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466: How to Get Home Earlier by Automating (Some of) Your Work with Wade Foster

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Wade Foster says: "Automation is a mindset; it's not a skill."

Wade Foster shares super-simple mindsets, tools and tricks to automate repetitive work  tasks and liberate extra time.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Just how much time you can save through automation
  2. Where automation works, and where it doesn’t
  3. The latest low-cost software tools to optimize your workflow

About Wade 

Wade Foster is the co-founder and CEO of San-Francisco-based Zapier, a company offering a service that makes it easy to move data among web apps to automate tedious tasks. He, along with co-founder Mike Knoop, was featured on Forbes’ 30 under 30: for Enterprise Tech.

Resources mentioned in the show:

Wade Foster Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Wade, thanks for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Wade Foster
Yeah, thanks for having me, Pete. I’m excited to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig into this conversation. I have used your tool Zapier before but, first, I want to hear the tale of you playing the saxophone—I, too, was a sax player in high school and marching band—at The Missouri Governor’s Mansion.

Wade Foster
Oh, goodness. So, I played saxophone for a long time. I started playing in 5th grade. And my instructor had a quartet that played at The Governor’s Mansion in Jeff City regularly at the time. And they had a member of the quartet who moved out of the state and so they needed a fourth member on pretty short notice. And, for whatever reason, in their infinite wisdom, they thought, “Let’s invite this 9th-grader to come play with us at The Governor’s Mansion.”

And so, they say, “Hey, Wade, come to our rehearsal, come to a trial run.” And I walked in and I’m probably, I don’t know, 4’7” and don’t even weigh 100 pounds, like sopping wet or anything like that, and they gave me a go, and they say, “Hey, try this out.” And, for whatever reason, I must not have done too bad because they said, “Why don’t you come play at The Governor’s Mansion.

I ended up getting to play over at The Governor’s Mansion quite a few times over the course of the next year. And then, eventually, a new governor came around, and he had different entertainment, I guess.

Pete Mockaitis
“No saxophones for me.”

Wade Foster
Yeah, and so we weren’t invited back after that. But it was a ton of fun as a 9th-grader. I loved it.

Pete Mockaitis
Did that shape your political views?

Wade Foster
You know what, it didn’t.

Pete Mockaitis
Liked one administration and not the other.

Wade Foster
Yeah, as 9th-grader, my views on, I guess, the political landscape were pretty rudimentary at the time. I was just like, “Let’s play saxophone. That sounds fun.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, sax is fun, and I would take a crack at a terrible segue of just as the saxophone has many buttons to push down so, too, can automation have a lot of different layers and buttons and approaches. So, that’s the topic du jour. And before we get into the nitty gritty of what to automate and how to automate, I’d love to get your overall kind of philosophy on automation. Like, why is it helpful? When is it not? Lay it on us.

Wade Foster
Yeah, I think automation is going to be one of the, sort of defining topics of the next decade or so. I think the way the mainstream press talks about it, it’s often pretty scary. They’re talking about how robots, especially in manufacturing—it’s a scary topic. But the way we see automation at Zapier, we see this across, we have, I don’t know, something around four million users now.

And most of the people doing automation tend to be knowledge workers. It tends to be white collar folks in professional jobs, they’re business owners, or maybe they’re entrepreneurs themselves, or many times they’re just a person in a job, whether it’s in marketing, or in sales, or a data analyst, or an engineer or a real estate agent, or a lawyer, or whatever, who’s sort of is using a suite of tools, maybe it’s some marketing software, or maybe it’s some sales software, or some customer support software.

And, oftentimes, they’re doing pretty manual stuff on a day-to-day basis. Maybe they’re downloading a list of leads out of Facebook or LinkedIn, and then uploading those into a CRM. Or maybe they’ve got a bunch of files that they’re pulling out and collecting from forms, and they’re making sure those get sent to the specific parties. But all of us kind of have stuff like that that we do on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis.

Maybe you’re a podcaster and you get transcripts manually delivered to you, and you’re trying to find ways to not do that stuff. And so, I think automation is a way that you can really take some of this mundane stuff that you’re doing every day, that you’re doing every week, and find a better way to do it, for really just not have to do that stuff anymore, and allow you to focus on the creative parts of your job, focus on the things that really deliver value, and leave the stuff that computers are good for to the computers.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Or just get home earlier.

Wade Foster
Yeah, that too.

Pete Mockaitis
“I don’t have to do that. Just get home now.”

Wade Foster
Yeah, see you tomorrow.

Pete Mockaitis
The work is done. Okay, so that’s cool. So, a real time-saver there. And so then, now automation sounds, in some ways, kind of big and spooky, not just because the robots are going to destroy and enslave the human race like Terminator, but also just because, “Oh, boy, do I need to know like scripts and APIs and codes and get developers involved,” like that just seems like too much for many of us.

And that’s one thing that’s nifty about Zapier, I’ve used it a little bit myself. So, why don’t you orient those who are not familiar? What does it do? How does it go?

Wade Foster
Yeah, so it used to be you did have to do that, you need developers and scripts and APIs, but with Zapier you don’t. We use a sort of simple metaphor called triggers and actions to help you set up automations. And so, a trigger is an event that might happen in any sort of software that you use. So, maybe it’s someone fills out a form that’s on your website; maybe you have a contact form, or a lead form, or any sort of form; maybe you’re collecting data for an RSVP for an event. When someone does that thing, that’s called a trigger, and then the action is, “What do you want Zapier to do for you when that happens?”

So, if you say like, contact form on a website, “Well, when someone fills out this contact form on the website, the action, I want them to log that person’s detail in my CRM so that I can make sure to follow up with them and communicate with them later.” So, at Zapier, we follow that simple trigger action logic, and it has a really simple UI to set some of this stuff up. And, in fact, a lot of the use cases are out-of-the-box where you don’t even have to understand what a trigger and action is. You can just turn that stuff on. And it helps you automate all sorts of different things that you might want to do around your job.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so cool. I was just thinking recently about Zapier. It’s very fortuitous, the timing, just because, in my huge listener survey—thank you so much, listeners, for spending that time there. Something came up associated with community, and that’s something I’m trying to figure out and build and, “How do I do that? Boy, is it even manageable with so many thousands of people and probably need to be paid to have fewer folks?”

But, anyway, as I’m going through the ins and outs, one thing that came up was listeners would love the opportunity to be able to chime in and share their questions associated with a guest as soon as they learn that a guest is going to be interviewed. And I thought Zapier is pretty cool in that I could say, “Hey, Calendly is what I use for booking,”—which is a really easy way to set appointments.

I could say, “Yo, Zapier, when I get a new booking for a podcast interview, I want you to share that information over in a Slack channel for the listener community to announce, like, ‘Hey, Wade Foster is being interviewed on this day. Here’s what he submitted.’” And then they could just have at it without me having to remember, “Ooh, shucks, I need to kind of find, and copy, and paste the booking info inside the community Slack channel so folks have the opportunity to chime in and say things.” So, what’s cool is that once you’re just aware that tools like this exist, you sort of start to see opportunities, and I think that’s pretty exciting.

Wade Foster
Totally. And I think that example you just shared is a great one because you sort of stumbled across a use case that helps you solve a very specific problem. And now, once you have that skill in your skillset, you can start to refine these things. You might say, “Hey, I’m glad that I’m getting all this feedback in Slack. But now when I go interview Wade, I have to go find that Slack channel or that Slack thread, and it’s buried because it was a couple weeks old. So, maybe I don’t want them to put it in a Slack thread, so maybe I’ll have the Zap setup when a Calendly then gets booked, I’ll have Zapier generate a form, and then I’ll post a link to the form in Slack so that, then, when I got to talk to Wade, I just pull up a spreadsheet that’s got a bunch of questions in it, and I have them all right in front of me, and it’s a little easier to find that stuff.”

Like, once you sort of get the hang of automation, you can start to go, “Well, I like this basic thing, but I could tweak it a little bit and get a little bit more out of it and customize it to the needs that I have.” And so, I think that’s when automation becomes really fun because you have that ability to let your creativity go wild on the problems that are unique to you.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I guess that’s sort of the thing, it’s like everyone is going to have their own unique things and it’s sort of hard to say, “This is the top thing you must automate.” But, nonetheless, someone will take a crack at it. Could you maybe share with us a story of someone who used Zapier or some other automation tools out there to receive just like tremendous time savings and career and life benefits in action?

Wade Foster
Yeah, I think one of the ones that I really loved is there was this company that started in Australia, and they run an on-demand lawnmowing service. And the way it worked…

Pete Mockaitis
I’d would like that.

Wade Foster
Yeah, right? So, it’s kind of like Uber, right, you’ll hail a car to come pick you up. Well, this is you hail a person with a lawnmower to come mow your yard. And so, if you start to think about like, “What are the problems that you have to do to run a mowing service like that?” It’s like, well, you need a website, you need an order form, or a mobile app where people can say, “Hey, I want to book this thing.” And when they get booked, you need to be able to send an alert out to the people who have lawnmowers to say, “Hey, who wants to come do this thing?” And then you need to let the person who booked it know that you’ve got someone available.

Or you can just have a person just paying attention to the form and then doing all the matchmaking manually. Well, what this person did was said, “You know what, here’s how I’m going to set this up. When people request a lawnmower to come in, I’m going to have that get published automatically through Zapier into a spreadsheet. And in the spreadsheet, I’m going to have that trigger out a message via Twilio that goes out to our people who are currently marked as available to come mow the lawn. And then the first person that replies…”

Pete Mockaitis
Like a text message then?

Wade Foster
Yeah, a text message.

Pete Mockaitis
There you go. That’s so smart.

Wade Foster
That says, “Hey, someone wants their lawn mowed,” right? And then the first person to reply to it then gets assigned to it so it gets marked back into the spreadsheet to say, “Bob is going to come mow the lawn.” And then via another text message, it publishes back to the customer that says, “Hey, Bob is coming to mow your lawn.”

So, this thing that would’ve been like a pretty manual matchmaking service is now run by like a couple zaps behind the scenes. And so, as a result, the business spends most of its time just trying to find more people, more customers, and find more lawnmowers. They don’t have to worry about the matchmaking process themselves.

Pete Mockaitis
And what was so cool about that is if someone would say, I imagine—we recently had a chat about side hustles with Nick Loper—but if someone were starting out as like a side hustle, and to think, “Oh, my gosh, this is going to be so hard. I’ve got build a mobile app that has all of this connectivity with all this people.” And then, no, they just sort of hacked together like with Google Sheets and some other stuff and Zapier a means of getting the job done without the huge investment, Uber or Lyft or some stuff, just made into that.

Wade Foster
Totally, right? Those folks made hundreds of millions of dollars to build their stuff, and this person did it with a handful of apps, right?

Pete Mockaitis
That is cool. Well, so I’d love to hear then – so that’s a pretty cool use case – so let’s talk about those professionals you mentioned, the lawyer, the real estate agents, the knowledge worker, the engineer, some stuff that is super popular and effective and helpful to automate, like it shows up again and again and again, and the time savings can be substantial.

Wade Foster
Yeah, the thing that I see happen and over and over again is sort of managing requests and interactions and relationships with other people. So, you’re often seeing this in the form of customer relationships. A customer, or a lead, or a prospect fills out a form on a website, “And let’s make sure that they get logged in our CRM, or logged in our mailing list, or the sales rep gets a text message to say, ‘Hey, you should call this lead,’ or something like that.”

But, oftentimes, it can be internal employees. Think about like an HR function, they have a form setup that says, “Hey, who’s going to come to the holiday party? Like, fill out this form real quick so we know how much food to order and like what your dietary restrictions are and whatnot.” And then get logged in a spreadsheet and then text the person a response back or sends them an email to say, “Hey, we got your order and we’ve got you booked to get the chicken at the holiday party,” or whatever. And that all sort of happens automatically.

But there’s a lot of use cases around just managing and communicating with people, whether it’s customers, or employees, or fans, or your community, or things like that.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. And, I guess, the next stuff I was thinking about what you should not automate. And I guess what I’m thinking about, I think it was Ryan Deiss. And he was talking about when you automate outbound marketing messages too much, you have a real risk of embarrassing yourself and looking dumb. And I think that I’ve seen that with PR people reaching out to me, “Hey, Pete, we think so and so would be great for your podcast.” Like, “Yeah, I’ve already had them on my podcast.”

This happens to me multiple times a week. And that’s a whole conversation, like, “Isn’t that the first thing you did was figure out what shows this guy is getting booked on so you can have great recommendations for applicable shows?” But, whatever. We’re not here to throw publicists under the bus. I was talking about some of the risks or where is it unwise. I think that’s one zone is I think if you let automation run amok on sort of outbound messages.

Wade Foster
Yeah, non opt-in channels, like things like that. You obviously don’t want to go and buy an email list and then upload in this system and then bulk spam a bunch of people. That doesn’t feel good. But when you have a form that a customer filled out, and you’re sending them a confirmation email to say, “Hey, we got your request,” like people expect that. That feels normal.

So, I think those are pretty safe when you’re talking about direct customer communication. And then I think things around just making sure that that information gets logged in the right system so that you can track that stuff. Did you get a project spun up in your project management tool? Did you get them logged in Airtable or a spreadsheet so that you have that and know to follow up on those things? Kind of the back-office paperwork type stuff rather than the direct customer interaction but how to make sure that you’re properly managing the relationship. That kind of stuff is like a sweet spot for automation, I think.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so there’s one sweet spot we’re talking about, the customer request and getting them processed and connected and moving to where they need to go. Any other kind of broad categories that show up a lot?

Wade Foster
The other big one we see a lot is things like, “How do you just collect all of the inputs for like a project?” Think of project management at work, or you’ve got a program that’s running, and you’re getting feedback in this plate, in something like Jira, you’re getting requests that come in from a customer via email, you’re getting a feature request that comes from your boss. You’re getting all these inputs from all these different directions.

And Zapier can help you consolidate a lot of that into one centralized system, whether it’s a spreadsheet, or Airtable, or CRM, or a project management tool that basically says, “All this information that’s coming at me from 10 different places, all of which is important, and I don’t want to go check 10 different places. I want to just see it in one list.” That’s a place where Zapier is just super helpful, Pete, for people who do project management and things like of this nature.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, cool. Thank you. Well, so now I want to get even more precise. When it comes to Zapier, like what are the kind of absolute kind of most used zaps in terms of, “When I get an email about this, I want you to put it in Google Sheets like that”? So, in terms of when this program does this, trigger action, what combos are you seeing like have bazillions of, sort of installations or usages?

Wade Foster
Yeah, I think any sort of things like, “A customer paid me,” or, “Someone filled out my form on my website,” or, “Someone sent me an email,” that post a message into Slack sends you an alert, says, “Hey, this thing happened,” that’s really, really popular. Also, things like, “I got a lead through Facebook, a lead came in through Facebook, or LinkedIn, or Google, and I want to make sure a sales rep follows up on it instantly, so automatically route that into Salesforce or some other CRM,” things like that are really popular on Zapier.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And I wanted this before, because I clicked around Zapier. So, now if you don’t have the thing that I want, can I find a developer to go make that for me?

