This Podcast Will Help You Flourish At Work

Each week, I grill thought-leaders and results-getters to discover specific, actionable insights that boost work performance.

265: Getting the Most Out of Each Day with Peter Shankman

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Peter Shankman walks through his unique take on productivity and lessons learned from ADHD that anyone can apply.

You’ll Learn:

  1. 4 simple rules to be more productive
  2. Tricks to eliminate distraction
  3. Why you should always ask for a deadline

About Peter

Peter Shankman is a spectacular example of what happens when you merge the power of pure creativity with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and a dose of adventure, and make it work to your advantage. An author, entrepreneur and corporate keynote speaker, this “worldwide connector” is recognized worldwide for radically new ways of thinking about customer service, social media, PR, marketing, advertising, and ADHD. He founded Help A Reporter Out, ShankMinds: Breakthrough, Geek Factory, and more.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Peter Shankman Interview Transcript

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

Peter Shankman
My pleasure. Good to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you have had a fascinating background which has been fun to learn about as I’m doing my research here. And I want to hear a little bit about some of your history when it comes to publicity stunts and people doing publicity stunts. Can you share maybe one of the most strikingly interesting, outrageously wild publicity stunts that come to mind from your experience there?

Peter Shankman
Well, first of all, I want to say it’s really funny to be on a podcast about being awesome at your job because I’ve had a total of one job in my entire life and it lasted two years, and when I went to go to my next job I realized that I just don’t play well with others. And so, I’ve been working as an entrepreneur for about almost 20 years now, and it is never once felt like a job. So, I think the number one key of being awesome at your job is do something that you don’t actually feel like you’re working at. It’s pretty awesome. But I love your podcast and I’m happy to chat.

PR stunts, what can I tell you? I can tell you that a PR stunt for the sake of a PR stunt is pointless. All the best PR stunts in the world they do several things. They drive product, they drive sales, they increase brand exposure, they increase revenue. You’re never going to find a CEO who’s a big fan of people who say, “You know what, we should do this stunt.” “Why?” “It’d be great. It’ll go viral.”

Pete Mockaitis
Go viral.

Peter Shankman
Like, “Shut up.” So, if you look at something like the – I’m totally spacing on it now – the guy with the abs, Old Spice. Old Spice, several years ago, they did these things on Twitter where people would tweet the Old Spice guy, and he’d respond by a video. It cost them about three bucks a piece to do, generated ridiculous amounts of brand exposure and sales, right?

I’ve had clients, we’ve done events where we’ve created massive, massive publicity, and massive, massive exposure that has led to sales. Some of the best ones I remember, God, back when domain names costs like 79 bucks a piece. We did one where we offered domains, it was a domain service, a domain name company, a TLD, and we offered free domains for one night to protest the fact that they cost 79 bucks when they shouldn’t, and we broke the internet.

It was back in 2000 where there’s still a lot of people on dial-up and we crashed the northeast seaboard. It was pretty impressive. But, you know, again, great exposure. After the promotion they sold like, I think, 40 times the amount of domain names in two hours they would normally sell in three weeks. So, if you’re going to do a stunt, at the end of the day if you’re going to present it to your boss with that, they will look at you and think you’re awesome if you come up with this great idea, but then also tie it into revenue, tie it into why it’s important.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, I’d like to hear. Any that just failed, bombed, where it’s just silly disasters?

Peter Shankman
Oh, I had tons. You look around, I’ve screwed up once. I mean, there were tons. Let me think about some great ones that have bombed. Any stunts that rely on going viral, right? You can’t make anything viral. What you could do is make something good. So, I would suggest that people need to focus on making things good, because if you make something viral that’s not going be that great.

The only thing that makes viral as far as I could tell is H1N1 or some source of disease. You want to make something good, you want to create something that people say, “Wow, this is pretty cool to look at. I’m a huge fan of this and I like this. I trust them.” No one believes how great you are anymore if you’re the one that has to tell them. Your goal is to create something that people understand and like and want and want to use without them saying, “Oh, yeah, I feel like they’re marketing to me or selling to me.”

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Cool. All right. Well, thank you. So, I want to spend most of our time chatting about some of the ideas and applications that you’ve collected much of within your book Faster Than Normal. Can you share with us what is sort of the main premise of the book and why is this important here and now?

Peter Shankman
Faster Than Normal is the basic premise that a lot of us are undiagnosed ADHD. Some of us have sort of been diagnosed. I’ve had it for 10 years, but for 30 years I always thought I was just different and strange, right? At the end of the day, what you find is that ADHD, since it has come out as a disorder, has always been considered a negative.

And when I realized that I had, and realized there was a name for it, and realized what it was, I’m like, “Holy crap, this thing has actually done tremendously well for me. This disorder is actually responsible for the majority of my success.” And when I realized that I quickly became aware that ADHD can be considered a gift, not a curse if you understand how to use it.

And so, for me, I’ve spent the past countless years documenting how I use my ADHD as a gift, what I do to allow myself to use it to the best of my ability, to benefit my life, to allow me to sort of – for lack of a better word – do more than normal people. And it sounds crazy but it turns out that when you have a faster brain, as long as you know how to use it, you actually can do a lot.

Here’s a pretty good example. If I offered you the choice between a Honda and a Lamborghini you’d probably choose the Lamborghini, right? It’s a faster car. It’s a sick ride. It’s amazing. But you’ve got to know how to drive it. If you’re used to driving a KIA Sportage your entire life, and someone gives you a Lamborghini, if you don’t know how to drive it you’re going to step on the gas, expecting it to respond the same way that your KIA responds, you’re going to smash it into a tree or kill someone or fall off a bridge.

You have to understand how to drive your faster brain. Driving your faster brain is different than driving a regular brain at a normal speed, so there are pluses and minuses to that.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, I’m really intrigued to hear your point, so that folks don’t tune out right away, it’s like, “Well, I’m not ADHD so this doesn’t apply to me.”

Peter Shankman
Oh, it applies to everyone.

Pete Mockaitis
So, when you said there are many, many folks who are undiagnosed ADHD, and I had a former girlfriend who kept insisting that I, too, had ADHD. So, what might be some of the telltale signs? And what do we do about it if we find ourselves in that case?

Peter Shankman
Well, I’ll take it a step further for your audience. You don’t have to have ADHD to appreciate the tools and the sort of life hacks that I use on a regular basis.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome.

Peter Shankman
You can be a normal girl or guy who just wants to get three hours a day back in your life productivity-wise.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that sounds nice. Very nice.

Peter Shankman
Yeah, the stuff that I do allows me to get about three hours’ worth of productivity back in my life every day, and they sound crazy until you realize how beneficial they are. First example, I get up usually around 3:45 in the morning.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, 3:45 a.m.

Peter Shankman
3:45 a.m. And the first reaction of anyone who hears that is, “Wow, that’s crazy. What are you? A farmer?” And I get it. It’s not normal, but the majority of things I do aren’t normal but they work for me. I get up so early because it is the only time during the day – when I don’t have to be on my phone, or at my computer, or doing something with work, or focusing on my daughter – I can work out.

So, I get out of my bed and I either go to the gym, go for a run, or more often than not, lately get on my Peloton bike which sits literally six inches to my bed. I sleep in my gym clothes which, again, that’s crazy. But, really, what are your gym clothes? Your gym clothes are a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, right? Probably the same thing you’d sleep in anyway. And my socks. So, the second I wake up I thrown on my sneakers on, I’m dressed.

It’s kind of hard to talk yourself out of going to the gym when you’re already in your gym clothes. I have automatic lights that come on. My lights are all internet of things, my curtains, my shades, my everything. Everything in my apartment is internet of things so the second 3:45 a.m. hits, the light starts coming up slowly, so I’m awake with natural awake lighting, and the chance of going back to sleep drop massively.

Then, once I’m up, I get on my Peloton bike, I do like an hour or two hours of working out. Well, what that does is that gives you a ridiculous hit of dopamine, okay? It wakes you up. It gives you that dopamine which is basically the focus chemical. It’s the focus and happy chemical that says, “Hey, you are awake. Let’s go kick some ass.” It’s like a winner’s high. A winner’s high essentially.

You can get the same thing from speaking on stage. You can get the same thing from skydiving, the same thing from illegal drugs. It’s that dopamine hit that everyone craves. Well, I am now full of it by 6:00 a.m. okay? So, now, I’m out of the gym, I’m out of the whatever. I go to my closet to get dressed, and my closet has exactly two sides to it and they’re labeled.

The first side says, “Office/Travel,” and it’s full of T-shirts and jeans just like I’m wearing today. The second side says, “Speaking/TV,” and it’s full of buttoned down shirts, jackets and jeans. That’s it. My suits, my vests, my sweaters, my night shoes, all that stuff, my ties, those are all in my daughter’s closet in the other room.

Because if I had to go into the closet every morning and say, “You know what, I wonder what I should wear? Hmm, let’s see. Hmm, look at that sweater. Mom gave me that sweater. I wonder how well she’s doing. I should look her up. Let me check.” Three hours later I’m naked in the living room on Facebook and I haven’t left past.

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect. So, you’re saying that the key there is because of ADHD.

Peter Shankman
Elimination of choice.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, understood. Okay. Cool. And so, then, now a number of these rituals seem like, well, I don’t know if you chose to do them as a means of managing in particular your ADHD because they sound wise just in general. Maybe I want to back up just a little bit though. So, you wake up at 3:45 a.m. And what time do you go to bed?

Peter Shankman
Usually about 8:30, 9:00 o’clock at night.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool.

Peter Shankman
And here’s the thing, for everyone listening saying, “Oh, my God. I’ve missed out on everything. I’ve missed all the good networking.” No, you won’t. I’ve been doing this for years. I have not missed out on a damn thing because all the people who really have the power to make decisions they’re not out drinking, right? You’re having breakfast with them at 7:00 a.m. at the plaza, egg whites and coffee.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Peter Shankman
That’s the real thing. I have never missed out on anything business-wise by going to bed early.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I’m with you. Well, so there we go. So, we talked about the elimination of choice in terms of in the closet a lot of things are elsewhere, and it’s labeled it. It’s so funny. I just labeled my closet recently because, well, there’s all sorts of clutter, I was like, “We just got to get really clear on what goes where in that way the clutter goes away.” It’s like, “Oh, this is the sweater kind of cubbie. All right. Now, I don’t get to think about it anymore. That’s always where the sweaters are.” And so, I dig it. It’s very cool. Now, you sort of gone ahead and sort of defined in particular four undeniable life rules associated with ADHD that are applicable more broadly. And so, what are those?

Peter Shankman
Well, the first one, like I said, is exercise every day. Second one is elimination of choice. The third one is the concept of eating healthy. When you’re ADHD you’re just driven, you tend to have two speeds and only two speeds. My two speeds are namaste and I’m kind of bitch. There is absolutely no middle ground. There’s no middle ground. And so, once you realize that it’s a lot easier to live your life.

So, for instance, you know how certain people who – and I know some of these people – they get home after work, and they’re like, “You know what, I’m tired. I don’t really feel like cooking. I’m going to order in a pizza.” And they order a pizza, and they have two slices, and they box the rest of it in a tin foil and they put it in the fridge, right? That’s called leftover pizza to have at another time, right? Okay, I’ve never had leftover pizza in my life. That is just not a thing.

Pete Mockaitis
You just devour the whole pie?

Peter Shankman
If the pizza is in front of me I’m eating the pizza. I have never once had leftover pizza in my life. There was a comedian, I remember, who said, “I don’t eat until I’m full of eating until I hate myself.” That’s what I do. I basically sit there and I will eat the pizza because, again, two speeds. And so, knowing that, there was a great movie that came out in the ‘80s, it’s called War Games, and it was about a computer with Matthew Broderick.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, right with the news.

Peter Shankman
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
An interesting game, okay.

Peter Shankman
Exactly. And the computer understood. The very last line of the movie was the computer understanding that you can’t win at nuclear war, and he says, “The only winning move is not to play.” And so, I have determined that in my life the only winning move for me is not to play. I allow myself certain times in very constrained conditions to play.

For instance, the last two weeks of December, I knew I wasn’t traveling, I knew I wasn’t working, and I let myself eat, right? But sure enough, I probably ordered pizza every single day. Now, I’m back onto healthy, and because of that I cook all my food in advance. Like every Sunday I make a ton of skinless chicken, I make a ton of lean flank steak, things like that that I just carry with me. I have a ton of spinach salads, yogurts, things of that.

I take yogurt with me out the door, I’m eating as I walk to work. It stops me from going, “Oh, look, there’s a Dunkin Donuts,” or, “Look, there’s a McDonald’s,” or, “Look, there’s…” whatever. It turns that off because I simply know that that is not an option at that time. And I have those, and it sounds rigid but it has to be that way because I work in shared community and some idiot is always bringing in donuts.

For example, I walked in my office today, I haven’t been since early last week because of the holidays. I walked in today, some client delivered me a 10-pound box or one of those 10-pound tins of popcorn, regular cheese and caramel, right? I opened that, I opened the box, I took out the tin, I didn’t even break the seal on the tin.

I simply left my office, walked up to the administration desk up front and went to the two women who worked there, I’m like, “Hey, I got a present for you,” and I left it there. “Wow, you’re so nice.” “No, I’m simply ridding myself from sitting in my office eating 10 pounds of popcorn today.” So, again, eliminate that, know what works for you, know what doesn’t, so I try to eat healthy. My logic is if I’m grandmother wouldn’t have recognized it as food back in 1908, I won’t eat it.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Peter Shankman
And then the fourth rule, I think I’ve touched on this earlier, simply getting enough sleep. So, it’s amazing what happens when you don’t get enough sleep. The second you don’t get enough sleep your body – and it’s the same thing with not drinking enough water – your body is unbelievably good at adapting, and so it will basically, if it says, “You know what, you haven’t gotten enough sleep. I’m going to make you do other things. I’m going to make you think that you want to do other things when I’m just trying to get you to sleep.”

Same thing with water, “You haven’t drunk enough water. I’m going to make you feel hungry but you’re not actually hungry. You’re thirsty. But I know there’s water in whatever food you eat and maybe that’s a way for me to get what I need.” The brain is amazing.

Pete Mockaitis
So, the corollary then, on the sleep side, is what’s the body prompting us to do when we’re sleep deprived?

Peter Shankman
It varies. We could do everything from, “Oh, my God. I need several more cups of coffee,” or, “I need to take a stimulant,” or even just sitting in your office zoning out and not being anywhere near as productive as you can.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Peter Shankman
Right? And it’s so funny because people, “Oh, I wish I could eat or sleep. I don’t have the time.” Well, I’m pretty sure that where you live and where I live, the sun orbits the earth around, or the earth orbits the sun around the same time, right? If you live in one part of New York and I live in another part of New York, and you say you don’t have the time, but I somehow do have the time, I’m pretty sure it’s not that time has nothing to do with it.

I’m pretty sure that we both live on the same part of the planet that revolves around the sun at the same exact time so I don’t suddenly have an hour more in my day time-wise than you do. What I do have is the priority.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I’m with you. Cool. So, now I’m intrigued then, in a way it seems like the elimination of choice is one that really reinforces and supports all the other three.

Peter Shankman
No question about it.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, I’d love to maybe go a little bit deeper then on that. So, we talked about the closet and the food. What are some other ways you think professionals could really be enriched by some application of elimination of choice?

