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Advancement Archives - How to be Awesome at Your Job

634: How to Get Ahead in Your Career by Developing Your Professional Value with Don Miller

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Don Miller says: "The only way you make money is you make somebody else more money."

Don Miller shares how to advance your career even without the need for a fancy title or degree.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The critical skills an MBA doesn’t teach you 
  2. The harsh truth every professional must accept to succeed 
  3. How to craft a compelling business case 

About Don

Donald Miller is the CEO of Business Made Simple (BusinessMadeSimple.com), an online platform that teaches business professionals everything they need to know to grow a business and enhance their personal value on the open market. He is the host of the Business Made Simple Podcast and is the author of several books including the bestseller Building a StoryBrand. He lives and works in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife Elizabeth. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Don Miller Interview Transcript

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

Don Miller
I’m so glad to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I am excited to talk about your latest work Business Made Simple. And one of your theses is that we don’t so much need a college degree or a bachelor’s or MBA for career success, and that’s actually your own story personally. Could you tell us a bit about that?

Don Miller
Yeah, perhaps I have a chip on my shoulder but I grew up really poor and mom wasn’t home till about 7:00 p.m. and so I just learned bad habits and didn’t pay much attention in school. So, it wasn’t until, gosh, I think I was 25 or 26 that I even discovered that I wanted a career. I sort of felt sorry for myself with my friends off to college, and thought, “Well, I have to go back to college and figure this out.”

But a guy happened to give me a job in the warehouse of a publishing company, and I was just going to wait a year and then go to school because I had moved state and was going to get residency. Within four years, I was president of the publishing company and just discovered that I had a knack for business like some people do. And it happened to be a publishing company and so I was interacting with authors, and so I just thought I want to write my own book. And wrote a book, and that book ended up being on the New York Times’ bestseller’s list for about a year.

So, I left the publishing company and started just being a memoirist for a long time. And then about the time they wanted me to write my 8th memoir, I realized that if you write your 8th memoir, you’re a clinical narcissist. And so, I just wanted to be a regular narcissist, not a clinical narcissist so I switched gears and actually wrote a business book, because in order to be an author, I had to start my own little private enterprise, and I had ran a publishing company so I wrote a book about storytelling and how to clarify your business’ story. And that book ended up selling half a million copies.

And, suddenly, I had 30 employees and we scaled this business to, we’ll do about 20 million this year. We did that about five years. And I realized that the whole time, and I think your listeners will really understand this, the whole time I was scaling the business, it was just chaos. It was just organized chaos. And the more people I met who had business degrees and the more people I hired who had business degrees, none of them knew how to fix it.

And what I realized now is that from zero to 10 million, it’s basically chaos anyway. You have to just sort of lead and guide the chaos. So, I wrote Business Made Simple as almost the blue-collar version, almost the trade school version of business school. Where in a business school, you’d go and you’d read a whitepaper on trade with China, you’d study a Volkswagen ad from 1973 and how to reach suburban housewives five decades ago, and none of that, none of it, you use when you actually get a job in the business world.

In fact, business degrees, I’m convinced, really just get you an interview and to the bottom rung of the ladder. At least they get you on the ladder, which is great. But then you have to figure out how to climb the ladder. And what we found was the hidden staircase. We found that there was a certain order of skills that you had to develop as your company got bigger.

And I turned around and started explaining those to people in short five-minute videos. A 100,000 people signed up for those videos, and realized, “You know what, if I took a year and really organized this well, it could be better than a business degree.”

And so, the book now, it comes out January 19th and it’s called Business Made Simple. It’s 60 daily entries. You pour a cup of coffee, you read the daily entry, and then you get a video that day in your email box. And it will literally teach you how to negotiate a contract, how to sell, how to give a speech, how to manage a group of people, how to run an execution framework. It’ll teach you how to clarify a message, how to create a marketing sales funnel, how to create mission statement and guiding principles.

My favorite is the first 10 entries, are just the character of a value-driven professional, what characteristics do people have who tend to climb the corporate ladder very, very quickly and make a lot of money. So, I love this book. It’s the book that I wish I had when I was 22 years old, right when I realized I should’ve gotten to college like my friends. And now I hand it out to college grads, saying, “Here’s what you should’ve learned when you paid all that money for school.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Boy, there’s so much I want to dig into. So, the hidden staircase is a particular set of skills. Is that fair?

Don Miller
It is, yeah. I think it is.

Pete Mockaitis
Like Liam Neeson.

Don Miller
That’s right. Less deadly. Less people are dead at the end of it. More people have more money at the end of it. But, yeah, I really think it is. And it’s actually amazing to me that in MBA programs, they’re not teaching this. They’re not teaching mission statement and guiding principles. So, how do you actually align a team? How do you get a team to say, “We’re going to align around a mission here”? They don’t teach you to clarify a message unless you go to Vanderbilt University because they actually teach my framework in the Vanderbilt MBA program on how to clarify a message.

I teach an execution framework. Every company that passes about maybe $3 million, they need an execution framework. You need a series of meetings that you have at the same time on the same day, sometimes every day, sometimes once a week, and sometimes once a month, with a worksheet that you fill out and usually stand for these meetings. And at the end of that meeting, usually in the morning, everybody has complete clarity about what their five priorities are for the day, and they are kept accountable to meet those priorities.

And then, in the fourth quarter, you assess how you did, and your compensation package is actually tied to that. You install that execution framework that I talk about in this book into your company, and some companies will double in productivity.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Excellent. And so then, it’s just a matter of doing it and ensuring then that the right things are getting executed and the focus remains where it needs to go, eh?

Don Miller
That’s where it is. I really think that the majority of succeeding in business is focus and intensity. Focusing on the right things, letting go of things that you don’t need to focus on. And then intensity, intentionally blocking out the hours to get those things done. But it’s easier said than done. You literally have to have your entire team on the same page aligned around a mission. It sounds easy but most people can’t get it done.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, to that end, I’d love it if maybe you could share an inspiring story of someone who dug in and learned the stuff and saw some cool results from it.

Don Miller
Well, the most inspiring story is just our team and what we’ve done. I’ve got PhDs on my team. I’ve got people without a degree. I never ask in the interview whether you have a degree. I ask really one question, “How can you make us money? What problems can you solve? If I bring you on this team, how would you make us money?”

And you should see the looks on, especially the college grads’ faces or whatever. They’ve never been asked the question, and yet the whole point of me hiring you is to give you a paycheck that is an investment that you would give me a return on.

The very first entry in the book is about, it starts the 10 characteristics of what I call a value-driven professional. And the first characteristic is this: they see themselves as an economic product on the open market. And, Pete, that sounds probably really coarse and really harsh.

Pete Mockaitis
Dehumanizing.

Don Miller
Dehumanizing, yeah. And I would agree with that, it is dehumanizing. But in the reality, God doesn’t see you as somebody with an economic price tag on your head, your spouse doesn’t see you that way, your kids don’t see you that way, I don’t see you that way. Donald Miller doesn’t see you that way. The market, 100%, absolutely sees you that way. It’s just a fact.

If your skillset involves being able to cut up a potato, put it into a metal basket and dip it into oil for three minutes and pull it up, if that’s what you’re capable of doing, you’ve got a $15 an hour number above your head. That’s what you are worth, and that’s a terrible thing to say except when you realize that that same person is in control of what that number is.

So, if they say, “Okay. Well, I know how to deep-fry some potatoes. I’m going to learn how to unify a team around a mission statement and guiding principles so that we’re all aligned. And then I’m also going to learn a business strategy, how to keep cashflow strong, how to keep overhead light, how to keep products profitable, how to get your marketing engine going, your sales engine going, and how to look at cashflow so that we don’t run out of it. And I’m going to master that.”

You, all of a sudden, have gone from 15, to 25, to 45. And if you can do what I just said, at the end of that year, you’re capable of being a CEO with a little bit of practice, so now you’re at $150 an hour. You’re actually in control of that. So, it’s only an offensive statement to say you’re an economic product on the open market if you don’t have control of the number. And what’s amazing is most people don’t realize they have control of the number.

So, when you actually realize that, you start learning the skillsets that allow you to be a good investment. Well, how do people actually get rich? Well, the way people get rich is they’re a great investment. Our company has gone to about $20 million. We did that in five years. No venture capital, no private equity, no bank loans. We’ve gone to $20 million. How did we do that? We did that by making other people $200 million. That’s the only way you make money is you make somebody else more money.

Or, you solve somebody’s problem, or you increase the amount of time that they have. You decrease their frustration. You increase their status. Whatever it is somebody is paying you for, if you just promise yourself, “If somebody gives me 100 bucks an hour, I’m going to make them a thousand bucks an hour.” If you have that mentality, you will be wealthy.

One time an acquaintance, came up to me after a speaking he gave me, he said, “You know, you and I live in the same town. Why don’t you fly home with me?” And I said, “Well, what flight are you on?” And he said, “Well, no, I have an airplane.” The next morning, I get on this $50 million jet with this guy, and I’m asking what he does. He’s a hedge fund manager and blah, blah, blah, and I said, “Well, this is the life, man. I can’t imagine ever living like this.”

And then he said something about, “I was flying one of my clients around and they kind of like this drink and we didn’t have that drink on the plane so we had to stop and get some,” or whatever. He was just telling a story. And I realized, “Oh, he actually has this 50-million private jet because people pay him and he makes them even more money. So, now there’s a guy with some jumbo jet who’s the king of Dubai, or whatever, who actually has even more money.” And you start realizing, “That’s the key.” The key is to be a great investment so you’re giving people a strong return.

And so, when I wrote this book, what I wanted was you start at whatever you’re at, some of you listening are worth $30 an hour, some of you are worth $50 an hour, some of you are worth $12 an hour, you read the first one and you become worth about $5 more. And you read the second one and you become worth about $5 more. You read the third one you become worth about $5 more if you execute it and actually practice these skills in your professional career.

And what I wanted was you start this book being worth $15 an hour, you end it worth being $150 an hour if you actually execute the skills that you learn in the book. I wanted to make people worth more money. But the first thing you got to do, if you want to do that, is admit you’re actually an economic product. If people see themselves that way, they tend to make a ton of money on the open market.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, let’s zoom into a few of these particular skills. Let’s say our audience are professionals. If we want to get quantitative, I mean, incomes vary wildly, but let’s just call it 75 grand a year, and maybe a few years out of their bachelor’s, so just to paint a picture, maybe half have direct reports and half do not. I know it’s a wide audience. But zero in a little bit for us in terms of what is a skill that professionals generally need and is highly valued, and what can we do to get better at it right now?

Don Miller
Well, one of the things you need to do, if you have a boss, let’s just talk to the folks who have a boss, what you want to do is you go to your boss with an idea, and you say, “I want to do this.” What you really need to do is go to your boss with a business case. And my team members know this. Don’t come to me without a business case.

And so, instead of coming to me, and saying, “Don, we really want to launch a new podcast.” Well, they would come to me and say, “Don, we want to launch a new podcast. It’s going to hit this demographic. On that podcast, we’re going to focus on these three products and only these three products. If people buy these three products, we’ll have their email address and we’ll upsell them to these other two products. If the podcast does what our last podcast did, we would anticipate that 2% of the people listening to the podcast would buy these three entry-level items and 5% of those would buy the upsells. So, we’re talking about 6.2 million. We think that that’s going to cost about a million dollars to produce so we should see a profit of about 5.2 million pre-overhead.”

You start talking like that to your boss and they’re going to promote you because almost nobody talks that way. They just go, “I think this is a good idea. Let’s throw spaghetti at the wall and see if it turns into art.” And people who understand business get a little bit tired of that. And so, that’s the sort of thing that this book teaches you to do.

If I just flip open this book and just put my finger down, so I just did it, put my finger down, there’s five pages, this is number 3 on negotiation. Here’s a skill that if you don’t have a boss, or if you do have a boss, it doesn’t matter, almost nobody has taken a course on how to negotiate a contract or negotiate a deal.

So, let me just give you one thing. The page that I turned to is that you need to understand that there’s always something “below the line.” So, you’re negotiating, it’s a package deal, there’s this bestselling author that you want to speak at your conference, they’re $50,000 to take the stage, there is something that that author wants more than money. And if you actually do a little due diligence, you’ll figure it out.

For instance, I’ve done this. I’ve told a bestselling author that I couldn’t afford to bring to one of my conferences, I said, “Look, I’ve written a lot of bestselling books. Would you want to spend about four hours together, just talking about whatever your next book is about? We can maybe outline some chapters of it or we can talk about a marketing plan. I can’t afford to pay you the $125,000 that you are to take the stage, but I would be able to give you four hours, and I think it’d be worth your time.” The person did it for $25,000.

It even gets more fun than that. My buddy runs a poetry week in San Diego, California at Point Loma University. He wanted Billy Collins to come. Now, Billy Collins is my favorite poet. I’m that geeky that I actually have a favorite poet. He’s really funny and he’s brilliant but he’s probably a hundred grand to come speak. He is like a rock star in the poetry world. He was the poet laureate. He’s a professor at NYU. He doesn’t do very many speaking engagements.

So, my buddy started Googling around on the internet because he’s not going to be able to pay $125,000 to have Billy Collins come. He found that Billy Collins is an avid golfer. So, he goes over at Torrey Pines, he can’t get on at Torrey Pines, it’s very hard, and he says, “I want to get Billy Collins to come speak at my thing. How much would it cost for me to get a round of golf to Billy Collins?” “This guy sounds like a rock star. We’d give it to him for free.” He said, “Great.” So, he calls Billy Collins, he said, “Look, I’ll give you $40,000 and a round at Torrey Pines.” And he comes and he does it, and they raised a ton of money.

There’s almost always something below the line in a negotiation. We think we’re having a financial negotiation but we’re human beings. There’s something that people want and value even more than money. And if you can find it, you can negotiate really, really great contracts. So, you go back and you tell your boss you did that, you’re going to get another promotion and another raise. When it’s time to get a raise, they’re going to give you the biggest possible raise. And why? Because you are such a good investment that, “When we give you a paycheck, we get so much more in return.”

We all do this. If you buy stocks, you buy more stocks that are making you more money, and you divest of stocks that are losing you money. And in the open market, people are like stocks. They don’t want to be but they are. And the real pros, not the amateurs, but the pros, they really like that. They actually want to be an investment because they know how to get you a return.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. Thank you. Well, now, I want to hear a lot of things but let’s go with this. Now, what you’re putting forward here totally makes sense to me as a business owner, and I’m thinking about there’s an unfortunate reality in many workplaces that meritocracy, for whatever reasons, is broken or limited or slow, such that let’s say I’ve got a boss and then they do a performance review, and they say, “Wow, Pete, you are just so amazing. This initiative saved us all this money. This other product launch was so successful and profitable. You are just crushing it.” I say, “Well, thank you very much, boss. I appreciate that.” And they say, “And here is your 4% raise for your great performance this year.”

And so, I’m thinking, “Well, as compared to the value I gave you last year, it is miles beyond 4% more,” and then maybe you have the conversation, like, “Hey, it seems like I’m doing these things and I’m making this impact, it would seem appropriate to increase the compensation.” They go, “Oh, you know, Pete, you’re making some sense here, bud, but, unfortunately, with COVID or,” insert excuse, “there’s a hiring freeze or a budget freeze or a pay increase freeze.” So, there’s some kind of a policy something that’s getting in the way of the beauty of value created and compensation for that value created to flow as it should.

How do we deal with that?

Don Miller
Well, that’s a tough thing but when you have the skills to make people money, there’s just one thing you need to do. You need to actually make a business case for yourself. So, you’re not going in and asking for a raise or begging for a raise. If you’re doing that, the person that you’re talking to, the company that you work for, has the leverage. And so, what you really want is you don’t want to compete for the job. You want them to compete for you. And so, if they’re going to keep you and keep making this money, they’re going to have to give you more money.

And if they don’t, if you really are that good, everybody here is an economic product on the open market so you take your skills elsewhere and you charge what you think that you are worth. We have reviews at the end of every year and people get a bonus based on their performance. There are some performers that they’re great, we love them, we give them the most percent, that will be a 5% raise plus they get a bonus based on whether or not we hit our goals as a company. And that’s it.

There are other performers though, for instance my marketing director, we called my marketing director in four months before the end of the year, and said, “Look, we want to give you a 20% raise right now, and at the end of the year we’re going to give you your bonus which is a percentage of your salary as though you would have that 20% all year long.” And he was baffled, he loved it, and he said, “Don, thanks.” Two of my team members called me and said the same. They said, “Thank. This is so generous.”

And I said, “Listen, I hope I’m a generous guy but I want you to understand something. You are so good at making this company money, I have to compete to keep you. I know that some people can come in and get you, and I want you to know that. I want you to know you’re a rock star and if I pay you more, maybe you won’t leave.”

Now, there’s always somebody, some billionaire, who’s going to come in and say, “I’ll pay you some obscene amount of money because I don’t care about the money.” I can’t compete with that person but I can compete in other ways. You like your job, you get great time off, nobody here works really after 5:00 unless they want to. It’s a great environment so I compete in other ways besides money too.

But that’s where you want to get your boss. And let’s say your boss isn’t like that. Well, now you’ve got a resume. You’re going to write your resume completely differently, and the resume is going to be, “If you invest in me, here’s the ways that I can make you money.” And not every company needs the ways that you can make them money, but you’re going to find the ones that you can.

Andrew Grove, who ran Intel for so many years, says that, “Don’t be confused. Every single human being is a company. And you sell your services to other companies in exchange for pay.” Now, I got to tell you also this. We’ve had plenty of these conversations where somebody comes in and they say that to us, they say, “I think I’m worth this. I’ve made the company this much money.”

And in turn we say, “We think you’re worth a 5% raise. We don’t think you’re worth, as an economic investment, you’re two years out of college, you don’t know how to do this, you don’t know how to do that, we’re training you, you’re becoming more valuable but I think you have an inflated idea of the economic value you’re actually worth. If you stay here for two or three more years, I think you’ll learn a lot more. You’ll have more value on the open market.”