Wade Foster
Yeah, so there’s a couple things you can do if we don’t have what you want. So, we have things like our inbound email action. So, if the app you have or working with that isn’t supported by Zapier, but it sends out email alerts, you can use that to have emails forwarded into Zapier. You can use things like RSS which, if it generates an RSS feed, we accept RSS.

If the service provides webhooks, which is kind of a more technical thing, but usually not that hard to learn even if you’re not a developer, you just point the webhook at Zapier, and say, “Zapier, accept this.” And if the service you’re working doesn’t have any of those things, you can go track down a developer or a Zapier expert. At zapier.com/experts, we have a whole list of experts that help with more complicated workflows, and say, “Hey, can you help me get Zapier to work with this tool, where I might need a developer to dig under the hood and play around with some codes and some APIs a little bit?” So, there’s a lot. So, that’s kind of the way that most folks approach it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s cool to hear because I have, at times, I visit Upwork.com and found some people to code some things for me.
Okay, so if folks are digging this and they say, “I want to get started,” I imagine you’d say, “Well, go to Zapier.com.” But what are some other tips or strategies you’d recommend for folks who want to start automating and offloading some of the stuff they’re doing all the time?

Wade Foster
That’s a great question. I was talking to one of our experts, and he made this comment that automation is a mindset, it’s not a skill, which I thought was interesting. And the reason he said that was most people don’t even think about automation when they think about their to-do list on a given day. And so, he said, “One of the ways that I train people to get better at this is to start writing down what do you do every day, just write it down on a piece of paper. Or, when you write down your to-do list, don’t think, ‘How am I going to do this?’ Instead think, ‘How does this get done?’”

And shifting the way you think about your to-do list to not, “I have to do this,” to, “How does this get done?” starts to open your mind up to, “Well, perhaps I can delegate that thing to Zapier,” or, “Maybe I delegate something like this to an EA,” or, “Maybe I delegate this to a person that’s on my team.” But there’s other ways to get stuff done that don’t always involve you specifically, directly doing the task.

And I thought that such a smart way to help folks get into that automation mindset to step back and really understand where you’re spending time on stuff on a day-to-day basis, that maybe you don’t need to be spending that time on those things.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, that is a cool mindset shift. Any other tools you’d recommend in terms of getting the job done? So, Zapier is handy and flexible and can do a lot. But things that either make automation happen or just keep work processes from being too boring or cumbersome.

Wade Foster
I think the other up-and-comer alongside Zapier that I see a lot is Airtable. So, Airtable is kind of like a souped-up spreadsheet database-type tool, and it’s kind hard to like describe it in a way that sounds really fun and interesting but, boy, do people love it. They start to get their hands on it, and they just find all sorts of interesting ways to do automation with Zapier and Airtable, and better manage a lot of projects and work that they’ve got coming in.

So, Airtable, similar to Zapier, we have a list of zaps all over the site that you can check out and use. Airtable also has their universe and a gallery that shows all the different ways you can use Airtable, which I think is a pretty fun place to go exploring.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, now, I’ll tell you this, I have heard Airtable mentioned here and there, but I don’t actually have any conception of what it is. I’m on Airtable.com right now.

Wade Foster
It’s like a spreadsheet but it’s like better. It’s hard to say because it’s one of those things that you just have to play with it. And as soon as you play with it for a little bit, you’re like, “Oh, I see why this is better.” But until you do, it’s one of those things that people will go, “Yeah, I guess, I use spreadsheets and I think spreadsheets are good.” So, I don’t know. You should have Howie come on your podcast and he can tell you.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s intriguing. As I’m seeing right now, like there’s an Airtable, it looks like a spreadsheet, but they also have photos in there and notes in there. And those are kind of hard to do to stick a photo in an Excel or a Google Sheet.

Wade Foster
Totally. And you can put files in them. So, you can just like stuff more things in them, more like a database, like what you do with a database. But then you can visualize it in all sorts of ways. So, you can turn your spreadsheet into like a Kanban board, kind of like Trello would be, or you can do a bunch of pivot tables but in a way that you don’t have to know what a pivot table is. So, stuff like that.

Pete Mockaitis
I know deeply about pivot tables as a former strategy consultant.

Wade Foster
Oh, yes. Yes. But like most people don’t know what pivot tables are, and Airtable makes it easy to do it, and you wouldn’t even know you’re doing a pivot table. You’d just be like, “Oh, that’s a handy little thing.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Wade, I hope you have not incepted me with this new desire which is going to result in 10 or 20 bucks a month departing my wallet continually. I’m a sucker. I love tools that help me do more, and I very easily justify their expenditure, like, “Well, this saves me just six minutes a month. It’s a bargain,” and maybe it is.

Wade Foster
Well, hopefully, with things like Zapier and Airtable, we’re doing more than six minutes a month. Hopefully, we’re digging into the hours and days a month buck territory.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right. That’s just how I persuade myself, “Well, surely, more than six minutes, and that’s all we need to be based on these parameters.”

Wade Foster
Totally, yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, Airtable is handy. Any other tools leap to mind?

Wade Foster
You know, Airtable is great. I think tools like Typeform or Wufoo are really popular these days for putting in forms.

Pete Mockaitis
Like, a new level of form.

Wade Foster
Yeah, Typeform is really slick. There’s another up-and-comer coming up called Coda that’s been pretty interesting. I’ve seen a lot of our people playing around with.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you spell Coda, C-O-D-A?

Wade Foster
Yes, C-O-D-A. So, it’s a document software. So, the cool thing about Coda is if you spell it backwards, it’s a doc.

Pete Mockaitis
Huh. Coda.io.

Wade Foster
Yeah, Coda.io. So, it’s like a Google Doc but similar to like how Airtable is like a spreadsheet, it’s so much more under the hood. And you can do all these like cool little macros, and like nifty things that make your doc more living and breathing, and auto updates based on other project software that you work with. So, it’s one of those ones that if you fashion yourself to be kind of on the cutting edge of new things. I’m seeing a lot of folks play around with Coda these days.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, while we’re talking about project management and stuff, do you have a point of view on monday.com versus Asana versus the others?

Wade Foster
You know, I don’t have a strong point of view. You see monday, you see Asana, you see Trello, then you see stuff more on the personal side like Todoist or maybe…

Pete Mockaitis
OmniFocus.

Wade Foster
Yeah, OmniFocus, there you go. Yeah, so stuff like that. Honestly, I think people work in different ways, so whatever works for you. Like, each of these tools have their own little design paradigms and ways that you approach this stuff. I think what’s more important is that you find habits that you can stick to. And if the software helps you stick to that habit, that’s probably the one you should do.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, and if the software gets in the way because you’re always tinkering and fiddling and formatting and customizing because your dorky little productivity sensibilities are firing off, and in a way that’s fun.

Wade Foster
Yeah, that’s a good time.

Pete Mockaitis
And if that makes work more thankfully enjoyable but I have, at times, saying, “Wait a minute. This is actually counterproductive work.”

Wade Foster
Yeah, it’s a bit of a form of procrastination, right.

Pete Mockaitis
Exactly. “I’ve got my formatting just perfect now. Oh, anybody know…?”

Wade Foster
Yeah, “What else can I do before I actually do the thing on my to-do list?”

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Well, hey, there’s one mistake not to make. Any other things you would flag in terms of a warning, or a common mistake, or failure when folks are trying to optimize and automate stuff?

Wade Foster
You know, I think one thing that’s really easy to get caught up with is the sort of hamster wheel of just working through your to-do list, like constantly just adding things to your to-do list, and continuing to trudge through them. I think the most sort of successful folks that I’ve worked with do this exercise. It’s not really an exercise, some of them don’t even know that they’re doing it. But they really have a clear grasp on what it is that they want to do, like what it is that they want to achieve over a longer period of time.

So, they might say, “In the next year, I want X,” or, “In the next five years, I want Y,” or, “In the next 10 years, I want to have Z.” And then they start to work backwards from that. And then when they look at their to-do list on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis, yeah, there’s some stuff that you just kind of got to do to make sure that the bills get paid and whatnot. But they continually remember, “What is it that I’m trying to achieve over the long haul?” And they make sure that every day, they’ve got some things on their to-do list that kind of pushes them forward on that rung.

And so that way, they’re not getting stuck in this hamster wheel where, after five years, they look up and go, “I’ve done a lot of work, I’ve checked a lot of to-do’s off over the last five years. I haven’t really done anything. I haven’t really achieved what mattered to me.” And so, I think doing that just mental exercise of, “What is it that I want? What do I want for myself? What do I want to contribute to humanity over the next year?” And really understand that is a very important step for optimizing your work.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, Wade, tell me, any final thoughts before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Wade Foster
Let’s do some favorite things.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. How about a favorite quote?

Wade Foster
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite study?

Wade Foster
Favorite study? I did a lot of math and science in school but, lately, I’ve been studying a bunch of like writing rhetoric tricks.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah. Tell me examples, please.

Wade Foster
So, I picked up this book, and every week I write a Friday update for the team, and it’s like it’s usually some stuff that’s on my mind to help them just better see the bigger picture. And the book has like, I don’t know, 50 different rhetoric tricks in it. And so, every week I write the update, and then I’ll go read one of the rhetoric tricks. And then I’ll go back through my update and find a way to use it as part of it.

So, this week, syllepsis was the thing that I was using as part my Friday update. So, I dropped a couple of syllepses, I don’t even know, like, some of these things I don’t even know the plural of it, into the update. And then I use it as a way just to teach the team some little writing tips and tricks throughout the week.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, I always get it mixed up. Is syllepsis the one like, “Don’t ask what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”?

Wade Foster
Syllepsis is kind of like where you would use a single word to sort of…it’s used with two other parts of a sentence, but then that same word is understood differently in relationship to each other. So, for example, “They covered themselves with dust and glory,” That’s a quote from Mark Twain. Well, covered with dust and covered with glory, like that’s two different ways to be covered. You’re still using the same word covered, but dust is like a physical thing, and glory is like more abstract.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, and it feels awesome. It has a name and it’s used frequently in some of the word. Well, now, we’re all wondering what the name of this book.

Wade Foster
Oh, shoot, I have to find it. Let’s see, let me pull it up on my Kindle. So, the name of this book, I’m pulling it up here real quick, is The Elements of Eloquence is the name of the book.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, cool.

Wade Foster
It’s got a fancy title and everything.

Pete Mockaitis
There’s probably a name for that literary device right there.

Wade Foster
I’m sure there is. It’s “Elements of Eloquence,” it has some literation in there, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
And who’s the author?

Wade Foster
So, the author for this book is Mark Forsyth.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, right on.

Wade Foster
Just some of my writing friends said, “You’ve got to check this out. It’ll help you be more persuasive. It’ll help you write cooler things.” And I was like, “I’d like to sound more persuasive. I’d like to write cooler things.” So, I picked it up and I’m having fun with it.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, cool. Thank you. So, let’s see, there’s a book. How about a favorite tool?

Wade Foster
Can I say Zapier?

Pete Mockaitis
You can but give me another one as well.

Wade Foster
I’ll give you another one. So, one of the ones I’m really loving right now is this tool called Workona, which is a Chrome extension, that helps you manage all your tabs. So, if you’re like me, you might be a tab order, where you’ll have tens, maybe dozens of tabs open at the same time, but they’re all disorganized, and you can’t find the tab that you want.

Well, Workona helps you organize your tabs based on projects. So, for example, if you’re trying to plan a wedding, and you had a set of tabs for weddings, you could put that in one workspace. You had another set of tabs that was for meal planning. Maybe you’d put those in a different workspace. Then if you’ve got a set of tabs for this project you’re doing at work, that would go in a different workspace. So, as you switch back and forth between contexts, you can pop open those set of tabs all at once, rather than keeping all the tabs for all of those projects open at the same time.

Pete Mockaitis
Whoa! So, it’s kind of like I can bookmark a site, but that’ll take me to one site, but with Workona I can sort of save a collection of tabs.

Wade Foster
You’ve got it.

Pete Mockaitis
It sounds like when I need to get down to business and decide what goes in the podcast episode, get open up my Google Drive on my podcast files, and then open up my media schedule in a Google Sheet on another tab, and then open up my email with Superhuman on a third tab, and it could just save that for me.

Wade Foster
Totally, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s pretty cool.

Wade Foster
Yeah, and when you think about how you do work, at least how I do work, it’s often thematically the same. So, it’s like when I sit down to do this set of things, I always have these windows open up. But if I’m doing a different task, it’s a different set of windows. And so, I can save those workspaces and come back to them really quick, which is nice.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, cool. Workona, W-O-R-K-O-N-A.

Wade Foster
You got it.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. And how about a favorite habit?

Wade Foster
My favorite habit, honestly, this is my cornerstone habit, it’s my exercise habit. So, at 5:30, I’m usually heading to the gym to play racket ball or do some weightlifting, and everything feeds off of this habit. I exhaust myself at the end of the day, it takes my mind off of work. I come home and I’m able to eat dinner and get a good night’s sleep because I’m exhausted from working out hard. Then I wake up early in the morning, fresh and resilient for the next day’s things that I have to do. So, that exercise habit is really important for me.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share with your teams and those you collaborate with that really seems to connect and resonate with them?

Wade Foster
Our set of values that we have as a company are probably the things that resonate deeply. So, we have things like default to action, default to transparency, empathy no ego, growth through feedback, and, “Don’t be a robot, build a robot,” are a set of core values. These are things that we use in part of our hiring process. We use it as part of our performance reviews. And we even have like Reacji emojis inside of Slack to sort of illustrate when people are operating with the values in mind. And these things, it’s just become a part of our DNA, and it resonates with everyone that works at Zapier.

Pete Mockaitis
Boy, “Don’t be a robot, build a robot,” is a great mantra even if you’re not building automation software. But, no, seriously, don’t do the same process hundreds of times over, find a means by which that could be automated. I heard someone say, “Hey, if your definition of automation can include other people who are not you, you know?” So, for example, if there is a job could be done by someone in a lower-cost nation, for example.

Wade Foster
Sure.

Pete Mockaitis
Or someone who has a lower cost of labor because they’re an intern or don’t have a college degree because it’s not necessary, then that could be handy too if you build a process that has a lot of sort of software automation as well as other people such that you’re bringing down the total time load and cost load to the organization and yourself to make it done. So, that follows up to that mindset shift of not, “How am I going to do this?” but rather, “How is this going to get done?”

Wade Foster
Totally.

Pete Mockaitis
And by building a robot or the systems and processes.

Wade Foster
You bet.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s going to stick with me. Thank you.

Wade Foster
I know.

Pete Mockaitis
And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Wade Foster
Come check out Zapier.com. You can get in touch with me on Twitter, I’m pretty active there @wadefoster. And my email is not too hard to find, so if you’re really keen on getting in touch with me, email is always a good way too.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Wade Foster
I think just go get it. Go automate the stuff. Go find ways to work better. Why are you listening to us for? Go make it happen.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Wade, this has been a ton of fun. I wish you and Zapier tons of luck and keep on rocking.

Wade Foster
Yeah, thanks for having me, Pete.

465: The Cure for Impostor Syndrome: How to Feel Less Like a Fraud and Appreciate Your Successes with Dr. Valerie Young

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Valerie Young says: "We think we're supposed to excel at everything but we're not going to."