Peter Shankman
My desk has my laptop on it, it has my screens on it, and that would be about it. Maybe it has a glass or a bottle of water. Keep your desk clean. Keep the stuff clean and you will find that there’s nothing to get lost in, right? I have to do work on Facebook for a living so I do kind of a wonderful extension for Chrome called Kill Newsfeed which does exactly that. All I see on Chrome is my advertising and things like that so I don’t get suck down that rabbit hole.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow.

Peter Shankman
I go into specific places. I have five books that I’ve written, and for the last three of them have been written entirely on airplanes, I mean, I fly a lot for work, but flying is also the best place where I can get work done. So, I have actually done things where I will go and I will fly – I flew to Asia – to write a book. I flew to Asia, I had two weeks left to my deadline, I wrote chapters one through five on the flight out.

I landed in Tokyo, I went through immigration, I went back through immigration, I had a cup of coffee in the lounge, got back on the same plane, same seat two hours later, wrote chapters six through ten . . . landed 31 hours later with a bestselling book. It sounds crazy but, again, if it works for you it’s not.

[00:18:14]

Pete Mockaitis
And I’ve heard sort of different variance of that, writing a book was it J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter? She went to a hotel.

Peter Shankman
Yeah, she went to a hotel. Same thing. Same exact thing.

Pete Mockaitis
Or some others will go to a remote cabin or cottage.

Peter Shankman
My basic thing is if I need to work, I need to go to a place where I can go into… Cal Newport wrote a book called Deep Work, and the basic premise behind that is exactly that. On my plane, I’m in my, what I call my zone of focus, okay? Nothing can bother me. I have a flight attendant constantly bringing me water or soda, whatever.

It’s in-air in-flight internet which kind of sucks anyway, so I don’t have internet, right? All I have is my laptop, my comfortable seat, a bathroom 30 steps away, and 14 hours to do nothing. I use a wonderful program on the Mac called Ommwriter which allows you to shut down every other program, alert, whatever, on your computer as long as you’re using it, and only shows you a white screen that you can type on.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Interesting. And so that’s just for writing then.

Peter Shankman
Yup, and I put on a really good headphones, I have some great work music and I just go to town.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, let’s hear about the work music. What are you sporting there?

Peter Shankman
Oh, my God, it varies. It’s everything from themes, a lot of theme songs, a lot of movie soundtracks, some great ones. Everything from The Book of Eli which is all instrumental, all the way up to Rocky which has some really good powerful stuff on it, it keeps me going. For me, it’s really about listening, having that music play in the background.

Studies have shown time after time that music does help your concentration and, yeah, it’s really about having that. And I love my headphones, I have my Harman, P35 I think, great headphones. And I use everything I have to get what I need to get into the zone I need to be in, the place I need to be in so I can get everything I need to get done done.

Pete Mockaitis
So, with the music, are you deliberately choosing, “Hmm, I’m a little sluggish or sleepy. Let’s kind of pump it up,” versus, “Ooh, I’m a little bit all over the place. Let’s slow it down”? Or is that kind of how you’re playing that game?

Peter Shankman
Not necessarily. I have music. If you go to my work music it does tend to be a lot less vocals, a lot more instrumental, because if it’s vocals I’ll wind up singing along which might not often help. But it’s definitely a lot more instrumental. But, yeah, again it’s just music that I love. Whatever works for you, use. But, yeah, that’s the kind of stuff for me that I’m a huge fan of.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I am intrigued here. It seems like one of the themes we were talking about here from the early rising to the flying to Asia and back is about sort of isolation or separation from distractions in general, but people in particular. And so, I guess I’m curious about the other people side of the equation. It’s like one approach is to just get completely away from them via they’re not awake or you’re in a plane and you can’t be accessed. What are some of your other thoughts for how that you manage that area kind of prudently and appropriately?

Peter Shankman
Well, I have a four-year old daughter, and when I’m with her I want to be completely and fully with her, right? I don’t want to be looking at my phone so I’ll leave my phone in my room and just go out and play with her. For me, it’s really about being in that moment and being as present as possible, and I know that when my phone is in front of me I’m going to look at it, right?

And so, I also know that I’ve set up my life in such a way that I’ve worked. By the time 5:00, 6:00 p.m. is when I head home to see her, I’ve been working since – what? 6:00 a.m.? 7:00a.m.? – so, I can take a break.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Peter Shankman
I can go enjoy myself, and that to me is huge. There’s no guilt there. And I shut off my phone at night when I go to sleep at night. I don’t just put it on silent. I shut it off. And what I found from that is that, “Oh, my God, what happens if I shut it off? Will I miss so much?” You know how many times I’ve actually missed something important, I think once. And the people who matter in my life are my parents, my daughter’s mom, they have my home number.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Peter Shankman
Worst case, if it’s 2:00 in the morning, they can call the home number. It’s never been a problem. We make a lot more of these problems in our minds than really exists.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m also curious to hear, you’ve dropped the name of several tools whether it’s a Chrome extension or a piece of software or your headphones. I would love to hear all the more. What are some additional tools or hacks you’re using with the tools, whether it’s the calendar, the to-do list, or whatever, that you find handy for running your brain and your life?

Peter Shankman
Yeah, I think you have to figure out what ecosystem you belong to and stick with it. So, I’m in the Mac and Google ecosystems, so I have my iPhone. But because I’m on Google, I also use a Huawei Mate 10 which is a phenomenal phone, so I use both of them. And the apps that I use vary for what I need. I use everything from, I’m huge on WhatsApp, on WeChat, all that stuff where I go overseas a lot, so how can I continue to be connected and not have to worry about losing that connection wherever I go. And then I’ll shut down when I need to.

So, what other apps do I use? I love shopping. Being able to think about something I might need, add it to my shopping order over the course of a week and then just hit send every Saturday. So, again, it’s really just eliminating the choice and eliminating the worry of, “Did I put that there? Did I take care of that?” Whatever.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Now, when you say hit send with shopping.

Peter Shankman
So, I use FreshDirect. That’s only in New York. I’m not sure if it’s everywhere. But essentially FreshDirect, I just order everything online, it shows up four days later. It’s from a store out in the city. It’s phenomenal.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s good. I dig Instacart here in Chicago.

Peter Shankman
Yeah, same thing.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Okay. Well, any other things that you want to share when it comes to the creative energy or this mythical hyper-focus? How do we tap into some of these superpowers?

Peter Shankman
I would suggest one more thing, and that is that when you don’t have a deadline, that’s a problem. Like I can’t work without a deadline, and what I’ve learned is to tell my clients to give me an actual date and time that he wants something, because if they don’t, what ends up happening is it becomes the most important thing to do until the next project I get, and then that becomes the most important thing and I haven’t finished the first one.

So, if you tell me, “Oh, just give it to me whenever,” you’ll never get it. But if you tell me, “I need it by Tuesday at 4:00 p.m.,” you’ll get it on Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. because now I have a deadline to work backwards from there. And we do that a lot. Most CEOs, we tend to not be able to complete things because there’s always something new coming up. So, if you give me a deadline I’ll make sure I get it.

And the last thing I’d suggest is make sure you have a tribe of people who understand what you’re doing for a living and understand what you need and how they could benefit you. Essentially, have a support system. We don’t talk about this but working for someone else, entrepreneurship, whichever work you’re doing, it tends to get lonely, right? Most people don’t understand what you do and unless they’re working right with you and want to share people right with you because then it becomes a competitive thing.

You really want to focus on having a tribe of people. I mean, for me, I run a Mastermind group, it’s called ShankMinds and we have just under 200 people in it, all of whom are either entrepreneurial in nature or work for themselves, whatever. And I could say, “Guys, do me a favor. I’m putting it out here. I want to make sure I’m up for it. I have a thousand words I need to write by March. Make sure I get it done.” And I’ll get emails 6:00 a.m. “Hey, done it yet? Done it yet? Done it yet?” and it forces you to do it. It’s great. So, I’m a huge fan of having a tribe, having a group of people who you trust.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Well, thank you for sharing. And so, then, anything else on tapping into the hyper-focus and creative energies?

Peter Shankman
I think, at the end of the day, you can’t force it. If you’re not in a mode or in a mood or in the right place to get what you need done done, don’t do it right then; do it another time, right? Do something else. One thing that I’ve had great success with is doing things that I love first. So, I’ll go for a run or I’ll do something.

I talk to kids in school all the time and I tell them, “Look, if you have two subjects in homework, Math and English, and you love English but hate Math, do the English first. Because you love doing English, that in itself will give you a little bit of a brain chemistry boost that will let you get through the Math.”

Pete Mockaitis
Now, I find that logical on one hand, and then I’ve got in my other ear, “Is it Brian Tracy Eat That Frog advice associated with procrastination or feeling like a bowling winner who knocks out the trickiest thing, at the end of the day and feels momentum?” How do you…?

Peter Shankman
Here’s the thing, at the end of the day, your homework is due tomorrow, either way. So, for me, I look along the lines of being able to, I want every bit of availability to be able to do the stuff I love. And I know that if I do the stuff I love first I’ll be excited about it, I’ll be happy about it and then I will feel that hopefully will translate into giving me just a little bit of brain boost to get through that I don’t love. Now, I totally understand what Brian said and all that. I get that. It’s just different ways of working.

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

Peter Shankman
Oh, we’re good. I think, at the end of the day, ADHD or just trying to get more out of your day is actually a good thing as long as you know how to use it.

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

Peter Shankman
A friend of mine once told me this to me, he said, “If you can’t change the people around you, change the people around you.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, okay. I see two levels there.

Peter Shankman
Huge fan. Always been a huge fan of that.

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

Peter Shankman
So, I used to date a woman who was neuroscientist, a Ph.D. neuroscientist, years ago. And she took me, she knew that I skydive, and she used to do studies on the brain and things like that. And one day, she said, “I want to your blood and do some tests on you for fun.” This test for me, she basically took my blood right before I jumped out of a plane, when I woke the day I was going skydiving because I have about 500 jumps, and then again when I came down. She said, “Yeah, when you woke up, you’re pretty much normal, classic ADHD, 25% less monoamine inhibitors, all those things,” I had no idea what she meant.

And she goes, “And then when you land, you’re pretty much a coke addict.” She goes, “You’re about as high as a kite, you’re about a mile away from being a full-pledged junkie.” I’m like, “Intriguing.” And so, it’s that sort of wakeup call that, “Yeah, this stuff really works and you can use it to your advantage.” I found that amazing. Getting your brain into that place where it’s just supercharged is such a good thing.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. Thank you. And now, how about a favorite book?

Peter Shankman
What’s my current favorite book? There was a great book called They Can Kill You But They Can’t Eat You, it’s by a woman named Dawn Steel. She was the first female head at Paramount, and she talks all about making it in that industry. It’s a great book when you’re looking for inspiration.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, you’ve already mentioned several tools. But could you tell us about a total favorite of yours?

Peter Shankman
Like I said, Ommwriter is definitely a given. Anything that allows me to work better, faster, quicker without delay. So, whether that means not having to talk to people, it could be anything from an airline app all the way to my Canon camera which transfers photos from my real camera all the way to my phone automatically so you get great Instagram shots. Whatever it is.

Pete Mockaitis
How about TextExpander? I’m a huge fan myself.

Peter Shankman
I love TextExpander. Yeah, love TextExpander. I love, like I said, Ommwriter. All those things are great. I use a great one called Jing by TechSmith that allows me to grab, it’s a great screenshot program.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, yeah.

Peter Shankman
So, you have tons of them out there.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool.

Peter Shankman
Dropbox, Google Drive. Again, anything that works for you.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And is there a particular nugget that you share that you sort of hear quoted back to yourself often?

Peter Shankman
You can’t make anything viral but you can make something good.

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

Peter Shankman
My link is at shankman.com, the Mastermind is at ShankMinds.com, and the podcast/book on ADHD is at FasterThanNormal.com.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. And do you have a final challenge or call to action you’d issue to folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?
Peter Shankman
If you do nothing else, get up a half an hour earlier. It’ll change your life.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. All right. Well, Peter, this has been such a treat. Thank you for sharing. And good luck in all of your writing and masterminding, and all you’re up to.

Peter Shankman
My pleasure. Looking forward to it. Talk soon.

Pete Mockaitis
Bye-bye.

264: Navigating the Treacherous Ascent to Leadership with Ron Carucci

By | Podcasts | One Comment

 

 

Ron Carucci shares his groundbreaking research on the patterns of successful–unsuccessful–rises to greater organizational power.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How resumes and interviews routinely mislead
  2. How to minimize alienation
  3. The four patterns of successful leaders

About Ron

Ron is a seasoned consultant with more than 25 years of experience working with CEOs and senior executives of organizations ranging from Fortune 50s to start-ups in pursuit of transformational change. His consulting has taken him to more than 20 different countries on four continents. He has consulted to some of the world’s most influential CEOs and executives on issues ranging from strategy to organization to leadership. He has worked extensively in the health sciences, biotech, and healthcare provider sectors and in the technology, consumer products, and retail food and beverage industries.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Ron Carucci Interview Transcript

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

Ron Carucci
Pete, great to be with you. Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I think the first thing that we’ve got to cover head on is that you possess a doorknob collection. What’s the story here?

Ron Carucci
Gosh, you know, you never know how to answer the classic question interviews ask you about, “What’s an interesting fact about you that nobody would know?” And, you know, I was looking around my office and I looked at these big jars I have of these beautiful antique knobs, “Oh, I’m going to put that,” knowing that it would bait somebody to ask.

So a long time ago, as an art endeavor to give a gift to somebody whose life is about opening doors, I created this beautiful sculpture, this sort of glass sculpture which is basically a beautiful tall glass jar filled with, you know, all kinds of antique doorknobs from hundreds of years ago, 50 years ago, every era. So you see decades and decades of stories.

And the metaphor for me was imagine all of the hands that touched these knobs over the years, and the entrances people made into rooms, and all the conversations that ensued. And so I made them for people whose life was about opening doors, was about creating access, creating doorways for people. And then people started asking me to make them.

And so probably, for people where I felt like it was more than I made them, and then I made a giant one for myself because, I thought, I want one of these. But I made it so large that the glass jar broke and exploded and I got really impressed over that. So then I made three little ones out of that same set of collection. So those are sitting in my office on the coffee table by the couch.

And so they’re just a wonderful reminder of, you know, the stories of our life came long before us, and they will go on long after us, and many people had to open doors for us and there are many people relying on us to open doors for them. And it’s a great reminder to think about being part of a much bigger story than the one we just see.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that is cool. And you got me thinking, you know, I spend a lot of time looking at doors recently because we just bought this home and we’re doing some renovation. I want my home office to have some sound blocking, you know, studio-esque and did all this research and looking at different doorknobs and their impact on the blocking of sound which is funny, it’s like the opposite metaphor, “Do not pass through here. I need the quiet for a good recording.” And so I’m intrigued. So do you have a preference when it comes to an appearance, a finish of bras or copper or satin nickel, or polished chrome?

Ron Carucci
There’s glass ones in there, there’s crystal ones, there’s leathers, there’s ones that came right, you can tell, right out of the ‘50s, the houses I grew up in. There are door knockers in there. There are skeleton keys. Yeah, there’s just all kinds of…there’s wooden ones from the 1800s in there. There’s ones from fancy large doors. There’s ones from cabinet doors. So, yeah, it’s quite a variety of collection.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s wild. Well, thank you for sharing. That is intriguing and it kind of sets up a cool metaphor here. So I want to talk mostly about Rising to Power, the book. But could you maybe orient us a little bit, what’s your company Navalent all about? And am I pronouncing it correctly?

