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814: How to Take Control of Your Mood and Feel More Powerful at Work with Steven Gaffney

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Steven Gaffney shares the simple shifts that help you feel more powerful at work.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to easily redirect negativity into productivity
  2. Three reframes that make problems more manageable
  3. Two quick hacks to snap you out of a funk

About Steven

Steven Gaffney is a leading expert on creating Consistently High Achieving Organizations (CHAO)™ including high achieving teams, honest communication, and change leadership. Steven has worked in more than 25 different industry and market segments for over 25 years. He uses cross-discipline solutions and best practices from other industry sectors to bring fresh, innovative and consistently successful approaches to his clients. He works directly with top leaders from Fortune 500 companies, associations, as well as the U.S. government and military; and is also an author, speaker, and trusted advisor.

  • Book: Unconditional Power: A System for Thriving in Any Situation, No Matter How Frustrating, Complex, or Unpredictable
  • Website: JustBeHonest.com

Resources Mentioned

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Steven Gaffney Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Steven, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Steven Gaffney
Thank you for having me on.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to talk about your book Unconditional Power. But first, I want to dig a little bit into… one of your areas of expertise is honesty. I’m curious if, in all your work and research, if there’s an area in your life where oh, you had to do a bit of an honesty upgrade.

Steven Gaffney
You mean honesty upgrade as in like being honest to myself or that something? Is that what you mean?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. An area where it’s like, “Oh… Given this, I’m seeing a little in myself, perhaps there’s an area I need to be more honest about.”

Steven Gaffney
What actually happened, how I got involved in the work is I started to do some seminars for creative people like photographers and film and radio commercial directors because I used to have a business in that area. So I’m teaching them how to do communication, real basic stuff, and on the side, I would just always give people advice about honesty because I’ve always been a really honest, upfront person. 

And one day, a friend of mine said, “You should be teaching this stuff.” So, I guess the honesty moment was around being honest and actually teaching honesty out there. But what I mean by honesty, just so we get this out, it’s not the truth or lies that’s the big hang-up. The biggest problem is not what people say. It’s actually what they don’t say. It’s what they leave out.

So, that was what I realized and starting to teach. And then I developed a nine-step formula on how to share difficult things and have it go well, and we can get into that as well, but that’s how I started and that’s really about the honesty moment, you could say.

Pete Mockaitis
What we don’t say in terms of we just choose to omit this because it’ll be uncomfortable, we think we might not like it.

Steven Gaffney
Yeah, think about it this way. How often have you thought, “My gosh, if they just told me that, I could’ve figured out the answer.” A lot of people in their jobs experience this because, “My gosh, if my boss had just told me this, or a coworker just told me this,” or if you’re leading an organization, and you lose a great employee, and you find out the real reason why they walked out the door, and thought, “My gosh, if I had known that was what was bothering them, what prompted them to look, we could’ve done something about it.”

Really, when you look at life, and I challenge people, the number one problem isn’t what people tell us. It’s actually what they don’t tell us. It’s what they leave out. So, the trick of the whole thing is to try to get the unsaid said. And I don’t mean that people try to hold back from an evil standpoint. People are often afraid to share really what’s going on with them and with others.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true. So, speaking of some of this emotional stuff, your latest book Unconditional Power is about some of that, how we can do some thriving in situations that are frustrating or complex or unpredictable. Tell us, what’s the big idea here?

Steven Gaffney
Well, the big idea is that most people suffer from conditional-ism. Now, that’s not going to make a lot of sense till I explain it, so let me explain it really easily. The three different types of moods or mindsets we all get into. One mindset is powerless. That’s where we say, “What difference can I make? I’m only one person here.”

Conditional mood is kind of this next-thing mindset, and that’s where we say, “We recognize we have some power over this situation but it’s conditional on other things.” And so, we say, “I can do that as long as they give me more money, or as long as there’s more resources, or as long as I have the right time.” There’s always a condition to the power.

But the most powerful state is when we are powerful, and that’s where we recognize there’s conditions but we’re in charge and we ask ourselves, “What am I going to do about this situation?” So, the big aha was doing work with so many organizations, what I discovered was many people think they’re powerful but they’re really conditionally powerful. And they’ll say, “I can do that as long as…” But the objective is how to be unconditionally powerful.

Hence, the whole idea of the book and how to get that done. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Well, so is that even possible? Aren’t all of our powers subject to conditions?

Steven Gaffney
Well, here’s the thing. I’ve worked with a lot of successful people, and I’m sure yourself as well. Whenever you’ve overcome a challenge, you haven’t been conditionally powerful. You said, probably in a powerful state, “I recognize the situation,” but you focus 100% of your energies on what you’re going to do about the situation.

For example, a client of mine lost a big contract. Now, they could’ve rationalized to the whole organization, “It’s our biggest contract. We’re really doomed and we’ll do as best as we can, given that we lost a big contract.” But what the CEO said, and what all the top leaders said is, “No, we’re not going to use that as an excuse. It is what it is. We clearly lost this. But what are we going to learn from it and what are we going to do about it?” And they’re having one of their best years ever as a result because they didn’t waste time being conditionally powerful, which is really kind of the state of excuses. They, instead, have been powerful.

Let me give you example in my own life. So, in 2009, I got diagnosed with cancer, and I’m completely fine now, so fast-forward to that. But, also, 2009, was in the middle of the great recession. And so, one of the first things to go, obviously, were things what I do for a living: consulting, speaking, that type of thing. But what I said to myself was, “I can’t control that I have cancer, and I can’t control that there’s a recession, but I can control what I’m going to do about it.”

So, I didn’t allow myself to have excuses and I spent 100% of my time focusing on what I was going to do about it. And from that point on, we’ve had our best years ever. And some of the strategies in the book is really what I learned from others about how to be unconditionally powerful. So, yes, it is often the state we’re on in the conditional side, but we’re really being conditionally powerful and it is around being powerfully unconditionally powerful, and that’s the state of when we make things happen.

Pete Mockaitis
So, when you say state as in sort of like our emotional, internal way of being?

Steven Gaffney
Yeah, absolutely, because I make the argument in the beginning of the book. Have you ever noticed that when you’re in a good mood you’re smarter? Think about that. Like, when we’re in a good mood, and somebody throws us a problem, we’re like, “All right, this is a problem, but I’m going to figure out a way.” But when we’re in a bad mood, maybe a lack of sleep, or whatever the case may be, somebody throws us a problem, and you’re like, “Ah, here we go again. Not another problem,” right?

Or, we might say things like, “No good deed goes unpunished. We’re always having some challenges,” or, “What am I going to do about this situation?” And so, it’s easy to affect our mood, and our mood impacts our actions. So, I make the argument in the book that, as leaders, and as friends, the most important thing is to have a great state of mind, but, really, what we’re looking at is mood.

