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Career Management

363: Three Ways to Increase Your Pay (and Make it Go Farther) with Andy Hill

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Andy Hill shares how he got his pay bumped in three different ways…and how to keep that money from flowing out.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to figure out when you should change companies
  2. Tips to boost the trait that helps you get a pay bump
  3. The best mental trick for saving money

About Andy

Andy Hill is award-winning corporate event marketing professional that has managed programs for luxury brands such as Gulfstream, Bentley and Audi of America. During his 15-year career, he’s grown from entry level to Director level by exceeding his client’s and his management’s expectations each year.

Andy also hosts a podcast called Marriage, Kids and Money that helps young families grow their wealth. The podcast was nominated by Plutus as “Best New Personal Finance Podcast” in 2017. He has partnered with brands such as Quicken Loans, Credit Sesame and Tomorrow to spread a message of financial wellness and security. 

His podcast and blog can be found at MarriageKidsandMoney.com and you can connect with Andy professionally on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrewrussellhill  

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Andy Hill Interview Transcript

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

Andy Hill
Pete, thank you so much for having me, man. This is awesome.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh boy. Well, I’ve been looking forward to having this chat for a while, and I think I want to start where the conversation really needs to start, which is your role in an ‘80s cover band.

Andy Hill
Oh, you did dig deep, didn’t you now? Okay. So, in my 20s…

Pete Mockaitis
Aren’t you still in your 20s? You look so youthful and handsome.

Andy Hill
That’s just the picture I still have on there. It’s totally 10 years ago. Overall I just like to try random things every five or six years just to kind of shake things up a little bit. So, I had an opportunity to go into an ‘80s cover band with a few of my friends. I was out at the bar, drinking and having fun and doing karaoke with one of my buddies, and maybe he was drinking too much, but after we finished our little set there, he goes, “Hey, you’re not too bad. We should start an ‘80s cover band.” And I was three sheets to the wind or five sheets to the wind, “Whatever you say.” And I said, “Oh yeah, let’s do it.”

So, he could play the guitar, I could sing, kind of. Then we found a random dude on Craigslist that could play the drums, and we were all set, man. So we started booking the local dive bars, after we practiced for about six months learning all the great ‘80s songs, ‘90s songs. And honestly, Pete, it was probably one of the most fun things that I’ve ever done in my life. Getting up there, making a fool of yourself, having some fun with your friends. And we blew some of these dive bars away, because we’d get a slot booked at like 1:00 am on a Wednesday night, and we would pack the place – something like 45 people there that’d be like, “You could come back whenever you want.” They don’t even care how we sounded, but no, it was probably one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life, honestly.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that is excellent. There really is just a thrill associated with performing and being in that groove. So, that’s really fun. So what was the name of the band?

Andy Hill
It was called Vermont Response. The street that we lived on was called Vermont, and it was sort of our response from living there. It was kind of lame, but it was fun.

Pete Mockaitis
And how would you characterize the message of that response?

Andy Hill
It was epic, I would say, mind-blowing and transformative. Talk about those for some career awards for you.

Pete Mockaitis
Those are nice. Speaking of things that are epic, mind-blowing and transformative, you’ve got a podcast that checks those boxes, called Marriage, Kids and Money. What’s the show all about?

Andy Hill
So again, in the spirit of trying random new things every so often, I started a podcast a couple of years ago because I wanted to start a conversation with young parents who want to build their wealth and give their families the best life possible.

Pete Mockaitis
Hey, that’s me.

Andy Hill
Exactly, exactly. You’re a young father, you’ve got a nine-month-old and you’re married and you’re looking at building your wealth, so you’re my exact demographic, my friend. I wanted to start that conversation and gather some like-minded individuals who want to figure out how to grow their wealth. But also it’s an opportunity for me to interview some really smart people who are millionaires, entrepreneurs that are doing so great by their family, and I get to share all those incredible nuggets with everybody who’s listening. So, it’s been a real treat for me, and the podcast has had some good growth over the past couple of years.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Well, kudos and congratulations, and thank you for inviting me on the show. That was a good time. What really caught my eye about you and the show is when we met back in Podcast Movement over in Philadelphia. You had a few specific things you did that bumped up your income in the course of doing some smart career planning and maneuvering. And so I thought, “This is perfect”, because that’s one of the things my listeners are into, is making some more money from being awesome at their jobs. So, could you lay it out for us? What’s your story, and how did you do it?

Andy Hill
Yeah, so I’ve been in the experiential marketing world for about 15 years. So experiential marketing, just so you know, it’s anything that’s in-person manifested marketing for a brand. So instead of a TV commercial or an online ad, this is the stuff you’d see in-person, and call it like a conference or a trade show or a business meeting. That’s the type of stuff that I’ve been doing for the past 15 years. So, within that industry, I’ve had an opportunity to grow my salary in three key moments throughout my career. And I thought that would be kind of fun to share with your listeners today.

Pete Mockaitis
Please do.

Andy Hill
So a time, again, in my late 20s – and I’m very glad that you think I’m still in my 20s, thank you for that – I had the opportunity to go from manager to director. So this was a promotion opportunity within the company that I was in. And there was a position that was open. It had been vacated by somebody who was not on the team anymore. And I was in a more junior role, but I had developed a good reputation, working, going above and beyond my expectations both with my clients, as well as my management.

So, when that opportunity arose, I jumped at it. I expressed my interest, I set aside a time to speak with the president of the company and tell them why I would be a good fit, all the things that I had done up until that point, my experience with the client. And this was a coveted position at the time, so I wanted to do my best and put my best foot forward for it. So, I applied, I went through a review process, an interview process, and I got the job.

And with that, since I was a young whippersnapper, I didn’t think that they were going to probably give me the dollars that I thought were required for the position, because I had an idea of what the person who was in the position before was making. So, I made a suggestion on salary and they met me in the middle. But it was essentially a 46% increase in my salary, which when you’re not making a lot, that, call it a 3% increase can be very little.

So, if you get the opportunity to go from a manager to a director position, what I did is I tried to understand the landscape of what a director was making in that position, and I made the request for that salary increase, knowing the responsibilities that were going to be associated with it, the hours that were going to be associated with it, that travel that was going to be associated with it. And I was able to get that increase. So, that was the first bump up that I had within my first company at the same company.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, very cool. So let’s dig into the magic behind it then. I guess you already had some good foundational points to work with, in terms of you had already been proactively overdelivering for clients and for management. And then when you saw the opportunity, you didn’t just click, click, apply. You went after it with some gusto, in terms of talking to the president of the company, saying that you’re very interested in it and making your case. And then you also did some proactive research, in terms of getting after what is the number, so that you can proactively suggest it and do some anchoring, as opposed to letting them just do what they cared to do with that number.

Andy Hill
Absolutely. And I think that since I was my best cheerleader… I know that sometimes the companies are doing their best to make as much money as possible, and yes, give fair raises or fair increases in salary, but you have to be your own advocate. So I was in that case, and that really helped.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent, cool. Alright, so that was one good move. And you had a couple more.

Andy Hill
Yeah, a couple of years later. So that was 2010 when that happened, and 2013, about three years later, I had the opportunity to go from one company to another. So this is another opportunity when you can make more money in your career. So, I was very active on LinkedIn. When I say “active”, I mean I consistently shared information about my industry, information about my company, I constantly updated my profile based on experience that I had, awards that we were able to win as a company, and my volunteer efforts, things like that. So I wanted to be out there and create conversations.

Pete Mockaitis
So when you’re talking sharing – like every day, or what kind of frequency are we talking about here?

Andy Hill
I typically do about two times per week, and I’ve read some articles, I think HubSpot recommends no more than five times per week, just because it gets a little bit overdone, and also based on LinkedIn’s algorithm it touches quite a bit of your network between that two to five number per week. So, usually I take an opportunity to talk about my company’s services or my business accomplishments, things like that, that are relevant to keep people in the know about what’s going on, what’s going on with Andy, what’s going on with my company. And that helps keep the information going.

Pete Mockaitis
And in your world of experiential marketing, you are in a sales or business development function?

Andy Hill
Correct, yeah. So, another reason for me to put ourselves out there. I’m going put my company out there because we are constantly trying to earn new business. So that’s a big part of my role.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, understood. So, you rocked at the LinkedIn, and what happened?

Andy Hill
So, I get contacted by a recruiter. And I really wasn’t actually looking to make a shift at that point, because I was pretty happy with my role. I was doing pretty well in it, and growing the business. But I took the call anyway, because I was interested in understanding what am I worth out there, what other opportunities are there out there, because it’s not bad to make a change every once in a while. So I got an offer from a competing company. I was at maybe a 30 or 40-person company, and then the company that was offering me the job was essentially the largest experiential company in the world. So I said, “Oh yeah, I’ll take that conversation. I’ll take that call.”

And through that conversation and the negotiations that went forward, I had the opportunity to make about 25% more than what I was making at that point. And luckily, at that same time I got two other offers on LinkedIn, at the same time. So, I essentially had three offers in front of me at one point, on one weekend, when I could review them with my family and make a decision that would obviously impact where we would go as a family, but also our income level. So, based on reviewing those three offers, I decided to go with the original offer because I was very excited about that company, working with the industry leader.

And at that point I let the other two companies know; one of them said, “Congratulations, good luck. We could never pay you that.” And the other said, “We’ll match it. Come over with us.” And at that point I had a decision to make, but I again stayed with the original offer because I was excited about working with that company. So, I would like to say that being active on LinkedIn and spending a lot of time on there and making my profile well known helped me to get those three offers at one time, because those were all not me seeking them; they were inbound offers from recruiters. So, that really helped me to jump up another 25%.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. So, in the LinkedIn game, do you have any tips, in terms of when it comes to the content that you’re sharing? You could do that well, you could do that poorly. Any pro tips on how do you find and determine, “Yes, this is worthy of my imprimatur, my sharing of this broadly”?

Andy Hill
I try to make it industry-specific, specific to my company or specific to the industry that I’m in, to start to create conversations around that area. I might not be an influencer in experiential marketing, but I at least want to start some conversations that create that type of environment there. And with that, I’ve started some conversations, I’ve asked some probing questions: “What are your thoughts around this area?” And it starts to get engagement from people who are at least partners in the industry or potential clients.

And there’s a lot more people that are engaged on social media than ever before, so you’d be surprised at how much engagement you can actually get from those types of connections. So, I don’t have hundreds of thousands of connections on there; I’ve got maybe 2,500, but over the years that’s really helped me to expand my network, expand conversations, and then really do outreach both on a sales platform, as well as just opportunities like this to get a new job.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. And could you share an example of a probing question? I’m wondering what the hottest, most controversial topic might be, or if that’s something that you shy away from, or something that you go for, like, “Yeah, this’ll get them lathered up!”

Andy Hill
Well, I still feel like LinkedIn is like being in the office. You might not say things that you would say on Twitter or on Facebook that you’d say on LinkedIn. I like to think of LinkedIn like I’m having conversations within the office, so I steer clear of political conversations, religious conversations, anything that might steer people in the wrong directions.

But as far as a probing question, one of our clients is Ally Bank, and I just posted something today about… They had a celebration yesterday for Online Savings Day as essentially a holiday that they created on Monday. So I threw out a probing question based on one of the articles that they had been a part of: “Do you think that you could go all online and not have a brick and mortar bank?” So having conversations like that not only helps to promote my client, but it also starts to create conversations. And a little conversation started to happen out of it. So, people understand who my client is, what we’re talking about within our industry, and then discussions start to happen. So, that’s just a little example.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. When I mentioned controversy, certainly we’re not going to go, “Do you think Trump sucks? Why or why not?”

Andy Hill
Exactly. There’s some of that happening on there, unfortunately.

Pete Mockaitis
That would be ill advised, I think, as a career pointer, I’d suggest, because you’re going to infuriate half of the people that you’re engaging with. So there’s that. But that is a nice example, because I guess that could be a little bit, I don’t know if “touchy” is the right word, but if it’s a purely online only bank, then they’re hoping the answer for everybody is “Yes.” But not everyone does have that opinion. So, in a way that makes it kind of spicy, kind of interesting. It’s more, I guess, real instead of the polished branded advertisement messaging, in terms of, “We’re going to have a real conversation, in terms of there are some pros and cons about moving in this direction, and let’s hear what people think.”

Andy Hill
Absolutely. It’s fun to see the conversations being facilitated. Sometimes it’s just like a video or an article saying, “Here’s something that our company wrote”, or you just post the article. And that doesn’t really start any conversation or facilitate any conversation. So, I like to ask some questions like that, that are a little bit more engaging.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, very cool. And so in so doing, you meet some new people and they think, “This Andy guy is pretty sharp. He seems to be plugged in to the right stuff.” And then over time that just makes people think of you when they’ve got an opportunity to dole out.

Andy Hill
Absolutely, yeah. And I’ve even had people reach out to me that asked me to post something on our company’s behalf, as opposed to our company, just based on the engagement that I’ve had on LinkedIn too. So, it pays, it shows, and that gives the opportunity to continue to expand conversations.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really cool. Do you have any other quick do’s and don’ts for LinkedIn?

Andy Hill
Yeah, let’s see. No, I think we covered it.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright, very good. So then there’s a third step in your rise to wealth, and what was it?

Andy Hill
Yeah, so we touched on the opportunity to get a promotion within your current role, and then moving from one company to another. And then the last one is getting a salary increase in your same role at your current company. And that’s what I was able to do recently as well. So, the steps that I took to make this happen, especially when you get up to a director role and you continue to have more responsibility and expect more out of you for the increased pay – I wanted to not only request the additional salary increase, but I had to show that I was worth it. So for the couple of years prior to that, I worked on exceeding all of my goals and making sure that they were measurable, because sometimes it’s hard to go in and ask for more money if you can’t show how you measurably made change within the organization.

So, with that armed information, I had that actually written down, specifically what accomplishments or what expectations were asked of me, how I exceeded those, and how I did that consistently year over a year. So, I included that not only in an email, but also in a written letter that I in-person supplied to my supervisor, and then also verbally shared those expectations and accomplishments, and had that meeting face-to-face, and did it with confidence, because I was proud of what I had done. And when you’re able to sit down there and share what you feel like you deserve, based on some research that you could do maybe on Glassdoor or some conversations with people who are in your position, maybe at other companies or maybe some people you’re really close with at your company to get an understanding of what the going rate is for your role, so you’re not asking for something ridiculous.

I was able to go in there and have a good conversation, supervisor to subordinate, on what was fair for my role. And based on that conversation and the detail, I had asked for 10%, I got 8%, which was totally fine because I was happy with 8%. So, as you can see, as the roles continue, the percentage decreases just based on where you are and as your salary level increases. At least it has in my case. I’m very happy with that increase though recently. So, those are the three ways that I’ve increased my salary over the years, originally being in the five-figure range to now the six-figure range – from moving internally with promotion, from going one company to another, and then just asking for a straight up salary increase in the same role.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s really cool. And so then, for the request of the salary increase in the same role, it seems like it was very clear what you were doing, in terms of there was some advance notice in terms of, “Hey, here’s the letter, and I want to set up this meeting.” And then away you went. Is that right?

Andy Hill
Right, exactly. Catching the supervisor off-guard maybe is something I didn’t want to do. So I had sent the email beforehand, had a phone call with the person just saying, “Hey, this is a meeting that I’d like to set up with you and discuss further”, so that they had time to think about it. And then obviously after the meeting concluded, it wasn’t like, “Yes, here you go!” There’s some time for the supervisor to consider it and think about it, and then speak to their senior management about it and then go from there. So, having some patience with the process and understanding that it might take a little bit of time is definitely suggested.

Pete Mockaitis
I like your point about the patience with the process, and I’m thinking about a listener who shared a story in which she’s asked a few times for a raise or a title shift because of generating some outstanding results, with regard to acquiring funds for the organization. And it’s really weird, because the response seems to be like, “Yeah, we really appreciate all your contributions. These are really great results. And yeah, we’re very excited and it’s important. But because of this upcoming reorganization or the way the budget is established…” There seems to be a force outside of strictly meritocracy and results generated that seems to slow it down. And I don’t know if you’ve got any pro tips for how do you handle that one and when do you say “Enough is enough” and you start looking elsewhere?

Andy Hill
I don’t know. I think for that person, if it were me, I would really analyze how much do I really like where I’m working. If I really like where I’m working and a raise would make me feel much better about where I’m working – that’s okay. But making a jump to a new company, you’ve got to think about a lot of other things besides just salary. You’ve got to think about your commute – is it shorter, is it longer? What are the benefits are associated with my role? Is there a flexibility with my schedule right now in the company that I’m in, and then the one I have to go to I have to kind of go crazy 10 to 12-hour days just to prove my worth in the beginning? Who’s my supervisor going to be? What’s the work environment like?

There’s lots of other factors besides salary if you were to move to another company. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t, but I would say do it for the right reasons. If you feel like you are kicking major butt and then you are not getting the money that you feel like you deserve and comparing that to some stuff on Glassdoor, maybe some conversations with other people who are in your role – then it can’t hurt to look. We’re in a good economy. Start some conversations.

A great thing to do is even just take some calls from recruiters or have some conversations to build up your confidence being like, “You know what? I am worth this. I’m marketable out there for this rate, and my company is not giving it to me.” So, I don’t know, maybe it’s some internal conversations to say, “How much do I really like working here?” And if you really like working there, outside of some of the salary type situation, salary conversations, it’s something to consider.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright, excellent. So Andy, you shared a number of cool fundamentals, associated with your three steps to higher compensation at work. Are there additional principles and tactics that you recommend, you’ve heard, you’ve seen effective for others in practice, that folks should tackle if they’re looking to bump up their pay at work?

Andy Hill
I think a lot of it before you ask for that money or before you take that next jump is, a couple of things. I think you just have to establish credibility. You’ve got to be somebody that people can rely on. Your reputation really matters in the workplace. If you’ve developed a reputation for somebody who says they’re going to get something done and they do it well and they do it above and beyond – that’s a great place to be as an employee, because people are going to have that…

Especially whatever industry you are, sometimes it’s smaller than you think it is. People know who you are at different companies. People are aware of who you are within your larger organization for being a leader. So, going above and beyond your job description, being reliable – I think those are great ways not only just to live personally, but also just to set yourself up for those raises and salary bumps.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. So, we talked about the “earning more money” side of things. I’d love to get some of your pro tips on the savings side.

Andy Hill
Sure, absolutely. With regard to being an employee, there are so many great opportunities to save for your future at your workplace. So, a great place to start, and it’s something that I ignored immediately when I was in my 20s is your office place 401(k). So, taking advantage of any match that might exist from your employer with 401(k), and also taking advantage of compound interest as early as possible. So, for those folks that haven’t signed up for their 401(k), you’ve got to start as early as possible and take advantage of that growth, because over time the more you put in it, the more it grows. So, taking advantage of the 401(k) is a great way to go.

Some companies have an HSA program – Health Savings Account – and this is also sort of a stealth way to save for your retirement as well, but it also is a great savings vehicle to help protect you in case of any health emergencies as sort of a savings backup as well. Outside of those two routes, an IRA – Roth IRA or traditional IRA, depending on your income level – are great ways to save for retirement. And then outside of that, if you need to trick yourself to save a little bit of money just in a savings account, you can also work with your employer to divert some of your salary straight into a savings account so you’re building up an emergency fund, so emergencies turn into inconveniences.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s great. And it’s amazing how that works, in terms of your mindset: “Okay, this is the money I have available, because it’s the money that I see in the account that’s in front of me or that I’m logged into it.” And I remember at Bain, where I was working previously, it was so funny how this would happen again and again. You had the option to divert a portion of your paycheck into the travel fund. So, you could have pretax dollars funding your, here in Chicago, the Chicago Transit Authority CTA card, to ride the “L” – elevated line, or the bus.