We had one person once who got pretty huffy about that and they were pretty upset about it, and they said, “Well, I disagree with you and we’re going to have to have further conversation.” Great. In the next conversation, we said, “Listen, we’re not letting you go, you have two months, we you to find another job. We’re not kidding. We actually think that if we’re going to pay you what you want to be paid, we can get somebody better with more experience on the open market.”

And that person said, “Wait, wait, wait. Hold on. I want to keep my job. I really like it here.” And we said, “Listen, if you come back and you turned in a two weeks’ notice, we’re going to be ticked. If you want to stay here for a couple more years, we will train you, you will get some experience that will make you worth more on the open market.” And that’s what this person decided to do and that is, indeed, what actually happened.

So, you’re going to have disagreements. Almost every employee thinks they’re worth more than their company does, and almost every company is paying somebody more than what they think the person is worth. They think they’re being generous. That tension always exists. But here’s how I want you to see yourself. Always see yourself as an NBA player and negotiating a salary to stay on the basketball team. And you also need to learn what it is that actually makes the basketball team money.

I love the example of JJ Watt, he’s a football player, of course, for the Houston Texas. This is a losing team. They won four games this year. JJ Watt is paid $100 million to play football. And when you watch him, he has negotiated, so during the game they play a certain song and he dances during the game before the snap on this one particular play. Well, why did he negotiate that? Because it gets the crowd riled up and they start chanting JJ Watt, it puts butts in seats, it sells JJ Watt jerseys, it makes the football team money. So, not only is he great as a defensive player, by the way, he’s a defensive player making $100 million.

He figured out how he can make the football team money. He also negotiated that nobody on the sidelines can wear a red baseball cap except for him. So, when he comes off the field, he takes his helmet off, he puts a red baseball cap on. You know why he does that?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, then people can pick him out, like, “Oh, that’s him. That’s JJ.”

Don Miller
Exactly it, so the camera can find him. He has figured it out. Now HEB is a grocery store in the Houston, Texas area that paid him another $100 million to be their spokesperson. So, he’s saying, “Buy your eggs at HEB.” Now, what’s he doing? He figured out how to make Houston Texas money, and he figured out how to make a grocery store money, and he’s worth $200 million. That is called a value-driven professional.

Now, if the team doesn’t want to keep him, he can go to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and say, “Look, this is how much money I make at Houston Texas in jersey sales, when I show up on NFL commercials, when I agree to do at least one interview after the game. This is how much money. It’s not just about football.”

And so, as a value-driven professional, if you’re on the marketing team, you’re going to say, “Listen, I built a sales funnel that it looks like it made $4 million that didn’t exist before I got here. I also do a segment on the company’s podcast that goes on every other episode. The leads from that has turned into another $4 million, so that’s $8 million. You guys paid me $45,000 last year. I made you $8 million in value. I think I’m an $85,000 a year person. But before you say no, let me give you three more ideas that I want to implement that I think will make you another $4 million.” That’s how you negotiate.

Don’t come in and say, “Look, I show up on time, I don’t smell bad, I comb my hair, I make sure I pull my old lunch out of the fridge so it doesn’t rot. I think you owe me 5%.” Nobody is interested in that conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Well, let’s shift gears a smidge away from…so we had that core economic value delivery principle there. You said that your first several installments, videos and pieces of the book, are all about character. Lay it on us.

Don Miller
Well, I kind of wondered, I read these books about character and it’s talked about things like integrity, it talks about things like work ethic. Not that I don’t think that stuff isn’t important. Integrity is incredibly important. But, in my opinion, integrity is a core value of being a human being not of just being a professional. We have places for people who don’t have integrity. We call them prison.

So, you can’t work here unless you have integrity. You can’t work here unless you tell the truth. So, I started thinking, “Hey, what are the ways that real value-driven professionals, people like JJ Watt, what are the ways that they see themselves?” And, amazingly, I got to meet Barack Obama when I was on a White House taskforce. I got to spend time with Michelle Obama, I got to spend time with members of the judiciary, lawmakers, NFL coaches, professional athletes, professional musicians at the highest level. And I was looking for, “What do these people have in common?”

And the 10 core characteristics are very interesting. The first we’ve talked about at length, and that is they really do see themselves as an economic product on the open market. The second is that they see themselves as heroes not victims, so they identify as the hero in the story not the victim in the story, and that’s really critical. At no point will any of these people start feeling sorry for themselves. Heroes don’t feel sorry for themselves. They may not like their challenges but they take their challenges on. And those challenges transform the hero into a better version of themselves.

Victims suck a lot of the energy out of the room. And there are actual real victims in the world. I don’t mean to victim-shame anybody but most of us see ourselves as victims when we’re in fact not. My friend Henry Cloud defines victims as somebody who has no way out. And most of the time in my life where I’ve seen myself as a victim, I actually had plenty of ways out. I was just too discouraged to actually take them. So, we have to make that transformation from victim mindset to a hero mindset.

The third is they know how to deescalate drama. Drama in the workplace costs people a lot of money. And the reason it cost people a lot of money is because it sucks all the energy into the dramatic employee, and it’s that energy they can’t use to make a product or serve a customer. So, people who know how to deescalate drama, they’re actually worth a lot more.

Another one is that they accept feedback as a gift. We just interviewed Mathew McConaughey the other day. He loves criticism. He loves it because it makes him a better actor. Number five is they know the right way to engage conflict. The more you rise as a leader, the more conflict you have to deal with. In fact, the more power you actually have in a company, the more time you spend only dealing with problems. And so, if you understand how to engage conflict and resolve conflict and the ways to do that, you are going to rise because people hire you to solve problems. And the more problems you can solve, the more money they pay you, and the more promotions you get.

Another one, day six, this was on tough for me because I felt it a lot. It was they long to be trusted and respected more than they want to be liked. And leaders who want to be liked, or people and companies who want to be liked, they compromise, they don’t tell the truth. But people who want to be trusted and respected, they tell the truth, they set very clear expectations, and they give people encouragement when they hit those expectations. A lot of people don’t like their coach but they trust and respect that coach to make them a better player. And, in my opinion, that’s an even stronger bond.

Day seven is they have a bias toward action. I’m just going to say it really bluntly, I’ve met a lot of really dumb people who are not very intelligent who are billionaires. And the difference is they take action when other people are still thinking about it. So, a bias towards action is a fantastic competitive advantage.

Day eight is they do not choose to be confused. And this is something my business coach taught me years ago. I was thinking about a problem employee, and I was going over my problems with him and how I wanted to deal with it. And my coach said to me, he said, “Don, you are choosing to be confused.” I said, “What do you mean choosing to be confused?” He said, “Step outside yourself and look at the situation and clearly articulate what you need to do.” And, immediately, I said, “I need to fire him.” He said, “Don, you knew it the whole time. You were choosing to be confused because there’s something you don’t want to do. It’s obvious what you need to do. Stop choosing to be confused.” Isn’t that fantastic?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, I’m going to sit with that. Thank you.

Don Miller
I’ll tell you what, I choose to be very confused about whether a cup of ice cream is good before dinner. I mean, before breakfast. I mean, before going to bed. I choose to be confused about that all the time. The truth is it’s not, right?

So, day nine is be relentlessly optimistic. People who are relentlessly optimistic, they tend to try harder things and not give up when the challenge is greater than they expected. So, optimism actually means you fail more than the average person because you try harder things, but you get so delusional about the fact that you can do it that you keep trying and trying and trying, and you accomplish more than people who don’t try.

Day ten is from Carol Dweck, a professor at Stanford. And she says to us to have a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. And that is believe that you are a human being, always changing, transforming and getting better rather than somebody who is fixed. So, never say anything like, “I’m bad at math.” Really, the way you want to word that is, “I’ve not chosen to study math enough to get very good at it. But, of course, I’m capable of being good at math. I just haven’t chosen to study math.” That’s a fixed mindset, “I’m bad at math,” versus a growth mindset that says, “I’m perfectly capable of being great at math. I just haven’t chosen to study that very much.”

When somebody sees themselves through the growth lens, they tend to escalate in their skillsets much, much quicker than those who feel stuck like they were born bad at math. And she wrote a whole book on that, and it’s fascinating. It’s a fascinating study. In fact, I brought in a teacher for an entire day for my company just to teach everybody in the company a growth mindset. And we’d constantly say, “We don’t know how to do this but let’s all have a growth mindset.” And it’s led to an enormous success for us.

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

Don Miller
There was a guy, well, two guys, who delivered a bed to our house today. And they were in their early 20s, one of them had served in the military. As we talked to each other and I was helping with the bed, and we started telling each other stories and those kinds of things.

I said, “Hey, before you leave, can I just give you a copy of this book Business Made Simple?” And I said, “Listen, I don’t know your story about college, but I didn’t go to college. What I discovered though was a way of making money and being a value-driven professional that allowed me to go around the college system. And I wrote it all down in this book. In 60 days, you can be, whether you went to college or not, so much more valuable than almost anybody around you if you just understand and apply these principles.”

And they looked at me, and said, “Dude, this is amazing because we’ve just been approached by somebody who wants us to start a business with them by buying a warehouse and we would be delivery people and so on and so on.” I said, “That’s a great opportunity. Read this book. Take that opportunity. But let me tell you something. Learn that for about three or four years and then go buy your own warehouse because you need to own the business. That’s the key. And this book will teach you how to run that business, run your friend’s business, and run your own business someday.”

And I almost got choked up with tears in my eyes walking away because that was me. My first job was Popeyes Fried Chicken, my second job was delivering Chinese food, my third job was Kmart, my fourth job was Radio Shack. This is talking about somebody without a degree. And then somebody gave me a shot at a publishing company and I end up running that company and starting my own company.

If somebody would’ve handed me at Popeyes Fried Chicken, this book, I think it might’ve ignited my entrepreneurial imagination and maybe saved me about 15 years of running around not advancing in my career. It really is the hidden staircase. We’re all trying to climb the ladder but there’s a hidden staircase, and I think I’ve written it down in this book.

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

Don Miller
It’s from Victor Frankl. Are you familiar with Victor Frankl?

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hmm.

Don Miller
He saved my life many years ago. About 12 years ago, I read Man’s Search for Meaning, and he saved my life. I’ve been working on a new project that won’t be out till later this year called “Hero on a Mission,” and my brain is stuck in that right now.

But what I love about Viktor Frankl is, and Sigmund Freud at the time Frankl was alive, was going around saying, “The dominant desire of men is to pursue pleasure.” And about the same time, Alfred Adler was going around, more or less interpreting Nietzsche, saying, “The dominant pursuit of men is the pursuit of power.” And Viktor Frankl came along and said, “In my opinion, you’re both wrong. I think the dominant pursuit of men is the pursuit of meaning. Women and men want to experience a deep sense of meaning. And when they can’t find meaning, they numb themselves with power and pleasure.” And I just thought, “That explains our culture.” We don’t have meaning and so we eat ice cream and watch Netflix and entertain ourselves and distract ourselves with social media because we don’t have meaning.

But what I love about Viktor Frankl is he actually gave us a prescription to experience meaning, and it’s existential. You don’t find it in a philosophy book. In fact, he says you can’t find meaning in a book. What you can find is a recipe that if you enact that recipe, that formula, it will give you meaning. And the first was find a product or a project that you can build, something that demands action, that takes your time. Find a community of people who care about you or also spend time in nature. In other words, become involved in something outside yourself, that attracts you and brings you out of yourself and into a reality that you’re not the only person on the planet.

And then the third was find a redemptive perspective for your suffering. And what he meant by that is no matter what sort of painful thing you go through, find something in that pain that’s actually benefiting you. So, maybe it’s humbling you, or maybe it’s making you more empathetic, or maybe it’s building muscle, emotional muscle or physical muscle, whatever it is. And if you do those three things, you’ll experience a deep sense of meaning.

And, lo and behold, about 12 years ago I read that book and started applying what he called logotherapy, a therapy of meaning to my life, and, truly, I have not woken up a single day without experiencing a deep sense of meaning. I’ve woken up really sad, I’ve woken up really tired, I’ve woken up really angry or frustrated, but never ever without a deep sense of meaning. And I am so grateful for his book. It’s been the most eye-opening helpful discovery in my life.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Thank you. Now, could you share a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Don Miller
I actually created my own day planner, and you can get it for free. It’s at HeroOnAMission.com. And I fill up this planner every day and it helps me organize my mind and my time. It’s actually a reflective meditative exercise. I fill it every morning. And that has been the key to my productivity.

Another thing that I found unbelievably helpful was studying story and story structure. My favorite book on story structure, now it’s a 600-page book, typeface smaller than your Bible, is Christopher Booker’s The Seven Basic Plots. But, really, when you study story, you’re studying life, you’re studying what matters in life, and you’re asking yourself all sorts of questions about what kind of story, not what I want to write but what I want to actually live. And with Viktor Frankl, the study and the understanding of story structure has been a fantastic tool that helped me experience more meaning.

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

Don Miller
If you go to BusinessMadeSimple.com, you can read all about what we’re up to. And if you’re interested, go on Amazon and buy Business Made Simple. We’re not sure what they’re charging for it now but it should be about 20 bucks. You get the 60 videos, but if you forward your receipt from Amazon to this address, book@businessmadesimple.com, I’ll send you a free mini course that I created called Zero to Ten. And it’s five videos on how I took my company from zero to 10 million. It’s not as hard as you might think it is to do that but it’s really, really messy. And so, I hope you kind of make your way through the mess in that course. So, you just forward your receipt to book@businessmadesimple.com you get that free mini course.

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

Don Miller
There are four characters in a story normally. Four kinds of characters: hero, victim, villain, and guide. The hero wants something and overcomes challenges; the victim is helpless and exists in the story only to make the hero look good and the villain look bad, the victim doesn’t play any other part in the story; the villain is seeking vengeance; and the guide is the wise sage helping the hero win.

Now, here’s the challenge. Every day, those four characters exist in story because those four characters exist in you, and all four exist at the exact same time. On any given day, you can catch me playing the hero, the victim, the villain, or the guide. I am convinced that the more we identify as the hero or the guide, the better our life goes. And the more we identify as the victim or villain, the worse our life goes. So, if you want to control how your story ends up, spend more time being the hero, more time being the guide, less time being the victim, and less time being the villain, and things are going to go okay. So, the challenge is notice which character you are playing from hour to hour throughout the day.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Don, this has been a treat. I wish you lots of luck in business that you’re making simple, and life, and keep on rocking.

Don Miller
Well, thanks so much for the time. It really is an honor.

596: The Six Skills of Proactive Professionals with Chrissy Scivicque

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Chrissy Scivicque says: "The more we manage the expected, the more capacity we have to deal with the unexpected."

Chrissy Scivicque discusses the crucial set of skills that keep you ahead in your career.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to become 5000% more effective at your job
  2. How to keep the unexpected from blindsiding you
  3. The one question that leads to astounding career growth

About Chrissy

Chrissy Scivicque believes that work can be a nourishing, enriching life experience—and she loves helping professionals discover exactly what that means for them and how to achieve it. Her popular website, EatYourCareer.com, is devoted to this mission. As an award-winning writer, certified career coach and experienced corporate trainer, Chrissy brings a unique perspective to the world of professional development. She is the proud author of The Proactive Professional and The Invisibility Cure.

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Chrissy Scivicque Interview Transcript

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

Chrissy Scivicque
Well, thank you so much for having me, Pete. It’s great to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig in, and I’m also excited that you share my fondness for true crime documentaries.

Chrissy Scivicque
Yes. I’m glad to hear that you also have this morbid interest.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I don’t know. I guess my favorite podcasts are in the true crime realm but they’re not about murder because that feels a little weird for me but, still, I think my wife and I watch like three JonBenét documentaries. Have you seen The Jinx?

Chrissy Scivicque
I haven’t but I’ve actually listened to a podcast about every single episode.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, wow.

Chrissy Scivicque
That’s typically how I prefer to take in my true crime, so I just listen to podcasts. It really is very disturbing. My family is incredibly worried about me. But I think what I’m finding out is that when I disclose this information, so many people say, “Me too,” because we have this kind of morbid curiosity. I think it’s really…I tell myself it’s about problem-solving, that I love a good mystery, and I’m a little bit of an armchair detective, and I figure it’s a problem-solving exercise. That’s what it’s all about.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, the mystery is intriguing. So, you listen to a podcast about every episode of the documentary The Jinx, but you haven’t listened to The Jinx, haven’t watched The Jinx.

Chrissy Scivicque
I did. True crime obsessed, my friends, because we’re all obsessed.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I think that was one of the most compelling ones. I can’t give away the spoiler but, like, I imagine, if you were a documentarian trying to cover a crime, this is like a unicorn dream come true for you.

Chrissy Scivicque
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
Like, “Wow!”

Chrissy Scivicque
There’s nothing better.

Pete Mockaitis
We’ll just leave it at that.

Chrissy Scivicque
I understand The Tiger King is the exact same though.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I haven’t actually watched it.

Chrissy Scivicque
I haven’t either but I’ve listened to a lot about it.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, one of the mysteries that you’ve been working to solve is in the realm of being proactive. You’ve got a great book title, I’m digging it, The Proactive Professional: How to Stop Playing Catch Up and Start Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life!) That’s an appealing promise. So, maybe to get terms clear, how do you define a proactive? And can you make that real for us in terms of, “Here’s what proactive looks like versus reactive”?

Chrissy Scivicque
Yes. So, I define being proactive as doing the right things today to set yourself up for success tomorrow. So, there are so many great examples, and I’m just going to share the one that comes top of mind because I just heard from this individual recently. So, this gentleman reached out to me through LinkedIn, and he shared with me that he read the book last year, and he was happily employed, he was thinking he was going to stay at his company for the next few years, but the book inspired him to be proactive about his career management.

