Tag

Career Management

440: Accomplishing More in Less Time by Building Microskills with Stever Robbins

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Stever Robbins shares how to break down skills into microskills…and shares which ones are worth building.

You’ll Learn:

  1. A productivity power tool to help you accomplish almost everything
  2. Why to break down learning into microskills
  3. Essential microskills that will save you years of time

About Stever

Stever Robbins is a serial entrepreneur, top podcaster, and productivity expert. He co-founded the early internet success story FTP Software, served as COO of Building Blocks Interactive, CEO of JobTacToe.com, and has been an initial team member of ten start-ups, including four IPOs and three acquisitions. He currently runs Get-it-Done Groups™, which help people make extreme progress on important projects and habits.

He was project manager at Intuit. He serves as business plan judge for the Harvard Business School business plan competition, the MIT $100K competition, and several other competitions. His Get-It-Done-Guy podcast has been downloaded more than 36 million times.

He’s been interviewed in numerous publications and is the author of It Takes a Lot More than Attitude…to Build a Stellar Organization and Get-it-Done Guy’s 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More.

Stever holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Stever Robbins Interview Transcript

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

Stever Robbins
Thank you very much for having me. I’m hoping to learn how to be awesome at my job.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m thinking that we’re both going to do some great learning. I’ve learned a lot from you with your Get-It-Done Guy podcast. I remember listening to it in Brent’s car. Shout out to Brent.

Stever Robbins
Hey, Brent.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, I think it’s going to be a really fun one. And we were already talking about a lot of cool stuff. If we had to push record before we run out of time, but one fun tidbit about you I got to hear about is you grew up in a New Age commune. What’s this about?

Stever Robbins
I did. My parents were hippies, but they came to the scene late, and they didn’t have the hippie movement to join up to. So, my father got involved in some various New Age philosophies and we sold our worldly possessions, bought a 23-foot trailer, and went bouncing around the country starting psychic growth centers.

Pete Mockaitis
Psychic growth centers.

Stever Robbins
Yeah. Don’t get me started. Let me simply say that it turns out that most of America isn’t really very open to having you start psychic growth centers. Remember the kids on the other side of the tracks that your parents warned you not to play with?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, right, it’s Stever and company.

Stever Robbins
That was us. That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
So, just real quick. Psychic growth centers, does that help me grow in my psychic abilities, or what happens in a psychic growth center? Okay.

Stever Robbins
Yup. Also, the children of the people who start the psychic growth center become atheists. So, that’s the other thing that happens in a psychic growth center. It makes a real impression on you when you grow up. Actually, we switch religions every couple of years. My father was into lots of different things. And, as a result, by the time I was 18, I had been through four or five different belief systems, and once you’re through a certain number of belief systems you start to say, “You know, all of these are just belief systems.”

The more interesting part of your question, though, isn’t, “What’s it like growing up in a psychic growth center?” It’s, “What’s it like having grown up in a psychic growth center?” Because what it does when you’re the kid on the other side of the tracks is, you don’t take the same things for granted that everyone else does.

So, for me, the most interesting part about having a non-standard background is that I question things that everyone else simply take for granted. And, on one hand, this is very powerful. It means that there’s a lot of problems that I can solve that other people can’t because I ask different questions than they do, and sometimes the questions I ask are the ones that will lead to the solution. On the other hand, there are some real problems with this because there are plenty of places in life where you really need to understand how the standard people think, and you really need to understand what would be societally acceptable and what will not.

Let me give you a hint. You do not want to discover behaviorally that wearing a loincloth to school is a bad idea. Some people know that instinctively. Others of us had to learn it.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s maybe the pulled quote that we’re going to feature from this interview, Stever, is that tidbit right there. Well, yeah, I think we’re two peas in a pod in that way. Not the loincloth specifically, but the asking questions that others don’t seem to ask because I do. And what I find to be the downside is folks are just not prepared or equipped for it, and so it just slows everything down. It’s like, “Wait a minute. What do you want? I don’t even know how to address that for you. Maybe talk to someone else.” Because it’s sort of like customer service systems, or businesses. They’re setup to do a few things well and efficiently and by the millions at scale. So, when you throw these little monkey wrenches in there, it just slows everything down, and it gets inconvenient for everybody it seems.

Stever Robbins
Oh, yeah. And, in fact, one of the things I was thinking about before this call, because I knew you were going to ask me that question, one of the things I was thinking about was, “What are the perspectives that I have despite the fact that I have a fairly mainstream life in many regards?” But I’m always amazed at the fact that we live in the most materially-rich society in all of human history, by wide, wide measure the most productive in terms of labor hours needed to produce a particular result. And, yet, we have such an extraordinarily narrow range of activities and things that we do, and lifestyles that we have.

And it boggles my mind that we have the resources to give ourselves as a race lots of leisure time, lots of ability to pursue meaning, the resources to try out and experiment with different governmental types, with different ways of being, with different work weeks. And, yet, we create very narrow boxes, live inside them, and then forget that we’re the ones who created the boxes.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a big question.

Stever Robbins
Yes, they may be bigger than we’re supposed to be talking about today. I think we were talking about getting things done or something similar.

Pete Mockaitis
And I guess my first thought in there is, I guess, it has to do with like the fear of the unknown, or risk, or uncertainty, and how maybe relatively few people want to go down that pathway. But, yeah, I’m going to be chewing on that one as well. Thank you, Stever. I want to hear, yes, I do want to hear about getting things done. And maybe, so, you’ve got an interesting sort of start in terms of that New Age commune and travelling. But then you did get some credentials that folks tend to kind of think are more normal and desirable, you know, MIT in Computer Science Bachelors, MBA from Harvard Business School, good stuff. So, how did you become branded and adopt the moniker of the “Get-It-Done Guy”?

Stever Robbins
Oh, that was never supposed to be the case. I started the Get-It-Done Guy in 2007 because I was working doing one-on-one executive coaching and strategy consulting, which is the main thing that I’ve done through most of my career. And I was really yearning for a creative outlet because, frankly, one of the fascinating things about the business world, is the business world is really very anti-creative. It uses the principles of uniformity to grow organizations, and the uniformity exists in terms of people and behavior.

Do you ever notice when someone says that you should dress professionally or act professionally? What they mean is you should restrict your behavior to the narrowest possible window of things, right? Those are not expansive. When someone says, “Act professional,” what they do not mean is “be creative, be wild, be innovative, think outside the box.” What they mean is, “Oh, my gosh, you’re wearing a three-button vest instead of a two-button vest? I can’t be seen in public with you.”

So, I wanted a creative outlet, and I had started a little podcast called Business Explained, and I had produced about 10 episodes for it. And then I experienced Grammar Girl. And Grammar Girl talked grammar, but it was fun and it was interesting to listen to, and she had an attitude. She had character. And, oh, my gosh, Grammar Girl was, and is, awesome.

So, I wrote her a fan letter, and I said, “If you would ever like a business podcaster, I would love to be your business podcaster,” because she had a little network called the Quick and Dirty Tips network. And just out of sheer coincidence, my letter got to her right after she had sold the network to Macmillan Publishing, and they were having a meeting to decide who should the next podcaster be.

And my letter came in at the right time. I auditioned for the part. I got it. And they let me choose the topic. I chose personal productivity mainly because I thought it would be fun. I thought I could do a lot more with that in terms of humor than with corporate strategy. And I was right, as it turns out. Became the Get-It-Done Guy, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Well, actually, not quite. What happened is for years I didn’t do anything with it professionally. And my branding in the marketplace was very much around strategy, and entrepreneurship, and high-growth companies, and how to be a good leader, and all that stuff. And then, about a year ago, I decided I had this podcast and I had a following, and why not start doing things that were more productivity-oriented, and just see if it flies?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, one thing I’m quite intrigued by are the Get-It-Done Groups. I’m a huge fan of accountability, and I’m intrigued as to what exactly is this.

Stever Robbins
Well, so Get-It-Done Groups are they’re accountability groups. And when I looked at the offerings out there, first of all, I’ve been an executive coach for about many, many years by the time I’ve developed this. And one of the things that I had noticed is that at the end of the day, coaches are trained to help people develop their innate capabilities, help people get that strength and motivation, that proactiveness. And, boy, is that a lot of work.

And, one day, I had a CEO client, because I mainly work with executives, I had a CEO client who had had a homework assignment, I don’t even remember what it was at this point. It was something simple, like write a letter firing someone. It was something. It was emotionally difficult but it was technically very easy. And three weeks in a row he hadn’t done it.

And so, this time we started our coaching session, and I said, “How’d the letter go?” And he said, “I haven’t sent it yet.” And instead of trying to get to the root of his blocks, and instead of trying to deeply trigger his motivation by connecting it to his highest values and his purpose and his why, I said, “Dude, I happen to know for a fact that you have one hour currently available on your calendar because that was the hour that we were supposed to be talking. So, guess what? We now have 57 minutes left. We’re going to hang up the phone. I will talk to you in 23 minutes, at half past the hour, and we will review the first draft of the letter. Bye.”

Hung up the phone. When we met at half past, he had the first draft done. And in that moment, I started to realize, “Wait a minute. Human beings are social creatures. We are hardwired to take our commitments to other people more seriously than we take our commitments to ourselves. And, if that’s the case, why are we bothering with all of this deep psychology bull pucky and all of this, “Oh, we must find your deep inner why”? Look, just, you need to get your taxes done. Great. Get them out. I’ll watch. Fabulous. Now, that you have them out, 10 more minutes, you start working and I’ll call back in 10 minutes to check up on how it’s going.

And then, real time, of course, if someone is getting stalled, you can, at that moment, diagnose why they’re getting stalled and work with it as opposed to checking back a week later, and saying, “Oh, why didn’t do your thing?” And having them try to remember what was going through their head at the time and so on.

So, what I recognize is that there are a couple of things. Number one, the hammer that seems to work for almost everything is accountability. Number two, people get lost in different ways. They get lost sometimes in their moment-to-moment ability to focus, which technology is making far, far worse. They get lost in their ability to concentrate on one project out of a portfolio of projects long enough to make progress.

And so, I said, there are three timeframes we can operate on. Let’s operate on the level of a quarter, 12 weeks, the level of the day, and the level of the hour. And what Get-It-Done Groups do is they provide accountability on all three levels. We have a couple days a week where we meet hourly, and every hour we actually commit to doing things. Those are the days when you do that stuff that otherwise would procrastinate the heck out of and that you just don’t want to do, and we all just get together and do it together. And it works really well.

The daily accountabilibuddies is what we call them. The daily accountabilibuddy is a thing where people divide up into groups of two or three and they meet every day. A very short meeting, like five to 10 minutes, and they go through, and make sure that they’re making progress on all of the things that they need to be accountable for, which will add up to where they want to go in the 12-week period. And then, over the course of 12 weeks, if we’ve designed the daily check-ins right, they will get most of the way, or all of the way, or well past their 12-week goal.

And people have used Get-It-Done Groups to write a book. In fact, she finished the last word of it this last Sunday, and several members of the group were on a Zoom call with her as she was writing those last two sentences. Unfortunately, I didn’t find out about it until about 20 minutes later, but I would’ve been there too.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m just imagining, like, one who has a violin, and it’s like a very orchestral celebratory moment.

Stever Robbins
Oh, goodness, yeah. We had been there with her for almost the whole thing. I mean, it was amazing. There was another person who qualified for professional degrees. He had been trying for many, many years, and just hadn’t sat down to do all the work. Sat down and did all the work. We had somebody else who had multiple businesses that she had developed over the years, and she wanted to merge them all, and create unified branding, and put them all under one website. She did that. We have just a whole variety of things.

So, Get-It-Done Groups are groups where you get it done. And one of the people that are especially good for is people who are self-employed because when you’re self-employed you don’t have any external person who can stop and say, “Now wait a minute. You said that doing your marketing was important to you but for the last four days you haven’t done any. What’s up? Do you want to give up on that? Or do you want to do it but now we have to make some tweaks to how you’re doing your day because empirically you need some sort of tweaks in order to be making the progress you want to be making.” And they work amazingly well.

I’ve actually been quite surprised. I wasn’t thinking that they were going to work. I mean, I thought they would be effective but, in fact, the effect that they’ve had, I think, is almost out of proportion with how simple, well, it’s way out of proportion how simple they are. But it’s way out of proportion with what I thought. I thought they’d be useful and they’ve been life-changing for some people. Like, seriously life-changing.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so cool. Now, how big is a group?

Stever Robbins
We do it as a cohort introduced every month or every couple of months, and then everyone who is currently an active member all works together.

Pete Mockaitis
So, it could be dozens.

Stever Robbins
It could be. At the moment, we’ve never had more than 15 people involved in any given moment, which is a whole another story, having to do with customer acquisition versus customer retention. Well, what we found is that, really, I’ve already figured out how to scale it to whatever point is needed. But for like the hourly do-it days, we usually have between four and seven or eight people show up for that. That’s when we check in every single hour. We have a community call once a week, and every week we’ll get anywhere from five to 12 people on that. So, it depends.

All of the elements of it are optional except for the daily check-ins because part of the whole idea is we’re all busy people, and any productivity system that takes enough time that it impacts the way that you work is not a productivity system. You need productivity systems that mesh with what you’re doing so you don’t have to feel like you must do every single thing. You do just enough and just the pieces that will give you the results that you want.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Awesome. Well, I’m a huge fan of accountability. It’s come up before. I wrote a book about accountability groups back in the day, and it had a big impact on me, so that’s huge. Well, specifically for we’d be talking today about microskills for sharpening focus and working smarter, that’s one of your key areas of expertise, and something that we dig here. It sounds like, one, a key skill is just trusting others and sharing and having some accountability. Could you maybe define for us the term microskill, first of all?

Stever Robbins
Yes. Just as people think of different timeframes, as I mentioned a moment ago, people think at different levels when they think of skills. I’ll call it a chunk size. Sometimes someone will say things like, “You need to learn to focus,” as if focus is itself a single skill. Well, it’s not. Focus is comprised of a lot of little skills. Focus is the ability to identify what you’re working on. If you don’t identify what you’re working on, you won’t do it because you don’t know what to be focusing on.

It’s the ability to block out or eliminate, in advance, external distractions. It’s the ability to either eliminate or notice when you have an internal distraction and pull yourself back on task. It’s the ability to know when you’re done, etc. So, there are actually tiny chunks of skills that make up this word that we use as a larger level skill.

And, to me, a microskill is one of the component skills that makes up what we would normally call a skill but, which in fact, is really the accumulation of lots and lots of things. And I will give you a slight spoiler, this is going to relate to our conversation about neuro-linguistic programming later in this because this is my NLP in the form of the brain that has resulted in the paying a lot of attention to microskills.

For example, we have two people in the current Get-It-Done Group who really, really, really aren’t doing enough prospecting, and they were like, “Okay, I keep falling down on my prospecting progress so let’s do a day that’s just prospecting.” And I talked to the two of them individually, and I said, “So, tell me about your prospecting process.” Now, what I’m actually listening for here is, “Are they both getting screwed up the same way? Or is there a difference?” Because if I’m going to be designing a day to work with them, I want to make sure that whatever I do during that day actually hits the causes of where they’re getting stalled.

It turns out they were getting stalled in different places. With one person it was identifying where to find prospects. For the other person it was actually picking up the phone and writing an email to reach out to the prospect, and then there’s a bunch of other skills, too, like follow up, etc. We can get into it a different time.

But, essentially, there are microskills that make up the skill of prospecting, and one of them is identifying prospect sources. The next one is identifying prospects from those sources. It’s not enough to identify the source. You actually have to go to the source and get the prospects. Then you have to craft a message, then you have to get that message out to them, which may involve doing research as to how each prospect likes to receive information, or it may involve sending out an email blast, or it may involve doing a bunch of phone calls, but whatever. You actually have to then take the action to get the prospect deal.

And, generally, when people say, “Oh, you need to do more prospecting,” they largely just mean this big chunk thing. And, to me, a microskill is one of the smaller chunk things that people don’t pay as much attention to but which often are where people get really tripped up.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I really dig that because these words, I’m right with you, prospecting, focusing really are huge. Like, I’m just thinking about my wife. We got stuck for a little while because she’s like, “We need to baby-proof this home.” I was like, “Well, I don’t know what all that means. I’m sure there are many steps, and components, and devices, and thingies that are built up when it comes to baby-proofing, and I don’t really quite know where to start.” So, we got stuck for a good while actually until I just Googled and I found a professional baby-proofer who made a lot of things happen for us. So, that was nice because it was a one-time thing as opposed to baby-proofing as a lifestyle.

Stever Robbins
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, installing new stuff every week is a skill I need.

Stever Robbins
And you know there are people who do that.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m sure, yeah, you could find a new way a kid could hurt himself, a day without trouble. But I dig it because often that sort of, I don’t know, deflates the energy or makes it less actionable when it’s big and vague as opposed to, “Now, what I’m talking about is getting on the phone again and again and again,” or, “What I’m talking about is figuring out where the heck I can get a bunch of names.” Those are different problems that have different actions and solutions.

Stever Robbins
Correct. And so, that’s what a microskill is. A microskill is understanding the skills that make up the thing you’re trying to do and then, to some degree, even more importantly, is to identify which skills are missing, and then figure out how to intervene because it’s not the case that all interventions are created equal or that all problems are the same problem.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. So, then, when we’re talking about those goals of sharpening focus and working smarter, what are some of the most potent microskills that give you a good return on your investment, a big bang for the buck in investing to develop them?

Stever Robbins
Well, I’ll tell you my favorites because they’re not super popular – speed reading and touch typing.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, there you go. Now, touch typing, I’m right with you. I am sold and, okay, go ahead. You can sell a little bit more but I’m already with you. Now, the speed-reading though, yeah, I’ve heard folks who are like, “Oh, speed-reading, it’s a scam. You really can’t blah, blah, blah.” So, lay it on us with some evidence. What’s real and possible speed-reading versus what’s hype and fluff?

Stever Robbins
Okay, do you want me to address the touch typing or the speed-reading first?

Pete Mockaitis
Do speed-reading first.

Stever Robbins
All right, speed-reading. I don’t know what’s real and what isn’t. All that I know is that I push myself to read faster and faster but I never could go so fast that I don’t have comprehension. I know that some speed-reading systems say push yourself so fast that you can barely comprehend. And then when you slow down, you’ll be able to go much faster. And I’ve actually done that particular exercise a few times.

I’m not a fan of things like photo-reading where you supposedly can digest an entire book by flipping the pages quickly. Apparently, there are people who can do that. I’m not convinced that that is the level of useful skill because the context for most people do reading these days is on a screen. So, what you need to be able to do is scan a screen and really get the meat of the information. The problem is most people skim, and skimming is not the same as reading. With skimming you get a superficial understanding, maybe, if it’s a well-written article or well-written post. Of course, in this day of pay per clicks, not pay for quality content, there’s an awful lot of stuff out there that’s extremely poorly written.

[24:27]

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, don’t get me started on the sloppy junk out there, and the agencies that enable it, which I’ll leave right there.

Stever Robbins
What happens is, for a well-written piece of writing, for example, you can scan the headlines, the headers, and the subheads, you can scan the topic sentences and things, and you really will get an idea of what the article is about, what the argument is, and then you can go back to the pieces you want more information about and read up more deeply.

That just doesn’t apply to an awful lot of things on the web because most people don’t know how to write, or they don’t take the time, or they can’t afford to take the time because they’re being paid so little that they have to grind out 10 articles in the space you would have to do one.

