Jeff Harry Helps us Silence Our Inner Critic and Get Out of Our Own Way at Work

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In this episode of Relationships at Work, Russel chats with workplace consultant and positive psychology play coach Jeff Harry on how we can silence our inner critic and get out of our own way at work.

A few reasons why he is awesome — he is a keynote speaker, workplace consultant and positive psychology play coach through his Rediscover Your Play consultancy, working to heal workplaces, help teams build psychological safety and assist individuals in addressing their biggest challenges by embracing a play-oriented approach to work. He was selected by BambooHR and Engagedly as one of their Top 100 HR Influencers, he’s been featured in the NY Times, Shondaland and Wired and has worked with such organizations as Google, Adobe, NFL and Amazon.

Connect with, and learn more about Jeff on…



  • How we know we’re getting in our own way at work.
  • The impacts of listening to our self-critic.
  • What we should do or stop doing to get out of our own way.
  • Self-fear’s impact our employee journey.
  • The role of play in addressing our self-critic.
  • How friends and family can help with self-fear.

“What’s the story that you’re tired of that you keep telling yourself that I can’t do this because of “X.” And once you start calling yourself out on that BS story, then things can shift.”

Jeff Harry


Russel Lolacher: And on the show today, we have Jeff Harry and here is why he is awesome. He’s a keynote speaker, a workplace consultant and positive psychology play coach through his Rediscover Your Play consultancy.

What do they do? Glad you asked. Working to heal workplaces, help teams build psychological safety, and assist individuals in addressing their biggest challenges by embracing a play oriented approach to work. He was selected by Bamboo HR and Engagedly as one of their Top 100 HR influencers, featured in the New York Times, Shondaland and Wired.

And he’s worked with such organizations as Google, Adobe, NFL, and Amazon. And he’s here right now talking with us. Hello, Jeff.

Jeff Harry: Hello. I’m excited about this.

Russel Lolacher: Before we get into it and I, I love this topic because like I said, I, before we went and recorded, I’ve talked to my audience and they’ve said their number one, one of their number one’s challenges is getting in their own way. So perfect. We’re going to talk about that. But first Jeff, I have to, ask the first question I ask all of my guests, which is.

What’s your best or worst employee experience, sir?

Jeff Harry: Wow. Worst employee experience… Times Square Toys R Us. So I worked, I helped open the Times Square Toys R Us store. It was the largest toy store in the world. And they had us even for just to audition, right? That’s the key word. We had to sing the Toys R Us theme song. That was one of the things we had to do.

So, we went from that to a fast forward right after Christmas. And this, mind you, this is 2001. So this is like right after 9/11, right? So we had done a lot of things for firefighters. We had done a lot of things for a lot of people in New York. And then they just started laying people off. Right in January, and this is after they had told us we were all family and all that stuff.

So then I wrote a manifesto. Remember Jerry Maguire, when he wrote like that article, or, and he stuffed it in everyone’s… I did that. I literally did that. I wrote like a five pager. And they thought I was trying to unionize the store. They got all worried about it. Yeah, and this is the flagship store, so this is when Toys R Us was not, doing well already.

They’re already trying to be like, get on the map, I already have the biggest toy store in the world. And then there’s this brown dude with… trying to unionize our store. Yeah, they made it very difficult for me for the next few months, and then I eventually just left. I trans, I transferred to a Toys R Us in Emeryville, California, Oakland, California, but yeah. And, a lot of the things that I listed to fix were things that they never addressed and then they went out of business because they never addressed those things. So what was it like? This is rocket science that they went out of business. So…

Russel Lolacher: but I’m guessing, so I know nothing about Toys R Us, so I’m assuming they’re franchise or you would be not allowed in any Toys R Us store. If you went, if you burned your bridges at the flagship, but you still ended up going to another Toys R Us.

Jeff Harry: They didn’t really, I didn’t talk to each other, I mean, and also it’s just… I mean, it was sloppy to begin with. I mean I was a product demonstrator. My main job was to play with toys underneath a T-Rex from Jurassic Park. That was my job. That was all I had to do. I got paid 13. 75 an hour, which was a lot of money in comparison to everyone else that was getting paid in that store. And it was like… I had probably the easiest job. Yeah, and most of the people that were next to me were like actors. There’s still one guy that I used to work with. He now works at FAO Schwartz as the toy soldier at the front of the store.

