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541: Increasing Your Contribution and Fulfillment at Work with Tom Rath

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Tom Rath says: "You can't be anything you want to be... but you can be a lot more of who you already are."

Tom Rath discusses how to find greater meaning in your job.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to find your unique style of contribution
  2. Two easy ways to recharge your energy
  3. A powerful way to make any job feel more meaningful

About Tom:

Tom Rath is an author and researcher who has spent the past two decades studying how work can improve human health and well-being. His 10 books have sold more than 10 million copies and made hundreds of appearances on global bestseller lists.

During his 13 years at Gallup, Tom was the Program Leader for the development of Clifton StrengthsFinder, which has helped over 20 million people to uncover their talents, and went on to lead the organization’s employee engagement, wellbeing, and leadership practices worldwide.

Most recently, Tom co-founded a publishing company and he is also an advisor, investor, and partner in several startups. Tom holds degrees from the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania and lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife, Ashley, and their two children.

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Tom Rath Interview Transcript

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

Tom Rath
Thanks so much. It’s a pleasure to be with you.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to be chatting with you. I have enjoyed reading your books for years and have taken the StrengthsFinder multiple times, so I was excited to dig into your latest work. But, maybe, let’s go back in time if we can, because I understand that some health news you got as a teenager really played a prominent role in how you think about your work, and life, and this particular new development.

Tom Rath
Yeah, a lot of my early experiences shaped especially this most recent book Life’s Great Question just to give you a short summary of it for your listeners, when I was 16 years old, I was having trouble seeing out of one of my eyes, and I was eventually diagnosed with several large tumors on the back of that left eye, and lost sight soon thereafter permanently in that side. And the doctors told me that that was likely indicative that I had a very rare genetic disorder that it essentially shuts off the body’s most powerful tumor-suppressing gene, and they said, “There’s more than a 50% chance you’ll have kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, cancer in your spine,” and a host of other areas over whatever lifespan I might hope for. And I kind of did some research back then and realized that the over-ender was probably between 35 and 40 years.

So, what that did in retrospect, as I’ve kind of looked back on, as a part of this recent project is it certainly helped to get me focused on two things. And one of those things was just reading as much as I could every morning about what I could do to keep myself alive a little bit longer and help people to live longer in good health. That was part of it. And the second part was it really did help to get me focused even at a young age and early on in my career on, “What are all the things that I can work on each day on kind of an hourly or daily basis that contribute to growth in other people that I care about or serve, that can continue to live on whether I’m actively involved with that or not, a week, a month, or a decade down the road?”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that is some great guidance there. And it seems like you’re statistically probabilistically you’re doing great, huh?

Tom Rath
Yeah, I’m doing really good. I have battled kidney cancer. Still, I have cancer in my spine and in pancreas recently, and I’m continuing to kind of fight through that on a bunch of different trials of drugs and trying to do everything I can to stay as healthy overall as I possibly can.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m glad to hear that there’s reason and room for hope and that you’re still here contributing, and we’re very grateful for your contributions. I know I am. And I want to give a shoutout to my buddy, Lawrence, who brings up strengths just about every week. And so, yes, it’s been quite a contribution. We appreciate you. So, yeah, let’s talk about this Life’s Great Question. What is it?

Tom Rath
Life’s great question, which a lot of this was inspired by one of my favorite challenges and quotes of all time from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who, I think, he put it so eloquently when he said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?’” And when I first thought about that question, it kind of haunted me for a few years. Then I realized what a powerful rallying call that can be on a daily basis. So, every morning for the last few years, I’ve tried asked myself, “What am I working on today that will contribute to others in their growth, in their wellbeing over time?”

And what I’ve realized is the more time in a given day that I can spend on things that just directly in a way that I can see serve others instead of worrying about my own priorities, or focusing inward, or trying to get through a bunch of busy work, the more time I can spend on that, the less stress I have, the better I feel about my days.

And I think all of us want to be able to do that on a daily basis and to do some work that matters for other people. We just don’t have a very clear way to talk about it and think about it, especially in teams and groups when we’re working on things, and as a result, we spend maybe too much of our time focused inward on ourselves and our own development instead of outward on, essentially what the world needs.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, you’ve got a number of ways that you recommend that we go about gaining some clarity on that. Can you share with us, you’ve got a phrase eulogy purposes? What are these?

Tom Rath
Yeah, you know, one of the things I realized quickly when I was talking with some organizational leaders and CEOs about this is that right now the main way that we have or the main method for summarizing a person’s life and work is a resume. And if I were to go back and try and create the most detached, clinical, sterile, lifeless thing I could, it would be the form of a resume of today.

So, the more I got into that and had some of these discussions, I realized that we need to help people put together a profile of who they are and why they do what they do, and what motivates them, and how they want to contribute, and to have that be as kind of robust from a detail standpoint as a resume is so that we can make the focus on contribution just as practical and tangible as we have when we assemble resumes and profiles today.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’ve taken this profile, and it was fun to dig into and think about. You’ve got a number. I believe it’s about a dozen different flavors or modes of contribution. My top were scaling, visioning, and adapting. So, can you maybe help us think through a little bit about what’s the goal here, so we’re going to understand those things and knowing them, what do we do?

Tom Rath
What I was trying to do to help readers, give readers something practical to do as a part of this book, and I have a code in the back where they can login and build this profile. But the profile also asks about, “What are the big roles you play in life?” So, as a spouse, for me, as a researcher, as a writer, as a dad. What are those big roles that are really the, as you mentioned earlier, the kind of eulogy values, the things you want to be remembered by?

So, to start there and then also bring in, “What are the most important life experiences, or miles, throughout your life that have shaped who you are and it could help other people understand why you do what you do?” And then we also ask readers to add their best descriptors of their strengths. As you’ve talked about, I think strengths are maybe the most important starting point for aiming a lot of your efforts in life.

And then, the fourth element, that you were just getting into is, “How can we help people to prioritize how they want to contribute to a team?” What happens so often right now is we get teams of people together to accomplish something because we’re all wound up and energized about a given task or priority and we all just hit the ground running and start moving forward and working, and we don’t take the time to, A, get to know one another, and, B, most importantly, sit down and say how each one of us wants to contribute to the effort in a complementary way.

So, if you’re helping our team, if we have four or five people on the team with scaling, for example, and that’s a big part of operating and making something great and helping it to grow over time, how do we also have people who are helping us to make sure we’re energizing the team and building closer relationships over time, and taking care of some of those fundamentals? And how do we help people to ensure that we’re teaching others about what we’re doing and challenging us to make sure that we’re focusing on the right priorities as we go along?

So, I started, instead of starting with who the person is, with this project I started with, “What are the things that the world needs?” And I went back and looked at thousands of job descriptions from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and try to kind of build those into big buckets and categories about what our society values and needs from people who are doing work. And then I think the challenge is for each of us as individuals to kind of go through a series of prioritization questions like you did and decide we’d like to contribute given who we are and who else is on a given team.

Pete Mockaitis
And is the concept there that certain modes of contribution will be more life-giving, energizing, enriching for us as compared to others?

Tom Rath
Yes. One of the things that gets ignored often when we go through inventories and prioritization exercises is there’s not a lot of work on what motivates us to do our best on a daily basis. So, I did tie in some questions in there about what motivates you to do your best work, and then how you want to contribute.

We all have very unique and different talents, and the way I contribute to one team may be different from how I’ll contribute to another one 6 or 12 months down the road. So, we really built this to be a team activity that a person can go through in unlimited number of times if they’re thinking about a new job, a new project, or a new team, because there is a balancing act, for lack of a better term, that needs to occur if you get three, five, seven, ten people around a team so that you’re all working as seamlessly as possible based on what you’d want to do and what you’re good at with as little overlap as possible essentially.

Pete Mockaitis
And so then, you’ve, in fact, I understand, defined five amplifiers that help us see our jobs as more than just a paycheck and are bringing some of those cool vibes and enthusiasms for folks. Can you walk us through these bits?

Tom Rath
Yeah, you know, the first one that I think is important for people in the work world, in particular, is to, as much as I’ve talked to a little bit today about making sure that you’re focusing your work on others, the one place where I’ve learned where we really do need to put our own needs first is when it comes to our health and wellbeing and energy. It’s really the energy. We need to prioritize things like sleeping enough, eating the right foods, moving around throughout the day, in order to have the energy we need to be our best. Even if our sole intent is just to help other people, we need that energy to be our best. So, that’s one of the big elements.

Another thing in the workplace is that we need the freedom to do work in the way that matches our style. And so, one thing that’s been refreshing as I’ve learned about how people can uniquely contribute is most managers and leaders are very open to a conversation about, “How can you do your job in a way that fits who you are even though you may have the same goals and outcomes and expectations as ten other people?” You don’t have to do it the same way. So, a piece that I think has been underestimated and measured in more places is we need the freedom to be our best every day, and a lot of that is about finding the right work environment, the right manager or leader and so forth.

Another really important element that in all of the wellbeing research I’ve been a part of is probably the most common core that cuts across wellbeing and work experiences, we need strong relationships to not only get things done but to add more fun while we’re doing it. I have a good friend I have worked with for almost 20 years now, and I can call him up, in 15 seconds, I can get more done than I could in a 15-minute conversation with a stranger. And so, those relationships create a lot of the speed and trust and wellbeing, it keeps us going.

Another central element is that we’re working each day to ensure that we have kind of the sense of financial security and stability that we need to keep moving through the day. There’s a lot of talk about money shouldn’t be the only outcome and the sole basis of a contract between a person and an employer. I think those days are past us and we’d evolved from that, but we do need to make sure that early on in our career we’ve got enough money to pay for basic needs and food and shelter and the like. And until we get to that point where we’re not stressed about money on a daily basis, a lot of these other things are secondary. So, those are a few of the kind of basic needs in there.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I’m intrigued and I know wellbeing is a big theme and an area of passion for you. And I‘m right with you in terms of, boy, your energy levels make all the difference, and you did tons of research in your work. So, I got to know, do you have any secret strategies, tactics, tips in terms of having and bringing more energy to each work day? I mean, I think sleeping and eating well are critical and, at the same time, I think people, and maybe I’m guilty of this too, we want the cool new thing. So, is there a cool new thing and/or what should we be thinking about with regard to sleeping and eating well to maximize energy?

Tom Rath
Well, I learned a lot about this when I worked on the book Eat, Move, Sleep that kind of tied in some of those healthy experiences we’re talking about. The good news is one good night of sleep, even if you’re on a bad streak, one good night’s sleep is kind of like the reset button on a video game or a smartphone where it gives you almost a clean slate the next day. You’re more likely to be active throughout the day, eat better food, and so on. So, I think we really undervalue sleep at a family level and at a workplace level. It needs to be a part of the conversation because if people are half-asleep and nowhere near as creative or sharp as they need to be at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon in a meeting, that’s not good for anyone.

And someone I’ve worked with, former Army Surgeon General Patty Hororo, she talks about how in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan that she knew the troops needed ammunition for their brain, and that’s how she prioritized sleep. So, I think we need to make sleep a critical ammunition for our brain-level priority, that’s one thing.

The second big one, I think everyone should be able to do their work without being chained to a chair for eight hours a day. The more I’ve studied this topic, and I started working sitting and standing 10 years ago, and I’ve been working 80% of my time on a treadmill desk for five years running now, and there are bolts falling out of the bottom of the thing now, but it still gives me so much more energy, it’s not even comparable to days when I’m stuck in planes and meeting rooms. I think we need to re-engineer our immediate environment it’s really about variance, or up and down and moving around every 20, 30 minutes throughout the day.

The good news is I think it’s more important to just build a little burst of walking activity throughout the day, and that’s more important for human health than the intimidating goals of 30 or 60 minutes of extreme cardiovascular activity, for example. We just need to find ways to have conversations with people and get work done while we’re up and down and moving around quite a bit more.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. Well, so I think that might transition into something. You had a very intriguing book bullet point about how we can turn the job we have into the job we want. It sounds like one way is to re-engineer so you can move a little bit. What are some of the other main ways that we can see an upgrade in that department?

Tom Rath
Yeah, one of the things that I think we all need to dedicate more time to in that regard is to bring the source of our contributions or the people that our work is affecting, lives it’s improving, back into the daily conversation. So, when people in food service roles were preparing food, chefs and cooks, if they can see the person they’re preparing the food for, they make better-quality meals, they make more nutritious meals, and they feel better about their work.

If radiologists who are reading scans of MRIs and CTs all day, if someone is a part of an experiment, when they append a photo of the patient to the record, they write longer reports and it increases their diagnostic accuracy. And I’ve seen this across every professional, it’s been studied. The closer we can get to the source and see the people we’re influencing, even if they’re just internal customers and clients, for example, the better work we do and the better we feel about it when we get home each evening. So, I think that’s one of the most practical places to start. And if you struggle to do that yourself in a workplace, my best advice would be help someone else to see why their efforts are making a difference tomorrow. And just in doing that, you’ll set something in motion.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah, that is powerful. And so, certainly, and so there’s many ways you can accomplish that goal. You can actually sort of rearrange the office so that you are getting a visual, or you can just have photos of those folks that you’re serving right there. So, you mentioned in the medical example, just having photos of the patient there made the impact. And so, that’s inspiring. It’s, like, I got to get some listener photos in my work environment.

Tom Rath
Photos and stories, I mean, there’s kind of the stories and legends we tell ourselves. The other is I talk about this a little bit in the book, but because I don’t have vision on my left side, I have a prosthetics so people think I can see out of both eyes. But I accidentally bump into people all the time because I don’t see them coming on my left. And it’s always an interesting experiment for me psychologically because I’m always the same but that person, sometimes they’re in a really bad mood, sometimes they’re frustrated and didn’t have the time, sometimes they’re very kind and apologetic. It varies so much.

But I get to see, even when I’m in a coffee shop or a grocery store like that, I can kind of see how if I react as good as I possibly can, and I’m really apologetic and tell them I’m sorry and everything else, in some cases I can take someone who’s kind of in a bad mood and diffuse it and turn it around where it’s a little bit better. And I think we all have, I don’t know if it’s 10, 15, 20 moments like that with strangers and people we know throughout the day. And, in any case, if you leave that person in a little bit better state than when you first engaged in the interaction, that is a victory that we probably need to do a better job of acknowledging in the moment.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I love it. Well, that’s the, “How full is your bucket stuff?” in action.

Tom Rath
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
So, in the realm of those small but sort of uplifting, bucket-filling things we can do in the workplace, could you give us just several examples of things that really make a difference and we can do all the time?

Tom Rath
Yeah, like we just talked about, I think it starts with those very brief exchanges and saying you don’t get to control the emotional tone that someone else brings into a room or into an office that you’re in at the moment, but we always do have control of our response. And I think if you start to view those little responses as an opportunity to turn things around, that’s one good starting place.

The other thing that I’ve learned a lot from over the years since some of the work on that How Full Is Your Bucket? concept is that if you can make it a goal to spot somebody else doing something really well that they might not have even noticed, ideally try to do that once a day, that’s one of the more powerful things that can have a real lasting influence on people over time.

I think we talked briefly about some of the strengths work, and because of my involvement with that, people often ask me, “What’s the most valuable strength? What’s the best one? What’s the most productive, and so on?” What I’ve learned and my real quick answer is the most valuable talent is spotting a strength in someone else that they had not been able to notice and encouraging them to build on that because, boy, when I’ve seen people do that, it’s so powerful it can kind of last a lifetime and change the trajectory of a career.

So, I think to look for those two things in a given day and then at least three, four times a week to look for moments to just recognize in an audible, in a written, or an electronic form great work, and to recognize and appreciate someone for specific efforts. And when you’re doing that, to try and connect your recognition with the contribution made to another person gives it a little bit more amplification.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yes, I love that. Boy, Tom, there’s so much good stuff here. Maybe you could just regale us now with a couple of stories in terms of folks who had some career transformations in terms of before they did not quite have that clarity on how they want to contribute and what they’re going to do with life’s greatest question, and then they got it and it changed everything? Could you give us a couple of fun examples there?

Tom Rath
Yeah, you know, the one that’s most top of mind for me when you talk about kind of figuring out contributions as they went along it, a friend of mine I talk about in the book, I’ve started working with him maybe 20 years ago. His name is Mark. And he was really involved in Young Life, which is a student kind of a faith-based group and efforts to help kids get involved in communities and give back and do more. When I started working on some of the very early strengths work, Mark was passionate about college freshmen, and said, “I think maybe we could put something together that helps them figure out how to use their strengths to pick better classes and have better relationships.”

He was a pragmatic guy, and said, “I think if we can just get plug into these freshmen experience classes, maybe it could make a difference. We’ve just got to get a handful of professors to assign it as a textbook.” And that’s now helped, I think it’s two or three million kids in their freshmen year or two, essentially get a better handle on what they’re doing, and navigate, and hopefully end up in a little bit better careers as a product of that. It started with someone who had a real passion for doing things in kind of a pocket like that, and said, “How could we scale this out and have a huge outsize influence on the world?”

I had about a 20-year friendship with Mark and he’d battled a heart transplant and cancer a few years ago, and he passed away just a little bit over a year and a couple of months ago. I write about this in the book, but when I went to his memorial service, you know, usually you think of it as one of the sadder moments, but it was one of the most inspiring things I’d ever seen in my life because student after student after former student got up and talked about how they were doing things so differently in their relationships and their careers and their education because of the specific influence that Mark had had in his mentoring. As we talk about contribution here as a topic, it was just kind of a summary of an entire lifetime of enormous contribution to other people.

I know, for me personally, it was deeply inspiring and kind of what I hope to be able to continue to do over the remainder of my life is to make those kind of both broad directional contributions and the real specific deep individual mentoring contributions like Mark both did. So, that’s kind of the top of my radar right now.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, that is powerful. Thank you. Tell me, Tom, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Tom Rath
No, I think we’ve covered the main topic here.

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

Tom Rath
Ben Horowitz was giving a commencement address at Columbia two, three years ago now. And he talked really eloquently, if listeners have a chance to check it out, about real growth is the product of not following your passions but following where your contributions lead you.