And so, he did things over the past few months. He updated his resume, he got on LinkedIn and he was nurturing his network. He got a professional certification. He did all of these things for, really, just the purpose of being proactive, a just in case sort of thing. And then, recently, 2020 hit, and he was laid off in May. So, he reached out to me, and the reason that he was contacting me, he said, “Chrissy, I’m not freaking out. Instead, I feel prepared for this. I did all of these things, not knowing what the future held, but now I’m ready to launch this job search where I’m looking at my colleagues, they’ve been laid off, and now they’re scrambling trying to update their resumes and do all of these things that I’ve been doing because I’ve been ahead of the game.” So, that’s just a perfect beautiful example of someone being proactive in their career.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And so, that is a great picture right there in terms of if anyone is feeling the stress and wishes that they didn’t, had been proactive, for one person there, got them out of that. So, I’m intrigued. Let’s talk a little bit about the why on a global scale. I couldn’t help myself when we’re talking about being proactive. I think of Stephen Covey and The 7 Habits, with habit one being “Be proactive,” because I had to grab the number. And I don’t actually know what his underlying research base is so maybe you can give us one. But I trust he has one, and this is not hyperbole, but he says, “The difference between people who exercise initiative and those who don’t is really the difference between night and day. I’m not talking about a 25% to 50% difference in effectiveness. I’m talking about a 5,000% plus difference particularly if they are smart, aware, and sensitive to others.” So, 5,000%, 50x, does that sound about right to you? Is that squaring with your research and experience? Unpack that for us.

Chrissy Scivicque
A thousand percent, I couldn’t agree more. I believe that this is the skillset that really differentiates the average professional from the exceptional one, and I see it over and over again. I have researched this for years. I literally started to read about what it means to be proactive 15 years ago. I was working as an executive assistant, and the executive I supported at the time, he used to say, “Be proactive,” I mean multiple times a day. He would say it so frequently that I remember at one point, I was like, “Oh, is he losing his mind? Is he senile? We’ve talked about this a million times.” But, obviously, he was telling me he needed me to improve in that area.

So, I started this research process and I found that Stephen Covey has some great material on this topic, but other than that it is quite limited what’s out there. What we find typically, and what disappointed me in the process, was that business experts and leadership experts and trainers and coaches, everyone was saying, “Be proactive. It’s especially important in the workplace. It’s necessary for success,” but then no one was following it up to say how you actually do that and put it in practical terms. And that’s what I need. When I’m learning, I need practical step-by-step actionable advice, and that’s really what I set out looking for. And I found that I needed to talk to people, and I needed to talk to people who were ahead of the game, they seem to be always two steps ahead of people, and I needed to ask them, “How do you do it?” and break that down.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, that’s a nice way to phrase that, “Always two steps ahead of the game.” And, indeed, to stop playing catchup, which is not fun. It’s sort of an exhausting mental place to be day after day. So, yeah, being, so 50 times as effective and not being stressed and exhausted and feeling behind like you’re catching up sounds like a real big why to deliver on. And I’m glad we’re going to dig into the how there because, you’re right, I think “Be proactive,” I think it’s also sort of like, “Be strategic.”

Stacey Boyle was a guest we had who said, “I kept hearing that.” I was like, “What does that mean and how do I do it?” So, yeah, lay it on us. How does one be proactive? What are sort of the fundamental skills and steps?

Chrissy Scivicque
Yes. Well, what I set out to do when I started this whole project was to create a framework. I’m a big believer in the step-by-step methodology. And so, what I came up with was basically a six-part framework. And so, as I’m digging into what it means to be proactive, I realized that we tend to think about it as being one single skill but, really, what it is, it’s this combination of six different skills.

So, it’s a blend of, I think of them really as cognitive skills and behavioral skills. So, it’s about how you think and it’s also about how you act. So, these six different skills all work together, and I can go through them at a really high level pretty quickly, and then we can dig in as you like from there.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I love it. And I can’t help but think of Liam Neeson right now since we’re going to talk about a particular set of skills, and not for tracking down a kidnapped daughter, and hunting the criminals, but maybe we’ll prevent you from having to do that if you proactively apply these six things.

Chrissy Scivicque
I like the way you’re thinking.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, yes, please, lay it on us.

Chrissy Scivicque
Okay. So, we’ll start with the first one. The first one is big picture understanding. So, big picture understanding is really all about understanding your context, understanding the broad environment in which you’re operating. In the workplace, you need to think about, at the highest level, things like the economy, things that are happening in your industry, things that are happening in your professional field within your organization, within your team. You’ve got to keep an eye on all of that because that’s going to help you to make smart decisions for yourself and your career, and then also just on a day-to-day basis.

So, an example from my own career, I started my career in banking, and that was in the late ‘90s all the way up until 2008, which was just an incredibly turbulent time in the US economy. And it was really important for me to keep an eye on those things happening within our industry and the economy, and to watch that not only for my clients so I could be proactive on their behalf, but also for my own career. And, thankfully, I was able to kind of look out and make some decisions for myself that allowed me to leave the bank where I was working about three years before it became the largest bank failure in American history.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Chrissy Scivicque
And, really fortunate, you know, to be able to take that kind of a proactive step where, unfortunately, so many of my former colleagues lost their livelihood in that process. It was a really disastrous situation. But that’s the importance of the big picture understanding.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’m intrigued there. So, I don’t know if you’re like The Big Short, like you put all the pieces together in terms of this is what’s going to go down. Or, how did you pull that off? Did you know precisely, “Okay, we got a problem with these mortgage-backed securities, and the ratings on them aren’t being…”? What did you know? And how did you get to know it? And how was that enough to say, “Uh-ok, let’s look around elsewhere”?

Chrissy Scivicque
I think it was paying attention. And I don’t want to, in any way, imply that I had some sort of unique knowledge. I don’t think it was that. I think it was just paying attention and really thinking through the implications of some of the things we were seeing. We were seeing extremely low interest rates. We were seeing mortgage standards had been incredibly deteriorated. People were over-leveraged. It was just this confluence of things happening that made me feel uncomfortable.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. Like, something bad may be happening soon-ish that’s going to tend to hurt.

Chrissy Scivicque
Yeah, it’s kind of instinct and paying attention to that, and just the broader environment. I think a lot of people probably did see but they didn’t take action soon enough, and they kind of were hoping for the best, and they saw those same things happening, but one of the biggest problems with people being proactive is that it’s risky. For me to leave a secured job where I was making a lot of money and go somewhere else is a risk and with no guarantee of a successful outcome, and a lot of people don’t want to take risks. They’re willing to kind of wait it out until action is forced upon them. So, that’s the opposite of being proactive though. Being proactive, you’re taking that intelligent risk. You’re taking the information that you glean and making some intelligent choices.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’s cool. So, there we go. First, big picture understanding. And then what?

Chrissy Scivicque
So, then, second, we have situational awareness. So, situational awareness is a term that we typically hear in things like self-defense classes.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I’m thinking about FBI agents, being like, “Count how many lightbulbs there are in the room,” that kind of thing.

Chrissy Scivicque
Totally. Yes, exactly. It plays into our true crime stuff. But that’s exactly what it is, it’s being aware of your immediate surroundings. So, big-picture understanding is the high-level stuff, and then situational awareness kind of narrows it down to say that you’re paying close attention to the immediate things happening around you in the workplace. You’re not going on autopilot. You can’t be proactive if you’re on autopilot. You’ve got to be engaged. You need to be not only physically present but mentally present as well.

And sometimes it’s just really basic things, like you see that your boss is looking stressed out, and you know that he or she has a deadline coming up at 3:00 p.m. today, probably not a great time to barge in and say, “Hey, we got to talk about my career growth opportunities,” right? That’s just being aware of the situation and observing and listening with your eyes and your ears and your head and your heart. Being truly engaged in what you’re doing is a requirement to be proactive.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yes, that’s great. And then I could see all kinds of proactive opportunities already being opened up there, it’s like, “Hey, can I take something off your plate? We’re going to work through lunch, do you want me to grab you something?” It’s like, “I love this person.”

Chrissy Scivicque
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s like, “This is the kind of proactive team member that I want to promote. Or I don’t want to promote because I’ll lose him. I want to give more money to keep him or her.” Something good will happen.

Chrissy Scivicque
Right. When I was an executive assistant, I remember, at first when I was working, I was supporting this leader, and he was notorious for at about 2:30-3:00 o’clock in the afternoon, we used to call him Hurricane Herv because he was just a hurricane. And I would always joke, “Oh, we can downgrade him to a tropical storm.”

But I finally put two and two together, situational awareness, I started to realize, “If he doesn’t have some true breaktime away from his desk, away from just the mental strain of what he’s doing in the middle of the day, by that 2:30-3:00 o’clock time, he’s going to be a hurricane.” So, I started to be more proactive about, “I’m going to block that time on your schedule, I’m going to walk into your office and make sure that you’re taking care of yourself.” And that was something that was additional, that kind of takes me from being the average assistant to being that whatever it was Stephen Covey said, that 5,000% improved assistant.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. And so, now we started the story again. So, then that unfolded, what did Herv say? “Chrissy, you’re just the best ever, and I need to reward you for how wonderful you make my life”? How did that unfold?

Chrissy Scivicque
You know, I did pretty well in that role. I can honestly tell you that my title actually adapted over the time that I was there, and besides being an executive assistant, I also became the director of client communications because that was a key skill of mine that I was able to leverage in that role in kind of an unexpected way, and definitely earned some monetary rewards as well. I think that the biggest reward though is that that partnership that I was able to build with the person that I was supporting. It wasn’t just about checking the boxes and doing the tasks. It was about truly, “How am I helping you to be more valuable? How am I helping you to achieve your goals in unexpected ways, in ways that aren’t necessarily defined in my job description?”

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Okay. So, we got the big-picture understanding, the situational awareness. And then what?

Chrissy Scivicque
And then the third one is future focus. So, this is just about keeping one eye on what’s coming up. So, while you are paying attention in the moment to what’s going on with your situational awareness, you’re also thinking about what’s coming next. So, what’s coming up tomorrow, next week, next month, even next quarter and next year? Thinking about not only the events and the deadlines and those types of things that you need to be managing backwards to figure out what you need to do today to be successful with those things, but also thinking about your own future, and what you want to be building for yourself.

So, if you’re keeping your eye on the future and thinking, “Next year, I’d really like to get a promotion,” well, great. So, that means that this year, there’s things that you should be doing to set yourself up for that. Perhaps getting some more professional development, and perhaps speaking with your manager and finding out what those opportunities might look like, and letting them know what your goals are. So, you’re constantly thinking about the future and working backwards to say, “What do I need to do now so that that future becomes a reality?”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And how about the fourth skill?

Chrissy Scivicque
So, then the fourth one we go into is strategic foresight. So, this is where I think the magic happens. It’s really what connects the dots. So, we start with big picture understanding, big high level. We then go to situational awareness which is all about where we are, future focus is all about where we’re going, and strategic foresight says, “Well, how do I get from here to there?” It connects the dots. It fills in all of those steps.

So, it’s kind of where you’re thinking about what the possibilities of the future might look like, and saying, “Okay. Well, what steps can I take to avoid problems, to leverage opportunities, overcome obstacles?” It’s basically filling in those gaps. Our former Secretary of State, Colin Powell, used to tell leaders to look for people who can see around corners. And that’s what this is. This skill is seeing around corners and figuring out, “Okay, what’s coming next? And what can I do to prepare for that thing that’s coming next?”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, okay. And the fifth skill?

Chrissy Scivicque
The fifth skill is intentional action. So, you’ve gone through all this, you can see what’s coming next, and you then take some action to go ahead and implement. You have more of a kind of a bias to action instead of waiting to have certainty about the future, instead of waiting for someone to direct you or instruct you, you go ahead and you do what you know needs to be done. So, that’s where Stephen Covey talks about taking initiative. That’s what this is, taking initiative, taking that intelligent risk even if it is you know uncertain but you go ahead and you do the right things to get yourself to that next step.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. And sometimes the intelligent risk and the action-taking can be…it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I think with the risk, you say, “Hey, I noticed this and so I went ahead and took the liberty of doing that. Shall I order this thing I found, or should we book this?” As opposed to committing thousands of dollars to something that nobody asked for. You can invest a little bit of time identifying the thing and just asking for the approval.

Chrissy Scivicque
Yes. And sometimes the proactive thing that you can do is opening up the conversation, “I noticed this and I’m thinking that we can do this.” So, I don’t want to ever encourage anyone to take unnecessarily risky steps in the spirit of being proactive. Sometimes it really is just opening up that conversation, having a proactive conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And what’s the sixth and final skill?

Chrissy Scivicque
And then the final one is self-evaluation. So, this is where you look at how this is all working out for you, as Dr. Phil says, “How is it working out for you?” And asking yourself, “Am I staying ahead of things or are things catching me off guard?” And when things catch you off guard, asking, “Okay, was there something that I missed? Should I have seen this coming? Should I have done something different to prepare for this?” And in all of that, you develop these lessons and this new understanding that then goes right back into your big picture understanding. So, it’s all this wonderful beautiful cycle that continues.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, this is great stuff, and I kind of went a little bit quickly through the six skills, or asked you to go through them quickly, because I guess I want to see them all in action from one through six. And, in terms of an example, if I could, I might put you on the spot in terms of, okay, this podcast. You did your homework, and you may already have noticed some things that I should do or you could do, or you might recommend that I have somebody do. So, if I could, could I put you on the spot? And it’s okay if we get it wrong or you mis-assume. But could you maybe give us a demo from one through six, big picture understanding, “Hey, Pete and How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast, what are some proactive stuff one might do?”

Chrissy Scivicque
Interesting, Pete. I like this little thought experiment. Okay. Well, I think that we’re in a really interesting time to think about big picture understanding, right? Thinking broadly about everything that’s going on, you might want to think about how all of this work-from-home stuff is potentially going to impact what it means to be awesome at your job, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly.

Chrissy Scivicque
So, big picture, thinking about that and thinking about how perhaps the needs of your audience are changing.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly.

Chrissy Scivicque
Situational awareness would just be you’re continuing to look for immediate feedback from your audience, and interaction with them to find out what’s really speaking to them, especially right now in this time. Future focus, continuing to think about where you want your podcast to go for you and for your audience. And the strategic foresight piece would be connecting those dots, “Okay. Well, where we are right now and giving people what they need right now in this moment, how can we also be setting ourselves up for where we’re going in the future and how we’re expanding as a brand and our offerings?” Taking intentional action? Doing it, getting going, moving fast on it, so that you’re making moves. And then self-evaluation, always just looking back and thinking about, “Okay, what worked, what didn’t, what can we tweak for next time?”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Great. Thank you. And so then, I’d love another example in terms of…that was one piece of listener feedback when you said, “I love it when you ask, ‘Can you give me another example?’”

Chrissy Scivicque
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
So, here we’re doing it, we’re taking some intentional action.

Chrissy Scivicque
Perfect.

Pete Mockaitis
So, we heard about Hurricane Herv and the support you offered there. We heard about for me and the podcast and some proactive things to do. Could you tell us a fun story about someone who made the leap from, yeah, mostly reactive to mostly proactive and saw some great things happen through taking the six steps?

Chrissy Scivicque
Yeah, I have so many fun stories. I work a lot with support professionals and administrative professionals. As I said, I’m a very proud former executive assistant myself. So, last year, in fact, I worked with an executive assistant, she reached out to me when she had just been promoted to supporting someone in the C-suite at a global technology firm. It was her first time supporting at that level so she really wanted to set herself up for success, and really go in there with a strategic plan for how she was going to stay two steps ahead of this incredibly busy and very powerful woman she was going to be supporting.

And so, we developed together, essentially, kind of an interview list, some questions, again, that proactive piece being opening a conversation, some questions for her to ask and discuss with her new partner in the first few days of working together. And these were questions like, “What’s your preferred communication mode? What’s your communication style? How do you typically deal with stress? And how can I best support you when you’re under stress?” These great, high-level questions about how they can build this partnership.

And so, the new assistant had this conversation, and the executive was just floored by this approach and loved it so much that she said, “I want you to go and have this same conversation with these other executive leaders that you’re also going to be working with in this role, and do this exact same thing with them. And then let’s teach the other assistants to do this as well.” It’s a proactive approach to developing a relationship. You can apply the proactive approach to any aspect of your career: relationships, career management, tasks management, customer service. Everything.

Pete Mockaitis
I love that so much. And we had Mary Abbajay on the show talking about managing up, and this being sort of just a super powerful action that any professional can take. And in her experience, fewer than 1% do, to say, “Hey, what are your preferences in these ways?” And in so doing, I love it because a lot of people, when I suggested this, “Oh, that’s kind of weird.” It’s like, “It’s only weird because you haven’t done it, and it’s only weird because now you’ve been working with the person for two years, you feel like maybe you should’ve done it earlier. Now, why are we talking about this now?”

So, it’s just weird because it’s different but it doesn’t mean it’s bad. And so, in fact, being on the receiving end of that, I can tell you I just love it as a manager/leader. And you’re telling, with that story, that this senior executive loved it so much, she said, “Please spread this far and wide. This is fantastic.” And then other senior leaders made the time to do that with delight as opposed to, “Oh, why are we doing this? I’m too busy.” It’s all positive when you go there.

Chrissy Scivicque
Yes, absolutely. It sets you up for success, and that’s what I think is also important when you’re framing the conversation is that you’re letting them know that, “This is about designing the partnership that’s going to work for both of us, that’s going to allow me to be a better support for you.” And so, if they understand the value of taking that time, they’re much more willing to do it.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, so then, tell us, if we’re trying to get going with our proactive selves and practicing these six skills, are there some top best practices and worst practices we should keep in mind to maximize our progress in building these skills?

Chrissy Scivicque
Absolutely. Yes. So, I would say the best and easiest thing you can do right now, aside from anything else we’ve talked about, if you’d just only do one thing, start asking yourself with everything you do, “What’s next? What else? What’s the next question? What’s the next need?” And then go ahead and answer that question or provide for that need before it is specifically asked for or requested.

So, I’ll give you a quick example of this because I look for it everywhere I go, and once I give this example, I’m betting you will too. So, customer service is a really easy place to see this. A lot of customer service people, unfortunately, they end up being very reactive, they only answer the specific question you ask, they are order-takers. And when they are more proactive and do this answering the next question thing, it’s very powerful and you notice it right away.

