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Finding and Doing the One Thing with Jay Papasan

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Jay Papasan says: "You make an appointment with yourself to do something. Not with someone else, but to do something. And then you keep that commitment until it becomes a habit."

Author Jay Papasan helps to zero in on that one thing that matters most.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The key question you must ask yourself to unlock your “one thing”

About Jay

Jay Papasan is the co-author of the bestseller The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results with Gary Keller. He also worked as an editor at Harper-Collins Publishers. Jay also co-owns a successful real estate team affiliated with Keller Williams Realty with his wife Wendy in Austin, Texas.

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Jay Papasan Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Jay, thanks so much for being here on the How To Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Jay Papasan
Hey, thanks for having me, Pete. This is exciting.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m excited to dig into it as well. Now, I’m intrigued… So your book, The ONE Thing, you say the articulation of the message kind of had some inspiration from Curly from the movie City Slickers. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen that movie. Could you refresh our memory, and what’s the inspiration there?

Jay Papasan
Yeah, it’s funny. That was one of the last sections to go in the book, even though it’s right in the beginning. And we had the manuscript, we were circulating it to people and sharing the idea. And everybody kept saying, “Oh, it’s like that scene in City Slickers where Curly holds up his finger and says, ‘You know the meaning of life’.” And it was like, at some point I turned to Gary and I said, “We can’t not write about that.” So we went back and in one of the early kind of final drafts we added that to it. So, if you remember the scene, and I guess we can evoke it.

Pete Mockaitis
Evoke away.

Jay Papasan
Jack plans… I cannot imitate him; he was one of a kind. But he just said, “It’s one thing, just one thing. If you stick to that and get that right, everything else doesn’t mean squat.” And it’s just that good moment, where in a comedy, there’s that moment of truth about identify what matters, identify the big thing, the one thing. And here’s a simple guy that had figured it out relaying it to the sophisticated guy who hadn’t figured it out. So a lot of people connect that to this book.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So identifying the one thing – and this is reminding me a little bit of essentialism.

Jay Papasan
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, can you lay out a bit of of that philosophy or the anti-philosophy? So what do you mean by “the one thing” and what comes up against that?

Jay Papasan
This book was born from a hypothesis. I got the chance to start writing books with Gary Keller back in 2002, and I’ve watched him build a company from then 6,700 independent contractors to the largest in the world with 148,000. And the thing that he does well is identify the priority.

And so this idea that the greatest successes in his career have always come when he increased his focus – instead of doing more things, did fewer. It came out of an essay, long story short. And I remember immediately thinking as someone who’d been books and publishing for a long time like, “That’s it. That’s your book.”

And we then spent five years with two full-time researchers trying to make sure that our hypothesis lined up with the facts. So the big idea – and it’s nothing new, and we didn’t claim that it was anything new – is just like with a magnifying glass and the Sun – if you focus your efforts to fewer things, or one thing in this case, then you truly have the ability to do something at an extraordinary level. If you divide your efforts between many things, not only does that stress you out, you don’t tend to do any of them that well.

And so, there’s always exceptions to every rule, but the great, vast majority of people will benefit from this idea of, “Let’s just do fewer things with more effect than a whole bunch of stuff with side effects.” And by side effects I mean stress, poor results, mistakes. There’s just a lot that goes on when we try to be all things to all people and get everything done instead of just focusing on what matters.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, that is resonating and making some great sense. Could you maybe light a fire, with some inspiration in terms of sharing a tale or two from some people or readers or clients who made the shift? Where were they before, what did they do, and then what kind of extraordinary results did they see?

Jay Papasan
Well, I’ll give you the thumbnail, right? So here’s the, “Don’t have to buy the $25 book if you could actually take this an implement it.” We have a question: What’s the one thing I can do, such that by doing it everything will be easier or unnecessary? And that has a lot of back history behind it, but it’s this specific question to try to get you to that answer.

And I can tell you that when most people, and almost I’d say 99% of the people that I’ve talked or worked with, and that’s now numbering in the tens of thousands, you’re looking up, they know the answer and they feel guilty for not doing it. “What’s the one thing I can do for my marriage?” They know that it’s, “I just need to listen to my wife”, or, “I just need to put out my dirty clothes in the morning.” That one little thing would make a big difference. Most people know that thing that they’re not doing as much as they should, and they don’t ask the question ’cause they’re kind of afraid of the answer.

So, I think most people do know their answers or they just haven’t paused for the brief amount of time it takes to arrive at it. And then we teach people to kind of go all in. If you know that this is important to you – my marriage, my family, my business, you fill in the blank, my health – you identify that one thing and then you try to make that thing just habitual.

And so, we launched a course earlier this year called Time-blocking Mastery, where we walk people through 10 weeks of trying to build a habit. And one of the big findings in that research is, every book that I’d ever read said that it took 21 days or 30 days to form a habit. But the actual science suggests that it’s more like 66 days – a lot longer. And so, we’ve led… I’m looking at my little board, so far this year 7,677 is the last number I wrote up there – people, we’ve taught them how to kind of time-block their one thing and do it for 66 days.

And so I’ve watched people, and I’d say the number one thing that I’ve seen, regardless of the habit, is when people take control of a small amount of their time. They’re just going to take 10 minutes to meditate in the morning, or they’re going to exercise for 30 minutes with their wife for 3 days a week. They make a stand, they go on in like, “Everything in my life is going to support this one thing.”

When they take control of that 30-minute sliver of time, it gives them the confidence to start taking control of everything else. And I could go through example after example after example, but that’s been the generic experience is people focusing on one thing, they put it on their calendar so that they have to do every single day. That’s what we call the time-blocking – you make an appointment with yourself to do something. Not with someone else, but to do something. And then you keep that commitment until it becomes a habit.

And BJ Fogg is a researcher at Stanford University; he taught 10,000 people how to floss their teeth using a similar method, and he just told them to floss one tooth every day. And the reality is, if somebody pulls off the string to do one tooth, they’re probably going to finish it. But he also understood the idea of momentum. And if you really just don’t want to do it but you don’t want to break the streak of doing it day in and day out, you can do one and say, “I did it.” But over time… He got 10,000 people. My mom is a dental hygienist and she couldn’t get me to regularly floss my teeth growing up. So it’s just one of those things that we all know should be doing and we’re not, and there’s a few tricks and trades.

So the two big ones are, time-block it, or BJ Fogg would say, piggyback it – attach it to an existing habit. He said, “After I brush my teeth, I will floss this tooth.” I would say that’s definitely how a lot of my habits work. But at 5:30 a.m. I’m going to work out with my wife for an hour, and that’s become a habit that she and I have done for 6 years. And I went from 245 pounds to 199. That’s with two surgeries in there. Yeah, I was in a bad place and I got to a better place and it didn’t happen overnight; I’ve been doing this for 6 years now I guess. And you look up and you go, “Oh, but big change did happen.” It just happens slower than people think in the beginning and then faster at the end.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, there’s so much good stuff to dig into here, so I’ve got to prioritize myself.

Jay Papasan
I know, I have so much I want to share.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright, let’s hear that question one more time.

Jay Papasan
Sure, it’s at the heart of the book. We call it the “focusing question”. What’s the one thing I can do, such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Jay Papasan
And to break it down, it’s what’s the one thing – not two or three – you’re asking your mind to come up on the singular best thing that you can do, not that you could, should or would. And we have one of my favorite poems in the margins of the book: “All the would’ve, could’ve, should’ves all ran away and hid from one little did.”

Because on any journey, just start with what you can already do, and get the feedback cycle going. That one tooth, or one push up, or one mile. Start with that and then build on that, such that by doing it just says that it’s got to have some Pareto’s Law in there, it’s got to have some leverage. If you knock over one thing, it’s got to have multiple impacts on the other side and the scale of that leverage is, everything else gets easier or unnecessary. It’s a very specific question and we find it it gives people very specific answers. And while they may not be perfect, if they start doing that thing, they’ll quickly get to the right solution.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright, and so when you say “the one thing”, you sort of mean within a domain, like the one thing within marriage, within fitness, within my career.

Jay Papasan
That’s correct. It’s ostensibly a business book, right? So most of the book we’re writing about what’s the one thing for your career – if you’re a programmer, you need to program; if you’re a writer, you need to be writing; if you’re a violinist, you need to be practicing. There’s usually one activity that if you studied people who have truly reaped extraordinary results, whether they were conscious or not conscious, they put in the time on that thing, and that’s what made them extraordinary. So that was the fundamental thing. And companies tend to have one thing. People look at Google now, it’s called the alphabet, it’s got so many different businesses. But what’s the foundation of it all?

Pete Mockaitis
Search and AdWords.

Jay Papasan
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s an and, that’s an and.

Jay Papasan
Yeah, I know. But the and only happens if the first one happens. If the search had sucked, they would’ve had no ad revenue. And with no ad revenue, they couldn’t have driverless cars and everything else they’re doing. So, you really look under the hood and with rare exceptions… Like the one big one that comes to mind is Microsoft. Without the operating system, could they have done Office? I don’t know, but their revenue was almost 50/50 for years on those products. But I do think that if they hadn’t started with the operating system they would’ve never had the chance to have a monopoly on the Office.

But you can start seeing how great businesses – not average ones, great businesses – tend to have one thing, a tip of the spear that makes everything possible. And if you can realize that about your business or your career, you can give that thing disproportionate focus and give yourself disproportionate chances to succeed.

Now, outside of that, I absolutely… We have a whole page dedicated to it – page 114 – it’s the only page I have memorized, like the 7 big areas of your life where you would take this philosophy. I don’t think that asking, “What’s the one movie I can watch on Netflix tonight?”… That’s trivial. I’m OCD, I can go there and not be completely out of my mind, but for the average person that’s a waste.

But for your health, for your spiritual life, for your personal life, for your key relationships, for your job, your business, your finances – those are all big, big buckets in our lives and I would hope if we want to have an extraordinary life we would want to have those things operating at a pretty high level. We usually teach people to just do one at a time, but in the course of one year, you could knock out five or six new habits.
Right, 66-day challenge – I think it’s five, mathematically. You can knock out five of those areas and build a really powerful habit that would serve you for the rest of your life. And so I do think that’s the super human trick you see the Tim Ferrisses doing – they build things into ritual and to habit, and then when they got one thing down they add another and another. And we look out three or four years later and we think, “Oh my gosh, that person’s special.” Well, they look special now, but they just built on what most people had. Maybe a few extraordinary things tacked on, but the package is the combination of all those things stacked on each other.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well so, I’m curious… I want to talk about so many potential “one things”. So let’s just zoom in on maybe some potential common issues for folks in their careers. And let’s say a common challenge is, “Oh my gosh, I feel a sense of stress, overwhelm, too many inputs and things coming at me all at once that I got to deal with.” In your experience working with folks, what is, or maybe a couple one things you’ve seen pop up for folks in that milieu that they were able to ritualize, habitualize and rock and roll?

Jay Papasan
One of the first things we try to teach people to do is take their to-do list and bring priority to it. The reality of most people’s to-do list, and the vast majority of workers use some form of a to-do list, whether it’s an app or whatever, it’s basically a long list of things that they know they need to do. Because life is busy and they have to have that David Allen bucket, a trusted bucket to remember all that stuff with, right? And you have task lists and all that.

But we just say take 3 minutes, and then of all the things that you could do, identify the handful that really need to get done this week or that day. I usually look at my week, my month – those are separate little sessions. What do I have to get done this month to be on track for my year? What do I have to get done this week to be on track with my month? What do I have to get done today to be on track for my week?
But you look at that long list and you say, “Well, if I can only get one thing done to be on track for my week, to be on track for my month, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, what’s that going to be?” Usually you know what it is. And so that just becomes your number one. Well great, if I knock that sucker out, and I can do two things, what’s the next thing? And that becomes number 2. And when you give people 3 to 5 minutes – you don’t want them to overthink it – and just kind of go with their instinct and what they kind of know, most people will take a list that’s like two pages long down to four or five things that are clearly prioritized.

And that simple act of identifying your priorities on a daily basis… And there’s all kinds of journals that help people do this now. The 5-minute journal. There’s lots of people who are on the same track, but that simple habit right there – boom! When everybody else is still on Facebook, you spend 3 minutes figuring out what really matters for you, and you’re going to tackle that between all the distractions and meetings so that you know that those things get done. That would be massive for most people.

And the other big thing is, how do I get more control of my time? ‘Cause you said the word “career”. This is not business owners, right? These are people who work for other people. And I’m a manager – I screw people up all the time, because I’m empowered to walk by them and give them new assignments, right? And so I think another tactic that you can help people with is, they’ve identified their one thing. I would then encourage them to set an appointment with themselves to do it, literally block off their calendar. Their co-workers will go, “Oh, I wanted to set up a meeting with you between 9:00 and 11:00 but you’re busy. Can you do something for me?” It’s like, “I’m sorry, I already have another commitment.”

Nobody needs to know that that appointment isn’t with another human being. If you have to go to an unused warehouse or the conference room in your building and hide – go do it, if that’s where you have to go to do your work. But first and foremost, time-block it.
There’s some research that we added to the book, I don’t know which edition people have. But it was published in the British Journal of Health Psychology – they tried to get people to do 20 minutes of exercise a day. And I’m going to do the speed version, but they just told people to do it, and for two weeks about 35% of those people did it. They gave another group motivation. They said, “If you do 20 minutes of exercise, you’ll have better heart health, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah” – and again 35%-38% did that. They had a third group. They gave them the same motivational pamphlet, but then they asked them to do one additional thing – they had to make a written commitment, “On these days, at this time, at this place I will exercise for 20 minutes.” They had to write down when and where they were going to do the activity. And those people were 91% successful.

Pete Mockaitis
Hot dog!

Jay Papasan
Yeah, thank you. Hot dog, indeed. Right? So you get it – that’s just a calendar invite. They had to actually navigate, “Yeah, I want to do that.” “Great, when?” That simple act of thinking it through made you three times more likely to do it. And the bonus here is, now when your boss says, “Hey, I need you in my office”, you say, “I’m sorry, I’ve already got another meeting. Do I need to cancel it?”

Most bosses would say, “No, no, I’ll catch you on the other side. When are you coming at?” “11.” “Great, I’ll see you then.” They want to dump things, but they don’t necessarily have to have it done now; they just want to know when it’s going to happen. So giving people the empowerment to say, “Awesome! I’m happy to take care of this for you, boss. When do you need it? Will next Tuesday do?” That’s my standard answer. “How about next Tuesday?” And the assumption is, if you ask them, “Do you want it done right now?” They’ll always say, “Right now”.

Pete Mockaitis
Sure, I’d love that.

Jay Papasan
But you can say “No” now, “Yes” later, is effectively what we’re saying. So you time-block it then you have to do a little protecting of that time. And then for your average career person, entry-level employee, they’re trying to make some “Hey” in their career, they can buy themselves a couple of hours of freedom, so that 5 days a week they put in a couple or three hours maybe; maybe it’s just an hour or maybe it’s just 30 minutes, but they’re going to be doing those essentials that will slowly make them essential. That’s how people end up standing out; that’s why people are given executive assistants – the company recognizes they’re so good at that thing that they don’t want them doing the other stuff, and they pay a whole other human being to do that stuff for them. So it’s been around but people just don’t recognize it for what it is.

Pete Mockaitis
I like that so much. So, with regard to scheduling that time, and I’m thinking in particular about this notion of identifying the priorities – 1, 2, 3 for the day, etcetera – that’s come up many times in the fast faves as habits from guests. So would your proposal be that you determine a regular occurring time and place to do that – maybe in the morning – or any pro tips, best practices for when and where work optimally?

Jay Papasan
Yeah, and a lot of your young listeners may want to fight this. And I just tell them, “If you’re fighting this, what I’m about to say, you maybe are going for average. But if you really go out and study…” And we spent five years studying successful artists, entrepreneurs, athletes – they understood something that we explain in the science, that if you really want to do something and you want to do it every day, the best time to do it is early in the morning.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Jay Papasan
And I know, I’ve got young people in my life and they don’t love the idea of getting up at the crack of dawn. But you listen to, you read the biographies, and with rare exceptions there’s something magic that happens in the morning. You have the ability to focus; far more ability than you do later in the day. There’s less noise in your life, and you then have the ability to add rituals when there’s no interference.
So, I usually encourage people if they really want to make a big leap in their life, maybe start doing that hour of core activities before they even get to work. Now, if you really want it to happen, now their boss can’t even tell them not to do it. They can’t have anyone else interfering with them ’cause they’re not even at work yet.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright.

Jay Papasan
Right? And you read and you listen to Tim Ferriss and you listen to some of these guys and they interviewed these people and you hear they have some pretty serious rituals in the morning – they’re reading, they’re meditating, they’re exercising. They’re getting some really core,important stuff done and they’re having a great day before 8:00 a.m.

So, I learned this from Gretchen Rubin, ’cause I’ve been on this morning thing for a while, and I’m a writer – I would love to stay up to 2 a.m. every night, binge-watching shows and being creative. But I know now that as a career writer who’s now written 11 books, sold over 2.5 million copies, that the idea of being creative and actually putting out product are very different things.

When I started writing and treating it like a job and doing it in the morning, is when the books started coming up. And so she said… Gretchen Rubin, Better Than Before – great book, absolutely buys into this, and she gave me an amazing cheat – if you really struggle to wake up early in the morning, but you want that extra hour, I can’t remember the date, but we’re like a month away from when we fall back on daylight savings time.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Jay Papasan
So, instead of grabbing an extra hour of snooze time, just keep getting up at the exact same time but it’ll be an hour earlier than the rest of the world.

Pete Mockaitis
Brilliant.

Jay Papasan
So, with zero baggage, you can go from an 8:00 a.m. wake up time to effectively 7:00 a.m., without any change in your physical habits.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, and the light will feel just the same, and all that.