Pete Mockaitis
I signed up for one of those just for funzies to take a look around, and it’s like, “Holy crap, I’d have to be cranking almost as fast as I can type for like a third of that hour to eke out minimum wage here. And you’re hiring US labor? What?” So, okay, that’s a whole rant we could go on.

Stever Robbins
We have an awful lot of rants that we can go on.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, we got to get our own, you and me, the Stever and Pete podcast we’re going to rant all day long. Okay, so speed-reading, you push yourself to read faster, and then that yield some results. So, how might we go about learning how to read faster? What’s sort of the practices of developing that microskill?

Stever Robbins
You know, the thing that I would do for that, and I literally just took a speed-reading course, but the exercise that I thought was the most useful with the speed-reading course was the one that I mentioned a minute ago. Take a book or something that you want to read, give yourself, first, read a paragraph, not read a paragraph, read a chapter at normal speed, time how long that takes you.

And then read the next chapter giving yourself half that time. And then the chapter after that, half that time, and just push yourself to get successively faster and faster and faster until you’re going so fast that it’s very clear you’re not absorbing very much. But, then, when you downshift, you will downshift to a much faster rate than you started with.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, now, I’ve heard the term, because I’m dabbling reading about speed-reading before, and I’ve heard the term subvocalize which I understand to mean inside my mind, inside my brain, I’m saying each word to myself. So, if I’m looking at your bio, I might say inside my brain, but not out loud with my lips, I’d say, “Stever holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School, and a BS in Computer Sciences.” So, are you pushing past the subvocalization speed or not?

Stever Robbins
I don’t think that I am personally. What I’ve heard is the maximum speed you could get to, while you still subvocalize, is about, I think, 1500 words a minute or something like that.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s still lovely. That’s 55X normal, right?

Stever Robbins
Right. And I can get up to that, I think, when I’m really going. I can get up, assuming that it’s not something that requires lots and lots that I have to stop every sentence to digest it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s a ton. That’s reassuring.

Stever Robbins
But I don’t think I ever really quite break the subvocalization barrier. I think that for the most part, well, you know what, now that I’m saying that, that isn’t true. When I took the speed-reading course, I always subvocalized. Now that I think about it, this is a conversation I’ve had with friends before, I’m at the point where I see a sentence and I know what the sentence means. And there’s a sense that somewhere I might be subvocalizing a little bit, but it happens faster than I could possible talk it. So, if it’s subvocalizing, it’s subvocalizing it two or three or four times what my external talking speed is.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. So, that’s reassuring then that I always thought of that as some kind of crazy transcendental, the Matrix, Neo-type experience. It’s like, “Whoa, I’ve entered a new plane of information processing which is unfelt ever before.” So, okay, cool. So, that’s just all you got to do is push yourself to read about twice as fast as before, and then twice as fast as that, and then maybe twice as fast again, and then once you’ve reached the “clearly I’m not absorbing anything” level, you back it off a little bit. And then, holy smokes, you find that you are able to maybe read two, three, four, five times as quickly with just as much retention. Is that accurate?

Stever Robbins
Yeah. I tell you, it works in both directions too. It also works in the direction of output. When you’re doing public speaking. I was just helping a friend of mine prepare for an important presentation he has to give. And I would love to say that invented this exercise, I did not. This was taught to me by my very first business mentor years and years ago, back right after I had graduated, you know, at least six or seven years ago.

And he had me give a presentation at my normal speed. The presentation took about 40 minutes, and said, “Great. Now you can do 20 minutes. Give me the presentation again. You’ll have to decide what to leave out. And then do it in 10 minutes. And then do it in 5 minutes. And then do it in 2 minutes. And then do it in one minute.”

And when you push it down to one minute, and especially when you do it in that order, because each time has to learn how to filter through and decide what’s important and what isn’t. When you get it down to one minute or 30 seconds, the only thing you can say is the main points. You can’t give examples. You can’t give supporting evidence. You can say…

Pete Mockaitis
Prop down. We’re scared.

Stever Robbins
Right. And that’s it. But then what happens is when you then expand that back out to 40 minutes, your brain has gone through the process of compacting everything down and putting into the chunks that makes sense with you. So, on the fly, you can dynamically expand and contract portions of it to be able to adjust to any length.

And if you make it too short then you say, “Now, we have room for Q&A.” And if anyone asks about the pieces that you left out because you misjudged the time, well, they’re in your brain because you’ve already been through this presentation this many times and packaged all the information up nicely for yourself. So, then, all of that preparation simply serves to make you look like a genius and uber-prepared during the Q&A portions.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. We had a guest who wrote the book Brief and that was good stuff and he recommended a similar exercise which is so handy. So, okay, that’s how speed-reading can go down, also applies to presentations. His name is Joe McCormack, for the record, the author of “Brief.”

So, now, let’s talk a little bit about the touch typing. I understand that the average typing speed in the United States is 41 words per minute. I just research these dorky things of my own volition. So, you’re saying that we got a lot more room to grow in that front.

Stever Robbins
When I was in 7th grade, I took a touch-typing course, and I took it on a manual typewriter, not an electric, a manual. And at the age of – what’s 7th grade, 12 years old? At the age of 12 years old on a manual typewriter, I could consistently test out at 70 words per minute.

Pete Mockaitis
There you go.

Stever Robbins
If I can do 70 words per minute as a 12-year old on a manual typewriter, anyone can get at least that fast if not faster.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s huge. How do we get those skills?

Stever Robbins
You take a touch-typing course or you go online and I’m sure there are websites because I learned to type the DVORAK layout I learned from a website and from some apps. And you know what? It’s not sexy. It really isn’t. If what you want is some magical thing that will teach you to, suddenly, boom, get the touch-typing skill overnight, that doesn’t happen.

What you have to do is you have to train all of the common letter combinations. You have to get your fingers used to moving in those combinations. You have to practice it over and over and over, punctuated with appropriate sleep periods so that your brain can consolidate the information. And it may take weeks or months. Actually, I don’t know if I’m as fast on DVORAK even now after I’ve been doing it for about 10 years as I was on QWERTY at the time.

I find the big advantage to DVORAK is far less finger strain and finger movement which is, and I’m still pretty darn fast typing DVORAK. But I practiced DVORAK for months before I got up to a reasonable typing speed but it was completely worth it because, in the 10 years, or actually it was more because I was already typing DVORAK when I started the Get-It-Done Guy. I have written roughly 750,000 words of paid content, which I guess makes me a professional writer now that I think about it.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Bling. Bling.

Stever Robbins
But part of why I was able to do that is I could type fast enough because it doesn’t matter how great your ideas are, it doesn’t matter how great you are at composing sentences, if you can only type 20 words a minute, you’re not going to be able to write 700,000 words of text because you just don’t have the time to move your fingers that much.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, it’s true and I played around with all kinds of speech-to-text and dictation tools and software, and it’s not there yet. Maybe in five years, maybe 10 years, but we’re not there yet. And so, when it comes to keyboarding and typing faster, one of my favorite resources, I’m going to drop this in the show notes, is keybr.com. They’ve got some cool case studies of folks doubling their typing speed in like five hours of practice over the course of a couple weeks. And part of their brilliance, I think, is that it starts you, it kind of drills each key in order based upon its frequency versus difficulty to type so that they’ve really kind of leveraged it for you as much as possible, and it’s free. So, keybr.com is a handy one, and I’m digging it.

So, okay. Well, let’s move. Time is flying here.

{Insert sponsor High Brew Coffee: One of the most potent elixirs I have to turn me into a snappier Get-it-Done Kind of a Guy is High Brew Coffee. For me, High Brew is the most delicious source of caffeine I have ever encountered. And they have a cool backstory. Their founders sailed the open seas with their family and cold brewed this coffee to stay alert amid the demands of wind and water. Hig h Brew has twice the caffeine of a traditional cup of coffee, but it’s naturally-arising (as opposed to added) – AND has way less sugar than other ready-to-drink coffee and energy drinks. High Brew Coffee is made from 100% Direct Trade Arabica beans that are cold brewed over time, not heat. And their flavors are fantastic. I most often reach for Mexican Vanilla because I think it’s the tastiest and Creamy Capuccino because it has 12 grams of protein. But they’d also got dairy free black and bold, double espresso, dark chocolate mocha, and salted caramel. My father in law said “It’s like drinking liquid ice cream” but without all the fat and sugar. The cans are shelf stable and non-carbonated so you can shove it in your bag and go.

You can get 20% off of your purchase of a 12 pack when you enter ​20awesomeHBC ​at checkout. Head over to the link in the show notes.}

Stever, I want to make sure we get a chance to touch base on, so you are a smart dude and you’ve got impressive credentials from impressive places, and you think clearly about stuff. And I’m so intrigued that you are also a certified master trainer elite of NLP, neuro-linguistic programming. Now, NLP has got an interesting reputation. Maybe, could you give us a feel for, first of all, what is it, for those who are less familiar? And then, can you kind of like with the speed-reading, tell us what’s real, what’s exaggerated, and what benefits can we really expect to glean from NLP?

Stever Robbins
Sure. So, NLP is a set of models for understanding how humans think and how the way they think can be inferred from their language, and ways to change the way you think, or someone else thinks once you know what that is. I learned about it first because I wanted to learn things, and NLP was originally introduced to me as a technology for being able to sit down and talk with someone who had expertise and understand at a cognitive level, which basically means, “How are they thinking about the task involved to be able to produce whatever results they produce that constitutes expertise? And how can that be expressed in such a way that I can learn it or you can learn or someone else can learn it?”

Because, for example, if you’re talking to Mozart, and you say to Mozart, “Gee, how do you compose that passage?” And Mozart says, “Well, the way you compose it is you just play it over and over, and you listen really carefully until it sounds right.” That’s not a useful description. If you don’t happen to be Mozart and have Mozart’s definition of “sounding right” then you’re not going to produce the kind of music that Mozart can produce.

However, if what Mozart says to you is, “Well, what I do is I make colored pictures in my mind, and every color corresponds to a note. And I notice that when the pictures have a particular type of symmetry when played as notes they sound good.” Every step of that is something you could teach someone. Again, maybe not easily. This phenomenon of matching visual things with sounds is called synesthesia. If you want to create a synesthesia such that your colored pictures can be translated into notes, I’m guessing that doing that itself is a skill, and if you don’t happen to develop it as a child, or you’re not born with it, that itself is going to take you a while.

But assuming that that really is the way Mozart creates music, then if you have those skills, and this is where the microskills come in. And, in this case, the microskills are being able to make these colored pictures, being able to judge if they’re symmetric, being able to make them symmetric if they’re not, and being able to translate it back and forth into sound. If you have those skills, then you can produce probably not the identical results to Mozart because he has his own personal history that he’s filtering all of this through, but you’ll be able to produce things that are in the realm of musical expertise.

Now, I made that example up, by the way. But the idea there is NLP helps you listen to how somebody does what they are talking about that they do, and figure out what are the mental steps they’re doing to get there. And, as I mentioned before, that’s really at the heart of so much of what I do, because NLP says, “Given a big chunk skill, like composing musical piece, what are the tiny chunks that make it up?” And the tiny chunks may well be different for different composes, in which case, there are many different ways you can learn to compose music.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, now, I like when you said that because I think sometimes as I’ve seen NLP, neuro-linguistic programming presented, it’s talking about, “This is some mind control hypnosis stunt that’s going to make you crazy persuasive if you anchor touching your tie when you say something really compelling.” You know, I was like, “I don’t know about that.” Or, “You can tell if anyone is lying based upon where their eyeballs move.” It’s like, “I don’t know if that is accurate or being validated by any of peer-reviewed research.” What do you think about these kinds of claims?

Stever Robbins
Depends on a specific claim. The NLP will make you an amazingly unbelievably persuasive. NLP does make a set of distinctions which teach you how to understand how someone is thinking and how to package information in such a way that it fits with the way they think about something.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s like a persuasive booster.

Stever Robbins
Right, it could be a persuasive boost. But the information, even if you packaged the information so somebody will use it the way that they want to receive it. So, let me give you an example. Let’s say that I’m someone who is a visual thinker, and I understand long-term trends by visualizing a graph and noting if the graph goes up or down. So, if someone says to me, “Oh, unemployment is falling,” I actually picture a graph that has a line that goes from the upper left down to the lower right, and that’s my mental representation of what the sentence means “unemployment is falling.”

If you know that that is how I represent things, and you want to communicate the information that consumer happiness is rising, or maybe that consumer happiness is all over the map, then if you simply show me a picture that has this line going up and down, and left and right, and all over the place, and say, “This is consumer confidence,” I don’t have to do any work to understand that because that matches with the way that I understand things.

However, if you show that exact same map to somebody who understands things by visualizing a column of numbers, not a graph, they’re going to look at that graph, and go, “I don’t know what the heck that is. I can’t make any sense out of it,” because their mental representation is not making graphs with lines in it.

So, what that means is for a given person, if you understand how they take in and process and understand information, you can package whatever case you’re trying to make so that it fits their type of information so they don’t have to work to understand it. However, just because they don’t have to work to understand it, it doesn’t mean they’ll immediately take it in. It just means that they won’t reject it because it doesn’t make sense to them. If they make sense to them, but then they may reject it because it doesn’t make good sense.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Fair enough. And how about these eyeball directions indicating if someone is lying?

Stever Robbins
So, that’s interesting. The actual NLP model does not say that eyeball directions indicate if someone is lying. In fact, if you read the book, they explicitly say that’s not what they do because that’s one of the common ways people misinterpret them.

What the eyeball directions are claimed to do, and this is something that drives me nuts because of the way this is phrased, it’s one of the easiest things to “test.” And I put that in quotes because, so far, I have yet to see any test that actually does a good job of genuinely testing the claim.

The observation is that people systematically move their eyes while they’re talking. Sometimes they move them up, sometimes they move them to the sides, sometimes they move them down. And in the NLP model, we pretend that what goes on inside people’s brains is they make pictures, they talk to themselves, they hear sounds, they basically have an inner sensory life in the five senses that corresponds to the same five senses that you use on the outside.

And, in fact, since NLP was developed in the 1970s, there’s been a lot of research that shows that’s probably even accurate in terms of what’s really going on because they found that if you have somebody visualize moving a muscle, all of the same neurons fire in their brain except for the very final neurons that actually activate your limb moving or whatever.

So, what the eye movement model in NLP says, it says when you’re constructing visual images, your eyes move one direction. When you’re remembering visual images, your eyes move another direction. When you are imagining sounds you’ve never heard before, your eyes move in a third direction. When you are remembering sounds you’ve heard before, your eyes move in a fourth direction. When you are talking to yourself and engaging in internal dialogue, your eyes move in a fifth direction. And when you are experiencing your feelings very strongly, your eyes move in a sixth direction. So, there’s three directions on each side, there’s three to your left, and three to the right.

And they may be different for different people. On some people, especially left-handed people, one or more of them might be swapped left to right. But the NLP model says that when somebody is retrieving information, when they’re really involved in information processing, their eyes will move in a particular direction that corresponds to the type of processing they’re doing.

You can then use that to help choose an intervention to decide what to do with them to help them change their thinking if what you’re doing is trying to help someone change their thinking, because NLP, the first place it was really used extensively, and the fact where it was developed, was in the realm of therapy. So, people would come in and they would say, “I have this horrible phobia.” And by watching their eyes, one of the things that you could find out is every time they talk about the thing that was a phobic trigger, they would always move their eyes to visual memory, or to the direction that corresponded to visual memory.

If that’s what happened, there is a particular technique that was developed in NLP that says, “When somebody is having a phobic reaction, and it is instantaneous, and it involves a remembered visual image, use this technique and it will help get rid of the phobia.” And you then could use that technique and it would help you rid of the phobia.

And, like all things, there’s plenty of margin for errors. Some things don’t work all the time. Some things sometimes you misdiagnose, etc. That’s the NLP eye movement I’m on. The way that people have misinterpreted this is to mean, “Gee, if you ask someone a question, and their eyes move to the creating a visual image area, that means they’re lying.” Well, maybe. It may mean that they’re remembering something and they’re creating an image that they’ve never made before that’s based upon the thing they’re remembering. It may mean they’re not paying any attention to your question. Instead, they’re making an image of…

Pete Mockaitis
Daydreaming. That sounds more interesting.

Stever Robbins
They’re making an image of the delicious casserole they plan on making just as soon as they can get out of the job interview or whatever. And this is the problem with a lot of NLP. Number one, the term is not copyrighted or trademarked so anyone can claim they’re teaching it, and anyone can claim they’re good at it. And, number two, an awful lot of people do, and they have no idea what it really is or how it works.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now, if we want to read a book or two or three to get some useful understanding that is applicable, what would be your top recommendations on that?

Stever Robbins
Oh, that’s so difficult because I don’t think there are very many good NLP books out there. My favorite one is called Using Your Brain for a Change by a man named Richard Bandler who is one of the co-developers of NLP. The impression I get is he was really, really the principle key to the whole thing. And it is a book about how different changes in your mental imagery affect the reactions that you have to those mental images. And the reason this matter is that a lot of our behavior is driven off from mental imagery.

So, let’s say that somebody says, “Hey, we’re going to raise your tax rates,” and you’ll get super upset at that. Well, you’re not actually getting upset at the words, “We will raise your tax rates.” You’re getting upset of what that means to you. And it may be that what happens is you make a mental image of yourself lying in a gutter surrounded by really bad liquor with people stepping over your body because you think that if your tax rates get raised, that’s what’s going to end up happening to you. And what you’re going to reacting to is that image that you’re making.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’s helpful.

Stever Robbins
So, Using Your Brain for a Change teaches you to identify the images that are actually driving your behavior and gives some specific techniques for how to manipulate those images and change them so that they drive your behavior differently. Because if you took that exact same image of yourself lying in the gutter with the cheap liquor, and you put circus music behind it, “toot, toot, root, toot, pop, para, pop” it wouldn’t produce the same emotional reaction. It may not make you want to be there, but it’s not going to be this horrible tragedy.

But, on the other hand, if you put these strings and violins, just doing the slow mournful thing, well, that makes it worse, you know, etc.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood.

Stever Robbins
Now, people go, “Ugh, that’s just a funny little mental trick.” And I’m like, “Yes, it’s a funny little mental trick that completely changes the way that you feel about something. Isn’t that useful? Like, if you can just do a funny little mental trick and, suddenly, this thing that has been causing you incredible stress and high blood pressure and anger, suddenly becomes funny, that sounds like a mental trick worth learning and doing more of.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well-said.

Stever Robbins
So, the thing about NLP, to me, number one, very few people who claim to understand it really understand it very well. Number two, they often misrepresent it as a thing that accomplishes a certain result, like being a lie detector, or persuading people of things. And it’s less about getting a specific result, and it’s more about when you’re dealing with people, how do you understand the way they communicate? How do you understand the way they think? And how can you communicate to them so that you could be most understood by them?

And if they want to change, and if they want you to tell them how to change their behavior so they get better results in their life, how can you package the communication about how they can change such that, number one, they can hear and understand it; number two, they can then turn that understanding into different behavior; and then, number three, how can you make sure that the behavior you’re telling them to do, like in this case the circus music, is actually the thing that will make a difference for them? Because, for some people, circus music may not make something silly. For some people, circus music may make it ominous because maybe they saw too many clown films as a kid or whatever.