Ron Carucci
You are.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Good.

Ron Carucci
And I’m glad to tell you about us. So I and my colleagues at Navalent get to spend our days traipsing through the hallways of all kinds of organizations: small ones, startup ones, mid-cap ones, large global powerhouses, alongside the journeys of leaders on some pursuit of change, some pursuit of transformation, some pursuit of something better, improved, or get out of some ditch, and helping them construct very complicated journeys of change whether those are strategic or organizational or cultural or their own personal leadership. We help carefully curate the journey with them so that they could actually be successful and reach the aspirations that they dream of reaching.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Alright. Well, it sounds like my kind of place. Well, so now, I want to dig into your book. It’s called Rising to Power which is a juicy title. So, first tell me, what is the main idea and what is it not? Is it about a dictator’s upcoming into their own?

Ron Carucci
No, it’s not about that. We thought we might find them in the research. It’s based on a ten-year longitudinal study of about 2800 people who are all pursuing positions of broader influence in their lives, mostly at the higher ranks of organizations, but it’s a variety. So I know your audience is mostly in their mid-30s and professionals, and so I think that the point in the book certainly apply to all of us in that all of us are pursuing greater influence. We all want to have greater impact. We all want to reach more people and leave positive things behind in our work and make a difference.

And we’ve known for a long time that more than half of those who take on positions of broader influence in organizations fail in their first 18 months. And we’ve known that for 20 years, and it’s just become the new normal. Recruiters love it because it’s an annuity for them but for everybody else it’s a tremendous amount of carnage and wastes in our path and unnecessarily so.

The book began in a personal level when somebody that I had been working with called and I was assuming point of check in, and I was going to hear about great things they had done, and they had been fired. They had started much bigger job 10 months earlier and, yeah, everybody saw them as having great potential and was going to go the distance and could make great impact. And so I couldn’t imagine why it was we could’ve misjudged his potential so greatly, and that I wanted to go back in and find out what happened.

And that investigation led us to the 10-year study to find out that he was really just one more statistic. I thought, “Gosh, we can do better. This is insane that we just accept this as normal.” Why is it that people who look so breathtakingly wonderful in the middle suddenly become disastrous when you move them up? Makes no sense.

And it turns out, after 2700 interviews and a lot of digging, and we sort of stopped about 100 leaders in mid-ascent to see if we could watch in slow motion what was going on to find out what’s causing these people to go tap dancing in these landmines, and how can we up and not do that. So it was a wildly instructive study, difficult in some of the things it revealed in that it’s a wonder any of them are succeeding given all the landmines companies put in their way, and it was inspiring to see that there are many leaders, not only rising and thriving, but sticking a landing and having great impact when they get there, and begin to isolate what it was they were doing that enabled them to be successful.

So it was a pretty robust experience to study all that.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Ron, this is so juicy and I’m so intrigued. And so I’d say, hey, just take us there on the story in terms of, with particular emphasis maybe on kind of the most leveraged forces both in terms of what we see in the organizational landscape, and in terms of the actions folks are taking, the mistakes that seem to trip folks up again and again.

Ron Carucci
One of the most common ones, Pete, is right in the very beginning when we start beginning to prepare people or invite them to bigger jobs. And this is any one of us who go on job interviews or who conduct job interviews, can fall under this trap. So the two most common devices we use to make decisions about people’s jobs are the two least reliable: the resume and the interview. Right? But we’re still using those mechanisms to make choices, and people walk through their resume and we tell them stories.

But one of the most dangerous parts of that conversation begins to sound something like, “Wow, look at that great team you led to that result. That’s what we need.” Or, “Look at this brand you built. That’s what we need.” Or, “My gosh, look at the sales team you’re able to drive such results through. That’s what we need.”

And whether you’re on the asking or receiving end of that question, a red flag should go off. The minute someone starts implying that there is this past set of successes that you’re meant to come and repeat, because the implication is that you have a formula, you have a recipe, you have some tried and true approach that you should come apply here, and that is almost always a setup for failure because it’s devoid of any context, right?

And so somebody comes in, starts slapping on their formula, it starts not to work, I start slapping harder, then I get frustrated, people start backing away and failure set in motion. And so never assume that any success you had is repeatable. Never assume anybody else’s success that they’ve had is something you should want repeated. There may be wisdom, principles, ideas, things that gave me experience that they might apply to the next chapter, but it is never a formulaic recipe that they should just simply repeat.

And so how you ask the question and how you help them adapt or how you help yourself adapt, successes or experiences, to the environment you’re going to is critical. And that starts with you understanding that you have to adapt yourself to the environment as much as you have to change it. It’s a two-way process, and most people who believe they have this mythical mandate to repeat some past success skip the part of their own need to adapt.

Pete Mockaitis
Ooh, wow. That’s fascinating. And it’s sort of intuitive like as you were speaking, it’s like, “Okay, I’m not seeing the problem, I’m not seeing the problem. Oh, okay,” you know? Because it’s just so sort of natural to do just that. It’s like, “We’re looking for someone who had done this. You have done this. Therefore, you will do this and we’re excited.” And so you’re saying that that is by no means predictive, and you’ve shared some stats earlier. In fact, the majority of the time it’s not going to work out the way you had hoped.

Ron Carucci
Just having done it in and of itself is not predictive. If you isolate what competence, right, and that’s what more scientific parts to interviews are showing that if you show a demonstration of competence, tenacity, problem solving, collaboration, working with difficult people, you know, if you can help people extract what was good about what they did but contextualize that to the situation they’re going to be in, that’s predictive.

Just having checked the box off, even if they’d done it three times in their career, is not at all predictive that they can do it again in your environment or your context or in your particular culture, and send them the implied message that you believe they can and, in fact, that’s what you’re hiring them for, is in fact almost always a setup for failure.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Intriguing. Can you speak more about this? That message is a setup for failure in what way and how?

Ron Carucci
In that I’m telling you, “Just come here and repeat what I’ve done.” So I don’t come in looking to learn, I don’t come in looking to understand, “How did the problem you’re in even get here? How did the situation that seems to need what I bring arise? Who caused it? Who are the people here? What have they tried? And how do I need to build credibility with them, build respect with them? How do I need to adapt in this environment in order to be credible here, in order for my ideas to prevail?”

“If I simply come in and start doing, well, my first thing is always that I, you know, start with assigning these taskforces, or I’ve always gone out and just gotten this customer segmentation data, or I’ve always gone out and this is the technology I use. I’ll bring this technology in.” And without any sense for the havoc I’m wreaking, how others are metabolizing this, what ideas they might have, without any sense of the people who I have to live with what I’m building, why would they want to—because now is an indictment, right? All you’re doing is judging and indicting.

Pete Mockaitis
“Yeah, you did it wrong. Let me show you how it’s really done. Watch and learn, guys.”

Ron Carucci
Exactly, Pete, that’s the posture. And how often the one thing you hear that people get most sick of new people is when they begin every sentence for the first four months, “Well, when I was at Johnson & Johnson what we did was…” or, “…the change we did was…” So you got hired because you came from this iconic brand, “Well, at Microsoft what we did was…” and all I hear, and the minute you say that name I stop listening.

But within 10 weeks, you can almost bet casino money on this, people in the break room saying, “If I hear Microsoft one more time, if I hear Johnson & Johnson one more time, I’m going to throw up.” Now, it could be that anything that followed that statement is brilliant. It could be that the idea is perfectly suited. Nobody is going to hear it.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. And so I guess I’m more diplomatically suave astute way to even if you wanted to share that it just maybe have a bit more of a Socratic or curious questioning approach in terms of, “Have you tried to do this?” Or, “What are our thoughts around that?”

Ron Carucci
Exactly. Absolutely. Ask questions, be curious, find out what they’ve learned, and if you have to offer an idea, offer an idea. The origins of the idea are irrelevant.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Ron Carucci
Let the idea start its own narrative. If you think that talking about the last big company you came from as the place you saw the idea worked is the basis of its credibility, then why do I care about the idea?

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect.

Ron Carucci
As I say, that’s great. We’re not J&J.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes.

Ron Carucci
That’s great. We’re not Microsoft, right? And so all I’m telling you is I’m judging you because you’re not.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Okay. That’s very instructive. So there’s a whole sort of cluster theme associated with, “Hey, you did that there. We want you to repeat it.” And then you tried to repeat it and then all sorts of havoc can unfold with regard to you’re annoying people because you keep mentioning that you’re not having a posture of curiosity and learning and adaptation, so that’s sort of one cluster of trouble that emerges there. Are there some other findings that are noteworthy in this study?

Ron Carucci
Well, so the other thing is that, you know, when you start getting frustrated with your brilliant ideas not working, you start to judge people. You start to walk around and saying things like, “How did these people made any money here?” Or you go to your hiring manager and you say, “You didn’t tell me it was this bad,” right? And then the halo becomes a noose, you start hanging yourself.

And as people are backing away from you, you don’t realize you’re becoming isolated, right? And that is sure signs of death. And, of course, then the classic statement we all hear when they had to boot your butt out is, “Well, he just wasn’t a fit.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Ron Carucci
Right? I mean, it’s almost so cliché at how predictable this is. The other one is when your whole relationship landscape changes. So let’s imagine you rise up to a position where the people who used to be your peers now report to you, the people who used to be your bosses are now your peers, people who used to report to you aren’t anywhere near you anymore.

And the entire relational landscape changes, and people either treat you like you’ve changed or they try and treat you like you haven’t changed, right? And so all those boundaries, if you don’t intentionally renegotiate them, they become really awkward. And so people either start expecting to create favor with you, or they start withholding information from you because they’re not sure they can trust you now, and you feel really alienated, you feel like an alien.

You feel like you’re this guy who just arrived from a different planet and people are looking at you funny, or you walk into a room and they stop talking, or they walk into your office and they start asking really innuendo kinds of questions, trying to get information out of you, or leverage a level of intimacy they had with you before to try and get special treatment.

Or that relational disruption, for some people who aren’t ready for it, can really be paralyzing, can be really uncomfortable, can feel really off-balancing, and people who do it make the mistake of going native and getting all in, or they pull away from people and severe relationships rather than saying, “Okay, how does this relationship need to be redefined in my new world? What parts of how we used to interact can we keep?” And what parts have to change and really having healthy honest forward-looking conversation so that you don’t unnecessarily severe relationships or unnecessarily go native and get exploited.

Pete Mockaitis
Ron, this is so good. You know, it shows that you’ve had a lot of conversations, a lot of people, and have zeroed in on patterns, and there’s a real realness and practicality to it. It’s so good. Is there more?

Ron Carucci
Well, sure. So I think the last one I’d offer, and this maybe for some of your listeners who maybe are aspiring to bigger jobs, or maybe who just got one. But the problem becomes when you’re leading a large organization, so that everybody that you lead is not directly touching you or near you or physically with you, where you may have people you lead in other locations, around the country or maybe even around the world. Or there’s several levels between you and everybody you lead.

The biggest alienation from many leaders there is that now their life plays out on the Jumbotron, right? They’re now this bigger than life version of them. I tell these leaders, “Just assume that there’s a megaphone strapped to your mouth 24/7. Everything you say and do is amplified. Everything you do has meaning attached to it. If you walk down the hallway fast, ‘Oh, she’s angry.’ If you walk out of a meeting scratching your head, ‘Oh, my gosh, she’s upset.’”

The best people would just read cues. They could be wildly irrational and inaccurate but just know that you’re now on the Jumbotron and a way for people to concoct to you, people to create versions of you, people that you now have folk-loving told about you in the hinterlands and places you’ve never been before, people are going to quote things you said you never said, “Well, John said…” “I never said it.”

And for many leaders that just can be so off-putting and disorienting because they don’t understand, “How is this happening?” It’s just the price of leadership. It’s the price of walking in organizations where people have to make up a story if they don’t know the answer, and so they have to interpret reality in ways that makes sense to them even if it’s not rational.

And there are ways to counterbalance some of this with how transparent you are, how you communicate, how you choose to be accessible and how you make people know you in ways that mitigate their need to make you up. But you can’t get away from all of it. And, to me, leaders try and set out on making sure that they neutralize all of that stuff. And, of course, it’s can’t be done. It’s a full-time job.

So just getting used to the higher altitude and the thinnest of the oxygen up there, you need to take more breaths just like climbing a mountain, you have to get used to the fact that there are some elements of how you lead and how you’re perceived that are simply out of your control.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Well, so maybe we could get sort of one hopeful note within that. You said there are a number of things you can do. Do you have a sort of 80/20 prescription in terms of, “And this is probably one that has a lot of bang for the buck when you find yourself there”?

Ron Carucci
Well, I think the best defense is a good offense, right? If there’s important messaging you need to get out, if there’s important influence you want to have, be vulnerable. Your vulnerability and your humanity are your two greatest assets. Let people know you and let people know that you know you’re flawed.

Talk about the places you know you’re not good. Talk about the things you’re working on. Talk about your own personal values, what you want for the group. Be accessible in a human way to people, that way you’re not having to, you know, so we have people in countries around the world, or locations around the country that you can’t always get to, and obviously use video conference when you can so you can be seen versus just written communications. Do whatever you can to create cohesive intimacy, acknowledging the distance that’s there without having to be physically present and down the hallway and be able to pop in to everybody you lead.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s excellent. And I can recall in some of the early days of my career, I remember I was working at Bain, starting a new case, you’ve got a manager who’s almost a partner and you’re working alongside, and you sort of talk a little bit about professional development goals, and I say, “Oh, yeah, I’m kind of looking to work on this, this, and this.” And then he just said, “Okay, yeah, great. Thank you. I’ll keep that in mind. And here’s some things I’m working on.”

And it’s like it’s so… it was like my mind was blown in the sense of that level of humility and vulnerability, just made me go, “Whoa. This person is real.” And I just felt instantly like, “Oh, I can talk to this guy about stuff,” instead of having to worry about the things that are permissible and impermissible to be shared with them.

Ron Carucci
Yup. Well, that’s one reason why Bain continues to get voted in the top three companies to work for, right? You have leaders who are really people know they care. And impressionable service where you can have all kinds of cutthroat rivalry and all kinds of horrible individualistic cannibalistic behavior. It’s wonderful that they have worked so hard. I’ve always thought, “Gosh, if I didn’t have my own consulting firm, Bain would be one of the places I’d love to work.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, it was a great experience in many ways

Ron Carucci
Yup.

Pete Mockaitis
But I want to touch based on, so, I think a number of listeners will say, “Okay, not yet an executive. Those sound like interesting and problems that I hope to have some years down the line.” What are some of your pro tips for what can just convey this guy or gal is a rising executive and can set folks up for success in seeing that altitude sooner rather than later?

Ron Carucci
Well, the reality is that the four dimensions that we found, in the data, these four patterns, no matter how we cut the data up, almost a hundred regression analysis, these four patterns were the continued hallmark of those whose influence stuck, whose impact was sustained, and their patterns of behavior and influence we can all use, it doesn’t matter where you are.

So the first one we call breadth. This was people who understood that the organization was made up of many parts, right? So when you get to the top you can glue it together. But even from where you’re at, you know, there are some border, there are some other department, there are some colleague, there’s somebody across a moat that you have to work with, that relies on you, you have to collaborate with. Do you understand how to bring cohesion where there’s fragmentation?

Organizations are natural fragmenting parts, they are naturally pulled apart with centrifugal force. Can you cross a border? Do you know how to create connections across boundaries? Can you appreciate the world? If you’re in finance, do you understand what sales has to do? If you’re marketing, do you understand what supply chain has to do?