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

Tom Rath
You know, I think what’s influenced me most in the last few years is some of the very important distinctions between daily wellbeing versus how we look at our life satisfaction and wellbeing over many, many years in a lifetime. For so long, scientists have just been saying, “If you look at your life as a ladder with steps numbered one through ten, where do you stand essentially?” and they ask people to look back retrospectively.

And when you ask people that question, it’s usually a very highly-correlated income. The more you make you buy more points on that ladder essentially. And countries like Sweden and Denmark and Norway are at the very highest of the wellbeing rankings when you look at rankings based on that broad evaluation. But, in contrast, when you ask people, “Are you having a lot of fun today? Have you smiled or laughed a lot today? Did you have a lot of negative emotions? Do you have a lot of stress?” And you really look at that daily experience to where you or I had a good day today, it looks very, very different.

And the happiest countries on a daily basis are Costa Rica and Panama and Uruguay and Paraguay, these Central American countries that are at the very bottom of the wealth rankings of gross domestic product per capita. So, I think that daily experience can be a great equalizer where even in the United States you don’t need to make a great deal of money to have really good consistent days. And once you do make enough money to stop worrying about your finances every day, the more you make an income doesn’t really make that much of a difference. In some cases, it might even lead to more stress and issues.

So, I’ve really been intrigued by a lot of emerging research, the body of it, on the influence and importance of just daily positive affect, as what researchers call it, versus negative affect, and how that can…I think the accumulation of those days may be a lot more important than how we evaluate our lives once at the very end.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Thank you. And how about a favorite book?

Tom Rath
If I can, I’m going to do a paired trade of two books I read back-to-back, one being now getting a lot of press with a movie out Just Mercy. And the second one being Hillbilly Elegy which they are two night and day different books about two completely different experiences on different ends of social geographic and demographic continuums in the United States, but I’m really inspired by true stories that help me to understand experiences that are very different than my own. So, those have been well-written moving books I’ve studied recently.

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

Tom Rath
Over the last 10 years, everything I’ve read both in print and online, and conversations I’ve had, I’ve stored everything in Evernote, the app. And I was just joking with my mother-in-law over the weekend that when I’m her age, that’s going to be my memory because my memory won’t be that good. So, that’s been a great repository for all of the research and studies and things that I’ve been collecting over the last decade.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I want to dig into that a little more. So, in terms of you just sort of drag and drop a PDF of the thing you read into a given note then make your notes on top of it? Or how does that work if you have the actual documents in there?

Tom Rath
Yeah, online I can drag and drop PDFs or just clip any webpage directly from a browser with one button. And when I’m reading things in print, I still get some newspapers and magazines in print, I tear pages and shoot them through a scanner that goes directly into the cloud in Evernote just based on some tags and so forth. Even everything I get in the mail goes right through that scanner unless it’s just junk mail ad, for example. But it’s been a great way to kind of have my own kind of a separate Google for my own experience and everything that’s gone through my head but, by no means, will I be able to locate and process and search for without a lot of electronic help.

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

Tom Rath
My favorite habit is I think I spend 80% to 90% of my time in a given day working while I’m moving around. And so, whether that’s having a conversation on the phone and walking around, ideally, outdoors. I try to get, all the time, outdoors every day. Walking. I try to walk my kids to school any day that we can just so that we all get a little head start on our mental energy let alone the physical exercise that helps. So, my favorite habit is just minimizing the time I spend completely sedentary in a chair in a day.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget that you’ve shared in your books, in speaking, that really seems to get highlighted a lot, or retweeted, or quoted back to you frequently, a Tom Rath nugget that you’re known for?

Tom Rath
Yeah, I think the one that I see most commonly highlighted out there, kind of posters and internet stuff, is the quote about “You can’t be anything you want to be but you can be a lot more of who you already are.” And I talk about that a little bit in this most recent book that I’m really confident, and I first wrote that maybe 10, 15 years ago, but I’m really confident that people, counter to some conventional wisdom, you really can’t be anything you want to be, if you think about it.

But I do worry a little bit about when people just try and be more of who they already are. I’ve seen that in some cases pull people too much towards looking inward. And that’s why in a lot of the recent work I’ve been focusing on trying to help people to say how can they take who they are and quickly focus that as point A outward to point B which is what the world around them needs, because I think the more they focus and hone their energy towards what their family, their organization, their community needs, it leads to even more productive application of their strengths.

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

Tom Rath
I’d point them to TomRath.org for any of the books that we’ve talked about and then Contribify.com for the new Life’s Great Question book and the companion website that goes with that.

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

Tom Rath
I would challenge people to spend even a little bit of time today determining how they can get even closer to the source of the contribution they’re making to the world, because the closer you get to that source, the more you can do for others over the years.

Pete Mockaitis
Tom, this has been a pleasure. Thank you. I wish you the best in health and all the ways you’re contributing in the world.

Tom Rath
Thank you so much. It’s been an honor and fun talking to you.

537: How to Develop and Multiply Leaders with John C. Maxwell

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John C. Maxwell says: "Any leader's greatest return is to develop other leaders."

John C. Maxwell shares powerful wisdom on how to develop and transform budding leaders.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Three simple questions that encourage growth
  2. Why training programs don’t work–and what does
  3. What the most beloved leaders do differently

About John:

John C. Maxwell is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, coach, and speaker who has sold more than 31 million books in fifty 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. magazine. He is the 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 every country of the world. A recipient of the Horatio Alger Award, as well as the Mother Teresa Prize for Global Peace and Leadership from the Luminary Leadership Network, Dr. Maxwell speaks each year to Fortune 500 companies, presidents of nations, and many of the world’s top business leaders. He lives in South Florida.

Resources mentioned in the show:

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John C. Maxwell Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
John, thanks so much for coming back to the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

John C. Maxwell
Hey, it’s great to be with you, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to be chatting again. And, first, I’m curious, did you end up getting some corkscrews made associated with the wedding gift?

John C. Maxwell
I knew you were going to ask me that question. And, Pete, I flunked.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s okay.

John C. Maxwell
I loved the idea. I tell you what, I loved the idea. In fact, I told a couple of my team members, “I’m going to do this,” put it aside, and then just kind of forgot about it. Then you sent me, I don’t know, maybe a couple of months ago, an email and it jogged my mind, I thought, “Oh, I didn’t do that.” I sound like a procrastinator. I’m really not. But then I kind of forgot what we had on it. I knew it was from the wedding feast at Cana, and I forgot, “Well, now, what did he put on that?” I’m probably going to really ask you, could you get me one of those and I’ll pay you for it?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure. You don’t have to pay me for it. Thank you. I will and I’m happy to. And you did not flunk. I imagine that you had a lot of high-priority stuff beyond getting knickknacks engraved.

And so, you have written a bundle of leadership books, and you’re not done yet. You got another one here The Leader’s Greatest Return. Tells us, sort of what’s the big idea here and what made you think, “There’s something that I have not yet said that needs to be recorded”?

John C. Maxwell
Well, this is, I think, a kind of an amusing story, Pete. As you know, 25 years ago, I wrote the book Developing the Leader Within You. And that book is what really put me on the leadership track as far as people looking at me and saying, “This guy can teach me something about leadership.” It was the first leadership book that basically could’ve came out that says you can develop yourself.

Well, I followed that book up the next year with the book called Developing the Leaders Around You. Well, at the 25th anniversary at my publisher, Harper Collins, said, “John, could you do a kind of a revised edition of that?” And I said, “Well, yeah, I’d be glad to.” So, I went back and looked at Developing the Leaders Around You and I had written it 25 years earlier and, boy, Pete, I was so discouraged, to be honest with you. It wasn’t any good side.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s a good sign if you look at your prior work and they’re kind of disgusting.

John C. Maxwell
The space of 25 years, you know what I’m saying, is kind of like, “Oh, there’s so little I knew back then, and I’ve learned so much more.” So, I started revising the book, and on chapter one, I didn’t take anything out of the first book to revise, so I wrote a new chapter. Then I went to chapter two and I think I took one story and a quote, and that’s it. The third chapter, nothing at all.

By the fourth chapter, I realized, “I’m not revising a book. I’m writing a new book,” because I’ve just learned so much more about, “How do you develop leaders and people around you to get on your leadership teams? And how do you really multiply yourself by this process?”

So, I called Harper Collins and I said, “Hey, let’s just do a new book,” and so we did. And I love the title The Leader’s Greatest Return. The reason I love that title is because I do believe that any leader’s greatest return is to develop other leaders. Because if you just have followers on your team, that’s good, and that adds, but if you really want to multiply, if you really want to compound, Pete, you’ve really got to develop leaders who can go out and then develop other people also. Leaders build the organization and grow it. And so, it is the leader’s greatest return.

And so, that’s how the book got written. It was supposed to be a revised edition, but my first edition didn’t make the cut for revision so I just wrote a new one.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, this is fun, and the story of how the book came to be itself has some leadership lessons there in terms of the humility and the growing. And then I think, in many ways, that kind of puts you in a great maybe feedback-receptive mindset as a whole in terms of it just as it’s possible to look at something you’ve done yourself in the past and say, “Hmm, this could be a lot better.” So, too, is it possible to receive feedback from an outside source in the present and say, “Yes, indeed, it could be a lot better,” and you may well agree… your future self, I guess, looking back.

John C. Maxwell
Right. You know, Pete, you’re exactly right. It is a leadership lesson itself in the fact that, as I look back on my past, I tell people, “If you can look back even five years and be really thoroughly satisfied with what you accomplished or what you did, you just probably are not growing like you could or should be,” because, for me, the pages on a book never change.

Pete Mockaitis
And with that learning and growing, I’d love it if maybe you could highlight perhaps a lesson or two that you’ve done close to a 180 on in terms of, “You know, I said this, and I think maybe almost the opposite is closer to true.”

John C. Maxwell
Oh, sure. Well, it happens all the time. I was being interviewed recently, and somebody asked me what the greatest change in my leadership was, and I’ve gone through a lot of changes. Again, because if you’re growing, you’re just always changing. And so, as I said, as I thought about it for a moment, I thought, “Well, you know, I think the greatest change I’ve had in my life is that as a young leader, I was very directional, kind of top-down, and I always knew where I wanted to go, and I always had clarity and vision. So, I’d say, ‘Okay, here’s where we’re going to go. Let’s get on the team,’ and I’d rally the troops. And over the years, I realized that I was kind of leading by assumption. I was kind of assuming that everybody else kind of wanted to go where I was going and be on the team, which was not true at all.”

And so, I began to slowly be less directional and start to ask more questions. And, until today, it’s a total change. Whereas, I used to just kind of sit down and say, “Okay, here’s what we’re doing and here’s where we’re going, and let’s shake hands and let’s get going on it.” And, now, I just ask questions continually. I lead by asking questions. In fact, I wrote a book, I don’t know, that maybe six or seven years ago, called Good Leaders Ask Great Questions. And, really, that was the catalyst for helping me and helping others know that, really, I lead now by sitting down with my team and finding out where they are.

In fact, the statement I say, “You have to find them before you can lead them.” For years I just led them or I wanted them to find me and then get on the team. And so, yeah, it’s a total change. But that’s what happens when you grow. Every day I learn something new that I didn’t know, but almost every day I’ve got to unlearn something that I embraced that just doesn’t work anymore. Maybe they didn’t even work when I raised it but I didn’t know any better. And then I re-learn.

And then one other quick thought of that, Pete, every person needs to have a sense of teachability and learn not only from life but to learn from others and let them speak into your heart, and not only have an open-door policy but have an open-ear policy. And through teachability and humility comes an awareness. And awareness is huge in a person’s life. I need to constantly be aware of what I do well, what I don’t do well, what I need to change.

A couple of weeks ago, I was playing golf with Ed Bastian, who’s the CEO of Delta, and so we’re having nice long leadership lunch afterward. And, Ed, here’s this incredible CEO of a major company, and very successful, had a long-term relationship with him, but Ed said, “You know, I’m always asking my people three things, ‘What do I need to stop doing? What do I need to keep doing? And what do I need to start doing?’” And he said, “Those three simple questions just allow me as a leader to be aware and hear from others who really do know more and sometimes just help me with my blind spots.” And I thought, “That’s just simple. Anybody can do that. What do I need to stop doing, start doing, and keep doing?” And I thought, “I just love that.”

But I think leaders, the great leaders, are continually growing and they’re continually growing because they want people to speak in their life and they have an acute awareness of what they don’t yet know and have a great hunker to learn and to get better, that’s for sure.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, so I’m right with you there. I think that totally adds up and those are some handy simple questions. So, let’s talk about multiplying leaders and how that is done. Maybe could you kick us off by sharing a cool story of an organization that has done this supremely well, like you’ve gotten to witness a transformation there?

John C. Maxwell
Well, I think that there are some companies that really have done this very well, Pete, and I think Chick-fil-A comes to mind right at the top. And the reason I think they’ve done it well is because they have a leadership culture. And I think developing leaders begins with an attitude and an environment that is conducive for leaders to grow, to learn, to practice leadership.

Now, the way that people are developed as leaders is they have to practice leadership, so there has to be a time in your organization or your life where you not only teach people how to lead but you give them an opportunity to lead, and you empower them, and you let them kind of run with the ball. So, I think Chick-fil-A just has such a leadership culture. They’re constantly pushing their people to grow, to learn, to take on more responsibility, to have leadership experiences in their life.

You know, it’s very interesting, one of my nonprofit organizations EQUIP, we really work hard on helping countries to be transformed through values. And we come in by the invitation of the president of the countries. We do it in little roundtables of about six to eight people.

So, we’re also doing it in schools, and we have about a million and a half kids in junior high there that are going through these values lessons in their curriculum. It’s not before school or after school, it’s right in their regular curriculum. So, one of the great things that’s happened out of this, teaching leaders how to lead and creating a leadership environment culture, is that we have the kids do the facilitating of the roundtables not the teachers.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, cool.

John C. Maxwell
So, it’s very peer-led. It’s very peer-led. So, I’m sitting with five of my schoolmates and this lesson is mine. So, I facilitate it and help them go through the material that’s written there and ask the questions. And then next week, Susan does that. And every week, we go around the table and every student gets a chance to lead.

Well, what are we doing? We’re letting them practice leadership. And one of the side benefits I know that’s going to happen to all these countries that we’re doing these leadership teaching in a curriculum schools is that they’re going to find leaders. The leaders are going to find themselves. Kids in junior high are going to, all of a sudden, have a conscious awareness that, “I like facilitating. I like helping people and leading them through a lesson.”

And so, any time an environment lets people practice leadership, they are then creating leaders. And I think that’s a very important lesson because I think a lot of times, we give assignments out but we keep the leadership reins. And I think that’s not wise. I think this book The Leader’s Greatest Return is all about, “How do you empower people? How do you release them? How do you embrace them even in their mistakes as they learn to lead until they really do understand what it is to lead?” It’s not a theory in their life, it’s a practice.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, so I totally buy that. That makes sense to me. And so then, I’d love to get your view then in terms of is it sort of just everybody all the time that we want to be engaging in leadership activities or are there some particular means by which you try to identify a sub-segment of folks that you want to invest more greatly into?

John C. Maxwell
Yeah, I have a chapter in the book called the basics that says Invite People to the Leadership Table which is the culture where leadership is discussed and you hear other leaders talk about leadership things and issues. And what I think on this, Pete, is that it’s very essential to let everybody have a shot. And it begins by giving them more empowerment than what they would normally have.

So, you take a receptionist, for example. I would sit with him or with her, and I would just sit and say, “Look, greeting people, coordinating appointments, etc., all this stuff is the key to this job. But I also want you to know that you probably have within yourself some leadership potential. And what that means is that you’re going to be able sometimes to go beyond what a request is and be aware of perhaps a need beyond what’s out there in that lobby. And it might come to the fact that you have to make some decisions.”

And what you do, as I found, that you teach a person how to do their job well, and then you start opening and broadening the parameters, such as, “Okay, now that you’ve been out there as a receptionist for a couple of months, let’s talk about the things that aren’t working and the frustrations.” And what I find is when they talk about that, almost always it’s their inability to maybe make a decision that they have to go wait on somebody else to make, or rely on someone else to make, or just some common sense thing that they could’ve or should’ve done.

And so, it’s out of what’s not working that you begin to get the playing ground for developing leaders. And so, when they say, “You know, this person that came for an appointment, they sat there for 30 minutes. And, obviously, there was a lateness to it.” “Okay, let’s talk about that. When somebody has to wait that long and we’re having a little bit of miss on our side, what can you do that would kind of make it better for that person during that time?” “Well, maybe I’ll go get them a cup of coffee,” solve this stuff. “And so, you do that. And I empower you. You go do that and it’s on the house.”

It’s that kind of leadership development of people that lets them practice leadership that lets them develop the leaders. Now, Pete, obviously there are some people that are just more gifted in this area than others. And so, what happens is this, if you let everybody practice leadership, you very quickly learn the ones who perhaps have the highest aptitude for it. And that crème rises to the top. And now you’re looking at somebody and you’re saying, “Okay, you’re a leader.”

Let me give you an example. One of the countries we’re working is in Guatemala, and so we did leadership training for the second largest bank in the country. They have about 10,000 employees and so we did these values roundtables for all the employees. The bank said, “All of our people will go through values roundtables.” So, I was recently down there, and the CEO asked me to speak to about 2,000 of their clients.

So, they bring in their business clients, and the CEO said, “Let me just share with you what’s happened since we’ve done these values roundtables.” He said, “Three things have happened. Number one, we developed a leadership culture.” And he said, “What’s happening is our employees facilitate the roundtable.” And he said, “One time we had to go looking for leaders. Now, they’re popping up all the time.” He said, “We don’t look for any leaders now. In fact, we have an excess of leaders because we’re seeing people that we didn’t even know have leadership ability, and they’re facilitating these roundtables really good, and it’s working.”

