At cj Conference 2022, we had the pleasure of listening to Max Yoder’s keynote presentation, “Do Better Work: Finding Clarity and Camaraderie in Work and Life” based on his book, Do Better Work. Max founded Lessonly, an online learning platform, and served as the CEO for ten years. It’s safe to say that Max’s presentation was one of the highlights of the day, and that each and every person walked away from the presentation with new ideas to take back to their respective businesses.
Camaraderie and Clarity
Feeling fulfilled at work is incredibly important; the average person will spend over a third of their life’s waking hours at their job. If this part of your life is leaving you feeling stressed out, under appreciated, or generally unhappy, that will bleed over into other parts of your life. Finding a job that leaves you feeling energized and content is one of the best things that you can do to protect your wellbeing in all other parts of your life. To do so, Max holds that you need two things: clarity and camaraderie. Clarity comes from specific and detailed communication about what is expected of employees—an understanding of what matters, why it matters, and who it matters to. Camaraderie comes from a feeling of mutual trust and respect between co-workers.
As an employer, it is your job to provide an environment of clarity and camaraderie for your employees. Not only will this improve your employees’ quality of life, but having happy employees will also be much better for your business. People will feel more empowered to ask important questions, feelings of trust will foster creative ideas, and employees will be much more likely to stay long-term.
As an employee, it is your job to lead by example: communicate clearly with your coworkers, ask for more information when you need it, be trustworthy, and put energy into building relationships with those that you spend your working days with. Maintaining culture at a company takes work; it is dependent upon employees acting upon the company values.
Beware of the Curse of Knowledge
The “Curse of Knowledge”: This is the assumption that everyone around you has the same experience and background information that you have, causing one to omit pertinent details. This was a phrase that our team had never heard before, and it is certainly one that we will be using and referring back to for years to come.
Max gave this example: he was at the grocery store when his wife texted him to “get spinach, eggs, and peppers for the casserole.” For his wife, Jess, this seemed like very clear communication; it contained the list of ingredients that she needed. For Max, this was incredibly confusing; he didn’t know how much spinach to get, how many eggs she needed, and what type of peppers the casserole called for. Had Jess needed bell peppers, and he returned with a bag of jalapenos, the outcome would not have been good. In this situation, Jess assumed that he had the same knowledge that she did, even though she had made this recipe countless times and he had not. The instructions that would have better served Max would be, “Get a 10z bag of spinach, 6 eggs, and 3 red bell peppers for the casserole.” However, we don’t usually communicate this clearly. Rather, we default to assuming that those we work with know just as much as we do about any given topic. This is the “Curse of Knowledge” in action.
Communicating clearly definitely requires more effort; it’s much easier to send off a quick email or Teams message with a vague request, rather than to spend time thinking about what information someone might actually need to complete a project. Everyone has been on the receiving end of a vague request, and it is not a good feeling. It’s stressful, exhausting, and makes you feel as though you don’t know something that you should.
Avoiding the “Curse of Knowledge” does not mean that you no longer let people that you are working with explore their own ideas or think for themselves. You certainly do not want to let this turn into micromanaging, where you tell people exactly how you want every single project done. However, it does mean that you should not assume that people have the same background knowledge and experience that you have. Begin taking a moment to recognize the assumptions you are making before communicating with team members, and correcting those assumptions by adding additional details when needed.
Thank you, Max!
Fostering clarity and camaraderie and avoiding the “Curse of Knowledge” are just two of the many things that we learned from listening to Max. We highly recommend that you read his book, and hope that you learn just as much as we did! Thank you so much, Max, for sharing your knowledge with us.
If you were at cj Conference for Max’s keynote address, we’d love to hear your thoughts and the ways that you hope to implement what you learned at your firm! Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or to your brand strategist to share.