But once you know for a given person how they think, which things are meaningful for them, what their language is, you can help them reach the results that they want by using NLP to understand all of those things. Has this been clear?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yes. Thank you.

Stever Robbins
Sure.

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

Stever Robbins
With me you mean?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right.

Stever Robbins
With me, I’m at SteverRobbins.com, GetItDoneGroups.com, and if you are interested in the podcast, which is the Get-It-Done Guy’s Quick and Dirty Tips to Work Less and Do More, which is way too long. It should just be called the Get-It-Done Guy, or it should be called Work Less and Do More, go to itunes.com/getitdoneguy. Or, essentially, Get-It-Done Guy on any place that you listen to podcasts.

431: Leadership Practices You Should Stop with Sara Canaday

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Sara Canaday highlights key places where conventional leadership wisdom needs to be replaced.

You’ll Learn:

  1. A common leadership practice you should replace
  2. Why we should value soft intelligence as much as we value hard data
  3. How the bias for action can get in the way of progress

About Sara

Sara Canaday is a leadership expert, keynote speaker, and author.  She works with leaders and high-potential professionals from organizations around the world to expand their capacity to innovate, influence, engage, and perform. Her new book, Leadership Unchained: Defy Conventional Wisdom for Breakthrough Performance, is now available on Amazon. For more information, please visit SaraCanaday.com.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Sara Canaday Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Sara, thank you so much for joining us here on How to Be Awesome at Your Job Podcast.

Sara Canaday
Thank you for having me. Glad to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to have a chat and I recall last time you mentioned that one of your dreams was to be a backup dancer in a hip-hop video. And I understand that dream is still alive. I’d like to know how that’s evolved and if there’s any particular music right now that gets that dream going for you.

Sara Canaday
Yeah, it is still alive. And I think it’s alive because it’s one way to stay loose and to not take myself so seriously. So, I think it’s important for me to keep that dream alive, actually. I think, probably, my kids, my husband and others are glad that there’s that part of me that tries to let loose a little bit and not be so serious.

So, it’s—that dream has served me well. Now, I wish I could say that it’s found me on the stage as a backup dancer not, yet but I can still hold out. And I think the last time we talked, we talked about artists like 50 Cent and Beyonce.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Sara Canaday
I should say that with a 14-year old and a 17-year old, I’m now listening to pretty heavy, rapid RnB sometimes and knowing that you might ask me this question, it was kind of a shame that I had to look and comb through an artist that I listened to that did not have an explicit song.

Pete Mockaitis
Keep the dream alive, keep it loose. That’s good.

Sara Canaday
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so, you’ve got a new development in terms of a book Leadership Unchained. I’d love to hear first and foremost, what did you find particularly surprising, striking, fascinating as you’re researching and putting together this one?

Sara Canaday
Yeah, well, I don’t know if it was confirmation bias at work here but it seemed that even after I wrote the book or while I was in the process of writing the book, I would finish a chapter, I would finish the research, put it aside. And lo and behold, I kept seeing examples of either companies or leaders, who were doing a semblance of some sort of what I just finished talking about in terms of zigging while everybody else is zagging and how it paid off for them.

And so again, it could be that I was uber open to it on a subconscious level, but I felt that I kept finding reassurances and examples for exactly what I was talking about. And that was surprising and it was exciting at the same time.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s cool. So, I’d love to hear an example there in terms of, what’s a zag or sort of common leadership work practice that you think is best replaced with a zig?

Sara Canaday
Well, I think one of the ones that comes for me last year because it’s not anything I had to research, it’s something that literally popped up. After I already wrote my chapter on this idea of having everything earn its rightful place to be on your to-do list, right. And the chapter is not only look at literally what makes your to do list every day, but what kind of projects, initiatives—what is consuming your calendar? And does it really belong there?

Are you doing it because it makes somebody else comfortable? Are you doing it because it’s always been done but nobody would question whether that report ever got produced? Is it moving you or your team forward? And again, in the chapter, I talked about a company that years ago looked at the number of products it was selling.

And so again, it wasn’t just a to-do list of items every day, it was on a larger scale. And in order to be profitable, they made a decision that was very, very difficult but to reduce that profit or those products from 13 down to two.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Sara Canaday
And so they had to ask themselves some really hard questions. Long story short, it ended up really working to their advantage. But what popped up several months after writing that chapter was Ford Motor, making their announcement that in North America they were going to stop making Sedans.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Sara Canaday
Which is stunning, that’s a stunning announcement, but for various reasons—but some of which meant that they sat down and they really thought about what do they need to stop doing in order to grow. And that was just a prime example to me.

Pete Mockaitis
So, are they not manufacturing Sedans in North America or they’re not selling them in North America?

Sara Canaday
They are not manufacturing them—

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Sara Canaday
Which means they no longer will sell them.

Pete Mockaitis
So, I will not be able to acquire like a Ford Taurus in a few years?

Sara Canaday
No, they are stopping production of it.

Pete Mockaitis
This is news to me.

Sara Canaday
Yep.

Pete Mockaitis
Plus learning this.

Sara Canaday
Done, over.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright.

Sara Canaday
And we don’t know, right. It’s too soon to tell, we don’t know if that’s going to be the right decision if they indeed will benefit from that decision. We’ll need a crystal ball for that. But I think it’s very telling that they’re making those kinds of moves.

And that leaders and companies, and anybody should be thinking about that. I shared with somebody the other day that two years ago, I put together my kind of business planning meeting and I invited some people that helped me with my work.

And at the time, I was friends with a colleague who was really good at facilitating strategic planning meetings and business planning meetings. And he said, “you know Sara, would it help you if I came and facilitated so that you could actually be part of the meeting and not have to do both facilitation and brainstorming or what have you?” And I said, “sure.”

Well, this man was brilliant because soon after I talked about what I was looking for the next year, what areas of my business did I want to grow? We drew a big pie circle on the whiteboard, and we put percentages of the areas I wanted my company to grow. And I was ready to talk about, “okay, what do I need to do in order to grow?” And he stopped me in my tracks. He said, “No, let’s first talk about what you need to stop doing in order to grow in these other arms of your business.” And that was the best thing he could have asked me.

Pete Mockaitis
Right on. Cool.

Sara Canaday
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a wise tidbit there, with regard to making sure everything earns its place on the to-do list and doesn’t just sort of get there.

Sara Canaday
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
Just because for another person’s expectations or a habit or an old kind of a relic of previous times, which is maybe not as relevant to do now. And that there’s power in identifying what to stop doing. So, that’s well. So, that’s one example but what’s the overall message or thesis of the book Leadership Unchained?

Sara Canaday
So, the overall message is to try to keep pace with this always on, push harder, do more world by taking some counter intuitive approaches. Because what I’ve seen in working with the leaders over the years, whether that’s workshops or speaking to groups of leaders or even coaching them, is that the conventional methods—the things that we were taught to be true, whether from bosses or from reading books—that approach to work, and to leadership is not working anymore.

And that these leaders are not necessarily getting the traction that they used to get by doing more, by following these conventional practices. So, this book is really about the need to change and disrupt the way we work, think, and lead.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, could you perhaps share some of your favorite  evidence of studies or whatnot that shows that a particular conventional method or two, ain’t cutting the mustard the way it used to?

Sara Canaday
Yeah, sure. One of my favorites is this idea of big data, right? And that’s because it’s so relevant today. And so many people think it’s just such a sexy thing, right? Big Data. And I think what’s happened is, while it’s helped us tremendously and helped with medications, new medications or new protocols, I think there are ways that we have almost let data rule our decisions.

And we are driven by the data as opposed to just valuing it and putting it in its proper place. And my favorite study, or at least evidence of how this happens is a story that I read about and then I subsequently listened to a TED Talk by a woman who was a cultural ethnographer. And her name is Tricia Wang.
[11:55]

She told a fascinating story about how she was hired in 2009 by Nokia. And they hired her to find out about a particular consumer group and at this point, that was the Chinese population, and in particular, Chinese immigrants. And to study what their preferences were in terms of smartphones.

And like, what a cultural ethnographer does, she immersed herself in their culture. She spent, I think, up to a year working in the rice paddies, she went to the local internet cafes, and observed and talked to people within that culture.

And what she found was very stunning and that was that the need or the want more importantly for an iPhone and the desire to own an iPhone was so prevalent that these Chinese immigrants were willing to spend half of what they earned in a month just to have one.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s quite the discovery.

Sara Canaday
It was a huge discovery for her. And I’m summarizing this study but—

Pete Mockaitis
For quadruple the price, you could get away with it guys, take away all their worth.

Sara Canaday
Well, what’s interesting is at the time Nokia was building high-end, multifaceted smartphones, and what she wanted them to know and what she casme back to share with the executives about her study was that they should put some of their efforts behind building a lower-end smartphone. That that’s where the market was, and that they would benefit from doing so.

Now, sadly, her small data set was compared to an extremely large data set that was more hard data, right. And they really didn’t move in that direction because they thought that her data wasn’t sufficient enough, and that it wasn’t “hard enough”.

And they did not go in that route. And we all know what happened to Nokia. Right, so, that is one example and what she submits in her TED Talk, and in her research, is that we need to value the immeasurable or what I like to call soft intelligence as much as we do the hard data.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a cool story. I guess I’m not quite following how her big discovery was that their desire for iPhone is so powerful that they’d spend half their income and therefore the recommendation was “make lower-end phones”. I think I’m missing a connecting piece there.

Sara Canaday
Yes, well, I mean, so, she—

Pete Mockaitis
… spend big money, but they don’t try to get that money, I’m not following exactly.

Sara Canaday
They would do so, right. But she knew that if they would change their strategy to make lower-end phones that even more people would buy phones.

But she was not in any way saying that they should keep building the higher-end smartphones. Because remember, these people worked in rice paddy, so even half of what they earned wasn’t necessarily enough for the product that Nokia was building at the time.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, there we go, right, that’s the missing link.

Sara Canaday
Okay.

Pete Mockaitis
I thought they were immigrants into the U.S.

Sara Canaday
No, and I should have correct that, they weren’t—I think I used the word immigrants. Migrants.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, okay, gotcha, gotcha.

Sara Canaday
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you. So, it’s sort of like, “hey, they’re willing to spend half their income but half their income isn’t cutting it—

Sara Canaday
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Therefore, if you have something at this price point—

Sara Canaday
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
… great shape because folks will spend half their income and get a great phone that has a lot of cool features but maybe not everything, and the kitchen sink, which would dwarf what they can do?

Sara Canaday
That’s exactly right.

Pete Mockaitis
So that’s a discovery that you can make when you’re going deep into immersing yourself in a culture and an environment. But that you may very well miss if you’re just looking at sort of billions of scans of retail consumer electronic transactions and what those are telling you.

Sara Canaday
Right, right. And a lot of times what I see happen is that we love to survey our customers, for example. And when we survey our customers, we rarely do so by asking open ended questions. It’s usually some sort of a Likert scale, rank us as a company on a scale of one to 10.

And we take away from that how the customer evaluates us or our products or services. But what we miss is the nuances, we don’t know why they’re rating us the way their rating us. We may not know exactly how they interpreted the question. But we’re willing to come out and make decisions based on these numeric conclusions.

And so I’m just saying, we need to balance that by getting up behind our desk. And whether it’s with customers or with employees, we need to do our own field research, right? We need to maybe observe our employees or customers in their natural habitat, using our products or services or working in our environment.

We need to maybe solicit stories from those that are impacted by our services, by our products, by the way we operate as a company. We need to make sure that we’re including like I said earlier, the soft intelligence, the human factor.

We need to be asking, what might we be missing in this data? What conversations perhaps are we not having because we’re relying solely on this data? Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
And that’s the one you used for your profile and so that really gets me. I’m right with you there when it comes to, we drive these big old decisions from these Likert scales, these numerical things when in fact, maybe, whatever, just make up numbers, 90% of folks chose a six on your seven-point Likert scale. But those people didn’t quite know what you meant by this thing and they assumed meant that thing, and therefore the six, it means nothing.

Sara Canaday
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
Because they weren’t even on the same page that you had thought and hoped and assumed that they were on. So, I’m right with you. So, tell me, what are some of the pro tips for having the best of both worlds in your decision making and research?

Sara Canaday
Well, I think one of the things you can do is if you’re going to collect data, make sure that maybe you have a way to do both quantitative and qualitative gathering, right. So, if you’re going to do a customer survey, maybe you also bring in a customer subset to then talk to you about why they rated you in certain ways, or have a focus group around some of those same types of data sets, so that you can pick up all the nuances behind the ratings. I think those are really important.

Some companies will interview potential customers at the point of purchase, so they haven’t really purchased your products or somebody else’s. But you can maybe understand what they’re using in terms of comparisons, how they’re making their decisions between you and perhaps your competitors.

If we’re looking at employees, I know that an example that was used for years is this idea of exit interviews, right? And understanding why people are leaving your company to get better informed. But how about asking people what really drove you to make the decision to come with our company? What was it about that the way we engaged you with us through this process, helped you decide to come work for us? Those are the kinds of things where we’re asking things at a much more qualitative level and not just quantitative.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s right on. Okay, so, there we go. That’s one piece of conventional practice, like the numerical, quantitative big data rule all that can lead you astray.

Sara Canaday
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
If you kind of overlook the other parts to the picture. Are there some other pieces of conventional leadership wisdom practice that can be potentially problematic, and that you would amend just as we’ve done here?

Sara Canaday
Yeah, well, the very first chapter I talk about one everybody can resonate with is this bias for action. And it’s something I prided myself on through my years in corporate, right. That I was the person that could get things done. It was somewhat …, but something I also trained myself to be very much about productivity and taking action.

And this is still a work in progress for me, but what I’ve seen is that that actual bias for action, that tendency to be always moving forward can actually get in the way, it can get in the way of innovation, it can get in the way of figuring out how to keep up with this just overwhelm of information, of being able to make good decisions in this instant response world.

So bringing this down to the individual, my discovery and my suggestion to leaders who are trying to keep pace, and for anybody who’s trying to keep pace, is that they consider making an unbreakable appointment with themselves, whether it’s daily or weekly.

And this is an appointment not—this isn’t mindfulness, this isn’t meditation, although I believe in those things. This is about just stepping back and looking at everything you’ve consumed that week, in meetings, what you’ve read, data reports, and letting that percolate.

So that you can really make meaning of what it is, you can separate the wheat from the chaff. And you can make connections where there seemingly may have not been connections before.

That is the sort of counterintuitive practice or zigging while everyone else is zagging. And in fact, what I always say is the willingness to sit still, while everyone else is in motion.

Pete Mockaitis
Gotcha, cool. Well, tell me Sara, any other key things you’d like to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear some of your favorite things?

Sara Canaday
Well, I think that the only other one that’s a again a work in progress for me, is this idea that I brought up right at the beginning, which is making sure that you put as much emphasis into what you’re not going to do, what you’re going to stop doing as much as what you’re going to start doing.

I think that’s an easy thing to do and I always encourage and challenge people that I’m working with or speaking with is to start your day tomorrow and instead of looking at your to do list, try and stop doing list. Just try it on for size, see how it feels.

Pete Mockaitis
I dig it and as you in your own life and work with clients, what are some of the things that tend to appear most frequently on stop doing lists?

Sara Canaday
One of the first things that I see a lot is that I’m going to stop endlessly checking my emails, that always bubbles up, people admit that they don’t put their emails on— they don’t close out their emails. And that that’s an incessant checking of their phone, of their social media, that they’re literally going to close off and not be tethered to those things.

The other is they’re no longer going to value themselves based on somebody else’s expectations. They’re not going to let somebody else’s expectations or I don’t know what the word is I’m looking for but they’re going to start to sort of take charge of their own calendar, if you will.

And I know that that seems hard to do, right. We’ve got people who are relying on us and that have expectations but I think there are some things we can do to drive our own calendars instead of letting somebody else do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely, thank you. Well, now if you will share with us a favorite quote that you find inspiring

Sara Canaday
Well, I think it’s fitting with the topic today and it’s one that was shared by Warren Buffett in one of his speeches several years ago, and it’s quite brilliant, “the chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken”. That is one of my favorite quotes.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, I believe he is correct. It’s really thought provoking.

Sara Canaday
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
It is like oh—

Sara Canaday
And he can’t take full credit for that. Apparently, he took part of a very similar quote from a gentleman named Samuel Johnson. He had read something very similar years ago, but he made it his own. Those are his words. Those are Warren Buffett’s words.

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

Sara Canaday
Well, again favorite study is one that is that I uncovered while writing this book. And it was from the Journal of Economic Psychology and it’s interesting. The researchers studied videotapes of goalkeepers and these were top Soccer League goalkeepers. And they analyzed 286 penalty kicks to determine the probability distribution of kick direction and then the responses they elicited.

In other words, what they discovered was that the optimal strategy for goalkeepers was to remain in the center of the net during a penalty kick, not moving to the left, not moving to the right. And by doing so, they had a 33% chance of blocking the ball.

But what they discovered is that these top goalkeepers only stayed in the center six percent of the time. And this study was exactly about our bias for action. And that is what was propelling them to move either to the right or to the left, the idea of doing nothing and standing still, even if they knew that it was going to increase their chances of blocking the goal didn’t work. Again, that bias took over.

Pete Mockaitis
That study is so fascinating because the notion is that you look like a moron.

Sara Canaday
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s like if the goal goes in, and you stayed in the middle and moved nowhere, then like the crowd is just like eats you alive, like, “look ….”.

Sara Canaday
Right?

Pete Mockaitis
… do your job”.

Sara Canaday
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
It doesn’t quite work to your back,  “it’s statistically optimal for me to stay …”. It’s hard to argue with screaming crowd but thank you.

Sara Canaday
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Sara Canaday
This is so hard. There’re so many books that I like, I think one of the best books, it’s been years, but it’s The Big Leap. It’s by Guy Hendricks and it’s probably one that’s a cross between a business book and a personal growth book. And I think that’s why I liked it so much because I’ll either read business books or I’ll read for sure, pleasure and this one kind of had a mix of both. So, I really liked it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, thank you. And how about a favorite tool so that it helps you to be awesome at your job?

Sara Canaday
I got to say that this sounds so trite but LinkedIn. I think about what I do with that tool, like, every meeting I have, phone or in person, I can go in and I can read about that person, I can find things that we may have in common to talk about. I can appear more prepared, or in the know just by looking at some of their history or what it is they do, what their role is. So, it’s just a fascinating tool.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I’m a huge fan myself. I got the premium and I use it.

Sara Canaday
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
And … go reach out to Sara and myself on LinkedIn, listeners.

Sara Canaday
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
For me the secret password is either a boy band lyric or, “hey Pete, I like the podcast”, just to help differentiate you from the inbound sales funnel lead …

Sara Canaday
There you go.

Pete Mockaitis
That I’ve been getting more and more of lately.

Sara Canaday
Yeah, …

Pete Mockaitis
I’m sure LinkedIn is gonna find out how to crack down because they’re brilliant over there.

Sara Canaday
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Anyway, yes LinkedIn is good. We are agreed on that point. And how about a favorite habit? Something that you do that helps you to be awesome?

Sara Canaday
Oh, you’re gonna laugh, when I read this favorite habit, I didn’t look at that it helps me to be awesome. Although I guess I could find a way to argue it. This is so silly but my favorite habit is that I make my bed right when I get up every morning.

Pete Mockaitis
May be a Navy SEAL guy, he’s all about that.

