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.

425: Achieving More by Constantly Embarrassing Yourself with Case Kenny

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Case Kenny shares his bro-tastic approaches to building confidence, achievement, and motivation.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How doing embarrassing things increases confidence
  2. How to balance striving with gratitude
  3. Two common motivational mistakes

About Case

Case Kenny is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of PRSUIT.com and the host of the iTunes top podcast New Mindset, Who Dis?

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Case Kenny Interview Transcript

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

Case Kenny
Yeah, thank you. Thanks for having me. Very excited.

Pete Mockaits
Well, I think we’ve got so much fun stuff to dig into when it comes to motivation and learning and personal development. We’re both total dorks for this. First, I’ll put you on the spot. I want to know you have apparently become fluent in both Arabic and Chinese. Is this correct?

Case Kenny
Fluent is gracious. It’s very nice to say. In college, which was eight, nine years ago at this point, I did major in Chinese and Arabic and then I also studied Hindi and Urdu as well because they’re derived from the foundation of Arabic.

At one point I was quite good at it. I lived in China for a bit, worked at a law firm, considered some government work for Arabic. At one point, totally geeking out on it every single day. I’m not finding myself using too often lately, but the base is there. I can read and write it decently now, but I’ve been meaning to find someone in Chicago to practice with. But it is a true statement.  Fluent is gracious though.

Pete Mockaits
That’s intriguing because I understand these are among the hardest languages to learn in that the characters are not quite looking like A, B, C, D over there. Do you have any pro tips on how you manage to develop a degree of proficiency in these languages?

Case Kenny
Oh man, yeah, they’re very different. Chinese, you need to have a very good memory and you need to have a very good ear. Memory for the characters, certainly because it is symbol based and then ear for the intonations. It’s a tonal language. You can say ‘mother, horse, what’ using the same word. Obviously those are very different meanings. You have to be able to hear that. I would say photographic memory would be super helpful for Chinese.

Arabic, it’s right to left. That is a bit different. But they do have an alphabet, so it makes sense there. The best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it completely. That’s not necessarily saying you have to move somewhere, although that certainly helps.

But when I was studying it, it was every single day for three hours over four years. I was only decent at it. Imagine what you could do over ten years if you lived somewhere and you really wanted to do it. But honestly I think some people are just genetically predisposed to being good at languages, but I think anyone with enough practice and immersion can get decent at it.

Pete Mockaits
Let’s talk about learning how to learn. You’ve had a long-standing fascination with personal development as have I. I’d love to hear your story starting from little Case or whatever it’s appropriate to start.

Case Kenny
Sure.

Pete Mockaits
To how it’s pointed you into your current job and podcast and Prsuit. What’s the maybe three-ish minute story arc of how this has pointed you in these directions?

Case Kenny
Yeah, for sure. I think for me, if I’m being honest, my relationship with personal development, my journey to be here, candidly, it’s been a selfish one. It’s always been about me trying to better myself, trying to understand myself, trying to push myself. It was never a fascination with – I’m very interested in how humans adapt and grow.

It’s come to that point now, but initially it was never that way. It was never me sitting down and being like, “I’m very interested in human psychology or Adaptive Behavioral theory,” or anything like that. It was never that way. To be honest, it hasn’t been that longstanding. I’d say over the past five years is where I really came into that. That’s how I built my brand and everything that I do has been around that.

It was inherently personal and a bit selfish in a good way, not in a negative connotation, in that I just kind of looked at my life and what I was doing. I’m 30 now, so we’ll say 25 is really where I started getting into this. I was working Chicago, working at a couple different ad agencies.

I just kind of looked at my career, who I was, what I was doing, my sense of happiness and fulfillment. It seemed very passive to me. It didn’t seem like I was growing towards anything. I didn’t really have an idea of what I was doing. Typical Millennial stuff here. I felt kind of lost. I didn’t know the answers. Things weren’t that clear to me. I think that’s normal.

But on top of that it always just seemed like I wasn’t making decisions for myself. I was doing these things and hoping they would lead me to better places, hoping they would lead me to become more confident and more assured and centered and passionate and creative and all those things.

I just kind of took a step back and realized that vulnerably. I was like I’m not making decisions. I’m very passive right now. I’m not lean forward in my life. It was kind of that realization that just led me to a series of experiences where I did just that, I pushed myself for more experiences.

That’s a vague statement, but it was literally throughout my mid-20s pushing myself to do things that made me really uncomfortable, that made me realize that I can be much more active in my life.

It was kind of through that idea that I started really leaning into my career, which evolved to sales, which is a very lean forward, aggressive, confident kind of activity. And then leaning into my creative skillset, which at this point has become podcasting and writing and entrepreneurship and publishing, digital marketing, and things like that.

They all grew hand-in-hand, where I started to realize that I can make decisions for myself that can better myself both financially influence and then personally. They all just kind of came together and I’ve created this interesting ecosystem for myself, where my passion, my hobby, my career all are built around this idea of pushing myself and being uncomfortable and growing.

Along the way I’ve met a ton of great people, through my company, through my network, through reading and podcasting, things like that that made me realize that I’m very fascinated with this idea of personal development because it’s half science, it’s half theory, it’s half experiences. It’s very personal. I just really find a lot of value in that and that I could sit down and basically describe my experiences and people find value in that.

The more I lean into that, the more I podcast, the more I interview, the more I write, I, in turn, am learning from that. It’s a very meta-type experience for me, where I’m creating content around self-development and that content, in effect, is helping to push me to then create more. It’s just very authentic.

I say it all the time, even on my Instagram, I call myself a dude bro guy with perspective because I am a bit of a bro by any definition. I like going to the club. I like flashy things. Sometimes I’ll say things that people would roll their eyes at. I’m not an expert-

Pete Mockaits
You’ve hit the gym.

Case Kenny
Yeah, I work out.

Pete Mockaits
I can tell from your Instagram photos that you’re visiting the gym.

Case Kenny
Thanks man. Yeah, I try to get the gains. I try to get the protein. I do my thing. I’m not trying to be a life coach. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m not trying to do that. I’ve never even tried to be a thought leader. It’s always been about just being better.

Then I’ve always been a voracious writer. I love writing. I just started narrating my experiences and people seem to really enjoy it simply for the fact that I was vulnerable to say “I don’t know the answer.” Again, I’m a bit of a tool sometimes. Call it. I’m a bro. I’m a dude. I’m a guy. Whatever. But here are my thoughts and they might be helpful to you. That’s how my whole evolution has gone.

But again, it’s all around this idea of personal development that I’ve seen myself really, really adapt even in the past five years around this idea of leaning forward versus leaning back. That’s more than three minutes, but that’s kind of how I got into it. Just kind of looking at myself and wanting more of myself. It’s really opened the doors and kind of the world to me frankly.

Pete Mockaits
Well, that’s interesting. It really does come through. As I read Prsuit, available at Prsuit.com without the first U, P-R-S-U-I-T.com and your podcast, New Mindset, Who Dis? It took me a moment. Oh, like “New phone, who dis?” New Mindset, I get it now.

Case Kenny
You get it?

Pete Mockaits
Who Dis, the speech bubbles helped in the cover art. It does come through in terms of it’s vulnerable, it’s raw, it’s you just using your language. That’s fun.

That is just sort of resonant for folks because some people like the scientific flavor, like, “Hey, this study revealed these things with these numbers” Some people dig the poetic flowery expression, like, “Oh, that was a beautiful sentence and a quote that I’ll post to inspire me.” You’re just telling it like you see it in your authentic bro way. I just got a big canister of protein powder, so I can relate a little bit at times. I appreciate what you’re up to.

Let’s dig in then. This whole notion of leaning forward instead of backward and pushing yourself to do things that make you uncomfortable, well, I think that’s kind of easier said than done. How did you kind of start that momentum in terms of, “Hey, I am going to push myself to do this even though it’s uncomfortable?” Can you give us some specific examples of what made you uncomfortable and what you did?

Case Kenny
Yeah. I would say there’s a couple things in there that have really led me to realize that and that continued to push myself. It was basically the idea of I needed to embarrass myself more because now I would consider myself probably too confident, too much self-esteem. Sometimes it pours out of me in ways that people perceive as negative. But it used to be the direct opposite, where very self-conscious, very timid, didn’t want to speak up, just nervous in that respect.

Two things along the way made me realize that one, no one cares and two, the more you push yourself, the more you realize that.

The first going way back, before my mid-20s was waiting tables at Applebee’s. I think everyone should wait tables at some point in their lives. It teaches you so much about people. It teaches you so much about yourself. It teaches you all these skills. But that certainly made me realize you can pack in two years of human interaction experience in a summer waiting tables or whenever you’re waiting tables.

I know for your audience it might be for a good reason too late to go and wait tables because they’re professionals, but maybe for their kids or whatever. I found so much value in that. It gave me a little bit of a teaser that I kind of tucked away in my pocket and then kind of came back to realize now in my mid-20s, but of the power of that idea of understanding people really don’t care or people really aren’t watching you as much as they do.

I would leave that just there as a context to what I’m talking about here. Then the other one is it was when I turned 26 – 27 is I left my agency job in Chicago because I started having these feelings. If you know digital advertising agencies, it’s a bit of a grind, bit of a sweatshop. You learn a lot, don’t get me wrong. I’m very grateful for the experiences. But you don’t make a lot. It’s very ambiguous in how you can be successful. It’s a grind.

This idea in my head, I wanted to prove to myself that I was capable, not only of being impactful and using my skills in an impactful way, but also I wanted to make money, to be candid. I wanted to make money. I’ll never think there’s anything wrong with that. That’s where I hustled my way into a sales role.

That’s the second thing I think everyone should try to do at some point is some type of sales, whether it’s more blasé business development or a pure sales commission role. That’s where I came into my own because I’ve been in this role for a while.

The old Case, pre-sales verse post-sales, I’ve learned so much about myself. I embarrass myself regularly. I am awkward regularly. I am in rooms that I have no business being in. I’ve been able to make money, which is great, but it’s been those experiences where I’ve completely failed and crashed in a meeting, I’ve entertained so many clients, taking people out to dinners every night of the week. I’ve packed all this life experience into this short amount of time.

All of that is compete lean forward. You’re not going to be successful in that role without leaning forward. You can’t sit back and hope that “Oh, maybe I’ll be passionate about this or maybe it will lead me in the right direction.” I’m not even talking about being successful. I’m just talking about proving to yourself that you can do things.

It definitely started with that sales idea. From there, it’s basically just me in a mindset now of anytime I have the opportunity to do something or think of something and if my reaction to is I don’t want to do it because it makes me uncomfortable, I’ve honestly – people might go, “that’s bullshit” – but I force myself to do it now. I crave that experience because I know how powerful it will be for me.

And now, in retrospect, now  that I have my podcast and it’s doing well, I know I can talk about it as a good experience-driven piece of content, but someone the other day was like, “Hey Case, I want you to dress up as the Easter Bunny for this kid’s Easter celebration.”

Of course, I was like, “Oh my gosh, that sounds horribly embarrassing and something like I do not want to do it,” but then in the back of my head I’m like, “I should probably do that because it is both of those things and I should do that simply for that very fact.”

It’s thoughts like that that have really, really pushed me to do things where I’m likely to embarrass myself, but the result has been I’m so much more confident in myself, like light years. It’s really opened my eyes. That was a lot.

Pete Mockaits
Okay. I was right with you in terms of trying sales, crashing in meetings, you feel uncomfortable, you push yourself to do that, and where was our last 30 seconds here?

Case Kenny
It’s evolved from there. That idea of pushing myself forward in a business setting, where there’s a little bit more structure, has made me realize that I can take that concept of pushing myself to be uncomfortable outside of that. The result is now I really crave that idea of being uncomfortable, being awkward, being embarrassed.

It’s cliché to say, but I want to do it now, whereas before, any opportunity I had to sink into the shadows or sit in the back, I would do it. Now I want the direct opposite of that because I’ve seen how more powerful it has made me as far as just taking ownership of what I want to do. Along the way, it’s developed my confidence. I’m happier because I’m pushing myself in a direction that I’ve created rather than just coasting. But it definitely started with sales. I will give sales that credit.

Pete Mockaits
Yeah, that’s really intriguing how you have kind of rewired your fundamental reaction to stuff. That’s really cool. I’d love to get your take on if folks are just getting started, like, “Yeah, I am so not there. I very much prefer to not embarrass myself and prefer not to feel this discomfort, what would you recommend to be some of the very first steps?

Case Kenny
Yeah, I would ask them why they prefer that. My guess would be, “Well, it’s uncomfortable. It’s awkward. It’s embarrassing.” But my question would be, “Well, you’re basing that on an experience or two, where that happened to you.” I think life is about trial and error and you need a larger sample size. The most happy, fulfilled, creative, successful people I know are constantly embarrassing themselves.

One of my good friends is the CRO of a company in Chicago, billion-dollar company. The dude is bullheaded, so bullheaded he embarrasses himself all the time. You’d say, “Wow, a guy of that stature, a guy who’s a CRO, who’s buttoned-up, who’s very successful, you would think a guy like that never embarrasses himself,” but no, he does it all the time.

It sounds masochistic to be like, “You’ve got to go and embarrass yourself.” It’s not that. It’s just you put yourself in a position where you’re uncomfortable. That’s all it is. I think for people to be like, “Ah, I’m uncomfortable to do that,” I would say, “Okay, that’s a natural feeling.”

Feeling that way doesn’t make you any less in any respect. You just have to realize that you feel that way because you’ve only done it a couple times. The more that you do it, the more you realize it doesn’t matter.

Then the more you realize it doesn’t matter, I think you’ll come to realize that what separates confident, driven, creative people from people who are not that is their threshold for that thing. It’s like how much are they willing to go through, whether that’s awkwardness or discomfort or stress or frustration, it’s the threshold for that I think in any aspect of life that’s going to make you successful.

I think if you can kind of contextualize yourself within that spectrum and I think that’s what’s going to push you. It’s definitely like a mental chess game with yourself. You have to convince yourself, but once you do it to my point, it’s a little bit addicting because it’s like leveling up for me. I’m like accruing awkward points and I can cash them in for confidence. That’s how I see it literally.

It’s not a game certainly because it could be awkward, but I just see so much value, I’ve convinced myself that. I think if you start with that mindset, you’ll gradually find more momentum there.

Pete Mockaits
Well, that’s edifying in terms of viewing that awkward points as a currency and those experiences are right there, able to be turned into having more confidence or upgrade from it. Boy, just chewing on that for a while, it’s pretty fun. The formula then is – you say embarrass yourself. It’s not about streaking across town.

Case Kenny
Yeah, let’s be clear. It’s not falling flat on your face. Yeah.

Pete Mockaits
It’s about entering situations that you feel uncomfortable in, you have no business being there, you’re not yet adequate, competent, qualified to go there, but nonetheless, you’re going there. Because you’re there and you haven’t been there before, it feels kind of awkward, feels kind of uncomfortable and when you say some things, you might feel embarrassed and stupid.

Case Kenny
Yeah, exactly.

Pete Mockaits
But after having done that a few times, you get the upgrade, like, “Oh yeah, I’ve done those sorts of meetings numerous times. It’s no big deal and I feel confident there.”

Case Kenny
Absolutely. Yup.

Pete Mockaits
I’d love to get your take a little bit on some practices when we’re talking about confidence with regard to maybe exercise or posture or meditation. Do any of these play into it for you?

Case Kenny
Yeah, certainly. Absolutely. I talk a lot about confidence. Meditation for me, I guess I have rampant ADD or something. I’ve never found it to work for me.

Really for me everything that I’ve found to be effective has been experience driven to the last five minutes that we’ve been talking about. I think certainly posture, the idea of a power stance, things like that helps.

But people sometimes read my content and listen to my podcast and they get a lot of it. But I’m assuming that people might also be like, “Case, there’s no science behind this,” or like, “Where’s the five steps,” or “Where’s the practices, the daily practices?” I don’t really know what to tell you because everything that I’ve learned to be impactful in my life has been mindset driven, hence the name of the podcast, New Mindset, Who Dis?

I have seen the power of the mind to be so much more impactful than the power of a five-step process or the power of something similar. That’s just the way I’ve always been because it’s always been easier for me to sit and think myself out of action, to sit and try meditation, for example. It’s been easy for me to sit in a corner and adopt a power stance.

But those are passive activities and I realize that if I want to have an active, lean-forward mentality towards life, I have to make my mind want to do those things. I have to basically trick myself or incentivize myself or motivate myself to want to act. That’s what I’ve come to realize about myself. It took 30 years call it, but that’s why everything for me goes back to my mindset.

It’s not about little practices that offer temporary growth or whatever. It’s about a sustained mindset that makes me want to do those things, that makes me want to be uncomfortable to grow because, again, I’ve seen the other side call it. I’ve seen where the grass is greener and I want to continue to go that way. To me it’s always been just about that mindset. Now I have it and it’s more sustained.

To me, I would much rather grow in a sustained way than adopt practices that, for me, just don’t work over time. They might work for someone else and that’s fantastic, but in my dude-bro-guy reality, apparently it’s more about getting my mind right and getting centered in that and then taking that with me every day.

Pete Mockaits
I’d love it if you could maybe articulate some particular new mindsets with regard to hey, old mindset and new mindset, whether that’s with regard to a belief or a vibe associated with each and sort of what are the implications that those new mindsets have brought?

Case Kenny
Yeah, one that I’ve been thinking about lately, I wrote about this somewhat frequently, but I did an episode and I called it Nah, Bigger. It’s actually the background on my phone. It’s Nah, N-A-H, comma Bigger, like the idea of I look at something or I think about something and I motivate myself to be like, “Nah, bigger.” I can think bigger. I can do better. I can do more. I can push myself more.

That’s the mindset, nothing unique in that necessarily. It’s the idea of pushing yourself, and in my case, the idea of pushing myself to be more uncomfortable, to be more successful, to be a better man, to be a better entrepreneur, to be a better content creator, whatever, to push myself. I’ve got all kinds of thoughts on how to motivate yourself to do that. But that’s one mindset that I talk a lot about.

But within that mindset, and I think a lot of people are very aggressive in setting goals for themselves, to want to do more and grow and all that. That’s always been great, but I’ve found that that mindset alone has really detracted from a bit of my happiness because I always want more. It was always the same way.

It’s like, “Oh, I make 50K, I’ll be happy.” Then I made 50K. It’s like, “Well, it’s got to be 100. I’ve got to make 100.” It’s like that. Then you’re always going to want more and you’re not going to be necessarily happy. I did another episode the other day and I called it Yeah, Grateful. Basically, that’s exactly what you think it would be. It’s the idea of being grateful.

Basically with this ‘nah, bigger’ verse ‘yeah, grateful’ mindset, it’s two mindsets that come together in the form of writing a list of things that you want to grow, basically your goals, and then things that you’re grateful for, your gratitude list or gratitude journal, whatever people want to call it. I combine those two and that’s offered a lot of just more centeredness and happiness for me.

The ability to place those two things side by side physically on a list – wish I had it here with me – and to be able to look at those things and it really balances you out.

That’s the mindset that’s been particularly impactful for me is that mindset of balance because it’s so easy, whether professionally or physically or creatively or personally, to get so ahead of yourself on wanting more and bigger and better and not balancing it with that gratitude and the result is you kind of drive yourself crazy.

I’ve always driven myself crazy with that, wanting more, wanting the podcast to be bigger, pursuit to make more money, to get bigger and stronger, all those things. When in reality, if I step back, there’s so many little things to be grateful for.