Valerie Young sheds light on the impostor syndrome and shows the healthy way out.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Just how prevalent impostor syndrome is
  2. The 5 impostor syndrome archetypes
  3. How to strategically shift your thinking from impostor to non-impostor

About Valerie 

Dr. Valerie Young is an internationally-known expert on impostor syndrome and author of award-winning book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It (Crown Business/Random House), now available in five languages.

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Valerie Young Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Valerie, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Valerie Young
I’m really excited, Pete. Thanks for asking me.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’m excited too. And so, we’re going to talk about impostor syndrome, which is a hot topic for listeners. But I want to start with hearing a little bit about your personal history and I guess origin story for how you and the impostor syndrome topic got to be well-acquainted.

Valerie Young
Well, very, very well-acquainted. I didn’t even know there was a name for these feelings until I was in a doctoral program when I was about 21 years old at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and someone brought in a paper by Dr. Pauline Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes. Those are the two psychologists who first coined the term the impostor phenomenon, as it is more accurately known in the world of psychology.

And she started reading from this study, and going, “Oh, my gosh, listen to this, everybody. They found that all these intelligent, capable, competent people feel like they’re fooling folks and they’re going to be found out.” I was just nodding my head like a bobblehead doll.

Pete Mockaitis
Interesting.

Valerie Young
I was like, “Oh, my God, that’s me. There’s a name for this? Other people feel this way?” So, it’s tremendously liberating just to know that there was a name.

Pete Mockaitis
And then you found a posse of impostors. Tell us about that.

Valerie Young
Well, I did. Now, I’ve gone on to speak to many tens of thousands of graduate students and, yeah, it turns out it’s really epidemic amongst, especially, graduate students for a host of reasons. But, basically, looked around the room, while I was nodding my head like a bobblehead doll, and all the other graduate students were nodding their head.

So, I often tell the story, Pete, that we decide to get together after class for a little impostor support group, and we would talk about being intellectual frauds and how we’re fooling all of our professors, and everything went great for about three weeks. And then I started to get this nagging sense that even though the other students were all saying they were an impostor, like I knew I was the only real impostor. So, clearly, they were phony impostors and I was like a super impostor.

Pete Mockaitis
An impostor amongst impostors.

Valerie Young
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
And they were probably thinking the same thing, like, “Ha, ha, ha, this is really kind of a funny joke that we’re saying but I don’t think they mean it.”

Valerie Young
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, intriguing. So, you mentioned then, I guess, a little bit of the definition for impostor phenomenon or impostor syndrome. Can we hear, I guess, the official or, since you’ve done decades of research on this, your definition for what we call impostor syndrome if you were to give like a quick dictionary sentence or two?

Valerie Young
Sure. Well, I think, as it’s commonly understood, Pete, is this sense, this feeling experienced by countless millions of people around the world, across culturally, across industries, this sense that, “I’m in over my head and I’m going to be found out.” And what really makes impostor syndrome very specific is that there’s concrete clear evidence of one’s accomplishments or capabilities and, yet, people who felt like impostors tend to dismiss them, minimize them, or chalk them up to external factors like luck, timing, computer error, personality, and those kinds of things. But the overwhelming fear then, really, is that you’re going to be found out.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, the fear, it’s a fear you’re going to be found out as opposed to, I guess, low self-esteem, it’s just like, “I’m not really very smart or good or anything.” But I guess impostor syndrome has that extra dose of there’s an outcome that you’re dreading and think really could happen to you.

Valerie Young
Yeah, there’s definitely an outcome. But I think, additionally, Pete, now there are some studies, let me be clear, some studies on impostor phenomenon have connected, found a connection between self-esteem and impostor feelings. Other studies have not found a connection, which tells me, it’s possible to have healthy self-esteem and still have impostor feelings.

How I look at it is self-esteem, think of it as kind of a global sense we have about ourselves kind of across the board. But impostor feelings are very specific to achievement areas, work, school, business, career. You don’t feel like an impostor when you’re walking the dog or emptying the dishwasher, right? But you do at a job interview, or going to your first pitch when you start your new business, or when you’re being challenged on your work, things like that.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, just to make it clear, you shared a couple of words, thoughts, phrases, internal sub-talk, bits you might have in terms of, “Oh, they’re going to find me out.” But just to make this really real and resonant and connected for people, can we hear some kind of recurring words and phrases internally that impostors say to themselves all the time and so we can maybe recognize ourselves within that?

Valerie Young
Well, I think, clearly, it’s the “I’m going to be found out, that I’m in over my head. I don’t know what I’m doing. Everyone else is smarter than me. If I was really competent, I wouldn’t need any help. If was really competent I’d feel confident.” It’s interesting, like the fact that you even struggle with impostor feelings or confidence, in the mind of the person who feels like an impostor, just kind of proves that they must be an impostor, “Because if I was really competent, I wouldn’t feel this way.”

The sense that, “I should know 150%. This shouldn’t be this hard. If I was really competent, I should be able to kind of hit the ground running and figure this out and master it very quickly.” So, the voices kind of vary depending on how the person is judging or measuring their own competence.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, that’s an interesting notion right there, it’s like it’s sort of related to a catch 22 or is it the opposite? But it’s sort of just like, “If I am feeling unconfident, or if I’m having a hard time, I’m struggling, there’s difficulty, then that means I’m no good.” And so, could you share the truth of the matter? What does it mean when we struggle and are feeling unconfident? If it does not mean that we’re frauds, what does it mean?

Valerie Young
I think it probably means we’re in the middle of a normal learning curve.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, there you go.

Valerie Young
You know, where we started something new or unfamiliar. But the problem is that how we view that. The non-impostor, if you will, says, “Well, gee, I’ll figure it out as I go along,” or, “Well, I’ve only been here a week. I can’t possibly know everything there is to know about this job,” right? But the non-impostor walks in and expects themselves to hit the ground running and to pick things up incredibly quickly. So, it’s a difference between how you frame that situation.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, let’s talk about non-impostors for a moment. And, first, so can you share with us what’s the data suggest in terms of the proportion of people, professionals if you have it, who experience this impostor syndrome?

Valerie Young
You know, Pete, there’s this percentage that’s been thrown around since the 1980s, I believe, late ‘70s, early ‘80s from Gail Matthews, where it kind of originated, is that up to 70% of high-achieving people have experienced these feelings to varying degrees at one time or another, which is pretty high, which means we’re actually in the majority, which of course begs the question, “What’s up with the other 30? Why aren’t we studying them? Why aren’t we writing dissertations about them?”

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, 70% that is striking. Well, Gail Matthews, I’ve cited a paper of hers about goal setting in dozen of keynote speeches, so I feel like I should give her a high five or a hug.

Valerie Young
Oh, wow, that’s very cool.

Pete Mockaitis
So, I’ve never met her in person but I can see the bar chart slide in my mind’s eye, but back to the number at hand. Seventy percent are saying that they experience it and 30% don’t. Can we just get a glimpse of their world for a moment? Like, I don’t know, is that dangerous in its own right if you don’t have any impostor syndrome? Are these the folks who have exaggerated views of their own competence and end up singing terribly on American Idol and feeling very foolish? Or what’s the non-impostor life like?

Valerie Young
You know, it’s interesting you say that because that’s definitely some portion of that 30% have, as you say, the opposite problem, which is irrational self-confidence syndrome, that their sense of their knowledge and abilities far exceeds their actual knowledge and abilities, which was actually a phenomenon that became documented by Professor Dunning at Cornell. It’s now known as the Dunning-Krueger Effect that did find through multiple consistent studies, that found that the people who have the lowest expectations for how they’re going to perform on an exam, for example, performed the best, and the people who were quite certain that they were going to ace it, often performed the worst. So, we often don’t see our own limitations.

But here’s the thing, and that’s why I don’t buy into this notion of we should embrace our impostor syndrome because it keeps us humble, because I think it’s a false choice, Pete. It’s like the choices between, “I’m going to be an arrogant kind of smartest guy in the room person who really isn’t that competent, or an impostor,” I mean, you know, most are going to go, “Oh, I’ll keep the impostor syndrome.” But I think that there’s a whole middle ground of people I describe as kind of non-impostors who are part of that 30% who just have a very different way of viewing the world.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s intriguing. And so, they might view the world in that they have exaggerated views of themselves. Or, do you think they’re just super healthy with regard to their acknowledging, “Yeah, so I am in the middle of a normal learning curve”? Do you think that’s more the picture there?

Valerie Young
Absolutely. I always tell people that the only way to stop feeling like an impostor is to stop thinking like an impostor. Let’s separate out the arrogant people who really are not competent, let’s kind of put them in a different box right now. What I’m talking about is people who don’t feel like impostors in a healthy kind of way. They’re more intelligent, capable, competent, qualified than the rest of us. The only difference between them and us is in the exact same situation that triggers an impostor response in us, they are thinking different thoughts. That’s it. Which I think is incredibly good news because it means all we have to do is learn how to think like non-impostors.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. Well, I was going to get to it later but I can’t resist. All right. How do we do that? What are the key ways we need to adjust our thinking?

Valerie Young
Well, there’s three kind of categories of things that non-impostors think differently about, Pete. First of all, they think differently about competence.

Pete Mockaitis
Competence.

Valerie Young
Competence, yeah.
People who feel like impostors tend to fall into different kind of mindsets about how they measure our competence, right? We hold ourselves to these unrealistically high, unsustainably high standards that no human could consistently hit. So, you might be a perfectionist, for example, in your kind of mental rulebook, 99 out of 100 will be unacceptable. Forgetting to make some minor point in an otherwise flawless presentation, you’ll beat yourself up endlessly.

But the non-impostor, they still can set high standards for themselves, and they have a healthy drive to excel, but they don’t feel shame when they fall short as long as they tried their best. Other people who feel like impostors, their definition of impostor syndrome, and this is five of them, I’m happy to go through them or not.

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s do them all, yeah.

Valerie Young
But the second one is kind of the knowledge version of the perfectionist, the person I think of as kind of the expert. That doesn’t mean they are an expert. It means that they think they have to know 150% before they speak up, raise their hand, start their business, go after a promotion, and they’re just endlessly searching for that, like waiting to wake up one day and think, “Now, I’m an expert.” So, they never feel like they know enough.

Then there’s the person I describe as the natural genius. Again, it’s not that they’re a genius. It’s that they’ve somehow got it into their head that, “If I was really intelligent, capable, competent, this wouldn’t be this hard.” So, the fact that they struggle to understand something, or master something, in their mind kind of proves they’re an impostor because they’re defining competence as being about ease and speed. They look at other people, and they think, “Oh, that looks so easy.” And then they try it, and it’s hard. But they don’t understand that that other person worked their ass off to get good, or they might be naturally good at something, which we all are.

Then there’s the soloist, as it sounds, who thinks it only counts if they do it all by themselves. So, they’re going to feel shame if they have to ask for help, they don’t give themselves credit if it’s a team effort, and then, of course, the superwoman/superman/super student who expects themselves to excel across multiple roles they play in their life.

So, non-impostors think differently about competence in that they realize that not everything can or needs to be perfect. Sometimes you just have to kind of jump in and figure it out, or like just don’t persevere over the routine tasks. Obviously, if you’re flying a plane or you’re performing surgery, please be a perfectionist. But the mantra I hear from a lot of very successful multimillionaire entrepreneurs is, “Half ass is better than no ass.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Valerie Young
And they don’t mean do a bad job. But they’re not letting perfectionism hold them back. It’s like they know the first version is never going to be as good as the tenth version. So, kind of get it out the door and you can course correct as you go along. So, they’re looking at it very differently.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Well, so there you have it. We have sort of five archetypes.

Valerie Young
Yeah, kind of competence types really.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, so, let’s see. We got the knowledge, we got the natural genius, we got the soloist, we got the super students.

Valerie Young
Superwoman/Superman.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And what’s the fifth one?

Valerie Young
The perfectionist, the expert, the natural genius.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, perfectionist. Okay, got it. Interesting. So, each of these, they have sort of a lie that they’re clinging to and you sort of need to see the light based upon sort of where you fall in. And so, is there any kind of bridge you recommend that we cross in order to pull that off successfully or consistently?

Valerie Young
Yeah, I think it goes back to learning to think like a non-impostor. Like, when you’re having this moment where you’re holding yourself to these unrealistic unsustainable standards, to kind of step back and say, “How would a non-impostor think and feel and act in this same situation?”
And it’s not just competence that they think differently about. People who don’t feel like impostors also look at failure, mistakes, and criticisms differently and they have a different response to fear.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, let’s cover each of these contrasts or distinctions then. So, how do we think like non-impostors in each of those contexts?

Valerie Young
Well, people who feel like impostors, experience shame when they fail, right? Nobody likes to fail and make a mistake, or have an off day, or have to struggle to master something, or have to ask for help. But when these things happen to non-impostors, they don’t experience shame. Impostors feel shame, and that’s a key difference.

Pete Mockaitis
Like, can we define shame here?

Valerie Young
I cannot give you a psychological version of that, a definition of shame.

Pete Mockaitis
I guess it’s different than, “Aw, shucks, that didn’t work out the way I wanted to.”

Valerie Young
Oh, no, no, it’s personal, by beating yourself up, embarrassment, humiliation.

Pete Mockaitis
“I’m stupid. How could I have been so foolish, etc.?”

Valerie Young
Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Valerie Young
It’s the difference between non-impostors, they recognize they have setbacks, they have failures, and I just want to be clear with people. It’s not that they’re okay with it. They can be crushingly disappointed. Think about sports, right? Intellectually we all know one team is going to win and one team is going to lose. One team is going to be crying in their towel on the sidelines at the end of the championship. But they don’t go home and hang up their uniform and quit, right? They go watch the game tape, they get more coaching, they get back in there, and they say, “We’ll get them next time.”

So, it’s really how you handle failures and setbacks that matter. And, again, you can be crushingly disappointed if you fail or fall short, but not ashamed. The only time you feel ashamed is if you didn’t try, or maybe you procrastinated to the very last minute, it didn’t really reflect your best effort, yeah, then shame is called for. But, otherwise, there’s no shame.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, got it. And how about the next one?

Valerie Young
Well, let me just add one more to that because criticism is something that is really problematic for people with impostor syndrome. It wounds and crushes our soul, right? So, if you’re in a job and your boss tells you four things you did outstanding, right? You’re having your performance review, four things you’re outstanding, one thing you need to work on. What do you obsess over and feel horrible about, right?

It’s the equivalent of wanting to win an Oscar every time you make a film. But people who feel like impostors becomes over-personalized. So, if someone says, “That report was inadequate,” what we hear is, “I’m inadequate.”

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Valerie Young
And non-impostors not only see constructive feedback and criticism as invaluable, but they seek it out. They might pay coaches ridiculously good money, as I have in the past, to give them really direct honest feedback about how they can perform. Or even if someone says they did an outstanding job, the non-impostor will say, “Thank you so much. What’s one thing I could’ve done even better?”

Pete Mockaitis
There’s some distinction there between your performance and your, I guess, worthiness or goodness as a fundamental human being.

Valerie Young
Oh, absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
Gotcha. Cool.