Jay Papasan
But now you’ve bought yourself an hour to write that novel that you’ve always meant to write, or to get that exercise in that you’re not finding the time to do, or whatever that one thing is for your work, your health or whatever – you’ve now bought yourself an hour, this runway before the rest of the world usually is awake or interfering. There’s nothing on Facebook, there’s nothing on TV; this is just you time. And it tends to be very peaceful and you can get a lot done.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful, thank you. Alright, so I guess I want to hear a little bit now, in terms of, you’ve got your systems and your 66 days. Does anything sort of change over the course of those 66 days, or is it really just kind of the same thing, like, “Hey, that thing you did yesterday – do that again.” Or is there any kind of nuances or phases there?

Jay Papasan
The answer is yes and no. You’re doing the same thing but you’re not the same person doing it. I actually think that most extraordinary success is really boring repetition. That’s been my experience, is that you’re doing the hard work most people are unwilling to do on a daily basis. It’s not that exciting, it’s not like they make it out in the movies; you’re just putting in the hours. And over time you’re getting, you’re growing a mastery – the old 10,000 hour rule – I wrote about that in the book too. But you get better and better and better, and your output gets more and more powerful, often doing the same things.

There’s a fabulous classic book on mastery by a guy named George Leonard, I believe is his name, and it’s called Mastery. And it was about his journey in becoming a black belt in Judo. And his fascination was that 5 years later he’s doing exactly the same exercises, but because he’s done them so many times, the nuances of his wrist and where his fingers are and all of that, he was so aware of it and it was actually more interesting.

So I think success, you’ll get bored in the beginning, like, “Oh my gosh, I have to go for another run. Oh my gosh, I have to write another chapter. Oh my gosh.” Right? But then at a certain point on the other side, there’s this tailwind that kicks in when you start to appreciate the nuances of what you’re doing.

There’s been a lot of research on expert performance with swimmers, and they talk about feeling the water between their fingers, like the subtle position of their hand. Everybody else is just swimming the back stroke, but because they’ve done it longer – the same activity – they’re focused on the nuances, the little tiny 1% edges that make the difference in sports that are measured in thousandths of a second, right? Most success is kind of repetitive; it’s going to be a little boring before it doesn’t get boring.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, thank you. That’s good words. I think we have so much more to say, but I know what our calendars hold, so you tell me – is there anything else you want to make sure you put out there before we shift gears and hear quickly about some of your favorite things?

Jay Papasan
I think that we hit some of the real essentials. I know that you had wanted to talk maybe a little bit about multi-tasking. I think that that’s a temptation for people to think that they can do multiple things at once. I do think you can have multiple things going on in your life, but one of the fundamental truths that we did find in the research is that you’re only going to effectively do one thing at a time.

I do find a lot of people want to fight that, they want to be doing their thing with their second screen open on Twitter, they want to be texting friends in between. But if you identify that one thing that really matters, I don’t care if you multi-task the rest of your day, but for that little period of time that you’re trying to make this big investment in your career or your life, I would encourage people to not multi-task during that time.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I will trust in that. I’ve heard good data that say more things in support of that, and that often it is just like a dopamine deception, like you think you’re good at multitasking just ’cause it feels good to switch tasks a lot, but you’re kind of not actually putting out as much great output.

Jay Papasan
No, it literally lowers your IQ by 6 or 7 points. People who are stoned on average will have a higher IQ than people who are multi-tasking. So it doesn’t really benefit your work, but I do think that we do fool ourselves. I think the poet laureate called it “monkey mind”. We think that we’re doing better, but we’re just kind of driving ourselves bananas.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, well, that’s a nice note there. So how about you kick us off by sharing a favorite quote?

Jay Papasan
Oh gosh. My favorite quote is going to be Reed Hastings. He just said, “As a business, I would rather be selling aspirin than vitamins.” And for whatever reason that just stuck with me. And the idea that the things that matter most… We’re going to behavior change. This is what a lot of our book… If you’re going to change your behavior to do your one thing, I think it helps us to identify not just the benefits of doing it, but the pain that we’re preventing.

Because if you have a headache, you’re going to take some aspirin. But vitamins – there’s no feedback loop on that. The headache doesn’t go away because you take vitamins. Vitamins we take on faith. So I love that quote – it reminds me as a business person, and it also reminds me when I’m thinking about what I want to do with my life, I often will ask an additional question – what’s the cost if I fail? And that usually will get me to the emotional center of why I want to take on a challenge. And if there is no emotional response, it might not be the right thing for me.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. Okay. And how about a favorite study or a piece of research?

Jay Papasan
I’m just going to say… Oh gosh, the multi-tasking research, I spent so much time with that guy, but I’m going to go to Ericsson. And he’s the guy who did most of the research on expert performance and the 10,000-hour rule. So I would say if you haven’t dove into that idea, of the 10,000-hour rule – it’s pretty accessible, there’s a lot of books on it. But if something’s really important and you really want to be extraordinary, understanding what it takes, knowing the commitment upfront is a really important thing. So I love Ericsson’s research; pretty awesome stuff.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite habit of yours? You’ve explored habits so much; is there a top one that you’d say has been the biggest difference-maker or game-changer?

Jay Papasan
The health habit. I think I had back surgery and then rotator cuff surgery. I think I shared I ballooned up to 245 pounds. And the series of habits I followed… Usually with a coach’s help. I’ve got a friend tell me about portion control, then I started doing 10,000 steps ’cause I wasn’t physically able to work out.

And I did a series of habits that led me to working out with my wife, and that one has stuck. Where the other ones have come and gone or I’ve gotten better but it didn’t stick exactly, we still 3 days a week have a trainer show up at 5:30. And recently our 12-year old son started setting his alarm to work out with us. And there’re so many things that came into alignment.

I’m not trying to be that dude with the 6-pack abs; I just want to be healthy, and I want to feel good and I don’t want to be overweight. But that became kind of an anchor habit. And doing it with my wife and now my son, it’s actually become one of the more important times that we spend together. Doing burpees at 5:30 in the morning is pretty raw. So it’s kind of like, we’re going through our own little personal bootcamp; and it’s been very bonding and it’s made us closer.

So, if I had to pick one habit that I had zero regrets, that was really hard to do. I’m not a morning person. In the beginning we did it at 5:00 a.m, not even 5:30, ’cause that was when we could do it. I knew we could do it every day, and you know what? It just stuck, and I just don’t see us ever dropping that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, thank you. And would you say there is a particular nugget that when you speak it, it’s highlighted a lot in the Kindle versions of your books, an articulation of your message that really seems to jive with people?

Jay Papasan
Probably the most Instagramed quote in the book is the Josh Billings quote early in the book. “Be like a postage stamp – stick to one thing till you get there.” And it just kind of makes people chuckle. The other one’s Will Rogers, “Even if you’re on the right road, you’ll just get run over if you sit there.” And it’s the idea of, figure out where you want to go and just start making progress. You said quote in the book; those are the first two that came to mind, ’cause I tend to see them hashtagged “the ONE thing”, all over Twitter, and I see them underlined in the book quite a bit.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And what would you say is the best way to get in touch with you if folks want to learn more or check out your stuff, where would you point them?

Jay Papasan
Definitely check out The1Thing.com, with the number 1. We’ve got a 66-day calendar there that you can download, stick it on your wall and just kind of do your own challenge. And I’ve done them. We’re trying to do a whole group in our company to do one towards the end of the year, where they pick one stress relieving habit. And we just had a little conference call earlier today, getting people’s suggestions.

It’s like, pick your habit and see if going into the Christmas season, when we can all kind of get strung out pretty bad, can we go into it with a habit that will protect us? Right? So I love that, and checking out the resources. And my name, Papasan, I’m actually the guy behind my social media accounts. It’s pretty easy to Google. So just Google it, reach out, send me a Facebook message if you’ve got a question and if I can help you. That’s why we write the books; I love it.

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect. Well, Jay, this has been so much fun. Thank you for taking the time and sharing your wisdom. It’s been a blast, and I wish you all the best!

Jay Papasan
Thank you so much for having me, man!

511: Tiny Leaps for Your Development with Gregg Clunis (Host of the Tiny Leaps, Big Changes Podcast)

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Gregg Clunis says: "All big changes come from the tiny leaps you take every day."

Gregg Clunis discusses the small leaps you can take to make massive changes in career and life.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why self-help is often inadequate
  2. Just what you can achieve with one tiny leap
  3. What to do when motivation fails you

About Gregg

Gregg Clunis is the host, author, and creator of Tiny Leaps, Big Changes, a podcast turned book and community whose goal is to help people become better versions of themselves in practical ways. A maker and entrepreneur, Gregg explores the reality behind personal development—that all big changes come from the small decisions we make every day. Using scientific and psychological research, he shows the hidden factors that drive our behavior and shares habit-forming and goal-oriented tools.

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Gregg Clunis Interview Transcript

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

Gregg Clunis

Thank you so much for having me, Pete. It is a pleasure.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I also want to thank you. You were the one who gave me the idea to have five-minute calls with my listeners which I’ve been doing in celebration of 500 episodes.

Gregg Clunis

Oh, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
So, everyone, you can thank Gregg for that.

Gregg Clunis
Well, first of all, congrats on 500. That’s amazing.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you.

Gregg Clunis
How have those calls been playing out?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, it’s been really fun. I mean, it’s just fun to connect with people and I find that, hey, five minutes really goes fast.

Gregg Clunis
Oh, definitely.

Pete Mockaitis
And sometimes people, they have all these bullet points and they’re rushing to cover them. So, I think we’re going to do some more actually. So, I also want to get your take, so you mentioned that you play a lot of Fortnite and, hey, I mean no disrespect, but when I hear Fortnite, what comes to my mind is 13-year old boys playing it nonstop.

Gregg Clunis
Pretty much, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
But I think you can translate it for the rest of us, why is this game taking off like crazy?

Gregg Clunis
Yeah. So, here’s the thing, because I think that that is true of gaming in general, but we have to look at why that’s the case, right? So, 13-year old, 14-year old boys and girls are the ones in a position where they can grind away the game to get good, and for the rest of us, because we don’t have that luxury, we never really get good and, therefore, we never really get to enjoy it.

But the reason that, and I have this conversation all the time with my girlfriend, one of the biggest reasons that Fortnite is as massive as it is and blew up the way that it did is because we all have some connection to gaming, right?

And Fortnite comes out, it’s filling this space, but then they do really, really smart things around content marketing, around utilizing their technology, reinvesting in their company to make sure the game is free, to make sure it’s available on literally every single platform.

So, it creates this hype around it, and because we all sort of have this connection to gaming already, and most people like games, we just don’t have the time for games, it just makes it super easy for us to jump back in.

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you, yeah. And I think that’s one of the keys there. I think Minecraft has that going on as well. It’s like there’s this creative element, like, “Oh, that’s kind of a nifty novel thing I hadn’t thought of. Let me give that a shot, see how it goes.”

Gregg Clunis
Absolutely. It’s a really cool feeling to be so connected to it.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, thank you for unpacking that and I want to hear more. Well, you actually already dropped a life lesson on us in terms of 13-year-olds spend a lot of time playing the game so they get good, and because they get good, they’re able to enjoy it. It reminds me, in high school, shout out to Fran Kick, I think he’s still rocking as a motivational speaker. Fran Kick gave a speech to our marching band, which I still remember. He drew a diagram, it was like a loop of like a virtuous cycle of, “You do some work at something, like your instrument, and then you get good at that something, and then it becomes more fun to do that something, so then you’d actually want to do some more work at it so you even get better at it.” So, it’s a nice loop there.

And I was like, “That makes a lot of sense to me, Fran.” And so, there’s one tiny leap you all can make right there.” So, Gregg, drop an intro.

Gregg Clunis
Oh, absolutely. That’s a critical element if anyone out there hasn’t read the book So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport, highly, highly recommend it. The core thesis of it is that pursuing your passion is the wrong way to go about it. The right way is to get good at something and, therefore, develop passion for it.

So, he went to all these different careers and people working in different fields, things that you and I would hear and think, “How can somebody possibly be passionate about that?” Right? And they found that these people, they’re doing work that most of us would not find glamorous in any way or exciting in any way, they are super passionate about it because they have a sense of agency over it, because they have a sense of independence and a feeling that they’re accomplishing something, because they have a sense of community. Like, all these different factors, and none of it had anything to do with passion. In fact, passion gets developed from having those things rather than the other way around.

Pete Mockaitis
That is wise. Well, so let’s talk a little bit about your world, Tiny Leaps, Big Changes. What’s kind of the big idea here?

Gregg Clunis
Yeah. So, the whole thing with the Tiny Leaps model, so it started as a podcast about four years ago now. And, honestly, Pete, it was kind of accidental. It was one of those things like all good things in life where I was really angry about something, and so I just decided I had to do something in response to it. And that thing that I was really angry about was what I call sort of the corruption of self-help.

So, self-help is this thing that it can be massively valuable. It can help so many people in their day-to-day lives as they move towards the things they want. But in an Instagram-driven world, it also can be very fluffy, and it also can be very removed from practicality, where certain people who are in certain situations, which I’m fortunate to be in, I can have an eight-hour morning routine, and guess what, it’ll be fine.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s not morning anymore when you’re done.

Gregg Clunis
Exactly, right? But I can have this super complicated morning routine and wake up at 5:00 a.m., like I can control every single detail of my life. That’s not practical for the single mother of three in rural Arkansas who is struggling to make ends meet. Like, that’s not something she can do. That’s not something that her neighbor can do.

So, how can we take these principles of self-help that are valuable, like the ideas of setting goals, of making lists, of reading more, of educating yourself? How can we take those things and make them as practical as possible? And so, the underlying philosophy became, “All big changes come from the tiny leaps you take every day.”

And the goal of the podcast and the media company and the book that I published this year, and all of the things that we’re building out, is 100% to just remind somebody of that every single day. It doesn’t actually matter about any individual episode or a blogpost or anything like that. It’s, at the end of this, you’re going to remember all big changes come from the tiny leaps you take every day so that you can use that as a guiding principle in your day-to-day life.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’d love it if you could share with us maybe an inspiring transformation or story associated with someone who took on some tiny leaps and, sure enough, saw some big changes.

Gregg Clunis
Yeah, there’s no better story for me with this than my dad. So, to give listeners some context, I’m an immigrant here, so I’m 27 now. I moved to the United States when I was 7, so 20 years ago. And my family moved us over here because we had hit hard times in Jamaica. The economy had crashed recently. My dad was running three different businesses, all of which went to zero. And he was an educated man, my mom was an educated woman, they had all the trappings of what should be successful, but they were in an environment that didn’t necessarily allow that to happen.

So, we packed up, we moved to the United States. And my dad’s first job here, before we even got here, there was a period of about a year where he was here sort of setting the foundation and then we moved. His first job here was picking apples on an apple orchard. This is a man who was a college professor, who worked in the police, I’m not sure what position, but relatively high up. He’s still pretty well-respected when you say his name down there. And his first job here was picking apples on an apple orchard as a migrant worker.

And he lived in this trailer, that I never visited while he was there but I visited when we first came here, didn’t have heat in the winter, didn’t have proper air circulation, the water wasn’t drinkable. Like, it was a bad situation. So, that’s where he started here. By the time he passed away, which was two years ago now, he was the head of quality control at a distribution plant, a bottling plant that handles major contracts, brands that you’ve heard of.

But he moved up in life pretty dramatically. We lived a super comfortable life and we’re always sort of happy and comfortable because he started from this place and he was willing to look at that and say, “Okay, this is the opportunity in front of me right now and that’s going to lead me to the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing.” And, over time, you create that change.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Very cool. Very cool witness there.

Gregg Clunis
And I’ll be honest in saying that the entire Tiny Leaps concept, like I didn’t realize it when I was first developing it, but it’s what I learned watching him and my mom do that, because that is what they did. And I was fortunate to be young as an immigrant here so I didn’t have the immigrant experience but I saw it firsthand. And they couldn’t have done it any different.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s beautiful. Well, so I’m thinking now in particular about working professionals and some tiny leaps that you’ve seen to be very impactful. What are some of the biggest in terms of those little things you can do that make a world of difference?

Gregg Clunis
Yeah. So, for me, it’s always been it’s so funny. I always find, and maybe your experience has been the same, Pete, but I always find that my life changes because of one individual moment, and I always have that sort of gut feeling of like, “This is the decision that changes things.” But I don’t get to that moment without trying a thousand things before it.

So, same thing happened with this podcast. This wasn’t the only thing I was doing. This wasn’t the first thing I had done. By the time I launched this four years ago, I’d already been creating stuff online for six years, none of which did anything. So, that wasn’t, by any means, the first thing. But when I started it, there was this gut feeling of like, “This is going to work.”

Same thing with decisions I’ve made recently that completely transformed my business. With that said, to get specific, and I only share that because I really want to drive home it’s not about the specific tactics. It’s about how you approach it. It’s this philosophy that if you employ it in your life, whatever your life looks like, will drive results. But to get very specific, one actual thing, that one tiny decision I made in college that I thought was going to be completely inconsequential at the time, I remember I was working on a tech startup. So, I had always wanted to be an entrepreneur. Finally, I’m away from home, I’m in an environment where I can build something. So, I start working on an idea, and I didn’t know how to build tech.

So, I sat in my room one weekend and taught myself the very basics of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, just enough because I thought if I could at least understand what’s required, then I could find somebody to do it, right? So, I sat for this weekend, used all the free resources, wrote ridiculous amounts of code, a lot of which did not do anything right, and finally emerged with this better understanding of how the Web worked.

That then led to hiring the developer, which is now a really good friend of mine. The long story short, that platform didn’t work, that startup ended up failing horribly, but that skillset of learning how to build websites, learning how the underlying technology of the Web works, that is the reason I got my first full-time job after I graduated. That first full-time job is what introduced me to podcasting and got me interested in podcasts in the first place. And then fast forward to here where podcasting now literally runs my entire life. And that all came because I gained a skillset that I didn’t have before for a completely unrelated thing that does not exists right now.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, you’re drawing a distinction there. It’s not about a particular prescriptive tactic, “Learn how to code,” but rather the mindset. How would you articulate that mindset?

Gregg Clunis
So there’s a really good quote that I think is actually really good for this. So, Steve Jobs, there’s a famous quote by him that I’m going to butcher, I apologize, but it’s something like, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward. It’s only when you look backwards.” So, there’s all these different actions that you take in your life and it feels random and it feels rambled, but ten years down the line, you look back, and you see how it all fit to where you are right now. And that’s true whether the outcome is good or bad.

