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Influence Archives - How to be Awesome at Your Job

508: Becoming an Impactful and Influential Leader with Ron Price

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Ron Price says: "How much time are you spending working on you? Because that's the strength that we're going to draw from for you to be successful in these other areas."

Ron Price delivers insights on how to build your character and grow your influence to unlock your full leadership potential.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The four keys to landing your next promotion
  2. Two approaches to getting excellent feedback
  3. How to get others to listen to you

About Ron

Ron Price is an internationally recognized business advisor, executive coach, speaker, and author. Known for his creative and systematic thinking, business versatility, and practical optimism, Ron has worked in 15 countries and served in almost every level of executive management over the past 40 years.

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Ron Price Interview Transcript

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

Ron Price

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

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I think the first thing we need to cover is your career in truck tire retreading. Tell us about this?

Ron Price

Well, it goes way back. My dad owned a truck tire retreading shop. And when I was 12 years old, my first job was repairing truck tire tubes, and I got paid piecemeal. So, each tube that we’d haul there overnight I think I got a quarter. I have to confess my work ethic wasn’t real great then. There were some afternoons I just took a nap in a bunch of tubes that were piled up.

But, eventually, that led to, after getting out of school, I went to work and learned every bit of the business, did a lot of years of changing semi-truck tires along the highway in Michigan in January and February. And I really learned something about resilience then and eventually became a part owner. And my dad and I, together, owned four different manufacturing facilities across the state of Michigan. So, it was a great place to learn work ethic and to learn how to run a business. Back then we didn’t have credit cards so we had to actually manage credit risks and things like that. It was really a wonderful experience.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, what a transformation with work ethic from taking a nap in the tubes to being in the cold Michigan winter on the side of the road fixing the truck tires. That’s impressive.

Ron Price
And, Pete, I think I could say that it’s sort of come in full circle because now that I’m in my later 60s, I go back to taking naps again.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I would maintain that a strategic nap is, in fact, a productive, sensible strategic choice. So, no arguments from me here.

Ron Price
Hear, hear.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, I want to talk to you about growing influence, how that’s done, and maybe to kick us off, could you share an inspiring story of a professional who was not so influential, and then they’ve made some changes, and then they saw some real nice upgrade to that?

Ron Price

Boy, there’s so many. I’ve had such a wonderful career of working with great people. One that I think of was a woman who came to work at a business that I was running during most of the ‘90s. I started there in ’89 and retired from it in 2000. She came as a customer service representative answering the phone. And I saw something in her that made her stand out. She really cared about what she was doing. She made you feel like what she was doing was worthwhile every day. And, eventually, that led to us saying maybe she could supervise the people who were answering our phones. And she started as a supervisor of a small group of people and she eventually grew to being a VP of customer service.

She, I would say, this was a company that was about $100 million company, and we had 200 employees spread across eight countries, and she was made the number two, number three person in the whole company. And she started as somebody answering the phone, and she kept learning and growing, and demonstrating character, and she won more and more and more loyalty from the people around her. And I think they would’ve thrown me out had I not promoted her to that position later in her career.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s great. And maybe, I guess we’re going to get into some of the particular principles and actions and tactics, but was there anything in particular you noticed that made all the difference in terms of her rise?

Ron Price

I think it was two-folds. I think one is that she brought her humanity to work with her. She treated people like human beings, and it didn’t mean that she lowered the standards, didn’t mean that she wasn’t clear about what needed to be accomplished. But she recognized that those were human beings that all brought their own life with them to work and it was worthy of respect. That was the first thing.

The second thing is that she was a continuous learner. And she didn’t start out as an expert in this field but she became an expert all the way to the point that she was recognized internationally for the kind of leadership that she brought to incoming call centers. So, during her tenure, we went from a traditional kind of a phone system to a phone system that was hooked up to data analytics and we ended up learning how to do statistical quality control monitoring. We did a lot of things both on the technical side of understanding how to make the most out of a call center, and also on the people development side, of empowering people, giving them clear career paths, letting them see the numbers.

One of the big things that she did is one of the early phone systems that we bought had a big screen that the supervisor could look at to determine how many people were on hold, and if people abandoned, and what our average call time was, all those kinds of things. And she said, this was long before anybody was thinking of this, she said, “Why is it that the supervisor sees this and the whole office can’t see it?”

So, she brought in a huge monitor, put it up near the ceiling so that every single person in that call center could see what was going on. And it was one of the early demonstrations of combining technology with empowerment so that people felt that they could own their job, and it made a huge difference in our culture and in our performance.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, that’s powerful. I can just visualize that like a scene from a movie, you know, triumphantly placing a huge monitor on the ceiling, and it’s like, “Oh, we’re really serious about that. That’s cool.”

Ron Price
Yeah, and, “Why do we need somebody to monitor that for everybody else like they’re children or something? Why don’t we treat them like adults and let them take their own initiative?” You know, the funny thing about it, Pete, was the people paid attention to that and if, all of a sudden, we had a spike in calls and somebody was on a break, they self-governed, they immediately responded because they were all focused on one goal together as a team, and no supervisor had to tell them how to do that. The supervisor was there to support them and to help eliminate obstacles from them doing good work. It was a wonderful example to me and to everybody who was a part of our company.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s cool. Well, so your book Growing Influence is a business fable, and it speaks to a lot of people and a lot of situations. But one issue that you cover is why is it that some people get passed up for promotions? What’s sort of the top driver and what can be done about that?

Ron Price
Yeah. And, of course, there are probably a lot of different reasons that somebody could get passed up. Some of them are external, some of them they might not have any control over. It may be something to do with the culture, unconscious biases that exists inside the organization, and sometimes those need to be addressed. But there can also be internal reasons why somebody gets passed up.

I like to think that if a person is really working consistently on being the best version of themselves, and they’re doing that in a way that they develop their character, and they’re doing that in a way that they develop their expertise, that in a healthy environment, the positions, the promotions will come find them because most of us who’ve been in leadership roles, when we’re looking at promoting people, we’ve got a lot of self-interest. We want to promote somebody who can perform, somebody who can get the work done, somebody who gets along well with others, somebody who has intelligence that they bring to their work.

And if you bring all those things, and you don’t throw up a lot of obstacles, you make it a lot easier to get promoted. So, sometimes people, they don’t get promoted because of something that’s happening in the culture that needs to be addressed, and other times they don’t get promoted because they don’t realize that they’re their own worst enemy in some ways. Like, my wife and I were out on a fall walk earlier today, and we laughed about this statement that I find myself making over and over and over again. And that is the darnedest thing about blind spots is you can’t see them.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, makes sense.

Ron Price
And sometimes people don’t get promoted because they don’t recognize how they’re being perceived by others. It’s a blind spot to them. And if they understood that, and adapted themselves accordingly, they make themselves much more promotable.

Pete Mockaitis
And are there any particular character or expertise, shortcomings, or blind spots that seem to pop up again and again?

Ron Price

Oh, boy, what a great question. And this really is why we wrote the book is that after years of thinking about this and helping people with it, I thought there actually is a model. It’s not that difficult that makes a big difference. So, first, let’s talk about character.

In the book, we talk about, “How do you define integrity of character?” And most people think, “Well, honest and ethical and you don’t do things when people aren’t looking that you wouldn’t do if they were looking,” things like that. But we want to expand the meaning of that word, integrity, to think about what does wholeness look like for character.

When I go to my doctor and he starts talking to me about the integrity of my nervous system, he’s not talking about whether it’s honest or ethical, he’s talking about whether it’s working properly, whether all the parts are there and they’re properly related to each other. So, we posit that as our definition of character, and then we asked these two questions. The first question is, “What are the values by which I choose to govern my own behavior?”

A great example for me, my number one value that I look at every week, and ask myself how am I doing is personal accountability. And, of course, the power of that value is in how you defined it. So, the first question is, “What are the values I choose to govern myself and how am I doing?” The second question is, “What are the values I choose to relate to other people and how am I doing?”

And, in my case, my number one value for how I relate to other people is collaboration. And that word is almost a spiritual or a religious word to me because I believe that when you really connect with somebody else, you understand what they want, they understand what you want, and you learn how to work together that there’s the possibility for real magic to occur.

And, in fact, that’s what Stacy and I felt that we reached in writing the book Growing Influence is this wonderful synergism that happen when we both brought all of who we were with respect for the other, and we learned how to work well together. So, that’s my number one value for how I choose to relate to others.

So, how do you grow character in a way that other people notice you and it makes you promotable, it makes you more influential? Well, what are the values by which you govern your own behaviors, and what are the values by which you relate to other people? Sometimes we can think of where we fall short and that might help to guide us in what values we want to adapt. But it’s the steady, consistent development of more and more strength in the way that you not only aspire to those values, but practice those values that causes people to want to follow you as an influencer because of how you show up. That’s character, Pete.

I know that’s kind of long-winded, but we use a similar kind of approach to expertise. To be an expert influencer in a way that people listen to you more, you have to recognize that expert leadership is based on creating value for others not just sounding smart yourself. So, the real question is, “What value, what benefit is my expertise going to deliver to other people?” And it might be marketing, or finance, or operations, or, in my case, it’s my tax attorney or my tax accountant. Because of their expertise, because they understand the tax laws, they have a tremendous amount of influence over me when it comes to my tax returns.

Now, they may not have much influence over me when I decide whether or not I’m going to get my gallbladder taken out. But in the area of expertise, they’ve got a lot of power. And if you decide that you’re going to create value for others and then you lay out a pathway for how to get better and better and better at that, you’re gaining power. You’re gaining influence and you’re becoming more promotable.

We encourage people along those lines to pick one or two areas that they’re really passionate about, and start to study the other leaders in that area of expertise. Read what they write, listen to their podcasts or watch their TED Talks, and just begin to saturate your mind with the thoughts of other leaders or experts in that area. And if you do that long enough, there’s something amazing that happens in your subconscious. You begin to take one idea from this person, another idea from this person, a third idea from this person, and you begin to create your own thought recipes. And in doing that, you become an expert yourself.

So, it’s really a practical way. And if you just do a little bit at a time over one year, two years, three years, you become an expert. And, eventually, you’re coming up with unique ideas that nobody else has ever come up with because you’re combining other people’s ideas in new ways.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s excellent. So, then the action step there in terms of increasing your value is you’re picking an area of expertise and you’re absorbing all the wisdom from the top folks there and, before you know it, you’ve got it yourself, and you’re coming up with original stuff. So, then when it comes to the “living more in accordance with your values,” what are some of the key action steps associated with identifying some of the shortcomings and shoring them up?

Ron Price

The first thing is being more self-aware. Oftentimes, the thing that we probably should work on, the people around us see it more clearly than we do. So, I like to think of this idea that I’ve never seen the back of my head.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Even after a haircut with the mirror in the barber, it’s not as great.

Ron Price
Yeah, it’s a reflection. It’s not the real thing. And, in fact, if you think about that, I’ve never seen my face. All we see is a reflection of our face. So, that metaphor tells us that we don’t even know what we look like, which is a big part of who we are, without the use of something outside of us. And in the same way, you don’t know how you show up at work, whether you’re a leader, or a manager, or you’re aspiring to be one, you don’t fully know who you are without the help of people around you who can be your mirrors.

Of course, they should be people that you trust and that you know they care about your success because you don’t want to get stuck in a house of mirrors. But you want people who are going to give you honest feedback. And it’s amazing to me when we learn how to ask for, and we’re open to feedback and we’re not defensive, how much wisdom we get from the people around us.

When I first started to learn this, and I have to confess it took a long time before I got comfortable enough in my own skin to be able to listen to this feedback, but when I first started to hear it, I had to resist the temptation to be embarrassed, or to feel ashamed, or to defend myself, or to deny that, because they do a pretty good job of pointing out what you’re not so good at.

And when I opened myself up and said, “It doesn’t have an impact on my quality as a human being, on my value as a human being, but they’re giving me really valuable input that helps me understand the difference between what my intention is and what my impact is.” And when I could let them begin to show me what my impact was, it began to open up a whole new level of growth.

And I have to tell you, I’m still working at that. I still really treasure the feedback that people give me, and I’ve trained myself to be quiet and not to defend myself, not even to agree with them, but just to say, “Thank you for that feedback. You gave me some important stuff for me to think about.” And that’s one of the big things that keeps me growing even in my late ‘60s.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, when you receive it, you’re not being defensive here, you’re saying, “Thank you,” and you’re chewing on it. And then how do you go about making the requests?

Ron Price
Making the requests for the feedback?

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Ron Price
Yeah. Well, the way I do it is I let people know, “I understand that there are parts of me that I can’t see without your help. And I believe that you care for me, and you care for my success, and I believe that I could understand myself better and develop better self-awareness if you could give me some feedback.” And there are two approaches I’ll take. I’ll say, “If there were one thing that I could work at getting better at, and that it would make it easier for us to work together, what would you want me to work on?” That’s one way I approach it.

The second way I approach it is, I might’ve already identified, I might say, “I want to get better at planning and organizing.” And I might go to a person and say, “I’m working on getting better at planning and organizing, and I wonder, you’ve watched me, you’ve seen how I do my work, I wonder if you have one or two tips that you could give me for how I could get better?” And I don’t have to agree with the tips. I just thank them for the tips and I might come back later and tell them that I’ve implemented one of the tips or I might not.

But what I found is that if you don’t answer people back with either that “This is why it won’t work. I already tried that,” or, “No, that’s not really true,” if you don’t answer back that way, you make them feel more and more comfortable over time getting more honest with the feedback that they give you. And honest feedback with somebody who’s direct and caring is one of the greatest gifts that anybody can ever give you. And if you develop that openness, that receptiveness where people feel they can give it to you directly and caringly, it’s one of the greatest accelerators to you growing influence.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. All right. Well, so those are some master keys there. So, if you’re doing those sorts of things on an ongoing basis, I’d love to get your tips for, sort of, when you’re in the thick of things, you’re working on developing your character and your expertise, and you’re getting your feedback, is there anything you recommend some top do’s and don’ts for kind of day in, day out you’re interacting with folks and these things make a world of difference?

Ron Price
The biggest thing, by far, I look back on my career, and it’s had the greatest positive impact of anything I’ve done is making sure that every day I spend time with myself. And that that time is set aside not to look at my task list. It’s not for me to worry or to go read the newspaper, be all frustrated with what’s happening in politics or anything. It is time dedicated for me to think about who I am and who I want to become.

And I started it back and it was around 1978, I was getting frustrated because I was overwhelmed with all of the tasks I needed to get done. And I bought an audio cassette series on time management, and it sat on my shelf for six months because I didn’t have time to listen to it. And I realized how that was my fault. There was nobody to blame but me that I hadn’t given time to that.

So, I started working half hour early. I said for that first half hour, at that time I had a private office, I had a secretary, and I told my secretary, “This first half hour I’m coming in early and unless law enforcement is at the door or somebody’s life is at threat, that’s my time. I don’t want to be interrupted by anything.” And over the years, I worked on expanding that time. I obviously finished that cassette series pretty quickly, but I realized, “Wow, I always had this time and I had never owned it. I had never taken it.”

So, over the years I’ve experimented with doing it different times of day. And, at one point, when I was running this international business, I had expanded that time to four hours a day. I had people in eight countries who were working for us that I was in communication with regularly. I had a senior leadership team that I was working with. It wasn’t that I didn’t have a lot to do, I had more to do than ever before, but because of the way I had worked with owning that time to work on myself. Now, during those four hours I would also work on company strategy and the really big ideas that needed more careful thought.

Now, I’m not there anymore. I retired from that business in 2000 and I have another business now, and I’m about two hours a day right now. But it might sound a little counterintuitive, Pete, but the time you spend with yourself, working on yourself, thinking about your own resilience, your flexibility, your personal accountability, thinking about your own values, that’s the reservoir that you draw from the rest of the day when you’re interacting with other people.

And when I see people who are struggling in their relationships, they’re struggling with their work, I always go back to, “How much time are you spending working on you? Because that’s the strength that we’re going to draw from for you to be successful in these other areas.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, no surprise I love that. Hosting How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast, there’s a wealth of power that’s unleashed when you do that. And so, I’m curious, when it comes to that 30-minute time or the four-hour time, what is happening? So, in some instances it sounds like you got some content, some programming you’re working through, like the time management audio course. Are there sort of key questions that you ask yourself? Or kind of what’s that process look like in terms of, “All right. It’s me time and I’m getting down, hunkering down to work on myself”? What’s happening in that work?

Ron Price
I mix it up. I use a variety of things because sometimes I think they stimulate my thinking in a different way. But a lot of the things that it’s included reading with a highlighter in my hand, and taking time not just to read but to jot notes down as I come across what I think is an important paragraph from an author. It may be listening to a podcast that is focused on growth. It may be listening to a book on Audible while I’m out hiking.

Oftentimes, it’s journaling and journaling around my values. So, one of my values is courage, and so I might journal one morning about, “How am I demonstrating courage right now? What are the obstacles to courage? What does courage mean to me right now?” It’s these things that help me to self-evaluate and to think about who I am and who I want to be.

And then it may, sometimes, it’s around a problem that’s come up. Maybe I have a problem relationship with somebody that I feel has let me down, or maybe they feel that I’ve let them down. I may take some of that time just to journal about, “What am I feeling? What might they be feeling? What are some different alternatives for how we could work to a more positive solution here?” But it’s always something that has to do with developing my own character, developing my own expertise and my ability to show up stronger in the workplace. Those are a number of the different things that are included.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And so then your experience has been that when you spend the time there, you reap more time savings, results, efficiencies in the rest of the hours of the day because you’ve spent the time there.

