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KF #15. Directs Work

340: How to Be a Chief Even without a Title with Rick Miller

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Rick Miller outlines what power really means and the five components needed to build it.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Where true power comes from
  2. Five ways to create insight and energy
  3. Why supporting other people’s success grows your influence

About Rick

Rick Miller is an unconventional turnaround specialist, a servant leader, and a go-to Chief. He is also an experienced and trusted confidant, an author (Be Chief: It’s a Choice, Not a Title, September 4, Motivational Press), a sought-after speaker, and an expert at driving sustainable growth. For over 30 years, Rick served as a successful business executive in roles including President and/or CEO in a Fortune 10, a Fortune 30, a startup, and a nonprofit. Rick earned a bachelor’s degree from Bentley University and an MBA from Columbia. He currently lives in Morristown, NJ.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Rick Miller Interview Transcript

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

Rick Miller
Great to be with you Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I think there are many things that I’m excited to discuss with you. One of them that is chief among them – get it – is your—

Rick Miller
Well done.

Pete Mockaitis
Is your experience training at a professional wrestling school. What is this about?

Rick Miller
Well, you asked for something that was a little different. Back in the early ‘80s when WrestleMania I came out – showing a little date here – it was a couple of wrestlers: Mr. T and Hulk Hogan. I was running a sales organization at the time and I wanted to do something fun for our sales kickoff, so I went to Killer Kowalski’s Wrestling School in Boston, Massachusetts.

Now Killer Kowalski’s at the time was still the famed six foot six inch 325 pound monster that he was years earlier. Let’s just say, Pete, that the 325 had settled differently in his body.

I went with a couple of other folks. We learned to throw each other around and worked with Killer and a professional midget wrestler and were there for a couple of weeks and put on one heck of a kickoff for our sales team, one they didn’t expect.

But at the time WrestleMania was all the discussion. Again, I know they’ve had a bunch since, but back in the day it was fresh and it was new. No I didn’t garner the tights, but it was interesting to be thrown against turnbuckles and coming off ropes and things like that. I have a real respect for learning how to fall the right way.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah. So you went through all of this to put on a show for the sales team?

Rick Miller
I did. I did. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s amazing.

Rick Miller
Oh yeah. I mean listen, you’re trying to get people motivated and have some fun and frankly show kind of a fun side of yourself. You’re going to spend the rest of the year trying to work with the team to perform miracles in terms of generating numbers that you’re trying to build up. But at the front end of most sales years is a fun kickoff and we thought that year that was the way to go.

Pete Mockaitis
Who were you wrestling in your exhibition?

Rick Miller
I was wrestling Killer Kowalski. I had a-

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, the Killer himself. Okay.

Rick Miller
Yeah, I was – yeah, yeah. It was great because it was funny. You grabbed them by the hand and a little tug and of course he launched himself into the air as if you did it. I got to tell you, the sounds of 300 and some-odd pounds landing the way it did, I can’t even express to you.

But the real fun was the way the skit was set up is that I was going after Killer and I was beating him for a while, but then he threw me once and I stayed down. The way the skit was set up, I reached up and said just loud enough for the audience to say, I said, “I need help from headquarters,” and in came his partner, a professional midget.

The size difference between the midget and Killer and then obviously the midget who was the headquarters, at the time it was the computer company I was working for, and he had our logo emblazoned to the midget on his chest.

He starts throwing Killer Kowalski around in a well-choreographed dance, if you will, that they had done many times. At the end, the midget holds my hand up and we’re standing on Killer Kowalski’s chest and the crowd is going crazy because obviously with headquarters’ help you can defeat – I think at the time we had Killer Kowalski with an IBM shirt on. It was really sappy, but I tell you what, it really had the sales force pumped up.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh my gosh. That is so fun. Wow. Thank you for sharing and really painting a picture there. That’s really cool. Well now I want to hear a little about your company. It’s called Being Chief LLC. What’s this organization about?

Rick Miller
It’s the organization that I set up when I left the last big company job that I had ten years ago to give me a platform to do what I like to do, which is I do some speaking, I do some writing, and I work really as a confidant, an advisor, to business leaders who want to work together on personally and professionally being more powerful.

That’s the umbrella term. I’ve long since lost the need to run large organizations. At one point I had 10,000 people when I was at AT&T that were under my direct kind of area of responsibility. I’ve really enjoyed over the last ten years having an employee base of one. It’s working out just fine for me, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Yeah. I dig it. You have articulated many of your kind of core beliefs or messages there at Being Chief in the book, Be Chief: It’s a Choice, Not a Title. What are kind of the main pieces of this?

Rick Miller
Well, the central element of the book is about power. I was fortunate enough to do a TED talk a number of years ago. The line – I thought later on about the book – but the line in the TED talk that got the most resonance was people have an awful lot of interest in the term “chief,” but they frankly have a lot more interest in the power associated with the word “chief.”

Back in the day when I got out of business school, there was a chain of titles that you tried to move up. You become a vice president to a senior vice president to an executive vice president to a president to a CEO. That was the path that many of us took. Now, the term of the day is “chief” as in chief fill-in-the-blank officer. There are chiefs everywhere.

But the reason that the term “chief” is being thrown around is because people want the power associated with the word “chief.” The book – a central element of the book, again, the subtitle is It’s a Choice, Not a Title because I believe that power, as some people define it, conventionally is kind of yesterday’s newspaper to be honest.

Power, in many people’s minds, still if they’re thinking in an old paradigm, is about authority and control that comes from a title or a position or some element of superiority. That’s an old way of thinking about power.

The book offers that real power is energy. Real power is clarity. Real power is confidence. With those, that anyone can have independent of where they are in any organization, that’s where they can have influence and that’s where they can make a real impact.

The book is all about redefining power, giving you a way to measure your power, to increase your power, and then have your power spread to other people, other parts of your organization.

Because as an unconventional turnaround specialist, which is the label that I sometimes get – although my favorite label, honestly Pete, is professional nudge – but the turnaround thing is about walking into tough organizations and organizations having a tough time and putting a plan in place not only to turnaround performance and develop growth, but to sustain it.

I think the key to sustainable growth, and this is the net of the book, the big idea is that people and the way that you deal with the power that is in a workforce has everything to do with your ability to sustain growth.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, got you. In terms of the definition of power, it seems like you’re still thinking about it in terms of influence or the capacity to do work, which is sort of the same as the old or not? Could you correct me there?

Rick Miller
Yeah. Influence no question.

Pete Mockaitis
Sure.

Rick Miller
Power is about influence. The question is who has it and how do you get it because in the old world you needed to wait for someone else to give you the promotion. You needed to wait for somebody else to say it’s time for that next rung in the ladder. As you went up in an organization, you got more powerful.

The key change is that power doesn’t come from the outside, it comes from the inside. Allowing people to find their power their way, we’re all different, and to make sure that you can become the fullest version of who you are, certainly increases your engagement. That’s one of the business topics that’s out there these days. According to Gallup, only three out of ten people are all in or fully engaged at work.

Well, some companies say well the managers aren’t doing their jobs. Blame it on the managers. Eh, you probably want to take a look at the people who you’re hiring and creating environments with them to allow them to be the best versions of themselves. That’s what I focus on.

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you. Now we talk about energy and clarity and confidence being sort of the core underlying forces from within that turn into this power.

Rick Miller
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you tell us a little bit, you say you measure it and you increase it. How does that work?

Rick Miller
Well, there’s a – this is the best part. We’re happy to talk a little bit about the book that’s coming out where all proceeds are going to charity. We’ll talk about that later. But the best thing I have to share with your listeners is there is on my site right now, BeChief.com, a free assessment tool.

Take you five minutes. And allow you to answer some very simple questions and get a baseline of how powerful are you defined in those terms, Pete, that we just talked about. How clear are you? How confident are you? How energized are you? What is your influence score and what is your impact score?

From the way you answer those questions, you have an opportunity to say “How do I feel about the choices that I’m currently making and make those tweaks?”

I find that the language of business is numbers. The language of business is numbers. We can talk – my dad is a human resource professional. I used to call them personnel guys back in the day. But I’ve always believed that human capital is the area that we need to focus on. The challenge is the metrics aren’t there. You can’t measure it by zip code, by shoe size, by time of day, which you can financial capital.

I designed this tool, this very simple tool, to give people a quick snapshot of their power and that obviously opens them up to choices to what they choose to do about.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, I’d love to dig into a bit of each of these in terms of how are your defining energy, clarity, confidence, influence, impact and then what are some of your sort of best practice pro tips for boosting each of them?

Rick Miller
Sure. Where do you want to start?

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s go with energy.

Rick Miller
Okay. Energy is – we talk about power comes from the inside not the out – the core of this thing is inside actually because being chief, I’ll give you another way of looking at it, kind of pull these together.

Being chief, being the most powerful person you can be is connecting what you do to who you are, connecting what you do to who you are. If you think about who you are, who are you, really requires you to develop some insight, insight into – self-understanding and insight to me are synonyms. That’s where I think energy comes from.

Talk about five different ways that you can build insight and create energy. I suggest that part of it is being present, being focused on the moment at hand. You’ll see Pete, that many of these things are well-discussed in many different ways in many different forms by other people. My focus is not to supply you with a new piece of information, it’s to help you apply it. Supply and apply.

I’m a business guy; it’s got to be simple. I’ve got to be able to retain it. I’ve got to be able to use it. When it gets to energy and insight, first off, be present. Learn how to focus.

Second, be still. Learn how to develop your own voice. All the voices that are yapping at you from the media to a well-intentioned spouse, to your kids, to your neighbors, everybody around, everybody’s got a voice that’s in your ear. How can you develop the energy that comes from hearing your own voice and knowing it well?

Third one is being accepting. Don’t fight what is. You want to fight for the future, that’s fine, but conserve your energy. Don’t needlessly waste energy by fighting a current truth. Accept what is. The energy that comes from being generous and the energy that comes from being grateful.

I offer that there are five ways to actually measure how present are you, how still are you, how accepting are you, how generous are you, and how grateful are you. These are all your own self views, but my observation is the more you are any one of these, you can absolutely increase your level of self-understanding, your insight, and the benefit to you is the energy of knowing more who you are.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, that’s a great sort of subset there being present, being still, being accepting, being generous and being grateful. Do you have any thoughts in terms of a particular action step one can take that really takes you far in terms of being more of one or more of these things?

Rick Miller
Well, the question is how much are you doing it? Let’s take being present. I know that many people take great benefit from the time they’re being present, but even the most accomplished, enlightened, even people who are very much focusing on the mindfulness movement, which you’ve very familiar with I’m sure, would say that there’s a percentage of their day that they aren’t present. We’re human beings.

The objective is always to can you – if you are present every once in a while, can you be present more often. Then can you be present consistently. It’s all in the small tweaks.

If someone is never present and they’re always scattered, are they going to take a step from being scatterbrained and all over the place to mindful all the time? Of course not. I’m not advocating that anybody try and skip steps, but just try to move a little bit on the scale of one to ten.

If you’re a five on a one to ten in terms of being present, what benefit, what power, what energy could you get if you became a little more present than you have been. That’s the advocacy. The advocacy is don’t ask people to do what they can’t do, ask them to make slight tweaks in what they can do.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so you’re not suggesting a particular regiment or series of exercise to boost presence, so much as you’re just saying, “Hey, get some awareness and some focus and do more of it.”

Rick Miller
Exactly. Exactly. Again, there are wonderful places to go. I view Be Chief, Pete, as an integrated piece. I’m not trying to go – there are volumes and volumes and volumes on how to be present. I’m not trying to outdo the present movement, the mindful movement. Go study Jon Kabat-Zinn. There’s plenty of places to go.