So, the actions you took ten years ago led to where you are now. And there are other things, there are circumstances you’re facing, there’s the very real situation of sexism and racism, like there are things that you don’t control, right? But the actions you took ten years ago led to the outcome you have now, whether that’s positive or negative. And the only way you see that is by looking back at it and being willing to be honest with yourself, and say, “Okay, this is how it connects.”

In the same way, if you can look at the actions you take right now, the things you choose to learn, how you spend your time, who you spend it with, and you believe that the actions you took ten years ago led to this, then you also have to believe that these actions will lead to the next ten years. And that’s what the underlying philosophy is, the choices I make right now, no matter how small, they matter. And they matter because they’re the things that connect the dots to the next ten years.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, so there’s a lot in there. So, you’re doing some reflections on the past, zeroing in on identifying the patterns and the behaviors and the decisions that led to your current place, and then recognizing that your current decisions lead to the future place. And, thusly, not to just go on autopilot, you don’t really need to be thoughtful about what you’re doing and how you’re approaching things. So, all right, that is great. So, with that application of that mindset, what are some of the behaviors with your clients that you’ve seen frequently have ended up compounding in some great ways?

Gregg Clunis
Yeah, and let me be clear in that. I purposefully choose not to do any kind of coaching or anything like that in the self-help space because I think that’s a part of what led to the industry becoming an issue, a problem in the way that it is. With that said, speaking of listeners, people that have contacted me, the people in the audience, in the community, the big things that I see really driving change always rely around awareness.

So, things like journaling, things like tracking your calories, things like doing the…I know Seinfeld didn’t actually do this, but that whole like checkmark on the calendar every single day thing.

Pete Mockaitis
Seinfeld didn’t do that?

Gregg Clunis
Yeah, he came out saying that he’s not sure where that came from.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, no.

Gregg Clunis
It’s a cool story though.

Pete Mockaitis
That really is write jokes every day.

Gregg Clunis
Yeah, exactly. But I will say I’ve done that though and it actually works really well because at some point you do feel like the calendar looks so pretty with all the Xs, you don’t want to like ruin it. But, anyway, so what I’ve found is that people tend to engage in our day-to-day lives pretty unconsciously. Like, even if you think about the last time you got into the car and drove to your job or a place that you visit pretty frequently. there’s a good chance you got out of the car at that location without remembering the one single right turn that you took, or what street name that was, or like you don’t consciously take in that information.

And there’s a reason for that. We’re pretty well-adapted to filter all of that stuff out. But we do that throughout our entire days, because if we’re doing a lot of the same stuff, which most of us are, we have our routines, we have our things that allow us to make it through life. If we’re doing a lot of the same stuff, we filter it because there’s nothing new happening. What that means is all of the bad habits that we build up, all of the things that we just unconsciously do that are holding us back, we become unaware that we’re actually doing it.

Like, we might know, “Okay, yeah, I went to Starbucks” or whatever it is, but we’re not actually internalizing that in any way. And by taking it out of our heads and writing down everything, starting to get very, very deliberate about our tracking, whatever the goal might be, it could be, “I want to save more money,” or, “I want to get this promotion,” or whatever it is, like if we start becoming deliberate about the actions we take towards those things, and the actions we don’t take towards those things, at the end of the week, we have something we can look at that tells us exactly what we did and didn’t do and how much time we spent on it.

And there’s no debating that. Like, it’s on paper. And that awareness is what eventually leads to a change in behavior because now you’re looking and you’re saying, “Oh, crap, I really didn’t do as much as I thought I did.”

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. And so, with the journaling or the tracking, are there any kind of particular questions or themes you explore? Because I think one way of journaling is to just sort of the chronology of what went down, “I woke up. I ate this food. I took a shower.” And so, I’m imagining you have something else in mind when you say the word journaling.

Gregg Clunis
No, I found that it’s like what works for you is going to be different than what works for me. I can’t remember the word for that right now. But it is very unique to the person. Like, I have a list of questions that I ask myself but that changes literally every single week. What I found, like the bare minimum, and this is mostly what I do when I journal, to be honest with you, Pete, it’s literally just making a list. And I won’t log my entire day because there’s parts of it that I don’t need to track. If my goal right now is fitness related, I don’t need to track necessarily my financial stuff. Like, that’s not where my focus is.

So, I’ll make a list of everything related to the actual goal throughout the day and I won’t look back at that list with any kind of judgment or with any kind of, like, “Oh, I need to hold myself accountable,” or anything like that because that only leads you feeling bad, and that doesn’t drive change. What I will do though is make that list, and at the end of the week, I will schedule time with myself to review the list and purely come at it from, “This is what reality is. How do we change that?”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Yeah, “This is what reality is. And how do we change that?” That’s resonating. I’ve been thinking a lot just randomly about the word should and I guess use should for all kinds of things. And I’m thinking about behavior change, “I should not eat out so much,” “I should get to work earlier and do some things,” “I should get to inbox zero.” And what I find intriguing about that is that the word should is sometimes used in sort of like a moral, ethical obligation sense, like, “You should pay your taxes.”

Gregg Clunis
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
And other times it’s used in the sense of behaving differently. And I think that there’s some power in just exploring what we mean by should in terms of are we just saying that, “Well, sure, if I were to eat out less, I would derive some benefit in terms of saving money or eating more healthfully.” But in the grand scheme of all the pulls and competing demands of life is that a prudent worthy priority and what will be the downsides and what’s going to be sacrificed as a result of that, and is that indeed optimal? So, it’s like, “Should you really?” Is the should valid?

I guess I’m going a little bit in circles here, but I think what’s powerful about getting clear on tracking the actions associated with the goal is that you can sort of feel better about what you’re doing and what you’re not doing, and seeing if, in fact, a real change is worthy of being made.

Gregg Clunis
Oh, yeah, absolutely. And I think, to that last point, I think we often also, and I’m still exploring this, I’m not sure if it’s going to be the topic of my second book yet, but it is something I’m very interested in so it’ll be something. But I think we have gotten to a point where a lot of us are chasing productivity or accomplishment or whatever it is purely for the sake of productivity or accomplishment or whatever it is, and not so much because that thing actually needs to happen for us.

And I’ve started to, one of the issues I have with the self-help space is that you can find there are entire communities. I don’t know if you know this, Pete, there are entire communities out there of people trying to hack every single second of every single day to squeeze out maximum productivity, and it sort of started as a weird corruption of Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Workweek concept but it’s gotten really weird.

And a big thing that I’m noticing is that productivity, in a lot of ways right now, is the disciplined pursuit of bullshit. “Let me get this thing done because my life needs it or because people around me need it, or whatever it is.” It’s more so like, “Let me just check this off because it’s what I should be doing,” to use that term.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, certainly. And that sounds like it could lead you into some dark places as I kind of play that out in my mind with regard to that.

Gregg Clunis
Oh, absolutely. There’s an entire industry around like brain-enhancing supplements to maximize productivity. It’s a weird world out there.

Pete Mockaitis
And I suppose with prudence and a goal-oriented approach, that might be just the thing in terms of, “Oh, it would be helpful if I were able to focus longer based upon my objectives and this thing seems to have some good science behind it, therefore, we’re taking it.” As opposed to any opportunity to do anything we’re reaching after.

Gregg Clunis
Oh, yeah, absolutely. And I think that that is the distinction, right? There is, and it goes back to the idea of conscious versus unconscious. Like, you can fall into the trap of becoming productive unconsciously and that’s not a good thing ultimately. Like, you were just chasing tasks because you feel like you should, and chasing the supplements because you feel like it’ll help you chase those tasks which is fundamentally built on something that didn’t matter.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, I guess some thought-provoking stuff here, Gregg. I’m chewing on this. Well, I’d love to get your take then, when you are zeroing in on going after some tiny leaps and you’re experiencing fear, resistance, “Ugh, I don’t feel like it, low motivation.” What do you recommend in terms of summoning the force to get it done?

Gregg Clunis
Yeah. Well, so the first thing, and this isn’t going to help you in that moment but it is something to acknowledge when you are more level-headed, is that motivation isn’t enough. And I think we all unconsciously know this because motivation fails us the moment we actually need it but it’s just not enough to do anything in life.

There’s so much pain and sacrifice involved in changing any small thing in your life because that change is viewed as loss. It’s a loss of that thing that you had, even if that thing was bad, even if it was negative, you started to, in some ways, some small way, identify with that thing as a part of you, and to change it means losing that part of you.

So, there’s a lot of pain and sacrifice required to make any change in your life, and motivation is not enough to get over pain. One of my favorite quotes, and I’ve been meaning to look up where this came from originally, but it’s that, “People do far more to avoid pain than they will to gain pleasure.” Being motivated to gain something is not enough to push through the pain of losing something.

So, with that said, if you do find yourself in that moment where motivation fails you, one thing I’ve found to help me really, really dramatically is to get up and do something else. And that’s one of my biggest issues with the “productivity” industry because humans are not machines and we can’t just endlessly plug away at something. By getting up and doing something else, you’re allowing your subconscious mind to deal with that problem. You’re allowing your body to get the rest it needs. You’re allowing your mind, your eyes rather, to get the rest it needs.

By doing something else, you’re giving yourself the refresher you might need to be able to come back and use willpower or whatever it is to push through the rest of that task. So, don’t be afraid just because something has a due date on it. You’ll probably get it done faster by getting up and doing something else for a short period of time rather than struggling through it for the next hour and only getting five minutes worth of work done.

And just to add to that, there’s a really good book that I highly recommend. It’s called Two Awesome Hours and I’m going to look for the name of the author right now, but it’s written by an NYU neurologist that changed the way that I look at productivity and like what we should be aiming for in our day-to-day lives.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, what is the premise of Two Awesome Hours?

Gregg Clunis
So, as you can probably imagine, Two Awesome Hours is built around this idea that you should be aiming on a day-to-day basis. And this is much more like career-focused, but on a day-to-day basis, you should be aiming to, like, your target is two hours of focused uninterrupted work. That’s it. Now, it might take you eight hours in a day to get those two hours, but they’ve done the research on this. Most of us working in eight-hour day do not work for eight hours.

So, by getting hyper-focused around the idea of, “Okay, I’m just going to get two done, that’s it, just two hours,” that allows you to cut out all the distractions, that allows you to give yourself the space to drift as you might need to. So, if you’re getting distracted, let yourself get distracted for a shorter period of time rather than fighting it for a long period of time. And just playing with this idea of, “What would it need to look like for us to focus for a two-hour window rather than going into it with, ‘I need to focus for the next eight hours,’?”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. I dig it. Well, tell me, Gregg, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we hear about some of your favorite things?

Gregg Clunis
No, I mean, ultimately, listen, when you’re trying to do something in your life, that change, it is big, it is painful, it is a representative of loss, and you shouldn’t downplay it. Like, I think the biggest problem that people have with personal development, and this is certainly true for me, I’m not speaking as a guru here, I’m speaking as someone who struggles with it. The biggest issue that we all have is that we start to beat ourselves up when we don’t hit the goal or when we aren’t as productive as we need to, and then we look for alternatives to fix it, and how are we going to optimize this thing, and whatever it is.

And the truth is, like, this stuff is hard. Like, it is legitimately difficult to do. Approach it with that understanding and give yourself the room to work through that difficult thing. You wouldn’t wake up tomorrow and expect to be able to hit a grand slam in the World Series. But, for some reason, we wake up tomorrow and expect to change our entire lives. That’s ridiculous.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Now, could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Gregg Clunis
The one that really comes to mind for me is not really a quote that I think everyone is going to be able to relate to, but for those of you who do, I think it’ll help a lot, and it’s from my dad. So, for most of my life I’ve been like that ambitious person. Like, I had the big dreams when I was a kid and worked hard and all of that stuff, right? But my biggest flaw was always that I jumped from thing to thing and I would fall massively in love with something, and a week later I’d be done with it and onto the next thing.

And I remember my dad sat me down, maybe four or five years ago, and looked at me and just said, “You have all the potential in the world but you’re going to sabotage yourself.” And it didn’t click for me. Like, when he told me, I actually remembered being very upset. Like, I felt personally attacked, and like all of the defensive stuff, right? It was after he passed away that it finally settled in for me what he was trying to tell me.

And so, for those of you listening that struggle with that, jumping from thing to thing, I want to just pass that to you. You have all the potential in the world, but unless you are able to rein yourself in and spend enough time on something to be able to actually give it a chance of succeeding, you’re going to sabotage yourself.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, we had Jay Papasan on the show in one of the earlier episodes talking about The ONE Thing, just an amazing book, I think.

Gregg Clunis
Oh, phenomenal.

Pete Mockaitis
And he said that, “I learned, as a writer, that there’s a massive difference between being creative, like staying up and having ideas, and actually producing publishable work.” And the latter kind of required him to wake up and consistently put down words at a particular time in his calendar to get the job done.

Gregg Clunis
Yeah, there is a distinction between the two, and both are required, both are good, but at the end of the day, creativity just lives in your head. The thing that puts it out is showing up every day and actually carving that creativity into something. And just real quick, so the book I mentioned before, Two Awesome Hours, it’s written by Josh Davis. And, again, highly, highly recommend it.

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

Gregg Clunis
Ooh, that’s a good one. So, years ago when I first started the show, I think it was Episode 4, I was looking into what happens in the brain when you meditate. Now, I cannot remember, for the life of me, who the study was from or any of those details, but the thing that I learned from it is that when you meditate, it increases, over time obviously, it increases the amount of gray matter, I believe, in the brain. And gray matter is responsible for memory recall, it’s responsible for keeping yourself like calm, and all of those management type things.

And so, there is an actual scientific link, and this I think was the biggest takeaway to me, was meditation isn’t just fluffy. Like, there’s an actual scientific link between you meditating and taking that time, and over time, that increasing your ability in the moment to stay calm and relax and handle complex situations.

Pete Mockaitis
And you mentioned a couple, but how about another favorite book?

[36:01]

Gregg Clunis
There is a book that I’ve finished four days ago, it’s called The Power. And the concept of the book, so it explores what would happen in a world where women suddenly had all the power. So, this isn’t spoiling anything, but something happens and women, for whatever reason, are able to use electric powers essentially. And it’s not magical in any way, like it feels very normal, the way she writes it.

And so, phenomenal book for those of you who like fiction and also love politics and sort of power dynamics and exploring those things.

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

Gregg Clunis
Notion. I recently discovered Notion.so. And when I tell you, I’ve never been able to use any project management tool for my business. They just never felt right. Notion, every single thing that I sit here and I’m like, “Oh, I wish it could…” I immediately try it and it can do it. Now, I don’t know what the team behind it is doing to make that possible, but please don’t stop if you’re listening to this.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite habit?

Gregg Clunis
I would say journaling before bed. And it’s something that I’ve been able to maintain as a habit. I definitely slip, I would say, every other night or so, but whenever I do it, it feels like I’m able to actually clear my head and get better quality sleep. And the only nights that I don’t do it are when I end up staying up late for other reasons, and because it’s now late, I just essentially crash. But the sleep quality is never as good if I don’t journal.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks, they repeat it back to you?

Gregg Clunis
All big changes come from the tiny leaps you take every day. It’s such a simple concept but I think that most people know it. So, speaking of my book, one of the number one reviews for it on Amazon is, “Oh, there’s nothing new here.” And I find it funny when I read that, like it’s positioned as a negative thing. But I find it funny reading that because there is nothing new in self-help. You already know what works. The only reason you listen to me or you listen to this show is because you’re searching for some kind of edge to make it work better. But guess what? You know what works. Just do that.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Gregg Clunis
I would tell them, if you like podcasts, which clearly you do, head over to Tiny Leaps, Big Changes. Just do a search wherever you’re listening to this, or on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Pandora, pretty much every platform. And then if you are interested in connecting further, November 1st, which I’m pretty sure this is publishing after that, but November 1st, we are launching the new Tiny Leaps website at TinyLeaps.fm and so you’ll find articles from our contributors, you’ll find podcast episodes, you’ll find videos in the near future, and it’s just sort of the next expansion of the podcast to a larger media platform.

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

Gregg Clunis
I would say look at today, I don’t care what time you’re listening to this, it could be midnight, but right after you’re done listening to us, I would challenge you to really sit down with pen and paper, and just ask yourself, “What is it that I actually want?” Especially with career, it’s so easy to get caught up in just the ladder of it and the cycle of it, but it’s really important to make sure you retain actual control over the direction of things are going and where you want to push it specifically, because otherwise you’ll wake up 50 years from now.

And a good friend of mine, Dominick Quartuccio, explained this to me. The definition of hell is waking up at the end of your life and seeing what your life could’ve been had you done the things you said you wanted to do. So, start asking yourself, “What is it that I actually want to do?” and then start taking those actions tomorrow.

Pete Mockaitis
Gregg, this has been fun. Keep on rocking.

Gregg Clunis
Thank you so much for having me.

510: The Science Behind Successful Teams with Dr. Janice Presser

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Dr. Janice Presser says: "In efficient teams, people are able to share time appropriately... in the act of sharing it, they actually cause time to expand."

Dr. Janice Presser discusses how to build better teams using the science of teaming.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The 10 ways people contribute to a team
  2. Three questions to resolve team friction
  3. Two strategies for managing up

About Janice

Dr. Janice Presser spent her formative years researching how people team together, and found answers in systems theory and physics. Having written her first line of code in high school, she was positioned to architect a system to measure how people work together and develop the underlying theory and practice of Teaming Science. The author of seven books on teaming, she consults to executives and is currently working on the question of how spatial technology will impact human relationships in the future.

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Janice Presser Interview Transcript

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

Dr. Janice Presser
It’s awesome to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to get into your wisdom. And maybe you can start us off by orienting us a bit to what is Team Science and Teamability?

Dr. Janice Presser
Well, I started out life like anybody else trying to get all kinds of education. And the most important thing, I think, that I learned in way too many years of education was about asking questions. So, eventually, I became assistant scientist, that’s what my doctorate is in, and I was very interested in physics. But I was always interested in people.

