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Come Up For Air, with Nick Sonnenberg

Is email eating into your time? Do you have to keep asking what’s happening with projects and waiting for a response? If you want to boost the results in your business, listen in as Shannon speaks with efficiency expert Nick Sonnenberg about his new book, Come Up for Air, and learn about his simple yet powerful “CPR” framework.

Show Notes:

  • Nick has written a new book called Come Up for Air.
  • Nick was a trader on Wall Street for eight years, coding computers to trade stocks automatically, at high frequency, in microseconds.
  • This work gave Nick an appreciation of the value of time: saving a microsecond could mean a difference of millions of dollars.
  • He started to think in terms of automation, celebrating small wins, and deconstructing processes—and now he applies this thinking to operational efficiency consulting and training through his company Leverage.
  • His company expanded very quickly because of his skill with automation tools.
  • Despite superficial success, the company was losing money, and Nick’s partner left the business. Because all of Nick’s work had been backstage, none of the clients or staff knew who he was.
  • Letting the business go bankrupt didn’t feel ethical, but things had to pivot quickly.
  • Communication was a morass of pings and dings, and there was no org chart to show who was doing what. So Nick started with project management.
  • In his consulting work, Nick saw the same pattern of deficiencies in other companies, large and small.
  • He developed his “CPR” framework, “Communicate, Plan, and Resource,” which is featured in the book.
  • Nick and his team clean up the “scavenger hunt” in other companies and make those teams more efficient.
  • The existing literature, he found, was all about individual productivity, not team productivity.
  • Despite all the teamwork tools available—Slack, Asana, Monday, ClickUp, Notion, Guru—no one was being taught how to think about these tools or what their purpose is.
  • People don’t even use Gmail and Outlook properly, even though they’ve been around longer.
  • He wanted to write a book to teach people about his framework.
  • If companies implement his system, they will get back a full business day per week.
  • Instead of talking about health insurance and vacation days, this manual would be the employee manual they never got.
  • Nick thanks Shannon for being a “wizard” and giving him advice when he wrote the book.
  • When people are working remotely, this communication becomes even more important.
  • Nick inspired Strategic Coach® to change its internal communication practices.
  • “You have to know the purpose of these tools and when to use these tools.”
  • No one likes to change their behavior or implement a tool without understanding why.
  • Example: Organizing around topic/channel instead of simply chronologically.
  • Everyone takes a few extra clicks or seconds to put things in the right place: You don’t just take all your laundry out of the dryer and stick it in one drawer. Same thing.
  • You’re either optimizing for the short term or for the long term. You want to be optimizing globally, not just locally.
  • Dan Sullivan: In the 20th century, the 3Rs were reading, writing, and arithmetic; the 21st century has added a fourth: retrieval.
  • Defining “the scavenger hunt”—frustration and wasted time.
  • For a sustainable, profitable, scalable business with a better culture, you have to think about how people are retrieving information.
  • Getting to “Inbox Zero” is a savings of three to five hours per week, per employee.
  • Distinguishing the difference between communication and planning.
  • The purpose of teamwork tools is accountability and transparency. You don’t need to ask and wait for information that’s documented in a reporting system.
  • These tools solve “The Open-File Syndrome.”
  • David Allen: Your brain is for having ideas, not holding ideas.
  • We get stressed and feel anxious when we don’t know where things are. And having to ask too often breaks down trust.
  • Strategic Coach’s new book coming out in May: 10x Is Easier Than 2x.
  • Without the systems he has in place, Nick’s book launch would have taken a team of 20 people instead of four.
  • Investing the time to set up a project properly at the start produces big returns later.
  • Adding more bodies to the organization won’t necessarily stop you from drowning in work.
  • There are three ways to increase capacity: Hire more people, ask people to work harder, or get more efficient.
  • Who Not How—Technology is a “Who.”
  • Productivity gains go straight to the bottom line.
  • An Asana survey discovered that 60-70% of workers’ time is spent organizing to do the work, not doing the work.
  • The Entrepreneurial Time System®: Free, Focus, and Buffer Days—3xing your Focus Time.
  • Distinguishing between dynamic and static knowledge.
  • “To me, it’s not a win if it’s profitable but there’s a lot of pain.”
  • Unique Ability®—focusing on what you’re best at and love.
  • Businesses with documentation have a much higher valuation.
  • There are tools (like Process Street) for documenting your Standard Operating Procedures.
  • Even if all these tools disappeared in five years, once you understand the thinking, you can swap out the specific tool in a couple of days.
  • You can’t get insurance to hedge against key people leaving, but documenting what people do effectively minimizes the risk of that happening.
  • You’ll always have D.O.S.®—Dangers, Opportunities, and Strengths.
  • In 1980, 84% of a company’s value was in tangible assets and 16% in intangibles like intellectual property and goodwill. By 2020, those figures were reversed.
  • IP that’s captured and protected can be packaged, invested in, and sold.
  • When you set people up for success at the start—like with the CPR framework—you prevent them from drowning in work later on.