Ron Price
Yes. One of my mentors was a guy named Charlie “Tremendous” Jones. He was bigger than life. They called him “Tremendous” because everything was tremendous for him, and he was a character. He was really a throwback to the old comedians but also as a motivational speaker. And he said to me once, he said, “Ron, you’re going to be the same five years from now as you are today except for two things. The books you read and the people you meet, so value them both.”

And, of course, today we have a lot of other mediums to work from but that phrase always stuck with me, “The books you read…” Because I dedicate at least, a minimum of 30 minutes a day to reading books that are around my profession, or around the development of my character, I’ve now got over 3,000 books that I’ve read. That has an impact on your subconscious. And I wouldn’t say I was necessarily a great container of what I read, but you’d keep doing it and eventually it produces a benefit for you.

And then the people you meet. One of the things that has enriched my life dramatically and I think made me a better leader has been recognizing that everybody I meet is superior to me in some way. And if I’ll be humble and search for it, I can find treasure in every relationship. So, every new relationship, every relationship I’m revisiting, even with our team, maybe I’ve worked with them for 10 years, I’m still looking for more treasure. There’s something they’ve learned, something they’ve mastered that can benefit me. And I always say the expert in the room is the person who learns the least. So, if I can intentionally make myself the student in every room that I go into, I have a chance of learning the most.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yes. I like these perspectives. And so then, when you are transitioning out away from the solo time into the interacting with other folks, are there any particular things you recommend when we are trying to be influential, we want someone to say yes? Start having great character and expertise certainly is a huge foundation. But is there anything in particular with regard to how you do the communication?

Ron Price
First, I think it’s important to be clear yourself, to make sure that you understand your priorities and you’re organizing around your priorities, because it’s hard to influence other people if they see you changing gears, often going different directions, or chasing shiny objects. So, the first thing is to be clear yourself.

The second thing is to realize that the greatest power in working with somebody else is shared interests. So, is the thing that you want them to do something that falls into the realm of shared interests for them? They may or may not recognize that, but if you can get to that place where they see what’s in it for them and their shared interests, it’s going to be a lot easier for you to work together.

And then I would say the third thing is make sure that you’re giving them the level of support that’s appropriate, which changes depending on what assignment you’re talking about together, what you’re asking them to do. And, by the way, Pete, I’m not talking about this in a hierarchical organization only, and I’m not talking about it with people who are your subordinates. I think it’s just as important to understand the shared interests of your boss, to understand what kind of support your boss needs, to understand what’s going to help them be successful as it is somebody who’s a subordinate or a peer.

So, it’s really those three things. It’s make sure you’re clear, look for the shared interests, and then really clearly define how you can support them to help them be successful.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And so then, what are the key things to not do during the course of these conversations?

Ron Price
To talk and not listen. Of course, if you’re giving an assignment, there’s an important communication component of you speaking, but to take the time to ask what they think and to find out whether or not what you’re asking them to do is what they want to do. We find that something like 60%, 70% of the time that people don’t follow through on an assignment that was asked of them. The reason is because the person who gave them the assignment never asked them whether or not they were committed to doing it. They just assumed they were.

So, taking the time to ask and not just assume that somebody is going to follow through. So, I guess you said, “What should you not do?” Probably the biggest trouble we get into is our assumptions, the stories that we tell ourselves without ever validating whether they’re true or not. And I don’t know how many times I thought I knew what the other person was thinking, and I took the time to ask and found out what they were thinking was not at all what I had in mind.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, when you are asking, “Hey, are you committed to this or what are you thinking?” what are some of the particular questions that seem to yield insight again and again?

Ron Price
“Is this something that you feel comfortable being involved with? Is this something that you feel you can do well? Is this something that you will enjoy doing? And help me understand the timeframe because everything else that you have going on, help me understand the timeframe that you need in order to get this done well and in a way that you’ll enjoy it. Is there anything I’m missing? Are there issues that you’re dealing with or other responsibilities you’re carrying that may get in the way of this that it would be important for me to know about?”

And this last question is, “If it doesn’t go well, how are you going to reach out and let me know that it’s not going well?” So, I want them to feel empowered and I want them to realize that I recognize that there are a lot of things that interrupt what are our best intentions are, and that’s okay. And when that happens, let’s work on it together.

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

Ron Price
I think one of the most powerful models that I learned from another mentor, actually it’s a husband and wife team, Steve and Jill Morris, they taught me something called the “Triangle of Choice.” They said everybody has perceptions, and our perceptions are different. Everybody has wants, that’s really what drives us to get out of bed each day and go to work. And everybody has behaviors. And people will choose the behaviors that they think will best help them close the gap between their perceptions of the way things are and what they want.

And if I can respect that in everybody that I work with, if I can take the time to understand what their perceptions are and help them make sure that they’re accurate, what their wants are, and have a conversation about whether or not those wants are realistic, then, together, we can work on what are the behaviors that are going to close that gap between perceptions and wants. To me, that’s one of the most powerful leadership models I’ve been able to use in helping other people become the best version of themselves.

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

Ron Price
One of them that has stuck with me for many years was written by Napoleon Hill who is an amazing story in and of himself, and I won’t take the time to tell his story. But he said, “Whatever you can vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe, and enthusiastically act upon, must inevitably come to pass.”

So, I’ve tried for years to prove him wrong. “Whatever you can vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe, and enthusiastically act upon, must inevitably come to pass.” I use that in my personal life, I use it in my professional life, it’s been a wonderful compass for the way that I want to live my life.

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

Ron Price
I’ve been really fascinated with where neuroscience is going, and I’m associated with a brain science lab where we’re measuring seven different levels of people’s brainwaves. We’re looking at how they respond to things subconsciously. As a matter of fact, we’ll throw a picture or a phrase or word up on a computer screen, and before they’ve had time to read it or absorb it, we already have six pictures of their brain, what’s happening in their subconscious mind.

And what I’m fascinated about is this new science that’s just developed in the last 10 to 15 years, is when we combine it with psychology, it’s creating a whole new science of understanding how people think, what their tendencies are, and who they could become. So, I’m really captured by, or captivated by what’s happening in the world of neuroscience right now.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Ron Price

Well, it’s hard to get too far away from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. I don’t know how many times I’ve read it. Every time I read it, I see something new that inspires me.

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

Ron Price
This is kind of cheating but it’s my iPhone.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, sure. Any particular apps that make all the difference?

Ron Price
Well, the apps that I use every single day, I use Reminders. I figured out how to customize it so that it only shows me what I need to get done today. And I have another 250 tasks that are not going to show up until the day that they need to be done. I use Notes quite a bit because it’s a great place for me to capture ideas and categorize them. I use Evernote. I really use Evernote for my reflection about character and expertise. And that morning reflection Evernote is my key tool for that.

And, of course, you can’t get too far away from the Calendar and the way that it helps you to keep track of your schedules. So, having come from the days when you had to do all that on paper, I know people complain about all the noise that we have with email and everything to-date, but I view it as what tremendous power we have in our hands. And I heard it, I’m not a scientist to be able to validate, but I heard that the computing power in our iPhones or Androids today is more computing power than it took to land a man on the moon.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Ron Price
It’s that early morning time. I also love hiking, and that’s a habit that I try to get at least six miles in five days a week. But that early morning time is really the greatest source of strength.

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

Ron Price
The thing that people talk to me a lot about after they’ve read Growing Influence is this little dialogue that takes place between the two main characters, where David, who’s a retired CEO, is mentoring Emily who’s a middle manager in a tech company. Just as she’s leaving one of their conversations, he says, “Remember, Emily, lead with logic, follow with emotion.”

And it’s the whole idea that if you want to optimize your influence, never let emotion get in front of logic. And sometimes that means you have to wait and calm down. But people come back and quote that to me over and over and over again, that that really impacted the way that they deal with this noise between logic and emotion.

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

Ron Price
Price-Associates.com. And that leads you to our other websites. We have a lot of videos and podcasts and blogs and all kinds of resources that are available there. So, Price-Associates.com.

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

Ron Price
Well, I think you can already hear my bias, Pete, that is that people really have unlimited potential, only limited by how much they decide they want to develop who they can be. I really think that the more you pour into becoming the best version of yourself, the more you recognize how unlimited that potential is, and it’s a little bit each day, even if it’s 10 minutes or 15 minutes, it’s a little bit each day, over time, will transform your life.

Pete Mockaitis
Ron, this has been a treat. Thanks so much for taking this time. And good luck in all your adventures.

Ron Price
Thanks, Pete. It’s been great to be with you.

503: How to Get a Meeting with Anyone with Stu Heinecke

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 Stu Heinecke shares unorthodox approaches to win the attention of strangers.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The simple trick to exceeding a 100% response rate
  2. Do’s and don’ts for composing your personal messages
  3. How to turn executive assistants into allies

About Stu:

Dubbed by the American Marketing Association the “Father of Contact Marketing,” Stu Heinecke is a Wall Street Journal cartoonist, hall of fame-nominated marketer and the bestselling author of How to Get a Meeting with Anyone (2016) and Get the Meeting! (10-2019). Stu is also the founder of Cartoonists.org, a group of WSJ and New Yorker cartoonists who donate their art to help charities raise funds.

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you Sponsors!

 

Stu Heinecke Interview Transcript

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

Stu Heinecke
I am delighted to be here with you, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m delighted to have you. We dorked out about AV a good while. But I want to hear about your cartoons. I know it might be hard to pick a favorite, like a favorite child, but is there a particular cartoon that you think is extra hilarious or that you think back and chuckle at your own work years later?

Stu Heinecke
Yeah, there are a bunch of them actually. That’s good as a cartoonist. That’s a good sign. But there is one that is just my favorite and it probably has great relevance to today. So, what it is, it’s this little child, this mischievous little child in the foreground and he’s wiping his arms back and forth, he’s sitting in a high chair but at a table. He’s wiping his arms back and forth and his bowl of cereal is overturned, the cereal is all over the place, and the box of cereal is knocked down. And in the background, his mom is washing the dishes, and she’s turned around, you can see she’s rather tired of this and she’s saying, “Roland, you’re acting like a Democrat.” But it could easily be changed to, and makes as just much sense, to say, “Roland, you’re acting like a Republican.”

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly.

Stu Heinecke
And, in fact, it’s my favorite because you could put almost anything in there. In fact, if you put all these together next to each other, to me it really illustrates the, well, let’s say at least the futility of politics, particularly today, they’re horrible. They’re just awful today and everyone seems to think that the other one is the worst, and I think it’s all that. It’s just awful.

So, here’s the funny thing or interesting thing about cartoons and humor in general, it’s really about truth revealed with a twist. So, when we laugh at something, we’re often saying, “Oh, my God, that’s so true.” It is like that. I know someone like that. So, it’s actually about truth. And that Roland cartoon is wonderful if you take several versions of it together and put it into one frame, I think it makes all kinds of sense because actually no one’s got a monopoly on the truth.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a good point. I think there’s a standup comedian who was talking to his audience in responding to them saying, “It’s so true.” He said, “Yes, it is so true, and that’s why it’s funny.” It is true, hence funny.

Stu Heinecke
That’s it. That’s the whole deal. Yeah, that’s exactly what it is.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Well, I want to talk about one of your areas of expertise. You’ve got a couple books about how to get a meeting with anyone and getting that meeting. So, could you maybe open us up with a cool story of maybe someone who was trying something to get a meeting or a series of meetings, having no luck, but then they tried some of your cool approaches and had a transformation?

Stu Heinecke
Oh, man. Well, that’s brings up really two stories to mind. I could either tell you about how I got started with it. A tiny campaign went out and it got amazing results and launched my business. It was worth millions of dollars and it cost me $100, so that’s one. Or the other version would be to tell about Dom Steinmann’s story because Dom was having…I think that’s what I should really tell you because that really directly answers your question.

So, Dom got in touch with me after my first book came out, How to Get a Meeting with Anyone and he was saying, “You know, I’ve just got to share my story. When I was in college, I was recruited by this big late-stage startup in Silicon Valley to work as a sales development rep, and I was thrilled. But then when I got to work and started working with them, well, I found out that their expectation was that we would make 100 phone calls a day, and these were all cold calls.” In other words, they were calls to people that they didn’t know and there was no relationship, there was nothing. They were just calling out of the blue.

And he said that, “Out of a day’s worth of 100 phone calls, you might have one conversation that was even worth having. The rest of them were just slams of the phone.” So, he was telling a friend about this at dinner and lamenting the whole problem, and the friend said, “You know, you ought to get this book How to Get a Meeting with Anyone.” And so, he did. And from there he used what I would call, actually I call it this in the new book, deep personalization as opposed to wide personalization.

So, he started researching the people that he wanted to reach. So, he was still doing the hundred phone calls a day, but then he would research some of the people that he thought would be really worth breaking through to. And so, the first one was a fellow who he discovered through a profile scrape, that is a lot of research of social media profiles and other information that can be found on the web. But what he found was that his target executive was really interested in family, cooking, and technology. So, he ordered an apron, looks like a barbecue apron, and had it embroidered with a Stanley C. Clarke quote, something to the effect that technology, sufficiently advanced, will appear as magic.

So, they had that embroidered on the apron and sent it out. Well, lo and behold, this guy responded right away. And, by the way, this first one was someone that no one in the company, a lot of people had tried to reach him but no one was able to reach him through cold-calling, but by sending that gift, boom, all of a sudden, this fellow actually called back, they had a quick conversation, and they ended up with a six-figure deal pretty quickly.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool.

Stu Heinecke
And that’s pretty cool. Then his cohorts started realizing, “Oh, my gosh, Dom is getting through, we’re not getting through to anyone. Dom is selling, we’re not selling anything. So, Dom, how are you doing this?” And he told. “Would you help us?” “Sure.”

So, the next example of this was one of his cohorts said, “Okay, I’ve got a guy, another guy that we haven’t been able to reach. Nobody from our company has been able to reach him.” And so, Dom said, “Okay, let’s take a look. Let’s see what’s in his profile.” And what they discovered was that this fellow was really involved in falconry, so they went to a falconry site and talked to the owner, and they said, “What can we give someone who’s really involved in falconry as a gift?” And the fellow said, “This beautiful glove.” In falconry, they used these beautiful ornate gloves so they can hold the bird by the talons and not have their hand mangled.

So, they said, “Great. We’re going to send that, or we’re going to buy that.” And, meanwhile, they downloaded the picture and sent him an email immediately to the prospect to say, “Hi, I’d like to get in touch with you. I just want to let you know I’m sending you this falconry glove. I hope you enjoy it.” Again, this is another person they hadn’t been able to reach at all, no one from the company had been able to reach him, and he said, “Okay. Well, look,” the fellow responded immediately. He said, “Hey, that’s really cool. Thanks so much. But I’m not really a prospect, but thanks anyway.”

Well, then the glove arrives and everything changed. It was a flip moment. Everything changed. he communicated right away to say, “Oh, my God, I just got the glove. This thing is so cool. I’ll tell you what, remember when I told you I’m not a prospect? Well, I’m not, but I know three CIOs who are prospects for what you do, and I’m going to make introductions right now.” Well, he did and another six-figure deal ensued.

So, now the management was saying, “What’s going on down there? What are you doing down there? And who’s responsible for this?” They all pointed to Dom. So, Dom was promoted to sales manager as a result of that. All of a sudden, that company was sold to, I think it was Cisco for $4.7 billion. So, a year out of college, just from reading the book and using contact marketing, Dom went from probably washing out as a sales development rep to becoming a sales manager for a multinational $4.7 billion company.

Pete Mockaitis
Stu, that is an excellent story. You’ve nailed that. Well, thank you. That’s really thought-provoking in a number of dimensions. So, my favorite part of the story was they learned the guy liked falconry, didn’t know what to do with that, so talked to a falconry person, said, “Hey, what’s a cool gift?” He said, “Well, let me show you.” And then that went there. And even though the person wasn’t a prospect, that deep need to reciprocate is there, so he wanted to do something for them, and like, “Hey, I’ve got some introductions.” So, that is really cool.

So, I know a lot of your work is well-received and loved in the sales and marketing communities. I’d love to get a kick out of hearing maybe some examples of folks who were getting meetings outside of sales, like maybe they’re selling themselves, like with regard to getting a job, or maybe they are trying to connect with someone to get some really great advice or information that will help them with what they’re working on at the moment. Any of those tales come to mind?

Stu Heinecke
Well, I think what’s interesting is that, well, I’m now on my second book about this. When I wrote the first one, How to Get a Meeting with Anyone, I thought, “Okay, I’ve got it all done,” which was foolish. “I’ve got 20 categories of contact marketing campaign types. I’m sure this is it.” And as soon as it came out, I heard from all these people who said, “Well, I’ve got another way to do this,” and another way, and another way, and another way.

And so, some of these stories, well, that’s what led to the new book Get the Meeting! but some of the stories had to do with job search. And, in fact, there’s enough of them that it maybe where I go for the next book here’s the thing. We all sell whether we have the word sales in our titles or not. We all sell. I mean, that’s sort of the nature of human existence or how we work together because we need things from each other, and we get those things by selling.

So, I know that there are a lot of uses of visual metaphors like a medical kit, and I’m going to help, and then the copy that goes with it is something about “I’m going to cure some of the things that are…” that’s not a really great example though, because if you’re writing to someone saying, “I’m going to cure what’s wrong with your company,” that may not be the best, message to put out there.