So, last year, I was in a hotel in Las Vegas, and I woke up at 5:00 in the morning, called down to the front desk, and I said, “Hey, do you have a Starbucks in the lobby?” And the front desk agent said, “Yes, we do.” And I was getting ready to say, “Great. Thanks,” and hang up the phone and head downstairs in my PJs to get my coffee, and then he stopped, and he said, “And it doesn’t open until 6:00.” So, he gave me this additional information that I didn’t think to ask. It was 5:00 a.m. in the morning, I’m not thinking about that. I’m just asking, “If you’ve got the Starbucks,” but he gave me the information that I really needed before I even thought to ask for it myself. And thank goodness because I didn’t want to be walking down there in my PJs for it to be closed.

And so, when you start to see that, and you go, “That was really proactive.” It’s a super small teeny tiny little thing, but thank goodness. And we can do that for our clients, we can do that for our managers, we can do that for our colleagues, even if they aren’t asking the direct question, even if they aren’t saying the direct thing they need, we know it a lot of the times. We have to own our own expertise, and say, “I know what it is that you aren’t thinking to ask. Let me go ahead and give you the information you need, and let me go ahead and get you that thing that you aren’t thinking of that you need.” We can do that.

And all it is, it’s that simple shift of starting to think about, “What else? What next?”

Pete Mockaitis
What’s so great about that example is, you’re right, anyone can do it, and there’s situational awareness in terms of, “Oh, I have a feeling I know what you’re driving at, it’s that you would like to have caffeine inside of you.” And then that’s so simple, “And it doesn’t open until 6:00.” And I guess, boy, this is a continuum. You can go all the way the distance in terms of, “However, there’s one across the street which is open right now.” And it’s like, “Okay.” Or you can take it even further in terms of, “You know, our staff is happy to acquire that for you and bring it up to your room. What would you prefer?”

And you can sort of then choose for yourself in terms of, “Hey, given my availability and my bandwidth and my boundaries and what’s appropriate, I can sort of draw the best line as opposed to just sort of defaulting to question answered. We are done now.”

Chrissy Scivicque
Right. It really puts you in a very powerful place of being, of true service to people. This is a skill that is trained at the Disney University. I don’t know if you’ve heard the story that the most common question that Disney cast members at Disneyland hear is, “What time is the 3:00 o’clock parade?”

Pete Mockaitis
“Where is the bathroom?”

Chrissy Scivicque
“Where is the bathroom?” is probably pretty common too. But, “What time is the 3:00 o’clock parade?” They don’t really mean that. The 3:00 o’clock parade is at 3:00 o’clock. Duh. But they’re frazzled and they’re pulled in a million directions, and, really, they want to know, “What’s the best place to watch the parade? What time will the parade get to me where I’m standing right now?” They’ve been standing in the hot sun in lines for hours so they’re not thinking clearly.

And Disney guest service people are taught to anticipate the true need. Don’t just answer that the 3:00 o’clock parade is at 3:00 o’clock. Give them what they really need and find that out. Inquire. Have some proactive conversations with them and anticipate their needs, “Well, right around here, if you watch from here, it passes by at 3:15 but I’d go over there by the ice cream shop.” Give them what they really need. You know what they need. They don’t know. They’re frazzled.

Pete Mockaitis
And what’s great about that example is that your knee-jerk reaction, “That’s 3:00 o’clock, idiot,” in terms of, it’s like, “Why are you bothering me with this?” You can very much take an indignance sort of selfish knee-jerk reaction to it. But I think it’s also it just feels better from a humanity, happiness, energy experience in terms of thinking and operating that way, not so much, “How can I get through this interaction as quickly as possible because I have too much to do and I’m exhausted and frazzled to, ‘Oh, this person has a need, and I have an opportunity to delight them’?”

And I don’t want to seem too, I don’t know, Pollyanna or unrealistic, but I really did, with my first job, it was at Kmart, my first job like with the normal I delivered newspapers and did lawn stuff, but in terms of like a paycheck was at Kmart. They called me Pantry Pete because I worked in the pantry, that’s why.

Chrissy Scivicque
It’s good to have a nickname. Always good.

Pete Mockaitis
And I remember, they said in one of our training videos that we had the power to please, which meant like doing substitutions in terms of, “Oh, we’re all out of the 24-pack of Pepsi, that sale, but we can give them two 12 packs at the 24-pack price.” So, I just thought that was the coolest thing, one, because I’m 17 and I don’t have a lot of authority in a lot of ways, and that was just kind of cool, like, “Oh, I could do that. Yeah, power.” And, two, it was really nifty that it kind of got my creative service juices flowing, and it really was fun in terms of, “Oh, how could I delight someone?” It’s like, “Oh, we don’t have that, but you know what, there’s this other brand of thing which is almost really it’s the same thing. It’s nuts and caramel corn in a bag.” I could define that it’s just about what you’re after, it’s like, “Oh, I never heard of that. Okay. I guess Poppycock, Fiddle Faddle, Cracker Jack.”

Chrissy Scivicque
Same difference.

Pete Mockaitis
Pretty close.

Chrissy Scivicque
It’s great though. It brings us back to that big picture understanding, right, because it reminds you of your big picture purpose in your role. Pantry Pete is there to help delight customers and get them what they need. And so, you’re then given the power to proactively prevent a customer from being dissatisfied, so I love that. I think Disney does the same thing, right? It reminds their employees, “Big picture, we’re here to make magic, and these people have paid a ridiculous sum of money to be here. So, any opportunity you have to make magic, let’s do it even in super small ways. Answering the 3:00 o’clock parade question, you can make magic.” So, I think companies get it right when they empower their employees to do those kinds of things.

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

Chrissy Scivicque
I think I’ll just add that one of the things I hear frequently from people when they go through my training or they read the book, they come back and they tell me about the moment that it happens, that finally their boss or whoever finally says, “You read my mind,” because it’s such a powerful moment when you’re able to proactively anticipate someone’s needs and you come off looking like a mind reader. And I think that’s one of the coolest things about learning to be proactive is that you start to get that kind of reputation, “Oh, I’m a mind reader. I can figure out what you need before you even know you need it.”

And the first time that happens, it feels so good. And I’m not suggesting that I’m really teaching you how to be psychic. We never really know what the future holds, but we can always take some proactive steps to set ourselves up for success. So, I love that. And if you get that, anyone listening, if you get that moment when somebody tells you, “You read my mind,” and it feels great, let me know about it. I love it.

Pete Mockaitis
And, boy, that’s just powerful in so many domains in terms of what’s up with your colleagues as well as I’m thinking about marketing now in terms of, well, the term mind reading makes me think of I took Ramit Sethi’s copywriting course, and there’s some useful stuff. And he talked about trying to understand people’s hopes and dreams, fears and pains, and barriers and obstacles. And, sure enough, once you get some of that, it’s like, “Oh, hey, I made content that’s quite relevant to you.” And that is really fun when you get those emails, like, “Yes, that’s exactly what I wanted.”

And then even when you’re making a landing page or a marketing communication or whatever, it’s just so much more resonant in terms of, “Yes, that is what I need. You, you get me. You read my mind.” And so, whether you’re collaborating, you’re marketing, you’re selling, you’re just being a great partner and friend.

Chrissy Scivicque
Yes, personal life as well, absolutely. Yes, we can be proactive for one another. We’re on the bus and we see somebody who needs a seat, we can stand up before they have to ask or beg for it. We can be proactive in literally every single aspect of our lives.

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

Chrissy Scivicque
Yes. So, the biggest one that I rely on, this comes from Nelson Mandela, and he says, “Let your choices come from your hopes, not your fears.” And I hope to live my life like that. I don’t want to ever look back and regret that I didn’t do something because I was afraid. And I always encourage my coaching clients to do the same. Aim for what you hope for.

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

Chrissy Scivicque
I love the marshmallow study…

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yes.

Chrissy Scivicque
…where there’s kids and they’re given the option, “If you can not eat this one marshmallow, when I come back in 15 minutes, I’ll give you two.” And it’s all about the ability to delay gratification and self-manage. They followed the kids and what we find is that, with these skills, you have more success in life. The kids who were able to not eat the one marshmallow, and they earned the two marshmallows, they scored better on their SATs, and they were better at stress management. So, those are really important skills, they’re learnable skills, but they’re really great requirements for success in life and at work.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Chrissy Scivicque
The newest one that’s been added to my list is called Work Clean by Dan Charnas, I believe is the last name. And it’s such a fresh perspective on the topic of organization. He basically talks to and researches with world-renowned chefs, and talks about them working in these incredibly busy restaurant kitchens and how they manage the physical environment and create systems to be able to do that. So, it’s a really new idea, new way of looking at cleanliness and organization, and he applies it to the corporate world, which is really cool.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite tool?

Chrissy Scivicque
I’m going to go old school on you, and I’m going to say good ole paper and pen, the Bullet Journal method. Ryder Carroll just did a book on this recently, and I’m loving it. Right now, I use a lot of tech systems, obviously, for just running my business, and sometimes I don’t want to look at another screen. I just love having my Bullet Journal.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite habit?

Chrissy Scivicque
I’m going to give you probably an unusual one. I am a doodler, and I think that doodling is…I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. Every piece of paper, literally, that I’m looking at in front of me right now is covered in doodles. It’s a very relaxing habit. I know that it helps me to concentrate and listen more, particularly if I’m in a learning environment. So, as a trainer, whenever I see somebody doodling, I don’t mind it. I know it’s a really helpful way to kind of distract one part of the brain to concentrate on something else.

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

Chrissy Scivicque
Yeah, probably the one that I hear repeated most is that the more we manage the expected, the more capacity we have to deal with the unexpected. So, it gets back to the idea that certain things in the workplace are absolutely expected and predictable, and we want to manage those things as much as possible because crazy, unexpected things are going to come up. And when they do, we need to have capacity to deal with them. So, go ahead and manage anything that’s expected so that you can have that capacity to deal with the unexpected.

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

Chrissy Scivicque
I would love it if they would go to EatYourCareer.com. And you can check out my blog, you can join me for free training webinars, Q&A sessions, all sorts of great materials there for you.

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

Chrissy Scivicque
Final call to action is to trust yourself and trust your experience and your expertise, and realize that much of the time you know what to do. You don’t need to wait for anyone to give you permission or instruction. You have the figure-it-out skill, so trust yourself and be proactive, and just do it.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Chrissy, this has been a treat. I wish you much luck in all the ways you’re proactive.

Chrissy Scivicque
Thank you so much, Pete. It’s been great to be here with you.

593: Why Hard Work Isn’t Enough: Insights on Developing Your Career with Patty Azzarello

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Patty Azzarello shares three simple steps to finding more success and satisfaction in your career.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The top reason most people get stuck in their careers
  2. Why results don’t speak for themselves
  3. How a simple email can forge powerful relationships

About Patty

Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She has more than 25+ years of experience working in high tech and business. She has held leadership roles in General Management, Marketing, Software Product Development and Sales. She has been successful in running and transforming large and small businesses, and has significant international management experience.

She is the founder of Azzarello Group, which works with CEOs and leadership teams to help their businesses (and people) get better at what they do. She is the author of the best selling books: RISE: 3 Practical Steps to Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader (and Liking Your Life), and MOVE: How Decisive Leaders Execute Strategy Despite Obstacles, Setbacks, and Stalls.

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you Sponsors!

Patty Azzarello Interview Transcript

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

Patty Azzarello
Hi, Pete. It’s great to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, we’re going to be talking about how to… I love the forced awkward segue. We’re going to be talking about how to rock out in your career and to rise, but you actually have some history in an actual rock and roll band. Tell us this story first.

Patty Azzarello
That is stating it a little bit generously. I started my own company 12 years ago and I created an advisory board for my company. And as I was putting the board together, one of the people noticed that, “You know, we could form a band.” There was a drummer, there was a keyboard player, there was a lead guitar player, and I describe myself as a willing singer. I’m not a great singer but I’m a willing singer. So, we got a rhythm guitar player and a bass guitar player to fill it out, and we were together for a couple years. We played a handful of gigs. It was super fun. It was just super, super fun.

Pete Mockaitis
One of the funnest parts about bands are their names. What name did you go with?

Patty Azzarello
You know, we never named our band.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, wow.

Patty Azzarello
We never named it.

Pete Mockaitis
And that’s even cooler.

Patty Azzarello
My business is called Azzarello Group. We just would call it The Azzarello Group band. It was sad.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it looks like you rose to power even in that context. Like, your name was the one that got to be on the band, so we’ve got some things to learn from you. So, you’ve done a whole lot of work and research in zeroing in on why some people rise or do not rise in their careers. And this is a fascinating topic. We had Carter Cast, he was a professor at Northwestern who talked about five career derailers. And you’ve got some insights yourself. So, lay it on us. Maybe could you start us off by what’s perhaps the most fascinating and surprising discovery you’ve made about what makes the difference between those who rise and those who don’t?

Patty Azzarello
Well, I think the thing that gets most people tripped up is that working hard is not the answer.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Sweet.

Patty Azzarello
Like, just being great at delivering on your job description does not make you stand out. It helps you not get fired. But I find that people, they put their head down and they work super, super hard, and they do an excellent job, and they just have the sense that if the world is fair, they’re going to get tapped on the shoulder, and they’re going to get noticed, and they’re going to rise. But it doesn’t work that way. And it’s simply because everyone else is too busy to go find you and learn about what you’re doing, and you have to figure out how to advocate for yourself in a positive and productive way if you want to stand out and if you want to get the recognition necessary to get ahead.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, hardworking alone doesn’t cut it. Delivering well on the things on your job description doesn’t cut it. So, it sounds like you’re saying that’s necessary, like you need to do the thing that you were hired to do. And your book has three key sections: do better, look better, and connect better. So, do better, is that about the actual performance of your job?

Patty Azzarello
Yeah. So, if we just take the model very, very quickly, there are three parts to it, and the thing that a lot of people miss, and I missed in my own career before I learned this. I wish I had my book in the beginning of my career. It would have made things a lot easier than having to stumble and figure it out along the way. But I think the issue is that those three parts are all critical, and a lot of people just focus on the work. They only focus on the work.

So, do better is not just about delivering on your job description, but it’s about making sure that you are delivering value, and you’re not judging your value by being busy. You’re judging your value by, “Am I really delivering things of high value?” Look better is about your reputation and making sure you’re not invisible, because if you’re invisible, you don’t get noticed, you don’t get promoted. And it’s not about being political at all. It’s about communicating in the right way about your work, so you are sharing the value that you deliver. And then, connect better is simply about meeting support. The most successful people are the ones who get the most help. They’re not the ones that are so brilliant all on their own that they can just soar with their own efforts. And being able to get help and ask for help, and build the network and support you need is a critical skill.

It’s funny, every once in a while, when I’m on a stage and there’s questions from the audience, I get the question “Patty, do you have any natural tendencies or habits or traits that think helped you in your own career success?” And the first thing that always comes to mind is a willingness to ask for help. One of my superpowers is just asking for help, learning from smart people, accepting help, putting that help into practice, and I couldn’t have done any of the things that I did without people helping me.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, excellent. So, that’s a nice little overview there in terms of the three components: do better, look better, connect better. I want to touch upon each of them in some level of depth. I’m curious, would you say that if your goal is to rise in terms of to be promoted, to earn more money, to get a cooler, more high-visibility, high-impact, sexier, if you will, projects, if that’s what you’re up to, then would you say that the do better, look better, connect better are of equal importance? Or if you had to do 100% allocation, how would you split it up?

Patty Azzarello
The most important thing is to make sure that none of those are zero.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Patty Azzarello
It’s not that you have to have a particular balance or have the same balance at any point in time. But if you think it’s just all about the work, and the other two things aren’t important, you’re going to get stuck.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, I like that view, it’s like make sure that nothing is zero because I see a spreadsheet in my mind’s eye in terms of, “Okay, I can multiply three things, like zero to 100. So, then the product of these three figures could be anywhere from zero to one million, one hundred times a hundred times a hundred.” And, sure enough, anything multiplied by zero is zero. So, even if there’s a master of someone who looks really awesome and connects just fantastically, if their actual ability to produce the work is at zero, then they’re going to kind of hit a brick wall pretty soon, in terms of like, “Hey, we gave you this because we love you and you know all the people, but you didn’t even do it. I can’t trust you anymore.” So, the rise concludes. So, that’s handy. Make sure none of them are zero.

And I’m sort of imagining, if I multiply them out, what’s that look like? And maybe I’m not at zero but I’m like at two of a hundred in terms of like connecting. So, that’s really a bottleneck. Well, that’s my mathematical brain. You said avoid zero, that’s where I went. So, let’s dig in then. So, with do better, you mentioned that it’s not about being busy. It’s about value. And value is…well, hey, I’m a former strategy consultant, so that’s a word that can fall into jargon territory pretty quickly. What do you mean by value and how do we identify whether we’re doing something that’s high value or low value?

Patty Azzarello
Well, if you think about how you end up spending your work days, there’s a lot of crap that filters in. And the first step is to identify the low-value activities, to identify the chaotic, repetitive, low-value activities, and just develop this habit of saying, “This is not worth this much time.” If you can just develop that habit, and not let yourself get swept away in a bunch of low-value activity, by definition, what you do work on is going to have more value.

But beyond that, I think it’s really important to look at what you’re working on and give yourself some time to think about it, and assess it, and judge it, and look at it, and say, “Where is the value coming from? Is this helping customers? Is this creating efficiency? Is this helping us all communicate better? What are the good things of value that are happening when I complete this work?” And I find when you start thinking about that, you start having the ability to add more value.

Now, if you want to go right to the heart of value, understand the P&L of your business, understand the business model, understand where the company makes money, understand where the revenue comes from, where the profit comes from, where the costs are. And the more you understand that, you might have a job as an individual contributor in a customer service or support department, but when you start thinking about the P&L of the business and the P&L of service and support, you start to realize, “If I could serve customers faster and better, that’s value.” Like, just turning the crank and doing, answering the same question over and over again is doing your job. But thinking about it, and saying, “I’ve answered this question 47 times in the past two days. Maybe I’ll suggest getting to the root cause of it so we can avoid that question entirely and the organization spends zero time asking that question.”