Yeah, and he’s like a Broadway actor and then he does that. It was, such a fascinating, weird time. They treated us like crap so when they were struggling later on, I was like no wonder.

Russel Lolacher: I have one question to before I put a bow on that.

Jeff Harry: Yeah keep, them coming. I haven’t talked about this in forever. So this is fascinating to me.

Russel Lolacher: Did you ever have to sing the Toys Us theme song again, or was it only for the audition?

Jeff Harry: It was only during the au… it was, and it was almost ridiculous, because we did it in a group. So everyone was trying to out sing one another, and it was so weird. And here’s the longer story, right? I was at the Toys R Us Corporation. I was at the corporate office in, New Jersey. I worked, I lived in Brooklyn, I commuted two and a half hours every day, and then 9/11 happened, and I was like, I don’t want to die in a cubicle.

So then I was like, can I get transferred? I want to do something else. And they were like just transfer to the store because we’re opening up this brand new store. So I was like, sweet, but you’re going to have to, you’re going to have to do an interview. So I go to the interview and everyone’s sitting in this like weird place in Times Square and then everyone’s “everyone loves Toys R Us,” right? And we’re like, yeah!, so then the theme song and they’re like, yeah, so let’s sing it. And then people are like, oh my gosh, like I got to bring it. So people were like high pitch, low pitch people just tried to outdo each other.

And then right after we finished the song, I can’t forget this. This one guy was like, I got to pay my meter. It’s downstairs and everyone’s That guy’s gonna get, he’s not gonna make it. He’s not gonna… so it was just such a strange, surreal experience. Yeah, it was so weird, man. I don’t even, I don’t even know why they picked me.


Russel Lolacher: Amazing.

Jeff Harry: I already worked there. Probably because I already worked at the other companies that they were like, Yeah

Russel Lolacher: We’ll take him. Yeah, and he’s got a beautiful singing voice. So yeah, we’ll absolutely take him.

Jeff Harry: Right,

Russel Lolacher: We need a baritone. We’ve got two.

Jeff Harry: I was like, is this America’s Got Talent? I don’t understand what’s happening. This is not a good interview.

Russel Lolacher: This leads…, I don’t even know how to segue into our topic from that.

Jeff Harry: That’s… this is perfect.

Russel Lolacher: So today we’re talking about how to get out of your own damn way. So maybe I should start the question with how do you know you’re even getting in your own damn way?

Jeff Harry: So it’s interesting. Let me, I’ll help with the segue. So I think I partly got that job because I did not care. I did not care as much. I was just like, this is ridiculous. It’s cool. If I work for the store, but if I don’t, I’ll just find another job. And there’s something about letting go of results.

I even do this in a lot of the workshops that I run where I actually have people do a drawing exercise. Where they have to draw another person, and then they freak out. They’re like, oh my gosh, I gotta draw… and I’m like, the whole time I’m telling them, you’re gonna have to show this to this person. So they’re freaking out the whole time, and then they eventually have to show it to this person.

And then I have them do it again, but I have them do it with their eyes closed. And then I asked them, which one do they judge themselves more with? And they always say, obviously the first one where they could see. And I’m like I gave you more time. You had, you, had, more time, you could see. So why’d you judge yourself more? And it was like, because I could see how badly it was going. And when I closed my eyes and I did it the second time, I didn’t really care. I kind of let go of the results and that’s kind of the whole magic of play is when you’re like fully present, you kind of like you can’t focus on the results and a lot of times we say expectations are the thief of joy, right?

That’s what gets in your way. Like when you’re so fixated on the result, you’re not only probably are not going to get that result, but then also you ignore all of the other opportunities that are in front of you. And when you really can be present for the moment when you’re at play, you’re 500 percent more productive, like five times more productive because you’re fully present and not focused on what, do people think of me? How is it going to turn out? Am I going to have regrets about the past? Am I going to worry about the future? Like you’re just not in your head so much.

Russel Lolacher: And what’s the downside of getting in your own way? Because we can talk about self fear, self doubt, imposter syndrome. These are all sort of roadblocks on the way of that thing. Like obviously getting in your way is a journey. You’re trying to get somewhere. So how does it… what are the impacts of getting in your own way?