My – as I work with executives and leaders at all levels, chiefs at all levels, the idea is how do you integrate all of the stuff that’s out there to make it actionable. You can go in any particular vein, but the idea of connecting what you do to who you are is the central premise.

I’ll take the next step with you. One real powerful practice that I’ve used with a lot of my clients, and, again, it’s on the free survey, is my belief that values, understanding your values, are the key to confidence.

Here’s why I say that. When I work with great groups of people, I will generally put up a list of – or talk about a list of 30 or 40 values that are all very positive things. I’ll say to a group, I’ll say, if you had to pick four – because you can’t stand for 50 things. You can’t take a stand for 50 things.

But in the compass, which I use, north, south, east, west, if you were to choose four and you were very conscious about those four, you spoke about them, you wrote about them, you took actions that were very consistent with them, not that you’d ignore the other 46, but the observation I make is that confidence comes when you can take a stand. Once you figure out what you stand for, you can take one.

For me, I’ve done a lot of work on this as you might imagine, my four are truth, service, equality, and connection.

Those – the test that I use and I advocate this, if you think you stand for something right now, ask the ten people who know you most, know you best, family, friends and say, “What do you think I stand for?” You might be surprised, maybe four – five, three, four, five answers, you might be surprised that there might not be any commonality. You may be okay with that. You may be okay with the fact that the ten people who know you best would describe your values differently.

The only question I would ask is if the ten people who knew you the best described your values in a consistent way, does that in fact make you more powerful? I would advocate that it does.

Yeah, there might be a difference between – I mean if someone says you’re kind and someone says you’re empathetic, okay that may be a difference without a distinction. But if you got a wildly different set of things, they could be all positive, but it’s like it is the same topic of focus.

If you know what you stand for, you can take one and then I think those people around you resonate with the confidence that you have that you stand for something. As just an example, but as we talk about connecting what you do to who you are, the two parts of the compass that are who you are, are your insight, which we talked about the five ways you can build that, and your values.

Insight and values and the study of those or the thinking about those gives you more clarity about who you are. When you take actions knowing who you are, you’re taking actions that are yours, on your voice and your values, not on Uncle Sam’s or Aunt Sally’s or a cousin or a boss or something else. I do believe it makes you more powerful.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, it sounds like then we’ve got clarity and confidence there or is that – or are you distinguishing clarity in a different way?

Rick Miller
I am distinguishing. The confidence is there. The clarity I believe in having studied it and worked it in business situations from a start up to a multi-national, I link very much the topic of clarity to the topic of discipline. I believe that clarity, again, when you think about who you are, which is insight and values, then what you do has to do with discipline and support.

Discipline I link to clarity because I believe that if you plan the work and work the plan, if you have a vision and a strategy and tactics and you adjust, the more you reinforce where you’re going, that clarity comes through to the people around you and also reinforces it to you as well.

I think the vision and the strategy, which you identify, followed by planning tactics and implementing and adjusting, those all lead to clarity. Again, that clarity with discipline if it’s built off your insight and your values, it gets stronger.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you give us an example or story of the clarity and discipline piece coming alive for somebody?

Rick Miller
Sure. Well, I’ll give you for an organization. When I have had the opportunity to walk into an organizations as a turnaround guy that things are pretty muddy. I walked into – I’ll give you an example. I was the first outsider in AT&T’s 100 year history to be recruited from the outside to come in and run a piece of a major division back in the day. First one, 100 years.

I walked into AT&T, great company, but they had all kinds of messages, all kinds of, all kinds of high potential programs or leadership attributes. You couldn’t crystalize any – it was all good, but there was too much of it.

I came into an organization, this is the one that had 10,000 people in it, and I said “Guys, we’re going to focus on one thing.” Forget everything else. Forget everything else. We’re going to focus on something I used a symbol to encapsulate it called R3, R to the power of 3, R to the third power. We had symbols made. It was on hats. It was – that’s our focus. Forget everything else. The discipline was—

Pete Mockaitis
What’s R to the three mean?

Rick Miller
It’s results for three important groups of people: customers, employees, and share owners. That’s the what, but the how was about teamwork, innovation and speed. It wasn’t R times 3; it was R to the power of 3.

It was taking – again, AT&T, back in the day, Pete, there was a rule in the consulting industry about AT&T, which means if you did – at the time, if you didn’t have a consulting contract with AT&T, it just meant that you weren’t trying hard enough because it was consultant’s galore, everybody with a different – all good stuff, by the way, but no focus, no clarity because it was all over the place.

I came in, 10,000 people all around the world, and I said, “Guys, this is the focus. The discipline that we’re going to have around this clarity.” We developed strategy and plans and implemented systems and took measurements and adjusted based on that’s all we’re focused on: results for three important grounds of people, focusing on three attributes: teamwork, innovation, and speed.

At the time we were growing at 5%. The market was supposedly growing at 10%. We tripled the growth rate and held on to that growth rate for three years before we changed organizations. I – it was a lot of things we did, a lot of things we did at AT&T that turned around that situation, but the focus on clarity and discipline to stay focused on an area was a big part of the success.

Pete Mockaitis
When you says discipline, you mean it’s about saying no to some things. What are some of the things that you said no to because it doesn’t quite fit into exactly what we’re focused on here?

Rick Miller
Well, a great definition of strategy, as you know, is defining what you’re not going to do. The best story I remember about how that strategic element came in an organization, where I was running a government unit and we wanted to go at all parts of the government: the civilian, the defense, all parts of it, but we didn’t have the resources.

Our strategy was to optimize one part of the government, so we actually said no. We actually pulled back selling to the civilian portion of the government unit at that time because we just didn’t have the resources. Strategy at that time was to focus on Department of Defense.

By the way, in that particular situation, different company, once again we tripled the growth rate. You’re right, strategy is key and often strategy is saying no. Couldn’t say it better.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, very cool. All right, then let’s talk a little bit about influence and impact.

Rick Miller
Yeah. Influence to me it comes from the word support. Influence comes when you support other people. People say, “Isn’t influence when you have kind of an influence over others?” No, it comes the other way. The more you support other people, the more you make choices to support other people, that’s when your influence grows.

If you are able to listen and enable someone else’s success, your influence grows. If you’re able to model the way you’d like things to be, your influence grows. If you’re able to question people about what they’re doing and how they’re doing it and help them think through it if they need it, that helps your influence grow. You can inspire them by what you do and how you do it.

There’s also this – a good friend of mine, Chester Elton, wrote The Carrot Principle. You just can’t recognize people enough. It’s such a – the word is encourage. Reinforcing what other people do, whether it’s a formal program or an informal, “Hey, well done,” encouraging other people, it’s just an incredibly powerful way to build influence by supporting other people.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, when you say that the supporting of other people results in you having more influence, is it because these individuals are like, “Wow, Rick has been just so awesomely good to me, I will follow him to the moon,” or, “I’ve got his back and I will help him in any way can,” kind of sort of like a reciprocity instinct or kind of what’s the pathway or mechanism by which that support turns into influence?

Rick Miller
Great question. But it starts with listening. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. The point is if I’m listening to you, if you are my boss, Pete, and you’re going to invest time with me to say, “Okay, I want to enable your success. I want to support you,” the first thing you’re going to do is ask me what do I need. You’re going to invest some time.

The benefit of truly listening – all people want to do is to be heard. You know that. If you take the time to really find out, not to come in with the “I’ve decided this is what the answer is,” and you come in with a plunger and you’re trying to ram it through an organization.

I can tell you when I joined AT&T as the first outsider, first thing I did was ask a lot of questions. Ask a lot of questions. Don’t think – ask questions. You don’t know. More often than not, the higher you go in an organization, the less you know about the subject matter which is critical to your success. It’s an inverted pyramid. Taking the time to ask questions, to learn from the people who know it best, create a bond of influence that can be incredibly powerful.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, very cool. Let’s talk now finally about that fifth element when it comes to impact.

Rick Miller
See this is where it comes together. Think about where we’ve been. Think about who you are: insight and values, what you do: discipline and support. It comes together with an ability to be creative.

Now when I say creativity, I’m not talking about some artistic ability to put colors together and be creative on a canvas. When I say creativity, I’m talking about an ability to manifest the future. That’s my definition of creativity. If you’re going to create the future, you’ve got to understand a couple of things.

First off, there’s something called internal creativity. That’s how you feel and how you think. You are in fact creating when you start thinking. That’s how the whole thing starts. People are very familiar with external creativity in terms of how you act, less so how you speak and how you write.

But if you understand that there is internal creativity, you understand there’s external creativity, and the power comes when you align all five. You’re feeling something, you’re thinking it, your actions and the way you write, and the way you speak are all aligned.

We all know the quickest way to lose credibility is to say one thing and do a different something else. We just lose all credibility. You lose all power. But your ability to understand that your thoughts lead to your actions, it should be your thoughts lead to your words. Your words to your actions. Your actions lead to your habits. Some would say your habits lead to your character and your character leads to your destiny to steal from Gandhi.

There’s a power in the alignment and the way those things flow. If you’re fully creating, again, connecting what you do to who are, I’ll tell you what, it doesn’t matter what title you have, you are powerful. The organizations that do incredibly well with turnarounds have more and more people operating in what I call an all-in way of being.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. We’ve got one more point I want to dig into in the book. You talk about the wisdom of letting go. What exactly does that mean and how does one pull it off?

Rick Miller
It’s interesting. In our culture we have taken a good idea and kind of taken it to extremes. We’re all familiar with terms like ‘whatever it takes,’ ‘nothing’s going to stop me.’ We’ve got these ideas that you work through adversity all the time. That’s not a bad idea. The problem is we don’t know when to stop.

There’s economic law called the Law of Diminishing Returns, which means from a pure logic standpoint at some point, ‘throwing good money after bad’ is certainly a phrase that we’re familiar with.

But I find that many of the great leaders that I have the privilege of working with understand the first part of it, which is okay, never give up. Drive, drive, drive. But sometimes there’s a time when you are best served, your organization is best served, to let go of an objective that may have made sense 6 months ago or 12 months ago but now no longer makes sense.

The ability to, and some would say discipline, to adjust. But some people, and you know them, are manically focused, “I’m going to do this just get out of my way.” At some point diminishing return sets in.

The idea of letting go is a very important topic and one that doesn’t get as much traction I don’t think in our culture as it needs to because I find an awful lot of people are burning themselves out going after an objective that has shifted.

I talk in the book about examples and how to do it and the focus is on first recognizing it, accepting what’s going on, investigating new opportunities to do it, and not identifying yourself with the objective. Many times this is ego driven. I am not the person I want to be if I can’t sell that next contract or can’t achieve this goal.

Separating the person from the goal, I find with otherwise very high performing individuals, it’s really important you are not that quota. You are not that objective. You are who you are. The wisdom to understand when it does make the most sense to let go of an objective that isn’t serving you is really important.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Thank you. Well, Rick, tell me any final points you’d like to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Rick Miller
No, no. I think, again, we’ll go to favorite things, but if – if I could I would just like to mention that BeChief.com is the website. BeChief.com is where you can find about the book where all profits, author profits, are going to charity. We’ve got a wonderful charity partner down in Austin, Texas called Sammy’s House, which is an educational and a rehabilitation opportunity facilitate for kids with severe special needs. All author proceeds are going there.

They can learn about Sammy’s House. They can learn about the book. They can also, by the way, take the free quiz. This is what I’d ask everyone to take a look at. The book – I’d love to sell as many books as possible because all the money would go to the kids, that would be great, but for your audience that wants to be more powerful, the compass, the survey, if you will, is a free tool on BeChief.com.