Sara Canaday
Yeah, well, the reason I like that habit is because I love getting into a completely freshly made bed. There’s nothing worse than getting into an unmade bed. And so, I refuse to do it. And so, I guess I could argue that it helps me get awesome sleep, which means I could be awesome at my job.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good, thank you. And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks they quoted back to you?

Sara Canaday
When it comes to mine is when I tell people to be a renegade in their ideas and their approaches, but not in their behavior.

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

Sara Canaday
I would point them to my website, Sara Canaday, or as you said, connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter or Facebook.

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

Sara Canaday
I’m a circle back to what I said earlier. Get out a piece of paper or your phone and jot down one thing starting tomorrow that you’re going to stop doing.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, Sara, thanks for taking the time. This was a lot of fun.

Sara Canaday
Excellent. Glad to be here.

430: How to Reach the Unreachable: Lessons Learned from Master Teachers with Jeff Gargas

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Jeff Gargas shares best practices from teaching that every professional can use.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Three links between classroom management and organizational management
  2. How to return to caring when you’re not feeling it
  3. How to reach the unreachabl

About Jeff

Jeff Gargas is the COO and co-founder of the Teach Better Team (Creators of www.teachbetter.com, The Grid Method, and Teach Further). He works with educators to increase student engagement and improve student success.

Prior to co-founding Teach Better, Jeff was the owner of ENI Multimedia, an online marketing firm, where he worked with entrepreneurs and small businesses, assisting them with web design, social media, content marketing, and brand awareness.

Prior to all of this, Jeff was an adjunctive professor at Kent State University and spent 10+ years in the music industry. He has spoken at conferences around the country, and has successfully promoted more than 500 events and launched 7 businesses in a variety of industries.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Jeff Gargas Interview Transcript

Jeff Gargas  
Truly an honor to be on here and I really appreciate it.

Pete Mockaitis  
Oh yeah, well, I’m excited to dig in. And first, I want to hear you share when signing up for this scheduler, that you can “likely cry,” more so within your wife. What’s the story about it?

Jeff Gargas  
I’m a big sucker for romantic comedies, and I’ve always been a hopeless romantic as I describe it, just the way I am. I don’t know. I’m pretty sure I blind my mo, but I’m just a hopeless romantic and my wife’s a tomboy, so I’m more likely to tear up a little bit at a moment. Even if silly, like Adam Sandler romantic comedy, and it shouldn’t be. Too likely, I’ll get there before her for sure. Yeah, like it’s not that uncommon.

Pete Mockaitis  
Oh, that’s funny. That’s funny. I just recently discovered the TV series This Is Us.

Jeff Gargas  
I wanted to get into it. I wanted to get into it because I know what’s going to happen, like my brother and my sister-in-law are watching, my mom is watching, and I’m like, no, I don’t know how to handle that, like, no.

Pete Mockaitis  
It’s like it’s a good thing I waited until I became apparent to watch this show, otherwise… yeah, this is boring but I’m like, “Oh, my god!”

Jeff Gargas  
It’s crazy after you become a parent what other things affect you and you’re like, “Yeah, that shouldn’t. Wow, okay. Wow.” Yeah, it’s crazy.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so you’re also a listener and fan of the How To Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Jeff Gargas
I am. Big fan. Legitimate.

Pete Mockaitis
As opposed to things that publicist say to try to get…

Jeff Gargas  
No, absolutely legitimate fan. No joke. And not because we were doing this, but I was at the gym a couple hours ago, gonna get my workout in. And I was listening to it, with your episode with Michael Hyatt, which was awesome. He’s a big fan of his as well. So yeah, love it, man. Love what you’re doing, totally.

Pete Mockaitis  
Well, I love what you’re doing, you are helping the world teach better. So can you orient us a little bit? So you got a few things going on, what’s up with “Teach better,” and the “grid method,” and “Teach for us?”

Jeff Gargas  
So yeah, the Teach Better team is what we are at things over at teachbetter.com, and we basically work, but we do a lot of stuff with like, our general missions is we work with teachers and school districts to implement best practices, implement district-wide initiatives and other bits and pieces of professional development and training for the teachers.

Essentially, all we try to do is just help teachers be better at what they do. Like, teachers are already doing amazing things in the classrooms, we’re not trying to go in and change what they’re doing. We’re just trying to support them in every way, in any way we possibly can to help them do it.

It all got started with something we call the Grid Method, which is a mastery learning framework that my co-founder Chad Ostrowski, he created in his classroom, basically out of necessity, and you’re struggling to reach his very high-needs population of students and got to the point where he considered quitting, and decided that he either need to go get a job somewhere else, or he needed to figure out how to teach better.

And he luckily stayed in and figured that out. He’s a scientist by trade, so we kind of dissected everything and found best practices that seemed to be, the research showed, would answer his struggles, but couldn’t find a way to put them all together. So we created the system.

And that’s sort of what launched us, as he called me asking about doing an ebook, because I was in the online marketing world at the time. And teachers in his district were asking questions, because basically the students were telling them they didn’t know how to teach anymore, which was fun for him in a lot of ways.

It’s a little target on his back, but also a lot of teachers that were like, “Hey, I want to reach these kids, too.” And then our team will tell you my famous words were, “Dude, we’re not just doing an ebook.” I said, “We have to do something different. You’ve got something here.”

And apparently I was right, because now we try it to schools all over the country, and it’s growing. And we do a lot more than just a good method now and teach for— there’s another model that we have that incorporates classrooms working with community members and mock internships and real life, real purpose situations and all their units, and we do a lot of your just regular base, the best practices and stuff.

I’m one of the co-founders, and I work as our chief operating officer. We’re a small business with a small team, so I really operate also as our chief marketing officer, CFO, HR manager, and just about anything else you can think of. We all wear a lot of hats, but really what I try to do is just work to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to first take care of our team. And then a very, very close second is take care of our partner schools and all those teachers that are changing the world. We’re just trying to what we can help them.

Pete Mockaitis  
And in your work, you say that you have seen many commonalities, connections between some of the teaching better classroom management stuff, and then, you know, nonprofit, government, business organizational management stuff. Can you lay out that link for us?

Jeff Gargas  
Yeah, I think the biggest link, to keep it really simple, is relationships, relationships, relationships, and then environment and culture. So I come from a background in the restaurant industry, managing restaurants, and a wide variety of those also in the entertainment industry for a little while. And I’ve been, pretty much most of my life, ever since I got my first job and was able to get promoted to a shift-level management — I’ve been in management my entire life and the supervisor role.

And now with our team, it’s a little bit different, but so many commonalities there. And then we started to chat, and I started seeing all these connections between like how we needed to build things and run things in our business and the connections they had to the management in the classroom.

And one of the biggest things we saw is like this need for strong foundational relationships and building the right environment, the right culture. So like whether you’re in a classroom, a restaurant, entertainment company, market, firm, insurance agency, whatever it is, you need to build a culture of trust, of positivity, and to build that synergy.

And you need that environment that promotes growth, that promotes passion, that promotes excitement around what you’re trying to do. And in order to do all that, you’ve got to build the relationships first, whether that’s building relationships with your students to understand where they’re at, what they need, and how to reach them, or if it’s working with that new, that new employee, or a struggling employee, and building that.

And from an employee standpoint, if I’m on a team, understanding that I’m also a massive part of building that culture and building that environment, and how I interact with my colleagues, how I interact with my supervisors, and how do I build those relationships that I can understand, how do I do my job the best I can to make my supervisor’s job easier, because that’s going to make my life easier, and so on, so forth. So in my mind, all that comes in on those relationships is the foundation of everything.

Pete Mockaitis  
Okay, so intriguing. Relationships, relationships, relationships. Can you maybe paint a picture for us? So what does it look like for the world class teachers? I guess we’re gonna say relationships, but what does that look like in practice, in terms of what are they doing? What are the key differentiators that these rock stars who are getting huge student learning attainment gains, test scores, improvements rocking out versus the rest of the teachers who are kinda getting by, you know, doing okay. What are the things that they’re doing differently? How are they working their relationships or classroom behaviors in a different way?

Jeff Gargas  
Yeah, man, the relationships are a huge piece of that, because any kind of management system you put in place in your classroom, any kind of new technology, or awesome new innovative type of experience or anything like that, even the lesson plan that you bring in, it’s going to fall apart, if you don’t have the relationships to build on that.

The same thing is, I know the best business plan in the world, but if my team just can’t operate, because there’s no relationship, there’s no culture, there is no environment, it’s not going to work. But I think on top of that, these teachers that we see that are just amazing like that, they just have a refusal to quit, they refuse to quit. We call it the Teach Better Mindset.

It’s this relentless pursuit of better. It’s not perfect, it’s never going to be perfect, it’s just better — better today than you were yesterday, better tomorrow than you were today. That’s what we preach on. And it’s never this, “Hey, we want to change everything you do,” or, “Hey, you got to fix everything,” or, “You’re not good.” It’s, “You can always be better.”

And the champions that we see, these teachers that are doing amazing things, as they always look every day that reflect in their software, and they’re always thinking, “What can I do to be better? How can I reach more kids? It’s never enough until I’m reaching 110% of them.” Right?

So I think the teachers that refuse to accept anything but the best for the students, and who go above and beyond every single day to do whatever it is that they need to do to support those kids. And basically, I mean, if you think about, they’re spending their days just pouring love into other people’s kids.

I mean those are world changers, that they dedicate so much to it. And I think it’s really just that refusal to accept anything, and they’re willing to take risks and put themselves on the line and challenge themselves every single day, every single second of every day to do better and be better for the kids. Those are the ones that are really making those differences.

Pete Mockaitis  
All right, that’s awesome. Maybe could you could share a story in terms of a teacher who’s really just doing that great? So I just sort of get a sense for, build relationships and never quit. What does that look like in practice?

Jeff Gargas  
I can think of a lot of stories, but it’s all slightly general, more general. But like, it’s a teacher that you mentioned that’s already doing pretty well, right? So, you know, I’ll talk about Ray here, she’s on our team, but she’s also a phenomenal teacher, which is why we checked her into working with us.

So Ray, you know, was a good teacher, she was doing well. You know, she did well on her observations, she was reaching most students, they did well, the bell curve looked like it should as the average kid was doing well. And she could have easily skated by and been okay, and just probably had a good career, probably worked her way up to maybe being a principal one day. That was, you know, she was gonna go back and get her license, probably could have, you know, she’s got the personality and charisma to where she could have easily got into an admin position and probably, you know, had a nice career.

But early on, she decided she was not okay with being okay. And she… look, she said, “My kids are engaged, but are they as engaged as they possibly can be? My kids are doing well, but are they doing as well as they absolutely can be. I’m reaching most of my kids, but am I really okay with most of my kids?” And then she wakes up and says, “Man, I hope I hit some of my kids today. Like, that’d be great.”

No, I wake up and I say, “I want to have every single one of my kids grow today.” And I think it was that passion and her and then like, again, that’s where piece of equipment the way she did it. She said, “This isn’t working. I’ve got a lot of great pieces, but I need other pieces.”

Actually developed our Teach Further model. She’s the one who, like that was one of the things that caught our eyes. And she said, “How can I take what I’m doing, these fun activities, and really make sure that I’m not just putting in fluff?” Ray’s biggest thing is “Fluff is not enough.” And by fluff, I mean, it’s really, you know, it’s easier to create a classroom that looks really cool on Instagram, that looks really fun and engaging. But if there’s no purpose underneath it, there’s no connection to what they actually need to learn in the real world application of what they’re learning in your classroom. It’s just fluff. It’s not actually doing much other than just, you know, being fun for Instagram.

And so she said, “How can I do that? How can I make these connections?” And then she started reaching out and calling companies, businesses, saying, “I have this idea. I’m wondering if you’d take this crazy journey with me, and allow my students to operate in a mock internship with your company, and here’s how I’m going to connect it to my math standard, here’s how I’m going to connect it to my ELA standard,” and the way that she started connecting pieces to real world applications, to these seemingly boring math standards and things like that, is phenomenal.

And now, we’ve sent them to build, help teachers all over, connect with major companies and businesses and do some amazing things. But, you know, she’s a great example of that teacher that you were talking about, that rock star teacher that just said, “I could be okay, I can be comfortable, I can get by, but I refuse to do that.”

You flip that, you see it in the corporate world — I saw it when I was managing people in the restaurant industry of kids who came in and out a lot of time. I was in fact in the quick service industry, kids come in a lot of times, the first job, first opportunity, they’ve taken a management position or have a little bit of responsibility.

And you have some that said, “I’ll just do what I need to do, because I’m just here while I’m figuring out what I’m doing my life, because I’m going to college, it’s a part time thing,” and others that looked at and said, “If I’m here, I’m going to be the ‘best here’ I possibly can be. I’m going to learn everything I can, I’m going to pick the brains of the people that are here, and maybe I’ll end up in this place forever and I’ll retire here, or at the very least, I’m going to take it and make sure I get the most out of this experience. So that when I go on to the next part of my journey, my life, I can be the best I can be there.”

I think that’s the same thing when it comes to any industry or in any job you’re in. And it’s this refusal to just settle for being okay. I mean, we spend more than 60% of our lives at our jobs. So if you’re just being okay, that means you’re just being okay, for the majority of your life. I’m not okay with that. But…

Pete Mockaitis  
Okay, so it starts with having a higher standard, a higher bar in terms of, “Okay, we’re going to be the best we possibly can, we refuse to quit.” So once you get that commitment, that fire in play, let’s talk about this relationship stuff. So how does one go about forging great relationships?

Jeff Gargas  
It’s a couple of things. So the biggest thing with me is, I think it’s caring. It’s actually caring, though I have this thing that I talked about a lot, where some people do things because the book tells them to. And by the book, I mean the manual, or the best practice, or the person who says, “This is how you should do your job,” or whatever. And there’s some people that do it because they actually care.

A really simplified answer is in a restaurant, where an elderly couple is at a table, when you go to have a conversation with them. The difference between going there because, well, that’s good customer service, “And our manual says we should focus on customer service,” versus, “I’m going there because just possibly, those are grandparents who haven’t seen their grandson who’s about my age in a long time, and I can give them a little glimpse or reminder of that grandson they haven’t seen for a while. I can have a conversation with them and brighten their day.” Those are very big differences.

In same thing when it comes to building relationships with your employees, with your colleagues, with your with your students. It’s actually caring, and it’s not, “I’m doing this because it’s going to better me and make my life better, even though it will. But it’s focused on how can I help make your day better? How can I actually learn because I actually want to help you?”

And I think in the more and more tactical piece, it’s actually fairly simple. No, we chatter fast, because all the time, we have a thousand conversations about nothing. But truly get to understand that person. Dig down and figure out what they’re actually about, and build that.

You talked about authentic relationships. Authentic relationships isn’t, “Pete likes to be rewarded at work.” It’s, “No, why is Pete like that? What is the actual reason behind that? What what’s going on in Pete’s real life that connects them? Why is recognition at work so valuable to him?”

So that can truly understand what truly drives you. And I think the teachers that truly understand what their students need, and what drives them and each individual student, they’re the ones that reach them, they build those relationships nested and wants to work for them. And I think that’s the biggest piece of that, it’s truly actually caring and then having those conversations to dig down and actually understand those people.

Pete Mockaitis  
Now that’s tricky. When it comes to the “actually caring” part, I’d love to get your take on that: If you if you don’t actually care on a given day, because you’re tired, you’re stressed, you’re overworked, you got so many distractions, whatever your reasons, you know? I’m going to assume you’re not just like an evil, hateful person. But to give a day, you don’t actually care. What do you recommend to get back into that zone?

Jeff Gargas  
So there’s, I guess two parts. One is, my day will be spent figuring out why you don’t care that day, and see if there’s something you can do to fix that. But sometimes, there’re just as a new thing you can do: Would you try to leave it in your car? You can’t, and you just don’t have it in you.

So then, you may still want to practice that, because that’s still important to your and your role, but also to that person. It’s important for them, too, because you still need to understand them. So you still need to dig them. So you may have to practice the fact that, “Today, I got to put on a face and I got to make sure that I’m still digging, I’m still building these relationships, I’m still letting them know that I care.” But you can’t be fake about it.

So if you’re going to come off fake, and they’re going to see through it, that’s going to ruin a lot of the progress you made. So you may have to kind of take a day off, or maybe take not quite as many conversations. It’s not digging up in as deep. But I think the key to that is for now, “Why don’t I care today? How do I fix that?”

It’s one thing to just be down and be like, “Hey, I’m not in the mood for conversations,” that’s understandable. But like, actually not caring? You’re like, “I just don’t care about anybody today.” Like, there’s something else going on there in my mind that needs to be addressed first, and figure out like why am I not feeling this way today.

“And if I’m feeling that way, is it actually going to be harmful if I try to engage with my colleague or with my student or this way, because I’m putting off some negativity?” And so having that self-awareness and reflection on that, I think, is coordinated and figuring out, “Okay, how do I get back onto it tomorrow and I can be authentic again, and get back into doing what I need to do?”

Pete Mockaitis  
And I like the example you brought about with the waiter or waitress in terms of, “Hey, these grandparents may not have seen a really young person in a while. And so this could mean that for them.” So that seems to be a little bit of the formula with regard to “I am putting myself in their shoes and recognizing how the thing I’m doing here can make a world of a difference.”

And for teachers, that’s huge, like, “Hey, what happens here can set the stage for whether learning and growth and development are headed to college or career or interesting fulfillment jobs or, you know, much less pleasant for folks.” So that’s as well as medicine. But I think that some of the other fields I think can require a little bit of thought at times to zero in on who is it that we’re serving, and how is what I’m doing today potentially going to be transformationally amazing for them.

Jeff Gargas  
Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s important to understand who you’re serving, regardless of what industry you’re in, and what kind of engagement can help whatever it is that they’re coming to you for. And I mean, obviously in the hospitality industry, it’s a lot of that communication and being friendly, because you never know what kind of day they’re having. And if you can put a smile on their face, that might be the first time all day.

Same thing in the classroom. It’s like it takes so long to figure out what are those kids coming to school with? What else do they have? You know, what are the other things that they care about emotionally? And you might be the only person in the world that that’s showing them love for the day. That shows you care for them; that’s massive.

The same can be said for your employee or your boss or your colleague, like everyone’s got something going on, right? And you don’t know if the guy in the cubicle next to you or the girl down the hall and in the other office is struggling with something, that just the simple, quick smile, a “Hello, how are you?” an actually authentic “I care, I actually am asking you. I want to know, how are you doing today? What’s going on?”

That can that can make a world of a difference to somebody. And if you have a culture in your small business, big, large business, whatever, that has that, and everyone’s feeling that way, the opportunity for negativity to seep in is far less, which is better beneficial for everybody.

Pete Mockaitis  
You know, I like what you said about the difference a smile can make. It reminds me one time, just a few months ago, I was in church and there was someone who’s just smiling, like completely and thoroughly. It was like, “Wow, that feels really good.” I realized that she was looking at my baby.

Jeff Gargas  
Oh, there you go. That’ll do it, right?

Pete Mockaitis  
I guess that puts you in a good mood. She’s looking adorable, but I was like, “Wow, you know, it’s pretty rare that you actually get to feel a genuine, authentic, full-on smile. Like, I have enjoyed seen you!” I mean babies get it, but we don’t as much.

Jeff Gargas  
Yeah. And you know, the crazy thing is the smile. It’s crazy what a smile does for you. So there’s an author and amazing educator named Adam Welcome. He wrote a book called Kids Deserve It, which is a massive hit and educational, but then he also wrote a book called Run Like a Pirate. In this amazing book, he just picked up with a short, easy read, but it’s phenomenal.