But I’ve used it directly. I’ve used some of my own devices, my own contact devices to help friends to get interviews even though these devices are used generally in sales. And what I mean by that is usually I’ve been using my cartoons my whole career to break through to people I should never be able to break through to, or at least that’s they way it felt, maybe I should because I have.

So, I’ve worked with, well, my sister, for one, who told me once, actually she was applying for a job, it was a sales job, and she was a little worried about whether she’d get it. And one of the things she said was, “They’re going to ask me to do cold calls. I’m not really very comfortable with them.” And I said, “Well, I’m glad you called me because I love doing them because I’m talking about sending cartoons out first and it’s almost like an ambush. I love doing them. Why don’t we try this? Why don’t we just use one of my,” I call them big boards, or an 18×24 quarter inch thick foam cardboard. So, one side there’s a cartoon about the recipient, in this case the person she was interviewing with. And on the other side there’s a message from the sender to the recipient explaining why they should meet or why something should go forward.

And in Christine’s case, my sister, we created a message on that side that talk about how much she wanted to work with them and look forward to the next interview. So, that was delivered. It’s packaged in some really interesting corrugated cardboard packing with cartoon art all over it and it get sent by FedEx, and so that was delivered. And she got the job. She got the next interview obviously, but she got the job. When she came in, the big board was up over her new boss’ desk, and it blasted her right through.

And I know others have just used, I mean, we can also use the same trick, the personalized cartoon, on a card, just a little greeting card. One of my friends borrowed one of those things from me and got a job as well. So, I just think there’s such great parallels between sales and getting jobs. Even if you’re not in the sales field, you’re still selling, and the outcomes and the methods are still the same.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, as you’re going through these stories, I’m reminded of a story in which I was working with someone to prep for some interviews, and he told me, “Oh, man, I’ve been doing everything to try and get the interview with McKinsey & Company,” which is a selective strategy consulting firm. And he sent them a birthday cake for the whole office on his birthday, and said, “It’s my birthday, and all I want is to work for McKinsey & Company.” And that was actually effective in terms of like, “All right. We’re going to have a look at your resume closely. Sure enough, you have earned an interview,” and then he took it from there, so that’s cool to see in action.

And we talked about the medical kit, right now my wheels are turning, like I’ve got one of my favorite tools is a ratcheting multibit screwdriver. It’s just so elegantly wonderful. And so, if you say, “Hey, I can cure the problems.” It’s like, well, you fix the problem with the tool. And so that’s cool. Well, maybe we could zoom out a little bit and talk about this process. So, you call this whole approach contact marketing. So, can you maybe define that term and the steps and the process for us?

Stu Heinecke
Yeah. Well, contact marketing is, the definition of it is a fusion of marketing and selling that uses microfocus campaigns to produce contact with high-level, high-value prospects and accounts. So, roughly, that’s the definition of it. Well, I can tell you though, when I first started out, although I used contact marketing to launch my business, my business was I was creating direct mail campaigns a long time ago for publishers, for magazine publishers.

And in the direct marketing field, I used to hear that people used to say 1% response rate was pretty common, pretty standard, although there’s really no such number. I mean, it’s like there is no common or standard number, but let’s use 1% for a moment. If you look at lots of forms of other kinds of marketing, let’s say digital marketing, you find that response rates are at the thousandths of a percent so it’s really quite low. In contact marketing, these response rates are going as high as 100%. That’s pretty bizarre.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s as high as it gets.

Stu Heinecke
Well, no. Actually, I found one that was getting 300% to 400%.

Pete Mockaitis
Like referrals and like trial stuff? Oh, wow.

Stu Heinecke
Exactly. Yeah, it was so astonishing the thing that he was giving out that it was being shared, and then that sharing ended up pulling more people into the campaign and more responses to the campaign.

Pete Mockaitis
What was that thing? Now, I’ve got to know.

Stu Heinecke
Well, it relates to something I wrote about in the book called pocket campaigns, it’s a replacement of business cards. And so, I was studying, I was looking for what are the coolest business cards out there, because we’ve all gotten cards that you got them, you say, “Whoa! Oh, my God, I didn’t realize a business card could be like this, and that’s just so cool.”

Well, one of those stories was this fellow who had his card printed on sheet rubber, it’s still the same standard size of a business card, 2 inches by 3.5 inches, but it’s this real thin sheet of gum rubber, it was a tan rubber. And before they printed it, they put it on a jig so it was stretched on a jig, then they printed the contact details. And once the ink had dried, they take it off the jig and, of course, that would mean that when it returned to its regular shape, that meant that all of the details that were just printed now got squeezed together.

He told me that He’d go out to a pub, and he’d get into conversations with people at the bar, and they’d say, “What do you do?” “And what do you do?” And they’d eventually exchange business cards. So, out comes his floppy little business card, it’s like an ambush this floppy little business card as they’re exchanging cards. And the recipient is saying, “Wow, what’s that?” They grab it on both ends and stretch it just naturally because otherwise you can’t read it.

Well, then it reveals it’s Poul Nielsen’s card. He’s a fitness trainer. And guess what? He already has you exercising. Then they would say, “Oh, my gosh, can I keep this?” “Sure, yeah.” So, they keep it and they’d bring it. They kept it in their pockets probably. They brought it to the office and just anywhere they could talk to someone, they’d be saying, “Hey, you’ve got to check out this business card I just got from this guy.” They’d show it, pull it out, the person would stretch it automatically, “Just look at that. He’s a fitness trainer and he already has you exercising.” And they’d have a good laugh and they’d say, “Wait a minute. I want to write down this guy’s number.”

And so, this is stunning because Poul said every time he would hand out a business card, he would get three or four new clients. That’s a stunning result from a business card because usually they’re thrown away. I have cool ones. They have cartoons all over them and so on. I have never handed someone a business card and gotten a sale because of it.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Boy, that’s so cool. So, that’s what a pocket campaign is then is something that you can put into your pocket. Any other examples of things that you can put in your pocket in a card format?

Stu Heinecke
Well, yeah, the pocket campaign. They’re a little bit more involved than just having a cool business card, or, really, I should say an involvement device. Poul’s stretching card is an involvement device. It’s an invitation to play. And from there, as marketers, we would then include a jump offer, something that pulls people to a webpage where we can set a tracking pixel, and then from there we run a remarketing ad or retargeting ad just like any. If that term is not familiar, it’s what’s happening whenever you go to, let’s say, the L.L. Bean site and you’d shop for shoes and then you leave, and then those ads start showing up wherever you go on the web about L.L. Bean shoes.

Well, you can actually do that. That actually is part of the pocket campaign model. But for job search, I would think you could just use the first part of it, just an engagement device. Still something you pull out of your pocket, it’s just like a business card, but it’s totally different from the other cards because other cards generally it’s trying to make us look important and fancy almost. I don’t know. With gold, with foil stamping, and embossing, or maybe they’re engraved on bamboo or metal or carbon fiber, it’s all meant to make us look impressive and it doesn’t work. It’s not working. But the cards that are actually involvement devices do.

So, here’s another example. One of the people that I’ve interviewed for the book has a card that is stamped metal. So, it’s credit card size piece and the stamping knockout cutouts so that the piece actually operates as a multitool, if that makes sense. The cutouts in different size wrenches.

Pete Mockaitis
Screwdrivers and bottle opener.

Stu Heinecke
Yeah, bottle opener. But it’s actually meant to be used on bikes to repair them out in the wild. And this card was for the owner of a bike repair shop. So, there were no logos on it or anything like that. It just had his name and his contact details stamped on the piece but it was this device that bike users or bike riders would say, “That’s really cool. I love that. I’m going to keep that in my wallet, keep it with me wherever I go because I just never know when I might need to use that.”

And so, that’s a great example of a pocket campaign or, let’s say, at least the engagement device portion of a pocket campaign. I think that you could use all kinds of things for pocket campaigns and for engagement devices that could be terrific for jobs. I remember a comedian had a really cool one, it was a flipbook. I don’t know, do you remember flipbooks?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah.

Stu Heinecke
So, it’s a bound stack of cards actually and on each card was a facial expression of lots of different pictures of this fellow who was a comedian. And when you flip the book really quickly and you flip those pages really quickly, his face changes really quickly and it’s really funny. And it’s a great metaphor for what it is that he can provide in terms of value up on stage. That would be a great card to use in a job search, I would think.

I think all of these would actually be a terrific way. I mean, the multitool could be a great way of saying, again, without saying “You’re broken” to the business owner, “I’ve got the tools to help you succeed,” something alone those lines. I mean, there’s a metaphor there, and you can use that in your note.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s cool. Thank you. Well, we have so much fun with these stories. We’ve got a process here that starts with a research, and can you walk us through this?

Stu Heinecke
Well, yeah, I guess the first thing you need to do is you better find out who it is you want to reach, so that would be step number one. And then once you do that, or while you’re doing that anyway, you’ve got to create something, some sort of device that’s going to get you through. So, this could be something tangible that you send, we’ve talked about a bunch of these already. The pocket campaigns are all tangible pieces, the cartoon pieces, and so on. But it can also be, “Well, look, we’re doing a podcast together.” Podcasts are a great device for connecting with people, aren’t they?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah.

Stu Heinecke
You get to connect with a lot of really interesting, I’ll not putting myself in there, but you get to connect with a lot of really interesting people. And so, a podcast or I guess we should just broaden it out to some form of media exposure is really nice. There are even interesting ways to use email to break through if you time it correctly. Most of the people that are, I should say, important people who are very busy are pretty tough to reach using email during the week.

But what if you waited until early Saturday morning before they got their weekend started because I know that executives, many executives, and let’s just go all the way up to the CEOs, they get up early, and before they start up their weekend activities, they check their email and they get a little bit of work done. Or at the end of the weekend, Sunday evening, when they’re preparing for the week ahead, also a great time to reach out to someone who’s generally really well-guarded by executive assistants and you can break through.

And there are great examples of things that are done that are way, way, way over the top that are some of my favorite stories but they’re expensive. One person used a, I guess this wasn’t expensive. Someone sent a pigeon to, I can’t say the name, I’m restricted from saying the name, but he’s no longer with us, he was probably the most famous CEO in the world at the time, he’s really tough to get through to.

And so, someone sent a pigeon in a box with airholes and handwritten notes, and sent it to this fellow and said, “You know, I’ve been trying to reach you. I’ve tried everything I can think of. I’ve been talking to your engineering department. They love my solution but purchasing won’t talk to me so I’ve sent you faxes and emails and letters, I’ve called. I’ve done everything I could think of and, really, this is my last resort. So, if you would, inside the box, there’s a pigeon. And on the pigeon’s leg is a capsule, and in the capsule is a little slip of paper. And so, if you take that out and write the name of your favorite restaurant, and the date and time, and then release the pigeon, actually put it back in the capsule first, of course. Release the pigeon. I’ll meet you there.”

And it actually worked. And they had lunch and the fellow walked out of that meeting with a $250 deal, sorry, $250,000. So, there are just all kinds of ways of breaking through and they can be non-tangible or tangible. I think the one thing, the one caution I would throw out there is that if you’re only reaching out on social media, I don’t think that that one, if you connect with someone on LinkedIn, for example, that one action alone is not enough to actually create a relationship, and you’ve got to do more than that to actually show up on their radar screens, so to speak.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, then we’ve got the research, and then we’ve got the intriguing device there. I guess I’m curious a little bit about the research phase and the crafting of that ideal message. So, you mentioned that you’ve checked out their social media profiles. And how do you go about building up that profile so you have that hunch for what would be ideal for them?

Stu Heinecke
Well, you know, I have a great shortcut. There is a new company out there called Seamless.AI. And Seamless is an AI-powered search engine that produces dossiers on anyone. And, in fact, you can sign up for a free account and get 100, I think it’s 100, but maybe it’s 50, but we’ll call it 100 free searches. And so, it uses AI to just scour everything to find out all of the person’s contact details, so their email address, their phone number, their address, and then a lot about what it is they’re interested in, and you can do that in seconds. That’s pretty cool.

Pete Mockaitis
Hotdog, yeah.

Stu Heinecke
Makes it kind of easy, or I guess you can comb the news and just be observant and watch for stories about people who are doing interesting things, somebody you might want to work with or for, those are   great too, so you’ll see them in the news and so forth. There are lots of ways. I think there are actually lots of ways to find the people. But if you’re going to job search, I guess you probably have some idea of what it is you want a job to be and then where maybe the best places are to have that sort of career, so you got to start there I suppose. But then you can also use, for example, Seamless and other tools to find out how to reach them and what it is they’re involved with.

You really do want to know something about these people because, when you reach out, there are a bunch of things you need to consider. One is you really want to humanize yourself. We’ve been talking about ways to do that. I think using a lot of these techniques does personalize you because it causes you to stand out or humanize yourself. But then you also want to be careful about how the messages are crafted because they really need to be highly personal. And you might be saying, “I noticed in the Forbes article last month that you were quoted in, that you said this.” So, you know something about them. And if they’re saying something, then you’re paying attention to what that is, and maybe that’s what you’re responding to as your reason for reaching out to them.

I think the last thing, we’re creating sort of a list here so I don’t want to use the word last, but the thing you want to avoid is you don’t want to sound promotional I think. You don’t want to sound like you’re talking at them. You want to sound like you’re one person connecting with another because that’s actually what it is. But you wouldn’t be saying, “Hey, so-and-so, if you contact me within the next 10 minutes, you’re going to get a freebie or something,” and that’s very promotional and is very off-putting in one of these messages.

In fact, personal goes far. It reaches, I guess, one of the ways to make that message personal would be to actually write it up by hand. And, in fact, a lot of the really successful campaigns or contact campaigns that I’ve written about and found in my research they’ve included handwritten messages. So, you’ve got to be relevant and timely. And I think another really big consideration is you really got to be respectful of their time. So, if you happen to be reaching out to the CEO of a company, keep your message really short and succinct. Don’t ask them to wade through a lot of detail.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. And I also want to hear, are there maybe any key phrases that we should avoid entirely? So, you mentioned in particular the super promotional type stuff. I don’t know about you but when I read an email that starts with, “Just following up,” that kind of turns me off.

Stu Heinecke
That’s true. Yeah, “Just checking in.” That’s true.

Pete Mockaitis
And I understand that is what you’re doing, and it’s honest, you’re calling a spade a spade, but that just already reminds me that either through my negligence or by willful decision-making I have ignored your previous communication. So, that one doesn’t do it for me. I don’t know if it’s a personal for me or if that’s kind of universally discouraged. Any things that you would point out, like, “Don’t say this”?

Stu Heinecke
Well, I think I would avoid the use of the word free at all cost because it just sounds like a promotion. But I love what you just suggested there about, “Well, I’m just checking in.” It’s easy enough to go and find something of interest so that when you’re reaching out, you’re not just saying, “I’m checking in,” because that’s wasting their time. Or maybe you’re saying, “Yeah, in fact, I enjoyed this article,” or, “I was at an event last week or last month, an industry event, and I wanted to share with you a couple of impressions because I think they’ll have an impact on your business,” something like that. At least you’re offering value instead of just, “Hey, I’m just checking in,” because I don’t think those ever lead anywhere or lead anywhere good.

Similar to that, maybe, “Pick your brain.” I don’t know that anyone wants their brains picked, you know, “Hey, let’s go out for lunch and I’d love to pick your brain.” Well, why? Perhaps the person on the other end of that sells what’s in their brain, I’m sure they do, but maybe they’re consultants, who knows, or they could be the CEO of a company, they’re paid thousands of dollars a minute. And so, why are they going to allow you to take them to lunch to pick their brain? It’s sort of uncompensated work on their part.

I think, just in general though, it really has…I think that if you are doing a lot of talking about yourself, I mean, I guess you’ve got to tell a little bit about yourself, but if you’re doing a lot of talking about yourself and not about the person that you’re reaching out to and why you want to reach out to them and perhaps how you think you can help them, then I think the whole message is probably off.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, this is a great lineup. Stu, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Stu Heinecke
Well, yeah, maybe one thing. Executive assistants are, that’s kind of an interesting thing. They’re usually thought of as simply a barrier to the person that people are trying to reach. And here’s the thing, I mean, a lot of salespeople, and I know your audience isn’t sales-oriented, but still I think there are great parallels here.

So, a lot of salespeople will ask me, or they’ll say, “I’m looking for a way to circumvent the executive assistant. How do I do that?” And my response is, “You don’t want to do that at all. You want to involve the executive assistant. You should be thinking of them as VPs of access or talent scouts. You need to plan your call, your communication with the executive assistant as part of your campaign.” So, it might be helpful to give an example. Would that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure, yeah.

Stu Heinecke
So, when we send our big boards around, and let’s say I might use the same thing, and my clients use these as well. So, when I’m using it, I get to say to the executive assistant, “Hi, I’m Stu Heinecke. I’m one of the Wall Street Journal cartoonists. And I’m sending a print of one of my cartoons, it’s about your boss.” Well, that’s just a handful of words but already the executive assistant is leaning into the phone saying, “Wait, what? What did you just say?” because it’s about their boss, and it’s a cartoon by a well-known cartoonist, in a well-known venue, and this cartoon happens to be about their boss so, of course, they’re interested in pursuing the conversation further.

