November 2

Episode 98: Why Is Play So Important … Especially Now With Jeff Harry


While we spend most of our time pretending to be important, serious grownups, it’s when we let go of that facade and just play, that the real magic happens. – Jeff Harry

Jeff Harry’s Biography

Jeff Harry combines positive psychology and play to heal workplaces, help teams build psychological safety and assist individuals in addressing their biggest challenges through embracing a play-oriented approach to work.  Jeff was selected by BambooHR & Engagedly as one of the Top 100 HR Influencers and has been featured in the NY Times, Mashable, Upworthy, Shondaland, & Wired.  Jeff has worked with Google, Microsoft, Southwest Airlines, Adobe, the NFL, Amazon, and Facebook, helping their staff to infuse more play into the day-to-day.

In This Episode, You’ll Learn…

In today’s episode, Mike talks with Jeff Harry. Jeff combines positive psychology in play to heal workplaces, help teams build psychological safety, and help individuals address their biggest challenges.

  • How does “Clarity” relate to “Play”? 
  • Why is “Belonging” so important?
  • What actually happens to your brain in a state of flow/play?
  • What is unnatural about the 8-hour workday, and how do we change it? 

Links & Resources Mentioned…

Read The Transcript

Mike O'Neill: [00:00:00] Welcome back to the Get Unstuck and On Target podcast. I'm Mike O'Neill with Bench Builders and we help growing companies, especially manufacturers, improve their people process and planning systems so they can scale faster and smarter. Joining me today from Oakland is Jeff.

As the founder of Rediscover Your Play, Jeff combines positive psychology in play to heal workplaces, to help teams build psychological safety and help individuals address their biggest challenges. He does this through embracing a play oriented approach to work. So if you haven't guessed, our conversation is going to center around this notion of play and how in a world can we work? And work into the same conversation. Welcome, Jeff. 

Jeff Harry: Oh, I'm excited to be here. Let's do this.

Mike O'Neill: [00:01:00] Jeff, in our conversation that we had before we scheduled, uh, the recording, this podcast, I learned that you are recognized as a top 100 HR influencer.
Congratulations. That's, And I also know that you have worked to infuse more play into companies such as Google, Microsoft, Southwest Airlines, Adobe, and the nfl. Uh, that's an impressive list of companies. Why do they come to you?

Jeff Harry: That's a great question. Uh, I think some companies come to me because they've tried everything else, right?

Like, you know, like you've, you, people don't run to play. Like companies don't run to play. And they're like, you know, my, my staff needs to play more because that will help. No, most of the time they don't want to play. Right. And what I say, and I say this a lot, I think it's, I [00:02:00] think it's uh, Andrew Johnson who said this, uh, The future is where people are having the most fun.

And if the future's where people are having the most fun, where does fun happen? Where would, Where does the creativity and innovation happens? It happens in the play. So the more that you can actually approach a lot of challenges, a lot of challenges that you've tried all of the regular ways and they have not worked, why wouldn't you bring in a positive psychology play method to it?

You know, because not only will it be more engaging and interesting, which is really important, but on top. N now you're, now you're approaching it from like a wildly different perspective and trying to solve problems in an innovative way, which is frankly what we need post pandemic anyway, because we're entering a whole new world of work where a lot of people don't really understand what's gonna happen next.

And following your curiosity and being open to, you know, going through the flow is how you're [00:03:00] gonna actually thrive in this. Environment 

Mike O'Neill: Now you describe not knowing what's gonna happen next. We would love to be able to say we're in a post pandemic, uh, setting here. What has that done to the overall temperament of the average employees and companies out there?

What has, what has happened to our employees sense of wellbeing?

Jeff Harry: In, in my opinion. And if you just want to know, you simply go on TikTok and you'll find out from a lot of Gen Zers and millennials, they hate work. Mm-hmm. , they hate work. They think work sucks. They think that a lot of, uh, staff feel as if they were exploited during the pandemic.

Right. That, uh, if you look at a lot of com major companies, they spent more money buy backing stock than rehiring their employees with the money that they were lent to by the government. So there's a lot of, there's a lot of bitterness right now. There's a lot of companies that did not show [00:04:00] up in the most, uh, uh, what is it?