It’s like his story of 2017, he ran a marathon every single month — because Adam’s just intense. But in the book, he talks about, like, one of his tactics for sort of getting through that mental game of running — and I’m a runner, this is why it’s big for me — but it’s to just smile.

And it’s funny, like when I run now, like if I feel like I’m having a hard time getting rid of a mental hurdle, I will smile. But then what’s funny is then I remember the fact that I’m smiling because I had this book said it, which makes me kind of chuckle, and I smile.

I’m telling you, man, it’s like a whole other level, like it just does something to you. Like it’s crazy. So if you can give someone a smile, maybe they give you a smile back. And now you get your authentic smile to yourself. Like it’s going to warm your soul. And I’m a huge fan of that.

We so often as humans just do anything we can to avoid contact, or avoid eye contact, right? Like we look down, we just don’t do anything. I try really hard. And I don’t do it every day, but I try really hard to just smile at people and say hi to as many people as I can, because again, you don’t know what they’re going through. That’s just such an important thing, in my mind.

Pete Mockaitis  
And to point about having a thousand conversations about nothing, in a way, I like the feeling that sentence creates, because it’s sort of like, you could just chill out. It’s like, I’m not intentionally trying to tease out 14 precise takeaways from this discussion.

But yeah, we’re talking about, “Oh, you like pizza? That’s cool. What are your favorite toppings? Oh, yes, sausage is the best,” you know, whatever. And in so doing, you build up a picture. But that being said, could you share what are some of the conversations about nothing that are often quite telling, and they deliver something?

Jeff Gargas  
Yeah, I mean, simple conversations about like, “What did you do this weekend? What are you up to tonight?” and then playing off that at all, like, “Do you do you watch this? Do you watch This Is Us, right? Do you cry during movies? Do you get up? You said you like pizza.” It’s a million different ways.

And you know, with students, a lot of times, it’s, “What did you do this weekend?” And that that opens up another question, noticing something that, maybe they have a graphic T-shirt on, like, “Oh, do you like The Incredible Hulk?” or whatever. Given that, your co-workers can simply just be like, “Maybe they have a shirt on,” you know, depending on the dress code and stuff, but it could be asking them what they do this week, and what are they up to this week, and what do they think about this or that, did they cast a game last night, have they got in that new movie, whatever it might be they have.

You know, just those conversations that just start a conversation about nothing, you give you a chance to just sort of learn a little bit about them, because the way someone tells you about their weekend, or explains what they liked or disliked about a movie, or the team they cheer for, something like that tells you little bits and pieces about that person, you know? You get someone talking.

I’m a Cleveland Browns fan. So you connect with the Cleveland Browns fan, and you connect with another Cleveland Browns fan, that’s a bond that can’t be shook. So those little areas — and a lot of sports teams are like that, like that’s such a connection that you may not know that you have with a colleague or with your boss or whatever — and that simple little connection can change the way you guys communicate forever. Because now there’s that little, like, “Oh, that’s typical Browns, right?” There’s these little inside jokes that automatically form, or you love that show, or, “I’m a huge fan of Friends, the TV show Friends from way back.”

And I had an employee of mind for that for I think five years, he was with us. And he had autism. But he was a credible worker; worked really hard. And he would have moments where he had some struggles, and he got frustrated with what would usually begin, you know, directive, because he’s pretty good at his job. But if we need to direct them, sometimes he took them wrong, he had a lot of stuff in his life that he was dealing with, and people would have to struggle with him.

And when he got into that mode, he was kind of like… you weren’t going to break him. And I would literally just rattle off lines to the episode of Friends, and we would just get going. And it was just this ridiculous, back and forth that no one else understood, because unless they happen to know that one weird episode, but it was just to crack him out of this thing.

And it was a little piece that took me a while to figure out, through just random conversations, where one day… I don’t even remember the actual conversation, but we were talking. I don’t remember the situation with the conversation, we were just talking about… I said something, I came up with a line, that reminded him on an episode, he goes, “Oh, that’s like the time Joey  said blah blah blah,” and we repeated it. And we’re like, “Oh, it’s the connection.” And now I now have my bond with you.

We now have a million inside jokes that we can laugh about. And I now have something that I can pull off to help you get out of a funk if you get into it. And that just, like for me, that made my life managing shifts that he was on so much easier.

Pete Mockaitis  
Well, and I’m curious, as you’re having these conversations about nothing, you’re forming some relationships, you’re learning all kinds of little things. I mean, especially in the context of a teacher with a classroom of I don’t know, 15, 20, 25+ students, how do you keep all that straight direct community particular systems, or tracking, or note keeping?

Jeff Gargas  
Well, you know, we’ve seen teachers do a million other things, and some teachers are just amazing at it. Just really, really good at it. There’s a lot of different types of things of, you know, at the beginning of the year, working with… some teachers do picture things with it, the kids get to share their stories along with pictures, and then the teacher sort of has that on the walls around, in a document or something like that, where they have that sort of resource. But you know, they’re spending every single day with those students

So you’re getting to know what they become, just like your colleagues at work. I mean, if you’re with the same 10, 15 people every day at work for 60% of your life, whether you like it or not, they’re in your life as much as a best friend would be, so you’re able to build that. So, I think, you know, big pieces.

It is much easier if you’re truly caring, I’ll go back to that. Because I don’t have any trouble remembering which one of my friends likes this, or likes that, because they’re my friends. I know though that information because I care about them. And I built it in an authentic way, not because I was supposed to because my job said so.

So it’s tough to remember, “Okay, what’s employee A1’s favorite food?” It’s easier to remember what’s Max’s favorite food, because I’ve built a relationship now, versus “I learned it because I’m supposed to because my job will be easier.” And I think it’s the same thing with teachers, teachers who truly care about their students, like they remember, “That’s Johnny, he has the brothers that do this and the mom that struggles with that,” or the, “He lives with his aunt,” or the “He has this,” and “Now, that’s Sarah, and she has these things.” I think it comes with the actual caring that comes in that situation.

So I think teachers are naturally inclined to be really, really good at that, because their hearts’ there in the first place. They’re trying to do something amazing and reach those kids, but I really think it comes down to actually caring about the people that you’re working with, and people you’re serving, and truly wanting to learn about them.

Pete Mockaitis  
You know, it’s funny, you keep coming back to this caring. And we had an interview with Alden Mills, who was a NAVY seal, and his whole thing was caring. He had a framework: CARE — C-A-R-E, each of the letters has multiple subcomponents that start with a C and A and R and E. So it’s kind of fun little connections here.

Well, so let’s talk about, what are your great phrases that you have for your businesses that help teachers to reach the unreachable? So we’ve talked about some principles that are applicable across students. But if you got a particular employee or student who is noteworthily, seemingly unreachable, what do you do?

Jeff Gargas  
It’s gonna feel like I’m coming back again and again, but it’s the way you understand them, like truly understand the person, to figure out who they are, what drives them, and why they’ve been deemed unreachable. So when it comes to employees, it’s figuring out what are their strengths, what are their struggles, and then working with them to play on those strengths, and focus on those strengths while still trying to build those struggle points, and focus really on what drives them.

You know, one of your colleagues, one of your employees might be driven just by financial gain, like they’re driven by money, and that’s okay. But understand what drives them, versus someone who’s driven by admiration and wants to be looked at as an incredible employee or the best colleague around, whatever it might be.

When it comes to the classroom, it’s finding out what’s driving your students. Are they struggling, or they’re quote unquote, “unreachable” because they come from a really rough home? And their entire life, they’ve been told that they’re there dumb and they fail, and they’re stupid, a knock at school, and no one’s given them a shot because they struggle when they were younger? And now they’re in seventh or eighth grade, and it’s just been the cycle of failure where, you know…

Chad talks a lot about the cycle failures. If you think about a student who goes to school in first grade, like every student goes to the first grade as, “I got my backpack on, and my new shoes, I’m ready to go!” right? “I’m gonna be awesome!” And they go on to try really hard and they get an F, “You failed.” “That’s all right; I’m gonna try again next year.”

Second grade, they go and they’re pumped up. “I’m gonna try really hard to do awesome.” “You failed, you get an F.” “Okay. All right, I’m gonna try really hard next year.”

And again, by the time they hit that fifth, sixth grade, they start doing some quick math in their head, and they’re like, “Huh, you know, if I try really, really hard, I get an F. But if I don’t do anything at all, I also get an F. That’s a lot easier.” Boom, stamped with unreachable. And what happens is, unfortunately, they get kind of written off. And so then, you get this little, like, “Oh, watch out for so and so; he’s unreachable. You’re not going to like him. He’s a trouble. He’s gonna…” whatever.

And the difference is when a teacher chooses to say, “Yeah, I don’t accept that. I’m going to figure out what’s really happened. Why are they struggling?” And in Chad, this is actually, like, I love the asset, because actually, you know the story Chad tells a lot about one of his students, Jesse, who was that kid. He was a kid who was on all those lists that teachers don’t have on the top 10. And it actually ended up where Chad had him at the end of the day, and for a couple weeks, Chad never saw him.

So he thought maybe he moved, because transferring was pretty common in those types of community and stuff. But he asked his colleagues, like, “Where’s Jesse? I haven’t seen him today.” “He was just getting kicked out of class before he gets to yours. He’s getting sent down to school suspension.” Then Chad asked if he could go get him, worked out a deal with his principal and stuff, and actually started going to get him, because he had delta relationship with Jesse.

And you know, “Look, this kid’s just been struggling his whole life. He’s never had anyone tell him that it was worth it,” and he was able to. Long story short is that Chad was able to connect with him, because Chad started to understand that if Jesse had some time to work through things a little bit, and had an opportunity to fail a few times and try again and try again without being told, “I’m dumb,” because a lot of times when students get to a certain point — they get that after that D — their mind goes up, “I’m stupid. I’m not good. I don’t do well at school, I’m not good at school.”

And Chad goes, “Well, if I can give us some time to work on that, and if I’m working my class and management class right way, and I have some time to maybe read aloud to Jesse to help work through these things, I bet he can do better.” And he did he started doing really well, obviously still had some issues here and there and stuff, but end up doing real good.

“I actually am good to be in the class.” And it’s an awesome story that Chad tells that I won’t go into because he’s much better.

But I think it’s the same thing. You know, I think about the employee I was just talking about, it’s a similar thing. Like, when he got on those modes, it was just like, “Well, here he goes again. I can’t, he’s just written off, like you can’t get to him.” And this isn’t to say that I’m anything special or anything, but I was able to find a way to connect with him. To get him out of that. He went from being unreachable to reachable now, and boom, he was doing his job well.

And so, I think that goes for whether it’s an employee, whether it’s your colleague, whatever it is, like, everyone’s got something going on, and it all comes back to this: getting to know that person and truly understanding them and figuring out, “Okay, what drives them?” And then also, what takes them to the spot where they’re quote unquote unreachable? And then what can I do to get them out of that?

You don’t need to be a boss to be the person that gets an employee out of a funk. Sometimes, the best person to do that is a colleague, right? And it’s just like, sometimes it takes another student to do it. But, you know, I think it’s really focusing on understanding that person, and what drives them, and what they need at that time.

Pete Mockaitis  
Okay, well, I’d love to get your take when it comes to to teaching, the actual delivery of learning content, what are some of the key principles that make communication engaging versus kind of lame and boring and not so engaging?

Jeff Gargas  
I think this goes the same as caring over some of the things we say that carries over, both in the classroom and in the world, and all other industries, when it comes to training, teaching, and redirecting all the stuff.

The thing is focusing on the why. So, “Why am I teaching you this content? Why do you need to know that?” And it’s the same “why” as like, “Why do we do this or that in this particular way, in this company?” You can choose to just say, “Because I’m boss, and I said so. Because I’m a teacher, and I said you have to do this, and this is how we’ve always done it.” Or, you can go beyond just barking orders and show them why it needs to be done.

So I talked about Ray earlier, and the Teach Further model. And that’s one of the big things; we’re going beyond just the, “Hey, let’s just do this because the state says we have to hit these standards.” But let’s actually focus on “Why do you need to know this?” Like, why do you need to understand math for the real world? Like, why do you have to understand this concept? Why is understanding history important? Why? Why should you learn coding? Like, what are you going to do with your life? And let’s connect this. “Let me show you how this is connected to real world applications.”

One of the awesome things about the Teach Further model is that a piece of that, at the end of every lesson where wherever unit, where teachers are sending home what we call a “Plan for the Future page,” which is to the parents or stakeholders, whether it is the guardians, it says, “This is what we’ve learned, this is the state-standard hit. This is how we did it. Here’s some of the things that your students showed; that means that maybe they’d be interested in a couple of these fields. And by the way, if they weren’t interested in these fields, here’s the type of education they may need to do after high school.”

We’re doing this at sixth grade levels and fifth grade levels or eighth grade levels. way before they even get to high school, because they need to be understanding that early on, so they can apply all the stuff that they’re learning through the rest of the school into real life things.

And it’s the same thing when you’re in the business world and you’re trying to employees and stuff. It’s like, “I can tell you to just do that, because that’s how you’re supposed to do it, because the rulebook says it,” whereas “I can tell you why the rulebook says why have we determined this, the way of doing this thing or that thing is the best, how does that affect everything else that happens?” Because what I’m essentially doing is saying, “Hey, this is why your job’s important, why your role in this company is important, because if you do this, this is what happens. And it ends up doing this for our customers. If you don’t, here’s how it bottlenecks, it falls down and we don’t get there.”

And so that’s the way that I think takes it from… even the person who goes, “Man, my job says I just do these numbers and whatever.” But it’s like, “If you don’t do those numbers, then x, y, z doesn’t happen. And somewhere down the lot, this ends up happening, that we don’t serve our clients.”

There’s an old story, and I can’t remember who told it originally when I heard it, but they’re interviewing a bunch of people in NASA before, like when we’re getting ready to launch to the moon, way back when. And they were talking do a janitor, and they asked, like, “What do you do?” And he said, “I’m working to put a man on the moon.” And he’s understanding that if those halls weren’t clean, if the garbage wasn’t taken care of, if the lounge wasn’t clean, that affects the progress of everyone else, and could potentially interrupt someone who shot to make a breakthrough to figure out how do we get to the moon.

You can break that down. Like every little piece of the organization is so important that if you focus on explaining to your team and everyone and to students the same way, like why is it important that you’re doing what you’re doing the way you’re doing it, we’re learning these things. How does that affect the outcome? How does it positively impact what we’re trying to do? I think that’s how you get there.

Pete Mockaitis  
Well, I really dig that, because you unpacked the explanation of why, on a few dimensions, I think it’s great as one is, you know, historically, this is what we’ve discovered, and how we ended up here. And the formulation of it is the way it is for this reason. And then this is what happens if you do it, and this is what happens if you don’t. So that paints a picture, like “Well, shoot. This is pretty important. Like, I matter.”

Jeff Gargas  
Yeah, and that’s the key, right? I matter, because who’s going to work hard?” Or someone who just thinks they push papers, or think someone who thinks these papers matter. Like that person who thinks the papers matter. If you’re a manager, listener, supervisor, whatever, one of the other little side effects that this does, and you may not like it, but you should, like, it is that if you’re explaining to people why you do things a certain way, it opens up the door for them to recommend other ways.

And sometimes as managers and owners, whatever, we don’t want to hear it. But it’s really important to close your mouth in that and listen, because they may have something you never thought of, because they’re at the ground level. And that’s crucial. And we see it in classrooms, too, where if you’re explaining to the students why do they need to understand that, they’ll come up with other reasons and be like, “Oh, or because x, y, z?” And you’re like, “I didn’t even think of that call. Like, yeah, I’m gonna throw that in mind next time I talk about it.”

But the same thing in a company is like,

“Hey, this is why we do it.” And they’re like, “Oh, that’s great. Why don’t we do it like this?” And you’re like, “Oh, we probably should; let’s change that.” Like, it’s just powerful in so many different levels.

Pete Mockaitis  
That’s good. That’s real nice. Well, so we hit the Grid Method a couple times in terms of little references. But you know, I just can’t help myself. But I hear Grid Method, I’m already visualizing a grid, and I got to know, what does it consist of? And how might it be applied to folks learning and growing and developing in a grownup work context?

Jeff Gargas  
Yeah, so what the Grid Method is, is a framework for utilizing a mastery learning in classrooms. So when I say mastery learning, there’s a lot that can go into that. But in general, it’s a shift from standing in the front of classroom delivering content to all the students all at the same time and expect them to move all at the same time, to shift into mastery learning, which is where students are moving at their own pace, and only moving on as they master the content and master certain pieces of it.

And a lot of organizations already do a similar version of mastery learning, where you’re in a training program, you have to master a certain level of skill or understanding before you can move on to the next. I think the difference is, and the focus is the speed at which.

In education and a lot of businesses, we set a certain time table. We say, “Well, let’s take it two weeks to learn this. And if you don’t learn in two weeks, I guess you’re just not good enough for it.” Or in classrooms, it’s “If you don’t learn these in two weeks, too bad. You fail, we’re moving on,” right? “If you don’t understand two plus two, we’re moving on to two times two, and you’re just never going to get it at all, ever.”

I think the biggest thing is that individuality, because we need to understand that we all, one, learn differently, and two, learn at different speeds. So if you think about— a real great way to break it down is, think about that. You have a couple kids at home, correct?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right.

Jeff Gargas
Okay, so when you were teaching them to walk, maybe you’re doing it right now, you probably did it like most people: you stood him up and then they fell a lot, they called, and they fell, and they started using whatever they can to grab onto your leg or the furniture or whatever. And then eventually, they figured out. Now they run around like crazy, if they’re like my kids.

But what if I told you that the way I do with my kids is, I took my son Jonathan, I said, “All right, man, we’re going to do this. We’re going to practice for two weeks, and then I’m gonna work with you. You’re going to fall and everything like this.” Then in two weeks, I said, “All right, Jonathan, here’s what we’re gonna do. I’m gonna stand there, I’m gonna stand the prescribed 10 feet away from you, and now you need to walk to me.”

And he takes a couple of steps, stumbles, boom, falls. And I said, “Well, sorry, son. You failed in the walking test. I guess we’re going to just not learn how to walk. We’re gonna move on the potty training.” It’s ridiculous, right?

But then when we get into school, and in the business, we say, “Hey, you got two weeks to learn this, or you got a week to learn this. And if you don’t, I guess you’re just not going to get it.” And I always wonder how many potentially amazing employees are we not giving a shot to, because we wrote them off? Because they didn’t get it quick enough?

Same in education, too many students get written off as unreachable, or not smart, not good test takers, not good at math, because we gave them a short amount of time. And we expected them to move at the same speed as everyone else. Well, we all learn differently, how to walk in different speeds — some kids walk a year, some take some three years. I mean, same with talk and same with learning how to ride a bike, learn, and everything like that.

So the framework, and just the mastery learning shift in general is focusing on the individual and actually focus on what they actually need, and when they need it, versus when we think they should have it. And I think that’s the biggest piece we drive that helps drive mastery of the content, whether in a school, business, whatever.

Pete Mockaitis  
That’s good. And so where does the grid come into play?

Jeff Gargas  
So the grid, essentially, so when we work with teachers, one of the first things we do is we help them look at their state standards and what they have to meet, what the state says that they’re supposed to be teaching, and we help them break them down and align them to the essential questions that they need to ask their students, that they need to have their students understand. And then that breaks down into learning opportunities and activity, the actual activities that students are doing in order to master the content, in order to master that.