So, mood matters. Mood really does matter. And the objective is to have mood discipline because we can be in good moods and bad moods but what if we can be in a great mood on demand rather than by accident, and that’s a big part of the book.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that sounds very appealing. I’d like that very much. Tell us, Steven, how does one get into a good mood on demand?

Steven Gaffney
Well, there’s ten strategies in the book.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. I’ll need them all.

Steven Gaffney
So, we can go through as many as we can. Well, and the thing about it is it’s not like hold tight till we get to number five. No, let me give you some real ones that they can move on immediately. So, one of them is intentional disruption. So, have you ever been in this situation where you can see things going downhill, or somebody gets in an argument and something is going downhill? And what we end up being is a victim to a meeting, a victim to a dinner party, a victim to something, and we’re like, “What am I going to do about this?”

Intentional disruption is the idea that human beings are creatures of patterns and associations, which is there’s nothing wrong with it as long as it’s working, but when it’s not, we have to intentionally disrupt it. So, let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. First on the personal side on how I use this. I had a dinner party a while back. And do you ever have one of those couples over and they’re great but they could start to get into an argument and they can bring everybody else down? Well, that’s what started to happen.

And so, I just used intentional disruption, and I said in the middle of them having an argument, I said, “Can I ask you a question?” And one of my friends, she goes, “Yes.” And I said, “Well, what do you love about him?” And she kind of jolted her head back, and she said, “Well, he does always have my back.” And then he started to say some favorable remarks, and it shifted. I disrupted the pattern.

In a meeting. So, let’s say you’re in the leadership, you’re in a meeting, and you’re dealing with an issue, and you can feel everybody kind of being in a down mood. Intentionally disrupt it. So, one way to do that is begin a really tense meeting that you have to talk about a problem, do a go-around and say, “What’s the biggest win that’s happened to us over the past month as a company? What’s the best thing that’s happened to you?”

And by the mind going there, it actually puts it in a good mood, good spirit when they’re answering that question. And then when you go back into the problem, they’re looking at it from a good mood, a good perspective. Those are examples of intentional disruption. And the good news is we don’t have to be the leader to use these types of strategies.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I like that a lot. When it comes to questions, boy, I see it in my brain and I think it’s the human condition. When posed a question, we just want to go after an answer, and it’s like we’re just running after that thing. And so, it is an effective redirection pretty quickly is asking a great question. So, can you share with us a couple other favorite questions that do a good work in terms of getting us into a positive mood with that disruption?

Steven Gaffney
Yeah, and I’m not talking about just being big motivational talk, because people say, “Oh, motivational talk, how long does it last?” It really is about being sensitive to the mood of us and others. So, another example is you could say to somebody who’s really challenged with a problem, is I love using the magic wand question, which is, “Well, if I gave you unlimited time, money, how would you approach this?”

Or, when somebody doesn’t know what to do in their career, I’ll say to them, “Okay, if you had unlimited talent, but you had to choose a job so you’re not going to work for free, what would, ideally, you would love to do?” And, see, people often look at their life from the past into the future, but when you ask the magic wand question, it creates an energy and excitement about the future, and you’re releasing all those other conditions to look at things.

And it doesn’t mean that we can make that happen overnight, but what it does is it jolts the mind out of why we can’t do something, or, “I don’t know what to do.” Because you just say, “If I gave you a magic wand, what would you ideally like to happen in this relationship, in this conversation?” And what you’ll find when you ask people that question, it will jolt them, and they’ll often say, “Well, I don’t know.” And then a really good comeback to that is say, “Well, if you did know, what would your hunch be?”

It’s interesting, when you just say that, people say, “Well, is it that simple?” Yeah. If somebody says, “I’m confused,” you say, “Well, if you weren’t confused, what do you think would happen?” Because what you’re trying to do is have them engage in the future and where you want to go. So, the magic wand question is the case.

Another good on the innovation front is, “What if the opposite was true?” So, somebody says, “We need more resources.” “What if the answer to the problem was we needed less resources?” “But we need more resources.” “But what if?” So, you use the what-if principle, and that gets them thinking differently. But my point in bringing this up is we need to be in control of the questions rather than suffering from answers we don’t like. We just can redirect it.

So, for example, somebody is really critical of us. You say, “Well, thank you for the feedback. Can I ask you one question?” They’ll say yes, and most likely. Say, “Well, what do you like that I have done? I understand that’s a feedback that I haven’t done these things correct. But tell me something that I’ve done right,” and see it jolts their mind in a different direction. You’re not discounting the feedback but that’s how you can get balanced feedback as well.

The point being is don’t suffer in silence. Don’t suffer from the things that aren’t going well. Intentionally disrupt it. That’s just one of the strategies in the book, and I can go through more as well.

Pete Mockaitis

Please do. So, that’s intentional disruption, a great question redirects things to help you get into a good mood on demand. What’s another strategy?

Steven Gaffney
Reframe to refocus. So, the idea of this is back to the powerless conditional and powerful state. When we’re in a state of mind or mood or whatever that is not serving us, and we all can get in these moods, “What difference can I make? I’m only one person,” we feel powerless or somewhat powerful but it’s conditional. So, that’s how we’re looking at a problem. But if we reframe the problem, put a different context to it, it can make us more powerful.

 

So, let me give you an example. There’s three types of reframes, and I’ll go through the first one as an example. We can go through the others. But it’s reducing the frame. Reducing the frame. So, have you ever had a situation which is really seemingly the odds are against you, or it’s a business problem, or something going on in your life where it sounds like there are so many problems, and you’re like, “Oh, my gosh, where do I start?”

Well, reducing the frame would say, “While all that could be the case, what are the most important things I need to do now?” So, let’s say you’re on overwhelm. You’ve got business stuff and other things, you say, “Okay, what is the most important thing in my life?” whether it’s family, whether it’s work, or let’s just say work, “What’s the most important thing to do that I need to do now?” But that is reframing. Leaders can use this really well where people are stuck in a problem that seems very complex. The idea is to make it simple.

So, an example would be where you might say, “What are some key performance indicators?” So, we got a lot of things to consider, but what’s the most important thing? Let me give you an example. I worked with a company that was really suffering in revenue, and their backlog to business is really poor, and, Pete, they had all these key performance indicators, and, of course, people are like making this problem really complex.

And I said to them, “Well, how often do you see the customer?” And they said, “Well, that’s a good question. We spend a lot of time internally.” And I said, “Why don’t you have a key performance indicator and just monitor people going to see the customer, customer interactions?” And people could say, “But what about the quality of the interactions? What about your marketing?” I said, “Look, look, just focus on going to see the customer,” because that’s what they weren’t doing, and that was a big needle-mover. So, they focused on just going to see the customer and their whole pipeline turned around.

