich Ziade: Who knows what you’ll find on this podcast?

Paul Ford: Very exciting. We got some good emails from the last one, so we’ll respond to those in a future episode. Talking about watches and craft,

Rich Ziade: Ahh.

Paul Ford: And all kinds of stuff, so, alright friends, well if you need us, hello@ZiadeFord.com, it works, it’s a good email. Check it out, ZiadeFord.com, subscribe, give us five stars. Anything else Richard?

Rich Ziade: No, I just want everyone to have a wonderful day with their team.

Paul Ford: Alright. Let’s go have a Chance Encounter.

Rich Ziade: Take care everyone [chuckles].

Paul Ford: Bye. [00:22:00]

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