Jeff Harry: I mean. They’re, everywhere, man, like it, the reason, probably one of the reasons why you’re not at the job or the position or the, or at that part of your business that you want to be is because of you. So much of this stuff is psychological as right? Like, why’d you start this podcast?

I’m sure there’s a lot of people listening right now that are like, I want to start a podcast, but they haven’t, right? Like, the amount of information. things that we’ve done based off of our own limiting beliefs. Like when I’m running this inner critic workshop, I always love running and I was just literally running it partly at John Hopkins.

I was asking people directly, what is the limiting belief that is getting in the way of you doing your most vibrant work? What’s in it? What’s the story you’ve been telling yourself? And the stories could be like I’ve never I never have gotten promoted.

Or all these people are smarter than me. Or I’m overlooked because whoever, you know how I started with the organization. There’s so many stories that we layer on top of ourselves. Don’t get me wrong. Discrimination is real. Racism is real. Classism is real. All those things are real and also. So it’s both. And we have to be willing to be like… I love this Elizabeth Gilbert quote “for personal transformation doesn’t happen until you get tired of your own BS.” So it’s just what BS story are you telling yourself? What’s the story that you’re like tired of that you keep telling yourself that I can’t do this because of X. Right? And once you start calling yourself out on that BS story, then things can shift.

Russel Lolacher: Is there a line between being a self critic versus just I’m just staying humble. I’m just trying to keep it real. I’m just trying to be, yeah. Is there a difference?

Jeff Harry: Yeah, I mean it’s tough, right? Because there’s a lot of mediocre leaders out there. There’s a lot of mediocre, and typically, sorry to say, there’s a lot of mediocre male leaders that have the confidence of an Elon Musk. And then there’s a lot of people who quote unquote suffer from imposter syndrome that are getting in their own way.

But here’s something that I’m so fascinated by that. I just recently was introduced to by Reshma Saujani. She’s the founder of Girls Who Code. So she’s doing a commencement speech at some college. And she’s “I hate answering the question about imposter syndrome.” She’s just ” hate it.”

She’s the reason I hate it is because it’s the new bicycle face and people are like, what are you talking about? And she was like back in the 1900s, women started riding bicycles a lot bicycles became like this new of invention, right? And it was just a play thing just like a fun thing for people to do. Oh women also want to ride bicycles. Go ahead. Ride bicycles and they started riding bicycles, but it became really popular and it actually started being a symbol of the women’s movement, the women’s suffrage movement, how they get the right to vote. They actually even started changing their pants, changing their dresses, so it was easier for them to ride these bicycles.

So this is like 1901, 1902, right? So this threatened a lot of men. And then got freaked out because all of a sudden the bicycles represented freedom to many women. So doctors came up with this term called “bicycle face”, which was like your face would be flushed. You would get like a weird angles on your face and ultimately you’d become ugly if you rode your bicycle too much.

And it was not a real diagnosis, but they just came up with it and just started sharing it everywhere. And bicycle usage from women dramatically dropped down. And it’s, and Reshma is basically saying, Imposter syndrome is like, not a thing. It’s not a recognized psychological thing. It’s just a term that has been created and now people use it all the time to be like, Oh, I have imposter syndrome. Oh, I have imposter syndrome. She’s it’s not real. It’s just another term to limit you from believing that you can do something. So you should call yourself out on it because it’s like, it’s a myth. Yes, there’s Yes, we all question whether or not we can do something or not, but is it a scientific term imposter syndrome? No, it isn’t. Those are some of the terminology that’s come up that is limited people, self limited people and, been used by people that are mediocre at best, but are trying to push other people down that they feel is a threat. And I was like, what? That’s just crazy.

Russel Lolacher: Gaslighting in the early 1900s to now it’s influencing people to gaslight themselves. Frightening.

Jeff Harry: Isn’t that isn’t that, meta? That’s like next level, dude. And to think there’s so many bad leaders out there. I recently saw this quote, I think it was on Twitter or something, even though Twitter’s dying. But I saw it on Twitter where someone was like, Talk to a CEO for 10 minutes and you’ll realize they’re not that smart.

You just realize most of these people. I mean, Michelle Obama said it numerous people. She’s… I’ve been in the room with the smartest most powerful people in the room. Not that smart, just not that smart. And I think a lot of times we psych ourselves out or we put certain people on pedestals, like Elon Musk. If he was so smart, why did he just run Twitter into the ground?