So that’s kind of cool. It’s like, if we’re commuting with the train into work, why not use pretax dollars, save 30% plus. That sounds like a good move. But what was so funny was, because it was so easy to forget about, and people often for one reason or another didn’t use it, because they were traveling, out of town for a week here or there, or they ended up taking a taxi – that was back in the day – or something into work, given certain circumstances, or working from home, whatever.

It would just pile up such that two years, three years later when these employees are headed off to business school, they would have these epic transit account balances, and they would sell it at a discount. Like, “Hey, I’m off to Harvard Business School. Anybody want $800 of credit for the CTA? I’m selling it at a discount. Let the bidding begin, the auctioning.” And it just kind of cracked me up. I was like, that is the power of money quietly just being siphoned away that you don’t even see or think about until you open up the account a couple of days before you’ve got to move.

Andy Hill
Well, think about that CTA example with a 401(k) then – so it’s quietly going in there, but it’s going to build compound interest. So that $800 is going to be, I don’t know, it’s going to be a lot more than what you had. So, CTA example – that’s probably not the best, but definitely do your 401(k).

Pete Mockaitis
I guess what was so kicking – or I don’t know if that’s the word – it was so striking and surprising was how again and again and again, folks were surprised that this happened. They’re like, “Whoa, there’s a lot of money in there. Oh geez.”

Andy Hill
There needs to be an eBay store for the CTA cards.

Pete Mockaitis
I did buy one, but then go figure. I didn’t manage to use it all.

Andy Hill
That’s so funny.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Any other sort of ninja tactics or tricks when it comes to saving the money? One way – great, out of sight, out of mind. That’s a good one. Anything else come to mind?

Andy Hill
I love the automation side of things. If you can trick yourself into thinking that you don’t actually have that money coming into your account, you can’t spend it. I think that’s just a great way to trick yourself into saving money, both for your retirement, as well as for an emergency. And I think a lot of times if you have that money built up in your retirement, you have that money built up in your emergency fund, or just general savings, it gives you more confidence at work, it gives you a little bit more pride walking around. You don’t feel as timid to maybe ask for a raise, or ask for what you feel like you’re worth. So, I think there’s sort of an intrinsic pride that comes in there with having your money situation set. It also allows you to ask for some things you need, for some things you think you deserve, and gives you that confidence to walk around the office like you deserve it.

Pete Mockaitis
I think that’s really powerful. And I’ve been reflecting on the work of Chase Hughes, who I hope to have on the show shortly. He’s talking about those very things, like when you’ve got control over your environment, your time, your appearance, your finances, you just naturally have this extra confidence and status, and just ready-to-go-ness with you everywhere you go, whether you’re asking for more money or for a date, or for whatever you’re seeking.

Andy Hill
I agree, and I think your employer sees that too. They want to work with confident people, especially if you’re in front of clients. They want to put their best people forward. So, have that confidence and yeah, take care of your money.

Pete Mockaitis
I also want to get your take on – so, your podcast is called Marriage, Kids and Money. We’ve talked only about money, but I want to hit the marriage and kids part there for a bit. Boy, this is a tricky one. I don’t know if anyone has the foolproof answer, but the challenge associated with what some call work-life balance and others call work-life integration, can be that folks feel this guilt associated with, “Boy, when I leave work, maybe it’s at a reasonable hour, maybe it’s early, maybe it’s late – I feel guilty, like I’m letting down my boss or my colleagues. But I need to be there for my family. But when I have to work more at the office and I’m away from family, then I feel like I’m letting them down.” And so it’s like we’re committed to two important things, and some people are plagued by guilt they’re abandoning one of them. What’s your take on navigating this beast?

Andy Hill
Oh yeah, that’s a tough one. I think a couple of things. One thing that pops into my mind is just setting expectations, both for your family, as well as your workplace. So there are times that my wife understands that work is going to be nuts this week – I’m going to be traveling out of town, I’m going to be traveling globally, I’m going to be working until midnight. If I set those expectations up beforehand, there’s less family strife at home. Now, if you work until midnight every night with a regular salary job, that’s a different scenario. That’s maybe a conversation with your supervisor, or a lifestyle change, or a job change. But I think if you set expectations with your family, when those tough times happen, the conversations can be a bit easier.

The same thing can happen with your employer – setting expectations with them about when you’re available, how you’re going to be able to work. And yes, maybe this is more how you roll, but some things that I’ve done, when I get home on Friday at 5:00 pm, I’ve tried to do this as a practice for the past couple of years – I turn my phone off, I turn my email off, because I want to focus on my family. That can be different for everybody else, but the place that I’ve chosen to work is good with that, they’re okay with that. And yes, sometimes there are things that happen that require my attention over the weekend, but 90%-95% of the time it’s a practice that’s appreciated from other people that I work with, my supervisors.

I’m actually very proud to work for a company, to work for a supervisor that is a family man, that understands the things that I’m going through. I’ve worked in the past, and there’s nothing wrong with people in different situations, but I’ve worked with people in the past that are single and they live for their work. They work 80 hours a week and that’s all they can think about and they can’t understand why people need anything else. I don’t strive well in work environments like that. I like working with people who have a family, that have hobbies, that have things outside of their work life in order to be a fulfilling individual, to have something else. That’s where thrive.

And I think that’s actually a good thing for offices. That’s where creativity comes from, if you’re not just on email all the time, or your nose in work. If you go out, you spend time with your family, you experience culture, you experience music, different types of things that you can bring into your work life that actually excite clients or excite the individual projects that you’re working on – I think that’s a good thing. So I think setting expectations with your family, setting expectations with your workplace is a great place to start.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, very well said. And that’s good to note, in terms of, I remember one listener mentioned, “My boss and my boss’s boss and my boss’s boss’s boss – none of them have kids. And I do.” And I can kind of see that there’s a disconnect. Not to say that of course you must have the same life priorities and station in life in order to connect and resonate and understand and be flexible, but it does make you think in terms of, “Okay, are we aligned on this point? And if not, are you cool with this being a priority for me when it’s not for you?”

Andy Hill
Right, exactly, especially I understand you have a good female contingent that listens to your show. There’s going to be some time where if you want to have children, that your life is not going to be very close to somebody that doesn’t decide to have kids. Having a baby, going through the three months after having a baby, all the things that go through your life physically and emotionally – I feel like it’s a great opportunity to work at a place where you have people that understand your situation. And yes, it can’t be a quick change to switch jobs, but thinking about that and then putting yourself in the shoes of your employer – are they somebody that understands your situation? Did they have a wife in that situation? Did they have kids? I think it’s something to note for sure.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool. Well, Andy, tell me – anything else you want to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Andy Hill
I think you did a great job, man.

Pete Mockaitis
Aw shucks, thank you. Cool. Now, could you tell us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Andy Hill
Absolutely, yeah. One that I like is from Benjamin Franklin. It’s, “Diligence is the mother of good luck.” And I think that kind of talks about a little bit of what we talked about today. I think we can hope and pray for good things, we can hope and pray for good fortune to come our way, but we have to put the work into it, we’ve got to put the action into it. We have to fail. We’ve got to do some trial and error to get where we need to go, but you have to put action to it. So, I like that quote a lot. I end a lot of my shows with the quote “Carpe Diem” too. It’s all about action. What can we do to take action today to have our best life? So, that’s one of my favorite quotes.

Pete Mockaitis
And can you share a favorite study or experiment or a bit of research?

Andy Hill
Yeah. I don’t have a lot of experiments, studies or pieces of research that fit into a lot of what I’ve done at work, but one thing that I read about from Scientific American, which is a cool article that got me jacked up about fatherhood. There’s this magic moment when expectant fathers see that mid-pregnancy ultrasound for the first time, and instead of thinking of cuddling or feeding the baby, the dads’ brains go straight to, “What can I do to provide the future needs of this child?”

Pete Mockaitis
No kidding.

Andy Hill
“What can I do to save for their college? What can I do to help them with their future wedding?” And this is a research study by the University of Wisconsin. I thought that was super interesting, because that’s what happened to me. A lot of this drive to increase my salary, or to take care of my money, all happened around the time that I found out I was going to be a father. And I kind of went nuts on it. I kind of went, “Okay, wow, I need to protect my family. I need to go into Papa Bear protection mode.” And I guess there’s some science around it. So, I kind of thought that was interesting to share.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that really is interesting. And I remember the very day my wife told me that we’re pregnant, and it’s on video. I sort of figured something was up when she was videotaping me opening a little gift bag with the pregnancy test in it. At first it was like, “Oh wow”, tears and joy and excitement and gratitude and “Wow.” And then, just moments afterwards, it I was like, “We’ve got to buy this house.” [laugh] I’m on video saying this, so it’s dead on. It was like, “We can’t keep frittering away $2,000 a month on this absurd rent. We’re going to buy a multifamily home and get our tenants to pay the mortgage for us”, which we pulled off, and it’s been quite pleasant. I recommend that strategy as one option for folks.

Andy Hill
That’s awesome. So you went into straight, “What can I do to protect my family? I want to give them the best.” That’s awesome.

Pete Mockaitis
We were kind of going to some showings here and there. And it was like, “No, this isn’t a hobby anymore.”

Andy Hill
“We need the nest.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And how about a favorite book?

Andy Hill
For my career, I would say one book that I read early on that I refer back to every once in a while is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It’s a 100-year-old book, and I love the advice. It’s still super applicable to everyday life and my work life. It just has some very simple nuggets that can help you get by with everything that you do, especially in an office environment.

I try to do my best to smile, I try to do my best to remember people’s names. Even just at the local store, if you see somebody’s name tag, just saying their name. Everybody loves hearing their name, right? So you can do that at work – makes people feel good. Going out of my way to give thanks and appreciation to people. We have an opportunity at our office where we can essentially do a shout out for somebody who’s done something really great at our office. And we get the opportunity to fill out this form, and they get an award for it.

I love being somebody that goes super detailed in that form, and then hoping one of my colleagues gets the award. And luckily, I’ve been a part of, I think, three awards that have been given out because of the responses that I’ve given, and I love that. I love being able to give thanks and appreciation for people that I work with and that work really hard. A lot of those principals that came from that book, I still apply in my everyday life.

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

Andy Hill
Favorite tool. So, there’s a couple of them right now. I’m big into apps lately, so I like this one called Forest. It’s essentially a productivity app. So, I get a little bit cell phone crazy sometimes, where I’ll go on Twitter or Facebook or something like that. And if I really need to focus, I put on Forest, and it essentially gives you a timer on there. And if you say, “I need to focus for two hours”, you set the two-hour timer, and then the app will not let you do anything else on your phone. Essentially it’s growing a tree over those two hours. So if you decide to go outside of the app, then you kill the tree. So, don’t kill the tree. You’ve got to keep being productive and get your work done. So that’s helped me to sort of stay focused and not look at other things outside of work.

Some other things – I set some daily reminders in my Outlook. This is not really super techy, but I use Outlook like crazy. So, all the things that I need to do during the week, I set some daily reminders to get them done. So, those are dictating my day instead of email dictating my day, because sometimes you go super deep into email and then you don’t leave email hell until whatever, 7:00 pm, and you’re like, “I didn’t get any of the things that I was supposed to get done today.” So I use those Outlook reminders as sort of my reminder of what I need to do every single day.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite habit?

Andy Hill
Favorite habit. So, I guess I would say just generally effective time management. So, my colleagues and my superiors know that they can always rely on me, because I manage my time well. I think that I’ve gained their trust and their partnership because I can manage my time well. So I guess short and simple – time management.

Pete Mockaitis
And what are some of your practices in time management that make the difference?

Andy Hill
I would say getting a clear understanding of what I need to do each day in order to get it done right. So one practice that I’ve been doing that I actually got from Curt Steinhorst, who wrote the book Can I Have Your Attention? – he said at the beginning of each day, write down three things on a board or on a piece of paper that you have to get done today. Three things. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but with all of the distractions that we have at work – the pop-in meetings, somebody opening your door: “Hey, do you have a second”, or all the emails that come by – as long as you know, “I need to get these three important things done today, because people are relying on me” – that’s just one simple practice that I do daily that helps me have a complete day.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks and gets them quoting it back to you?

Andy Hill
With the podcast, again, I end each show with the same “Carpe Diem”. And that is something that the listeners of the show and also some people in my life have enjoyed from me. So I guess that would be something that I share, because without action we’re not moving forward, right? Seize the day and take advantage of it.

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

Andy Hill
Check me out at MarriageKidsAndMoney.com. I’ve got a website there, as well as a podcast you can find on any major podcast player by the same name – Marriage, Kids and Money.

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

Andy Hill
Well, I guess it would come from some of our conversations today, Pete. I would say if you for a fact know that you’re exceeding expectations, you can prove it and you feel like you deserve a raise or a promotion – go for it. Yes, definitely look up the comparable salary on Glassdoor.com, have some conversations with colleagues that are in a similar area, find that fair number that you feel you deserve, and outline your accomplishments. Sit down with your manager and discuss it, but do it with confidence, because if you feel like you deserve it and you’ve earned it, you should be able to do it with confidence and pride, because you deserve it.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Well, Andy, this has been a whole lot of fun. I wish you all the best, rock and rolling with experience marketing and all you’re up to!

Andy Hill
Thank you very much, Pete. This was a lot of fun.

360: Five Principles for Accelerating Your Career with G2 Crowd’s Ryan Bonnici

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G2 Crowd Chief Marketing Officer Ryan Bonnici shares his five steps for figuring out and advancing along your career path.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Two core principles for mastering your craft
  2. How to get good at giving and receiving feedback
  3. Two LinkedIn tricks that make all the difference

About Ryan

Ryan Bonnici is the Chief Marketing Officer of G2 Crowd, where he’s driving growth of the world’s leading B2B technology review platform that’s helping more than 1.5 million business professionals make informed purchasing decisions every single month. Prior to G2 Crowd, Ryan held several leadership roles in some of the most well-recognized companies in the tech industry. He served as the senior director of global marketing at HubSpot, where his efforts led to triple-digit growth for the company’s marketing related sales.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Ryan Bonnici Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Ryan, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Ryan Bonnici
Thanks so much for having me, Pete. It’s great to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m looking forward to getting into both your story and your tactics. Maybe you could orient us a little bit to your career journey as it started as a flight attendant and then how that kind of progressed to a really cool trajectory.

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, absolutely. Look, I was kind of one of those kids going through school that was just always told that “He has real potential. He just needs to work harder.” For some reason, I’m not sure what it was exactly, but in kind of year nine, back in Australia, something just flicked in my head and so years ten, eleven and twelve I worked really, really hard, got a really good GPA, a 4.0, worked my ass off.

Then I started doing university in Sydney, Australia and I was just super not interested in it. I, over the holidays, applied for a job at Qantas Airways because they were taking on international flight attendants. There’s huge interviews. It’s a really long process. Long story short, I got the job.

I did that for a couple years. It was always a short term thing for me because I ultimately just wanted to travel. I wanted to save up money, which allowed me to buy my first investment property when I was like 19. I was kind of really focused on traveling and just starting to make savings.

Always knew I’d get back to university and get back to my marketing degree. I had always kind of known weirdly from the age of maybe 18 that I wanted to be a CMO before the age of 30. Just after my 29th birthday, I actually joined G2 Crowd as the CMO, so it was really timely. I’ve been really lucky. Everything has gone to plan fortunately.

But, yeah, that’s kind of the background really on the flight attendant thing, bit of an odd job. Then I then went back to university and did flying on the weekends and did university throughout the week. It was kind of hard to juggle it, but it was fun. I learnt a lot. I’m someone that gets bored easily, so I need to be doing lots of different things, so it worked well.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. While working as a flight attendant, did you form some connections or some skills or some insights that helped lay some good ground work for your future success?

Ryan Bonnici
I think I did. Qantas – for anyone listening – Qantas is actually the world’s oldest and most experienced airline. They had the first kind of commercial airline up and running. It was set in Queensland in the Northern Territory, which is what Qantas stands for.

I think one thing I learned that Qantas does incredibly well is customer service and just how your customers are the life blood of your business. Qantas did a really amazing job at training their staff and their flight attendants because at the end of the day, they’re really the main people that the consumers are interacting with.

I think I learned a lot about customer services and I learned a lot about word-of-mouth marketing and just the importance of having a cohesive message. That was one thing I think I learned from that early experience.

But then I also was able to eventually start to move and work more in our business class and first class cabins. I just started having fascinating conversations with different executives that were travelling different places for work. I had the CEO of Qantas on at one point in time. I had different celebrities on. I just had different executives and learned a lot from them.

Actually, I moved then from Qantas to Microsoft into my first kind of marketing role offer, kind of the insight from a marketing executive at Microsoft that mentioned to me that they were hiring. I learnt about that and then went through the hiring process and stuff and started my marketing career at Microsoft. It all worked out really, really well.

I’m just one of those business geeks that just loves to chat with executives and business people and learn ultimately about what gets them up in the morning, what they love about their business, what are they doing. I’m just innately fascinated by it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s really cool. I’m imagining when you say you picked up some insights from these executives, during the course of those interviews, you probably had some real smart things to say, like, “Whoa, we weren’t expecting that level of strategic insight from this kid.”

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, maybe. I’ve kind of always been one of those kids that I’m an only child. I think I was always around adults from a really young age. I’m not afraid kind of I guess to share my opinion. I have lots of opinions on different things and I’m really passionate about those opinions and those thoughts. I equally love to discourse and learn about other people’s opinions and kind of argue about our opinions.

I think that’s a little bit of an Australian cultural paradigm. That’s just something that’s kind of been in me from the get go. I think that’s probably helped me throughout my career, but definitely back then I was quite a bit younger and as I was getting to know these people.

I think it kind of made me a little bit more memorable and also it allowed me to stand out from everyone else because most other maybe flight attendants that were speaking to these executives probably felt like it was too personal maybe to ask them about their work or what they were doing for business, whereas I was just genuinely interested.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really cool. That’s cool. Well, so one of your other passions beyond business and strategy and marketing is helping young professionals figure out their path and move forward and progress. You did a real nice job as I reviewed your slides of crystallizing some key principles and perspectives on that at the Drift HYPERGROWTH 2018 event.

I’d love it if you could kind of just walk us through some of the greatest hits with regard to the five steps you shared there.

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, sure thing Pete. The five kind of I guess high-level things that I talked through at Drift conference – I’ll just run you through them quickly first. The first one was mastering your craft. The second was solving big problems. The third was building your brand. The fourth was getting good at feedback. The fifth was just some advance hacks that I have kind of learned throughout the years that I wanted to kind of give folks as takeaways.

I think it’s worth maybe mentioning that I’m a big believer and I think you and your audience are fans of this too, but I’m just a big believer in really practical advice, so things that are really tactical that someone can immediately go and do themselves straight after listening to this.

That’s how I guess I built out my presentation for Drift conference, that’s how I build out all my presentations regardless of what the topic is because I think there’s so many people that can talk about the fluffy strategy. I really like to kind of marry that with really tactical things that anyone can do right now.

If we get to jump into a few of those, I think some of the things that I try and teach my team at G2 Crowd, and I have a team of about 30 marketers at G2, is that every single person on my team really needs to own a number and it needs to be an important number for the business.

It’s really my job and my leadership team’s job to help those team members actually know what their numbers are and to help them understand how those numbers actually roll out to the bigger business.

An example here might be if you’re a social media marketer and you might have been given a number of “Grow our followers from 10,000 followers to 20,000 followers a year.” A lot of social media marketers will be given a target like that.

It’s a pretty normal kind of thing, “Grow your followers,” and they will never ask for understanding of “Okay, cool. Yeah, I can grow my followers from 10,000 to 20,000, but how is this going to help the business?” A lot of people just do what they’re told and they never kind of stop and question why.

In an ideal world if they asked their boss, their boss would say, “Hey, look, we find for every 10 followers we have, every time we post that increases the number of likes that we get on those posts by 10% and that increases the number of people clicking through then to our site, which helps us drive more leads and MQL. By doubling the followers, we’re doubling the amount of traffic we’re going to get from social referral traffic over the course of the year, which will help us.”