And so, I finish that by saying, “So, I want it to be a surprise to your boss but I don’t want it to be a surprise to you. Would you mind if I send you an email?” “Sure,” usually that’s the response. “Sure, of course.” “Okay. Can I get your email address? Great. And how do you spell your name? Great.” Now I’ve got executive assistants spelling of their name, their email address, and of course I know how to reach them. And then I’ll often follow up with a card. I have cards that I can produce really quickly, a cartoon about the executive assistant and it’s just a quick handwritten note, saying, “Thank you so much for your help on the phone. Greatly appreciate it.” And I sign it, “Stu.”

And then I also ask, “When the big board has a FedEx tracking number, would you mind if I get in touch with that as well?” And they usually will say, “No, not at all.” So, then what I have is, you know, I’ve got the initial phone call, I’ve got an email that went out right afterward, I have a card, and then another email with the FedEx tracking number. I’ve got four touches with the executive assistant before I ever even ask to speak to the person I was actually trying to reach.

So, I think that’s an important point. Executive assistants, they’re amazing. They’re probably some of the sharpest people in their companies. And if you’re talking to the executive assistant to the CEO, that person is really on equal footing, they wouldn’t agree but if you think about it from our standpoint as the person calling in, they’re actually on equal footing with the rest of the C-suite members because they report directly to the CEO. They probably have more dealings with the CEO than all the other C-level people.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a great perspective.

Stu Heinecke
So, they’re incredible people and you really need to embrace them and look for ways to, I guess, just involve them in your campaign and recruit them to become an ally in your campaign.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. Thank you. And now could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Stu Heinecke
I knew you were going to ask me that so there’s one that just cracks me up.

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s do it.

Stu Heinecke
It’s by Winston Churchill, and he said, and of course I can’t do his voice, but, “When you’re going through hell, keep going.” I think that’s a great one.

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

Stu Heinecke
This goes back a few years. When I was a student at USC at Stanford, there was, I think it was at Stanford, there was a study happening with a gorilla named Koko. Have you ever heard of Koko?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Stu Heinecke
So, you know what it is. So, the researchers thought, “Let’s see if we can teach Koko American sign language.” And, in fact, it worked so well that Koko was inventing words. She wanted yogurt, she hadn’t been taught the sign word for yogurt, so she put together flower and sauce, she asked for flower sauce.

Pete Mockaitis
Huh.

Stu Heinecke
And then another time. She wanted a pet, a pet cat. So, they said, “Well, let’s try it.” And she took care of that cat and was really wonderful to the cat. So, I think that’s one of my favorite ones. Isn’t that interesting that gorillas, I guess just animals in general perhaps, don’t get the credit they deserve for their intelligence and emotional awareness.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Stu Heinecke
Just for fun I think my favorite book is probably Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, and that’s going back a-ways. But I love the writing of Tom Robbins. His writing is just so inventive and, for me, it’s inspiring. But for business, I would say Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen, which is an interesting dilemma because businesses that are market leaders, generally they go out of business.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite tool?

Stu Heinecke
It could be something that I use in business like I mentioned Seamless.AI and there are other AI tools like x.ai that is an AI assistant that sets up appointments for you. I love using Zoom for calls. And Spiro.ai is another one. It’s a CRM program with a layer of AI attached as well.

But if we were just talking about literally a tool, I’m thinking the tool I was telling you about, the ones that are credit card size, they’ve got different punchouts so that they can function as a ruler, I guess it’s not a punchout, but a ruler, a bottle opener, a letter opener, a wrench, and so forth. I think those things are really cool because they’re working their way into a lot of my clients’ pocket campaigns right now. So, maybe that’s my favorite tool.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. And a favorite habit?

Stu Heinecke
You know, I think the one thing that I think could make a lot of difference in everyone’s lives is if everyone was scrupulously on time. When you say you’re going to call at 2:00, you call right at 2:00. You don’t call at 2:02, you don’t call at 2:07. Because when you do that, it shows disrespect for the person’s time. And I think maybe that’s one of the nicest story or strongest compliments, certainly the strongest signal you can put out to someone that you want to connect with, that you respect their time. So, be on time.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, and as you say that, it even seems kind of fun, like I can watch the clock as the seconds tick away, and then push sort of like the last number of the phone number, like at the second that it turns to that minute mark. And it leaves an impression, it’s like, “Oh, okay. Here you are.”

Stu Heinecke
Yeah, it’s respectful and we’re talking about jobs here, so it says you’re dependable. It’s you do what you say you’re going to do.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a key nugget you share that really seems to get requoted frequently back to you?

Stu Heinecke
Well, perhaps. I have a headline that I use in my ads for my two books, How to Get a Meeting with Anyone and Get the Meeting! and that headline is, “One meeting can change everything.” And I believe that. And, in fact, when we look back on, all of us, when we look back on our lives, the things that have sprung us forward, that have been advances in our lives and in our careers, have all probably come from meetings or connecting with someone. So, that would probably be my favorite one, “One meeting can change everything.”

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

Stu Heinecke
Well, you could buy the book, that would be nice. And you can connect with me on LinkedIn. Just find me, my name is Stu Heinecke. And if you mention that you heard us talking on this podcast, that would be a big help and I’d know where you’re coming from, and I’m happy to connect. And I think, finally, I also run a podcast, it’s a weekly podcast called How to Get a Meeting with Anyone podcast. And I’m delighted to be talking to people who keep sharing these crazy things that they’ve been doing to get meetings.

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

Stu Heinecke
Well, I would say that find new ways to connect with people and build your network because that’s going to have a big effect on the scale of your career and your life. So, I would say find people that are, you think, not accessible, not someone that you could reach, and challenge yourself to go out and do it, and you’d be really surprised. You will connect with a lot of these people.

Pete Mockaitis
Stu, this has been a ton of fun. Please keep up the good work.

Stu Heinecke
Thank you so much for having me on. I really appreciate it.

474: How to Turn Your Boss, Colleagues, and Customers into Superfans with Pat Flynn

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Pat Flynn says: "It's those random little tiny surprises that... make the relationship flourish."

Pat Flynn discusses how to turn anyone into your superfan.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How superfans transform your career
  2. How to create the moments that win superfans
  3. How your ego can kill your blossoming superfandom

About Pat:

Pat Flynn is a father, husband, and entrepreneur who lives and works in San Diego, CA. He owns several successful online businesses and is a professional blogger, keynote speaker, Wall Street Journal bestselling author, and host of the Smart Passive Income and AskPat podcasts, which have earned a combined total of over 55 million downloads, multiple awards, and features in publications such as The New York Times and Forbes. He is also an advisor to ConvertKit, LeadPages, Teachable, and other companies in the digital marketing arena.

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, Sponsor!

The Simple Habit meditation app can help you pay better attention to your emerging superfans. The first 50 listeners to sign up at SimpleHabit.com/Awesome get 30% off premium subscriptions.

Pat Flynn Interview Transcript

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

Pat Flynn
It’s awesome to be here. Thank you so much.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, Pat, this is just so fun for me. In a way, you’re sort of like the godfather of this podcast because I learned how to podcast from watching your YouTube videos.

Pat Flynn
Hey, thank you for that. That’s cool. I love hearing that. It’s just those videos were created a while back, and to know that people are still getting value from those, and are still taking action, that’s so cool. Thank you so much.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, absolutely. And I pointed many a person to them, like, “Okay, so how do I get started?” I was like, “Go watch these. That’s how you get started.”

Pat Flynn
Perfect.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, I want to chat with you about how professionals can make, say, their boss, their colleagues, their clients, their direct reports turn into superfans of them at work? And you just wrote the book on Superfans. So, could you orient us to the big idea here?

Pat Flynn
Yeah, so I come from the entrepreneurial space where people are building their own businesses, building their own followings. And as you build a following, you want to have and realize that you understand there’s different kinds of people who are following you. There’s people who have just found you who don’t really know who you are or they’ve just met you, and there are people who are superfans, who will, if you have a business, they will share your business with other people. They’ll become repeat customers. They will defend you from all the trolls and the haters out there without you even knowing these things exist.

Pete Mockaitis
“Back off.”

Pat Flynn
Exactly. And in the workspace, a lot of these tactics very much apply. It’s the same thing whether it’s your employees or your coworkers or your boss, you can become somebody’s favorite. And in the workspace, when that happens, some really cool things happen, you have people that you could rely on, you have people who will come to bat for you, people who will, in the same, defend you if anybody says anything, and you’re going to have a lot more fun too doing that.

It’s all about those experiences that you offer for people. I think we meet so many people in this world, online and offline, it can be hard to realize just the importance of, “Okay, well, how are we keeping up-to-date with this relationship? How are we offering more value over time? How are we making them feel like they’re special and they belong such that, in return, even without asking for it, you will be elevated?” If you’re a business, your brand will be shouted. If you are an employee or work in the workspace, you might have opportunities come your way that wouldn’t have normally come your way.

And so, I think building superfans is really key. And, really, what it means is just, “How can we provide amazing experiences for others so that, in return, we’ll have more opportunities than we even know?”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I love that. You’ve got that down. And I totally resonate and agree with what you’re saying there. And I want to dig into a bit of the how in terms of creating those experiences and the best practices for doing so. But, first, I imagine you’ve got some pretty awesome stories I want to touch upon. Can you give us some examples of just how super some superfans have gotten with regard to their superfandom?

Pat Flynn
Yeah, with me and my brands, Smart Passive Income, I’m pretty well-known in the entrepreneurial space, and I’ve generated a lot of superfans which is really amazing through a long period of time of helping serve these people. A fan is not created the moment a person finds you, right? It’s from the moments you create for them over time.

So, I’ve had people following me for over a decade, and they not only are there to purchase product when I come out with new products, or retweet my tweets when I tweet. But they send me gifts and they, like, I’m staring right here in my office. Somebody hand-painted a Bobblehead of me. It’s really strange. My wife does not like to see it because it’s really weird, and I have like a bigger head than it is my body because it’s a Bobblehead. But somebody took the time to do that.

Another person sent me, they’re from Mexico, and they have gotten a lot of value from my podcasts, they had spent two weeks creating an art piece. And what this art piece was, if you look at it, it looks like a DeLorean from Back to the Future because a lot of people know that I’m a huge fan of Back to the Future but it said, “Pat to the Future.” And when you look up close this thing that’s about two feet wide and one foot tall is made of string on beeswax. It’s like some ancient form of Mexican art that just this person wanted to give back. And it’s just like, “What? This is insane.” And then, of course, for business…isn’t that crazy? Like, I didn’t even know that was a thing.

Pete Mockaitis
It sounds like it took a long, long time.

Pat Flynn
Yeah. And I’m like, “’Why would you ever…?” And it’s, “Well, because you’ve given so much to me and I value what you have to offer.”

Pete Mockaitis
I just want a coffee in Chicago, that’s all I want.

Pat Flynn
Yeah, exactly. And then there’s other people who, like, I have this book coming out. I’ve had people email me, the moment they heard of this book was coming out, and they’re like, “Pat, I want to buy a hundred copies for me. I don’t even know what it’s about. I just want to help you out.” And I’m like, “This is amazing. This is incredible.”

And then you have the fans who, I come out with my podcast on Wednesdays, and if I’m late, your fans will also be upset if you’re late. Like, “Hey, where is my episode. I need it in my life. This is a part of my routine. Are you okay? Did you die? Like, you’re late with your episode. Are you okay?” It’s just really crazy.

And when we think of fans, we think of usually things like we’re a fan of musicians, we’re a fan of baseball teams, football teams, athletes, actors, actresses, but not for things like business and whatever. My first fan actually was, I remember, her name was Jackie, and this was actually before I started Smart Passive Income, which is where most people know me from now.

This relates to my first online business which was about helping people pass an architectural exam because, my quick story, I got laid off in 2008 from the architectural world. I had my dream job, I lost it, and I ended up surviving by helping people pass a particular exam in the architecture space, and it did really well. And that’s when I created Smart Passive Income to share how all that happened and all the new businesses that I’ve been creating since then.

But I got an email from a woman who had purchased my study guide for this exam, and it was like, I don’t know, four pages long of just how much her life has changed since passing this exam she was thanking me for. And at the end of this email, she’s like, “Pat, I’m a huge fan.” And I was like, “I don’t understand. I just helped you pass an exam.” Like, “Okay, I’ll just waive this off because that’s a weird thing to say.”

But then I noticed that over the next couple of months there were like 25 other customers who came in from the exact same company she was in. I could tell because the end of the email address was the same firm. And what I ended up finding out was that Jackie had gone around and convinced every single person in her firm, her boss included, to make sure to purchase my guide because they were all going to pass that test.

And she could’ve just simply given that guide to everybody individually. It was just an electronic guide, it was an e-book, but she went out of her way to make sure that I got paid back in return. And that’s the cool thing that happens when you build fans in the business. And I can imagine in the workspace something happening that’s very similar.

Let’s say you’re a manager, you can obviously be a manager who’s all in with your work, but maybe you don’t treat your employees in the best light and you’re not going to have employees that are going to bat for you when you really need it, versus if you have fans of yours, in a sense, who are there working for you, I mean, they might come to you on Monday and go, “You know, hey, Pete, I was thinking about this through the weekend. I just spent a little extra time working on this project for you because I thought it’d be helpful for the team.” Like, “Wow, you just stepped out to do something that I didn’t even ask you to do. How amazing is that.”

And this, obviously, applies in relationships too. There’s a section of the book that talks about small little surprises and how important those things are. These things to create superfans, they don’t require a lot of money. It just requires a little bit of time and intention. And if you’re building any kind of relationship, especially with somebody you’re married to, for example, oftentimes it’s those random little tiny surprises that get remembered, and that gets shared, that make the relationship flourish, versus, if you say “I love you” every night before you go to bed, it just becomes routine, it becomes usual, it becomes expected.

It’s the “I love you” at 3:48 p.m. on Tuesday. For no reason, you go into her office, you give her some chocolates, and you just say, “Hey, honey, this is for you because you’re amazing.” And then everybody else in the office goes, “Oh, my gosh, your husband is incredible. I wish my husband was like that.” Like, you’ve just created fans not just with your wife but everybody else in the office too who wishes they had a husband just like you.

Those little tiny moments go a long way. And this is the kind of stuff I talk about in this book. A lot of different strategies that you can pick and choose from, sort of like a recipe book, to allow people to feel like they’ve got an amazing person in you who is going to be there for them and something they can gravitate toward.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yes. Well, let’s talk about some strategies here. You mentioned experiences and surprises. What are some of the top strategies in terms of, let’s say, my criteria or applicability for professionals, and potency of creating superfans, which really just packs a wallop of an impact, and it’s just very doable? Like, “Hey, anybody can do this, and there’s a good bang for the buck if you do. So, go ahead and make some great experiences like these.”

Pat Flynn
Yeah. So, imagine you’ve just had somebody new come into your life and you don’t really know them, they don’t really know you. This is a good opportunity for you to offer some stuff that would allow them to go, “Whoa, I like you. I’m going to follow what you’re up to. I’m going to be there for you. I’m going to go to bat for you.” And that’s kind of what we want. We don’t want it to be the opposite.

And there’s some amazing strategies that work really, really well. Number one, I love to make sure that I’m speaking the same language of the person that I’m speaking to. Now, yes, most of us are speaking English to each other in the United States, but I’m not talking about that kind of language. I’m talking about language as in, “What are the lyrics that that person is going to respond to?”

This takes me back to a story where I did a lot of research on superfans, by the way, mostly with my wife because my wife is a superfan of the Backstreet Boys.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right. I followed you for a while. I knew you’d say that.

Pat Flynn
So, you knew this already. And I dug into her story because I knew she was a superfan because she literally has this box of like stuff, like action figures, framed pictures, event concert brochures, and all this stuff. Like, she is a true superfan of the Backstreet Boys. She’s even recently gone to see them now even 30 years later-ish, which is crazy.

But I dug into her story, and I found out that the first time she was really triggered by this band related to something that was happening to her life. She was 15, she had just broken off with her boyfriend, and she was listening to the radio. There was no Spotify or Apple Music or anything like that back then, it was just radio. And she had heard a song that she had heard many times before, but it was this time that when she heard the song, it really made an impact on her. And the reason was because every lyric that they were singing, every word in the song, was speaking to everything that she was literally going through in that moment. It was just like they took the words right out of her head and put it in a song.

And that song was called “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)” by the Backstreet Boys. And that was the activation trigger. And in business, it’s a very same thing. Even if you have the best solution in the world, you need to present it in a way that a person who would need that solution would understand. And so, if you’re a manager, for example, and you’re trying to train somebody, if you train them as if they already have that knowledge that you have, it’s called the curse of knowledge, sometimes it can be either demeaning the way you might speak to them, sometimes it might seem like they are falling behind, and they’d start to kind of close up in a shell in a little bit.

But if you speak at their level and understand the language they would respond to, and, yes, every person is different, you’re going to have a better chance of moving them and having them sort of pay attention to you, and perhaps even go to you before others because they can go, “Oh, well, Pete understands me because Pete gets me.” And that’s the kind of best kind of feedback you can get. It’s when a person is, you’re speaking to them, they go, “Yeah. Oh, my gosh, yes, you’re absolutely right.” That’s the kind of reaction you want to get when you speak to people. So, using the right lyrics is really important.

And then my other favorite way to sort of activate a person who you have just met is to give them a small quick win. A small quick win. And I’ll tell you a quick story. I don’t know about you, Pete, but I followed a lot of personal finance blogs back in the day. I was subscribed to probably about 40 of them. I was just kind of a personal finance nerd. I wanted to know everything about my 401(k) and 529s and all that stuff, and I followed them all in my RSS Feeds back when RSS Feeds were how we got content in our inboxes.