And they said, “Because in the values we talk about integrity, honesty, and hard work has become part of the values system of our bank, and so our bottom line is better.” And he said, “The third thing is they’re taking these values home to their families that they’re learning at work. And it’s changing their families.” And I thought how beautiful. But, again, leaders were beginning to arise on their own because they were given an opportunity to practice leadership. And that’s really essential in developing leaders. You just don’t develop a leadership culture without giving people that kind of empowerment.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, boy, there’s so much in there that I really dig. It’s funny, when you talk about that story with the receptionist being empowered to get coffee and it’s on the house, like it can seem like a small thing. But I remember my first normal paycheck job in high school was working at Kmart in the pantry, they called me Pantry Pete, and I was so excited in the training videos when they talked about how, as Kmart employees, we’ve got the power to please. And so, if we were out of the 24 pack of Pepsi, I could give them two 12-packs at the sort of sale price. And I just thought that was so cool is that I had some leeway to do something to make someone’s life better, and they would be surprised and smile. It felt awesome. It was like my favorite thing to do when I was working at Kmart.

John C. Maxwell
That’s a great example right there. And it’s from there that you began. Leaders, they’ll surface themselves, really, but they don’t surface themselves if they don’t have an arena to practice that leadership.

Pete Mockaitis
And when you talk about these roundtables, I mean, we don’t need to go into every detail associated with how these are conducted. But I’d love it if you could give us just a bit of a rundown in terms of so we’ve got some values, we got some discussion questions, and different people are facilitating. What are some of the other kind of key things that are happening here that leaders might try to integrate in an organization?

John C. Maxwell
Well, it’s very exciting. It’s very exciting, Pete, because in my EQUIP organization, for a 19-year period, we just trained leaders around the world. And after 19 years, we had trained 6 million people, And when that was complete, sat there and said, “Well, let’s have a party and celebrate,” which we did. That’s a pretty big accomplishment.

And then I looked at them and I said, “We’re really not done yet. We taught these leaders how to lead but these trained leaders, there’s another level of helping them become transformational.” And transformational leaders bring positive change into people’s lives. It’s more than how to lead. There’s a positive transformation that happens in people’s lives and that comes through learning and living out good values. And so I said, “Let’s develop a transformational culture by teaching values, and let’s do it in small groups because, again, that’s where it happens where you can have interaction, where you can hear other people’s story. It’s highly experiential which is very contagious.”

And so, we developed a transformation, we call them transformation tables, a curriculum for adults. And we go into a country and we go to the top leaders, we go to what we call the eight streams of influence, which is government, education, media, arts, sports, health, religion, and business, and we get permission from the top of those areas in a country to do these roundtables, and we call it the waterfall effect. If the top buys into it, it just flows all the way down through the company or the country.

And so, that’s what we do, and our goal, as Malcolm Gladwell talks about The Tipping Point, so our goal is to get 10% of the people in a country in these transformation tables. And it’s just phenomenal what’s happened. We have, I think, what is it, 1.3 million now in roundtables, and it keeps just multiplying and growing. But when people learn good values and then they begin to live them, what happens is they become more valuable to themselves, they become more valuable to their family and to their community, and there begins to be what we call a values lift in that community and in that culture.

And so, that’s what we’re going for. And, again, it’s all about developing leaders and helping them to do more than how to lead, but to be people whose lives have been changed, which begins to create a contagiousness that other people want to have that also. So, that’s kind of what we do, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, a values lift sounds like a great thing that I’d love to see all around me. So, could you maybe give us an example then of, “All right, so here’s what it might look, sound, feel like. Here’s a value and here’s some discussion questions, and here’s how that can really come to life for folks”?

John C. Maxwell
Well, for example, in Guatemala, that was the country we started first, and went to Paraguay, Costa Rica, and then we have two more countries we’ll launched into this year. But in these transformation tables, because the government is involved in also, so there was a table that the attorney general was involved in, so we’re talking about values and honesty and integrity are part of it.

And she, during the roundtable, felt that there was a lot of corruption and dishonesty in the government, so she went to one table, then she facilitated the second table. And while she was doing that, she said, “Why am I facilitating this table when I’m, as an attorney general, not doing something about the government?” So, make a long story short, she began to prosecute people in government that were corrupt and tried them in front of the Supreme Court. And, 18 months later, over 300 of them were in prison.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow.

John C. Maxwell
Including the president. It’s the only time a Latin American country has overthrown a leader because of corruption. And she has began to make a major change in the country. That’s a big example. A little example, a mother of a son who was in prison went to the training of the values table. And so, she went to the warden and asked if she could do that with her son and a few of the inmates. He said yes, so she started that transformation table with them.

There are 16 values that they go through over a period of time and it just changed the seven or eight inmates. And they were sharing with their other inmates about what they were doing. And to make a long story short, in two years, all the inmates in the prison plus the guards were in these transformation tables. It had come from a very kind of rowdy prison to kind of the model prison in the country because of what had happened.

And so, again, it’s a values lift. And, again, it’s creating a leadership culture which The Leader’s Greatest Return is that what’s it all about, “How do you and I create a leadership culture to raise up other leaders so that we can have a compounding return on the things that we’re trying to accomplish?”

Pete Mockaitis
And I’d love to get your take on so within these transformation tables and these values discussions, it seems noteworthy just how fruitful this is, and that things are really taking root. And I guess I’m thinking about Michael Scott and the TV Show The Office and how they had an ethics seminar. And I guess that’s just comedy but I think it’s quite common that these kinds of messages can go in one ear, out the other. What do you think makes it stick in terms of folks are really adopting it and doing some things differently in their lives?

John C. Maxwell
Well, what makes it stick is when it’s more than a training program.
It’s that sharing around a table that is experiential that brings life change.

And nothing happens in a company, Pete, unless the leaders are involved in the roundtable too, that’s why we say, “You have to be in. The presidents of these countries are in these transformation tables.” They’re all there, Pete, because nothing is worst than being in a company, and so my level where we’re having some training on leadership or whatever it is, and all the executives aren’t there. It’s kind of like, “Okay, it’s not that important or else they’d be in the meeting also.”

And so, you have to have what I call a connecting identifying factor to make it stick, and that’s why the tables do such a better job than a lecture. That’s why I devoted a whole chapter in The Leader’s Greatest Return on the leadership table. What’s it like to have people sit around the table and be able to get into leadership discussion and hear leaders ask questions, and hear leadership thought? This all is what allows people to be and to develop themselves as a leader.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And so, that sounds perfect. It’s the connecting identifying factor. And so, when folks are sharing experiences over time, how big are these tables?

John C. Maxwell
Oh, six to eight.

Pete Mockaitis
Right, six to eight people. So, I guess a way I’m thinking about it there is like, “Okay, well, in your first session, maybe only one person is bought in and does something, and then they share it. And then, by the next session, folks go, ‘Huh, that’s kind of cool. Something happened there. All right. Maybe this is worth paying a little more attention to.’” And then you get this really get the juices flowing over time.

John C. Maxwell
Yeah, the buy-in is in the process. So, they sit around the table, their arms are folded the first time, say, “What are we doing here?” And then when people begin to share and ask questions, it begins to get them involved. I mean, there are six or eight. You can’t hide. If you’re in a lecture hall, you can hide. You can’t hide and so pretty soon it comes to you, and you kind of got to do something about it. And then when you begin to see people having improvement in their life, it begins to be contagious.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you mentioned a concept, I think, is important, I want to make sure we give a few minutes to. So, you distinguished between influence and control. Can you tell us what is that distinction and why is it important?

John C. Maxwell
Well, I think, first of all, I teach that leadership is influence and nothing more, really, nothing less.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I quoted you in an interview once. Someone made me define leadership. I was in college and I was doing it for the campus record department had some sort of leadership team-building roles, like, “I want that.” They said, “How would you define leadership?” I was like, “You know what, I’ll take John C. Maxwell’s.” And they’re like, “All right.” I got the job.

John C. Maxwell
Well, it’s such a simple little definition, but it’s so right on. Leadership is influence. And the difference is influence is, if I have influence with you, it can either be controlling or it can be voluntary. If it’s controlling, it’s kind of like I’m the boss, I have a leadership position, and to be honest with you, Pete, you don’t have any choice. You have to follow me. You follow me whether I can lead well or not. I mean, everybody listening to this podcast knows what it’s like to have a bad boss. I mean, we all go back and say, “Oh, that was a nightmare.” Well, why was it a nightmare? Because you had somebody in a leadership position that you had to follow that couldn’t lead but they had control.

And so, you never know if you can lead if people have to follow. I mean, it’s like prison where the warden gets up and says, “You know, there are a thousand people here that came to see me.” Well, they didn’t have any choice. In fact, they’d like to break out if they could. So, control is where I have no choice. The influence I’m talking about here is where I don’t follow you because I have to, but I follow you because I want to. And why do I want to? Because you’re a good leader, because you care for me, because you’re trustworthy, because you’re competent, and so, yeah, I want to be on your team because if I’m on your team, life is going to get a little bit better.

So, when I think of influence, in fact, sometimes I’m with companies and they’re saying, “I’ve got three or four really key executives, and I’m thinking about another leadership position and advancing one of the three.” And they’ll ask me, they’ll say, “What do you suggest as far as which of the three I pick?” And I say, “Why don’t you give all three of them a volunteer project? Have all three of them go do something in their community that’s pure volunteer and let them be in charge and just see how good they are with volunteers. Because if they can lead people who don’t have to follow them, you have a good leader.” And that’s influence. That’s not control at all. That’s not relying on titles or positions to get what I want.
I mean, how many times have we heard the boss say, “Yeah, you do it because I said so.” “Okay. Well, here we go. That’s a great reason to do something.” And so, the influence that we talk about in leadership and the influence we talk about in The Leader’s Greatest Return is influence based upon your ability to connect with people and make things better for them not because you have a title or a position which is control.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so that is a nice distinction. And then, generally speaking, how do you recommend we go about being more influential in our colleagues’ lives?

John C. Maxwell
Well, because I teach that leadership is influence, people, many times will say, “Well, how do I…?” because, in fact, it is true and it is. The question is, “How do I increase my influence? Because the more influence I increase, the better I am at that, the more people I can lead.” And what I always say is very simple, there’s a very simple path to increasing influence, and that is, intentionally, every day, adding value to people. And I encourage people to have this kind of a lifestyle that every morning, for example, in my life, every morning, and I ask myself one simple question, “Okay, how can I add value to people today? And who am I going to see?”

I sat down early this morning and I went through the fact that I was going to be on a podcast with you, Pete, and outside of the question of the wine cork, outside of that, the question I wanted to ask myself is, “How can I add value to Pete?” because you’ve got a great podcast, you help an amazing amount of people, and you have a wonderful, wonderful work going on. Well, I just want to add value to you. So, that’s very intentional. What do I say? How do I add value to you?

Every morning, I just look at the people I’m going to meet and the schedule I’m going to have and what can I do to help people. In the evening, I ask myself the same question, “Who did I add value to today? How did I do that? And how can I do more of it?” And it’s being intentional in adding value to people that increases your influence. You show me any person in any person’s life that adds positive value in a continual basis for someone, and I promise you 100% that that person has great influence with that individual. Why? Because that person intentionally makes life better for them, and they become very endeared to you, and you want to be around them. So, that’s how you increase influence.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’d love to get your view in terms of how can you add value. Now, in many ways, there are thousands of different answers and ways that one can do that during the course of a day with the people that you’re interacting with. Are there a few things that you noticed that people can do just about all the time and they often don’t? So, how about a start?

John C. Maxwell
Well, I think it starts, Pete, it starts with valuing people. That’s the baseline. So, when I start talking about increasing influence by adding value to people, I don’t talk to them about, first of all, how to add value to people. I just ask them a very simple question, “Do you value people?” Because if you value people, now you’ll begin to have a leaning bet to adding value to them. If you don’t value people, you won’t add value to them. I mean, if you kind of value yourself and devalue other people, no one’s ever added value to somebody that they don’t value. It makes no sense at all.

So, we start with, “Do you value people?” And if the answer is yes there, then we help them become very intentional, and we teach them every day, first of all, think of ways to add value to people. Look at your calendar. First of all, think of, “Who do I have the chance to add value to?” I know I’d get a chance to add value to today, they’re on my schedule. So, think about ways to add value to people. Then when you’re with them, look for ways to add value to people. And then every day, those two things, every day, add value to people, make sure you do some tangible actions to where you can look and say, “You know, I made that day better for someone else. And then what I do is I encourage others to add value to people.” And it’s just to continue adding value cycle but foundational.

It’s foundational in leadership. It’s very foundational. I tell leaders all the time, “When you stop loving people, you stop leading them. Good Lord, you’re a disaster. You’re going to hurt a lot of people because everything rises and falls on leadership. And leaders that don’t value people can cause a lot of harm.” And so, it’s just very essential for that to be the core. If you truly value people, then you’re going to learn how to increase your influence by doing these things I just gave you.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, and it’s interesting to think about that mindset. I think some might say, “Oh, my gosh, that sounds exhausting and I’m already overwhelmed with my own stuff.” But then, I think in practice, when I’ve been on a good hot streak of living that, it’s actually much less stressful and more uplifting energy-giving joy-fueling to live that way.

John C. Maxwell
Oh, of course. And it’s a simple relationship, of course, but it just works like this. I mean, I can teach relationships in one minute. It’s not complicated and it’s very simple. I’m either a plus in people’s lives or I’m a minus. It’s just that fact. I’m, every day, either adding value to people which puts me on the plus side, or every day I’m wanting people to add value to me, and I’m sucking energy and air from them. And if I’m constantly consumed about myself and making sure, “Hey, Pete, well, we’re going to be together, I hope you do something really good for me today. And, my gosh, you know,” and it’s all about me, almost always I’m subtracting value from people. And it’s a fact that I think most people who even are a minus and subtract value from people, I think most of them are even unaware or they’re just not aware of it, that they are more concerned about what they reap than what they sow.

Was it Robert Louis Stevenson who said, “I consider my day a success by the seeds that I’ve sown not by the harvest I reap.” That’s an added value statement. And, basically, he was saying, “Every day I just intentionally sow seeds.” Because, you see, what he knew was very true, and that is the harvest is automatic. But sowing seeds is not so you got to be intentional on the frontend to get the fruit on the backend. And many people, they get up every day, and they ask a simple question, “I wonder if something good is going to happen to me today. I wonder if somebody will be nice to me.” And it’s all about people adding value to them.

If I am wanting people to add value to me more than I’m wanting to add value to people, I become a minus in relationships. And if I want to add value to people more than have people add value to me, I become a plus. It’s that simple and you just have to be that intentional.

Pete Mockaitis
John, this is great stuff. I think we’re in our last couple of minutes. Tell me, anything else you want to mention before we hear about maybe one or two of your new favorite things?

John C. Maxwell
Well, in the book The Leader’s Greatest Return the reason I’m very excited about the book is there are a lot of leadership books out there but there are very, very, very few books on how to develop other leaders, and there’s a reason for that. Most people don’t do it, 95% of all leaders don’t develop other leaders. They just have followers. And the reason that they have followers instead of leaders is it’s not easy to develop leaders.

Leaders have a mind of their own, they’re already in the game, and they don’t just fall in line. And I wrote the book because the greatest return any person is going to have as a leader is not having a lot of followers, because every time I develop another leader, it just begins to multiply and compound. And so, I wrote a book, simple, practical, applicable, that a person can pick up, and they say, “Okay, leading leaders, developing leaders, isn’t the easiest thing I’m going to do but it’s the most worthwhile thing I can do.”

My good friend Art Williams who started Primerica, has a great statement. He told people when they would join his company, he said, “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy but I am telling you it’s going to be worthwhile.” And this is what I wrote in The Leader’s Greatest Return. It’s not easy but it’s going to be worthwhile and it’s going to give you a huge return. I know that because for 50 years I’ve developed leaders, and the compounding I’m having in my life now is ridiculously off the chart, but it’s because I’ve consciously developed other people to lead and influence others.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. John, this has been a treat. I wish you lots of luck in all of your leadership development adventures, you know, nation to nation and group to group.

John C. Maxwell
Thank you, friend. I so value you and what you do for so many people. Pete, you’re a plus in people’s lives. Your podcast adds value to so many, millions of people, and so it’s always a pleasure to be with you and to, hopefully, add value to you and to your listeners. And thank you again for your help with my wine cork situation. But just thank you and blessings. And, hopefully, in the future, we’ll be able to do it some more.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. Yes, you too.

470: How to Give and Receive Useful Feedback Every Month: Insider Tips on Making Performance Reviews Not Suck with Dr. Craig Dowden

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Craig Dowden says: "If we want to give appreciation, give only appreciation. The most common blunder is that we combine coaching and evaluation."

Craig Dowden exposes gaps in common performance review practices and presents an empowering alternative approach everybody can use–no matter where you work.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why the current performance review practice is broken
  2. The key thing NOT to do when giving feedback
  3. A different and better strategy for regular reviews

About Craig:

Craig Dowden (Ph.D.) is an inspiring and thought-provoking executive coach, Forbes author and keynote speaker who partners with leaders and executives to tackle their most important personal and organizational challenges. Craig holds a Doctorate in psychology, with a concentration in business and is a Certified Positive Psychology Coach. In his role as a trusted advisor, he integrates the latest findings in the science of leadership, team, and organizational excellence into his coaching and consulting work. In 2009, Craig was recognized as one of Ottawa’s 40 under 40 business leaders by the Ottawa Business Journal.

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, Sponsors!

Craig Dowden Interview Transcript

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

Craig Dowden
Thanks so much for the invitation, Pete. Looking forward to chatting with you.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’m looking forward to it as well. But, first, I want to hear a quick tale about your nickname Egg in high school and how you used that to your advantage.

Craig Dowden
Nice. Well, good background searching and sleuthing there. When I was growing up, I was kind of an awkward gangly tall kid, and so we would have races around the neighborhood. And so, of course, the classic last one to Craig’s house is the rotten egg. And then, I was routinely last, so you can see how they quickly made the link between, “Craig’s the rotten egg, Craig’s the rotten egg, Craig is the egg.” And, thus, the legend of Egg was born.

And so, not to be thwarted by the nickname, I ran for Student Council President, and we actually had a very boisterous group of supporters, and we had a lot of different campaign slogans attached to them, like, “Vote for Egg. He won’t crack under pressure.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, zing.