Valerie Young
And to see yourself as kind of this work in progress, you’re always going to be getting better. And the last thing that non-impostors think differently about is fear. When I’m speaking to a large audience, Pete, I’ll often say, “How many of you would like to feel confident 24/7?” And lots of people raise their hand. And my response is always, “Good luck with that.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, you know, it’s so funny. In almost, as you say that, I imagine a life that’s a little bit less exciting in terms of like if I always felt confident, I think I’d get bored. Like, a little bit of, “Oh, boy, can I handle this?” makes things kind of exciting for me.

Valerie Young
Well, yeah, and it’s normal, it’s realistic. Denzel Washington, before he walked on stage to be in a Broadway show in “Fences,” he said, “Well, you’re standing in the wings, if you don’t have that what-the-hell-am-I-doing-here moment, it’s time to hang it up.”

Pete Mockaitis
So, then how do the non-impostors handle a fear? They just sort of, like Denzel Washington say, “Yup, that’s there and it’s all good.”

Valerie Young
Absolutely. Some incredibly successful performers, artists, entertainers, singers, have terrible stage fright, but they don’t lean into the fear. I always recommend people understand that your body doesn’t know the difference between fear and excitement. You have sweaty palms, nervous stomach, dry throat. So, are you’re walking on stage, or into the job interview, or up to the podium, or whatever it might be, you just have to keep telling yourself, “I’m excited, I’m excited,” then you have to keep going regardless of how you feel.

Because what everyone is waiting for, Pete, is to feel more confident. And then it’s like, “Well, when I feel more confident, then I’ll do it.” No, it doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to do the thing, you’re like, “Maybe I can’t perform on Broadway, but I’m going to give it my best shot,” right? Put yourself out there and do it, learn from it, try again, and keep going.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s great. That’s well-put. So, we’re waiting to feel more confident before we do it but that is just backwards. You’ve got to do it and then you’ll feel more confident.

Valerie Young
Absolutely. Or to really change your thoughts, start thinking like a non-impostor even though you don’t believe the new thought yet. Somebody said to me, I was speaking at a group, and she raised her hand, she said, “Well, this is great, Valerie. But what if you tell yourself all this stuff and you still don’t believe it?” And my response is, “No, trust me, you won’t believe it. You believe the old thoughts, the old impostor rulebook but you have to keep telling yourself.”

But if you just can say to yourself, “Aren’t I entitled to make a mistake once in a while? Aren’t I entitled to have an off day?” That’s the way non-impostors think. You may not 100% believe it that day, but over time you start thinking, “Yeah, I am entitled as the next person to get it wrong, have an off day, not know the answer.”

Pete Mockaitis
And you also have a strategy you recommend when it comes to reframing. Can we hear about this?

Valerie Young
Well, that really is the process of thinking like a non-impostor is to step back and to say, “Okay,” become consciously aware of the conversation going on in your head when you’re having a very normal impostor moment, and then try to reframe it the way you imagine a non-impostor would. I’ll share one of my favorite reframes was Daniel Boone, the wilderness explorer, who said, “I was never lost but I was bewildered once for three days.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s good, yeah. And even if you’re successful, like you can frame that like an impostor or a non-impostor. Can you give us an example of that?

Valerie Young
I’m not sure what you’re asking. Say more about that.

Pete Mockaitis
So, Daniel Boone got lost and he reframed that as he was bewildered, which is cool. But sometimes an impostor can even frame a success or a good result or a victory in a non-affirming way about themselves. whereas the non-impostor would do so differently.

Valerie Young
Right. So, the impostor, I think this is what you’re getting at, might say, “Well, it’s only because I had help,” or, “It’s just, yeah, they say they love my presentation, but it’s just because they like me or was a good audience,” right? And those two things might be true, but you’re not including yourself in that equation.

And I think non-impostors make an effort to celebrate successes so that it becomes, whether it’s a conscious desire or not, but it kind of consciously wedge it in your mind and makes that connection between your efforts and outcome, and that you need to reward yourself. If we spent nearly enough time rewarding ourselves in positive ways for the little and big wins, there’ll be less for an impostor about.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, we had BJ Fogg on the show earlier who’s amazing and he was talking about how important it is to celebrate because he’s talking about the context of making habits, saying that emotions build habits, and most people are very bad at celebrating themselves, even if it’s just a little, “Nice job, Valerie,” like internally for three seconds. Most of us struggle with that.

Valerie Young
Absolutely. And I think it’s really important. As you said, even from small things, for folks who are familiar with making a list of things they’re grateful for to just step back at the end of a project and say, “I’m really happy that I did these three things,” or, “I did a good job,” or, “Good for you for trying,” regardless of the outcome. And I think that’s important, too, to not just celebrate the wins. It’s like, “Did you give it your best shot?”

You know, I got my book deal with Random House. I had a great agent, she took me around New York, we had two days of interview schedule with some of the biggest publishing houses in the industry. And I was pretty nervous for the first one. And the irony was not lost on me, Pete, pitching this book, right?

Pete Mockaitis
I have a log here. I can give you the top publishers.

Valerie Young
Right, exactly, looking at the skyline of Manhattan, sitting in these beautiful conference rooms. But I decided, no matter what, this when the iPhone just came out, I was going to get myself an iPhone for just kind of being in the running, right?

When my book came out, I’d already decided I was going to buy this painting. Again, a friend of mine said, “What if you buy this painting and then the book is a flop? It’s going to remind you of that all the time.” I said, “To the contrary, the picture is going to remind me that I gave it my best shot, and after that the outcome is out of my control.”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. That is good. Oh, we’re having so much fun here. I had lots of stuff I wanted to make sure we covered. So, I’m curious, for the hardcore impostors, whoever are like, “Okay, Valerie is saying some really encouraging things. But, no, I seriously don’t belong in my role.” Like, I guess at times our doubts about our capabilities are accurate.

Valerie Young
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
So, how can we kind of get nuanced and appropriately distinguished? Like, what sort of just an impostory thought we should discard, like, “Oh, that’s silly,” versus what’s like, “Yeah, you’re right. I am kind of outmatched here, and I got to take some steps to get where I need to be”?

Valerie Young
Oh, well, you just said it right there. The reality is you may be in a situation, as we all probably have been at one time, where we’re really out of our element, or thrown into something where we’re really over our head. But, again, it goes back to the difference between saying, “I’m an impostor. They’re going to find out,” versus saying, “What an amazing learning opportunity. Let me marshal whatever resources there are available to me whether it’s time or brain power. Or, how can I grow into this position and recognize that I’m in the middle of a really, you know, I’m in a learning curve?”

Think about it. There are CEOs that go from the CEO of an insurance company to a manufacturing company. They have zero experience in manufacturing but they look at that, and, again, they’re scared by the way. There was a study out of the UK that found 80% of CEOs and 81% of managing directors sometimes feel out of their depth.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s encouraging. Thank you.

Valerie Young
But I think I look at it as a normal response to being in new situations. In a rapidly-changing world, whether technology-wise, or advancements, or just trends where you’re never going to know it all, and you’re never going to do everything perfectly yourself, and you don’t need to. There are other people who can, you know. We think we’re supposed to excel at everything but we’re not going to excel at everything.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Well, I was going to ask, so we had that 70% figure that’s been thrown around, and not that we need to slice and dice it 50 different ways as scientists sometimes like to do. But you shared an interesting stat there with 80% of CEOs feel out of their depth at times. Do we see the proportion of folks who feel impostory vary by either gender, industry, seniority, functional area? It sounds like the more senior people felt it even more than the 70%.

Valerie Young
Yeah, I do think the higher up you are, you go, the more susceptible you are. There’s more scrutiny, there’s farther to fall. If you’re in a highly-educated environment, like academia, or in certain scientific fields. Somebody said to me recently, Pete, I was speaking at a university, I think it was Michigan State, and she said, “This is crazy. I shouldn’t feel like an impostor. I have a PhD.” I said, “No, you feel like an impostor because you have a PhD because now people look at you a certain way.”

You’re right. Certain fields, creative fields, writing, acting, music, even producing. Chuck Lorre, producer of Two and a Half Men, Big Bang Theory, other shows, have talked about feeling like a fraud when he walks out on a set. When you’re in a creative field, you’re only as good as your last book, your last performance. You’re being judged by subjective standards, by people whose job title is professional critic. People in medicine, technology, areas that are rapidly advancing and very information-dense, they also tend to be more susceptible.

Pete Mockaitis
And you wrote your book specifically for women. How do you think about gender in this?

Valerie Young
Women, as a group, tend to be, you know, we’re kind of generalizing here, right, they tend to be more susceptible for a host of reasons. But there are plenty of men who feel like impostors. And that’s one reason, honestly, I absolutely hate the title of my book. I hate it. I didn’t want it. I argued against it. Clearly, I lost the battle. And I hate it for a few reasons. It does leave men out, and men almost are always at my talks and when I speak in organizations, so it leaves men out, but also even women who, by any measure, are successful, we don’t often resonate with that term. So, you can have a junior in college in an engineering program, and she really could benefit from the book, but she’s not going to see herself in that title.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Valerie Young
When, what is her name, Sandberg, why am I forgetting her? Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook. Is that her name? Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Valerie Young
When she was asked a question by a reporter once, and the question was something like, “Do you consider yourself successful?” And she hesitated before she answered in the affirmative, but she hesitated, which I really get because success can also separate us from other people. So, I think it’s important to say here that sometimes we might hesitate in the face of achieving greater levels of success, and we think it’s confidence, and it could be, but it can also be other factors. Like, in varying iterations, success can separate us from other people. And if relationships are important to you, then that might kind of hold you back even on a very unconscious level.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, so let’s talk about sort of the long term here. I think we have a lot of great respect in terms of in the heat of the moment, reframing and thinking about things differently. When it comes to building your career, day after day, month after month, year after year, how do you think about this differently at all?

Valerie Young
Do you mean me or how would someone…?

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s say those who experience impostor syndrome who are looking to grow their careers over the long term, do you have any pro tips from all your research here?

Valerie Young
Well, I think in some ways the answer is right in the question, that it’s always a long game, and the more you can see yourself as a work in progress and understand that you don’t need to know it all and have done it all. One thing that I think holds people back from becoming even more successful is we make this assumption that we have to know or already basically done that previous job before.

Pete Mockaitis
Right, yeah.

Valerie Young
Again, a mind shift. Let me give you an example. There was a guy in my town here in Massachusetts who he was on the town select board for 12 years. He ran for reelection and he lost. Well, for a lot of people who feel like impostors that would just be devastating to lose this election. The next day this guy went out, he submitted the papers in Boston at the state house to run for state rep, which is like a statewide level. He was on the town level. He went to the next level.

And his quote was, “It was the next natural step.” And so, the message there is sometimes shooting higher after a setback is the next natural step. But that’s not going to be intuitive to people who feel like impostors.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, certainly. And then when it comes even taking on specific challenges or opportunities that you don’t quite think you’re ready for, how do you evaluate those decisions?

Valerie Young
Well, I think it’s important to talk it through with people, but I would say there’s very few instances where I will tell somebody, “No, you really can’t do it.” I would say, “Jump in, trust that you can figure it out as you go along. Figure out who your support network is and how you’re going to learn and grow into this new role and just give it your best shot. But put your hat into the ring and understand that you’re being hired based on your capacity and your potential.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Valerie, I’d love to get, maybe before we shift gears into your favorite things, maybe. Could you share with us a couple quotations or stories from some of your most super-accomplished impostors?
Valerie Young
Oh, yeah. Yeah, there’s a guy at Stanford University, he said, “If I can get a PhD in astrophysics from Caltech, anybody can,” right?

Pete Mockaitis
“Because I’m a moron.”

Valerie Young
Right. Exactly. I had to point out to him that most of us can’t even balance our checkbook, so I don’t think so.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, that’s awesome. More please.

Valerie Young
A famous quote, right? Jodie Foster did an interview on 60 Minutes many, many years ago, which she had gotten the Academy Awards for “The Accused.” Now, when she was at Yale University, she took time out of acting to go to Yale. She felt like an impostor when she got accepted into Yale, and she felt like an impostor when she got the Academy Award. And the quote was something to the effect of, “I kept waiting for them to come, knock on the door and take the Oscar back and say, ‘Excuse me, we meant to give that to Meryl Streep.’”

Which is fascinating because Meryl Streep, years later, did an interview with Ken Burns, and he asked her, “Do you think you’ll always act?” And her response was, “Well, I always think, ‘Who would want to see me act and what do I know about acting?’” It’s like the most Academy Award nominated actor of all times, right? If that doesn’t make you realize this is irrational, nothing will.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s excellent. Thank you. Well, any final thoughts about impostor syndrome before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Valerie Young
I will say two seeds I want to plant. One is that when you think about it, Pete, there’s a certain amount of arrogance to the impostor syndrome because what we’re really saying is, “Other people are so stupid, they don’t realize we’re inept.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s good. It’s like you’re a master conman.

Valerie Young
Right. Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
You’re able to pull the wool over everybody’s eyes.

Valerie Young
Right. So, imagine if you would introduce me, Pete, “Valerie Young, internationally-recognized expert,” and I was like, “Oh, brother. Come on, Pete. I mean, have you ever had an expert on your show before? Seriously?”

Pete Mockaitis
One person in Canada recognizes me, that’s all that means.

Valerie Young
Well, no, it’s more about kind of insulting you. Like, “Do you got a house much or what, Pete? You picked me.” It assumes that whether it’s professors, or managers, or people who hired or promoted you, or clients, or customers are so inept that they don’t recognize you’re incompetent, which is very arrogant. The other thing I think people need to realize is that this is not all about them, that everyone loses when bright people play small.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Valerie Young
Somebody out there could be benefiting from your full range of knowledge and skills and potential. But when we hold back, there’s a consequence that go far beyond us.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, now, could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Valerie Young
You know, this is not about impostor syndrome, but this is a quote that I’ve loved for many, many years, and it’s by the actor Will Smith who said, “Being realistic is the most commonly-travelled road to mediocrity.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. There it goes. And how about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Valerie Young
I’m a big fan of Carol Dweck’s work. She wrote a book called “Mindset.” Honestly, I used to read her stuff in the academic literature, she’s in psychology, but people in academia write in such dense convoluted jargony ways that it’s not always easy to see the raw power in the findings. So, I read her stuff for many years.

Now, when she wrote her book “Mindset,” which is much more written in very accessible kind of way, it was like very conforming because she was doing all this quantitative research that confirmed everything I’ve been saying for the last 20 years about how people who don’t think like impostors, and impostors for that matter, how they think differently about competence basically.

So, it was very confirming. If you’re a parent, I think you’ll really enjoy her book. Let me give you one little, if I have a minute.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure.

Valerie Young
One, I think her best exercises is to think about that typical kind of dinnertime conversation with school-age kids, which is, “What did you learn in school today?” to which they say, “Nothing,” which we did too, right, or, “I don’t remember.”

And Dweck said, “Wouldn’t it be more interesting if once a week, a couple times a month, you say, ‘Let’s all go around the table and talk about something that was difficult, challenging, or we failed at, and how we dealt with it. I’ll start.’” Because what you want to teach is resiliency.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite habit?

