Chris Taylor is a writer, entrepreneur and speaker. He spends his daylight hours helping consultants and employees alike find meaning in their work and discover rich team relationships through his company, Actionablebooks.com. When he’s not engrossed in work, Chris is an avid traveler, cyclist and snowboarder who loves nothing more than a well prepared meal paired with a decent bottle of wine and good friends. Chris and his wife divide their time between rural Spain, an island in Panama and Toronto, Canada.
Why does the world need a work revolution? (In other words: the way we’re working isn’t working. Why not?)
In 2009, when I started interviewing thought leaders and best selling authors, I was simply looking for deeper insight on the concepts from their most recent books. What became abundantly clear to me however is that all of these thought leaders were talking about the fundamental shift that our world had experienced in the last 20 years. The way we shopped, socialized, paid bills (even how we dated!) had been completely reinvented… but somehow our workplaces hadn’t. Or actually, they had, in the sense that companies now expected their employees to be available 24/7, and juggle “more with less”, but the tools, structure and reporting relationships in most organizations hadn’t advanced to meet the need. And that’s particularly a problem for “most” organizations, because some have evolved… and the top talent out there (your top talent) are flocking to the companies that ‘get it’ in droves.
How are you or your organization reinventing work in some way (big or small)?
At ActionableBooks.com we help leaders build stronger teams. We know that the #1 factor affecting employee engagement is their team dynamics, and we also know that the #1 reason people leave organizations is because of the relationship they have with their manager. Through Actionable Workshops – a new approach to professional development – we are equipping managers with the tools to engage their teams in richer, deeper dialogue; dialogue that leads to increased job satisfaction, reduced turnover and higher levels of collaboration. We’re helping build 21st Century teams.
Why do you do what you do?
North America boasts the highest employee engagement rate on the planet… at 29%. That stat disgusts me. How is it possible that only 3 out of 10 people can say that their work fulfills them? That they’re willing to go above and beyond their job description to advance the needs of the team or organization? Something is (seriously) broken. I can’t imagine standing by and hoping it gets better.
What kind of art (any kind) do you like and why? Any recommendations we should know about?
I find local music to be particularly inspiring. Whether it’s in Fiji, Spain or Panama, I think there’s something particularly beautiful about hearing locals sing local songs. The lower the production quality the better.
What is one specific thing your company does that makes your culture unique and/or different
Our entire team is virtual. Twice a year we take what we would have spent on rent in the city and spend it on a 2 or 3 day staff retreat. As our company continues to grow those retreats become more elaborate, and increasingly exotic locales.
What is one discipline/industry totally different from your own that has inspired you? How does it impact your work?
I’m actually somewhat in awe of the Direct Selling/MLM industry. (Hear me out) Each of these companies survives/thrives through the dedicated sales efforts of a 100% commission based sales force. Their sales people aren’t even employees. Which means no ‘stick’. You can’t insist, you can’t demand. You can’t threaten termination. You can only motivate. Yes, there are financial motivators, but the more I learn about the industry, the more I learn that the top leaders are incredibly adept at understanding the unique motivators of their people and consciously working to help them achieve their personal objectives. It’s a thing of beauty, and one that we could all benefit from studying.
What’s one tangible and concrete technique other organizations should use if they want to create a more human and/or meaningful place to work?
Regular, non-task related conversation. The single most impactful leadership technique that I’ve implemented in the last three years is a recurring, one-hour meeting with each direct report where they own the agenda. Completely. (And I will tell you from experience, it’s tough to not fill that meeting with your own stuff.) Keep it totally about what they want to cover. Sometimes it’s all project stuff, but sometimes it’s just hanging out. It’s a little thing, but it’s been hugely impactful for me.
What is one surprising thing we should know about you?
I’m Nomadic. My wife and I gave up our permanent address back in 2013, and have since spent time in Spain, Canada, Panama and Australia. Actionable Books grew over 118% that first year we were gone.
What piece of technology (other than your laptop/smartphone/tablet) could you not live without and why?
My Bose QuietComfort 15 Headphones. I live in these – on the plane, in coffee shops, sometimes just to tune out the world. Life is better in Bose.
How do you stay productive throughout your day?
I calendar everything. Everything. Lunch, exercise, recreational reading and, of course, major projects. I block 2 hours out for ‘HW&B’ (Health, wellness and balance) mid day, and do my best to stick to it. Breaking the day in half (and having my next step right there in the calendar) keeps me focused.
Where in the world are you?
Currently? Isla San Cristobal, Panama
How can people connect with you?