Spending hours on busy work that doesn’t impact the business? Attending meetings we shouldn’t be in because our ego wants us there? Filling our to-do lists with meaningless tasks because we *have* to? These, my friends, are all the height of vanity work, and we’re all guilty of it, maybe by choice or by association.
Not all work is created equal - some is vital to the success of the organization and other work…we really shouldn’t be giving the time of day. So how do we tell the difference, and most importantly, how do we get rid of it from our teams and organizations and in the words of Elsa, “let it go?”
In this episode, we’re talking about why vanity work needs to be banished.
Is this true work that impacts or is this just vanity work to keep me busy, to keep me feeling important, and to make me feel like I'm contributing and worthy? - Jen Thornton
Three Things To Take Away From This Episode
Why vanity work is a problem
Vanity work isn’t just a harmless annoyance, it’s a huge drain on company resources. It drives burnout, makes our organizations slower, and frankly, there are more important things we could be doing. In today’s busy world, no one has time to do work that doesn’t matter, so we must make getting rid of vanity work a priority.
How leaders invite vanity work into the organization
One of the biggest causes of vanity work is leaders not trusting their teams enough to just let things go. Whether it’s due to poor training, the wrong hires, or our ego, this has to be remedied immediately.
Before you accept that next meeting request…
Meaningless meetings are the height of vanity work, and it’s time we get really honest about why they are still on our schedules. Is it because of ego, because we don’t trust our teams, or because it’s something people in your organization just do?
0:00:00.1 S1: Let's have some nerves today, let's get uncomfortable and talk about vanity work.
0:00:08.0 S2: Welcome back, friends, this is your place or cutting edge tools, exercises, best practices and modern leadership strategies, because in the world is changing, it's time to bring our leadership styles along for the ride, whether you're a company leader, a corporate visionary and entrepreneur. This show gives you new insights into the neuroscience and a language of leadership, plus practical steps and tips to lead your teens in a car, Poway El also help you keep your people happy and engage all while achieving your biggest goals. I'm your host, Jen, Thor, and the talent strategist, the brain-based executive coach, speaker and the founder of three of our coaching. Now, let's fix leadership.
0:00:51.3 S1: I love to talk about vanity work because everyone, myself, you, everyone we work with, we do vanity work every single day. And in today's busy world, no one has time to do work that honestly doesn't matter, but for whatever reason, we do it. So what is vanity work? Well, let's see, there's a lot of different versions of it. There are those projects that someone says, Oh, we should do this and have this great idea, but it doesn't actually impact the bottom line, so if it doesn't impact the business, if it's not driving the business, the culture, the company forward, then why in the world are we doing it, we're doing it because we think it's cool, because we think it's awesome, and because it's our own vanity that's driving the need of the project. Another vanity item that many of us do is we attend meetings that we really shouldn't be in because our ego wants us there, we think we have to be there because of whatever reason we might miss something that we should have known about, or maybe we think our team can't handle it, but we go to a lot of meetings because our ego wants us there, not because we actually need to be there.
0:02:03.3 S1: Vanity work can also be, oh gosh, I've seen this so many times. You maybe have some new software or a new way of doing things, but there's this one executive who can't accept or doesn't wanna learn something new, and so there's someone on the team that spends three or four hours of their week taking something that no one else is using or doing anything with and they re-figure it, they kind of change the information around to give it to that one person, so they get their way... That's a waste of time. It's a vanity work, it's that person's vanity, not wanting to learn something new, or not wanting to have to change their ways to make the business go forward, and this matters, it matters because it is driving burnout, it's driving extra work that none of us have time for, and it's incredibly frustrating. I know that at some point in your career, if not now, there's something you were doing or have been told to do, where you're like, Why in the world are we even doing this, it doesn't matter and has no impact on our lives or the company, so why are we even even doing it...
0:03:10.9 S1: And so we've all been there and we all have done vanity work, heck, we all assigned vanity work to people, we've had to do it, and we've seen it being done. So how do we start to recognize what is vanity work, and how do we start to start to remove that vanity work from the workplace? So one of the things I want you to do is start asking yourself, when you look at all the things you're gonna do today, and you look at that to-do list, take a little pen and just mark it off and say, impacts the business... Yes, impacts the quality of workplace for my team, yes. Does this... Oh, wait a minute, this third thing, we've just been doing it for 10 years, and I don't even know if anyone does anything with this information, we were just told to do it... That is the net work, it's a waste of time and it's a waste of resources. So look at your own to-do list and really start to think about what you're doing that maybe can be removed because it's just vanity work, have conversations with your team and ask them say, Hey, when you look at everything you have to do this week, what items do you feel like make the biggest impact and what items actually aren't doing anything and you think is a waste of time? They will tell you, they will be honest with you, and they're gonna go, You know what, this right here is a total waste of time, I have no idea why we even do this work, and there was a point in your career as an individual contributor where you were given all these different things to do, and I've no doubt.
0:04:46.7 S1: You remember saying, Man, this is stupid. We shouldn't be doing this. This is such a waste of time. There's no impact, the bottom line, but you did it anyhow because it's what you were told to do, and if someone had asked you, Hey, does this matter you probably would have told the truth, and that's why we have to not only look at our own work and see what we're doing that could be considered vanity work, we also have to have conversations with everyone on our team and ask them what are they doing that they feel like they shouldn't be doing. You also wanna start getting really honest about meetings... I cannot imagine why we have to have so many meetings, we have pre-meetings, post-meetings and meeting about the meeting, actual meeting, the meeting to prepare for the meeting. And I think it's just how we're working in today's world, we got used to being on constant teams or zoom during covid because we aren't able to walk across to someone's office and ask him a question... By the way, you know you can pick up the phone and ask them that same question, just like you could have walked across the hall back in the day, but we're just into this pattern of constantly being in meetings and constantly adding people to those meetings.