So, somebody, I think it was Albert Einstein who said, “It takes genius to make a complex problem simple but it doesn’t take genius to make it more complex.” I’m not sure he exactly said that. But when you think about it, have you ever met somebody who can make a complex problem even more complex, and you’re like, “Oh, my gosh, what are we going to do?” But what you’re doing is you’re reducing the scope of it. You’re reducing the frame. And then when somebody says, “Well, I can do that. I can get that done.” And so, that’s the idea behind reducing the frame. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yes. Thank you. And how about a third strategy?

Steven Gaffney
Well, so let me cover a couple things on the reframe because there’s a lot to dig deep there that I think between intentional disruption and reframing people could change things. Another type of reframe is enlarging the frame. Enlarging the frame is have you ever had something bad happen to you and you’re feeling down, or maybe other people are feeling down?

Enlarging the frame is putting it in a bigger picture. And what you’re saying is, “While that is bad, we lost a customer,” or, “While this is bad, this conversation didn’t go well or this meeting didn’t go well, let’s put a perspective. We’re doing well here, we’re doing well here, we’re doing here. And this is happening, and this is happening.” And, suddenly, people see it in a bigger picture.

What you’ll notice is, really great leaders like Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and all the historical ones, but any great leader you feel kind of you want to follow are really good at enlarging the frame. What they’re doing is they’re creating a bigger vision, and they’re saying, “While these are issues, we need to see the big picture, the future.” And enlarging the frame makes people feel more powerful. That would be an example of that.

And the third type of reframe is you change the frame. That’s where you say, you just change it to a direction you want. I’ll give you an example there. I hired a company to work on an IT project and they were really behind, and I was getting annoyed. And so, I said, “When are you going to get this finished?” And, in essence, I can go the long version of it, but, in essence, what was happening was they said, “Well, it’s going to take us about four months,” which would’ve been in November. This was a couple of years ago.

And I said, “Given that I would like it, ideally, done in a month, what would need to happen?” which is basically just one month instead of four months. “And I’ll credit the company.” The company said and shot me an email filled with action items that if I could agree to it, they could get it done in a month, and it was done in six weeks.

Now, what’s interesting to unpack there? Well, most people would work in the existing frame, “It won’t be done till November.” “Well, how do we get it done shorter? And how do we get it done in October?” whatever. But I just said, and I wasn’t demanding in a jerk-type of way, I just said, “Given that I, ideally, would like it done in a month, playing at this, what would need to happen?”

So, you can use change the frame. You just say the prepositional phrase. So, for example, you’re having a difficult time with somebody. You might say, “Given that, look, we have a lot of arguments, but given I, ideally, want us to get along great, what would need to happen?” You see, that’s creating a different frame rather than “Let’s try to solve the problem.” Solving the problem would be the existing frame, but reframing it, or changing the frame would be, “Given that I want us to get along great, given I want us to work on this and not have any strife, what would need to happen?”

And so, those are examples of changing the frame. How is this landing with you, Pete? I know I’m doing all the talking.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, it’s good. Yes, I like it. Let’s hear a third strategy.

Steven Gaffney
Another great one is, oh, act and you will become. So, when you look at a lot of times, when we’re sometimes down, and so a way to trigger ourselves is to be the person we want to be. So, imagine you’re playing a movie of your powerful self, how would you act? So, in other words, you might feel down but that’s where you might smile, you might change your body, like you’re an actor in a movie.

And what you find by researching great actors is they don’t play the part; they become the part. And becoming the part means really stepping into it. So, if you’re feeling conditional or powerless, it would be acting and you will become. So, you’re tricking your mind to get into that powerful state, and then that helps move it forward.

Now, I will say, I don’t like the terminology fake it till you make it because there’s something insincere. But what I’m saying is access to just becoming that, so you’re not doing the lip service, not just, “I now want to smile.” That’s kind of fake. But it’s like, “No, I’m going to smile, I’m going to carry my body differently, I’m going to change the tone. I’m going to really be that part and see how that feels.” And it’ll often trick your mind into changing things.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Steven Gaffney
I’ll give you a very simple, another one that’s so simple we often forget it, and it’s make the unaware aware. Make the unaware aware. So, let’s go back to that distinction. You got powerless, you got conditional, and you got powerful. So, what I’ve experienced is that a lot of people, now I mentioned this earlier but I’ll apply it to the strategy, where they think they’re powerful but they’re really conditionally powerful, “I can get that done as long as, as long as…”

But if you explain this distinction to people, and just from the podcast that we’re doing, what you’ll do is you’ll find out that people will shift to the powerful. In fact, just listening to the podcast and being aware of it. Nobody wants to say, “I love being conditional.” No, people want to be unconditionally powerful but they just don’t think about it. So, making the unaware aware is you explain the distinction. And by explaining it and thinking about it, it’ll automatically, because of awareness, make you become powerful.

An example would be a client of mine, there was an operational problem. And I had taught his folks on the strategies, and so they came into his office, and they said, “We got a problem.” You ever have somebody just dump a problem on you? And he said, “Look, I understand we have a problem here. So, how are we all being about it?” People said, “Well, we’re being conditional.” And he said, “How would we act if we were being powerful about it?” And people said, “Well, I think we should be doing this, and we should do this, and this.”

And they, suddenly, came up with a whole bunch of ideas, and they shifted from the complaint mode, which is kind of the excuse conditionally powerful, and they solved the problem, he said, within about five to ten minutes. It was just a matter of being aware of catching that. That’s another strategy as we’re talking about things.

And in the book and stuff like this, I know we’re going super, super fast, but there’s a lot of examples to trick even more doing this, but we can continue, too. But, anyway, make the unaware aware is another really successful strategy.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Yeah, let’s hear a fifth.

Steven Gaffney
So, another one is input drives output. The input drives output. We are a product of who we’re around, if you think about it. Jim Rooney is a motivational speaker, he subsequently has passed away, but he said, “We are a product of the five people we spend the most time with.” And so, what I have found is, if you think about it, if we have a down mood or our mindset is feeling powerless or conditional, who are we surrounded by? Who are our friends? Where are we watching on television? What are we doing?

Pete, did you find out, you probably experienced this, did you ever meet during the COVID period where they had CNN running 24/7? Nothing wrong with CNN but it was like repeat, repeat, repeat. Well, if you got all that negative input, of course, it’s going to bring you down. So, I’m a big fan of knowing what and being aware of what’s going on, but what’s the input into our minds? So, if we’re feeling down, or we’re feeling like things aren’t going our way, or we’re being powerless or conditional, we really want to ask ourselves who are we surrounded by. Who are we being?