So, no matter where you are, what level you’re at, what role you’re in, you can always be looking at how the work is done, and thinking of ways to improve it, and to make it better. And that’s what I mean by value.

Pete Mockaitis
And that’s really great in terms of, you know, I think there was a Dilbert book called Always Postpone Meetings with Time-Wasting Morons. And so, not to be pejorative of…every human being has intrinsic value. But some activities certainly, and some meetings certainly, just don’t do much, or maybe even do negative value adding. And so, one, I think just sort of having your radar up, and saying, “Huh, how is this good and useful?”

And then, sometimes, it’s like, “You know what? No one’s asked that question in five years, and we should’ve stopped doing this a long time ago now that you mentioned it.” That can sometimes be the outcome of just having that habit of regularly questioning. And I’m thinking, even if you’re not in a business organization, the value could be governmentally, sort of serving constituents or nonprofit, like fulfilling the mission and the impact metrics that you’re after there. So, roger, you’re thinking about that, what’s viable, what’s not so viable, what is the good this results in.

And I think, often, it’s great to, I’d love your take on this, to diplomatically ask those sorts of questions. I mean, you probably don’t want to say, “Does anyone care about this crap anyway?” But you do kind of want to educate yourself and get perspective on how something is viable or not viable. So, do you have any pro tips or scripts for how we ask that question without insulting people?

Patty Azzarello
Yeah. So, in two directions here. So, this happens so frequently, an executive will ask somebody to do something, and the person runs off and starts doing it because they believe they have to do it best and immediately because an executive asked, therefore, it’s super important, just because the executive asked for it. That is so not true. Executives ask for things all the time, and they have no idea what they’re asking for. They just have no idea of the costs of asking a question.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, intriguing. So, you’re saying they know what they want but they have no idea what the cost is.

Patty Azzarello
Right. So, an example is, when I was an executive, I asked my financial manager, “What is the headcount of our organization?” in the hallway, and I expected him to say, “Eleven hundred and thirty-seven.” And he said, “Well, it depends.” I’m like, “What do you mean?”

And he said, “Well, if you want an answer that is 90%-95% accurate, I can probably get that to you by the end of the day. But if you want it more like 97% accurate, I’ll have to wait till tomorrow morning because I’ll have to pull the organizations in Europe and Asia, and that might take even two days. But if you need it really accurately, it’ll probably take about two weeks because we’ll have to pull all of the open job wrecks, and all of the reports of people who are leaving, and rationalize that.” And my head was just exploding, thinking, “Oh, my God, don’t do any of that. Like, I literally thought you could answer my question in the moment.” And I said, “Do the shortest one. Do the shortest one.”

And so, a great way to match the value of a work to the time you invest in it, and make sure there’s a good match there, is to simply ask yourself the question, ask the executive the question, before you start working, “How much time and effort is this outcome worth? Is it worth an hour? Is it worth a week? Is it worth a half a day?” And if you can really understand that upfront, you’re going to do a much better job and you’re not going to be running around in circles wasting time.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, I tell you, that’s such a powerful question. I love the way you articulated that because it can vary massively, and you have no idea. And just assuming it’s at one level is bad news. Like, sometimes the answer is, “It is worth more than your entire annual compensation package to nail this perfectly.”

Patty Azzarello
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, okay, then. And then other times it’s like, “Oh, I mean, please spend no more than 10 minutes doing what you can do on this.”

Patty Azzarello
Yeah. But just because an executive asked doesn’t mean it’s like your life is dependent on doing it great and immediately.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Perfect. And so, under do better, you make a point that we should become less busy. That sounds appealing, and we kind of mentioned we should become less busy just by eliminating low-value activities. Do you have additional reasons for why we should become less busy?

Patty Azzarello
Well, so first and foremost, if you burn up all of your time on delivering just what’s in your job description and you’re overwhelmed by it, look better and connect better are going to be zero.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Patty Azzarello
So, first and foremost, it’s important to be less busy for that. But it’s also important to be less busy because you’re a human being that has a life outside of work that also matters, and just grinding yourself up in your work is not my definition of success. My definition of success is that your job has to fit into your life in a way that your life works. And a big part of that is being less busy. And if you’re so busy, you’re not adding as much value as you could because you’re just not thinking about it.

So, the advice I give in terms of how to become less busy, there’s a ton of advice in my book Rise which we don’t have time to go through all of it here, but the one thing that I think is a must to start thinking about is what I refer to as ruthless priorities. And what I mean by ruthless priorities is to be very ruthless on choosing them, and then be very ruthless about protecting them and actually getting them done. And so, if you’ve got 25 things, 25 super-duper important priorities on your task list, you’re not going to get them all done. You’re just not. No one ever does. But if you try to start saying, “I’m going to put these in rank order, or I’m going to draw a cut line,” your head starts to explode because everything seems so important you just feel like you got to do it all.

What I like to do in that case is go through each one and ask the question, not, “Is this important?” but “How bad would it be if I failed at this?” And I find if you ask that of your 25 things, there’s going to be a couple that suddenly rise to the top. And that’s one way to choose your ruthless priorities. But choosing a ruthless priority does not mean you don’t do anything else. It just means that you have one or two things, you’re not going to have 25 or even five ruthless priorities, you’re going to have one or two, and you’re going to protect them, and you’re going to commit to yourself, “No matter what, I’m going to get that one done. No matter what else is happening in the world, I am going to get this one thing done, and I’m going to protect it.”

And, typically, if you choose one thing, it doesn’t take up 100% of your time, so you have the rest of your time to deal with all the flak and other stuff that you still have to do, but you wake up every morning, and you say, “I am going to de-risk that ruthless priority,” and then you finish it. Hallelujah! Like, people love to finish things. And then you pick the next one. And I find that by doing and focusing in a ruthless way on one important thing at a time, you can sort of cut through the chaos, and even if you stay very busy, you’re getting the high-value thing done, and the busyness is not getting you stuck anymore.

Pete Mockaitis
And, actually, I want to zero in on the Hallelujah portion of that because I think that what’s great about that ruthless-prioritizing question there is by taking the time to surface your own kind of emotional anxiety, angst, associations with the to-do list, and then nailing the things that, in a way, have the most hidden terror embedded within them, you really will experience a sense of release and freedom and urgency, stress, anxiety leaving you.

And this happened to me many times. Like, I’ve just been surprised, like, “Oh, I feel so much lighter now that that is done, and I don’t think I even knew that I would feel that way.” But, now, with your question, I will probably more frequently be able to identify that in advance and bring into the prioritization. Very cool.

Okay. Well, let’s talk about looking better. Yeah, how do we do that?

Patty Azzarello
I love a comment. I got an email from a woman in the UK who said, “Patty, I read your book Rise, and I got two pay raises and a promotion.”

Pete Mockaitis
There you go.

Patty Azzarello
I was like, “Wow! Like, what did you do? What did you learn? Tell me more.” So, I sent her an email, and she came back and she said, “It was the look better part.” She had been kind of at a zero on look better. She was in a marketing company, and she was in charge of events, getting people to events. And she was growing the event business for two years. She tirelessly worked to grow their event business, and she was in a meeting with the CEO.

And the CEO looked at the spreadsheet, and said, “Huh, I thought, in general, the event business, the event market was declining. I guess it’s not, because our numbers look good.” And her valiant efforts were invisible. He just assumed he had made a wrong assumption about the market, and their event business was growing because the market was growing.

Pete Mockaitis
Au contraire.

Patty Azzarello
And it was such a wakeup call for her to hear from my work that you have to be an advocate for the value that your work creates. And so, she immediately started communicating about all the things she learned about how to grow their event business ahead of a declining market and make it a growing business for them. And she didn’t just run around bragging, “Look what I did,” but she shared meaningful nuggets of work that other people could learn from, and suddenly she got that positive visibility, and her career just took off with more pay and promotions because she connected the dots.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Boy, that is very illustrative in terms of just the assumptions people make about why even if you’re doing amazing work that’s creating amazing results, you think, “Hey, the results speak for themselves.” They don’t. We’re just making it. Even when the executive had that context of, “Oh, I thought that market was declining. Well, I guess it’s not.” Yeah, that’s excellent. So, point taken. You got to share that with people. And I guess do you have some pro tips on how that happens?

Patty Azzarello
Yeah. So, there’s a chapter in the book that’s titled “Be visible but not annoying.” And this is where I really want to emphasize again that I’m not talking about being political, and I’m not talking about just having a good talking game without results to back it up. The results absolutely do matter. But the thing that people struggle with is, “Oh, I don’t want to be self-promoting. I don’t want to come off like I’m bragging. I don’t want to be annoying.”

The reality is if you have those concerns and fears, you’re never going to be annoying. You don’t have it in your DNA, so I try to get people to stop worrying about it. But we all know people who are advocating for themselves and their careers absent of results, and that is super annoying. The magic formula here is simply to ask yourself, “Is what I communicate of value to the people I share it with?” And if the answer is yes, you’re not being annoying. So, you don’t just around saying, “Look what I did.” You run around saying, “Look at what the company can do now. As a result of this project being completed, we are now in a different space and we can accomplish X, Y, Z which we couldn’t do before.”

And it’s important to tell people that because, Pete, you finished your work, and if you never share, “Now what? Now this value is here, what can we do with it? What can we learn from it? How can we build on it?” you’re missing an opportunity to create even more value. So, if you think about the way you communicate as creating value, because you’re sharing how to collect the winnings of the results you delivered, that’s never annoying. People are like, “Wow! That’s fantastic. I can use that.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, that’s a great point in terms of things change all the time and you develop new capabilities, and as a result, that’s going to come up from time to time in terms of, let’s say, oh, even if it’s sort of like deep in the internals of the organization, like, “Oh, but, yeah, we probably don’t have the data on that.” It’s like, “Well, we used to not have that but once we upgraded with the ABC, we can now pull this by this, this, and that.” It’s like, “Oh, well, okay then. Great move.”

Patty Azzarello
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
“Please go get the data on that since we now can,” and then they’ve been made aware. I like that in terms of the point is not, “Look at me, I’m awesome.” The point is, “It’s valuable and we can do something now,” or maybe the context has shifted, or there’s a new opportunity in terms of, “We’ve been getting great results with so and so who’s been quite pleased so they might be the perfect partner to want to explore doing a new thing.”

Patty Azzarello
Right. So, if you don’t mind, before we leave look better, I just want to make one more point on that, which is the importance of understanding how you are perceived.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Patty Azzarello
That’s another thing that sometimes just goes to zero for people. They don’t worry about it, they don’t think about it, but it’s your reputation. And if you want to get recognized, if you want to get promoted, you have to understand what your reputation is, and you have to recognize how you’re perceived. And the way I like to advise people on this is to think about what it would look like if you were to put in your best self forward, and then try to do that on purpose. Try to do that with intention. Because a lot of times we’ll do something, we’ll do a presentation, we’ll do a negotiation, we’ll deliver something, and have the internal reaction of, “Man, I was brilliant,” but you feel surprised by it.

And isn’t it a shame to be so surprised? And it’s kind of a copout to be surprised. Why not try to be brilliant on purpose more of the time? Why not be more intentional about showing up as your best self more of the time? And, again, that’s nothing about being political. It’s just about committing to show up stronger and to be present and to give more in the work environment to give more value because you are showing up. That’s another key part of look better.

Pete Mockaitis
And it’s interesting how that can then translate into particular actions that you take. In some ways, you might say, “Well, hey, it’s kind of out of my control. I have good days and I have bad days. Sometimes I’m in the groove, sometimes I woke up on the wrong side of the bed.” But, in practice, right off the bat, things like, “Hey, well, I could sleep. I could exercise. I could eat a healthy meal. I could think in advance of the meeting what specific outcome am I looking for, what are likely to be their main concerns, and how could I bring something that will address those concerns.”

So, it’s interesting that, in a way, hey, our general mood does shift day to day and we’re not in complete control of that. In another way, there’s some key sort of levers that we can all pull. Are there any kind of recurring leverage practices you recommend in terms of being able to show up at our best more frequently?

Patty Azzarello
Yeah, there’s a chapter in Rise, and I’ve got also a lot of other resources on my website on this topic, of the idea of understanding your personal brand, and that’s your reputation. Your personal brand is whatever everybody else says it is based on their interaction with you. And so, yes, we all have our good days and bad days, and low energy and so forth, but if you can think ahead of time about what it is you would like to be known for, that can help you be purposeful about it even if you’re having a bad day.

So, if you would like to be known for the person that sorts through the chaos and the clutter in a complicated situation and always has a creative, clear answer, keep that switch turned on. And even if you’re having a bad day, “Oops, this is a complicated conversation, this is time for me to use my superpower.” And if you think about that ahead of time, you stand a much greater chance of doing it consistently.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Great. And then how do we do that connecting better?

Patty Azzarello
You know, connect better, as I said earlier, one of my superpowers has been asking for help. This is another area where a lot of people go to zero which is just networking, just keeping their professional network going. And what I say, there are two elements to networking. One is meeting new people, and the other one is keeping in touch with people you already know. And the second one is actually where all the value is, because once you meet a new person, they become somebody you already know, and if you don’t put any effort into that relationship, there was no value in making the connection in the first place.

And so, what I tell people – and I tell introverts, and I’m also an introvert so this was not natural for me, I had to learn it myself – is that even if you dislike the idea of meeting people so much that you never want to meet a new person ever again for the rest of your life, you should still be networking with the people you already know because that’s where the value is. And that’s actually a lot less scary to people who have a fear of networking.

And what I like to say is, “Let’s just cross out the word networking and instead use the word be generous.” That’s what networking is, it’s reaching out to people, it’s being kind, it’s saying hello, it’s asking if you can help them, it’s sending them interesting things, it’s actually being helpful. The more of that you do, the more you are going to have an army of people who want to help you when you suddenly need help.

And so, you don’t have to try to match it up one-on-one, but it’s more of a karmic thing that always be giving, and always be giving more than you’re taking. And if you’re doing that, you’re going to have so much capital in the bank that people are just going to be so happy to help and support you when you need something. And it’s really that easy. Just be generous and invest some non-zero time in reaching out to people you already know and being generous.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, you mentioned a few ways in which we can be generous. I suppose there’s push and pull. Like, you can be generous when someone asks a question, you can either give them the shortest possible reply that finishes that email and gets it out of the inbox. Or you can really thoughtfully think, “Oh, you know, what is it they’re trying to achieve here? It seems like this. I imagine this should probably be difficult given A, B, C constraints, restrictions. I know someone who might be able to help with that.” And so then, there’s one way that you’re generous when a request is made of you. How do you recommend we be generous when no one is asking for anything?

Patty Azzarello
Yeah, it’s so simple. “Hello.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Patty Azzarello
I know when I get an email from somebody I haven’t heard from in years, and they just say, “I was thinking about you and wanted to say hello.” That brightens my day. Absolutely. And if those people…I have people in my life that do that regularly maybe once a year or so. If they ever need anything from me, I’m so happy to do it because I feel like we’re connected, I feel like the connection is current. It’s really that easy.

And I often challenge people in workshops, I say, “How many meaningful network…?” Like, they say, “I’m too busy for networking,” which just means, “I don’t like networking and I don’t want to prioritize it.” And I say, “I don’t believe anybody is too busy to not be able to spend 30 minutes a month doing something intentional. How many networking outreaches could you do in 30 minutes?” Now, if you’re using LinkedIn or Facebook, a gazillion. Like, like, like, like, like, a couple of comments, you’ve got a lot of hits.

But if you wrote thoughtful emails, you could probably write five thoughtful emails in 30 minutes. And if you did that once a month, you would have done a thoughtful outreach to 60 people in a year, which is infinitely bigger than zero and it’s a value. And so, I really challenge people to do that, and they’re like, “Well, what do I do?” And I say, “Just say, ‘Hi, I was thinking about that project we worked on together and that funny thing happened, and I just wanted to say hello. And here’s what I’m doing. My kids just started college. No need to reply. Just thinking about you. But if you do get a minute, I’d love to hear what’s up with you.” Something like that.

It’s easy for them to read, it doesn’t take a lot of time, you’re giving them something. And this woman said to me, she came back to another workshop of mine three or six months later, and she said, “Patty, when you told me to do that, I thought that was the stupidest thing I ever heard. I just thought that was the stupidest thing I ever heard. I thought it was just a waste of my time, a waste of the other person’s time to have an email with no useful relevant content in it, but I took your dare, and I did it.” And she said, “I have to thank you because it has been wonderful. I have gotten back so much from these simple outreaches that have just made me smile and a few useful things even happened.” And it’s there you go. It’s another Hallelujah moment.

We tend to, I think, sometimes think about networking as this big scary thing where you’re supposed to go schmooze with highly-important influential people and get them to do something for you in the first meeting. It’s like, “No. Say hello to your friends.” That’s networking.

Pete Mockaitis
And I love how there’d been many friends that I’ve wanted, intended to reach out to, and it’s almost like a vicious cycle in terms of, “Oh, it’s kind of been a while. I feel like it’s been a while. Then I really got to bring it in terms of…” But it could just be, I love what you said, it’s like, “Hey, I was thinking about you and how we did this thing. Hope you’re doing well,” and just maybe like a comment, like, “That was really funny,” or, “I really appreciate how you did this.” It’s like, “This has come up again and again,” or, “I still haven’t thrown away your Christmas card because you’re, oh, so adorable, and it’s on my desk. Hope you’re doing well.”

Patty Azzarello
Exactly. Exactly.

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

Patty Azzarello
So, just two more ideas in connect better that I’ll just mention very quickly. One of them is what I refer to as the experience paradox. And what I mean by that is a lot of people say, “Patty, I want this job but I don’t have the experience, so nobody will give me this job.” And what I mean by the experience paradox is you can’t get the job without the experience, but you can get the experience without the job.

Pete Mockaitis
There you go.

Patty Azzarello
And so, if you’re thinking of career development, that’s what career development is, is to set your sights on the job that you want, and go learn about it, talk to people, just immerse yourself in that job that you want, and look for crumbs to pick up, projects you can volunteer on to get some experience in that job. That sort of connection is really a shortcut to advancing.