Who are the counterparts around the organization who you tend to get annoyed with or you tend to be frustrated by and think, “Gosh, if they knew how much havoc they wreak in my life.” Well, the chances are you probably wreak the same havoc in their life. So how do you cross those borders and understood how you work this into a larger story? The more you can see how the whole organization works the more general a contributor you can be.

The second we call context. So this is the person who comes in and read the tea leaves, right? Are you curious? Are you asking questions? Do you know the trends to disrupt your industry? Do you know what the competitive moods are? Regardless of where you are in the organization, do you know why your customers are choosing you? Do you understand the landscape of which you sit? And are you seriously asking questions to learn what’s happening around you and why? Can you read context? Can you read the context of your culture, and why certain norms and behaviors are accepted and those that aren’t?

The third one we call choice. So this is the ability to make really hard calls. Leadership is being able to disappoint people, that’s what it means, right? So, can you say no? Can you narrow the focus of the organization? Can you prioritize people’s work so that you aren’t over-committing them?

You never walk around an organization and hear somebody say, “Wow, we just have too few priorities. Gosh, we’re way too focused.” Right? You hear, “My gosh, how many more things you’re going to put on my plate? How much resource do you think I have?” Over-committed, over-extended, under-focused, priorities du jour, changing priorities by the day. And so great choice makers can make hard calls. They can narrow people’s focus.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so powerful.

Ron Carucci
They can choose what to work on and choose to what to say no to. And it’s not about saying no to bad ideas. Any dummy can do that. But say no to even great ideas because other great ideas have to prevail.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. You know, we had Greg McKeown who wrote Essentialism back in episode 38, and he said that originally the word priority was never pluralized. There’s only one.

Ron Carucci
Yup. I love that but I actually interviewed Greg a few times for my Forbes column. Great guy and a great book.

And the last one we call connection. You know, not surprisingly these are the relationships that you have with people above you, alongside you, and below you. All around you, direct reports, peers and bosses, you build relationships of deep trust, deep credibility and reliability. And one of the key differentiating factors of these, they call the relationships, were not so much asking, “Who do I need things from?” But these people set themselves apart by actively seeking ways to help others succeed.

They actively ask the question, “Who can I help? Who needs what I have to offer?” And so if you haven’t done it, seek down a map of your stakeholders, the key relationships in your organization regardless of where you sit, and whose success can you contribute to. Who can you say to, “How can I help you be better at what you do today?”

And people who actively seek to put others’ needs on their agenda, those are the folks that are remembered and given opportunities to have greater impact.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that is so good. That is so good. Ron, this is excellent overview which I know has a lot of depth underneath it. But tell me, is there anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about a few of your favorite things?

Ron Carucci
No, I think we’re good.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. Well, then can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Ron Carucci
My mentor, she’s still my mentor, has been for 30 something years. Early in my career she said to me, “Nothing is irrevocable except death.” And the reminder is every day we get second chances, we get do-overs. Not on everything but on many more things than we give ourselves access to. And if we could free ourselves from the fears, the anxieties, the projections and judgments of others about us, if we could shed those we might make more courageous and optimal choices.

So, remember it’s okay to skin your knees. You get do-overs.

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

Ron Carucci
So my favorite Jim Collins book is actually one of his most extreme books but I love How the Mighty Fall. It was this interesting leftover bit of research about patterns on arrogance and failure. It’s a brilliant piece of work and it’s one of my favorite pieces of research.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. Well, my next question is about a favorite book. Is it the same or you have another?

Ron Carucci
I think David Whyte’s book Crossing the Unknown Sea should be required reading for the planet. I love the notion of work as a pilgrimage of life.

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

Ron Carucci
In business, I’m a big fan of Zoom. I know we’re not on it but I just love Zoom. It’s all the cool things it can do to connect people, to communicate people, to capture great conversations. It’s really cool.

Pete Mockaitis
Agreed. And how about a favorite habit?

Ron Carucci
Gosh, my wife would say, “How are you going to answer that one?” You know, one of them is, I know a habit or a ritual, but down the hallway from my office in the conference room where our kitchen is, I have this collection of coffee mugs. People that are listening will say I’m a hoarder, my doorknobs.

But they’re mugs that I’ve gathered from all over the world, from different experiences with different trips and different people. But each of them is attached to a person or an experience I had with a friend or someone in my family or a colleague. And so when I have coffee in the morning, when I pick that mug, it forces me to remember somebody really important to me to grateful, and I start my day remembering that my life is bigger than just the one…the story I made up, whatever challenges I have that day, and to start by being thankful for the people in my story that make my life as rich and meaningful as it is.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. Thank you. And do you have a particular nugget you share in your consulting, your speaking, your writing that really seems to connect and resonate, folks are maybe quoting yourself to you, that’s an authentic quote as opposed to a mythic quote that’s mistakenly ascribe to executives?

Ron Carucci
I’ve never said that. No, I think it’s a question that I ask people that it can be a little bit off-balancing. But I love to ask it when I’m about to start any one of our diagnostic works, when I’m about to go do my MRI on an organization. And I love to ask this, “So what am I going to hear?” Because I love to both test their predictive nature and their intuitive insight. But they love trying to guess before they get the data, “I wonder what they’re going to hear?”

And, of course, as they begin to presume what it is I’m going to hear, they’re forced to test the assumptions around, “Why do I think that? And I wonder what he’s going to hear, and how do I know?” And so I love to put people on notice to say, “Okay, let’s go see what actually you’re doing here.” But it forces them to test the assumptions they’ve taken for granted often of which is some of the reason they had to call me in the first place.

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

Ron Carucci
I’d love them to come to do a couple of things. One, on our website, Navalent, N-A-V-A-L-E-N-T.com. We’ve got a great quarterly magazine on leadership and organizations and teams and all kinds of fun stuff we’d love to have you subscribe to. It’s free. We have a really exciting virtual summit coming up called Leading Through Turbulence and, wow, what a lineup we’ve got.

We’ve got Jon Haidt and Dan Pink and Dorie Clark and Whitney Johson and Nilofer Merchant and Mark Haughey and CEOs of big companies and entrepreneur CEO startups, and thought leaders of all kinds, but 25 speakers in all. It’s March 5 through 9, so come sign up for that. It’s also free for the week of March 5 through 9. You can also, for a nominal fee, buy an all-access pass for you that gets you a free coaching conversation with one of us from Navalent and get you a free e-book and all kinds of stuff. So we’d love to have your listeners join us for that. That’s going to be a great set of conversations and really rich content.

We also have a free e-book. So if you’re facing some change in your life, and leading change of some kind is important, if you come to Navalent.com/transformation we have a free e-book on leading transformation that you would find, I think, interest in and enjoyable. So I’m also at Twitter @roncarucci, and I’m on LinkedIn as well.

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

Ron Carucci
Yes, go ask five people for feedback on how they experience you, and make them tell you the truth. Some of them will go, “Oh, you’re great. You’re great,” and say what you want to hear. But say, “No, really. What’s one thing I could do better to help you do a better job?” Go ask people for how they experience you as a colleague.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, I really like that. And so when you say how they experience you, could you give us a few articulations of that because my hunch is some folks would say, “Oh, what do you mean? I think you’re a cool dude, Ron. Thanks.”

Ron Carucci
So what’s the one thing I do that most annoys you?

Pete Mockaitis
Alright.

Ron Carucci
What’s the one thing I do that makes your life easier? What’s the one thing you think that if I improve could make my career better? What’s the one thing that everybody else is talking about me behind my back and rolling their eyes about that no one thinks I know?

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect. I love it. Well, Ron, thank you so much for taking this time. This is thought-provoking. It’s powerful and I’m really excited to put some of this into action myself, and some eye-opening questions and things to go after. So I wish you tons of luck with the book, and your consulting, and the summit, and all the cool things you’re doing there.

Ron Carucci
Pete, it’s been a real pleasure. Thanks so much for chatting with me. Good to be with you.

263: Building Relationships like a Superconnector with Scott Gerber

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Scott Gerber discusses the “superconnector” approach to build meaningful human relationships and go beyond networking.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to become a conversational Sherlock Holmes
  2. Questions that spark great conversations
  3. How to introduce yourself with impact

About Scott

 

Scott Gerber is Founder and CEO of CommunityCo and founder of YEC and Forbes Councils. He is an industry leader in building and managing personalized, invitation-only communities for world-class executives, entrepreneurs and professionals. Scott is an expert on youth entrepreneurship, community building, youth unemployment in America, recent college grad unemployment and small business.

 

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Scott Gerber Interview Transcript

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

Scott Gerber

Thank you so much for having me. It’s going to be a lot of fun, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis

I think so too. Well, I was intrigued. When you filled out the form to get this conversation going, you described yourself as a big family man. And I just had my first child born mere weeks ago, so I’m very interested to hear…

Scott Gerber

Congratulations.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, thank you. So I’m interested to hear all about that from you today.

Scott Gerber

Absolutely. It’s funny. People look at me, I’m a 34-year-old living in New York City, three-bedroom apartment with four children, a wife, and a dog. And we’re as in it as it gets because they’re ages, seven, five, about to be three, and eight months.  So we’re not sleeping, we’re dealing with multiple levels of personalities at all different ages. But, as I tell all my professional and business friends, what’s the point of doing what you’re doing if you don’t enjoy actually building a life?
And so, having these amazing, unbelievably different kids interested in so many different things, a very loving wife who is a wonderful mother, but also someone that we share our passion for really not just being present in the physical space of our children, but present with our children, and growing and learning together. Those are the kinds of things that make working so hard actually worth it. So that’s what we’re all about. There is no such thing as work-life balance by any means, but I think there’s something to be said about working so you can have a life.

Pete Mockaitis

Alright, very good. And tell me, any pro tips on managing low sleep?

Scott Gerber

Well, I am the first one to say I believe I truly have the best individual piece of advice, from one parent to another. Are you ready for this?

Pete Mockaitis

I’m so ready.

Scott Gerber

The best piece of advice, from one parent to another is, “Don’t listen to advice from any other parent. ”

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, got it. Alright, well then I’ll stop asking you about parenting matters, and completely shift gears to your book. So, Superconnector – what’s it all about and why is this important for the world to learn about right now?

Scott Gerber

Yeah, so Superconnector: Stop Networking and Start Building Business Relationships that Matter – my partner and I wrote it really with one core idea, and that is people as a society at this point are really falling into this lazy, out-for-yourself, transactional mindset of networking more and more. And as the world gets noisier, and as social platforms become even more ubiquitous, you need to actually be a human that builds relationships, and not a technology that amplifies non-human practices. You need to go back to being human, to build human relationships.
And so we’ve spent the better part of a decade building a number of very engaged professional communities for YEC, for its councils, others, for ourselves, for other brands and companies, to learn the ways in which you can actually build these meaningful relationships from the ground up, and not have these tips and tricks and hacks and growth hacking and conversion strategies, but rather just going back to saying, “I want to build smart ways to communicate with people, and smart groups of people to surround myself with, because that makes life better.” And when you’re valuable to other people, they can also be valuable to you. But it doesn’t mean you have to go into every relationship you’ve ever built looking for value.
So that’s why we wrote the book, taking all these best practices and frameworks, really to help people learn the mindset of a connector from our insights and from the top superconnectors around the world in various industries, so they stop doing these really stupid and terrible inhuman networking practices that we all love to hate.

Pete Mockaitis

Inhuman networking practices and processes. Okay, so maybe could you really lay out that contrast first to clear for me here? So, could you share with me, “Here is an inhuman networking process. Instead, do this.”

Scott Gerber

Well, here’s something I think we can all relate to here. Everybody has been subjected to a networker, right? It’s the person that walks up to you, shaking your hand with the right hand, having the business card in the left hand, talking at you about themselves while looking over your shoulder at the next person they should try to meet, right? The person that’s not investing real time, that’s trying to get the stack of business cards, that’s not really listening and only guiding and taking on a conversation for their own personal gain.
And then in 30 seconds, instead of thinking about, “How do I figure out where value can be created for you, the person I’m talking to?”, they’re thinking about, “Is this person going to be relevant to my individual goal or need or revenue metric?”, or whatever KPI you’ve decided on that day is valuable for your time, instead of the more practical way to do it, which is just to have a framework of the kinds of people you want to surround yourself with, and dedicate meaningful, smart, context-rich time and conversation to over not one year or one month, or any definitive amount of time, but over a lifetime; build a tribe around you of people that would be there for you in an instant and you do the same.
I think it’s a different mindset to look at surrounding yourself with great people that you can create mutual value, and exchange, and knowledge-share, than just trying to have this really, quote-unquote, focused way of looking at someone as dollar signs or a stepping stool. And so that’s the difference, I think, between the two categories. It’s not semantics. It is a fundamental difference of belief in how you view the point of a business relationship.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, certainly. So, that sounds appealing, to be surrounded by people that you think are fantastic and there’s a mutual sharing of goodness over the course of a lifetime. So in practice, how is that done? How does one become a superconnector? What are some of the habits and practices and beliefs that they roll with?

Scott Gerber

Yeah, I think first and foremost, you have to learn how to have a real conversation. I think a lot of people suck at conversations – they have an issue leading them or they have an issue being a part of them, because your instinct is always to go to the lowest common denominator or lowest hanging fruit like, “Oh, the weather is nice today.” Small talk, right? Things that are inconsequential, that don’t really extract any new learnings or knowledge. And so first and foremost you have to understand, what is the point of a conversation? And I know that sounds like remedial. I’m sure someone right now listening to this is, “Oh my God! Great, Scott, you know how to talk. Well, that’s obvious. You’re so stupid. Why are you wasting my time?” Yet, they don’t do it, right?
So first it’s, what is the point of good context? Well, any conversation that allows you to extract context means that you’re creating a treasure trove, if you will, of great insights and data to really learn about someone, and not just the surface-level LinkedIn, Facebook-type stuff, but things such as what the goals of an individual are, or what they’re working on right now. That way, you can learn about what they’re working on, what is success and what is failure to them, what’s the timeline by which they’re looking to do these things – that kind of information that you can play an active role in, right? So great context.
Great context comes from good questions. So, in order to know what a good question is, you first have to ask, “What is a bad question?”, right? And a bad question is – I love this one – are you ready for it? It’s, “How can I help you?” Don’t you love that question? That question is horrible. It’s one of the worst questions ever created, and it’s become a social script marketing tactic for most people. Why does it suck? One, it puts the onus on the other person that in some cases you’ve just met, with a homework assignment or to come up with a good answer, or they’re going to feel stupid.

Pete Mockaitis

Alright.

Scott Gerber

Number two, it’s not founded in any kind of specificity. It’s incredibly broad. Number three, if you had a conversation with them, the logical answer should be, “Don’t you know how to help me? If I’ve given you all the pieces to the puzzle, shouldn’t you be able to put the last one in to complete the puzzle and tell me the help I need?”
So it’s not specific, whereas a question like, “What are you working on right now?”, as I just mentioned – much more specific, comes with a timeline, comes with something that they’re passionate about and excited about, because it’s right now and it’s meaningful to them, comes with a series of naturally next step curious follow-ups: “What does that mean?” or, “Can you tell me more about that?” or, “What made you think that this is important to do right now?” or, “What’s the steps to success?” Again, things that you can help them help you to help them.
And then finally, again, it’s about putting together the pieces of the puzzle, the context, to figure out, “Who in my world or what resource do I have that might be able to fill the void?” So, maybe you’ve heard a series of things that it’s like, “Oh, well, I know this guy John and this woman Sally that have expertise in XYZ. Would that be helpful to you if I can see if they’re interested in having a conversation on that?” Again, you’ve given actual next steps versus, again, a wall, like a “Yes” or a “No”, or some sort of question that leads to a phrase that goes nowhere. These are the kinds of ways to have that conversation.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, excellent. So, you’re taking that proactive initiative to say, “I’ve done the work. I’ve done the work for you,” instead of asking, “How can I help you?” You have done the digging to discover a few valid potential suggestions, and then brought up the specific idea, and then they can approve, or veto, or defer as necessary.