So, this is like, as parents, people are sensitive to who their children are around, but it’s really an example would be you’ve got somebody at work who’s just self-righteous, who’s just really difficult to deal with, and you’re saying, “I can deal with them maybe but what’s the impact to other people?” And so, input drives output is honoring the idea of who are we surrounded by.

So, one of the exercises I love to do with people is I’ll say, “Write down the names of the five people you spend the most time with. The five people.” And then I’ll have them place them on a grid, which we can talk about, but, in essence, it’s around what kind of person are they. And, inevitably, we are a product of who we hang around with. So, if we don’t like who we’ve become, we got to change the environment. We got to look at things differently.

People say, “I can’t pick and choose everybody I work with.” No. That’s true. But you can pick and choose how much time you spend with a person. You can pick and choose whether you stay on the phone or get off the phone, whether you’re on the Zoom call, or then after the Zoom call, you just jump off and you’re doing other things. You can all the person afterwards or not. And, in a physical sense, when we’re around people at work, you might be in a meeting where somebody that’s way, you can use intentional disruption and the strategies we talked about. And then after the meeting, you can just distance yourself. You know what I’m saying?

I often say to people, “Reward people with the time that they deserve.” And so, who charges us up, we should spend more time with them. And whoever doesn’t, we should distance ourselves from them. Have you ever had somebody who’s like really just brought you down, and you’re like, “Oh, my gosh, I got to get rid of them.” Legally.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, I’ve decided to make some choices associated with folks I like to spend more or less time with, and certainly.

Steven Gaffney
When we’re talking about this stuff, it may sound kind of obvious at certain points and maybe not at every point, or maybe all. I don’t know. It’s up to people, of course. But I really want to challenge them because simple things make a big difference. Somebody wrote a book years ago called Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and It’s All Small Stuff.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right.

Steven Gaffney
I actually think it’s the opposite. We should sweat the small stuff because it’s the small stuff that matters. It really is. When people say, for example, “Culture at work. What’s the company culture?” My experience is culture is very local, so you can have the broad company culture but if you work for somebody who’s really difficult to deal with, or if you had people who are really challenging, that’s your sense of culture of the organization.

And so, you got to look at certain things, and ask yourself, “Well, it’s the small things that make a big difference, who we hang out with, how we frame up things, intentional disruption, making the unaware aware.” Things of that nature.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Beautiful. Well, now, Steven, could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Steven Gaffney
Norman Cousins said, “Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss in life is what dies within us while we live.” And although that may sound like a downer, but it’s really about don’t let things that are important to you stay inside you. Share it. Do something. Take action. Go after your dreams. And go for what you want and what you deserve.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite book?

Steven Gaffney
One of my favorite books of all time in change is a book called Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. It’s fantastic. And what’s neat about that book is it’s all about everyday people making major changes in organizations. And there are many, many books I can go through but that’s just one that just comes off the top of my head that I just love.

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

Steven Gaffney
If they go to JustBeHonest.com, so our website is JustBeHonest.com, and if they go there and they say that they’ve listened to your show, and here’s the thing, and they write and email us on something they did, and I want to hear an action they took, if they do that and they just share what they did, we’ll send them the book I wrote years ago about how to share the most difficult things to people and have it go well, it was all about how to have honest conversations and have it go well, we’ll send that to them for free. And all I ask them to do is share that they listened to your podcast and share how they’ve used what we’ve talked about.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Steven, thank you. This has been a treat. I wish you much fun and unconditional power.

Steven Gaffney
Thank you. And thank you very much for having me.

812: Bill George on How Emerging Leaders Can Succeed Today

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Former Medtronic CEO and current professor, Bill George shares foundational principles for excelling as a leader in today’s world of work.

You’ll Learn:

  1. What a “true north” is and why it’s so critical
  2. The top three distractions leaders must overcome
  3. Powerful questions to clarify your purpose

 

About Bill

Bill George is the former chairman and chief executive officer of Medtronic.  He joined Medtronic in 1989 as president and chief operating officer, was chief executive officer from 1991-2001, and board chair from 1996-2002. He is currently a senior fellow at Harvard Business School, where he has taught leadership since 2004. 

Bill is the author of: Discover Your True North and The Discover Your True North Field book, Authentic Leadership, 7 Lessons for Leading in Crisis True North, Finding Your True North, and True North Groups. He served on the boards of Goldman Sachs, ExxonMobil, Novartis, Target, and Mayo Clinic.  

He received his BSIE with high honors from Georgia Tech, his MBA with high distinction from Harvard University, where he was a Baker Scholar, and honorary PhDs from Georgia Tech, Mayo Medical School, University of St. Thomas, Augsburg College and Bryant University.  

Resources Mentioned

Bill George Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Bill, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Bill George
Thank you, Pete. Glad to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m so excited to be chatting with you. And I’m fascinated, you’re a bit of an interviewer yourself. You’ve chatted with 220 of some of the finest leaders of organizations. I’m curious, what’s been the most surprising and impactful theme that’s emerged for you from those interviews?

Bill George
Well, first of all, let me say I did the interviews, Pete, for my book True North and I’ve got the Emerging Leader Edition out now. I truly aimed it at your generation of leaders from Gen Xers to Millennials, to Gen Z because I think it’s a different time to lead today. I think the good news is that people believe that being authentic is the way to lead. That’s a huge change from when I was CEO at Medtronic when it was all about charisma and style, leadership style, and all those things because, now, it’s much more real.

And so, I’m really excited to hear that. And that’s in all the leaders, I interviewed 50 leaders for my new book, and that’s what they’re all saying. So, I’m thrilled to hear that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Authentic, that sounds like a good thing. Tell us, what precisely do we mean by authentic, authenticity, authentically if we use these words a lot?

Bill George
Sure. It means being genuine, being real, being who you are. And I think, for a long time, when I was growing up, you had to be something different. You were expected to emulate Jack Welch or be a different person than you are, and I think that’s a big change. And I think we realized, part of it comes with being, well, just to be vulnerable to admit your mistakes, being human. We all are and we all face similar challenges of trying to lead an integrated life and have a good career and a good family life, like you have. This is very critical.

And so, I think people today don’t want to work for a phony, they don’t want to work for a jerk, and they want to work for somebody who’s authentic and is real. And that’s what they’re saying, and I think one of the reasons a lot of people are quitting their jobs is because they’re working for the wrong boss or somebody they don’t admire or don’t respect.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, then can you tell us, what’s sort of the big idea or main thesis behind True North?