Valerie Young
I was going to go back to kind of normalizing self-doubt, reframing and kind of keep going regardless.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks, they kind of quote it back to you often?

Valerie Young
Gosh, I don’t know. I hope it’s what I shared that the only way to stop feeling like an impostor is stop thinking like an impostor. Remember, nothing else. And if you truly understood you are entitled to make a mistake, be wrong, have an off day, there’ll be nothing to feel like an impostor about.

Pete Mockaitis
And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Valerie Young
It’s so easy. Just go to ImpostorSyndrome.com.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Valerie Young
Just don’t play small. Look for an opportunity. Well, let me say this. We’re all going to have an opportunity to feel stupid sometime in the next 24-48 hours, so step up, seize the opportunity, and just keep saying to yourself, “Somebody is going to get that cool job, somebody is going to do that cool thing, it might as well be me.”

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Valerie, this has been a lot of fun. Thank you so much. And good luck in all of your adventures.

Valerie Young
Thank you so much, Pete, for having me. Great job.

464: How to Prevent Management Messes with FranklinCovey’s Scott Jeffrey Miller

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Scott Jeffrey Miller says: "Great leaders are great listeners."

Scott Jeffrey Miller shares powerful stories and principles for becoming the most effective leader you can be.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why making time for one-on-ones is truly worth it
  2. Three foundational principles for listening well
  3. How to flourish as a leader by practicing the Law of Harvest

About Scott 

Scott J. Miller is Executive Vice President of Business Development and Chief Marketing Officer for FranklinCovey. Scott has been with the company for 20 years, and previously served as Vice President of Business Development and Marketing. His role as EVP and Chief Marketing Officer caps 12 years on the front line, working with thousands of client facilitators across many markets and countries.

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Scott Jeffrey Miller Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Scott, thanks for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Scott Jeffrey Miller
Pete, my pleasure. Thanks for the invite.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah, I think we’re going to have a ton of fun. And I want to start at the beginning with your first leadership experience and the tale of having a bit of a management mess.

Scott Jeffrey Miller
Yeah, I didn’t say I wanted to. It’s the start of the book, right? As I, like most leaders, was promoted to be a leader without really any training. I was a fairly competent individual producer, the top salesperson at the time and, unfortunately, that’s usually the criteria for someone being promoted into a leadership position, is you were doing your individual contributor job well so you must be of leadership caliber which, of course, is absurd. So, I share, in this story, lots of horrifying scenarios, but do you want me to walk you through the first one?

Pete Mockaitis
I would. I’d love it. The more horrifying the better, please.

Scott Jeffrey Miller
Well, that’s my specialty, Pete. So, let’s see, I was a couple of years into my role here at FranklinCovey as a salesperson selling leadership solutions to universities, colleges, school districts, and I got promoted to be over the team, like the team the day before me were my peers and friends. That’s never a comfortable position.

And I decided that I wanted my legacy to make sure that all of my colleagues, my new sales team, had an adequate understanding of our new solution, so I arranged and got the budget and organized the conference room to have a two-day professional development training, and really enculturate the new sales team—my new sales team—into our newest solution. Hired a consultant, first day show up, everybody comes in 15-20 minutes later. I was incent. I mean, after all, we are a productivity, time management company at heart so I was lit.

Pete Mockaitis
Putting first things first, let’s see, I’m sure there’s some habits and principles.

Scott Jeffrey Miller
I’m sure we violated a lot of things. Well, they were just putting their first things first, not me. So, they kind of strolled in 15-20 minutes late and I was incent, I was productive, I was vigilant, I was probably pretty suffocating. So, anyway, we started the program, and then I was just really irritated all day long. So, that night I decide, “The next morning I’m going to show them there’s a new sheriff in town, quite frankly.”

So, I go, in my genius, in my leadership, finest moment genius, I go to the supermarket and I buy like 15 copies of the Salt Lake Tribune. The next morning, sure enough, everybody comes in 10-15 minutes late, and I am just like, “I will not be disrespected,” right, that’s my mentality. I walk around the room before the program starts and I throw down on the table in front of everybody the classified job ads from the Tribune and I say, with great flair, “If you want a job from 9:00 to 5:00, Dillard’s is hiring.” And then I gave them a highlighter to highlight the roles they want, which I thought it was inspiring and, “You should want to work here.” And, of course, it was idiotic and it was insulting and emasculating. And the horror story is that it took me a couple of days to understand that what I had done was just so immature and to the opposite of what a principled mature leader would do.

And the good news is, as I mentioned in the book, a decade later, I get married, literally a decade later, almost to a T, every one of those people who either quit on the spot, threatened to quit, threatened to sue me, threatened to have me fired, whatever it was, they’re all at my wedding, we’re laughing at the horror of it all. And so, the story ends well but it was just one of those examples of what I thought in my mind was a fine leadership example was just idiocy.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. It’s so funny, I don’t know why that tale just brings up a scene from, well, I guess, the famous Alec Baldwin scene from “Glenngarry Glen Ross.” I guess you skipped some of the profanity and the demeaning insults but it’s dramatic in terms of, “Oh, I’m not messing around here. I’m laying down the law.” Well, Scott, if I could just give you an opportunity to have a do-over and rewind time, how would you have approached that situation today? You know, if folks are late, you feel disrespected, what do you do?

Scott Jeffrey Miller
Yeah, I think I would, well, I know what I would do. I’d sit down on the table in front of them and say, “Hey, guys, ladies, gents, so glad we’re all here. We’ve got a great two days ahead of us. I noticed that we’ve got a couple of things we want to tighten up. One is I noticed that this morning perhaps the start time wasn’t clear. I really want to make sure we establish a culture of respect and discipline, and you know how much we all like to be punctual, it’s kind of what our brand is. We want to model for our clients and for each other, that we live our content, right?”

“I mean, we are a time management consulting company, so I’m going to ask that everybody be really diligent on respecting the start and end times. So, if you’ll respect the start times, I’ll respect the end times. And if we need to start later and go later, I’m fine with that, but let’s just set down some ground. rules. And if we think that we should be a little more free on some things and tighter on others, I’m open to that.”

And I would’ve absolutely had it be a conversation, not dictatorial, I would’ve not made it as big a deal, at the same time, I would’ve said, “This is kind of important to me, because I think how we treat each other is how we treat out clients, how we treat the consultant today, as everyone are consultants to be treated by our clients.” So, I would’ve had a very comfortable dialogue, no theatrics, no grand gestures, no purchasing of classified ads. I would’ve gotten my point across just as well, if not better, with no theatrics.

Pete Mockaitis
I dig it. Okay. Well, while we’re here, I’m just going to follow up one more time. Let’s say, next day you got two stragglers, what’s the game plan?

Scott Jeffrey Miller
I would probably call them out maybe not in public. It would depend upon now the rapport that I had with the team. At the time, I didn’t have rapport. I was their peer literally the day before and now I’m sort of like the swagger. So, I think it depends on the scenario. I might have called them aside. I might have texted them and say, “Hey, I know you’re late this morning. I’m guessing something came up. Do me a favor, if you’re going to be late in the future, just give me a heads up so I might have held the program for you.”

I think, now, I would suspend judgment more and not jump to a wrong conclusion. I would assume good intent. I would assume they weren’t trying to flagrantly violate my new stature, right? So, I think as I have matured, I’m less suspicious. I’m more gracious and forgiving and give people a chance to rise to the occasion versus expect them to violate some petty rule that might be important in the moment but isn’t valuable long term to the culture of the team. At the end of the day, who cares if you start five minutes late in the grand scheme of a career, right? I think I just have matured and I’ve identified what’s really important and what’s kind of petty urgent.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, I imagine you’ve made a number of discoveries in terms of what makes effective leadership in your own career and being surrounded by the folks at FranklinCovey and putting together your book “Management Mess to Leadership Success.” So, could you maybe share, is there a particular insight or discovery that has been most transformational for you personally?

Scott Jeffrey Miller
Yeah, it’s very clear to me. So, I’ve been in the firm for 23 years, and you would expect as an officer of the firm now, I’d be a great leader, right? And nobody is a complete mess and no one is a complete success. Leadership of people I don’t think came naturally to me. I think I’ve gotten much better over the decades but I was a star individual performer and I had to realize that the skills that make you a great dental hygienist or digital designer or salesperson rarely don’t translate over into leadership of people. So, there has to be a major paradigm shift.

You can’t be the star anymore. It isn’t all about you. It isn’t you hogging the spotlight. And so, I had to make a fundamental paradigm shift around what was important to me—and did I have the humility, did I have the confidence to let other people shine, and even sometimes shine past me, get promoted over me, earn more money than me? It takes a very secure, confident, humble person to lead people. And I think, for me, the biggest lesson on how to get there was, Pete, the value of relationships.

When Dr. Covey was alive, he passed seven years ago, our co-founder, he was constantly reminding me about the difference between having an efficiency mindset and an effectiveness mindset. And it’s something I have struggled with my entire life as it relates to relationships with people. And that is I’m a very efficient person. I like to talk fast, think fast. I mow the lawn fast. I rake the lawn fast. I’m at Home Depot at 5:00 o’clock on a Saturday morning before the staff even opens the doors to buy the flowers to plant them by 6:30. I like to get things done.

And that served me very well in life. I have no apologies for being an efficient human being. But when it comes to relationships with people, one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Covey is this concept of, “With people, slow is fast, and fast is slow.” So, what works well with me planting pansies and begonias in the garden does not work well leading people. I have to move into an effectiveness mindset.

It’s fine to be efficient with systems and even some meetings and even some conversations, but the vast majority of leadership is about building culture, respecting people, and that cannot be rushed. And I have to consciously slow down, check in, get off of my own timeline and my own agenda, and not try to “check people off my list.”

It is a challenge for me. It’s not natural. And when I rise to the occasion of slowing down, the result is always better. I start at kind of a mess and have to consciously think of success when it comes to relationships.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I resonate with that and I do like efficiency and blazing speeds whenever possible. It just feels really good. And then it feels like there’s like a huge list of everything that desires or demands your attention. So, let’s dig into that. That is one of your challenges in the book, is making time for relationships. So, let’s dig into that, how slow is fast, and fast is slow when it comes to relationships, and here’s some stories and practices to bring that to life.

Scott Jeffrey Miller
Well, first, I think it’s a mindset also, right? It’s, “Do you really see yourself as a leader of people versus a leader of strategies, a leader of budget, a leader of outcomes?” I think it’s just to check in to say, “Do I really care about the team that I lead, the division I lead?” The fact of the matter is, Pete, most of us recognize, in our careers, we tend to spend more time at work with our colleagues than we do awake with our family and friends.

And when that is the case for most of us, we want to slow down and really develop quality relationships with people because, as all the stats show, people don’t quit their jobs. They quit their boss, according to Gallup, and they quit their culture. And the leader’s number one job is to, in my opinion, retain and recruit quality talent above everything else, even above setting vision, strategies, systems, stakeholders, return to investors. Your job is to recruit or retain talent and it all comes down to, “Do you have a high-stress culture? Are you respected? Are you trusted?”

You may not always be liked as a leader. In fact, you probably rarely will be liked. But if you build rapport with your people, you make it safe for them to admit their messes, you admit your own messes, to really understand that your number one job is to connect with people and make them want to come to work, make them not want to accept the recruiter call which, by the way, they’re getting every day. If you don’t think your people are getting poached, you’re in a cave. It’s a war on talent right now.

And if people like their leader, they think you have their back, that you establish what I would call a pre-forgiveness environment. It was taught to me by one of my leaders, which is, “You’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to screw up, so let’s just pre-forgive you. It doesn’t give you the right to now go out and just be a train wreck but you’re going to make some mistakes. No one wants to live in fear.” And I think, at the end of the day, have you connected and slowed down with your people?

I read once a great leadership tactic. And it was when someone comes into your     office, if you’re wearing glasses, take them off, put them on the table. If you’ve got a phone, turn it over and put it down. If you’ve got a laptop, close the laptop, and just like, almost artificially, overly check in to the person. Those subtle things are noticed and people will remember them.

It sounds kind of technique-y and it is, but I think it becomes a habit and a practice, and people feel that. People quit their bosses or people stay with their leaders because they feel inspired and validated and trusted and empowered. And those aren’t cultural buzzwords. Those are real things that people can taste and feel.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I dig what you’re saying here. That’s all ringing true and resonating. So, I want to hear a little bit, if folks are in a place, let’s talk about slow being fast with people. If there’s some leaders, more so junior leaders in terms of our listeners, it’s about 50/50 in terms of those who have direct reports and those who don’t, and those who unofficially are influencing without authority, project managing stuff, so that’s kind of the ballgame. We got some executives but more so early leaders in the listener crowd.

So, if folks are feeling kind of overwhelmed by all the things on their plate, all the goals and to-do list items that are there, and they’re worried that they “don’t have time” to a one-on-one with everybody, for example, how would you counter-argue that?

Scott Jeffrey Miller
Well, they’re probably right. They probably don’t have time but they also want to have a team because your team will disengage with you. This concept that you talk about, which is this idea of challenge 20, hold regular one-on-ones. It’s really a chance to engage with your team. Again, if you believe that your number one job as a leader, not your only job, but your top job is to recruit and retain top talent, and that may not be a yes for you. You may not psychologically, philosophically believe that. I have come to absolutely believe that.

The CEO, the CFO, the chief marketing officer, right, even her job or his job is to recruit and retain talent because people are proud of their brand. So, I would set expectations carefully. Don’t go announce you’re going to have, all of a sudden, one-on-one every week with all 14 direct reports. You’re setting yourself up for failure. Calibrate expectations, talk about the value, understand the value of sitting down with your people, door closed, phone off, laptop down, glasses off, and using it as a chance to gauge engagement.

In fact, we say that one-on-one should be organized by the other team member. It’s their meeting, not your meeting. This is their chance to talk 70% of the time. You talk 30%. They ask questions, you clear the path. You listen about things going on in their life. Pete, everybody has got a mess in their life, everyone has got a bill that they can’t pay, everyone has got a challenge in their marriage or their relationship with their partner, everyone has got a kid that’s just causing them a nightmare, everyone has got a sick parent. Everyone has got something going on that is weighing on them, that’s distracting them, that’s weighing them down.

And the more they can trust appropriately in their leader to care, sometimes people just need a leader to listen and understand, “You know what, my teenage son has got a challenge, and I might be coming in late. I promise you I’ll make it up, maybe not in the short term.” You’d be surprised. Leaders are really forgiving, generally speaking, and they understand and they know, they’re not guessing what’s going on.

So, I don’t think you can afford not to take time with your people when there is this, especially with your star performers, when they are being recruited and poached like never likely in history. I’m shocked at the number of recruiters that are chasing me on LinkedIn. If my CEO knew it, he’d have me at lunch every day, or maybe he does know it, he doesn’t want me to stay. But that’s a good head’s up. If you fundamentally believe your job is to retain talent, you’ll do this.

Let me share one more point, I’m sorry I’m going long. My favorite leadership book every written is called “Multipliers.” It’s by Liz Wiseman. I can’t evangelize it enough. It’s a game-changing book. I think it’s arguably better than some of the books that we’ve written at FranklinCovey. Liz Wiseman was the former, basically, VP of Learning at Oracle for 20 years. She left, she’d become a friend of mine, and she talks about how multiplying leaders don’t have to be the genius in the room.