And there was one particular person, a finance blogger, who I was a little put off by. And I was put off a little bit because of the name of this blog. The name of this blog was called I Will Teach You to be Rich.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Ramit wasn’t doing it well.

Pat Flynn
Ramit, yeah. I was just, “Hmm, this guy is a little, I don’t know, pretentious or whatever.” But he had an article posted that I got really interested because the title was “Save 25% on your Cable bill in 15 minutes reading this script.” And I was at lunch at architecture, and I was like, “Okay, I have 15 minutes. What’s the worst that can happen?”

So, I called my cable company, I read the script that Ramit laid out for me, and I was able to save 20% of my cable bill in just about 10 minutes. And it blew me away. I immediately went right into the rest of his content. That was the activation/trigger point for me.

Now, consider that quick win versus what all these other personal finance bloggers were saying. They were saying things like…

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, “Don’t drink lattes for a lot of time.”

Pat Flynn
“Don’t drink latte. Put that $30 into your savings account until you’re 65, and then you can win.” So, “Hmm, who am I going to be more interested in right now? This person who gave me the small quick win.” And if you’re working with others, number one, find out what they need help with. And, number two, surprise them by actually helping them with that even without them asking for it. That’s going to be a small quick win that’s going to get them to trigger and make that sort of connection with you in their life.

And when you need a favor, you’ve already sort of earned the right to ask for that favor when you do that kind of stuff. You’re almost kind of, as my good friend Jordan Harbinger says, “You’re kind of digging the well before you need it. If you need to dig the well when you’re thirsty, it’s already too late.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, you will be dehydrated well before you get to the bottom of that well.

Pat Flynn
Especially when you just have a little pickaxe that you work with, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, no power tools. Well, boy, there’s so much of that that’s resonating in terms of the lyrics. It’s true. I have some odd word choices I’ve been told, and yet when people are using them, I feel connected to them, like, “This guy is cool.” And that also harkens to kind of… we’ve had a couple sort of great copywriters on the program, and that’s sort of the message that they reinforce in terms of, “Join the conversation,” in the person’s head already, and use the words they use.

And if someone refers to their child as an infant, or a baby, or a toddler, or a little one, matching that has resonance especially if it’s more, I think, unique and out there. It’s like, “Oh, yes, you called them little one and, consciously or subconsciously, it’s like we are similar to each other and I like you.”

Pat Flynn
I like that, yes. Somebody once called my kid a little human, and I sort of repeated that back about his baby, I was like, “Oh, okay. So, tell me about your little human.” And then, of course, they smiled and laughed and you get into this conversation, and just like really quickly you’re on the same level, and I love that.

And speaking of kids and little things like that, that’s another strategy for triggering people. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to an event before where you’re meeting new people for the first time, and it’s just you always get that surface level sort of conversations, “Hey, what’s your name? Where are you from? What do you do?” those kinds of things.

But the moment you find somebody who has had a shared experience that you’ve had, like maybe you’re both parents, or maybe you both went to the same college, or you both recently went on a vacation to Hawaii, or something, you just found that out, like you’re immediately best friends, right? You hang onto that person, you found somebody who’s like you, and you can just already have conversations that you wouldn’t be able to have with others.

And this is why on my podcast, for example, and you know this, at the beginning of every episode that I have, you hear the voice of a guy, his name is John Mele, he reads a little fun fact about me, right? Like, “I was in the marching band, or I’m Sagittarius, or I was born 11 pounds 12 ounces, or whatever.”

Pete Mockaitis
It’s amazing how many it’s been.

Pat Flynn
It’s kind of hard now to find them because I didn’t think I’d get this far in my podcast but we’re almost 400 episodes in, so, yeah. But going back to what I was saying, like I’ll go to a conference, I’ll meet somebody who I’ve never met before, and they immediately go, like, “Tell me about marching band because it was one of the funnest times in my life. Did you have fun with it, too?” Or, somebody is half-Filipino, they’d go, “Pat, dude, tell me about your parents. Like, did you grow up with this? Did you grow up with that? Did you eat a lot of lumpia or pancit?” And it’s just like we’re talking like we’re friends and we just met. And it’s the coolest thing.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. Can you tell me, maybe on the flipside, what are some key things that just kill the vibe, the experience, the superfandom that’s blossoming in a hurry, like, some simple mistakes that too many people make that we should stop making right away?

Pat Flynn
Yeah, if you’re in a conversation, and the spotlight, you’re putting the spotlight on you before you put it on the other person, that’s going to kill any sort of chance you have to have that person begin to start to have interest in you. The trick is, really, and I think I once heard this from a guy named James Schramko, credit to him for this. I don’t know if he came up with this phrase. But it was, “We need to stop trying to be so interesting and start being interested,” right?

So, we always try to go, “Oh, like, look at me, how great I am. Look at all my credentials. This is why we should hang out because, look at me.” No, it should be the other way around. You can get interested in somebody else and, in turn, they will be interested in you. And this is actually how somebody that you may have heard of before, his name is Tim Ferriss, the author of The 4-Hour Workweek, it was really interesting how quickly he came to be when his book came out in 2007. It just became a number one bestseller and everybody was kind of wondering why.

So, I invited him on my podcast, and I found out that he was able to have all these people talk about his book on their blog by going to conferences, so number one, meeting in person. If you just stay online to try and build relationships, it’s going to be a lot harder. So, number one, he went offline, shook hands with people, met people, and was so interested in what they were doing first, that they couldn’t help but ask, “Oh, so, Tim, tell me about what you got going on.” “Oh, I have this book called The 4-Hour Workweek coming out, and it’s coming out here. I’m just trying to get people to find interest in it. I think it’s the new way of doing business moving forward.” “Oh, my gosh, it sounds interesting. Tell me more. Tell me more. Come on my show. Come on my podcast. Come on my blog.”

And that’s how he was able to break through. And I think that’s a good lesson for all of us because when we center that focus on the person who we’re speaking to, the person who we have a relationship with, then it actually comes back to us in a very authentic and organic way.

Pete Mockaitis
I dig that. Well, Pat, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention about superfandom before we shift gears and hear about a few of your favorite things?

Pat Flynn
Yeah. So, let’s talk about superfandom by being superfan smart. That was dumb, sorry.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m okay.

Pat Flynn
The dad jokes sometimes work and they sometimes don’t. But I think another thing that relates to kind of what just happened here, you kind of got to be yourself. If you try to pretend to be like somebody else, then people, yes, maybe they’ll follow you or be interested, but they’re not going to be interested in you. They’re going to be interested in the thing that you portray.

In the online business space, you may have seen these people tout these mansions and these Lamborghinis or Ferraris and they get a big following. But why? Because people are interested in the cars and the money and the mansions but not them. The more you can be yourself the more likely it is you’re going to attract the right kinds of people, and the more likely a person is going to understand you.

And my good friend, Chris Tucker, says, “Your vibe attracts your tribe.” And there’s no shame in who you are. Like, I know I’m weird, and that’s okay. My son came home one day from school, and he was crying a little bit because his friend called him weird. And I was like, “Dude, you are weird.” And he was like, “What are you talking about, dad? I don’t want to be weird.” I’m like, “Yes, you do, because that’s what makes you unique and different. If you aren’t weird, you’ll just be average and you’d be lost in the crowd. You’d be just like everybody else. Do you want to be just like everybody else?” And then I was like, “Your sister is weird. Your mom is weird, don’t tell her I said that. But we’re all weird, and that’s what makes us cool.”

Another thing, and I take a lot of inspiration from LEGO. LEGO does an amazing job of mobilizing their fans. They actually were $150 million in debt. No, actually, it was $800 million in debt in 2013. They were just building too many products, they weren’t really paying attention to who’s buying what, they were just creating and creating, and they were losing money, $800 million in debt. And then the CEO came on board who said, “No, we’ve got to shift our focus to fans and give them what they want, get them involved.”

And now they’re worth $150 billion worth more than Mattel and Hasbro alone. And they do a lot of amazing intentional things to mobilize their fans, and these are things that we could do on our lives too. One thing they do is they encourage LEGO fans to meet with each other. So, Pete, do you know what an AFOL is?

Pete Mockaitis
Adult Fan of LEGOs. I learned this once, yes.

Pat Flynn
You’re absolutely right. And what LEGO does is they encourage Adult Fans of LEGOs, who’s a very specific niche group of LEGO fans, to meet with each other, and they do. If you go to Google and you type AFOL meetup, you’re going to see hundreds, if not thousands, of different locations around the world where now Adult Fans of LEGO can come and meet together. And they do tournaments, they build contests, they just get together and talk about the history of LEGO, and they just kind of geek out about it, and it’s amazing. These little meetups, even for little groups, little niche groups in your community, in your workspace, can work really, really well.

I know back in the architecture days that I was in, there were a number of us who really bonded together very well because we love being on the softball team together, right? And it’s just kind of a cliché thing to have like a softball team for your business, but it worked so well to bring those people together and high-fiving each other and rallying and being a part of the team that only enhances the business. And if the business owner, the founder, were to encourage that and even get some really nice jerseys and congratulate the team every once in a while, I mean, what does that do for morale in the space, and to get people excited about not just the softball game but coming back to work to see their teammates, which I can imagine being really cool?

Another thing LEGO does very well is they allow their fans to actually help make decisions. And so, this means giving a little bit of room for involvement in around the people who are in the workspace with you. Well, LEGO does that. I don’t know if you knew this, but there’s a website called LEGO Ideas where any of us, you or me, could build a LEGO creation, we could submit it to LEGO on LEGO IDEAS. And if the community, not LEGO, and if the community of LEGO builders votes it up, then LEGO will actually manufacture that product and you’ll get a royalty and they’ll put your name on it. And how amazing is that to have like other LEGO creators actually help influence the business and where it’s going.

And even a little bit of involvement goes a long way. As I like to say, when people are involved, now they’re invested. And when you can get people involved, they’re going to be invested in you. We’re just scratching the surface here with superfans, but I hope this is encouraging all of you to maybe, even the next time you go to work, to see what little extra you can do to make a person feel like they belong to something, make them feel like they’re involved in something, make them feel like they’re part of something. Give them something to root for and they’ll go to bat for you, like I keep saying.

Pete Mockaitis
That was awesome. Thank you, Pat. And now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Pat Flynn
Yeah, absolutely. “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.” This is Henry Ford. And it basically comes down to what you believe in, and what you believe in turning into your reality. If you are trying to attempt to do something and you really don’t believe you can do it, well, you’ll probably not going to be able to do it. it’s only when you believe you can that you’ll actually muster up the courage to get it done. And it’s all about mindset. So, whatever goals you might have in your life, inside of work, outside of work, if you don’t believe it’s possible, then you’ve already lost. You got to believe it.

And sometimes it’s hard to ask every individual to believe these things, which is why it’s so important to connect with others who are going to support you, connect with other people who are going to root for you, which is why building superfans is a great thing too.

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

Pat Flynn
Yeah, I’d point them to my main website at SmartPassiveIncome.com. I’m also pretty active on Instagram and also on YouTube. You can find me at @PatFlynn. And I don’t know if you’ll have like an affiliate link or something for Superfans, but I’d recommend people go to that to get Superfans if that’s something you’re interested in.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you.

444: How to Upgrade Your Work Conversations with Stacey Engle

By | Podcasts | 2 Comments

 

 

Stacey Engle says: "If you have emotions around a situation, that's a good thing. That means you care."

Stacey Engle offers pro-tips for engaging in more meaningful conversations at work.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why pointless conversations are at the root of many business problems
  2. How to have more efficient team meetings
  3. How to handle strong emotions when communicating

About Stacey

As President of Fierce Inc., a global leadership development and training company, Stacey Engle is obsessed with helping Fierce clients stay ahead of the curve. A strong innovator, she’s always connected—to clients, emerging trends and new opportunities. Stacey’s forward-thinking approach to sales and marketing reflects Fierce’s commitment to enriching lives and creating community, one conversation at a time. She relishes her role in bringing people together to have the conversations they most need to have.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Stacey Engle Interview Transcript

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

Stacey Engle
Well, thank you for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m really excited to dig into this conversation. And I understand you’re excited about showtunes and musicals. What’s the story here?

Stacey Engle
Well, music does move me. There’s a joke in my friend group that if I could have a soundtrack of my life, I would definitely have one. I love music and, yes, I’ve been a part of that board and other boards and efforts with music and theater.

Pete Mockaitis
And are there any particular shows that are really near and dear to your heart, that you sing the songs often?

Stacey Engle
Well, I guess from, just being somewhat stereotypical in the community, when “Hamilton” came out, I was definitely singing full for the music there.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, fun. You know, I have yet to see it and I really want to. And I just somehow think I’m somehow going to get a free ticket from someone somewhere but it hasn’t happened yet.

Stacey Engle
You know, I’m all for manifesting in this universe, so maybe one of your listeners can help you out there.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I have received unsolicited gifts from listeners which is appreciated—not that I’m soliciting right now for the record! —but it’s happened before, and I appreciate it each time. So, good stuff there. Well, now, I want to hear about your company Fierce. What’s the main gist of what you’re all about here?

Stacey Engle
Yeah, so we believe that the root cause of most business problems is pointless conversations. So, we are a company, a global training and learning company that helps people really have those conversations that lead to results.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m intrigued by the phrase “pointless conversations” right there because I recently had a guest who talked about, in building relationships, it’s great to, as he said, have a thousand conversations about nothing. But they’re not really about nothing. They serve to build the relationships. So, what do you mean by pointless conversations?

Stacey Engle
Well, what we mean is conversations oftentimes people do not realize they’re the most accessible tool that you have going through your day. So, as humans, we’re really navigating our lives one conversation at a time. So, when you aren’t thinking about the intent and the content of your conversations, and also your intention, you’re really missing the mark. And I think we’ve all had the experience of sitting through a meeting that we all knew that we weren’t talking about the real issue, or being with someone and not really feeling like you could share.

Stacey Engle
So, a pointless conversation is one that does not have intention and structure and a goal involved. So, when we think about pointless conversations, think about the team meetings that aren’t really discussing what really needs to be talked about, or the coaching conversation where you’re talking all around the issue. Those are pointless conversations. So, our goal is really to help people talk about what matters in a way that’s skillful, and in a way that’s intentional.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, that sounds very important, so I’m excited to have this conversation. And so, your company is called Fierce, and fierce conversations is a phrase you use frequently. In fact, there’s a book associated with it. What do you mean by a fierce conversation?

Stacey Engle
So, the definition is a conversation which you come out from behind yourself into the conversation and make it real.

Pete Mockaitis
Come out of myself.

Stacey Engle
Yes, so coming out from the masks you wear, coming out from all the reasons why you don’t think you can say what needs to be said. Come out from those and make the conversation real. So, there are four objectives of a fierce conversation. One is that you’re interrogating reality. So, this idea of you’re getting curious about what’s going on. Two, you’re provoking learning. So, not just provoking someone else’s learning, you actually want to learn. You’re tackling to have challenges which means not putting off what really needs to be talked about. And then the fourth is enriching relationships.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Gotcha. And so, is it your philosophy that a business conversation should always do one or more of these things?

Stacey Engle
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I like that.

Stacey Engle
Yes. Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. We’re upping the standard here. I’m just imagining a lot of conversations right now and thinking about the extent to which these things occurred. What’s your hunch in terms of the proportion of business conversations that are checking at least one of these boxes?

Stacey Engle
Well, let me back up. So, the goal is that a fierce conversation is really achieving all four of those, so we’re going to learn something new. So, interrogating reality, provoking learning, we’re going to tackle a tough challenge and, what’s most important, is we’re going to enrich the relationship when we’re doing it.

So, that’s kind of the foundation of what is fierce, and that feels very theoretical, but the idea is let’s think of an example of just you’re going into a meeting with an idea. If you want that meeting to be a fierce meeting, you are going to walk in with the intention to get it right for your company, for your team, versus being right.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I like that. Getting it right for people, stakeholders, as opposed to being right, like, “I’m right and you’re wrong,” or, “I’m validating the idea I had is great and, therefore, I feel smart as a result.”

Stacey Engle
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
And we had some previous folks associated with the Landmark education draw a distinction between, “Are you more concerned with being right or with things working?” And I found that helpful. And this is even more punchy, I would say, an articulation, being right or doing right for these people, or getting it right for people.

Stacey Engle
Right. Getting it right versus being right. So, that’s a mindset piece. And then there are really skills to make sure that you are really hearing from others, getting curious, because you only have one perspective. And your perspective is one, and it’s not the truth, so your goal in that meeting should be to hear everyone else’s perspectives, and to really provoke learning on everyone’s side, and tackle what we need to tackle. And then, in the end, enrich the relationship.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, that sounds like a lot more fun to be than your average business conversation. So, maybe, could you—I want to dig into the how in a moment— but could you perhaps paint a picture in terms of a case study of how a client organization of yours did some stuff, and they saw the conversations become more fierce more frequently and what sort of performance gains they saw as a result?

Stacey Engle
Absolutely. So, one of our near and dear clients, we love them, CHRISTUS Health, they’re a healthcare system comprised of about 230 hospitals and clinics, and they employ over 45,000 people. And, as you know, healthcare is very complex. They found themselves falling into the trap that many organizations face, which is becoming a culture of nice. And associates had really mistaken the value of compassion and the value of service with avoiding difficult conversations.

So, many leaders weren’t giving feedback because they didn’t feel it was compassionate    and they were scared to give that feedback, and nobody was really sharing those insights. And what was at stake there were many associates were not growing at the level that they needed to. So, through discovery, it was determined that a lot of these conversations were missing, and we needed to build this skillset.