Collaborative and empathetic way towards their staff. They forced their staff sometimes to come back to work before they were ready. They forced 'em to come back into the office, even though they're more productive at home, Like they're just, And the companies that are thriving are the ones that are adapting to this new reality and being like, Yeah, we can do a hybrid model.

Yeah, you can work from home. Yeah. You know, you can come to the office when you want, you know, we're, we're figuring this out together. When you're in that more experimental mode, I've seen many companies that aren't struggling to find their staff like, like uh, Dan Price with Gravity Payments. He pays his staff a $70,000 a year minimum.

Right? He's having so many people apply because he watched out for his staff throughout the pandemic and even before, right. He was giving them more of the profits to begin with, and that's part of the reason why when the pandemic hit, he didn't lay anyone off. Everyone was willing to take pay cuts and watch out for [00:05:00] each other.

He had created. A community that was more about like, let's make sure that everyone gets taken care of. Other companies didn't do that. You know, perfect example. American Airlines laid off about 13,500 people and then. Eight months later, were like, we can't find any staff. Where's all of our staff ? And it's just like, Dude, you laid 'em all off and you expect them to just wait around and then come back to you.

Like, What? What? How are you? You're not communicating any level of loyalty yet. You expect employees to show back up and be as committed as before. And if you're still using the mentality of like, hey, I pay them, that's. That's all they need. Like if they pay 'em, they should do the work. That's not the mentality that's gonna help you with a lot of Gen, Zers and millennials.

They want you to actually care for them in a way that is, that has shared humanity, empathy, um, and um, just [00:06:00] like a certain level of connection to who they are, rather than just seeing them as cogs in the machine.

Mike O'Neill: Jeff, you're sitting in Silicon Valley. Yeah. You've worked with companies whose names I listed some, but their name. Brand companies. Yeah. Known for their, um, creative ways of doing things, but they choose to bring you in. What if listeners are in leadership roles? They're not in those size companies. They toughed out this pandemic. Yeah. They figured out what needed to be done. Many of these might be manufacturers. Yeah.

Who couldn't even go to a hybrid model. How can we, in this conversation, keep this such that people can realize what we're talking about now is not just for the exclusive domain of the Fortune 50. So help me, as we're talking about infusing play. I went back and looked at my notes as you were talking a moment ago, and here's what I [00:07:00] wrote. As a result of our prep call and I wrote about making work not suck.

Jeff Harry: Yeah, yeah.

Mike O'Neill: I love it.

Jeff Harry: So, so let here, So let me, let me answer it this way, right? So this is interesting. So Google, right? Let's start there. We'll start with the fancies and then we'll, we'll, Mosy on over, right? So Google used to do this thing, and I think they sometimes still do it now.

They had something called the Google 20%, uh, rule where they give their staff a fifth of their time to pursue whatever they want to do, as long as it benefited Google, as long been, that's a, that, that was about five, 10 hours a week, right? Mm-hmm. , Um, what came from the Google 20% program? Um, AdSense, Gmail, Google News, Google Maps, like the foundation of Google came from that.

So, A lot of companies are like, Well, I can't do that. I can't apply that. Totally true. Right? But you can go to some of your employees and be like, Look, I know we have to get work done. We gotta get all these certain things done. [00:08:00] What is something you've been wanting to do, something that you, that's interest you, that you really think could help the organization out?

Just simply asking them, Okay, how many hours do you think you would need to allocate in order to actually actualize that? Okay. What have I, We're giving you about two hours a. You still have 38 to 45 other hours to do whatever it is that you gotta do, but I'm gonna give you a couple hours a week just to pursue this.

Again, this is just us. Doing little experiments, small things at any, at any company, especially even in manufacturing, because you're constantly looking for new ways to be more efficient, right? Mm-hmm. , you're constantly looking for new ways in which you can cut costs, but also remember that how do you increase someone's productivity?