Now, that’s just an example. But that’s, again, helping that social media marketer understand how their follower count ties into traffic count and that traffic count ties into leads and leads ties into MQLs and MQLs ties into sales revenue. I think it’s just really, really crystal important that everyone actually be able to know what their number is and how it rolls out.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you give us some examples of some additional numbers? I’m thinking maybe outside the marketing function, particularly I think a lot of time we think about “Oh man, owning a number, that’s for directors and vice presidents,” in order to sort of own that sort of thing.

But I like it sort of the social media follower count is an example of a number that someone maybe in the first few years of their career might have ownership of. Can you give us some other examples of numbers that aren’t too senior and are different functions?

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Everyone in every role can have these numbers. I think that’s the key is to work out what they are.

You might be a junior recruiter and you just joined a company as a recruiting associate and it’s your job to run into these for example, right? Or to maybe source candidates for roles that you’re hiring, whether you’re an intern or whatnot.

The company’s role or the recruiting team might have a goal of say, “We have 50 open roles that we need to get filled by the end of this quarter.” Then they might divvy out all of those jobs across say their recruiters. Regardless of how senior you are or how junior you are, you kind of need to chat with your boss and work out “Okay of that big team number, what portion am I responsible for.”

If you’re really junior maybe you’re not responsible for that high level number, but you might be responsible for a leading metric that ties into that. An example might be-

Pete Mockaitis
Number of applications.

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, exactly. Number of applications or the number of calls that you run with people or the number of kind of approved candidates that you hand through to the recruiting manager or anything like that. If you’re a BDR, so business development rep, your numbers might be the number of calls you do a day, the number of meetings you set for sales.

I’m just trying to think on the fly what different roles are in our team. If you’re in accounting and you’re a junior in the team, the accounting team’s metric might be, “Hey, we need to close out all of our invoices by the end of the month and get payment on 90% of them.”

You might have a metric of “Okay, I’m going to send three emails over the course of four weeks before the accounting payments are due so that we increase the number of people that pay us.” I would be monitoring “Okay, last month 80% of people paid us on time. Let’s change it and do a few more activities to try and get 85% this month and then 90%.”

It doesn’t really matter. There’s a number that you can apply and connect to everything. I think that really connects in with kind of the second big kind of core thing that I talked about with regard to mastering their craft and that was reverse engineering your funnel.

We just talked through some funnels then, like the number of people that apply for a job, the number of people that then do interviews, the number of those interviews that make it through to stage one, two, and three, and then other people you hire. Everyone has a funnel in every element of the business.

What I think most people don’t do a good job of is actually knowing what are the average conversion rates for my funnel and then working backwards. Let’s say your boss says, “For next month, hey little Jesse who does recruiting or is our recruiting intern, next month you need to generate five times as many people into jobs.”

Then when you would say, “Okay, well if I need to generate five times as many job fillings, then I probably need to run through five times as many different LinkedIn profiles at the top of the funnel.”

I kind of gave a lot of different examples of how you can think about reverse engineering your funnel, whether you’re an email marketer or a PR person or a sales rep. Everything can be reverse engineered. That’s just one of those tactics that not enough people in business do.

It sets them up for failure by not doing that because you might be trying to achieve something, like that 50 different heads to fill in a month might be really unrealistic, but you’ll just accept it and go after it and then you’ll fail.

But if you would have reversed engineered from the get go, you might able to then say to your boss, “Hey, I just ran the numbers for this and if we want to hit that number, we’re going to do 5X the number of applications. How are we going to get that? We might need help.” Does that kind of make sense Pete?

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely, yes. What’s really nifty is – I’m taking a look at your funnels right now, and, I’m curious, you’ve sort of laid them out in the world of the email and PR and social media. How would you recommend – what would be some good sources that we might go to in order to identify what are some appropriate benchmark ratios in other fields?

Ryan Bonnici
I’m a big believer in there’s no such thing accurate benchmarks

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Ryan Bonnici
Just because I think every single business is different. Every single role is different. If you’re a recruiter and you’re trying to recruit C-level executives, that’s going to take a lot longer. The funnel is going to be very different to if you’re trying to recruit junior entry level positions. If we change industries and look at a finance executive versus a marketing exec, it might be different again.

Those funnels in my deck that I ran through are more so kind of the methodology for how someone should think about … this for their own business. They would need to input their own metrics and then look at what their conversion rates are for themselves because I think you really just can’t apply standards here because a lot of these funnels, they’re purpose built for very specific things.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I guess it’s interesting if we’re talking about solving big problems here, one big problem could be “Wait a second, we’re converting at half of the rate somewhere that we should. This is broken and it needs to get fixed.”

I’m wondering if you have any intuition on how you might get a sense for if – you can know the way sort of that the ratios have unfolded historically. That’s very helpful in terms of kind of planning out, “All right, well then just how much activity do we need at each of these phases to get our end goal,” so that’s really cool. But I’m wondering further, any pro tips for zeroing in on, “Hm, this part is broken and needs to get fixed.”

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, I definitely think you can zero in once you’ve laid out the numbers for your funnel for whatever it is, whether it’s a recruiting funnel or an email marketing campaign funnel or it’s an anything funnel ultimately. It could even be literally a simple funnel of generating employees completing the monthly net promoter score.

Every month I send out a survey to my team. It asks them a really simple question from one to ten, how happy are you at work? I know if I send four reminder emails to them versus two, I’ll get probably double the amount of people that fill it out at the end of the month.

Regardless of whatever the funnel is that you’re building, I think you need to just map out what are the different activities throughout it and what are the conversion rates. Then you need to start to look at some of the drop-offs.

If it’s that employee net promoter score survey and you’re sending lots of emails and only five percent of people are opening, but then of those people struggling that open you have like 50% of people completing it, then you’d probably say, “Okay, well the message in the email obviously is engaging people because anyone that opens is completing it, but we’re to get people to open it in the first place.”

Then we have to look at is it the time of day that we’re sending it, is it the subject line? What factors could be affecting that? Are we sending it on a busy day when they’re doing other things? That’s really how you then start to work out “Okay, where is my funnel leaking?” is how I would think about it. Where is water falling out of the funnel?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. It’s just sort of the absolute number ratios can give you some hints. Then in some ways I guess you might think for like a cold email, you can be like, “Well, hey, we don’t really expect a whole lot of opens on a totally cold email to strangers.”

Ryan Bonnici
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
But, in the context you presented there, it is internal and that might get you thinking about having some sort of benchmark ratio in terms of “Well, hey, when you look at the other emails that get sent around our company, the open rates are triple this. What’s wrong?” It’s like, “Oh.” I think that’s where things get interesting.

Ryan Bonnici
100%, 100%. I think whenever you’re comparing funnels to marketing funnels, which there’s been lots of research done into them and you have a high volume of data that you can look at. Emails is a really easy example. Web traffic conversions is an easy example. Yes, you can definitely find some benchmarks. Again, I don’t know how important I would be leaning on those. I’d still be looking at your own data.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure.

Ryan Bonnici
But once you start to get – most people aren’t marketers. That’s just one role in a company. Once you get out of those roles, the methodology and what I’m trying to help teach people to understand is you should just be reverse engineering whatever it is that you’ve been asked to do to work out how you can most successfully do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. I think that within your own data, you can grab some good stuff. It’s like, “Hey, the other emails we sent internally, how do those compare here?” I think that gets really exciting when you discover, “Oh wait, this tiny little thing we’re doing is dumb. Let’s fix it. It turns out we’re using a tiny font that is really hard and obnoxious to look through. Let’s cut that out right away,” and boom, there you have it. It’s pretty thrilling, at least for me.

Ryan Bonnici
Absolutely. I think it’s when you actually stop and actually start to analyze the impact of the different things that you’re doing in a business that things get really interesting.

I find so often that businesses and employees never actually stop and properly analyze their activities to look at the impact. Everyone is running around. Everyone says they’re busy. No doubt they are, but being busy and working on unimportant things is very different than being busy and working on important, critical projects.

An example that I can think of that comes to mind from when I joined G2 Crowd is I noticed when I first joined that the company placed a lot of emphasis on having every employee do social sharing of content that we were creating as a company. Let’s say there was a news article about G2 Crowd or we created our own content, a lot of people would post it to Slack and everyone – every manager would say, “Hey, John, Jesse, everyone, please share this to your social channels. We want to get this news out there.”

I was doing some analysis when I joined and I basically was seeing that there was all of this activity being done. Everyone was taking out people’s time on their team to have them just share content on social. I understood why. Naturally you want to share happy news about your business. That makes your employees feel good. It’s an exciting thing.

But because most people at a company don’t really have many followers on Twitter or on LinkedIn, we were getting a very insignificant amount of net new traffic and engagement on this content purely because most employees are junior, most employees don’t have big networks. No one is clicking on their content.

It was just an interesting thing that I saw when I came in and I noticed wow, we spend so much time getting everyone to do this and no one has actually stopped and looked at how much traffic does it actually drive for us and it’s driving nothing, so let’s stop wasting everyone’s time. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. That’s great. All right, so you mastered the craft, solving big problems. How does one build a brand?

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah. I think this is a really interesting one that a lot of people sort of don’t really think enough about. I think to build your own personal brand at work is really, really key because that personal brand that you build, it doesn’t just help you today and in the future, it helps the company that you’re working for.

I always try and preface this hack or this tip with people on the basis of there’s no point trying to build a strong personal brand if you don’t actually have a unique point of view because if you don’t have a unique point of view, you’re not going to develop a strong brand. You’re just going to be sharing your opinion.

If your opinion isn’t unique or different or interesting or complex or has something unique about it, you’re just adding to the noise. No reason why you maybe shouldn’t do that if you want to and get that out there, but it’s probably not going to give you the effect that you’re hoping for.

I’d say that’s the key thing is to work out what is it that’s a unique angle that you have a unique perspective or insight into that you can share content of authentically. Once you know what that is, I think for people that are junior in their career or even more senior, the easiest place to start is with your company blog.

Most companies are doing content marketing or inbound marketing today, most of those content and inbound marketing teams don’t have enough time to create enough content, so they always welcome someone willing to create some content for the company blog.

My step one recommendation is reach out to your content team or your blogging team or your marketing team, if it’s a team of one, and literally say, “Hey, what’s a topic that you’ve been wanting to write content for on the blog that I maybe could create for you.”

Go ahead, do that, write it really well, have them edit it, and start to get some content up and live on the internet from your company because that’s automatically then starting to help you build your reputation and build a bit of an online footprint for who you are.

Then what I recommend people do is after they’ve done that a little bit, I’d suggest they start to reach out to maybe very kind of junior or small tier, low tier kind of press and media outlets in their city or in their industry and write a guest post for them.

In my slides – which if you head over to my Twitter account, it’s Twitter.com/RyanBonnici, just my name, you can download the slides that I’m running through because I have some templates … emails that I recommend sending to the editor of the different publications and what my follow-up emails look like.

But basically once you get a piece mentioned in one of those publications, then you reference that. Then you reach out to a tier two publication. Then once you get a few of those published, you mention those and then you reach out to a tier one publication.

I have done this myself over the last few years and worked my way up from small industry press in Sydney that no one in the US would probably know about to then being a regular contributor for Entrepreneur and now more recently I’m writing for The Telegraph and for Harvard Business Review and I think I have a post coming up for MIT’s journal tomorrow.

I’ve only done that through just working my way up and creating content. I wouldn’t have been able to work my way up if a) I didn’t start small, but b) most importantly, I had a unique opinion on different things. I think building your brand is key.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you give us a bit of an example in terms of what does it look, sound, feel like to have a unique point of view versus just to be everything else. Could you give us a couple examples of “Hey, not unique sounds like this, whereas unique sounds like that?”

Ryan Bonnici
Sure. I mean, look, I did an interview recently for The Telegraph. Basically it was all about how I kind of network on planes. An example of a boring article that The Telegraph wouldn’t have written is if I wrote them a piece of content that said “Here’s what you should do on a plane: go to sleep and watch a movie.” Everyone does that.

Instead I said to them, “Hey, I do something that’s different that no one else does on planes. I have a set of questions that I like to ask my neighbor. I’m good at gauging if they’re interested or not. I work out who they are. I research them on LinkedIn if I can see their name from their boarding pass,” blah, blah, blah, a little bit stalky. That’s different. That’s unique. Naturally now they want to write about that.

That was a flight example with regard to networking, but similarly I write a lot about marketing. A boring article that is not unique and no one would write would be an article for me saying digital marketing is important. No marketing industry press is going to publish that because obviously everyone that follows them knows that.

But if I wrote an article about how digital marketing is dying and here are some data points to back that up or digital marketing is transforming and here’s why, etcetera. Now we’re talking about something a little bit more interesting.

A unique angle really comes down to just building out what is the interest with the story and are you sharing something that’s new that people don’t know or is a different take on something.

If you look at the way Trump does media, he’s obviously very good at trying to have a unique angles for things that are very different, very I guess confrontational. That’s kind of a big part of what hooks press and gets them interested. You need to try and adapt that in the same way if that makes sense.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. I think in many ways it’s almost like you know it when you see it at the onset. It’s almost sort of just refusing to write something just because you should, like, “Oh, I write a blog post every month,” as opposed to, “Oh, now that’s something. Okay.”

Ryan Bonnici
Totally. Exactly. I take – throughout – I didn’t have a regular cadence because just to exactly your point, these ideas come up throughout the day, throughout the week. I find the best way to start for people that are new to this that are still trying to get their heads around what’s their unique angle is I always say the best place to start is think about what frustrates you the most at work.

You might do a regular meeting – you might be in a meeting and you might just be frustrated because meetings are always unproductive. That could be a unique angle, like saying, “Hey, most meetings are horribly unproductive and these are the five reasons why they’re unproductive. Here are the three easiest things that you can do right now to make your meetings at work more productive and to help you be better at your job.

Those things are a) require that there’s always an agenda written into the meeting invite, 2) if it doesn’t need to be a brainstorm and they’re just sharing content, it doesn’t need to be a meeting, and 3) blah.” That could be one example of the way you kind of find an idea through that frustration at work.

Or you might just have a regular meeting where you’re told in that meeting, “Oh, that’s a really good idea. You have a good viewpoint on this topic.” Whatever that topic might be, you then need to kind of quantify and kind of build out what that view is outside of just an opinion and formalize it and share it with people.

If we use just my presentation form HYPERGROWTH last week, I’ve been told by lots of people that I’ve moved up in my career pretty quickly to become a CMO by 30. I just thought about what has made me successful. That was what I got to kind of these five kind of key things that work for me.

A lot of that came from me just reflecting and working out what actually was it. What are some things that I do that most people don’t do? I think everyone can do that for their own domain, their own part of the business or their own skillset.

Pete Mockaitis
I dig that that that when it comes to the frustration, it means it’s resonating for you in the sense that your frustration kind of equals something is happening and it’s wrong.

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, exactly. If you’re getting frustrated, then other people probably are too in those similar situations. You know you’ve got a hook, an interesting topic that’s going to be relevant most likely.

Then I think the next step is – this actually ties funnily enough really nicely into my fourth tip that is like get good at feedback is one thing that I always try and teach my team is it’s one thing to get frustrated with something, but if you’re just getting frustrated and you’re complaining, you’re not doing your job. You’re failing and you should be fired.

Great employees and people that get good at their career and move up is they give very good constructive feedback.

Instead of someone being frustrated because the meeting is unproductive, a really amazing employee would say – they might send an email around to everyone after the meeting and say, “Hey gang, I’ve been thinking about the agenda for our regular weekly meetings and I wanted to put together a potential draft agenda that we can use moving forward that I used maybe with a previous team that worked really, really well. Here is the agenda that I was thinking. What do people thing? Should we try this? Would it be worth doing or not?”

I’ve been in those meetings before where someone on my team has stepped up and been a leader and actually created a new agenda. It’s been brilliant.

A) that’s kind of a little bit of a meta example, but being able to kind of pull yourself out of the frustration and work out what could be done to fix it and then to drive that change is really key to moving up in your career and being a leader and just key for life really.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so that’s part of the feedback equation is delivering it, stepping up, finding some actionable improvement nuggets and courageously putting it forth in a kind of an appropriate, diplomatic way. How about on the receiving feedback side of things?

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, I’d say this is probably where most people struggle. Everyone says they want feedback, but it’s like until they get it about something that they weren’t expecting it for that they really struggle to accept it and then they push back and then it defeats the purpose because the person giving you feedback now can see that you’re defensive and just breaks the relationship down.

The first thing that I like to try and help my team kind of be more aware of is that when someone’s giving you feedback, you need to remember that they’re taking a risk in giving you feedback because people typically don’t like to receive feedback, but feedback is the only way we grow. We need to kind of a) remember that, but b) just like stop the first reaction that you have.

The first reaction that 99.9% of people have is to disagree or to give an example for why you did that or just to start to rationalize what happened. I think what people don’t realize is whoever is often giving the feedback doesn’t really care for why you’re doing it. They probably already know why themselves, but they’re giving it to you just so that you can be clear that this is something that needs to be improved on.

Let’s say as an example you give someone – someone gives you feedback that “Hey, you talked to fast in that meeting and that made it hard for people to follow, which meant that people left the meeting without really understanding what the goal of the meeting was.” A typical person might say, “Well, I had to rush because we had limited time.”

That’s not the point. The point isn’t that you had limited time. The point is that “Well, because you rushed because there was limited time, now the message was lost. The people don’t know what it is.”

Instead of refuting the feedback and arguing with it, the lesson there is “Oh, great. Thanks so much for that feedback, boss. What I might do next time is that if I see that we’re running out of time, I might just say ‘Hey guys, let’s take the 20 minutes back in your day and I’m going to schedule a new meeting to run through what I was going to run you through because we need more time.’” That’s how you respond in a proactive way and you learn from something.

Anyway, back on track, first thing to do I guess is stop that reaction. The second thing I recommend people do is remember that you asked for feedback. Feedback is something that you want. Third or fourth thing is just to say thank you. Thank the person for the feedback.

If it’s complex feedback that you really need time to deconstruct, then I always recommend my team just say to the person, “Hey, I really appreciate your feedback. I’ve taken down notes,” and actually write them down, say, “Hey, if it’s okay with you, I’m going to get back to you maybe tomorrow because I would love to really digest this info and get back to you with a full response. I hope that’s okay.”

No one’s going to say to you, “No, it’s not okay. You need to respond to my feedback immediately right now.” That will give you time to cool down, to think about it more properly and to realize that actually this is helpful, this is good.

Once you start to get into the good habit of doing that, a few ways I recommend people get better at this and get better at getting more feedback so they grow faster in their careers is just telling them that they need to ask for feedback regularly.

Some of my best employees, after every single one of our one-on-ones, they’ll just say to me, “Hey Ryan, thanks for this. This is really helpful today. What’s one more thing that you would like to see me doing more or less of?” Notice the open ended question there.

I’d say, “I can’t think of anything this week. You’ve done a really good job.” Or I might say, “Hey, yeah, you did this thing really well this week, although I felt like when you did this thing it kind of slowed you down and maybe next time you can do this.” Just teaching team members to not be afraid to ask for feedback is key.

Even if you’re meeting with like an executive or you’re in the elevator with the boss or someone more senior, maybe don’t ask them for feedback on yourself because they probably don’t know who you are or they probably haven’t been working really closely with you and so they can’t give you really helpful feedback.

But for those sorts of people what I would recommend asking is saying something to them like, “Hey, you obviously have an amazing leadership team. I’m curious when you’re building that leadership team, what qualities do you look for in those leaders or what are your best direct reports, what do they differently than everyone else?” At least that way now you can get insight from an executive that maybe can’t give you specific feedback. Does that make sense Pete?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I really like that. What you said about that – just note that the person who is give you feedback is taking a risk is excellent in terms of reframing the whole thing because your first reaction indeed can be like, “That jerk. Oh, spare me. Does this guy have a clue,” whatever, insert the defensive reaction or whatever as opposed to note that – unless of course, there’s a few sociopaths out there.