And so, I actually started to think about, “What’s going on between people? And can we apply what we know from general systems theory and from physics to really understand what’s happening?” Well, fast forward many years after that, and the result was two things. One, a theory of teaming that we eventually proved out, and I did have a research colleague, or three, to help me think that through. And then the second thing was developing a technology by which you could measure it in an objective way.

You see, back in the day, there were lots of personality tests and everybody has probably taken them. You can’t apply for a job often without being asked to do something, and so personality tests were pretty key. But a personality trait is really just a slice of a person, kind of how they represent themselves at the time. And that wasn’t getting to the kind of, “Where’s the meat of what I want to understand?”

I mean, I had a whole lot of questions that maybe you and your listeners have. For instance, I always have to ask this question, “Do you really want to work on a team? Or do you really want to lead a team? Maybe you’ll really have much more fun working on your own, whether that’s occasionally being with other people and teaming with them, which is the way most consultants are, independent consultants, anyway. Or do you have a particular talent that you just love to do, and you might be a performance artist in any way?” To try and think of teaming as something better than or above what’s in your very nature, to help you contribute to the world. That makes no sense.

So, what made a whole lot of sense to me was, “How can we help people figure that out?” And so, I found out that there were really three key measures to understanding that.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. Well, so what are those three measures?

Dr. Janice Presser
Okay. First is, and they have names, so the first one is role, not to be confused with the way recruiters will use it, like, “I think you’re ready for a leadership role,” or something like that. But in the sense of, “How do you, in your deepest heart of hearts, get the most satisfaction out of making some contribution to the larger world?”

And, in the course of our research, we, in fact, validated that there are 10 ways, very general ways, and you do them in your own way, of course, that people contribute to the world. Some of us, and I suspect, Pete, you may be very similar to me in this, we like to work with ideas, big, long-range, huge ideas that might even change the world. And that’s a very different way of contributing to the world than, for instance, loving to organize it.

If we’re very lucky, and even in our first job, and even before that, and definitely in our personal relationships, we get to be with people who love to do the things that, hmmm, kind of leave us cold. And they, in turn, don’t really want to do what we do, so it gives us lots of latitude to kind of perfect and try new things out on the way that we do.

So, we use that term to designate this. And when you go through Teamability, which is the technology, you get to star in a series of 10 movies, and that will determine that. And the important thing is that once you know that, you can better align what you are doing or the kind of job you’re looking for. And on the hiring side, you’ll actually get people who’ll perform better because we all do best what we like best, and we like best what we do best, so let’s stop trying to change that. That’s human nature. It’s how we work. So, that’s the first thing.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’d love to hear, so there’s 10 of them. We talked about ideas and organizing. What are the others?

Dr. Janice Presser
Well, there are people who love to take those big visions that we come up with, and then drive them to strategic reality. And those are my favorite people for being consultants because they’re great at strategy. They analyze fantastically. But then they would prefer to break the work down, assign it out to other people who are just waiting to know what to do, and then when it all comes back to them, they might reorganize it and put the finishing touches on a report. But, essentially, their job is almost advisory and analytical in nature.

Now, that’s all great. But in order to put a company together, it’s very helpful to have someone who will then take those great big strategies and all that analyses, and help kind of hone everything down, in a sense, shape and form the strategy in a way that real people can do the work on a real day-to-day basis. And so, once they’re done doing that, then you’ve got a whole bunch of people who just love doing stuff. And those are the people who love doing things, like sales, like things that are much more immediate. When they lead, they lead on the ground, and they’re the greatest team-spirit people of all.

You know, the good neighbor that you have, the one who works all day, and then coaches the kids’ soccer team, and always wants to help you out, that very well may be a very action-oriented people. And then you need those organized ones. Then you need the people who go away from the team and bring treasures back to the team. Often, they don’t think of themselves as team players, but they’re so essential. They’re the innovation people and they’re almost magical. They see things that the rest of us might just not even notice.

And then it’s very helpful when they bring those great things back to organizations to have someone whose job is, well, best described by kind of like a controller does with money. Money comes in, and they use the money in such a way that will advance the goals of the organization in the best way. They don’t treat it like it’s theirs and hoard it, but it’s more of an investing in people, in process, in whatever it is that the company does.

Let’s see. I’ve got three more to go. There are the people who like to fix immediate problems that get in the rest of our way and mess up our ability to do our jobs. People like that often are very underappreciated because they’re there, they fix it, and they’re gone. And so, always remember, if they weren’t there to do it, you’d have to do it yourself. So, that’s an important thing.

And then there are the people who are kind of the historians of the organization, the librarians, in a sense, the curators of whatever it is that our business has done in the past, the things that have worked. And they’re very good at understanding, “What should we keep? And what should we just pass on, you know, kind of move on?”

And then there’s kind of the glue that holds all organizations together. And those are the people who go between everyone and they know what’s going on. In a very well-functioning organization, they know so many people that they can actually broker informal deals. You know, one part of a big organization may have lots of resources that another part of the organization is starving for. And these are the people whose great joy it is to bring needs and wants together, to bring people together for the spreading of community, of being that. Hopefully, we all have a great friend like that somewhere who we feel like when they’re listening to us, time goes away.

So, that’s the quick story on those.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, we got the idea people, the organizing people, the visions and the strategy folks, the strategy, the tasks folks, the executing the task on the ground, the innovation treasures bringing back the allocation of resources, the immediate problem fixers, the historians, and then the glue, so those are 10.

Dr. Janice Presser
They are. They all have special names, of course, but you can learn about that on the website. But there’s more to that. There’s more to having a great fit with your job, and these are the two other things. First is what we call coherence because it’s straight out of physics. It answers the question of, “Under what working conditions will you do your best?”

So, here’s my favorite example because, well, I kind of been in both. For most people, stress, ambiguity, uncertainty, is very uncomfortable and so they really don’t want a job that’s more stressful than they’re comfortable with, right? We’re all pretty much like that. But there’s a small subset of people for whom what other people call stress, well, let’s just say we call that excitement and fun. And we probably work best as entrepreneurs, which is about as uncertain as you can get.

People might say, “Well, you’re a risk-taker.” Well, there’s a difference between taking risks and really enjoying a pretty tumultuous kind of culture. So, lots of startup tech is like that. And if you don’t enjoy it, the environment is not going to change and probably you aren’t either. So, why are you working in an environment which isn’t any fun for you? And this works in the reverse.

My very first job, which was very long time ago, when, I’m sorry to say, women did not have the breadth of choices that they have now, I worked for a very large city. And it was probably the most boring job I ever had, and that was because nothing changed. There was no excitement. I would’ve enjoyed being named the commissioner but, of course, I was only 21, and that wasn’t going to happen. There just wasn’t enough opportunity to make something happen.

And so, if you really, really want to make something happen, don’t be in a job where you can’t do anything. It will only be uncomfortable just in the opposite direction. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, certainly. And so then, what are some of the particular parameters by which we often see, “Ooh, we got high coherence here or low coherence there”?

Dr. Janice Presser
Well, if you were in the kind of job where making a decision and having it carried out very quickly is very important, then that’s a very high coherence, requires a very high coherence kind of culture. On the other hand, in many government-type of agencies, and I hope this would change, somebody used to refer to this to me as the Department of Redundancy department, to have the desire to make fast change will only be frustrating.

So, if in fact you’re selling into an environment like that, you need to enjoy a slower, more leisurely, and probably more enjoyable to you, kind of environment. What you want is the match. What isn’t better than the other or worse, the question is, “What’s good for you?”

Pete Mockaitis
And so then, you listed a couple dimensions where we might find coherence. We got the sort of like the sameness versus difference, the quick versus slow. What are some of those other key dimensions?

Dr. Janice Presser
Ambiguity. Uncertainty. If you don’t like change, it’s okay, but you’re not going to be happy in a very high-change kind of environment. So, with startup tech companies making the fast pivot. Well, a fast pivot in tech is like a fast pivot on a basketball court. It can leave your head spinning. And the fact is some people enjoy that sensation and other people don’t, so it’s more of a matchup. And that’s what the technology is used for on both sides.

So, I do a lot of consulting now not only to organizations but to people who just want to know, “Do I have to keep doing what I always did?” Well, the answer is, if you listen to many career counselors, the answer will be yes. And the fact is it’s true, the HR Department might toss your resume if you’ve never had experience in the thing that you really believe is going to make your heart sing.

But you know what? It’s a gig economy now and you don’t have to have a 9:00 to 5:00 job anymore if what’s preferable to you is to really enjoy what you’re doing. There are so many different ways to learn new things and to then try them out and they’ll either fly or they’ll fail. But until you’ve had a couple of good failures under your belt, life may be boring. Again, it’s, “What are you going to be interested in?”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, we got the role, we got the coherence, and what’s the third one?

Dr. Janice Presser
The third one is a big group, and collectively we refer to them as teaming characteristics. There are tens of thousands, and many people say, “Well, that’s synonymous kind of with culture.” And people are measuring culture in a whole lot of different ways now but, yes, you can use that to dig a little deeper into what you think your culture is, because, actually, in a well-functioning company, you have a lot of subcultures.

Nobody wants the, oh, let’s say, the scientific development part of the company to be like the culture in the customer service department or social media, if you have one. Think about what do you have to do to do you job well? Does it involve chit chatting with a whole lot of people and making them feel comfortable and part of your community? Or are you much more cut and dried and let’s get to the bottom of how are we going to cure this disease?

Nobody expects chitchat in the laboratory. In fact, many of the best scientists I know, other people might call antisocial. No, it’s just that in order to think about the things you have to think about, if you’re going to be a scientist, you just don’t have all that much time to give to things that aren’t related to that. So, as I said, there are tens of thousands of different teaming characteristics, and they’ll show up on a report or not if they’re not prominent. And the fact is they’re for kind of micro fitting to an environment. So, for instance, believe it not, there are actually some accountants who are very friendly and very social.

Pete Mockaitis
I can believe this. I can believe it, yeah.

Dr. Janice Presser
I know. I’ve even known some of them, even though the stereotype is you have your head in the numbers and all of that. Well, guess what? If you went to school and you’ve got that coveted CPA and you’re keeping up with those credits, now make sure you put it on your calendar, because if you’re like this and you’re good with people, you’re probably not great with times. Just put it on your calendar and you’ll be okay.

You have the perfect job waiting for you. All those accounting companies, they need somebody like you who both understands accounting and loves to talk to people so you should be the one that’s going out to all of the, oh, you know, the meetups where the new companies are and selling the services of those other people who’ll then do this part of the work which you probably don’t enjoy that much.

So, this is true for anyone. You’re going to have some teaming characteristics maybe that make you a great fit in one environment. But the same job title in a completely different environment? They just leave you cold and not be satisfying at all. And then there are some that are not going to be relevant at all to what you’re doing but maybe they’re important to you in your personal life because you know how happy you are at work will be reflected when you come home.

I mean, seriously, if the thing that happens after you’ve been at work all day is that you come home and you kick the cat or you pick a fight with the person who loves you the most in this world, you’re not having an awesome work day at all. And it’s not that you aren’t awesome as a human being, and that that job isn’t awesome for somebody else, but that oomph, it’s just that the awesomeness is not aligning and nobody is going to be happy.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, you talked about teaming characteristics, you’ve mentioned some, hey, you like talking to people, or be in deep inside the lab and not talking to people. Do you have sort of like the 10 for the roles, you have a set list that show up the most often?

Dr. Janice Presser
Oh, no. No. Actually, no, because this is a multidimensional way of looking at things. We’re actually measuring how the space will go between you and someone else. So, for instance, here’s an example straight out of reality. I was talking to someone, and she had a particular teaming characteristic… You know how we all have our blind spots? We’re human. We all have our blind spots and we pretty much all have the stuff that we really don’t enjoy doing.

Well, she happened to have a pretty big blind spot and, in the course of our conversation, she said to me, “Oh, my God, that’s my husband. And when he does that,” she said, “I have a terrible time listening to him.” She said, “Sometimes it’s like I don’t even understand the words that he’s saying.” And I said, “Well, that’s really great. Obviously, you’ve been brought together so that you can learn from him, how to then apply, loving what he does and he contributes to your world, into your professional life.” And she said, she was a little speechless, and she said, “That’s exactly how it worked.”

And I found out later that when they were planning to get married, they had both been sent by their premarital counselor at their church, they’ve both been given a personality test. And two separate religious advisors advised them not to get married because they were so different. Well, 10 years later and a couple of kids, and these people are happy. But understanding even more why that seemingly odd block was there to their getting together, “Why should this be here?” when, otherwise, everything works well is not dissimilar from what happens in the workplace.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, there we have it. So, we’ve got these components, and so then I guess I’m curious in terms of there’s a lot to be said associated with match and then the interaction amongst people there. And so, are there any particular best practice behaviors within teams and organizations that just are quite wise because they make good application of this knowledge?

Dr. Janice Presser
Well, understanding that people are healthier when they do what they love, and they’ll get along better with everyone. What you want to do is start out by aligning what the person really is like, that is their role, their coherence, their teaming characteristics, with the work that you’re expecting them to do. And so, my favorite best practice for managers is this.

You know how we all hate doing performance evaluations? Seriously, if there’s anyone out there who loves doing performance evaluations, please let me know. I haven’t met you yet. But most people, we don’t like doing them as managers, and people don’t like listening to them because nobody’s ever perfect. And sometimes your compensation is tied to it. So, this is my way of evaluating people as a manager, three simple questions.

First, “Are you doing enough of what you really like?” Pete, are you? I think you are in this job.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah.

Dr. Janice Presser
Right. “Are you doing too many things that you don’t like?” Now, I know you’re doing a few things you don’t like because, well, doing a podcast involves having to do a whole lot of technical things that are besides the point, but you do it just like startup people do it. You do that stuff because it’s important to the achievement of the vision, which is, in your case obviously, the world-changing podcast, right? So, that’s okay.

But if you were working for someone else, and let’s say 10% of your work are things that you love and 90% are things that you didn’t, you’d probably go looking for a new job and I wouldn’t blame you. And then the final question I asks is, “So, what can we do together to make it better?” That’s it. And then for the manager, you can start to look at the work that your team is expected to do in a whole new way. Just look at it from above. Think of your team as a living, breathing thing, the team itself, I mean. And that team has needs to get to whatever its mission is, whatever you’re supposed to be doing, and that part doesn’t matter.

And then you can look at, “What does the team actually need in order to get to the achievement of the mission? And who would like to do these things the best?” So, sometimes the job descriptions that get handed down from HR to HR to HR don’t really align with the real people that are in your team. Just because you have an official description doesn’t mean that you, as a manager, shouldn’t just be able to just get the work done, take care of business in the way that makes sense for everybody.

It isn’t that difficult and I’m always delighted when I’ve gone in and advised someone and everybody’s gone through the technology, and we’re looking at reports, and coming up with suggestions, and I find out that they already started moving some bits and pieces of job descriptions around and redistributing work to make people happier. And then, of course, they always report back the positive effect it has because it has the physical effect of removing friction. It takes out the friction.

Sometimes what you discover is that you have hired a little too much in your own image and it’s not an uncommon thing. So, very strategic people will often hire people who they see as being strategic thinkers. The problem is that’s not required if the job is to manage day-to-day operations. All you’re going to do is have a lot of people who want to do the same thing for the team and nobody who wants to do what the team really needs in one or more areas. And that’s a guaranteed fail.

You’ll get somebody to halfheartedly do it, they’ll probably do it, but they’ll be either putting their resume out on the street or they’ll be getting their satisfaction somewhere else and you will sink to the bottom on their important list.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, that’s a cautionary tale. Thank you. And so then, if you are the individual professional and you are getting some awareness for what you need, and you would like to get more of that, what are some of your pro tips for managing up effectively to make that happen?

Dr. Janice Presser
Ah, managing up is always a challenge. Managing up is a whole interesting kind of thing. We often think of our boss like kind of a super parent, right? So, they know more, they’re more powerful, and please stop making that assumption because it’s probably not true. In fact, very often you may be reporting to someone who is not, in fact, making your work ready for you, to make it more accessible to you. It’s not a failing on their part, it’s kind of a systemic failing that there is nobody kind of managing the transition from the strategy into the action.

But sometimes you’re below in the hierarchy but you’re really, really good at that. So, keeping in mind that one of the things that you need to not do is to invoke a whole lot of fear in the person who you’re reporting to. Oh, that’s very important. Fear diffuses people’s energy. Fear just makes them less coherent. You want to encourage the coherence, or the holding together, the sharpness, the focus of the person who you’re reporting to.

And so, now again, depending on your field for what kind of certainty environment do they want, you may need to give them the feeling that things are very even keel before you go to them with a whole lot of complaints about how things are not working out. If you have somebody who gives you that fear response or defensive response immediately, retreat. Because if you make them more defensive, they will turn that back on you. Unless, of course, you want to get fired to collect some unemployment while you’re following your dream. I make no judgment whatsoever on that.

Remember, you have your special way of contributing to the world and so do other people. And your way may actually be more effective in your boss’ job than they are, so you have to tread carefully. Here’s another little secret. We are all motivated by the same things, and I’m just going to talk about two of them quickly and tell you how you can use that.

So, everybody has some level of motivation towards power, not power over people but empowerment, you know, feeling, “I’ll be able to do this. I can drive the business,” whatever it is that makes you feel exhilarated and powerful and instrumental in your world.

The other major motivator is affiliation, friendliness, being liked. Now, you can’t make assumptions on that. We sound like we’re having a very friendly conversation, I’m sure, to podcast listeners. But I will be the first to confess, I’m all about the power and affiliation pretty much has always taking a backseat in my life. So, it’s not bothered me if somebody didn’t like me or I’d scared them enough that they didn’t want me in their company anymore because I really wanted to do my own company and have a culture. That was the way I envisioned it. That would be fun for everyone.

So, if you can get a feel for what’s more important to your boss, this is what you can do. Are you ready?

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, indeed.

Dr. Janice Presser
So, if your boss is very high in power, and, Pete, I’m going to make the assumption you are because if you weren’t wanting to be instrumental in this world, you never would’ve started a podcast, or been a great consultant, or anything else that you do. So, how I’m going to approach you is, even though I’m normally a real power person, I’m going to go in very low in power, and I’m going to say something like, “You know, Pete, I’ve been trying to solve this customer problem, and I just need to ask your help.”