How do you increase a bunch of manufacturers productivity is. You're communicating to your staff, Hey, I see you. I actually want you to enjoy work, so how can I help you enjoy work? How can I remove certain barriers so you can do more of your [00:09:00] vibrant work? Right. Oh, you know, I'm trying to think of like, let's say someone is working the assembly line and it's just like, what part of the assembly line do you do your best work on?

I don't like this part, but I like this part. I'm gonna figure out a way in which you can increase it by just a couple hours. I know we have still have to do it on a rotation, but, but we're gonna make sure that at least you're doing some of that.

So those actions of communicating to your staff that you care and you care about, making sure their work sucks less and they're doing stuff that they actually enjoy really matters because those actions express priorities and they, and they're more likely to be not only loyal, but more productive because of it.

Mike O'Neill: You mentioned productivity a moment ago, and sometimes I used that term productivity, and that sounds very much like work. Yeah. And here we are having a conversation about play and for folks who listen to the intro, they may kind of go, What in the world are we talking about? What [00:10:00] is it we're describing there? How, How does one instill a more of a play mindfulness? What's, what's that look? For a typical company.

Jeff Harry: What, what that looks like for a typical company is asking questions of the systems that you currently have and being like, Are they working? Like, can we try out something else? Are we embracing a curiosity and play oriented mindset?

You know, I ask this to companies all the time, What's the worst behavior you're currently. Why are you tolerating that type of behavior, right? If you're tolerating someone that is just like, not even lazy, but it's just like taking advantage of systems. Does that represent your values? Are your values actually communicated in the actions?

Are you communicating your values and your actions when you're, like, if one of your values is like family oriented, right? And you're laying people off like this, like without, without any level of empathy. Then people are [00:11:00] like, Oh, well you don't actually represent your values, so then I am not gonna actually do that much work for you.

There's even something, something now called that's happening in the US a lot called quiet, quitting, where people are doing less work, they're staying at a job of doing less and less and less. And that's their protest, right? Because they're like, Well, I'm gonna be here, but I'm just gonna take your money.

Right? Why does that happen? Because they feel bitter. So the more that your, your managers are having questions of like, Hey, you know, over the last two years, What's it been like? You know, do you feel as if we built your trust or lost your trust during the pandemic? Oh my gosh, we lost your trust. Okay, well, what is it that we can do to gain it back?

What are some of the things that we can do to actually create more of a psychologically safe space so that we can have meetings that matter? Right? Have meetings where we, we disagree. Like I talk about how you, you don't want to have nice meetings. If you're gonna have a nice meeting, you should just get rid of the [00:12:00] meeting.

And what do I mean by that? Nice as the acronym is nothing important can emerge, right? . So that is just like, everyone's just talking, but nothing's getting done. You know? Or people are just speaking so they can hear themselves speak. If you're having a bunch of those meetings, just cancel those meetings, save them the time enough that that's a play experiment right there.

And be like, we're only having meetings where we're actually gonna be. Controversial stuff and really actually addressing it. You know? How many complaints have your staff, for example, given to either you or hr, and they just fallen in a black hole? You want to change that, right? Again, embracing that play oriented mindset will actually make your staff more productive.

Studies have found your 500% more productive, five times more productive when you're in a state of flow, right? How do you get people to do that By doing the work that challenges them the most, that also interests them the most? So if you can figure out how to do. [00:13:00] Even if you just have them doing it again for two to three hours a week, they're doing things that they really love to do.

It has a ripple effect on all the other work that they have. That's how you can make 'em more productive.

Mike O'Neill: Let's go back to that term state of flow. Mm-hmm. elaborate on that for us.

Jeff Harry: Yeah, so there's something that is interesting that happens, actually happens in your mind when you go into a state of flow. It's called transient hypofrontality goodness. And what happens at that time, transient is temporary. Hypo is, you know, the prefrontal area. And then, you know, um, and then we're talking about the frontal prefrontal cortex, right? So what happens when you go through transient hypofrontality is your part of your brain actually shuts.

Hm. Um, and that inner critic disappears and you get, you become highly creative and you get this shot of dopamine. And when this happens, then all of a sudden you start to make connections that you didn't see before. And all these opportunities start to show up. And this is where innovation and [00:14:00] creativity light, right.

