“How and why” we execute flexible work, including the purpose of my two “work+life fit” books

As a strategist whose purpose is to support others through the process of transforming into a high performing flexible organization, I’m mostly asked about what we do at the Flex+Strategy Group. I’m rarely asked about how and why we do it.

That changed recently when I was interviewed by Michael Zipursky on his Consulting Success Podcast.  Michael’s a consultant’s consultant with over 20 years of experience helping “entrepreneurial consultants increase their impact and income.”

Our conversation covered many of the pivots and milestones in my and the Flex+Strategy Group’s evolution over the past almost thirty years, but one topic I particularly appreciated discussing was my books:

Here are a few highlights:

MZ: At what stage of this journey did you write your first book?

CY: Many years ago, one of the things that I would talk about was that if you created flexibility, you would help people balance their work and life. That was just one of the outcomes. There was productivity and workspace, but balance was one of the outcomes. I would see leaders glaze over. They could not go there with me, and I would try harder.

One day, a leader took pity on me and said, “I’m going to tell you right now, when you say that B word, all I hear is work less and we have so much work to do.” Out of nowhere, I said, “It isn’t about balance. It’s about how you fit your work and life together and help people do that in a way that allows them to still contribute to the business.” He sparked up. He was like, “I get it. I have a work+life fit that works for me, but so and so…” (The response) was like night and day. I thought, “What just happened?” I re-wound the tape (in my head) and I realized it was this concept of work+life fit.

I kept using it as a way to explain how you are going to benefit the organization and support your people. I thought, “We’ve got to teach people how to manage their work+life fit” because the company can give you flexibility, but you have to go out, grab it, and use it. I wrote my first book because I couldn’t find anybody out there talking about how to fit your work and life together, leveraging the flexibility that you would have at your workplace. I wrote my first book, which was about how to do a formal reset or formally change how, when, and where you would work with a formal plan.

When I went out and promoted that book, people were talking to me about, “I need the day-to-day. How do I walk my dog?” I thought, “The first book was about the resets. The second book was called Tweak It, or “how to (make) the small shifts, in how, when, and where you work”  happen. That’s the tweaks. I had the resets and the tweaks, and that became the skillset for individuals.

That’s why I wrote my books because I saw (that individual skillset) was missing. We were talking about managers and leaders, but not about people and what they need to do to be effective in this flexible work and life reality they found themselves. That’s why I wrote my books. I found a missing piece of the market. That then became part of my delivery model, but then also what I went out and talked about.

MZ: You have book one. You have book two. Walk us through what are these books doing for you. Even before that, what are you doing with the books to use them to grow the business? If you take us back at the benefit of hindsight, what do you feel worked best? If somebody was planning to write a book as well right now, how would you suggest they leverage that book to grow their business?

CY: (A book) does help you organize your thinking and it does help you hone in on how you want to present something in no other way that I have ever found…A book is a moment in time when people pay attention. When you have a book that comes out, people are (intrigued), “a book.” They may never read the book, although I will tell you, fifteen years later, it is amazing the number of people who have come up to me and said, “Your book changed my life. I found your book. I (could) fit my work and life together in ways I wanted.” That is rewarding. Fifteen years later, all those people. 

MZ: You’re developing your intellectual property in the format of a book, but the IP inside of the book, you’re also able to use as part of projects and in delivery. Take us to the current day. From a marketing perspective, it sounds like the book had an impact, and the presentations had an impact. What’s working for you? 

CY: What’s working for me now is all of a sudden, the whole world has woken up to the fact that there’s flexibility. It helps to be one of the few people out there who can say, “Actually, I’ve been doing this for a while, and this is not new. Here’s how you want to think about moving forward.” It does help to have a long history of executing successful flexibility. COVID did fundamentally and forever change the way we think about work and it accelerated a trend that was already underway. I will be honest, I’m still shocked at the number of organizations that think we can go back, but there are now enough who are saying, “We’re not going back. Now, what are we going to do?”

MZ: When you say “go back,” what do you mean? Do you mean people returning to the office full-time and not working from home? Define what “go back” means.

CY: For me, “go back” means, “We’re going back to the way we did things in February 2020,” where I think we all still bought into the traditional work model as “the model.” The model is you go to the office five days a week, 9:00 to 5:00, but that was already disappearing before COVID, but (that evolution) was random. There was no strategy around it. It was just happening. As I said, COVID accelerated all of that (increased flexibility) to its most extreme form.

Now, we’re coming back to the middle and we’re saying, “We’re not going back there, but (how we are working now) is not sustainable necessarily or even effective. So what does this new way of working look like? How do we take the best of what we learned in COVID but add back what probably got lost in the sauce?” It was not an intentional and thoughtful way of executing a flexible work model.

Again, I’m finding there are leaders who are (understanding), “We’re not going back, but we got to move forward in a more intentional way. What does that look like?”

Again, thank you to Michael Zipursky of the Consulting Success Podcast for prompting me to reflect on aspects of our work I don’t often get a chance to talk about. If you’d like to hear more, here is a link to the full episode.

Also, I want to note a correction to last week’s newsletter. The segment where I appeared to discuss the implications of WeWork’s possible insolvency on co-working was on Marketplace, not MarketWatch. Apologies for any confusion.

Wishing everyone with kids a happy and smooth back-to-school transition. This is the first time in many years we don’t have anyone going back to school!  Very strange.