Bill George
True North is before you can lead other people, you have to learn to lead yourself. And I think, today, the new book is really saying, “We have a different challenge we have today than we did 30 years ago, and we need new generation leaders to step up. We need to open the door and let younger leaders take charge,” because we’re leading through a series of intersecting crises, and today you have to be an inclusive leader, you have to have a clear set of values, you have to have a purpose for your leadership. That wasn’t true in the past.

And so, I think a lot of the Baby Boomers don’t get that and they don’t really know how to lead people. And so, that’s why I wrote the book to encourage younger leaders, like yourself, to take charge, and I think it is about time, and the challenge is there. I have no question about that, people are ready. But this leading in crisis is a tough thing because, look, we have multiple intersecting crises right now, and your generation, frankly, has been through one crisis after another, and you know how to cope with that, so.

Pete Mockaitis
And I have a feeling we could spend a whole interview talking about these intersecting crises, but I can’t just let that lie. What are these multiple intersecting crises that provide the backdrop context for us?

Bill George
Well, I think COVID is the first crisis we had that affected everybody, maybe World War II, but that’s before our time, but it affected everyone. And I think it’s had…there’s a huge post-COVID psychological effect. People don’t want to go into the office, they want to work from home, they want to work for a sense of purpose, they want to work for an organization that’s inclusive. There is a big change taking place.

But, in addition to that, we’ve got the fallout from Russia’s attack on Ukraine. We haven’t seen a war in 77 years like this, and where an aggressive attack like that took place. And there’s, of course, that’s driving inflation rates up to a record high, 9%. We haven’t seen that in 40 years. And we’ve had the so-called Great Resignation, but we’ve got 11 million jobs open right now and only 5 million unemployed, so this is a huge change.

And so, leaders, having to cope with these changes and figure out, “How do we get people to come together?” And the new attitude today, employees have agency, that’s what I write about in my book, that we’re going through an employee revolution. Starbucks is an example. Here’s the quintessential employee-focused company. Now, they got 160 or 200 stores, they’re applying for unionization. Why? I think they’ve lost touch with their own employees.

And so, I think we’re facing enormous changes and we need people to understand these changes and know how to lead through them.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so, when we say true north, what precisely do you mean by that?

Bill George
True north is who you are. It’s your most deeply held beliefs, the values you live by, the principle you lead by. And I think most people understand what that is. They get pulled off course of their true north. It’s also where you find satisfaction and joy in your life. And don’t we all want that? Don’t we all want to say we work for a clarity of purpose, and, “I can be who I am, live my values. And, at the same time, I can find real joy and satisfaction in my work”?

We spend a lot of time at work, we should find it. And I think a lot of organizations just see work as drudgery, just drive people harder. It’s not going to work. And so, that’s your true north. And then, once you know your true north, then the key is, “Can you find an organization where you feel aligned, that their mission and values align with your own?”

Pete Mockaitis
And could you give us some sample articulations of a true north? In some ways, it sounds like it’s felt and known and experienced, and I imagine it also can be articulated and communicated. And, yet, there is a distinction, it feels like, between, “Oh, this is our mission statement. It’s a bit different.” Could you unpack that for us?

Bill George
Yeah, I think your true north is basically your moral compass. And if you think about that, and we see something like Mark Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook, a brilliant guy, but he has no moral compass, so he can’t decide who to let on his site and who not to have on, or what damage they’re doing to offset the good. So, I think true north is your moral compass.

Now, I think when you understand, “Why are we leading? Why are you spending all this time being a leader?” Really, you need to have a clarity of purpose, and that’s what we call your north star. That’s your constant point in the sky. My north star is to help people reach their full potential, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do since I was in college, across every organization I’ve worked for, and teaching now at Harvard Business School. So, I think if you have that sense of your true north.

Now, here’s the problem with that, Pete, is that people get pulled off course. They get seduced by money, fame, and power. And these are the three great seducers. And so, I think it’s important to stay grounded in who you are and not let to get entrapped by that. We’ve seen a lot of people that happens to them, it’s a real tragedy. But I think, again, why would you go through your life without a sense of purpose? And so, that’s your north star, and having that understanding, what it’s all about.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, Bill, I’m just curious. Have you chatted with Mark Zuckerberg and discussed his lack of moral compass? And how did that conversation go?

Bill George
No, I have not chatted with him. I’ve read tons of things about him, everything he said, and I don’t think he’d want to chat with me because he’s only interested in driving more people to Facebook, and, frankly, what’s happening, they’re being driven away right now. The young people are all moving away. Some people or older people who are still on Facebook, they don’t use it anymore. 

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so, just because…I want to stick with this for a second, because, well, one it’s a bold statement, “Mark Zuckerberg has no moral compass.” And, two, it’s something I think we can relate to, it’s like, “Oh, people know what Facebook is and who Mark Zuckerberg is.” So, what would be some examples of, if Mark Zuckerberg did have a moral compass, what might that potential articulation of a north star look, sound, feel like? And then what might be some decisions that would naturally follow from that?

Bill George
Well, he wouldn’t have founded a site that sells your private information, that’s where it starts. If, say, you’re consulting a therapist, you may not want that sold or you may not want requests from a lot of therapists. There are certain elements of privacy, and I think a lot of people, when they sign up, don’t realize that that information is going to be sold and you’re going to be profiled down to your eyebrow. And so, that’s one thing that’d be different.

And you wouldn’t let a lot of people on the site, you know, I know people who have committed suicide because of they’re so abused on the site. And so, you would keep those people off, you would say, “No, you can’t come on here. We’re not going to have hate speech. We’re not going to do all those things. We want to have a friend site.”

And so, I think he’s kind of lost sight of all that. Now, he’s going to go to more of like a TikTok, short videos, celebrity videos, stuff like that. But I don’t want to just pick on him. There are a lot of other people that have tried to lead without a clear sense of true north. Some of them, like Elizabeth Holmes is going to jail. Mark Zuckerberg is not doing anything illegal. I just think that he’s going to lose it, and he’s got a long way to go. And I think he’s a young guy, he could do a lot of good for the world, too.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so you mentioned your true north is to help others realize their full potential. Could we hear some other examples of people’s true norths that really do inspire, they guide their decisions, they provide a sense of satisfaction and joy in life when they’re in alignment?

Bill George
Yeah, a lot of people, and, of course, in Medtronic, we’ve got a lot of people in healthcare and a lot of doctors devote their whole life to try to heal people. Nurses, too. Anyone involved in healthcare is committed to that. I know people in our community, like Tim Welsh, I’m meeting with later today, who’s vice chairman of the largest bank in this area, a US Banc, and he’s got 26,000 employees.