Now that’s going to be hard for me because normally I’ve got 17 solutions and I’d like to go in and say, “Pete, could you give me like 50 people so we could try these things out?” But recognizing you’re a motivator, I can enhance that and bring it over to my side to engage you to use your desire for power to help me solve my problem.

Second thing, so I’m going to go opposite. Now, by the reverse, let’s say I’m trying to manage up and I’ve got a boss who’s not very motivated by power. If you’re working in customer service, particularly in a call center, that may be true for you. So, I want to go in with the reverse. For instance, something like, and I can’t even say, Pete, because it’s very unlike you, but let’s say, “Joe, I’ve been giving this some thought and I’m wondering if this might be a very effective way to do things and I’m going to give you a chart with maybe a few bullet points or something. And I’m going to be very happy if you adopt it for your own.”

So, I’d be going in in the opposite direction, so on that power gradient you always want to be the reverse of what the other person is. But, on the cordiality dimension, you want to match up with someone. So, that’s pretty easy. If somebody is very friendly, go in first with a giant smile on your face no matter how much you have to complain about. And if you’re a power person, this can be a hard lesson to learn, okay, because you’re going to have to use some of your desire to be powerful to learn how friendly people interact. It’s not that difficult, just observe a few.

For instance, they always smile. No one ever has to tell a very cordial customer service person, “Smile before you pick the phone up.” No, it’s we power people who need that reminder. So, go in with a smile and with love in your heart, that’s love on a casual, cordial level, not bad, don’t get the HR police on you, none of that stuff. And go in with something that matches their level of cordiality when they’re on the friendly level.

Now, here’s the caveat here. Sometimes you walk into a situation where the other person is anything but cordial. In fact, they’re spitting nails, they’re furious and all that, and your instinct, and, of course, since I’ve just told you to match that cordiality level, might be to yell right back at them. Don’t do that. The way you’d match low cordiality would be to just go cold, kind of blank, blank expression, no smiles. If you smile, the other person is going to think you’re a complete idiot, so try not to do that even though that may be always your natural inclination to try and warm people up.

If you go in minus your usual cordiality level, that is you go in with no smile, no yelling, but no smile, eventually that will move the needle on the other person’s cordiality as they warm it up a little bit, and they say maybe, “Ugh, excuse me, I’ve been having a horrible day. The furnace exploded and the cat had 17 kittens, and I don’t know what to do.” Then you can warm it up and say, “I’ve had those days too,” a little half smile. If they go to full smile, bring it up to full smile.

But managing somebody is a matter of really managing them where they are. And that has some changes during the day. Everyone has kind of the motivator that is always going to spark something in them. But there’s always enough room for you to get in under there. As long as you understand that you can never, don’t yell back, that will never be effective. And what you really want to get to is a level of respect and trust on a mutually-agreed upon framework that actually works to help you both be more productive.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, tell me, Janice, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we hear about some of your favorite things?

Dr. Janice Presser
Oh, my God, let’s see. I think the main thing for managing up, it dates back to our childhood. When we’re kids, the person who has the more powerful title is always the one we’re afraid of, and we know they’re more powerful because mommy and daddy can make that car go, and they can sign their name, and we get food in the house and things like that. It doesn’t work that way at work. We’re all adults, right?

You may be working for someone much more educated or anything else, but you deserve to have that respect and trust at the level that you give out also. So, just do not be afraid of it. Go ahead and use it. I’m forever challenging particularly because, I guess, I run into it more, younger women who are not taking command of their scene. Go ahead. Just do it. Whatever you think is in the way, you can overcome it. And if you trip over it, just get up and do it again. It will be fine. I’m living proof.

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

Dr. Janice Presser
You know, this is the back in the olden days, and I don’t know if this is true now. We had to memorize a poem, and I think this might’ve been third or fourth grade. And I think I probably memorized this one because it was dark but it was powerful. And it’s “Invictus,” it’s the last stanza of “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley.

“It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.”

That’s always spoken to me.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. And how about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Dr. Janice Presser
My favorite is my ongoing research, and it’s about the only quantitative research that I actually enjoy. And that’s my counting the number of times people have said to me, after I’ve told them about something, not knowing the person that we’re talking about, but just on the basis of their Teamabilty report. And they said, “Oh, my God, that’s dead accurate.”

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. And how about a favorite book?

Dr. Janice Presser
Oh, all right. Well, I don’t know if you’ve read this, but they did make a movie, and I haven’t been able to bring myself to see the movie because I love the book so much. And it’s Madeleine L’Engle’s book A Wrinkle in Time and it’s a children’s book, and it’s part of her Time Trilogy which won all kinds of wonderful awards. And I love it because of the science in it.

But I mostly love it for what she said about it. And what she said was, “When I have a topic that’s too difficult for adults to understand, I write it as a children’s book.” And she inspired me enormously.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite tool or something you use to be awesome at your job?

Dr. Janice Presser
Ah, Lose It! LoseIt.com because you live in a physical body and you need lots of energy. And, yes, I am older than I look, and I have to give lots of credit to Lose It! I think I’ve been using it way past 10 years. It’s just, “What are you eating? What are you exercising? And what other goals do you have?” It’s grown as I guess as I’ve grown and used with it. So, there are lots of things you can track with it that are measures of, “Am I spending enough time during the day reflecting on am I going to have enough energy to accomplish all these things I want to do?” And if you haven’t figured it out by now, retirement is not one of those things that I want to do.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks?

Dr. Janice Presser
Oh, boy. Well, I will tell you what someone else has told me. I actually don’t remember when I even wrote this, but people are always reminding me that I said it. And I said, “In efficient teams, people are able to share time appropriately. They cooperate over it. And in the act of sharing it, they actually cause it to expand.”

And that’s what happens on great teams, is that at the end of the day, we don’t feel tired. We go home and we feel renewed and so we give more to our people, our family, our friends, or whoever is in our community, our cities, our states, our countries, the whole world, our entire environment. And that’s what is important to me.

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

Dr. Janice Presser
TeamingScience.com where you’ll learn about teaming science. Of course, if you want to follow my blog, I do, some is team-oriented but some of it goes off in other directions. And it’s just my name, DrJanicePresser.com, and I think there are links on either that will take you to the other. Please feel free to send me an email through either site. I love hearing from people in how they’re doing things. And, of course, you can always follow me on Twitter @DrJanice. She sometimes tweets a little rude but it’s been over 10 years and still tweeting there. And @TeamingScience is more new. So, if it’s tips you’re looking for, I’ll be getting to get those out soon.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, Janice, this has been a lot of fun. Please keep up the great work.

Dr. Janice Presser
Thank you. It’s been great to be here with you, Pete.

509: How to Become the Manager Your Team Needs with FranklinCovey’s Todd Davis

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Todd Davis of FranklinCovey says: Everyone deserves a great manager.

Todd Davis explains why people are bad at managing—and what to do about it. 

You’ll Learn:

  1. Where most managers fail
  2. How to overcome the fear of feedback
  3. A productivity hack to keep your week from spiraling

About Todd

Todd Davis has been with FranklinCovey for more than two decades and serves as the chief people officer. As the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Get Better: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work, Todd has delivered keynote presentations and speeches around the globe, including at the renowned World Business Forum. Todd has been featured in Inc. magazine, Fast Company, and the Harvard Business Review. He and his family reside in Holladay, Utah.

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Todd Davis Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Todd, welcome back to the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Todd Davis
Thank you, Pete. Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m such a big admirer of FranklinCovey and the work you guys do and several of your folks over there who’ve appeared in the podcast. I’d love to hear, what’s some of the newest, latest, coolest insights coming out of FranklinCovey over the last year or two?

Todd Davis
Wow! That’s a loaded question. Well, FranklinCovey, I’ve been here for, going on 24 years now, so lots of great things during that time. Most recently, and this has been maybe a little bit longer than two years but we’re still involved in it, a big business model change where we now have what’s called an all-access-pass model.

So, previously people that would engage with FranklinCovey would purchase our solutions or have our consultants come in for a specific solution, and we still do that, but now it’s more of a subscription model where people have access to everything and anything that FranklinCovey does. And we have, well, we call them implementation specialists that come into your organization or your team and help create these learning journeys. So, that’s probably the biggest, one of the biggest changes I’ve seen in my career here.

On a more recent change, the book that I believe we’re going to talk about, Everyone Deserves A Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team just hit the Wall Street Journal’s bestseller list today, it just came out today.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, excellent.

Todd Davis
So, very excited about that. That was not why we wrote the book but it’s nice to see that validation of how it’s resonating with leaders and managers and others all around the world.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, let’s dig into that. I think that’s a beautiful vision statement put out there, everyone deserves a great manager. So, what do you say is sort of how well the world is doing right now, or maybe the U.S. in particular, that’s easier, in terms of what proportion of folks do, in fact, have a great manager and how are we defining that?

Todd Davis
Well, yeah, it’s such a great question. You know, I was talking with my group as part of our book launch last week, and we made the analogy, if you get on an airplane, you sit down in the seat, and you’re ready to relax for a minute, then the pilot comes on and she or he says, “Thanks for flying with us. I’m not really a trained pilot but I have an interest in flying and I may get my license one day. But, relax, welcome to Good Luck Airlines.”

Your immediate response, at least mine is, “I got to get off this plane.” And while that’s kind of an overly-dramatic analogy, this is what happens in the real world. We have good people, really good people, and according to a Harvard Business Review study, they’re put in their first manager role, on average, at about age 30 and yet don’t receive any management or leadership training until age 42, if ever, so there’s this 12-year gap where they’re like this pilot trying to do the best job they can but it’s kind of like, “Welcome to Good Luck Leadership.”

[03:02]

And our instincts, and what happens in reality, is we leave that company, we leave that manager. Yes, people need to be paid fair, they need to have benefits, they need to do challenging work, but study after study shows that people leave because of their leader, because of their manager, or they join or they stay because of that leader. So, not only does everyone deserve a great manager, if you’re going to have a successful team organization, you got to invest in and be one.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, I’m sold. I’m convinced. And so then, I’d like to hear maybe just to orient kind of what that looks like when someone goes from not so great, haven’t been trained, to making that transformation, what’s that kind of look like in terms of the starting line, and then the transformation, and then what it looks like on the other side? And if there’s a particular client or manager that comes to mind, feel free to share that story.

Todd Davis
Absolutely. Well, when I asked groups around the world, “Who’s ever had a bad manager?” every hand goes up. And, again, I want to distinguish between a bad person and a bad manager, but a manager who really wasn’t qualified to lead people. And then I talked to them about why they felt this person, what was the person lacking, or what was the gap. Many different things, of course, but a large majority of them center around the person’s ability to really empathize and communicate. Communication is like the number one thing that comes up.

And so, I’m not just saying that, well, if you can become a great communicator, then you’ll be a great manager. But that seems to be where it all starts, or most of the time. And so, to your question, “What is it like to go from a bad leadership or management situation, where I don’t really have a lot of respect or appreciation for a manager, to a great one?” It starts there with someone who is real with me, communicates with me, and the feeling, as you asked, “What is the feeling?” it’s a feeling of validation, of acknowledgement.

Not that I’m perfect, but that the work I do matters, that you care about me as a person, not just as the project leader or the frontline person or whatever my role is, but you care about me as a person. You’re looking through a lens of a leader’s mindset versus an individual contributor’s mindset. So, I got to be careful because I’m very passionate about this, and I want to make sure we get all your question answered. But mindset is where it really starts. In fact, that’s the person we talked about in the book, is the importance of having a leader’s mindset.

Pete Mockaitis
Now that piece about they really communicate, I saw, it was a Harvard Business Review study another guest brought up, it said that the majority of managers are uncomfortable communicating about anything.

[06:01]

Todd Davis
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
I just couldn’t even wrap my brain around this study. I got to understand, hey, there’s some hard conversations, difficult to give some feedback or corrective, but it’s just like across the board. So, can you maybe paint a fuller picture in terms of not communicating? I mean, words are exchanged surely. So, what’s kind of the base level of communication that doesn’t really count, doesn’t get the job done, versus kind of an example of great communication, like, “Wow! Okay, this is what a great manager sounds like”?

Todd Davis
Great. Great question. I’ve been in leadership roles for about 25 years. I’ve been observing and coaching leaders during that time as well. And I think, to start with, there are many reasons why the communication is poor, we don’t communicate at all as managers, but those that I’ve worked with, well, I wouldn’t say the number one reason, but the top two reasons are they’re very busy, they’ve got a lot to do as a manager, and that’s caused by the fact that they don’t have the right lenses on, they don’t have the right mindset. And so, they view themselves as too busy to spend the time necessary with their team. That’s one of the first barriers to communication.

The other, and it’s really a close runner up, is when you say they’re uncomfortable communicating it’s because they feel like they have to have all the answers, “I don’t want to open up a conversation, and then my team member that I’m leading ask me something and I don’t know what to do.” And both of those are incorrect ways to look at things.

Number one, if I’m in a leadership role and I don’t have time to meet with my people, I need to get out of that leadership role. That’s what I’m thinking about. My number one job as a leader is to get results with and through others. And so, to have that kind of be a mental barrier, talking about communicating, is really what I need to address.

The second issue of having to have all the answers, again, wrong way to think about it. I don’t have credibility with you because I have all the answers. I have or intend to have credibility with you because I know how to facilitate an engaging discussion, I know how to go and find and pull in people who will help so together we can find the right answers.

So, “I’m afraid to discuss with someone because I don’t have the right answers or maybe I need to give them some feedback, and I’m uncomfortable with how to give them a feedback. I don’t want to offend them, or I just want the problem, if it’s a problem, to go away.” These are all things that get in the way of effective communication. And we can certainly go into some examples and some actual dialogue of what a communication should look like.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, I think we may well do that. And so, when you say too busy to spend the time necessary, I guess there’s probably a lot of flexibility on that range, like just how much time is necessary. But do you have a sense in terms of, “Hey, this much time is not enough time”? Like, what’s sort of the minimum recommended daily allowance that we’re talking about here?

[09:15]

Todd Davis
Yeah. Well, it’s certainly varies with the industry we’re in, with the roles we’re in in those industries, with the number of people we have reporting to us. Practice number two of the book that we’ll get into is to hold regular one-on-ones. And so, specific to your question, whether I’m holding a 30-minute one-on-one with each team member every week, or every other week, or even once a month. While the frequency is somewhat important, it’s the consistency.

If I commit to say, “Hey, Pete, I’d like us to…we’ll see each other and work together on many things throughout the month, but I’d like us to meet once a month with the sole purpose of finding out what’s working for you, what’s not working for you, what can I do to help remove barriers. So, could you have that in mind? And as we get close to that time each month, I’ll send you a little form that I use, and you just…I want to make sure we get all of your topics addressed.” You make the meeting about them.

So, the frequency and the amount of time will vary with the number of reports you have, the direct reports you have, but the most important thing is the consistency. Once you made that commitment, if you cancel on that or you continually reschedule or move it back, it unintentionally, and I hope it’s unintentional, it sends a message to that person that I say I value you but I really don’t value you as much as I do this other thing that came up.

Pete Mockaitis
Right, yes. That completely resonates. And that’s, I think, reassuring in terms of there’s some flexibility there with regard to the scheduling. And if someone is frightened by the notion of, “I have 18 direct reports,” it’s like, well, 30 minutes once a month, mathematically speaking, it results in nine hours per month out of maybe a 160 work-hours. Doing real-time math here. Five or six percent of your day is one-on-one conversations. And that doesn’t sound so outrageous. As I imagine, you probably get some pushback, like just that, “I don’t have time for all these, Todd.”

Todd Davis
A lot of pushback. And, again, I go back to, “Are you really ready to be in a leadership role?” Again, going back to practice number one of the book “Develop a leader’s mindset,” I like to ask leaders and those that I coach, “Do you want to be a great leader or do you want your team led by a great leader?” And people will pause, and I’ve had a few people say, “Well, okay, help me understand the difference. Do I want to be a great leader or do I want my team led by a great leader?” And it is a very subtle difference.

And in my experience, if you want to be a great leader, you probably do a lot of really good things during the day. You add value to your company and all that, that’s fine. If you shift that mindset a little bit and, every morning, you wake up and you have the mindset of, “I want my team led by a great leader,” then I’m looking at everything through their lens. “What do they need? How can I help Aaron reach his full potential? What does Blair need to complete this project?”

[12:28]

And so, again, it sounds subtle but then it makes it not just easier, much more meaningful to say, “Gosh, nine hours out of my month, or 10 hours out of my month…” based on the numbers you gave me, “…to spend investing in making sure I understand what my team needs because I want them led by a great leader, I’m going to be much more effective, they’re going to be that much more effective and engaged. And time and time again, I’ve seen it. Our team is going to produce much better results and much more meaningful to the bottom line.” So, it’s not just a nice to have and it’s not just that everyone deserves a great manager, you’ve got to be a great manager to help your organization and your team stay in business.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, certainly. And I just think about retention, I think that’s sort of been my philosophy when it came to some of my early career decisions. It’s like, “I don’t…” I think it’s a fair statement to say that we cannot count on, in the vast majority of cases, a single employer being your source of income for a lifetime. Generally speaking, that is not the case for the majority of folks.

And, thusly, in a world where, hey, economic downturns often do result in layoffs, and where loyalty is not as strong on both sides of the table, that’s kind of was my takeaway, it’s like, “Well, I need to be in environments where I am maximizing my learning and skills development and growth in order to be employable over a lifetime. And if I’m not, then I’m kind of flirting with some risky business.”

And so that I think from a business strategic perspective, hey maybe you’ve done a study on this, I think there’d be just a gargantuan difference in retention and turnover stats for organizations that do this versus that don’t do this.

Todd Davis
And that’s so true. There was a recent study by Deloitte, it’s called their Global Human Capital Trends Report, cited that 30% of workers today are engaged, 52% are disengaged, and then the remaining 18% are actively disengaged. I like to ask people, “So, what’s the difference between actively disengaged and disengaged?” And it’s those actively disengaged, they are really a cancer within the organization, they’re going down bringing everybody else down with them.