This is where, this is how Google started. This is how Amazon started. This is how a lot of these comp, I mean this is how like the assembly line came up, right? And all the innovations that we've had via the Assembly Levine and, and also just manufacturing in general. It's like when we're in these flow stage and just testing things out, and when you get into that flow state, that is when you start to see, oh, Could I connect this processee with this processee?

That doesn't really make sense, but let me try it out anyway and let me just see what happens, right? And. Examples of that is like, I, I use this example from the, uh, wineries. There was someone that learned how to actually split the vine in such a way and then plant another seed to create a, a hybrid wine.

And that's created a whole new industry and a whole new revenue stream that they never thought was possible. And what actually happens when you're getting people in flow. Great example [00:15:00] of this is the Wright Brothers. A lot of people don't know the Wright brothers were these biker mechanics that made the airplane. A lot of people know that part. Or the first flying machine, they were competing against the Smithsonian. There was a comp, there was Andrew Langley look this up. Andrew Langley was, who was part of the Smithsonian, was able to put together a bunch of scientists and they had gotten, I think a million dollars of investment at the time as well as other corporate money.

Right? So you had these scientists, PhDs and the Smithsonian versus these two bike mechanics. Who got there first? The bike mechanics. Why? Because they were doing the work. Because they just loved to do the work and they were in, they were falling to a, a sense of flow. Why did the other group not do well?

Because it was a tense atmosphere, because it was all about the result. They were so focused on the result and not about the play that they. They were backstabbing each other and constantly trying to like, you know, compete against each other. And that's what happens when ego and perfection [00:16:00] gets into a company.

It causes gossip, causes, you know, a lot of toxicity, and then you don't get a lot of work done, you know, because people are trying to do their own thing. But when you're in a flow stay, when people are looking out for one another, that's when you're producing your best work.

Mike O'Neill: You've just made a, a great case for why we should.
Help our employees get that flow. But in terms of companies that might be struggling right now with some, the most fundamental of of things. Finding good employees, Yeah, keeping good employees, Making the numbers we've gotta make, dealing with all the setbacks that they're having to deal with. What might be ways that this idea that we're talking about right now be introduced into an organization? Might be very preoccupied by these other things.

Jeff Harry: Yeah. Let's talk about retention and people quitting. So let's say a lot of people quit, right? Do you know why? Do you have any clue why? [00:17:00] Like a lot of people think they know, right? But let's follow our curiosity, right?
Can you go back to those exit interviews? Can you actually reach out to those people and be like, Hey, why'd you quit? Like, I really wanna know and start to come up. Understanding in patterns of like what was the reason. Can you talk to your staff that's currently still there and ask them, why did you choose to stay?

Why do you think these other people quit? What do you think is a better way in which we can retain employees going forward? What mistakes did we make for in the last two years? When you're able to reflect on that from a place of curiosity, right? Like this means you have to let go of your ego. This means you have to let go of like the way things used to.

Right. I think a lot of people are like, I can't wait till we get back to the way things used to be. It's not coming back. It's just not. It's not. And we have to in, in order to embrace that reality. Right. You know? You're gonna have to learn how to get better. As a manager and a leader, you're gonna have to start learning what it means, what it actually means to show up with [00:18:00] emotional and television intelligence.

You're gonna have to learn what it means to do like an EQ quotient. You know, you're gonna have to learn what employee res resource groups are and how to fund them like you're gonna have to. Just be more curious like you were at the beginning, because in many ways, a lot of companies are restarting, right?
They're gonna be bringing in a whole new group of people. And if you haven't figured out your house, like if you haven't figured out why people left in the first place and now you're hiring more people, guess what? They're gonna leave in like two, three months. Right? And how much does it cost to. How much does it cost?

It costs, Whenever you lose an employee, it costs six to nine months of that person's salary to get the next person and retrain the next person. That's a lot of money, right? That we're just hemorrhaging right now because we don't wanna look in internally and really ask those hard questions. And when you do that, And you finally are able to approach it from a place of curiosity and not ego, then you can be like, Okay, I made a, we made a few mistakes.