Life has really taught me that, whether through personal tragedies or just my own observation and introspection. Combine those two provides balance and balance is everything. You can have a million mindsets, but if you don’t balance them, you’re going to be all over the place. To me, that’s the biggest thing I think for personal growth and development is balance.

I talk to a lot of people who, even by their own admission, would be self-help junkies. They love it. They read the books, they listen to the podcast, they post the inspirational quotes, they’re all about it, but they’re not balanced.

A couple issues. Probably they love to consume and not act necessarily. But also they’re filling their mind with all these mindsets that are pushing them for more and more and more and more, better, better, better, growth, growth, growth and they’re not balancing it with the most centering thing you could possibly do, which is being thankful for what you have.

It’s a lot of clichés in there, but I think the idea of placing those two concepts side by side, that’s been the most powerful mindset that I’ve adopted. I preach to it a lot. It’s done a lot for me.

It’s centered me because I’m Mr. Self-Development. I’m supposed to be pushing myself and pushing people, but I think it’s taking a step back and balancing those two that’s going to make your self-development journey enjoyable, because otherwise what’s the point. Longwinded way of saying it’s balance, but I’ve found that to be really, really impactful.

Pete Mockaits
Well, yeah, I really like that notion. Gratitude’s come up several times before. But this is a little bit of a unique angle to put it right there side by side so that does just sort of change the whole energy and feel associated with your striving or your ambition.

Instead of it being in place of “Where I’m at right now is inadequate and I’m stressed about it,” to “Okay, there’s a big thing that’s pulling me forward. I’m excited for it and I’m also grateful for where I’ve come from and the way things are now.” That’s really awesome. I further want to get your take when it comes to the balance equation. In the world of pushing yourself and hustling and going for it versus resting, rejuvenation, self-care, how do you wrestle with those guys?

Case Kenny
Yeah. That’s a great question and my immediate answer would be I don’t know. I don’t have the best answer for you. I would tell anyone that. I would be lying if I was like, “Oh, it’s easy. You’ve got to do this.”

I would say that I’ve learned a lot in that respect because that defines me to a T and it’s tough though. Everything on Instagram makes you feel like you’re falling behind and you need to push yourself. The internet in its entirety does that to you. You’re going to feel like you’re running behind. I think there’s no real way around falling into that outside of realizing that you need to balance it otherwise you’re not going to be happy.

I think the past couple of years I pushed myself so hard that I came to realize it and I came to realize that through experience. It’s gotten to a point where I’ve found a really good balance.

I think a lot of people when they hear the word gratitude they think about things like, “Oh, I’ve got to do gratitude journaling. I’ve got to hop into an hour-long meditation session.” For me, it’s literally just writing one or two things down a day that I’m thankful for. It’s not a big, long process. Even that practice doesn’t really even do anything. It’s literally looking at those two lists side by side and realizing that you’re doing just fine.

That’s always been my idea of progress and success anyway is small, little incremental steps and looking at those rather than the big picture that offers a lot of fulfillment. I think people set these big goals and when they’re not there, they get really frustrated, but you can balance that by looking at the smaller goals and working towards those and marking those off and then respecting gratitude towards that along the way.

I don’t have the best balance. I think for me, I am in a lucky position to my point earlier that really everything I do selfishly helps me. It’s like I see the value in pushing myself from a business perspective, from a career perspective, but I know that it’s also helping me personally to my note about sales as well. They’re all very intertwined. I definitely recognize that it’s a unique scenario.

But I put myself in that position. I’ll pat myself on the back there. But I’m still learning to be honest. Late nights, always wanting more. I’ve got a whiteboard behind me of things that I’m working towards that I haven’t achieved yet. It weighs on my mind, but I also can look in the other room to my list of things that I’m grateful for and that always centers me. It’s a work in progress. I’ll say that.

Pete Mockaits
Well, are there particular sort of boundaries or rejuvenation practices that you undertake to stay in the game?

Case Kenny
Yeah. Here’s the dude bro answer. The gym certainly. I find music combined with activity just to be so extremely motivating and energizing. I can literally flip a switch – if I’m having a bad day and I can put on some good music. I listen to a lot of electronic music. The right song, the right genre can totally turn things around. It’s different for everyone. Not everyone’s going to respond to music that way. But to rejuvenate myself, it’s literally music.

You combine that with the gym or you combine that with walking around Chicago when it’s nice out, that does it completely for me, just to get out of the context where I’m frustrated. I think that’s a lesson that anyone can take. If you’re ever frustrated in the office or from your home office or the gym, if you’re frustrated with your gains or your body, it’s like you’ve got to get out of that context. You’ve got to remove yourself from it.

I think that does a lot for me. I realize that because I always used to shut myself in and kind of mull over the thing that was frustrating me, but removing myself from that has really made me realize one, there’s more, two, there’s things you can be grateful for, and three, there’s just more possibilities outside of what you’re hung up on.

Music is definitely a key ingredient there. People always make fun of me because I love my AirPods and I always have them in and people think I’m on calls and whatnot when I’m really just listening to music or forgot to take them out, but that’s how frequent it is for me because it keeps my energy and it keeps me excited.

There’s something very cathartic with good music. I listen to a lot of electronic, to my point, but trance music, which has a lot of climaxes and drops. It’s a very emotional kind of journey kind of thing. Kind of like classical music I suppose, a lot of builds. That just energizes you. It instills a sense of positivity in me and optimism. I just run with that.

Any time I’m frustrated, I try to remove myself, music, gym, outside, something like that. Not the usual – I don’t find go and hang out with friends that rejuvenating. I have great, amazing friends, but I wouldn’t look to social interaction to be the thing to rejuvenate me. If anything it makes me start to think of things relative to them and start comparing and whatnot. I find it to be going and do something like I just described and then coming back and working from that context.

Pete Mockaits
Understood. Well, I’m also curious when you’re having those times where maybe you just don’t feel like pushing yourself, like the motivation is low on that day, you mentioned music and the gym or activity are some of your go-to’s. Do you have any other things you do that bring the motivation back when it seems to be missing?

Case Kenny
Yeah. Certainly for me, since I am a writer – if someone asked me what I do, I would say I’m a writer, kind of translates into podcasting as well – it’s writing. I think if you’re ever frustrated with something or trying to break it down, it’s like whatever creative field can do that for you. For me, it’s writing.

When I sit down and just start writing about something, if it’s something that bothers me, that allows me to break it down. Sometimes I block myself in my own thoughts because I’m not forcing something tangible out of it, but when I write I have to put something on paper, so it really forces me to be more introspective.

Same with the podcast. When I create content, my episodes are only 20 minutes long, but it’s basically my own therapy session. Those are practices. They’re also my business. But they will allow me to kind of rejuvenate myself, be introspective, get something out of myself, grow, and at the same time basically document the process so that other people can get value out of it at the same time.

Again, these aren’t scientific practices. I’m not drilling down the latest study to help shift the mindset, but I really believe in the power of practices like this that really force you to understand how your mind works, what is blocking you and how you can be more lean-forward relative to it.

For me, it’s been writing. I can sit down and just start writing. I always joke, “I’ve just got a lot of feelings.” I would just start pouring them out. It works really well for me.

I started the podcast and I usually write down the majority of it beforehand in a very detailed outline. I’ve only been doing it for about eight months, but those eight months have been so much growth because I released episode 95 today and 95 episodes of my own experiences, my own funny stories, my own uncomfortable experiences, my own growth stories. Going through those and looking at them, that’s amazing double growth for me.

I’m pretty intentional with that, but, again, I found it a great mix for me personally that combines my skillset with my goal, which is to grow.

Pete Mockaits
Well, I’d love it, we talked about a lot of things that have been good to do, are there any kind of key mistakes or things that you recommend not doing as you’re pursing the cultivation of motivation and learning and growth?

Case Kenny
Yeah, of course. A couple things, I’m trying to avoid clichés here but it’s tough to avoid clichés in the self-help space because everyone said something at some point. It’s all about your own personal perspective on it.

But I think things to avoid are comparisons certainly. The idea of highlight reels verse behind the scenes. We tend to frustrate ourselves very much so when we compare ourselves, but we’re comparing our behind the scenes, our grind, our challenges with something that we see on social media, which is someone’s highlight reel.

We get really down on ourselves because we think we’re falling behind, we think we’re not extraordinary, we’re not doing good things, we’re slow, whatever, when in reality is if you’re going to compare, you should be comparing your behind the scenes with someone else’s behind the scenes. That’s easier said than done. It’s not that easy when people publish good things about themselves, not the struggles.

But I think people should come to realize that, especially in the day and age of Instagram and Facebook. Everything you see that people are putting out are going to be their either highly-filtered, highly-adjusted stories or it’s going to be the best moments of their life. People aren’t necessarily going to share the in betweens or the left of the spectrum.

I think unless you realize that, you’re going to feel like you’re falling behind and then it’s just kind of a vicious cycle. I definitely would say that’s a big one certainly.

Another one for me and it’s at the risk of sounding too full of myself, but it’s always been this idea of when I was younger and I would walk into a room of people, whether it was business or personal, I would always walk in with the hope that the group of people would like me. “Oh man, I hope they like me. I hope they see value in me.”

Now it’s really switched to that of, “I wonder if I will like them.” Not in like a pretentious way, “Oh they need to impress me,” or anything. It’s just a mindset shift where you’re not validating yourself through how other people react to you or how other people perceive you.

Certainly it’s important in your profession and in general that people have a good impression of you I suppose, but the mindset of hoping that your self-worth is going to be validated by their impression of you, that goes back to what I was saying earlier. That’s very passive. I’ve really adjusted my mindset against that.

I would say those two pop out at me, the idea of comparison and then the idea of a desire to be validated by other folks. I think those are easily addressed but the need to be lean forward, but then from there you’ve got to put more practices in place to push yourself. But I think those two things would certainly be things to avoid to answer your question.

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

Case Kenny
No, no, I think that’s it. I think for me, my growth, the things that I talk about it’s like you’re never set in stone on anything in particular. There’s no shame in pivoting and changing direction and anything like that. There’s nothing wrong with that.

If you’re doing one thing today – people see a negative connotation, flip-flopping or saying one thing one day and doing another or going left and then going right. I don’t see anything wrong with that. To me that means that you’re growing and you’re trying different things. I think that’s really powerful. I would never see any shame in changing your mind, in changing your perspective, in changing your political party. I don’t know.

I don’t see any shame with that because it means that you’re willing to experience a new perspective, a new routine, a new habit and that is how you get to know yourself, not through considering them and thinking about them. It’s through experiencing them. I would just add that. I found that to be really, really valuable in my life.

Pete Mockaits
All right, thank you. Now could you share a favorite quote, something that you find inspiring?

Case Kenny
Yeah, I figured you’d ask that. I’m going to quote Winnie-the-Pooh. I posted this on my Instagram the other day. But it’s the three-line quote where Pooh goes, “What day is it?” Then Piglet says, “It’s today.” Then Pooh goes, “My favorite day.” I just like that. People who know me, know I’m very optimistic. I just really love life to an extent. I just see so much upside to every day. That captures it. Today is my favorite day because it is today and I woke up today, so I love that quote.

Pete Mockaits
Well, you mentioned a couple times you don’t rely on studies, but I ask everybody. Do you have a favorite study, or experiment or bit of research?

Case Kenny
Oh boy. Can I say no? Off the top of my head, I don’t think I have one.

Pete Mockaits
All right. How about a favorite book?

Case Kenny
Favorite book. Ton of great self-help books. I know folks listening aren’t necessarily entrepreneurs, but The Lean Startup by Eric Ries is one of my favorite books for business. It’s basically this idea of starting a business you should test and test and test and then pivot and test and pivot, start small, start fast, be impatient and then you build businesses that way.

You don’t build businesses by working on it for a year and theorizing and then testing. You’ve got to test, test, test to understand what will do well.

To my point just a minute ago, I think that’s life. That’s what life’s all about. Test, test, test, see what works for you, and then build on that and you shouldn’t be afraid to pivot. I like that book because I am an entrepreneur, I am a business person, but I’m also really into self-development, so those worlds collide very nicely there. It’s a great book.

Pete Mockaits
How about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Case Kenny
LinkedIn certainly because my job, influence, creation is all about connections and that helps me network certainly.

Pete Mockaits
And a favorite habit?

Case Kenny
Favorite habit would be what I just described, updating the Nah, Bigger and Yeah, Grateful list. I do that if not every day, every other day. I would say weekly.

Pete Mockaits
If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Case Kenny
Instagram is usually the best way to get ahold of me. It’s Case.Kenny on Instagram. Of course the podcast, New Mindset, Who Dis? or Prsuit, P-R-S-U-I-T. I’m the guy behind it all, so it’s pretty easy to find me.

Pete Mockaits
Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Case Kenny
Yeah, I think to be awesome at your job you have to be happy as a person. I am, again, the self-development guy. I think that truly goes back to gratitude.

I’ve been in sales for a long time and it’s easy to be like, “I’m not making enough money. I’m not closing enough,” or yada, yada, yada. When in reality you take a step back and you did that Nah, Bigger verse Yeah, Grateful practice even in your profession, I think you’d realize that your growth is there, your progress is there, there’s a lot to be thankful for and to lean on that will make you happy.

When you’re happy, you preform and when you perform, you excel, and so on and so forth. I think gratitude would definitely fit into that context as well.

Pete Mockaits
Awesome. Well, Case, this has been a treat. Thanks so much. I wish you tons of luck with Prsuit and New Mindset, Who Dis, and all your adventures.

Case Kenny
Thank you, Pete. I appreciate it, man. This was great.

424: How to Help People Get to the Next Level with Jeremie Kubicek

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Jeremie Kubicek teaches how to multiply your leadership many times over.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Tools for being the best sherpa for your team, like the Support-Challenge Matrix
  2. Pro tips for better supporting and challenging yourself and others
  3. Critical expectations that need to be spelled ou

About Jeremie

Jeremie Kubicek is a thought leader who specializes in transformational leader development. He is CEO of GiANT TV, and Chairman and co-founder of GiANT Worldwide, where he helps people grow through powerful content across the globe. Additionally, Jeremie is the bestselling author of Making Your Leadership Come Alive.Together with Steve Cockram, he is also the author of 5 Voices and 5 Gears.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Jeremie Kubicek Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Jeremie, thanks so much for joining us here on How To Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Jeremie Kubicek
So good to be with you, Pete. Thank you for the time.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh well, thank you for the time. I mean, it’s a really big day for you and the book launch process. Tell us what’s going on. You just hit number one in Amazon category, which is cool. Congratulations.

Jeremie Kubicek
Thank you. I know. It’s really fun.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. What have you been up to and what’s the secret to your success here in this book promotion?

Jeremie Kubicek
I’ve done a lot of different books. My background and history, I used to run a lot of leadership businesses. So I was always the background guy for a number of years. So the corner office guy, right? Who did big events, Leadercast, Catalyst. I worked with John Maxwell and Henry Cloud, and those different thought leaders, and so on and so forth.

I’ve been writing my own books for the last, I don’t know, seven to eight years. One, you build the following. But what we’ve done is we basically built a leadership summit. That’s been really interesting. It has actually worked. Where we built a free two-and-a-half-hour event that anyone in the world can use with their teams. Then it has just driven a lot of appreciation, because it’s adding a lot of value to people, more than just a book. This is a thought. Take the thought and work it into your system. So that’s been our research and it has actually played out really nicely.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. So is that sort of like, buy the book and you get the free access to the event or the video?

Jeremie Kubicek
Yes and/or the opposite. Do the event and books come with it. So it’s either way. So a lot of teams are working with that. Then we have a lot of our own consultants, or coaches, or people that want to draw people they can actually put on the event and bring it in for their own networking or what have you. Then the book is basically what the participant gets when they come.

Pete Mockaitis.
That’s cool. Well, clever, clever. I don’t know how many listeners care about book promotions, but I sure do.

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah, I know.

Pete Mockaitis
But I guess what I’m trying to underscore here is, you are in the thick of it and we appreciate you taking the time.

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
So your book here, The 100X Leader? Or do you pronounce it internally in your head? 100 times leader?

Jeremie Kubicek
No. I said 100X. You said that right, yeah. It still means the same thing. Times and Xs. It’s multiplication.

Pete Mockaitis
[…] my consulting days. They always talk about three x-ing the revenue or something?

Jeremie Kubicek
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
That three times-ing or tripling. So what’s the big idea behind this book?

Jeremie Kubicek
The big idea is that in our world system, we don’t have enough of the right kind of leader. We have a lot of leaders, but leadership is not equal. All leaders are not equal. That jargon of leadership, it means too many different things. It’s too generic.

So we basically broke it down and said, “A 100X Leader is someone who’s trending to be a healthy person.” They’re healthy emotionally, physically, mentally, and a kind of more well-rounded person. They’re heading to that direction. They’ve acclimated enough to such a degree that they then can X or multiply themselves.

Most leaders that we find are either 60 negative or 75 plus. So they’re jaded and they show up at work, and they’re living accidentally. Everyone around them kind of gets the life sucked out of them when they’re around these people. Or there’s this 75 plus leader that’s generally healthy and they’ll add value if you come to them and they, “Yeah, yeah. Sure. What do you need? I’ll help you.” But they’re not intentionally looking to take people to the next level.

Pete Mockaitis
60 negative and 75 plus. Can you orient me? Is there ratio, or numerator, or denominator? What’s the number pointing to?

Jeremie Kubicek
Well, it’s an overall. It’s almost like what do you think of that movie? 1 through 10. Your view of the movie and my view of the movie. You might call it 8 and I might give it a 6. So it’s a little subjective. But it’s the construct of going, “Are you healthy? Are you moving in the healthy? So then we break it down in the book.

There’s five circles of influence. There’s self, family, team, organization, and community. So what’s interesting about it is that we find that most leaders haven’t done the hard yards to look at themselves in the mirror and go, “How am I doing in each category?” Because most people think of leadership only in the team construct. We said, “No, no, no. What about self and leading yourself? That is a leadership opportunity. What about your family and leading there? What about in the community?”

So there’s other categories of leadership. I could be useful, for instance, 60%, to myself. Maybe I dominate myself. Maybe I speak over myself negative words. Maybe I subtract some 60 negative in the self-circle. To my family, maybe I’m 70% and plus. So in each category, we’re basically using the idea of 100X that said, “How healthy are you?

Now, we have some tests in the book. We have certain things where you can actually test yourself and rank yourself, and come up with your number and what you think.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Jeremie Kubicek
That’s the general idea of it.

Pete Mockaitis
So you say 60 negative? These are kind of like two things here. It’s a 60 on the 0 to 100 scale and it’s a negative in the health?

Jeremie Kubicek
It’s negative in your influence. So X means multiplication of your influence. How influential are you? Do people want to follow you or do they have to follow you? So the idea is if I’m a 100X Leader. I’m someone that people want to follow, because I’m intentionally multiplying myself. I’m bringing the best that I have to help other people become the best they could be.

That’s what usually breaks down in most of the leaders that we run into, in organizations, are just waking up in the morning. They maybe have gotten beaten down to such a degree, so that anyone that comes in contact with them, they’re multiplication is they’re multiplying negative. They’re not multiplying positive.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So I’m kind of hung up on your figures here, but let me nail this down. Okay. So you’re saying that we take a good look at these five key areas. The self, family, team, organization, and community, and see how you doing 0 to 100 hundred in terms of just kind of what’s the performance level there.