You can also read a chapter of the book and see it floats your boat, but most importantly, take a baseline, measure your power, understand how you feel about it and how you can help others. That’s the most important thing that I’d like to share.

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

Rick Miller
No, the one I like, it might not surprise you, but “Power is never given; it’s only taken.” That’s one that I live by because I did spend 20 years of my career waiting to be given power. I’ve been okay. I moved up the corporate ladder pretty well. But I was waiting. For people who want to take power, I just think it’s a wonderful quote because it encapsulates everything I believe.

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

Rick Miller
Well, the research, actually I’m going to go back to the book. There’s some wonderful research done by a researcher named Segal Barsotti out of Yale. Segal’s work builds on the work done by Christakis and Fowler on the happiness effect.

Now the happiness effect is a well-known study that talks about the impact of introducing a happy person into a group. The surprising – a 20-year study by the way – talks about the a fact that if you introduce a happy person, not only is a next door neighbor likely to be more happy, but the next door’s neighbor’s friend and friend’s friend, it’s like two or three degrees of separation, will statistically be more happy.

Christakis and Fowler did a wonderful piece of well-reported research on the happiness effect. What Barsotti did was take that great work and bring it into the workforce and proved that introducing a person with positive emotions into a workplace, affects the productivity of all workers in that work place.

That’s really the fundamental element that we talk about in the book. I use the term viral engagement. It’s great when you try to do things to enable the engagement of someone who’s working for you, but viral engagement is when you’re constantly taking a look at the impact that everybody can have, that really anyone can influence everyone. Once you understand that, the opportunity for growth is great.

By the way, that makes sense intellectually, but Barsotti did the research that proved it.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome, thank you. How about a favorite book?

Rick Miller
Right now I’m reading When by Daniel Pink. I love When. I’m a big Dan Pink fan. But I’m reading When right now and I love it because it talks about how to bring out your peak performance when it matters most.

I’m an avid reader. I’m fascinated by this one because, again, well-researched, as Daniel’s stuff always is, but the idea of professional athletes, professional musicians, what are the tips, simple tips. I won’t go any further because it’s Daniel’s book and you want to read it. You don’t want to listen to me give you the tips, but it’s a really good read.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite tool?

Rick Miller
A tool. I would tell you the tool – the app that I’m having a lot of fun with now and I’ve got lots of company, so I’ll just add my log to the fire, which is the Calm app. I’m a big meditator and have been blessed with the ability to meditate, but even when things get going so quickly that it’s a little harder to slow down a little bit, the Calm app does a wonderful job. I know there’s many fans, so I’ll just add my log to the fire.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure. How about a favorite habit?

Rick Miller
The habits – I am amongst other challenges, I’m a type one diabetic, so for 40 years I’ve been giving myself four shots a day. I think this habit has probably come out of the necessity to manage blood sugars and health and numbers and things like that, but actually my favorite habit is a combination of sometimes I do the meditation in the morning, followed by some really rigorous exercise, sometimes I’ll flip it.

But my morning routine, getting up and starting the day with a combination of exercise, getting the blood flowing and mediation. It seems like gear yourself up and calm yourself down, that little kind of sweet and sour, if you will, first thing in the morning works really well for me.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks, gets them retweeting, etcetera?

Rick Miller
I don’t – not so much honestly because, again, I do draw a distinction between wonderful people who supply those kind of nuggets and those who apply them. I’m an applier. I’m a business guy. I work in organizations and I’m on the front lines.

I don’t probably generate the kind of quips and thoughtful little musings that are on the tips of people’s tongues much like most of this book is taking and always giving credit for the great stuff that’s out there, but my focus is on how you simplify and – first you have to retain it if you’re going to apply it.

I rely on others for those inspirational moments. I just try to help the people I work with apply them so that they can have a great day.

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

Rick Miller
I would point them to BeChief.com. Whatever you can find there, whether they connect with the power compass, if you will, or develop your own. But there’s lots of stuff on the website and wherever it takes you. If it takes you to the book and you can see fit to make that purchase, know the money is going to Sammy’s House and that’s terrific. But whatever you find there, I hope it’s helpful.

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

Rick Miller
I think it’s about power. Really think about who you think has it, who really has it. More often than not, the powerful people in your life, the most powerful, the most influential, are probably a family member who doesn’t have a title. It’s somebody in the community who doesn’t have a title, but they make choices that consistently show you who they are. You can’t get enough of them because they’re the people you admire.

I think that’s what power means to me. I think the more people open themselves up to that definition of power and make the choices to be the best version of themselves, it spreads and the world’s a better place.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Well, Rick, thank you for all you’re doing to make the world a better place. This has been a whole lot of fun. I wish you and Be Chief tons of luck, massive sales and massive impact.

Rick Miller
Appreciate it Pete. Thanks so much for the time.

315: Leading with Speed with Alan Willett

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Alan Willett shows how to lead with speed by measuring and tracking yourself, working smarter rather than longer, and having purpose. All the things that are need to stay competitive.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to work faster and smarter rather than longer
  2. Approaches to accelerate the decision making progress
  3. Why and how to let people “add an egg”

About Alan

Alan Willett is of the rare species who is an expert international consultant, speaker, and author. He has worked with companies ranging from 1 person to some of the giants such as Microsoft and NASA. Alan says that his passion is helping people and organizations transform their friction points into profit points. Alan defines a friction point as “the space where the business needs and the implementation reality collides.” There is always heat generated! Alan is the expert who transforms organizational friction points to produce positive results for the business and the people.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Alan Willett Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Alan welcome back to the How to Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Alan Willett
It’s awesome to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m really looking forward to digging into some of your latest thinking. It was way back in episode 114 that we had you. It seems like you’ve had a few new thoughts since then.

Alan Willett
Indeed I have. What episode are we up to now?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh boy, we are past 300, which is wild.

Alan Willett
Wow. Congratulations Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Yes, it’s been a fun ride. People are into it. Yours was one of the favorites. It seems sensible to come on back.

Alan Willett
Really, it’s great to be back. It’s a lot of fun before. I look forward to fun today.

Pete Mockaitis
First, I need to hear, speaking of fun, you have a Guinness World Record to your name. Tell us all about this.

Alan Willett
Okay. Well, yes I do. I did end up in the Guinness Book of World Records. It was called that back then.

Pete Mockaitis
Is it different now?

Alan Willett
Yes, now called the Guinness Book of Records.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, okay.

Alan Willett
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
I didn’t know that.

Alan Willett
Yeah, it’s a recent change I believe.

But yes, so I remember back when I was at Rochester Institute of Technology. In my sophomore year two weeks before Thanksgiving break, two weeks before finals, our cross country coach came to us and said, “Hey, I have a great idea. For RIP’s 150th anniversary let’s run across the county.” Being 19 and young and vigorous, I said “Sure, let’s do that.”

Two weeks later I finished my last final after my last all-nighters getting ready for finals we drove non-stop to California, dipped our feet in the Pacific Ocean, turned around and started running all the way back to the Atlantic Ocean.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. The record then is the distance or you were the first or what’s-?

Alan Willett
Good question. Well, our goal was to beat the Pony Express, which I’m told we did which is very cool. We also beat another team that had set a record previously of 20 days. We did it in 14 days.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh boy.

Alan Willett
14 days 4 hours and 8 minutes.

Pete Mockaitis
Well that is quite – does it stand to this day or did someone have to get up on that record and shatter it themselves?

Alan Willett
Oh somebody – actually subsequent RIT, Rochester Institute of Technology, team did it I think for RIT’s 170th anniversary. They beat us. Shame on them.

Pete Mockaitis
Everyone wants to surpass the previous generation.

Alan Willett
Yes, ….

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Let’s recap for folks who didn’t catch it the last time, you’ve got your company is called Oxseeker, Inc. What’s the company about and where did the name come from?

Alan Willett
Well, that name came from – two things. One is when I looked for names five years ago, six years ago, all the ones I thought were great were already taken, so I went back to an old standby which I coined the word oxseeker back in the ‘80s.

Zen poetry has ox has a symbol of enlightenment. I always thought seeking enlightenment was a cool concept, so I used that word to really now mean seeking excellence because what I really have been doing with my work all along is trying to make organizations constantly better, constantly seeking a higher level of excellence. That word really just sort of captured what I was about.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so interesting. I did not know that the ox had that association prior to chatting with you.

The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of an ox in the context of intellectual stuff is I think Thomas Aquinas, his nickname when he was doing his studies was called like the ox because I guess he was just really big and didn’t say much and they kind of made fun of him, like he was dumb, dumb ox.

Then one of the teachers scolded his pupils the legend has it, like, “When this ox bellows, the whole world shall hear.”

Alan Willett
Ah, oh, I like this story as well. That’s good.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, add some layers to it. That’s good.

Tell us your latest fascination has been the need to lead with speed. I added the ‘need’ myself. I had to triple the rhymes there.

Alan Willett
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Why is it so important to you right now?

Alan Willett
Well, I realized a lot of my whole work has been about that. For example, my previous book, which we talked about before, Leading the Unleadable, was really about how to unwrap the gifts of those magnificent people who sometimes cross the red line, like the mavericks, cynics and divas because those people can really propel an organization forward at great speeds.

If you just fire them, you lose that fire. If you let them run rampant, they destroy the organization, so you’ve really got to manage them well.

As I keep going into organizations, I keep hearing about the increased need for speed. This almost feels cliché because around the 1990s seems like things were picking up. Now they’re really picking up speed.

To stay competitive, you’ve got to constantly be learning, constantly upping your game, constantly providing better value to your customers or to your organization and you’re just working more. Regardless, you’ve got to be there. To me it’s even more than speed, it’s acceleration.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so you’re saying just because in the nature of competition and globalization and sort of technology and these forces that we hear a lot about, is that kind of what’s behind it to put the extra necessity these days?

Alan Willett
Yes, absolutely. There’s a second part too which is I have seen too many people just burn out, really creative, smart, fun people that couldn’t take the pace.

What I’ve really been trying to help a lot of people do and organizations do is not just survive, but thrive, to learn to love how to handle this pace and how to handle this pace in a sustainable way so that they get plenty of rest, have plenty of fun but are still setting the beat, setting the pace that is right for today’s competition.

Pete Mockaitis
Then that sounds like a little bit of a tension there in terms of being speedy and also not burning out, so what are some of the pro tips to accomplish both?

Alan Willett
Ah, well, here first let’s talk about that balance. If I may go technical for a minute, do you know I was also a software engineer for a while? I actually wrote software.

Pete Mockaitis
I do. The software people love you because you sort of speak both the languages that connect with the software developers and those who love and manage them.

Alan Willett
One of the things – here let me put a couple things together here with this story. This is about the balance and learning from this.

Some of the things that I mean by leading by speed for example is one, we really want to hit speed to value. It’s not about just furious activity signifying nothing, the sound and the fury. It’s about speed to value. You’ve got to have a purpose, a place to go, something that you want to provide.

In the next part I want to note is that you want a speed dashboard. In other words, like a car has lots of different odometers, speedometer, is it overheating or not, all those kind of warning lights. That’s what you need too. Meaningful, useful set of data that answers the question, “Am I going faster?”

One of the things I did as a software engineer when I was writing code is I learned some techniques to really track my own data so I had that useful data. One of the things I did was tracked how fast I was going, how many objects per hour I was producing of good quality code. The other one I was tracking was how much rework I was doing, how many defects.

I stayed up late one night until like 4 in the morning to finish a program. It sounds like a good idea, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Pros and cons I’d say.