Nick’s company, Leverage

Nick’s book, Come Up for Air, with a special deal for listeners and free resources

The tools that Nick’s company recommends:

Asana — A system for keeping teams organized and connected

Dan Sullivan and Ben Hardy’s new book, 10x Is Easier Than 2x

The Kolbe Profile

David Allen’s Getting Things Done

Who Not How — A new way to think about growth and teamwork, from Dan Sullivan and Ben Hardy

Extraordinary Impact Filter — Learn to use The Impact Filter

Unique Ability® 2.0: Discovery — Learn all about how to identify and use your own Unique Ability

The Time Breakthrough — Learn Strategic Coach’s Entrepreneurial Time System of Free, Focus, and Buffer Days

Deep D.O.S. Innovation — Identify your and your clients’ dangers, opportunities, and strengths

Episode Transcript:
Shannon Waller: Hi, Shannon Waller here, and welcome to Team Success. Today, I am absolutely thrilled because my good friend Nick Sonnenberg is here to talk about his brand-new book. Yay! Come Up For Air. And this is truly a labor of love as well as passion. So I'm super excited to dive in and talk about it. We've got some special offers for you. Nick's been very generous. But Nick, before we jump into that, why don't you let people know who Nick is and maybe a little bit about why you wrote the book, and welcome.
Nick Sonnenberg: Well, thanks for having me back for, what's this, the third time?
Shannon Waller: At least.
Nick Sonnenberg: Yeah. So for those that don't know me, I'm Nick Sonnenberg. I'm also a member of Strategic Coach for a few years now, and a good friend of Shannon. My background, if I kind of reverse-engineer into how I wrote this book and why I wrote the book, my background in the past was as a high frequency trader. So for eight years, I was on Wall Street building algorithms, coding computers to trade stocks automatically at super high frequencies, like we're talking nano- and microseconds. So I did that for eight years. And in that industry, you don't know anything about the stocks, it's all purely based off of math. I'm trying to find mathematical discrepancies between where certain assets and certain stocks are versus what the math is saying. And in that job, it's all automated, not just the trading but the analysis and so on and so forth.
But I really built an even deeper appreciation for the value of time. I mean, I've always been obsessed with time my whole life, but in that job you're literally high-fiving colleagues if you can save a microsecond because that can mean the difference of millions of dollars. And so I say that because I think in a certain way I've been programmed to think in terms of automation, celebrating small wins, deconstructing things into a process. And so I applied that same type of thinking into my company Leverage, which now does operational efficiency consulting and training for Strategic Coach clients, Genius Network clients, but also larger Fortune 10 tech companies. But originally when I left finance to get into entrepreneurship, and that's a whole other story, the thought process and why I decided to do it. But eventually I had some money in the bank, I had an idea for a startup, and I took the launch in the deep end to do it.

About the Author

Shannon Waller, Entrepreneurial Team Strategist, is a natural collaborator who instinctively saw that a thriving Unique Ability® Team can strengthen their entrepreneur, the business, and themselves. A win-win-win. Go, team, is Shannon’s rallying cry.

Profile Photo of Shannon Waller