[00:19:00] Okay, so this is what we're open to trying out. Now I don't know if it's gonna work out, but we're gonna just see how this goes. And then, you know, and then the worst case scenario, but like, bring me in, bring other, you know, people in that, that have a different perspective on your organization so that you.

It can challenge your way of thinking because part of the reason of getting unstuck, right is this idea that you only see it through your myopic point of view, and what you want is you want to get knocked out of that and whether that's someone coming into doing it or you doing it yourself, but you gotta be able to like let go of the past so you can actually start doing something really productive in the future.

Mike O'Neill: You know, we've been talking about organizations getting stuck. Mm-hmm. , um, doing things the way I've always done it. And I think the term you used over and over again was curiosity. Yeah. If you can pursue curiosity, it may very well open up possibilities that you haven't thought of [00:20:00] before. I wanna go back to how I introduced you because I just used the term.
But I wonder if people really know what that actually means, and that is build psychological safety. Yeah, I see that written. I hear people say it, but I'm not sure that there's clarity on what does psychological safety mean and why is it important?

Jeff Harry: Yeah. Psychological safety. The best way in which I would describe it is when was the last time you had a difficult conversation with your.
You know, what are your meetings like? You know, are you able to have hard conversations in meetings? Is your, is your staff able to disagree with you? During a meeting, and you don't take offense to it, is your staff able to speak up when they're doing a certain project and they don't like the approach?
Right? If you see the teams that thrive the most, right? Like when they, when Google was measuring productivity of their staff, they identified the teams that had built the most mine of psychological safety. [00:21:00] Not only were most productive, but most profit. And that meant they were able to sometimes joke around.

They were able to call each other out on their own bs. They were able to, they even though there was someone in a higher position of power, they were able to call. Call out that person. When they made mistakes as well, they were able to keep each other accountable and they were able to understand where each of them were coming from.

Meaning like, Oh, this person is not just doing this work so they can make money, but this person is actually doing really good work because they're watching out for all of us. They want the, they want to raise all boats. They want the whole team to, to thrive as opposed to. I'm just doing this so that I, I want you to make sure you get your work done because it makes me look good.

Right. And this goes back to the question of like, what is the worst behavior you're currently tolerating? Right? Do you have any leaders on staff that. Have staff that are working really hard, but they're not really watching out for their staff at all. Right. Do you have leaders that you promoted that are now [00:22:00] middle managers that aren't good leaders?

They just should never have been good leaders. They were good at the last job. They were productive at the last job, but they're not productive at this new. Position because it's a definitely different skill set to be able to lead people, right? You gotta motivate other people. You can't just be like, I do it this way, so you should do it this way, and now everyone need to do it this way.

It just doesn't work that way. You know? We're human beings, It's messy, right? So we have to be really asking ourselves those harder questions of like, are the leaders in the positions that we are in are, are you confident about your leaders right now? And then if you're. What are you gonna do about it and what is the worst behavior you're currently tolerating?

Because if you're able to address that, then people are gonna be like, Oh my goodness, they finally are addressing that guy that's not getting anything done. Oh, I better, I better step my game up because I gotta start getting my work done because everyone else is now doing that. You know, I remember when we fired one toxic person, our productivity levels and our [00:23:00] profitability went up by 15%. 15, 20%. Right? When you have a toxic staffer, Michigan State Study found that you lose $14,000 per employee. So if you have a staff of five, that's. Grand right there just on productivity because you have someone that's toxic, that's like berating other people or not letting other people speak at meetings and you and that and that.

That vibrates around, right? But when you have someone positive, not even positive, but someone that's like supporting and nurturing like a Ted lasso type leader. All of a sudden, all of a sudden you're much more productive and people are looking out for one another. And that's the, that's the environment people want to go back to.

Right? So when we go back to like, how do we make sure work sucks less, have leaders like that, that create that safe space for people to come to.
Mike O'Neill: So if our listeners are leaders and they want to create that type of safe space mm-hmm. , what are the kinds of things you're recommending to them that [00:24:00] they could be doing?