Scott Gerber

Correct. It’s almost like you’re the Sherlock Holmes of discourse, right? Because, look, if they love the suggestion, you’ve created a bond. The person knows you’re really listening, you really care. Even if it’s not the exact right fit, I appreciate the fact that you’re actually making a proactive suggestion. It’s very rare people do that, and that’s why it really does stand out.
Number two – if they say, “Oh, that’s a little off-base” – what does it do? It gives you the opportunity to ask more questions of, “Why do you think it’s off-base?” and, “What part is off that I can maybe tweak in my framework that I’m thinking of in my head?” So, again, it naturally lends itself to a hypothesis, and then either, is the hypothesis true or false, or incomplete?
So, you never want to end up with a wall like, “The weather is nice, isn’t it?” “Yes. ” Okay, great, now what? That’s why these continuous conversations where you’re leading, and not being about me, or trying to talk about you all the time – that’s where ultimately the difference is made, in showing you care, not just telling. And I think that is where ultimately people leave a conversation, and know that if they see you again, they will remember more times than not, that you were actually a thoughtful individual, that you actually did express interest and tried to do your best even if it didn’t exactly work out – and if it did, even better – because you cared. How many people can say that? Not many. And I think it all starts with great conversation.

Pete Mockaitis

That is great. And so then, one of the best questions there was, “What are you working on right now?” And can you share a few of the other great questions that often pop up when you’re doing your Sherlock Holmes-ing of discourse?

Scott Gerber

Yeah, it depends on the kinds of conversation we’re in. So if it’s a personal type thing, I might say, “What’s something you’ve tried recently that’s totally out of your comfort zone?”, because again, it allows for an anecdote and a series of stories that might bring in other context like how big is their family, or where’s the place they like to travel to. Again, all these little things individually might not mean the world, but put together, you really paint a picture of someone. And if you store that information – again, it could be in the contacts at Notes section, it can be in a CRM – over time, you’re going to develop this unique profile that no one else has access to, except you, so you know how to engage further later on.
Another question I ask people all the time is, “If I see you again in a year from now, what dictates success to you in the next year?” And there’s a million ways you can go with that direction. I think the goal is when you get people to feel comfortable talking about themselves – again, not in an arrogant or celebratory sort of way, but in a way that helps them to navigate an anecdote, or a series of things that they’ve been wanting to talk about but couldn’t articulate – you really are helping to lead without being the leader. And I think that is very meaningful for not only results but to build the foundations of a smart relationship.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, that’s good, thank you. So tell me, Scott, maybe could we do a demo here? You will ask me some questions and be the Sherlock Holmes, and we’ll see what happens.

Scott Gerber

Sure. Paint the scene, because here’s another thing, just before we get started: Context isn’t just the words out of your mouth. It’s where we are, is if we’re at an event where we were both invited by a mutual friend, if we’re at a generalized networking event, is it a conference that brought us here?
So just to keep in mind, and maybe not for the demo purposes, but as people are listening to this – I want you to think about everything in an environment as context, because it’s a very different situation that if you and I are randomly at a bar having a beer, and we’ve never met, and it’s just a random Friday afternoon burning steam, versus we’re at an exclusive invitation-only event with 15 people invited, and our mutual friend is the person that brought us both there. Whole different level of conversation, right?
And so, it’s just about looking at the whole board, and not just the moment or the zone you’re existing in. So with that being said, I kick off and I can introduce myself, and you would introduce yourself, and I may ask a question like, “It sounds very interesting, what you do. What made you get into that type of XYZ?” And then you would respond.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, sure thing. Well, I’m just so fascinated about people and what it is they find has really worked for them, in terms of generating particular results. And I’ve just always had an interest and enthusiasm in this skill-building stuff, about leadership, success, influence, communication, problem-solving, creativity, ever since I was a teenager reading books about it in the library.

Scott Gerber

Were you ever somebody who had a bad example, or a setback, or a major setback of some kind where everything you thought you were doing right was actually the wrong way to do it, and that’s what led you to want to learn best practices?

Pete Mockaitis

Well, kind of. I’d say, I was interested in the information and the power within it, just because the possibilities opened up before me even before, I guess, I had to experience some setbacks. But then afterwards certainly, yeah, along the way.

Scott Gerber

Have you learned about one particular leader or two particular leaders that you think are fundamentally best-of-breed that you’d recommend to everybody?

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, from just a leadership perspective?

Scott Gerber

Just someone that whether it’s a CEO, or a politician, or an inspirational person that you’ve read about their leadership style, or way of looking at the world, and that just was a fundamental game-changer for you.

Pete Mockaitis

It’s funny. As a child, Tony Robbins was my role model, and I wanted to be just like him. [laugh] I just thought he had the coolest job that there could be, and I wanted to be him.

Scott Gerber

What’s really cool about Tony Robbins, out of curiosity? I don’t know enough about him.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, I guess what I liked is that he was just so outrageously goofy and perfectly himself. And in some ways, that could really turn people off with all the F-bombs and profanity, and it kind of turns me off at times. But in other ways, it’s like there’s a guy who’s just genuinely doing his thing. And in a way, that was kind of liberating in a sense that I got my own weirdnesses and eccentricities, and so I can express those in a large space and find success like Tony did.

Scott Gerber

And so, there you go. See, in that short period of time, what have I learned about you? Professional development, you really care about. You wanted to meet someone or learn about someone that made it okay for you to be the person you are, and to form your own framework around what leadership meant to you, and so on and so forth. And all these things start to add up, right? Not every conversation is going to end up in a situation where you’re going to just immediately help someone. That’s not always an action step. Not everybody needs help, right?
But it could be the kind of thing where it’s like, if you could have a conversation with a leader, would you want to have a conversation with someone that is totally contrarian to you, or someone that’s exactly the way you think but at a bigger level or a bigger stage? And if you were to say someone like a contrarian, my response would be, “Oh man, let me just think. Do you know XYZ or XYZ? If he’s game for it, he loves debating this kind of rubric or this kind of challenge.” Now all of the sudden, I’ve engaged you in, “What do you disagree with him about? No, what a great debate that would be.” And you know that I’m connected.
So you get the point. There’s a lot of variables and directions to go, but you’re playing with a lot of information, and you’re moving your brain as quickly as you can to figure out where you can provide value. The key for that is at the end of the day, there’s one mindset shift that you have to have. And this is the moment when I tell people you have to audit yourself. So if I went into a conversation with you like we just had, and I, in the first 30 seconds, said, “Oh God, professional development. I want nothing to do with this guy”, then I would know that my mindset is that of a transactional networker, because my instinct is to say, “This person is not valuable to me.” And if people think that way, then they have to totally reverse course, and break themselves, and deconstruct themselves down, because they’ll never be a true connector.
Whereas in the way that I think, and other great connectors think as well, is I’m trying to find the different ways in which I can understand you to be of service to you. And I’m thinking, “Where’s the value that I can provide?” – resource, person, challenge request, whatever, as you’re speaking. And that’s my initial thought; not, “Man, how am I going to figure out a way to get you to introduce me to Tony Robbins?”, if you said you knew him. So that’s the whole thing. I think people need to understand who they are at their core and what they’re trying to achieve – great people, great conversations, great outcomes that scale long-term. Short-term gains, transactional value, totally a no-no.

Pete Mockaitis

And that’s interesting, that mindset shift audit. In some ways, that gets to the very core of a human being, in terms of how generous versus selfish are they in their whole life?

Scott Gerber

Yep. There is a great quote and I’m going to muck it right now, of course, because I’m saying it off the top but, “To give selfishly is to give selflessly,” right? It’s the idea that habitual generosity is the cornerstone of what a connector strives to do – to always be of service, to always provide value.
But it shouldn’t be thought of as a tactic. This is a total overhaul of a framework of how you should live your life. And I think it’s important people understand that, that it is the marketing hacks, and the growth hacking, and these various different pedestals that social media and vanity metrics have created, that have put the wool over our eyes to think that this is the stuff that we should be caring about.
Let’s talk about power and money for just a minute here. If we’re going to go to the most successful elites in the world – those people get the game. They understand that relationships are currency. Social capital is the only currency that matters long-term. Why? Because somebody can reach out to one person one time in one phone call and do a billion-dollar deal. A thousand people can reach out to that one person and never get a call back. That’s the difference.
Everything we talk about here should be the beginnings of you internalizing, auditing, thinking, but none of these should be, “I’m going to do this exact thing five times a day, because if I do it five times a day, my ROI will be XYZ. And that’s how I should reverse-engineer my success.”

Pete Mockaitis

Certainly. So I want to dig into that a bit and talk about your whole life shifting. So, what would you recommend are some of the initial baby steps if someone has habituated selfishness, and is primarily thinking about their own wants and needs and desires from the first minute of waking up to the last minute of night, not just in conversation, but in…

Scott Gerber

In life.

Pete Mockaitis

In any number of things. That’s such a tall order, so how do you start chipping away at that, Scott?

Scott Gerber

It’s funny. First off, I’d say this is where guys like you and I have it made being family men, because we gave up selfishness if we’re good dads or husbands long ago. The second you change a diaper for the first time, life changes as you know it, right?

Pete Mockaitis

I saw a coupon for $5 off diapers today, and I was excited by this. It was like something has shifted.

Scott Gerber

My, my, how things change, right?

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah.

Scott Gerber

But again, for the every man and woman in any state of life and any level of profession – again, I start with what I said earlier – you’ve got to begin with the audit, and you can’t lie to yourself. Listen, if you’re a truly selfish individual, and you just can’t fundamentally break yourself out of that, I feel bad for you, because you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. And you can’t gamify this, because all you’re going to do is cheat yourself and cheat reality.
Number two – I would give yourself an additional audit to determine a couple of key things. The best connectors have three fundamental traits. The first one is self-awareness. They are okay to assess themselves and figure out their strengths and weaknesses. They are okay to understand and can fundamentally figure out what people think of them in an honest and non rosy-glass colored way. So that’s the first thing, self-awareness. How self-aware are you with? Would others say you’re self-aware? That’s one key thing.
The second trait is emotional intelligence. Are you empathetic? Do you actually care about other people? Can you allow yourself to care more about others, or feel for their plights, big or small, put yourself in their shoes, regardless of situation, regardless of level of severity, and regardless of your personal feelings towards whatever they deem their level of severity being?
And then finally, number three is the idea of curiosity. You have to generally be curious. You have to be someone who really doesn’t have to care about a subject matter to want to learn more about it, or feel like if you’re not an expert, you don’t care. Again, there’s going to be many people who can be very valuable to you and you to them along the way. But if you cut short because they want to talk about physics and you’re a liberal arts grad – well, you’re going to miss out on a lot of the context that could create mutual value for the long run if that relationship is to be. And so those are some of the key things you have to look out for yourself.
When you determine you want to be someone who is a connector, you also… And this is where I will say you have to be selfish in only one regard. There’s only one way you should be selfish as a connector, and that is your time. Because it is the one asset you cannot buy more of, and it’s fleeting every day. And so if someone is going to take your time, you want to make sure your investment is going to be valuable. Again, not valuable in an ROI way, but valuable even in the exchange you’re going to have, that it’s not a one-sided selling fest, that someone is really understanding the value of that time and being specific, or not just saying, “Oh, we should get together sometime,” and getting mad when you don’t because they don’t have an agenda of specificity.
Because the one thing I’ve learned in my life, and I say this in the book – there’s a saying that one of my mentors said to me early: “You cannot cheat real time. And relationships take real time.” And so for every amount of real time you spend in a real relationship, that’s less time you have for other relationships. So you are placing bets on the people you want to surround yourself with, that you feel are going to help you to make your life amazing, and you to help make their lives more amazing.
If you misplace that trust, or misplace that time, or misplace that relationship-building prowess, you could put yourself on the wrong path, or you could find yourself meaning nothing to no one instead of something to someone. And that’s really crucial, to be methodical about protecting your time. A couple of key productivity hacks that we found from some of the top connectors to give some color to what I mean by that. There are many people, I’m sure you being included in this, that get hit up all the time, “I’d love to take you for coffee.” I’m assuming that that has been an ask somebody has made of you, probably recently, right?

Pete Mockaitis

That’s right, yeah.

Scott Gerber

So, what a lot of the top connectors will do is they’ll take these people that ask them and say, “Look, I don’t have time right now, but I get people together once a month or once every couple of weeks that all want to meet me for coffee, and we all get together and have one big cup of coffee.” So here you are, taking one-on-one meetings that would take an hour, to make it ten-on-one meetings. And it’s a better experience; it’s curated because the person can say “Yes” or “No” to who’s invited, and you’ve just maximized your time, met everyone, and learned more than you probably would have in a one-on-one introduction.
Plus, on top of that, if you are the curator of that experience, you probably have a stronger relationship now with each of the original ten, because all of those ten received exponentially more value than you, had you been just one-on-one. It’s a more worldly perspective, less time, very clear, right? So that just gives an example of, it doesn’t mean you have to be less human or say “No” to everything necessarily, although “No” sometimes is the right answer. But it allows you to think about the blocks of time you have as maximizing efficiency and community-building investment. Because again, you want to go incredibly deep and meaningful, but you want to do it in a way where you can find the right time for the right people, and not lose that time.

Pete Mockaitis

Right, and you talk about the art of selectivity in the book. And so, I’d love to get your sense for what are some of the guidelines you’re using. in terms of making determinations like, “This is a person that I really think it would make sense to invest heavily in good time there.”

Scott Gerber

Yep. And first and foremost, I always want to tell people, when we talk about these things like the art of selectivity, this is not, said another way, the art of elitism snobbery. It’s not meant to be, “You only want to be with these elites, professionals, or individuals.” That’s not it at all. It’s the idea that you want to have a cross-section of people that share not only your business professional interest or industry, but your value system, the way that you spend your personal time.
Again, community is not just meant to be some goal-oriented KPI, like we‘ve been talking about. It’s how do you want to spend your time to create a meaningful life, personally and professionally? And so for example in the book we talked to Elliott Bisnow, who is the founder of Summit Series and the owner of Powder Mountain in Eden, Utah, which is a telluride for the 21st-century concept. And he talks about this idea that he wants to not just be surrounded by entrepreneurs all the time, or specific kinds of entrepreneurs in his industry, but rather health-conscious, athletic people that are big on travel and worldly conversation and share his ethics and moral and value systems.
And so it’s about creating these almost criteria sets for what do you want to be the average of in the circle you’re in, and then really figuring out who that initial circle is, and again, taking the proper time. This is not a day-to-day exercise. This is a life-long exercise of creating that small intimate circle. Mind you, that small intimate circle might eventually be dozens of people, but the goal of these spheres is to feel incredibly intimate regardless of size, because the values, the moral systems, the cross-section of value that you’ve created is only bringing in other very similar, authentic, meaningful people that those in the sphere have brought into the fold. And that’s the key for success in any time you’re trying to be selective with those you’re building strong, meaningful relationships with.