Then we have a negative influence in terms of how other people are picking up on that vibe from you or a positive influence, if it’s a happy vibe. Or a multiplicative influence in the terms of they are now equipped to do all the more. Is that fair?

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. Are you intentionally multiplying your skills, knowledge, and wisdom into those that you’re leading? Or it could be on the other end of the spectrum of dividing. I’m going to give an example. This week, I’m just working with a public company. The executive team, working with the CEO, helping this person understand himself. This person, the CEO, is really, really getting into it and understanding. “Ha! I can’t give what I don’t possess. So am I as a person and as a leader?”

So he’s moving to that direction. I’m giving him tools, which are laced throughout the book to help him become 100% or move in that direction. So his trajectory is good. But then we started looking at his executive team. As I gave him the numbers to play with, he was ranking his own team going, “You know, I think so and so is at a –.”

I’ll just make up names, so that if anyone’s listening. I think Bob is at a 70. I think there’s some things in his life that’s kind of keeping him—I think, Lisa, she might be at a 90. She’s got—But Tom, Tom is really 40. Not only 40. I think he’s divisive. Feels like he is against his own team. He’s against us. He’s accusing us. He is not bought in and he’s not adding any value in the organization.

So that concept of the 100X leader is really the idea of you becoming an intentional person and starting thinking about your own health and your own multiplication. Then we get into the use of the Sherpa, which we’ll get into. But we give metaphors to help people understand the construct of it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I hear you there. So then let’s talk a little bit about the Sherpa. So you’re using this as a metaphor of great leadership and why the Sherpa?

Jeremie Kubicek
Trying to explain this, like I’m doing here, is we basically said what is the metaphor? In Giant, in our company, what we do is we take really complex ideas and make them simple enough. Because we realized that in organizations to spread, it needs to be effective to the 13-year-old. If a 13-year-old will understand it, it will spread inside an organization. If a 13-year-old can’t get it, there’ll be dead ends.

So we create objective common language through visual tools. The metaphor we use was Mount Everest, but specifically the Sherpa on Mount Everest, which is the people group of Mount Everest who were born at 14,000 feet. They basically are helping people get to the next level. They’re synonymous with leading people up the mountain. So the idea is that most leaders think of leadership as like them climbing to the top and the best leadership. I’m like, “Well, that’s part of it. We want you to get acclimated, so you can make it to the peak.”

But the process of leadership is not about you climbing the mountain. It’s actually when you get back from the top, from the summit, and get back into base camp. Three days from now, Pete, I’m going to give you three whiny people. I need you to take these people up the mountain. So you’ve got to be 100%. You have to be acclimated, like a Sherpa is, to take people who may not be as acclimated as you are, and how do you help them get up to the next level?

That is leadership. That is the success of a leader. It’s not how many times you’ve peaked or summited, it’s how many times you’ve helped other people summit.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So then, can you walk us through in practice? How does one pull that off?

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. So to do that, if you’re climbing a mountain, you need tools. If you’re climbing Mount Everest, you need to have rope training. You need to have altitude training. You need to be able to understand crampons, and ice picks, and ladders, and so on and so forth. So we’ve basically created these tools, so that you could be a Sherpa. Our goal is to train people to be Sherpa. Not the real Sherpa, but the figurative Sherpa.

One of those tools is called the Support-Challenge Matrix. The idea of the Support-Challenge Matrix is that, at all times, you understand the people that you’re leading. Do they need more support from you right now or do they need more challenge? Well, it’s important for you to know your own tendencies first. A lot of people that we’ve talked with have – they’re really good at providing challenge, but they’re not very effective in providing significant support. Or they could be the other end. They could be supporters. They bring a lot of support, but they don’t bring enough challenge.

So understanding what your own tendencies are and then understanding how the people that you lead. What do they need? What does support and challenge look like for them? So a Sherpa is always going, “Okay. My job is to fight for the highest possible good of those I lead. Do they know I’m for them? Do they think I’m against them? Or do they think I’m for myself? I’ve got to be for them, for them to really respond to me. What’s their tendency? How do they receive support? How do they receive challenge? Based on their personality, their wiring. Then my job is to see what they need, understand what’s undermining their influence, and help them get to the next level.” So that’s one example of getting people to the next level. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
So you say Support-Challenge Matrix. I’m visualizing a two by two or whether is the visual –

Jeremie Kubicek
Yes. That’s right. So you have 2:2 […]. You’ve got high support. If the X and Y and low support, you have high challenge and low challenge. If you put those two together, then going, “Okay. The best leaders in the world calibrate high support and high challenge.” We’ve called that verb as liberating. So to liberate. It means to provide and create a culture of growth and opportunity.

If you bring high challenge with low support, that’s a dominating tendency. There’s fear-based, manipulation. It’s yelling. So that domination never produces empowerment. It usually always produces compliance. For instance, I lived in Russia for a few years back in the early 90’s and I had watched 70 years of domination. I’ll never forget. I was coming out of my flat and there was another apartment complex next to me, and this guy carries out a speaker, puts it over his head, and slams it to the ground right by the trash.

It was really weird. He came to this like real emotional. Then there was a guy behind him and then another one. I stood there and watched 120 people. I counted. So 120 people came and threw their speaker, and slammed it, and crushed it. I asked the guy. I was like, “Hey, […]. What’s going on here? What is this?” He goes, “This is the listening device from the communists. We’re done. We’re tired of it.” When he told me what it was, it was in each apartment complex, the government had put a listening device. It was a speaker in the kitchen of every apartment. There was music playing 24/7. It was basically a big brother tactic that showed that we are always listening. So they didn’t know if they were not.

Pete Mockaitis
Whoa! It’s playing music and it’s listening. The whole time.

Jeremie Kubicek
That’s right. Well, you didn’t know if they’re listening. Because it was a placebo type. They maybe basically set it up, but people didn’t know. So it was fear-based.

Pete Mockaitis
They were then creating information process, I those old days.

Jeremie Kubicek
I know. That’s what you think. There’s 14 million listening devices and 14 million people. Surely, you can’t listen to all of them. But it didn’t matter. It was the culture of fear and manipulation. So that culture created domination. Well, if you look at the workforce. I’m not saying it is now but back then, if you look at the workforce of the Russians, it was abdicating. It was compliance. It was do enough to not get sent to prison. Do enough to not die. Do enough to keep in the party line. Not empowerment.

So domination, high challenge without high support, produces abdication. Whereas a lot of kids, especially in the Midwest – East Coast is kind of known for that high challenge, less support. In the Midwest, a lot of places are high support and low challenge. So it’s kind of hinting a lot.

Pete Mockaitis
You mean, it’s. Don’t you know?

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. “Hey Pete, how’s it going? Big event next week. Are we ready for it?” Hint, hint, hint. Meaning, I have expectations, but I’m not sharing them. I hope you just kind of get it. Then when you don’t get it, then I come back to you. “You know Pete – You know Janice, she kind of knows what I’m wanting. So I’m going to have Janice –” It feels kind of like condescension or it kind of feels like mistrust. So that high support with low challenge produces a weird entitlement culture.

We just kept watching this in our studies, in our work. I mean, we’ve been working on this for years. Just inside companies going, “No.” These are cultures that are getting produced. Inside a culture, you could have a dominating culture with this team, an abdicating culture over here, a protecting culture over here. All these sub-cultures. We just started watching that. The same thing happens in your personal life. It happens with your kids. I could dominate one of my kids, protect one of my kids, and be an abdicator to one of my kids, all in one day. That’s what we’re trying to get people to be aware of. So that they can start leading themselves.

Pete Mockaitis
I guess I’m thinking of low support and low challenge. Sounds kind of something like you’re checked out. You’re not really saying it’s tentative

Jeremie Kubicek
Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
What’s going on? What do you call those?

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah, abdicators. So the abdicating culture. There are certain brands. Private equity has a perception of dominating culture. The post office has a perception of abdicating cultures. It’s not that they are, it’s just there’s a perception, certain government entities. You get a lot of nonprofits. They have a protecting culture for the high support, low challenge. So what we’re after is to go, “What would it look like if we can break leadership down into bite-sized nuggets and give people some aspiration?

To go, “No, no, no. What would it look like for you to be 100% healthy? And then multiply. Develop people. That’s a liberating culture. That is what 100X leaders do. That’s what we’re trying to do. Break it down, so it’s palatable and applicable, and you can do something with this tomorrow.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’s cool. I guess what resonate for me is thinking about entitlement in terms of I think I can have some of those tendencies with regard to being supportive and not so challenging in the sense of how intensely I articulate, what I expect, and what you’ve given me is unacceptable.

Jeremie Kubicek
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
I kind of hold back a little bit in terms of what I’m really thinking at times. Because I don’t want to be a total jerk face. But hey, that’s my Midwestern influence that’s in there.

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. But see, if you know that about yourself and all of a sudden, you start reflection going, “Ha! I do that work. What about my partner? Spouse? What about my kids? What do they think of me? “Hon, do I that there too?” Then you start noticing it with myself. What’s my tendencies and the way I treat myself? It’s interesting. We spend so many times with people who dominate themselves. That domination to themselves leads to abdication. I mean, so you get in to go, what would it look like to liberate yourself, to support yourself, and to challenge yourself?

So there’s all types of dynamics at play and we start taking leadership and go into this in you in the morrow of a person, and it starts to change the way they think. They become intentional, not accidental.

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you. Well, slow down, Jeremie. I’m sure there’s a lot of art in the details of the implementation of challenging and supporting effectively. I can think of some good ways to challenge and some good ways to support, and some bad ways to challenge and to support. So it’s a whole another two by two, I guess. Watch out for consultants and agency. Could you give us some perspectives in terms of maybe tips, tricks, scripts, counterintuitive tidbits in terms of here’s how you challenge really well or here’s what not to do when you challenge? Here’s how you support really well and what not to do when you support?

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. So a couple of things. One is, you have to understand your own tendencies and patterns first. Because we always – Here’s the tip. Support first before challenge.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Jeremie Kubicek
If people don’t know that you’re for them, they won’t receive your challenge very well. That’s number one. Number two, you need to use objective language, not subjective language. That’s why we’ve created The 100X Leader book because it’s full of visual tools and little axioms that you can use.

For instance, if I said this to you Pete, subjectively, “You know Pete, we’ve been working together for a long time and you’re a good guy, I just need you to step it up. I need you to get to the next level, just from a leadership perspective. So are we clear? Are we good?” Right?

Pete Mockaitis
No, Jeremie. We’re not at all.

Jeremie Kubicek
But do you see where I’m going? A lot of people, that’s what they get versus if I said this, “Hey Pete, we’ve been working together a long time. I still appreciate you. Here’s what I’ve noticed. I’m observing. You know the Support-Challenge Matrix, right?” Then I pull it out and I use that as the buffer. So I’m not the bad guy. The Support-Challenge Matrix is a mirror that’s in the book. It’s right there. You can visualize it.

And I go, “Sometimes, you have a tendency to be up here in the upper left corner. You bring a lot of support to people. They know your forum. But you’re leaving expectations out. Sometimes you turn into Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and you don’t share your expectations. Then you kind of blow up a little bit. Then they feel like you went to domination.” So to be consistent would be at a place I’ve coached you.

So I’d like for you to consistently share your expectations with people. I want you to practice that. Pick so and so. Tell him what you expect. What are you looking for? Now, I’ve given the objective language. You don’t feel like I’m nagging you or giving you challenge. You don’t know what to do with it. I’m challenging you. But I’m providing enough support through objective language. Does that help?

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you. So you’re pinpointing the specific observation there. I guess if we had some more time and experience with each other, you could get even more precise. In terms of, Susie had no idea that you wanted ABC. When in fact, that was very important to you. And you were pretty cheesed off when things didn’t go as planned.

Jeremie Kubicek
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Hey, do you have any additional perspectives in terms of how to support well and challenge well?

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. Here’s another. It’s a small axiom. But we find these axiom stay in people’s minds. I’m a big fan of Harvard. I love academics. I’m a big fan of Stanford and just the different reports. But those reports do not transfer very well. They don’t scale. Because they’re case studies, they’re too complicated. So we give little axioms. Here’s an axiom. “Pete, I want you to learn.” Or let’s just say all the listeners. Everyone listening. “I want you to learn how to call people up, not out.”

Call people up, not out. That means basically that they know that you’re for them. You’re going to basically call them up to who they are. Not call them out on what they did. So an example of that with my kids. It works great with kids. It works great with teammates. My daughter. Real quick story.

She just told me that she wanted to be a leader at the beginning of this year. She’s a junior in high school. “I want to be one of the leaders of our school. I think I can add a lot of value.” I’m like, “Okay. How are you going to do that?” Well, then a week later, some of our best friends call us and they found a video on their nest, a video from their front door, that our daughter had toilet paper dumped.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh man!

Jeremie Kubicek
So all of a sudden –

Pete Mockaitis
Now you have it.

Jeremie Kubicek
All of a sudden, what I wanted to say, I wanted to call her out. My calling out was, “Are you kidding me? What are you thinking? These are our best friends? How could you do this? […] one, it’s toilet paper. It’s not that big a deal. But what I did as I was using her own medicine, they go, “No, no. Call her up.” “Kate, hon, you told me that you wanted to be a leader, like this is who you are. What happened?”

So I allowed herself to call herself out. And I called her up and I gave her an opportunity to go, “Dad, I’m so sorry. That’s not who I want to be. You’re right. I told you this. I get it. It was a mistake. A little bit of peer pressure. Yeah, thanks. I get it.” If I’m always calling people out every time I’m around them, it’s kind of dominating them. I’m challenging them with not much support. If I’m calling them up, I’m giving them a roadmap to get to that level. It’s a simple little axiom.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. It reinforces their identity, such that they can try do some self-service there. So that they may don’t need you to always be the person calling them out. If you are calling them up, the identity is more rooted and become sort of like the thing that does the self-policing.

Jeremie Kubicek
That’s right. Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s a fun axiom. Give us some more please.

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. So when you think of it, we go – Expectations are another one to go. Most people don’t realize that they have expectations. So we created a simple little – It’s on page 123. It’s a little tool and it’s just managing expectations and some expectations scale that go – It should be right in the middle. Realistic. That if you go north, it goes unrealistic, and then it goes to impossible. If you go down, there’s limited and then resigned.

So part of the issue of leadership is that we have expectations that we don’t share and unmet expectations produce bitterness. So if you don’t share expectations, it’s not really fair. A lot of judgment takes place and a lot of subjective, a lot of drama happens because people just aren’t sharing their expectations appropriately.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Jeremie Kubicek
So we basically teach how to do that. The secret to developing others really is really you, getting really clear on your expectations about their development. A quick story on that. We’re just launching something called Giant TV. The idea of it is almost edutainment. It’s like Netflix for leadership. Okay? But it’s not just videos. It’s $9 a month, really inexpensive, but it’s a way for people to engage in development and growth.

Well, our team is very, very young in putting this together. So I just said, “You know what? I’m going to open source this.” One of our tools is called developing others. It’s basically using massless square and some other work on unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious – Just all the way through the process. So I basically said, “Guys, here we go. Giant TV.” When we were developing this last summer, we’re unconsciously incompetent. I am too. We don’t know what we don’t know.

Well, we had all these ideas. Then we started doing them and we quickly got to conscious incompetence. Me sharing expectations, I said, “This is what winning looks like. If we can get 5,000 people on Giant TV, by this next summer, we’ll have won.” That’s the expectation. But I am consciously incompetent. I thought I knew what we were doing. So by me opening and sharing this out loud, it enabled our team to not worry about me.

Me as a leader, I could be a liberating leader, because I was basically showing them. But along the way, one of our guys, Jake. I said, “Jake, do you realize your unconscious incompetence here? Do you see it? And conscious competence looks like this. This is what it means to be successful. So let’s get you there and let’s work out loud to do that.”

So this style of leadership, it gives language to people and it gives visual tools to take away any potential drama or any potential frustration, where I might be frustrated with an employee and then start working around them, and then complaining about them, and ultimately having to let someone go. Instead, we openly talked about where we’re clueless. That’s what a 100X Leader will do.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. I hear you there. So I’m intrigued with the scale of expectations, going from resigned to limited, to realistic, to unrealistic, to impossible. How do you utilize that? So I think, “Hey, what are my expectations?” I just list them out and then I kind of put them on the scale like, “Oh! It turns out that’s an impossible expectation.”

Jeremie Kubicek
Okay. Let’s play. So all the listeners, let’s take three of the most important people in your life and/or your job. Okay. So let’s say maybe there’s a spouse. Okay. My wife, Kelly. That’s one. Let’s pick one of my kids and let’s pick one of my teammates.

Pete Mockaitis
The other kid is like, “Oh!”

Jeremie Kubicek
They’re probably like, “Good! I’m not there.” Then what I’m doing is that I’m looking at that role and I’m looking at the relationship and the responsibilities in those roles.

In fact, let me take my wife out. It’d be even harder. Let’s just start with one of my teammates. I’m going to say Mike. Mike leads our enterprise systems. I have a general expectation of what I think Mike can do and what our business can do. Is it realistic? Well, I’ve talked it out loud. He talks his vision out loud. We see is our vision matched up? It does. Is it realistic? We both feel that it is. We get outside counsel and benchmarking. We’re in the right ballpark. You know what? I think we’re on the same page for the vision. Now, we got to make it happen.

Now in six months, if we’re not meeting the vision or meeting those goals, and he knows they were realistic, then that’s an opportunity to grow. We’ve got to tweak something, work on something. But I’m openly talking about those expectations. So at any time, he knows where I stand. I think that’s the key. Most people don’t know where their boss stands. They get a lot of hints or they get a lot of grunts. But they don’t get a lot of like, “Tell me exactly what you expect to happen.”

Now, some of the expectations by some of us are impossible. Like no one can do that. If you benchmark that, it’s impossible. This is interesting. I find a lot of bosses, a lot of leaders, they think that they’re motivating by putting this massive goal out there. But inside and maybe to a few of their colleagues, they’re saying, “You know what? If they get half of that, I’ll be happy.” But what happens is, it’s actually – It’s not motivational. Because the person is going, “These are impossible. I’m not going to make it. I better start looking for another job.” So they should go.

Pete Mockaitis
on Indeed and LinkedIn.

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. So then it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because this boss is sharing this big goal going, “I’ll be happy with half of it.” The other person is like, “There’s no way we can do. That’s impossible.” Then they check out and go look for someone else.  Then the boss goes, “Yeah. This guy’s not making it. You can’t find good help these days, can you?” That goes on and on and on.

So we’re basically saying, “Look, if you’re a leader, you’re a Sherpa.” Your job is to get the person you’re leading to the next level. Well, that means that they need to know that you’re for them. That you have to fight for their highest good. That you are giving them the right support and challenge based on what they need at the moment. Then you show them what’s undermining their influence and you work together to get to the next level.

I’ve been interviewing Sherpa after Sherpa on Mount Everest. That’s what they do. Basically, it’s not about how many times they’ve climbed the mountain. The Sherpa is fully-acclimated, because they’re born at that level. So they can go up and down, but their job is to get that person to the next level. That’s what a 100X Leader does.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. I really dig that in terms of these tools and axioms, and getting there. It’s cool that you – I respect that you did your homework and you talked to real Sherpas.

Jeremie Kubicek
Oh yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
“Hey, that sounds like a cool metaphor.” We’ll leave it at that.

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. I’ve been interviewing them on base camp and I’ve been talking to climbers, who’ve been climbing at 8,000-meter peaks. They will tell you, “There’s no way I could have done it without Vanuru […] or would no way I could have done it without so and so, the Sherpa. It’s just that that is the idea. So their appreciation for the Sherpa is amazing.