But for the most part, for the most part, when someone shares an observation about how you could improve, that is a kind act. I went to a leadership conference, it was called LeaderShape. They said feedback is love. I thought that was well said.

It’s a kind gesture. It does require risk because the person on the other end may very well think less of you for having provided it. If you start there, that just kind of puts you in I think a much more receptive place like, “This person cares enough about me to take the risk that I’m going to be mad at them. That’s pretty cool even if I don’t really like or agree with what they’re saying to me right now. I’m going to chew on it a little more.”

Ryan Bonnici
Exactly. Trying to think I think about the intentions behind the feedback is key. If it’s feedback that’s coming from your direct boss, out of everyone that gives you feedback, that’s the one person that you just shouldn’t push back on most likely because they know you intimately, they probably work with you very closely. If they’re giving you feedback, they’re only giving you feedback to try and help you, otherwise what’s the point?

But I’d say if you get feedback from someone else in the business and you disagree with it or something like that, maybe you chat with your boss about it. But also at the same time, I still don’t think you change the way you respond to it. I think the response is still, “Hey, thanks so much for that feedback. I really appreciate it. I’ll be sure to think about that and think about how I can respond differently next time.”

Whether or not you actually do it or not if you think it’s a load of crap, doesn’t matter. The way you respond is key. If you respond in a defensive way, you’re basically kind of voiding that relationship growth opportunity with that person.

If you respond in a really good way, regardless of whether you actually implement the feedback or not, you kind of by doing so showing and telling the person that you’re benefiting from the feedback and it was helpful. That will only help you in terms of your relationship with them and what’s the point in calling out to them that their feedback sucks or it’s inaccurate. Is it going to really help you? Sometimes you have to think about that.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. And just that notion that if you make it really difficult, they’re like, “All right, not worth it. I’ll just keep my mouth shut and not share any useful tips in the future.”

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, yeah, Exactly. Then that person might also think that you disagree with them or now you don’t like them because they took that risk and gave you that feedback or a bunch of different things. Yeah, I’d say that’s kind of how I think about that.

Then I think to wrap it up, I guess, Pete, with my presentation where I then went to kind of towards the end was really I wanted people to better understand what are some really small hacks that you can do really quickly. One of the things that I mentioned was helping people grow their network.

Something that I always do on LinkedIn and some people will probably disagree and don’t think this is the best strategy, but it works for me and I’m a big fan is whenever someone kind of looks at my profile on LinkedIn, I always add them to my network.

I just basically on my commute home or if I’m on the boss or if I’m doing – I’m bored and I’m somewhere, I’ll open up LinkedIn and I’ll just look at who has looked at my profile. Every single person that looked at my profile that I’m not connected with, I just tap the Connect button on them. All of those people always connect with you because they’re looked at you first.

Pete Mockaitis
They started it.

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, exactly. They started it and they were interested in you.

The reason why that’s important is it helps you grow your network so the next time you change jobs or you share an article about yourself on LinkedIn or share anything, there’s more eyeballs that can potentially see your posts to then help like it and help perpetuate more people seeing it. That’s one thing I always recommend.

That’s worked well for me to the point where now I think I have something like 33,000 followers and connections on LinkedIn. …

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have a particular message that you send them when you click, like “Hey, saw you looking at me,” or what is it?

Ryan Bonnici
I don’t send anything.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Ryan Bonnici
I don’t have time for that to be honest. Also, if that – yeah, some people do that and I think if you have the time to send a message, awesome, more power to you. I just haven’t gone down that path.

That would be the one thing I recommend. The other thing with regard to LinkedIn is what I’ve always done in my career is I always kind of work out what’s the company that I want to work for next. What I’ll do is I will basically do a search on the LinkedIn app and I’ll search maybe recruiter and then I’ll tag the companies that I want to work for.

Let’s say if you want to work at Facebook and Amazon and Snapchat, you would search for recruiter. Then you would search those companies in LinkedIn. Then I would then tap on the plus to all those people.

Now, what that’s doing is a) recruiters never say no to people that add them on LinkedIn because naturally their network is what makes them good at their job. The bigger the network, the better they are typically. They’ll always accept.

But the other great thing is not only have they accepted and you’ll probably get their email address and potentially their phone number through their LinkedIn profile, but they will now also be seeing your content.

As you do that tactic I mentioned about building your personal brand, where you’re creating that unique content for your company blog and for other articles, when you start to share that on LinkedIn, you’ll start to become more known as a thought-leader in whatever your space is.

Now recruiters that might in the future see you and recruit you for a job will start to recognize your name and know that you’re good at marketing or accounting or recruiting or whatever it is that you do. That’s just a very easy way to build your network.

That’s helped me now get to the point where I probably receive three to five different in-mails a day maybe on a good day from recruiters offering me board roles or interesting CMO roles at different companies. I don’t need to engage with them if I don’t want to, but it’s nice knowing that there’s options available if the time should ever arise where I need that.

There, yeah, I think it would be kind of broad set of really – some of those lessons that I think I’ve learned, Pete, over the last decade or so of my career. As you kind of mentioned as we’ve been talking about, I just think there’s so many things that you can do in your career to help you move faster and by doing so it helps your company move faster.

I think those two can always be aligned. That’s really the sweet spot. You shouldn’t be doing stuff that’s just good for your company and not good for you, like try and do stuff that’s good for both sides.

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

Ryan Bonnici
Gosh, no, I think that’s good background. For anyone that wants to connect with me obviously, my details I’m sure are listed in the podcast. Feel free to just search my name online. I’m very accessible via any social network really.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Now can you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Ryan Bonnici
I think something that I find really inspiring is just leaders that aren’t afraid to fill leadership voids. I don’t know if this is necessarily like a quote, but it could be.

I think of businesses as just being these organizations with holes within them kind of like Swiss cheese. I think a really strong leader starts to see those different deficits in a business and isn’t afraid sometimes to actually fill the gap and maybe step on someone’s toes that wasn’t filling the gap, which would have been filling the gap.

I think that’s been something that’s been an important thing that’s helped me grow in my career. It’s not easy to always do, but it’s worked for me. I’d say filling the leadership voids within the business is the fastest way to move up in a business and drive impact in the business would maybe by my self-created quote right now on the fly.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure thing. How about a favorite book?

Ryan Bonnici
The first one that I’d say probably, let’s focus on business, but I think there’s impacts that to me from a business perspective is The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Absolutely love it. I think it’s a really good book. I try and reread it at least once a year if not more than that.

But it just kind of helps you really focus on what you can do right now and what’s important in the moment. Really good book I think for folks that sometimes suffer with feelings of depression or feelings of anxiety or feelings of trying to always achieve more and need more and not have enough. Really amazing book. Big fan of mindfulness and all of Eckhart Tolle’s work.

Maybe the other book that’s a bit more business focused is a book called Radical Candor by Kim Scott that I absolutely love. Kim published the book I want to say last year, maybe early 2017. It’s all about basically how to give you feedback to your employees so that you challenge them really directly, but while at the same time they know that you really care about them personally. That’s helped me I think become a better leader, but I’m always trying to improve.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. We had Kim on the show. It’s definitely powerful stuff.

Ryan Bonnici
Oh, fantastic.

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

Ryan Bonnici
Favorite tool. There’s a ton. I’m a massive fan of HubSpot as a marketer, so HubSpot would probably be my favorite marketing tool. Then Asana would probably be my favorite productivity tool, like my whole team, our whole company actually at G2 Crowd, runs HubSpot for marketing and Asana for productivity and task management, so massive fan of Asana. Yeah, love that.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Ryan Bonnici
Favorite habit. It’s kind of this is like a semi-tool slash habit, but I’m a big fan of light therapy actually. I’m a geek when it comes to bio-hacking and neuro-hacking.

For anyone that’s interested in trying to have more energy in the daytime or to work better throughout the nighttime or better attention, I tell them – I use a device called the Joovv, J-O-O-V-V.com. It’s basically kind of like this wall unit that hangs from a door. It’s got red lights and infrared lights on it. I will literally every morning and every night stand in front of it for ten minutes.

It’s good for resetting circadian rhythms. It’s really good for your skin. It’s good for kind of inflammation in your bones. I’m obsessed with it. Red light therapy/infrared light therapy is my biggest favorite habit knack.

The technical term for what it is for anyone that really wants to geek out, it’s called photo-bio-modulation. There’s a lot of research now coming out of Harvard and MIT that shows the benefits of what near infrared light and red light therapy can do for your brain and for your cells and your mitochondria. That’s probably my big habit and favorite fun thing.

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

Ryan Bonnici
I would say, gosh, the one thing I never see enough of in business is people just really owning their outcomes and committing to their growth. I think I’ve always had to throughout my career, I’ve never been given a promotion just because.

I’ve always – I earned it, but be like earned it and then told my boss that I’ve earned it and said, “Hey, this is what I need. If you want to hold on to me and you want me to keep driving impact in this company, this is what I want.”

I think more people can do that because there’s so many amazing people in business that are driving impact. It’s not that their bosses or their businesses are trying to intentionally overlook them and not give them that raise or that promotion or that new business opportunity. A lot of the time it’s just everyone’s busy and no one sometimes realizes it.

I think my one big thing in addition to kind of what we’ve been talking about all about this is just speak up and if you’re unhappy, tell your boss. If you want a new challenge, tell your boss. If you think that you’re undervalued, tell your boss and frame it in a way in which that it’s not a complaint, but that it’s a constructive thing.

Explain to them how much you love the business and how you want to drive more impact, but you don’t feel like you’re valued. Here’s why and here’s what you need to change. That would be my one big challenge and … for people.

In addition to just follow me on Instagram, on Twitter, on Facebook, on Snapchat, and all the channels. Feel free to connect with me and share your challenges or your thoughts and feelings with me on this. If you agree/disagree or anything, I really am super sociable and I respond to everyone that messages me assuming they message me with nice messages that are constructive.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. Well, Ryan, thank you so much. This has been a lot of fun. I wish you tons of luck at G Crowd and all you’re up to.

Ryan Bonnici
Thanks so much Pete, really appreciate your time. Thanks everyone for listening.

351: Bridging Skill Gaps through Strategic Learning with Andy Storch

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Learning and development programs designer Andy Storch discusses the biggest skills gaps he encounters among leaders-in-training and how to bridge them.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Three steps for creating an effective learning program
  2. The number one problem facing new managers
  3. How to better understand customers with the ROPE framework

About Andy

Andy Storch is an executive coach, consultant and facilitator specializing in helping clients turn strategy into action and results. He helps leaders accelerate and grow their success through measurable improvements in their business and careers. Just as important, he helps them become the happiest, healthiest, most fulfilled versions of themselves.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Andy Storch Interview Transcript

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

Andy Storch

Pete, thank you so much for having me. I am just so pumped to be here. I’ve been listening to your podcast for a while and just been really excited for this. So, thank you.

Pete Mockaitis

Cool. Well, I’m excited too. And I understand you also have excitement for public transportation. What is this about?

Andy Storch

It’s funny that you ask those questions ahead of time. Yeah, I share this with some people – for whatever reason I am – I won’t use the word “obsessed”, but I really do love public transportation. And I don’t know where, when that started or where it necessarily came from. But I have had the opportunity to live in a few different big cities – LA and San Francisco, most notably – and I always took the bus to work when I lived in those places if I wasn’t walking.
And I’ve also had really the luck and the pleasure to be able to travel all over the world as a consultant for the last eight years. And when I get to a new city, one of the first things I’ll do is try to figure out the train or subway system and jump on a train and take it, instead of taking a taxi or an Uber like some of my colleagues. I love the efficiency that comes from having a lot of people going in one vehicle or one train at the same time, going places.
Maybe it’s the social aspect of it, even if people aren’t necessarily being that social. If you’ve ever been on a train in Japan, you know that nobody is talking to each other. But yeah, I don’t know what it is; just something about it has always attracted me, so I’m always jumping on buses and trains whenever I go to new places.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, and sometimes when I chat with the folks who are working on the Amtrak trains – they’re all about trains. I don’t know if there’s a name for it, but it’s like their thing. They’re into trains the way some people are into sports. And so, even though their jobs might not seem that glamorous or fun to many on the outside looking in – they are living the dream, working on the Amtrak.

Andy Storch

Yeah. Well, Pete, your whole podcast is about how to be awesome at your job. And I would think that one of the most important factors is your mindset – do you like your job? Are you passionate about where you work and what you’re doing? And it doesn’t matter how much money you make; that’s going to be more important. So, if you’re excited about trains and you get to work for a metro transit company, then you’re probably in heaven and you’re enjoying your job and you’re a step ahead of most other people, I would assume.

Pete Mockaitis

Amen, yeah. And it’s a beautiful thing – people digging their jobs in different capacities. I know I would probably not be as much into that job, nor so much into accounting per se, but the fact that other people are and love it just makes me smile about the human condition.

Andy Storch

Absolutely. Yeah, it’s great.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, let’s talk a bit about your job. You are a partner at Advantage Performance. What’s the company about and what are you doing as a partner there?

Andy Storch

Well so, Advantage Performance Group is kind of a unique company and model in that we get to work with a lot of different thought partners in areas like leadership development and sales training and strategy alignment. And we work with our clients, who are mostly large companies, to connect them with great learning solutions that really help their people do the best work of their lives.
So, I’m really running training and development for big companies in areas like strategy alignment, business acumen, as I mentioned, teaching finance and how a business works, a lot of leadership development and sales training. I get to work as an independent consultant, which means I get to run my business how I want to run it, work with clients that I want to work with and leverage a lot of great partnerships, as well as the brand that we have at Advantage Performance Group.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s cool, that’s cool. All right, so good stuff. I’d like to get your take, first of all, if you are running these learning programs or partnering with other folks who are delivering these learning solutions, what are some of the key things that make the difference? If someone needs to facilitate a learning session or choose someone from the outside to deliver some of the goods, what should we be looking for and what should we be doing?

Andy Storch

I think when it comes to setting up a learning program, if it’s a development program for your company, or maybe even something that you want to do as an individual, to go out and learn more and get better at your job – I think the most important thing is to start with the end in mind. Think about what are you trying to achieve and why are you really investing in learning and development?
So, I host a podcast on talent development and I get the opportunity to interview a lot of talent development professionals, who are essentially building these programs for a living, either internally or they’re hiring people like me to come help them. And one of the things I hear a lot that’s a pitfall is people getting requests for training: “Hey, we need training on negotiations” or, “We need training on how to be a better manager.” And they don’t take the time to really ask “Why”. Why do they want that? Because there’s probably some other underlying reason that’s driving that request, and if you start to ask why and ask more questions and think about what’s our ultimate goal, that’s going to allow you
So, I think the most important thing is to begin with the end in mind and start thinking about what are you trying to achieve and ask questions about, why are you investing in learning and development? Why do you want to invest in training or learning in the first place? Why do you want to set up this training class? Or even if you’re an individual and you’re thinking about reading a new book or investing in training for yourself, why are you doing that? Does it fit in with your overall goal?
So for a company, looking at the overall company strategy, does this fit in with that company strategy? Does it help us achieve more of our goals? And if it doesn’t, then maybe this is not necessarily the right thing for us to do. So once you’ve established that, I think that’s the most important thing.
The next thing, when it comes to designing effective learning programs is to make it really experiential. So this I’m a little bit biased in because all of the programs that I sell and run are experiential learning programs, but I can tell you most people learn through experience; they don’t like sitting around listening to PowerPoint presentations all day long. There might be a few that like that, but I personally don’t. I learn better through experience, through practice, through examples. And so, I think it’s important to build that in to any type of development program, to give people an opportunity to really experience the learning, what’s going on, and give them a chance to practice.
So if it’s a sales training, build in some roleplay exercises, where they get to practice having those conversations that they’re learning about. And when you think about the military or sports, which everybody watches all the time – those people that get paid a lot of money to perform at a high level in just a few games – what are they doing with the rest of their time? They’re practicing. They practice a lot. But in business, we kind of expect that we’re just going to go out and wing it and just do it in the real world and not worry about practicing at all. It’s kind of a weird thing. So, I think it’s really important to get that practice time in.
And then the last piece is, find some way to have not only ongoing practice, but some accountability. So, write some things down, commit to some goals as a result, check in with your manager if you have one, and let him or her know what you’re trying to achieve, what you learned from the program, and maybe even get a coach or have coaches for the participants of the program to check in with them on a regular basis, so that they are more accountable to the things that they learned and said they’re going to do.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. Yeah, those are some good tips there. And I want to talk a little bit about the “asking why” perspective a bit there, because we had Stacey Boyle make a similar point when talking about becoming more strategic, in terms of, when you ask the “Why” sometimes you discover that what someone asked for is in fact a total mismatch for what they really need and what you should be offering and delivering. Do you have any examples of that occurring in your work?

Andy Storch           

So yeah, I had a client come to me just the other day actually who said, hey, we’re looking for some help with some type of negotiations training. And my first question, was, well, why do you need negotiations training? What are you trying to achieve? And we started digging down into the reasons, and the things that were being reported by people in her company, and what was going on with the salespeople. And it turned out that they were giving away too many discounts to their customers. And why was that case the case? When you ask why, again, it’s because they weren’t really having those consultative conversations with their clients where they were able to really establish a lot of value.
And what they really wanted was to be more of a partner with their customers, with their clients, rather than just a vendor or a seller. And so, at a higher level that was really the root cause and what they really wanted more help with, and so we have built something that is more geared towards that rather than something as narrow as negotiations, which wouldn’t really fix the overall problem.

Pete Mockaitis

Mm-hmm. Understood. Okay. Well thank you. That’s handy. So then, I want to kind of dig into a little bit of the content that you find yourself sharing over and over again. And this is kind of fun because you are in a position of delivering many programs and delivering those, to lots of different audiences. I just want to take all of the best stuff and learn it right here. So, you got a few topics at work. So, let’s talk about them. One of them is the influence capacity, you know. How people could be more influential at work. Can you share, what are some of your pro tips for how that comes to be?

Andy Storch           

Sure. And I appreciate as a podcaster the, how you could just take someone’s entire life and ask them to answer it in one question. Just take when I had you on my podcast, and I asked for all of your best tips for time management and productivity, right? And you gave it to me in one answer, actually, that was a good one.

Pete Mockaitis

Intrigued, what was that?

Andy Storch           

I had the honor of interviewing Pete recently on my podcast, and I asked him what is his number one tip for productivity, to be more productive at work. And his quick response with no need for extra thought was, get enough sleep was the number one thing. And I agree with you 100%. If you’re not getting enough sleep, if you’re not taking care of your health, then none of this other stuff’s really going to matter.

Pete Mockaitis      

I hear you, yeah. So after you’ve slept enough, and you’re showing up at work, how do you be more influential in your interactions with folks?

Andy Storch           

Yeah. How do you go about influencing people? Well, I think for me and my experience, and also from learning from so many other experts and running some of these programs, I think number one has to come back to, are you getting to know people? Are you actually building relationships and understanding what drives them, what motivates them? So many people want to skip this step and use some type of techniques to influence people or persuade them to do different things. The most important thing you can do is take time to get to know people, understand them, show them that you care about them, and show them that you want to do nice things for them, to add value to them, to help them achieve some of their goals. And they’re going to be a lot more likely to want to help you achieve your goals.
And then the added bonus to that is, figure out what motivates those people. So, some people are motivated by money, some people by recognition, some people by all kinds of different things. They’re trying to achieve a goal at work, or they’re just trying to get home on time. And if you can help them achieve that goal, get them out the door by 5:00 by helping them with something, they’re going to be a lot more likely to help you with whatever you need at work as well.

Pete Mockaitis      

Mm-hmm. Yeah, that’s great. So, I mean, you don’t know what they need until you’ve built that relationship, and so they feel comfortable enough with you to say what’s really on their mind. Like, you know what, I have been working late too many times, and I’ve got an adorable eight-month-old at home, and I’m tired of getting home after he’s already asleep.