Like we need to be careful to not continue to praise these toxic leaders that really aren’t that genius. The Mark Zuckerberg’s, the Steve Jobs, the Elon Musk’s at the expense of us rather than being like, we can do stuff just as good as them, if not better than them.

Russel Lolacher: And they can still be smart in one area or one small doesn’t mean they’re all around or great leader. I know so many people that are called leaders that are just good at a tactic or good technology. I’m like, that’s not leadership. That is a checked box. That is a really smart at a thing, not quote unquote leadership.

So defining it. Should might help a few people understanding what a leader actually should be.

Jeff Harry: It’s true. And not to mention a lot of CEOs are a lot of the top ones that we celebrate. Some of them, a lot of them are psychopaths. Like they have psychopathic tendencies or, massive narcissistic tendencies. Look at the WeWork guy. The WeWork guy… 4… 40 billion company just gone, Because his ego. He’s just invested in way too many things. At one point he invested in like a wave machine or anything. Lost all this money, right? Craziest part, just got funding for a new startup. Why? You just lost 40 billion dollars! So it’s amazing that… wolf of wall street guy, why is he being interviewed on CNBC all the time as like a top thought leader? That dude defrauded thousands of people. That shouldn’t be celebrated. So it’s just, we gotta be careful about the leaders that we choose to celebrate.

Russel Lolacher: Especially if they make movies with Leonardo DiCaprio or Jared Leto playing those people. So how are we feeding the beast, Jeff? Because we see this and we see this unattainable, unearned confidence out there of people being successful, but we keep feeding the beast of “I’m not good enough.” I’m…

Jeff Harry: Yeah.

Russel Lolacher: So what are we doing? What are some things that we need to maybe stop doing on a daily basis that’s getting in the way?

Jeff Harry: Yeah. So that’s a great question. So I’ll backtrack just for a moment. So we understand where we’re coming from, right? According to a Dr. Shed Pelms-Blitzer, I believe. By the time you reach the age of 18, you’ve heard the word NO, approximately 148, 000 times. Like, around that amount.

You’ve probably heard the word, YES maybe around 000 times. So you’re already being told all the time that you shouldn’t do stuff. Then you go to school where you’re told to sit down. You’re told to raise your hand. You’re told to follow all these rules and then on top of it so many adults are constantly pressuring you like, what are you going to do when you grow up? You should be a doctor. You should be a a lawyer. You should be an engineer and you’re like, I’m six years old. I don’t understand why you’re telling me what I should be doing at such a young age.

So all that pressure, right? And then on top of that, then you get to your teen years and especially for Gen Z-ers now, but even with us, you’re inundated with so much information. We get more information in a day than I believe they said we get in your entire lifetime, we get all that in one day. And what is most of that information telling you? You suck. You’re not enough, but you know what you should do. Binge watch more Netflix, buy more stuff off Amazon anything you do to fill that void, but guess what, you suck, right? First that’s, we just have to understand, that’s the environment we’re in.

So that we don’t beat ourselves up. And then on top of that, our brain has design, is designed to have a negativity bias. So it’s also looking out for danger at all times and that also is getting in the way as well, because it’s trying to keep you alive. That’s what your brain is designed to do to keep you alive.

So you’re fighting all of that. So the best way to combat the inner beast, and this is a play method, is to get bored. And I know that sounds what do you mean get bored? It’s just stop inundating yourself with so much information and don’t get me wrong. I’m a hypocrite too. I’ve it’s really hard for me to even do it. And I teach this stuff. But I’m saying like for five to 10 minutes a day, just start there for five to 10 minutes a day. Don’t look at your phone. Don’t doom scroll. Don’t binge watch another YouTube video. Don’t, whatever the, your vice, whatever your vice is that’s consuming, just stop it and just be bored, right?

Go on a walk, do something where you’re not being inundated, because what happens is, finally, when you allow yourself to get bored, the bored way you used to get as a kid, right? Where you were like, go outside and you gotta just figure stuff out. All of a sudden that inner critic will first get loud and it’ll be like, this is stupid, right?