Craig Dowden
Or, “Vote for Egg, or the yolk is on you.” So, we got a little playful. And, apparently, that worked, branding, won by a landslide, so it was quite the campaign. Very enjoyable.

Pete Mockaitis
Well-done. Well, I’m going to go for an awkward for a segue, and I want to hear about how often people feel like there may be egg on their face on the giving and receiving of performance reviews out there.

Craig Dowden
Exactly, yes.

Pete Mockaitis
I was inspired. I enjoyed your incoming pitch and we’re getting more and more selective these days as we’re getting clearer and clearer on what listeners want. But you nailed it, you and your publicist got it going on. Performance reviews, that is a pain point for a lot of people. Can you orient us maybe what’s current practice in most organizations with performance reviews and how well is that working for us?

Craig Dowden
Well, thank you for the feedback. I’m glad the pitch was received well. And, yes, it’s one of those internal pain points. What’s really interesting is if you look at organizational research, in very few circumstances does management and employees agree on certain things. You talk about engagement levels, transparency, you name it, there often tends to be a disconnect between leadership and employees. And, yet, for performance reviews, this is one of those areas that are universally loathed.

Pete Mockaitis
Loathed with a T-H, not a V as in Valentine’s. T-H as in Thermopylae.

Craig Dowden
Correct.

Pete Mockaitis
The first T-H word I thought. How about thumb?

Craig Dowden
Exactly. So, yes, they just absolutely, people just dislike them. So, managers really dislike giving the feedback, and employees really hate receiving the feedback. Oftentimes they’ll use a lot of ineffective strategies like the compliment sandwich, which, you know, say something nice and then you follow it up with something really critical, and then, of course, just to make sure they leave on a positive note, you end it with a positive.

And so, all of these tips and tricks just lead to a lot of disappointed participants in this process. There was a study done a couple of years ago where 55% of people said they didn’t feel that their annual performance review was fair or accurate representation of their performance. Two-thirds said there was surprising feedback in the review, which you would think that shouldn’t happen. And then three quarters of employees said there were no specific behavioral examples given to support the feedback.

So, this is a really broken process which many leading organizations are starting to realize and make changes as a result of it.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And I’ll tell you, this just fires me up. I just think feedback is so important.

Craig Dowden
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’ve heard it said that it’s the breakfast of champions.

Craig Dowden
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
And it’s so powerful and useful as a tool for learning, growth, and development which I am big in, big on, and to hear that in some organizations this may be the only or the majority of the feedback they get, which is sad as well, and then to hear that it’s not working for people, and isn’t accurate, doesn’t have specific examples, it makes me sad because it could be a cause for celebration.

I actually enjoyed getting reviews because I viewed them, well, one at Bain, they gave very detailed and thorough reviews and lots of examples, and I like that. But, two, I thought I’m in this job largely for the learning, and a lot of the learning is happening during my performance review, for me. And, thusly, I was like excited to go into them because I thought, “This is part of my compensation. It’s like I’m getting a bonus.”

And I was a little bit odd in most of my college life, like, “Okay, Pete, I kind of liked it a little but you’re weird.” But organizations that are not advanced or in that domain, of which it sounds like they are a majority, leave a pretty crappy experience all the way around.

Craig Dowden
Well, for sure, and I think and I love your personal experience and being a bit of an outlier to say in terms of just loving the process. And when you look at the evidence, people are open to receiving feedback, and I think there’s just a lot of challenges. I think that if it’s constructed well, the conversation can go fantastic because it provides an opportunity for leaders to give some feedback to people in terms of where they are and where they need to be.

It also provides people in the organization an opportunity to learn and grow, which this is one of the keys when you look at the research around engagement, that’s one of the key indicators, “Do people, feel like they’re learning new skills, having an opportunity to challenge themselves and grow?” So, fundamentally, the process is a wonderful one to really drive and facilitate peak performance and learning, yet, unfortunately, the way in which we handle it just ends up leaving invariably to some really challenging circumstances because people either don’t deliver the feedback particularly well.

Doug Stone, out of Harvard, did some fabulous work around the different types of feedback so this is one huge challenge in terms of how some missteps that we make. So, he identified three primary forms of feedback. So, there’s appreciation, which is, “Hey, Pete, great job. Really love what you’re doing. Couldn’t achieve what we’re doing without you.”

Then there’s coaching, which is essentially bidirectional conversation where you’re exploring with someone different ways of approaching a particular challenge or opportunity. And then the last one is evaluation, which is essentially saying, “Hey, Pete, this is where you are based on what we initially projected, or what our end goals were, and so let’s discuss that.”

And so, based on Doug’s research, and I’ve spoken to him extensively around this, the difficulty is it’s almost like the movie “Ghostbusters,” right? Don’t cross the streams. And, unfortunately, we have this terrible habit of crossing the stream. So, according to his work, and he’s been at the Harvard Negotiation Project for well over 30 years, and what he’s found is we’ll combine those.

So, if we want to give appreciation, give appreciation. The most common blunder is, is that we combine coaching and evaluation. And as he shared with me a little while ago, he said, you know, Pete, you can deliver the best coaching advice anyone has ever received or the best coaching conversation anyone has ever experienced, and if you combine it with evaluation, guess what happens? They basically just totally lose all of the coaching and focus on the evaluation, “So, why did I score a three out of five on this?”

And so, he said for the maximum impact to ensure that feedback is received and is actionable, the best thing we can possibly do, focus on evaluation for one conversation, and then have the coaching conversation following up on that. So, don’t mix them. And, sometimes, again, in the interest of efficiency, we mix the two, we’re like, “Hey, we’ll do the evaluation and then spend time coaching so that the person can really put this into practice.” Unfortunately, even though it may intuitively make sense or feel like it makes sense, in practice it has an opposite effect and actually leads to real challenges in the development and adoption of new behaviors.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s a very helpful rule of thumb, that I think that could take you far just following that forever. So, you were saying, “Let us not mingle the coaching and evaluation bits of feedback in the same conversation because we’re going to miss out on that coaching goodness.” Now, is it kosher to mingle appreciation and coaching, or are those too helpful to be separated?

Craig Dowden
Again, the safest route, based on the work that he has done, is to separate them. Keep them because, again, it’s going to be around, “Hey, great job. This is wonderful. Really appreciate your efforts on this.” So, it keeps the conversation focused on, “We want you to feel recognized and acknowledged for your contribution.” Once again, as soon as you throw coaching into the mix, the person may forget about the appreciation and then focus on, “What are different strategies I can use around this?”

So, keeping our focus on what kind of feedback do we want to deliver, and then keep or maintain that focus on delivering that message. And then, later, you can talk, again, have a coaching conversation. So, all of those pieces can be much more effective in terms of supporting behavioral change and/or maintenance in someone else by being cognizant of those three different pieces of feedback.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, that’s cool. Well, now, you have a particular approach you recommend when it comes to performance reviews. Tell us about this.

Craig Dowden
Well, I think it’s basically a do-it-yourself employee review, and Daniel Pink, an international bestselling author, talks about this in “Drive” around having do-it-yourself performance reviews. And there’s lots of fundamental reasons as to why this is so effective. So, number one is that so feedback becomes less threatening through familiarity.

So, every month, if you and I are going to sit down, Pete, and have a conversation about performance, then I’m going to basically hand the reins over to you and say, “Okay, tell me how you did. Tell me where you think you thrived. Tell me where there were some challenges.” And so, in that way, what it does is it empowers someone else to be able to deliver their own feedback conversation.

Also, there’s less kind of threat around it because it’s more familiar to them. And it also empowers the other person to highlight some things within their own performance. So, really, it enables someone else to take the lead.

One of the worst things around performance reviews, and how organizations typically do it, is that you’re going to deliver the feedback to me. So, it’s very unidirectional and you’ll essentially stand on high and essentially pronounce judgment on how I’ve done over the past 12 months. By making a do-it-yourself performance review, and do it on a monthly basis, it’s much more common, frequent, routine, and now the individual feels empowered around what they’re going to share with you.

And so, that provides a sense of autonomy. It provides a sense of input. It provides a sense of ownership. And it’s really framed as a learning conversation, which is so essential. And then the benefit to managers, one of the key benefits to leaders and executives and business owners that I worked with, that they’ll talk to me about in terms of their own practices, they’ll have a laundry list of feedback that they want to be able to provide to the person. Well, oftentimes, their employees will tick off the boxes of all the things that they want to share so it takes the pressure off them to deliver that message.

And, secondarily, in some cases, you will volunteer things that I don’t even have on my list. So, it’s a really cool opportunity to be able to get insight that you might not have captured with someone else and, again, without the pressure of trying to figure out, “How can I best frame that conversation?”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, what’s also really awesome is that if you are the manager, like you’ve reduced so much of your workload as well.

Craig Dowden
Right. I love that, yes.

Pete Mockaitis
And the benefits are huge in terms of, okay, so you’re less defensive because you’re the one generating these things about yourself.

So, are there any kind of key particular prompts that you recommend to structure or to latch onto a DIY review, or is it just like, “Hey, how do you think you did? How about it?”

Craig Dowden
Yeah, great question and I think it’s important to explain to people. And this, again, a major gap around just feedback processes in general is that they’re rarely explained, the purpose is rarely explained. So, leaders, executives, business owners, that I’ve worked with, they’ll talk about. So, what we want to do is make feedback an ongoing part of our DNA. Feedback is not something every six months or 12 months. We want to get to a space where we want to have feedback as a regular part of our organization and our organizational DNA because the world moves in such a fast pace these days. We need to have information. We need to have it readily available.

And so, what we’re going to do is have a monthly performance review where you come in and tell me where you’ve done well and what your successes are as well as some of the challenge areas and even what some proposals around what you think you and I can do to be able to address them. And so, it’s a wonderful way within that prompt. And then once you have that discussion in the first month, you can a check in after the first conversation and ask your employee, “How did that go? What did you think about it? Is there anymore specific direction that I can provide and anything I can do differently?” so you really start to have, open up the dialogue around that space.

And I think another really powerful benefit of this is that by employee sharing their feedback with you, then at the end of the conversation you can say, “Hey, do you mind if I share a couple of components or a couple of observations that I have?” So, it really benefits from the reciprocity principle. If you ask someone how they’re doing, well, they’ll generally ask you how you’re doing. So, it’s a wonderful way to create a bidirectional conversation that really kind of lowers the anxiety on both levels because it’s seen as, “Well, this is cooperative. We need each other in order to paint an accurate picture here.”

Pete Mockaitis
And so then, how do we deal with, I don’t know, numbers, ratings, rankings, competencies, you know, raises, bonuses, like the numbery things of it all?

Craig Dowden
Well, I think this is where some of the performance review processes are really broken because, like a forced ranking system as an example, right? And this is where a lot of them lose credibility, which is, “Well, we’ve got to have a certain number of stars, and a certain number of average performances, and a certain number of low performances.” So, this is where a lot of organizations are just redefining how they do performance reviews.

Some of the larger more progressive organizations are just getting rid of them altogether and moving it to a more kind of check in type of process. Adobe is an example as one organization that just stopped doing them altogether. And so then, I think this is an opportunity for senior leadership in an organization to start talking about.

So, what is the purpose of feedback? Because if the purpose of feedback is going to be around performance metrics, as an example, well, now, what motivation is there for individuals to disclose what’s going on? So, I think the metrics are an important part of it and how do we achieve it. Now, the process is around, “Okay, so how do we have that feedback conversation so we maximally set people up for success so that they can attain the goals that they set out?”

So, again, fundamentally, so let’s go back to that standard kind of Bell curve example that so many organizations use from a metric standpoint, or a financial incentive standpoint, “Hey, if everybody is knocking the ball out of the park through terrific feedback conversations, isn’t that awesome?” So, I think this is where fundamentally we have to rethink how we deliver incentives and how the feedback system is connected to that and be much more thoughtful around its implementation.

Pete Mockaitis
So, it’d be great to be more thoughtful around it, and so I’d like to hear then, you mentioned Adobe and some other. Let’s hear some more best practices with regard to is it kind of more separated with regard to how we’re thinking about raises and promotions and compensation things? It’s kind of a different set of conversations than is the performance reviews or how does that go? Because often, you’re right, I think that these things come together and that can be.

Pete Mockaitis
So, Craig, within this model, how do you think about raises and promotions and compensation sorts of things? Are those like completely different set of conversations, kind of separate from the performance review conversations?

Craig Dowden
Yeah, I think that’s a great question, and they are. They’re separate because you can talk about, “Have the objectives, the goals, what are we trying to achieve be it quarterly, monthly, yearly?” And then that’ll be a different discussion around, “So, how well did I do in terms of achieving those objectives?” And then when we talked about the do-it-yourself performance review, essentially, and that’s something that could be readily integrated into that framework, which is, “Okay, for my Q1 goals, if I’m doing this monthly, how do I think I’m doing? Why do I think that I’m doing as well or not as well as I’m doing?” And then be able to provide that as a counterbalance to that discussion. So, they are issues that would be dealt with separately.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Gotcha. And so then, I’m curious, if we have individuals listening who are thinking, “Boy, DIY do sound really cool.” We have a broken review process that you sort of discussed already also operating. Have you seen just sort of like individual professionals and their managers say, “You know what, this is cool. We’re going to go do it even if nobody else in our organization is.” How does that work?

Craig Dowden
For sure, yeah. One of the challenges is that it can feel awkward, almost like doing a new exercise at the gym. It can feel awkward so I think what’s really important is for both the manager as well as their team can talk about, “Okay, this may be awkward and we may have some stops and starts, and so let’s raise our hand and learn through the process.”

And I think when they have done it, what’s another challenge is that the manager, in particular the leader, almost has a scorecard, and what they may feel is the “right answer.” And so, giving control over to the employee can feel daunting and what’s going to happen, so there’s an uneasiness. And it’s really interesting and almost, to me, the parallel is having a difficult conversation.

I do a lot of work with executives and executive teams. And, particularly, if someone is having conflict with another colleague or other members of the team, when they actually sit down and have the discussion, it’s not nearly as painful or as challenging as they thought. And it’s the exact same thing with do-it-yourself performance reviews. When it’s over, a lot of times I’ll hear the executives say, “Wow, you know what, my employee shared things that I didn’t see, I didn’t have on my list, I didn’t feel was as great of an issue,” or, “I found that the conversation was much more constructive and productive.”

Or, “If they didn’t raise something that I had on my list, it seemed like they appreciated that I didn’t have the same level of defensiveness sharing my feedback with them.” So, there are so many benefits from doing it. Once again, kind of acknowledging that awkwardness. And I think it’s interesting because it is a very different way of approaching things.

And I think the other pieces, too, is that I hear is that then feedback becomes more normalized. It’s part of day to day, so it’s less awkward, so you don’t raise your hand when you only have something to complain about or a bad thing. So, it just becomes a natural extension of the discussion that you have each day.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. And so then, you have seen then those individuals who just decide, “Screw the broken corporate system that we’re in. We’re going to do this on top of it.” And it works just fine once they get past those kind of awkward adjustment bits.

Craig Dowden
Well, I love that you highlight that because, let’s say, you are working in an organization where they want to hold on to the standard performance review. Well, then there’s nothing that prevents a leader from adding that into the toolkit, and say, “You know what, we’re going to apply this within the traditional, or within our mandated performance review system.”

And what’s interesting, the benefits still translate because, “Now, I’m having regular conversations. You and I are having regular conversations, Pete, and so then we can talk about things. And then when the actual performance review comes up, we’ve laid so much of the groundwork that they’re really straightforward. Very little, if anything, is surprising,” which is the way it should be.

And so, fundamentally, whether or not your organization adopts it at large, or whether or not they resist and that you do it yourself, this strategy can be used regardless.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool. Well, so I’d love it if we can maybe do a roleplay or a demonstration of a DIY performance review in action. I mean, I guess part of it is quiet reflective thought on your own before you engage in the conversation. So, let’s say that I did that.

Craig Dowden
Right. That’s right, assuming that, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
We’ll make this like, okay, let’s just say you are the owner of my whole company, and I’m an employee who is in charge of making the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast, and we’re having a monthly check-in here. How would we start?

Craig Dowden
Well, I would say, “Pete, thank you for taking the time to come in and meet with me today. As you know, we do do-it-yourself performance review on a monthly basis, really, so we can have an open and constructive dialogue around how things are going. And so, I appreciate you taking the time to go through the questions, reflection questions, and fundamentally what I want us to talk about this afternoon are a couple of things.”

“Number one, how do you feel things are going in terms of the goals that you set out this month? How do you feel that you’re performing? Then, also, what are the gaps? What are some areas where you feel there are possibilities to raise your level of performance? And then, also, what’s some feedback that you have for me? So, how can I do a better job of supporting you in terms of where you are and what you’re trying to achieve? And then, lastly, I would love to be able to share my insights, observations with you to close the conversation, and just talk about the next steps.”

Pete Mockaitis
“Okay, cool. Well, thank you, Craig. I really appreciate you investing the time to do this with all of your many direct reports and it could add up perhaps. And I feel that it’s going smashingly well with regard to the podcast having completed a huge listener survey. It gave me a clear idea of what people are into and seeking those folks out to deliver upon that.”

“I think in terms of the gaps, I think it’s that I’ve not yet sort of systematized an approach so that we can sort of take listener requests, write to guests like very quickly in terms of figuring out how to do that over and over again when it’s a lot harder to do that than to just snag an author who sounds relevant, who’s got a book coming out because they said yes immediately to invitations on the podcast.”

“And my feedback for you, Craig, is that we speak very rarely, and I’d love it if you could provide some more input more frequently into my performance there. So, that’s what I’m thinking right now.”

Craig Dowden
“That’s fabulous. Well, a couple of things, and I’ll certainly add that. That’s valuable feedback and I appreciate it and I agree that if we had an opportunity to speak more, have much more constructive conversations, so I definitely will commit to doing that.”

“A couple of things that I think you touched on in terms of what has been going awesomely well. I’m thrilled to hear that, so congratulations and that’s great news and great feedback. I really appreciate that you took your insights from customer feedback and client feedback that you have so that’s really compelling.”