Andy Storch           

Yeah, exactly.

Pete Mockaitis      

Now I know where you’re coming from.

Andy Storch           

That could be it.
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis      

All right. Okay, cool. So now, you also teach a lot of leadership development programs, and I’d like to get your take on, when it comes to leaders—I’ve read a lot of, you know, the Korn Ferry Research Associated with the competencies, and the sort of what competencies are easy to learn and hard to learn and that leaders rank themselves highly upon and not so highly upon. So, since you’re sort of on the front lines there, developing leaders, what are some of the most frequently occurring skill gaps that you’re observing? And what do you recommend to folks when they find themselves with that gap?

Andy Storch

Yeah, so this is definitely a hot topic with a lot of companies I work with, and I think one of the biggest gaps, or the biggest issues, right off the bat, is that in almost every type of job, whether it’s engineering, or sales, or anything else, you have high performers who are being promoted into managerial positions and becoming “leaders” or managers when they don’t really have the skills or the experience of being a manager. And they’re not getting a lot of training on that because people kind of have this strange assumption that because you were good at selling that now you’re also going to be good at being a manager and helping the people under you sell. Or you were good at, you know, writing software code, the best actually. So now we’re actually going to pull you away from writing code and have you manage other people who are writing code. It’s a strange thing, and a lot of times they don’t even ask people if they actually want to be managers or not. They move into that. Now some people do … A lot of people do aspire to move into that position to become a manager, but they may not have that experience. And they are often not really given the skills that they need to understand how to do some fundamental things like coaching, giving feedback, that sort of stuff.

Pete Mockaitis      

Mm-hmm. Oh, okay. So, we see it again and again. The high performer … You say, well someone who deserves this promotion to the manager, the one who is doing a great job at the thing that they’re doing.

Andy Storch

Right.

Pete Mockaitis      

So then, they find themselves in a position where they don’t yet have the skills. So what do you do if you find yourself in that spot?

Andy Storch           

Well, there’s a couple more gaps there that I think need to be addressed once you’re in that position. One is time prioritization. Are you actually making time to one, develop those skills. And hopefully your company is giving you some type of development, some type of training, or learning, classes, whatever it is to help you become a better manager. If they’re not, you may have to go out and read some books, right? Or take a class. Go on [Udemy 00:08:38] or something like that and take a class. I mean, there are dozens and dozens, thousands really of books on leadership. So, figure out how to make the time to go and learn how to do that. And then, time prioritization to actually spend time with your people.
The next challenge that comes up is that people often still think they have that job. They try to keep doing that job. They’re still selling, or they’re still wanting to write some code, or whatever it was doing that they were doing before. And not taking enough time to really check in with their employees and have those great conversations about what type of work that they’re doing. What goals do they have? What challenges are they running into? And find ways to help them move past that, give them feedback to help them with some of the things that they’re working on, and give them coaching to not only get better at their job, but in today’s working world especially. This is especially true for millennials and Gen Z, so the younger generation, people really want career development. That is, they want to know, how do they get to the next level? What does their long-term career look like? And how is the company going to support them in that? And if they’re not getting that, if they’re not having those conversations with their manager, then that’s the number one reason people are leaving companies now. So, they’re more likely to leave you, and then you’ve got to deal with turnover and all of that stuff. So, that’s another critical one.
The last piece I think that is a big gap that’s holding a lot of managers back is, it’s a number of things, but if I could group them all in one bucket, it’s fear. And it’s fear that you’re not going to be good at your job, that people on your team or that work for you are not going to be able to figure things out without you, and it’s going to be a poor reflection on you. And therefore you feel like you have to be part of everything because if they fail, it’s a reflection on you, and you lose your job. And the other side, unfortunately, is true. A lot of people fear that if the people on their team figure it out without them, then you’ll still lose your job because now we don’t need you anymore because you know Joe, who works for you, he has already figured out how to do your job as well as you. So, we’re going to go ahead and let you go because Joe is doing that job really well.
So, a lot of managers will become … They’ll start to act like tyrants, right? Creating stress for their team, and putting themselves in a position where they have to be there at all the time. They’ll act like know-it-alls because they feel like they, because they’re a manager, they’re supposed to have all the answers. And they’ll start acting like a micromanager as well, overseeing everything that happens. And these people really become diminishers of their people, holding them back, reducing their intelligence, their productivity because of that fear. Because they don’t have the confidence to let their people really take on challenges, try different things, have the freedom and give them the coaching to help them move along and believe that if they do well in that, that they’ll be rewarded for it and not fired.

Pete Mockaitis      

Yeah. And that’s really powerful. We talk about fear kind of on both dimensions. It’s like, I’m afraid that I can’t trust them to do this because they’ll screw it up. And I’m also afraid that if I trust them to do this, they’ll look so awesome that I look like a chump.

Andy Storch           

Yeah, and

Pete Mockaitis      

And at that point, what do you want? What is there to hope for? It’s like you’re just kind of paralyzed.

Andy Storch           

Yeah, it’s a tough spot. And I’ve been there. I mean, I try to embrace all of this stuff. You know, I’ve studied it. I teach it, right? I facilitate it. And in my last job, I had a direct report who was really good, and he learned fast. And I taught him everything, and I was very open and vulnerable. Here’s what I’m struggling with, here’s how you can get better, sharing what’s going on. And he definitely accelerated to a place where he was just as good, if not better than me in the job that I had been doing for a few years. And even though I embrace all of this stuff, I still felt a little of that, of like, man, he’s already better than I am. Is my job going to be safe? But people most of the time will recognize, hey, you put them in that position. Let’s go have you manage somebody else and get them to that position. You could be the all star manager that’s even more valuable to the company because you’re able to do that.

Pete Mockaitis      

Yeah, absolutely. Yes. In terms of it’s like, yes, please Andy, make more of these for us.

Andy Storch           

Right.

Pete Mockaitis      

You do that thing that you’re doing because … In actuality, I recall that with Korn Ferry work, the develops others and/or develops direct reports was one of the competencies that managers tend to rank themselves dead last in, out of all of the competencies. So, that’s a pretty good thing you got going for you if you’re a capable of pulling that off when most people think they’re not so good at it. So essentially, that fear is almost like a little boogie man that you can just unmask, and say, no, no, actually at least leaders who are slightly with it will recognize that that is an awesome thing that you’re doing there as a manager, and we want to see some more of that.

Andy Storch           

Yeah. My favorite book on this subject for anybody who wants to go learn more about how to be a great leader and avoid being a tyrant, some of these things we’ve talked about, is a book called Multipliers by Liz Wiseman. And in that book, Liz did research on dozens, not dozens, hundreds and thousands of managers around the world and found that those managers who act like that, who were really diminishing their people, do act like tyrants. They really believe that people won’t figure things out without them. And the best managers who were able to multiply people’s intelligence are known as multipliers. They have a core belief that people are smart, and they’ll figure it out. So if you give them the right resources, if you challenge them appropriately, you hold them accountable, but you give them space for thinking, and you listen to their ideas before you share your own, and really invest in your people, then they’re going to do great things. And you’ll be rewarded either by attracting more talent because you’re recognized as someone who is such a great leader, or compensated in different ways because you are able to create such great talent. Not to mention you’ll be rewarded with all the fulfillment of having created great careers for so many people who work for you.

Pete Mockaitis      

And we talked about the career development piece being a top reason why people choose to leave if they’re not getting that. So, if you are providing that sort of learning growth development stuff, and then your retention looks better, and if leaders are at all paying attention to the manager’s performance, like retention should be one of like the top things … Because not everyone seems to know this, but I mean when retention is terrible, it often comes about in clusters. This manager’s retention is terrible, and that manager’s retention is not. Then if you dig below the surface, it’s like that person is a terror. People hate working for them, and that’s why they quit quickly when they have to.

Andy Storch           

Right.

Pete Mockaitis      

And so—

Andy Storch           

Yeah. And a lot of companies put up with that for different reasons, you know? They’ve raised one star, or that person’s a star salesperson. I know that people don’t really like working for him. Or we just don’t want to have that tough conversation. But you keep having people leave who work for them, you’ve got to have that conversation. You’ve got to address it. You’ve got to look into it.

Pete Mockaitis      

Yeah, absolutely. Well, let’s talk about sales as well. So you’re also teaching sales programs. And most of our listeners are not professional salespeople, although we’ve got a few. But I still think many of those tips apply when it comes to being persuasive, being influential, getting folks to say yes, dealing with rejection, a lot of universal skills can be drawn and pulled from the world of the sales professional. So, let’s hit it again. You know, what are some of the top gaps that you’re seeing over and over again when you’re executing sales trainings? And what should be done about them?

Andy Storch           

Yeah, I’m glad you mentioned that a lot of people can benefit from that because, like you said, not everybody … maybe not all your listeners are in sales, but if you follow like Daniel Pink, To Sell is Human, and these people who talk about the fact that pretty much everybody’s in sales if you need to influence people, right? We started talking about influence earlier, and so you want to have a decent grasp of what it takes to influence and inspire people. And again, as I mentioned, I think one of the big gaps there is not asking enough questions. So many salespeople, or people who get into sales roles, get excited about what they have to offer or trying to convince someone that they should buy their product or invest in their time and whatever it is they want them to do, and so they get to pitching. And they talk a lot about the product, and they don’t really stop and think about why would the other person care. Right?
So, I’ve been in consulting for the last eight years or so, which has given me a lot of practice in asking a lot of questions. So, when I have an initial phone call with a potential client or really anybody because I like to go out to a lot of conferences, and network, and meet a lot of different people, and I always start with asking a lot of questions. We talked earlier about asking about the objective. What is your goal? Asking about why are you trying to achieve something? And I think if you start with asking a lot of great questions, why is another big one, and the other thing is, think about your own why, your purpose. What are you trying to achieve? And why are you doing it? And are you able to really communicate that? You’re going to get better at sales externally as well as influencing internally, and you can really find out what people care about. You’re going to be able to influence them more.
Now, when you’re in a sales situation, one of the gaps that I mentioned, they’re not asking enough questions and they’re not even thinking about, okay, where is my customer? People always talk about where are you in your sales cycle, right? Where is my customer in their buying cycle? What are they thinking about? Because they might ask you for information about something, and you’re ready to sell it to them. But they’re actually just gathering information, and they’re not really ready to buy something for six to nine months. And it may be true for anything else internally. If someone asks you for something, and you’re ready to jump in and help them, but they may not be ready to take action for several months. So, think about where are they in their cycle as well as what they’re trying to achieve. And how can you help them achieve that goal?

Pete Mockaitis      

You know, we had a conversation with Michael [Fortin 00:19:14] earlier about the copywriting. And he just had a really helpful framework in terms of, he called it the oath formula in terms of seeing, where are folks with regard to their need? Are they oblivious … It’s an acronym, O, A, T, H. Are they oblivious to it? Are they a kind of aware: Oh yeah, that’s sort of a problem. Are they thinking about a solution? Or are they hurting? Like, this sucks, I hate it. I need something and fast. And I think that that’s so helpful just to kind of get oriented in terms of, okay, where should I be kind of pointing my messaging in this conversation?

Andy Storch

And one other thing that I like to remember a lot that I learned from friends and mentors, one of them is a guy named [Listin Witherell 00:20:00] who does sales consulting for a lot of consultants out there, is to serve, not sell. So, when I go into any situation, I’m thinking about how can I serve them? How can I help them achieve their goals? Versus let me just sell them on what I have to offer. And if you have that mindset, you’re less likely to try to force some type of solution just because it’s what you have instead of what they actually need. And a lot of times it might not be your product or solution that they need or want at that time, but if you help them find a solution to their problem, whether it’s a sales type solution or it’s just something internally there, you’re going to build a better relationship with them, a lot more credibility. And they’re more likely to do business with you in the future.

Pete Mockaitis      

Oh, certainly. Or to give you a referral if it’s not them, but someone else. Like hey, this guy is helpful and kind of sorting that out.

Andy Storch           

Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis      

And it just makes you feel better in terms of, I imagine it’s more energizing to spend a day serving people than it is to, hawking your wares.

Andy Storch           

Yeah, absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis      

Very cool. All right, so let’s hear about some of those questions, like what are some of the power questions? Or were ideal things to be thinking about and asking in order to be getting a better understanding of folks’ needs and serving them all the better?

Andy Storch           

Yeah. So, I mentioned thinking about the goal. What are they trying to achieve? I actually use and teach a very simple questioning framework called a ROPE. And ROPE stands for results, opportunities, problems, and execution. So results are … Is that big goal. What are you trying to achieve? Another one is, how will you know that you’re successful? Right? So Pete, you might tell me that you’re trying to become the number one podcast in the business section on iTunes, whatever that goal might be. And I might ask, okay, that’s a great goal. How will you know that you’re successful? Well, you’ll be able to log into iTunes and see that podcast sitting there at number one. Okay, so now we have a great way to actually measure that. What’s your timeline? When do you want to get there? So, you start asking the questions about the results. How can you measure them? Really get a good idea of where it’s going.
Now, you can move into opportunity. So, ROPE, R, O. The opportunity questions or like, what things have you already been doing to try to achieve that goal? Have you already … Do you have any projects or initiatives in place? Have you been doing marketing? Have you been talking to different people? What sorts of stuff … And then you can start to ask follow up questions from there.
And then a big one that is helpful for a lot of people is when you get to that P, the problems. You start to ask, okay, well, what challenges are getting in your way, Pete? I know you’re trying to become the number one podcaster, but what’s getting in your way right now? Are you having trouble booking the right guests? Or marketing to the right people? Whatever it is, if you start to dig into some of those challenges and ask follow up questions, that’s where you’re going to gain a lot of insights.
And then the execution piece is, you start to ask about resources, and timeline, what sort of things you’re working with. If you have multiple people on the team, who’s in charge of what? So you can start to really understand all the different components of the project, or the company, or whatever it is. So you really get like a full understanding of everything.
The other interesting component of that is that when you’re speaking with someone who’s higher level, very strategic, say like a C level executive, you want to focus more on the results and the opportunities because they’re not worried about the execution or the problems. They have people for that, right? But if you’re talking to someone in the bottom of the organization, someone who’s an executer, who’s out there on the front line getting things done, they don’t think as much typically about the strategy and what the results are trying to achieve. They’re thinking more about what problems are getting in my way? And how do I execute on this? What are my resources? What sort of stuff do I need? What’s my timeline? So you want to focus more on those things.
And then the other thing I’ll add about the ROPE framework, because I love this for sales, but it’s also really great for performance reviews as well. So, if you’re a manager, going back to our earlier conversation, and you are listening to this and saying, okay, I’m going to take more time to have those performance conversations with my employees, you can use this to ask them what goals are they trying to achieve? Where do they want to get to in their career? What opportunities do they have? What sort of things are they working on now? Do they have any side projects they’re doing to help them get to that next level? What challenges are they dealing with? Maybe they have a colleague or a coworker who’s really frustrating them. Maybe they’re having some issues at home that’s causing them to have to go home early or whatever it is. And then get into, okay, what timeline are you working with? Who else can help you with this? Maybe I can make some introductions for you.

Pete Mockaitis      

That’s awesome. Thank you. Well tell me, Andy, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Andy Storch           

I want to harp on that idea of really asking questions to both influence, to sell, to build relationships because I think that if you focus on curiosity, there’s so many interesting things we can learn from everybody out there in the world. I mean, that’s why I love hosting two podcasts. I’m sure it’s one of the big reasons why you love yours as well because you get to talk to people, and ask questions, and learn from them. And the more learning you do, the better you’re going to be, the more you’re going to grow and hopefully get better at your job.

Pete Mockaitis      

Well, yeah, and speaking of curiosity, I’m curious and I forgot to ask, so, you’ve had a lot of episodes now of the talent development hot seats and the entrepreneur’s hot seat.

Andy Storch           

Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis      

Those right? Is that—

Andy Storch           

Yeah.
Pete Mockaitis      
Okay. All right. Want to make sure I get the perfect words for the searching there. So can you tell me personally, was there a guest, or an insight, or an episode or two that really was pretty transformational for you in terms of whoa, they changed the way you thought and you learn something that has been super useful for you again and again?

Andy Storch           

Yeah. I mean, there have been a few. I’ve done I guess about 140 interviews now. Not quite as many as you, but still interviewed quite a few people. And when I think about the entrepreneur hot seat podcast, I think back to episode 47, which was an interview with Jeff Hoffman, who was one of the founders of Priceline, as well as he actually invented those kiosks in the airport where you print your tickets out, which you may not use anymore if you have your airline app on your phone. But for awhile they were extremely popular, and he was, I think the first billionaire that I had on my show. And what really blew me away, first of all, I got that interview because I met him in person at an event the year before, and he actually didn’t show. I was so excited and nervous for it. He actually didn’t show up twice before we actually recorded, and it wasn’t his fault. The first time was because there was an emergency, and he had to take his neighbor to the hospital. And the second time his assistant forgot to put it on his calendar.
So, we finally got to record the interview, and he just blew me away with his humility and all of the amazing takeaways he had in that, which was all about the importance of knowing your purpose, how you define success, thinking about legacy, and the importance of learning every day. I mean, he really focused a lot on learning new things every day, and growing, and really thinking about where your position is in life, and how you’re impacting others. It was just one of my favorite conversations in the last year and a half from running that podcast.
And then on the other podcast, the talent development hot seat where I get to interview talent development professionals from big companies, it was actually an interview I just published a couple, about a week ago, episode 22 with Jessica [Amertage 00:28:06] because she was just so passionate, and interesting, and enthusiastic. About what she was doing. And really smart and strategic about how she’s setting up those programs.
You asked me earlier about some of the tips for setting up great development programs, and I mentioned thinking about the results and connecting that to company strategy. She’s so good at connecting those programs back to company strategy, really thinking about the results that they want to achieve. And so, that was a great interview, one of the best I had had up to that date, but the other thing that really showed me that this podcast is going to be something that’s gonna work, and it’s going to keep going really fast is because she was also so generous in introducing me to so many other fantastic guests that I’ve had an opportunity to interview since then. So I just really appreciated having Jessica on, and I hope people get a chance to listen to that.

Pete Mockaitis      

Cool. Thank you. All right, well now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Andy Storch           

So, man … You’ve mentioned this before, and there are just so many great quotes out there. One that I heard recently that really struck me, and it was actually, heard it for the first time from one of my guests on my podcast, but apparently it’s a very old quote. She said, “A ship is safe at harbor, but that is not what ships are built for.” And it just reminds me of my mission in life, which is to fulfill my true potential and help others fulfill theirs, which means I need to go out and try a lot of things. I got to do different things and really go after my dreams and my goals, and so I don’t want to be that ship just sitting there safely at harbor. I want to be out there trying stuff.

Pete Mockaitis      

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

Andy Storch           

Favorite bit of research? I will go back to, I mentioned earlier that book Multipliers by Liz Wiseman. She conducted a ton of research on managers all over the world, and I think it has just been so influential in thinking about how leaders lead, and how the best leaders lead, and how some people are diminishing their people, not really on purpose, but a lot of times they are. And I get a chance to go out and work with clients, using content from that, those experiments … Or, sorry, that study. And I think it’s just been so helpful. I love seeing the light bulbs go off when people hear about the different research that really those managers who are multipliers, who are doing those things, empowering their people, and giving them space, they get twice the intelligence out of their people as do a diminishers, diminishing manager.

Pete Mockaitis      

Awesome. Okay. And how about a favorite book? If there’s another one that’s you recommend?

Andy Storch           

Yeah, sure. There’s a few. I mean, probably the book that has had the biggest impact on my life is The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, and I don’t know if you’re familiar with that or if many of your listeners are. But he went out and did a study of, what are all the habits of the most successful people? And boiled it down to six things which are meditation, affirmations, visualization, reading, writing, and exercise. And ever since I read that book about two and a half years ago, I have adopted that habit. So if you’re going to ask about habit as well, of getting up early and practicing all of those things. And it has been an absolute game changer in my life.