Jeff Harry: Well, at first they have to understand what's the motivation of their staff? Why is the staff there? Do they know their staff's languages of appreciation, Right? Is it, you know, like, let's talk about that, right? Let's say it's, let's say it's, uh, words of affirmation, right? That means that they not only want to get praise from you, but they want get praise from you outside of the department just in case in the future they want to pro be promoted to another department.

Right? When you're watching out for people like that in that way, where it's just like, it's just not about you all the time, that actually is really effective. Let's say it's acts of service, right? They just want to be able to spend more time with their family. Imagine if one day you were like, Hey, you know it's Friday.

Let me take the rest of your work for the rest of the day, the next, last two, three hours, go home early. I know things are happening at home that you, you, you potentially need to deal with. When you're doing those things, that's when you're building trust. So my question to a lot of leaders is what acts are you doing to create.

You [00:25:00] know, moments to build trust and what actually you're creating to create moments of delight for your staff, right? So that they actually, again, enjoy work. And then once you're doing that, once you're building that certain level of trust and language of appreciation, then identify your staff's zone of genius.

What's the work where they forget about time? What's the work that they would love to do most? What's work they would do even if they weren't getting paid to do that work? What's their zone of genius? And when you're asking that of your staff and they're like, Oh my gosh, this person actually cares. You know, and they're not just doing it performatively so that you'll like me later on and then get back to what they were doing, but actually cares.

That's when all of a sudden your staff starts to show up and care again. But if you don't do any of that stuff and you just are like kind of mailing it in, then don't be surprised if your staff mails it in as well.

Mike O'Neill: Jeff, as I've been listening to you, um, you've have used terms that, um, [00:26:00] tend to resonate with, with me almost immediately, and that is checking the ego and that the goal as a leader is to build trust and that.
You really pointed out that you build trust by how you connect individually. Mm-hmm. with members of the team, and you've kind of pointed out to us, is that we have to be mindful is that the folks in our team, they may all have the same job title. Mm-hmm. , but they come to that role. Very differently and our willingness to understand, you called it the languages, to understand who they are, how they operate, and our willingness as leaders to adapt our interaction that speaks to that need.

Jeff Harry: Yep.

Mike O'Neill: Sounds like it goes a long way to build trust and with trust. And only after trust is established can you move into these things that can foster creativity. Am I hearing that right?

Jeff Harry: Exactly. Exactly. You gotta build trust first [00:27:00] before you can play. Like I don't recommend forced fun. I don't recommend like escape from the room or doing all these like fun things or like, we're gonna have Pizza Fridays and then all of a sudden everyone's gonna be all happy.

I don't like that stuff. I. You know, it's not very effective. Right. But what I challenge a lot of people to do is if I was talking to a leader, I would say, Okay, whenever you go into a conversation, I want you to, I want you to see whether you're going into that conversation to understand or to be right.

Right. Are you going into that conversation to tell people what to do? Like if you're having a meeting where you're just gonna tell everyone what to do, that's an. Or you can talk to them individually about that. But if you're actually having a meeting, that means it's a meeting. That means you want to hear what other people have to say.

So if then you're talking 80% of the meeting and no one else is speaking, or not many people are engaged, That's a waste of time. Save them that, save them that time. This is, this is [00:28:00] for, this is the challenge for a lot of, uh, leaders right now that are struggling in these situations where you're like, Oh my gosh, I'm just in such an anxiety ridden state.

What should I do? You know, a lot of people at that point try to go back to the things that have worked in the past just because. I really want you to check to see whether that's just your ego talking and you aren't willing to embrace the fact that like what has worked in the past may not work in the future.

Maybe it does, but I want you if it's, if you're clearly stressed out, it's not working. So how's that working out for you? So it's time for you to try something new. It's time for you. And when I say show up with curiosity, you really is just like, how am I as a leader? How am I showing up as a leader and what are the things that I can change in order to motivate and reengage my staff?