Alan Willett
Well, I thought I put in this extra 10 hours, I’ll be farther ahead.

Here’s what happened. When I tested the program the next day, it was full of errors. I repeated this exercise a few more times just because I was a scientist, curious. I found out when I worked extra hours late at night, my defect injection rate went sky high. I made way more mistakes.

Those defects took me longer to correct than had I went to bed and came up the next day and just wrote a couple of hours of code the next morning when I was well rested. Really, working harder actually made me dumber. Working longer made me stupider.

One of the really things I really kind of worked with organizations and people is not about the long hours, it’s about really smart hours. It’s about making sure you have this major set of data so you actually know you’re going faster and know how to go faster. You have the data to improve.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s intriguing. I’ve read some studies along those lines with regard to a number of different environments and industries.

I think it was similar. It was video game development. They talked about when they have rush mode or whatever the term they use in the industry, like when they work real hard because they’ve got to make sure to deliver the thing on time as the deadline is coming in. They saw a similar pattern across. It’s not just you, but it’s many folks who are doing intricate knowledge work.

When you push hard and sleep less, sometimes your – it’s really quite disheartening to put all that effort in and discover you would have been better off having enjoyed some sleep and rejuvenation and being sane and actually getting a better result on the other side.

Alan Willett
Absolutely. Now there’s exceptions to this, I’ve got to note. But really when you’re doing that type of work, the intricate things where little mistakes cost you a lot of time, be well rested. That simple.

But let’s scale it up. Overall what I’m talking about when I talk about the sustainable speed of leadership, it’s really looking at this as a more of a marathon than a sprint or a series of sprints. It’s really looking at yourself and saying how do I continuously improve and I stick to it for the long term.

I’m planning – I grew up on a farm. We don’t retire on farms. We just keep working. I’m in this for the long term. I want to keep continuously improving and I don’t want to get burned out, tired out while I’m doing it. What’s my engine for improvement? To stay relevant, to stay competitive. How do I keep that balance?

One of the things I’m working on in the book I’m working on is called the four-dimensional balance, which is really about four key concepts: the center of speed, how to keep your eye on the true prize, owning the speed of the game clock, and four-dimensional balance.

Those are some of the big concepts I’m playing with of how to really keep people focused on how to achieve this intricate balance as you put it.

Pete Mockaitis
Now so how does one keep the eyes on the true prize and what are some of the distraction prizes that tend to lead us astray?

Alan Willett
Oh, that’s easy. For example – great question though. Your eye on the true prize. First, true prize for me is a lot of things, like just simply doing good in the world, making sure that you’re really truly providing value to your customers. Some of the false indicators can be, “I need to make a profit for this quarter,” “I need to have double digit growth.”

I know actually some CEOs for example that really focused on this double digit growth. They focused on it so hard that they started to fire people that weren’t achieving it. Later that CEO was convicted for keeping two sets of books. I actually believe he didn’t actually know that people were keeping two sets of books but the only way to stay employed was to have double digit growth, so they gave it to him.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. That’s kind of pushing it so hard that you’re cheating and then in a way it’s kind of like, well it’s so intriguing in terms of the details, that juicy, scandalous situation. But I guess it’s my understanding that people really do feel a great sense of temptation toward cheating when it’s kind of absolute, the only way this must be or it’s just … everywhere.

Alan Willett
Right. I forget the exact quote, but one of the quotes I really like is something that was along these lines. “Chase wealth and it will flee from you. Chase wisdom and wealth will follow.”

Pete Mockaitis
Sounds so wise. Chasing wisdom.

Alan Willett
I believe it is. Back to the true prize. It’s really, really being focused on what you really want to achieve for yourself in your organization.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. When it comes to dashboards, can you give us some examples of all the more precisely great metrics or things to track versus suboptimal things to track? You mentioned quarterly profits can lead one astray. What are some superior things to track?

Alan Willett
Here, let’s talk about an individual for a minute because I know your audience is mostly individuals. Then we can talk about the larger one.

Let’s look at individuals and just say you’re doing knowledge work like many of us have to do these days. Well, a couple of things I try to track is how much value we provide for the effort we’re putting in. Now that’s a really tricky thing to do, but it’s worthwhile doing.

Like you noted in software development, some of the things people use is function points or they can even use lines of code per hour, things like that. Those can be tricky but what you really want is a good proxy for value that makes sense.

Another thing you can measure actually is how much cost equality it takes to get something out the door.

Quick definition of that. Basically you do two weeks of development and eight weeks of testing before you can free it. You have 20% cost equality. If you have eight weeks of development and two weeks of testing and it works great and your customers love it. You have a 20% cost equality.

Productivity is inversely proportional. The better your cost of quality, the better your productivity. That’s a couple things personally one can track to really keep an eye on the prize. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Yes.

Alan Willett
Absolutely. For a business, what you really want to be tracking to me I believe is customer loyalty for example. Are you keeping the customers that you want, the ones that you truly prize? Are you growing in the right direction, bringing on the customers you also want and really want to grow in that space?

I don’t think it’s about how big you grow, but I think it’s about having enough and being able to sustain that growth in a way that’s good for your organization.

I know an organization that I work with that was very happy being at 50 people in the organization and sustaining that. When they grew up to 350 people, which the leader at the time said he never wanted to do, they ended up blowing up. He got distracted from his true mission to go after something bigger.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’s helpful. Thank you. You mentioned you had four – is it four part would you call it? Four part balance?

Alan Willett
Four-dimensional balance.

Pete Mockaitis
Four-dimensional balance. Can we unpack these components?

Alan Willett
Sure, I can give you another example. Owning the speed of the game clock. I love that when – I like sports. You watch some of the greatest athletes. In my day it was Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, folks like that. Today it’s LeBron James, Steven Stephen Curry for the National Basketball Association.

But you watch these people, the best, they seem to be playing on a different pace than everybody else. I don’t mean faster. It seems like everybody else is kind of has frenetic energy around them and they’re just walking down the court and hit the right person at the right time. They just seem to be playing in a slower pace than everybody else with more results. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Alan Willett
Another one – there’s a lot of elements to that, how you can own the speed of the clock as a leader. Part of that is the center of speed.

One of my favorite Superbowl stories is where Joe Montana, San Francisco, they’re down by a few points with a few minutes – just a minute left on the clock or something like that. He’s in the huddle and he says to the whole – his team, he says, “Hey, isn’t that John Candy on the third row there?” Everybody looks up and says, “Yeah, yeah, I think it is.”

Joe was so cool, calmed everybody else down and then just calmly threw a touchdown pass to win the game. To me a lot of the center of speed is really this inner calm that everything will work out.

Pete Mockaitis
I like that. Now inner calm can be easier said than done. What are some of your perspectives for arriving at such a place?

Alan Willett
Learning that failure is seldom fatal and that you can learn a lot from it. If you’re not afraid of failure, you’re not afraid of winning either. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Alan Willett
That’s one of the things I think really people have to overcome. I go on a whole rant about our school system, but I believe our school system sort of embeds fear in people, fear of getting a bad grade, fear of getting something wrong, things like that. Really what we have to learn or unlearn in some ways is to overcome FUD.

Pete Mockaitis
FUD?

Alan Willett
Fear, uncertainty and doubt. One of the questions I’ve often been asked is what slows leaders down. There’s a lot of things that can slow leaders down, but the number one thing is FUD, fear, uncertainty and doubt. That’s what makes people for example, set up a committee to bring … to answer a question that should have been obvious.

Pete Mockaitis
The fear of I am scared to look really dumb and get this very wrong and have my sort of name and reputation attached to it, therefore I will go about sort of dispersing responsibility by assembling this committee and in the process of having the committee you’ve got all those extra people and decision steps and meetings that kind of slow it down.

Alan Willett
Right. There’s time and places for doing things like that. But too often that’s just a delaying tactic to avoid making a decision. Fear causes people to delay decisions until it’s obvious what the decision should have been.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I want to talk about decisions there when it comes to decision making rules or approaches or what are some great ways to accelerate decision making. One is I guess being courageous and not convening a committee when it’s not necessary. What are some of your other approaches?

Alan Willett
I would say there are three critical things to accelerating your decision making process. Number one, and these are, by the way, before you start the decision processes what you should be doing. Be clear about who’s going to make the decision, how the decision is going to be made, and what risk level is acceptable. I’ll unpack that a little bit more if that’s okay.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Alan Willett
There’s actually basically three – four decision making styles. Leaders that are really clear about this at the start do far superior.

They can say this, “I’m going to make the decision. I’m not taking any input. I just want you to know that.” It’s clear. Or, “I’m making the decision. I would like everybody’s – I would like these people’s input to make sure that I have all the data I need, but I’m going to make the call.”

By the way, if there’s a crisis in the cockpit in an airplane, that’s the number one decision making style. You don’t have time for consensus. Somebody’s got to decide, but collecting input greatly improves the effectiveness of pilots.

Number three is we are going to decide together. We’re not going to do this unless we have consensus. We’re all holding hands and leaping together.

Number four is you can delegate and you can say, “It’s up to you. Here’s your budget. Here’s your timeline. You make the decision. Here’s my input.” If you’re clear about those things at the start, you’re really going to accelerate the decision making process.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I think where things really get fuzzy and so annoying and unpleasant is when it’s very unclear in terms of the decision making process. Like, “Okay, we all know this thing needs to get done.” It’s a proposal or a product or an initiative or something. “We all know this thing needs to get done. We kind of know the players sort of who are involved,” but then beyond that it gets a little fuzzy.

I chuckle sometimes because I’ve heard listeners ask for clarification associated with decision making and the answer they get in terms of who has a decision is, “Well collaborate,” which is really a non-answer.

Alan Willett
It is a non-answer. I’ll give you a situation even worse than that, where the leader implies however vaguely that it’s up to the group to decide. Then the leader themselves makes the decision without any input.

Oh, that slows an organization down for weeks or longer because the level of anger is worse than if they said, “Hey, my decision. I’ll take input maybe, but I’m going to make the decision,” so much clearer, so much better, no anger.

Pete Mockaitis
This reminds me. I had a situation where I was trying to help out with a committee that just sort of planned some of our fun in terms of, “Hey, a few times a year we’re all going to get together. We’re going to have some camaraderie, some team building, some good times, so here are the activities.”

I thought, “Okay, this sounds like an interesting project.” I talked to some people and gathered a bunch of ideas, like, “Hey, what do you think would be fun for everyone to do.” We come up with all these ideas. “Okay, perfect. Now we’ll do a survey and see what everyone’s thinking.”

I recall one of the options was sailing. I was like, “That sounds really cool. I haven’t done much sailing and that might be really interesting. Heck, we’ve got some budget. Let’s live it up.” Then I presented it to sort of the senior person in charge of the committee who really did make it kind of seem like, “Oh yeah, you know what? Just see what everyone wants to do and yeah it’s just fun so go do it.”

He just – I said, “Hey, looks like the results are pretty strong on the survey for sailing.” It was intriguing because he didn’t admit to it but he kept saying, “You know what? I have a hypothesis that if you segment the data in this way, we’ll discover that in fact sailing is not the optimal choice.”

It was like, if you were committed to this activity why did you kind of say that we were going to do it this other way? It is like and what do you have against sailing is what I really wanted to know. It just didn’t seem honest.

Alan Willett
No, absolutely. That’s really problems come. By the way, if that leader really wanted to do that activity but wanted people to really be committed to that activity just say this, “Hey, this is the activity we’re doing. I want the group to figure out how to get people really involved, how to make this activity really sing, how to make it better.”

Absolutely leave people room to add an egg to that cake, but you can point the direction and say what cake we’re going to bake.