Andy Storch           

And another book I want to mention, which I know has been mentioned on your podcast before, is the book Mindset by Carol [Dweck 00:31:44] has been an absolute game changer for me as well. Not only in running a business, and in working with people, and trying new things, and trying to have that growth mindset, but as a parent as well, it’s been huge in how I talk to my children, and how I want to raise them with a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset.

Pete Mockaitis      

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

Andy Storch           

My favorite tool is a little bit old school, and that is that I do carry a journal, a paper journal, around with me everywhere I go. And I write in that journal every morning and every evening, and it helps me capture ideas, plan my day, check in against my goals. And of course, I use a digital version as well, if you will. I have a couple of different Google Docs where I track a lot of different ideas of things I want to do, especially with regard to social media where I’m very active on Facebook and LinkedIn, and I want to make sure that I’m getting all those ideas and putting different things out there. So, I like to use a lot of Google Docs and sheets, but for me it comes back to that old school journal that I carry with me everywhere.

Pete Mockaitis      

Cool. All right. Well, we did talk about habits, so tell me then, is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks? They quote it back to you and retweet it, et cetera?

Andy Storch           

Yeah. I think that if you think about the goals you want to achieve, it’s so important to think about what habits are going to lead toward you being successful in those goals. And if you figure out what those habits are, you’ve got to take a consistent approach to developing those habits. So, if you want to get better at, say that morning routine, you’ve got to get up early every morning, not just a few days a week, but for at least 30 or 60 days in a row. If you want to get healthier, I think you’ve got to start with being a lot more consistent with going to the gym.
And if it’s something you’re trying to get better with at work, figure out what are those things that you need to do and try to develop a very consistent approach where you’re doing them day in and day out to really develop those positive habits that are going to lead towards you achieving your goals. I know that’s something that’s been really helpful for me over the last few years is really taking a consistent approach to doing all the things that I need to do, and finding accountability partners if I need it to make sure that I do keep doing those things, and really developing those great habits like the morning routine, and then using those to achieve the goals that I want to achieve.

Pete Mockaitis      

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

Andy Storch           

Well, I’m really active on social media. I think the best place to find me and connect with me is on LinkedIn. Again, my name is Andy Storch, S, T, O, R, C, H. And I’m pretty active on Facebook and Instagram as well, under the same names.

Pete Mockaitis      

Mm-hmm. And do you have a final challenge or call to action you’d issue to folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Andy Storch

My final challenge is to really think about the things that you want to achieve, as I mentioned, and write those things down, whether it’s a physical journal or an online document. Write down the goals that you want to achieve as well as break that down into those different pieces, the different components. Think about, again, like I said, the habits that you want to form as well as the people that you want to talk to who can help you. Because I think about having a strong network, having great people around you is probably the number one thing that has helped so many people be successful, including me. And so you want to make sure that you’re really writing those things down, and thinking about what you want to do, and then talking to people about it, and get help because life is all about, for me, relationships and people helping each other. So don’t forget about that.

Pete Mockaitis      

Awesome. Well, Andy, this has been a real treat. Thank you. I wish you tons of luck with your podcasts, and your training, and selling, and all that you’re up to.

Andy Storch           

Thanks, Pete. Thank you so much for having me on. It’s been an absolute honor for me to come on your podcast, and I really do appreciate it.

332: Making the Most of Online Higher Education with University of Phoenix’s Doris Savron

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Executive Dean Doris Savron highlights appealing opportunities and best practices for enhancing your career through online education. This episode is sponsored by University of Phoenix.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The differences between certificate and degree programs
  2. Key trends on evolving fields with interesting opportunities
  3. Pro tips for finishing courses you start—and retaining the knowledge

About Doris

Doris Savron is the executive dean of the College of Health Professions, College of Education and College of Humanities and Sciences at University of Phoenix. Her career spans 20 years in healthcare, information technology and academia. Prior to joining the University, Savron spent 10 years in leadership roles in healthcare operations, rehabilitation services and information technology consulting. She holds a master of business administration from Cleveland State University and is completing her doctorate in health administration from University of Phoenix.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Doris Savron Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Doris, thank you so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Doris Savron
Thank you. It’s great to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to get into this. I understand something that really excites you are sports and that you’ve been to the World Series, the Final Four, Wimbledon, and more of the epic grand championship finals to come. What’s the backstory here?

Doris Savron
I’ve always grown up loving sports. I played sports in high school and actually had an opportunity to play in college and turned it down.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh cool.

Doris Savron
Because I wanted a really true college experience. But I love the competition and the feel of the energy and the buzz. I have favorite teams, so I try to attend those games, but any of those final matches are always exciting regardless of who’s playing.

Pete Mockaitis
It is. I get just a kick out of just extraordinary excellence in any field that I can appreciate. I’m not a hardcore sports lover, but when I just see something amazing that a human being has done, you can’t help but go, “Wow, look at that.”

Doris Savron
Yup. My favorite is just the never quit attitude, like the constant just pushing. You see that in those final games because everything’s on the line, so you just see people at their peak performance. It’s really exciting.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, peak performance is what we love here. You help people get there with the University of Phoenix. Can you orient us a little bit? What is your role there?

Doris Savron
I serve as the executive dean of three colleges, the College of Health Professions, Education, and then Humanities and Sciences. Ultimately, my team and I are responsible for designing the different courses, certificates, degree programs that our industry leaders are telling us they need and want.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That sounds like a large span of responsibility.

Doris Savron
It is. Never a dull moment.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh certainly. Could you maybe orient us a little bit to see sort of what could be possible, maybe a cool career or story or transformation or big difference that emerged when someone went ahead and said, “You know what? I’m going to go pursue a certificate or a degree of sorts,” and kind of what that meant or the difference it made for them.

Doris Savron
Sure. One that actually immediately comes to mind is a young woman had started in one of our degree programs, finished her masters of education in administration and supervision with our online format.

She then partnered up with somebody else, who also attended University of Phoenix and they created or opened a tuition-free charter school that was specifically focused on disadvantaged kindergarteners through second graders.

They’ve been recognized for that work in multiple ways, including Forbes 30 Under 30. Then they continue to serve their community. They’re making a huge difference not just in what they’ve done with that school, but they engage and participate in the community.

Pete Mockaitis
That is cool. I want to first maybe get some terminology clear here. We talked about certificates and degree programs. What are the differences and the ins and outs of what constitutes each?

Doris Savron
Time is probably the biggest difference. Certificates really are focused on a specific area, for example, billing and coding is a specific area of health care, where degree programs are wider and more encompassing. A health care administration degree covers not just the billing and coding and understanding patient needs, but it could cover finance and leadership and management.

They’re more encompassing. They take a lot longer because there’s more courses you have to take. They are longer credits. It allows you to do multiple things in that industry, where a certificate really zeroes somebody into a specific track.

Information technology is another example where things move so quickly that somebody who has a degree might have to continue to specialize as technology changes. There’s certificates available for example in cyber security. Instead of going back and getting another degree, you go back and get a specialization or certificate in this specific area.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, well that sounds pretty handy. It sounds like there’s a specialization there in terms of this certificate will kind of immediately, potentially, qualify you for a whole bunch of roles that I need people to do precisely that.

Doris Savron
Yeah. Depending on the certificate you choose, it will tell you which track or what’s available to you.

There’s some lower level entry level certificates that get you started in a particular field, like billing and coding to get somebody started in healthcare that maybe hasn’t had a professional job yet or hasn’t been in health care.

Then you’ve got some of the more advanced even post-graduate certificates, which get you specialized at a higher level in a specific space. We have post grad certificates in informatics, which really – if somebody’s already working in a healthcare field, is now going to specialize in a data analytics and looking at information and patient trends to determine how do we do better.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, got you. Then also when it comes to the online or in classroom story, could you give a little bit of perspective on I guess maybe the primary pros and cons or if someone was trying to make that call, because I see it frequently, it’s like, “Oh, I’ve got a job right now. Do I want to exit for a timeout to go to school or should I try the online thing?”

What might be some perspective to put that person in good shape to make a great decision?

Doris Savron
First thing when choosing between a physical campus or online, you want to look at lifestyle and schedules.

You’ve kind of already referred to that if I’m working or I have children and they’ve got sports activities after school. What is my availability? A lot of times if they want to attend a physical campus, they have to go a specific night for a longer period of time not that night all the time. Their schedule may not allow for that.

Luckily, they could do that after work hours too because there are now programs that are offered in a variety of fashions even on campus. But online allows you to do it from any location as long as you have an internet connection and a device that allows you to connect to the classroom.

You could do it at night, at home, when kids are in bed. You could do it on the weekends if you travel a lot for your job. You could do it while you’re waiting for a flight delay or even on the plane that has internet access. You’re turning unproductive time into productive time a lot of times in that situation.

It’s really trying to understand what somebody’s trying to accomplish and what their schedule is like that really dictates what’s best for them in choosing between online or a campus.

Pete Mockaitis
Are there some cons on the online side?

Doris Savron
Frankly, I’ve taught in both and there’s benefits to both. It’s really dependent on somebody’s lifestyle.

Obviously, online you have to be more prepared in creating a schedule because you don’t have somebody there physically in front of you saying, “Hey, this is what we need.” You get a syllabus. You know what your deadline dates are and then you go deliver. You still interact with faculty members online and classmates.

But it’s a little different when you’re behind a screen versus when you’re in front of a person on that accountability factor. You have to be pretty self-driven and manage your schedule well to succeed in online.

Pete Mockaitis
I’d love to get some pro-tips there when it comes to doing so, what are some of the best practices or habits or things you’ve heard students do that really enable them to successfully complete and go the distance and find that sort of self-drive and accountability within.

Doris Savron
The biggest thing is finding an area that they’re really interested in. If somebody wants to explore where’s a job growing, what industry, but then they have to look at what their passion and interests are and align those too.

But then the second piece is, and this is probably the key and most important thing to do is really create a schedule and a plan.

We often tell students, “Hey, if you have a family that is counting on you for different parts of your day, make sure you sit down with the family and create a plan of what nights you’ll do your schoolwork, what days of the week you’ll do your schoolwork, and then create a plan and a commitment to that.” When you have a supportive group of people helping out along, that actually helps with success too.

It also helps with accountability. We’ve often found our students saying, “Oh yeah, I got reminded by my kids that I needed to get my homework time in.” It helps sharing what you’re trying to accomplish with other family members and friends.

The schedule is important, not trying to do everything in one setting. We’ve had in some instances where somebody is trying to cram everything in on a weekend and that becomes overwhelming because then you feel like you have no balance.

If you chunk it up and do a little bit at a time, then that leads to more success over time. People can start to see those accomplishments. You can check something off a list which keeps them motivated.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, then so thinking about different people or lifestyles and how things fit, I’d love to get your view in terms of you’ve been around, you’ve seen a lot of students do a lot of programs, who seems to be the kinds of candidates that just are fantastic?

They’re rocking and rolling and the online certificate or degree program is just the thing that is perfect for them versus maybe another segment that this isn’t quite the perfect thing for them.

Doris Savron
Well, we’ve definitely, I’ve seen just from my teaching experience that there’s some students that are just intimidated about the whole factor of going back to school. Then trying to understand how they learn best. Some people do better with the face-to-face interaction and visually seeing things. But with technology today, you could also get that in an online environment.

But it goes back to that are you committed to what you want to do, do you know what you want to do, and then have you created the plan. You do tend to see people that are busier and have more obligations in their work life, tend to be successful online because they’re already managing multiple activities and have learned how to prioritize really well.

You just have – some people just prefer the face-to-face interaction. Even with the technology and what’s available online, still would prefer being in a classroom space with somebody just that one day a week and getting the bulk of what they need that day and their schedule allows for it. Those individuals really do need more of that interaction.

But we’ve seen all types of learning styles and experience levels do really well online. It’s the commitment, and the time, and schedule, and putting the work in that really determines how successful they are.

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you there. I’m intrigued. When you talk about the technology, sort of what’s hip and cool and new?

I remember back in my day, going back in time, I remember we had, I think this was Blackboard was the platform. I’m thinking this is over a decade ago. There wasn’t a whole lot to it. I guess you could submit quizzes and documents and have a little chat window. But what’s the cutting edge cool stuff you’ve got going these days?

Doris Savron
There’s a lot of technology that is available even outside of the classroom. We have students that work together on teams. We have space for them within the platform to work and engage with each other, create their profile, share pictures. But they could also use their phones and the technology they have already to FaceTime and do their meetings virtually so that they’re seeing each other in real time space.

A lot of those tools are available out there already to students based on the technology they already own. We see them communicating outside the class quite often and trying to connect and really put that personal touch to their interactions.

Pete Mockaitis
That is cool. I remember the favorite tools I discovered back in the day it was called Twiddla, T-W-I-D-D-L-A. It was just a shared whiteboard application.

Doris Savron
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Which was kind of hard to find actually. I looked at many options. We found it. That was pretty cool.

When I’m trying to explain some math concepts or working with a client in that kind of a way having that visual piece is good. Do you have any cool proprietary stuff that’s like, “Hey, on our platform you can do this?”

Doris Savron
We actually use a lot of what’s already off the shelf because it’s easier for students who already know that material, so it’s a slower ramp up time. We use tools like Office 365, and the group settings, and things that they can do and share documents virtually because it’s already available to them and part of the classroom.

So they’re also getting better at leveraging that technology because they’re now using it seamlessly to collaborate and communicate with each other virtually.

In work environments today there are a lot of people working from home, there’s dispersed teams. That’s a different way to work with somebody than just being able to sit down in front of them and talk. We’re trying to make sure we’re also using the tools that the employers are using out there so that they’re actually getting better even at leveraging that and becoming more efficient with those tools that way.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Great. Maybe I’d like to zoom out a little bit and think about sort of fundamentally the benefits associated with going after an online certificate or degree program. I think some motivated learners who have natural curiosity and listen to the How to be Awesome At Your Job podcast, like, “Well, yeah, I can learn stuff a lot of ways.”

Sort of what’s the magic or the benefit or the incremental goodness one gets when they go for a full blown online certificate or degree?

Doris Savron
Well, we all know how much industry is changing. We’ve looked at what’s happened in healthcare over the last three to five years.

Even somebody who’s been in the industry eight to ten years, find themselves – for example, nurses never had to use technology before. Today, they actually take in all the patient information and how they engage with the patient, a lot of them use iPads and laptops to capture the information.

That takes a different level of working and interacting so that you don’t use the human factor of how you engage with the patient, but you still leverage the efficiency of the equipment. We try to teach them on how to embed that into the work that they do so up-scaling and staying ahead of what employers want is extremely important. It allows you to differentiate.

You don’t wait until it already happens because then you’re behind the eight ball. Anytime you can differentiate yourself with a certificate, it allows you to get a leg up on everyone else who is looking for some of the same opportunities.

But just the opportunity to learn and interact with other people. For example, in an online format, there are people across the country that are in those classrooms, so you’re learning also from their experiences and how they’ve gotten to a certain career path.

That part of the learning, which is not necessarily directly tied to curriculum is also a value add because you’re learning from other people’s perspectives and appreciating the differences and how that could all create synergy.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. We’ve got the community, the human, the real world element and experience sharing and getting that element. As well as the differentiation because I guess it’s sort of hard to put on a resume, ‘I watched 30 YouTube videos about this topic.’ I’ve never seen that on a resume. Maybe it would look good. Maybe it would be well, okay. It doesn’t maybe have as much of a punch as something official.

I’d like to get your take on that when it comes to maybe if it’s like perception or from the employer value perspective on the, let’s just say the brand, University of Phoenix.

Because I’m thinking in some ways, I think there are some industries that are kind of concerned with pedigree in the sense of, “Oh, you’re not at a top 20 business school, well then move along,” and others I think maybe would find that favorable like, “Awesome. University of Phoenix, you’re hustling. You’re working hard. You’re a self-starter. You’re going after it.”

What are maybe some trends you’ve seen in terms of industries or employers who just think, “Yes, I love this brand and this stamp that I’m seeing on your resume?”

Doris Savron
Employers have multiple locations, so when they have to quickly upscale or find a way to get people ramped up, we have the capabilities of being able to do that pretty quickly because we already do that in an environment that allows you to do that no matter where somebody’s sitting.

For us, it’s really, it’s critical for us to understand what employers want. We spend a lot of time listening to employers.

Then we design curriculum and student learning outcomes that align to that so that we can measure to make sure that students are getting that component of what they need.

In addition, in every one of our areas, there are professional associations in those industries. Specific specializations might have even industry exams, where somebody could actually say, “Here’s the credential I’ve got. I passed the test.”

We try to in those circumstances align our curriculum and content to those specific expectations so that we know that they’re getting that level of exposure to the content. Then they can go sit for that exam externally as well. It gives them another differentiator.

For us, it’s critical to pay attention to what employers are saying regardless of the industry. We’ve done a lot in our healthcare partnerships, where we’ve actually run classes on those employer sites so that they’re in place after work …

Pete Mockaitis
That’s handy.

Doris Savron
Attend a class. It allows them to quickly then ramp up to a specific skillset that they need to move their specific organization forward.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. I’m curious a little bit about some of the trends here. We made some reference to healthcare, to cyber security, or IT things.

Doris Savron
Information technology, specifically cyber security space, because of – I mean I’m sure you’ve seen it – issues with systems being hacked into or people’s information being taken. There’s opportunities in really understanding well, how do you set up an infrastructure to protect people’s privacy in those organizations.

There’s some specializations there or certificates there, and even degree programs there that would lend people to be able to go into those jobs we’ve seen.

Even with education, there’s some markets and areas that have shortages of teachers. There’s some states that’s an opportunity area as well. Then anything around behavioral sciences/mental health is also some trends we’re seeing that have a need for people that are more prepared to do the jobs.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s interesting. Behavioral sciences and mental health, I guess I’m thinking of full-blown therapists or you know.

Doris Savron
Counseling, yeah, counselors, counseling. There’s a variety of specialties in that area, but there’s family counseling. There’s school counseling. You can do that level. Those usually require advanced degrees and some practice hours as part of their degree time.

But we all see what’s happening with the pressures of living in today’s world. There’s a higher need to be able to have people – to help people understand how to cope in challenging circumstances. We’ve seen some pick up there as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, cool. I guess I’m also thinking, if folks are interested in this kind of an opportunity and they’re looking at the online path, so University of Phoenix is one option, what are some other tips or criteria you might recommend in terms of folks checking out their options and vetting and determining, “Oh, this is a good program versus one that maybe I’ll pass on?”

Doris Savron
First they want to make sure they understand what other support services might be offered outside the classroom. Are you assigned a specific counselor that can help you walk through your programs so that you’re meeting all the criteria? Do you have potential to do tutoring and workshops? What’s your ability to be able to engage and interact with faculty?

Those are all important parts of both inside and outside classroom support that’s important. Not all programs are offered 100% online, so they’d really want to take a look at the program area that they’re interested in and see if the entire program is offered online or parts of it are offered in almost a hybrid fashion where you so some classes online, some on campus, so they’d have to understand where that campus is.

In some cases residencies are required that they’ll have to travel in to specific locations once or twice a year to be able to fulfill that requirement, but then the bulk of their work is done online. They just really need to understand those expectations.

The biggest thing is really just understanding what career path you want to take, what are the degrees that align to that, so then looking for those programs and then making sure the format of how it’s offered really aligns to what your schedule allows and your lifestyle allows.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, I’m curious to hear, we talked a little bit about the importance of the scheduling and good habits and whatnot to actually do the work and make the time.

Do you have any other perspective on how particularly folks who are kind of doing double duty or triple duty with the family and work and education at once, when it comes to the actual studying, learning, knowledge retention stuff, how can people really make the most of a given hour that they’ve dedicated to maximize retention and brain expansion?