They choose to be the genius maker. They don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. They have the humility and the confidence not to always have the answer, always solve the problem, always trample over someone, that they really can create an environment where people can talk and share ideas, and share ideas that are half-baked or quarter-baked. You don’t have to choose your words super carefully.

That’s a leader that creates an environment where people feel safe to take risks and express their ideas. And I think that’s a great way to build relationships. You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. You just have to be smart enough to hire the smartest people in the room.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, yeah. So, I dig that and I’ve heard that recommendation before so it’s nice to have some extra oomph behind that book. So, I guess, tell me, if folks are having trouble making the time, where should we get it? How do we get the time?

Scott Jeffrey Miller
Yeah. Well, it kind of comes down to your own prioritization. I’d argue that no one is busier than me and I don’t wear that as a badge of honor, and I have got to deliberately choose to say no to other things. That’s really a chief leadership competency, right, is this discernment, “What are you going to say yes to? What are you going to say no to? Where does it come on your sort of value chain? Are you making high-value decisions on how to allocate your time?”

And, again, if you fundamentally believe that people are your most important asset, that your culture is your ultimate competitive advantage, which by the way I evangelize unabashedly, that culture is every organization’s only competitive advantage. It can’t be duplicated. Everything else can be stolen, copied, replicated, and good enough, but they can’t steal or replicate your culture. So, how you find the time is in your own mind. What are you going to say no to that has less return than the 30 minutes with Pete this afternoon?
I’ll tell you, the worst one-on-one, Pete, is not the one that the leader talks the whole time or hijacks the agenda. The worst one-on-one is the one you cancel because as soon as you cancel the first one, now you’ve given permission to cancel the second one as a slippery slope, and now you look like a fraud. So, that’s why I’d say don’t overcommit.

If you’re going to have one-on-ones, announce to your team, “Hey, I think a great idea would be for us to have one-on-ones. I know, I get it, it’s another meeting. No one wants more meetings. Don’t think of it as a meeting. Think of it as a conversation, a chance for you to check in with me. You can ask me questions. Are there some things that I can use my political clout to clear the path on? Are there some systems that you think maybe I’m overly-invested in and it’s time to challenge them? It’s a chance for me to understand what are you struggling with? What are you loving? What’s on the horizon for you? You can ask me questions around the company, the strategy, ‘Are we being sold? Are we being bought?’ I can’t tell you but you get the point.”

And say, “You know what, let’s try, for the one-on-one, 30 minutes once a month. If we find that, after the first couple of months, I’m able to keep them, you’re able to keep them, great. Maybe we’ll go more frequently,” but set expectations low.

I had a client once that, when they heard me give a speech, it was a publisher, he came up to me and said, “Oh, my gosh, it was the most genius thing, Scott. You so inspired me. I have 14 direct reports. I’m going to go announce…” “No, no, no, no, don’t announce anything. Do not announce anything because you’re going to set yourself up for major disappointment and you’re going to kill your brand. Sit down with your assistant and think out methodically. Can you really do 14 of them?” Because we get into this habit where we overcommit ourselves. The first one goes great, the second one goes really well, the third one goes pretty good, the fourth one is taxing, and then they’re like, “Oh, crap. This is just like killing my day, right?” So, ease into it.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. That’s good. All right. Well, we talked about some high-value stuff. You’ve laid out 30 different challenges in your book. Which one or two would you say is just exceptionally high return for the investment of time, energy, attention you put into it?

Scott Jeffrey Miller
You know, when I wrote this book, which by the way now is a number one Amazon new release bestseller for three weeks in a row. I’m super proud of that because I think the world was ready for a different kind of leadership book, one a little more relatable, raw, and messy, so to speak, because leadership is messy.

We started out with 30, well, about 130 challenges, put them all up on the wall with sticky notes, that we thought leaders face. Of course, that’s a suicide mission, right, a book with 130 challenges. So, we narrowed it down to 30, and we organized them in kind of three tranches, Pete. The first eight are around kind of leading yourself. The next dozen or so are around leading others. And the third about dozen around getting results.

The one I think that is probably the most counterintuitive is challenge three, and that’s listen first. The reason I think it’s so counterintuitive is because by the time you become a leader, you had been well-trained on communicating. You’re always in convincing mode, persuading mode, you probably have a big vocabulary. You’ve mastered your message. You’re good at setting vision, convincing people. You’ve mastered the stage, and the microphone, on and on and on.

How many have had days and days of presentation training, lots of them, PowerPoint, keynotes? How many leaders has had legitimate training on listening? I’m in the business. I mean, I had probably four or five collective hours and 30 years on listening. It’s not called TED Listen, it’s called TED Talks, right? We’re constantly reinforced about the power of communicating. But I think great leaders are great listeners. It is a communication competency.

And I think we undermine ourselves because we’re always so used to solving problems, peeling the onion, asking great questions, and these things actually aren’t great leadership tools. There’s a place for that or there’s a place to get to the bottom of something fast and furious so you can solve it in an emergency or in a crisis. But, generally speaking, asking great questions is not showing empathy because your questions are usually based on your own paradigm, your own narrative, your own agenda, your own timeline, your own curiosity, your own need to know. And people will tell you what they need you to know.

So, I would really argue and advocate for people to be much more mindful of when was the last time that you listened to someone to truly understand as opposed to just reply, fix, solve, and move on. And I could go for a half an hour about listening. It is a total mess for me because I’m well-trained at public speaking, I host two podcasts, I host a radio program. Like you, I speak for a living, right? And I don’t like to listen because people talk too slow. I like to listen fast. I like to speak fast. I like to interrupt. I like to get to the bottom.

Ask my wife, my wife does not need me to solve her problem. She needs me to listen, validate her, and understand. My wife is very smart and very competent. She rarely wants me to solve her problem. So, I would just remind leaders to be uber, hyper aware of your listening skills, your propensity to interrupt, and can you psychologically bring the mental discipline in your next conversation to move off, well, how was it when you had that challenge.

What was it like when you faced that situation? And just constantly remind yourself, check back in, check back in, check back in. Listen. It doesn’t mean you can’t ask some questions. But the more you listen, the more the person will appreciate you and feel like you care about them. So, that was a long example.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, no, I dig it. Now, when you say check back in, you’re just talking about…

Scott Jeffrey Miller
Mentally.

Pete Mockaitis
…inside your own head.

Scott Jeffrey Miller
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
You’re off in your own land.

Scott Jeffrey Miller
Of course, you are.

Pete Mockaitis
And bringing it right back.

Scott Jeffrey Miller
That’s right. You’re thinking about your own experience with that same scenario or, “I’d never let that happen,” or, “Here’s how I would solve it.” You have to show enormous intellectual discipline to fight the battle of distraction, to fight the battle of, “Would you just stop talking and I’ll solve your problem for you,” right? But most people don’t want you to solve their problem. They just want to feel heard. They want to feel loved. They just want to feel listened to. And it may sound kind of touchy feely, but that’s part of leadership. It’s just sometimes validating people’s frustrations.

Pete Mockaitis
So, you said you could talk for half an hour about listening, but I’d love to go another five minutes. So, we talked about, you said, somewhat technique-y, but closing the laptop, or putting the phone aside, taking off the glasses, repeatedly checking back in and reorienting your attention away from your own internal dialogue back to them. What are some of the other kind of foundational principles and favorite practices when it comes to listening well?

Scott Jeffrey Miller
Yeah, I think I shared three things. One of them I’m going to repeat. One is you have to fundamentally believe that you care about what this person is going through or believes. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with them. It doesn’t mean you have to even like them for that matter. Just fundamentally, “Is what I’m trying to do right now to help them by just listening?”

Second, resist the temptation to ask questions because most of our questions are probing questions, evaluating questions, interpreting questions. Most of our questions are built so that we can get better context from our own paradigm, mindset, frame of reference, belief window, whatever you want to call it. Most of those questions are really selfish. They satisfy your need to know.

Here’s a good example. When someone says, “Tina’s husband died.” Honestly, most time, our first question is, “How?” Who cares how? Does it matter if he died by an overdose or hit by a car? It doesn’t matter. What matters is Tina is probably in pain. And so, that’s a little bit macabre, I know, but it’s an example that I use in the book, right? If you’ve read that chapter, you know I used an example about someone whose dog died, and how we ask all these questions to kind of satisfy our own curiosity.

So, I would really challenge people, “Is your expert machine gun-style questioning technique…?” which is mine, I think I used an example of like a kangaroo boxing with their feet when I’m at a dinner party, right? Question, question, question, question, question. I didn’t give the person enough time to answer the question. I’m onto the next question. And so, lower your questions.

Here’s the third. I think if people are all like me, we all have a propensity to interrupt because, according to the famous linguistic professor, Dr. Deborah Tannen from Georgetown University, all of us have some preconceived sense of how long the other person should be talking. Pete might think Scott should talk for 48 seconds and stop. Scott might think Pete should talk for 28 seconds. We all have this sort of built-in idea of how long the other person should be talking, so we start to move off of listening and want to interject and move it onto our timeline. But it’s selfish. It’s self-serving.

So, the next time you’re tempted to interrupt, which will be today, I want everybody to be mindful, close your lips. Gently, let your top lip touch your bottom lip, not so it’s visible, just close your lips gently. Because if your lips are closed, you cannot form a word and, therefore, you can’t interrupt. And count to seven, count to ten, and the odds are that during that time when you choose not to interrupt, the other person will either finish talking, land their point, or maybe even share something especially vulnerable, or the crux of the story, or divulge their fear.

And it’s in that time when you’re not interrupting that you might actually learn something especially important, that when it’s time for you to interject, you’ll have a more fuller picture of how you could help them. It’s actually a great exercise that I strongly advise everybody. Check in mentally, try to stay off the natural distractions to move off of your task list, “What’s for dinner? Are you on time for they gym? Do you have enough groceries?” whatever it is. Check back in mentally, you may have to do it four or five times during a conversation, and really resist the urge to interrupt.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I love it when you talked about closing your lips. That’s huge because…

Scott Jeffrey Miller
It’s idiotic, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, no, it’s sort of like it even changes your entire posture because a lot of times your mental state follows your physiology and your body posture and such. Are you raring to get after it and go for a sprint, or are you kind of chilling and laid back and relaxing, reclining? And, likewise, is your body poised to chime in or is your body poised to take it in? And then the difference, it can be a small as a millimeter or two, but is there a gap between your lips or are your lips, in fact, touching each other and closed? I love it. That is good.

Well, you got so much good stuff here, Scott. I like what you had to say about Wildly Important Goals. Can you share with us what are they, how do we identify them and get us all moving toward them?

Scott Jeffrey Miller
Sure. So, in full disclosure, this is not my original content. In fact, all of these 30 challenges come from Franklin Covey’s leadership intellectual property. This idea was really popularized by Jim Collins in his book “Good to Great.” He coined this term, he called them BHAG, Big Hairy Audacious Goals. And Jim is a good friend of our CEO. In fact, I’m going to see Jim next week in Boulder for a meeting. And he really inspired us in our bestselling book “The 4 Disciplines of Execution” which is the number one book in the world when it comes to strategy execution.

And in our book, at FranklinCovey, we created a version of Jim’s BHAG, we called them WIGs, Wildly Important Goals. It’s quite simple but profound. We all have goals. But have you, as a leader, taken the time and the discipline to elevate what is truly more important than anything else? Meaning, like nothing can come at the expense of this getting done.

In fact, the same concept can apply in your personal life, in that as a leader, you have several roles. One of them, beyond obviously retaining and recruiting talent, setting culture, modeling trustworthiness, is communicating clarity around what is most important. And your job is to help to identify with your team, “What is going to provide disproportionate return to our shareholders, to our customers, to our profit, to our mission?”

Your job is to say, “Yes.” Your job is to say, “No.” Your job is to elevate things that have to happen. We call those the Wildly Important Goal. And everything cannot be a Wildly Important Goal. While you’re doing that, you have to make sure that your people understand that this is more important than anything else, but that you’ve taken the time, Pete, to communicate to them what is their role in achieving this goal, what types of behaviors. Literally, what do you need to see differently from them tomorrow to help achieve this goal because, likely, if it’s a Wildly Important Goal, you haven’t accomplished it yet. And everyone is going to need to learn something new or do something different tomorrow to achieve this new goal.

So, as a leader, don’t be afraid to sit down with Pete and say, “Pete, let’s talk about this. We’re going to move our customer retention from 18% to 19% in the next two months. Here’s what I think your contribution needs to be to this. Let’s look, like, what kind of training, what kind of support, what are you going to need to do differently so that you can contribute new and better behaviors to this? And, by the way, while you’re at it, don’t just tell everybody else what they need to do differently. Offer up what you’re going to do differently. And say, ‘You know what, team, I’m going to ask you all to stretch beyond your skillset, and I want you to know I’m going to lead the parade. I’m going to leave the comfort of my office and go out and meet with 10 clients in the next 14 days and really understand what do they need from us or whatever the solution is, right?’”

You lead out and show people that you’re willing to move outside your comfort zone. And then I think, beyond all of that, the goal has to be attainable. You have to structure it in a way that people understand, “Are they winning?” And goals should be structured, at least from our pedagogy, if you will, in a from X to Y by when format. “We will move customer retention from 18% to 19% by May 31, 2020” from X to Y by when.

And once people are very clear on that, “What is the goal? What is the measurement? What is my role in it? What is their role in it?” you’ve got to celebrate it. You’ve got to have it on the scoreboard, it could be hokey, it can be with cotton balls, it can be pompoms. I don’t care. The hokier the better. The less digital the better. People should look at it in a heartbeat and know, “Are we winning or are we losing? How are we at tracking towards goals?” These are kind of simple concepts.

As Dr. Covey used to say, “Common knowledge isn’t common practice.” He would always talk about The 7 Habits, “To know but not to do is not to know.” It sounds religious, maybe it is, I don’t know or care. But I think it’s a great methodology around setting Wildly Important Goals is more than being a visionary.

Let me share one final thought. I think there’s a type of leader, it’s often the high-endurance athlete, it’s often the uber successful leader who is a workaholic who’s relentless. And if they win, they lose. I’m going to say it again. If they win, they lose. Meaning, if they accomplished the goal, they’ve lost because the goal was set too low. And I think that is a cancer inside some organizations. As a leader, you should be setting stretched goals that require extraordinary effort that are aspirational, but they have to be accomplishable.

And when your team accomplishes them, you have got to invest and spend time acknowledging them, thanking them, rewarding, and celebrating. Set off the confetti, right? Spray the champagne bottle. Go bat, you know what, crazy. Don’t just say, “Great,” and then get back to the grind. People need to feel like you value accomplishing the goal as much as you did setting it and striving towards it.

I’m actually pretty passionate about that because I think too often leaders set goals that are too waffy and they crush the confidence of the team. People want to win. And if they can’t win working for you, they’ll go win working for somewhere else, someone else. Sorry, that was a diatribe.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, no, I dug it all. And I want to get your take for those who are aspiring for leadership positions but don’t have them yet, and they want to be like you, promoted into a management role. How do you get that signaling, that conveying, earning that trust, that confidence, such that people think, “Yes, you are the one who should be a manager now”?