So then, they take all those learning opportunities, which you can think of like a lesson plan, right? We call them learning opportunities, because a lesson is something you give someone; a learning opportunity is something they have to take. So we purposely use those words, but the grid becomes a learning path for their students to move. It’s the guide, it’s their map, if you will.

And it’s this form, these little squares that have activities in them. And it explains what they need to do, what it needs to get to whatever it is that they’re doing, whether that’s vocabulary words, whether that’s science experiments, whatever it might be, and then what they need to do in order to be checked off for mastery.

So students move through these. And so I go and I do what I need to do in square one, and when I’m ready to be checked, and I feel I’ve mastered that, I check in with the teacher, or there might be a self-assessment or automatic assessment through technology, and I cannot move on to the next square until I’ve mastered that content and I’ve shown my mastery at least an 85% or higher level of mastery. And then I move on.

So the grid, if you can visualize, is just a piece of paper with levels, five different levels of those squares. And as students start from the bottom, they build that foundational level knowledge. As they move up the depth of knowledge that’s required, the level of mastery that’s required grows. So there’s fewer boxes, few activities, because they’re a little more in depth as they move on. And as they move up, and they level up in that grid, they’re getting deeper and deeper into that content and into that concept and into that.

So a grid itself would encompass basically sort of like what you would consider like a unit of study. Some units might require multiple grids, some are just one grid. So it could vary from teacher to teacher how much they want to pack in there.

Pete Mockaitis  
Okay, we talked about, is there something in particular that’s on the x axis and the y axis?

Jeff Gargas  
So yeah, so going up on the side, there’s your levels of depth of knowledge. So your x depends on the lead, those are your learning opportunities, right? Those individual boxes that say “This is what you’re going to do to help practice,” and then show your mastery along the moving upwards is that level. So the knowledge we’re referring to, we built it off of what’s called Webb’s Depth of Knowledge. And there’s levels, and it’s moving up, it’s the level of understanding. So as they move up, those levels are showing the level of understanding they had.

There’s actually four levels and depth in Webb’s; we do five levels, because we put like an independent exploration up top for the students that just excel and blow through it, so that once they master content, they can go have fun with it and learn more about it.

Most standards are written in that 2, 3, sometimes four-range, typically two to three range. So most students are going to end up around that level, but you have students that are moving all at the same or at different paces, based on what they need. And so what this does, then, is allows those students that have just get it and they’re just like — we call them rabbits, that are just really quick — and they just get it, they can move and they can keep learning. They can grow, they don’t have to wait for the student that maybe struggles.

But that student that needs a little more time, that needs a few attempts to try to get it because they just don’t get it, now they have the time to do that. You can spend time with them, either one on one or small groups to assess where they’re at, where they’re struggling, to find other ways to explain it to them. Also, side note, build those relationships really nicely there and stuff, and move on. Because what you’ll find is, most students struggle, because of one or two reasons: either one, they already get it, and they’re bored. And so they just checked out of your class. And a lot of times that leaves the problems.

Do you have, like these extremely gifted students that are really intelligent, but they cause problems? They’re just bored. They’re like, “Why am I learning this? I already know it, I don’t need to do this, this is a waste of my time.” Or you have a student that’s just struggling because, maybe they’ve struggled, they have trouble with reading? So like, just basic, simple vocabulary work is really tough for them. And they’re struggling because they’re getting yanked along, and it’s like, “Oh, you don’t know two plus two? So we’re moving on right now.”

“I’m frustrated because I don’t get it. So now I’m lost forever.” And it’s just been a cycle. So, by folks giving everyone the time they need, you’re hitting that top level, and all the way down to the bottom level of students getting what they need. And they’re allowed to move on when they need to move on, but they can take a little more time, with a little more time. So and then, there’s a lot of pieces that go along with that, on how to manage that and stuff.

And that’s where a lot of our training comes into. It’s like, alright, and how we create a grid. But then also, how does this work in my classroom? Because it can be a little scary to think of 20, 30 students all moving, doing different things at different times. And that’s a big mindset shift for a lot of teachers.

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

Jeff Gargas  
Let’s go.

Pete Mockaitis  
Alright, sure how about a favorite quote? Something you find inspiring?

Jeff Gargas  
It’s “Some people dream of success. Others wake up and work hard at it.” I think that’s true, no matter where you’re at in your life.

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

Jeff Gargas  
So I don’t do a lot of studies up, but there’s one that I have found a while back. I don’t know what, it’s from the University of California, Berkeley. And there’s just a study on happiness, like what is happiness? And the biggest thing that I’ll refer back to every now and then, but really just sort of the summary of it, and the fact that like, happiness isn’t about money or things; it’s about fulfillment. It’s not about what others think, it’s not about Keeping Up With the Joneses, and stuff like that. It’s about what you need, what’s important to you.

And you know, for a long time, I felt like I needed to be like a certain person, at a certain level of success, make a certain amount of money, do certain things, whatever. But all I really needed was to find something that I love doing and that I’m good at, and that I find a purpose. And I think that’s… I just love that about happiness.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Jeff Gargas
The Go Giver, Bob Burg. Is one of my all-time favorite, I love it. I have quotes, you’ve had them on that episode — I gotta dig through that episode. Actually, I have massive final prints of the laws, all over my walls. So…

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

Jeff Gargas  
I live and die in basecamp, we leave that as our project management, use of self reminders, project management. Our team, we’re all virtual. So that’s massive for us. And then I also use an app on my phone called the Five-Minute Journal. That’s really just a like a morning, sort of gratitude and self awareness. And then an evening reflection, it just sets me up for the day and allows me to reflect everyday. Love it.

Pete Mockaitis  
And a favorite habit?

Jeff Gargas  
Favorite habit, I started running about this past August and just getting back into it, focusing on waking up early and getting a workout, and it’s changed everything.

Pete Mockaitis  
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with those that you’re teaching?

Jeff Gargas  
Yeah, I think so with them and more with the team and stuff I love, is… I don’t know if you know Gary Vaynerhuck, he says… I won’t say it in the way he says it, but if you live for the weekends, your stuff is broken. That’s massive for me, because I just think we live in such a world where there’s so many opportunities to do so many different things that if you’re doing something you hate, like it’s just not worth it. You gotta get out, find something that you love.

And I say the same thing to teachers all the time. I said “If you’re dreading Monday, you should probably not be a teacher anymore.” And I love when I talked to teachers and they’re like, “I am so pumped to be back from spring break, because I get to see my kids again. I get to make an impact.” And I’m like that, too. I am pumped for Mondays, every Monday, like even when it’s stressful.

And it’s crazy. Like we’re a small business, we’re growing, it’s stressful pretty much every day. But I love it and I just think if you’re just dying on Monday already for it to be Friday night, man, like something’s broken, you gotta fix it.

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

Jeff Gargas  
Twitter, I love big on Twitter. I love Twitter. I’m on there all the time. I’m @JeffGargas. I’m on Instagram, too. @_JeffGargas. Or just reach out to us at TeachBetter.com, and you can literally email me at Jeff@teachbetter.com. I love building connections and chat with people and just figuring out if there’s any way that I can help

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

Jeff Gargas  
I think take some time to get really, really self-aware. Get rid of all the nonsense and like the BS and what other people say. Take time and figure out what you love, what you don’t love, what you’re good at. And once you start with really thinking about it, clearing out all that other junk, everybody else’s voices… forget the expectation that people have for you. That criticism, the negativity, all that stuff.

Just focus on like the real you. Be you. When you do that, you have no reason, like, make it up and try and put on a show. It’s just for you, like, what are you awesome at? What do I love doing? Go do that. Figure out how do I play on my strengths? How do I surround myself with people who are awesome at what I’m not, so that I can be awesome at what I need to be?

And just like, what that means going to work for someone joining the team, development team. “Let’s fill your gaps,” whatever it is, like no one can be as awesome at the things you do as you are. So go find out what that is, do it, and just love your life. It’s just not worth not doing that.

Pete Mockaitis  
Awesome. Well, Jeff, this has been a treat. Good luck and all you’re doing and helping folks teach better.

Jeff Gargas  
I appreciate it, Pete. This has been awesome. Thank you.

401: Finding, Creating, and Maintaining a Great Work Culture with Brian Fielkow

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

CEO Brian Fielkow walks through creating and maintaining a good work culture then reveals how prospective employees can find out if they fit a new workplace’s culture.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why customers pay for culture
  2. Brian’s definition of a healthy work culture
  3. How to discover if you are a cultural fit at the interview stage

About Brian

Brian Fielkow, J.D., is the CEO of Jetco Delivery, a multimillion-dollar Houston-based trucking and logistics company with 200+ employees that was named a “Top Workplace” by the Houston Chronicle, highlighted on the 2015 Inc. 5000 list, and given the Gold Safety Award by the DOW Chemical Company. Brian is also the author of “Driving to Perfection: Achieving Business Excellence by Creating a Vibrant Culture.”

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Brian Fielkow Interview Transcript

Brian Fielkow
She’s well known in Hawaii and she’s starting to make a good name on the mainland. But the song, Island Inside Me, I wrote for my wife for our anniversary.

I just have these lyrics going around in my head, but I’m not a songwriter, I can’t sing, I’m not a musician. I connected with Anuhea. We put this song together sort of as an anniversary gift. It took off. It was a pretty cool experience. I don’t think I’ll have that experience again, but to have that song. Every once in a while I’ll hear it on Sirius-type stations. It’s kind of neat.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, well, could you sing perhaps the refrain or the chorus or a segment for us?

Brian Fielkow
Oh, you don’t want me to sing anything, but I know she’s got it posted. I know it’s available. It’s again, Island Inside Me, but if I sang it, I think we’d lose all of our listeners right now.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, fair enough. We’ll play it safe this time.

Brian Fielkow
Play it safe, yup.

Pete Mockaitis
You have a deep expertise when it comes to culture matters. You have some real hands-on experience instead of only doing research and writing books. Maybe could you orient us a little bit to where you’ve come from and why culture has become an issue that really matters to you so much?

Brian Fielkow
Yeah, I have kind of an interesting career. It’s not one that you could have ever planned coming out of school. I began my career practicing corporate law in Milwaukee. Maybe six or seven years in, I went to go work for my favorite client. They were in the recycling business. It was a wonderful opportunity.

We built that business while I was there for a good six – seven years. We sold it to Waste Management. I worked at Waste for a couple years. Then I bought my current company about 13 – 14 years ago, Trucking and Logistics. I’ve seen large Fortune 500 companies, I’ve seen entrepreneurial companies, everything in between.

It was interesting when I got into recycling coming out of the law business, I noticed that what we were selling were bales of cardboard. A bale of cardboard is a bale of cardboard, but we were commanding a premium. It took me a while to figure out why would anybody pay us more for what’s in the truest sense of the word a commodity.

It didn’t take me long to realize that other people would promise an order of a thousand tons and they’d ship 700. There was so much gamesmanship in the business, but we did what we said. People were paying us a premium for peace of mind. They weren’t really buying our cardboard; they were buying our peace of mind. That was a lesson I got very early on post law.

It kind of woke me up to the fact that every one of our businesses with rare exception to some degree is commoditized. I got really interested in de-commoditizing what we do, not having it to compete as much on price. Yes, the price is important, but if we can get to a situation where a customer appreciates our value proposition more than just the core product or service you’re offering, you can command a higher price.

Over the years I learned that what people are really paying for is your culture, kind of how you do things, what makes you different, that secret ingredient that nobody else can steal.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Your culture is what they’re paying for. It’s how you do things differently, your secret sauce. Is that how you define culture in those ways or do you have a particular definition that you run with?

Brian Fielkow
Yeah, let me give you how I define it. There are books and books on culture and the theory behind it. I’m not a fan of the theory because we’re practitioners and we need to know now. I’m going to keep it real simple and say that in simplest terms, you’ve got the beginning of a healthy culture when you’ve got the right people and the right processes working in harmony.

In a healthy culture, you’ve got the convergence of people and process, that’s what yields consistent and hopefully excellent results for the customer. You could have the right people and no process and every day is a new day. You could have the right process and the wrong people and forget about that. I’ve learned over the years that it’s getting the right people, the right process working in harmony.

It’s also rooting your company in a well-defined set of values. We have so many arrows coming at us in the business world, so many different priorities that sometimes we forget that there’s this adhesive that binds us together.

I can’t tell any business what their values should be, but once you’ve established your values, you’ve got to live by them. You don’t compromise your values. That’s something that your team needs to understand, your customers understand. It’s the adhesive that binds your company together through good times and bad, where priorities, on the other hand, they change by the day. We have customer issues. We’ve got service issues.

But those priorities never, ever compromise our core values, who we are and what’s important to us and what’s important to our team. Once you’ve done that, you’ve got to walk the walk. You’ve got to live and breathe your values. Whether you’re in the C-suite, whether it’s your first day on the job, you’ve got to agree that these are the rules that we’re going to play by.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s interesting you said you cannot tell another company what their values should be. I guess I’m imagining there are some that would generally be a recipe for good things and some that would be a recipe for bad things and a whole lot that it’s sort of – it’s a matter of finding the right fit in terms of the people and the processes and the industry and kind of what is your focus as a business.

Could you give us an example of some values that are unique because I think a lot of organizations will say, hey, integrity of course is a big value. I think sometimes they live it and walk the talk and sometimes they don’t, but it doesn’t really seem so distinctive when you hear that integrity is a value.

But it seems like in your practice, integrity is defined as doing what you said you were going to do when you said you were going to do it really was a differentiator there. Could you give us some examples of different values and how they come to life?

Brian Fielkow
Sure. Let’s talk about integrity for a minute because you’re right. That can sound over used. What company in the world doesn’t say integrity is a core value?

But now look around and if you watch football as much as I do, you’ve seen the Wells Fargo ads, established in 1860-something, reestablished in 2018. Why? Because they had integrity issues that really hurt their reputation, opening up fictitious accounts. It was a pretty big deal. Wells Fargo had to do work to repair its brand because of integrity.

It’s something you take for granted, but then you realize that if you let it slip and don’t focus on it, it could slip intentionally or unintentionally. Something even as simple and common place as integrity, if you as the leader aren’t living it and are kind of looking the other way, one lie will breed a thousand lies.

If I’ve got a problem with a customer, I’m not going to make something up. I’m going to tell the customer what happened and how we’re going to fix it. Even though the customer may be upset, hopefully over time, the customer will respect me more because people can smell a lie a mile away.

If my team sees me behaving in that manner, they’re going to follow my lead. On the other hand, if my team sees me acting with integrity, they’re going to follow my lead. Especially as we’re starting to work with younger and younger employees, people just don’t want to work in a company where the values are adrift. Integrity.

Another great example is respect. Again, people use respect too loosely, in my opinion. When I say respect, what I’m talking about is treating people like human beings first and employees second. That’s the ultimate respect. The ultimate form of disrespect is anonymity, “Hey, you’re number 100. Go do your job. Punch in, punch out,” not knowing a thing about that employee personally.

As my company is growing, I can’t know a thing about all my employees but my managers better. There needs to be something in the culture that makes sure that my managers know their employees like I know my direct reports so that everyone is accounted for and that the ultimate form of respect, like I said, is making sure that people’s overall human needs are met and that nobody, no matter if it’s their first day on the job, feels like all they’re doing is punching a clock and if they didn’t show up, it wouldn’t matter. That’s just a horrible situation to be in.

Respect is a value. Those are some of the things that we do that promote respect regardless of what it is you do because you’re an important member of the team regardless.

Pete Mockaitis
Right, okay. I would love to dig in a little bit in terms of thinking about values when it comes to finding fit with regard to career planning. How do you think about that game—I’d say both in terms of zeroing in on what values matter to you and then assessing whether a company really has it? Because I think a number of cultural pieces in terms of how things are done in a given organization really can vary and vary fine and suit different people differently.

For example, I think that some folks would say, “Oh yeah, we’re all about collaboration and so we’ve got an open office floor plan and we’ve got bays with ten employees in each of them, so they’re always kind of seeing and interacting with folks. We’re always on Slack and doing that.” Then some folks would say, “That would drive me insane. I need my quiet time to really focus and go deep in creating stuff.”

That would be sort of a natural mismatch when it comes to sort of how you prefer to do your thing and how the organization is doing their thing. How do you think about navigating this whole fit and research game?

Brian Fielkow
Such a great question because whenever I see forced fun, I run away. I go in the opposite direction. For me, having a slide in the middle of the office and having all those amenities, that’s all well and good, but that’s not culture. People mistake that kind of stuff for culture. Culture is not campfire fun and games stuff. This is a hardcore business proposition.

If kind of the slide in the office fits your culture and it’s in the context of an overall healthy culture, it’s fine. But if you’re using those bells and whistles to get employees in and then once they come in, they realize you’re in a toxic environment, that doesn’t work.

To me, there’s some subjectivity to it. There’s definitely a component of individual taste. Maybe I prefer a company that’s more formal. Or maybe I prefer a company that’s more casual. Maybe having a social life with my coworkers is important. Maybe I don’t want it at all. Maybe the company is extremely hierarchical, has a well-defined org chart. Maybe the company is more loosely defined.

All that’s okay and none of that is indicative of whether the company has a healthy culture or a poor culture. It’s how the company chooses to operate. It’s its own personality. That’s where you’ve got to find the fit. Again, there’s no right or wrong answer there.

But when you want to talk about how do I find the right culture, regardless of whether it’s hierarchical or loose, whether we’re wearing suits or whether we’re wearing shorts, that’s the key is to dig beyond the surface, dig beyond the slide. It’s not one-size fits all.

I think the best advice I could give somebody is when you’re doing an interview, you definitely – you’re going to speak with the hiring manager. You might speak with human resources. But the real people you want to talk to are prospective peers, prospective coworkers.

We do that with pretty much all of our job interviews. Again, it doesn’t matter the level that we’re hiring for. We want to be sure that peers can talk unscripted and what it’s really like to work here. We want to make full disclosure. We want to make full disclosure about our company. We’re proud of it, but we know that just like any other company, we’re not a fit for everybody.  We’d rather know that before we make a hiring decision or before you would agree to join our company.

There’s nothing like a peer-to-peer interview where you can ask questions. “What’s it really like to work here?” The company’s recruiting brochure says X, Y, Z, but six months later is that really what’s happening? Do they have a good-looking recruiting brochure or are they really delivering the goods?

The absolutely best advice I can give is do your homework on the company. Understand what the company is all about. Understand its culture. But peer-to-peer man, that’s really where you’re going to learn what it’s like to work there.

By the way, if that peer-to-peer interview goes well, now you’re new coworkers, they know you before you start. They’ve got a vested interest in integration. They’ve got a vested interest in bringing you in and helping you succeed.

If they say to the hiring manager, “Wow, thumbs up. Let’s bring this person in,” that opens the door and creates a pathway for success in a way that just a traditional interview and “By the way everybody, here’s your new coworker who you’ve never met,” that doesn’t work quite as well.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m curious if that organization – if you’re interviewing an organization and they don’t have the wisdom to … process, do you have any pro tips in terms of how you’d go about proactively having those conversations and some of the key things you’d want to say when you’re in the midst of them to learn what you really need to learn?