They also go, “Wow! It’s so much different.” For me, thinking about being a Sherpa to another climber. Because those are different skills. I’m convinced of it. In our service, in our free agent world, we’ve not been training people on leading as a Sherpa. We’ve mainly been training people to get to the top. “Okay. Great. You made it to the top. Good for you.” But your job is to take these people up the mountain, not just to get up yourself. So it’s a different dynamic.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. That’s powerful. So I want to hear about when it comes to the expectation. A part of it is just like, “All right. You sit down.” You say, “Here’s mine. What’s yours? You can check it with a third party. You feel good.” We have a handy little five-part categorization for them. In the process, we get them out in the open. Could you maybe catalog or prompt or tease? What are some key expectations that really need to get talked about that often don’t get talked about?

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. If it’s work, it’s going to be around what is success? What does it mean to win? That’s not talked about enough? How do I win? How does our team win? How does the organization win? In our expectations aligned there. But even to take it down to kids? How do we win? What does winning look like to the family dynamic? To your spouse, what does winning look like? To friends. Personally, what does winning look like?

So an example. This is me. Funny. But we have an event we just did in Cancun. It was a marriage retreat for our clients and they bring their spouses to learn our language. It’s really powerful. There are 40 couples. I’m taking my shirt off and I’d lost weight.

Pete Mockaitis
There you go.

Jeremie Kubicek
I’d lost some weight, Pete. But I wasn’t – Let’s just say, I’m not buffed, but I’m definitely better than I was the year before. But I, all of a sudden, look and go, “You know what? I want to have actually some muscles. I want to at least see one or two pack of muscle.”

Not six packs. It’s unrealistic. But is that an impossible goal? Or is it realistic between now and next February? I think it’s realistic. What am I going to do now? What’s my plan? What’s my team?

My point is I had expectations of myself. Historically, I’ve had expectations of myself on weight or health. I’ve not met them and I’ve dominated myself. So I’m listing my expectations by asking what does it mean to win and by when? So there’s a date with that. Well, the same is with people. I just don’t think there’s enough. I think we’re just so accidental when wake up. Most people wake up and just do their thing. They don’t think about this stuff.

So I think, if anything, The 100X Leader book prompts people to be intentional and think about things they’ve never thought about. But it also gives them tools to do something about it right then. You’ll see change happen right then. You don’t have to wait for nine months. You can teach the Support-Challenge Matrix. You know this as well as I do. When you teach something, you learn. So by teaching it to other people, you’ll start learning.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Yeah. I’m loving this. What is success for the individual, for the team, for the organization? Can you share a couple more critical expectations that really need to be spelled out?

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. I’m going to give you an example. I have one guy. He’s gone from about 70%, maybe 60% healthy, and a little bit of a negative to about 90X right now. It’s a journey and a process. I’ve just used the tools to show him what it was like to be on the other side of himself. He realized he had unrealistic expectations from most people in his life. They mainly came out of insecurity. I’m like, “Why do you keep having these? Where is this coming from? He had basically – It goes into the law of self-preservation.

I asked these hard questions. “What are you trying to prove? What are you afraid of losing? What are you trying to hide?” When I asked that question, because I’m a confidant to him, he trusts me. Therefore, unbelievable amount of things started to come out. He’s trying to prove himself to a dad that he doesn’t like. He’s trying to prove himself to an industry, because he feels like his title means that he should produce at a level. He’s got a few things in his life that he was afraid of losing. So he was overcompensating through some arrogance.

Point is, all of that led to unrealistic expectations that got put on his team, because he wanted to be seen as the guy, and in the industry and his family. We’re like, “Do you see how this is affecting you? You’re not healthy and your team is not very healthy. They don’t necessarily want to work for you. They kind of have to work for you. Because they all need jobs and they’re –

It’s not bad enough that they’re looking for jobs, but they just kind of is.” That “aha” about a year ago got him to the place of like, “Hey, I want to get to the next level. What do I need to do?” So we spent nine months working on him. It wasn’t about them. It was him. I got a little letter from them about two weeks ago. The letter came from his senior leadership team and it’s basically like, “What have you done with him? We thought he had cancer or that he was leaving. He’s changed.”

It was transformation because he decided to be intentional and he decided to do something about it. But he really went after his insecurity. I was helping him through this process, figure out how he’d been dominating himself all because of this insecurity and the self-preservation.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s a really intriguing insight that I guess you get from lots of experience, is that real big expectations that are dominating can often be caused by some of the stuff in terms of what are you trying to prove, what are you afraid of losing, and what are you trying to hide? That’s some sophisticated human insight, Jeremie. Can you give me one more before we hear some of your favorite things?

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. So what happened then in that is I helped him understand culture and that leaders define culture. So if he really, really wanted to have a legacy, if you wanted to be someone worth following, then he’s going to have to learn how to get past plus into multiplication. It’s radically affected that. So the metaphor we use there is Greenhouse. A great leader, a healthy leader, is like a good gardener. They’re looking at and their people are like plants. That plant needs water, and sunlight, and soil.

So an employee needs vision, encouragement, and time. So you can’t give what you don’t possess. In essence, what I was trying to do is show, “Look, you have all of these subcultures underneath you and your team. You have to be healthy to produce a greenhouse, a positive greenhouse. Not a toxic greenhouse.” So the positive greenhouse, that’s a liberating culture of empowerment, and growth, and opportunity. But that only means when you’re healthy. So that’s what’s cascading down into the organization.

So for anyone listening, you start with the idea of what’s it like to be on the other side of myself? What’s my tendency for myself? Am I dominating myself? What’s my tendency? What are my patterns? What are the actions? What consequences those lead to that are shaping my reality? If you want to change, then you change with support. Am I providing too low support? Am I providing too much challenge? How do I calibrate that with myself? What about my family? What about my team? And so on and so forth.

That’s holistic, because you think about life today. Today, everyone is holistic. People don’t compartmentalize like they used to do. So life affects us differently because of social media and everything else. So we want, holistically, you to be thinking about being a 100X Leader in every circle of influence. That only happens by being intentional, which then leads to consistency.

Pete Mockaitis
Good stuff, Jeremie. Well now, could you share with us a favorite quote that you find inspiring?

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. The phrase that I’ve used is, ”You can’t give what you don’t possess.” But the positive of that is, you give what you possess. I have a philosophy of give it all away. So giving yourself away for the benefit of others is just kind of a motif or a way that I’ve chosen to live. So that’s the phrase I use. It’s not necessarily an author, said by so and so. But it’s the phrase that is kind of an inspiration for me.

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

Jeremie Kubicek
I love the study – The project, Aristotle, that came from Google recently that talked about teams and team culture. It basically surmised that the best teams in the world have psychological safety, which means, we have the ability to talk about things. It meant to me that support and challenge works. Because if I can challenge appropriately and you’re not going to get your feelings hurt. But if I’ve created a culture where we can both support and challenge, we can get more done. So I just appreciate the research they did.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Thank you. How about a favorite book?

Jeremie Kubicek
Favorite book is a book by Chris Lowney called Heroic Leadership. It’s basically looking at the history of the Jesuits and how in the world in the 1500’s did the Jesuits build the largest organization, which is basically education world and the influence that a bunch of ragtag Jesuits have. It’s unbelievable read. Very inspiring. We based our business off of that book. It has really affected the way that we think about multiplication.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite tool? Something that helps you be awesome at your job.

Jeremie Kubicek
Well, a favorite tool is going to be the Support-Challenge Matrix. Actually, I probably would say, for me, the liberating others tool is when I’m looking at people, am I fighting for their highest possible good? Do they need more support or challenge right now? What’s undermining their influence and do I have the guts to show them that? To get them to the next level?

I think that’s why people want me to be around them and want us as an organization to be around them. It’s because we have the guts to help them get to the next level. It’s that combination. It’s like this desire to fight and to serve. I just love that tool, that concept.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a great turn of phrase. Do you have the guts to show them? It phrases it such that the challenge is internal. Not “Oh my gosh! How are they going to react?” But rather, “Are you going to rise to this challenge and do what’s right?

Jeremie Kubicek
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s cool.

Jeremie Kubicek
That was it.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite habit?

Jeremie Kubicek
A favorite habit is I have a kind of a normal flow. My habit is shower in the morning. Basically, when I turn the shower on, I go after any negative thought in the shower. It’s like the cleansing. I go, “What is the negative thought or what’s the thought that is not right that I don’t need to trust? So that shower, metaphor and a symbol, is I’m trying to cleanse my mind of the wrong thinking. So that’s my habit. I use the symbol of the shower to do that.

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

Jeremie Kubicek
The best way to do that is if you wanted to go to GiantSpeakers.com. That’s an easy one. Or they can go to Giant.TV. Those would be the easiest places to learn more about us.

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

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. The final challenge would be simply explore what life might look like if you are more intentional in every circle of influence. Picture that you have a dimmer switch on your back. At the bottom, it’s accidental. At the top, it’s intentional. What would it look like if you move that lever all the way to the top?

Pete Mockaitis
Jeremie, this has been a treat. Thanks so much for taking the time. I wish you and The 100X Leader, and Giant all the luck in the world.

Jeremie Kubicek
Thanks so much, Pete. Sure. I appreciate it.

423: Becoming Free to Focus with Michael Hyatt

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Michael Hyatt offers useful concepts to upgrade your productivity and focus, including the  freedom compass, the zones of desire and drudgery, and more.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to do more of what you want with the “yes, no, yes” formula
  2. Three beliefs that prevent you from delegating your tasks effectively
  3. How to feel like you’re winning each day with the daily big three

About Michael

Michael Hyatt is the founder and CEO of Michael Hyatt & Company, a leadership coaching and development firm twice listed on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing US companies. A longtime publishing executive, Michael is the former chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson, now part of HarperCollins. He is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of several books, including Your Best Year Ever, Living Forward, and Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World.
Michael is the creator of the Full Focus Planner, which combines quarterly goal-tracking and daily productivity in a proven system for personal and professional achievement. His blog and weekly podcast, Lead to Win, are go-to resources for hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs, executives, and aspiring leaders. He has been featured by Forbes, Inc, Entrepreneur, Fast Companyand Wall Street Journal. Michael and his wife of 40 years, Gail, have five daughters, three sons-in-law, and eight grandchildren. They live just outside of Nashville, Tenn.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Michael Hyatt Interview Transcript

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

Michael Hyatt
Thank you, Pete. I appreciate being on.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh boy. I think we’ll have a ton of fun. But first I want to hear about something fun in your life. You mention your dog, Winston, is exceptional in your About page and I want to know why.

Michael Hyatt
He’s the perfect dog. His temperament is fantastic. He’s just so easygoing. He always obeys. I don’t know. I feel like we won the lottery with him. He’s an amazing dog.

Pete Mockaitis
How did you get him?

Michael Hyatt
Well, we found out about a breeder in Indiana, who bred Australian Labradoodles. We got the dog from her. Then we sent him to a trainer in Indiana, a lady who actually is a Russian immigrant, who trains dogs for the federal government and for state agencies and therapy dogs and all that. She had him for about six weeks. I don’t know what she did, but some kind of Russian thing, but it’s amazing.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh Michael, I just love that so much because it’s like you eat, sleep, breathe people, development, and now even dog development. We’re going to find the best trainer in the world. We’re going to spend some deep focus time immersed and come back a renewed dog.

Michael Hyatt
Dog hacks. What can I say?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s fantastic. You’re unveiling some more wisdom in your latest book, Free to Focus. What’s the main idea or thesis behind this one?

Michael Hyatt
Yeah, the main thesis behind this is you can actually achieve more by doing less if you have the right productivity system. The problem with most productivity systems today is that they’re designed to make you more productive. Maybe you’re thinking, “Well, yeah, what’s wrong with that?” Here’s the problem.

People start out working a 12-hour day, they get some productivity hacks, adopt a few apps, they reduce it to eight hours and then they fill it up with more work. They try to be productive so they can be more productive.

I say productivity is a means to an end. You’ve got to be very clear about what the end is otherwise you’re just going to fill your life with work, you’re going to be overwhelmed, you’re going to be burned out, and you’re not going to get the kind of work-life balance that makes life rich and meaningful.

Pete Mockaitis
When you talk about defining the end, can you give us a couple of examples of how that gets articulated?

Michael Hyatt
Yeah, absolutely. In the first part of the book I talk about stopping and kind of taking stock. Get off that hamster wheel and ask, “Where’s this hamster wheel going? Why am I running this race? What’s it all about?” I say the end game needs to be about freedom. More productivity should lead to greater freedom and specifically freedom in four areas.

I talk about the freedom to focus. Focus is a super power today in our distraction economy. If you want to move the needle in your business and in your life, if you want your business to grow, if you want to get ahead in your career, you’ve got to be able to focus and do the deep work, the creative work that really creates the breakthroughs in your business and in your personal life. The freedom to focus.

You also need the freedom to be present so that when you’re at your son’s Little League game, you’re not on your phone thinking about work or you’re out for a day with your spouse or you’re significant other, you’re not thinking about work or when you’re at work, you’re not thinking about something that’s going off the rails at home. The freedom to be present.

Then third, the freedom to be spontaneous so that your life’s not so managed and not every last second is so planned that you just can’t stop and enjoy life, smell the roses so to speak.

Then finally, the freedom – and this is really underrated, but the freedom to do nothing at all. All the brain research says that we’re the most creative, we experience the biggest breakthroughs when our minds are the most relaxed. That means we’ve got to intentionally have that white space where we do nothing.

I learned this when I was in Italy a few years ago. They have a saying in fact. They talk about a dolce far niente, which means the sweetness of doing nothing. It’s true. You think about when you have the breakthrough ideas, the most creative ideas, often it’s in the shower or out for a walk or doing something that amounts to nothing. That’s what I’m after is freedom. I think productivity should lead to that.

Pete Mockaitis
That is a lovely turn of a phrase, the sweetness of doing nothing. I’m reminded maybe when you said Italy, it brings about images. I’m just thinking about just sort of strolling, just walking with a good friend, catching up and chatting. It’s like I enjoy doing nothing in those moments so much. It’s like I don’t even want to be burdened with having to think about where we’re going and where the restaurant is, just having faith that a good eatery will appear if that’s kind of what we’re up to. It’s much more fun.

Michael Hyatt
Yeah, and I don’t think they have bad food in Italy.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, in Italy you’re covered. Sure.

Michael Hyatt
Yeah. Everything I ate there was phenomenal.

Pete Mockaitis
Totally. That’s cool. That’s the process in terms of the steps as we’re stopping. We’re taking stock. We’re pointing to greater freedom and a few kind of particular forms of freedom. What comes next?

Michael Hyatt
Yeah, in that same section, under Stop, talk about formulate, so formulate a clear vision for what your productivity, you want to accomplish with it. Then secondly, evaluate. This means taking stock of our workflow, our work style. I talk about a concept there called the freedom compass, which I think is really a big paradigm shift and a way to think about your work that makes it possible for you to focus on your highest and greatest work because not all work is created equal.

I talk about kind of a two-by-two matrix, where you have passion intersecting with proficiency. There’s some tasks – and imagine this rotated 45 degrees and you’ve got a compass, where true north is where your passion and your proficiency come together, the things you love, the things that you are deeply satisfying, that you enjoy, plus proficiency, the things that you’re good at.

Not just proficiency in your subjective opinion, but in an objective reality, where people are willing to pay you to do this. That I call the desire zone. That’s where you want to focus the bulk of your time and the bulk of your energy.

Directly south, directly below that is what I call the drudgery zone, things that you hate, you don’t have any passion around it and you’re not very good at. It’s going to be different for everybody, but for me it’s things that look like administrative kinds of activities, like managing my email inbox, managing my calendar, booking travel, even finding the FedEx box, just running errands. All that’s in my drudgery zone. It’s kind of a grind when I have to do that.

Then there’s also the disinterest zone, where you don’t have any passion, but you might be pretty good at it. A lot of people get trapped in this because maybe they were good at something, they lost the passion and they keep doing it because it keeps making them money, keeps bringing home the bacon.

For me, when I started out as an entrepreneur this was accounting. I did it because I didn’t want to pay somebody else to do it and I was really good at it, but I didn’t have any passion and that leads to boredom.

Then on the opposite side of the freedom compass from there, due west, would be what I call the distraction zone, where you like doing it, but you’re not very good at it and you end up escaping there and then it wasted a lot of time.

Again, the key, and it leads to the next part of the book, but the key is to eliminate everything that’s not in your desire zone, the things that you’re passionate about and proficient at, because that’s where you’re going to see the biggest growth, the biggest progress, the most results. That’s the chapter on evaluation.

Pete Mockaitis
That is a nice two-by-two matrix and a clever rotation that makes it a compass. When you talk about doing more of the good stuff and less of the drudgery, what are some of the best ways that we can accomplish that? You have some things about saying no and some things about outsourcing. How do we systematically get our proportions more and more in the desire space?

Michael Hyatt
Yeah. One of the things is I think to set ourselves up for success. That’s actually that third chapter in that first section before we get to the Cut section, which is about rejuvenation. This is one of those things that’s easy to overlook because we live in the hustle economy. We’re encouraged to burn the candle at both ends, to work evenings and weekends. Elon Musk said unless you’re working 80 to 100 hours a week, you’re not going to make the progress you need to.

One of the most important things you can do is take care of yourself if you want to be more productive. Getting a good night’s sleep, something as simple as that, can make the difference between whether you’re focused or productive the next day. I talk about sleep, nutrition, exercise, relationships. Those have a lot to do with how productive we are. That’s all the rejuvenation chapter.

But then moving into that second section, the section called Cut. The first one’s Stop. The second part of the framework is Cut. How do we prune all that stuff that’s not in our desire zone? It really does start with elimination. We’ve got to eliminate the stuff that doesn’t need to be done and the best way to do that is to head it off at the beginning by getting better at saying no.

Warren Buffet once said that “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything,” but how do we do that without being a jerk? In the book, I talk about how to do that. I talk about how to give a graceful no. I talk about it using a formula called Yes No Yes. It’s the positive no that William Ury talks about in his book, The Power of a Positive No.

Let me illustrate. I spent most of my career in the book publishing industry. I still to this day get a lot of requests from aspiring authors, who would like me to review their book proposal before they send it to an agent or a publisher. Now, I don’t really have time to do that. I don’t want to be a jerk, but I don’t have time to do that. I have an email template that I use. I respond with that formula, yes, no, yes.

Here’s what it looks like. First of all, I start with an affirmation. I start off not resenting the fact that they asked me to review this proposal. But I’ll say something like, “Hey, congratulations. You’ve done what 97% of most aspiring authors will never do and that is create a written book proposal. That is a phenomenal first step. It’s a foundational step and an important one. Way to go.”

Then I move from the yes to the no. Here I want to give a very firm, unambiguous no, so there’s no misunderstanding. I’ll say something like this, “Unfortunately, in order to be faithful to my prior commitments, I have to say no.” I’ve made it very clear that I’m a person of integrity in terms of trying to be faithful to my other commitments, but I give them a firm no.

I don’t say, “Check back with me in a month. I’m a little busy right now,” because in a month it’s going to be the same story, so I might as well cut it off right now.

Then I end with a positive with a yes so that I leave a good taste in their mouth. I’ll say something like, “Best of luck with your publishing product. Let me know when it comes out. Can’t wait to pick up a copy. All the best. Thanks for honoring me with your request,” something like that.