And then the other thing I want to mention before I leave connect better is if I look at my own career, the outside of my own efforts, there was nothing more impactful for me than having mentors. And if you don’t have mentors, go get one. Talk to smart people and be learning from smart people. And, for me, it doesn’t need to turn into some like awkward marriage proposal of, “Will you be my mentor?” because you can just learn from smart people and they never know that they’re your mentor.

But if a relationship sparks and you find that you’re talking to the smart person a few times, all you need to do is say something like, “You know, these conversations have been so incredibly valuable for me, and I’ve been putting the things that you say into practice, and they’re working, and I’m so grateful for that. I’m starting to think of you as a mentor. Would it be alright, maybe, if I got on your calendar on a more regular basis, once a month for half an hour?” And if they say yes, you’ve got a mentor. It’s as easy as that. And do it.

Advancing your career without mentors is like climbing Mt. Everest without a Sherpa and a guide. Like, yeah, you could give that a try, but why on Earth would you? Get the help.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Yeah. And it’s interesting how even in the mentorship example, it’s the experience first and then the role, if you will, of mentor protégé. It’s like, “Hey, we’re already been doing this for a while and we’re seeing that.” Very cool.

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

Patty Azzarello
So, the first one is from Picasso, and it is that, “Inspiration does exist but it has to find you already working.” And I just love that because if you’re doing any kind of creative work, if you just sit there and wait for inspiration, it just doesn’t work that way. But if you’re willing to just kind of sit yourself down and start doing it badly, just start, then that’s when the inspiration comes. And I found that over and over again in my life.

My other favorite quote is from Mary Anne Radmacher, which is about courage, and it’s “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” And I think, particularly now, where there’s so much extra stress and pressure and uncertainty, we can’t underestimate the value of just coping, of just trying again tomorrow, “If I didn’t set the world on fire today, that’s fine. I’m going to show up again tomorrow.” I think that’s just so important.

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

Patty Azzarello
The one thing I have been a student of is success and watching successful people and learning from successful people. And the area that I’m most fascinated by is what it takes, is what the investment is behind that success. Because I think a lot of times we have a tendency to look at success and think it was easy for the person, and I love understanding, “What was not easy about that?” I’m fascinated by that. And I have another quote by Michelangelo, which just cracks me up, which is, “If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.”

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. And how about a favorite book?

Patty Azzarello
In terms of like business books and books that enrich your knowledge, one of my favorite, favorite books is Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath, about how to communicate effectively. That was just like a lightning bolt, and that kind of changed everything for me. I love that book.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you. And how about a favorite tool?

Patty Azzarello
My cheque book.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Patty Azzarello
If you look in my tool drawer in my house, I have a hammer, and I have duct tape, I have a couple of screwdrivers, and if it can’t be fixed with that, I use my cheque book. And I’m not a gadget-y person. I have probably the fewest apps on my devices of anyone that I know, but one of my roads to success was just realizing there are certain jobs I shouldn’t do, and just being willing to outsource and get someone else to do some of the things that are not in my wheelhouse is my favorite tool – delegating.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Patty Azzarello
I started about five years ago committing to exercise every single day. And for the first two years, I had a 100% record. And what was fascinating to me about that was it required much less discipline to make it not optional, because before it’s like, “Will I? Won’t I? Will I do a harder workout tomorrow?” I spent so much mental anguish in deciding on a given day whether or not I was going to exercise. And as soon as I made it not optional, boom, I got so much mental time back, and it required so much less discipline. So, I’ve been doing that for about five years now. I don’t have a perfect record anymore but I miss a handful of days a year, which, for me, is close enough.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with people; they quote it back to you frequently?

Patty Azzarello
You know, it kind of gets back to our theme that’s been running through this conversation about not staying too busy. And it’s one of the most highlighted things in my book Rise which is, “You have to find a way to deal with all of the work, not do all of the work.” You can’t just let stuff drop on the floor, but, man, don’t just do it all as it comes across the table. Deal with it all and do the stuff that matters.

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

Patty Azzarello
I would point them to my website, which is AzzarelloGroup.com. And I also have an online professional development program that’s called my Executive Mentoring Group. And you can find that at ExecutiveMentoringGroup.com, or if you don’t want to type so much, ExecMentorGroup.com.

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

Patty Azzarello
Schedule some time to think. If you’re not doing that already, schedule some time to think, and use it to conquer your busyness, and make sure that the look better and connect better portions of your efforts are not zero. But it all starts with scheduling time to think. Give yourself that gift.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Patty, this has been a treat. I wish you lots of luck and all the more rising.

Patty Azzarello
Thank you. It’s been super fun.

556: What Drives Your Career Growth with Korn Ferry’s Gary Burnison

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Gary Burnison shares what professionals need to start doing differently to advance in their careers.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Three mindsets to accelerate your career growth
  2. The overlooked elements that determine career fit
  3. Why most meetings are meaningless

About Gary:

Gary Burnison is the CEO and member of the board of directors for Korn Ferry, a global organization consulting firm. He is also an author, having written several books on career management. His latest book, Advance: The Ultimate How-To Guide For Your Career, is an insider’s look on everything professionals need to take control and get ahead in their careers.

He is also a regular contributor to ForbesCNBCBloombergFOX Business, and other major international news outlets. Mr. Burnison earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Southern California and holds an honorary doctor of laws degree from Pepperdine University.

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Gary Burnison Interview Transcript

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

Gary Burnison
Hey, great to be with you.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m so excited to dig into your wisdom once again. It’s funny, I believe it was Episode 273 you were with us, which is almost half of the podcast lifetime ago.

Gary Burnison
Not that you’re counting, huh?

Pete Mockaitis
Roughly in the bubble. So, we’re going to talk about how to advance in careers. And I thought it might be fun if you could maybe open us up with a powerful story of someone who was kind of stuck where their career was going and then used some of these tools to get unstuck and see some great results.

Gary Burnison
You know, interviewing is kind of a trip between, it’s this in-between going to Disneyland and a dentist, and we psyche ourselves up, right? And it kind of goes back to the sixth grade, “Are they going to like us? Are they going to like me? What are they going to think of me?” It’s a very natural human emotion.

I was in a Starbucks in New York City a while back, and there was a young gentleman, he had a triple Red Eye that he had ordered, and he had a portfolio in front of him, and I figured this guy is getting ready for an interview, and I see the resume, and his leg is tapping uncontrollably up and down. And I just go up to him and I say, “Hey, so what are you doing? You got an interview, huh?” And he said, “Yeah, that’s exactly right. I really need this job. My wife relocated here and I’ve just got to get this thing.” And I said, “Listen, you got to chill out because you’re not going to make it past security. The way you’re going right now is not good.”

And I said, “Look, you got to treat this like a conversation. You’re not auditioning for Annie. This is not a rehearsed deal.” And he ended up, come to find out, he got the job. And he got the job because he was authentic, he made a connection, and he gave the interviewer a taste of who he was as a person, not just what he did.

Pete Mockaitis
I think that that’s dead on, and I remember being on both sides of the career fair table, and whenever I heard someone just say, “Hello, I’m looking to combine my interests in accounting and finance in a challenging role that is like…” No human talks that way. I mean, it’s not that that’s a deal-breaker but it’s sort of like, “Oh, you’re not making a great first impression right now, and we’ll keep talking and we’ll see where we go, but I’m not enthusiastic about the rest of this conversation from the first 20 seconds.”

Gary Burnison
Well, no, because people, they make up things, they say things that they think you want to hear. Resumes, God, if I see another resume where, number one, you shouldn’t have an objective, I think that’s really bad on a resume, but a lot of people do. And how many times have you seen, “I want to be part of a collaborative team in an entrepreneurial environment where I can make a real big impact”? Oh, really? Like, you and a billion other people in the world. It’s not authentic.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, hey, we’ve got some great tips right off the bat. Chill out, keep it authentic, and it’s not an audition, it’s a conversation. So, then tell us, you’ve got a recent book called Advance. What’s the main thesis here?

Gary Burnison
It’s really to take control, to take control of your career like you would do with your health, and, really, kind of three basic ideas. Number one is it starts with you but it’s not about you, and if you want to earn more, you’ve got to learn more. So, the reality is you have to, first, be introspective about what your strengths are, where your blind spots are, what your purpose is, what makes you happy, because if you’re happy, you’re probably motivated, and if you’re motivated, you’re going to outperform.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, you said that last time. I’ve quoted you on a slide, Gary. That’s one of my faves.

Gary Burnison
It’s true. I mean, and people, “Oh, is this really possible?” Yeah, it is possible. Look, we all need to make a living, so there’s no denying that, and sometimes you just need a job, I get it. But, ultimately, you want to get something where you’re learning, because if you’re growing and learning, you’re probably going to be pretty motivated and pretty happy. And so, that kind of introspection, most people, they just ignore that stuff completely.

And then, secondly, you’re not a sculptor in a studio by yourself. And so, it starts with you but it’s not about you. And so, there’s a whole range of advice in this book around, “What do you do with a bad boss? How do you make presentations? How do you work with others? How do you work virtually? What do you do if you’re managing for the first time?”

So, as you progress in your career, you start out as a follower, and I would suggest there’s kind of six phases to a career ultimately up to a leader. But, at some point, you have to make that transition where you’re not an individual contributor, and it’s really, really hard. And, in that transition, you’ve got to work with others. So, despite all the technological advances of the past century, it still comes down to people, and not just online interaction, but actually old school, offline interaction.

And then, finally, look, if you want to earn more, you’ve got to learn more. We’ve proven that the number one predictor of executive success is learning agility. We’ve done 50 million assessments of executives all over the world, and Korn Ferry would stake its reputation that it’s the number one predictor of success. The distance between number one and number two is not constant. And the reality is, what does a great athlete do or what does a coach do after a game? Well, many times, they review the tape, they look at the video and they go practice. It’s the same for your career. If you’re not learning, you’re not growing.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, hey, you don’t have to convince me. I’m right on, I’m right with you there in terms of learning. And, often, it’s a bit of do-it-yourself proposition in many environments sort of, I guess, there you go, advance, take control, much like what you do with your health.

Gary Burnison
Well, again, the do-it-yourself proposition. So, here’s the other thing why it’s critical to really target what your next career move is that the reality is, what Korn Ferry would say is that we believe in 70/20/10 when it comes to development. So, when you say do-it-yourself, so, listen, only 10%, after college, of what you learn is in classroom. Ninety percent of it is either who you’re learning it from or what your assignment is.

And so, a critical piece that people don’t think about when they’re going to go take another job, they focus on the bling. And I can understand why. They focus on the title, focus on the money, “I just to make some more money.” Well, that’s great. But they completely ignore that it’s a marathon, and, “Are you going to learn and who are you going to learn from?” Like, that is…Look, I can’t say you’re always going to have a choice, but it’s something that you have to really need to consider for the marathon.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I’m hearing you. And so, that’s a key consideration and it’s something that’s often overlooked. And I want to get some more of these gems from you here in terms of when it comes to employees who are stalling out, they’re getting stuck in ruts, they’re facing some challenges and not conquering them very often, what do you think are some of like the big things that professionals, they got to nail and they’re not nailing it so well right now?

Gary Burnison
I think there’s a left-brain aspect and there’s a right-brain aspect. So, the left brain is all around specialized skills, okay? So, that’s very, very hard to answer or it depends on what function you’re in. Is it technology? Is it finance? Are you in a services business, manufacturing? That world is clearly, that’s changed, and that’s going to vary depending on the person. I would just generally say that learning determines a worker’s earnings for life. So, those left-brain skills have to continually be worked on.

The right-brain skills get ignored all the time, and those right-brain skills are really important to your happiness. And so, they seem like little things but they’re not so little things. And it could be this little thing called coworkers. The reality is that you’re going to spend way more time at work and with your coworkers than you are maybe with your own family. So, are they getting right or are they getting wrong, the kind of right-brain things around who their boss is? Are they learning? Their coworkers?

That culture piece is, I think, today, overlooked. And it’s critical. It’s critical to just think about your day. Like, what is going to piss you off during the day, right? If you have a job, I guarantee you don’t wake up upset, right? You’re probably pretty happy going to work. And then what happens? Somebody says something, may have been an innocent comment, you get an email, didn’t have the right context, you get a text, text can’t make you laugh or cry, and you just get turned off. And, by the time you’re driving home, you’re so frustrated. And so, those things around culture, people don’t consider.

Pete Mockaitis
Right, yeah. Absolutely. And I’d love your pro take there on what are some of the best ways on the outside looking in to get a gauge in evaluation on some of those matters?

Gary Burnison
It’s the little things. It’s, “How are people dressed? How do people interact? What’s it like at 7:00 at night there? What’s it like at 7:00 in the morning?” It’s funny, you want a new job, and so you start. I would hope you’re actually targeting, proactively targeting the companies and not being reactive, but many times people are reactive, which I think is a real problem. But you look at these job titles and these responsibilities and it’s all these words, and it’s really hard to tell, “Okay, but what’s my actual job? Like, what am I going to do Monday morning?” because you have all these lofty words, and these responsibilities, and it’s hard to separate what you’re really going to be doing.

And so, I think a great way is to, really, like when you go to buy a house. If you buy a condo or a house, I love to drive by at 11:00 o’clock at night and look at the neighbors. Or my oldest daughter was just moving apartments, and I said, “Stefy, make sure you go there a few nights a week at 11:00 o’clock before you sign that lease because you want to see it when nobody thinks you’re looking, right?” The problem with an interview is like it’s a performance, it’s a stage. People are actually looking. But you want to figure out what the place is like, what the people are like, when nobody is looking. That’s what you’re trying to get to.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a nice clear distinction right there in terms of, “Is it on display, on show, or is it the real deal?” and the 11:00 p.m. analogy. Oh, it’s sparking all kinds of things. So, then what are some of the best ways that we can get that view in terms of we’re looking and they don’t know we’re looking? How do we do that? Do we talk to former employees? Tell me more.

Gary Burnison
Yeah, you do. You’ve got to be kind of a private detective. There’s no other way to do it. So, you have to work your network, you’ve got to do the six degrees of separation. You want to find people that knows somebody, that knows somebody that works there. That’s the way you want to do it. And it really does work. I know it seems daunting but that six degrees of separation really does work. I found it to work in my own life.

And so, yeah, you want to work that network, you want to find out from people who have left. Sometimes they may be jaded. I don’t place a lot of stock in Glassdoor. I know a lot of people do. But, generally, in those kinds of reviews, you’re hearing from unhappy people that have left the organization. It could be a reference point, it’s something to triangulate, but I wouldn’t stake my whole career and reputation on it. If you can drive around, if you can get access into the office or the building, that could be something you can do. But, yeah, look, you’ve got to be a private detective.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Well, so then let’s say you’re in the job, away you go, and we’re up and we’re running. You’ve got a number of particular prescriptions when you’re in the midst of things. I want to get your take on the boss relationship and meetings. So, first, what’s the main thing we got to keep in mind in terms of managing a boss relationship effectively over the months and years?

Gary Burnison
Number one, it’s not them, it’s you. So, you’re never going to be able to change the boss but he or she can change you, right? They can actually fire you. So, you can try all you want but if you keep saying it’s them and it’s not you, it’s not going to get any better. So, there’s all sorts of different bosses, we’ve all had them. We’ve had those that are heroes and inspirational. And we’ve had those that are just micromanagers and autocrats.

And so, I think the first thing is you have to look in the mirror, and I know that’s really hard because you’re going to say, “It’s not me, it’s them.” But look in the mirror first, and just recognize that you’re probably not going to be able to change that person. So, then you have to take accountability for performance. And the way to do that then is the days of once-a-year reviews, those are gone. Today, people are career nomads.

So, what you need to do is take the initiative and set goals, you really do, because you can’t politic your way to the top. At the end of the day, it’s performance. Performance does matter. Not that there’s no politics because there’s obviously politics, but performance trumps politics. And so, what I would encourage people to do is to take ownership for their own goals and make sure you are continually talking with your boss about what has to get done, “What do I need to do to contribute? What are the tangible goals towards that contribution? How do we measure success? And how can I help the team win?”

Because, at the end of the day, the reality is the boss doesn’t think about you as much as you think about yourself, right? So, you may think a lot about your salary but the boss isn’t going to be thinking about your salary. It’s not that he or she doesn’t care, it’s just that’s not where their mind is going to go. We have almost 10,000 employees. I think a CEO has to care about their employees, their customers, and their shareholders. But am I thinking every second about somebody’s salary? I’m not. It’s not practical. So, start with it’s you and take ownership for performance, and get in a regular dialogue with your boss around performance.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I think that’s so dead on and a good reminder. It’s true. I manage and pay people, and I think about the compensation pretty rarely, maybe it’s like, “Huh, they’re doing a great job and it’s approaching the end of the year, I want to make sure they don’t leave me.” So, that’s about the extent. It’s that question, it’s like, “Hey, yeah, they’re doing great. I want to make sure they don’t leave. Here we go.”  There you have it. So, that’s a nice reality check for you.

And, yes, I totally am with you that you gotta have those regular ongoing maybe reconnections associated with what’s most important right now, what are we trying to achieve, how are we measuring it, how do we win, and not, I guess, taking anything for granted. Maybe, I guess, the alternative to that might be doing whatever lands in your inbox, just doing that as opposed to these critical goals that we’ve agreed to.

Gary Burnison
Well, you can’t teach hustle. And I will take hustle over pedigree any day. And so, what you’re alluding to is people that have hustle. And so, I would have a bias that I would much rather hire somebody who did not have the pedigree, didn’t have the family name, didn’t go to an Ivy League school, but is hungry. You just can’t teach hunger. And I love that. And I think what you’re saying is get it done. Like, just do it. Take initiative. Yeah, absolutely, that’s actually better than the whole performance goal thing. That’s absolutely the way to do it. But then you’ve got to make sure that you are getting recognized for that and that you’re not just doing somebody else’s work.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. I also want to get your take on you’ve got a chapter called “Let’s Have A Meeting – Why They’re All Meaningless.” So, a bold stance. Tell us about this.