So, Fierce was brought in at the leadership level, and we really helped them work proactively on feedback, on coaching, on confrontation, and really building a common language where these tools were accessible, and helping arise potential issues before they formed. So, CHRISTUS Health was able to achieve a 50% reduction in executive turnover.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah.

Stacey Engle
Yeah, we like that. A 36% internal promotion increase, so those associates were really developing.

Pete Mockaitis
So, all right. So, the results are there. That’s really cool. Let’s talk about how to do it. So, what are some of sort of the top things that we should start doing or stop doing to see some of these results?

Stacey Engle
Absolutely. Well, so we know six conversations that are often not as powerful as they could be in the workplace. I always like to start with three. One is that team conversation I was referencing. So, this idea of, “How do you have a more compelling team meeting? And is this actually answering more tactics?”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, there are six kinds of conversations, and so let’s have them.

Stacey Engle
Yes, so there are six kinds of conversations, and the three that I always love to share with our audiences, because we can really, really all relate to these. One is the team conversation, so the idea of, “How do I run a team meeting where people are really engaged and they are laying out reality without pointing blame? And sharing from their perspectives, how can we move forward on this particular opportunity or issue?”

The second is a confrontation conversation. So, this is when you and I know something needs to change. How do we best approach that topic in a way that does those four objectives? So, interrogating reality, provoking learning, tackling a tough challenge. And we actually feel like our relationship is enriched by having that conversation.

And then the third is feedback. So, feedback is a tool that we constantly need to use in our every day. And one of the pitfalls with feedback is many times people write the script of what, of the meaning of the actions. So, for instance, if I see someone talk over someone, I may think to myself, “This person is being rude or doesn’t really respect X person.”

And our feedback conversation is very much about not writing that script, so you stop at behavior, and you would have that conversation with someone, asking them, “What was going on?” versus putting the meaning, and then also what’s at stake attached to those actions.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’s a really handy tip right there when it comes to the feedback, is to not interpret it for them what that means, and then assume and cause all kinds of problems. So, that’s great there. So, then when it comes to those team conversations and confrontation conversations, what are some key ways to have those go all the better?

Stacey Engle
So, confrontation is all about preparation. We have a 60-second opening statement. So, this idea that you really need to frame the issue or challenge in 60 seconds because the other person, when they’re hearing this, will most likely have a fight or flight reaction, so you want to lay this issue or challenge out in front of the person, and ask and invite the conversation. So, it’s all preparation and confrontation.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Stacey Engle
So, succinctly, being able to share. And one thing that often gets in our way is we wait, and wait, and wait until it becomes too much. And then we have so many examples of why X needs to change. And the reality is, in an effective confrontation conversation, you’re only using one or two examples.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s great.

Stacey Engle
So, you can’t bring in all of your emotional baggage.

Pete Mockaitis
“And another thing…”

Stacey Engle
Exactly. I mean, we call it the dump truck, you know, like, “I’m just going to back up and unleash more and more reasons why this is true,” and it really can curtail that conversation. So, we want to stay succinct, we want to be thoughtful and prepared.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, could you maybe give us an example of a 60-second opening statement?

Stacey Engle
That is a great question. Yes, I can.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Stacey Engle
And you must prepare for these conversations.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Taken.

Stacey Engle
So, an example would be, “Pete, I want to talk with you about the affect your leadership style is having on the team.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you.

Stacey Engle
“And I want to share two examples. One, I saw, when you were in that meeting, you rushed out of the room, and you ripped the flipchart off of the paper, and crumpled it up. And you seemed pretty upset. So, that’s one example. Another example is some of your team members have expressed concerns about cancelling your one-on-ones and canceling some of those conversations. So, this is very important, this, your leadership style to the success of the company, and a lot is at stake for both us. The contribution I have to the problem is I might not have brought this up as soon as I should have, and I really want to resolve it and support you. Tell me, from your standpoint, what’s going on?”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, I like it. So, we got those ingredients there in terms of, “This is what we’re talking about. Here’s a couple examples. This is why it matters. And I’m in the mix as well, it’s not all you, you, you. I’m in there.” And so, then it’s kind of open-ended with your final question. And what was that again? You said, “Tell me what’s going on.”

Stacey Engle
Yeah, “From where you sit, what’s going on for you? Because I want to resolve how your leadership style is affecting the team.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, so, “What’s going on for you?” is nice and broad, and it’s not as accusative as, “What’s your problem? Why can’t you get it together?” It’s, “What’s going on for you?” and that could go anywhere from, “Hey, you know what, I’m going through a really rough time with I’ve got two kids, and I’m sleep-deprived, and I get kind of edgy in that kind of situation,” to, “Oh, I had no idea. I guess when I was an investment banker that was fine in that culture.”

Stacey Engle
Absolutely. Yeah, exactly. And I would argue that it’s never really fine. So, yes, once you do the 60-second opening statement, your job is to really inquire about your partner’s views, to ask questions and get curious, and really dig in for more understanding. And then, what’s very potent, and when I talked about conversations need to drive results, there needs to be a resolution. So, we need to talk about, “What have we both learned? How are we both going to move forward and make an agreement, and then hold each other accountable to it?”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Excellent And so, then how long might that whole conversation take?

Stacey Engle
It can vary and the goal is that you could have this conversation in 30, 45 minutes, even less, if you’re prepared. And it’s really, really powerful once you have this tool, and it is a common language in organizations because, I don’t know, de-stigmatizing confrontation is very important. The reality is we’re going to have challenges, things are not going to go as we wish, and confrontation is actually less needed once you have more of these other conversations like feedback, coaching, team.

So, confrontation is when feedback hasn’t worked. So, it’s not like you should be having confrontation conversations every single day, and there’s not a perfect equation depending on what situations you find yourself in.

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you. But that’s useful to know that it could be 30 or 45 minutes or less because I think some people fear, it’s like, “Oh, man, we’re going to be getting into it for a half day trouble.”

Stacey Engle
It’s so true.

Pete Mockaitis
And, you know, it’s often pretty quick.

Stacey Engle
Well, and what I think is something I really like to challenge others is those missing conversations, the ones that you keep saying, “Well, this time it’s distraction, and the music is playing just right, and I have this much time on my schedule,” you keep justifying those missing conversations. Those are the most costly in organizations. They really are, because the reality is everyone understands that people are busy and time-constrained, so you need to be clear about your intention, also your timeframe. So, it’s okay if you only have 45 minutes, and if there needs to be a follow-up conversation, then that’s okay. But the goal is that you begin. Because there’s a lot of justification to not start, and that’s really ineffective.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Well, that’s pretty handy. Thank you for those. And how about on the team conversation point with regard to being more engaged?

Stacey Engle
So, we have a strong position that you should not have team meetings with so many people that not everyone can participate. So, a team conversation is all about addressing challenges, opportunities, together as a team. So, if this is true, we need every brain cell and every viewpoint necessary to make the best possible decision. So, for team meetings, we are not big proponents of having people who won’t participate be in the meeting. So, we want to hear from every single person. And if you don’t want to hear from that person, then they shouldn’t be invited to the meeting.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And I imagine then do some numbers pop up with regard to, “Hey, at this point, you’re at risk for having some non-participators,” if you cross the threshold of, I don’t know, six people who’s there.: Do you have a guideline there?

Stacey Engle
Yeah, so typically say six to 10 would be max. And this isn’t taking into account company-wide meetings and all-hands and communication meetings. We highly endorse those. But this particular team conversation is when we have an opportunity, we have a challenge, and we really, really need to solve something together.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, that’s one key tip then is to ensure that it’s not too big, it’s a manageable size, everyone can participate, have a piece of it. Any other tips for how to have great team conversations?

Stacey Engle
So, another tip for a team conversation is preparation as well. So, we make an analogy with a beach ball, so this idea that everyone sits on a different stripe in the beach ball. So, Pete, if you were in marketing and I was in finance, you may be on the red stripe, we don’t like finance being in the red, but let’s pretend. You may be on the red stripe and I may be on the purple stripe, and we may view an issue very, very differently.

And it’s very important that we have facts and preparation beforehand because the team leader needs to come in, and the goal is the team leader has prepped every single person with what the issue is and relevant background information so that that leader can really gain all stripes, like all perspectives. So, that preparation is important, and I just wanted to give that tip around the beach ball because it’s that visual metaphor of really thinking through everyone has a different perspective. And if you are going to walk into a meeting to get it right, not flaunt what you think we should do, you must gain each perspective.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Thank you. Oh, go ahead.

Stacey Engle
The one other tip is, at the end of the beach ball meeting, the piece that’s super powerful is each participant basically absorbs all the information that has been discussed. And then the task is for each person to say, “If I was the meeting leader, here’s what I would do.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Stacey Engle
So, it really is so insightful to gain other people’s insights, not just from their particular perspectives, but also how they have interpreted and how they’ve assimilated all of the perspectives.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great stuff. And I’m liking what you’re saying with regard to just not assuming you’ve got the answers, and be curious in making sure we get all those perspectives there. I’m also curious when it comes to conversations where you do have an intention to persuade, and maybe this is a little bit of external-facing stuff, maybe it’s about sales or something. How do you think about those conversations?

Stacey Engle
Okay. So, our coaching conversation is a great sales tool. It’s all about mining for clarity and helping a coachee or someone you’re wanting to really help surface what the true issues are. And when you want to persuade or you want to connect with people, because I think a lot of persuasion or influence is really connection with a greater purpose or a different path. So, that coaching tool, you know, mining for greater clarity, and being able to surface what’s really going on, is amazing for persuasion and influence.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly, because you got the connection and you understand what’s really going on and so you’re able to sort of make the connection all the more clearly associated with this service, or whatever will address this.
Now, you mentioned clarifying, which is something I want to cover because I saw that pop up a number of times on the Fierce website. What are some best practices in terms of asking great clarifying questions and getting to clarity in your conversations?

Stacey Engle
So, we make an analogy in the coaching conversation that questions are really the drill bits when you’re mining for water, and you’ll experience different layers. And the idea is that you want to have a whole cadre of questions that you use in different circumstances. So, when you’re asking, “What’s going on for you?” or something that’s very broad, our tip is to ask, “What else?” three times.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Stacey Engle
So, the idea is most of the time when someone is sharing the issue. So, if you open a conversation and say, “What’s the most important thing we should be talking about today?” the first thing they share, it’s often not the real issue. So, you want to help someone clarify for themselves, so asking more questions, asking, “What else? What else? What else?” is a discipline. Because it can be so tempting to give advice and to jump in or ask leading questions, like, “Well, have you ever thought of…?” So, clarifying is really about being intentional and having a practice to say, “What else? What else? What else?”

And then another tip for clarification is just repeating back, which many of us I feel were taught when listening. But the reality is many of us are not great listeners, and having reminders or cues, so if this is an issue for you that you like to jump in or you don’t ask as many questions, it’s great especially if you’re on a video call or a phone call to have a visual cue, to even write on a Post-It note, “What else? What else? What else?” just to remind yourself to really dig deeper.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’m curious, we talked about the drill bits analogy, and reminding, and “What else?” I guess I’m imagining “What else?” can often shift us laterally or to the side, but you’re saying, “What else?” can also get you deeper into the given matter.

Stacey Engle
Both.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, “What else?” is one great one. And what else would you recommend in terms of great clarifying questions?

Stacey Engle
Well, sometimes when you ask someone, this happens a lot in meetings, if you ask someone, “Well, what do you think?” sometimes people will say, “I don’t know.” And we really encourage you to say, in not a snarky tone, “What would it be if you did know?” or, “Go there with me for a moment. I really want your input.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. I like that because “I don’t know” usually means “I haven’t thought about it,” or, “I’m not yet comfortable telling you what I really think about it.”

Stacey Engle
Exactly. So, that’s a great practice to clarify and also to learn.

Pete Mockaitis
Any other great clarifying questions?

Stacey Engle
I think when you’re helping someone work through an issue, it’s very important to have emotional attachment. And people will really have different reactions and emotions to talking about emotions in the workplace, so questions regarding, “What do you feel about this?”

So, for instance, “When you consider all of these outcomes that are occurring, what do you feel?” That’s so important to ask because we are emotional. We make decisions emotionally and then rationally. Like, we rationalize our emotions. So, asking, “What do you feel?” in situations really can help move an individual and move a situation forward.

And the big clarification there is not saying, “How does this make you feel?” which is a very victimizing spin to that question. You really want to ask, “What do you feel?” because you want to keep accountability for all of the emotions that a person experiences.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. As opposed to the thing is making you feel this way, so it’s just, “What do you feel?”

Stacey Engle
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
The response, okay.

Stacey Engle
“What do you feel?” versus, “How does this make you feel?” We always want to put people in positions of power and not victimhood around situations they’re in. So, that phrasing, “How does this make you feel?” is more of a victim statement instead of owning the answer to, “What do you feel?”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, and I like the distinction. It’s very helpful. And I want to talk about emotions here. So, a lot of what makes these conversations tough in the first place are those emotions, you know, you’re scared, you’re angry, you’re confused. These things are there. And so, how do you recommend to sort of, internally with your own personhood and brain and feelings, do what you need to do to have those conversations?

Stacey Engle
Well, the conversation itself is key. Preparation, the idea that you really sit back and frame, “What do I want to accomplish here? What am I trying to say?” and writing it down, or speaking out loud, however you need to work through those emotions or anger or resentment, you need to figure that out. And having tools, like a framework, whether it’s fierce conversations framework or other conversations framework, those tools really help you work through those emotions and give you confidence that all of us need to have these conversations. This is the human experience, and no one is going to die.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes.

Stacey Engle
So, although, we may, because of emotions, our bodies may go there, it may feel like someone may die. But the reality is there are so many marriages that have been saved by having the conversations that need to happen, so many lives and companies, their trajectories completely changed because they had that conversation that really mattered.

And sometimes we can’t even predict what those conversations when they will happen, what those conversations will exactly entail, so that’s why it’s so important to just, if you have emotions around a situation, that’s a good thing. That means you care. That means there’s something at stake. And being able step back and reflect on that, that’s key.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I dig that a lot. So, no one is going to die, we have some comfort there. And, indeed, the conversation can be saving. And we had Kim Scott talk about radical candor earlier on the show, and that’s kind of her story. It’s like, “Oh, boy, if I had this conversation earlier, I wouldn’t have to be firing this person right now.” There’s a lightbulb there associated with the benefit of going there.

So, let’s say, okay, you’ve done your work, you’ve kind of taken some time to think through your goals and maybe a framework, and then you’re just about to step into it. Any sort of pro tips for the presence or the emotional management so that you deliver it well in terms of you’re not kind of angry or timid or kind of anxious and putting out vibes that impede the effect of this conversation?

Stacey Engle
Well, one tip is absolutely to prepare it. That preparation should mean that you’re grounded at least going into the conversation. That’s square one. I think being transparent with the person that this conversation is a hard one for you is important. Oftentimes, we like to just, I don’t know, what’s the phrase, fake it until you make it. There’s a certain level of necessity, I understand, for those scenarios. And when it comes to conversations that are super important and central to your success or central to your happiness, being able to step in, say, “My intention here is to explore this with you. It is not easy for me.”

And when you learn our frameworks, we often encourage leaders. So, for the listeners out there, when you’re trying a new framework, or you’re trying something new, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying, “I’m trying this.” And just that humanity, I think, really can help squash the nerves.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. And are there any other kind of magical phrases that you find yourself saying often or you recommend often? We’ve covered a few, like, “What else?” What are some other things that you find can be said frequently and sure are helpful when you say them?

Stacey Engle
Well, from a leadership perspective and even a peer perspective in your career, there can often be times we’re taught as coaches to have checklists and check in with our team members, so, “Are we getting these things done? Have we followed up on these items? Are we investigating something new?” whatever is on your checklist.

Checklists are great. And, in today’s labor market and in today’s current state, it’s very important to not rely only on a checklist. So, one question that we really love is to ask, “Given every single thing that’s on your plate, what is the most important thing you and I should be talking about today?”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. That’s good. Any others?

Stacey Engle
Well, oftentimes, there’s a slant to action, which I love. If you do StrengthsFinders, I’m an Activor which means I do like starting things. And one question, instead of saying, “What are next steps?” you can ask, “What is the most potent step you should take?”

So, that sounds very similar, but this idea of helping someone sequence, and say, “Okay, given what we just talked about, what is the first potent step that you need to take or we need to take as a team? And then, what’s next?” So, just helping break down the sequence of that can really be effective. That’s just a tip.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you. Well, as we wrap up, I’d love to hear, are there some things you recommend not saying, or conversations that ought not to be had?

Stacey Engle
Well, we’d like you to delete “but” from your vocabulary.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Stacey Engle
We want to say “and.” So, when you think about the team conversation, or multiple perspectives, the idea is we want to say, “This is true, and this is true, and this is true.” When you use the word “but” it often discredits. So, “I like your idea, but we already looked into that.” Or, “Oh, that’s a great way to think about it, but Stephanie is already doing this.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right, yeah.

Stacey Engle
It’s a mental shift. So, really deleting the “but” and replacing it with the “and” is really important.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. And that works frequently as I think about that, “Hey, thanks so much for mentioning that, and Stephanie has already started looking into it.” It’s like, “Oh, okay. Well, I’m encouraged.”