“And so, what steps, what are some lessons that you’ve learned through the positive feedback you received in terms of what you’re going to continue to do, and then also ideas you may have from what they shared on the positive spectrum around how to potentially move the podcast to another level?”

Pete Mockaitis
“Certainly.” Well, I think we got the idea as far as demonstration goes.

Craig Dowden
And then just add to that, too, and back to systematize the approach, and then, on the flipside, then I would ask questions like, “Okay, that’s great. I think it’s really valuable that you looked at that. What are some ideas that you think could assist you in that? And then how might I be able to support you in systematizing? Do you have the resources that you need?”

So, you kind of counterbalance because sometimes, and the reason I started with the positive is sometimes people will kind of focus right in on the negative, you know, like where you would improve. And so, there can be lessons learned on both sides of the docket, and then you want to ask questions on each of those follow-up questions in each of those domains.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. And I hear what you’re saying with regard to the reduction and defensiveness because it’s totally like, “Well, hey, I brought it up.”

Craig Dowden
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
And even if I didn’t bring it up, it’s like, “I’m already in the zone of having thoughtfully introspected on what are some things I might do better.” And so, it’s not like you’re giving me a jarring sort of state-shifting attack, like, “Here’s how you screwed it up.” “What?”

Craig Dowden
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s like, “No, this is what we’re talking about.” And I’m already in that kind of place so it’s a lot easier.

Craig Dowden
And I love that you said that you brought it up. And I think that’s what’s really important is, well, because let’s say you bring it up, and then I reframe it or I probe a little, and then you get defensive. Then, as a leader, as a business owner, you can come back and say, “Well, Pete, just for a moment, appreciate the response and just I’m following up on something that you raised.” So, sometimes back to dealing with fear or dealing with a trigger, maybe I’m triggered by it. Then this can help raise, bring the discussion back on point, where it’s like, “Oh, yeah, I did raise that, and so I wonder why, what triggered me on that.” So, there’s real richness to that discussion.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah. I guess, certainly, if you want to go meta there for a moment with regard to what’s happening and then I don’t think that happen sometimes. It’s probably rare that folks start crying and sharing some deep historical therapy-type elements, but they might. And that might be just the thing for that particular conversation. But it could be just like, “Oh, you know, it’s always been a little bit of a sore spot for me ever since this happened that I’ve been quite conscientious about this sort of thing. It gets me going.” It’s like, “Oh, that’s really good to understand.”

Craig Dowden
For sure. Well, and this is, as an example, I mean, this is what then can bring a conversation back versus if you raise it as the feedback provider versus operating as a feedback facilitator. So, if I get triggered defensively by something I’ve openly shared, that in of itself shows the complexity and complications attached to delivering a feedback, because hearing it from you might trigger me differently than if I’m talking about it myself.

Because if I’m self-anointing and self-identifying, that can feel safer than when you do it. Then it’s like, “Wow, okay, I’m reacting to this.” So, it can be a really powerful moment of self-insight for the individual because they can actually hold up a mirror and say, “Gee, even though this is something that I recognize within myself, if anyone else around here points it out, I can get defensive.”

And then through a conversation with the manager, now they can add that to, “Hey, you may want to be aware of that in terms of how you receive feedback.” So, it can be a really powerful learning mechanism in that way.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s cool. So, we talked a bit about some of the emotions there with regard to removing some of the defensiveness in there. Do you have any other pro tips when it comes to handling some of the emotional bits if folks are scared to talk about stuff, they’re frustrated to revisit things again and again, they’re disappointed that they’re not, you know, maybe they heard some surprises, like, there’s a whole lot of emotion wrapped up in all of this? Any kind of overarching pro tips for working with that well?

Craig Dowden
For sure. Well, a couple of things that you can have that as almost preparatory. So, when we have these, and that’s what’s beautiful about having this as a systematized approach where it’s monthly. You can say, “Okay, during our monthly do-it-yourself performance reviews, there may be times when you feel fearful, frustrated, disappointed in what we’re talking about. How can I best show up to minimize triggering those emotions within you?”

And so, it has, “And what are some things that may lead you to experience this poorly? So, before we even embark on this journey together, you can start to lay out the ground rules about, ‘Hey, if you say purple unicorn, that can tend to trigger me in a particular direction.’ So, then it’s like, “Okay, now, I can manage that.”

The other piece can be around saying, “Well, there may be times when I have to share constructive feedback, critical feedback, in terms of what I see. How can I best deliver that so it’s perceived with positive intent and so I can make it as constructive a message as possible? And then what are some things that I can do if I sense that you are reacting emotionally to be able to address that?”

And so, once again, same thing, where the person is actually sharing the answers to that exam. Now, when you bring that up, then you will already have a preordained conversation about, “Hey, Pete, we did talk about it, and I sense this happening. So, as we agreed, I’m doing X and now it’s, ‘Oh, okay.’” So, it softens that transition.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s handy. That’s handy.

Craig Dowden
And I think for all of us, I mean, as a lifehack, it’s a wonderful opportunity, personally or professionally, to talk to the people in our lives about, “How do I best perceive feedback? How do I prefer to give feedback? What’s the best context? What’s the safest environment? And how can I best share those feelings?”

So, as another example, you can say, “If there’s anything that’s in my approach or what’s happening that’s provoking fear or frustration or disappointment, please raise your hand because to maximize the impact of this discussion and really leverage the power of what we’re doing here, we want to ensure that those emotions are minimized. They may not be eliminated entirely. Our job, collectively, is to figure out how to minimize those so we can have a safe discussion and really talk about what matters. So, in order for us both to get the most out of it, this is what we need. So, anything I can do to facilitate that, let me know.”

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

Craig Dowden
I’ve really appreciated the questions and the comments and the exploration. And I think, to me, the most important piece is the research shows that the vast majority of us desire feedback. We want to receive feedback. We want to figure out how we can stretch ourselves and grow. And so, for us, as feedback providers and receivers, it’s critical to develop both of those skills. And, again, I think, to me, the research in that is so important, that in order to be effective, we have to excel in both and be really committed to doing that and being curious explorers when we’re fulfilling both roles.

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

Craig Dowden
Favorite quote. I’m not sure if it’s a quote. Maybe it’s a practice. Something that I think is really powerful for me is around, “The answer is always no unless you ask the question.” So, it’s something that, for me, personally, as well as a lot of clients that I work with, sometimes we can put up artificial barriers and assume there’s going to be a negative, like, “No, this isn’t going to happen.”

And I feel like it’s so empowering for us to recognize that just by asking the question, asking someone to be a guest on a podcast, asking someone to interview, asking someone to have a coffee to discuss a business opportunity, if we don’t allow ourselves the opportunity to play the game, then the answer is going to be no, and we’re going to have a losing hand. And so, to remind ourselves of the power in asking questions.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, what I like about that is, it’s sort of like there’s a guaranteed zero percent chance if you don’t ask. And even if you’ve upgraded yourself to a 1% chance, you know, divided by zero it’s like an infinite increase.

Craig Dowden
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s not like you’re ten times more likely to get a reply, or infinitely more likely to get a reply, in your favor even if you’re only going to like a half a percent or 1% chance. And I’m impressed. I think one guy, I did a big blogpost, I don’t know, on a different website. But he reached out to just tons of people, and say, “Hey, do you want to talk about consulting over coffee?” And he had a very detailed notebook about who to reach out to and what the results were. I was like, “Whoa! Tell me, how often do people say yes?”

And he had computed, because he reached to like more than a hundred people, it was like 28% of folks said yes to a total stranger to like chat with him about career stuff. And that was mind-blowing to me. Like, on average, if you ask four strangers, you’d expect one of them to say yes. That’s pretty cool.

Craig Dowden
It is. And I think, again, a wonderful piece of reflection for us around, “Okay, how much do I get in my own way of advancing the goals that are most important to me? So, if I’m okay with receiving a no, then that’s okay. Then I think that’s wonderful, and so why not, right?” And so, I would rather, I feel it’s important that we remind ourselves that it’s better for us to put it out there and then be told no, rather than not do it, and then you get zero percent, as you said, and 28% of people like to help. That’s the other really interesting thing.

When you ask people, “Do you like helping other people?” Most people say, “Yeah, it feels good and I try to do that as much as possible.” Yet, we can be really reluctant to ask other people just, again, to talk about consulting, or to talk about how to be an effective leader, or to build a great podcast, and then we’re eliminating particular potential resources for us to learn from and grow relationships with and thrive.

One quote that did come to mind, to be able to circle back to your question, I remember interviewing Jim Whitehurst, the CEO of Red Hat, and so they just finished, I think, the largest acquisition ever, multibillion dollars. And he talked about, during his time, he said, “People have an amazing capacity for forgiveness if you give them the opportunity to do so.” And I thought that was very powerful as well.

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

Craig Dowden
Oh, that’s so challenging. Every piece of research, to me, there’s just golden nuggets. I love the one which showed that empathy is the third strongest predictor of executive excellence. So, that was done by the Management Research Group. So, the third strongest predictor of executive excellence out of 22. And then it was the strongest predictor of ethical leadership out of the 22. And the top two were strategy and communication.

And so, I think what’s really fascinating about their research is not only is empathy the third strongest predictor of executive excellence, you can make a pretty compelling argument as to empathy informs our ability to think strategically as well as communicate effectively. So, I feel like the fact that empathy is either directly or indirectly related to what I call the holy trinity of executive excellence. I think that’s really, really powerful and, especially, considering how empathy is going down.

Our levels of empathy are reducing on a pretty substantial rate, and it’s been identified as a key competitive advantage for organizations and executives, so it’s this really powerful piece of research which I love to cite and talk about.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow! Do you recall the author, journal, article?

Craig Dowden
So, it was out of the Management Research Group, so they’re in the northeastern U.S., and they had a whitepaper attached to it. So, they sent me some of their individual data as well. So, they have whitepapers on their website. It was over a half a million people contributed to that. I referenced a study in one of the articles I wrote for the Financial Post. So, they have one internal whitepaper, so they have hundreds of thousands of 360 feedbacks of paper on, and that was a really compelling study that they put together.

Pete Mockaitis
Fascinating. Thank you. And how about a favorite book?

Craig Dowden
Wow! So tough. Anything by Dan Pink, Adam Grant, Marshall Goldsmith, I think is exceptional. One book that I love to refer because it’s relatively unknown is by William Ury who wrote “Getting To Yes.” So, a lot of people know that book. My favorite of the trilogy that he wrote was called “The Power of a Positive No.” And I just found the concept so really compelling in terms of its application and execution.

So, essentially, what his argument is, and he does a lot of the toughest international negotiations and crisis situations, and he talks about how people are generally awful at saying no. And because we’re so afraid of hurting someone else, and so either we do one of two things. We either avoid the other person, or ghost them altogether, or we just say yes to things we’re not prepared to do.

So, in his book, he provides this really awesome methodology to be able to deliver a positive no which basically goes, “Yes. No. Yes. Question mark.” So, essentially, “Hey, Pete, I appreciate that that’s really important to you. The timeline for me is not going to work because of these competing commitments. How about we do X?” So, it’s, affirm the other person, affirm my own position, and then propose a solution with a question mark, say, “Hey, I’m prepared to collaborate,” and it’s just absolutely golden.

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

Craig Dowden
Tool? I love StrengthsFinder. I find doing a StrengthsFinder is really powerful and I love having access, I subscribe to HBR, so I love, I have to say, I really enjoy getting the articles, blogposts that come through there.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Craig Dowden
Wow, a favorite habit. I would say there’s a great book called “The ONE Thing” that was written by Keller Williams, the real estate…

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah.

Craig Dowden
And it’s amazing. And so, I strive to, each day, say, “What’s that one thing that if I do it will move the needle more than anything else?” And so, really be focused on the one thing, making sure by the end of each day, I have done my one thing.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks that they say, “Yes, Craig, that’s brilliant”?

Craig Dowden
I think the power of the positive no is really powerful. I think, really, the importance of letting go. So, the power of “I know.” So, when I have discussions with people and they have a conflict with someone, again, personally or professionally, I’ll say, “Okay. Well, have you talked to Pete about this?” “No.” “Well, how come? Like, what was…?” And then they’ll say, “Well, I know how he’s going to respond.” And I’ll say, “Okay. Well, how do you know that?” They’ll say, “Well, I just know, okay?”

And I’ll say, “Okay. Well, have you tried to approach him about this topic and then he shut you down or a similar topic and he reacted this way?” “No.” “Have you ever been in a social setting where you’ve observed him react in that way?” “No.” “Have you heard third hand, like around the watercooler that he’s done this?” “No.” And then it’s, “Hey, you know what, are you sure that he’s going to…how do you know this?” And I think that’s really powerful in terms of challenging our own insights.

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

Craig Dowden
CraigDowden.com is the best way, and also @craigdowden on Twitter, and you can use my name on LinkedIn.

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

Craig Dowden
Well, I would say to think about the impact that you want to have on the world and each day, both in any organization or community that you serve, and be mindful of what your core values are. And at the end of every day, sit back and see the degree to which you’re living your core values. And a lot of my coaching clients, I do it as well, do a quick five-minute take on, “Hey, did I do today what I set out to do? Am I living my values every day?” And a lot of research shows the better we are at accomplishing that, the more effective we are and the more likely we are to achieve our goals.

Pete Mockaitis
And happier, too, I imagine.

Craig Dowden
And much happier, yeah, exactly. An added bonus.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Well, Craig, this has been fun. Thank you and good luck in all your adventures.

Craig Dowden
Thanks. Well, I look forward to going back to our performance review and staying in touch. So, I’ll commit to that.

405: How (and Why) to Boost Positivity within your Team with Jon Gordon

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Jon Gordon says: "You'll never have a committed team without connection... The more connected you become, the more committed you'll be."

Jon Gordon reveals best practices for building trust and rapport within a team, no matter the circumstances.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Three exercises to build big rapport quickly
  2. The advantages of being an optimist
  3. How to transform challenges into opportunities

About Jon

Jon Gordon’s best-selling books and talks have inspired readers and audiences around the world. His principles have been put to the test by numerous Fortune 500 companies, professional and college sports teams, school districts, hospitals, and non-profits. He is the author of 16 books including 6 best-sellers: The Energy Bus, The Carpenter, Training Camp, You Win in the Locker Room First, The Power of Positive Leadership and The Power of a Positive Team. He is a graduate of Cornell University and hold a Masters in Teaching from Emory University.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Jon Gordon Interview Transcript

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

Jon Gordon
Hey, thanks Pete. Appreciate you having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m looking forward to this chat. I’ve been reading through The Power of a Positive Team a little bit. I chuckled a bit when you mentioned all the teams you’re on and have served. You describe yourself as the second-in-command at home. What’s the story there?

Jon Gordon
Second-in-command. Well, my wife I would say is in command. Then I have a teenage daughter. Well, actually she’s 20 now, so when she’s home I’m third-in-command. The idea that even though I lead in some ways, my wife I would say is the boss at home. I’ve learned to be a great team member at home and a great second-in-command leader, where we work together then lead our kids into the future.

Pete Mockaitis
When they’re asking permission to the kids to go to an outing or a friend’s house, she’s calling the shots?

Jon Gordon
Oh, of course. When we’re deciding what we’re doing for the weekend or where we’re going, she’s calling the shots. I say, “You have to ask my boss.”

Pete Mockaitis
She likes it that way?

Jon Gordon
Of course. She wouldn’t have it any other way.

Pete Mockaitis
Good deal. I also want to hear about your book here, The Power of a Positive Team. What would you say is sort of your key point or thesis here?

Jon Gordon
Well, it’s a framework for how to build great teams. I’ve worked with teams for the last 11 years: NFL teams, NBA teams, corporate teams, non-profit teams, hospital teams, you name it. I’ve discovered what makes great teams great in working with all these teams. This is what I’ve learned over the past 11 years since I wrote my book The Energy Bus.

What happened was leaders and teams started reading The Energy Bus. They would then bring me into speak. I would then get to work with them, talk to them, consult with them and so forth. I just learned so much. In this book I pretty much put everything that I know and then everything I’ve learned on what makes a great team.

My goal with this book was that a team would read it together and they would know what they needed to do to become a great team. They would have a framework and a process they can follow along with the key ingredients and the best practices that would allow them to develop into a stronger team.

When I say proven, it is proven because it’s not based on theory. This is being out in the field. This is working with the teams. This is knowing what works. Now, I’ve done research also for the book in terms of what makes other teams great, but this is my first-hand experience in many ways of what makes a great team.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’d love to hear in terms of your research, both first hand as well as kind of collected elsewhere, that confirms hey, these are the things that really make the difference.

Jon Gordon
Well, one of my favorite pieces of research is Google study, which they called Project Aristotle, where they really wanted to know what made their great teams Google at great, where did their best ideas come from. Then they also examined other teams in other industries. They wanted to know what made those teams great.

What they found was that the best teams weren’t comprised of the A players. In fact, their best ideas and their best inventions did not come from their A teams. Their best inventions, their best ideas, their most successful businesses came from their B teams. These were the B teams comprised of a scientist and experts that weren’t considered rock stars in their field.

The A teams were the people who had the most education, they were rock stars in the company, they had the most domain specific information and knowledge, but the B teams were comprised of people that perhaps were known less and perhaps had lesser education and were not considered rock stars.

But the B teams had what they called psychological safety, emotional safety, where they were free to share ideas back and forth. They were not worried about being ridiculed with those ideas. From the exchange of information and the flow of sharing, there developed a connection, there developed a trust, where they felt, again, safe to share, safe to be who they were. Out of this connection, out of these bonds of trust came the best ideas.

What we realized is that it’s not the genius minds that create the best ideas or come up with the best inventions; it’s the genius within the team. It’s the idea that the collective genius of them coming together and becoming a connected group, led to greater commitment, which then led to great ideas and genius inventions. It’s a great lesson for all of us as we build a team.

What I often say and I’ve been saying this even before I saw this research, so this research just confirmed what I believe and what I had seen firsthand was that you’ll never have a committed team without connection. You need to be connected in order to be committed. The more connected you become, the more committed you’ll be.