[15:01]

But the main thing, and to your point, Pete, 30% are engaged, are excited about what they do, come to work with this creative, innovative mindset, adding real value. And so, if we, as leaders, aren’t focused on, “How do we keep those folks engaged? How do we raise the level of engagement of others?” they are going to go elsewhere, and we are not going to succeed.

I like to coach managers on thinking about their superstars, their top performers, and making sure that they know the answer to three questions on a regular basis, like at least once a year, maybe every six months, “What’s working for you? What’s not working for you? What would you like to do next?” And I’ll have managers push back and say, “Okay, well, I’ll ask what’s working for them but I don’t want to ask them what’s not working for them. What if it’s something I can’t fix?” I joke back and say, “Well, okay, so let’s ignore it and wait until the company down the street is able to provide that or fix that, and then we lose them.” Let’s address “What’s not working for you?”

Often, they’ll bring up something that you can actually influence or maybe do something about. And if it’s something you can’t, if it’s something you can’t fix that’s not working for that superstar employee, if you have been asking sincerely, and they know your intent really is to try and have a great career for them, or help them create a great career, just by asking that question will be a huge deposit with them and add a lot of value.

And then I really get pushback on the last question, “What would you like to do next?” And people say to me, “Well, I don’t want to plant that idea in my superstar’s mind ‘What do you want to do next?’ I want them to keep doing the exact thing they’re doing right now because they’re so valuable.” And, again, I would just share and remind people, superstars, talented people, they want to be challenged. You just referenced this. They want to keep learning and growing.

And so, if you don’t ask them what they’d like to do next, and they don’t have that opportunity, they’re going to go to an organization that offers it, so let’s find out what they want to do next, and maybe there’s a way to have them continue doing their excellent work in their current role, but also adding new learnings and dimensions onto what they can learn.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I love those three questions, and you piqued my interest earlier when you said, “Fill out this form for our one-on-ones.” What are some the things that go into the form?

Todd Davis
Well, I say it’s more symbolic. It’s a very usable form. There’s a copy of it in the book. But we just want to create the idea of, look, your regular one-on-ones manager or leader, they aren’t a status check of how these people are doing on their projects. Yes, you need to have that, and maybe that can be a small portion of the one-on-ones or preferably in another meeting. The one-on-ones are their meetings.

So, the form is to get them thinking about the types of things they’d like to bring up with you as their leader. Now, leaders are hesitant to do this. They want to be able to control the conversation, where things go. And while that’s understandable and human nature, that’s not how you’re going to attract and retain top talents.

[18:15]

So, you make the one-on-one about them, they fill out the things they’d like to talk about, you fill out a couple of things that you want to see get covered in the meeting but make sure that theirs are the priority, and you tell them that, “We’re going to go through your list of things first, and then if we have time for mine, great. But this is about you.” And then you share those lists before the meeting.

And, really, what that does symbolically and practically is it shows the value that you are placing on them and their time and how important what their thoughts and their opinions are to you. That it’s not just, “Let’s get together. We’ll talk about whatever comes up,” but, “No, I, as your leader, am going to put some thought into some of the things that you want to discuss, and that’s why I’d like to know what they are in advance so that I can be really well-prepared to make the most, the best use of your time, and have given a lot of thought to the things you’d like to discuss.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, beautiful. Thank you. So, we talked about one of the practices, which is having the one-on-ones. Could you give us an overview of the other five, and then we’ll sort of see where we care to take deeper?

Todd Davis
Absolutely. So, just to kind of keep things in order in my head, practice one is develop a leader’s mindset, everything starts there, it’s the foundation of the way you think about your role as a leader. Practice number two, that we just talked a little bit more about, holding regular one-on-ones. Practice number three, setup your team to get results. Practice number four, create a culture of feedback. Practice number five is to lead your team through change. And then practice number six, manage your time and your energy. And I’m happy to talk about any or all of them.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, let’s talk about the culture of feedback.

Todd Davis
Great.

Pete Mockaitis
How do you do that?

Todd Davis
So, yeah. Well, let me ask you this, Pete, and I can’t see you but I see a picture of you. When someone says to you, some colleague or boss says, “Hey, Pete, have you got a few minutes? I’ve got some feedback for you.” What kind of goes on internally?

Pete Mockaitis
For me it’s like, oh, boy, all right, they’re going to bring it. Okay, and so I’m just like I’m already a little freaked out so I’m trying to calm down a little bit. It’s like, “All right, Pete, there’s probably some merits in what they say, even if they enrage you, be ready with your magical phrase, ‘Tell me more about that,’ when your brain comes reeling associated with what they have to say.”

Usually, if it’s unexpected, that’s it. If it’s sort of like the regular time we have where feedback lives, maybe this is where you’re going, it’s like, “Okay, it’s just what we do here. All right, it’s all good.” As opposed to, it’s like, “So, to be more succinct,” I’ve had a listener correct me on that a couple of times, “It’s pronounced succinct,” now I know. Thank you. It’s probably, “Uh-oh, I hope I didn’t screw something up too bad.”

[21:16]

Todd Davis
Well, thank you for your transparency and honesty. And I’m wondering if you could travel the country with me as I give keynotes on this because you just described what is going on in every one of us. I had a person in a presentation the other day and I said, “When someone says to you, ‘I’ve got some feedback for you…’” and this person said, “Oh, I love feedback.” And I said, “Great. And that’s what you tell everybody, and I’m sure you do. And what’s really going on inside?” And I wasn’t trying to embarrass, but they said, “Well, I am thinking, ‘Okay, I wonder what I did wrong?’” And that’s human nature. That’s what we all think.

We hear this word feedback and we think, “Oh, crap. What have I messed up?” And when I say it, when other people say it that, “Gosh, feedback really helps us.” Our initial reaction is, “I’ve messed up.” Well, feedback, if we think about, this is very elementary, but feed means to nourish or to sustain or to foster, and back means to support. Just that reminder, first off, is, “Oh, wait a minute. Feedback is here to help.”

So, creating that culture of feedback, where you said towards the end of what you were sharing, is the norm is really the goal here because we all have blind spots. Everyone. The most accomplished human being on the planet has blind spots. And if we don’t have a systematic approach to feedback, getting feedback all the time, well, then we go through life and through our careers being less effective than we could’ve been.

Now the way we go about creating that culture of feedback is really important. In the book, we talk about the importance of giving reinforcing feedback or redirecting feedback, and we’re not avoiding the word positive or negative feedback to tiptoe around something or not call something what it is. In fact, we’re trying to do just that.

Reinforcing feedback, I mean, for people who have raised children or nieces or nephews or whatever, the first day they can tie their shoe or they remember the word pants to school, and you say, “Johnny, way to go. You got dressed all by yourself.” And, honestly, not to sound condescending, we don’t change much as we become adults. That reinforcing feedback tied to a behavior continues to cement in our minds, “Oh, that was a good thing and that felt good having that recognized. I want to do more of that.”

So, I guess the first thing I want to say here is let’s remember that reinforcing feedback of great behaviors, great results, is equally as important as redirecting feedback, when the behaviors are not where they need to be. So, reinforcing feedback is critical. And something, just to dive a little deeper on this, while some people will think, “Well, reinforcing feedback will be, ‘Oh, gosh, Adam, you’re so awesome. We’re so glad you’re here at the company. You do a great job.’”

[24:07]

That’s nice and I’m sure that’s well-intended but, quite frankly, it means nothing. Versus, “Adam, I’m so glad you’re on our team. That report you delivered yesterday in the meeting, the level of detail you went to, it shifted the whole conversation. And I have noticed over the last couple of months that we’ve worked together how detail-oriented you are. And, boy, did that play out well yesterday. So, I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate that.”

Adam is going to remember that feedback for a long, long time. And, more importantly, Adam is going to continue to even strengthen his strength of attention to detail. So, reinforcing feedback tied to a behavior. I had a very wise manage many years ago who taught me that, and just said, “Todd, remember you’re always very positive with people and that’s a great thing. Remember when you’re giving feedback that, number one, it’s sincere and that it’s tied to a behavior not just that it’s, ‘You’re awesome.’” So, that has stuck with me for a long time till forever.

Okay. Redirecting feedback, things aren’t going so well. This is where a lot of managers, “Gosh, I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to offend them,” and they wait and wait and wait, hoping the bad behavior will just disappear or the person will disappear. Redirecting feedback, when given with the right intent, declaring your intent upfront, can be just the most helpful thing you can do as someone’s manager.

“Joan, I really appreciate you taking time to meet with me today. I want you to know how much I value your contribution on the team. I had, and I’ve had in my career managers and other people point out things to me that I maybe wasn’t seeing or wasn’t aware of, and it’s been hard to hear for me but it’s been a huge help in my endeavors to be a strong contributor. I want you to know my only intent as your leader is to do the same for you. You have so many good things going for you. There are a couple things I want to talk to you about that I believe are hindering your complete and total success. So, please know it’s with that intent that I share this with you.”

That’s how I begin every redirecting conversation. It’s got to be sincere. These aren’t scripts. This just comes from doing it a lot and it comes from the heart. It’s important to lower the person’s defenses. When someone feels defensive, they have a hard time hearing anything you’re saying. And I have found the most effective way to do that in a feedback situation, redirecting feedback, is to let them know I’ve received redirecting feedback before so that they’re not embarrassed or humiliated thinking, “Oh, I messed up.” “Well, no, we all mess up. We all need or benefit from this kind of feedback. And I’ve certainly been there before so I can really empathize with you.”

That helps lower defenses. And then making sure they know your intent, “Joan, my only intent is to help you be as successful as you can be. And I see great potential for you, and that’s the only reason I’m sharing these things.” So, that’s the way, the effective way, to receive redirecting feedback.

[27:10]

Now, a third thing, and I hope I’m not rambling too long here, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, go for it.

Todd Davis
Okay. The third thing is some managers think, “Oh, I’ve reached my manager status, now I give feedback. That’s what I do. I give reinforcing/redirecting feedback.” Well, great, but you want to have a team that just reaches great heights and does wonderful things. It works both ways. You’ve got to seek feedback. “You’ve got to make it safe for your team to tell you the truth” is the phrase I like to use. Make it safe. Do you make it safe for others to tell you the truth?

And know this, by your title alone as manager or director, whatever it is, you, it’s not your fault, but it’s already a little unsafe to tell you the truth. And so, great managers realize that and so they go out of their way to seek feedback. And let me tell you a bad way to seek feedback is to show up in somebody’s office and say, “Hey, Pete, what did you think of the meeting this morning? How do you think I’m writing the meetings?” Well, what are you going to say, Pete, when you walk …?

Pete Mockaitis
“You’re doing great, Todd.”

Todd Davis
Exactly. And when put on the spot like that, we’re all going to say the exact same thing. Whatever she or he wants to hear, “Oh, awesome. You do an awesome job.” But a little bit differently, if I say to Pete, “Hey, Pete, I wonder if I could ask you a favor. I’m really trying to make sure our meetings are super effective. In tomorrow’s meeting…” so I’m doing this the day before, “…would you mind taking some notes, making some observations of things that you think I could do better as the leader in facilitating the discussion in the meeting? I mean, yeah, I’d love to hear what you think I’m doing well, if anything, but I really want to focus on those things that you think I could do better. Then maybe the next day or two after the meeting, we can get together and you could share your thoughts with me.”

That’s how a manager, a wise manager, asks for sincere feedback and makes it safe for others to tell her the truth or in the truth. And managers who do this and make this commonplace, the next time Todd or Pete hears, “Hey, do you have a few minutes? I’ve got some feedback for you,” we think, “Oh, great. I’ve got another opportunity here to learn something I might not be seeing.” And it becomes the norm, and nobody has that hair on the back of their neck stand up like we usually do.

Pete Mockaitis
I love those words, and it reminds me of there’s a speaker, we had him on the show, Justin Jones-Fosu, and at one time we both were doing a lot of speaking on college campuses. That’s how we got to know each other and so he’s a great speaker. And then I said, “Oh, hey, that was really awesome.” I saw him present in a conference. And he said, he was so sincere, and I love it, he said, “Hey, Pete, I really appreciate that. What I appreciate even more is if you could identify a couple of things that you think that I could do better because that really helps me grow as a speaker.”

And so, I was like, “Oh,” and first of all I was struck that I told many speakers, I told many people that they’re awesome in many ways, but it’s very rare that someone said, “Hey, thank you for that. What would be even more helpful for me is this.” I’m like, “Whoa!” And so, then I said, “All right. Well, this is one part where you’re telling this really emotional story about someone who is ill and then you actually had this music go, which is kind of emotional. And while I think that made it more emotional, it also felt a little manipulative.

[30:27]

And I don’t know if that’s everybody or just me but I think that it would seem all the more authentic if that just wasn’t there. And it’s like we’re not in sort of a TV drama, if you will.” He said, “Thank you. Actually, a couple people brought that up and I’m wrestling with that right now so it’s good to have sort of one more datapoint. And it’s awesome.”

Todd Davis
That is such a great example. I appreciate you sharing that because you just remind me. One reason why I’ve seen leaders and others hesitant to ask for feedback is they think they have to incorporate all of it. And I love what you said that his response was, “You know, a few people has mentioned that and so I’m thinking about that.” You don’t have to incorporate all of it. But, boy, I’m telling you, I get a lot of that feedback. I’m thinking I might want to tweak this so it doesn’t feel so manipulative.

So, I’m just glad you brought that up because, boy, don’t not ask for feedback because you think, “Well, if I don’t incorporate it then I’m disingenuous.” That’s not true. But you can always follow up with a person, say, “Gosh, Pete, I so appreciate that feedback you gave me. I’m going to be thinking through that. And I wonder if you’d allow me to come to you again in the future for feedback because I really appreciate you taking the time to share that with me.” That’s what you need to do when you get feedback is the follow up and the acting on it, but not incorporating every piece of feedback you receive.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. And just to close the circle on that, Justin happened to be, for several years, sort of the top-booked speaker at the agency so, I mean, I don’t think it’s a coincidence. One thing he did very differently than the other speakers was this, and he was number one.

Todd Davis
Great example.

Pete Mockaitis
So, I think that is more than a winky-dink. So awesome. So, the culture of feedback. I also want to get to you talked about managing your time and energy. So, I think about this a lot when it comes to sort of, hey, I got my day, I got the impact I want to make from an individual workload perspective. How do you think about this in the management context?

Todd Davis
Well, and this is not news to anyone, burnout and burnout in the workplace is just certainly not going away and it’s increasing more and more. And with all of our wonderful technology options and bells and buzzers and whistles, it allows us to be working — allows us, I say — 24 hours a day. In fact, I remember when I was promoted to a certain position here at FranklinCovey, gosh, 20 years ago…

[33:04]

And I remember saying, “Well, if I did this, could I have a laptop and maybe work from home once in a while when the situation permitted?” thinking that would be such a luxury. And I just laugh now thinking how the very thing that we were thinking was kind of a nice treat has become this thing that has chained us to our work responsibilities 24 hours a day.

And so, burnout, because of our ability to stay connected and, again, it’s a choice we all make, and I can’t really complain about it because it’s a choice I make, but we are connected all the time. And so, because we choose to do that, if we choose to do that, we’ve got to really manage that time and that energy or we will burn out, and what we model gets modeled by our team. What the leader values gets valued.

And so, again, we could talk, I do talk all day on this, but managing my time, first of all, managing my time, I liken it to a pinball machine. If I don’t have a plan for the week, I show up Monday morning or whenever your week begins, and it’s like the pinball machine. The plunger is pulled back and I’m like that ball in the machine, bouncing from bells to buzzers to whistles, and I get to the end of the day or the end of the week, and I think, “Man, I’m tired. I have been busy.”

And when I look back and say, “What have I really accomplished of value this week? Maybe a few things but not certainly all that I could have.” Whereas, when I take, and it takes me about 30 minutes on a Sunday night, sometimes less, I look through my week, I go through my appointments, I go through all the things that I really hope to get accomplished that week, and then I force myself to think through, “Okay, if I could only get two or three things done this week, what would they be?” And I choose those things with the intention of getting 20 or 15 or whatever done, but I choose the top two or three things. And then I have this plan on how to get that done.

And then Monday begins, and the pinball game starts, and so we all get caught up in it, urgencies happens, nobody’s week goes as planned, but if I have a plan to come back to after taking care of this urgency, if I have a plan, a centerline to come back to, I can get back on track several times throughout the week. And I will tell you from years of experience, and I certainly had some weeks better than others, but I get much more accomplished. And if I model that for my team, well, I’ll get even much more accomplished. So, that’s what I’ve learned in time management and how to try and create and adhere to a plan for the week.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, when you say a plan, I guess to what extent, what sort of details or key things are identified with that plan?

Todd Davis
Well, and, again, I don’t want to have any emotional music playing while I say this, but I have written what we call a mission statement here that kind of identifies my values, what’s most important to me, and I reflect. On Sunday night, I’ll look at that just to kind of reconnect with what’s most important to me, both in my professional and my personal life, and the relationships in both professional and personal life that are tied to that. And that just kind of gets my mind around, “Don’t get too far off the path, Todd, of what really why you’re doing the work you’re doing and what’s important to you.”

[36:20]

And then with that mindset, I look through the week and I look through appointments that I’ve already committed to that are fixed in the week and then I think about, based on last week and the previous weeks, the urgencies that have come up — and I’m called the Chief People Officer, I have kind of a triage role — and have a lot of unintended or unplanned things come up, and I honestly try and block out time for those, don’t know what they are, but I think, “Okay, you’re being pretty unrealistic here, Todd. You’ve got these dates of back-to-back meetings. First of all, how are you going to get from one meeting to the next without any time in between? And as the urgencies come up, have you blocked…?”