Pete Mockaitis

And I would also would like your take on that – is there a potential risk of having an echo chamber or folks who all agree with you and thus not giving yourself the mental challenge of thinking and seeing as others do?

Scott Gerber

I think that it’s interesting. I believe that there’s a time and place for any kind of relationship to be segmented in different communities, different thinking. And so for example, I have a lot of friends who are political junkies. And I purposely surround myself with people that are on opposite ends of the spectrum in a big way, because I want to have these more thoughtful debates. I don’t want just some Facebook commentary style argument, “Oh, he sucks, he’s terrible. He’s great, he’s not”, but rather like, “Why?” Can somebody actually articulate the “Why”?
And so, surrounding yourself with people that you believe to be morally and values-driven, but not necessarily share your specific vision of the world – that’s the time and place for that kind of community, whereas in certain ways, when you’re talking, say, about business… I have a group connector friends who I don’t want them to be network-y type thinking people, because I wouldn’t want that in my circle, because to me that would go against every fiber in my body of my most core professional belief.
So there’s a time and place to figure out where is the place where you want to have fundamental agreement, and where you want to allow for contrarians or total disagreement, but know the value system is aligned with your overall view of a human. You know what I mean? There are certain people you might fundamentally disagree with, but you love and trust. You’re going to fundamentally disagree with them about politics or money or something like that, but it’s not because they’re crazy or whatever. It’s just they have a different set of principles, but that are rooted in wholesome values that you can link to.
I think it’s important not to be in that echo chamber, but that’s why I also think you should never allow yourself to just be in one community at any given time. I think the value of having multiple communities that collide and create value, where you can pick and choose different kinds of conversations or relationships or depth of relationships you want to have in different sort of groupings, allows you to be a more well-rounded human being.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, cool. So you’ve got close friends you like and trust who love Hillary and who love Trump, and you enjoy the enlightenment that could come about when you engage in such discussions.

Scott Gerber

It’s the idea of respecting people, and respecting the place by which their position comes, because it can be defended or discussed in a material and mature manner. And that is the bond, right? The bond is, you might want to harden your position by being able to defend against someone else’s, or you might want to be able to open your eyes to a different perspective. I think that right now in this country, if there was more community-building around communities of dissenters that were thoughtful dissenters, we’d probably not have such a red-blue or whatever the specific subject matter or issue is, be so black and white.
I think a connector’s job – and going back to the context conversations or ways in which they run their relationships – is to always play in the gray, because that’s where you can form relationships out of what would be assumed on the surface level as an adversary. Because the adversary is the people that don’t go beyond surface level and stop there, but the most meaningful relationships might be nine out of ten points connected but one point disconnected, but those nine out of ten allow you to listen and thoughtfully respond to the one you don’t.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, I love it. Thank you. I also want to make sure we could quickly touch upon your pro tips for introducing yourself well.

Scott Gerber

So the number one way – and I know this is going to sound sort of counterintuitive, because obviously you have to be able to say who you are, what you do, and so forth – but the number one way that I enjoy people finding out who I am and what I do is by other people telling them the results we’ve driven, or their perspective on what I do. Most times, when I go to say, an event or meet with a group, I very rarely will go to a large group setting without a very core group of my influential sphere. Again, not influential in the sense of they’re big-name people, but influential in my world – people that I deeply trust and care about, my anchors in life and business.
And more times than not, they will go ahead and actually introduce me in a group that I wouldn’t know, which immediately lends credibility. We talk about this in the book. It’s called the power of association. The people you know move trust through them to the person that you’re connected to, and infinitely create stickier glue and a more immediacy to a bond than if you were introducing yourself or asked to introduce yourself.
So that’s more times than not what I like to do, because it doesn’t come off as I’m marketing to you, it doesn’t come off as I’m trying to be ego-driven or pat myself on the back or shoulder. But rather that others feel compelled enough that you and I should be connected, and they’ve gone the extra step to give the bona fides in whatever way and lens they see fit, which also lends to conversation as a natural next step, as, “Oh, tell me more about that.” Instead of you talking about yourself, you’re being asked, and that starts the conversation. So that’s my number one way, I think, that you should always look at it. Don’t just try to introduce yourself. Look for others that can really play the heart card rather than the bona fide, CV, LinkedIn profile card.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, great. Thank you. Tell me, Scott, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and then hear about some of your favorite things.

Scott Gerber

I think what’s most important to me and why we wrote the book, at the end of the day, is we really do believe that relationships are the cornerstone and the fundamental purpose for your professional and personal lives, and so many people are squandering that opportunity every day. And frankly these are, in many cases, very smart people who if asked, “Do you want to be approached this way? Would you like to be talked to in this way as a networking relationship?”, they would say “No”.
Yet, they’re guilty of doing the same stuff. That’s the irony of today. This laziness, social media-esque response mechanism, or series of frameworks that we’ve been put into by the powers-that-be, has really taken a step back for human touch. And so, my message today is whether you buy the book or not, I hope you find value in it and the connectors that were thoughtful enough to share their time and tradecraft and secrets of what they do.
It’s just to take a step back and realize when you look around you, are you happy with the relationships you have? Do you feel you could have better, more meaningful ones? And for the people that you believe are your most trusted relationships, do you really know them at all, beyond what everyone else knows about them? If you can answer those questions in an honest way, I think you’ll surprise yourself more times than not.

Pete Mockaitis

Great, thank you. So now, can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Scott Gerber

I have a quote from my grandmother, who passed a number of years ago, but she used to say, “Don’t dream to live. Live to dream.” And it sounds funny. I didn’t really understand it at the time she told me, in middle school or high school, whatever it was. But the idea that you should live a life of wonder and excitement, and wake up every day to be thrilled about what’s possible, rather than what you have to do and be a cog in the machine, I think, says a lot. The other one I mentioned earlier which is, “Real relationships take real time, and you can’t cheat real time.” I think that if you really understand what that means, you’re going to be better for it.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, cool. Thank you. And how about a favorite study, or experiment, or a bit of research?

Scott Gerber

I think that right now, while I’m not going to cite a specific study because there’s a number of them going on right now, I would encourage people to take a look at a lot of the studies around social media’s effect on the human body and the human psyche. I think that these kinds of studies are scary and startling.
Even the founders like Sean Parker talking about the dopamine effect with social media, and what that’s doing to people, especially for dads and moms out there, to talk about the effect of social media on their children, technology on their children. I think all this ties very deeply to what we’re talking about today around building relationships, because we’re letting technology be the deciding factor, be the driver, instead of us driving the technology. We’re letting technology amplify the wrong things instead of the humanity being amplified. And I think it’s time we understand what the effects of these various platforms are.
So I would encourage people to really do their homework on all of that, whether you’re a parent or not, looking at it personally or professionally. There’s a lot of really unique studies out there right now about the effect on the brain, social anxiety, depression, all kinds of things that are very important for you to understand.

Pete Mockaitis

Alright, thank you. And how about a favorite book?

Scott Gerber

Ooh, anything by Adam Grant is just… He’s just an amazing human being. Give and Take, Originals, Option B – these are all amazing books, and he’s just solid. And I hate to be on the bandwagon with millions of other fans, but I really do think that everything Tim Ferriss does is gold.

Pete Mockaitis

Alright. And how about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Scott Gerber

Okay, so I run my entire company off my iPhone. Even though we have nearly 100 people in our headcount, and everything else, I rarely go to the office. When I meet with people, it’s over coffee, or video chats and so forth. But it’s the idea that if you really think through how you use your phone every day, there are so many ways to cheat productivity time, or to develop instrumental systems that can scale your human brain, to allow you to do the things we’ve talked about today, like simple as writing notes in your contacts Notes section is what I do when I meet people.
Three to five bullets that was most compelling or very new information, so next time I meet them, I’ve got my cheat sheet of things that are valuable and important to them. It lets me continue the conversation and have key things to remember. Just little ways to go all in on your phone, but not let it control you but you control it, I think is something that I’m a big proponent of. Giving yourself the freedom to do what you will in your surroundings, your environment, and so forth, but use the tools you use every day smartly and effectively to do the things you love.

Pete Mockaitis

Alright, thank you. And how about a favorite habit, a personal practice of yours that helps you flourish at work?

Scott Gerber

I am really big on letting my team actually make decisions, explain their decisions to me, and stand by them. I offer advice, not mandates. And so when big decisions are made, I rule by consensus. It’s not a full democracy like it isn’t in any business, but I don’t rule as a dictator, so to speak. My partner and I are very methodical about groupthink and letting smart people do smart jobs, but they have to be able to defend their position, and they have to be able to take criticism and defend the points that they put out there to the idea that if I came and attacked you point for point, you could stand your own. So I think the exercise in critical thinking on a regular basis is one that I believe has fundamentally helped us to improve company culture, the business as a whole, revenue, and the customer experience for sure.

Pete Mockaitis

Alright, thank you. And is there a particular nugget you share that seems to really connect, resonate, get Kindle book highlighted, retweeted, and heads nodding when you say it?

Scott Gerber

I think that the most important thing that sort of sums up this entire interview and what we’ve been talking about for the last hour is, “Social capital is the new currency.” It’s not Bitcoin or Ethereum, or all those things that are coming out now. It’s social capital. And it’s the idea that when you have the right walled-off access to people that are valuable and find value in your company and those that you’ve surrounded them with, it’s an invaluable community that cannot be replicated, and you can’t buy it.
And I think that more people need to invest in creating these sort of very tight-knit communities. And when I say that, I don’t mean necessarily a membership group or something like that. I mean literally mastermind group, or a group of people that enjoy each other’s company, go out for drinks once a month, whatever it is. But creating the value that enables you and those you surround yourself with to have direct and indirect access to an exponential number of more people, because the people in the circle all trust one another so implicitly, is literally, in my opinion, the most valuable currency you will ever have. No one will ever beat it, and it’ll be the reason you’re successful.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Scott Gerber

Yeah, for daily communication, you can ping my partner and I on Twitter. His is @ryanpaugh, and mine is @scottgerber. And you can definitely check out the book at SuperconnectorBook.com or pick it up wherever books are sold.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. And do you have a final, a parting call to action or challenge for those seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Scott Gerber

Don’t treat it like a job. As someone who has never worked for someone else since I went into the professional world. ‘ve always been an entrepreneur; I’ve never been a nine-to-fiver. But I’ve watched really impressive people meet me and really impressive people work for me that really put in the extra work on two key things.
One was allowing themselves to listen and be empathetic, to understand, take in, and adjust as a result of those two things. And the second is the idea that they were responsive and timely and understood the investment of time that my partner and I were making in them, and that every moment that they were given was to be valued. Especially as a family guy, sort of going back full circle to where we started – I want to watch my kids grow up and be there.
And if you can tell me in a business meeting something in five minutes versus 50, and the same outcome as a result, and I trust you as the steward of the information and action steps – go at it. Take the five minutes, not the 50; let me go watch my kids play baseball. So, understanding that putting the effort in, in community building and responsiveness and empathy, I think, are things that anyone from an entrepreneur to someone who works for others in a day-to-day job – I think that is the difference maker.

Pete Mockaitis

Beautiful. Well, Scott, thank you so much for taking this time and sharing this goodness. I hope that you sell many, many copies of Superconnectors, and that it is empowering and enriching to folks in all the right ways.

Scott Gerber

Thanks so much for the time.

262: Conquering the Five Career Derailers with Carter Cast

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Kellogg professor Carter Cast provides his research on career derailment–and how to prevent it!

You’ll Learn:

  1. Two questions to ask yourself to pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses
  2. Frequently-occurring risk factors to watch out for
  3. The two critical things that put you in the 98 percentile of your company

About Carter 

Carter Cast is a clinical professor at the Kellogg School of Management. Previously he’s played a pivotal role in building numerous iconic consumer brands including Tostitos Scoops and The Sims. He served as CEO of Walmart.com, growing it to the third largest online retailer in the world. Carter is also a venture partner for Pritzker Group Venture Capital, where he assesses potential investments and advises portfolio companies.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Carter Cast Interview Transcript

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

Carter Cast
I’m happy to be here. Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you had some pretty cool professional experiences in your life, but what I’d like to zero in on to start is you were working to launch the computer game The Sims. Tell us about that experience.

Carter Cast
Well, yeah, we knew, just from the early builds of the game, that this was going to do really, really well. People were so engaged and it was like they had their own little self that they were trying to take care of, so you can see the beginnings of the sort of obsessions with the game, so it actually did not surprise me too much when we saw that sort of success there.

The fellow who was the executive producer on it, Will Wright, also did Sim City, and so he’s a genius. So this was his brainchild, and my role was to help market it and make sure it was accessible to the public so it was an extraordinary game back in the late…no, this was probably ’98. Are you player? Do you play?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I remember playing it, you know, back in the day, and I think they just kept iterating on it like many, many versions, and so I think I had an earlier one but it was still rather engaging. And, I don’t know, it just sort of gets you thinking about your life in different ways.

Carter Cast
Taking care of this almost sentient being.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. I mean, did you have any insights into your own life as you were watching The Sims take shape?

Carter Cast
Yeah, what I noticed the most was how attached, I think, with time, you can become attached to activities. So you really do get invested in this, you know, game and also with the character you’ve created. And so I thought, “Oh, it’s interesting. It’s strange.” I know this is a non-sentient being but I’d certainly starting to…I’m feeling like it’s actually something that I needed to take care of, like an animal, like a pet, like a cat or a dog.

So when I saw that sort of—and I think that part of this is you commit that much time to something and it becomes important to you. So there was an interesting psychological component to that when we were creating the game and watching him develop it.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s fun. That’s fun. So I’m excited to talk about your book in which you’ve sort of laid out a lot of your career lessons learned over time. And so, tell us, what is your book The Right (and Wrong) Stuff all about?

Carter Cast
You know, in a nutshell the book answers two questions, “What about you could hurt you?” What about you could actually impede your career progress? And then, secondly, “What do high-performers, hotshots that don’t derail, what can be learned from looking at them?” But the genesis of the book was that, as a professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, I’ll talk to these very smart people and they’ll be looking at this, “Should I take this offer from this great consulting firm? Or should I go to this startup?”

And I’ll say, “Well, those are two very different opportunities,” and then I’ll ask some typical questions like, “Where do your passions lie? What quickens your heart when you’re really absorbed into something and the time flies? What are you doing?” And then I’ll ask them, you know, “Where do you want to be in three to five years? And what are you good at? What are you really skilled at? Where do you raise your hand and always say, ‘I got this,’ because you have a natural talent there?”

And they’ll answer these very fluidly. But then I’ll ask them, “What about you could hurt you?” And I’ll get, “Huh? What?” I’ll say, you know, “What about what could impede your career progress if not watch carefully? Where are you vulnerable?” And, invariably, I would get these very sketchy or no answers. And so I started thinking, you know, the whole StrengthsFinder, the whole now discover your strengths and focus on your strengths, it’s great but I tried to write weakness finders, you know, the flipside of a strength is some area of vulnerability that we have to be aware of.

A matter of fact, 98% of people – this is a lot of research – have an overused strength that actually hurts their career. So you can be so analytical that you suffer from analysis paralysis or overly-skeptical and drive people crazy. Or you can be this great team player who actually has difficulty making the hard call, you know, being decisive.

So there are these themes of strengths hurting us, and derailment propensities that we have being unaware of their potency. So I started doing research in it once I would not receive these great answers from students, and it became more and more interesting to me because I realized that companies aren’t using any assessment or very few companies are using derailment assessment tools. They’re using tools that might help employees identify their competencies. But are they actually using tools that help them identify their weaknesses?