You can see a team that is connected, you can see how they then have commitment for each other. When diversity comes and challenges come their way, instead of running away from each other, they run towards each other; instead of fighting with each other, they fight for each other. They become stronger together.

We are better together. Together we accomplish amazing things. It’s that ability to come together as a team that allows you to be successful as a group.

Pete Mockaitis
Then in practice, how does this connecting happen well? Is it about teambuilding exercises and trust falls or what is it that makes that connection and that foundation in place for psychological safety to be present and flourish?

Jon Gordon
Well, there are many ways. Sometimes it happens unintentionally, where people just come together, develop great relationships and you wind up getting a great team out of that. But I believe that leaders need to be intentional in doing this. I’ve created a number of team building activities, exercises that teams do to help them become stronger together.

For instance, I worked with a leadership group in a company, had them come together, and they shared this exercise, “If you really knew me, you would know this about me.” Each person went around and shared that idea. That’s from my good friend, Mike Robbins. I need to give him credit for that.

In doing that it was amazing how the walls of ego just came crumbling down and you saw this group of people really come together and bond as a result of that.

My other exercise I love to do is called the Triple H exercise: hero, hardship, highlight. Hero, hardship, highlight. Who is your hero? Tell me about a hardship that you faced that made you who you are today? Tell me about a highlight in your life. As each person shares their hero, their hardship, their highlight, again, the authenticity and the vulnerability just paves the way for meaningful relationships and stronger connections.

I’ve done this with a number of teams. It’s powerful how that happens. There was one team in Australian rules football. This is the Richmond Football Club. They won a championship for the first time in 36 years. There was a whole article in a magazine about how this Triple H exercise was what developed this team, which is what caused them to come together and create an incredible bond. They all really talked about the power of this Triple H exercise.

If you could see it in these burly and strong Australian rules football player, you can see it in an NFL locker rooms like I do, you can see it in corporate meeting rooms and boardrooms, and you can see it with just a team coming together and having a team building session like this.

A lot of Navy SEALS, I’m friends with a lot of them, they do a lot of programs with companies and organizations. They do exercises where they cause people to face some adversity together. They go into the ocean and they deal with some extreme hardship. I always joke with these guys. I’m like, “Hey, you don’t have to drown together to become a strong team.” You can actually do exercises like this where you really become vulnerable and authentic and that builds a connection.

Then, if you’re a leader, this is something I recommend for leaders to do and teams to do, you can just come together and you can look to connect with one person every day, someone who you lead or perhaps a team member on your team. If everyone intentionally connected with one person every day, would have a meaningful conversation, maybe you go to lunch, maybe you have some established dialogue that you create in your culture, something that you’re going to work on together.

Snapchat for instance, which they’re now known as Snap, has a thing called Counsel, where they create groups that come together within the company and they have these ongoing meetings they call Counsel, where they sit around in a circle and they talk about who they are, they talk about different questions that are presented.

Each Counsel is going to have different questions, different focuses, but it’s all designed to have people from various parts of the company come together and create stronger teams and more of an informal kind of network, which is where we know that most of the great ideas come from. It’s not the actual formal network, it’s the informal network, the relationships that develop that lead to the bonds and the ideas being shared and ultimately the success of an organization.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, what I like about the exercises you mentioned there is you talk about vulnerability, but they strike me as – your proposals – being in the sweet spot. It’s not so shallow as to not be worth much. It’s like, “Okay, whatever. You like barbecue.” And it’s not so intense as to freak people out. It’s in a nice little zone that seems doable and approachable, but you might expect to have some real impact from.

Jon Gordon
Yes. It’s a little awkward at first, I will admit that, when you first are sharing your hero, hardship, highlight.

Just as if you would go to counseling with your wife or significant other – if you’ve ever been to counseling, my wife and I did before we got married – you know it’s hard to share at first, but as you start to do it – even we saw Tony Soprano on The Sopranos, he went to counseling. We saw this guy, who’s a mobster actually, become vulnerable and share.

As you do that, it’s amazing how you start to just let the guard and you start to share and you start to open up and you start to change as a person. You become better.

At first it’s awkward, but as it starts to go around the room, as you start to establish this is part of your culture and part of your team and you explain, “Hey, guys, this is going to be a little awkward at first, but I’m telling you as we go through it, it’s going to be real meaningful.” As you do it, it becomes very powerful.

Again, it’s not meant to be corny. It’s not meant to be touchy feely. You’re really telling them, “Hey, we’ve got to get to know each other. If we want to be a strong team, we have to know each other a little bit better.” When you know someone’s story, you’re going to know them a whole lot better.

The other exercise is a defining moment that made you who you are today. What’s your defining moment? When you know someone’s defining moment, you know their story. You’re going to know them a lot better. Then once you know their story, you want to fight for them and not really maybe be angry at them when you say them acting a certain way. You may understand them a lot better when you know their story.

Pete Mockaitis
I’d love it if you could just make it all the more real for us. I’ll put you on the spot here Jon. Let me know, hey, if I really knew you, what would I know about you?

Jon Gordon
It’s funny, when I’m giving my talks, I do a lot of keynotes – over 86 this year. Actually, no.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a lot of travel. You’ve got some pretty good flier points there.

Jon Gordon
Yeah, 86 this year. When I’m doing keynotes and things like that, I actually share this. I’m not afraid to share who my hero is or a highlight or a hardship or if you really knew me.

I would say if you really knew me, you would know that my father, my biological father, left when I was a year old. My mom was a single mom. I was a year, my brother was four. That was a defining moment in my life because, again, when you have a father leave that sort of imprints on you a lot of who you are. For years we never had a great relationship.

But my stepfather entered the picture when I was five. He was a New York City cop. He raised me to be who I am now. He loved me as his own. I called him dad. He really had a huge impact on my life. It’s a part of who I am. My dad was Italian. My mom was Jewish. I grew up in a Jewish/Italian family, a lot of food, a lot of guilt. It just helps-

Pete Mockaitis
And great skin.

Jon Gordon
Great food as well. It helps form who you are as a person. I think having my father leave and feeling that abandonment in my life a lot was a part of me. I actually came to forgive him and even went to visit him with my daughter right before I started writing. I couldn’t write until I actually went to clear that from the path, clear that and let it go and forgive him. I did. It was shortly after that that I actually started writing.

I let go of all the past, all the pain, all the burden and from there I became in many ways a different person. That was a big part of my past, but if you really knew me, you would know that about me and you would know that my stepfather – I hate that term stepfather because he was my dad – who raised me and raised me as his own, his love really was transformative and had a huge impact on my life.

Pete Mockaitis
Do we have a highlight in there as well?

Jon Gordon
Well, I have many highlights, but it would be I would say – everyone always says this, but getting married to my wife, no doubt. I wouldn’t be who I am if it wasn’t for her. My two kids for sure are big highlights.

I would have to say – I joke, but this is true, I used to be in the restaurant business and I had Moe’s Southwest Grill. I was the first franchisee for Moe’s Southwest Grill. The day I sold my Moe’s was definitely probably the highlight of my life. I wanted to get out of the restaurant business. It was so challenging. I wanted to pursue writing and speaking. I knew that.

The sale almost didn’t happen. Finally it came through and it was like, thank you. I was now out of the restaurant business, able to do what I felt like I was born to do and do this work. That was definitely probably the highlight of my life.

Pete Mockaitis
I can just imagine the release and the relief emerging from that.

Jon Gordon
Oh yeah. My wife laughs when I tell this story, but she knows. I love my kids. I love my wife. But that day, whoo. You don’t think the day you sell the boat or the day you buy the boat, well the day you get a restaurant and the day you sell three franchises that were just draining me every day – again, I was good at the restaurant business, but I did not want to do it anymore. That day I sold was just a great day.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Let’s talk a little about some terms. When you talk about the power of a positive team and optimism and negativity, I want to make sure we’re thinking about these in the same way. How would you define these three words, we’ll say positive, optimism and negativity?

Jon Gordon
Well, it’s funny. I don’t really define them a lot, but I guess through my writing you sort of get the gist. It’s not like I come up with a perfect definition.

But for me positivity is about being the best version of yourselves, to bring out the best in others, like positive in terms of hopeful and kind and empowering. To me, positive is a lot of things.

Optimism is believing in a brighter and better future, knowing that and believing the best is yet to come, that tomorrow will be better than today, so you’re optimistic about things. You have a hopeful attitude.

Research from Duke University shows that optimistic people work harder, get paid more, and they’re more likely to succeed in business and sports. What the researchers found with that because these people had a positive, optimistic outlook. Because they believed in the brighter and better future, they actually took actions necessary to create it. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The researchers said they deluded themselves – I love that they used the word deluded – it was because they deluded themselves thinking and believing in a brighter and better future. Sometimes that’s what it takes, deluding yourself about what’s possible.

To me, pessimism is where you don’t believe the best is yet to come. Pessimism is where you believe that and you are fearful about the future. You worry about the future. Pessimism believes that your best days are behind you, not ahead of you.

I would say negative is where you bring a negative energy, you bring a fear, you bring doubt, you bring uncertainty, which, again, uncertainty is not always a bad thing, but it’s okay at times to be negative about things that help you examine them, improve them, look for where pitfalls can happen that can bring you down. There’s the benefit of negativity.

But when I think about negativity, I think of the bad kind of negativity that sucks the energy out of a team, that condemns people, that doesn’t speak life into them. It actually speaks hate, ill will, that attacks and that also focuses on perhaps sometimes self instead of others. Now that would be more narcissism, but sometimes that can come across as negativity when you put yourself on a pedestal and you bring people down.

Again, so many ways to define, I choose to define it through the body of work, through the stories and the collection of a framework and experience that ultimately creates the definition of positive and negative, if that makes sense.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure thing. I just wanted to kind of get that squared away so that we can sort of dig into a little bit of this negativity because indeed you mentioned that in certain contexts that can really be helpful to examine something, to improve upon something.

How do you play that game optimally as a positive team in which you’re not ignoring problems – there’s no weeds, there’s no weeds, there’s no weeds – but you’re also not sort of I guess dwelling on them and being consumed with worry and your energy is drained and dissipated and you think that the worst is just around the bend? How do you play that game in terms of dealing with the constructive stuff well?

Jon Gordon
Yeah, you always confront the reality of the situation, like this is what we are dealing with. “Yes, we just lost.” “Yes, we had this mistake.” “Yes, we did a poor production run and we just lost this amount of money. Okay, let’s deal with the reality. How do we solve it? How do we fix it? Where are we going now? What is our vision for the future?”

You address the reality of the situation and there is a negative associated with that perhaps. But then you are hopeful and optimistic about what you are looking for and looking towards in order to create that future. Then you have to then say, “What actions can we take in order to create it?” You always address the reality of the situation.

But I love when people say, “I’m just being a realist. I’m just being a realist.” Well, even realism is subjective because Steve Jobs was famous for what they called his reality distortion field. Time and time again, Steve’s team would say, “There’s no way you can create this software, this hardware in this amount of time.”

If you read his biography, time and time again, he would convince them that it was possible. They said he was able to distort their reality from pessimism or realism to optimism. Time and time, they accomplished the very thing that they thought was impossible. Leadership is so often a transfer of belief. You have to believe in what’s possible. Again, you confront the reality of the situation.

I’m a big fan of the no complaining rule, which I wrote a book on. I didn’t invent it. A good friend of mine who’s a CEO invented it. I wrote this book on the rule, which is so simple. You’re not allowed to complain unless you come with a solution. Every complaint represents an opportunity to turn something negative into a positive.

We’re not saying get rid of all complaining. What we’re saying is let’s use those complaints and let’s create justified complaints out of them that lead to solutions. A complaint represents something that we have to fix. It’s a problem that we have to solve. It leads to a new innovation, a better way of doing something, a better process, progress forward.

Think about all of our inventions, every invention came about as a result of a complaint that said, “There has to be a better way.” That’s turning a negative into and turning it into a positive in a very practical way.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have some other practices for transforming the negativity when it pops up?

Jon Gordon
Well, when you have a challenge, you can look at that challenge and say, “Okay, what opportunity does this challenge present?” because every challenge really is an opportunity to learn, to grow and to improve. You’re always looking for those challenges.

For instance, when I speak to hospitality organizations or companies, I’ll talk to them about “Okay, this guest has a problem, but it’s a huge opportunity to now wow them. It’s a huge opportunity to be a hero and come to their rescue.” You can turn around a very negative situation to something very positive. You can do this with customer service as well. It’s turning that challenge into an opportunity.

It’s all about our perspective. How we see the world determines the world that we see. It’s addressing the negative, but then transforming it and turning it into a positive. Same thing with relationships. You have to have difficult conversations that might be perceived as negative, but you have those difficult conversations in order to grow.

As I wrote about in The Power of Positive Team, every team has to have the conversations that say, “Okay, what’s wrong here? What can we do better? Let’s tell the truth about where we are and where we’re not measuring up.” Those difficult conversations will lead to growth.

In a practical way, I remember my wife coming up to me. She was the boss. She said, “You need to do some things to be a better father.” I was like, “Okay, make me better.” I literally said, “Make me better.” Now in the past, I admit, I would have been defensive, but in that moment I said, “Okay, make me better.”

She started to share some ideas of what I could do. I didn’t agree with everything, but I took two or three ideas, I started to implement them, and I got better as a result. How much better would we be as a team if we just said to each other, “Make me better. I’m open. In the spirit of good intent, let’s talk about it in a positive way.”

Pete Mockaitis
That is a great line there. That’s handy. Any other pro-tips for navigating the difficult conversation waters well? I think a lot of folks are so terrified of them they just never go there.

Jon Gordon
Right. Because we never go there, we never move beyond the surface. We move – we stay stuck. We stay stuck in in a like, so then we never move to love. We never move to deeper commitment, deeper intimacy. That’s what I share in the book.

One of the things you have to do for difficult conversations is to actually say, “We’re going to have difficult conversations. We’re going to make this a part of our culture.”

Then what you do is say, which every culture says, is “This is how we do things here. This is part of who we are and how we do things. This is the way we’re going to have engagement. These are our rules of engagement that we’re going to create when we have difficult conversations.” You’re not allowed to get all up in arms. You’re not allowed to get defensive. You have to be open. But you have to come with a positive intent. It can’t be to berate someone or to ridicule someone.

The Seattle Seahawks have ‘Tell the Truth Mondays.’ Every Monday they get together as a team on Monday because the games are on Sunday and they talk about who messed up and how they messed up. They watch film and they tell the truth. No one’s defensive because everyone knows it’s designed to make everyone better. You receive the feedback. Hopefully you grow from it, you learn from it and everyone gets better because of it. But it establishes part of their culture.

You have to do this at the cultural level. You can’t just say, “Hey, everyone, we’re going to just start having these difficult conversations.” No, you have to explain how you’re going to have them, why you’re going to have them, what the rules of engagement are. Then as you do, those conversations will really help the team grow.

We’ll do it as a family. We’ll sit around and say, “Okay, we’ve got to have a difficult conversation.” We’ll meet as a family and we’ll have a difficult conversation. Our openness has led to a much stronger family and team.

Pete Mockaitis
When you say here’s how we’re going to do it, what are some of those pointers in terms of doing the how very effectively.

Jon Gordon
Well, I can’t tell you how in essence because every organization is going to be different, every team is going to be different. You have to decide the how and how you want to do it. We get together every Monday or we get together every Friday. We sit around a table. This is how we do it. We make sure in our rules of engagement that these are our positive rules. You do it with positive intent. It’s meant to help your team get better. You don’t call someone out in this way.

If you haven’t taken the time to establish a relationship with that person, perhaps you shouldn’t be the one that attacks them or criticizes them. Earn the relationship first. On the negative side you may say, you’re not allowed to ridicule someone. You’re never allowed to make fun of someone.

With Ford, for instance, Alan Mulally, when he turned around Ford, he created a working together management system that helped them become a stronger team. One of his rules were you’re never allowed to laugh at someone at their expense. That only breaks down trust. Even those little jokes that we tell when we make fun of someone or friends do that with each other, that’s not okay in that environment, in that setting. He created a rule that said that’s not okay. He believed over the long run that really created psychological and emotional safety.

There’s many ways on how you can do it. I think the key is you’ve got to sit down and decide the framework and how you want to create these rules.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Well, so we talked about some of the things to do. You mentioned one thing to not do is complain. What are some other key things you recommend that we stop doing right away in terms of this is a real positivity killer and a real negativity increaser. Laughing at other people’s expenses, that sounds like a nice one for the list. What else would you put in there?

Jon Gordon
We should stop focusing on people’s weaknesses and focus on their strengths. Research shows the more we focus on what people are doing right, the more we’ll do things right.

We should stop ignoring negativity. Too often we ignore it and it persists and exists. Then it winds up sabotaging the team and the organization. Like, you said, we don’t have the difficult conversations. Leaders do not confront the negativity and it winds up sabotaging the team. As a leader, you must make time for it. You must address it. The goal is to transform it and then hopefully remove it. Stop ignoring the negativity.

Stop focusing on the outcome. Instead focus on the process, your relationships, your people and your culture. We live in a world where everyone’s focusing on the fruit of the tree, the outcome, and the numbers, and the stock price, and we ignore the root. If you focus on the fruit, ignore the root, the tree dies. But if you invest in that root, you get a great supply of fruit.

We have to stop focusing on the outcome and start investing in the root. Our culture, our people, our relationships, everything that I’m talking about now and that I talked about in this book is a framework for being a strong team and developing strong relationships that will lead to a strong outcome. I think those are some key stop doings.

Maybe for – I don’t know when you’re going to share this – but we’re about to start a new year and I think one thing we need to stop doing is stop focusing on resolutions because resolutions, research shows 87% will fail during the course of the year.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah ….

Jon Gordon
50% fail within the first month. First month. You don’t even make it past January and you’ve already given up. Instead I believe people should stop doing resolutions and start doing one word.

Pick a word for the year that will help you be your best, that will help you focus on what matters most, focus on your priorities, focus on your keys to success, get rid of distractions, break through the clutter. One word sticks. One word gives meaning and mission, passion and purpose. One word we can remember. One word will guide you in your actions each day.

Pete Mockaitis
Please, give us some examples of these mighty words.