Gary Burnison
Oh, it’s a joke. You know, so many times today, the strategic response to any question is, “Let’s have a meeting. Let’s get together and talk about it.” It seems like it’s the response to every problem. And I think, look, there’s a number of problems with meetings. Number one is that people, they’re on stage, and so they’re performances many, many times, and they’re not real, they’re not authentic. And it’s amazing how the dynamic changes when you have two people versus four people versus six people versus ten people, and also how the dynamic changes whether there’s a boss there or not.

And so, ultimately, you defer to the most senior person in that meeting. And are you really going to say what’s on your mind? Are you really going to say the truth? And so, I just find them to be a little bit make-believe. We all remember in college we had these group projects, and some of my kids are college today, everybody dreads those, right, those kind of peer-to-peer group projects, “And who’s going to take initiative? And who’s going to speak out? Who’s going to hide behind somebody else’s work?” I just think that people today, it’s not a stage. And, for me, there’s different kinds of meetings. Is it an information meeting? Is it decision-taking? Is it discovery? Is it brainstorming? Like, what is the purpose? What are you trying to get out of this thing?

And the other thing I’m a big, big believer in is whatever time you give somebody, they’re going to take up that time. And so, when it comes to a meeting, I’ve got the 45-minute rule. Anything after that, unless you’re brainstorming, unless you’re doing blue-sky thinking, it’s not productive at all.

Pete Mockaitis
I think it’s a fun coincidence that our appointment is exactly 45 minutes today.

Gary Burnison
Look, I believe in collective genius, and I think that people are smarter together than apart. I’m a huge, huge believer. So, the meeting can be absolutely incredible if the right stage is set. And so, what I mean by that is people are free to speak their mind. What I’ve found, being a CEO now for a long time, is that generally people don’t have freedom of speech unless they have economic security. And so, to create that environment where people can speak the truth and people can speak their feelings, and that constructive conflict can be turned into collective genius, I love constructive conflict. But you have to have the right orchestrator so that it turns itself into collective genius.

Pete Mockaitis
Boy, well, that’s really thought-provoking, the notion that you’re not really speaking your mind unless you have the economic freedom. I guess that’s true in the sense of, well, I guess they talk about the, “F you, money.” It’s like if you’ve got that in the bank, then it’s sort of like, “I’m just going to tell you what I think. Worst-case scenario, you fire me and that’s no big deal.” So, I can hear that that resonates. So, then if you are kind of working with managing folks who they’re not quite paycheck-to-paycheck maybe but they sure do need the job, how can we facilitate that psychological safety knowing that they do still want to hold onto that job?

Gary Burnison
Well, as a boss, you can’t have retribution. If your actions don’t mirror your words, then it’s never going to happen. So, as the boss, you have to ensure that there really is a safe zone, and that that is absolutely reinforced every single day. We had a funny story recently, I mean, it’s kind of sad-funny, however you want to look at it. But we were interviewing an executive, and the company was looking for a new leader and they wanted this person. They really thought they wanted somebody who was collaborative.

And so, we were interviewing this executive, and so the interviewer asked, “So, give me an example of how you collaborate.” And he said, “Well, look, it’s easy. We have a meeting and we go around the table, and we either give a thumbs up or a thumbs down to the idea.” And the interviewer said, “So, how do you exactly do that?” And he said, “Well, it’s simple. I, first, give my view on, ‘Okay, this is a bad idea or a good idea,’ so I say thumbs down.” And the interviewer said, “So, you go first. So, how does that really work?” And the executive says, “Well, we have complete alignment.” Go figure, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Everybody agrees with you.

Gary Burnison
“Everybody agrees with me.” Needless to say, this person did not get the job. So, as the boss, you have to make it real and you have to set the tone. And, as the coworker, what you can’t do is take things so personally that you start spreading all sorts of news at the water cooler. You just can’t do that. That turns into a very cancerous environment.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Next bit, you mentioned the top 20 must haves for career development in your book, and that’s a lot. So, can you give us the top, top two?

Gary Burnison
Number one is humility and the second is self-awareness. And I say those two because those are the starters. Without those, the other hundred things will never happen, because, again, your performance is not just absolute, it’s relative. So, this distance between one and two is not constant. You have to improve yourself. Well, if you don’t have humility, then you’re never going to be self-aware, so you have to have enough humility to be able to look in the mirror and say, “What do I need to improve on?” like any great athlete does. Those are absolutely, you have to have those two, because without those two, it’ll be the exception rather than the rule in terms of making more money, getting those promotions, advancing, and all that.

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

Gary Burnison
I think that I’ve just been shocked, whether you’re in the boardroom or you’re starting out of college, you’re starting out in your career, that you don’t treat your career like your health. And what I mean by that is if I told somebody, “Listen, you’re going to have a heart attack in nine months,” I guarantee you, this afternoon you would change things. You would start juicing it, you’d start eating oats, you’d start walking, you’d start running. You would do all sorts of things. You’d go to different kinds of doctors. Like, you would hop all over that.

Well, when it comes to your career, I think people are just complacent and they’re clueless, and they have this view that they’re going to be plucked out of the seat, that somebody is going to come to them with this great opportunity. That is not going to happen. And, today, we’re in a world of career nomads where, I believe, people coming out of college, Korn Ferry would suggest you’re going to work for 25 or 30 different employers.

And so, people are staying for two, two and a half, three years, and they’re moving on. They’re parlaying. They’re taking skills and they’re parlaying. They’re parlaying for more responsibility, they’re parlaying for more money, they’re parlaying to learn more. And so, I think you’ve got to treat your career like you would your health. And I really do believe, I would look at it and say, “Hey, I think I’m going to get fired in nine months. I think the company is going to get acquired. What would I do differently today?”

And what you would do differently is not just sitting with your computer pretending you were Hemingway with your resume and trying to find the right verb. That is the wrong thing to do. What you would do is you would think about where you want to go, and you would start to network, and you would target those places where you think you can really make a difference. That’s what you would actually do. And it’s bothered me that this just-in-time networking, like, something bad happens, your company gets acquired, your boss leaves, all of this stuff happens and people aren’t prepared. And so, you’ve got to treat your career like your health, and be proactive, and don’t just wait for the heart attack to update your resume. Actually, do something before.

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

Gary Burnison
What’s always on my mind is, “You’ve got to believe to achieve.” And I think that I’ve just found that, and I don’t know if that’s something that I came up with or I read, but that’s on my mind all the time. And there’s another one that’s on my mind all the time, and that’s, “Fail fast and learn faster.” And so, most people are scared of failure, but the reality is that’s how we learn. Whether we like it or not, we learn through failure. And you have to try things. You have to take risks in life if you want to grow.

Pete Mockaitis
And when you say “You’ve got to believe to achieve,” can you unpack what that means in practice for a career?

Gary Burnison
You have to believe in yourself. You have to have that inner confidence. And so, if you’re the CEO, like myself, I think the most important thing is purpose. In other words, most CEOs, they think about the what, and the how, and the where, but they don’t think about the why. And the why is the most important thing, I think, in business. The why is, “Why are you in business?” And so, I call that purpose. For me, as a CEO, what I have to believe is I have to believe in purpose. I have to believe in our purpose.

Because if I can authentically represent that to 10,000 people, people will get behind that.

For an individual, I would say that you have to believe in yourself. Without that, it is going to be very, very hard to advance. And that’s why it’s so important that when you think about the next job and a career, who’s your mentor going to be? Because, yes, you can believe in yourself, and I tell you, it’s a lot easier to believe in yourself if others believe in you. Both have to happen.

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

Gary Burnison
Well, it’s a book that I think is 20 years old, but Who Moved My Cheese? It has a strange title. It’s actually a very motivational book, it’s a very simple book. And the concept, which is so appropriate for today, is around change. And so, this view of trying to make tomorrow different than today, of having this insatiable curiosity for learning and for change, and not accepting the status quo, and not falling into the den of complacency is what that book’s all about. And I think that is more important today than ever.

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

Gary Burnison
I spend probably an hour and a half in the morning and an hour and a half at night with nobody, around reading. And so, all the apps that I would have are all around news. And I found that it’s kind of a reflective time, and it’s a time to kind of be in the world, and to understand what’s happening around you, and to make your world bigger. And so, I do that religiously every single day.

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

Gary Burnison
Make people feel better after than before. And so, I will get that, people will say that jokingly, they’ll say it seriously to me. I think you should set that as a goal. Any human being, but particularly in the workplace, and particularly if you’re a manager, and for sure if you’re a boss, that with every interaction of an employee, “Do they feel better after than before?”

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

Gary Burnison
Well, I’d take a look at the new book. It’s just simply called Advance, and you could get it on Amazon. And we actually have a new business Korn Ferry Advance that is all around trying to change people’s lives, trying to help them in their careers. We’ve got interviewing tools, we’ve got resume tools. It’s really the whole thing trying to change people’s lives and their professional careers for the better.

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

Gary Burnison
Boy, you want to wake up without the alarm clock. And if you’re not waking up without the alarm clock, you need to make a change. But that change needs to be well thought out.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Gary, this has been a treat once again. I wish you and Korn Ferry all the luck and success in your adventures.

Gary Burnison
Great hearing your voice again. And thank you very much for your time.

549: Who Gets Raises and Promotions? Rick Gillis Reveals the Metric that Predicts our Fate

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Rick Gillis says: "Your work does not speak for itself. You do."

Rick Gillis shares how knowing and improving your “quotient” can help you get raises and promotions at work.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The factor that determines your compensation at work
  2. How to speak up for your work to your boss
  3. The perfect time to bring up your accomplishments

About Rick:

Rick Gillis is a speaker, author, and personal career advisor. He has spent over two decades writing books and sharing techniques to manage and maximize careers across the country. He is the founder of the Richard Gillis Company, LLC which provides training and career coaching to help job seekers land the best possible position at the highest possible pay.

Rick has appeared on several media outlets like Forbes.com, NPR, and the Wall Street Journal. Rick and his wife, Mary, live in Texas where he spends his free time riding along the Texas gulf coast on his Harley or in his music room and art studio.

Items Mentioned in the Show

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Rick Gillis Interview Transcript

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

Rick Gillis
You bet, Pete. Thank you very much for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’m excited to dig into your wisdom. But, first, I think we need to hear a little about you and Harley Davidson motorcycles. What’s the story here?

Rick Gillis
Well, I’ll tell you what, it’s funny, I had a friend of mine one time say, “Gillis, I didn’t know you’re a biker,” and I said, “I’m not a biker. I just ride a bike.” And I do. I have a Harley, it’s a 2006 model, I’ve been riding for years, and I live south of Houston so it’s literally 54-mile straight shot to the Gold Coast, so that’s kind of my riding. I don’t do traffic ridings. Saturday, Sundays, get out on the highway, that’s what I do.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that sounds fun, and so you don’t have any family that tries to curtail those adventures. I don’t think my wife would go for that if I told her, “Yeah, I’m learning to Harley now.”

Rick Gillis
Now, that I’m old enough, I got back into it. I gave up riding motorcycles when, I don’t even remember now, 17, 18 after dropping two or three of them.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, man.

Rick Gillis
And I’ve only had this bike for, I don’t know, 10, 12 years. Like I said, I ride by myself, I go down two-lane highways, very little traffic, yeah, I’m not tough.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you’ll get no judgment from me. My wife is a safety enthusiast and motorcycles are probably not in my cards.

Rick Gillis
No, I appreciate that. I really do. They’re dangerous, there’s no question, because I have to drive for everybody when I’m on the road.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. All right. Well, so good to know to get a little background there. You’ve invented an interesting concept called the quotient. Can you, first of all, define that and tell us why professionals might care about it?

Rick Gillis
Well, I’ll tell you what, now we’re not sharing this with anybody, right? This is just between you and me.

Pete Mockaitis
I make no representations of that.

Rick Gillis
Let me tell you what, Pete, the quotient was an epiphany I had literally just over two years ago, and I knew it was developing, and it came out of working with job search, job seekers for so long. I did it for 20 some odd years. And I was literally riding my bicycle, not my bike, in the neighborhood and, all of a sudden, it struck me what this was. And let me tell you, like I said, just between you and me, this quotient thing is really a very rich new powerful concept and I maintain it’s going to be able to resolve the pay disparity issue.

And what it is, it’s kind of like taking from a salesperson’s point of view, which I am and have been for many years, you know, a salesperson knows that if we don’t sell something this month, we don’t have a job next month, and that’s just the way, that’s your mindset. I would like the person who gets a paycheck to start thinking like that because a person who gets a paycheck on Friday, takes off the weekend, comes back on Monday, gets back into the mental mindset of being at work, of producing value. The quotient is exactly this. I take your work contribution, which I spend a lot of time in the book telling the non-salesperson how to determine the value of their contribution to their employer.

Pete Mockaitis
In dollars.

Rick Gillis
In dollars.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s the unit we’re working with, or Euro as the case maybe to our European friends listening.

Rick Gillis
Right, exactly. It could be any. But you take the value of your contribution to your employer and you divide that by your base pay. Now, note, it’s not your net, it’s your base pay. And so, what happens, that creates the quotient. So, let’s say, for example, you work for me, and whether you have read the book and have figured out how to do this, or if I’m doing it for you, or mutually, we determined that you have raised, you generated $250,000 in value this year for my company, and I pay you $50,000 a year. So, $250,000 divided by 50,000, your quotient equals 5, which means that you’re a good employee, you generated five times more than I paid you so there’s value there.

But, now, let’s go a little further, because, let’s say I’m a male working with an equally-skilled female, my quotient this year was a 9, hers is like, say, a 23, but I get the promotion and the raise and the bonus. Is that a legal standard? It’s been suggested to me by some very knowledgeable people that it could be a legal standard. And when you consider the possibilities, and I got to tell you, Pete, this is an epiphany I had the fourth draft of the book, I’m about three months away from finishing the book, and I had been writing with the mindset all along of equal pay for equal work.

I even had to look up where that came from, and that’s 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, so I didn’t know where it had come from. And, all of a sudden, it struck me that’s not what this is about. This is not about equal pay for equal work because that’s really hard to define. How many people do exactly the same thing? But if we instead say that this is the proper pay for the best performance, that takes discrimination out of the discussion. All of a sudden, it doesn’t matter, male, female, black, white, Hispanic, old, young, any reason for discrimination goes out the window when you pay the best person who performs the best. That’s really what the quotient is.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I mean, that sounds like a beautiful vision and world there in which compensation is indeed proportionate to your contribution. That sounds fair and equitable and just. And for those who are awesome at their jobs and inspired to be more awesome at their jobs, it sounds tasty and lucrative, so we like that. Thank you.

Rick Gillis
Well, I appreciate that, and I say that because this is the motivated individual that’s going to use this. The person that’s really okay with things or has no motivation, see, I’ve actually got three levels of quotient. One is the quotient of 1, and that is when, let’s say, I’m paying you $35,000 a year to be a delivery driver for me, and you do a very good job. I’m perfectly happy. But a business cannot operate on quotients of 1. We need quotients of +5, +35, +3,000, it depends, so there’s a lot of different thought that goes into this, and there’s also the quotient of less than 1, which can be bad but it depends also on the person.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, there’s a lot here. And I think just conceptually thinking about things in this way is helpful already in terms of, okay, I think in sales, or fundraising if you’re a director for development for nonprofit, then it’s pretty clear. It’s like, “Okay, I see. I know what they pay me, and I know what I brought in, and I can see that I am very profitable, or I’m very not profitable for my organization, and that can indicate I’m likely to be promoted, or get a raise, or to be exited in the near future.”

So, now the game gets a lot more intricate when your value or contribution is not so readily quantified in terms of dollar sales brought in. So, can you help us, maybe give us some examples of how do I think through that in terms of, “I am a program manager, or I am an engineer, how do I kind of get after what my contribution is in currency?”

Rick Gillis
Well, fundamentally, first of all, there’s two ways that you bring value to an organization. You either make money or you save the organization money. That’s it right there. So, most people in a company do not deliver revenue, they actually save money, so it’s a matter of being efficient.
The fact is efficiencies, saving of money, doing your job better than somebody else, and I have, throughout the book, I have 14 Q studies and, of course, that came from “The Quotient,” so I call them Q studies, and they are real people I’ve worked with over the many years, helping them get ahead, because I found a lot of people could tell me what they had done. They could not tell me what that translated to in value. And, candidly, this was a lot of 50+ year old men who had crazy good jobs, who I think got lazy, complacent, and, all of a sudden, they weren’t realizing they were not generating the appropriate value for their payrate, and they got pink slips.

And so, when I talked to them, almost across the board, I would find that they could tell me what they did, they could tell me what that value was, and I actually have a chapter in the book called The Earning Curve where your earnings continue to go higher, your personal earnings, tend to go up and up and up, but the value you’re bringing to the company starts crossing down. And when those two axes cross each other, you’re the problem now because you’re no longer developing or generating the value you should be generating.

So, in my case studies, I have several examples of people from an executive assistant to a bank VP, I even have my own personal story in the book, which I didn’t even realize…by the way, I don’t have anybody’s real name in there so if anybody hears this and goes to the book, when you read Brad’s story, that’s actually Rick, me, so I changed everybody’s name in the book. But I did a deal when I was in the real estate business, and this was about 10 years after the fact that I remembered this. I had created a commercial-lease document that saved my company some $26 odd million.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, there you go.

Rick Gillis
Yeah, and that was a big deal. Now, I was in the business of managing properties, selling space, preparing that space, build out, maintaining the grounds, so I was a general manager. I had 14 buildings on 20 acres that I was responsible for. And I’ll tell you the story and I’ll keep it as brief as I can. One morning I got served by a Texas sheriff, And I got sued by a realtor that said that I owed him $8,000 on a deal that I said, “No, I did the renewal. You’re not entitled.” So, I went looking into the original lease file that my predecessor had done, and I saw that, by damn, they had agreed in handwriting that I had missed it, it was my mistake, that he would be paid on all lease renewals.

So, I called my boss and I said, “Send me a cheque for $8,000.” We had 26 office parks across the nation so it was a big company. He sends me a cheque for $8,000, I paid it, I paid the realtor, I went back to the office, and I told my secretary, “Gaye, you and I are going to go through every lease, and we’re going to put a cover sheet, and we’re going to note any anomalies that happened in these leases so this will never happen again.”