Pete Mockaitis
That is a nice metaphor there ‘add an egg to that cake.’ Is that the legend? Was it Sara Lee or one of those companies that they had the cake mix and they could have had it all encompassing but they wanted to make people feel like they had a part in the cake making process so they said, “And you add an egg,” so it’s like, “Oh, I did this.”

Alan Willett
Actually the legend is this. It’s true actually. That they were selling a cake mix without adding an egg. This is at a time when people made cakes from scratch. It wasn’t selling at all. As soon as they had people add two eggs, which changed the taste not a bit, people started to buy the cake mix like crazy because people really need room to add an egg.

I really believe that in my consulting work as well. I have learned over and over again that when leaders hand you something that’s done, they do not get the same level of involvement or quality when they leave enough room for people to add their own creative juices to it. When they do that, it gets better and people are more committed ….

Pete Mockaitis
What’s really cool about that notion of adding an egg is it’s really not all or nothing. You have a whole continuum of things from you figure out the activity to this is the activity but you figure out the food before or after or the snacks during or the refreshments or how we’re going to promote it.

There’s any number of ways that folks can have some decision making authority and involvement in doing that. It’s kind of fun that you get to kind of choose hey, how much is mine versus how much is others and what are kind of the ground rules.

Alan Willett
Absolutely. Going back to what I said, your question, “How do we improve the speed of decision making?” Let’s also say how do we improve the impact and results of decision making.

This is where leaders can constantly learn. They have to learn which of these styles to learn when because sometimes you may have a group of people that you really want to own the outcome and to be committed to it for the long term.

Perhaps this group of people, they need to go plant the wheat, grind the wheat, and all the steps to make this cake. If that’s the case, you should send the people to do this. Have them make it from scratch. Again, you point the direction, you say, “I want a cake,” but you let them figure out how to make it.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s funny. I’m imagining from sort of like a corporate speak perspective. Another way that there can be a misalignment there is either you’re using jargon like, “I need you to craft a baked solution that will be a culinary delight.” In a way there are many baked items that could fit under that purview but if a person really has in mind a cake, they should probably say a cake just so that that’s what you get is a cake.

Alan Willett
Absolutely. That’s where I say really to me leading with speed is really about constantly learning how to have the best impact not just for yourself but for your whole organization. It’s learning, if you will, the best language to present these things, the best style to get people on board, and what style is appropriate when.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m curious if we are talking about individuals in a workplace and this person wants to see some more speed right away, what would be some of your prescriptive tips and tactics for right here right now do these things and you should see a speed boost happening promptly?

Alan Willett
Okay. The quick answer of course is to listen to Pete’s Being Awesome At Your Job or reading my books. That’s fun to say. Actually that is true.

But my real answer is I encourage people not to look for immediate speed pumps because to me it comes back to what I said before. This really isn’t a marathon. The running metaphor kind of breaks down because you can’t constantly accelerate when you’re running. You hit these limits very quickly.

But from a leadership perspective, a self-leadership perspective, I really believe what people should focus on is creating their own, if you will, leadership acceleration engine. That is how do you constantly improve, not necessarily every day, but can you improve 1% a day.

Alan Weiss, one of my mentors, said if you improve 1% a day, you’re twice as good in 70 days. Just think if you keep that going, you can hit light speed leadership.

I think of leaders that had such great impact without any political power or position. Gandhi, for example, Martin Luther King, these are leaders that really had a dramatic impact without being paid for it, without being given a title. They’re able to constantly improve, constantly learn, and constantly improve the impact of their leadership force.

What I really encourage people to do is figure out what is the best methods for them to learn how to learn how to accelerate their ability to learn.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely, thank you. Well, Alan, tell me anything else you want to make sure to cover before we hear some of your favorite things?

Alan Willett
There’s one big thing I wanted to mention, which is this. This is one of the new things I’ve been working on, which is we’ve coined the word ‘embrace friction’ at embracefriction.com. Let me explain what I mean by that. Have you heard a lot about the frictionless workplace? Things like that?

Pete Mockaitis
I know about your take with friction points and collisions, but I’m not quite sure I know precisely what you’re referencing here.

Alan Willett
I’ve seen a lot in books and podcasts etcetera talking about how to reduce friction at work or how to make the frictionless workplace. I think that’s rather silly because friction is natural in nature. Without friction you’d skid off the road. There’d be like an icy road, you’re in the ditch. Friction, you need it.

What I’m finding is too many organizations are actually trying to manage friction away, trying to get rid of the conflicts.

What I really believe is one of the biggest boons for speed we can have as leaders and people in organizations is figure out ways to embrace friction, to take those points where the heat is really hot and it’s like destructive and be able to transform those destructive friction points, the heat of those into the heat of innovation. How can you take those boring ideas and make a better idea out of them.

That’s one of the big things I’m working on now. I just want to encourage people to think about is when you hit those hot points, how can you change them? How can you change the way people are talking about it, engaging in it to put it to a higher level of better value.

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

Alan Willett
One of my favorites comes back to Winston Churchill, “Do not do your best, do what is necessary.”

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

Alan Willett
One of my favorite experiments that I encourage people to do is help people. Just see what happens. By the way, you should follow the Red Cross rule: don’t help people that don’t want to be helped. But do help people. Do good in the world and you’ll be surprised about how much good karma it does for you and others.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite book?

Alan Willett
One of the books I have really been liking lately is called The Essence of Value by Mario Pricken.

Pete Mockaitis
What’s that all about?

Alan Willett
By the way, I believe you can only get it in hardcopy. It’s fairly big, sturdy book. It’s because it’s well-designed. It’s really about why do people pay extraordinary money for some pieces and objects. How do you actually determine what is valuable of a thing, a service, etcetera? I find it fascinating on a number of levels, both historically and for running my own business.

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

Alan Willett
My iPad with my Apple pencil has been delightful lately. It has showed me new ways to take notes and to really do art.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. How about a favorite habit?

Alan Willett
One of my favorite habits now is when I go on long trips with one of my kids we listen to audio books and that’s just been a delightful way to connect.

Pete Mockaitis
Tell me, is there a particular nugget that you share when you’re teaching some of this stuff that really seems to connect and resonate and get folks nodding their heads and taking notes and retweeting?

Alan Willett
Oh that’s good. Absolutely. Go beyond mad good skills. It’s great to have good skills, but one of the things that we really work on is that good skills is nothing without other element, like the ability to make other people better, the ability to give feedback to other people that makes a positive difference and have them say thank you and you don’t get shot in the process. Mad good skills are great technically otherwise, but having a whole picture is dramatically cool and it takes you to the next level.

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

Alan Willett
You can go to AlanWillett.com.

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

Alan Willett
Absolutely. Learn to own the game clock, which is if you’re feeling panicked and stressed, learn how to look up in the stands and say, “Hey, isn’t that John Candy?”

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Thank you. Well, Alan, this has been fun once again. I wish you lots of luck as you’re continuing to illuminate and expand upon these ideas and just keep on doing the great things you’re doing.

Alan Willett
All right. Thanks Pete. A pleasure to be here.

312: Leadership’s Tough Questions with Vince Molinaro

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Vince Molinaro diagnoses recurring problems in leaders today, the mindset of a great leader, and what it really takes to deliver accountable and  transformative leadership.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The four key terms of the leadership contract
  2. Why having tough conversations is so important
  3. Steps to being an accountable leader who gets the best out of people

About Vince

Vince Molinaro experienced a defining moment early in his career when he saw a respected colleague and mentor succumb to a cancer she believed was the byproduct of a stressful, toxic work environment. As a result, Vince vowed to teach business leaders how to build successful organizations by increasing the accountability of their leaders. He’s a leadership adviser, speaker and an author of The Leadership Contract(Wiley), a New York Times and USA Today bestseller now in its third edition, and The Leadership Contract Field Guide, published in January 2018.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Vince Molinaro Interview Transcript

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

Vince Molinaro
Thanks so much, Pete. It’s a pleasure to be here. Thanks for inviting me.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yes, I’m looking forward to getting into your wisdom here, but first I have to hear the back story of you playing at the accordion as a child. Why this instrument?

Vince Molinaro
I didn’t have much choice. I wanted to play the guitar and the drums but that got kind of ruled out. My parents were Italian immigrants, so the accordion is what most kids like me learned early on in their lives. That’s what I started with. Lasted about seven years of lessons every Saturday morning. That’s part of who I am. It’s part of my heritage as well.

Pete Mockaitis
The accordion, the first thing that comes to mind when I imagine an accordion is Steve Urkel. I believe he also was an accordion maestro. Was he not?

Vince Molinaro
I believe he was. I believe he was. It had at that time, certainly when I was growing up, a little bit of that geeky brand. Now actually I find that certainly among some Millennials, it’s a pretty hip instrument to play.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. You sound super hip in terms of your content that you’re sharing. I’ll give it to you. Tell me, did you have any tremendous accordion performances or highlights of your accordion career?

Vince Molinaro
You know what? My problem was that I very quickly learned to play by ear. I would listen to music and I could kind of figure out how to play it on the accordion. Instead of practicing all the music that I was told to learn, I would spend all my time at the time figuring out how to play The Eagles and Supertramp on the accordion.

That took over my interest. I was a pretty mediocre accordion player. There aren’t many memorable experiences as a performer.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m wondering, do you think you’d be capable of playing the accordion today or is it long gone?

Vince Molinaro
I could play at a very rudimentary level. I did when my kids were younger and they were – we gave them piano lessons. I did take some piano lessons. There is that musicality inside me that I still maintain a little bit.

I think if anything the benefit is it really introduced early on a love of music, a good ear for music and the discipline that it takes to practice something every day consistently though I didn’t practice what I was supposed to practice, I did spend a little bit of time on that instrument every day.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. I also want to hear about you’ve got a great title, the global managing director of leadership transformation for Lee Hecht Harrison. Can you tell us what is that role and this organization?

Vince Molinaro
The organization is a part of The Adecco Group, which is a global Fortune 500 company. LHH is one of the world’s leading talent and career development firms. We operate in 65 countries. We’re the world’s largest provider of career transition and outplacement services.

When companies are needing to reduce staff, we’re able to come in and provide really valuable services that help people through the transition, help them kind of find new work, better jobs faster.

Then we also have our talent and leadership side where we work with companies helping them develop their leaders so they can be effective in dealing with all the change and transformation that’s happening in many sectors around the world.

I’ve got sort of a small consulting unit and we’re responsible for driving the thought leadership for the company and helping really senior leaders think about how they need to kind of help their leaders get to the next level so their companies can be successful.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s excellent. You put some of these concepts into your book, The Leadership Contract, which is now in the third edition. Is that right?

Vince Molinaro
That’s correct. It’s just come out in its third edition as well as a field guide companion book that allows the leader to kind of apply all of the ideas in their own leadership role.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s great. What’s sort of the main idea or thesis behind The Leadership Contract?

Vince Molinaro
It really started – I spent my career in the whole leadership industry. I’ve done it through consulting with hundreds of organizations over the years. I’ve done a ton of research and writing as well as I’ve held a lot of senior level roles myself and built businesses and whatnot.

In the last little while, we kept hearing a real problem by a lot of our customers, which was we’re investing more than ever in leadership development, but we’re not seeing it translate into stronger leadership. We’re trying to understand what’s kind of behind that.

I spent a lot of time reflecting on the industry, what I saw my clients doing. It came down to this idea of I think what’s missing is leaders not understanding that when they take on a leadership role, they’ve actually signed up for something quite important. But a lot of times that is not made clear or transparent.