Doris Savron
Sure, we always recommend look at first what the outcomes are for the week. What are the key things you’re supposed to be learning for the week? Then quickly scan what are the materials that will support that. Then you know what you need to get started with.

But chunking up the time is important because you can, especially someone who’s busy with work all day, chucking up the time is important and then taking notes because that’s how you retain, you’re rewriting what you’ve just heard and almost summarizing it.

But then for us too is because a bulk of our students are working, we tell them now go – what you’ve just learned, go pay attention to what you see at work and try to apply some of these things at work because putting it to practice is really another reinforcement of learning. They come back and share then that in the classroom through their discussions of, “Hey, I tried that. This is what happened.”

Working with people, other members on a team also helps because it’s reinforcing some of the conversations and learning. Each person picks up something different.

Then we always recommend try to share what you’ve learned with somebody else. Try to teach them, whether it’s another student or another person at work, so you’re reinforcing the information over periods of time.

But the biggest thing is chunking it up and then really trying to capture key messaging or notes. Some people do it on an iPad with a pen that they can write with and capture those notes. Some will do it on just pen and paper, traditional style of learning, take a notebook and a pen and write it down.

It just depends on how much time somebody has each day and what their learning style is. We’ve seen a variety of things work for students.

Pete Mockaitis
I dig that when it comes to getting your own experience and applying the learning to that experience then bringing the experience back to the learning. I think Cal Newport said, and we’ll have him on the show one of these days, “Hey, if you can teach it, if you can explain it, if you can summarize it, then you know it.”

Doris Savron
Yup.

Pete Mockaitis
By the process of pulling that back out of your brain, you are really making the learning stick and sink in all the more.

Doris Savron
absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, we talked about a few tips here. I’d say if you had to prioritize or say as close as possible to the one thing or top tip or most leveraged thing learners can do to succeed here, what would it be?

Doris Savron
I would definitely go back to the plan and then setting maybe mini milestones because it can be overwhelming when you’re doing a degree program because it could take several years depending how many transfer credits you bring in.

Creating small milestones of things you can check off a list. Maybe it’s every course you do something specific to celebrate that. Maybe it’s grab a cup of coffee and celebrate one more class closer to graduation.

It’s the schedule and the plan that’s important. Then making sure you celebrate the accomplishments along the way because that keeps you energized and motivated to continue to move forward.

I would say the other one too that we often talk to our students about is balance. You still have to live your life. You don’t want to cram and take up every weekend and do your homework. You need that balance and that separation and reprieve to be able to take in more information.

We tell them it’s important to still do some fun things or things you’re passionate about in between so that they’re not just trying to work and then go to school and then don’t have any of that break from some of that time that your brain has to take to process and take things in. Those are probably the key ones.

Pete Mockaitis
I dig that. The celebration, it can be a small one and it’s powerful. We chatted with BJ Fogg about forming habits and how critical doing a little bit of a celebration even it’s just, “Yes,” a moment that totally counts and is worth something.

Doris Savron
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool. Doris, tell me, anything else you really want to make sure to highlight or mention or share before we shift gears and talk about some of your favorite things?

Doris Savron
I would say because I often hear from people, “I don’t know. I think I might be too old or it’s too late for me to go back to school or do something new or try to take another class,” I would say it’s not too late for anyone. We’ve seen a wide range of people from experienced to aged come back and explore different certificates or programs.

That’s important because things keep changing. They’re changing at a faster rate than they’ve ever changed. We’ve seen industries completely transform. Investing in yourself and really taking the time to learn new skills, try new things, take some risks is an incredible learning opportunity. You learn about yourself during that process too.

But the best thing is you’re prepared for some of those changes that are coming and it helps you stand out when you want to go take that next step.

Pete Mockaitis
Right on. Thank you. All right, well now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Doris Savron
Sure. It’s one that comes up often. I try to live this philosophy. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by things you didn’t do than the ones you did do.” It’s important for me to really – things that I’m passionate about just to try them. Don’t let fear get in the way. But it’s true. You only have so much time, so you’ve got to make the most of it.

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

Doris Savron
Anything around women and leadership. I feel like I’ve had a lot of women invest in me and help me get to where I am today. I feel like it’s my obligation to give back, so I read a lot about how to help and support women better trying to grow career paths. I’d say anything in that area. I don’t have one specific one.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. How about a favorite book?

Doris Savron
I love to read, so I probably read about two to three books a month, but my most two recent favorite ones is Five Dysfunctions of a Team. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah. Pat Lencioni.

Doris Savron
Yes. I’ve even done a study with my team because there’s so many nuggets of really good information there.

Then the one that I’m still in the process of reading is called Own It and really about how to embrace what you offer and really leverage that in your strengths to carve your path.

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

Doris Savron
I love my Kindle app because I can read on the go. I travel a lot, so I can read anywhere that I even find myself delayed, on a plane, waiting in line. But I also love any sort of app. I get my news from news apps on my iPhone, quickly get key nuggets of what’s happening in the world. I’m probably an app junkie.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. We had Laura Vanderkam on the show who said that she read all of War and Peace primarily from the Kindle app on her iPhone.

Doris Savron
Oh my goodness. I have not done that. That I have not done.

Pete Mockaitis
She said War and Peace is actually so bite-sized it lends itself to …, which shows that I did not know how War and Peace was structured and have not attempted to read it. But cool. How about a favorite habit?

Doris Savron
I would say – I don’t know if it’s a favorite habit, but it’s a habit. I have sometimes a hard time kind of getting my mind to stop. I keep a notebook next to my bed and some of my best ideas from come from what I’ve captured in the middle of the night because I just couldn’t sleep so I got it on paper. Then I was fine.

Then I took that he next morning, I’m like this is brilliant. Then I’d take it and apply it. I’d say just carrying a notebook all the time even next to my bed at night so I can capture any thought that comes up at any moment.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Is there a particular nugget or piece of Doris wisdom that you share often that really seems to connect and resonate with people when you do so?

Doris Savron
Yeah, I think this is one that my team would probably affirm to. I’ve heard them even repeat it is ‘assume right intentions.’ We work with a lot of different personalities and experiences.

Because we work at such a fast pace that things happen. If you assume right intentions, you get to the source of what truth is faster than trying to assume that somebody’s trying to get in your way or block what you’re trying to do. Everybody’s relationship wins as a result of that and you learn some things that way.

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

Doris Savron
I would say LinkedIn is probably the best one. I’m starting to use Twitter more. But LinkedIn is probably where you can see some of the things I post or some of the things that are important to me, but they can also reach out to me in messaging there.

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

Doris Savron
I would say change is inevitable, so learn to embrace it and make the most out of life.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, Doris, thanks so much for this. Good luck with your vast spans of responsibility and pursuing your dream of attending all the sports finals and all you’re up to.

Doris Savron
Thank you. I appreciate the time.

319: How to Never Stop Learning with Bradley R. Staats

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Bradley R. Staats discusses the essentials of dynamic learning, the best practices of a compelling learner, and the value of mistakes and asking questions.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The 4 elements of dynamic learning
  2. How we are our own worst enemy when learning
  3. How to reframe how you think about mistakes

About Bradley

Bradley R. Staats is the author of Never Stop Learning: Stay Relevant, Reinvent Yourself, and Thrive, and is an associate professor of operations at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan Flagler Business School. His research examines how individuals, teams, and organizations can learn to improve their operational performance to build a competitive advantage, integrating work in operations management and organizational behavior to clarify how and under what conditions individuals, teams, and organizations can learn at their best.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Bradley R. Staats Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Brad, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Brad R. Staats
Awesome. Thanks so much for having me as well. Excited to be here today.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I am too. I am too. I wanted to start by hearing a little bit about learning in a different environment. I understand that you spend a good bit of time coaching baseball teams for your kids and others, so how’s that and what’s that teach you about learning?

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, it’s been a great experience. I have three sons who are 13, 11, and 9 now. A good way to spend time with them is out on the baseball field. I think baseball is a game, and probably coaching even more fundamentally, is an action that are both fantastic for learning.

The biggest thing for me is really around the process. Actually the book opened with a story from one of my son’s games, where he was facing a really hard pitcher, did everything right, and was a few years younger and unfortunately hit to a double play and came back kind of extraordinarily upset despite the fact that he did hit the ball incredibly hard. It all worked out. Yet, he was looking at it as failure.

I see so many things like that on the field of when we focus on the outcome, as an example, instead of what we actually did, the process, we fail to learn. There are those chances in working with the kids and helping them see kind of what’s going on around them that then import nicely over to other learning contexts.

I think the other big thing for me is that while I certainly played baseball as a kid, I’m by no means an expert, but thankfully surrounded by some head coaches that did a lot more than I did.

It’s a great reminder to me of the power of ‘I don’t know.’ Of getting asked questions that I could speculate as a coach, I could give them an answer, that they might nod their heads and believe that, but I realized there are other people that are more qualified.

It’s almost freeing that I don’t feel the need in that context to claim this is what you always do, but “I don’t know. Let’s talk to Coach John. Let’s talk to Coach Jim, Coach Tyler,” whomever and trying then to import that over to organizational contexts.

Pete Mockaitis
That is great. Particularly I think there could be some I don’t know if it’s context thing or an expectation thing or a macho thing in terms of “I’m a man and I’m a dad. These are my kids. I have the answers.” I think that that’s sort of an easy rut to fall into for some.

Brad R. Staats
I think you’re absolutely right. You certainly see it out in the field of people who playing games try to do that. The ironic thing of course is that eventually people catch on. Eventually you undercut your credibility in an attempt to stay important.

People are willing to accept. We don’t need to know all the answers. It’s a hard world. It’s uncertain. There’s a lot going on. You should know the basics. You know four balls get you a walk, that sort of thing.

But if there’s some nuance you don’t get, the same thing with umpires. It’s a great way to walk out, “I don’t know this,” and then having a really productive discussion around it, learning and moving forward to the next step.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Thank you. Then let’s hear about some of this that you unpack and synthesize in your book, Never Stop Learning. What’s it all about?

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, it’s getting at in many ways these sorts of behaviors. It’s a recognition that I think with learning we know a lot of the things we should do. We know the processes we should follow, that should we fail fast, we should ask questions, we should follow the process, learn from others, etcetera and yet we don’t.

It’s a question that’s really bugged me for a lot of years. Why don’t we learn? What I’ve come to appreciate is that learning is a science but in a lot of ways it’s a behavioral science that when it comes to learning, we are in fact our own worst enemy. That’s the challenge.

The good news is research from diverse fields, whether it’s operations, psychology, economics, neuroscience shows that we can be the problem, but we also can be the solution.

In the book, what I try to do is look at some of those practices that we should be following, explore why we don’t, why do we have those behavioral issues, and then importantly, how can we overcome it, what can we do in order to get to a better spot.

Pete Mockaitis
Then let’s dig into this. You use the term dynamic learner frequently. First, can you define that for us and well, we’ll start there?

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, absolutely. When I think about dynamic learning, it’s in part a recognition that I would argue we live very much in a learning economy now, that I kind of grew up thinking of a knowledge economy, an information economy, this recognition of all that’s out there.

I think the shift to learning as the motivator there is important because recognition, it’s not what we know right now that will determine future success. It’s how quickly we ….

Dynamic learning is getting to that. It’s an appreciation that we need to be really four things with our learning. We need to be focused. We need to be able to pick the right topics, right as best we can define it at the moment. We need to be fast. Our acceleration matters. How quickly can we get up to speed on those chosen areas? We need to be frequent that it really is an ongoing process, not learn a little, stop.

It’s kind of a … of lifelong learning, but nevertheless it is a truth. It’s fact I would argue. Then finally we have to be flexible, that just because we picked an idea, we accelerated, we’ve learned it, it doesn’t mean that’s where we stay. We have to be able to adjust off of that.

As I think about dynamic learning, it’s capturing those four elements of how do we be focused, how do we be fast, how do we be frequent and how do we be flexible.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, lovely. I want to dig into that. What – I want to get your sense for a dynamic learner, sounds like a great thing to be, desirable. If you had to guesstimate or maybe you have some hard studies here, what proportion of people would say qualify as dynamic learners?

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, it’s a great question. I don’t have hard numbers around that. I think – I would probably twist the question around a little bit and highlight what I think the literature shows us is that effectively none of us are dynamic learners all of the time, but basically all of us have the potential to do it.

That is part of the premise of the book and certainly it’s somewhat introspective for myself with the book of as a quote/unquote learning expert, I still feel and see myself fall short on these dimensions. I’ve yet to kind of see someone who always does these things right.

At the same time, research is really compelling in that you can teach an old dog new tricks. The dog just has to want to learn. I think that’s kind of the encouraging message of broader research and certainly the book as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Then along those lines, you’ve said elsewhere – I saw it on your Twitter – that most of us are actually pretty bad at learning. Can you unpack that a little bit and share what’s the big evidence that points to that assertion?

Brad R. Staats
Yeah. I think it gets back to this behavioral challenge that so often we feel the need to go down a certain path when it’s actually fairly problematic. Lots of examples jump to mind. I think the sport’s world often provides an easy one that folks would know.

You can think about something like if you follow the NBA, Sam Hinkie from the Philadelphia 76ers and the idea of ‘trust the process’ has been pounded over again and again with this idea that it’s hard to win in the NBA, so you take an approach, you make measured bets, you play the probabilities and in the long run it will work out.

As part of that it was a bunch of losing upfront in order to get high draft picks and trade away talent to assemble future resources. If you look from 2013 when he was hired to 2018, this year, the 6ers made a playoff run. They’re kind of rated number four I think by ESPN on their power rankings looking to the future.

But a couple years ago he was effectively pushed out of the organization. While he took this process focus, thinking about or getting to that future outcomes, at the end of the day ownership decided enough was enough and got rid of him more or less. Even though, thankfully, the model he put in place is largely been followed with a few missteps and played out directionally the way he’d expect.

I think we see that sort of thing.

There was another research study looking at on the process point right there, NBA coaches and looked at a couple thousand NBA games over multiple years.

You can think about when you play a game, the final score gives you some information about how the team did, but if you won a game by one point, lose a game by one point, it doesn’t really provide dramatically different information. That was an incredibly close game either way.

The study shows that if we look at changing the starting line up, so kind of this belief that something’s wrong, you’re much more likely to change it if you lose by a lot than if you win by a lot. Big shock there.

But if you get down to that plus or minute one point difference, the coaches that lost by one point were far more likely to change their starting lineup than the ones that won by a point. Back to this challenge of we obsess about the outcome.

The coaches were likely to do that even when they were expected to lose. The results carried through even when they just got lucky, their team shot a remarkably high free-throw percentage that day. But on average this plays out kind of across the entire NBA.

In study after study where we can pick a given practice and a whole lot of the time kind of we play it out the wrong way. If we’re going to do better, yes we have to know the practice, but we also have to have some idea of kind of what goes wrong.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really intriguing.

I’m wondering if that is purely self-imposed, like the head coaches have the autonomy and flexibility and authority to say, “I have considered all of the parameters and our goals and this is what I truly believe is the answer to make this happen,” versus, do you think that it’s more a matter of sort of outside influences saying, “You’ve got to change things up,” and they’re kind of reacting to external pressures.

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, I think it’s some of both. I think you’re right that the outside both pressure and impression management that we just feel like well, we need to be seen doing something.

There’s kind of a related study that I love looking at soccer goalies. Looks at soccer goalies on penalty kicks. I might get the numbers slightly wrong, but basically about – in this study these were professional goalies. 94% of the time the goalies dove to the left or the right. Player gets ready to kick it, they make their decision, they dive one way and then most of the time don’t stop it, but occasionally do.

The data suggested that if they were to stay in the middle, it would dramatically increase their likelihood of stopping the ball. About 30% of the time, the … kicks it back right up the middle. Yet, the goalie … to dive, 94% of the time.

The researchers went back and they asked the goalies, kind of, “Hey, here’s this information. Why don’t you stay in the middle?” Their response was basically along the lines of, “Well, I’d really regret it if I stayed in the middle and a goal was scored, but if I dive the wrong way, I have a face full of dirt. I can feel like I have done everything.”

I think there are times that even when it’s counterproductive, we want to be seen doing something just so we can feel good about it even if it turns out, stepping back and looking at the big picture, it was the wrong thing.

Pete Mockaitis
That is interesting. The same thing with the fans too. If you stay in the middle then a goal is scored, it’s like that lazy goalkeeper.

Brad R. Staats
Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
What is he doing?

Brad R. Staats
I know. What the hell? Why didn’t he try something? I can stand in the middle.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow, that’s really – that’s worth chewing on for a little while in terms of my own life, business, work. What are those instances in which we’re metaphorically diving instead of staying in the middle when that’s appropriate? I imagine you already have some ideas, so I’ll let you unpack a few of them.

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, no, absolutely. I think a lot of it is sometimes slowing down to go fast, that maybe we can look at some of the different things.

Take just the last one of not diving. Are we actually taking some time to think? Are we taking time to reflect? That if we look at research on learning, it turns out kind of we activate different parts of the brain when we learn by doing, kind of engaging in an activity versus learn by thinking about it.

As you would expect then, if we do the two of those together, we’re likely to learn more than anyone. But we’re so on, we’re so feeling a need to do things, that we don’t, in many cases, think enough about it.

We’ve done some research. We did a big field experiment with a technology company on their services organization. They were training workers, six-week training program. The end of it they took an exam to join kind of the firm fully, get off of provisional status and go start to serve customers.

In the middle two weeks of that program we did a 15- minute intervention every day of just at the end write about two things you’ve learned. Scribble down kind of two things you’ve learned that day. Then we had a control group. We randomly assigned participants to one versus the other.

What we found at the end of that six weeks that the group that reflected scored about 25% higher on that test that qualified them for the job. The first month on the job, they performed about 10% higher on their customer satisfaction scores. We’ve done a bunch of lab studies to follow up. Others have done work around this.

But actually blocking some time out for thinking, as simple as that sounds, somebody at the end of the day today take ten minutes, think about what you’ve learned that day, think about how you’re going to take it to deploy tomorrow. Getting in a regular habit of that, of slowing down just a little bit can be incredibly powerful.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. You have the ten minutes, what a return on investment there. That’s huge. When it says, “Write about what you’ve learned,” is that sort of the entirety of the prompt or do you have some sort of juicy follow-up to help spark and provoke the good stuff to come forward?

Brad R. Staats
I think keeping it simple is a great place to start. In that experiment it was just write about two things you’ve learned. I think if we look we can see some ways, as you’re pointing out, to dig a little bit deeper.

One of those ways that’s important is thinking about when we failed, thinking about when we’ve tried something that didn’t work, thinking about how we need to push ourselves, taking more risk. That prompt can do two things.

One is it can open us up to the possibility of where we’ve already gone wrong but we sort of pretended it didn’t happen.

Back to the behavior getting in the way, one of those challenges is around failure, that sometimes we try something, it doesn’t work, but we just deny the failure. “Oh, that’s what I wanted all along,” or “No one would have been successful there.” That prompt to, “Hey, why might you have been responsible? What do you need to learn out of that?”

I think the other piece is sometimes for fear of failure, we end up holding back. We don’t actually try enough. If you’re forcing yourself to think about kind of when have you tried and not had it work out and you can’t come up with any examples, it’s a pretty good indication we need to elevate our failure rate a little bit.

That’s not saying take it to an extreme, but for most people pushing a little bit more on the risk front is likely to be productive, not everyone of course.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. I guess it’s interesting in terms of like the stakes of the failure.

Brad R. Staats
Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
Crashing a commercial airliner is terrible.

Brad R. Staats
Yes, yes. Don’t do that. Yes, no, definitely not.

Pete Mockaitis
Never aim for a higher failure rate there.

Brad R. Staats
No.

Pete Mockaitis
But I guess maybe speaking up at a meeting in which you share an idea that might be dumb or wrong or bad in some way is probably a prime time to amp up a little bit of risk and see what happens because you might say, “Wow, Brad, we’ve been waiting for this brilliance from you.” Thank you so much. It’s well worth doing with low down side.

