Success Tips

How I Thrive: Top CEO Robert Glazer on “Time-Blocking” and Other Tips for Success – Thrive Global

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Instead of offering a cash bonus to one of his top-performing employees, Robert Glazer sent her and her daughter to Greece. It’s part of a wish-granting system that Glazer, who was ranked #2 on Glassdoor’s list of Top CEOs of Small and Medium Companies in the US in 2018, has implemented at his company, performance marketing agency Acceleration Partners, as a more meaningful, end-of-year incentive than traditional bonuses. “She had spoken about how her grandmother lived in Greece but had only met her daughter once, and she regretted that they hadn’t spent more time together,” Glazer explains to Thrive. The initiative is one of the many ways Glazer invests in his employees. “It’s about finding out what’s important to people, and then giving them something that reflects that.” 

Glazer’s human-centric approach to leadership is highlighted in his forthcoming book, Elevate: Push Beyond Your Limits and Unlock Success in Yourself and Others, which provides readers with a framework to achieve their greatest potential. Each chapter — which have titles like “Build Your Intellectual Capacity” and “Build a Better Path — are complete with action steps (much like Microsteps!) to help readers get started. “For me, frameworks are always helpful to improve in a lot of areas of life,” he says. “Even if it’s just 1 percent better, the cumulative effect of that improvement will make a huge impact two years down the line.”

Below and in Glazer’s How I Thrive video, he shares tips on productivity, managing stress, and dealing with micromanagement. 

You’ve mastered some of the rules of effective management. What advice do you have for new managers?

A lot of new managers are used to doing and controlling. They have a hard time letting go of the reigns. So one of the things I always tell new managers, and this was true for me, is that things will never be 100 percent how you want them to be. You need to be comfortable with it being 85 percent how you want it. Also, I think a lot of new managers try to delegate, and then they say, “everyone did it wrong,” or “that’s not how I would have done it.” They need to spend a little more time upfront, explaining how they’d like things to be done.  

What should an employee do if they feel they’re being unfairly micromanaged?

Micromanagement is debilitating. It’s the thing that exhausts people the most. But I think they need to understand the “why.” We [at Acceleration Partners] really push on understanding the “why” and maybe saying to the manager, “Hey, you’re very involved in this. Help me understand why. Am I doing a bad job, am I not doing it how you would like it?” The person should really always dig in. When you ask “why” one, two, or three times in a discussion, you really get down to a totally different level with the other person. And they may have a very vulnerable and authentic moment, and say something like, “I’m sorry, I’m just not good at letting go, and I didn’t know that it was bothering you this much.” 

Your company is entirely remote. What tips do you have for people who worry about staying connected while working remotely?

First, if you would much prefer to work in an office, and that’s how you get your energy and you’re very extroverted in that way, then I probably would do that. Second, if you want to work remote, I think that you should plan intentionally. Maybe you want to go to a class in the middle of the day, maybe you join the gym, maybe you’re able to join a group, or a hobby or running club. You can definitely get your socialization in other ways if you plan for it. And look, there are some people who try working remotely and they say, “it’s not for me.” But overwhelmingly, people have been surprised by how much they actually prefer it. A lot of businesses just operate in a meeting culture: you go to work, you meet with people all day, and at the end, people are like, “I’m not sure what I actually got done.” 

What are your tips for hiring the right people? 

Good hiring is really a combination of aptitude and attitude. So first and foremost, it’s: Does this person have and live our company’s core values? If they don’t, it’s just not going to work. And then second: Can they do the job? Do they have the aptitude? Our interviews are really split up into a lot of questions and discussions, trying to figure out whether they meet our core values, and then we usually have some work or exercise that really mimics the type of work that they’re going to do. For example, we ask people in the client service space to edit something, and a lot of people come back and say “it wasn’t enough time,” and that they didn’t understand it, and all this stuff. They’re saying they want another chance. And our answer is like, “That is exactly the work that you’re going to have, and the other five people that did it aced it.” So it’s probably just — it’s not any judgment — but there are certain environments and roles that are just better for different people. 

What are your tips for dealing with stress?

I’m a big fan of having a morning routine and being intentional with that. Not looking at technology, focusing on what you’re going to do for the day and your priorities. I think meditation is hugely helpful. Scheduling in breaks, and putting them in your calendar. Like, “hey, it’s 1:00, I’m going outside for 15 minutes.” There’s a lot of science around that, about air and rest. And I also think you need a wind-down time at the end of the night. You need to close the technology down, leave it downstairs, give yourself a window before you go to bed to sort of relax and unwind and focus on the stuff that’s important to you and that brings you energy. If you’re doing stuff all day that drains your energy, it’s definitely going to hurt your stress levels. And I think there’s a lot of science around exercise, too. Strenuous exercise, getting outside, I think all of that helps you manage stress. 

Do you have any productivity hacks? 

I think one of the most powerful ways to get things done is this concept of “time blocking.” It’s where you purposely block off [on your calendar] the time that you want to spend on team meetings, exercise, thinking time, writing time. You’re designing your life in terms of how you want to spend it. You will never have free time but you can schedule free time. I have a coach that works with me on this. People reach out and say, “Hey, can you chat tomorrow at 2:00?” Often times the answer is “no,” and it’s because I have done time blocking, even if that time is just dedicated to rest. I time block my schedule four to six weeks ahead. “Here’s what I want to do for meetings, here’s what I want to do for exercise, here’s what I want to do for the other stuff. Here’s my actual thinking and working time.” We all have something in our company we call “GSD”, which is “get shit done” time. You’ll see that in people’s calendars and you know it doesn’t mean “hey, you can have this time from me,” it means, “hey, I’m actually doing the stuff that I needed to deliver to everyone.”

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