He’s totally committed to help you have a more secure financial future. If you need a mortgage, he’s going to help you find a way to do that responsively, not like we did 10, 12 years ago when everything collapsed. And he really wants to help people, and he’s been calling them up during COVID and scheduling, and saying, “How can we help?” because a lot of people are hurting. They get payday loans and things like that, and a lot of the poor people being taken advantage of. So, he’s totally committed to that.

Now, I just mentioned payday loans. A friend of mine, John O’Brien, that’s in the book is a former homeless man. His whole commitment is financial literacy for the poor so they won’t be taken advantage of in their own communities. Those are a few examples. But Mary Barra is really committed to changing General Motors, from fossil-fueled cars to electric cars. And she’s shut down all development of anything that’s not electric car. And by 2035, they’ll be out of fossil fuel cars altogether.

So, she’s a woman, in 41 years, one of my former students, and just very passionately committed. And her role is to try to help contribute to climate change by converting the automobile industry into electric cars.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, it’s interesting. As I reflect upon the north star, the examples that you share, some of them feel very broad and applicable in all spheres or domains of your life, like, “Helping others realize their full potential.” You can do that with a spouse, children, etc. as opposed to financial literacy for the poor or no-fossil-fuel cars in this organization. It seems like sometimes they can have a more broad or narrow flavor. Is that accurate and fine?

Bill George
Absolutely, yeah. And I don’t think just saying, “Hey, I want to change the world,” is really…

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, too broad.

Bill George
…living by a north star, and that’s too broad for me. But I think you want to understand, like, “What do I do?” I mentor people, students at Harvard Business School, all the way from MBAs up to CEOs, and I’ve been doing this since I was in college, not just CEOs, but that’s what I do. I’ve been doing it. I’m not some kind of genius in medicine. At Medtronic, we have a lot of other people who invented things, and my whole idea was to build an organization where people are performing at their peak.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Well, so I want to try one on with you, since I got the almighty master of true north here, Bill George.

Bill George
No, not almighty. Just another guy trying to stumble through the world.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, we’ll say a leading expert in this concept, then. So, I think that truly resonated for me. It started in my career but I really am seeing it with my children as well, and it really does provide me with joy and satisfaction, even a rush, a thrill. And my articulation goes to discover, develop, and disseminate knowledge that transforms the experience of being alive. And that’s a little bit wordier than help others realize their full potential, but that’s really what I mean pretty specifically.

Like, I get fired up when I hear about a thing, it’s like, “Whoa, I never knew that, and that’s awesome.” That gets me going, and I’m excited to share that with other people. And sometimes I’m discovering it and curating it from others, and sometimes I’m kind of figuring it out, cracking the code, and developing it myself, but that gets me going. Would that count as a true north or would that be an adjacent or subsidiary concept?

Bill George
Oh, absolutely, it is. It sounds like you’ve made, what I call in the book, the-I-the-we journey. So, it’s not just about Pete being the biggest man around, the most important person. It’s about you really are trying to share this with other people, and get them fired up and excited. And I love your energy.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. Oh, thank you.

Bill George
You not only have a passionate to your work and go quit and sit out on the beach. And I hear about people quiet-quitting. What is a quiet quitting? Look, if I hate my job, quit. Go do what you love. How would you like to spend your 40 years or 30 years of your life doing something you hated? Why? You only live once.

But, no, I love your passion for it. And, yeah, you’re helping other people. Hopefully, with this podcast, you’re helping them realize what they want to do in life and what kind of roles they want to have. Like, the reality is, Pete, we spend more time at work than anything else. And shouldn’t you be able to claim some joy and satisfaction with it? And, at the same time, shouldn’t you be able to have a complete wonderful family life?

You said you have three kids; I spent a lot of time with my kids. I don’t want to work for a job I don’t have time to see my own kids. That’s really important, and have a good marriage and a good life.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so this true north business sounds awesome. Can you tell us, if folks are struggling with that a bit, like, “Oh, that sounds really nice for Pete and Bill. They’ve got a handle on that. I have no idea what mine might be or how I’d articulate it,” any strategies or approaches for zeroing in on it?

Bill George
Yeah. When I say you’ve got to be who you are, go back to your life story and think about who are the people in your life, your parents, school teachers, coaches, scout master, whatever? Who had the greatest influence on you? And how did they influence you? Who did you look to them? What did you learn from them?

And then think about some you don’t want to think about or I call the greatest crucible in your life, the greatest challenge you ever faced where you kind of felt like everything was stripped away, all the pretense, and everything else. You really have to figure out who and what you are and what you wanted out of life. That happened to me. I lost seven elections in a row in high school and college because I was too eager to be a leader. I was a kid that was trying so hard to get ahead but I didn’t realize leadership is all about relationships.

It’s funny, some seniors at Georgia Tech told me, they said, “Bill, you’re moving so fast to get ahead, no one will ever want to work with you, much less be led by you.” And they were right, it was all about me. That’s why I said you made that the-I-the-we journey, but I hadn’t made that yet. It was all about, “Have you seen my resume, man? Look at this. Here’s my GPA and here’s all the organizations I’m a part of.” I didn’t get it, so I had to make that transition back then.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so we talked about crucible, the hardest times. Well, you mentioned the pandemic mental health situation, and that I think many people might point to that, and say, “Well, yeah, that’s probably the toughest thing I’ve been through in terms of a crucible.” And so, how do we interrogate, investigate, explore that life experience, like, “Yep, I lived through the pandemic. I was sad, lonely, deeply depressed, and it sucked”? How do we turn that into some insight?

Bill George
Well, you have to reframe it. You’d start with that, “Yeah, it sucked. Who wants to be sad, lonely, and depressed?” Come on. So, now, “What my life gives me joy and where do I want to spend my time? And how do I want to do that? And who are the people around me that care about me and I care about them?” Call it your support team, “Who are the people around me I want to be with?” Why would you spend your life not just be lonely and depressed or with toxic leaders?

I worked for organizations with toxic leaders that wanted to manipulate me, and I felt like I had to put on the armor to go to work every day. That sucks, as you say. That’s not how I want to live my life so I had to make a change, that’s when I went to Medtronic. But I would say to people, figure out what it is and then go do it. It’s your life. You only got one life to lead, and that’s what I’m talking about in the book, is trying to say, “How do you do that?”

We talked about having an integrated life. I remember there was a time in my life, Pete, when I was traveling 70% of the time, and I was under stress all the time, I would, myself, and I was under a lot of pressure. And, finally, I looked myself in the mirror, and say, “Hey, this is not worth it. This is not what I want to do. And I’m not working for the man to make money. There’s got to be more to life than this.”