Scott Jeffrey Miller
Can I take four minutes?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure.

Scott Jeffrey Miller
First, ask yourself why, right? Why is it you want to move into being a leader of people? I think, like I’ve said before, people are too often lured into being the team leader for the wrong reasons. Lead or be led, right? “Either take the job or Pete, down the hall, is going to be my leader tomorrow. And that’s horrifying thought, right, I don’t want Pete being my leader so I’m going to step up the plate, right?”

I get it. I get it. But wrong motivation. Do you get your validation from seeing other people succeed? I think, too often, it’s the only way to get a career promotion is to move up into leadership. And I think it’s a system’s misalignment issue. I’m not here to tackle the OD industry but I think people should really question, “Why do I want to do this?”

Here’s the next thing. I think people try to harvest their careers too soon. That’s a broad statement. I said the word people. There’s an amazing video that Franklin Covey has in our “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” two-day work session. It’s an interview we did 25 years ago with this sort of unsophisticated but very smart potato farmer from Iowa, sorry, from Idaho. And the name of the video is called “The Law of the Harvest.”

And in this sort of 8-minute video, this potato farmer says something that changed my life, it changed my career. He said, “There comes a time when we plant potatoes that we have to rotate the crop, right? Some years we actually plant a money-losing crop, like alfalfa or whatever it is, and we lose money on it. But it replenishes the soil so desperately and so vitally that allows us to grow bigger potatoes the next year.”

And I think the metaphor is so wise for our careers. I think, too often, including in this younger generation—which I have enormous respect for, I mean, they’re going to be my boss in the next five years. I better shape up and not insult them, and I won’t—is that too often, I think we try to harvest as oppose to plant.

In my career, I have found that patience has rewarded me. Fertilize, water, weed, rake, hoe, fertilize some more. Don’t try to harvest too soon. I think, in most organizations, leaders will call you when you’re ready. Nobody wants to suppress people. We know you’ll quit. No one wants to suffocate people. We know you’ll quit. No great leader, no mediocre leader, is going to pass over you when the timing is right. If they do, you’re working for the wrong organization.

But I think the question you ask is, “How do you know?” We’ve all been in the role where we’ve had to kind of fake our way until we make it. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I’m certainly a product of that. But I think you should surround yourself with wiser people than you. I’ve always practiced this concept, Pete, I call friending up. While my colleagues were playing beer pong at the lake house on the weekends, I was with the boss at his or her family’s house, picking their brains. I’ve always surrounded myself with people who are older, smarter, wiser, richer, better educated, better travelled, been down the same path. And that always kind of led me into a leadership role probably a little sooner than I should’ve been, but it certainly had me on the right track.

So, I would say practice the Law of the Harvest. Don’t try to harvest too soon, and surround yourself with leaders that are willing to mentor and coach you, and have been down the same path you’ve been in, have made the mistakes that you could avoid if you’re willing to listen and pay attention.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s excellent. Thank you, Scott.

Scott Jeffrey Miller
Probably not where you thought I was taking that.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, no. I can dig it. I can dig it. And we’re going to have a quick moment for some of your favorite things. Can you give us a favorite quote?

Scott Jeffrey Miller
My favorite quote, no surprises, from Dr. Stephen R. Covey, he said, “You can’t talk your way out of a problem you behaved yourself into. You can only behave yourself out of that problem.”

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite tool?

Scott Jeffrey Miller
Oh, my gosh, I love electric screwdrivers.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Scott Jeffrey Miller
You know what, I really get into the habit of apologizing without excuses. I’ve learned that the excuse-free apology is the only apology. So, I’ve gotten to the habit of simply saying, “I’m wrong. I apologize. I own it.” No excuses around it. No defending myself. No trying to make myself look better. Just owning it and apologizing with no attachments.

Pete Mockaitis
And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Scott Jeffrey Miller
Yes, so the book site is ManagementMess.com. you can find me there. You can follow me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, you name it. I’m kind of hard to miss these days, but ManagementMess.com is the best place to learn about the book, and my future book is coming out, and how to bring me into an organization.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Scott Jeffrey Miller
Stop gossiping. The biggest cancer in organizations is leaders that talk about people behind their backs. Dr. Covey called it being loyal to the absent. Only speak about people as if they were standing right next to you, looking at you in the eye. Because when you are loyal to those who are absent, you build confidence and trust to those who are present.

There’s a person in our company who I have enormous respect for. And this person gossips and trashes everybody. And whenever I’m hearing her, I think, “Man, what do you say about me? That must be really brutal.” Because, of course, she talks about me. How can she not? Why would she spare me from that? Stop talking about people behind their back. Only talk about them as if they were standing right in front of you, looking at you in the eye. You will transform your brand, your reputation, and the culture of your organization. You can start small just on your team.

Pete Mockaitis
Scott, this has been a lot of fun. Thanks so much. And keep on the good work.

Scott Jeffrey Miller
Hey, Pete, I’m honored. Thank you, sir. Glad to be part of your podcast series. Thanks for the interview.

463: Insights on Persuasion from the Land of Copywriting with Brian Kurtz

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Brian Kurtz says: "If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room."

Brian Kurtz shares his insider perspectives on persuasion and overdelivering from his legendary career at Boardroom and beyond.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why knowing your audience is the biggest key to persuasion
  2. The 4 pillars of being extraordinary
  3. How to overdeliver at work without burning out

About Brian 

Brian Kurtz has been a serial direct marketer for almost 40 years and never met a medium he didn’t like. 

Brian left his beloved Boardroom in January of 2015. Over 34 years he was responsible for the mailing of close to 2 billion pieces of direct mail in his career. He worked with many of the most legendary copywriters and consultants who have ever lived. Under Brian’s marketing leadership and during his tenure, Boardroom’s revenues went from approximately $5 million (in 1981) to a high of over $150 million (in 2006).

Brian writes and speaks regularly; recent content can be found at www.briankurtz.net and www.briankurtz.net/blog. His first book, The Advertising Solution, was released in October of 2017. His second book, Overdeliver: Build a Business for a Lifetime Playing the Long Game in Direct Response Marketing was released in April of 2019. Brian also loves being a Little League Baseball Umpire.

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, Sponsor!

Brian Kurtz Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Brian, thanks for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Brian Kurtz
Great to be here. I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to be awesome at my job after this but it’s a pleasure to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you have a heck of a track record for being awesome at your job. And I’d love it if maybe we could start by you orienting us a little bit to your story. What’s Boardroom? What’s direct response copywriting? And where does Brian fit into all this?

Brian Kurtz
Well, I had a pretty standard trajectory or career because I worked for 34 years for a company called Boardroom which was a newsletter publisher, book publisher, direct response marketing, meaning when I say direct response, I mean measurable marketing, making sure the media you buy pays out and everything is measurable.

And it was a very kind of a gradual trajectory and I ended up, by the time I left, I was running the marketing department and I was an equity partner. You know, I’m not a bootstrap entrepreneur by any means but it’s been a great ride because I was able to learn direct response marketing from the most amazing copywriters and consultants and everybody that Boardroom worked with, because Boardroom was kind of an iconic brand in the marketing world.

And so, when I left five years ago, I went out and launched my own thing and, I guess, it’s a classic case of those who did it have a responsibility to teach it. And that’s been my second career, which is as a direct marketing educator and teacher. So, I went from, in business to consumer marketing, mailing 2 billion pieces of mail and different kinds of messages to consumers to then going out in a business-to-business environment, and training, and creating mastermind groups, and working with some of the top direct marketers, and teaching what I had learned and also realizing that there was also still so much to learn.

And so, bringing in great speakers to my mastermind groups so that I can learn as well about all the new media. Because when I was growing up in this world, there were only so many media choices. You had direct mail, you had space advertising, you had TV, radio, but, now, advertising opportunities are infinite. and so, the ability to know what’s going on and choose properly is mindboggling but it’s also exciting. And that’s been the premise of my new work as an entrepreneur and an educator.

So, that’s kind of the career in a nutshell, and you can pick apart that or ask me any questions on that if you think it’s applicable.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I think that my favorite thing you said there, for those who are not as familiar with Boardroom and its sort of legendary status, is 2 billion pieces of mail, so, one, because I love numbers and, two, that just kind of really paints a picture of what we’re talking about here, is that this is a big scope of operations. And what I find so exciting and intriguing about it is that this is really kind of live or die by how persuasive and effective your words are in the pieces of mail that you’re sending out and you’re measuring the results on that.

Like, if your words are converting at a high percentage such that many people are buying then, hey, you’re profitable and you’re growing. And if they’re not, well, then, you’ve just burned a whole lot of cash on stamps and envelopes and pieces of paper.

Brian Kurtz
I will say this, though, and you did ask me about copywriting, and I’m not a copywriter but I have a good sense of copy and I’ve worked with the best copywriters in the world. And what’s interesting is that you could have the best copy but you have to make sure that you have the right list and the right offers to make that copy sing.

And so, I always talk in my book Overdeliver, I talk about the 40-40-20 Rule, which was a rule of direct response marketing, and it’s not exact, but it’s basically that the success of a campaign is 40% the list, 40% offer, and 20% the creative or the copy. Now, that makes it sound like the copy is half as important as the offer or the list, but it’s not. What it’s saying is that you could have the best copy but without your list and offer dialed in, you’re probably not going to get any response.

Whereas, if you have your list and offer dialed in, and you have mediocre copy, you actually are going to make some money because the list is, I think the list to me I call the 41-39-20 Rule because the list is the most important. And the proof is in people who do affiliate programs today. They get somebody who has a list of people who might like their product or service, they endorse it, they tell you how great it is. And you could have any kind of copy in that but that list is so perfect that it’s going to get some response.

Now, the trick in direct response marketing and why creative and copywriting and persuasiveness and all of that is critically important is that if you get copy that’s world class, and you have your list and offer dialed in, then you’ve got direct marketing nirvana. There you’ve got the ability to persuade, the ability to move people to action. And the best copywriters, it’s funny, my first book The Advertising Solution where I profiled six of the great advertising men of all time.

And the interesting thing is that they’re all copywriters and they all always talk about the audience and the list more than they talk about their amazing copy because they knew that if the list was right, it made their job easier and then they knew who they were writing for.

So, I just wanted to make that distinction of, not that copy is the least important, it’s actually, in some cases, the most important for big breakthroughs but you have to have your list and your offer dialed in to make it as impactful as possible.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood, and I find that encouraging. So, you have had a front-row seat there at a big player in this game, and you’ve seen their revenues go up 30 times during your career there, which is pretty cool, 5 million to 150 million. Kudos. And so then, I think there’s, what’s that expression, like, “Oh, boy, he could sell snow to an Eskimo.” It’s like, “No, actually no way he can really do that. The Eskimo, that audience member, that person on the list, is in no need of snow and so it doesn’t matter how persuasively brilliant the words are, it’s not going to happen.”

Brian Kurtz
Yeah, like I’ve had many, many failures and many terrible direct mail programs and marketing programs. But the beauty is that everything is testable, everything is measurable, and that’s what makes being good at my job and being, “I like my job” so wonderful: that direct marketing is, the numbers don’t lie. You’re judged on how the customer responds and you also can get out. You can have a program that’s a disaster and you can walk away from it. You don’t have to throw good money after bad. You don’t have to be in a terrible position because you’re testing in small increments and then pyramiding and moving slowly through that process.

And if anybody who thinks it’s easy, it’s not. But it’s a methodical way of thinking about marketing that I’ve always thought as just a wonderful place to be. And so, no, I’m not selling snow to Eskimos, but I can sell a lot of things to Eskimos if I know what the Eskimo needs or wants, and it may be snow but probably not. You’ve got to figure that out and that’s through testing.

Pete Mockaitis
And it’s so funny, my creative brand, we’re sort of working on it in terms of thinking, boy, there’s probably a certain way you can make that offer with the snow actually appealing in terms of, “This is the perfect kind of snow for making igloos. And we’re going to bring a specific quantity right to where you need it, right when you need it. It’ll be so much more convenient in having to find the best snow for your igloo-making.” I guess that’s mixing the offer side alongside the copy.

Brian Kurtz
Yeah, one of the copywriters in The Advertising Solution that I wrote about, I think it was John Caples. He said something like there’s very little difference between a $50 cigar and a 50-cent cigar, and it’s how you position it and how you make it worthwhile, and make it fit the needs of the customer. And I believe that.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I’d love to hear, so you’ve had the privilege of working with, as you mentioned, some of the greatest copywriters who’ve ever lived. And so, I’d love to hear then, what’s going on inside their brains in terms of what makes them more persuasive than the rest of us and how can professionals get some of that magic?

Brian Kurtz
You know, It’s really hard work. When I say I’m not a copywriter, I say that because I don’t have the discipline that most copywriters have. Their brains work differently at the highest level. I mean, there are copywriters and there are copywriters, but their brains just work differently. And what I find, and the one characteristic, and there are a lot of them. I have a blogpost, and I think it’s in my book, in Overdeliver, it’s the seven characteristics of every copywriter, every great copywriter, that I ever worked with.

And the one that sticks out is insatiable curiosity, that you have to have this need to go deeper, you know, you get the answer but it’s not the answer, and you’re always looking for that next tidbit, that next level of knowledge that’s going to enable you to write copy that’s going to sing. In fact, Gene Schwartz, who’s one of the greatest copywriters who ever lived, used to say, “I don’t write copy. I assemble copy.”

Pete Mockaitis
And let’s talk a bit more about this point of, “I don’t write copy. I assemble copy,” and “what’s not in this book.” I think that’s an interesting perspective. So, the distinction between writing and assembling, what is it?

Brian Kurtz
So, I’ll give you a story. I had a copywriter, I wanted him to write for a newsletter of mine. It was a newsletter that was written by a naturopathic physician, and I gave him back issues, I showed him packages that have been written before, the usual start package that I give a copywriter. And he looked at it, and he said, “There’s nothing new here. There’s nothing exciting. And I don’t think I’d be able to write an exciting package for this because most of the stuff is kind of duds, like it’s basic. It’s important but it’s not cutting edge.”

And so, I said, “I have a feeling that there’s more here. Why don’t you talk to the guru, the doctor who’s behind the newsletter, and just talk to him and see what you can find out. Maybe there’s more here, again, what’s not in the newsletter.” And, lo and behold, he had a long call with him, and he came back to me, and he goes, “Do you know that your editors are rejecting a lot of the things that he wants to put in the newsletter that’s exciting, not because they’re irresponsible but because they want to be careful that it’s not information that they feel they can back up, and they don’t want to put it in because they feel like, you know, for legal reasons.”

And so, he just took it on himself. And this is, again, the beauty of having a copywriter who’s going to go after the information. And he basically took all the things that were on the cutting room floor and was able to resurrect some of them with additional research. He couldn’t resurrect everything because some of it was controversial, but he was able to resurrect a lot of it.