Let’s say that I’m interviewing at an organization. They did not give me the benefit of engaging in these conversations peer-to-peer, so it’s a little bit more on me to be proactive in terms of finding these people, having these conversations. How shall I find them and engage them and what should we say when we’re talking?

Brian Fielkow
Well, a lot of companies may not offer the ability to interview a peer. First thing is you just ask. Say, “Hey, could I interview somebody in the department that I’m – can I meet with somebody in the department that I’m interviewing to work in?” A lot of times the companies may say yes, but if they say “No, that’s not our practice. We don’t do that,” okay, let’s respect that.

But I would still ask the hiring manager questions like “What are your company’s values? Give me a feeling for when those values were challenged. How did the company respond?” Just like they’re going to ask you those questions. They’re going to ask you, “Tell me a particularly difficult problem or difficult situation. How did you address it?” You better be prepared to answer that. Well, I think it’s a fair question for employers too is, “Tell me your story.”

If you look at an interview as a two-way street, not just the hiring manager interviewing you, look at it as a conversation. You’ll be able to develop the feel just almost organically in a conversation. If it’s that tight and that rigid and you don’t have that opportunity, the company is telling you something about its personality.

I’m not saying that’s bad. I’m just saying that’s probably not a place I’d want to work. That’s not kind of how we bring employees in. I want an open door, full disclosure. But if companies don’t do that, with social media you can still network and find people who work there and talk to them informally or former employees, talk to them. But you can also have that same conversation with your hiring manager.

I love it when people come in, they’ve done their homework on the company and they challenge me with questions. That tells me that I’m dealing with somebody exceptional, who understands that the interview is a conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I love that point on social media. LinkedIn is so cool with all the filters that you can dig in and search for folks that way.

Brian Fielkow
People used to call LinkedIn the boring version of Facebook or Instagram, but LinkedIn is the encyclopedia for how to network. I use it all the time. It’s such a valuable tool.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. And I really love that question you asked in terms of “Tell me about a time a value was challenged,” because I think a lot of times you’re probably going to get total blank stare response, like “Uh, these are just the words we repeat. I can’t think of any real experiences to share with you right now.” That tells you something right there.

But now you’ve got me curious, Brian can you tell me about a time in your company that you had a core value that got challenged and how did you live it out?

Brian Fielkow
Sure. In 2015 – ’16, we’re in trucking and logistics in Houston. That was a rough time. The energy markets collapsed and business was really challenged. We had to make some very difficult decisions.

In doing so, it wasn’t like memos from the C-suite; we brought our employees into the process. When we had to make the company smaller and downsize, we met with our employees. We treated them with respect. We made sure that everybody knew what we were doing, why we were doing.

What it did is it created sort of a foxhole mentality that we’re not working around our employees. We’ve not sugar coating like, “Oh, everything’s okay. Don’t worry about it.” We brought them in and we fought the war together because we were so transparent and open with them. You’ve got to be prepared to share good news and bad news.

In doing that, for example, safety in our company is a core value. We don’t compromise it. Well, no matter how rough business got, no maintenance got deferred. Every single vehicle was maintained regardless of the company’s financial performance.

I’ve seen other organizations where “Oh, business is bad. Let’s figure out where to cut. Well, we can cut maintenance.” No, if safety is a core value, you don’t cut, you don’t defer maintenance. You keep running your business.

I can use that time when this company was really challenged and really stressed by a rough economy. People in other businesses were losing their jobs left and right in Houston during that time and we just took a very contrarian approach that we’re taking our employees with us. Even though we couldn’t take everybody with us, and we did have to let people go. It was done, like I said, with dignity, with respect and then with complete transparency to the rest of the team.

That’s created kind of I think an unparalleled level of camaraderie as the company has rebounded, recovered, and grown so well in the past couple years.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. Well, could you share some other perspectives when it comes to zeroing in on determining if a culture is a fit for you?

Do you have some extra perspectives and tips when it comes to determining if an opportunity has a good cultural fit for you?

Brian Fielkow
Yeah, I think that you’ve got to be careful not to conform yourself to become somebody that you’re not. Don’t mold yourself to a culture that doesn’t fit. You’ve got to understand what fits.

In our situation, in a healthy culture, you’ve got to have employees who are technically excellent and who are in line with the company’s values. You get yourself in a lot of trouble when you look the other way.

I’ve got a technically excellent employee that’s walking all over everybody else, just a horrible team player. Well, I have to either coach that employee back in to working within our values or they can’t be part of the team no matter how technically good they are.

A lot of times we look the other way when it comes to technically good people even if they’re destroying the morale of the company. As an employer, you’ve got to stand up to that and be sure that you’ve got people who are value aligned and who know what they’re doing.

Well, similarly, for the employees, you can’t really fake it. I’m assuming you got the job because technically you met the criteria, but in a healthy culture, I hope that you’re yourself, that you don’t force anything. In a healthy culture you’ll be challenged.

Hopefully that culture will make you a better employee and a better person and hopefully you’ll do the same. You’ll make the company a better company and you’ll improve your coworkers. But if it doesn’t fit, you’ve got to know it.

I’ve seen too many times where people jump at the money. They jump at the money. “Oh, somebody wants me, I’m going to accept the job,” without asking these questions of “Am I going to be happy?” You may make money and you’ll be miserable. Life is too short.

That’s why interviewing for culture and being aware of culture is just so critically important because we’ve all had maybe in our careers, the Sunday night blues, kind of that horrible feeling that Monday is coming and I’ve got to a place that I really don’t want to go. I’ve had that in my career.

Because I’ve had that in my career and I understand it so well, part of my job is to make sure that we don’t have the Sunday night blues, that people are excited to come to work because they’re treated right, because it’s a place that they know they fit in. But if you don’t fit in the place and it’s not right for you, you’ve got to know when to get off the bus too.

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

Brian Fielkow
I like to always say that at the foundation of the culture is what I call the three T’s: treatment, transparency, and trust. If you’ve got that and if you work at a company – look I’m in the trucking business. I’ve got a lot of people who told me, “Well, geez, I never thought in my life I would get into the trucking business. How did you as a corporate lawyer decide to do it?”

First of all, I love the industry, but it’s an industry that a lot of people might not necessarily just automatically gravitate to. But it almost doesn’t matter what you do as long as you love the job, you love the people. I think treatment, transparency and trust, whether you’re in a medical office, trucking business, law office, doesn’t matter.

Treatment, like I said before, you’re a human being first, an employee second. The ultimate form of poor treatment is anonymity.

Transparency, is just making sure your team is engaged. The best way to engage your team is to explain the why. If you give me a memo and you say, “Brian, just do it,” my personality is going to be to rebel. I’m not going to do it because you told me to do it. But if you say, “Brian, look here’s why we’re doing it. Here’s the why. It’s not a democracy. I’m not asking for your vote. But here’s the why,” I’ll be a lot more inclined to participate. I’ll be a lot more inclined to support. Just make sure you take time to explain the why.

As an employee, if you don’t know why, ask why. If somebody says, “Well, never mind. It’s none of your business, never mind,” that’s a little tip, isn’t it? But the key to an engaged workforce is for everybody to know their mission, know the company’s mission, know their role. Why?

Then finally trust. If there’s no trust, let’s forget about all this. In a company where trust is lacking, where people say one thing and do another, you’re operating on quicksand. You’re never going to have employee satisfaction where there’s a lack of trust among coworkers, lack of trust where leadership doesn’t trust the employees, employees don’t trust leadership.

Treatment, transparency, and trust are the three critical elements that I would look for in any business. I don’t care what the business does, as a sign of a healthy culture.

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

Brian Fielkow
The problem with my favorite quote is it’s too long, but I’m going to just read a little bit of it. It’s Teddy Roosevelt’s quote that we’re all here in the game and there’s people on the sidelines. They’re always going to be throwing stones at you.

It says, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust, sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who actually does strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I love that quote. I just love it because you’ve got people throwing stones at you your whole life. Just forget about those people and go out there and be your best.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome, thank you. How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Brian Fielkow
I’d like to if possible move to a couple books that I’d like to kind of recommend.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Brian Fielkow
My favorite book, if you took all my books away, would be The Advantage by Pat Lencioni. I think that’s the one book that everybody needs to read in college, coming out of college. I go back to that book all the time. It really lays out the basis for healthy organization and your role in the healthy organization. Really, I like anything that Lencioni writes, but The Advantage is my favorite.

Another book that just came out last year that I’m really into is called The Motivation Myth. Because I’m not terribly into – as you probably can guess by now – I’m not into a lot of the motivational, feel-good speakers and those kinds of books.

What The Motivation Myth does is it takes the concept and turns it on its head and says it’s not like you have to have the motivation then you do the job, then you’re successful. The motivation comes from the journey itself.

The book argues that it’s those small steps. It’s the victories. It’s getting knocked down, getting back up. The motivation comes from those incremental successes. The more you have, the harder you work, the more motivation you have. Motivation isn’t like a prerequisite. Instead, motivation is one of the things that comes from doing something you love.

The book also argues that quit trying to be like some of the celebrity CEOs. They did what worked for them. You’ve got to figure out what works for you. Spend less time emulating and spend more time figuring out what your own formula is. I just love that as opposed to just, “Hey, do what I say. Follow my advice and you’ll be successful.” I just don’t buy that. I buy, you figure out your own formula and that’s the key to success.

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

Brian Fielkow
Trying to maintain a semblance of work/life balance. I’m not by any stretch nine to five, but I listen to my body rhythm. I listen to how I work. I’m up at crazy hours of the morning because that’s when I work the best, but unless something is really important, you’re not going to find me here – later in the day, you’re not going to find me here necessarily on a Friday afternoon.

What I’ve learned over the years is that we’ve all kind of grew up in this eight to five world or seven to five or whatever it is, but hopefully as technology evolves and as employers become more and more progressive – this isn’t true for every job obviously. If you’re a doctor or a nurse, you’ve got to be with your patients. But for a lot of jobs, the more you can listen to your body clock and know when you’re productive and kind of know when you’ve got that momentum, the more effective you’ll be.

I could do something in a half hour that would take me five hours if I picked the wrong time and the rhythm isn’t there. Listening to your body, kind of knowing how you work. Some people, as you know, are night owls. Some people, again, like me, are up before the sun. But being able to know that and capture it, I think, is the secret to optimum production and success.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Tell me, is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with your employees and folks who are reading your stuff?

Brian Fielkow
When I’m talking to audiences, I do a lot of keynoting, there’s a couple things. First of all, take your frontlines with you. I use that all the time and it resonates. I don’t like doing keynotes and just kind of closing and leaving. I like to do keynotes and then saying, “All right, what are the takeaways? We’re not here to talk about theory. What are the things that you’ll implement the minute you get back to the office?”

A lot of my keynotes, a lot of my presentation revolves around frontline engagement because I think that as a country, we’ve broken our contract with our frontlines. The more we engage our frontlines, the better. Take your frontlines with you. Bring them in.

In my company our drivers are – we have an elected driver committee that’s part of how we run the company. We’ve got our drivers in management and operational decisions. Take your frontlines with you is very – people use that a lot.

The three T’s. If imitation is the ultimate form of flattery, I’ve heard other speakers use the three T’s, but I think I may have invented that one.

Then there’s 20/60/20, which people quote a lot. This is a story when I was at Waste Management. I got to Waste Management at a time when there was a CEO, a brilliant CEO, Maury Myers, was brought in to turn the company around.

He brought his management team into the room. It was a large room. He had a large team. And was kind of rumored to say this, something like this, “20% of you know where we’re going and you’re with me. You know that we’ve got to make changes. I appreciate that. 60% of you, you’re scared. The ship is changing drastically its course. I’m going to work 24/7 to win you over.

The remaining 20% of you have made up your mind. You don’t like me and you don’t like the direction that we’re going. Here’s the commitment I’m going to make to you. This will be the smoothest transition you’ve ever had out of a company, but make no mistake, you’re out.”

20/60/20 means don’t find yourself in that bottom 20. Figure out how to continue to rise in your company. You’ve either got to align with the company’s direction and values or leave. From an employer’s standpoint, you’re not there to bat a thousand, simply not. Part of your job is to weed out the people who are kind of a drain on your culture, a drain on your performance.

I’ll tell you people in my company will use 20/60/20 a lot. We all know what they mean. The three T’s, 20/60/20, take your frontlines with you really are essential things that I talk about not just when I keynote, but when I run my own company.

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

Brian Fielkow
I would point them at my website, which is BrianFielkow, so B-R-I-A-N-F-I-E-L-K-O-W. com. They can also email me, just Brian—B-R-I-A-N @BrianFielkow.com. I’m easy to get in touch with and glad to kind of continue this conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. Well, Brian, this has been a lot of fun. I wish you all the best in making your culture all the more vibrant and excellent and business growth and all that you’re up to.

Brian Fielkow
Thank you so much for the time. I really enjoyed this conversation.

395: How to Learn Faster with Andrew Geant of WyzAnt

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

WyzAnt CEO and Founder Drew Geant discusses the best and worst ways to learn, particularly when engaging a tutor one-on-one.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The most in-demand hard and soft skills
  2. When you should consider engaging in one-on-one lessons
  3. How to give and receive good feedback

About Andrew

Andrew Geant is co-founder and CEO of WyzAnt, which brings the proven impact of personalized learning to all learners via the largest tutoring marketplace and community. WyzAnt has one of 75,000 tutors available within 10 miles of 97% of the US population offering their services in-person and online. Drew co-founded WyzAnt in 2005 with his Princeton classmate, Mike Weishuhn. Today, WyzAnt has 80 employees in offices in Chicago and San Francisco.  With now over 2 million tutors and students that have used the platform, the company was bootstrapped with just $10,000 and has been cash flow positive since inception.

 

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Andrew Geant Interview Transcript

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

Drew Geant
Yeah, thanks for having me. Happy to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m happy to have you too. Could you first orient us a little bit? Your company, Wyzant – thank you for telling me at last how it’s pronounced. My curiosity is satisfied. What does it do?

Drew Geant
Yeah. Wyzant is an online tutoring marketplace. We have about 75,000 tutors across hundreds of different subject areas. We help match up those tutors with learners who meet with the tutors one-on-one. It used to be in person. Now it’s all happening online or the vast majority of it through our online platform. You can picture a video chat, virtual whiteboard, a bunch of other tools that create this really rich online learning experience.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, that’s cool. I’ve been dying to – this is sort of fun – to get your take on this because back in the day, previous podcast guest, Muhammed Mekki, brilliant guy. We were both into education and had sort of the entrepreneurial streak. We got to talking one day and ended up creating this little offering and company we called Tutor Trail.

Drew Geant
Nice.

Pete Mockaitis
The principle was it was also online tutoring, specifically for math. The angle we were going for is it would be super affordable, like 20 dollar an hour sessions. The way that was working financially was we had folks in maybe India, Pakistan, Philippines, who are paid less than sort of the US minimum wage and be okay with it.

Drew Geant
Sure, geographic arbitrage. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
If you will, yeah.

Drew Geant
Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
It was cool. We got it working in terms of okay, we’ve got some platform, we’ve got some people, who’ve got skills and are reliable and can execute some good experiences. We had a few students try it out and they were having some good times. But the challenge that we ran into is that we had zero revenue and customers.

Drew Geant
Well, revenue and customers are important. Right, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
It was so perplexing to us. We thought okay, people are paying for tutoring. Okay, check. This is a great price and people like saving money. Why the heck isn’t this thing seem to be gaining any traction taking off? I figured if anyone would have a great speculative answer it would be you. Where did we go wrong?

Drew Geant
Oh man, the name of the game is – well, you have to have a great product, which sounds like you guys had a good product, and all that good stuff. It’s a big marketing challenge for sure. Unfortunately if you build it, they will not come. You need to figure out how to get it out to the market. What were you guys doing for marketing?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, we had a friend who was a superintendent, so we said, “Hey,” we started chatting there. We were – I went to a conference about No Child Left Behind.

Drew Geant
Okay.

Pete Mockaitis
We said how can we get the government dollars.

Drew Geant
Yeah, totally. Totally.

Pete Mockaitis
With the program there. Turns out there’s a lot of hoops. You’ve got to be kind of established before you can get those dollars. Yeah, we were sort of telling our friends and family and putting the word out, a little bit of Facebook ads. It wasn’t a huge push. We didn’t have funding. We parted with I believe fewer than $3,000 total, which is a great way to fail in a startup if you’re going to.

Drew Geant
Right, right. Yeah man, it’s a tough space. There’s been people – it’s super fragmented as you probably know. There’s plenty of individuals who hang a shingle and that’s great. You can start your own business and do your own marketing. There’s plenty of – there’s brick and mortars. There’s plenty of the online tutors in India and Pakistan. That model exists as well. It’s just crowded and you have to figure out how to differentiate yourself.

For us, we’ve always spent a lot of time on online marketing. I’ve gotten pretty sophisticated there. That’s been a big angle for us. But back in the day, when you’re talking about super early stage, it was pounding the pavement, it was signs on telephone poles, it was – we would literally stand outside a school and directly solicit the parents. We would do anything required to get those first few customers.

Then once we got the marketplace with a certain amount of activity and volume, it began to have some amount of organic growth. But getting it started is the toughest part for sure.

Pete Mockaitis
We talk about a crowded market place, well, most of our listeners are not founders looking to create a business at least right away.

Drew Geant
Right, right.

Pete Mockaitis
But I think there’s a great lesson there associated with how did you think of what made you unique, distinctive, and the place to go if you wanted tutoring as opposed to those other options?

Drew Geant
There were a few problems we were trying to solve from the outset.

One was price, which we talked about, and really from the tutors’ perspective in particular. If you’re a tutor and you want to go work for a tutoring company back in 2005 when we started, they would probably bill you out at $50 and pay you $15 to $20. That felt a little bit off. We said there’s got to be a better way to – there’s got to be a way to invert that using the internet. That was one problem we set out to solve.

Another one was we had this belief from the very beginning that it was the match between the student and the tutor that really mattered, so what we did was we created these really robust tutor profiles and search capabilities, such that you could really find the perfect fit. That I think continues to prove to be the right sort of way to create the most value is getting that – dialing in that fit.

Today it’s done algorithmically and there’s a lot of data behind it. Those are some of the differentiating factors for us.

[6:00]

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Perfect fit sounds huge. I remember we had a previous guest, Steve Ritter, was saying that there’s some really compelling research that if you’re working with some sort of professional for an intervention, be it a coach or a mentor or a trainer or you name it, counselor, it’s like the fit and rapport between learner or client and provider accounts for just like a substantial proportion of whether or not this thing is going to be successful and deliver what they aspire to deliver.

Drew Geant
Yeah, absolutely. If you’re thinking in the professional context often it may skew a little bit more toward mentoring, although I’m sure we’ll talk about the actual tutoring that happens among adults as well, but it’s all about that. You have to have trust. There has to be accountability. You have to be able to have really sharp communication, be able to give honest feedback, all those things that with a stranger, somebody that you don’t quite connect with, become a lot harder.

It’s crazy how these relationships get built and how strong they become. You see tutors will reach out to their students years later. Their relationship will still be an important part and birthday cards and the whole thing. It becomes very personal.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. Well so that’s a bit of the story for how Wyzant came to be. I’m enjoying saying it correctly with confidence.

Now what I found rather surprising was that – so your publicist informed me, which is kind of how we got connected here, that adult learners, not high school, college students studying for the GRE or the ACT/SAT, but rather adult learners like me and listeners, are in fact now your largest segment of users of the platform. Is this true and how did it come to be?