And just what are you doing? Blah, blah, blah. But then it starts to get quiet because you’re bored. And then all of a sudden you start to hear your inner child. And your inner child starts whispering things to you that make you nerve-cited. That make you kind of nervous but excited, right? And it’s going to say things to you like, hey why don’t you start a podcast? Hey, why don’t you email that person you’ve always wanted to email? Hey, why don’t you take this risk? And regardless of whatever happens regardless of whether you email that person and they get back to you, just the fact that you take the risk puts you now in almost like you’re jumping into the pool of fear and then you realize what fear is. It’s just false evidence appearing real. You, realize it’s not that scary and then you start taking more nerve-cited risks and then all of a sudden you’re listening to your inner child more, your inner critic goes down, you’re consuming less and then all of a sudden you start to get more and more confident because you’re like.

I can do things that I thought I was scared of before. And we’ve all done this when we’ve traveled and taken a risk and we’re like, Oh my gosh, that was so amazing and so expansive but I couldn’t believe I did that. Like I swam at 4:30 AM in the morning in Hawaii, like yesterday because I was, it was my last day in Hawaii and I was like, Oh my gosh, I’m gonna go. But I was like, but I’m also so scared that I might get taken out to sea, but I’m gonna do it anyway. And once I was in the water, I was like, man, this is the greatest thing. That’s the best thing I’ve done since I’ve been here. And then I didn’t want to leave, right? And those are those, small risks are ways in which all of a sudden you can tame that, inner beast as my friend Marsha Shandur says.

Russel Lolacher: And, I can hear people going, that sounds great if I have lots of time, but if I’m trying to do this within a work environment, where I’m inundated with those emails that are telling me I’m not good enough, I need do better. I love the idea of play because it’s like basically, and I’m really oversimplifying this is take work less seriously but be very serious about play.

Jeff Harry: Yeah.

Russel Lolacher: Is that in a work environment to get out of your own way is, do you feel play is the answer? And how would that apply within the workplace?

Jeff Harry: Yep. I mean so I define play as any joyful act where you forget about time. It’s where you’re fully in the moment. It’s where, you know, it’s, your zone of genius. Where if you were, even if you weren’t getting paid to do this work, you would do this work anyway, right?

And when you actually focus on that type of work, you’re again, like I said earlier, five times more productive with all of your work because you’re pursuing that because also you are allowing yourself to play to start your day. You frame your day that way. So even in the work setting, you can get bored in the work setting for five minutes where you’re just like, or get quiet, right?

Some people do this through meditation. Others do it through like dancing in their room, like whatever the thing is, but you actually have to calm yourself down and then allow some time. Because I think a lot of times we’re like, yes, you’re getting inundated with all these emails. You’re always going to get emails.

And there’s never a point where you’re going to email everybody and then be like, I’m done. Because everyone knows if you send emails, then guess what? You get emails back. Like it’s just, it’s an ongoing. So for you to take a break. Heck even take a vacation. When was the last time you took vacation, right?

When was the last time you took a serious break so that you can reflect on what am I doing? Why am I doing this? What motivates me? You know, really understanding my why of why am I here in the first place? That’s crucial. And I think what, you know, work happens is a lot of this happens regardless because of capitalism, we’re constantly being like what’s the next thing? What’s the next thing? Oh, did you just accomplish something? Should you celebrate? Nah. I Don’t celebrate it too much. Maybe go to happy hour and then let’s keep going. And I’ve done this at workshops. I have a whole workshop where I’m just like, Let’s just celebrate.

What do you mean celebrate? Yo? Celebrate the way football players celebrate when they get an interception. Like, where is that? What, where, when are we doing that type of celebration? It doesn’t even have to be something grandiose, but just the idea of celebrating, getting anything done. We’re so rushing all the time.

And then you assume that because we’re rushing all the time. Americans are more productive than any other country. Not the case, dude, just not the case. So many studies have found four day work weeks, more productive than five day work weeks. No, that doesn’t make any sense. Yeah, it actually does because people have three days off to actually relax, do all their other errands and not burn out.

The reason why we’re not very productive right now is because a lot of us are burnt out from the pandemic and three years ago and we’ve never addressed it. We’re just kind of just sitting there at work, at 30 percent being like whatever I’m just gonna… and if we could just take a break then we would actually be able to do probably better work.