So, I’ll block out some other time that’s not specific for a meeting, but because I know by this time of the day, I’ll have two or three things present themselves that I need to get answers back for people on. And so, maybe I’m getting too detailed, but that’s the level of detail I try and get to, to have a realistic week in front of me. And then I will look at, “Oh, that’s right. I told my daughter, Sydney, we’re going to plan this trip. I’m going to block out this hour that afternoon and see if she could talk then, and will schedule some time around that.” So, that’s just kind of an idea or a glimpse into my mind as I’m planning out the week.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, rather than your calendar having, hey, a few meetings and then some space that you’ve got to fill it in with whatever in the moment, you’ve sort of pre-allocated those spaces to what’s important.

Todd Davis
That’s right. And at FranklinCovey, we use a tool in 7 Habits called the time matrix, and there’s these four quadrants and there are different names for these. There are other models that are similar where you have these four quadrants, those things that are urgent and important, those things that are important but not urgent, and that’s what I was just talking about and you’re talking about where scheduling this vacation with my daughter is going to help me schedule. It’s important but because it’s not urgent, it keeps getting pushed off week after week. So, I make sure I’ve blocked time for those things that are important but not necessarily urgent.

The other two quadrants are urgent but not important, these are time robbers, these are other people’s urgencies. And then there’s the time wasters which are not urgent, not important. And you think, “Well, who would spend time there?” Well, I have, unfortunately. When I go home and turn on a sitcom thinking I’m going to watch it for half hour, and four hours later I get up off the sofa.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, man, it must have been a good one, Todd. What were you watching?

Todd Davis
Yeah. Well, one after another, the damage done by a remote control. So, anyway, of these four quadrants, just really making sure, if I could summarize anything in the week, “Have I blocked out time for those things that are important but not urgent?” And because they haven’t been urgent, they haven’t got my attention.

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

[39:05]

Todd Davis
Just summarizing, I guess, this principle or this idea or this important fact that everyone deserves a great manager. For those who are in or will be in a leadership position, just remembering the influence you can have in that role. I’ll never forget my 35th day of employment at what was then called The Covey Leadership Center, now FranklinCovey, it was 24 years ago. I don’t know what happened on day 34 or day 36, but on day 35, my boss at that time, her name was Pam, she walked me up to a senior leader in the company whom I have not met during the interview process and his name is Bob. And she said, “Bob, I’d like you to meet Todd Davis. He’s our recruitment manager.” That was what I was hired at 24 years ago.

And then she said, “Let me tell you what Todd has accomplished during his first 35 days of employment.” And I’m shaking this man’s hand, Pete, and my mind goes blank, and I felt like I’m going to throw up. I’m thinking, “I can’t think of what she’s going to say. I couldn’t think of one thing I had done in 35 days,” and it was really this uncomfortable feeling. And then Pam went on to say, “He filled this position in Chicago that was vacant for the last six months. He’s got a recruitment strategy for the next year. He’s got a relocation policy in place.” And this list went on.

And, please, I’m not sharing that to say, “Aren’t you impressed with what I did in 35 days?” I’m sharing this to tell you I remember that moment even as I’m retelling it to you right now, it feels like it was yesterday and it was 24 years ago. This leader, Pam Walsh, believed in me more than I believed in myself. A very famous quote from Dr. Stephen Covey, the bestselling author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People said, “Leadership is seeing in people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves.”

And so, I guess if I could just wrap on this topic with that thought, it is just that, to remind all the leaders, whether in a formal leadership position or an informal one, whether you have the title or not, that true leadership is seeing the potential in others so clearly that they come to see it in themselves.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Thank you.

Todd Davis
And I did that with no music playing in the background.

Pete Mockaitis
We might add it later. We’ll see.

Todd Davis
Okay.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that sounds like it might already be your favorite quote. But do you have a favorite quote you’d mention?

Todd Davis
That is probably one of my favorite quotes. I’ve got another one. Can I share two of them with you?

Pete Mockaitis
Go for it, yeah.

Todd Davis
Okay. One is from Abraham Lincoln. John Wooden, the basketball coach, used it a lot but it was from Abraham Lincoln, and he said, “It is better to trust and be disappointed once in a while than to distrust and be miserable all of the time.” And just that quote motivates me to see the goodness in others, to see the potential in others, to trust and not be so suspicious.

[42:12]

Pete Mockaitis
I like that. Thank you.

Todd Davis
Another quote, because you said I could have two, and this one I’ve had, gosh, probably 30 years. And it was from an old actress by the name of Fanny Brice, and I don’t know that she was a mentor or anything, but the words have stuck with me. And the words she said were, “Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be because sooner or later, if you are posing, you’re going to forget the pose and then, where are you?” And I think in the realm of being authentic and really being who you are, those are things that I try and remember.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Todd Davis
Well, this is an old one but people are very familiar with it. There was the marshmallow study with the kids that were observed in the room when they were told if they didn’t eat the marshmallow. Do you know the study?

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, indeed. Yeah, by Walter Mischel.

Todd Davis
Exactly. Very, very familiar. But I guess why it just came to mind when you said favorite study, I haven’t been asked that question before, but when you asked me that, it’s just a daily reminder, I think, for all of us. While I don’t think about the study exactly, I think about, “Todd, what do you want now versus what you want long term?” And just that quick fix and, of course, we’ve become, with technology and everything else that “I want everything right now” mentality, and it’s important for all of us, but certainly for me to remember, “What is it that I really want the long-term result to be versus the quick high or the quick fix?”

Pete Mockaitis
Boy, and tying that together with trust, I had a previous guest who shared another layer to that study which I thought fascinating, which was that the study was meant to sort of assess your ability as a child to sort of delay gratification.

Todd Davis
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
But what they discovered was one of the big drivers associated with whether or not the child waited was their historical experience of being able to trust the word of people’s promises.

Todd Davis
Saying you’ll get more if you wait.

Pete Mockaitis
Exactly. Instead of like, “You know what, I don’t buy it. I would take this now because I know it’s there. You may or may not be there.”

Todd Davis
You’re right. I remember reading that and, boy, isn’t that true.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, we talked about sort of trust in leadership and investing in people, I think that’s huge right there with regard to they can do more of that…

Todd Davis
Such a great point.

Pete Mockaitis
…if they have great experiences with you and, thus, multiplying all the more leaders. Ooh, good stuff. And how about a favorite book?

[45:00]

Todd Davis
Hmm, lots of favorite books. And did I mention that Everyone Deserves A Great Manager just hit the Wall Street Journal’s bestseller list?

Pete Mockaitis
I think that came up.

Todd Davis
A favorite book, right? I’ll tell you one that I refer back to both open and thinking back is Linchpin by Seth Godin. I don’t know if you’ve read Linchpin.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I think I’ve read the Blinkist summary.

Todd Davis
Yeah. It was life-changing, sounds dramatic. I probably need music again by what I’m saying. But it really caused me to think about why I do what I do. The book is about…Linchpin is that thing that slips in to hold the pulley together.

And he likens it to just the linchpin at work, the linchpin in the workplace. And are you a linchpin? And why do you what you do? And those people, and we all know them in teams and organizations, who are really the linchpin, sometimes I just think of the heart of the team or organization that really keeps the team going.

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

Todd Davis
Wow! A favorite tool. I mean, when I say my phone, that’s nothing new for me, the iPhone…it’s really not a tool, it’s the plan that’s within it. We’ve already talked about this, but it’s how I plan out my week, how I try and live my life intentionally through the week with a plan, and I’m able to do that because of the technology. So, I’ll put my plan together on my computer, my Outlook, and then it syncs with my phone. Just to have to that plan, including my mission statement and all those things with me all the time, so the portability of that.

Don’t laugh at this but another favorite tool that comes to my mind. My kids tease me relentlessly because of I got a battery-operated leaf blower last year. It’s like the favorite thing I have. I used to take forever to rake the lawn. So, anyway, thinking of tools, that’s what first came to mind, and I wasn’t going to share it, and now I just did.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you. Appreciate it. And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often?

[48:03]

Todd Davis
The one, and this may or may not be helpful for people, I think, again, back to communication, I have found that we put off important conversations because we’re afraid we’re going to say it wrong, not just in the realm of giving feedback, like we were talking earlier, but whatever. If I have a difference of opinion with one of my colleagues, or a family member, whatever, we sometimes put off that conversation, not sometimes, a lot, because we want to just get the right words, we want it perfect, we’re so worried about the outcome.

So, one thing that I’ve had people tell me time and time again was, “I really appreciated you being in a conversation by saying…” and this is what I say, “Hey, Pete, I need to talk to you about something or I’d like to talk to you about something, and I will probably use the wrong words. So, could I have a do-over? If I say something offensive or if I don’t say it exactly how I mean it, just know that my intent is to get this topic out on the table. And then if I could have a do-over, if I say it wrong, would that be okay?”

And that’s not scripted. I just said that from the heart. For many years, I’ve had many people say that kind helps set the tone for the whole conversation. So, maybe it’s back to the notion I have of you’ve got to lower defenses. If people feel defensive, it’s really hard to communicate. So, let’s make sure my defenses and their defenses are lowered so we can really get to the heart of an issue. So, I guess that would be the nugget, as you call it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s so great because, then, if in fact, if it says, “Well, it kind of feels like you’re telling me that, I don’t know, ‘I’m a terrible provider’ or ‘I can’t be trusted with responsibilities.’” You can say, “Yes, see, that’s kind of what I was concerned about, but I really don’t mean that at all.”

Todd Davis
“Yeah, I’m sorry.” Exactly, Pete. Yeah, I would say, “Boy, if that’s what you heard, I really need a do-over because I want to say you are a phenomenal provider. But I have noticed, in my opinion, I’ve noticed that sometimes you put a priority on this thing, and it’s unintentionally, I think, offending some other people.” So, you’re exactly right. It gives you the language then to use in the conversation so that it doesn’t blow into something it shouldn’t be.

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

Todd Davis
Well, FranklinCovey.com, and the book launched last week, Everyone Deserves A Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team. You can purchase it at all major bookstores, but the easiest way to purchase it is on Amazon.com. And, again, they can go to learn more about our company or about me on FranklinCovey.com.

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

Todd Davis
Just, “Why do you do what you do?” I remind myself of it or I think about it all the time, “What’s my real intention?” You’re the only one that knows what your real motivations are. And I think those of us and those of you that check in with them regularly will have just that much more of a positive influence on yourself, on your teams, and ultimately on the world.

[51:02]

Pete Mockaitis
Todd, thank you. This has been fantastic. I wish you all the best in making more and more people have great managers.

Todd Davis
Well, I really appreciate you and I appreciate the time, Pete.

508: Becoming an Impactful and Influential Leader with Ron Price

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Ron Price says: "How much time are you spending working on you? Because that's the strength that we're going to draw from for you to be successful in these other areas."

Ron Price delivers insights on how to build your character and grow your influence to unlock your full leadership potential.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The four keys to landing your next promotion
  2. Two approaches to getting excellent feedback
  3. How to get others to listen to you

About Ron

Ron Price is an internationally recognized business advisor, executive coach, speaker, and author. Known for his creative and systematic thinking, business versatility, and practical optimism, Ron has worked in 15 countries and served in almost every level of executive management over the past 40 years.

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Ron Price Interview Transcript

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

Ron Price

Thank you, Pete. It’s great to be with you.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I think the first thing we need to cover is your career in truck tire retreading. Tell us about this?

Ron Price

Well, it goes way back. My dad owned a truck tire retreading shop. And when I was 12 years old, my first job was repairing truck tire tubes, and I got paid piecemeal. So, each tube that we’d haul there overnight I think I got a quarter. I have to confess my work ethic wasn’t real great then. There were some afternoons I just took a nap in a bunch of tubes that were piled up.

But, eventually, that led to, after getting out of school, I went to work and learned every bit of the business, did a lot of years of changing semi-truck tires along the highway in Michigan in January and February. And I really learned something about resilience then and eventually became a part owner. And my dad and I, together, owned four different manufacturing facilities across the state of Michigan. So, it was a great place to learn work ethic and to learn how to run a business. Back then we didn’t have credit cards so we had to actually manage credit risks and things like that. It was really a wonderful experience.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, what a transformation with work ethic from taking a nap in the tubes to being in the cold Michigan winter on the side of the road fixing the truck tires. That’s impressive.

Ron Price
And, Pete, I think I could say that it’s sort of come in full circle because now that I’m in my later 60s, I go back to taking naps again.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I would maintain that a strategic nap is, in fact, a productive, sensible strategic choice. So, no arguments from me here.

Ron Price
Hear, hear.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, I want to talk to you about growing influence, how that’s done, and maybe to kick us off, could you share an inspiring story of a professional who was not so influential, and then they’ve made some changes, and then they saw some real nice upgrade to that?

Ron Price

Boy, there’s so many. I’ve had such a wonderful career of working with great people. One that I think of was a woman who came to work at a business that I was running during most of the ‘90s. I started there in ’89 and retired from it in 2000. She came as a customer service representative answering the phone. And I saw something in her that made her stand out. She really cared about what she was doing. She made you feel like what she was doing was worthwhile every day. And, eventually, that led to us saying maybe she could supervise the people who were answering our phones. And she started as a supervisor of a small group of people and she eventually grew to being a VP of customer service.

She, I would say, this was a company that was about $100 million company, and we had 200 employees spread across eight countries, and she was made the number two, number three person in the whole company. And she started as somebody answering the phone, and she kept learning and growing, and demonstrating character, and she won more and more and more loyalty from the people around her. And I think they would’ve thrown me out had I not promoted her to that position later in her career.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s great. And maybe, I guess we’re going to get into some of the particular principles and actions and tactics, but was there anything in particular you noticed that made all the difference in terms of her rise?

Ron Price

I think it was two-folds. I think one is that she brought her humanity to work with her. She treated people like human beings, and it didn’t mean that she lowered the standards, didn’t mean that she wasn’t clear about what needed to be accomplished. But she recognized that those were human beings that all brought their own life with them to work and it was worthy of respect. That was the first thing.

The second thing is that she was a continuous learner. And she didn’t start out as an expert in this field but she became an expert all the way to the point that she was recognized internationally for the kind of leadership that she brought to incoming call centers. So, during her tenure, we went from a traditional kind of a phone system to a phone system that was hooked up to data analytics and we ended up learning how to do statistical quality control monitoring. We did a lot of things both on the technical side of understanding how to make the most out of a call center, and also on the people development side, of empowering people, giving them clear career paths, letting them see the numbers.

One of the big things that she did is one of the early phone systems that we bought had a big screen that the supervisor could look at to determine how many people were on hold, and if people abandoned, and what our average call time was, all those kinds of things. And she said, this was long before anybody was thinking of this, she said, “Why is it that the supervisor sees this and the whole office can’t see it?”

So, she brought in a huge monitor, put it up near the ceiling so that every single person in that call center could see what was going on. And it was one of the early demonstrations of combining technology with empowerment so that people felt that they could own their job, and it made a huge difference in our culture and in our performance.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, that’s powerful. I can just visualize that like a scene from a movie, you know, triumphantly placing a huge monitor on the ceiling, and it’s like, “Oh, we’re really serious about that. That’s cool.”

Ron Price
Yeah, and, “Why do we need somebody to monitor that for everybody else like they’re children or something? Why don’t we treat them like adults and let them take their own initiative?” You know, the funny thing about it, Pete, was the people paid attention to that and if, all of a sudden, we had a spike in calls and somebody was on a break, they self-governed, they immediately responded because they were all focused on one goal together as a team, and no supervisor had to tell them how to do that. The supervisor was there to support them and to help eliminate obstacles from them doing good work. It was a wonderful example to me and to everybody who was a part of our company.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s cool. Well, so your book Growing Influence is a business fable, and it speaks to a lot of people and a lot of situations. But one issue that you cover is why is it that some people get passed up for promotions? What’s sort of the top driver and what can be done about that?

Ron Price
Yeah. And, of course, there are probably a lot of different reasons that somebody could get passed up. Some of them are external, some of them they might not have any control over. It may be something to do with the culture, unconscious biases that exists inside the organization, and sometimes those need to be addressed. But there can also be internal reasons why somebody gets passed up.

I like to think that if a person is really working consistently on being the best version of themselves, and they’re doing that in a way that they develop their character, and they’re doing that in a way that they develop their expertise, that in a healthy environment, the positions, the promotions will come find them because most of us who’ve been in leadership roles, when we’re looking at promoting people, we’ve got a lot of self-interest. We want to promote somebody who can perform, somebody who can get the work done, somebody who gets along well with others, somebody who has intelligence that they bring to their work.

And if you bring all those things, and you don’t throw up a lot of obstacles, you make it a lot easier to get promoted. So, sometimes people, they don’t get promoted because of something that’s happening in the culture that needs to be addressed, and other times they don’t get promoted because they don’t realize that they’re their own worst enemy in some ways. Like, my wife and I were out on a fall walk earlier today, and we laughed about this statement that I find myself making over and over and over again. And that is the darnedest thing about blind spots is you can’t see them.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, makes sense.

Ron Price
And sometimes people don’t get promoted because they don’t recognize how they’re being perceived by others. It’s a blind spot to them. And if they understood that, and adapted themselves accordingly, they make themselves much more promotable.

Pete Mockaitis
And are there any particular character or expertise, shortcomings, or blind spots that seem to pop up again and again?

Ron Price

Oh, boy, what a great question. And this really is why we wrote the book is that after years of thinking about this and helping people with it, I thought there actually is a model. It’s not that difficult that makes a big difference. So, first, let’s talk about character.

In the book, we talk about, “How do you define integrity of character?” And most people think, “Well, honest and ethical and you don’t do things when people aren’t looking that you wouldn’t do if they were looking,” things like that. But we want to expand the meaning of that word, integrity, to think about what does wholeness look like for character.

When I go to my doctor and he starts talking to me about the integrity of my nervous system, he’s not talking about whether it’s honest or ethical, he’s talking about whether it’s working properly, whether all the parts are there and they’re properly related to each other. So, we posit that as our definition of character, and then we asked these two questions. The first question is, “What are the values by which I choose to govern my own behavior?”

A great example for me, my number one value that I look at every week, and ask myself how am I doing is personal accountability. And, of course, the power of that value is in how you defined it. So, the first question is, “What are the values I choose to govern myself and how am I doing?” The second question is, “What are the values I choose to relate to other people and how am I doing?”