Jon Gordon
Well, it’s the word that you will pick. Every year everyone picks a word for the year on the team. Everyone in the family picks a word for the year. I just posted on Twitter about one word. I’ve been doing it for a number of years now. It is spreading like wildfire, how many people at organizations are doing this.

In the past Hendrick Auto had a one-word car, so all the words were on the car of all the employees. Every day those employees would come in and they would see their words on a car in the lobby of their headquarters. It would be a reminder to live their word for the year.

For instance, my words have been serve and purpose and rise, surrender. Last year was connected. I wanted to be more connected to people, more connected to my family when I was on the road and more connected spiritually. For me, my word was connected.

The year I picked serve, I knew I needed to serve more at home, serve my family, become a servant leader, stop focusing on self. I needed to serve others out in the world more where you use travel a lot, you speak a lot, you start to just try to survive and get through each day. I said, no, I’ve got to model this through the adversity, through the stress, through the busyness and serve. That was a big year that I picked the word serve.

If you watch Clemson football when they won the National Championship a couple years ago, Dabo Swinney on national TV in front of millions of people said, “My word all year has been love. I knew that our love for each other would make the difference and that’s what I told the team.” It’s really cool to see people pick their words.

Kurt Warner, the famous Hall of Fame quarterback just Tweeted my Tweet and he said his word is ‘committed’ this year. Then he wrote and typed in all of why he chose that word. He was going to be committed to his profession, committed to his family, committed to growing in his new role, just a really cool explanation of why he picked committed.

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

Jon Gordon
I think we covered a lot. I really appreciate you allowing me to share it. It’s fun to share these ideas and then it’s even more fun to watch people put it into practice.

In my book I share a lot of personal experience of what I learned and what I did with teams. I’ve had a few people say, “Oh, he was just talking about he worked with this team, that team, this team.” Well, I had to, to be able to share what we did and what I learned and then give an example. I was only sharing all of these examples to be able to help others learn from them so they can implement them themselves.

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

Jon Gordon
A favorite quote. Abraham Lincoln, “I am not bound to win; I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to the light that I have.”

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

Jon Gordon
Being positive doesn’t just make you better; it makes everyone around you better. The research shows that positive leaders, positive teams really do outperform negative teams. I love that.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite book?

Jon Gordon
So many. It’s almost hard to say one book, but I loved A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. That was one of my favorite books. And The Last Arrow by Erwin McManus is a great book as well.

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

Jon Gordon
I like Zoom. Zoom has been great to use in terms of being able to connect with others and do podcasts, so I like Zoom. I like Evernote. I use Evernote to keep a lot of my notes for my talks. I’ll go through and I can look at talks I gave a couple years ago and I’ll have the outline of that talk on Evernote. That’s been a helpful tool that I use.

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

Jon Gordon
My favorite habit is the thank you walk because the research shows you can’t be stressed and thankful at the same time. For about 13 – 14 years now I take a walk of gratitude every day. While you’re walking, you’re flooding your body and brain with these positive emotions that uplift you rather than the stress hormones that slowly drain and kill you.

I would say that the number one thing I’ve done to be a more positive person, because I’m not naturally positive, people think I am, but I’m not. This is a practice that has made such a huge impact on my life of a daily thank you walk, creates a fertile mind that is ready for success.

Pete Mockaitis
When you’re walking and you’re thanking, how does that work in practice? Are you just thanking for anything and everything you see or how do you work through that?

Jon Gordon
Different times, different ways each day. I’ll be walking. I’m thankful for my life. I’m thankful that I’m healthy enough to walk. I’m thankful for my family. I’m thankful for my kids even though they’re driving me nuts right now. I’m thankful for these challenges that help me learn and grow. I’m thankful that I was able to write this book the other day. I’m thankful that I get to talk to you right now.

You can find things that are big and small. You can do it for 10 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour. Usually mine starts with gratitude and then I move towards prayer, but for me the gratitude is a really powerful piece. It’s always different. Sometimes I’ll just start being thankful for things that you didn’t know you were thankful for. It’s a really cool exercise. As you do it, again, big and small, sometimes big things, sometimes small things. It’s just all different.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks, is Kindle book highlighted up a storm or retweeted at your talks?

Jon Gordon
“Love, serve, and care” is really a very shareable thing that I say that a lot of people share. It’s something that is very viral in terms of this is what leaders do. The best leaders love, serve and care. A lot of people do hash tag love, serve, care.

The idea is that to be a great leader, you have to love what you do. You’ll never be great at it if you don’t love it. You can’t build a great team if you don’t love your team. You have to love it.

Then you have to serve your team. When you help your team improve and grow, they’ll grow. You’ll grow in the process as well. When you help others improve, you improve. Serving is really a key part of leadership. A great leader doesn’t see themselves. Maya Angelou said, “A leader sees greatness in others.” It’s about seeing that greatness in others then serving them to help them become great. That’s key.

Then care. You have to show that you care. You really stand out in a world where so many don’t seem to care anymore, but caring is the difference. Because you care, you love. Because you care, you serve. Because you care, you go above and beyond to do things that cause you to standout, to build better people, to build great products, to build great teams. Caring is a huge part of that. Love, serve, and care I would say is something that’s really shareable.

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

Jon Gordon
JonGordon.com, J-O-NGordon.com or social media at J-O-NGordon11 is Instagram and Twitter, JonGordon11.

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

Jon Gordon
I love that you’re talking about being awesome at your jobs. I would say – it’s a message I shared in my book The Seed, which is about finding happiness and purpose in work and life.

The idea is that you shouldn’t seek happiness in your job. You’ll never find it in your job or in the life. The key is to work with passion and purpose and to live with passion and purpose. When you do happiness finds you. Happiness is a byproduct of passion and purpose and doing something that you love and doing something that you’re engaged in. Focus on that part of it.

Also, don’t chase success. We live in a world that’s consumed with success, but when you’re awesome at your job, what you’re really focusing on doing is making a difference. When you make a difference in your job and you make an impact and you find ways to love and serve and care and you plant yourself like a seed, where you are, then you’ll start to grow. That seed will start to grow. You’ll become the leader that you’re meant to be. Then what happens is success finds you.

To be awesome at your job, don’t focus on the outcome, focus on the process. That awesomeness will lead to great things.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Jon, thanks so much for taking this time. I wish you tons of luck with your book, The Power of a Positive Team and all you’re up to.

Jon Gordon
Hey, thanks Pete, I really appreciate talking with you.

296: Working with a Recruiter 101 with Korn Ferry’s Julie Forman

By | Podcasts | 2 Comments

 

 

Julie Forman says: "Be confident, know what you're worth, what you can do, and where you can go."

Korn Ferry partner Julie Forman shares how to leverage recruiters and executive search consultants as you manage your career.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Pro-tips for becoming more visible to recruiters
  2. Do’s and don’ts when speaking with recruiters
  3. When a pay bump isn’t worth it

About Julie

Julie Forman is a Partner with Executive Search Firm, Korn Ferry International where she is a member of the Firm’s Global Industrial practice and Marketing Center of Excellence.

She joined Korn Ferry following a 15 years career with GE where she’s held senior roles on both the Industrial and Capital sides with her last position being Head of Strategic Marketing for GE in Canada.

She focuses today on recruitment and leadership consulting mandates for industrial organizations going through critical inflection points requiring upscaling of strategic capabilities, shift in focus and transformational leadership. She is a certified Six Sigma Black Belt and Change Management Coach.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Julie Forman Interview Transcript

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

Julie Forman

Thanks, Pete. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, I’m so excited for this chat. And I’m curious to learn, first of all, since you’ve hunted many heads, recruited many people, how did you end up finding me?

Julie Forman

Well, it is through the beauty of LinkedIn. I was looking for some various leadership experts and your name came across. And I thought you had an interesting background, and just sent you a request to connect to keep you in my network. And you had started a conversation, which I happily took part of.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, yeah, it’s so fun because usually LinkedIn connection is just like, “Okay, cool”, and then maybe they sit there for a long, long time. But right away, you were so interested in engaging and shared some great tips. And I’m eager to dig in and share them with the broad world.

Julie Forman

Excellent. Well, I’m looking forward to that.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, and I understand you’re often asked so I’ll ask as well. What made you leave GE where you were for quite a while and go on over to Korn Ferry?

Julie Forman

Well, so as a lot of people in the executive search business, sometimes some of them, they’ve grown up in the industry, others have come from management consulting, and others, like me, have had an executive career before. And in my case, although I loved GE and spent many years and had an awesome time, at one point, I live in Montreal and with the company’s evolution, there just weren’t anymore roles that I thought would be my next stop here. And so, I had to take the leap of faith and follow one of my ex-colleagues who I happen to love, and who sometimes knows me better than I know myself, and thought that this would be a perfect job for me, a perfect follow-on career. And he is right. It is great. It leverages a lot of the skills that sometimes I think I didn’t even know I had myself. So it’s a lot of fun every day, and I get to work with one of my great friends, so that’s an added bonus.

Pete Mockaitis

Absolutely. And I have great respect for Korn Ferry, and we had your CEO in episode 273. And I’m excited for our conversation because it sounds like you have shared a lot with people in terms of working with a recruiter 101.

Julie Forman

Yeah, for sure. One of the aspects of having had a corporate career before as myself when I switched careers, I didn’t realize how little I knew about the industry and how invisible I actually was. And so, as I go through working with different people, obviously I tend to work with C-suite and above, but I love working with up-and-coming talent as well and telling them how to leverage recruiters and executive search consultants, and how to think about it as you manage your career.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, maybe let’s start real basic from the beginning. You said “recruiters” and “executive search consultants” or “headhunters.” Are these terms interchangeable, or how would you orient us to the words themselves?

Julie Forman

So the industry’s pretty wide, and it’s one where there aren’t a lot of barriers to entry. So I think one of your previous guests had mentioned 16,000 executive recruitment firm placement agencies. Basically, when you look at the ecosystem, there’s two different models. There is the contingency model – basically being paid when you place a candidate, which tends to cater to more staff-level positions. And then you have the executive search group that is a retained model, so more closely aligned to management consulting, where we are tasked with building specific strategies, solving talent challenges for our clients. And so you will find different firms that focus on the different types of recruitment. Now, obviously there is overlap, but typically, the more senior positions will be on the retained model.

Pete Mockaitis

And when you say “retained model”, that’s just how folks get paid a flat monthly fee for your ongoing services?

Julie Forman

Well, as you can imagine, there’s a lot of different variation to that.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay.

Julie Forman

But it’s more like consulting. So, when you hire a consultant and you have them redesign your whole plant, whether or not you implement those changes, you still owe the consultant for the work. So it’s the same way we do, it’s the same thing in recruitment – there is that notion of upfront work. Now, obviously we wouldn’t be in the business if we didn’t end up placing people, so we tend to be very successful at finding what we’re looking for. But the idea is there.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s cool. And so, maybe we’ll start really basic. So why would a typical professional maybe not yet at the executive levels choose to use a recruiter? They might say, “Oh, we’re just putting another middleman in between me and the job.” Is that helpful, and why?

Julie Forman

Well, so typically, a recruitment, let’s say we talk about search consultant.

Pete Mockaitis

Alright.

Julie Forman

So search consultants — they work for the client, and that’s something that’s very important. So often, we get calls about candidates saying, “Well, I’m trying to work with a search consultant”, but actually, the model is where we’re hired by a client and we will find you in a sense.

Pete Mockaitis

Alright.

Julie Forman

When you are more earlier in your career, more of a professional level, then it is worth it to think about who I want to work with, because at a contingency level, a lot of the value that these consultants bring is knowing the candidates and being able to present them quickly to the clients, because there is that element of speed.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, and so then I’m thinking if I am a professional and I am getting some inbound requests or information from a recruiter, how do I know how to sift through that a little bit and know, is this someone who has really cool opportunities or not as cool opportunities? Or you just have to kind of get deeper into the conversation to know.

Julie Forman

Well, the first mistake that I always see people make, or most people make, is that they are on a search mode only when they are actually looking for something, when there are not happy, when they want to move. When in reality, the conversation about your career should be ongoing. So when you get these calls, when you get these opportunities to have a conversation, you should take them. Have a conversation, learn what is out there, learn what these firms are working on, get a sense for what clients are looking for in candidates. And always make sure that you know the market in which you are, so knowing which firms are the ones that you definitely should strike up a conversation when they call, and that you should get to know.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, and so there is a nice listing in a Forbes article that I’ll put in the show notes. Any other kind of resources you might recommend to get oriented a little bit to, who are the names, who are the players? And you said, “They’ll find you”, but if we want to find them, what should we do?

Julie Forman

Well, you mentioned it. So there is a list there, and those lists, and I think on the website you’ll share, there is both the professional recruitment and also the executive recruitment. Most of these firms will have an area where you can upload your information so that you are on their radar. So that is something that’s very important. The other part is also looking around you. So when somebody has a new role, ask them was there any headhunter involved, any placement agency, and try to get their feedback for the level of service that you felt, the experience that you felt as a candidate. And that’s something that’s really important – using your network.
But most of all, I think it’s about being receptive. Sometimes people feel that, “If I dare to answer a recruiter, I am breaching this loyalty I should have to my employer, and I will be tempted to do something that I do not want to do.” Well, that’s kind of not true, right? This is just about talking about your career opportunities that may or may not appeal to you. And it’s important to have those conversations.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay.  Well then, how would one make themselves more findable? I understand there is a LinkedIn feature that explicitly says, “I’m open to chatting with recruiters.” Or what do you recommend?

Julie Forman

Well, LinkedIn certainly is something that a lot of people use, so making sure that you have a very professional LinkedIn profile. And there are tons of resources out there that explain how to do it, but that’s certainly a number one. And not just listing the title; it’s really giving an idea of what you’ve done, what you’ve accomplished – that’s really important. That’s certainly a first part. Making sure that your resume is up-to-date and ready, not just as though I’m going to write up my resume because you want to find a new job, but because you’re ready to, if you want to engage in something, that you have it ready and at hand.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. And so, you said there’s a number of these LinkedIn resources. I’d love it if you could name one or two, and maybe just a couple of quick do’s and don’ts that you see all the time.

Julie Forman

Sure. So the first one is making sure that when you describe your position or the positions you’ve had in the past, you are not generic. A lot of people, they write their accomplishment or their responsibility in such a generic term that it could be anyone. And so it’s important that you think about, what is my value proposition, what have I done that is valuable to an employer, and how can I create, I’d say, the feeling that somebody wants to call you and learn more about you, because that’s what LinkedIn’s all about.
The other thing, make sure you have professional pictures. That’s always very important. Make sure that you have – if you’ve done any major transformation, any major initiatives you worked on, things that are very relevant in your industry, make sure you highlight it in your LinkedIn profiles because those are the things that are picked up. And never forget that LinkedIn is a keyword-based search engine, so make sure that whatever keyword you would see in a position spec that you would be interested in, that that is somewhere in your resume, so somebody can find it.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, so then it sounds like – we talked about generic versus specific, and the initiatives and transformations – that there could be a fair bit of content, a pretty hefty word count then on your LinkedIn profile. Any thoughts on how much is too much?

Julie Forman

Well, I think you need to put enough to be able to create the curiosity. You have to bring enough to distinguish yourself from others. Obviously, you don’t want to have a five-page LinkedIn profile, but you want to put enough. Most people do not put enough. It’s not clear the scope of their responsibility, it’s not clear what they’ve done. And it’s just not, I’m going to say “salesy” enough, right? But I would certainly advocate to put more than less, especially if you’re looking for a role.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay.  So maybe, I don’t know, just to frame it a little bit – two or three bullets or accomplishments per role, or is that about the right amount?

Julie Forman

About two or three where you… And it’s important as well to say if you are leading a team, how many people are you leading; if you have a sales responsibility, give me a scope of how much; if for example you’re working in a specific vertical or industry, what is that experience; if you’ve worked with major clients, what are the types of clients that you’ve worked with; if you’re working in sales and you’ve done through channels, which channels do you know, because those are the aspects that clients often will ask for.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s great. And I have advised many clients when it comes to, say, working on a resume, that numbers do really work wonders, in terms of if something is significant or large – what do you mean by significant or large? Can you put the millions of dollars or numbers of people?

Julie Forman

Yeah, exactly. Or somebody in finance that says on the resume, “I was responsible for closing the books every month.” Well, yeah. Whether they were closed properly or not, that tends to stay out.

Pete Mockaitis

Certainly. Well, and I think that specifically for a moment, folks in accounting roles, I think, sometimes those resumes are kind of tricky to showcase some real results in terms of like, “We kept things moving well, and appropriately, and sensibly, and according to GAAP, and nothing broke.” It kind of doesn’t have as much of a flash or an enticing element as, “Discovered acquisition opportunity that yielded $200 million of transaction”, or something. So I’d love to get your take there, if that is the nature of your role and responsibilities, like you’re responsible for keeping things moving and operating and humming, as opposed to generating new explosive initiatives that are game-changing – any pro tips on that?

Julie Forman

Well, you probably hurt the feelings of a lot of accounting people out there.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m so sorry, accountants. I love my accountants, and you have skills that I often do not. And I value your contributions, all accountants out there. I want to make sure these accountants are getting their credit, their props in any way possible.

Julie Forman

Absolutely. I’m just kidding. But what may not sound exciting to somebody that is not in finance can be very exciting to somebody in finance. I think finance is one of those areas where nobody is looking for somebody who just stamps paper or closes the books. We’re always looking for people that add value, that are business partners. That’s what we’re looking for. Just calculating numbers and presenting them and making sure they add, it’s not value anymore.
So it really is about, when you think about your role, is how do I add value, how what I do every day distinguishes me from somebody else, and why would somebody want to hire me and not somebody else? And if you have no answer, I would say, change it. Do something. Think about how you can change it up. Challenge yourself to go above and beyond. And find those bullets that are going to go on LinkedIn and make a recruiter say, “Hey, I’d love to get to know this person because they’ve just done what my client is really looking for.”