I’ve never gotten a negative response when I follow up with an email like that. For the most part, people are just glad that they heard back from me because so often we send a request like that and we don’t hear because the person is procrastinating because they don’t know how to respond. They want to say no, but they don’t know how. I make it very clear.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I really like that. I find that when you talk about we don’t know how to respond and we procrastinate, I find that I get a lot of requests, it’s sort of like someone’s presenting me with an opportunity, but I don’t think that they’ve given me nearly enough information to even evaluate if it’s worth talking for 15 minutes about the thing.

I’m trying to craft my TextExpander, generic response, which says, “I will need to know more before I can tell you whether or not I can talk to you about this,” which feels a little bit like, “Oh well, someone’s really busy,” but that’s really how I feel. It’s like “You know your product/service/offer better than I do. What you’re saying might be cool, but I really have no idea what this is supposed to be. Where’s the value here? Could you explain that so that I could tell you if we can find 15 minutes?”

Michael Hyatt
See, that’s a perfect example of what I talk about in the next chapter on automation, where you take something like TextExpander or you could use your email apps signature capability, but come up with a list of email templates so that you can respond to the most common kinds of requests so that you don’t have to create it from scratch every time.

I’ve tried to develop sort of this template mentality, where I ask myself if this task I’m about to do if I think I’m going to have to do it again in the future, why not take a few extra minutes now, do it right, save it as a template or a TextExpander snippet so that I can reuse it in the future and not have to reinvent the wheel every time.

For that example, a great way to deal with that using the Yes, No, Yes framework would be to say, “Hey, thanks for thinking of me for your podcast. I’m honored. I would be happy to consider it, but I need just a little bit more information.” Then you’d go through the information that you need and then let it go from there.

Pete Mockaitis
There you go. That is a nice sentence. “I’d be happy to consider it. I need some more information.” Tell me, what are some other top templates you find yourself using again and again?

Michael Hyatt
Well, here’s what I did, how I started this. This is probably about 15 years ago. I noticed that there was sort of a limited range of requests that I was getting. I would get requests from people who wanted me to consider a speaking engagement or wanted me to consider serving on a non-profit board or make a charitable contribution or just have coffee with me so they could pick my brain. There were about 40 or 50 of these as I catalogued them.

Then what I tried to do – I didn’t sit down and write all these templates at once – instead what I began to do is incrementally populate a template database. At the time I was using email signatures to do this. Now TextExpander makes it even cooler. But to write these one at a time until I had a library of templates.

Every time one of those requests comes in now, I look for the template where I can respond, very rare that I don’t have a template. Instead of taking 10 or 20 minutes, now it just takes a few seconds.

But it’s not just email. For example, I use Apple Keynote for creating slide decks. If I public speech that I’m going to give or a webinar that I have to give, I always start with a template, like with a webinar. I’ve got seven main parts to all my webinars. They always start the same way. They’ve got the same transitions and the same pivots and the same ending and all that.

It’s kind of like paint by numbers, but again, I’m starting with sort of that template mentality of if I’m going to do this again, how can I do it right the first time so I can reuse it, polish it, improve it, and get better at this and take less time as I do it.

Pete Mockaitis
There’s so much good stuff here. I want to dig in in all kinds of places, but it would be too scattered. First, let’s chat a little bit in the realm of going back to stopping for a moment. You mentioned rejuvenation. I think that we’ve heard from a few sleep doctors, a lot of good tips there and I’m a huge advocate for that. It’s so important.

But I want to get your take on when it comes to nutrition and exercise, boy, there’s a lot of advice out there. What have you found ultimately really yields good quality rejuvenation, energy, and freedoms?

Michael Hyatt
First of all, disclaimer, I’m not a physiologist or a doctor or a fitness trainer or any of that. What I do know is what works for me and I have studied a little bit.

But with regard to nutrition, I found that one of the best things to do is to really take it easy on the carbs. A high-carbohydrate diet creates a lot of problems in terms of focus and productivity. It’s why when we eat lot-quality carbs and we eat a lot of these kind of carbs like at lunch, like I’m talking about white bread, pizza, mashed potatoes, pasta, that’s why we kind of go into that funk in the afternoon and get sleepy because that turns to sugar very quickly. It burns up fast and it just doesn’t keep our blood sugar level at a level where we could be really productive.

One of the things I’ve done, and this is – I may lose some of your listeners here – but one of the things I’ve done for several months now is I’ve been on the keto diet. That’s a high fat moderate diet, a moderate protein, low carbohydrate diet. One of the things I had no idea about was how much brain fog I had until I started doing this diet.

It was actually developed back in the 1930s to help epileptic children deal with seizures. There’s a cognitive relationship between this diet, high fat, and your cognitive function. That’s been helpful to me.

I’m very careful about taking supplements, about checking my blood a couple times a week with my physical – or a couple times a week, a couple times a year with my physician, just making sure that my markers are right so that can serve as an early warning sign to head off problems before they happen.

Then I work out five to six days a week usually about an hour, three days of cardio, three days of strength training. All that just keeps my energy level up. It’s important to move in some way like that.

Pete Mockaitis
When you do the cardio or the strength training, what kind of intensity are you shooting for?

Michael Hyatt
Well, I would say moderate intensity. I’m kind of an achiever, so I’m always trying to beat my personal best. I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life that I’ve ever been in. I do work with a trainer, who prescribes a program for me. We get together once a month and reevaluate the program and see where I want to go from there.

I was training for a half marathon this spring, but I injured my foot, so I’m going to back that off till this fall. But typically what I’ll do on the cardio before I had the injury is that I’ll run about 30 minutes of interval training twice a week and then I’ll do a long run and a progressively longer run on Saturdays. Yeah, it depends on what I’m training for.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, very good. Well, so now, talk about cutting again. You mentioned that there’s something that we should permanently remove from our to-do list, what is this?

Michael Hyatt
First of all, you should remove the drudgeries of stuff. That’s where you really start is with the drudgery zone activities. Those are not the best and highest use of you. They’re not going to create leverage in your business or your personal life. You’ve got to really focus on those desire zone activities.

Again, that begins with elimination and it goes to automation, and then that final chapter there is all about delegation, which one of the things I found with people that have businesses or leaders, until you can scale yourself, you can’t scale your business.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. All right, so when it comes to that delegation, any particular tips in terms of where to get started if you’re having trouble letting go of anything?

Michael Hyatt
Yeah, I think the first thing that we’ve got to do, Pete, is confront sort of the limiting beliefs or the way that we think about delegation. In my experience with coaching now hundreds and hundreds of entrepreneurs there’s usually three sentences that rattle around in their head. The first one is “If I want it done right, I have to do it,” what?

Pete Mockaitis
Myself.

Michael Hyatt
Right. Or here’s another sentence that they have. This would be a second sentence. “It takes longer to explain how to do it. I might as well just do it myself.” Or they say, “I can’t really afford additional help right now. I guess I’m going to have to do it myself.” As long as yourself is at the center of all this, you’re not going to be able to grow, you’re not going to develop additional capacity, you’re not going to be able to accomplish what you want to accomplish.

Let’s look at those one at a time. To the person who says “It takes longer to explain how to do it. I might as well just do it myself,” it’s true. It does take longer to explain it the first time, but once you explain it the first time and give people an opportunity to do it so that they can be trained, then you save yourself all the time because you never have to touch it again.

“In terms of if you want it done right, you’ve got to do it yourself,” here’s the beauty of the freedom compass. What’s in your drudgery zone, might be in somebody else’s desire zone. If you hire right so that you have compatible people that offset what’s in your drudgery zone with what’s in their desire zone, then not only can they do it as well as you could do it, they can do it better than you could imagine doing it.

That’s basically how I’ve grown my entire business. I have 35 full-time people. Last year we grew 62%. I hire specifically for people that are doing their desire zone activities so that everybody’s functioning in their strengths and doing the things that they love and the things that they’re proficient at. That’s a real key.

Then the whole thing about affording, “I can’t afford somebody to do it,” you can take baby steps. I’m not advocating going out and hiring a big staff or even hiring somebody full time. You can start as a solopreneur or as a leader just with a part time virtual assistant. That’s how I started.

Back in 2011 when I left the big corporate world, where I was managing a large company where we were doing a quarter of a billion dollars a year and then I stepped into a solopreneur job, where I couldn’t even find a FedEx box. I had to start small. I hired a virtual executive assistant, who worked five hours a week. I did that for a couple of weeks. I saw the value of it. Then I upped their time to about 10 hours a week, then 15 hours, and 20 hours.

But here’s how the conversation often goes. I had a client by the name of Greg. Greg said, “Look, I’ve got a business where I have to have a web presence. I know just kind of enough about web design and web development to do it myself. It’s probably not the best use of my time, but I really don’t feel like I can afford somebody else to do it now.”

I said, “Well, let me ask you a question, Greg. How much do you bill for? What’s your hourly rate?” He said “150 dollars an hour.” I said, “Okay.” I said, “What would it cost you to get a WordPress developer, somebody that was really good that knew what they were doing? They could do a little bit of design work too.” He said, “Probably 50 dollars an hour.” I said, “Then why are you paying somebody 150 dollars an hour that you admit isn’t that good?”

The lights went on. He went, “Wow.” I said, “If you hired somebody at 50 dollars an hour, it would free you up to bill for that additional time and you’d come out ahead 100 dollars an hour.” That’s how we have to think about delegation. It requires an investment first, but boy, that’s when we begin to reap the rewards and that’s when we begin to clone ourselves in a sense because we’ve got other people that are helping us.

Pete Mockaitis
For folks who are professionals and not business owners, what are some key things you’d recommend they delegate?

Michael Hyatt
I think the same thing. Go back to the freedom compass. Start with the drudgery zone because your company is probably not paying you to do those things that you don’t love and those things that you’re not proficient at. If they are, you’re in the wrong job. Get rid of those things because it’s not the best and highest use of you.

Then go to the disinterest zone, then the distraction zone. Again, focus on those few things that really create the leverage, the things that your employer thinks the results you ought to be delivering. That’s where you’re going to see the advance in your career.

Pete Mockaitis
Very good. When it comes to cutting, how do you recommend we cut distractions?

Michael Hyatt
Well, you’ve got to have an offensive plan to begin with. I talk in the book about how to design your quarter, how to design your week and how to design your day. Once you have a good offensive plan, then you’ve got to come up with a defensive plan for the interruptions. I distinguish between interruptions and distractions, two different things.

Interruptions are the external things. It’s people dropping by to visit. It’s that text message you get. It’s people interrupting you. I often talk to leaders who say, “I can’t get my own work done because I’ve got so many people interrupting me to help them with their work.” I think one of the best strategies is to have an offense on those two.

First of all, schedule time to get your most important work done. Make it a commitment and put it on your calendar. What gets scheduled is what gets done.

Then, preempt those interruptions by going to the people who are most likely to interrupt you, and you know how they are, go to those people and say, “Hey, look, I’m about to do some really important, focused work. It’s important that I don’t get interrupted, but I want to be available to serve you, so are there any questions you have, anything I can help you with before I go into this session?”

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Michael Hyatt
This is awesome because, now all of the sudden, you’ve put them on notice and you’ve also not been a jerk about it. You’ve communicated that you want to help them, but you kind of want to do it on your terms.

Then you’ve got distractions. Now distractions are all the stuff that look external, but are really a problem with ourselves with self-control. This could be jumping over to Facebook. The problem is we’ve got multi-billion dollar-social media companies, who are doing a tremendous amount of research and whose entire business model is built on high jacking our psychology and manipulating our dopamine.

They want us to spend as much time on those platforms as possible. Why? Because they’re repackaging our attention and they’re selling it to the highest bidder in the form of advertisers. We have to combat that. The best way to do it, I think, is to use technology to fight technology.

For example, my smartphone, it looks like a really cool device. It does a gazillion things. I’ve got an iPhone XS Max. It does a bazillion things, but it’s a very sophisticated distraction device if I’m not careful. On my phone, I’ve removed email. I’ve removed Slack, which is our internal communication program. And I’ve removed all social media with the exception of Instagram because I’m trying to build my Instagram following.

But even there I’ve used the technology to fight technology. I go into settings, screen time, and I limit my use of Instagram to 30 minutes a day. Even better, I gave my phone to my wife and I said “Set a passcode for that so that I can’t cheat and don’t tell me the passcode.” When my time is up on Instagram, my time is up.

There’s a great app for the desktop that works on Windows or Mac or any platform called Freedom. You can find it at Freedom.to. I don’t have any relationship with them except that I use this program and love it. But it allows you to selectively turn off apps and websites for a specific period of time, which allows you to stay focused when you do your most creative breakthrough kind of work.

The only way to defeat Freedom is to completely reboot your computer. That gives me just friction so that I can remember my intention that I’m trying to get focused work done. It enables me to avoid the distraction.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. What do you think about mindfulness practice when it comes to building the capacity to resist distraction?

Michael Hyatt
I think it’s really important. I meditate every morning for 15 minutes. It just gives me the opportunity to collect my thoughts, to kind of get centered, to get focused, to get re-connected with my most important priorities. Again, it kind of goes back to the freedom that I talked about before, the freedom to do nothing. It’s often underrated.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, I’d love to dig in for a moment now. When you say meditation, are you referring to more of a mind training exercise or more of a prayer exercise?

Michael Hyatt
Well, I actually do both. I do pray. I also do just straight up meditation. I use an app called 1 Giant Mind. Are you familiar with that?

Pete Mockaitis
I know a couple. I don’t know that one.

Michael Hyatt
It’s awesome. If you’re familiar with Headspace-

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Michael Hyatt
It’s kind of similar to that, but I actually like it better and it’s free. But 1 Giant Mind. It has 12 initial lessons and then you can go into a 30-day challenge, but the instruction is fantastic.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh lovely. Well, thank you. I’ve enjoyed a little bit of all of them in terms of Calm, Simple Habit, Headspace. They all give me a little bit of a different perspective. I go, oh yeah, that’s a really good one. Thank you. Much appreciated. We’ll check out another one. Cool.

Michael Hyatt
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, so we talked about stopping. We talked about cutting. Now what?

Michael Hyatt
Yeah, so now we get to that third section of the book, which is called Act. It’s a little bit counterintuitive because you’d think that Act ought to come first, but I find that you’ve got to stop, kind of reflect where you want to go, then you need to cut or prune because anything that’s healthy has to be pruned from time to time, but now it’s time to act.

Now, hopefully, you’ve gotten rid of all the stuff that’s in your drudgery zone, a lot of the stuff in your disinterest and distractions zones and now we’re going to focus on how to get more done in your desire zone, the things that you love and the things that you’re good at. That begins with a chapter called consolidate. This is all about designing your ideal week.

The idea is that you want to design a week as if you were in 100% control of your time and resources. What would that look like? If you really wanted to give it some intelligent design and not just be reactive to what came over the transom and schedule those things, but actually we’re very proactive about it.

Here’s how mine works for example. First of all, I’m going to start with on Mondays is when I have my internal team meetings. I batch all these together for one simple reason. It’s the concept of context switching.

In other words, anytime I switch a context, for example, I go from a meeting to I go to some time where I’m working on a project to maybe I’m going to record some video, anytime I go to a different context, there’s a certain amount of ramp up time, a certain amount of time to kind of get into the groove, find my equilibrium and get into flow. Well, the less you can do that, the more momentum you can build.

When I get into that space in my head of meetings and I’m in meeting mode, then I just batch them altogether. Internal meetings are all on Monday.

Tuesday, is all about what I call backstage time. This is my time for preparation on the front stage. Everybody’s front stage is going to look different, but the front stage is what your employer or your clients are paying you, that’s what you’re delivering, but there’s always some backstage work that has to be done in order to do that.

If you’re a lawyer, for example, your front stage might be arguing a case before a court or negotiating a contract on behalf of a client, but there’s a lot of research in the backstage that has to go into that preparation. For me, Tuesday is all about that preparation.

Wednesday and Thursday for me are front stage activities. For example, when I record my podcast, I do that in a day and a half once a quarter and I record 13 episodes in a row. It takes me a day and a half, but then I don’t think about it for another quarter. I get into that headspace and I stay focused and knock it out.

Then on Friday is when I try to consolidate my external meetings. If anybody wants to meet with me, they come in from out of town or a vendor or a client or whatever, I try to move those to Friday. Why? Because I don’t want those meetings interrupting my progress on my front stage days or my back stage days.

Then, of course, I have – and a lot of people don’t know about this – but there’s actually an offstage. All of life doesn’t have to be work. On the weekends, on Saturday and Sunday for me, I’m not thinking about work. I don’t talk about work. I don’t read about work. I don’t do work. Why? Because I want to get back in on Monday morning totally rejuvenated and ready to hit the ground running.

That for me is my ideal week. This could be a game changer for people to begin to get some sense of control back. I would say, Pete, probably in any given week, I’ll probably approximate that about 80%. Things are going to happen. I don’t try to be legalistic about it. But boy, going into the week with a plan is a whole lot better than just reacting to what comes over the transom. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
I like that a lot. Yes. What do you think about in terms of total hours of work in a day and a week, energy levels and optimizing that?

Michael Hyatt
Yeah, I keep my work to 40 hours a week. I can tell you that the science and I quote it in the book, but once you get past about 55 hours a week, there’s an inverse relationship between the amount of time you work and the level of productivity you have. It actually goes backwards after you give 55 hours. There’s been a lot of study done on this.

But the average person is buying into what I call the hustle fallacy, where you’ve got to work 80 hours, you’ve got to work 100 hours. That’s a recipe for burnout. It’s also a recipe for screwing up your life, screwing up your health, screwing up your most important relationships.

What I’m after, personally, is what I call the double win. I want to win at work, but I want to succeed at life. I’m not willing to compromise either for the sake of the other one.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I’d love to get your take, I don’t know if you would liken yourself to this, but I think of, hey, Michael Hyatt, Elon Musk, two titans, very different perspectives. I guess, when it comes to Elon Musk it’s like I cannot deny that is one successful dude, who has made a lot of things happen and he espouses very much the hustle mentality.

Michael Hyatt
He does.

Pete Mockaitis
How do we reconcile that?

Michael Hyatt
Well, I think it depends on you define success. He’s blown through a couple marriages. He, by his own admission, doesn’t talk to his kids hardly. He’s sleeping at the factory so much so that his fans started a Kickstarter page to buy him a new couch, kind of as a joke, so he’d have something better to sleep on. He’s appeared in the media and said some crazy things, which have led even to fines from the SEC and other federal agencies.

I think it depends on how you define success. Look, I’m not holding myself up as a paragon of virtue, but here’s the thing. Here’s what’s possible. Last year I took off 160 days, now that counts weekends, so 160 days including a one-month sabbatical, which I’ve done every year for the last eight years and my business grew 62%.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome.

Michael Hyatt
I really think this idea of achieving more by doing less – the hustle fallacy, I want to keep my health. I’d like to live a long time. I’ve been married for 40 years, almost 41 years. I have 5 grown daughters, who I adore and who like me. This doesn’t just happen by chance. It’s not because I’m lucky, but I’ve tried to focus on those things.

Again, I’m not trying to hold myself up as the paragon of virtue, but I’m just saying that there’s a different model for success than the one that Elon Musk espouses. I’m not trying to judge him, but just look at the fruit, look at the results.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well done. Thank you. Well, tell me before we sort of shift gears and do your favorite things, any sort of key mistakes folks make when they’re trying to say, “Heck yes, I want to get free to focus and do these things.” What are some roadblocks or some fumbles folks make along the way as they’re trying to enact this stuff?