Mike O'Neill: You know, we talked a little bit about companies who may feel as if they've kind of gotten stuck. Can you share an example a little while ago? Let me come back to that question, and that is, can you think of an example where [00:29:00] either you or a client got stuck? Mm-hmm. , something we've maybe not discussed thus far, and what did it take to get unstuck?

Jeff Harry: Uh, there's, I'll give you, let me give you two examples. I'll first give you my personal example, right. You know, so when the pandemic hit and I was running my organization a certain way, um, I was like, uh, you know, I don't know what to do. Like, this was like March, 2020, April, 2020. I was like, What am I gonna do during this time?

Right? There's like, I have free time, but I don't know what to do with this free time. So I remember being like, Well, Maybe I should start making some videos. And I was like, Oh yeah, I hate it. I hate how I sound. I hate how I look. And this is no one, no one, no one's ever gonna listen to any of these videos, but, uh, let me just try it anyway.

Right? So I just started experimenting with it. And at first I wouldn't post it because I was just like really embarrassed. But then after a while I was like, actually these videos are a way in which I process my [00:30:00] play, or this is how I process the world right now. So this is actually a creative outlet for me.
And I ended. By starting in April, and by the end of December I had made like 350 videos. Goodness. And that also gave me the. The bravery to start reaching out and connecting on podcasts, and I had not, I had probably been on like 10 podcasts before. Then by the end of the year I was on like 120 podcasts, so I'm like, How is this happening?

It's because I was open to experimenting and I was open to calling myself out on my own bs. Elizabeth Gilbert says this a lot. Personal transformation doesn't happen. Get tired of your own bs. Right? So what is the, what is the BS you're telling yourself as a leader? Right? And then I think of from an organizational standpoint, I remember working with one organization where their staff was just burnt out.

They were just done right. And what we did, and when we worked with their staff is we went back into why are [00:31:00] you here in the first place? We had them think. And we had them actually even journal and, and explore. Like, how much impact have you had so far? I think it was a lot of lawyers who'd be like, How many clients have you, you, you've worked with over the span of the last five or 10 years that you've been here?

Right. And we had them list that out and we were like, What, What were some of your most memorable clients and. Doing that work reminds me of why you love to do this work. And we had them reflect on that. And in some cases we even were like, reach back out to that client because we need to tap back into your why of why you're here the first place because you forgot it.

So for a lot of organizations that are unstuck, right, or are stuck right now, it'd be like, go back to why the organization started in the first place. Go back to those values, go back to the beginning and how exciting it was and how can we rekindle that again? And if you weren't around at the beginning, then great.
Because [00:32:00] now you actually help them help to reinvent this. You get to even look and be like, Are the values that we have here, even the ones that we should be doing going forward? Like this is a great opportunity for a lot of organizations to reinvent themselves, but if they choose not to, and I say this a lot, You could become the next Blockbuster video.

Okay. Blockbuster could have bought Netflix. They didn't want it. They thought it was really stupid, and they were like, You know, stores are gonna be here forever. And that's that ego driven, like, We got this. We're just gonna keep doing what has been working and not trying anything else out. They could have crushed Netflix.

They could have bought Netflix or crushed Netflix, and instead they got caught sitting on their. And now they don't exist anymore. Do you want to be obsolete like that? That's what happens when you pursue perfection over pursuing play, and the more you pursue play, the more you're gonna be able to thrive in this new world.

Mike O'Neill: Hmm. I love the way you just said [00:33:00] that. As you kind of reflect on this conversation thus far, what do you wanna make sure our listeners have as takeaway?

Jeff Harry: Um, well, we, we kind of tapped into this a little bit, but I think, you know, my, my friend Steven Worley, great coach, basically once said, he was just like, people are not looking to be more productive.

They're looking for clarity. You know, clarity provides productivity, clarity provides like vision of like what we're trying to do. And I think a lot of leaders. Either aren't clear about what they really want to get done or have not communicated their vision to their staff in a way that is really clear.

So I would challenge a lot of leaders to be like, What is it that you want to get clear on? You know, if you're trying to figure out retention, how do you actually, how deep do you want to go? If you're trying to build trust with your staff, how many hard conversations are you willing to have? You know, I'm about to do a, a workshop for an organization around belonging.