It’s largely because we have a history of kind of promoting strong technical performers into leadership roles. We throw them into those roles, don’t give them a lot of support, don’t give them a lot of guidance of understanding what it means to be a leader. They try their best, but they’re never really performing as effectively as they can.

That’s where this idea of a contract in that I believe it’s kind of human nature for us to hold anybody we deem to be a leader to a higher standard of behavior. We expect more from people in leadership roles than I think we should. To me that implies a contract. When you take on a leadership role at any level in your career, you’ve actually signed up for something important.

I think that idea is not necessarily new. I think it’s always been there, but today the role is so demanding that we have to understand there’s a leadership contract and then the terms that go along with that contract. That’s essentially the big idea of the book.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. What are some of the key terms of the contract?

As you talked about contracts I’m thinking – I recently became a landlord. We’ve got leases. It’s so funny with tenants. You discover maybe every few months, there’s another thing to put in the lease. We didn’t think of it last time. Not to put that in the sink. I guess we’ve got to spell that out. What are some of the key terms that show up in this contract?

Vince Molinaro
Well, there’s really four when I try to really distill it down to how to help individuals in leadership roles really think about their role. It’s really about the mindset of the leader.

The first term is that it’s a decision. You have to make it. What that means is you’ve got to really think about yourself and define yourself as a leader.

I have found in my work and my team has as well in developing thousands and thousands of leaders worldwide that you find that I can kind of take on a leadership role. Let’s say I’m an engineer and I’m a great engineer. They kind of have a split mind. They still think of themselves as engineers and the leadership part of their job like their part time job.

They kind of all get to that leadership stuff Tuesday afternoon where I’ve got a window between 2 and 2:30. What I’m saying is, “No, no, the decision is you’ve got to define yourself as a leader.” Yeah, you might be an engineer or an analyst or an accountant by training, there’s nothing wrong with that. But once you’re in a leadership role, that’s got to be your main thing. You’ve got to define yourself in that way.

If you know yourself well enough, you kind of say, “You know what? It’s not for me,” then that’s a very noble decision. I think we need more people to be honest with themselves in acknowledging when leadership isn’t their thing. That’s the first one.

The second one says that okay, once you decide then you’ve got to understand that it comes with responsibility and obligation. You have an obligation to shareholders, your customers, your employees, the communities in which you do business. The fundamental obligation is to leave your company in better shape than you found it.

You look around the world today. You see leaders involved in scandals or corruption or other bad behavior and you kind of go, “Well, they’ve clearly missed this point somewhere along their career as a leader.” Obligation is the second one.

The third one that often surprises leaders is I’d say leadership really is hard work. You’ve got to get tough. You’ve got to have the resilience and resolve to tackle some of the challenging things you’re going to face.

A lot of it always has to do around people, managing poor performers, giving candid feedback, making tough calls that might make you unpopular with your team but are critically important for your business.

Sometimes people come in with a fallacy of, “Well, now I’m the manager. I can just kind of put my feet up on my desk and everyone else does the work.” It’s like, no, no, no, you’ve got a lot of work to do as a leader and some of it is pretty tough. If you don’t do it, you actually – and if you avoid it, you don’t appreciate how much you weaken yourself and weaken your team.

Then the last one is really the new motto of leadership that’s emerging in companies is that leadership as a community. It’s about leaders working together in a very unified way, where in the past it was a very centralized, key decision makers at the top. They dispensed the order. The rest of us did our jobs.

Today we’re working in more networked models. It’s cross-functional work. We’ve got global matrix structures. You’ve really got to be thinking about all the leaders and the relationships they have with one another and how effective they are at working together.

There’s a leadership contract and the four terms that I think are really helpful to think about our role as leaders today.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, I’m right with you there. I want to sort of talk through each of these a little bit. With the first point in terms of deciding that you’re a leader. I guess as a youth I went to many leadership conferences. It was sort of beat into my head that everyone is a leader. We’re all leaders.

Maybe could you contrast that a little bit in terms of the difference between we all exercise to a degree leadership and influence and self-management, and all that stuff, versus what you mean by the decision to be primarily a leader.

Vince Molinaro
Yeah, I kind of probably would phrase that a little differently. I would say we all have the potential, leadership potential within us. Then I think you’ve got to make the decision to fully commit to say I’m going to be truly accountable and work really hard to be as great a leader as I possibly can.

I don’t subscribe to the sense of there’s a few of us that have been blessed with these special traits of a leadership and the rest of us don’t have them.

Like you, I do believe everyone has the potential to be a leader, but I think that potential has to be honed and in order for it to be honed, you’ve got to be pretty deliberate at the decision you’re making and make that really firm commitment to yourself to be really deliberate as a leader. That’s kind of my perspective on that one.

Pete Mockaitis
Could you paint a picture for us with regard to the cost or the commitment or the time investment that is really necessary to lead effectively.

Vince Molinaro
I’m not sure if it’s as much about a time commitment as much as really how you think about yourself. If you think about yourself as a leader, then you realize that in many ways there are different expectations of you, to know that you’re always on.

A good example is someone I write about the story in the book. He was a team member, this was in a technology company, … team. Then he got promoted to be the leader of the team.

Now all of the sudden, he found that the nature of his relationships changed, that he couldn’t behave in the way he did when he was a team member, where they would go out for dinner and for drinks and party and have fun. He realized, “No, no, now I’m the leader. I need to behave differently.”

It doesn’t mean that I bring a sense of authority to the relationship. The expectations are different. There was an example of how he realized he needed to step up in different ways in order to lead that team. He still had strong relationships. He just wasn’t one of the guys and the gals as much.

That’s sort of that it’s kind of more how you show up, what you pay attention to, what you’re being deliberate about and obviously that commitment to develop yourself, to be open to feedback and to invest in your own development. I think those become fundamental.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood there. When it comes to the leadership is hard work phase, could you share a couple of examples of the hard work that is often dodged and how to engage in it all the more effectively?

Vince Molinaro
Yeah, the two we hear a lot about is not being aggressive enough in managing a poor performer and not having the confidence to give candid feedback to someone on your team. If you take, let’s just focus on one of them.

If you take the classic story of the chronic poor performer. I’ve played this out wherever I’ve traveled globally. It tends to follow a same story or arc.

You’ve got a poor performer on a team. Everybody knows who the poor performer is. When employees and team members are off having lunch or a coffee, there’s a lot of gripping about the poor performer. “Why can’t she or why can’t he get his act together? We’re all having to kind of put in extra effort in order to cover that person,” and on and on and on.

As the weeks and months go by and you as the manager or the leader do nothing, the conversation shifts from the poor performer to who? To you. Now the gripping is about why aren’t you doing anything to help this person. Either give them training, either move them to another role or maybe they need to be exited from the company.

Finally you get the courage and you decide that maybe yeah, this person needs to leave the organization. You finally do it. The first thought that comes to your mind – into your head every time you do it is why did I wait so long.

That’s been a universal finding every single time I talk to a leader about this. It doesn’t matter whether they’re a CEO or a supervisor, a team lead. If we knew that, if we know why are we waiting so long, then why do we wait so long? We don’t appreciate there’s a price you pay as the weeks and months go by not addressing an issue like this.

That’s only one of many issues you’ve got to deal with. What I talk about in the book is the hard rule of leadership, but as leaders, when we avoid some of these legitimately challenging hard work, we don’t appreciate how we weaken ourselves, weaken our teams, and actually weaken out company.

But if you have the courage to address them in a more timely manner, you actually strengthen yourself, strengthen your team, and strengthen your company.

This one gets a lot of attention from leaders. They all kind of admit, “Yeah, I’ve got a bunch of relationships I’m avoiding,” I mean, “A couple of conversations that I’m avoiding. I’ve got some strained relationships that I’m not doing anything about because I just can’t get myself to approach that person.” We don’t appreciate day-to-day how it weakens us and weakens our performance.

Pete Mockaitis
To the answer to that then, you mentioned courage in terms of executing that. Any pro tips for pulling that off?

Vince Molinaro
Well, in the field guide I kind of talk about really learning how to have tough conversations. I call them tough conversations because number one they are legitimately tough. They’re tough on the person. They’re tough on you. We don’t necessarily like having those conversations, but we need to.

A lot of times people kind of confuse being tough with being rough, which is not at all what I subscribe to. You can be tough, you can hold someone accountable, you can kind of put their feet to the fire, without being abusive, demeaning, or a bully.

What I say is the place to begin is to think about how much you care about that person first. Because if you think about how much you care about that person, you realize then you have an obligation to give them the feedback. Maybe it’s something in their blind spot. They’re unaware of something they’re doing that’s undermining their performance.

I see so many times a person’s career gets curtailed because everybody knows a secret about them but no one’s ever had the courage to sit down and say, “Hey, you know how you do this? This is not working out.”

What I find is that the more you do this, the better you get at it, the more practice you have, the confidence increases and then people just know that you’re a person they can count on to give them the straight goods.

I find a lot of times in my work with CEOs one of the things they value is “You’re going to give me the straight goods. I’ve got no one around me that has the courage to tell me like it is. I need to know how it is.” That’s I think the real opportunity.

What our global research has found is one of the lowest areas in companies is peer-to-peer feedback. You’ve got leaders who are hesitant – so if you and I are peers in different departments or divisions and we’re not getting along, we kind of avoid each other, but we don’t have the courage to kind of sit down and hash these things out.

I think that’s going to be the future of leadership – otherwise we just waste a lot of time and things drag out longer than they need to. I think it just begins with having that confidence and courage and knowing how to have a tough conversation, but it begins with actually caring about the person and their wellbeing and their outcome, their final outcomes.

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you. Then on the flip side of that I think that there are a lot of leaders who claim they want to hear the real truth, but their actions and demeanor, words in response don’t really mirror or reflect what they claim to want. Do you have any pro tips on how you can actually be encouraging and receptive to the real stuff, the truth that may be unpleasant to hear?

Vince Molinaro
I think you’ve got to be active in soliciting it, number one.

Number two I think a lot of scenario leaders often fail to appreciate how much people just naturally will tell you what you think you want to hear as opposed to telling you what you need to hear. You’ve got to kind of call that out and say, “Okay, are you telling me what you think I need to hear or are you sugar coating this or are you only giving me the positive side to the story?”

Jim Collins in Good to Great really talked about our ability to accept the brutal facts. I think that’s where it begins. If you can kind of set the tone that it’s okay to accept – to talk about the brutal facts, to not kill the messenger, then you will see people come to you.

Now, on the flip side, when you are that person speaking truth to power or having to raise a contentious issue with a senior leader, what I’ve learned that helps is if you don’t come across as you’re whining or complaining or blaming, because that’s what tends to get the backs up.

If you come at it with a place of maturity, you’ve done your homework, you’ve got the data, you’re being factual, that show kind of how you care about the company, then that also helps the message be easier to take as well.

I think it’s kind of a dual thing there. The leader has to set the right tone, has to challenge people to not make sure they’re telling them what they want to hear, not punishing people for doing that. Then on the flip side we need to learn how to kind of deliver some of those tough messages in a way that they’re going to hear it without reacting to someone who’s whining and complaining.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. In addition to delivering the tough messages, what are some of the best practices in terms of regular and daily communication to be inspiring and motivating and getting the best performance from people?

Vince Molinaro
It’s interesting. We did a global study on leadership accountability. We looked at – one of the things we found was that leadership accountability was a critical issue in over the 2,000 respondents we had globally. 72%, three out of the four companies, said it’s a critical issue, but there’s only a 31% satisfaction with the degree of accountability being demonstrated by leaders globally.

We found that pattern, it doesn’t matter whether we collected the data in North America, South America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, it was the same pattern. It was quite stunning actually. I was not expecting that.