And so I came to this realization that the conversations aren’t being had inside companies that help people develop based on understanding where they need to improve or what areas they have to do less of that could be hurting them. So that ended up making me feel that it was, even though I teach and I do venture capital for a living, I decided to try to carve out the time to do the research and write this book because I just thought it was a conversation that has to be…we have to surface.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. Well, you got me excited right now. I’m right with you, and it’s intriguing, it’s important, and, well, I want to dig into some of your top research findings. So, maybe, could you share, when you talk about derailment, what are some of the most frequently occurring risk factors to be on the lookout for?

Carter Cast
Yeah, I found… you know, I didn’t know what I would find. I didn’t know if there were, you know, a whole bunch of them. And I found, I interviewed, I talked to a hundred people who have gotten demoted or fired, talked to a bunch of HR executives, and headhunters, and executive coaches, and even CEOs, and looked at all the academic research. And there was a lot that has been done on this topic because there are 360 feedback forms where you can mine the data and see what are people that are struggling, what’s holding them back, and when people are doing really well that are deemed in the top 10% of their organization, what are they doing really well that the people that derail don’t do well?

So there was just a ton of data on this. So looking at all the data, I found five themes over and over. And to try to make the topic more accessible and less scary, I created these archetypes or characterizations.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I love illustrations.

Carter Cast
So, instead of saying, “Oh, I suffer from interpersonal issues,” you can say, “Oh, I have a little bit of Captain Fantastic in me,” and you can laugh about it. So my attempt to make it a little less heavy of a topic was by creating these five archetypes, and here’s what they are.

The first one is Captain Fantastic, and this is for somebody who suffers from interpersonal issues. So sharp elbows, the quest for the Holy Grail of the corner office, you know, bruising people on the way. And this person either suffers from sort of over and unbridled ego or poor listening skills. And this happens to a lot of people. As a result, they have poor working relationships with co-workers and when, inevitably, when the performance, when they don’t hit their numbers, as inevitably happens, they don’t have support.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Carter Cast
So that’s Captain Fantastic. Now what’s interesting is, you might say to yourself, “Well, I don’t have those Captain Fantastic tendencies.” But there might be an aspect of you that has, under pressure, a tendency that can be self-sabotaging. Under stress, they have a tendency, and the tendencies can be they move away from people, they get cautious, or reserved, and they move away, or they move against people by being aggressive like Captain Fantastic would, but they could also move towards people, under pressure, and be ingratiating.

So these three tendencies – moving against, moving towards, and moving away – are all common behavioral traits we have when we’re stressed out and under pressure. That can hurt us interpersonally with other people.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Thank you. So that’s the Captain Fantastic story. And then what’s the Solo Flyer and the others?

Carter Cast
Yeah, the Solo Flyer is very common ailment when really good individual performers get promoted into managerial positions, they get a team and they still try to do all the work themselves.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright.

Carter Cast
They are so good at what they do, they want to keep doing it. They get so much satisfaction out of being able to make that spreadsheet smoke with their analysis that they keep wanting to do it and they don’t teach the team to fish. They want to fish for their team so they micromanage, they over-manage. Very common, and one researcher said becoming a manager is almost a transformation of identity.

What got you here won’t get you there. You have to change and you have to learn to empower and oversee and coach, and you’re not the player anymore. You’re the coach. And that’s a hard transition for people to go through. And people that derailed have a difficult time letting go of doing the work and learning to oversee the work.

And one of the interesting parts of this one was that it’s not just about overseeing the work, but your job as a manager is to build bridges into other departments where your team has dependencies and you need to get resources. So a good amount of your time, when you’re a manager, is spent with other functions in the organization upon whom you have dependencies, making sure that you’re aligned with them and getting resources so your team can do good work.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you.

Carter Cast
So that’s a Solo Flyer, and often a very good performer. So all of these profiles are people that are talented. The question is, “Is there something holding them back?” In the Captain Fantastic case, it’s often ego and ambition. In the Solo Flyer’s case it’s wanting to micromanage and do the work themselves.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Okay. And how about Version 1.0?

Carter Cast
Version 1.0 has gotten really comfortable in his or her routines and they’re skeptical of change. So they’re resisting learning new skills that they really need that will make them adaptable in the rapidly-changing business environment we work in. So they might say, they might have a mantra of, “Well, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well, you know what, you’re going to have to make sure you’re staying fresh.

How are you staying fresh? Do you understand artificial intelligence as it relates to your job? Do you understand machine learning and big datasets? Are you getting comfortable with cloud computing? Do you understand digital marketing and social media? In this time that we live in, the importance of staying fresh and staying externally focused of these market changes is really important, and this person has just gotten too comfortable and they end up becoming a dinosaur.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. Okay. And it’s interesting, and I’m thinking in particular that sometimes the resistance to change, folks can come up with very articulate reasons why they should continue doing what they’re doing.

Carter Cast
Yeah, justification. Right.

Pete Mockaitis
But, really, it’s sort of irritating everybody else. It’s sort of like, “Okay, that doesn’t really hold up,” and they can kind of sense what’s going on, and so it’s sort of like you’re outed in that way.

Carter Cast
Yeah, you know, I say to people, “Can you identify your areas of innate resistance? Where are you saying, ‘Yeah, but’”? Yeah, but…Where are you automatically resisting instead of just staying open-minded, asking clarifying questions, and then saying, “You know, that’s interesting. Let me consider that.”

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect. Thank you.

Carter Cast
So that’s Version 1.0. And this happens a lot of time mid-career. This is a mid-career derailer very frequently. And even into your senior level, executives who aren’t staying close enough to all of the disruptions driven by technology and globalization. So the most common reasons according to the research I did, the most common two reasons people derail are Captain Fantastic, interpersonal issues, and Version 1.0, just not being adaptable enough to change.

By the way, the change doesn’t have to be changing technologies and changing environments. It could be changing circumstances like you get a new boss. And the new boss ain’t like the old boss. And the new boss has a different modus operandi than the old boss, and you don’t realize that the onus is on you to change to the new boss’ style and not for the new boss that comes in to learn your style.

And I suffered from this one, frankly. I did well under one boss at Frito-Lay and I got this new boss, and he was much more hands-on than the old boss, and I resisted that, and I ended up trying to go around him, and I ended up getting kicked off his team.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Ouch. Lessons learned.

Carter Cast
I derailed because I was not adaptable to a boss with a different managerial style than an old boss.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I’m curious. In hindsight or retrospect, what would you have done differently dealing with a boss who’s hands-on and you didn’t like it?

Carter Cast
That’s a great question, and I thought about that a lot. I should have realized that just because I was the one with the tenure in the group doesn’t mean that I didn’t need to adapt. The new boss coming in, even though he had less tenure than I did, he was still the boss. I should’ve gone to this fellow and I should’ve said, “How can I help you get up to speed? How do you like to communicate? Do you like to communicate over email? Do you like to communicate one-on-ones? What’s your preferred method? And how can I help you be successful in your role? You let me know what you need me to do so you can be successful because my agenda is your agenda.”

And I think if I would’ve gone in there with that sort of olive branch and let him know that my job was to help him succeed, then we would’ve gotten off to a much better start than what I did which is I thought, you know, I’m performing well in my position, he should just let me run, he should just let me do my thing, and that was a terrible attitude.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, thank you for opening up on that.

Carter Cast
I have a funny caveat.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Carter Cast
He found the book and he read, and he wrote me about four days ago.

Pete Mockaitis
Tell me more.

Carter Cast
Oh, my gosh. So the book has been out two weeks, right? And he found the book, he bought the book, and he wrote me this note, and it was so interesting. The minute I saw the name on it, I was like, “Oh, my gosh, this is 20 years ago, I reported to this guy in the late ‘90s.” He said, “Thank you for your depiction of me. You’re kind.” Which was nice of him because he knew how I felt at the time, so to try to write objectively, I think, was he appreciated that.

And then he said, “I appreciate your candor in this story because your ability to be vulnerable and tell the story is going to help other people because so many times you read books and people talk about all the things they did well. And when you’re writing about these things that you did poorly or you learned from, I think it’ll make it very accessible to people reading.”

So it was this really nice complimentary note, but also I’m going to Dallas in a couple of days to present. He lives in Dallas, and he said, “I’d love to get together with you.” So, you know, it’s the last guy in the world I would’ve thought wanted to see me.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Well, you know, he’s probably learned some things, too, you know.

Carter Cast
I bet you’re right. I bet he learned some things on how to manage just from sort of the situation we went through. So it’s really funny. Really funny.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s awesome. Well, thank you for sharing that. That’s so cool. Well, I want to make sure we hit all five. So how about the One Trick Pony?

Carter Cast
The One Trick Pony is an interesting case because they are good at what they’re good at, maybe they’re the controller inside of a company. They know exactly what they’re doing. They’ve done it well. But they haven’t broadened so they don’t have…you know they haven’t been on taskforce, they haven’t taken lateral moves. And so what happens is they become so reliant on what they’re good at, their sort of signature skill, that over time, unbeknownst to them, they become one-dimensional and/or considered unpromotable because they don’t understand how all the pieces fit together in a business, and they sort of tap out.

So it’s an interesting derailer because One Trick Ponies have great careers and be very good at something. But if they want to get to the next level, they eventually tap out because they’re seen as being too narrow.

So one of the questions I get for One Trick Ponies is, “Well, aren’t you supposed to specialize?” And I’ll say, “Yes, it’s really smart to get really proficient in one area because that’s your career capital, but at some point, if you want to become more of a generalist or you want to keep moving, you have to make sure you broaden.”

So, for example, when I was at Walmart, I was a marketer and my boss said, “Hey, do you want my job someday?” And I said, “Yes, that’d be great.” And he said, “Well, you’re not going to get it.” And I said, “Well, why?” And he said, “Because you only understand marketing, and to be in retail you have to understand operations, store operations and merchandising.” You know, buying and merchandising, assorting the product line, pricing the product line. It’s not just about demand generation of marketing.

And he said, “So you’re tapped out.” And I said, “Well, what should I do?” And he said, “Are you willing to take a lateral move into merchandising?” And I said, “Yes.” So I was moved into a different function, and that broadening allowed me to understand the buying and merchandising and assortment side of the business, and then later on it allowed me to have career flexibility going forward.

So there are times that it behooves us to take a lateral move to get experience, and later on that’ll give us some headroom to get promoted.

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect. Thank you. And how about the Whirling Dervish?

Carter Cast
You know, it’s funny. So the Whirling Dervish, I have this assessment on my own website. So I put this, I put the assessment in the back of the book so you can see which of these five archetypes is you, and I built this assessment with the Center for Creative Leadership so it’s a rigorous assessment, but I also put it on my own website just for free you can take it if you want. So it’s cartercast.com. I think it’s /derailment, and you could take this test.

The Whirling Dervish, the one I’m about to talk about, was the number one reason people, in a self-rated system, the number one people claim they derail. And that is, yeah, that you have trouble delivering on promises because you feel overwhelmed. So the Whirling Dervish is running around with their hair on fire, late for the next meeting, and muttering to themselves about their workload.

They lack planning and organization skills, and are known to over-commit and under-deliver. And what happens is their bosses and their co-workers can’t count on them to complete their assigned tasks at the time they said they can. And, eventually, people start distancing themselves from this person. So the Whirling Dervish over-commits and under-delivers, and has trouble with time management, with prioritization, and with organizational and planning skills.

And the reason, my theory is, so much… I’m seeing that so many people are claiming that they feel like Whirling Dervishes. I think it’s because we’re just…all of us are so overwhelmed by technology and by social media and emails and texts. I think everyone walks around feeling like a Whirling Dervish so it’s so important for us to prioritize to be able to say no to things, to delegate where we can.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’m curious, in terms of, first of all, so from the data perspective so your research with the 360 feedbacks and such, indicated that some of the bigger things that came up most often, right, was that the Captain Fantastic and the Version 1.0?

Carter Cast
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
But with the self-assessments is the Whirling Dervish. You think that’s indicative of a newer development in the workplace or just that people feel stressed when they take your self-assessment?

Carter Cast
That is a very good question, and I’ve thought a lot about it. I think that, especially as social media is just becoming more and more part of our lives, and texts, people are expected to respond like Pavlov’s Dog, you know, within minutes. And if you don’t get back to somebody in an email within hours, I think, actually, the incident rate of Whirling Dervish is increasing. And I think it is becoming one of the major reasons people feel like they are derailing or they’re not doing a good job at work, is flat out they’re overwhelmed.

And so how can they compensate? How can they work with their boss to be very specific and crystal clear on their job accountabilities so they know what they’re evaluated on and they can actually work with the boss to pare the list, you know, their laundry list of things they have to do? How can people be more intentional about planning and prioritizing their work? How can they say no?

One of the favorite books I read, because I have a trouble, a little bit of trouble with Whirling Dervish, too, and my problem is I’m a pleaser so I say yes to things. And my wife said, “Carter, before you say yes, I want you to practice this sentence, ‘You know, that’s interesting. I’ll take that under consideration. Let me get back to you.’”

And, you know, my bias is, “Sure, I can…yeah, we can do that.” So I think the ability to be more deliberate for this Whirling Dervish profile, whose eyes are bigger than their stomachs and they’re full of creative energy, and they want to say yes, but instead of automatically saying yes, maybe you can say no with grace. Maybe you can do a five-minute favor for somebody.

You know, this case came up with me. I was asked to fly to San Francisco to present to prospects who are applying to Kellogg Business School. Now that would’ve been a two-day trip, and instead of automatically saying yes, I said, “You know what, I’m so busy right now preparing for my book launch. Could you give me the names of a couple people that are really good candidates in my area of knowledge, entrepreneurship and leadership, and how about I call them and talk to them about Kellogg?”

So that’s kind of the definition of the five-minute favor. Instead of taking two days to do this, I could take two hours by calling some candidates. That’s something that I need to do a better job of myself, is learning how to say no but with grace. Instead of being interviewed, what if I send you two good data sources? Instead of flying to California, what if I just call a couple of good candidates? So how can you turn that ask into a five-minute favor?

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Thank you. And so I want to get some additional perspectives when you talk about feeling overwhelmed, inundated with expectations on social media and email and text messages, etc. It’s like sometimes in my own experience, and I’m working with teams and talking with them, you know, I’ve seen a number of times it’s almost like the emperor has no clothes. We sort of unmask an expectation that isn’t really there in terms of, “Is it essential to you that someone replies to your email within four hours?” They say, “Well, no.” It’s like, “If I needed an instant response then I’ll probably drop by their desk or give them a phone call or whatnot.”

And so I’m intrigued. How much of the expectation do you think is real versus perceived? And what are some best practices for how teams and organizations can address the matter?

Carter Cast
Yeah, that’s interesting because I do think you’re onto something with the profile of the Whirling Dervish is often somebody who wants to please others, somebody who is creative and wants to be helpful and they get themselves over-extended. And that personality profile may be more likely to feel like they have to respond to every request that comes in versus saying, “You know what, my first accountability is to deliver on these core objectives that I’ve set with my boss. And after I get those things done, I can respond to some of these other things.”

So I think that’s an interesting observation. You know, there could be a personality component to this which is us pleasers are more likely to be Whirling Dervishes, and we feel like we have to respond in a timely manner. But you know what? If that’s not core to our job, which is how we get paid, then we should put that on the backburner.