Russel Lolacher: I like though, that you do blend outside work and inside work because you can’t pretend like things shift suddenly when you walk out a door, turn off a computer screen. You need to be thinking about this stuff outside of that, that three day weekend and while you’re in it. I think I’ve mentioned this on podcast before I was talking to somebody and she had done a values exercise and had completely different values at home than she did in the workplace. I’m like, that’s not how that works.

Jeff Harry: Oh interesting. Interesting. Interesting. That’s so fascinating you said that because I remember running a workshop a long time ago and I mentioned and we were talking about play and work and this one person was like, I don’t work how I play. And she was adamant about it. And you could tell she did not like working there, so it was like, I don’t see work as fun at all, right? And I was like, okay that’s understandable. A lot of people don’t, but if you can find the fun in some of the work that you do, you’re going to be more productive. You’re going to be more happy. And it’s actually going to produce better results, right?

Rather than just being like, this is the long slog and I just have to suck it up for the next eight hours. That’s just… that’s damaging man, like on top of your two hour commute? Ugh. Like I tell people this all the time, you’re at work 2000 to 2500 hours a year. Please find something fun about your work or leave, find someone other at some point, don’t leave until you find the next job.

But you know, you know, know that is an option because it’s that’s, a, sentence that doesn’t… yeah, that’s not fun.

Russel Lolacher: But we’re not islands, Jeff. Like we are not only, I mean, we have control over what we consume. We have control over our day to day, whether we want to admit it or not. But we have friends, we have colleagues, we have family members. How can we leverage them to help us get a little bit more out of our way?

Jeff Harry: Oh, that’s a great question. So I do this exercise with some of my coaching clients where I will actually have them ask their best friends and their family members, whoever is their closest to people that know them, right? You could even ask this of some of your coworkers that you trust. And I have them ask these two questions.

I have them ask…. What value do I bring to your life? Because I don’t think a lot of people even know. I don’t even think they know what they contribute. And that’s a great question even to ask at work because I think a lot of people again celebrating like what value do I bring? Like, why are we friends?

What do I do for you? So that’s a really interesting question to ask. And then the second question is asking them, when have you seen me most, come most alive? When have you seen me, when have you seen me most playful, right? That’s another way of asking, or when have you seen me most creative ?

Or when have you seen me most fulfilled or most satisfied ? But so the questions are what value to bring to my life? And, or what value do I bring to your life? And when have you seen me come most alive, right? And asking those to multiple people, usually like three to five people. And then just seeing what comes back, you’d be amazed what they say, because they might either remind you of things that you’re like, Oh my gosh, I haven’t done that in a long time. That’d be super fun. Or they’ll remind you of something you already do. That you’re like, yeah, I do that. I didn’t even realize I did that. Oh yeah. I should probably double down on that. And once you have them… once they answer those questions for you, then it’ll spark some ideas, right? It’s just oh, you come most alive when you’re on stage. Or you come most alive when you’re writing. Or when you’re on your, when you’re talking about your podcast, right? So then you can brainstorm with your friends and family and being like, how can I do more of that? Wait, you see me most come most live when I’m on stage right now, I’m not on any stages.

Can you help me? What should I do? And then you all brainstorm. How do we do it? Ooh, what kind of stages you want? You want to do some comedy, open mics, you want to do some poetry, you want to sing? Do you want to apply to speak at some conferences like they can start helping you. And that’s a worthwhile question. And heck, even asking, even having managers asking their staff that. What is the work that makes you come most alive? I don’t know. Let me think about that. If you help your staff actually do that. Not only are they more productive but the reason they’re more productive is all of a sudden, because you asked that question now, they feel more seen, heard, appreciated, and valued. That’s what so many employees want right now.

Russel Lolacher: And I love that you segued into that because that was sort of where I wanted to ask is we’re not islands but there are other people outside looking at our islands.

Who are leaders going, how can I make my organization more accepting, more psychologically safe so you can be playing. So there’s those outside people looking in that should be looking at this as an opportunity to actually, oh, I don’t know, lead as a leader. And create this environment.

I know novel, right?

Jeff Harry: Novel! And I’ll comment on that first, but yes. Keep going. Oh, this is, yeah, seriously.

Russel Lolacher: So what can an organization do? What can those leaders do to create an environment where people don’t feel like they’re getting in their own way?