And then it was hurting my family, my marriage, my kids. When I made the change at Medtronic, it all turned around because I felt like I was working for a purpose, to restore people to full life and health, and can motivate an organization, help develop leaders in the organization. So, everything turned around then. And so, I encourage people listening to this, figure out, what do you want out of life? And you don’t have to follow what somebody else wants for you. You’ve got to be your own person.

Pete Mockaitis
And I believe that you had a practice at Medtronic that we had a guest speak about, and it’s amazing, associated with that, I believe, tell me about this. Is it true that you had an annual company event where, for an hour, you took to stage multiple families that were people staying alive because of a Medtronic device? Is this something that you did?

Bill George
Absolutely. It’s more like two hours.

Pete Mockaitis
There you go.

Bill George
And probably, so in the December, you speak all the Christmas party, I changed it into the holiday party. It wasn’t really a party, but that was the most meaningful day of the year. Everyone said, “This is kind of, I figure out, why I’m doing what I’m doing.” You even find them in the accounting department or in the IT department, “Now I understand why I’m here.”

This woman gets up and says, “See my little girl? She wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Medtronic.” Or, a guy gets up and said, “I’ve got your product, and I’ve got a new life.” Or, there was a young man that really influenced me, a young man named TJ Flack from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He had cerebral palsy from birth, and it’s not curable, but he got a Medtronic drug pump and it’s changed his life. And he patted his belly, his stomach, and he said, “This is my friendly ally. It saved my life.” Totally, I remember calling him back when I was retiring 12 years later.

And he came in and he said, yeah, he had a good job now. He’s not going to be a superstar but he has a family, a marriage, kids. He’s got a life and before he had no life. And so, that makes you feel it only takes one person, if you feel like you helped one person’s life. so, yeah, there are a lot of tears when people talk about these things but pretty exciting.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Bill, yeah, absolutely. I’m sort of tearing up a little bit right now, and I wasn’t even at these meetings. But a podcast guest, Don Yaeger, Episode 371, four years ago told me about this, and I was like, “Wow.” So, just hearing the story about it happening is something that is enough to stick with me. And, here you are, Bill George, the man behind it.

Bill George
By the way, Don Yaeger is an awesome guy. He is an incredible motivator and he inspires me. And that guy, one of my students, get in my class, get in my courses, and he’s gone out and carrying it out, and he’s doing it now, but, yeah, he’s fantastic.

Pete Mockaitis
And I think another thing I love about that is you realized you had to make some changes, and that didn’t mean, “Ah, I’ve got to quit my job. Got to leave Medtronic,” but rather it was an internal shift, which then flowed into practices that reshaped your context to be more awesome for everybody.

Bill George
You’re a very smart guy. That’s exactly what he did. He had to reshape the context. If I went to production with Medtronic, I’d said, “Pete, how are we going to make 3.91 a share? Can you help me?”

Pete Mockaitis
I’m inspired.

Bill George
They know how to do that. Yup, they know how to make a quality product. I remember a woman told me, she said, “Mr. George, I make a thousand heart valves a year, and I can tell you that if for you, 99.9% quality is fantastic. If I have one defective valve, someone is going to die and I can never live with the fact that I caused someone’s death.” And she’s a woman who didn’t have any direct reports. She went in training classes on quality of how to make a heart valve. So inspiring.

She’s simply, “You know, when I get home at night, you know what I’m thinking about? I’m thinking about those 7,000 people who are alive in the world today because of the heart valves I make. That’s what gives me pride.” Now, this woman is never going to be rich but she’s rich in her inner heart, and she’s got a great one, I bet, but she’s not going to be rich.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, so, Bill, this is a lot of inspiring stuff. And if listeners are saying, “Yes, I want to be that kind of person who makes positive impact in these ways,” what’s the day-to-day, step-by-step practices, processes, conversation stuff we do to get there?

Bill George
It’s hard work. I mentioned processing your life story, processing your crucible. A lot of people don’t want to do that. Studying. We talked about Mark Zuckerberg. How do people go off course on getting seduced by money, fame, and power? I’ve seen very, very successful people do that, and they kind of lost it. They didn’t live in Hendersonville, they went to New York, okay, and they want to be a billionaire. I’ve seen people literally do that and lose their way and wind up in jail.

But I think, then, you have to think about, “How do I become self-aware?” Self-awareness is the key to anyone who wants to lead. You have to be self-aware about yourself, because the hardest person you literally have to lead is yourself. So, then I think you need to practice. I happen to be a meditator but you need some form of introspective practice where you put all the electronics away, take 20 minutes, and really reflect on, “How did I show up today as a leader? What kind of person was I? And did I find fulfillment? Did I find joy in what I was doing? What kind of day was it?” and do that every day.

And the next thing I would recommend is surround yourself with some truthtellers. They’ll tell you what you don’t want to hear. They’ll hold a mirror up to you, and say, “Bill, look how you showed up today. You were kind of too aggressive and pressing people. Relax a little.” And you need those truthtellers in your life. So, I believe in 360-feedback, I believe in having people around me that tell me when I’m getting off track, and they help pull you back. Boy, you get off track your true north, it’ll help pull you back, “Why am I worried becoming CEO of Honeywell? I don’t even love the mission or the purpose? I’ve got leave, okay. Does it matter if it’s a much smaller company? No, I want a life.”

And so, think about that. Or, I used to have students tell me, Pete, these are 26-year-olds, 27-year-olds. “I work a hundred hours a day when I was trying to get into business school,“ hundred hours a week, I mean. And, man, that’s great, I said, “Really? How do you have a life? You can’t have a life and work a hundred hours a week. And, by the way, what are you doing? Why are you over it? If you’re going to be a leader, you got to learn how to delegate. Let other people do it and stop trying to take over everything.”

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. Well, so I also want to get some of the don’ts, there you go, like don’t try to take over everything. Any things that you recommend that we stop doing, as we want to, if we want to make progress on this journey?

Bill George
Well, I think stop trying to look for fame, recognition, power over other people. Your job as a leader is to empower people. And stop trying to be, like, command and control, and, “I want a title. I want to be manager or supervisor, director, or vice president, senior vice president, CEO.” That’s where I got caught up in that trap, and that’s not a good trap to be in. I just want to do it. I really find joy.

By the way, then you will get to promotions because the people around you are saying, “This is a person I really want to work with, I want to be led by.” So, you build those relationships. And so, you want to stop chasing the brass ring, so to speak. There’s nothing wrong with being well-paid and making money, but how much do you need?