So some of the tricks or remedies for the Whirling Dervishes, I say this, don’t work in response mode. Approach your day in segments. You set aside sacred time when you’re really productive to do the strenuous intellectual work. So, for me, personally, I’m kind of weird because I get up really early. But my most productive time is from like 5:30 to about 9:00, and I try to safeguard that three-four hours to do a lot of my more strenuous work, and then I will turn and email and respond to others during more non-productive time.

So a lot of times I’ll do that in batches. So I’ll say to people, “Don’t work in response mode, responding to people every time you hear that little buzz of your text, or you hear that chime of an email. Respond to people during times that you want to in batches.” So maybe for an hour you do email, and then for two hours you do thinking work, or for three hours you have blocks of meetings, and then you go shut your door and you respond. But people that are not as productive often find themselves in response mode all day long.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Carter Cast
And they let the tail wag the dog instead of managing their work                  according to their priorities.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so thank you. And I want to make sure we give a little bit of attention to the flipside. You know, what’s the right stuff? Are there some universals that everyone should bear in mind to continue career acceleration?

Carter Cast
Yeah, this was actually the most…I was surprised because I thought the most fun part of the book is going to be identifying these derailers and sort of talking about them. What actually surprised me most, probably in the entire book, is that people that do really well, you know, we might think, “Oh, they’re going to be really good at lots of things, or like a decathlete, you know, they’re good at running and jumping and swimming and throwing the javelin.” I realized that swimming isn’t in the decathlon, by the way, just FYI.

But what I found was that actually they’re only good at a couple of things consistently, they’re only good at a couple of things. They are – and this is, again, mining 360s and looking at the people that are in the top quartile of their companies in leadership effectiveness, what do they do well consistently, they are able to build strong relationships with others and enlist others to their cause.

So they are empathetic, they’re open-minded, you know, St. Francis of Assisi, seek to understand before being understood. Their ability to be empathetic, good listeners, open-minded, they’re able to enlist others to their cause. Second, they pursue projects to completion and they take accountability for outcomes.

So if they say they’re going to get it done by a certain time, they stay there until it’s done. They are all about driving for completion. If you have those two competencies, drive results and enlisting others, and most companies have, let’s say, 10 or 11, eight to 10, eight to 12 competencies, if you only have those two, the chances, in the research that I examined, the chances are 72% that you’re in the top, that you’re in the 98 percentile of your company in effectiveness if you just have those two.

Now, if you add on top of it, you’re self-aware, you’re aware of your vulnerabilities, you’re aware of your strengths, then that’s the lethal combination. You have self-awareness of where you’re good and where you’re bad, so you put yourself in the right position to be successful, and you build strong relationships and enlist others, and are good at driving for results, that’s the right stuff.

It isn’t like this laundry list of things to be great at. It’s you’re self-aware so you put yourself in the right position where you work on what you’re good at, and you minimize what you’re bad at, you find workarounds so you outsource it to other people who are more qualified than you. You enlist others because you build bridges and listen well, and you drive for completion. That’s the right stuff.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s fantastic. Powerful. You know, we talk about 80/20 a lot here, and there it is. Boom. Awesome.

Carter Cast
Yeah, it really is 80/20. This was the biggest part of the research that surprised me the most was to find out to have the right stuff you don’t have to be good at everything. You have to know what you’re good at and know what you’re not good at, but you do have to be good at building relationships with others, and you do have to deliver on what you say you’re going to do.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Thank you. I want to make sure we touch on, you have a point about “you can’t count on the man” and it is important to hear.

Carter Cast
Yeah, this was really, really interesting. So I’m doing all this research, and I’m constantly finding that a big component of people’s derailment is that they actually were let down by their organizations. Their organizations are complicit in their very derailment. It isn’t only about the employee not performing well, the organization plays a key role when they derail, and their culpability is around four areas.

One, organizations move people too quickly especially talented people, and they don’t give them broadening experiences so you end up with the One Trick Pony. You get moved too quickly and you end up in a position and you don’t have the perspective to make, in a complex situation, you aren’t able to make good decisions because you haven’t had enough different types of experiences to draw from.

Second, they ignore bad behavior if short-term results are present, and this is Captain Fantastic. If you’re getting results but breaking glass along the way, they’re willing to turn an eye, turn their head. Third, they don’t require superiors to develop subordinates like they used to. And I think this is the 1099 problem.

When people are moving positions a lot, and there isn’t this social contractor used to be with employers, companies aren’t investing as much into developing subordinates as they used to, and so the onus has to be on us to develop ourselves because our superiors aren’t incented like they used to be in our development.

Back in the old day, P&G, you couldn’t make it to brand manager or group brand manager unless you had somebody in your team that was ready to take your old job. And you don’t hear about that as much, you know. That IBM model of development, or when I was at PepsiCo 11 years, that PepsiCo model of development, it’s just gone away because people switch jobs so frequently.

Pete Mockaitis
And you’d mentioned in your HBR piece, this was striking, that a Korn Ferry study put, of all the competencies, and there were many, right, amongst leaders that they sort of rank their how well they did upon them, that developing others ended up ranking dead last.

Carter Cast
Yeah, I mean, that was striking to me. There were 67 different competencies that…

Pete Mockaitis
This is the older version of For Your Improvement not the later one with fewer competencies, all 67, baby.

Carter Cast
Good for you. You got it, man. Lominger finally tightened that up, but they had 67 they’d identified and dead last in the research was developing others. By the way, this is self-reported by managers. This is managers saying, “These are the things that I’m not doing a very good job of.” And this was, I think, motivating others and confronting direct reports was also in the bottom 10 of what bosses and managers do well. So developing others was last, motivating others and confronting direct reports was also somewhere between number 57 and 67. So you get the picture.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly.

Carter Cast
They’re not going to help so you’ve got to do it yourself. It’s like a DIY, you know, we’re in a DIY kind of career management orientation if that’s what you have to have now. Do it yourself.

Pete Mockaitis
And so you’re saying, given that, go for it, ask for the feedback, hire a coach, take the LinkedIn Learning course, whatever it takes.

Carter Cast
Yes, you’ve got to take…the onus has to be on you because it isn’t like when I was… you know, I’m 54. When I was young, the organization would sit down and they’d have these developmental conversations and say, “Okay, so let’s get you these experiences in the next few years to develop. Here’s your profile, here’s three things you have to work on with your profile, Carter. Here’s three strengths we want to give you, a chance to even work harder on these strengths to get them even better, more potent.” You just don’t see that as much.

If you get a boss that’s like that, and says, “You know, even though we’re having this performance review for an hour, let’s spend a half hour on the performance review but let’s spend a half hour on your development, and let’s talk about three things that we want to get you to do to improve and let’s look at three leverageable strengths you have that we want to make sure you even work on more.” If you’ve got that boss, you are a lucky employee.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So noted. So you’re laying out the ways that the companies are complicit in derailment, and we kind of zeroed in on the “you can’t count on the man,” and then what’s to be done about that. Is there some more?

Carter Cast
Well, the other one is that it’s in this not directly confronting direct reports. The research shows that managers shy away from having hard but necessary career conversations with employees. And so if you have this conversation once a year during performance review time, well, that’s terrible, right? You need to have conversations, developmental conversations the minute you see the need to.

So if your boss, the minute you finish a big presentation, or you come out of a big client meeting, on the way to the airport with your boss, that’s the time to say, “Let’s do a feedback session.” And it can be really simple. You can say, “Here’s one thing you did well, Jim.” Or maybe even start with, “Jim, what’s one thing you think went well?” And then you shut up and listen. And then you say, “Jim, here’s one thing I think you did well.” That builds confidence.

“Jim, what’s one thing you think you could’ve done differently?” And then you shut up. “Here’s one thing I think you could’ve done differently.” And that builds skills. So this real simple feedback model, one thing you did well, you let them say, then you tell them one thing you think he did well, one thing that you think they could’ve done better, and then you say one thing.

This, on an ongoing regular cadence, is the way you develop people. It’s not like some once a year occasion during performance review time.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Carter, tell me, is there anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and we hear about a few of your favorite things?

Carter Cast
Yeah, you know, when I’ve been out talking about the book, and I get this question of, “Which of these five derailers hits you in different stages of your career? And which of them hit men versus women the most?”

And so if I would say, of the five derailers I laid out, early in the career, it’s often Solo Flyer. You haven’t learned to leverage your team, you haven’t learned to teach your team to fish, you haven’t learned to be a good manager yet. Mid-career, it’s often Version 1.0. You get stuck and you get complacent, and you need to find ways to jumpstart your learning curve.

And later in career, a lot of times it’s Captain Fantastic. You know you’re good at this and you get overly confident, and you stop having that beginner’s mindset and asking for feedback. And so the Whirling Dervish happens throughout your career. I mean, that afflicts people whether they’re right out of college, or they’re 50, 60 years old. You’re older. That one afflicts people throughout.

So mid-career Version 1.0 often hits people with adaptability, early in career a lot of times it’s Solo Flyer. Now, men versus women, the number one derailer the research showed that hurts women – and this is going to make you cringe, it made me cringe – it’s being viewed as non-strategic. And I always say, “Well, geez, do you think fundamentally genetically women are less strategic than men? Well, of course not.”

This, I think, is a problem with access. You’re non-strategic because you don’t see how all the pieces fit together. You don’t have a perspective on the business, it’s broad. The way you get a broad perspective on the business so you’re not non-strategic is by having access to senior leadership, is by being rotated into different assignments, it’s by being put on different assignments. So this is an access problem.

So this is where the importance of having mentors and advocates, and raising your hand and being asked to be rotated on different assignments. Like my boss said, “Carter, let me put you on a new assignment to broaden you.” That’s the sort of opportunity that a person needs to be able to be viewed as, you know, to move past being viewed as non-strategic, because fundamentally, being non-strategic it’s not like a genetic, you know, there are strategic people and non-strategic people. But, no, it’s a problem with access; access to opportunity.

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect. Thank you.

Carter Cast
So that men versus women. Then the number one derailer for men, not surprisingly, is Captain Fantastic. It’s being unbridled egos, dismal listening skills, listening, by the way, that came up so frequently. Thinking you have the answer and talking too much and not being receptive to feedback, not asking for feedback.

Pete Mockaitis
This is so much good stuff. Thank you. Now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Carter Cast
You know, it’s funny, I think I kind of tethered the quote into what I was saying. One of my very favorite quotes is, “Seek to understand before being understood.” And I actually look back and I think it came initially from St. Francis of Assisi, you know, hundreds and hundreds of years ago.

Pete Mockaitis
And Stephen Covey just picked it up.

Carter Cast
He picked it up. But if you go look at… we could even Google it. If you look up St. Francis of Assisi and look at his beautiful prayer, I’m going to even try to find it.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. The “make me an instrument of your peace,” the one?

Carter Cast
That’s it. That’s it. That’s the prayer. “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there’s hatred let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. When there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy.” And he says in the next verse, “Oh, Divine Master, grant that I not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand.” And I think a lot of people have taken that wonderful prayer and re-purposed it as, “Seek to understand before being understood.”

Because if you do that, you establish these strong relationships with people, and people then want to understand how they can help you too. So that begins this process of reciprocity and mutuality between people, and you end up having a group of people around you that are enlisted in your success and want to see you get ahead. And it’s not disingenuous. You try to help them get ahead, you show interest in their career and their projects, and they naturally will say to you, “How can I help you, Carter?”

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. And you’ve looked at a lot of studies and research. Do you have any favorites?

Carter Cast
You know, my favorite book, it’s funny, I read so many articles and so much academic research while doing this, and the Lominger stuff is great. It’s dense. There’s just a lot of the FYI and developmental planner by Lominger. But actually there’s a book called The Extraordinary Leader and the authors are Zenger, Z-E-N-G-E-R, and Folkman, F-O-L-K-M-A-N.

They were the ones that looked at… so mining, mining all these 360s and finding these very specific competencies that successful people have and high performers have, and I found that to be incredibly useful. And then I would say Marshall Goldsmith who’s just a wonderful example of leadership researcher. His book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There was wonderful in showing that, as we move on and get promoted, we have to let go of our old behaviors and embrace new ones.

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

Carter Cast
Reflection. The most important thing I think I do is, in the morning, I sit down with a cup of coffee when it’s quiet at 5:30 and it’s dark out, and I journal and I read something that’s either philosophical or spiritual or social psychology, and I reflect. So it’s like wisdom from the ancients, or wisdom from people smarter than I, and I reflect on it, and then I journal.

And I think about, how do I want to model this? Or how do I want to take these nuggets and bring them into the way I live and the way I behave? So, for example, I’m reaching into my backpack right now, and the book I’m currently reading is Anam Cara, A-N-A-M C-A-R-A. It’s a book of Celtic wisdom by John O’Donohue. And it’s just this lovely book on friendship and love.

And I find that if I get up and I immediately start my day, even before I work out or do anything, I read something that is really well-written by someone that’s very smart, and then I think about how I want to use that or incorporate that into my life. To me, it’s a great way to start the day, and I do it every day. Even if I read for 20 minutes, it’s become a practice of mine.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Thank you. And is there a particular nugget that you share, either in the classroom or when you’re coaching folks, that really seems to connect and resonate, and folks sort of quote it back to you, or they spread it far and wide?

Carter Cast
Yeah, there is actually, and it’s going to sound…I hope it doesn’t come off wrong. But I say often, in the last lecture I give in my class at Kellogg, don’t worry about what people think of you because they’re not thinking of you. They’re the protagonist in their own play, and they’re worried about their own lives. And if you realize that they’re not obsessed with how you’re behaving, that actually is empowering. It gives you freedom to do what you want to do with your life or your career instead of doing what you think others want you to do.

So another kind of companion phrase is, “Your opinion of me is none of my business.” I really do think that a lot of times we’re working so…we’re so worried that we’re being judged that it can stifle our creativity or make us make certain decisions about our career based on the safe path. But it really helped me to change careers eight years ago and go into academics and go into venture capital by saying, “You know what? I don’t want to be a CEO anymore. And if people are going to judge me because I’ve moved into this less ‘fancy’ career, then they can judge me.”

And what happened was I realized that nobody was judging me at all. It was my own misconception that people were more interested in my career than they were. They’re not interested in it. They’re worried about their own hide.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. That’s so good. Well, Carter, if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Carter Cast
Well, for the book that I wrote I created a website that’s just my name CarterCast.com, and on that site there’s a whole bunch of information about the book, and you can take the derailment test. But also, I loaded it with resource just to try to be useful, so I’d point them there.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. And do you have a final challenge or call to action you’d issue to folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Carter Cast
Yes, I would say every day when you reflect on the day, what’s the nugget you’ve picked up? Try to capture it because so much of what we learn we don’t codify and capture. So I think one of the challenges as we live in this fast-paced lives is taking the time to reflect and capture your learnings. So whether your journal or Dictaphone, some Evernote, whatever some app, whatever tools you use, I personally like the feeling of a pen and a piece of paper so I’ve gone through about, I think I’m on my 23rd journal now.

I just like to capture what I’m learning and then figure out a way to codify it into a behavior of some sort. So I would challenge people, what have you learned today, capture it some place so it doesn’t escape into the ether.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Thank you. Carter, thank you so much for sharing this perspective. I just have so much to think about. It’s like I’m quieter than normal because this so much good stuff to chew on, so thank you for bringing it. and I wish you lots of luck with your book The Right (and Wrong) Stuff, and your teaching, and investments, and all you’re up to.

Carter Cast
Well, thank you very much. I really appreciate it.