And, in my case, my number one value for how I relate to other people is collaboration. And that word is almost a spiritual or a religious word to me because I believe that when you really connect with somebody else, you understand what they want, they understand what you want, and you learn how to work together that there’s the possibility for real magic to occur.

And, in fact, that’s what Stacy and I felt that we reached in writing the book Growing Influence is this wonderful synergism that happen when we both brought all of who we were with respect for the other, and we learned how to work well together. So, that’s my number one value for how I choose to relate to others.

So, how do you grow character in a way that other people notice you and it makes you promotable, it makes you more influential? Well, what are the values by which you govern your own behaviors, and what are the values by which you relate to other people? Sometimes we can think of where we fall short and that might help to guide us in what values we want to adapt. But it’s the steady, consistent development of more and more strength in the way that you not only aspire to those values, but practice those values that causes people to want to follow you as an influencer because of how you show up. That’s character, Pete.

I know that’s kind of long-winded, but we use a similar kind of approach to expertise. To be an expert influencer in a way that people listen to you more, you have to recognize that expert leadership is based on creating value for others not just sounding smart yourself. So, the real question is, “What value, what benefit is my expertise going to deliver to other people?” And it might be marketing, or finance, or operations, or, in my case, it’s my tax attorney or my tax accountant. Because of their expertise, because they understand the tax laws, they have a tremendous amount of influence over me when it comes to my tax returns.

Now, they may not have much influence over me when I decide whether or not I’m going to get my gallbladder taken out. But in the area of expertise, they’ve got a lot of power. And if you decide that you’re going to create value for others and then you lay out a pathway for how to get better and better and better at that, you’re gaining power. You’re gaining influence and you’re becoming more promotable.

We encourage people along those lines to pick one or two areas that they’re really passionate about, and start to study the other leaders in that area of expertise. Read what they write, listen to their podcasts or watch their TED Talks, and just begin to saturate your mind with the thoughts of other leaders or experts in that area. And if you do that long enough, there’s something amazing that happens in your subconscious. You begin to take one idea from this person, another idea from this person, a third idea from this person, and you begin to create your own thought recipes. And in doing that, you become an expert yourself.

So, it’s really a practical way. And if you just do a little bit at a time over one year, two years, three years, you become an expert. And, eventually, you’re coming up with unique ideas that nobody else has ever come up with because you’re combining other people’s ideas in new ways.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s excellent. So, then the action step there in terms of increasing your value is you’re picking an area of expertise and you’re absorbing all the wisdom from the top folks there and, before you know it, you’ve got it yourself, and you’re coming up with original stuff. So, then when it comes to the “living more in accordance with your values,” what are some of the key action steps associated with identifying some of the shortcomings and shoring them up?

Ron Price

The first thing is being more self-aware. Oftentimes, the thing that we probably should work on, the people around us see it more clearly than we do. So, I like to think of this idea that I’ve never seen the back of my head.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Even after a haircut with the mirror in the barber, it’s not as great.

Ron Price
Yeah, it’s a reflection. It’s not the real thing. And, in fact, if you think about that, I’ve never seen my face. All we see is a reflection of our face. So, that metaphor tells us that we don’t even know what we look like, which is a big part of who we are, without the use of something outside of us. And in the same way, you don’t know how you show up at work, whether you’re a leader, or a manager, or you’re aspiring to be one, you don’t fully know who you are without the help of people around you who can be your mirrors.

Of course, they should be people that you trust and that you know they care about your success because you don’t want to get stuck in a house of mirrors. But you want people who are going to give you honest feedback. And it’s amazing to me when we learn how to ask for, and we’re open to feedback and we’re not defensive, how much wisdom we get from the people around us.

When I first started to learn this, and I have to confess it took a long time before I got comfortable enough in my own skin to be able to listen to this feedback, but when I first started to hear it, I had to resist the temptation to be embarrassed, or to feel ashamed, or to defend myself, or to deny that, because they do a pretty good job of pointing out what you’re not so good at.

And when I opened myself up and said, “It doesn’t have an impact on my quality as a human being, on my value as a human being, but they’re giving me really valuable input that helps me understand the difference between what my intention is and what my impact is.” And when I could let them begin to show me what my impact was, it began to open up a whole new level of growth.

And I have to tell you, I’m still working at that. I still really treasure the feedback that people give me, and I’ve trained myself to be quiet and not to defend myself, not even to agree with them, but just to say, “Thank you for that feedback. You gave me some important stuff for me to think about.” And that’s one of the big things that keeps me growing even in my late ‘60s.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, when you receive it, you’re not being defensive here, you’re saying, “Thank you,” and you’re chewing on it. And then how do you go about making the requests?

Ron Price
Making the requests for the feedback?

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Ron Price
Yeah. Well, the way I do it is I let people know, “I understand that there are parts of me that I can’t see without your help. And I believe that you care for me, and you care for my success, and I believe that I could understand myself better and develop better self-awareness if you could give me some feedback.” And there are two approaches I’ll take. I’ll say, “If there were one thing that I could work at getting better at, and that it would make it easier for us to work together, what would you want me to work on?” That’s one way I approach it.

The second way I approach it is, I might’ve already identified, I might say, “I want to get better at planning and organizing.” And I might go to a person and say, “I’m working on getting better at planning and organizing, and I wonder, you’ve watched me, you’ve seen how I do my work, I wonder if you have one or two tips that you could give me for how I could get better?” And I don’t have to agree with the tips. I just thank them for the tips and I might come back later and tell them that I’ve implemented one of the tips or I might not.

But what I found is that if you don’t answer people back with either that “This is why it won’t work. I already tried that,” or, “No, that’s not really true,” if you don’t answer back that way, you make them feel more and more comfortable over time getting more honest with the feedback that they give you. And honest feedback with somebody who’s direct and caring is one of the greatest gifts that anybody can ever give you. And if you develop that openness, that receptiveness where people feel they can give it to you directly and caringly, it’s one of the greatest accelerators to you growing influence.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. All right. Well, so those are some master keys there. So, if you’re doing those sorts of things on an ongoing basis, I’d love to get your tips for, sort of, when you’re in the thick of things, you’re working on developing your character and your expertise, and you’re getting your feedback, is there anything you recommend some top do’s and don’ts for kind of day in, day out you’re interacting with folks and these things make a world of difference?

Ron Price
The biggest thing, by far, I look back on my career, and it’s had the greatest positive impact of anything I’ve done is making sure that every day I spend time with myself. And that that time is set aside not to look at my task list. It’s not for me to worry or to go read the newspaper, be all frustrated with what’s happening in politics or anything. It is time dedicated for me to think about who I am and who I want to become.

And I started it back and it was around 1978, I was getting frustrated because I was overwhelmed with all of the tasks I needed to get done. And I bought an audio cassette series on time management, and it sat on my shelf for six months because I didn’t have time to listen to it. And I realized how that was my fault. There was nobody to blame but me that I hadn’t given time to that.

So, I started working half hour early. I said for that first half hour, at that time I had a private office, I had a secretary, and I told my secretary, “This first half hour I’m coming in early and unless law enforcement is at the door or somebody’s life is at threat, that’s my time. I don’t want to be interrupted by anything.” And over the years, I worked on expanding that time. I obviously finished that cassette series pretty quickly, but I realized, “Wow, I always had this time and I had never owned it. I had never taken it.”

So, over the years I’ve experimented with doing it different times of day. And, at one point, when I was running this international business, I had expanded that time to four hours a day. I had people in eight countries who were working for us that I was in communication with regularly. I had a senior leadership team that I was working with. It wasn’t that I didn’t have a lot to do, I had more to do than ever before, but because of the way I had worked with owning that time to work on myself. Now, during those four hours I would also work on company strategy and the really big ideas that needed more careful thought.

Now, I’m not there anymore. I retired from that business in 2000 and I have another business now, and I’m about two hours a day right now. But it might sound a little counterintuitive, Pete, but the time you spend with yourself, working on yourself, thinking about your own resilience, your flexibility, your personal accountability, thinking about your own values, that’s the reservoir that you draw from the rest of the day when you’re interacting with other people.

And when I see people who are struggling in their relationships, they’re struggling with their work, I always go back to, “How much time are you spending working on you? Because that’s the strength that we’re going to draw from for you to be successful in these other areas.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, no surprise I love that. Hosting How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast, there’s a wealth of power that’s unleashed when you do that. And so, I’m curious, when it comes to that 30-minute time or the four-hour time, what is happening? So, in some instances it sounds like you got some content, some programming you’re working through, like the time management audio course. Are there sort of key questions that you ask yourself? Or kind of what’s that process look like in terms of, “All right. It’s me time and I’m getting down, hunkering down to work on myself”? What’s happening in that work?

Ron Price
I mix it up. I use a variety of things because sometimes I think they stimulate my thinking in a different way. But a lot of the things that it’s included reading with a highlighter in my hand, and taking time not just to read but to jot notes down as I come across what I think is an important paragraph from an author. It may be listening to a podcast that is focused on growth. It may be listening to a book on Audible while I’m out hiking.

Oftentimes, it’s journaling and journaling around my values. So, one of my values is courage, and so I might journal one morning about, “How am I demonstrating courage right now? What are the obstacles to courage? What does courage mean to me right now?” It’s these things that help me to self-evaluate and to think about who I am and who I want to be.

And then it may, sometimes, it’s around a problem that’s come up. Maybe I have a problem relationship with somebody that I feel has let me down, or maybe they feel that I’ve let them down. I may take some of that time just to journal about, “What am I feeling? What might they be feeling? What are some different alternatives for how we could work to a more positive solution here?” But it’s always something that has to do with developing my own character, developing my own expertise and my ability to show up stronger in the workplace. Those are a number of the different things that are included.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And so then your experience has been that when you spend the time there, you reap more time savings, results, efficiencies in the rest of the hours of the day because you’ve spent the time there.

Ron Price
Yes. One of my mentors was a guy named Charlie “Tremendous” Jones. He was bigger than life. They called him “Tremendous” because everything was tremendous for him, and he was a character. He was really a throwback to the old comedians but also as a motivational speaker. And he said to me once, he said, “Ron, you’re going to be the same five years from now as you are today except for two things. The books you read and the people you meet, so value them both.”

And, of course, today we have a lot of other mediums to work from but that phrase always stuck with me, “The books you read…” Because I dedicate at least, a minimum of 30 minutes a day to reading books that are around my profession, or around the development of my character, I’ve now got over 3,000 books that I’ve read. That has an impact on your subconscious. And I wouldn’t say I was necessarily a great container of what I read, but you’d keep doing it and eventually it produces a benefit for you.

And then the people you meet. One of the things that has enriched my life dramatically and I think made me a better leader has been recognizing that everybody I meet is superior to me in some way. And if I’ll be humble and search for it, I can find treasure in every relationship. So, every new relationship, every relationship I’m revisiting, even with our team, maybe I’ve worked with them for 10 years, I’m still looking for more treasure. There’s something they’ve learned, something they’ve mastered that can benefit me. And I always say the expert in the room is the person who learns the least. So, if I can intentionally make myself the student in every room that I go into, I have a chance of learning the most.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yes. I like these perspectives. And so then, when you are transitioning out away from the solo time into the interacting with other folks, are there any particular things you recommend when we are trying to be influential, we want someone to say yes? Start having great character and expertise certainly is a huge foundation. But is there anything in particular with regard to how you do the communication?

Ron Price
First, I think it’s important to be clear yourself, to make sure that you understand your priorities and you’re organizing around your priorities, because it’s hard to influence other people if they see you changing gears, often going different directions, or chasing shiny objects. So, the first thing is to be clear yourself.

The second thing is to realize that the greatest power in working with somebody else is shared interests. So, is the thing that you want them to do something that falls into the realm of shared interests for them? They may or may not recognize that, but if you can get to that place where they see what’s in it for them and their shared interests, it’s going to be a lot easier for you to work together.

And then I would say the third thing is make sure that you’re giving them the level of support that’s appropriate, which changes depending on what assignment you’re talking about together, what you’re asking them to do. And, by the way, Pete, I’m not talking about this in a hierarchical organization only, and I’m not talking about it with people who are your subordinates. I think it’s just as important to understand the shared interests of your boss, to understand what kind of support your boss needs, to understand what’s going to help them be successful as it is somebody who’s a subordinate or a peer.

So, it’s really those three things. It’s make sure you’re clear, look for the shared interests, and then really clearly define how you can support them to help them be successful.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And so then, what are the key things to not do during the course of these conversations?

Ron Price
To talk and not listen. Of course, if you’re giving an assignment, there’s an important communication component of you speaking, but to take the time to ask what they think and to find out whether or not what you’re asking them to do is what they want to do. We find that something like 60%, 70% of the time that people don’t follow through on an assignment that was asked of them. The reason is because the person who gave them the assignment never asked them whether or not they were committed to doing it. They just assumed they were.

So, taking the time to ask and not just assume that somebody is going to follow through. So, I guess you said, “What should you not do?” Probably the biggest trouble we get into is our assumptions, the stories that we tell ourselves without ever validating whether they’re true or not. And I don’t know how many times I thought I knew what the other person was thinking, and I took the time to ask and found out what they were thinking was not at all what I had in mind.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, when you are asking, “Hey, are you committed to this or what are you thinking?” what are some of the particular questions that seem to yield insight again and again?

Ron Price
“Is this something that you feel comfortable being involved with? Is this something that you feel you can do well? Is this something that you will enjoy doing? And help me understand the timeframe because everything else that you have going on, help me understand the timeframe that you need in order to get this done well and in a way that you’ll enjoy it. Is there anything I’m missing? Are there issues that you’re dealing with or other responsibilities you’re carrying that may get in the way of this that it would be important for me to know about?”

And this last question is, “If it doesn’t go well, how are you going to reach out and let me know that it’s not going well?” So, I want them to feel empowered and I want them to realize that I recognize that there are a lot of things that interrupt what are our best intentions are, and that’s okay. And when that happens, let’s work on it together.

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

Ron Price
I think one of the most powerful models that I learned from another mentor, actually it’s a husband and wife team, Steve and Jill Morris, they taught me something called the “Triangle of Choice.” They said everybody has perceptions, and our perceptions are different. Everybody has wants, that’s really what drives us to get out of bed each day and go to work. And everybody has behaviors. And people will choose the behaviors that they think will best help them close the gap between their perceptions of the way things are and what they want.

And if I can respect that in everybody that I work with, if I can take the time to understand what their perceptions are and help them make sure that they’re accurate, what their wants are, and have a conversation about whether or not those wants are realistic, then, together, we can work on what are the behaviors that are going to close that gap between perceptions and wants. To me, that’s one of the most powerful leadership models I’ve been able to use in helping other people become the best version of themselves.

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

Ron Price
One of them that has stuck with me for many years was written by Napoleon Hill who is an amazing story in and of himself, and I won’t take the time to tell his story. But he said, “Whatever you can vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe, and enthusiastically act upon, must inevitably come to pass.”

So, I’ve tried for years to prove him wrong. “Whatever you can vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe, and enthusiastically act upon, must inevitably come to pass.” I use that in my personal life, I use it in my professional life, it’s been a wonderful compass for the way that I want to live my life.

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

Ron Price
I’ve been really fascinated with where neuroscience is going, and I’m associated with a brain science lab where we’re measuring seven different levels of people’s brainwaves. We’re looking at how they respond to things subconsciously. As a matter of fact, we’ll throw a picture or a phrase or word up on a computer screen, and before they’ve had time to read it or absorb it, we already have six pictures of their brain, what’s happening in their subconscious mind.

And what I’m fascinated about is this new science that’s just developed in the last 10 to 15 years, is when we combine it with psychology, it’s creating a whole new science of understanding how people think, what their tendencies are, and who they could become. So, I’m really captured by, or captivated by what’s happening in the world of neuroscience right now.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Ron Price

Well, it’s hard to get too far away from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. I don’t know how many times I’ve read it. Every time I read it, I see something new that inspires me.

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

Ron Price
This is kind of cheating but it’s my iPhone.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, sure. Any particular apps that make all the difference?

Ron Price
Well, the apps that I use every single day, I use Reminders. I figured out how to customize it so that it only shows me what I need to get done today. And I have another 250 tasks that are not going to show up until the day that they need to be done. I use Notes quite a bit because it’s a great place for me to capture ideas and categorize them. I use Evernote. I really use Evernote for my reflection about character and expertise. And that morning reflection Evernote is my key tool for that.

And, of course, you can’t get too far away from the Calendar and the way that it helps you to keep track of your schedules. So, having come from the days when you had to do all that on paper, I know people complain about all the noise that we have with email and everything to-date, but I view it as what tremendous power we have in our hands. And I heard it, I’m not a scientist to be able to validate, but I heard that the computing power in our iPhones or Androids today is more computing power than it took to land a man on the moon.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Ron Price
It’s that early morning time. I also love hiking, and that’s a habit that I try to get at least six miles in five days a week. But that early morning time is really the greatest source of strength.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks, like they would quote it back to you?

Ron Price
The thing that people talk to me a lot about after they’ve read Growing Influence is this little dialogue that takes place between the two main characters, where David, who’s a retired CEO, is mentoring Emily who’s a middle manager in a tech company. Just as she’s leaving one of their conversations, he says, “Remember, Emily, lead with logic, follow with emotion.”

And it’s the whole idea that if you want to optimize your influence, never let emotion get in front of logic. And sometimes that means you have to wait and calm down. But people come back and quote that to me over and over and over again, that that really impacted the way that they deal with this noise between logic and emotion.

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

Ron Price
Price-Associates.com. And that leads you to our other websites. We have a lot of videos and podcasts and blogs and all kinds of resources that are available there. So, Price-Associates.com.

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

Ron Price
Well, I think you can already hear my bias, Pete, that is that people really have unlimited potential, only limited by how much they decide they want to develop who they can be. I really think that the more you pour into becoming the best version of yourself, the more you recognize how unlimited that potential is, and it’s a little bit each day, even if it’s 10 minutes or 15 minutes, it’s a little bit each day, over time, will transform your life.

Pete Mockaitis
Ron, this has been a treat. Thanks so much for taking this time. And good luck in all your adventures.

Ron Price
Thanks, Pete. It’s been great to be with you.