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, I think you’re exactly right that we need to define kind of the space that we have to play in. Your comment about you’re flying an airplane, you’re working in the control room of a nuclear reactor, by all means we’re not going to experiment there.

But most of us in the bulk of our lives have plenty of room where we can try some slightly different things. We can speak up to someone. We can introduce ourselves to someone. We can ask a question is one of the key elements that often we think we kind of need to keep our head down, we don’t understand something.

But it turns out, research tells us that when we ask other people questions, it’s not that they thing we’re dumb, “I can’t believe Brad had to ask me a question,” they actually like it. It shows engagement with them and it also allows us to turn to who we all think the expert is going to be, which is ourselves. We engage that other person in the conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Sometimes the questions just make you seem way smarter, in terms of, “Wow, that’s really insightful,” or it’s like, “I’ve never actually articulated my thinking on this matter now that you ask and I probably really should have a while ago for you and everybody else who’s doing this task many times over. Thank you. I’ll write that up,” or here is the response.

Yes, I think I would love it if folks, I’m thinking about sort of in management context, if people would ask me more often. It really isn’t a hassle.

Brad R. Staats
No, it’s not.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s kind of fun and it brings about good things. That’s a great tidbit in terms of in that moment when you’re sort of worried, “Oh, I wonder about this, but I don’t want to look dumb,” so go there.

Brad R. Staats
Absolutely. I throw out one of the most powerful questions that I stumbled into kind of early on by accident and now as I watch I see great question askers will throw it out there, which is, “Is there anything I have not asked you about that I should have?”

What’s so powerful about that, frequently … conversation is we’re kind of giving the other person free reign of please teach me almost based on whatever the conversation has been about.

I’ve been stunned in all sorts of different contexts as an academic, before when I … as a student, on and on, of what comes out of people’s mouths when you kind of take the barrier down and it’s no longer transactional around these particular items, but let’s open it up. What should I know about this topic that I haven’t asked? Keep that one in our back pocket as we interact with others.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so good. I learned that in consulting with interviews of customers or for clients or employees or competitors. It really is amazing how often it’s toward the end that you get the goods. I have a variation of that Brad. I won’t spoil the fun, but one is coming your way.

Brad R. Staats
Okay, nice.

Pete Mockaitis
Build the suspense there.

Brad R. Staats
I like it. That’s good. Now I’m on the edge of my seat.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. You lay out a pretty comprehensive framework in terms of what one should do to become a more effective lifelong learner. We’ve already covered some good tidbits there. Maybe you could walk us through that in a quick overview pace and then maybe dig into a little bit more detail for some of the parts we haven’t gotten to touch upon yet.

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, absolutely. As we kind of already pointed out in the book I lay out kind of eight different elements of things we should do for learning but we don’t and so kind of why is that. We’ve hit on a number of them. Things like value and failure.

That’s kind of learning 101 advice and yet I’ve really yet to work with a company that when we talk about that kind of … “Oh yeah, we’ve got that one covered here. No need to discuss. Move along.” There’s some real challenges there.

The second one is around focusing on the process as we kind of were discussing around the baseball coaching example, that we get so obsessed about the outcome that we don’t really dig into the process and keep our attention there.

Third is this point around asking questions that we end up being kind of so active. We feel the need to check a box, to do something when often that pull back, ask a question, and then get going, going slow to go fast is incredibly valuable.

The fourth is around the need for reflection and recharging, kind of contemplation that we live in a world of action. There’s been interesting research highlighting about kind of in the US at least, doing things that show you’re busy, that … you kind of on a Bluetooth headset suggesting you’re rushing around versus a corded phone or that you order groceries online versus at a store that give you higher status and some interesting experiments.

Pete Mockaitis
I didn’t know that gave you higher status, ordering groceries.

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
I thought that made me lazy that I order groceries.

Brad R. Staats
Well, I did too. Interestingly, the study looked at Italy and you did not get the same status there.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I bet.

Brad R. Staats
There are differences in some of these factors around the world.

But that rushing, that kind of need for activity rather than real progress gets in the way of learning, so we have to take that time to step back, to reflect, and think about things.

A couple that we haven’t talked as much about are around really being ourselves, kind of to a pair of being yourself as opposed to fitting in and really playing the strengths not weaknesses.

I think, especially if we look at the latter one, so much of learning is built around in our minds what we’re doing wrong. If we think about kind of standard organizational feedback, advice is you give a feedback sandwich.

Thin veneer of positives, both to break the person down as they come in and kind of butter them up, get them ready to go, and then hopefully send them on their way, so they don’t feel as bad about themselves, but the bulk in the middle is laying out all the things that we did wrong and that need addressing.

The challenge with that approach is we’re not going to be good at anything, that every minute that we spend on a weakness is one that we’re not spending on building out our strengths.

As we work with organizations, as we think about how companies compete, lots of advice is given around play to your strengths, be focused, compete around those dimensions that you can win on, yet we often don’t do the same thing as individuals.

I would suggest for really compelling learning, we have to first identify those strengths, which is hard, and then really play to them, going back and filling in weaknesses as appropriate where there are critical weakness that would prevent us from succeeding at what we’re trying to do.

That’s a bit of a reorientation I think. While strengths are talked a lot about kind of on that learning side, appreciating why they’re so fundamental.

The last two are just around first how we build experience, that we often think about it as either become specialized, become an expert, very deep, or we think about kind of this value of variety as we switch moving across different elements. While each of those can be powerful tools for learning, they can work against us to.

I would suggest, what we find is that we really learn our best when we are both specialized and varied, so kind of a T shape in our portfolio of experiences, getting deep in something, but making sure we have enough breadth that we don’t end up missing the point.

That we’re so narrow in our approach that we have that problem of where the expert who’s got a hammer, so everything looks like a nail and we’re not able to deal with more complex problems.

The last one is appreciating that while individual learning, there are lots of things about us that matter and we need to dig into those, as I’ve been saying, that it’s not just an individual exercise, that others are incredibly important. Some of that is the value of the knowledge they bring and what we can learn from them.

But also, you hit on this earlier, the value for us of teaching others, when we get that question that makes us explain something, that makes us codify it, the real value that arises there.

We’ve done some research in a couple of different contexts looking at the power of learning from teaching. That when you teach someone else, hopefully you help them, but you actually help yourself interestingly enough. Really kind of seriously thinking about how others can help you in addition to how you can help them.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s a nice lineup. Thank you.

Brad R. Staats
Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
You can dig into a lot of things there. I guess I want to get your take on okay, value in failure is something that you say just about no organization says, “Got it. Yup. Covered.” I’d love to hear from you in terms of what are some of the best practices or what does it really look like in practice when a team or an organization truly does value failure? Because in some ways it’s just so hard to imagine.

What is that famous example? Is it – I think it was IBM. I’m so – I don’t have the details, but someone made a huge investment in a technology or business plan course of action that absolutely did not work and it may have cost a huge sum, like a billion dollars.

The executive is ready to tender his resignation, and the CEO famously said, “I refuse to accept this. We just invested a billion dollars in your education and we’re not about to let go of you.” That’s a nice little reframe, like, oh how kind and how sensible to think about it in that way. In smaller stakes situations, how does that unfold in real life?

Brad R. Staats
Yeah. I’ve always heard that story told around I think it’s Thomas Watson Junior. It’s one of the Thomas Watsons in IBM and the threat of getting fired for that.

I think what’s important in the organizations that seem to have some more success with this is kind of two-fold. There’s one defining where is it a safe space to play. We’re back to avoiding that airplane problem or nuclear reactor problem. But also being open about it.

Ed Catmull, cofounder of Pixar talks about this in his book about we have to reframe how we think about mistakes, that mistakes aren’t unexpected, mistakes aren’t something rare. Mistakes are just a part of a process and that we have to sort of grow comfortable with them.

There’s a fast food company that I find really interesting called Pal’s Sudden Service. Pal’s is in the southeast, primarily Tennessee. The first restaurant to win the Malcolm Baldrige Quality award, a bunch of interesting kind of elements of the company.

But the CEO likes to tell people he’s very much out in front saying, “Look, as long as it’s not illegal, immoral or unethical, you’re allowed to make any mistake once, but you need to make sure your next mistake is a new one.”

I think in my mind that’s just so extraordinarily powerful that he is out there sharing what’s happening, how he’s trying things. It’s not, “Hey, be careless,” “Do whatever the hell you want,” but rather be comfortable that if you’re taking the right actions, where right actions is about the process, not about getting everything correct, that “I’m okay with that and I know in the long run the organization is going to be much better off for that as a result.”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Thank you. Brad tell me, is there anything else you really think is important to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of you favorite things?

Brad R. Staats
No, I think we’ve dug into the elements. Obviously these are things that I think we’re both pretty excited about. I can spend lots of time talking about each one.

I think that the – probably if I were encouraging folks what would you do right now, part of it would be take that time to think about wherever you are, what you’ve learned. I’m sure there are a lot of folks that listen to your podcast as they’re commuting to or from work.

We did a field experiment around commuters. We were interested in a couple things. We were interested in how to help them learn, but we were also interested in how to help them enjoy their commute a little bit more. It turns out kind of our morning commute tends to be our least favorite part of the day.

What we did across a few studies, but the biggest one was we randomized folks into three conditions. We had a control group. We had a group that was kind of the fun treatment and then a group that was the reflection.

We tracked them for a while. We sent them texts to take some surveys from them. But in the middle over a stretch of time, we texted the fun group and just said, “Hey, engage in some fun right now please.” We texted that reflection group and we asked them, “Think about your day. Think about what you have to do today and how you can tackle those tasks.”

Again, we followed them over an extended period of time. What we found is those folks that we nudged to think about their day, to think about learning, that interestingly they were happier, they were more engaged at work, they reported higher performance, and they reported enjoying their commute more.

I think some of these processes are hard to get us going in the right direction sometimes, but as we can build out those habits, we really can help ourselves in some neat ways.

Pete Mockaitis
That is intriguing. The text nudge occurred during the commute time?

Brad R. Staats
It did. Yup. They shared with us kind of when they were commuting, so then we would text them at the start of the commute or early on in their commute.

Pete Mockaitis
So you’ve engaged in texting while driving?

Brad R. Staats
We’re using a third-party provider and yes, this was much more about public transportation to be clear, not hopefully catching people behind the wheel of a car and running into trouble that way.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, very good. Just had to give you a hard time there.

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s intriguing. Again, with reflection, were there any particular prompts?

Brad R. Staats
It was think about your day and what you have going on. I think what’s interesting is there’s no one magic word. It really is forcing the discipline on yourself to take a few minutes and to focus, that our minds can easily wander to other things, so see what happens if you spend even five minutes.

Whether it’s in the morning, “Okay, what am I going to do today? How will today be a great learning day?” or at the end of the day, “What did I learn? What did I try that didn’t work that I can learn from?” that sort of thing.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Thank you. Well to do a little bit of reflection and to go meta here right now. The question I asked you earlier that was a variant of what’s something I should have asked but didn’t ask was is there anything else you think is important to mention before we shift gears and hear about your favorite things?
I would value your feedback on that question that I sort of have routinely in the interviews prior to shifting gears to the next segment and say are there pros and cons to asking it the way I asked versus are there any things that I should have asked but didn’t ask?

Brad R. Staats
No. I think I like that question a lot. As a general rule with questions, and you know this as a great interviewer, less is more. Once we get into the follow up after the follow up, there comes a point where you need to narrow someone in. But on that one, keeping it like you did as simple and open as possible, “Hey, what else,” is almost the best way, but I like it a lot.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so true when it comes – I think I’m learning that myself. It takes about 300 episodes to get-

Brad R. Staats
Learning curves matter, right? We see it in all contexts.

Pete Mockaitis
Is that – I am because sometimes, and maybe it’s just the fear of dead air or whatever, even though we can edit it.

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, exactly. ….

Pete Mockaitis
It’s like, Hm, I need to be speaking, although I’m not yet done formulating what my question is.”

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, it’s true. It’s funny, I hate to give away one of my favorite jokes, which isn’t necessarily all that funny, but it works exceptionally well when I teach.

That I’ll have dead time in class early on in a day perhaps. I’ve grown more comfortable because I’ve come to appreciate, like you were saying, sometimes we’re formulating whether it’s me asking a question or them.

I’ll typically when that happens, I’m looking at them and I’ll tell them, “Hey look, you need to know at my core I am an operations professor, so staring awkwardly at people in silence describes every cocktail party I’ve ever been to, so I’m quite comfortable here. Take your time thinking.”

It breaks the ice and lets people appreciate, “Hey, I don’t have to always be talking.” Talking and saying nothing isn’t actually helping the conversation here. But let’s pause, think about what’s going on, and then get moving to the next thing.

Pete Mockaitis
That reminds me. One of my favorite work moments, it was so short, but I remember I was working on a consulting engagement and then someone said something. I don’t remember what they said. Then the manager said, “Hm,” and then there was just like silence for about ten seconds. Then they prompted her like, “Steph?” She’s like, “I’m thinking.”

I thought it was awesome because it just created permission for everybody to slow down and think. It made me think that she was more brilliant as a leader than less brilliant.

Brad R. Staats
Absolutely. That’s the Franklin quote. Isn’t it Franklin about “Better to stay silent rather than reveal our ignorance,” basically? Staying silent gives us a chance to think and the often avoid ignorance in the first place.

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

Brad R. Staats
Yeah. One that jumped out at me from a young age and has stuck with me. It’s actually the quote I use in the conclusion. It’s a long one, but it’s from Merlin in The Once and Future King. It’s basically him kind of reflecting on the power of learning. I apologize for the length, but I think it’s worth it.

He says that, “The best thing for being sad is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may see the world around you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds, there’s only one thing for it then, to learn.

Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you.

Brad R. Staats
Absolutely. Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
We talked about a couple studies and experiments, but any other pieces of research that are among your faves?

Brad R. Staats
Yeah. One, I think it was the one that was probably the most pleasantly surprising to me that it worked frankly. I joke about this with Francesca Gino at Harvard and Dan Cable, who is at London Business School now, although all three of us were at University of North Carolina at the time.

I had been spending the day in India, where I did for a bit of research, with a chief quality officer, a gentleman by the name of …. At the end of the day we had been talking about learning and this and that, asked him the same question, did he have any questions for me.

He said, “Well, Brad, do you know what could reduce our attrition, reduce our turnover?” and kind of went on a little bit about how he was interested in keeping people around, helping them learn more.

At the time a bunch of my work had been kind of learning by doing, experimental learning. It was clear that that wasn’t going to move the needle enough, so I kind of gave a, “Well, hold on. Let me think about it. We’ll go back.” I spent that 20 hour flight back reflecting. Dan and Fran and I kind of came together to brainstorm.

This is what led to the work for us around the power of the individual because we came back to them with an idea where we said, “Let’s come up with something that we don’t think they’ll do. We think would be really impactful, but is a big enough change that they’ll tell us no and see what happens.” We said “What we want to do is have you all give us an hour on day one for employee.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah. We had Dan Cable. Keep going.

Brad R. Staats
Yup, yup. “With that hour, we’re going to change the onboarding process.”

We had kind of three approaches. We had a control group. We had an organizational intervention and an individual one.

With the individual one we did things like think about when you’ve been at your best, hear from a star employee about how they can be their best self at work, and then introduce yourself to everyone around this highlight reel that you’ve created for yourself.

For the organizational group it was how great this employer is, which it was highly ranked in India, great stats, employee coming in talking about how great the organization was, introducing yourself around kind of why you were excited to be here.

Then we gave the individual folks a fleece sweatshirt with their name on it and the organizational folks a fleece sweatshirt with the company name. Basically, the idea of promoting the individual versus prompting the organization.

What was so cool about that one we then tracked them for six months. Dan was back in town. Fran hadn’t moved yet, so the three of us kind of gathered in my office. Often we run these studies that take a long time to analyze. It’s kind of anti-climactic at the end bit the time you finally work your way through it. But this one was pretty straight forward.

We collected the data, kind of we gathered around my desk and there was finally that moment of hitting the enter button and seeing what popped up on the computer. We did that and the numbers popped up and it was one of those that all three of us were just in stunned silence because we saw folks who were in that individual condition were dramatically less likely to leave the firm, about 25% less.

They had learned more. They were about 10% higher in terms of their customer satisfaction scores early on in the job. It was literally that hour of the first day is all we changed and gave them that fleece with their name on it. Then everything else was the same.

But I think what was so exciting to all three of us was unlocking the individual is such an incredible opportunity. It really becomes a win/win both for the employee, but also for the organization as each can get more out of it.

Pete Mockaitis
I love that story. That is how an award winning academic paper is made. Kudos again for-

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
-it’s one of my favorites. So cool. How about a favorite book?

Brad R. Staats
That’s a good question. The – let’s see, what – as I was quoting from it earlier, I really enjoy Ed Catmull book. I think he does a great job in Creativity Inc. as he tells his experiences of kind of moving through computer graphics and eventually Pixar and hitting on a lot of these themes of learning in an innovative environment.

Bringing up this role of failure, mistakes, talking about the importance of how do you have discussions with people and kind of data as a great equalizer as something that’s neutral that then we can really have a discussion around in my mind kind of translating to the process. That’s one that I certainly really enjoy.

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

Brad R. Staats
I think for me there’s probably two I would highlight. One is the reflection point of trying to do it, I do it a little bit more at the end of the day than at the beginning, but carving out just a few minutes at the beginning to think about what’s going on.

Often it’s on the move. It’s not kind of sitting there with a tomb, but rather five minutes of, “Okay, what’s happening today? What’s my priority? How do I get this done?” At the end of the day, “What did I learn?”

Ideally that’s around the dinner table with family as we go around with our kids and we all talk about what made us happy today, what made us sad, what we learn, what we fail at, those sorts of things, incredibly powerful.

The other one that I’ve certainly known the research for a long time. I’ve done a lousy job of practicing it. I think unfortunately, certainly in the US we often do a lousy job of practicing it, is taking a real vacation. That ability to disconnect and do whatever it is individually you need to recharge.

It likely looks different at various stages of life. What recharging meant pre-kids was far more active than post-kids, but has been, over the last few years as my wife and I have done a better job of incorporating in life, has definitely made a big difference.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget that you share in your work with teams and folks that really seems to connect and resonate and gets them sort of quoting yourself back to you?

Brad R. Staats
Yeah. The one that I probably get quoted the most back is something that Dave Upton told me. Dave was a great mentor. One day I was going to meet with him. We had 30 minutes. Time was tight. I probably had an hour and a half of material that I wanted to cover with him. As an operations scholar I could do the math there. Clearly the way to solve that problem was just to talk three times as fast.

I was trying to fly through things, doing pretty well about ten minutes in before Dave put his hand on my shoulder as I was taking a rare breath, looked me in the eye and said, “Brad, don’t avoid thinking by being busy.”

I think kind of advice has really stuck with me, that it’s easy for us to avoid hard problems. It’s easy for us to avoid some of that discipline by being busy, but it’s certainly not productive in the long run.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good stuff. Brad, tell me, if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, my email, excuse me, my website is www.BradleyStaats.com or just check out Never Stop Learning. Hit me up as well on LinkedIn or whatever. I love to engage with folks.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Do you have a final challenge or call to action you’d issue to folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Brad R. Staats
Yeah, I think it’s to take this mantra of never stop learning seriously. We’ve known that it’s out there. We appreciate at a high level that we need to do it, but asking yourself what’s getting in the way of me learning on a daily basis.

I would say just odds are it’s us. The enemy is us. How can we pick one thing out of the eight I discussed or if something else resonates more strongly with you, how do you pick that one thing to start working on today.

Pete Mockaitis
Brad, thank you for this. This has been so fun and interesting. I wish you and Never Stop Learning and your work all the success and luck in the world.

Brad R. Staats
Well, thanks so much. I really appreciate you making the time for me. Thanks again.