A few months later, my boss comes to town and he’s looking through some of the leases, and he goes, “What’s this cover sheet?” Well, long story short, I had solved a problem that I didn’t even realize was national. He took it back to corporate, and we had 26 office parks, so about three months later I had 25 general managers really upset with me because they had to do what I had done, but I saved the company an enormous amount of money in legal.

Now, I maintain, Pete, and I know this might be a little la, la, but I maintain that people regularly do good things above and beyond their regular daily job that they’re not aware of, they don’t watch out for this, I missed my own and I was a sales guy. So, ten years later, I was working with a client on the phone when, all of a sudden, I remembered this. I went to my whiteboard, wrote it down, and now it’s a story in the book.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. So, that is a fine example. So, that was outside your daily kind of your day job in terms of like your day-to-day normal recurring responsibilities, that you found something, you got proactive to make sure it didn’t happen again. And then when you shared that and it gets extrapolated over broader-based properties, it really adds up in terms of we would pay lawyers or whomever this much money to make that happen. So, that’s interesting. There’s a specific source of savings there, like legal fees not spent, that you can determine based on, I guess if you know, just how many hours legal work versus their hourly rate.

Rick Gillis
Well, I’ll tell you what, that’s an excellent point because, the fact is, the company has been out of business. It was acquired many, many years ago, so I didn’t have a source to go back and get hard numbers. So, one of the things that I’ve developed along this line is what I call the defensible statement. And that is if you walk in and tell me, let’s say I’m hiring a sales guy, and you tell me you sold a billion dollars or something last year, you better be able to prove it, you better have it in writing. But if you came to me and I’m used to doing million-dollar deals, half million-dollar deals, and you tell me that last year you did a million dollars, I’ll take that, I’ll accept it, we’ll question it, we’ll talk about it, give me some head up.

So, the defensible statement is a really important component to this. I did not have any hard numbers, it was well over ten years after the fact, I went and took, which if I was interviewing with a commercial real estate firm, and I told them that I saved 1% of my gross revenue annually by not having to spend these thousands of dollars in covering mistakes, and I had a little bit more information for this. I had the smallest office park in El Paso of the entire nation. I had 400,000 net rentable square feet. Some of the bigger guys in Miami, Virginia, Richmond, Virginia, and Atlanta, they had like two million square feet.

So, using my numbers and taking 1% of my gross revenue and multiplying that out, that comes to like $26,000 based on what I was supposed to be generating gross revenue at that time. And then I multiplied that out times 26 office parks, keeping in mind that I used my office park, which was the smallest venue, and took that across. My point is it’s very defensible, so you got be careful, you got to keep that in mind.

Pete Mockaitis
You’re super conservative there. It’s like at least this amount but probably much more.

Rick Gillis
But I’m comfortable saying more, yes.

Pete Mockaitis
If I may, how did we arrive at the 1%?

Rick Gillis
I figured 1%, at the time I was quoting $12 a square foot per space, I had 400,000 net rentable, so $12 times…it was $4,800,000 times 1%, I came down to where I was about $26,000, I think, I saved annually, or something. And then I multiplied that out times the 26 office parks because it was of benefit to the entire organization. So, that’s exactly how I extracted that number.

But let me give you another, for instance, because this is not all about just big-money players. One of the stories in “The Quotient” is a woman, a friend of mine, who is an executive assistant. A matter of fact, right now, she’s making about $84,000-$86,000 a year, and we were talking recently, and I told her, I said, “Certainly, there’s somewhere you have saved some money for your organization.” I mean, she’s the executive assistant to the CEO so right there she’s worth more than just another administrative assistant.

But she told me that one day she had been assigned to review some contracts, and she found $77,000 of unclaimed discounts that the person who was doing the job was supposed to have been doing, had not claimed it. This was one eight-hour day she achieved the $77,000 gain. And I told her, I said, “I know you’re not being paid $77,000 a month,” because, like I said, she’s making $86,000 a year. So, in that one instant, she had a value, a savings, that she could share that was above and beyond, and people do this stuff all the time. I really believe that, Pete. I really do.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly, yeah. Okay. So, you get after your value by any number of things, think about that, the money that you brought in or the money that you saved, and then you might need a little bit of help with Excel or Google Sheets to say, “Hey, what’s the value and what’s the parameter, and then why did I make…why did I say that’s the number? And here’s why it’s conservative.” So, it might just be three to ten lines of Excel, but that’s fine, to sort of make that defensible statement.

So, okay, we’re getting out the contribution side of things and your payment you know. So, then these numbers, sometimes you said 5, 35, 3,000, I mean, boy, what’s a good quotient? And what level of quotient makes you say, “Hey, I can probably get a raise now”?

Rick Gillis
I’ll tell you, that’s exactly based on, entirely based on what you do. Like I said, the quotient of equal 1, a Q1 is the person who’s doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing but a company can’t work on that. If somebody is hiring a coder, and they’re going to try to take on, let’s just say Facebook, their quotient might be a thousand to one, “Let’s pay this person $350,000, bonus, etc., options.” That person needs to deliver, at minimum, $3.5 million annually to be a quotient of 1, if you want to baseline all the positions in your company, which you can do if you want to get everybody down to a Q of 1. In other words, that is what that person would be required to deliver before they’d even can see a bonus or something like that. So, there’s lots of different ways to figure this.

And let me tell you another thing too, Pete, that’s really pretty fascinating. I’m not an MBA, I’m not a Ph.D., this comes from just 22 years of working with people and seeing these different kinds of values developing. I really had to stop and think about this from the employee’s point of view, from a manager’s point of view, from a regional’s point of view, see, because you can use the quotient across branch, division, department, you can use it in all. It works all across these different levels. And I’m not saying the controllers don’t already know this stuff. I do understand that. But I think there’s a need here for two things to happen.

Number one, the worker to embrace this and recognize what they’re doing, and also for the employer to understand that if they get somebody who’s more engaged and owns this, they’re going to be a better, more motivated, more engaged worker, and this thing is a double-edged sword. It also cuts the other way, and you get to find out the people who really aren’t carrying their weight because, too often, especially in the big companies, they’re working with a pool of people and it’s kind of like, “Let’s don’t rock the boat, let’s don’t shake things up.”

But, now, what is important to this discussion is that the individual is responsible for pointing out their wins. A company is not responsible. Your company is not required to point out when you have a really big win. For instance, when I discovered and saved my real estate company all that money, it was not their responsibility. Their responsibility to me was to pay me fairly, pay me what we agreed on, pay my, etc. my healthcare, whatever. But that’s it. If I do anything extraordinary, good for the company. That’s to their benefit.

But when I think back on this, and I saved the company millions of dollars, it would’ve been neat, it would’ve been smarter of me had I been able to go to annual review, annual end of your…and say, “Look, I did this. I’m worth a bonus. I’m worth a promotion. I’m worth something, a raise,” and that’s where I think the motivated individual who goes to their supervisor, and/or supervisors, I always strongly recommend you don’t just share this information with your boss but your boss’ boss, and her boss as well, because everybody should know you are an up-and-comer, you’re motivated, you’re engaged.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. So, you get some great achievements and hopefully they amount to your whole bunch of value and contribution. And so then, part of the game is quantifying that, capturing that, communicating that. And then, yeah, what are some of the best practices for sharing your accomplishments in a way that is not obnoxious and can get you some benefits?

Rick Gillis
Good question. Let me tell you what. Let’s face it, there’s a lot of people who are not comfortable with this. We’re taught not to brag, and I appreciate that. There’s no question, that’s really, really important. But bragging and boasting is not the same as informing and sharing those with you. Let’s say, for instance, you hop in the elevator and it’s you and the CEO, and that does happen to some people. What are you going to say? You have an opportunity to express your value to somebody who can really make an impact on your life, and you say, “Hey, grand weather we’re having today, isn’t it?” Well, you’ve just lost an opportunity.

So, one of the things that I’m about, and I do promote this in the book, you have to be continuously working these, you have to be continuously thinking these things, and you should always have one ready, I’m not joking, rehearsal ready, that you can say, “Hey, Mr. CEO, it’s really nice to see you. How are you today?” “Great. What’s going on?” “Well, I’d like you to know about this commercial-lease document I just created that saved the company, I think, on the order of several million dollars.” When you tell somebody that, first of all, they have been in your place, they do appreciate it. I maintain strongly that supervision, your immediate boss maybe not so much, but above and beyond that, really likes to hear wins, and that’s a fair thing that you can have something available that you could share with the CEO or somebody else.

Once again, I’m going to go back to the same place where this is for the motivated individual who’s going to study this, watch it, because one of the things that is going on, and as a salesperson, a sales professional is always doing this and always thinking about, “If I close this deal, if I close that deal, if I close this other deal, these create different revenue  streams, and etc.” But the person who is working the regular job, who’s only focused on that one thing, does other things and they really need to be thinking about the possibility that there could be quotients for their regular work, and there could be more than one or two or three of those, plus there can be those quotients for any value they create above and beyond what is requested of them to do.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. Well, maybe can you share with us one of your Q studies, sort of a fun story of a professional who used this concept, ran with it, and found themselves with a whole lot more money as a result?

Rick Gillis
So, the Q studies come out of real people I have worked with in the past who landed very good jobs as a result of my helping them in their job search, but I went back to them, after the fact, in other words, I went through my files and I found, “Here’s Jeff, and here’s Hannah, and here’s whoever,” and I called them up and I said, “Hey, I’d like to use your story in this new book. Can you tell me what you were making at that time when you achieved this?”

See, where this came from, Pete, the secret sauce in my working with job seekers is, it was not negotiable, I required them to put together an accomplishments inventory. This requirement of providing me eight to ten very best accomplishments, I didn’t need to know the who, what, where, when, why and how behind each one, and so these people would prepare me 8, 10, 12, 15 pages of these things.

And I remember one chemical engineer, this woman I worked with, she handed me 18 pages, handwritten, of accomplishments, and she handed me this whole pile, and I glanced at the first one, I handed it to her, and I glanced at the next one, I handed it to her, and she got upset with me, she said, “You mean you’re not going to read those?” And I said, “No, that wasn’t for me. I don’t even speak chemical engineering. That was for you to prepare you for the interview, and now we have the information, the ammunition to create your resume, now we’re ready to set you out and get you working.”

And so, I did this with everybody, and anybody would not accept that they had to put together an accomplishments inventory for me, I didn’t accept them as a client. So, that has always been my secret sauce, and when these people get to interview, they’re absolutely ready. So, I went back and I took some of those accomplishment statements from different people, and I called them up and I said, “What were you making at that time?” And I was able to, and once again, this is really important to the Q studies, I had to use workarounds.

For instance, I had to use the dollar amount for this one guy who’s a construction supervisor, where he was able to build a bridge. It was a gigantic piece of cement they had laid for a construction, and he found that he was losing, literally at the rate of five to seven minutes a day, some 1200 workers having to walk all around this big monolith they had built.

So, he took it upon himself to build a bridge. He just had a bunch of aluminum and steel, and he fabricated a bridge that took these people straight across instead of going around, saved five, six, seven minutes, but these people were making on the order of $40+ an hour. And when you multiply that $40 times take out to get the minute rate, multiply that times how many dollars are out there or how many people were working, and all of a sudden, this guy was starting to save some real money.

And, at the time, he was making, I don’t remember exactly right now, but he was making on the order of $48 to $50 an hour, so I can take his hourly rate and see that he saved all these minutes when we divide that by 60 minutes, we get lots of hours, and then we’re able to divide that by that total by what he was making, and we do come up with good, reasonable, defensible quotient for my client.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. And so then, he got a promotion or a raise as a result of this?

Rick Gillis
Actually, he left and he’s now reporting to the CEO with one of the biggest energy…one of the biggest electric-generating companies in the United States. And, yeah, I’ll tell you what, I’m going to slap myself on the back for this one because he actually took my accomplishments kind of concept and he’s now the director of best practices for this very, very large utility in the United States. And so, he took what I showed him, what I taught him, and took it and made it even better for himself. So, yeah, I’m really proud of him.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool. Okay. So, then a real part of that is making sure that when you do that great stuff, you take a moment to capture it and quantify it. And then when it comes to conveying it, do you have any pro tips and do’s and don’ts for asking for some of that value you created to come back to you?

Rick Gillis
Yeah, and I tell you what, I think this really comes down to the annual performance review. I think one of the things that I want for performance reviews to become, and, by the way, I do have a model for a quotient-based performance review in the book.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, so once you’ve identified this value, how do you go and ask for it?

Rick Gillis
The fact is I think that annual reviews should be more objective than subjective. What that does, that puts the onus on the worker, the person who’s reporting, to walk in with this information and be able to share it and show it. And so, once again, I go back to the place where this has to be the motivated worker.

And, by the way, this keeping, having a source of keeping your accomplishments in front of you, it’s called your calendar. I can go back and look in my daily calendar, and go back several months, and I can see where I started working with X client who is now a senior vice president at such and such. And those are a value to me because I don’t have a hard dollar value because I don’t claim their salary. They pay me but I am very proud of the fact that that person back in the workforce is now buying a home and buying cars and sending their kids to school and spending that income to the good of the economy.

The annual performance review is when you need to go in and it needs to be a two-way conversation as opposed to the set your goals at the beginning of the year, review your goals in the middle of the year, and at the end of the year, take what your boss is going to tell you. One of the things that I say is do not assume that your immediate supervisor knows exactly what you do. I consider that tragic career mistake number one, and that’s also why I say don’t ever be afraid or ashamed of sharing your wins with your immediate supervisor and her boss and his boss and her boss, because up and down the line protects you in the sense that, number one, your boss may be very, very subjective and really run you into the ground and maybe you’re that quiet person that’s not good at defending themselves. Or the other side of that is when his or her supervisors know about you, and they turn in a subpar appraisal, maybe they’re going to modify some things
So, yes, there’s a little bit of politics in here but, mostly, I think it’s about being appropriate, and that’s a very big term for me, is being appropriate, no bragging, no boasting. And for the person who does not know how to do this, you can practice with your friends, practice with your coworkers. And let me say something about coworkers while I’m there. This is not about team. This is about I, me, and mine. This is always about yourself, because if you were part of a team, just like you would in a resume, bring out what your contribution was to the group. Don’t focus on what the big win was for the team.

Pete Mockaitis
And I like the example you made with the CEO in the elevator. It’s less like, “Oh, aren’t I amazing because of all of these things?” It’s just sort of like when that question naturally comes up, “Hey, what have you been up to? What have you been working on? What’s new?” you can tell them, and you maybe have some enthusiasm, and not so much that you’re awesome, but rather that this was kind of exciting that you captured an opportunity. It’s like, “Well, one interesting thing was, in reviewing our leases, we discovered this which can result in just about $26 million.” And then they go, “Oh, cool. Duly noted.”

Rick Gillis
You know, Pete, what I call this is the what and wow. I have a formula that is when you give me a list of your accomplishments, and I take one of them, I reduce each accomplishment down to “Responsible for blank that resulted in blank” and I call that the what and the wow, “Responsible for what that resulted in wow.” So, for instance, for me to tell you, to go back to my real estate win, is to say, “I was responsible for creating a commercial-lease document that resulted in the savings of the company of about $26 million.” The person hearing this, in their head they’re going, “Whoa! Wow!”

So, what they really are thinking though is, “If you did that for them, can you do that for me?” And that’s when you need to be able to discuss the who, what, where, when, how and why because they’re going to ask you, “How did you do that?” And when somebody says, “How did you do that?” they really don’t care about so much how you did it, but, “Can you do it for me?” And that also applies within companies, within branches, within departments within companies, hey, people are rating employees all the time within companies. So, they’re responsible for what that resulted in wow, that is a formula, and that’s very apparent in the quotient.

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

Rick Gillis
No. I’ll tell you what, that’s funny you say that because, and I hold on, and I even did homework for you, buddy.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, well, thank you. So, tell us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring.

Rick Gillis
Well, I’ll tell you what, my favorite quote comes from movie. And I don’t know if you know the movie. It’s about Alan Turing, World War II.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yes, I did see that.

Rick Gillis
“Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine who do the things no one can imagine.” I use that in my presentations because I want everybody to know that they do have value and they are special. Now, one thing about that quote, I was so taken with it that I actually Googled it and I found that this guy who wrote the book about Alan Turing, I reached out to him in England, and he was just cranky as hell. He said, “I didn’t write that. Some scriptwriter wrote it.” And I went, “Okay, then I won’t give you credit.” And that’s why I tell people it’s from “The Imagination Game” movie, Alan Turing did not say that.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s funny.

Rick Gillis
Yeah, but it’s a great quote.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, okay. And a favorite book?

Rick Gillis
But I’ll tell you one of my favorites, by Lou Adler. He wrote a book called “The Essential Guide for Hiring and Getting Hired,” and it’s a really smart book for job seekers. And the reason is he wrote it for staffing companies, recruiters, how to hire. And then, after each chapter, he tells the job seeker how to use that same information to their benefit. And Lou Adler, he’s a great guy, very smart.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite habit?

Rick Gillis
My favorite habit would be on LinkedIn, and this is LinkedIn-specific, I try to respond to every request to connect with a personal note. And it doesn’t always generate a conversation, but quite often it does, so that’s my personal practice because I’m very aggressive.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a favorite nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate, and is quoted back to you often?

Rick Gillis
Yeah. Well, it’s the subtitle. It kind of became the subtitle to the book, and that’s “The proper pay for the best performance.” Equal pay for equal work, I just don’t agree with that anymore, now that I’ve really thought it through. So, the proper pay for the best performance.

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

Rick Gillis
RickGillis.com, and if they want to either connect with me or follow me on LinkedIn.

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

Rick Gillis
Yes. Your work does not speak for itself. You do.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Rick, this has been a lot of fun. I wish you lots of luck with your motorcycle adventures, and working with folks, and making the biggest impact you’re making.

Rick Gillis
Pete, thank you very much for having me. I appreciate your questions and I can tell you could go a lot deeper on this than I can. You’re the bomb, dude.