But one of the things we also found is that there was a difference, a connection between strong leadership accountability and company performance, where industry leading companies just surpassed the rest of the companies on a number of areas.

One in particular that was interesting is we asked the respondents, “Think about the leaders in your company that are truly accountable. What is it that they do differently every day?”

The first one is that they hold everyone to high standards of performance. They set the bar really high. I would say that’s one of the things you need to do.

Number two is they’re genuinely excited about the company and its future. To your point around the inspiration, that’s where inspiration comes from. If I show up as a leader and I’m dragging my heels every day, you can imagine what impact that has on the engagement me, of my team, and my employers. But if I’m truly and genuinely excited and enthused, that’s a huge motivator.

The third thing they do is they actually have the tough conversations, so people know exactly where you stand and there is that clarity. You may not like the conversation from time to time, but they always know you’re going to have their back and not withhold anything that could be getting in the way.

The fourth thing is they’re very good at communicating the strategy so that everyone has real clarity about what it is they need to do and how it contributes.

The last thing is that they’re always kind of looking to the future, anticipating trends.

The first four are really about how you communicate, how you inspire. Set high standards. Jeff Bezos Amazon just with most recent letters to his shareholders, talk a lot about how they set really, really high standards and how when you set high standards, they are inspiring to people because people want to excel, people want to do great.

To do that, you’ve got to set the bar high. That’s the starting point. Then you kind of show your enthusiasm. Then you bring strategic clarity. Then you have the courage to have the tough conversations when you need to. We can kind of define behaviorally what really accountable leadership looks like day-to-day and the impact it has on people.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I guess I’d like to hear maybe a specific example or a case study where I could just get a crystal clear picture associated with “Ah, that leader is being very accountable,” versus “Ah, that leader is being very not accountable.”

Vince Molinaro
Well, you know if you think about what’s been happening in the world and you think about – I’ve traveled – in the last two years I’ve traveled to 60 cities around the world. It seems like wherever I was landing there was a significant leadership story unfolding, mostly on the political side.

On March of 2016 I land in São Paulo, Brazil. I happened to land on the day when millions of Brazilians are taking to the street to protest their corruption in government and corruption among senior executives. There I was that whole week there to talk about leadership. That’s all anyone wanted to talk about.

But you get to see the negative impact that has on people when the most senior leaders are not being held accountable.

You can kind of see it in corporate performance. The good examples, probably the example that is a good one right now is what Starbucks has done this week with the training. They shut down the store to provide that important training they needed to kind of get a core cultural issue.

That was a very strong message from the CEO to say, “We have a problem. We’re going to fix that problem. We’re going to address it in a pretty dramatic way.” What company does that? What company shuts down its doors to address an issue that need to be addressed?

That’s an example of that accountability. They didn’t deflect it. They didn’t deny it. They didn’t diminish that. They addressed it head on. That’s the kind of example to me that we need more of.

What you generally find is a lot of leaders as they take on new roles in companies, they come in and they always see a gap in accountability. That’s the biggest challenge that I find that they’re struggling to put in place is how do you kind of create that sense of accountability.

Then you see examples of companies that haven’t fared well where leaders get defensive. They make mistakes, but they won’t admit them. You can kind of go on and on and see those examples play out.

But that’s generally what it looks like whether it’s at the C-suite right down to a front line. It’s people not owning their role, not owning when they’ve made mistakes, not apologizing, and doing nothing to rectify the situation.

Pete Mockaitis
You say accountability. It’s really about the ownership in terms of this is my responsibility and I will do what is necessary to ensure that it is made right.

Vince Molinaro
Yeah. That sense of ownership is really important. A lot of my clients say, “We want to build an ‘own it’ culture. We want people to feel like, they feel like the company is theirs.” Because if you feel that, then you bring that sense of ownership every day. You bring that sense of urgency. You just are kind of operating at a higher level as a leader.

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hm. Do you have any quick pointers in terms of just immediate do’s and don’ts in order to be more of this transformational, and inspiring, and accountable leader like tomorrow, “Do this and stop doing that?”

Vince Molinaro
Well, I think right off the bat is if we kind of think about applying the four terms that we talked about earlier.

The first thing is you need to do – I’ve got a weekly blog that I call the Gut Check for Leaders. It’s always framed in the form of a question to inspire reflection.

I would think about really sitting down and saying, “Have I really made the decision to kind of think of myself and define myself as a leader. Am I all in and fully committed in my role as a leader?” Because you can’t do anything until that foundational question is answered.

Sometimes we let ourselves slip into a state of mediocrity or we don’t pay attention to it or we get so consumed by the day-to-day workload and challenges that we don’t pause and reflect. I would take a few minutes to think about that.

Then I would say, “Okay, if I’m all in, then what am I really here to do? What’s the purpose of my role? What are my key obligations? Who am I obligated to? What’s the value that I’m trying to create for customers, for my employees, for shareholders? How am I leaving my company in better shape than I found it?” Those are two pretty big questions that I think are foundational.

The other opportunity related to hard work is what one thing that you know you’ve been avoiding, and we all have our list of those things that we’re avoiding, they’ll come top of mind pretty quickly. Make some advancement on improving that. Stop avoiding it. Stop delaying.

Find a way to make progress because if you make progress, even in a small way, you are making things better. You are advancing things. You’re not going to be stopped. You’re not going to be spinning your wheels. That I think is critical.

What is it that you’re avoiding? Is it feedback I need to give someone? Is it a tough conversation you need to have with a peer or colleague?

Then the last one around community is research that shows in organizations today, the amount of collaboration that we’re doing has increased like 67%. Now we are more dependent on others for our own success.

There was a time when say 20 years ago when organizations were more hierarchical. I could be fairly independent as long as me and my team did our job in our own little silo, we were okay. Now you’re so dependent on one another.

I would sit down and think, how strong are my relationships with the people that matter most to my success. Where are my relationships strong? Great, maintain them. Where are the relationships strained and how can I repair them?

Those are the four things. You’ve got to decide are you all in, be clear on what you’re obligated to, start being more deliberate and tackling the hard work and strengthen the relationships that you need to be successful.

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

Vince Molinaro
I think we covered everything. Probably the part that I would mention is I think it’s really important in today’s, in this period we’re in now with the disruption that’s happening in a lot of industries, with the advent of artificial intelligence, and the whole move of machine learning and robotics, it’s unclear what the future of work is really going to look like.

But I think what I’ve come to really know and understand for sure is that an organization desperately needs leaders and need leaders at all levels to really step up and be strong.

If you are that one person that maybe you’ve never thought of yourself in that way, but you feel you’ve got that potential in you and if you really want to start stepping up, you’ve got a huge opportunity to add tremendous value to your organization and to your success.

Leadership roles are difficult, but when you can build a great team, when you can drive strong, collective performance, I feel there’s nothing better and more rewarding in one’s career than that opportunity to be a leader. It’s a time when we need strong leadership and we need more people to step up and be accountable and help our companies be successful.

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

Vince Molinaro
A favorite quote is my current favorite quote. I got it a couple of weeks ago from Tim Ferriss, I think it’s his Friday 5 Bullet email blast that comes out. It was a quote that he’s been mulling called the Hanlon’s Razor. It says something to the effect of ‘never kind of interpret malice, when stupidity is a much better explanation.’

Why I like that is I find many times in organizations, particularly in large, complex organizations, stuff doesn’t always work out. In fact, it feels like more things don’t work out than do work out.

I spend a lot of time talking to leaders who are really frustrated by things that don’t work out. They get really angry like, “Why can’t marketing get its act together,” or, “What the hell is going on with sales?” “Those folks in R&D don’t have a clue what’s going on.”

We kind of attribute malice, bad intention, where sometimes I think people are just overworked. They’re not always making the best decisions, maybe because they don’t have all the information. I find it’s an interesting way of reframing those things that cause a lot of stress and frustration. That quote is kind of resonating with me the last few weeks.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, it does me as well. I think about that in large part in relation to the media when it comes to stories just being incomplete or seeming like the word choice is full of bias in terms of “Well, we know how you feel about this issue,” is that I think that I think this journalist really just has too much on their plate in terms of budgets and workload and what’s going on.

I particularly think about when the story is about a document like a Supreme Court decision or papal encyclical, it’s sort of like none of you have just read the whole document, which seems like sort of the thing to do when you’re reporting a story on that and it’s all completely contained in one volume.

It’s like you could read all of that and then you can report on it and then you have the complete picture of what’s inside it. But it seems like they never do. I don’t think … work in the mix.

Vince Molinaro
Yeah. That kind of helps, right? It sort of helps because you could be sitting on what were they thinking. I think that is an important part of people’s realities today.

I think what it also means for leaders, and I’ve been thinking about this as well, is this ability to sort through what’s real and what’s hype because there’s just so much coming at us. I just want to be clear on what’s going on sometimes. It’s hard to do.

It’s hard work because there’s a lot of information, some of it conflicting, some of it biased. Then if you kind of assume there’s mal-intent, but then that just adds an emotional component ….

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

Vince Molinaro
That’s a great one. I kind of stay on top of a lot of the science that’s going on. I don’t think anything specific that I would cite. I think what’s interesting is I am starting to see a pattern in some of the research in a number of areas where what we’ve long believed or long held to be true is being upended a little bit.

It’s early days in my conclusion, so I don’t want to be too definitive just yet, but I think it’s a kind of an interesting time where a lot of these things that we always took for granted are being changed. That I think creates new opportunities to think broadly about our future and what’s possible. That’s kind of how I would answer that right now.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. How about a favorite book?

Vince Molinaro
I’ve always had an interest in kind of Greek and Roman thinking and drama, so I’m all into the books on kind of the stoic way and how it plays out in leadership. There’s a lot of those books out now that are really meaningful to me.

That’s great in many ways. There’s a number of those. Ryan Holiday does some great work there. It just brings kind of an interesting perspective to life, which is in many ways really practical and in some ways also pessimistic, which I find interesting. It’s just a way of helping you reframe and be effective in a world where there’s so much complexity and change.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite tool?

Vince Molinaro
Well, I do the cooking in the house. I would say that the knives I use to prep and make meals, those are my favorite tools, particularly when they’re nice and sharp and you can do some great prepping. I would say those are my favorite tools because they help me cook the meals for my family.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite habit?

Vince Molinaro
It would have to be the discipline of exercise and making sure I do that every day and keeping myself as fit as I can. I think that right now in terms of where I’m at is really important to me.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect, resonate, get Kindle book highlighted, retweeted, heads nodding when you share it from the stage?

Vince Molinaro
The one I think I stumbled on is something about ‘when it comes to leadership, good intentions are not enough.’ I find that one always captures people’s imagination.

I think it’s because I think that we have a lot of people in leadership roles who are well intended but don’t appreciate what it really takes to excel and be successful, so good intentions are not enough when it comes to leadership. You really need to roll up your sleeves and commit to the role.

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

Vince Molinaro
Certainly, LinkedIn is the platform I primarily use to share my blogs and whatnot, so they can find me there. Or at www.TheLeadershipContract.com. They can find out about the books, the blog and other work that I do.

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

Vince Molinaro
Well I think being awesome at one’s job really takes that sense of commitment. I think it’s echoing what I said before. Companies need people to step up and be leaders at all levels. Like we discussed earlier, we all have that potential inside of us. It’s not a magical quality that only a few people have been blessed with. I think if people really want to be awesome at work, the way to do it is to step up and lead.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, Vince, thanks so much for taking this time and sharing the wisdom. I wish you tons of luck and success with The Leadership Contract next edition and the field guide and all you’re up to.