Jeff Harry: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So let me ask it, answer it this way. I’ve never answered it this way, so I’m excited to answer it in this way. So have you ever heard of Pournelle’s iron law of bureaucracy?

Russel Lolacher: I’m going with a firm no.

Jeff Harry: Okay, so I just learned about this myself. So apparently, according to Pournelle’s iron law of bureaucracy, people are rewarded for supporting the bureaucracy, even if the bureaucracy is at the detriment to the organization.

While people that want to change the organization, to improve it, are typically ostracized or let go. So that is what we’re all fighting. We’re fighting this iron law of bureaucracy where once the system is created, people want to protect the system because then you don’t have, especially a crappy manager, wants to protect the bureaucratic system because they suck as a leader, right?

I challenge leaders to look at your organization and be like, do you, what, where is the iron law of bureaucracy with? Are you, who are you celebrating? Who are you choosing to celebrate? And then before you start playing, before you start getting your staff to play or do all these fun things, they don’t trust you.

They may not trust you. So I challenge them first to do this. I have a whole step process that I tell him, but I at first ask him this, what is the worst behaviour you’re currently tolerating? That’s a John Amaechi quote. The worst behaviour you’re currently tolerating defines your culture.

It defines your culture. So how are you? Why are you tolerating that toxic person? Why are you tolerating that person that’s being like super lazy But it’s been there for 10 -15 years and very entitled. So first address that You first have to address that. Then you also have to address, Hey, did we lose your trust or did we gain your trust? And in the last three years, a lot of people lost trust in their organization. Saw how they acted during the pandemic was like, you don’t care about me. So they either left that organization or they stayed in their bitter and if they left the organization, they don’t trust the next organization.

So you have to ask people directly, where’s your level of trust with our organization? Have that conversation. And then after that, then again, even before the play, because you got to build the playground of safety first rather than force play. If you force fun, it’s the worst, right? It’s like forcing your staff into an escape room and being like, okay, everybody, we’re gonna play now and everyone’s gonna get along and Chad and Samantha hate each other. They’re gonna hate each other after they get out of the room. If they even get out of the room, right? So what do you force? So don’t force it.

But then the third thing right after you address the worst culture being a tolerated and after you’ve addressed whether you’ve built trust or lost trust in the last few years is then how are you giving to your staff? Do you know your staff’s languages of appreciation? Do you know how to share gratitude towards your staff? Do you know how to celebrate your staff? And then after you figured out and start celebrating your staff will play on their own. Your staff will start to play because they now realize they can take risks and you yourself as a leader have to model that. You have to be like, Hey we’re going to take on this new project and I want us to do it in a different way. I don’t want to do it in the regular way. Most people are gonna be like we might get reprimanded if we do it that way. No, I’m gonna, I’m gonna lead by also failing and celebrating failure. Celebrating the idea of failing internally, not externally, but internally, right?

And taking these risks to prove to you that I actually want you also to play. I want you also to experiment. And I was introduced to this quote by a play thought leader, Kevin Carroll. And he came, he got it from this the author Stephen Johnson who said, you’ll find the future where people are having the most fun.

And that fun and play, that’s where all innovation, creativity lie. That’s how most organizations started, as play. This is why it’s so important. I think a lot of times people are like, we don’t have time for play. You, don’t, you do not have time not to play because if you are not being innovative and creative and creating that safe space, you’re done.

You’re going to become Twitter. Look how not fun that place is and because it’s not fun, it’s a mass exodus, of advertisers, max exodus of people. I just hopped on Threads. I don’t even like Threads, but I’ll hop on it because it’s not as it’s more sounds a little bit more fun than Twitter right now.

What’s the most popular app? TikTok. Why? Most fun, right? So don’t, belittle fun. Don’t belittle play. But you have to first do all those first steps to create that safe space. And then allow them to play on their own time and not force it.

Russel Lolacher: I want to bring this back to the individual. Specifically you, Jeff. You’re a human being. I’ve noticed.

Jeff Harry: Yeah.

Russel Lolacher: So I’m kind of curious as to what was the light switch for you when you thought… Oh, this is how I get out of my own way. Because we all have self limiting beliefs, whether we want to admit it or not.

Some are overwhelming. Some are not. Did you have a moment where it was… this is what I need to do. This is how I get out of my own way.