Elon Musk is worth $250 billion, which I can’t even conceive of. I can’t conceive of what it’s like to be worth a billion. But does he give any money away to help other people? No. Why not? What’s he going to do with it all? You can’t take it with you. So, I said that I feel blessed enough to make money. I did well, very well at Medtronic so we give it away about half our net worth into the grants from our foundation. But I’m not trying to brag. I’m just saying share it. Share it around.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. That’s beautiful. Well, Bill, now I want to zoom into the particular specific interactions you have with people that you’re leading, you’re influencing, you’re interacting with. Are there specific words or phrases that you’ve really found magically helpful along this journey or pretty toxic and have chosen to abandon?

Bill George
Yeah, if you want to lead, create an inclusive environment with a sense of belonging. And I think that’s really important. Don’t be exclusionary of other people just because they’re different than you. Accept people for who they are, and then reach out and help other people. Let me give you an example of someone I interviewed.

Alan Page, who just played for the Minnesota Vikings, Hall of Fame football player, National Medal Award of Honor, he said, “I’m not about football. I’m about helping everyone get an education.” So, he took the money he got from the Hall of Fame, created a foundation, others would give into it, to help kids who wouldn’t otherwise go to college, not the A+ student but the kids who wouldn’t otherwise go to college to go.

And he’s done amazing, he sent 7700 kids to school that otherwise wouldn’t go on and got into college, whether it was a four-year or two-year vo-tech, they got through, and that’s what he takes pride in. And so, somebody like that is I really admire. You could say, “Oh, he’s a big man, he’s a big football player.” No, he doesn’t look at himself as a celebrity. He just said, “I’m a guy who’s just trying to help other people.”

So, that’s why I commend you when you talked about your own purpose, you make that I-the-we journey. But if it’s all about me, it’s not going to end well.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, Bill, tell me, anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Bill George
Yeah, I want to mention the fact that today, everybody talks about diversity, Pete. I think it’s not just about diversity. It’s about creating an organization that’s inclusive, so I feel fully included. I don’t feel different like I’m out of step here because I’m a man or woman, or my religion, or my race, or my sexual identity, or national origin. Accept me for who I am. Just let me be real.

And I think that’s really important. And I think that’s what good leaders today do. You can’t help people reach their full potential if you’re judging them by their gender or color of their skin or religion. So, I think creating an environment where everyone feels a sense of belonging is really…we have a new idea in the book that I’m very excited about. Instead of being a command-and-control leader and telling you what to do, the leader is coach, and think about coaches you’ve had.

A coach isn’t going to be your six unless you feel your cares about you. I think of the coaches I had when I played high school and college sports, and my coach really care about me. And can that coach really challenge me to be my best? And so, it’s an acronym we use in the book, but I think that leadership is changing so there’ll be more coaches to help people, and be challenging, and say, “Hey, you didn’t give us your best game today. You can do a lot better than that. Here’s where you can get better.” You can get out there and help people. So, that’s, I think, a big idea.

And, finally, I think leading with a clear sense of be a moral leader with a sense of moral compass. That’s not a religious term. That’s a sense of, “We know where this person stands. We know what his or her values are, and they are not going to be moved off it,” even if you disagree with them. We don’t have to be the same but they have clarity about who they are and what they stand for.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, you said there’s an acronym. What is it?

Bill George
C stands for caring about people because people won’t follow you unless they know you care about them. O is organize people in their sweet spots. Think of a sports team, not everyone can be the quarterback or the point guard. You got to get people where they’re using their greatest abilities. And then the third, or the A is align people around, like we’re talking about Medtronic, a clear sense of mission and purpose, or purpose and values.

And then the second C is challenge people. Challenge people to be their best. I had a student who played for Coach K, Mike Krzyzweski at Duke, and he would say, “He seems like a great value. There wasn’t a day when he wasn’t at my face, yelling at me about why I can’t be better.” And then, finally, the H is get out and help people. I think business executives spend too much time in their offices, sitting in meetings, going over their PowerPoints charts, looking at numbers. You’ve got to get out there with the people, and that’s where the action is. So, that’s the idea of what it means to be a coach.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thanks, Bill. Now, let’s hear a favorite quote, something you find inspiring.

Bill George
There was a Buddhist monk man, who just died recently, named Thich Nhat Hahn, he said, “The longest journey you’ll ever take is the 18 inches from your head to your heart.” And by that, he meant is to be a leader today, you can’t just lead with your head. You’ve got to lead with your heart, with passion, compassion, empathy, and courage.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Bill George
Well, I can tell you about a breakthrough, Pete, is the work that’s being done, taking ideas from meditation and how neuroplasticity changes people’s lives, and now you can mold your brain as a result of it, and you can overcome the kind of anger parts and move into a kindness, more compassionate kind of person through these practices. And this have been studied with fMRI by Richard Davidson at Madison. Brilliant work. He ought to get a Nobel Peace prize, or a Nobel Medical prize for this.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite book?

Bill George
I’m reading a book called Younger Next Year, and it’s how you stay young by staying healthy and taking care of yourself by exercise every day, eat healthy, get some sleep, and relieve your stress. And I think if you begin to do those four things, you’re going to live a lot longer.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Bill George
I hate to confess it but I use social media and I use a computer a lot because, now, an awful lot of work is done remotely. But for whatever bad things you see, I can reach a lot of people. I’ve got a quarter a million followers on LinkedIn, and I can have dialogues with people, and I try and respond to every comment that people make. I can’t get them all but I sure try. And I think it’s a great tool to reach people. So, the negative things I said about Facebook, something on LinkedIn just gives me a great source of networking with people that I maybe never met in person.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite habit?

Bill George
For me, I think I mentioned to you, it’s meditating every day. I just got back from India from a meeting with his holiness, the Dalai Lama, last week. I got back on Sunday. And, man, I was exhausted after a 35-hour trip, and I had to meditate to kind of regain, overcome jetlag and get my health back.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Is there a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with people and they quote it back to you often?

Bill George
I didn’t make this up, but, “Be who you are because everyone else is taken.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Bill George
Yeah, be authentic and, yeah, that’s what I try to do and share with people. Follow your true north.

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

Bill George
Yeah, you should read the Emerging Leader Edition of True North. It’s my best book, I believe, and I’m very excited about it because it takes all these ideas that we’ve been talking about, and you’ll find it a great guide to leading a more fulfilling life.

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

Bill George
Yeah, you only live once. Make a difference in the world. Whatever money you make, you can’t take it with you. Make enough money to have a good life and take care of your families. But do something where you’re really have an impact in the world, a positive impact. You can leave a mark, so that when you go to your grave, people will look and say, “Here’s a person that really had a positive impact in my life.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Bill, thank you. This has been a treat. I wish you much luck in following your true north.

Bill George
Thank you, Pete. Thank you for having me on. It sounds like you’re already following yours, so thank you.