Stacey Engle
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s like, “All right.” And the same point is made, you know, associated with, “All right. So, I don’t have to do anything else because Stephanie is running with it, and I’m feeling better about the exchange.” That’s cool. Well, Stacey, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Stacey Engle
Well, I think oftentimes people will say that they don’t want to have the conversation because it will take too long, or, “We don’t have enough time to have the conversations you’re talking about.” And I just really want to make the case for the quality of conversations versus the quantity. So, this idea that we can be intentional and know that there should be a beginning, and a middle, and an end to a conversation. And that it’s a tool that can get us to the next level in our career. It can shift something for us. That idea, it’s very important to pay attention and engage.

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

Stacey Engle
So, I love Anais Nin’s quote, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

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

Stacey Engle
So, I tend to refer more frequently to questions than studies. So, one of my favorite questions is, “Given everything on your plate at this very moment, what’s the most important thing we should be talking about today?” And through that I hear a lot of studies.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And how about a favorite book?

Stacey Engle
A goodie and always a favorite Tribes by Seth Godin.

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

Stacey Engle
So, Headspace. By meditation, having the right mindset is key, and that’s been a challenge for me, so it’s great to have a tool.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite habit?

Stacey Engle
Working out every single morning, even if it’s for 15 minutes.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with clients and listeners?

Stacey Engle
You get what you tolerate.

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

Stacey Engle
So, our website is FierceInc.com and my handle is @staceyengle.

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

Stacey Engle
I do. My call to action is to write down three people in your life who are central to your success or your happiness and decide what conversation you need to have with them, and by when.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Stacey, thanks so much. I wish you and Fierce all kinds of luck and many meaningful conversations.

Stacey Engle
Thank you, Pete.

397: Making the Shifts Necessary to Grow Your Influence with John C. Maxwell

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John C. Maxwell says: "The greatest detriment to tomorrow's success is today's success."

Renowned leadership author John C. Maxwell discusses how to shift yourself so you can continually grow and influence on a bigger scale.

You’ll Learn:

  1. John’s approach to mentorship
  2. How insecurity kills effective leadership
  3. The ACT method to make the most out of your reflections

About John

John C. Maxwell is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, coach, and speaker who has sold more than 30 million books in 50 languages. He has been identified as the #1 leader in business by the American Management Association and the most influential leadership expert in the world by Business Insider and Inc. magazines. He is founder of The John Maxwell Company, The John Maxwell Team, EQUIP, and The John Maxwell Leadership Foundation, organizations that have trained millions of leaders from almost every country of the world. The recipient of the Mother Teresa Prize for Global Peace and Leadership from the Luminary Leadership Network, Dr. Maxwell speaks each year to Fortune500 companies, presidents of nations, and many of the world’s top business leaders. He can be followed at Twitter.com/JohnCMaxwell. For more information about Maxwell, visit JohnMaxwell.com.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

John C. Maxwell Interview Transcript

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

John C Maxwell
Hey, it’s great to be with you Pete and your listeners. We’re going to have a wonderful time. I’m looking forward to it.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh thank you. Well, me too. You’ve been a role model for me for years and years. I’m excited to dig in. First, I kind of wanted to get your take on, you really taught leadership to millions. Can you tell me who taught you the most about leadership and maybe could you share a story of a key lesson that has stuck with you?

John C Maxwell
Well, my father, who’s 97, by the way and still alive.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome.

John C Maxwell
I  grew up in a leader’s home. I just watched it. I saw it before I understood it and kind of probably as a kid thought everybody had that kind of a home as far as leadership and just really great direction. I would say my father because I’ve been with him, watched him of course his whole life.

Then  I had John Wooden as a mentor. He was a phenomenal teacher and probably as just a quote an unofficial mentor, Pete, he probably taught me more than anyone else. He taught me about when opportunity comes, it’s too late to prepare and just how to always be ready for that moment. Make every day your masterpiece. It just goes on and on. He was a phenomenal mentor.

But  I’ve been very fortunate. I just had people come into my life from my early age and even today, just people that sneak into my life and help me and add value to me. I don’t have one mentor. I think one mentor is kind of a – I think it’s kind of a little bit misguided. I’m not sure one mentor is good enough to mentor you in every area.

I  pick my mentors based upon the areas that I need assistance in. I have a couple mentors for leadership, a couple mentors for team development in work, couple mentors maybe for attitude development and tenacity and that kind of thing, and a couple of mentors for an area of communication or relationships. It depends on where I am and kind of what I need. Even then I just kind of pick the mentor that kind of that’s where the strength is.

When  people come to me and they say, “John, would you mentor me?” I tell them, “I’m not that good. The answer is no. I’m just good at a few things. I’ll be glad to help you with a few things, but most of things in life I’m still just trying to grow and learn and not too hot myself in.”

I  know this, every day of my life I’m standing on the shoulders and I’m better because of people who have invested in me and given me time. Of course, I just turn that around and try to mentor others also and be a mentor to other leaders. It’s a beautiful journey once you understand that we’re all to be a river, not a reservoir and just kind of let it flow through you and help other people and add value to them. That’s kind of where I am in the area of my mentoring world right now.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. When you talk about the journey, I like that. You have unpacked it a few kind of key moments or lessons in your journey in your latest book, Leadershift. What would you say is the main message in this book?

John C Maxwell
Well, I think the main message is that you can only strengthen and sustain your leadership if you continue to make changes or make shifts in your life, that there’s not one way to lead and there’s no way to lead continually and that we have to be agile and have to adjust and have to understand the times.

Leaders really understand context. What all leaders have in common, Pete, is that they see more than others see, so they see a bigger picture, and they see before others see. They not only see that picture larger than others, they see it quicker than others. That being the case, they’re the first ones to know or to sense at least or maybe to begin to grasp.

The more they can adjust and the better they adjust, the quicker they adjust, the more effective they’re going to be as a leader. The book really is all about adjustments that I’ve had to make, leader shifts, that I’ve had to make in my life to continue to be effective as a leader today.

It’s very easy to begin to kind of rest on your position or your title and expect it to do your work for you. When that happens, we’re no longer on the edge, we’re no longer are seeing more and before, so therefore we’re no longer on the cutting edge as far as leading people.

The book is really all about how do you stay on that cutting edge? I had an interview recently. The person commented about the fact that I’d been doing leadership for 40 plus years, writing books, teaching, speaking on leadership, learning, doing my best to be a better leader. They asked me, they said, “Well, how have you for so long stayed in the game?” I said, “Well, I guess the main way I’ve done it is I realized it’s not the same game.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

John C Maxwell
Yeah, it’s kind of like baseball to use an analogy. The game is baseball and every day there is a baseball game, but no game is alike. You can’t depend on what happened in yesterday’s game to be what’s going to happen today. Yes, the game is called baseball, but pretty much after you’ve finished the rules, everything else is going to be fluctuating.

Babe Ruth said? “Yesterday’s home run won’t win today’s game.” I find that very true. Whatever I was doing yesterday, I’m glad that I could do it, hope I did it well, but that really doesn’t mean that I can do the same thing today.

In fact, I think the greatest detriment, Pete, to a person’s success is or the greatest detriment to tomorrow’s success is today’s success. The moment I kind of get settled in today and kind of say, “Oh, I’ve got this for me. I’m going to hold on to it. I want to keep it,” it’s just not going to happen. It just doesn’t happen that way, especially in the times we live right now. With social media there’s such an incredible awareness that’s happening.

I was getting ready to speak for a company. What I do when I go speak for a company is I have a pre-call to kind of find out where they are and how I can best serve them by finding out what’s your theme, what’s your objectives, etcetera. This company I was going to speak for, their theme was fast-forward.

The person on the call said, “John, what does that theme mean to you?” I said, “Well, let me just tell you what each word means to me. When I think of fast, it means to me, when I think about today it’s fast is faster. Faster, it’s faster than it’s ever been before. … I’m just going to hold for a while and wait until things kind of slow down and make sense actually.” I said, “I’m sorry. You’re going to have to die for that to happen. It just isn’t going to be there.”

Fast is faster and forward, Pete, is shorter. What I mean by that is when I started leading, my gosh, when they talked about – when I was working on a business degree when they talked about a long-range plan, they talked about ten years. A medium-range plan was five and the short-range, the short-range plan was two. Well, that’s a ridiculously long-range plan today, two years. You kind of say, “Boy, can you get it down to 12 to 18 months.”

Forward is shorter and fast is faster. Well, if that’s the case, which it is, then a book like Leadershift is essential. If we are not continually looking over the land and adjusting ourselves and being very agile, being very quick to go, we’re not going to be very effective.

One  of the things in the book – one more thing Pete and I’ll shut up – one of the things in the book that I really am glad I addressed was this issue of uncertainty because a lot of people say, “Well, I want to be certain before make that move or make that decision.” I talk about the fact that’s not possible and that leaders, the best leader shift leaders, they’re very comfortable with uncertainty.

They  understand that they are having to move before they have all the answers or before they have all of the direction or all the steps. They realize that it’s in the movement that they get clarity and they get more direction. In fact, what I tell people if you really want to kind of know what’s going to happen in three months, start moving now. The resources, the events, the experiences, start flowing toward you in that process.

I  think leaders need to be clear in their vision, but I think as far as the journey is concerned, we just have to have a real sense of openness and authenticity with people and say I’m making all of my moves based upon what I think and what I believe, but I don’t have total clarity on this at all. We’re just going because, again, speed, the ability to move quick is so essential in leadership today.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. With that said in terms of the importance of being able to make those shifts, you lay out 11 key shifts as examples. We’ll dig into a couple of those. But I’d like to first hear across the board, what are some of the key perspectives or best practices when it comes to how we go about making a shift?

John C Maxwell
Well  I think first of all, security. I just feel that a leader that is insecure won’t be agile enough and so I think that’s essential.

Pete Mockaitis
When you say insecure, I’m intrigued there. Can you give you give some examples of what are the things that make leaders insecure? What are they worried about?

John C Maxwell
Well , I think an insecure person, first of all, most times is not comfortable in their own skin. They themselves haven’t yet come to a real sense of who they are. It’s very difficult to help people become who they would like to become if you’re not really sure who you are.

I  think that insecure people are those who mainly want to be liked and like people to always applaud them. Leadership is tough. There’s just – you’re going to make decisions that are not going to be always popular.

I  think an insecure person, most of them are controlling. I think controlling is a very damaging thing in the culture we live today. Again, if you’re relying on agility and speed, if you have to control every person and every decision and every movement, you’re just in deep weeds.

I  think maybe Pete this will illustrate it as good as I can. Gail Devers, that’s probably a name many of your listeners can recognize. She was a tremendous Olympic athlete and track star for the United States. I think, I’m not sure, but I think as a female track star, I think she won more medals than any other American Olympian, but anyway terrific athlete and won medals in three different Olympics, so just think of that span to be a world class athlete.

In  fact, the night I was having dinner with her and her husband in Atlanta, she was really training for her fourth Olympics if you could imagine. She was running races against young ladies that were young enough to be her daughter.

We’re  having a great meal. She had read a lot of my books and she wanted to ask some questions about leadership. We were having a good discussion. Towards the end of the meal, I said to her, I said, “Gail,” I said, “I’ve been thinking about this all dinner. I think if you and I ran a 100-yard race, I think I could win.”

I  wish you could have seen her face. I mean she looked at me in such disbelief. Of course an athlete this good is highly competitive. She looked at me and then she looked at her husband. She said, “Did you hear what he said?” Her husband said, “Yeah, I heard that.” Then she looked back at me, kind of disgustingly because I’m not in that kind of shape. I kind of look more like the Pillsbury Doughboy.

I  can see that I’ve got her almost to the place where she’s ready to take off those heels and go out front of this restaurant and say, “We’re going to run a block and I’m just going to show you how delusional you are.” I got her right to that point, which was a lot of fun.

Then  I said, “No, now Gail, really honestly, I do think I could win 100-yard race with you if I had an 80-yard head start.” And she goes, “Oh, well, shoot, yeah. Okay, yeah. Hello.” Now to be honest with you, I really wanted to say 70 yards, but I wasn’t sure I could do it with 70. I thought, eh, no, but 80 I could kind of roll across the line. I think I could do that. Of course, then we all had a good laugh.

But  the point is very simple. The fastest person doesn’t win the race. It’s the person who gets started first.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

John C Maxwell
Starting  first is everything. Again, leadership is all about starting first. It’s all about being, again, quick and ready to move and being flexible and while others are kind of considering it, you’re already there.

When I think of the 11 leader shifts in the book, there are, my gosh, there are probably 100 leader shifts a person has to make. I made more than the 11, but these are the 11 in the book that are like what I would call the Mt. Everest type of stuff, the big stuff that not only I had to make, but probably every person that wants to lead is going to have to make in their life, sometime in their life.

I think that the greatest thing in life for me to do and one of the reasons I write and speak all the time is to create awareness. You just can’t fix what you don’t know needs to be fixed. The moment that a person who is hungry to learn, and grow, and get better, becomes aware, all the sudden everything begins to change.

Once you’ve had the light turned on for yourself, you want to go into a room of people and turn the light on for everybody. This is kind of a turn-the-light-on book. It’s just kind of a book that basically says, “Here, my name’s John. I’m your friend. Let me turn the light on. Let’s talk about a few of these shifts you need to make. Let me kind of tell you how I did it and cheer you on while you make them yourself.”

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Let’s talk about a few of them here or maybe just a couple. Choosing here. What would you say if you had to pick, which one do you think is the most critical for leaders to make or perhaps the most overlooked, like, “Oh, I need to do that and I was not yet aware. Thanks for turning the light on.”

John C Maxwell
Well,  one of the ones I find when – I taught on this before I write on it. Basically the way I write books is I teach stuff and when it sticks I think, “Oh gosh, if it’s sticking with the audience, I probably need to put it on paper.”

I  think one that has given me maybe my greatest reward that people don’t think of very much is the shift from what I call ladder climbing to ladder building. In that chapter I talk about the fact that we all start off as ladder climbers. I did. I got my first leadership responsibility and the question was how high can I climb on this ladder. I’m taking off. How high can I go?

I  think for every person that is going to be a successful leader, they have to be a good ladder climber. They need to get to the top. When you think about it-

Pete Mockaitis
And get there first.

John C Maxwell
The  credibility I have, Pete, as a leader is that I’m successful. Do you think somebody wants to follow me if I’m not successful? Whoever gets up and says, “Wow, gosh I’m not doing well financially. I’ve got to go find somebody that’s gone bankrupt a couple times and get some advice from him” No, the first thing we turn to is we turn to somebody that has done it well. We teach what we know, but we reproduce what we are. We turn to that person.

I  started off ladder climbing and did pretty good. I was a pretty good ladder climber. I kind of got to the top quickly, but I understood then that that really had very little to do with leadership, but had a lot to do with some competence that I had and some giftedness that I had.

But  I decided that I needed to start thinking of others and what am I doing, so I went from ladder climbing to what I call ladder holding. That’s basically where I go over to you, Pete and say, “Hey, could I hold your ladder for you?” What I know about somebody that holds the ladder for somebody is that they provide security for that person, they provide a solid foundation.

What  I know is, Pete, if I hold your ladder, you’re going to climb higher than if I don’t hold your ladder. I’m going to allow you to what I would call achieve a couple of extra rungs in your life. You’re going to go a little bit higher than you’d go if I wasn’t there. That’s kind of a shift that I made from “I’m just going to climb my own ladder and build my own thing and do my own thing” to “Well, shoot, why don’t I go help some other people.” I made the shift to a ladder holder.

Then , this is very – again, it’s a journey, so you don’t know this stuff on the frontend, you always know it during the process and on the backend. As I was holding people’s ladders, what I discovered is two things. One is they climbed higher because I helped them and served them. Number two is some of them really can climb high.

All  of the sudden I realized as a ladder holder, I was able to find out who the potential successful people and leaders would be. Some just climb higher than others with my help. Ladder holding became the qualifying exercise I did to go to the next shift, which was ladder extending.

If  I’m holding your ladder, you get completely as high as you can go and I’m saying, “Gosh, let’s extend this thing. The only reason you didn’t go any higher is there wasn’t any more ladder there. Let’s get you some more ladder feet and go for it.

Ladder  holding allowed me to qualify really who I mentored because that’s who I would put in the ladder extending areas. It’s just – it’s now all of the sudden you’re taking them to another level and you’re helping them just go to heights that they never would have gone.

Then,  again, all this does is evolves into the next natural shift. As I’m extending your ladder, we’ve got that baby up pretty high. Pete, you take that extension, just keep on climbing. All the sudden I realized you could basically climb as high as we can extend. There’s really no limits to you.

Then  it’s kind of like, “Wow, this is the ultimate.” I’m extending people’s ladders and they’re going higher than they ever thought was possible and making a bigger difference than they ever would have dreamed. I’m just getting all excited about it. Then I realized, no there’s another shift yet. This is the one that’s really going to make the big difference for people.

I’m  going, if you can see me from ladder climbing to ladder holding to ladder extending to ladder building. I just look at you and I say, “Pete, you need to build your own ladder. You don’t need to use my ladder. I need to empower you. I need to release to you. I need to bless you. I need to let you go and let you build your own kingdom, build your own business, build your own work, be your own entrepreneur. You don’t really need me.”

What’s  incredible is that when I became a ladder builder, that’s when I developed all these incredible leaders that I’ve had the privilege for so many years having watched them, many of them do better than what I could have. That’s for sure. To me I think the greatest fulfillment is not seeing how high I can go. When I was climbing my own ladder I figured out pretty quick I can go pretty high, but that’s kind of an end in itself.