Drew Geant
Yeah, it is true. It really happened in the last few years. To be honest, it was something that occurred naturally in the marketplace. We were surprised, to be honest, especially with sort of the higher education learner that we didn’t think would necessarily have the disposable income to invest in tutoring.

Then once we saw the growth in the adult learner, the career learner, that made a lot of sense to us once we stopped and looked at the broader trends of rescaling and upscaling that are going on with the knowledge economy and jobs getting more technical.

We got very excited about that and leaned into it and now that’s really where we want to take the business. We still support a lot of K-12 academic tutoring, but it turns out that we can have sort of an outsized impact for adult learners who are learning very specialized things because that’s what we do. Like I said before, it is really the match between the tutor and the student.

It’s very hard to find a tutor for some super specific technical skill or career-specific discipline. That’s where we’re I think the best.

Pete Mockaitis
Well now you’ve got my wheels turning because I’m thinking about specialized skills. It seems like almost no one is familiar with how to use Google App Maker. Listeners if you know, talk to me. We’d like to make something.

That’s pretty cool. That’s what you’re seeing is it fair to say that it’s less about, “Hey, let me help you with your communication skills or your creativity,” and more about, “Okay, you want Perl, you PHP, you want C++, or a programming language,” more that sort of thing?

Drew Geant
Yeah. There are some soft skills. Presentation skills are a big one. Public speaking is a big one. But the vast majority are technical. I’ll sort of take through what we’re seeing in terms of the subjects.

The first is the computer programming languages like you just said. Also, a lot related to analytics, whether that’s basic Microsoft Excel or visualization tools like Tableau or machine learning and much more advanced analytics topics. We see a lot of software, so people want to learn how to use Salesforce, they want to learn how to use Adobe Creative Suite or AutoCAD.

Having somebody sit down with you, or in this case virtually, but walk though that, share your screen and help you with your project or just generally familiarize with the toolset and how to navigate the software is a perfect use case for 101 sort of tutoring.

We see language. ESL is a big one. People learning Spanish, Chinese for professional purposes. Let’s see, those are some of the biggies. Oh, the other one is professional licensing exams. Almost every career-

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, like CPA.

Drew Geant
Right. Finance you have CPA, you have CFA, you have your series 7, 63, 24. That’s just finance. Teachers have to pass the … and the Praxis and nurses have to pass the NCLEX. Even if you want to be an online marketer, people want to become Adwords certified and Salesforce web developer certified. It just goes on and on. Again, perfect use case, have an expert help walk you through it. It can really shortcut your learning curve in a big way.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s interesting. You said 75,000 tutors. It sounds like the odds are good that you’ll probably find someone who’s covering what you need covered. That’s pretty interesting.

Then financially – I guess well first tell me, what is sort of the situations that users find themselves in terms of like “Oh shoot, I need some help. I’ve got to go somewhere?” Is there a particular kind of a catalyst or prompt or inciting incident that gets you – get these folks saying “Oh boy, I need to hop on board and get some help?”

Drew Geant
Yeah, it’s a really good question because there is. We’ve positioned ourselves and we’re quite happy to be sort of the support layer. People do come to us and say, “All right, I want to learn JavaScript from scratch,” and they start with a tutor, which is great too, but in most cases there’s some sort of struggle, some sort of – there are a lot of great self-directed learning tools out there from YouTube to Google to on and on.

We think that’s a great place to start, but some percentage of those people are going to get stuck. They’re going to reach an impasse. That’s the point in time mostly where we see they turn to us to get them back on track, to get the boost they need, and help get them unstuck.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s cool. Maybe even backing it up before they even embarked upon trying to learn these things. Are they going after just for the love of learning, like, “This is cool and fun and interesting,” or is like, “Uh oh, I’ve got a new role that’s freaking me out and I’m not ready for it?”

Drew Geant
Yeah, that’s actually a surprisingly common use case. We do customer research a lot and you see people get in over their head. They, “Yeah, I know how to do SQL and analytics,” and so they get hired for a job and they’re expected to know those things. Then they say, “Oh crap, I have this project. I don’t know how to do it. I’m not really comfortable going to ask my coworkers or boss because I said I know how to do this thing, so I’m going to go find someone out there that can help me,” which is great.

Sometimes it’s a bit more proactive, where somebody has their sights set on a new career or advancing within their current career and they know what they need to learn and maybe they’ve been trying to do it on their own and they need, like I said, a little extra support.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. All right, let’s say that if I were to meet up with a tutor to help me with some learning here, maybe it’s the Google App Maker that I’m after.

Drew Geant
That one seems to be on your mind right now.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it is just because I was looking at Upwork.com for some folks who could do it for me and I was like, there’s two people. Really? I’m accustomed to seeing hundreds and hundreds for anything I might want.

Drew Geant
You seem like the sort of guy, you want someone to teach you to fish though, right? You want to be able to get in there.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yes and no. It’s fun. I really do love learning. It’s enjoyable and it kind of is a thrill. I feel sort of empowered and equipped in a cool way. But in practice it’s sort of like well, I’ve got to a lot of highly leveraged demands for my time that I’d probably – I would see more business results if someone else were doing this for me and I was elsewhere. But I would have fun doing it. Similarly with Photoshop. I’m not great at it, but it’s really fun.

Drew Geant
That’s fun. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s like, oh, I could play around with this for three hours and make it look okay or I could have a professional do it for 30 minutes and look excellent and I could do something else. Anyway, that is an ongoing internal challenge with me.

But let’s say I did want to learn the skill, what have you discovered are some best practices associated with folks. They’re engaging in the learner/tutor relationship and they’re after maximum improvement. What are some of the key things they need to make sure to do or not do?

Drew Geant
Certainly I would say on the front end invest in finding the right expert. Out whole product is designed around giving you the opportunity to interact and ask questions with a variety of tutors before making your decision, before making any sort of commitment or payment.

That’s really important because you’ve got to find someone not that just has the right skillset, but like we said before, that matches your learning style. We know everyone learns differently and every tutor teaches differently.

Beyond that, you do have to make a commitment. It’s not a silver bullet. It’s not 30 minutes of tutoring and you’re going to have a concept mastered. On average we see people using between 8 and 12 hours.

Pete Mockaitis
Really?

Drew Geant
Yeah. It’s a lot, but you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars necessarily to get a lot of value out of a tutoring relationship.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s cool because I recall from my Tutor Trail research back in the day that in order to show statistically significant gains above what they just expect for normal growth and coursework as you age, like, “Hey, now you’re halfway through fifth grade, so you should be smarter just from your classes,” like the minimum effective dosage, it was substantial, like it was well over 20 hours in terms of programs that could prove and show the results.

But in the context of a super specific professional skill, you’re saying you can get some real gains in 8 to 12 hours.

Drew Geant
Yeah. The skill is specific but also the intervention, if you will, or the actual dialogue is 100% personalized and customized for you. Here’s the exact thing in the app builder where I’m hung up, so you go right to it, whereas if you’re watching a video or taking a course or a class, there’s so much wasted time until you get to that part you need. A tutor comes in and you put your finger right on the issue where you’re struggling and you go from there. It’s very efficient in that sense.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. You said pick the right person and match your learning style. How do you think about the segmentation of learning styles?

Drew Geant
Yeah. We don’t profess to be the learning experts. Our whole approach is let’s get the experts and let’s help make them available and accessible to the learners. That being said, we know that a lot of students respond better to visual learning. When you look at our online platform, it’s designed with that in mind, where you can bring in diagrams, you can use the virtual whiteboard as a drawing tool, all that sort of thing.

There’s a lot that happens between the tutoring sessions. There’s this homework aspect of it. That’s a big aspect of it as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly, yes. I’ve seen that as I’ve done coaching that those who pursue their homework diligently in between sessions tend to – surprise, I learned this lesson from piano back in the day – they advance the quickest when they really make the time for the homework in between.

Drew Geant
Right, it’s sort of this back and forth, that ping pong game, where you have to wrestle with something on your own, then you go get the – the tutor comes in and sort of helps you tune it up and figure out where you’re doing well and not so well, then you go back and wrestle with it some more. You go back and forth is what we see happening.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, understood. Those are some of the best practices. What are some of the worst practices?

Drew Geant
The worst practices. Well, certainly – there’s a whole market around this, but we try to avoid it, which is “I have a test tomorrow” or “This is last minute.” Our tutors hate it because they know they’re not setting the student up – they’re not setting themselves up for success. “I have two hours and I need to learn all this material.”

You’ll actually see this when the tutors and students are interacting with one another. Tutors will say, “Hey, what are your goals? What’s your timeline?” They want to make sure that the student has realistic expectations. Give yourself plenty of time.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, okay, certainly. Plenty of time, that makes good sense. Anything else?

Drew Geant
Worse practices. To the use case before when you take a job and you act like you know stuff and you don’t and then you have to scramble to backfill your knowledge, I would suggest that that would not be a best practice.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly, yeah. At the very least, start before they give you the offer. Or you get the offer before your first day of work, that interim window would be good before you’re found out. Okay, cool. Well, tell me, anything else you want to talk about learning, tutoring, one-on-one growth development, how it’s done well before we sort of shift into your favorite things?

Drew Geant
Yeah. As I’m thinking about the learner or the listeners who are all on their sort of learning journeys, we talk a lot about that among our employees, we have about 75 people, in terms of the culture we’re trying to create. In fact our number one core value at Wyzant is always be learning. We’ve dug into that a lot. For us it kind of breaks down into a few component pieces.

One is giving and receiving feedback is critical. It has to be direct, timely, and actionable. Another thing we talk a lot about and Karen Martin, who was on the show the other day, mentioned this – sort of the inverse of what we talked about.

In fact Karen Martin, who you had on the show a we days ago talked about this. She said people who act like they know everything and know all the answers or think they do is actually a form of arrogance.

The way we talk about it is sort of the opposite, which we say in order to learn you have to have some amount of humility. You have to be able to say, “I don’t know that. I don’t know how to do this. This is a bit out of my comfort zone.” That’s step one, which is a huge component.

We also talk a lot about learning from your mistakes and failures. We relate this back to our users, our tutors and our students as well. Some of the most high-impact time between a tutor and a learner is when the learner comes back with, let’s say in an academic sense, a bad test. What do you do? You got through every one you got wrong in detail and you learn from that.

We really preach that about a project that misses a deadline or an investment that doesn’t have the expected results. That’s okay. It’s going to happen. In fact, it’s going to happen more often than not, but the key thing is to go back through that and diagnose it and learn from it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, the feedback is a recurring theme on the show. I’d love to get your take in terms of how do you – you’ve given some perspectives for what makes feedback great in terms of it’s direct, it’s actionable and such. I’m wondering if feedback is not normative in a certain culture and it’s often not, how do you recommend folks make the request for it and keep it coming?

Drew Geant
Yeah, it’s hard. It’s hard to give really direct feedback sometimes. It’s hard to receive it sometimes. It really revolves around trust, so getting to know your coworkers, understanding sort of that – and giving them the benefit of the doubt that we’re all here because we have the same agenda, which is we’re trying to accomplish the company goals, we’re trying to advance. The way we do that is by helping each other.

Really framing it as we talk about it in terms of if you’re a team and you’re looking out for your teammate. This is a way to have your teammates back is by making sure that they – you’re sort of a second set of eyes and ears for one another.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s good.

Drew Geant
I think that helps people sort of frame it as not this tough conversation or I’m criticizing somebody. It’s like, “No, I’m actually looking out for them.”

Pete Mockaitis
When it comes to receiving it, how do you do it well?

Drew Geant
Again, I think it starts with you have to believe that it’s coming from a good place. The opposite of that obviously would be being defensive or whatever it may be. I think asking questions, like trying to really understand it, even if it doesn’t sound right at first, instead of going into defensive mode, “Help me understand that a little bit more. You said this once thing. Can you try saying it a different way?”

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. I think examples make all the difference. It’s a real shame if the only feedback that exists is what is on the annual review and it’s more perfunctory in terms of “Oh, I’m going to click these boxes and all done.” Not ideal. Word. Cool, anything else you want to share or shall we hear about some of your favorite things?

Drew Geant
Let’s go into favorite things.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Away we go. Can you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Drew Geant
Oh man. We have in large letters on our office wall a quote from Benjamin Franklin that resonates a lot with me, which is “Investment in knowledge pays the highest return.” Obviously we like to think that is true because that’s what our customers are investing in.

I think from my experience as a tutor, and I would imagine this is true from your experience as a coach, the one-on-one teacher and learner dynamic is just so powerful, especially when you get it right between the fit. I believe very strongly that that is the highest return.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that is a fine quote by an authority. I’m sure I will place that somewhere in my future. Thank you. How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Drew Geant
In the academic tutoring context, there’s a study from the 1980s called Bloom’s Two-Sigma study. Have you ever heard of this?

Pete Mockaitis
I’ve heard of Bloom. Is this the taxonomy person … Bloom?

Drew Geant
He’s done a variety of things. This particular study was comparing different types of learning. One of them was one-on-one. If you ask any academic researcher, they’ll all say this is sort of – it’s now accepted as a truth, that one-on-one tutoring is the most effective way to learn. In this case he proved two standard deviations above sort of the norm of other types of learning.

Now if you take that as a truth, you say, “Okay, if we know one-one-one tutoring is the best way to learn, fine. But how do we scale it?” Because it’s inherently expensive. There’s a person on the other side of this. You see a lot of different approaches in terms of using AI and they talk about tutor robots in the sky.

Our approach has been how do we make it more accessible, more affordable with real people? But it all comes back to that belief. I think that again is commonly universally accepted among academic folk that one-on-one tutoring is the best way to learn.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite book?

Drew Geant
Favorite book. I thought you were going to ask me a business book, so I thought of a business book.

Pete Mockaitis
It can be business. It can be … book. Favorite business, favorite fiction. We can do it all.

Drew Geant
Well, a book we’ve been using a lot lately as we’re working through strategy is a book called Playing to Win. It gives you really nice actionable strategy framework, so I’d definitely recommend people check that out.

Pete Mockaitis
Now is that – I think I’m getting that mixed up with the Jack Welch book. Is that-?

Drew Geant
It’s not Jack Welch.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Drew Geant
Yeah, it’s-

Pete Mockaitis
Maybe … Winning is Jack Welch.

Drew Geant
Yeah, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s a little different.

Drew Geant
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, cool. What are some of the provocative takeaways from that?

Drew Geant
Well it’s very simple. The first piece that is have a winning aspiration. That’s where you start. What does it mean to win? You sit back and you ask, “Well, of course we want to grow the business, but how are you going to know when you got there?” What is the outcome? They do a really good job of probing and make you realize, “Man, I don’t even know what we’re playing for.”

Then the second part is well, what’s your playing field? You get to define your own playing field, which is a cool concept. It’s like where are you going to complete, where are you strong, where are you not strong. It sort of goes through these five steps from there.

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

Drew Geant
A favorite tool. I’m a huge Google Suite user.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Maybe Google App Maker would enhance ….

Drew Geant
Right, right, right. Lots of docs and whatnot. The fact that all that stuff is obviously in the cloud and you can use your phone as – good and bad. You can access your work from anywhere. That’s a whole other conversation that I suppose is sort of where remote work is headed. Have you had people on the show talking about that?

Pete Mockaitis
A little bit. I’d say I don’t know if we have a consensus opinion on the future. Well, now you’ve got me intrigued. You got the answer, Drew? You’re going to lay it on us?

Drew Geant
No, I just think it goes back to what we’ve been talking about, about feedback and about learning. I think the technology is there to support it for sure now in terms of the tools, which is how we got on this topic, but you have to double down on things like feedback and communication. It becomes that much harder.

We’ve had some mixed experiences. We had an office in San Francisco that didn’t work out. But now we have a fairly flexible remote work policy that is working out. It’s not easy, but I think it’s doable in terms of accessing the best talent, which at the end of the day, your company is really just a sum of the talent.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you’ll find the best talent in Chicago, right here.

Drew Geant
Yeah, even in Chicago, you live in Naperville, coming into the office every day, it’s a grind.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah, that is far away. We did not buy a home in Naperville largely for that reason. Even though Naperville has got a lot going for it. ….

Drew Geant
Yeah. I didn’t mean to hit on Naperville.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely downtown.

Drew Geant
Yeah, it’s wonderful.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s a whole city and yet also a suburb.

Drew Geant
Yeah, if you’re commuting into Chicago, you spend a lot of time.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Let’s see that was the tool. Can we talk about a favorite habit, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Drew Geant
Favorite habit. I would say exercise. I’m not exactly-

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it looks like you’ve got some guns. When you’re live in the studio.

Drew Geant
I’m not exactly a picture of fitness necessarily, but I think what that does for your mind is – just clearing your mind is a huge part of being able to get the most out of your day.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular workout focus or time of day that you zero in on?

Drew Geant
Yeah, I have a very modest home gym.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh cool.

Drew Geant
I try to do that in the morning before work.

Pete Mockaitis
That is one of my dreams for this home is turning our basement-

Drew Geant
I see a treadmill right here.

Pete Mockaitis
We’ve got a treadmill right here. I really do use it just about every day, especially when it’s snowy and nasty out in the winter. But, yeah, I hope to turn the laundry room into also a little home gym with a bench.

Drew Geant
Yeah, you don’t need much.

Pete Mockaitis
I think a squat rack is really what makes the difference between a true gym and a non-true gym. Even though I hate squats, but if I had my own rack I would do them more.

Drew Geant
I think as a general rule the more you hate it, it’s probably the better the exercise.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh probably. It just takes it out of me and hurts the next day so much. That’s habit. How about is there a key nugget you tend to share with your team or others that really seems to connect, resonate, they quote it back to you often?

Drew Geant
A key nugget. One that we have some fun with that is sort of like I think we mean it when we say it, but we realize it’s not necessarily the most diplomatic was we often say, “Let’s not confuse effort with results.”

Sometimes you can deceive yourself into thinking all the activity is productive, but it kind of goes back to the winning aspiration, what are you actually trying to achieve, what are your goals, and is the activity actually moving you forward? It’s kind of like work smarter, not harder as well. Two things that we talk about.

Pete Mockaitis
That is a great distinction not to confuse effort with results. I remember my buddy Ronny when he was doing some intense football training. He even wrote in huge letters “Effort equals results.” That might be true in the sense of if you push yourself harder in a physical training endeavor, so long as you recover wisely, then maybe effort equals results. But in sort of knowledge work, effort may or may not equal results and it may equal a smidge of results or 20 times that more per hour.

Drew Geant
Sure, absolutely. We bring it back to business too, our just conviction in tutoring and the impact and power of that form of learning is – you can be spending hours and hours and hours watching a video on YouTube. That’s not working smarter. Whereas we think for many cases, hire an expert, you’re going to get the results a lot faster.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s good. If folks want to learn more or get in touch with you, where would you point them?

Drew Geant
Wyzant.com, download the app. I’m on Twitter and LinkedIn as well. It would be always fun to connect with folks.

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

Drew Geant
Just always be learning and recognize it’s hard. Learning is a hard thing, but it’s rewarding. Sometimes I think people shy away from it because it’s hard. It’s like, “Oh well, I must not be good at this thing,” but just know that that’s part of it. That’s what I think makes it worthwhile.

Pete Mockaitis
Totally. Well, Drew, this has been a ton of fun. Thank you and good luck. Hope you equip all the more adult learners in the years to come and keep on rocking.

Drew Geant
All right. Thanks.