Michael Hyatt
Well, I think the biggest tip I can give people is to get a plan for your day. This is where you’re going to get the biggest leap forward. I advocate something called the daily big three. Here’s how it goes for most people. They start the day – if they have a to-do list, and not everybody works with a to-do list, which is also a guarantee for being reactive, but let’s say you have a to-do list. The average person’s going to have somewhere between 20 and 25 items on that list.

Pete Mockaitis
No kidding.

Michael Hyatt
Yeah. Before they begin the day, they’re already feeling overwhelmed, like there’s no way that I can accomplish what’s on my list. They get to the end of the day and even if they’ve done half of it, where do they focus? On the half they didn’t get done. They go to bed defeated. This becomes a vicious cycle. It creates a lot of dissatisfaction, a lot of frustration and ultimately leads to burnout.

But the problem is they’ve created a game, they’ve set themselves up to fail by creating a game that they can’t possibly win. What I suggest is instead of that, go ahead and identify the three highest leveraged tasks that you can do today. Not all tasks are created equal. We know from the Pareto principle that 20% of the effort drives 80% of the results.

Let’s just go ahead on the front end and say “What are the three most important things that I can do today?” Now all of the sudden that seems manageable. At the end of the day when I accomplish those three things, even if I didn’t do all the other trivial things, at least I got the most important things done.

You do three important tasks like that a day, you do it 250 days a year, which is the average number of workdays people have, that’s 750 important things per year. That, more than anything else, will give you a sense of control and give you a sense that you’re winning. When you feel like you’re winning, it builds your confidence and it builds your momentum.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. I like feeling like I’m winning. Well said.

Michael Hyatt
Me too. Me too.

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

Michael Hyatt
Yeah. I think one of my most favorite quotes is one by Warren Buffet. He said that “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

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

Michael Hyatt
I would say the research that I’ve done into sleep has been probably the most rewarding, especially into naps because I sort of knew intuitively that napping was a powerful way to rejuvenate and kind of reboot in the middle of the day. I’ve faithfully practiced it for about 30 years.

I took a nap today, so between interviews I laid down for 20 minutes, fell to sleep – I trained myself to fall to sleep quickly – I wake up and I’m a little bit groggy maybe for about ten minutes or so, drink a cup of coffee, and then it’s like I’m rebooted.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now I want to know, how do you train yourself to fall asleep quickly?

Michael Hyatt
It’s not unlike training yourself to meditate. I don’t put a lot of pressure on myself to fall asleep. What I do is kind of try to focus on my breathing and focus on relaxing. If you do that and do it routinely, you’ll find yourself falling asleep. If you don’t fall asleep, it’s still rejuvenating, even if you do nothing but put your feet up and relax.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite book?

Michael Hyatt
I’m one of those guys, I read a ton. I tend to focus on the books that I’ve read most recently. The book that I love that I just finished here about two weeks ago was Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. Have you read that?

Pete Mockaitis
I have perused it. Can you tell me maybe a takeaway that was particularly valuable for you?

Michael Hyatt
Yeah, the biggest one was on the value of high-quality leisure, so really being intentional about your leisure time and how it correlates to our work, it makes us more productive at work. But that was really challenging and really exciting to think about.

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

Michael Hyatt
Let me think here for a second. I would say the tool that I’m enjoying the most right now is a tool called Notion. Have you heard of it?

Pete Mockaitis
No.

Michael Hyatt
Notion is kind of like a personal Wiki. It could be. A lot of people are using it as an Evernote replacement. I’m still using Evernote, but only as a digital junk drawer. Notion is where I put structured information, information I want to get back to. It’s a whole lot of fun. It’s an outstanding tool.

Pete Mockaitis
Interesting, thank you. How about a favorite habit?

Michael Hyatt
A favorite habit without question is my morning routine, just going through my drill every morning, setting myself up for high performance. Again, I learned this from the world of athletics, where the world’s best athletes have a pre-game ritual. I think of my morning time as a pre-game ritual. That’s the time when I’m going to pray, the time I’m going to meditate, the time I’m going to exercise and get fueled for the day.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate and get quoted back to you frequently?

Michael Hyatt
I think it’s that one about winning at work and succeeding at life. I think that with my clients, that’s just captivated their imagination and gets them really excited because I think most people have kind of fallen into this idea that you’ve got to give up one or the other. You can’t have both. I think when people are given a model, and that’s what I try to do in the book, Free to Focus, for how that can be done, it resonates with people.

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

Michael Hyatt
Well, in terms of the book, I would go to FreeToFocusBook.com. It has links to all the places where you can buy the book, but more importantly, it also has 500 dollars’ worth of free bonus material related to the book that you can get just by turning in your receipt. That’s all you’ve got to do. Turn in your receipt, claim the free bonuses. It has some amazing stuff including the audio version of the book for free. Then for all things related to me, just MichaelHyatt – Hyatt with a Y, not an I – MichaelHyatt.com.

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

Michael Hyatt
Yeah, I would say that in this kind of distraction economy where people are so sidetracked and there’s so much sideways energy and so much fake working going on, if you can learn to focus, that could become a super power.

I would just encourage people to differentiate themselves from their competitors and from their peers by being the person that really can deliver the highly creative, deeply important work that moves their business forward, that moves their personal work forward because so many people are sidetracked and distracted. You can differentiate yourself and make a real difference in the world.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Michael, this has been a ton of fun. Thanks so much for taking the time.

Michael Hyatt
Thank you, Pete. Appreciate it.

422: How to Make Decisions, Solve Problems, and Ask Questions Like a Leader with Carly Fiorina

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Former Chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Carly Fiorina, discusses how to solve problems, make decisions, and connect with other people like a leader.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why to choose a path instead of a plan
  2. Three steps for arriving at the wisest decision
  3. Key prompts to ensure you’ve considered all the angle

About Carly

Carly Fiorina is the former Chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard and a seasoned problem-solver. She started out as a secretary for a 9-person real-estate business and eventually became the first woman ever to lead a Fortune 50 company. Through Carly Fiorina Enterprises and the Unlocking Potential Foundation, Carly and her team strengthen problem-solving and leadership capacity across America. Carly is also a best-selling author. Her titles include Tough Choices and Rising to the Challenge. Her third book Find Your Way releases on April 9th. She and her husband, Frank, have been happily married for 33 years. They reside in northern Virginia near their daughter, son-in-law and two granddaughters.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Carly Fiorina Interview Transcript

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I discovered that you’ve recently become a podcaster yourself and apparently the backstory involves bumping into an NBA star. Can you tell us the story and what’s going on over at your show called By Example?

Carly Fiorina
Well, yes, it’s funny. I was at a conference for social innovation in Chicago in the summer of 2017. One of the speakers was Baron Davis of NBA fame and UCLA fame. Now I have to immediately say, I’m not a big basketball expert, so, embarrassingly, I didn’t even know who Baron Davis was. But half my staff was like, “Oh my gosh, it’s Baron Davis.”

I listened to him speak and I was captivated by what he had to say. He listened to me speak and apparently liked what he heard. We bump into each other literally in the lobby of the Marriot on a break from this conference. We sit down and he says, “We should do a podcast together.” I said, “Oh Baron, that would be fantastic,” because he was talking a lot about leadership and I talk about leadership.

One thing led to another and Baron Davis was our inaugural guest on the By Example podcast and also brought to us an incredible additional leader named Dino Smiley. The By Example podcast was born in the head of Baron Davis in the lobby of the Chicago Marriott in July of 2017.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Well, I am in Chicago. I’ve been to the Marriott, so I can visualize the scene nicely. That’s cool. And you’re just still chugging along?

Carly Fiorina
Well, what I was hoping to achieve with By Example based on that preliminary conversation was an opportunity to highlight for people real leaders. The reason I love doing this, first of all, I get to talk with fascinating, wonderful people, but also because I think in this day and age we are so confused about what leadership is. We think it’s position and title and fame and celebrity and it’s none of those things.

Yet, we also need more leadership. I wanted to introduce to people not just what leadership is, but who leaders are. Some of them are very famous, like Baron Davis or Colin Powell and some of them people have never heard of like Dino Smiley and yet, famous or not, leadership is always about some fundamental common elements. That’s what we talk about on By Example.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. If leadership is not that, what would you say it is?

Carly Fiorina
Well, I would say that leadership is problem solving. Leadership is changing the order of things for the better, which is always necessary to actually solve a problem. Leadership is about unlocking potential in others in order to change the order of things for the better for the purpose of solving problems.

That requires many things that all of us are capable of executing against as human being. It requires courage and character and collaboration and imagination. Some people who have position and title, lead, many people with no position and title also lead, and too frequently, people with position and title are doing many things, but they’re not leading.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Nice distinctions there. Thank you. Well, I think we could chew on that for a while, but I also want to make sure we talk about your book. Find Your Way, what’s the main message behind it?

Carly Fiorina
Well, the main message behind Find Your Way is that each of us, all of us, are capable of leadership, that finding your way in life is about solving problems that impact you and others that you collaborate with or that you care about.

And that each of us can find our purpose, each of us can practice and become adept at being courageous when we’re frightened to death, having character when it would be easier to do something that is not honest or has integrity, that we actually must collaborate with others in order to accomplish anything, and that seeing possibilities is an essential element in making things better.

That’s one huge message in Find Your Way that finding our way in life requires finding our way to leadership, not the position or the title, but the essence of leadership, which requires us to step up to the problems that surround us.

The other message is that too often people get waylaid because they invest so much in a specific plan or destination or job that they lose the path, they lose their way towards becoming a stronger, better, more effective problem solver and leader and happier on top of all of that.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. Well, could you further distinguish for us the difference between a path and a plan? You say one of the dangers is if you get too invested in the plan, could you elaborate there?

Carly Fiorina
Yeah, so I had a plan. When I graduated from college, my plan was to go to law school, which I did. Surprisingly, to me perhaps, I quickly discovered that I absolutely hated law school. The plan that I had created for my life – which my parents approved of, everyone was excited about this plan – was making me miserable, so I quit. I was definitely off plan.

More than that, I didn’t have a plan. My degree was in medieval history and philosophy, so I didn’t have marketable skills other than I knew how to type and file and answer the phones because I had worked as a temporary secretary in offices while I was going to Stanford and getting my undergraduate degree. I went to work as a secretary in a nine-person real estate firm. Totally off plan.

However, I stayed on path, which was I’m going to do a good job, I’m going to ask a lot of questions, I’m going to collaborate with others, I’m not going to be afraid to try new things, and eventually that landed me in AT&T, a company with a million people. I had no plan there either. I didn’t have an ambition to become a CEO. I was just trying to do a good job, which to me meant solving problems in front of me, which requires collaboration with others.

Some people would look at my life and say, “Wow, she became a CEO and she ran for president. She must have had a plan.” The truth is I never had a plan, but I never deviated from the path.

That is how I have found my way. I hope to share some of that experience and encouragement with people in this book because I think we hear a lot of messages from our culture and our society that you’ve got to have a plan. Further, I think we hear a lot of messages from our culture and those around us that not only do you have to have a plan, but you have to have a plan that everybody approves of.

We spend a lot of time seeking approval. In my case, I went off plan and was highly disapproved of as a result and accomplished more than I ever thought possible. The book is filled with stories of other people who have done the same.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s excellent. I’d love to hear about that sort of emotional process by which you kind of untether yourself from the need for this approval. It seems like – I’ve talked to some folks, it’s almost like they’ve never suffered from that. It’s like, “No, I’ve never cared what anybody wanted, needed, expected of me. I always did my own thing and it was just fine,” and others have struggled with it their whole lives, and others kind of had some epiphany or awakening moments to get liberated.

What do you recommend in terms of the practical tactical? If someone’s like, “I know the expectations of others has a real pull on me, I’d rather it didn’t. What do I do?”

Carly Fiorina
A couple things. First I’ll take it out of the emotional realm for a moment and put it into the practical realm. You have a wonderful podcast about how to be awesome at your job. The people who come to you for advice, while they may say they are untethered from people’s expectations for them, let me just say, all of us are susceptible to criticism.

It is, in fact, why problems fester. Problems fester, let’s just say at work, because the status quo has power. The way things are even if they’re unacceptable stays the way things are principally because when people try and change the way things are, criticism erupts, critics abound. “No, no, no, you can’t do that. No, no, no, we’ve already tried it. Who do you think you are that you can tackle this?”

The truth is all of us are susceptible to criticism and critique, especially if it comes from colleagues, even more if it comes from a boss. People can say we’re totally untethered, but, of course, none of us are.

If you want to solve a problem, if you want to solve a problem, which generally speaking is a requirement for being seen as awesome at your job or getting ahead in your job, you’ve got to bring value and that means solving problems, actually. You have to be willing to accept that challenging the status quo will cause people to criticize you, will cause people to say why they’re invested in the status quo.

I think it just starts with a fundamental recognition that to change the way things are, you have to challenge the way things are. To challenge the way things are, you have to be prepared to accept the criticism that comes with that challenge.

Pete Mockaitis
I’d like to talk about what preparation looks like in practice. I guess part of it is that you’re expecting it, you’re not blindsided by it. It’s like, “Oops, where did that come from,” but you’re sort of thinking of, “Yes, to be expected. Here is that criticism I was counting on. It has arrived.” That’s part of it.

Do you have any other approaches in terms of perspectives or self-talk or how you deal with that? You’ve certainly had your share of criticism. Running for president will bring it out in droves. How do you process it and rise above it?

Carly Fiorina
Well, I would say at a very practical level, even going back to your previous question, I would say people ought to think about three things. The first is look around. The second is ask questions and the third is find allies. If I can expound just for a moment on each of them.

Look around, one of the stories that I tell in Find Your Way is something that I learned when I was 15. I happened to be living in Ghana, West Africa. I was driving around with some friends and there were these huge termite mounds everywhere I looked. I was asking about, “Wow, this is amazing. How do these termites build these things?” Bear with me, this is relevant. Don’t get nervous.

My friend said, “Well, termites, they follow the same path day after day. They move their dirt along the same path for their whole lives.” He said, “It’s funny, but people are a lot like termites.”

What happens to us, I think, is we get very consumed by the day-to-day. We put our heads down and we move our dirt and we do our work. Sometimes it’s really important to pick our heads up and look around. What else is going on around you? Who else is troubled by this same problem perhaps? Look around. See what’s going on around you. See who is going on around you. Don’t be a termite.

Step two, ask questions. Ask a lot of questions of a lot of people, maybe those people you discovered when you picked your head up and looked around. Because when you ask questions as opposed to maybe telling people the answer, which sometimes as bosses we feel like we have to tell people the answer, sometimes the most valuable thing you can do is ask a question instead and listen to someone else’s answer. You’re always going to learn things that you can use.

The final step, find allies. As you ask questions, as you look around you, you will find people with whom you can ally yourself, with whom you can collaborate, people who will step up and defend you when that criticism comes, perhaps protect you from some of that criticism and perhaps join with you so that the group of people who are focused on solving the problem actually is bigger and more powerful than the inevitable group of people who just want to sit around and criticize but actually doesn’t want anything to change.

Pete Mockaitis
And with those allies it’s sort of like – I felt it before in terms of just being able to reconnect from time to time with a group of like-minded folks. It’s like, “Ah.” It’s like refreshing. It’s like we can all say what we really think about this thing here and you’re rejuvenated and able to keep up the good fight afterwards.

Carly Fiorina
Yes, absolutely. And I would add there’s one caution to that. We are all most comfortable with people like ourselves. We are all most comfortable with people who think like we do. If taken to an extreme, what happens is we only talk to the people that we agree with. That’s a very dangerous place to be. You can see that happening in our culture. Everyone’s sort of devolving into tribes. It can happen in a work setting as well.

Finding allies doesn’t mean only talking to people who agree with us 100% of the time. Finding allies may mean I need to work with people who also think that this is a problem that we can solve but who maybe have a very different point of view than I do or an additional perspective to share with me about how to make progress.

Pete Mockaitis
I like it. Thank you. Well, so you talked a little bit about some of the expectations, the criticism, the fear side of things. I want to get your take on when it comes to actually solving the problems or using your brain to make some wise decisions with consistency, what are some of your real go-to principles or tactics or questions that you ask yourself to be making the wisest decision more often than not?

Carly Fiorina
It’s several steps. First is I gather as much information as I can. That means talking to a lot of people. It may mean, depending on the subject, depending on the problem, it may mean meeting a lot, it may mean both.

But gathering information, that’s another way of saying pick your head up and look around. Gather information, facts, perspective, data from a variety of points of view so that you have a full picture. You can’t wing it. Particularly if you’re tackling a tough problem, you can’t go into it thinking you already know the answer.

The second step then after that perspective gathering, information gathering, fact and data gathering, is reflection. Reflection for me is very important to take the time after you’ve asked all the questions, gathered all the data, to really take the time to reflect on what you’ve learned and what you’ve heard. As you know, thinking substantially is not easy. It takes time. You need to give yourself the time and space to have that kind of thought process.

Then the final thing I would say is I get pretty analytic about it. What I mean by that is I tend after that period of gathering information, perspectives and data, followed by real reflection and substantial thinking, then I tend to get pretty analytic and explicit. I write down here’s options, here’s the pros and the cons of those options. I find it very, very helpful to be as analytical as possible and as explicit as possible.

I would say I’ve done this with all kinds of decisions, not just big decisions like a merger or how to run for president, but decisions like the care and treatment for my cancer because I think it’s easy to get mushy in our thinking, in our decision making. The more careful, thoughtful, deliberate, and intentional we can be about our reflection in our decision making, in my experience, the more successful those decisions are.

Pete Mockaitis
I’d love to get your take and some detail on the reflection step. Thinking substantially does require the time and the space. Some decisions are way bigger than others. But I’d love it if you could share, do you have any sort of rules of thumb with regard to how much thinking time, whether it’s in minutes or hours of quiet or sort of days upon which you can sit and wrestle with something that you try to allocate for yourself when making a decision?

Carly Fiorina
It’s such an interesting question. Well, the first thing I would say is honestly it does depend on the decision. There are some decisions that may require days, months of reflection. There are other decisions that require minutes or hours.

However, I would also add that finding the time for introspection and reflection is especially difficult now because everything in our culture, and technology in particular, drives us to hurry up, hurry up, hurry up, hurry up. In fact, we’ve all become accustomed, “Oh my gosh, I sent you a text. You didn’t answer me in the last five minutes.” “I send you an email. We need a decision right now, right now, right now.”

It is true that an imperfect but timely decision is usually better than a perfect but too late decision. This question of how much time is vital. However, in general, I would say hurry up and rush is always the wrong answer. The biggest step I think in finding the time is to give yourself permission to take the time. You don’t have to answer in the next 30 seconds. You don’t have to decide just because somebody else wants a decision from you.

People will have to find their way a little bit. I offer some practical suggestions, but the first and most important step is give yourself permission to take the time to find the time to reflect before you decide.

Pete Mockaitis
I like that. When you talk about being analytic and explicit, you’ve written down the options and the pros and the cons, when you said analytic and I’m thinking about tech. I’m imagining sort of like spreadsheets or criteria or weightings of the criteria and scoring of things. Are there any tools along those lines that you invoke or is it pretty much simply, hey, write down the options and then the pros and cons?