Pete Mockaitis

I really like that turn of phrase there, “Find those bullets”, because that is powerful both in terms of representing yourself to the outside world, but also the internal representation for promotions and performance reviews and those kinds of things, is to proactively seek them out. And in college, I was a little bit of a… I was maybe a little bit of a prestige hound in the pejorative kind of interpretation of it, or a very shrewd strategic career planner in the kinder interpretation, because I was. I was thinking, “Okay, what is this bullet going to be that is going to sound awesome to impress McKinsey, or Bane, or BCG?”, because I was hungry and focused. That’s what I wanted post-college.

Julie Forman

No, managing your career is certainly about creating those experiences that are going to impress people. But more and more, managing a career isn’t something that’s linear. Before, it used to be you need to impress your boss, you need to impress your boss. But today, those people who are going to help you along and accelerate your career are all over. They’re everywhere. They’re your colleagues. They are your direct reports. They are everywhere. So it’s important that we stop seeing it as such a, “I need to impress my boss”, because that’s not what cuts it anymore.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, I’m with you there. So let’s say you’ve done some smart networking, you found some recruiters, or you’ve been found by recruiters by having an excellent LinkedIn profile that has the great keywords and great distinguishing accomplishments. What are some key things to think about, or goals to have in mind when you start having the conversations with these folks?

Julie Forman

So, it’s important to know what you’re all about, what you’re like, what you want to do, what you have been successful at, and what you want to develop. When you enter in a conversation, that’s the really important part. Too many people, they don’t think about it, and then they get pinged on an opportunity, and they’re just like, “Hey, it sounds fun. I’m just going to go there and explore it.” And they really don’t have the control of the conversation. So thinking about what you want to do is really important.
Another thing as well is what you want in your career, what you want in life. Every so often, you hear these conversations on, “You should not have your email during the weekend. At 6:00, close everything down.” But the reality is some jobs, you cannot do that. Whatever people say, I can guarantee you that does not exist. It doesn’t mean that you should do it. It means that if that’s a value, a preference that you have, then maybe those jobs aren’t for you and you should look elsewhere. And you could be successful doing something else. But understanding who you are and what you like is something that’s really, really important to find the career success that you want.

Pete Mockaitis

I think that’s a really good point there. It’s not just having a clear understanding of what you want, but also what you don’t want. And I have had some conversations with guests about establishing boundaries and that can take you so far. But as you said, in some roles that is just not going to fly, no matter how diplomatically brilliantly you engage in that discussion.

Julie Forman

Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, cool. So then you’ve got some goals in mind, you’ve got some clear self-knowledge, and then you’re entering into the conversation. What are some maybe particular do’s and don’ts to think about as you are having conversations? You’ve got a relationship with a recruiter, and you are having some back-and-forth. Are there some things that people do that just are delightful to search consultants and just dreadful, like, “Oh my gosh, I hate it when people do this”?

Julie Forman

Well, so I’m going to talk from the perspective of a search consultant. It’s probably a little bit later in your career, although these apply to any level. The first part of it is really to engage in a conversation. You mentioned LinkedIn, and the reality is most of our sourcing, most of the way we find candidates isn’t LinkedIn. Most of it is our network, the network of consultants of the firm, and also, a lot of executives that we know and we ask them, “Hey, who do you know and how? I have this particular challenge. How would you tackle it? What kind of person do you think could tackle it? Do you know anybody?”
And so one of the things when you get into these conversations is to think about, first of all, “Is this something that I am qualified for, interested?” That obviously is the first question. And then if the answer is “No” to either of those questions, “How can I help the person? What do I know about the industry? How can I help, maybe with a contact, with an idea, with a place I would look?”, because that’s really important.
The other thing that’s really important is as a lot of management consulting happens, we’re not alone. So although I don’t do a lot of the work, the work is done by senior associates and research associates – all these awesome people who reach out to folks and who are often the first entry point.  And so make sure that you network with these people, that you are very kind and nice, and take their call and return their call. So that’s really important. Another point that is also something that we talk about and there’s a lot of different points of view, is salary. Do you answer when somebody asks you how much do you make?

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, let’s hear that.

Julie Forman

That’s a big one. And there’s certainly a lot of different points. Salary, it has changed a lot. 30 years ago, 40 years ago, your salary – the salary you got from your job – often was your only source of revenue, and that kind of dictated where you were on the ladder of life. Today, you have people that have side jobs, and they create apps, and they have this, and they have that, so salary becomes one of the ways that you create wealth. And so I think that as a lot of things in these days, transparency becomes more and more, that you should find a way to figure out to test, how much do I make and how much does this job pay? And benchmark where you’re at, and think about it that way.
So, it really is a matter of personal preference and where you’re at, but obviously when you are in search and you call someone and you want to know, “Are we in the right ballpark? Does this make sense? Could we create an opportunity that would be compelling for this person?” So when people are super cagey, it’s not the best. And they don’t have to tell us, but they have to tell us what they want. And that’s the problem. The reason we ask for salary is people don’t know what they want. So it’s like going to a store and saying, “I want this. How much is this?” “Well, I’m not going to tell you how much.” It’s like, “Okay.” So it just doesn’t work. So either you say what you make, if it’s actually allowed, because a certain US state now prohibits it, or you say, “You know what? This is what I’m looking for. This is the range that I’m looking for.” And you have to have the confidence to say it.

Pete Mockaitis

Certainly. I’ve heard that tip shared and it resonated with me. When asked the question, “What are you currently being paid?” the appropriate answer is, “I am targeting a range between X and Y.” So it’s a little bit of a dodge, but I think it still accomplishes the goal you spoke of, is, “I need to know what works for you.”

Julie Forman

Absolutely. And you need to know how do you relate. And when you have these conversations, it’s a good time to ask, “Hey, I’m at this point. Does it make sense? What do you see?” Not obviously with everybody who calls, but when you’ve established that relationship, when you have this person you spoke to two or three times, and you’ve met them, you can ask. It doesn’t change anything. At the end of the day, whatever offer you get, you can say “No”. But the problem is people think that whatever is put in front of them, they just have to take it.

Pete Mockaitis

I think that’s very wise. And I want to dig a little bit more into – you said people don’t really know what they want. Could you be a little bit more specific, in terms of maybe precise questions within that realm of “What do you want?” that you often see people just don’t have answers to?

Julie Forman

Well, I think a lot of people, they start in a career, they get paid a certain amount, and they don’t talk about it at all. And so they have no idea whether or not they’re fairly paid for what they do. So, it’s about knowing, getting a little bit more information, educating yourself to know, “Okay, so what does an average role pay?” And sometimes getting a $5,000-$10,000 raise is not worth changing the job. But sometimes having that information helps you think about, or gives you the confidence the next time you’re in front of your boss and you need to negotiate that raise, knowing what is it that you’re worth out there, what are similar jobs paying. And it doesn’t mean you’re going to leave, but it means that you have at least that information.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, that’s good. And I’d like for you to speak a little more to that. You say sometimes a 5 or 10K bump is not sufficient to exit. And I can think of many such reasons why that’s the case. Could you elaborate on some of the biggies?

Julie Forman

Well, so especially when you’re earlier in your career. This isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. So you need to think about what is it that you want to develop, where do you want to go, and what is the best environment to develop that? And is it worth $10,000 if you just leave what you have and go? Sometimes you’re not in the right environment and you need to leave, and you’re not going to reach your goals where you are, but saying that just money is enough to motivate a move is rarely the right decision. It needs to be a package.
So, getting back to your question – you have a support environment in your role, where they are coaching you to get to the next level, you’re in an industry that you’re passionate about, and you’ve worked many years to develop, let’s say a clientele, and it’s just starting to work out for you. That would be too bad to let that aside to go to something else. So there’s a lot of reasons, but typically, people know. You get that good feeling on whether or not you’re doing it for, really, the holistic value of changing, or really if it’s just the appeal of a little extra cash.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, understood. And I’d also like to get your take when it comes to, you said we’re looking at keywords and does it seem to have a fit based upon distinctive experience. I also want to hear from you in terms of, are there some things associated with attitude or demeanor or some sort of other universal things like, regardless of I am trying to find someone in marketing or finance or if it’s in airlines or high-tech, everybody loves a candidate who, blank. Could you fill in some of those blanks?

Julie Forman

So the number one attribute, I would say, is somebody who’s agile. And agility is about the ability to take everything you’ve learned in the past and kind of rearrange it to deal with a new situation. The reality is the world is unpredictable. Nobody knows what’s going to happen. There are shocks every day, and so you can’t be prepared for everything that is going to come in front of you. But you can be prepared in developing a lot of different skills and having that ability to put them together to face whatever situation’s in front of you. So that’s definitely one.
The other one that’s very popular, and for good reason, is authenticity. So the ability to really embrace who you are and who people are, and find your real strength, and knowing what you’re good at and what you’re not so good at. And that has a lot of different flavors, you can call it self-awareness, but that’s really important – knowing what it is that you can do and being upfront and honest about it.

Pete Mockaitis

And I can see how the authenticity piece, you can kind of get a quick gauge if you’re talking to someone, if they seem to say that they are great at everything, it’s like, “Maybe, maybe not.” But we’re not maybe getting the whole story or the full truth, in terms of seeing that self-awareness or that authenticity. I’m wondering from your vantage point, how do you get a read on if someone seems agile?

Julie Forman

Well, so that’s a good question. I think it’s when you speak to somebody and they talk about their background, there is a lot of creativity in how people approach problems and create solutions, and they’re always on the lookout for something new, something different. They’re not afraid of trying different things, and they’re not afraid of changing industries, or changing roles, or they see more of the positive than the potential challenge.
So that’s typically when somebody is very agile. Now, there is a scientific measure taken from it, and we could certainly measure it. Each time we do interviews and we meet with candidates, it’s really something that we measure. But on a high level, it really is that ability to be creative on how you tackle problems.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, you got me so intrigued now. Scientifically measuring this agility, I know Korn Ferry has some tools, instruments, assessments along those lines, but from a mere conversation you’re getting a gauge and taking that into a number. How does that work, to the extent that you’re not disclosing super proprietary things here?

Julie Forman

No, so to get into levels and numbers, those are very complex assessments that are done, and so we certainly don’t do it by just a conversation. But I mean you get a feeling. I think it’s the feeling of when you think about those contests around the world and you’re a team of two and you have these challenges that you’re not too sure about. I think it’s Amazing Race. Well, who would you like to be on with Amazing Race? Who would you feel that whatever’s thrown at you, you will kind of manage it through? And it’s that feeling that we tend to look into in candidates, somebody who you would feel very safe in whatever situation, you know they’ll figure it out. And so we don’t come out of an interview with a number, I’ll tell you that much. It’s more of an impression.

Pete Mockaitis

That is a nice image there with the Amazing Race piece. Well, I guess now I’m thinking about in the consulting case interviews, in terms of we say, “Okay, we’ve thrown several business scenarios at you, where you’re able to crack them again and again.” And so, I’d be curious to hear in terms of, not to go too deep into interviewing, but when it comes to questions posed, are you seeing any kind of mistakes happening again and again that candidates can just easily avoid?

Julie Forman

Yes, definitely. So the biggest mistake that people tend to do is, they are not prepared. And they haven’t really been thoughtful about, once again, what is their value proposition, what are those great examples in their career that really showcase who they are and what they can do. And so what that creates is that when you’re in an interview, somebody will often spend too much time explaining the context, and then they get in the weeds, and there’s too many details. And they forget that this isn’t about the price of oil in 2012; this is about, what did you do about it?
So if you think about a minute, let’s say, or two minutes to answer a question, you don’t want to spend a minute and a half talking about context. You want to give it quick, have that elevator speech of, “This is what happened, this is the gist of it, and now I’m going to tell you what I did about it and that why I was amazing in this situation, why you want to hire me.” But most people haven’t practiced it, and that really shows in an interview.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. Well, I also want to get your take here – you’ve recruited at multiple different levels of seniority for clients. Can you share some perspective in terms of what do you see those who are rising, they’re flourishing and seeing a really cool career progression. What sorts of, I don’t know, knowledge, skills, abilities seem to come up again and again? We mentioned the authenticity and the agility. Is there anything else in terms of themes you’re spotting?

Julie Forman

Definitely the ability to learn, and also the confidence of knowing, of being able to come out and meet with us, and have the conversation, and take the information, and really have that level of gravitas that we look for. So, gravitas is something that’s really tough to define. It’s tough to define, yet it’s so easy when you see it. And I think that one of the ways that you develop that is often by being surrounded by people who have great executive presence. But executive presence really is when you meet someone, and they have a good background, and they know how to conduct a conversation, and you feel like this person can handle a lot of challenges. That’s certainly something that we look for.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, beautiful. Well, tell me, Julie – anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Julie Forman

Well, I think it’s really going back to trying to develop the best that you can be. Many years ago, developing your career was about being the best. So if there were five vice presidents or five directors or five managers, you wanted to be the best manager to get the promotion to director, and then the best director.
Now things have changed. People come and go, there are no long-term careers anymore. So you need to make sure that you work on yourself to be a director, whether or not it’s a director in your company, whether or not you get your boss’s job, all you need to do is make sure that you are director-level. And if that position is not there, then you’ll get another position. And I think that really is a shift in mindset, where you need to work collaboratively with your colleagues, you need to make sure that everybody gets to be the best they can be. And at the end of the day, everybody’s going to win by doing so.

Pete Mockaitis

That is a nice final note there. So now, could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Julie Forman

Well, one of my favorite quotes is actually by a great Montrealer who died last year, Leonard Cohen. And he sang in one of his songs a verse that says, “There is a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in.” And I think that Leonard Cohen wasn’t somebody who spent a lot of time explaining how he came up or what anything meant, so it’s open to interpretation. But to me, it really means that there’s nothing you can’t crack, there is really an opportunity everywhere, and that once you find that little piece of light, that’s when everything gets better. So it’s the continuous pursuit through imperfection that you get perfection.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, excellent, thank you. And how about a favorite study or a bit of research?

Julie Forman

Well, study – I would say at Korn Ferry, as you mentioned, we have a ton of research. We have lots of information on executives that are successful and what makes them successful. So we’ve been looking at studies on what makes great Chief Marketing Officers and what distinguishes customer-centric leaders. And so we’re in a lot of that analysis right now, so certainly, if your listeners go on our website, shortly you’ll have all those findings.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, so it’s in process as we speak?

Julie Forman

It’s in process, definitely.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, cool, alright. And how about a favorite book?

Julie Forman

Well, I read so much for my job that I don’t think I have a favorite book recently, but what I’m going to suggest is a favorite podcast. I assume everybody listens to podcasts. It’s actually an HBR limited series called Women at Work. It is a six-episode that they ran about, I’d say, six months ago. And it’s a conversation between Amy Bernstein, who’s the editor, Sarah Green Carmichael, executive editor, and Nicole Torres, a younger associate editor. And it talks about issues that women face, but it is done in such a pragmatic way and away from the conciliation work and family that basically a lot of us are sick of hearing about. But it really goes into really more interesting and useful subjects, so I definitely recommend listening to those.

Pete Mockaitis

Alright. And how about a favorite tool?

Julie Forman

So a favorite tool, I would say… So I bought this nifty little whiteboard peel-off that I stuck on my desk, and tons of dry erase pens. And every morning I do my to-do list, and then I have the pleasure of just wiping it off as it goes through. And it’s great. At the end of the day, when you take that eraser and you just wipe it clean, you have a feeling of accomplishment. So hey, you take what you can, right? [laugh]

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, I like that. I think that Caroline Webb of How to Have a Good Day, in a previous episode, really kind of emphasized that, in terms of when you are getting the pleasure of checking something off, maximize it. If it’s digital, it should have a big swoosh, or an “oink” noise, or a gray strikethrough, or a disappearing animation. And if it’s paper, it should be a big thick line through it. And you’ve taken it farther with the erasing – that’s cool. So you say a “peel-off.” What exactly does that mean?

Julie Forman

Well, so it’s a whiteboard material but it looks like a big sticker. So it’s the size of a sheet of paper, and you just stick it on your desk. So there is no way… I tried the notebooks, but then the notebooks, you forget. Papers, you have too many of it. This is just in your face, so if you decide not to strike something off your to-do list, then it’s on you.

Pete Mockaitis

Understood. And does it actually stick to the desk?

Julie Forman

It does, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay.

Julie Forman

Well, it’s removable, so if there’s any furniture-lovers out there, it’s not going to damage it. But it’s like $10. It’s actually really cheap on any place where they sell stationery.

Pete Mockaitis

And it’s held up. One peel-off has stood the test of time.

Julie Forman

It does, definitely. Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis

Cool, alright. And how about a favorite habit?

Julie Forman

A favorite habit, I’d say, is going paperless. So I have my iPad and Apple Pencil, which I absolutely adore, because I can’t get into the habit of typing everything, I still love to write. And going paperless is something that’s really great for me. It allows me to carry all my notes everywhere, it keeps them confidential. And I think that’s really something that takes a little bit of getting used to but now makes for a much cleaner desk.

Pete Mockaitis

And can you write with an Apple Pencil and iPad as fast as you can with a normal pencil and paper?

Julie Forman

Absolutely. It’s even better, though, because you can download some documents and then just mark on them. So it’s great when you have resumes and you want to keep that for posterity.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Julie Forman

I would certainly point them to connect with me on LinkedIn. So I love building my LinkedIn profile with great people. Also Korn Ferry, our website. Korn Ferry’s coming out with great tools for even people at all career levels, so it’s certainly worth it to go and have a peek. It’s called Korn Ferry Advance, so that really is a great tool that’s coming out. And that’s it. And watch out for Korn Ferry Institute, where we have tons of great research paper that’s backed from our experience, both on the research side, but also the pragmatic part of being in search and seeing talent every day.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Julie Forman

Yes, make sure you’re visible. Be out there, network. Even if you’re super happy in your job and you think this is the best in the world and you couldn’t be better, you never know what changes and you never know what’s out there. So be confident, know what you’re worth and what you can do and where you can go, and make sure that you can test that regularly on the market.

Pete Mockaitis

Perfect. Well, Julie, thank you so much for sharing this. I think that many folks have finally had this question demystified. So, very much appreciated, and keep doing the great work you’re doing.

Julie Forman
Excellent, thank you so much.