I  thought, okay, I know what I can do, but I wonder what I could do with people. I wonder if I could help them to go high. Those shifts, I have a fondness for this whole ladder shifting because I just – it’s kind of almost like – it’s kind of like the story of my life, where I’ve been and what I’ve done and kind of where I am and really what I love to do.

My  greatest joy today is just fathering a lot of leaders and just blessing them and watching them, again, excel incredibly. It makes me very proud and just – and very humble to have maybe a little part in it. That’s for sure.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really cool. When you’re doing this ladder holding, and ladder extending, and ladder building, what are some of the particular practices or key questions you’re asking? What are you doing in practice when you’re providing this support on the ladder?

John C Maxwell
Well,  I lead by questions. That’s how I lead. Probably one of the big shifts I had in my life was that I – in the beginning I led by direction. I just kind of basically pointed and gave people direction on where to go and what to do.

I  made the discovery really that that wasn’t the highest or the best way to lead, so over time – again, it’s all maturing and learning and growing – I went from giving a lot of directions to asking more questions because kind of the whole principle is based on the fact you’ve got to find your people before you can meet them. Pete, one of the great disasters in leadership is leading by assumption. Wow, gosh, I see it all the time.

I  had a wonderful friend, Pat Summitt, who passed away a couple years ago, but she was the University of Tennessee lady volunteer basketball coach and I think the most successful women’s coach ever in basketball, college basketball. I think she had over 1,000 wins. But she was an amazing woman, an amazing leader and an amazing person.

She  would feed her team my books and got to me and talked to me and asked me to come up some time and talk to the team and go to the game. I said sure, so I did. It was an incredible experience because at half time, the lady volunteers when into the locker room and I kind of followed them and the coaches. I just said, well, sit right here in the room with the basketball players for a moment. Her and the coaches went off into another room. One of the-

Pete Mockaitis
It’s all you.

John C Maxwell
No,  this is incredible. One of the basketball players, one of the lady volunteer gals, there was a marker board at the front of the room. The marker board had two questions: what did we do right, what did we do wrong, and what do we need to change.

They  went into this exercise where one player led the other players. “Okay, in the first half what did we do right?” They wrote down three or four things they did right. “Okay, what did we do wrong?” Wrote a few things down they did wrong. “What do we need to change during the second half to improve and get better?” They wrote these things down. This exercise didn’t take them long because they were used to doing it. Took them five minutes maybe.

Here  comes Pat into the locker room, goes straight to the marker board, looks at what did we do right, what did we do wrong, what do we need to change, made a couple comments, not very many, maybe a minute or two, just a couple comments, affirmed what they were thinking, and maybe tweaked them if they weren’t or maybe if they missed something. Out on the floor they went and played the second half.

After  the press conference Pat and I went out to dinner. I said, “Pat,” I said, “that was an amazing exercise.” I said, “Talk to me about it.” Here’s what she told me, she said, “John, my first year and a half as a coach I was not a good coach and my teams were not successful.” She said, “I kept asking myself, okay, what am I missing?” She said, “I just knew that there was something that was obvious that I was missing as a coach to help me out.”

She  said, “I came to the conclusion after about 18 months that I was assuming that these players knew what I knew. I was assuming that they had basics under their belt. I was assuming that when I talked to them we were all on the same page.” She said, “John, I wasn’t on the same page with them at all. I wasn’t even in the same book with some of them.” She said, “I all of the sudden realized I was trying to lead them and I hadn’t found them yet.”

She  said, “I started asking questions, so I went to this exercise.” She said, “I can walk in now and while I’m walking to the marker board, by the time I get to the front I already know if they’re aware and if they understand. If they don’t,” she said, “it’s my job as a coach to get them on the same page I’m on as far as awareness is concerned.” But she said, “It just changed everything.” She said, “Now, I coach from where they are, not coach from where I think they are.”

When  you talk about shifting and where I am, and this book, in fact I had – one of the leader shifts that I talk about in the book is going from directing to connecting. That directing to connecting is you connect by asking questions.

Today,  pretty much I lead everybody, everything I lead I basically go in and ask questions and find out where they are. As soon as I find out where they are, then leadership’s pretty – it’s pretty simple. I put a whole chapter in the book on just that because I thought my gosh, if they just learn to find their people and it will be life changing for them. That’s for sure.

Pete Mockaitis
Those questions are so great. You talk about the assumption is that you can very clearly see, “Oh wow, you have a completely different perspective on what you think you did right and wrong than I do, so okay, this is where we’re going to start,” as opposed to, “Okay, perfect,” and to just sort of facilitate ownership along the way. That’s huge.

John C Maxwell
Yeah, they say this Lombardi, of course, the great Super Bowl coach of the Packers, they say what he would bring all these pros together for their first practice at the beginning of the season. The first thing he did is hold up a football and he’d look at these pros. Now think about it. They played high school. They played colleges. Their pros. They’re the best in the profession.

He would start off every year with the same speech. He’d hold up a football and say, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” He wasn’t about to assume anything. He’s just, “Let’s just talk about it. Let’s start from the basics and work our way up.”

I’m blessed I have several companies and got a lot of balls in the air. I just have found and discovered that if I just go and ask questions, very quickly, very quickly, kind of find out what they know, what they don’t know, where they are, it just answers everything for me. I think learning to ask great questions helps us to connect on common ground, which becomes pretty amazing to be honest with you.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. If I may, I’d love to hear maybe just a couple bullets, like what are some of your favorite, powerful go-to questions that have served you well again and again?

John C Maxwell
Well,  for example, if you and I were in any kind of a meeting, let’s say we’re in a creative meeting. We’re talking about the brand or whatever. When we’re all finished meeting, I’ll just say, “Okay, let’s just go around the room and give me what you think is the most important takeaway right now that you just got out of this time, out of this session.” It kind of helps me to know very quickly if they’re assessing what I’m assessing in that meeting or not.

With  my children, even with my grandchildren today whenever we have an experience, I always ask them – as soon as the experience is over, they know I’m going to ask them two questions. My children if I did this once, I did it ten thousand times. With my grandchildren probably about that many too. I’ll just look at them when we’re done with the experience, I’ll say, “Okay,” they know it’s coming, “What did you love? What did you learn?”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

John C Maxwell
I  start with kids with ‘What did you love?” because they always know that because they feel that emotionally. But ‘What did you learn?’ and it’s just phenomenal because, you see, experience is not the best teacher, Pete. You hear it all the time. People say, “Oh, experience is the best teacher,” but it’s not. It really isn’t. If experience were the best teacher, then as people get older, they’d all get better.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

John C Maxwell
Because  they have more experience. Again, I know most people I know, they’re getting old; they’re not getting better. They’re getting worse. Experience is not the best teacher. Evaluated experience is the best teacher.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful.

John C Maxwell
Taking  time to come out of an experience and then pull away and reflect, reflection really takes experience and turns it into insight. What I do is I constantly ask myself – in fact, when I’m done with our time together, I’ll take three minutes because it’s just a habit, it’s one of my hopefully better habits, but I’ll – it’s practice that’s for sure – I’ll take three minutes and I’ll go over what we just talked about.

I’ll  say, “Okay, when your time with Pete and the listeners today, what do are you taking out of that, that 45-minute experience? What do you glean out of that, Maxwell?” Again, evaluating, reflection, asking questions.

Boy , the moment that you begin to – when you begin to understand – I had a mentor named Charles Blair who said, “John, always have an understanding so there’s not a misunderstanding.” I just live that kind of a leadership life. I’m very comfortable with asking questions. What’s beautiful, it doesn’t take a long time.

In  fact, I … all the time, because I get some push back on this from kind of choleric-type top-down leaders. They say, “John, when you start asking questions, you give up control.” I say, “No, no, you don’t understand. When you start asking questions you’re in total control because you’re in control of the questions you’re asking.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

John C Maxwell
That’s  what pulled me back to the discussion, so go back to the Pat Summitt, University of Tennessee illustration. She was in total control when she walked in that room because she was getting out of the girls exactly what she needed. “What did we do right? What did we do wrong? What do we need to change?” She was in complete control, but while she was in control, she was also getting information that was very essential to her to lead them to the next step.

Leadership is a very exciting venture when you just understand how to ask the question. In fact, I wrote a book five or six, maybe seven years ago – gosh, time goes so fast – but I wrote a book that – I just wanted to write it because I love to ask questions, but it just went kind of crazy, it took off, called Good Leaders Ask Great Questions. I have a chapter in there, Questions I Ask Myself, Questions I Ask My Team.

I  just went through and helped people kind of understand. Questions are kind of like keys; they unlock the lock. You’ve got this lock and you can’t get in, but if you’ve got the key you can. Questions just kind of open up the doors for me and allow me to do that, so I love it.

That  chapter on directing to connecting in the Leadershift book was, gosh, it was a lot of fun because I think it’s just going to be very enlightening to a lot of people. I think they’re going to have a lot of aha moments when they’re going to get there.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh that’s cool. Well, I want to talk about sort of a big key and a big question that’s particularly to shift into an explicitly Christian context for a moment for our listeners of faith. When I’ve got John C Maxwell, I can’t not ask. Tell me what’s your take on how we can most effectively listen to God’s voice and take the appropriate steps and make the shifts that he wills for you?

John C Maxwell
I made that shift about four years ago.

Pete Mockaitis
Only four?

John C Maxwell
Yeah , I really did. I think I was typical. Most people in their prayer time, I had a list. When I took some time with God, I would go down the list, typical choleric, and kind of talk to him about it and check it off.

About  four years ago, I was just thinking of basically the scripture principle that God’s ways are higher than ours and that God knows what we need more than we know what we need. All of the sudden I started getting a little bit amused and I thought how ironic that I’ve spent all my time with my agenda when I pray with God. I’m much more interested on my agenda than I am on his agenda.

It  kind of came to me – one time I had a person who I was in a conversation with them, they said – they were talking to me and they just said, “Well,” she said, “I would just like to directly hear from God.” I started smiling. I said, “No, you don’t. You don’t really want to hear from God. If you did, trust me, it’s not on your agenda. It’s not what you think he’s going to say or what he’s going to hear.” I was kind of amused by it.

Then  I thought to myself, I wonder what would happen if I just took that approach to prayer. I switched, well, four years ago and I have no agenda in prayer anymore. I have an agenda and that is to listen and to be still and to hear his voice. I take a legal pad and my four-color pen and I sit and I have the Word with me. I just open my heart and basically share with God that I want him to speak.

He  may speak through an experience that I had recently or he may speak through a passage of scripture to me, he may speak through some music, but I’m just going to listen to you. It’s really changed my life. It’s made me want to spend more time with him.

Before  it was like I wanted to spend more time with him so I could get through my list, but now it’s kind of like I wonder what surprise he has for me. I wonder what he’s thinking today that is going to really add value to me or take me in a direction I wouldn’t have even imagined.

Anyway,  I kind of made a – I guess you could call that a prayer shift in my life. But I found it to be – I really found it to be very effective. I’m kind of grateful for it to be honest with you.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really cool. Now I want to get your take on how do you differentiate in those moments, like something pops into your head between what you think is you and what you think is the Lord?

John C Maxwell
Oh, …. I think it’s – I’m asked that question often and I think I have a really good answer.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh boy.

John C Maxwell
Is –  well, I really do. I tell people all the time, well, a whole bunch of it’s me because I’m human and so even though I have a great desire to hear from him, I don’t say that I don’t have a lot of John in that thought pattern. But where it really helps me is the fact that when it’s him, it stays with me.

What  I basically do is I say, “Okay, these are the five things I sense from you today. I think I’ll table them for 24 hours. I’ll come back and let me just see if any of them resonate.” I find that tabling them, for the right reason, not for a reason of disobedience, but more of a reason for discernment, I come back the next day and the wood and the hay and the stuff just kind of separates. The chaff separates from the real thing.

If  I keep coming back to it three or four times over a week, Pete, then after a while I say, “Okay, yeah, this is something I need to really learn from and spend time listening to him.” One of the beautiful things that has come out of this, just really beautiful, I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned out of it – I don’t know, but it seems to be the biggest one to me is obedience. Whatever he says to you, just do it.

In  John chapter 2 Cana and Galilee and the wedding feast and the water turned to wine, if you can imagine those servants taking those jars and filling them up with water, they have got to think, “This is the stupidest thing …” And then when they were asked to take the jars to the host, I think they said, “And this is the day I get fired. This is the day I get fired because they’re asking for wine. I’m bringing water.” Of course, when it was poured out, it was wine.

It  said, basically a passage says, the people didn’t understand what had happened, but it said the servants knew. Well, the reason they knew is because they were in the act of obedience of putting the water in the buckets or in the jars. The point being, Pete, it’s very simple. Obedience is never understood on the frontend; it’s always understood on the backend.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I really like that and particularly that Bible story. Interesting fact, when I got married my wedding gift to my groomsmen was a little corkscrew wine opener that had inscribed on it that verse, “Do whatever he tells you.” It just seemed like a good-

John C Maxwell
I love that. I love that.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s like hey, it’s wine and it’s good advice.

John C Maxwell
Oh my gosh, I’m going to steal that.

Pete Mockaitis
Steal it away. Yeah.

John C Maxwell
Oh, I love that.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool.

John C Maxwell
See, shoot, this is going to be such an easy evaluation when I’m done with you. It’s going to take me five seconds to figure out what my takeaway is today.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’m honored.

John C Maxwell
That is a beautiful, beautiful gift, “Whatever he says to you, do it.”

Pete Mockaitis
Cool.

John C Maxwell
Gosh. You had it inscribed on the opener.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right. The corkscrew, there’s a metal part, so I had an engraver put that in there.

John C Maxwell
Okay, thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you.

John C Maxwell
I hope I’ve done for your listeners today what you’ve done for me. Of course, you’re doing it for them too because they’re hearing this. They’re all going out and getting their Christmas idea. I’m going to sit down and talk – I’m going to talk to my wife about this. I think that would be a fabulous Christmas gift.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Well, I’m so glad to be able to contribute. That’s cool.

John C Maxwell
Oh gosh, I love that. I love that. Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. Well, yeah, in our last couple minutes we like to do what I call the fast faves, get a quick perspective from you on some of your favorite things. Could you kick us off with a favorite quote, something that inspires you?

John C Maxwell
Well, I have so many of them, but the one I’m talking about the most now is “Everything worthwhile is uphill.” Love that quote. In fact, I visually just raise my arm when I teach it that basically what I tell people is there’s nothing you have in your life worthwhile that didn’t take time, effort, energy. It’s all uphill. In fact, if you’re going downhill, I don’t know what you’re going to arrive at, but it’s not worthwhile.

The only way that you can go uphill – if everything worthwhile is uphill, the only way you can go uphill is to be intentional. That quote means a lot to me because no one ever climbed a mountain by accident. No one ever talked about accidental achievements in their life. It’s intentional.

In fact, I wrote a book three or four years ago called Intentional Living. The whole book is all about the fact that most people accept their life instead of lead their life. If you accept your life, you just come up with much less than what can you have in your life if you were intentional. “Everything worthwhile is uphill,” I think that’s probably mine.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Thank you. How about a favorite book?

John C Maxwell
Well, of course, the Bible is my favorite book. By the way, when I do leadership and of course most of my world is secular, but people sometimes will say, “Where did you really get your leadership stuff?” I’ll tell them, “Everything I learned about leadership, I learned from the Bible. Everything.”

In fact, I’ve had some great Q&A interaction times with secular community basically saying, “You give me your best leadership thought and I’ll give you a biblical foundation for it.” It’s startling. It’s startling. It’s the greatest leadership book ever written.

In fact, the favorite thing I’ve ever done is not writing books as much as I had the privilege several years ago to do the Maxwell Leadership Bible and put my leadership lessons that I taught out of the Bible in the Bible.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh cool.

John C Maxwell
That Leadership Bible is just – a million Bibles later it’s just still going crazy. I’ve done – in fact I just finished my third edition. I have, Pete, over 600 lessons on leadership in there. Every page has another leadership lesson, but it’s all on the Word.

I’m reading a book right now called Leadership: In Turbulent Times. Fabulous book, but I’m a fan of this author. Her name is Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh right.

John C Maxwell
She’s basically a presidential scholar. She spent her whole life studying presidents of the United States. She wrote a Team of Rivals about Lincoln and she’s written one on Kennedy, one on FDR, one on LBJ, one on Teddy Roosevelt. I consume all of them. But this one is she took Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, LBJ and Lincoln and basically wrote a book on how they lived during turbulent times. It’s a fabulous read. I’m loving it.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool, thank you. Well in our last moment here, could you share a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

John C Maxwell
Yeah,  well I would just say whenever I listen to something or in an experience, I always do what I call ACT: what should I apply, what should I change, and what should I teach someone else. It’s just simple, ACT.
If it’s like a long session, I may get three or four A’s, a couple C’s, maybe five or six T’s. I look at them and I categorize them. I just put ACT in the margins on my notes so that I can find them. What’s one A, what’s two  – or what’s one A, one C, and one T. Whatever those are, those three A, C, T, I just take the next 30 days and I do them every day, the one A, one C, and one T, every day for 30 days until it kind of becomes a habit. I’ve done this for 35 years. It just works.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, John, this has been a real treat. Thanks so much for all you’re doing in the world. It’s greatly appreciated. I hope that Leadershift is another hit. Just keep on rocking.

John C Maxwell
Doing my best, friend. Every day I have a great job. I just get up and add value to people. It’s pretty good gig, isn’t it?

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hm.

John C Maxwell
Thank you Pete.