Carly Fiorina
Well, of course, I don’t mean to suggest too number intensive when I say analytic. I use and highlight in the book something called the leadership framework, which is a tool  that I have used over and over and over and over to lay out all of the aspects and the facets of a problem so that I am not missing anything as I think about how to achieve goals. I’ve used it personally. I’ve used it professionally. The leadership framework is one such tool that I talk a great deal about in Find Your Way.

The other thing I would say is another analytic tool is to be explicit about what’s wrong with the current state, whatever it is. What’s wrong with it? Let’s write it down. Let’s get clear about it. This isn’t just for an individual to think about alone in their time of reflection. It also might be extremely useful as you are asking questions of others. Why is this a problem? What could we be doing differently? Then to be equally explicitly about the future state.

The leadership framework and current state, future state analysis are tools that I have used honestly all of my life in every setting. We talk about them in more detail in Find Your Way. But what I would say is don’t let the term analytic scare you. It isn’t necessarily all numbers. In fact, sometimes it isn’t numbers at all.

But it does help to explicitly explore all facets of the situation, which is why the framework helps. It’s also extremely helpful to get very clear about why do we have a problem and why is it a problem and what would we like to be different and better?

Pete Mockaitis
Within the leadership framework that helps you ensure that you’re not missing anything, could you give us a couple of the prompts that are often super helpful in surfacing something that might be missed?

Carly Fiorina
Yeah, so for example, the leadership framework starts with what’s the problem we’re trying to solve, what’s the goal we’re trying to achieve. I know that sounds so fundamental, but you would be surprised how often people get into a room and spend hours, months, years even and they’ve never come to an agreement on what the problem is or what the goal is. Our political process leaps to mind.

But the point is, people can talk past each other forever if they don’t start with “Do we actually agree on the problem? Do we agree on the goal?” That would be an important first prompt.

Another important prompt would be who has to do what, who actually has to do what to make progress? It’s something that sometimes people forget. I’ve been in many, many rooms where people will get all fired up. Let’s say they agree on the problem.

Let’s say people agree on the goal and everybody starts talking and getting excited, and to your earlier observation, like-minded people get together and say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah we all know it has to get done.” Then they rush out of the room. Nowhere has there been an explicit conversation about okay, but who has to do what? Who’s going to do what? Are there people who are not in the room who are going to have to also sign up? That’s another prompt.

A third prompt might be, how are we going to know we’re making progress? How are we going to measure success? Is there anything that’s going to tell us we’re actually getting something done or are we just going to go back in and tell ourselves that we feel good about things? What are we going to measure? How are people going to behave? Those are some prompts around the leadership framework.

What is the problem? What is the goal really? Who’s going to have to do what really? How are we going to measure whether we’re actually making any progress really? How do we have to behave with one another and with others to continue to make progress really?

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. I get a kick out of the reallys because they really can spark another important thing when you kind of push beyond sort of the quick answer that satisfies, check the box of there’s been a response to this question, but truly addressing the root of it. I dig that.

Carly Fiorina
The other thing you know people do confuse activity for accomplishment. I think our technology encourages that actually. “Oh my God, I answered 150 emails.” Well, that may not necessarily be accomplishment, although it’s a whole bunch of activity.

One of the reasons to ask the question about really is to help ourselves distinguish between “Am I busy and active or am I actually accomplishing something, having an impact, making a difference, achieving progress?”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now I want to hear a little bit in terms of your rapid career rise. You mentioned that you stuck to the path of trying to solve the problem that was in front of you.

But I’d also love to hear if you had any sort of secret weapons or tactics or approaches that you applied day after day that really can get a lot of credit for how you managed to become the first female CEO of a Fortune 50 company. That’s pretty special. What do you think you were doing differently than many of your peers and colleagues?

Carly Fiorina
Well, I think it comes back to those three things that I said. Looking around. I always look around and see what’s going on, hear what’s going on. It’s so easy to get in a rut. Jobs are pressure-filled. None of us have enough time. We’re all more comfortable with people like ourselves. The discipline, the habit of looking around and seeing what’s going on I think has been hugely important for me.

Asking questions, asking questions. I’ve asked a million questions. I always learn something. Sometimes I learn a lot about myself by asking questions, but I always learn about the situation around me, the people around me. And what I learn helps me make further progress.

The third, finding allies. I try always to build relationships, not break them. I try to always see the good in people, not the bad. Sometimes that’s hard.

I tell the story in the book about my first business meeting with a client was in a strip club. The gentleman who created that situation did not wish me well. It’s why he created a very difficult situation for me. And yet, I came to understand, tried to understand his point of view. Why was he doing that to me? We ultimately became very strong colleagues and allies.

Finding allies takes work. It doesn’t always mean people that are naturally friendly to you or that naturally like you or that naturally agree with you. I always found allies and tried to see the best in people and to leverage the relationships that I built for a common purpose that we all could agree on.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Tell me, Carly, is there anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Carly Fiorina
Well, I think we’ve covered a lot of ground. I’ve tried to distill all of those life’s lessons into the books, but certainly you’ve asked really penetrating questions. I’ve so enjoyed the conversation thus far.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. Me too. Now could you share with us a favorite quote, something that inspires you?

Carly Fiorina
If I have to pick one, I would pick the one I heard from my mother when I was eight years old, which is “What you are is God’s gift to you. What you make of yourself is your gift to God.” Because, for me, when I first heard that and every time I remind myself of it, it says every one of us is gifted and filled with potential. I believe that based on experience.

It also reminds us that as we are each filled with potential, not all of us get the opportunity or the chance or take the risk to fulfill our potential.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Could you share with us a favorite study or experiment or a piece of research?

Carly Fiorina
I was in church the other day and I will not get this exactly right because the pastor brought forward this piece of research. But it was research about the power of self-talk, you used that phrase earlier, the power of self-talk among professional athletes, the power of self-talk among children.

But what the research essentially said, and again, I won’t get the citation exactly right – kudos to the pastor – but what the research says is that whether we’re 4 or 40, that we each have a tremendous ability to either help ourselves fulfill our potential or, conversely,  talk ourselves below our potential.

We have a tremendous ability to help ourselves become better problem solvers, more awesome at work, better collaborators, better leaders and we also have the power to do the opposite for ourselves.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite book?

Carly Fiorina
I read so much that it depends on what I’ve just read. But one of the books I’ve just incredibly enjoyed recently is actually a science book. But it is called The Fabric of the Cosmos. It’s by a physicist named Brian Greene.

It’s heavy going in some part, but to me it was an incredibly fascinating and inspiring read because not only did I learn a lot about the fabric of the cosmos, but what was most interesting to me was the collaboration of scientists, in this case physicists, over centuries, the importance of courage and taking risks for science as well as problem solving, and the incredible collaboration that’s required.

Einstein is lauded as a singular genius, but in fact, Einstein had to be inspired by many others, he had to build on the work of many others, and he had to collaborate with many others. Believe it or not, The Fabric of the Cosmos to me was not only a fascinating look at physics, but it was also a reminder of all the fundamentals of problem solving and leadership that we’ve been talking about.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Tell me, is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with audiences or readers?

Carly Fiorina
It’s interesting. I think stories always connect with people. I try to talk in stories. Stories, my own story. I think one of the things that connects, whether it’s in my own story or in the story of a woman I met on the rooftop in the slums of New Delhi, who was living in desperate circumstances and no one’s ever heard of, but wow, she was one of the most amazing leaders I have ever witnessed.

I think the aspect of any one of those stories that connects is no one’s life is a smooth trajectory. No one’s life follows a smooth plan. Most people fall off the plan for whatever reason. Most people get thrown off their trajectory. Every life is filled with set back and difficulty, even the lives that look perfect from afar.

It is, I think, relieving to people to know that you can indeed find your way through all of the thicket of issues that each of us encounter in life and that life is not one smooth ascent. It never is.

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

Carly Fiorina
Yes. If you’re seeking to be awesome at your job, find people around you that you think are awesome. Don’t get too hung up on how awesome you are yourself. Look for other awesome people and try and leverage what makes them awesome. In the process, I think you’ll become more awesome yourself.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Well, Carly, this has been a lot of fun. I wish you lots of luck with the book and the podcast and all your adventures.

Carly Fiorina
Well, thank you. And the same to you.

421: Why Great Leaders Have No Rules with Kevin Kruse

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Author Kevin Kruse offers wise–yet contrarian–pointers  for leaders.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Arguments for closing your Open Door policy
  2. Why to set guardrails instead of rules
  3. How to be likeable without striving for being liked

About Kevin

Kevin Kruse is Founder+CEO of LEADx, the first and only AI-powered executive coach and leadership success platform built with IBM Watson.

A successful entrepreneur, Kevin has won both “Inc 500” awards for fast growth and “Best Place to Work” awards for employee culture. He was previously the founder or co-founder of several companies with successful exits.

Kevin is also a Forbes contributor and a New York Times bestselling author of nine books including Employee Engagement 2.0, Employee Engagement for Everyone and We: How To Increase Performance and Profit Through Full Engagement.

Kevin’s next book, Great Leaders Have No Rules: Contr arian Leadership Principles to Transform Your Team and Business (Crown Publishing) will launch on April 2, 2019.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Kevin Kruse Interview Transcript

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

Kevin Kruse
Well, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to be awesome level, but I’m going to do my best and it’s an honor to meet you and finally here live.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thanks Kevin. Yeah, it’s funny, we were talking before I hit the record button, how we see each other’s logos and faces in all kinds of places and here we are talking live at last.

Kevin Kruse
I like that phrase you said. It could be a song, “logos and faces in all kinds of places.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah, it seems like it has to be country with a slow tempo. You do a lot of things at the opposite of a slow tempo in terms of founding companies and having great exits. I want to hear about your company Leadx, and in particular, you have the first and only AI—as in artificial intelligence robot style—powered executive coach. How does that work?

Kevin Kruse
Well, thanks for asking on that. My mission is to spark 100 million leaders in the next ten years. That’s a big number. Certainly I can reach some with a podcast, with a book, with speeches or those kinds of things, writing, but not that many.

When I saw what AI was able to do now, especially in the area of mental health and therapy and coaching, I said well, hey, leadership is about behavior change, changing thoughts and identity to change behaviors, let’s apply it.

For two years we’ve been training IBM Watson in all kinds of topics related to how to be a great boss, how to be a great manager, how to be a great leader. We call our coach Amanda. We released Coach Amanda in November of last year. Basically, you download the app on your Android device or smartphone or you log in and Coach Amanda will teach you about management fundamentals.

But she diagnoses your personality. She knows your personality. She’s teaching you management principles, leadership principles, but tailored to your personality. There’s sort of a new mode we just released. You can ask her questions like, “How do I handle an employee who smells badly?” or “Comes in late?” or “How do I communicate with a Myers Briggs INTJ?” You can ask her all kinds of questions.

Then the new mode, which is really cool, it’s like what a human coach does, is Coach Amanda will help you to pick a developmental goal and a deadline like 12 weeks from now. She’ll help you to create an action plan. Every week she’ll check in with you and she’ll buzz you on your phone or send you an email that says, “Hey Pete, your friendly reminder, your goal is,” I’m just making this up, “become a better public speaker by this date.”

Your next activity is watch some TED talks. Did you do it or not?” If you say you did, then she’s going to ask you to jot some lessons learned from that activity. If you say you didn’t, she’s going to ask you to jot some notes about what got in your way.

Pete Mockaitis
She scolds you.

Kevin Kruse
Yeah. Well, what got in the way of you getting to that.

Pete Mockaitis
Why have you been so naughty?

Kevin Kruse
That’s right. That’s right. Shut the power off on the spaceship if you don’t behave. That goes in a coaching journal. She becomes your accountability partner, who also can give you resources. You’re all about action, things to do at work. She will give you every week a new activity to do at work to get better in your goal area.

Pete Mockaitis
That is so wild. I guess I wonder about these things in terms of just how wide a breadth of questions can I ask because I know like Siri there’s some things she can nail, like “Hey, Siri, wake me up at 6 AM.” She’s all over it. But other questions are a little trickier for Siri. If I were to ask Amanda something like boy, let’s see, “How do I-“ okay, let’s just say, “Amanda, I’m trying to figure out which business initiatives should be my top priority right now.” Could she handle that? What happens?

Kevin Kruse
No, she can’t, is the short question. But you’re raising a really important issue with all these devices and these chat bots. The best chat bots out there, Siri, Alexa, Google Home, they’re at an 85% accuracy level. Out of everything that they get asked in any given day, they can get about 85% of that. That’s where it’s sort of maxed out for now.

Now for Coach Amanda, when we first released her two years ago she could get 11%. Then all the wrong answers, you feed it back in. She gets smarter. She was then at 44%. Right now she’s at about 65%. We think that we’ll get to 85% by the end of the year. You need, in general, about 10,000 unique questions for the bot to then kind of know 85% or better. But the thing is, it’s in a given area.

If we saw that you had asked that question of Coach Amanda, we would say, “Okay, she’s teaching people to be better leaders. Is this a leadership question?” We might say, “Eh, evaluating what business to do isn’t our definition of management leadership and she’s just going to say ‘I don’t know. Would you like to hear what kind of things I know about?’”

We talk about training AI to understand humans, the other half is to train humans how to speak to the AI. I’ve got an Alexa device. I noticed a while ago, a few weeks back, the ring was glowing orange. I didn’t know what that was at the time. I said, “Hey Alexa, why are you glowing orange?” She’s like, “I can’t help you with that.” “What does the orange light mean?” “I can’t help you with that.”

I had to Google it and it said “Oh, that’s when you have a notification from Alexa.” Then I said, “Hey, play me my notifications,” and it told me like, “Oh, UPS is going to deliver a package today.” You think it would know this. If I say, “Alexa, play me my messages. Play me my alerts. Why are you orange? Do I have a package?” She cannot answer any of these very similar things.

Alexa trained me. Now when she’s orange, I say “Play my notifications,” and then I’ll get it. But it took me a couple of days before I got that.

That’s with Coach Amanda, most people just don’t wake up and say, “I’ve got a question about management today,” but if you’re a manager at a company that’s used let’s say the DISC personality survey. It’s kind of a popular personality survey. You know everybody’s done that and you know that your boss is high in D, which is dominance or driver.

You would then know that you could ask Coach Amanda before your next meeting like, “Hey, how do I persuade someone who’s high in D,” and then Coach Amanda would answer it. But you wouldn’t just naturally think of that kind of question on your own. It’s sort of a two-way learning.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Okay. Thank you. My curiosity is satisfied. Now I’m curious about your book, Great Leaders Have No Rules. What’s the big idea here?

Kevin Kruse
Well, the big idea is that most of the conventional wisdom around management is wrong. I’ve now had 30 years of being a serial entrepreneur. I crashed and burned my first company because I had no concept of leadership. Then my next couple of companies, they did okay, but it’s because I had outdated ideas of leadership. Better than no ideas, but they were outdated.

It was only when I really rejected the conventional wisdom, thought about how to make things work better from a management leadership perspective for the modern world, that’s when the last couple of companies have really taken off and done well.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. Well, so could you give us an example of an outdated rule or principle or approach to management that is still a common practice that ought to be rejected?

Kevin Kruse
Yeah. Well, let me do the one – it’s the first chapter, which is close your open door policy. Most people – I made that as chapter number one because most people have heard that idea of having an open door policy. Of course, this day and age, Pete, we don’t all have physical doors.

It might be we’re in that open office environment, someone taps us on the shoulder to ask a question or even working alone, but someone messages us on Slack and kind of – it’s some digital form of “Got a minute.” It’s never just a minute.

Now, of course with all these management things, they come from a good place. The idea of the open door policy is it facilitates communication, it’s fast problem solving, it’s a flat organization, everybody can leapfrog each other’s bosses and go right to the top. All sounds good. But in this modern day world, there’s a lot of problems.

First problem, of course, is as the manager who’s’ getting interrupted all day, it’s almost impossible for us to do deep work, to do focused work, to think strategically. But Marshall Goldsmith writes about, it’s also a problem for the person coming through the door for a couple of reasons.

Because if someone’s coming in with unscheduled meetings all day, you’ve got to ask yourself did you hire the wrong person, did you not train them well, or do you have a culture that is not supportive – it’s not a culture of psychological safety. Are they so scared to make a decision, to solve a problem on their own, that they’ve got to run everything by you? Maybe you’ve got a delegation problem or a perfectionism problem. It’s a sign that maybe things aren’t well from their standpoint.

I put a lot of comments from readers in the book. As one person pointed out, they’re like, “I don’t want to talk to my boss if I’m interrupting her and it’s a bad time and she’s stressed out or whatever. I’d rather it be, ‘Hey, let’s schedule 15 minutes or 30 minutes. Here’s the topic, so you know in advance what it’s about.’”

I don’t say close your door completely. The idea is – I say, “Close your door, open your calendar,” meaning set office hours. To each their own. For some people it might be like, “Hey, in the morning if my door’s closed, that’s my deep focused work time. I invite you to focus on your work as well. But in the afternoon if my door is open or not, just tap and come on in because my office hours will be in the afternoon.”

Or maybe it’s, “Hey, Monday and Friday are open door policy days and in the middle of the week it’s all about making stuff. We’re not going to do the open door.” You can figure it out, but the idea is hm, if it’s getting abused, there’s something wrong going on, so how can you set some ground rules and then support your team members in a way where they don’t have to come through as often?

Pete Mockaitis
I’m digging that a lot. When you talked about making stuff versus managing, I think that came from the lean startup world somewhere, the makers’ versus mangers’ schedule. It’s really resonated with me in terms of there are some days where that’s all I need to do is I need to coordinate with a bunch of different people and a bunch of different little things and make sure everyone is equipped, empowered, informed, guided, raring to go and rock and roll.

There are other days where I need to enter deep isolation and creatively give birth to things.

Kevin Kruse
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
And having one-, two-, three-minute interruptions just disrupts everything in terms of I was having a brilliant idea, or it felt brilliant at least, and I was in the throes of writing it up and now where did it go? I don’t even know anymore because I replied to a message along the way.

Kevin Kruse
Yeah, that’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s intriguing. You say that you are making some boundaries, if you will, associated with “Hey, these times are open office hours. These times are not so much.” That almost sounds like a rule. You say great leaders have no rules, how are you thinking about the term ‘rule’ here?

Kevin Kruse
Let me say, the time where rules make sense is if it’s a law. Your company has to have a rule that follows the law or if it’s a safety issue. You don’t want people working on railroad tracks wearing headphones or something like that. If you’re really horrible at hiring, if you’ve hired a bunch of knuckleheads, rules might contain them a little bit.

But the problem with rules that aren’t the kind of required rules is that every time I bump into a rule, it takes away the chance for me to make a decision, for me to make a choice. When that happens, it becomes more your company than my company. Rules get in the way of conversation, rules get in the way of contemplation, and they disengage workers.

Pete, I’ll tell you, I stumbled on this 20 years ago. It’s a story I tell in the book, where I had sold my company. I was 30 years old and as part of the deal they acquired my company. I was going to become a partner, vice president, report to the CEO. He gave me a big speech about he’s not my boss. We’re just partners. We’re going to build the dream together. Each one vote. All this stuff.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m inspired.

Kevin Kruse
Inspired and feel good. I’m engaged. It feels like my company. Then 30 days in, I had sent my first expense report in. The check comes back. I happen to notice that it’s short like four dollars. It’s not a lot of money, but I thought maybe I filled it out wrong or something.

I emailed our CFO, “Hey Don, it’s not a big deal, but did I fill out the form wrong?” He says, “No, we don’t reimburse for Post-it notes.” I emailed back, “Why?” He emailed back, “Wasteful expense.”

