Steve Kowalski Interview

Lisa Peake

Hi Everyone,

I just loved the In Conversation interview with Steve that was sent out this week. It was so interesting for me to hear him address GTD as it relates to creativity and innovation within the corporate world. Would anyone else like to share their thoughts on the interview?



Enjoyed Steve

As someone else in the corporate development world, I really enjoyed Steve's converstation with David. Steve's link to innovation and productivity is a challenge we are all facing and his approach was very useful.

I would encourage David to continue to interview interesting people like Steve in upcoming mailouts.


Delegation - trust the people you delegate to

This interview is so rich I've listened to it twice (so far). I appreciate Steve's comments on the topic of delegation and that when you delegate, you have to accept that there are a lot of different ways to get to a successful outcome. It may not look exactly the way you envisioned it, but that's ok. Also, the challenge in collaborative projects to push decision making down to the lowest level to the people who will be doing the work.


Kelly Forrister | GTD expert
Got some great nuggets from this

First, as a presenter for David Allen doing work inside Genentech, this interview with Steve gave me more depth about the environment there. I've been so impressed with the staff at this company and their passion for what they are doing. I'm really looking forward to my next seminar for them now that I understand their challenges and opportunities at an even deeper level. Good stuff.

I also loved Steve's reference about people being more open to spirituality in the work place. I thought it was interesting to hear someone from a very corporate environment talk about something that is important to so many people whatever their faith, background and religion. I think we can all relate to wanting our work to make a difference--whether it's the job I had when I was 16 as a waitress slinging meatballs or now 20 years later getting to share GTD knowing the incredible difference it can make in peoples' lives. It seems to me that people are creating more space for a life outside of work and creating more meaning in the work they do.

Peter Gallant

Creating Space...

One of many interesting messages in Steve's interview is the notion of creating "space". My interpretation of Steve's comment is that as one grows and expands their own inner world and capabilities (by way of personal growth and expansion - such as by consistently implementing GTD!) - the inner mental/emotional space that's created could be filled by many things. While this space could be filled by expanded capabilities and productivity, it could also lead to new personal growth and demands that could be fulfilled by such things as a new job. An interesting thought.

I think this is an important realization for me both personally and as a leader/employer of others.

Steve's interview is excellent, with real depth of thought!


Lisa Peake

Re: Creating space


Thanks for highlighting something about the interview that was hugely important for me too- creating space.

I'm reminded that my yoga teacher is always telling me to "create space" in the body. Honestly I still don't know quite what that means, but it seems to relate to the kind of opening for creativity that Steve talked about in the interview. GTD does exactly that- it creates space- for more ideas, and for engaging with the moment as opposed to engaging with worry or overwhelm.



While listening to David interview Steve Kowalski, I was struck by Steve’s comments about how managers have difficulty delegating. As a trainer and coach for The David Allen Co., I have worked with some very high-level high-powered managers and I’ve also noticed this predilection. I’ve seen two things which tend contribute to the cause of this. One is that these folks have to move so quickly to navigate through their days that they rarely slow down to “think”. Information and people are coming at them so fast which results in them spending most of their days in reactivity to what is coming their way. Time and time again as I’ve watched a manager slow down to think about this thing in front of them, I’ve seen them realize, ‘You know what? I don’t need to do this! I can send this over to Sam so he can take the first stab at this proposal.” When that happens a few times, they start seeing the value of slowing down to clarify ‘is this mine or is this theirs’? Things start moving and the manager is now freed up to focus on more high level thinking.

The other reason managers have for hesitating to delegate is they have no system for tracking what they’ve given to others. When that happens, there tend to be one of two outcomes. Either it gets lost and forgotten until it becomes a crisis or the manager ends up micromanaging the person they’ve given to to ensure it’s getting done. The latter usually looks like a manager walking around the hall with their head bent over their blackberry frantically following up with someone just to “see how it’s going”. Once a manager establishes their ‘Waiting For’ list and give their direct reports what they expect and when they want it, they will back off considerably and allow their folks to support them in getting things done!



This has been my exeprience pre-and post-Waiting for list. I was a bear with my people because I was concerned that I would forget what I had asssigned and couldn't rest with it in their inbox alone. I always hounded them until they got it done. Once I could track my delegation in such a simple but elegant way, I relaxed....and so did everyone else!


Senior Associate, Next Action Associates
The Trust Factor

It's amazing how much more sense of "trust" I experience with my teammates when I start up-levelling my trust in my systems. Amazing how most management techniques (walking around, nudging people, etc.) actually seem to train us to focus on why we don't trust and shouldn't trust those around us -- by continually focusing on cracks and things that might slip through it. Equally amazing how when your own system becomes water-tight, and you can clearly track what's going on without constantly focusing on what's not done and who's not doing it -- everyone can relax a bit more, be a bit more reasonable, work together in a more trusting way. I think that's the kind of altitude people who facilitiate so much global organizational change inititives are trying to facilitiate in the first place, and the irony is that I've found a bottom-up approach -- from my systems out -- actually engenders that much, much more effectively.