0:05:58.9 S1: And if we don't go, we feel guilty 'cause someone told us to be there, and if we don't go, we're afraid we're gonna miss something and those types of things, I think attending meetings and having too many people on meeting request, that's really some of the height of our vanity work. And you have to ask yourself, Why am I going to this meeting? Is it because I just want to be there? Is it that I don't trust my team to do a great job, and if that's a situation... That's a whole another topic. That's a podcast for another day. But if you're not trusting your team to show up and represent you well, then that's a problem and we have to address that, and when you think about a meeting, and as you go through this week, every time you leave a meeting, you're required to be in... I want you to ask yourself a question. Well, it's kind of a long question with a couple of points in it, did you contribute as a subject matter expert, like you had to be there to kind of weigh in on as a SME, were you required to present information to others...
0:07:02.0 S1: Were you required to make a decision in that meeting, and did you leave with any actions, anything that you have to do, if the answer is no to all of those, then why in the world were you in that meeting... You were in that meeting because someone thought everyone should be there, or you were in that meeting 'cause you didn't trust your team, or you were in that meeting because from an ego standpoint, you're like, Well, I gotta be there 'cause I have to be everywhere. And if we've got to get honest with why we're in meetings, and if it's because we're contributing or is it because of our own ego driving us to be there...
0:07:41.2 S2: Let's take a quick break from the conversation, does your company need to prepare those upcoming leaders to take the rain to learn more about our leadership academies and our coaching, and to see if your company is a good fit for our transformation program? Is it three or four? Coaching dot com.
0:08:01.2 S1: So now let's talk about how to start to remove some of this vanity work from the workplace, we have to get on a better ego, we've been talking a lot about our ego here in the last few minutes, we have to say, Is this contributing for... Is this just me? I worked with someone years ago, and this person was brilliant, I mean such such a good leader, but they would want us to do stuff that was just stuff... I mean, this person loved stuff, we would have forms for another form, we would have to move things around because they just wanted to try a new way, even though things were working, there was just so much... You can probably hear the stress on my mind from working with this person, there was so much stuff, and that person loved the stuff because it made them feel secure, it made them feel like I'm a great leader 'cause I'm very busy and my people are very busy, and it was ego-driven, and we all have one and it's always working for us, and so we have to manage it, so really get honest about your ego, are you assigning stuff because you like it, or you think it's fun, or you think it's a good idea? Or are you assigning something because it truly is going to have a long lasting impact to the team or the business...
0:09:19.0 S1: We've talked a little bit about showing up in doing vanity work because we don't trust our team, if that is... You get serious about that, get serious about, is it a development issue that you have to do some development, is it that you haven't taken the time to educate or train them on how to handle themselves in front of a specific person so that they are equipped to understand how to respond to executives or something like that. Is there a performance issue that you have not addressed, get honest with yourself about why you don't trust your team members and why you're putting extra vanity work on top of you and others... Because you don't trust your team. Then the hardest thing, I think you have to start having conversations and be honest with those who are asking you and your team to do vanity work, because you're getting asked to do it all the time, I know you are... You're probably nodding your head right now, and that's okay, but you are getting asked to do work that you know isn't driving the business or is over-complicating things, or it could be a simple little task, but this person wants a whole big show and production and this huge presentation where you're like, I could do that in 10 minutes, Oh, Okay, you want me to do four hours worth of work for 10 minutes...
0:10:38.4 S1: Okay, I gotcha. So start having some really honest conversations with those... Asking you and your team to do vanity work. And in the words of Elsa, just let it go. You have to let go of work that we used to do that no longer matters, you have to let go of work that you think is cool and you think is awesome, but at the end of the day, no one's using... You have to let go of showing up and being seen in every single meeting, because it's causing everyone you included to work extra hours and to fill overwhelm, and you have to start to get really, really honest in those situations where you know other people are talking about work that doesn't matter that vanity work, or you're being asked to do it, but you know when you're sitting in that meeting and something like this comes up, think back to our conversation today, think back to, man, is this really the impact... Or ask the question when someone says, I think we should do this, say Great, what impact do you think we will have by doing this work, what's the outcome you expect from this work? We don't ask that question enough to ourselves, we don't ask our team at question enough, and we certainly don't ask our peers and our supervisor enough, but if you start asking that question as soon as someone has an idea or instruct someone to do something, again, what is the impact to the business that this decision will make or this activity will make...
0:12:08.0 S1: What do you wanna get out of this? Because if they can't answer that, then it's a great conversation to say, then should we do it... If there's no business impact. Why are we doing it? So that's vanity work. It is something that we deal with every single day in the workplace, it doesn't matter where you work, every single company in this whole world has it... I'd like to pretend like we don't have it here at 3 04, but I'm gonna guess we have a little bit of that too. But you have to constantly work towards that notion of, Is this true work that impacts or is this just vanity work to keep me busy, to keep me feeling important, and to keep me feeling like I'm contributing and worthy here. Alright, my friend. So this week, let it go say a by identity work and hang out with us to continue to... Let's fix leadership.
0:13:04.5 S2: Thanks for listening to Les fix leadership. By hanging out with me today, you're already on your point, if you're looking to learn more and to see if your company is a good fit for our coaching and leadership education, and Hey, visit 3044 coaching dot com if you got value on this podcast, share it with a friend, and it would mean the world to... If you leave a thoughtful review and a rating on iTunes, thanks again for listening, and I appreciate your work in fixing leadership.