So, that’s an example of assembling copy and being able to find content that you wouldn’t normally get without an extra inquiry. I also think this idea of assembling copy is what Gene Schwartz would do. He would go through the book, like if I gave him a book to do a direct mail piece for, he would go through the book and he would start writing what he calls “fascinations” from the copy. And that would give him the best nuggets for the direct mail piece, and that enabled him to figure out what’s not in the book.

So, while we might know some things that might not be in the book, he would figure it out because he’d get so far with a certain fascination or a certain bullet point, and he said, “Oh, there’s this next level, and I can get to that but I need more information.” So, he would go back to the editors to get more information as well.

So, that’s kind of the concept of assembling copy. It is what’s there because you’re going to assemble copy from the content, but it’s then what’s not there. I have other examples in my book about copywriters who just never were satisfied with what was there, and they knew that there was more. And that’s what made the package sing and what made the promotion sing.

Pete Mockaitis
And when you say sing, I’d love to get a little bit of a perspective here in terms of what would you say are the kinds of improvements that you’d see like with the same product just different words trying to sell it? Do you get double, triple the response rate when it’s kind of revamped effectively?

Brian Kurtz
Yeah, I’ve seen it. I’ve also seen 5% lifts or 5% here or there, it doesn’t matter. But you do get the 30%, 40%, 50% lifts in response when you do something outrageously different. And I think this is in my book, but I know I wrote a blogpost about it. We had a book in our stable. Marty Edelston, who’s the founder of Boardroom, was a genius and had a real good sense about what our audience was like because he was the audience.

And so, he created a book called The Book of Checklists with the intuition that people loved checklists, they love crossing things off checklists, and he thought it was going to be a winner, he had a package written by not one of the best copywriters but an okay copywriter, and it was a disaster. It was just terrible.

And we thought about it. Now, sometimes you can give up and sometimes you want to stay with it. And we thought about it and we said, “You know, this book is too good but maybe checklist isn’t it.” So, then he made it, we changed the title, same book, and we changed the title to something like The Great Book of Inside Knowledge, or something like that, and we made it like this encyclopedia of knowledge but we didn’t drastically change the promotion but we just revamped it a little bit, like tweaks and whatever, but we changed the premise of checklists to inside knowledge.

And not only did it not do as well, it did worse. So, then again, we said, “You know, the content of this is really good and we think there’s something here.” And we took it to, at that point, our secret weapon copywriter, Mel Martin, who was kind of the master of fascinations, the idea of taking a book, going in it, what Gene Schwartz did too, which was pull the bullet points out of this book. And he revamped the whole thing, and the new title was The Book of Secrets as opposed to “Inside Knowledge.” Secrets is a better word clearly. But then he redid the mailing piece.

And I remember that there were four fascinations on the outer envelope, and he chose them because this was his intuition of what the things that would make people vibrate the most. It was things like, I’m trying to think if I can remember all of them, I don’t think I can, but there was one that was, “How to outwit a mugger in a self-service elevator.” And there was another one that was, “How to know when a slot machine is going to pay off.” Another one was, “What food never to buy in a health food store.”

And he didn’t test them because he just had to go out with something, but he had hundreds of these fascinations, and he picked the four that he wanted to put on the outer envelope. And that mailing piece for that same book, the content of the book was The Book of Checklists. In fact, the book was like a vertical book because it was shaped like a checklist, but it was The Book of Secrets. I just bought one on eBay. I didn’t have a copy of it, and I found one on eBay which was neat.

And that book ended up mailing 25 million pieces. We did the single biggest mailing in our history for that book which was nine million pieces. I’m giving you the most severe success that we had but just to show you that revamping a concept and a package and then we also, once we had a winner, he would then test different fascinations on the outer envelope, he would test different headlines. And then you get the incremental lift. You get the 5% better or 10% better.

Now, I think that Book of Secrets from Great Book of Inside Knowledge from Book of Secrets was probably 200% lift from the original, so that was…

Pete Mockaitis
Three times as effective.

Brian Kurtz
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Hotdog. With the same stuff. Well, that is illustrative. Thank you. Well, let’s see, we also talk about this in the context of writing and mailing. So, let’s take this into the context of a professional at work, maybe they’re writing an email so they’re being persuasive via writing, or maybe they’re just kind of conversing verbally. What are some of the influence or persuasion universals that they can draw from this and use effectively to get yes more often from colleagues or customers?

Brian Kurtz
Yeah, that’s a good question. I think I’ll put it in the context of something from my book which was that Marty himself was, I remember the day of his funeral I was going to give the eulogy and I was up at 2:00 in the morning at my kitchen table. And, again, just like I looked at the seven characteristics that made every copywriter great, I wanted to figure out what the things that made Marty great. And I figured out it was there were four things. I guess these are four, I’ll call them four things, I think I called four things to being an extraordinary human being. And there is overlap with what I talk about with the copywriters.

And so, number one, is that Marty outworked everybody. And not outwork like, “I’m going to step on your toes, and I’m going to run rough shot over you, and I’m going to beat you at your game,” and all that. There is some of that but it’s really outworking everyone, to me, is a form of generosity that if you can show by example what you do at a high level, I think you set yourself up by example. And Marty was not a great teacher of what made him great, but he was a great shower of what was making him great. And that was something that I thought was a way that he outworked, and outworking everybody was generosity.

The second pillar of being extraordinary and related to copy, it’s actually one of the same premises, which was possess insatiable curiosity. Marty created publications and books that helped consumers in a variety of areas in their life, whether it was health or finance, and he just never stopped. He was not an expert himself but he was the bloodhound. He was the watchdog. He was the person that was going to possess that insatiable curiosity just like the copywriters did when they went and found the best information for their promotions on the cutting room floor.

The third thing, similar to copywriters when they would go to their peers to get feedback, Marty would surround himself with smart people. I always say, if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. And, therefore, like I’m in a stage of my career where I see myself as a teacher but I’m also a student. And so, I run to mastermind groups but I’m in three others that I spend a lot of money on and that I go to find new knowledge and new things because you’re never done with learning.

And so, I just thought this two months ago I had a stroke, survived, and I feel fortunate about that. But I feel even more of a need to be a student. Like, I’m not done. And so, you’re never done. And so, that is another transferable characteristic that takes the copywriting, that you’re always learning, and you take it to a bigger thing in your job.

And the fourth pillar was that, and with Marty, it was help other people first. For me, it’s always, contribute first. So, people look at me as a networker and I know a lot of people in the industry and I’m well-connected, but I hate the word networking. I like the word “contribution” to connect. And so, that is a characteristic that if you are always contributing to people around you, and I’ve done it for 40 years, so it’s paid off, not always, but sometimes you contribute too much with nothing in return. But you don’t look for anything in return. And I’ll tell you, what comes back is unbelievable.

So, Marty, the publications that we had and the books we had were to help people live a better life, and help more consumers than he would ever have thought he’d be able to do in his lifetime. But it was always about helping first, contributing first, and then what came back was a flood of satisfaction and things that he never could’ve predicted and I never could’ve predicted by living my life this way because I followed his premise.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, those are some great principles. And I’m intrigued by a few of those things. You mentioned a stroke and, one, hey, we’re so glad you’re doing better.

Brian Kurtz
Oh, thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
And, two, that gets me thinking about sort of health and sustainability because doing those things, that’s some extra effort that’s required. So, any pro tips for handling that stuff without burning out or getting into some health trouble?

Brian Kurtz
Yeah, that’s a good question because I got into health trouble and I don’t think it was stress. It was more like just burning the candle at both ends and travel. And I think that you have to listen to your body. I don’t think I have any pro tips, so to speak, because I don’t do as I say, not as I do. But I think that you want to control what you can control. You want to obviously eat well and exercise and all of that, but you want to control the stress in some way. So, whatever it is.

It’s funny, I just started meditating but I know meditation is a great way or yoga or whatever, running, bicycling, whatever. But one of the things that I do to alleviate stress is umpiring baseball. And you’d say, “Well, how is that relaxing? You miss a call and there’s somebody coming at you with a baseball bat.” And I think, for me, and it’s not that I want everybody to become an umpire, but I want people to understand that, for me, umpiring is a place where I go where I focus on something other than my work where I have to be focused, otherwise, I’m going to get yelled at if I miss a call or I miss something.

And I think you can draw an analogy in whatever you do. If you take it seriously, that if you have something where you’re a serious marathon runner and you’re always trying to beat your time, or you’re a serious meditation person that you always want to increase your meditation practice and you sort of compete with yourself to always get better, but it’s not related to the thing that you spend the most time with.

Now, of course, family is another place where you can go and do that too. So, there’s a lot of places in your life, but I think you need things that are an outlet so, if we talk about work here because this is what kind of the underpinning of this podcast, that to be great at work means you have to be great at other things not related to work, and to find things that you can get out of, thinking about work, for some period of time, is really healthy. So, that would be one. But, again, it’s the normal take care of yourself and do that.

I think in terms of the premise of my book Overdeliver there’s a lot of traps in overdelivering. I titled the book this because, first of all, overdeliver is not a word, so I own the word basically. But it’s two words or hyphenated. But as one word it’s powerful for me because I think you can overdeliver in every part of your life. You can overdeliver just as a marketer. You give away more than a customer would’ve ever expected, that’s an obvious way to overdeliver. You can overdeliver in your relationships by playing a hundred zeroes as opposed to 50/50, and you always contribute without a need to get something in return. You can overdeliver in your relationships so that you are giving more than you ever would’ve wanted, or people ever would’ve expected.

But the dangers, and where stress can come, is when you do it and you’re not – and, again, I’m not perfect at this, believe me – but you overdeliver too much, and then the expectation is too high. And then the next time you come out, and you’re not overdelivering and you’re only delivering well, it’s, all of a sudden, “What are you doing for me lately?” And then if you are, like me, you say, “Oh, no, I screwed up and I put myself in a bad situation,” and that could cause stress and lead to an unhealthy environment.

And then the last thing about your health and all the things that you do in your life, I think that the one thing that can really screw people up, and it screwed me up, and I think people will relate to this, is envy. I think envy, I’ll say envy kills. Envy makes you sick. And the way that I’ve been able to deal with envy, when you see somebody doing something better than you, when you see somebody doing a launch that did well and you never could get there, or you see somebody achieving in some way that you wanted to achieve and you’re not able to get there, that is sometimes your envy is in.

What you have to do is go from envy to gratefulness. And so, the example I can give is if you are at an event, and someone is speaking, and they’re amazing, and you were speaking and you didn’t think you were as amazing, rather than being envious, being able to go to that person and, hopefully, you can talk to them about what they did to do such a great job, and to get that input and to get that information is a way to take envy and turn it into gratefulness to that person for sharing it.

And so, I’m not envious in my life for the most part, but when I am envious and I feel like I’m getting ill of some sort, I go to gratefulness. There’s a book by a guy by the name of Norberto Keppe called, The Origin of Illness, and it kind of speaks to this that envy is the root of all evil, and I really believe that.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you. Any other kind of mistakes you think people tend to make when they’re going after over-delivery or they’re going after persuasion?

Brian Kurtz
Yeah, I think you can give away too much. And I don’t know what that line is because I tend to give away too much. But I kind of have figured out, I know it when I see it because, like, I blog every Sunday, and I always invite my readers to give me input, and I give them a lot of free stuff. And so, I’ve overdelivered too much in some cases when I start getting a flood of emails and requests. I have a list of, I don’t know, 11,000 people or 12,000 people, and it’s one thing to send me an email with a “Thanks for that input. My experience has been this,” and just a little share, to a whole list of asking me for advice and opinions.

I don’t want to be not gracious because I’m trying to be as generous as possible, but I charge a lot of money for my time, and I can’t get annoyed by it because that would be disingenuous. Like, in that example, if someone is asking me for my opinion, which would be a consulting call, I kind of lay it out that I charge for consulting. I give them a little piece that I can give them but not much because I don’t have the time. And I feel bad but that’s where I have to dial it back a little bit.

So, I don’t know if that answered the question, but I think when you find your…. I get myself in trouble as opposed to ignoring everybody. I’d rather be on this side of it than on the side of just “I’m too good for you and I’m going to ignore you. If you want to pay me, I’ll give you advice.” I try to create a middle ground and sometimes I get myself in trouble because of that. But, again, I’d rather err on the side of that than on the side of “I’m going to protect myself completely.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now, could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Brian Kurtz
One is, “In marketing and in life, everything is not a revenue event, but everything is a relationship event.”

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite study, or experiment, or a bit of research?

Brian Kurtz
A favorite study or experience. I think learning how to survey and learning how to get the opinions of your customers to find out what they need as opposed to what you think they need is a basic premise of marketing, and it’s one that a lot of people don’t use enough. So, I would say it’s that.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Brian Kurtz
I have at least two. One of my favorite books is Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz, the best book on copywriting, marketing, but it’s bigger than that because it’s about human behavior. Another one is Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist which is kind of one that I read every year to just remind me of my personal legend and what I’m up to and that I’m still on that path.

And then the third would be Adam Grant’s Give and Take which is an amazing book on giving and taking, but the beauty of that book is that he says early on that there are givers, takers, and matchers in the world, people who give, people who take, and people who match 50/50. And he said the most unsuccessful people in the world, what would you think they are, and you assume it’s takers, and it’s actually givers. But giving, and this goes back to too much over-delivery, that if you give too much, then you’re going to be a loser because you’re never going to take care of yourself.

Then he says, “Who are the most successful people in the world?” And he says they’re also givers because “but you have to give strategically and you have to give.” And that’s the trick, giving strategically, overdelivering strategically. I’m still learning it but I’m always experimenting.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite tool, something you use that helps you be awesome at your job?

Brian Kurtz
I would say that looking for groups of people that have information that I don’t have. So, I mean, that’s broad and I do it in small groups and I do it in big groups, in masterminds, but I do it in small groups too. Like, going out and always finding that next piece of knowledge, that next person.

Pete Mockaitis
And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Brian Kurtz
So, I would definitely point them to the site for my book which is www.overdeliverbook.com. And on that site is an opportunity to buy my book, but there’s also, you’d come back to the site after you buy the book, and you put in your order number, and there are 11 bonuses on that page. And it’s stuff like a swipe file of going back to 1900, going back to original source, going back, getting a file of things that you can use to help you with your marketing.

So, there’s 11 different things on this site that are just, I guess I have a book called “Overdeliver” so I guess I have overdelivered. So, it’s overdeliverbook.com.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And all those bonuses are listed right there.

Brian Kurtz
Yeah, they’re all listed on the site, and then you opt in to my list. I don’t do affiliate programs. I blog every Sunday and you’ll get, hopefully, some wisdom once in a while from me. So, there’s just a lot of information there, and I think that’s the best way to connect with me and learn a lot of the things that I spoke about today if your audience is interested.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Brian Kurtz
I always say go forth and multiply, and I think the best way to do that is to contribute to connect, that always contribute first before you ask for anything. Like, tell people what you have to offer them before you ask them for something. And don’t make ask of people out of nowhere. Like, someone who you only know for a short time, don’t make an ask if it’s not appropriate. Because I think if you work on your relationship capital and develop it over a long period of time, that is a great way to live your life. And so, I would say contribute to connect as oppose to networking.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Brian, this has been a treat. I wish you lots of luck with your books and adventures and all you’re up to.

Brian Kurtz
Thank you very much, Pete.