A buddy of mine, who had come into the company the same way, vice president, partner, all this stuff, he told me that he was shorted three dollars because while he was traveling on business he had ordered a beer with dinner and they don’t reimburse for beer. They said, “Look, you could have ordered a six-dollar milkshake and we would have paid for it, but we won’t pay for a three-dollar beer.”

This became what was known as the Post-it note wars. You could imagine I was feeling so good and then 30 days in when I’m told I’m not allowed – the rule is no purchases of Post-it notes. That’s it. It was like, “Wasteful expense.” Black and white. It’s a rule. How engaged did I feel? Did it feel like my company or their company? Did I feel like a VP or did I feel like someone with no power at all?

Then here’s the funny thing about it though, Pete. The second half of the story is I went and fought with the CEO. He said, “Kevin,” he said, “I had no idea that this was bothering people.” He said, “I don’t care about Post-it notes. All right, that rule is overturned. You win. Everybody can go buy Post-it notes. But,” he said, “Let me explain.” He said, “I don’t care about Post-it notes. I care about being frugal.”

He said “One of our values,” and it was an official company value, “was growth and profits.” It wasn’t the mission to be profitable, but it was like the air you breathe. You need it to go chase your mission.

He said that he used to walk through the office and see that everyone was buying Post-it notes and they were doodling on them while they were on the phone or in a meeting. They were writing phone messages on them when they could have used any other kind of paper.

He shows me this stack of ripped up squares of paper. He said instead of Post-it notes, he uses all the scrap paper from the printer and stuff, rips it twice and now he’s got these squares on his desk that he uses. He says, “It’s a symbol.” He said, “The no Post-it notes is a symbol of frugality. It’s a reminder about the culture and the value of being frugal, that profits matter and we care about it.”

The funny thing is even though he overrode that rule, I never again bought Post-it notes. It’s because now we had a conversation. We had a relationship. I understood, okay, the value of the organization is frugality and profits. The acceptable norm is rip up little pieces of paper and use those. Don’t be wasteful with Post-it notes and other kinds of things.

It totally changed my view on it even though I then had permission to do it. I wanted to support our values. I wanted to represent our values. Now that I realized it was a symbol, I wanted to have little pieces of ripped up paper on my desk, so the team members would realize I’m being frugal. But none of that would have happened if it had just been the rule.

This is where I get in a lot of trouble, Pete. If people already think it’s crazy. I’ve had several companies over the last 30 years. We’ve never had a dress code. We’ve never had a vacation policy. The employee handbook is always a page and a half long of the required legal stuff.

You do get people making mistakes, the people that will travel and order eight beers instead of one. But, to me, that’s a time for some feedback. That’s a coachable moment. Sometimes you’ve got to coach people out of the organization.

But all of the sudden, you’re not having people bump into a rule and then feeling disempowered, disengaged. It’s, “Oh, I did something that’s out of line with the agreed upon principals, the agreed upon values of our family. I get it and I’m going to be more likely then to conform.”

I think this goes in all areas of our life. People have rules in their marriages that I hear about all the time. I don’t think we should have rules in marriage. Again, I’m saying a rule is like that black and white thing that’s been imposed on you rather than something you’ve thought about and are deciding to do based on values.

I don’t think we should have rules for our teenagers. Me and my sisters had curfews growing up and it was a disaster. It wrecked the family dynamic. I’ve got three teenagers. I’ve never had a curfew. I might just be lucky. They’re model kids and everything.

But it’s not that I’ve ignored the issue of what time you’re coming home, but instead of saying, “The rule is 11 PM,” and at 11:02 we’re now shouting at each other and they’re grounded, it’s more like, “Hey, when are you going to come home tonight?” They say, “Well, I’ve got this really big party and it’s kind of far away.”

I said, “Well, you know I love you so much. I am not going to be able to sleep until you’re home and I have to get up early to take your brother to his basketball game, so what time are we thinking?” It’s a whole other thing that builds relationships, builds culture, and increases compliance.

People can get around rules really easy, but if they’re bought in, they’re less likely to abuse it. Then whether they get home at 10:55 or 11:05, who cares?

Pete Mockaitis
That is interesting because right now it’s sort of like your teenager’s on your side. It’s like he is helping you and the family by getting home on time as opposed to – and maybe even a little early.

Kevin Kruse
Yes, right.

Pete Mockaitis
He’s helping you out even more because you’re able to get some sleep extra versus when it’s just a rule, it’s like, “Well, I’m going to try and get every last second out of it because I can and I don’t feel engaged or bought in or like I’m on the team.” That’s very intriguing how you say rules disengage workers because it deprives them of an opportunity to make a decision, to have some free agency.

It was so interesting as you were talking about the Post-it note story and I heard that, “Hey, frugality is a value here.” I guess my thought is when it comes to values is like, well, the value I find much more empoweringly resonant is that we have rock star employees and we give them the very best tools they need to do their work with excellence.

So by golly, Kevin, you get the most fantastic Post-it notes that you can conceive of if they make you feel 2% more creative, engaged, empowered, supported. I want you to have the world’s finest Post-it notes. That’s kind of what gets me more fired up in terms of value, but-

Kevin Kruse
You and I think alike. Right. Because a discussion, a really important one around value.

Pete Mockaitis
But at the same time, when you see that what it means, it’s like, “Oh, okay,” and you can support that, especially I suppose at a higher level of VP. You’re like, “Well, yeah, profit is important and yeah, waste is not cool, so I can get excited about that.”

Kevin Kruse
Not to go too deep just on that one chapter of having no rules, but here’s the thing. Instead of rules, think of guardrails because I’m sure if there’s any chief financial officers out there, they’re like, “Oh, everyone’s going to be wasting on their travel budget,” or whatever. Well, fine, but instead of having a rule that people are going to bump into and circumvent or do stupid things to try to comply with the rule, give guardrails.

It’s like, “Hey, when you’re traveling 100 bucks-ish a night on a hotel is going to be normal and fine. If you’re in a major city, that might be 200. If you’re in the Midwest in a rural town, maybe 60. But spend the money like it’s your own and I just gave you some milestones for not staying at the Ritz Carlton kind of a thing.” Guardrails are okay.

It’s like, okay, I’ve still got some of that – I like what you said – like some free agency, some decision making, some choice. Do I stay at this hotel or that hotel?

Because otherwise the other thing is people will do the wrong thing to stay in the rule. They’ll say, “Well, I can’t stay at the hotel that’s right next to the client office because it’s 10 dollars too much over the rule, so I’ll stay farther away to save the 10 dollars, but now I’ll spend 100 dollars on a rental car.”  They just ended up wasting the expense to stay inside your hotel rule.

Pete Mockaitis
And the time. It’s like if I’ve got to truck it out another 20 – 30 minutes each way-

Kevin Kruse
No matter what that rule is, that’s the thing. They can circumvent it on purpose or just do more harm by trying to stay in it. That’s why they’re so imperfect.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. Yeah, that’s nice. Replacing the rules with guardrails and a value. It’s so funny, I guess no one ever told me when I was an employee to spend the money like it was my own because I was super frugal. They would have benefited. But I was like, “Well, hey, I would never pay for a 280 dollar a night hotel if it were my money, but apparently none of you mind, so I’m going to do that.”

Kevin Kruse
That’s exactly right. As soon as you tell people they have a whatever it is, 50 dollar a day meal budget when they travel, all the expense reports come back at 49 dollars and 79 cents. Everybody is spending up to the rule because they think “Well, that’s like free money. That’s fine. Let’s get that second beer or let’s get the appetizer.” If you just say, “Hey, here’s kind of the normal spending patterns. Please spend our money as if it were your own,” you’ll save money that way.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Kevin Kruse
Absolutely. And move faster. I had Gary on my team just the other day. We’re doing software development. He’s like, “Hey, listen, I need like a backup Android phone to test the-“ I’m like, “Gary, just go buy it.” He’s like, “But I don’t know which phone to buy.” I’m like, “Spend the money as if it’s your own,” and boom conversation’s done. He’s empowered and we’re all good.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, awesome. Well, hey, while we’re on that note, so instead of issuing rules, you have a guiding principal there, spend the money as if it’s your own. That’s just a great sentence that can offer a lot of clarity and empowerment. You’ve got some more?

Kevin Kruse
I don’t know if I’ve got them as pithy as that. But the thing on the rules is kind of overreaching. That’s a big one, but that’s just one example of the many different kind of accepted management things. Here’s the rulebook. Here’s the employee handbook and all that. We talked about open door. It’s time to close the open door.

Another one that is resonating with a lot of people is this idea of being likeable but not liked. Now people don’t view that as normal management wisdom, but often we have this need as especially the younger managers, this was my big fault early on, is that we have this kind of need to be liked and so we’re the poplar boss, the nice boss, people like us.

It’s okay to like to be liked. It’s nice. It feels good to be liked. But if you have that need, that is going to get in the way of you making tough decisions, making tough decisions quickly, giving people feedback that they need to grow and prosper.

If I need Pete to like me and I’m your boss, it’s going to slow me down from giving you the hard feedback that will make you better. The reality is, Pete, you probably don’t need me as a friend; you need me as a leader. You need me as a coach.

This is one of those things where – and it’s the more current wisdom is like, “Hey, flat organizations and we’re all equal,” and all that kind of stuff. I used to tell people that. I would say, “Oh, I’m not your boss. I just have a different role on the team.” That sounds nice. Well, until I’ve got to either lay people off, give them tough feedback, promote someone out of the three people that are qualified. Well, now they know that I’m not just a friend and all the rest.

That’s just sort of another one that’s been resonating with people is don’t be a jerk. You want to be likeable. But don’t necessarily be liked. You want to not be attached to the outcome of whether you’re actually liked or not.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. I think that’s great. If you need to be liked, I think it’s great to make sure you’ve got some people outside of work who like you.

Kevin Kruse
Yeah, that’s right. That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
You’ve got that need being fulfilled successfully and you can do what you need to do inside there. Then when you say being likeable, you’re just sort of talking about just general friendly and respectful ways of being or do you have any particulars there?

Kevin Kruse
Well, yeah. It definitely starts with that. There’s no need to, again – I think I’ve got another chapter that talks about lead with love. The old school wisdom would be purposefully put up barriers between you and your team members. You don’t eat lunch with them. You don’t socialize with them. You don’t talk about your personal life because you must remain objective and you must remain fair. You don’t want your emotions interfering.

Well, that’s too much in the wrong direction. One of the biggest ways that people will feel engaged at work, so engagement is just how we feel – how committed we are to our organization and its goals. 70% of this engagement, how we feel about work, comes from who our boss is. Now if we think our boss cares about us as individuals as opposed to cogs in a machine, our engagement goes way up.

It’s okay to get close to your people. It’s okay for me to ask about your weekend, to know the names of your children and what they’re up to, to know that you’re training for a marathon or something, even to know when you’re struggling at home or you’ve got a parent who’s ill. You don’t want to put up these artificial barriers.

It can be down to these little things, where you’re walking through the hallway of your organization, are you going to keep your head up, make eye contact with everybody, smile and say good morning or are you going to keep your eyes down and hope nobody stops you because you really don’t care. You just want to get back to your desk and get some work done. It’s like be likeable, be sociable, don’t put up these artificial barriers.

Remember when I say lead with love, you don’t have to like someone to love them. That sounds a little weird and it’s weird to talk about loving your team members in this whole Me Too era. I’m not talking about inappropriate love or anything like that. I’m talking about this greater love and compassion for fellow man and woman. It’s about this higher level. The Greeks had a word for it called agape love. It’s like this universal love that you see in all of the major religions.

If I am going to serve my team members, if I’m going to lead my team members, even if I don’t like somebody, I can still hope for the best. I can still care about them. I can still realize if I had lived their life, maybe I would be just like them. That’s where it gets into it. Don’t be a jerk is a good starting point. Then actually connect and care with your people is how you really activate that.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m right with you there. Loving in terms of willing the good of the other as opposed to liking just like, “I enjoy your presence and want to hang out more because it’s fun.”

Kevin Kruse
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
Nice distinction there. I’d love to get your take when you talked about the manager leader walking around and holding their head up, I want to get your input on and a couple of guests have cited this Harvard Business Review study about how the majority of managers are uncomfortable talking with their colleagues for any reason. I just think that is so striking. What’s your take on what’s behind this?

Kevin Kruse
Well, I’m not familiar with that particular study, but similar ones I have come across. There’s a couple of things that are going on. Pete, just recently, last year or two with this AI coach that we’ve been working on, we’ve been going deep into personality theory. Personality is the number one driver of behavior and we’re talking about leadership behaviors.

The interesting thing is, especially in large organizations, managers are supposed to be focusing on results, business results, but also relationships. How do you attract and retain great talent? But that relationship part generally falls to the side. People are profits. People chase the profits. These managers get promoted for getting things done – things, tasks. The more task focused they are, the more they get promoted.

Once you get up to a certain level, you’re really good at the productivity stuff, at tasks, you’re not so good at the people stuff. I think that it doesn’t help when the traditional wisdom is that that is okay. That it’s like hey, don’t get close to your people. That’s where I think people start to get uncomfortable.

This day and age, we know that, again, trust drives engagement. What drives trust? Authenticity. If Pete comes out and says, “Hey, you know what team? Here’s what I’m really good at. Here’s where I’m not really good at. I’m going to tell you when I’ve got the answer. Ask me anything. If I don’t know, I’ll just tell you I don’t know and I’m going to go find out. By the way, here’s the three things I did wrong last year.”

Well, when we hear that from Pete, all of the sudden it’s like, “Oh wow, Pete’s like a relatable person and he’s not going to lie to us. He’s not lying to us. If I mess up, I can go to him and let him know. If I want to try something, it’s not like, ‘Oh, this experiment goes wrong and I’ve derailed my career.’ It’s ‘Oh, we were innovative. It didn’t work out. Now we’re going to try something else.’”

The old school was not taught – I had mentors tell me when I was in my 20s, “Kevin, leadership is acting. Kevin, wear your leadership mask when you arrive in the office.” People would talk about that. Thankfully I think that’s changing, but when you’ve been drilled into that and you’re task focused anyway, you’re not going to be too comfortable talking to people at work.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s powerful. Thank you. Well, Kevin, tell me, anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Kevin Kruse
No, again, you can hear in my voice and I can hear it in yours, Pete, I geek out on leadership. This is a leadership book, but to me, leadership is a superpower because leadership just means influence. When you learn to lead yourself, influence yourself, you can get to health, wealth, happiness. When you learn to lead, influence, your marriage, your children, you have a great family life. When you learn to lead, to influence at work, your career takes off.

That’s why I’m so geeked out about it. Thanks for the opportunity to really have some fun with some of these concepts.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure thing. Absolutely. Good times. Now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Kevin Kruse
Well I like “Life is about making an impact, not an income.”

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

Kevin Kruse
I don’t know if it’s a favorite, but one that stood out from one of my earlier books was this study they did at Princeton showing that taking notes by hand is far superior than writing them on a laptop keyboard or a smartphone. It’s called The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard. That’s the name of that study.

It’s because when we can type, then we tend to just be an automatic recorder of the word of the sounds without processing it. When we have to write them, we have to think about what we’re hearing, quickly analyze it, shorten it, put it down and then it anchors it in our memory.

Pete Mockaitis
That makes a lot of sense. I always prefer to use typing for notes just because I can type so much faster than I can write with a pen, but that’s kind of the idea is because you can write slower, you must do some prioritization.

Kevin Kruse
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
And capture fewer words. That process is powerful. Okay. Thank you. That’s helpful. It’s all connecting for me over here. How about a favorite book?

Kevin Kruse
I’m a huge reader. I probably read more than 50 books a year. A classic favorite is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. It’s a great one. Well, since you’re reading so much, let’s ask. How about a favorite book or two released in the last five years?

Kevin Kruse
Yeah, Daring Greatly from Brene Brown really gets – again, you don’t think of it as a classic business or leadership book, but that helped me to understand issues related to self-worth, external validation, which gets you then to be more authentic. Very practical book from Kim Scott is Radical Candor on how to give feedback. Zero to One is an entrepreneur book about startups and positioning. Peter Thiel. Those are more recent ones.

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

Kevin Kruse
Yeah, I don’t have anything novel or unique. I’m a live for my calendar guy. I just use Google Calendar. Again, I like writing notes by hand. Sometimes I will then transfer them into Evernote. I use a Moleskine notebook or some kind of paper notebook. It’s just classic tools.

Pete Mockaitis
Now I’ve got to ask, when you are taking notes by hand and then get them into Evernote, are you just taking a photo or using a scanner? How do you make that happen smoothly?

Kevin Kruse
Yeah. They have, of course, tools now, including notebooks, where you write in the notebook and it automatically goes into Evernote. Then there’s ones where it’s special paper, you write on it, and then it scans and it does the OCR into Evernote. I don’t do anything that fancy.

What I tend to do is I write notes through – I fill up these books fast. A lot of it is not worthy of sending to Evernote. But if something is worthy of sending to Evernote, I’ll just snap it on my phone, upload it as a photo to Evernote and then I’ll just write a couple of words that I know will match if I’m looking to do a search. That’s just sort of a poor man’s version of getting it into Evernote.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure. Yeah. How about a favorite habit, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Kevin Kruse
It’s great you ask everybody this question. This starts before I get to work, but every morning I start – I’m a big believer in having an attitude of gratitude. I always just try to think of three things that I’m grateful for. Every morning I try to think of something different. Just changes my mindset in an abundance mindset. It destresses me. Maximizes my world view going into work.

Then at work the first thing I do, highly recommend it, is I just consciously think of what is my most important task for the day at hand and I’ll scrawl it on top of my printed calendar for the day, again, by hand just to kind of anchor it there.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks?

Kevin Kruse
Well, the one that is the most controversial is – I wrote a book called 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management and one of the things I found – it wasn’t my idea. I interviewed 300 highly successful people, self-made billionaires, millionaires. None of them used a to-do list. They only worked from their calendar.

The phrase is ‘schedule it, don’t list it.’ If you really want to do something, pause and think what day, what time and for how long are you going to do it. If you’re not willing to do that, then maybe you shouldn’t plan to do it. That changed my world. That was a couple years ago. I don’t use a to-do list anymore.

Every day I get ten emails telling me I’m a stupid, crazy jerk for telling people that. I get ten emails from people who say I’ve changed their life because they learned it.

Pete Mockaitis
Fascinating. If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Kevin Kruse
The book Great Leaders Have No Rules available on Amazon.com, all bookstores, wherever they want to buy that. If they want to get free trial and check out Leadx with Coach Amanda, that’s at Leadx.org, O-R-G.

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

Kevin Kruse
Well, in the theme of the book, I would say challenge the rules. Even if you believe you should have rules, challenge them. Make sure you are asking the team members that you’re working with, the higher-ups, quote/unquote, “What is behind this rule?” Again, once I asked about the Post-it note rule, my view of it changed.

I would invite you to do the same thing outside of work. Even if you say, “Kevin’s crazy. My teenagers need a curfew.” Okay, but ask your kids why do they think that curfew’s in place, why is it the time that it is, how do they feel about it. At the very least, even if you keep the curfew, you will have strengthened that relationship and strengthened their commitment to compliance.

Pete Mockaitis
Kevin, this has been a blast. Thanks so much for sharing the good word. Good luck with your book and all your adventures.

Kevin Kruse
Thanks Pete and thanks for you doing your work and spreading the word out there too. You’re helping a lot of people.