Like it's [00:34:00] a company of like 50,000, maybe a hundred thousand people. Right? And the whole idea when we're talking about belonging is this idea that. , What actions am I doing each and every day to communicate to my staff that I have their back? Right? How are leaders actually doing that? So the more that companies are willing to ask hard questions, the more that they're willing to, you know, Identify what is their worst behavior they're tolerating and now addressing it, and the more they're actually able to communicate to their staff that we care about you, that we see you, we appreciate you, you know, we value you.

And not only we do, we do that through our words of affirmation, but we're actually also compensating you for your time and action. Right? The more we do that, the more we can create like a playful. Atmosphere at work that people actually want to come to. And when that happens, that's when companies start to thrive.

And if you need examples of. [00:35:00] You know, look at sports. Look at the Golden State Warriors last year. The reason they were crushing it and why they won. They were just playing out there. You know, a lot of times they didn't really care who was scoring as long as, you know, as they were moving the ball around and like making sure that everyone got touches and everyone was having a good time.

They looked like it was so easy out there because they had built a trust. They had done all the work beforehand. You know, they had had those hard conversations so that when they went out and just played ball, they could just play ball and it looked like they were having so much fun. Notice the notice, the teams that do that, those are the ones that thrive. It's the same thing with companies.

Mike O'Neill: So beautifully said, Jeff, if folks are listening or. And they say, Gosh, I wanna learn more. What's the best way for them to reach out?
Jeff Harry: Yeah, so the best way is simply go to and simply click on the Let's Play button and we can hop on a call and we can figure out how we can [00:36:00] infuse more play and positive psychology and more psychological safety into your organization so you can just like, make more money and be more productive.

And you can also find me, um, at this handle. I'm on LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok, all of the handles at Jeff Harry Plays. Um, J E F F H A R R Y P L A Y S.
Mike O'Neill: We will obviously. Um, those in the, uh, show notes and people may not realize that we record both an audio and video. For those who are watching this on YouTube, they can see you right now. Sitting, um, behind the microphone. Sporting something that looks a li a bit like a bow tie, but it's more than just a regular bow tie. Tell us about that.

Jeff Harry: Right. It's a Lego bow tie. I got it from the previous job. I was at a Lego inspired STEM organization called Playwell. Um, and I rocket to remind myself to not take myself too seriously.

So I wear [00:37:00] it at all of my conferences and things. So if you ever see a guy with a Lego bow tie, it's 80% likely. It's probably me.

Mike O'Neill: Jeff, I knew that this conversation was gonna be not only informative, but you've made it fun as well as one might would expect. And as people can tell, we went in many different directions.

We got beyond just the importance of of play, but we got into the importance of clarity. Both individually and organizationally, and we got a chance to kind of touch on this need for belonging. Mm-hmm. , we all have it, and I can see how you're so helpful to organizations in instilling that clarity and helping them, uh, create that sense of belonging.

Thank you for sharing your expertise with us today.

Jeff Harry: Hey, thanks so much for having me. This was super fun.

Mike O'Neill: I also wanna thank our listeners for joining us today. We upload the latest episode every Thursday to all the major [00:38:00] platforms, including Apple and Spotify. So if you've enjoyed this episode like I have with Jeff, let me invite you to subscribe. Are you trying to grow your business and you wanna make sure you got the right people, processes, and planning systems in place to grow smoothly? If that is yes, let's. Head over to and schedule a quick non-sales call. We'll talk about your growth goals and explore some practical steps that you can take now to make sure that that growth happens.

So I wanna thank you for joining us and I hope you have picked up on some ti from Jeff that will help you Get Unstuck and On Target. Until next time.

This Quiz is Going to Assess you in 3 main Areas...



People is about making sure that you have the right people in the right positions in your company, and that you have a plan for how to retain and train your top talent.


Planning is all about knowing where you're going and having exact steps that you can take for how you're going to get from here to there.


Process is about having efficient systems in place to help you get ahead of your competitors faster and with fewer mistakes.

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