Jeff Harry: Yeah. Here. This one’s, a good example of that is… so I used to never make videos, I thought I was like, I hated my voice. I hated looking at myself. I was like, Oh, it’s so gross. It’s just the weird. Everyone feels that way when they’re listening to something, like, Oh is that, how I sound?

Oh my gosh. So I remember saying I don’t have time, I don’t have time to make videos. And I remember saying this all the time. And then I don’t know if you remember March, 2020. But March 2020 rolls around, March 15, 2020. And guess what? I had all the time in the world and there was no excuse.

And you know what I did? From March to April, I binge watched Netflix. I watched Tiger King, I figured out every excuse not to make videos, but at some point, the whole Elizabeth Gilbert quote, right? I got tired of my own BS story. I was just like, let me just make one video. It’s not a big deal no one’s gonna even watch it, I’ll just make a TikTok video, it’s not, whatever.

By the end of that year, I had made 300 videos. By doing that, I also had given myself permission to start applying to speak on podcasts. I had never done, I hadn’t done, I may had done five podcasts before that by the end of that year, I had done a hundred by the end of 2021, I had done 200. And through those podcasts episodes, all of a sudden, all these workshop ideas started to come up for me, like seven, eight, I have now nine talks I do based off of all these podcast interviews I did. And I only did those podcast interviews because I made those stupid videos for myself, right? And now I speak all around the country and I don’t think I would have done any of that I wouldn’t be speaking 50 to 70 times around the country per year probably more, you know, if it wasn’t for me making that stupid video. That first video and even now don’t get, I mean, I hate when people are like, I used to do this thing and now everything’s perfect. No, everything’s not perfect. Recently, I stopped making videos again. I started getting back in my own head. And my coach friend, Angie Cole coached me through this and she got this idea from, I think Simone Grace Seoul, this whole thing of a hundred garbage posts. So right now I’m in this experiment for the next month where I have to post, or try to post, three times a day, just garbage, just like anything. It doesn’t even matter. Like it could be just my feet like whatever. But just post stuff just to let go of the results of it. Because I was way too in my head. So even as I teach this inner critic stuff, I’m still struggling with this.

And I think we have to remember with each and every person like that. It’s an ongoing process of your ebbing and flowing. Some days are really good, some days you fail. Even me, I’m trying to push through this again with these hundred garbage posts as a way to realize like, my videos are not an extension of me. I make them and like those mandalas that monks make, you put them out there and then you let it blow away, right?

It’s you just let go because it’s not, once you make your art. It’s not yours anymore. It’s someone’s going to interpret it totally different way. And it really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if it goes viral or not. I’ve had things that go viral, not the best thing, not always the greatest thing to go viral.

Sometimes the things that go viral, you’re like, really that, is the thing that went. I don’t even want that. But just making for the sake of making for yourself. That process for me so powerful because it helps me rediscover my voice. It helps me rediscover my play, right? And that’s the thing, again, getting bored, doing our creative stuff, it’s all about trying to tap back into that inner child and tap back into that voice that you are ignoring right now that constantly wants to get out but is getting blocked by all of this self doubt.

Russel Lolacher: Thanks, Jeff. I have to end the show as I always do with the final question, which is what’s one simple action can do right now to improve their relationships at work?

Jeff Harry: I mean, there’s a few different ones, but I think the one that I would think of the most is find out your staff’s languages of appreciation, find out your colleagues language of appreciation and start giving to them in that way. Because if someone, say for example, you’re a leader and your staff loves gifts, meaning they love money and you love quality time. And you’re like I’m just going to spend more time with you. That is torture. That’s torture for them. When they just want money, right? Or they just want acts of service or they just want words of affirmation. So find out and then start giving to people in that way. Because by doing that, all of a sudden they start feeling seen, right?

And then if you really are a leader, then I definitely challenge you to be looking at what is the worst behavior you’re currently tolerating at work and address that. And that will raise all boats. That will help the rest of your organization.

Russel Lolacher: That is Jeff Harry. He is a top 100 HR influencer, keynote speaker, and he teaches play through his consultancy Rediscover Your Play. Thanks so much, Jeff. Appreciate this.

Jeff Harry: Hey, thanks so much for the conversation. This was super fun.


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