Vince Molinaro
Thank you so much. I really do appreciate it and this was fun, some great questions. Thank you.

302: Curing the Under-Management Epidemic with Bruce Tulgan

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Bruce Tulgan makes the case for why it’s good to be the boss and the massive business costs of under-management. He also reveals the true definition of micromanagement and empowerment.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why and how to avoid ‘managing on autopilot’
  2. The central importance of regular one-on-one meetings
  3. How to use the ‘Manager’s Landscape’ tool

About Bruce

Bruce Tulgan is internationally recognized as the leading expert on young people in the workplace and one of the leading experts on leadership and management. Bruce is a best-selling author, an adviser to business leaders all over the world, and a sought-after keynote speaker and management trainer.

Bruce has spent decades working with tens of thousands of leaders and managers in hundreds of organizations ranging from Aetna to Wal-Mart to the U.S. Army.

Bruce has received Toastmasters International’s most prestigious honor, the Golden Gavel. He’s written numerous books and his writing has also appeared in dozens of magazines and newspapers such as the Harvard Business Review, BusinessWeek, HR Magazine, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Items mentioned in the show:

Bruce Tulgan Interview Transcript

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

Bruce Tulgan
Thanks so much for including me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, first I want to hear all about… You have a 6th degree black belt in Uechi-ryu, if I said that right.

Bruce Tulgan
Yup.

Pete Mockaitis
A karate style. And I’m so intrigued by this on a couple of dimensions. First of all, the degrees. More degrees is harder and takes longer, right?

Bruce Tulgan
Yeah. I’ve been studying karate for 44 years, since I was 7 years old. And in our style 6th degree is a master. And so I had to go to Okinawa to be promoted to that level, but I’ve studied since I was a little boy. And in fact, my lifelong teacher since I was a young child – he now has come here to live with us. So, next door to my home is my office and my dojo, and my lifelong teacher lives with us now.

Pete Mockaitis
That is really cool, that’s really cool. And so, I’m intrigued then, with Uechi-ryu, is that distinctive from other karate styles, and in what way?

Bruce Tulgan
Well, all karate comes from Okinawa, which was the Ruykyu Kingdom and was annexed by Japan in 1879. And it’s kind of a nexus of Japanese and Chinese influence in Okinawa. But our style is a very hard style; it’s half hard, half soft, is what it comes from originally. And it’s based on conditioning the body and practicing kata, which are prearranged series of techniques, and fighting. And that’s true of all classical karate practice. So our style is a very effective style; it’s upright and it mixes the movements of the tiger, the dragon, and the crane. And it’s a lifelong passion of mine.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool, that’s cool. And so, is there any overlap between your interest in… I’m going to try to pronounce it the way you pronounced it – karate. Did I say that right? I always say “karate”. I feel so American.

Bruce Tulgan
American say “karate”. But “kara” means “empty” or “Chinese”; it means both things. And “te” means “hand”, and “do” means “way”. So “karate-do” means “the way of the Chinese hand” or “the way of the empty hand”.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, I’m with you. Well, so, is there some overlap there from that, I guess, mindset or way, and your company RainmakerThinking?

Bruce Tulgan
Well, karate influences everything in my life, because I’ve been doing it since I was 7 years old. So, it’s an art of the mind and the body and the spirit, and certainly it influences everything I do. I mean I’ve learned from karate that the fundamentals are the most important, no matter what you’re doing. The fundamentals are what it’s all about. I’ve learned that simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy, but simple is often what you need and simple can be pretty darn hard. And I’ve learned that practice, practice, practice is the way you get good at anything. And I think half hard, half soft, which is what our style comes from – those principles work in everything. It’s yin-yang. It’s also much of what we teach in our management seminars, is accountability and flexibility go hand-in-hand. So that’s kind of a nice analog to hard and soft – accountability and flexibility.

Pete Mockaitis
And so your company has done a number of interesting studies long term, over many years. Not quite as many years as you’ve been doing karate, but since the ‘90s, right?

Bruce Tulgan
Yeah, we started doing this research in 1993. I was a young, unhappy lawyer at the time, and I began interviewing young people, people my age, about their experiences in the workplace. And those first interviews turned into my first book, which was Managing Generation X, which finally came out in 1995. And we’ve been continuing the research ever since. So now more than a half a million people have participated in our longitudinal interviews, and from 400 different organizations. And tens of thousands of those interviews lasted 10 years or longer. So we’ve been tracking these issues – generational change in the workplace, human capital management, and leadership and management best practices – we’ve been tracking these issues since 1993.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’d love it if you could share sort of a key insight that has high applicability from some of these studies.

Bruce Tulgan
Well, our generational shift research is where we’re tracking generational change in the workplace. And of course demographers have been talking about this great generational shift that’s going to happen for a long time. Now it’s actually happening. The age bubble on one end of the spectrum is growing, as the Baby Boomers continue to age, every single day in North America alone 8,000 to 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65, and they’re filling up the age bubble on one end of the spectrum.

On the other end of the spectrum, the fastest growing segment of the workforce is made up of those born 1990 and later. By 2020 those born 1990 and later will be 28% of the workforce, and by 2020 the Baby Boomers will be well under 20% of the workforce. So this has implications for staffing strategy, attraction, selection, onboarding, up to speed training, performance management, rewards, incentives, retention, knowledge transfer, succession planning, leadership development. All of these issues are affected by the shift in the demographics.

And of course it’s not just numbers that are changing, but also the mindset of the workforce is changing. Everyone’s talking about the Millennials, especially the second wave Millennials – the youngest, least experienced people in the workplace – those born 1990 and later, and what our research shows is that they are like the canaries in the coal mine. The young emerging workforce, they think short-term and transactional, they want to know, “What do you want from me today, tomorrow and this week? What do you have to offer me today, tomorrow and this week?” They do not want everything on a silver platter – that’s a lie, or a misunderstanding. They don’t want to be humored at work – that’s nonsense. They want to be taken seriously and they want to know, “What do I need to do every day to earn the rewards and flexibility that I need?” And so, I think that’s where we’re all headed. What we learned from our generational shift research is as the numbers shift, we’re all headed in that same direction. People of all ages… We’re all Millennials now.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, when you say “the canary in the coal mine”, I get that metaphor suggests a warning of danger and changes that need to be made. Can you expand upon that a little bit?

Bruce Tulgan
Yeah. Any organization that’s still trying to recruit people by, “Hey, welcome to the family. Pay your dues, climb the ladder, and in the long run the system will take care of you.” So, “We expect you to make lots of short-term sacrifices in exchange for vague promises about long-term rewards that may or may not vest in the deep, distant future” – that’s from the workplace of the past. That doesn’t work anymore.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s so funny, as you describe that, I was immediately like, “No, no way, don’t believe you”, because downsizing, layoffs, it happens all the time. And I don’t know where it got baked into me, but I remember even in college I thought I cannot depend on any employer long-term for anything, therefore I’m going to assemble an unbeatable, indispensable set of skills that make me valuable anywhere and everywhere. And that’s one of the main reasons I chose to start a career in strategy consulting. And so, it seems like I’m not the only one who figured that out; this is pretty widespread, that these vague promises of future rewards ain’t cutting it for folks.

Bruce Tulgan
Yeah, look. So that’s a big part of it, and I think that employers, they know on one level that job security is dead, that people have to take responsibility for their own success, but then they can’t figure out how to drive performance and retain the best people. A lot of organizations are having a hard time figuring that out, and the reason is because even though everything’s changing, they’re still operating on the same assumptions. So, organizations need to adapt. They need to realize that in a highly uncertain environment people are going to think short-term and transactional.

That doesn’t mean you can’t retain people for the long term, but it does mean you’re going to have to do that in a much more granular, high maintenance way. And so I think when people point to the youngest, least experienced people – the second wave Millennials – and talk about, “They’re so high maintenance”, I think that’s true. But I think people of all ages are becoming more high maintenance, because if you can’t trust the system to take care of you in the long term, you look to your immediate boss to take care of you in the short term, and that’s high maintenance.

And so it’s not that people are not willing to do a lot of grunt work very well, very fast, all day long. They just want to know, “Okay, how are you going to make the quid pro quo explicit every step of the way? How do I score enough points around here today, tomorrow, this week, this month, this year, to earn more of what I need and want to take care of myself and my family?”

And as you say, career security no longer lies in an organization chart, but it lies in the marketable skills you’re able to build up in yourself, your ability to add value, your ability to collect proof of your ability to add value, the relationships you build with decision-makers who know you can add value. That’s where career security lies nowadays, I think more and more. And we see this in greatest relief among the youngest people, because they’ve never known it any other way. So older, more experienced people maybe are having to adapt to this free agent mindset, but the youngest, least experienced people have never known it any other way.

Pete Mockaitis
You’ve got to be like Liam Neeson, with a particular set of skills.

Bruce Tulgan
[laugh] Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Whether you’re going to take down a bunch of kidnappers or have career security. So, I’m right with you there. And so, I got turned on to your work through Chris Deferio on the show earlier, and he was raving about your book It’s Okay to Be the Boss. And I too became quite intrigued as I dug into it a little bit. And so, could you share a little bit with us there, what’s the main idea behind this book and why do you think it’s really just connecting with folks and striking a chord here?

Bruce Tulgan
Yeah. Well, that book, It’s Okay to Be the Boss, comes out of another line of our research – our research on leadership and management best practices, and the experiences that leaders and managers are having every day. And we’ve been tracking “under-management” is what we call it – it’s the opposite of micromanagement. We’ve been tracking what we call the “under-management epidemic” that so many leaders, managers and supervisors in the real world, they’re just not doing enough leading, managing and supervising.

And there are a lot of reasons for that, but when leaders are not highly engaged with their direct reports in today’s environment, things go wrong. And so the book It’s Okay to Be the Boss, what I tried to do was share the research we’ve been doing on under-management. What is under-management? What is the state of practice when it comes to most leaders and managers? What does it look like? What’s going right, what’s going wrong? And when leaders and managers are not leading and managing in a sufficiently engaged way, why is that? Why is it that leaders have such a hard time on the front lines, spending time in high-structure, high-substance dialogues, guiding, directing, supporting and coaching people? Why is it that managers have a hard time doing that? What’s going wrong? What are the costs? And then, what are the most effective managers doing differently? And that’s what the book is about.

It’s eight steps back to the fundamentals of leadership, it’s get in the habit of managing people every day; take it one person at a time; learn to talk like a teacher or a coach; make accountability a process, not a slogan; spell out expectations every step of the way; track performance every step of the way; solve small problems before they turn into big problems; and reward people extra when they go the extra mile.

That’s the basic thrust of the book, and I think it’s hitting a chord because I think a lot of leaders and managers feel like it’s getting harder and harder and harder to manage people, and they start looking out in the world of management experts and leadership books. And a lot of those leadership books and management books are telling them a lot of formulas that don’t really work. And my book has the virtue of, it’s not the flavor of the month; it’s just the old fashioned basics.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So then let’s talk a little bit about this under-management crisis that’s there. So, can you paint a little bit of a picture in terms of what does that look, sound and feel like in practice, in terms of the state of management, leadership, supervision, and employees that is all too common and problematic right now?

Bruce Tulgan
Well, I think what most leaders and manager feel like they don’t have enough time to provide high structure, high substance, coaching-style guidance, direction, support every day. They feel like they don’t have enough time. And if you really talk with managers as we do every day, what they’ll tell you is, “Oh, I talk to my people every day”, but what that looks like almost always is they touch base: “How’s everything going? is everything on track? Any problems I should know about?”

And then the problem is those questions tell you nothing. And they interrupt each other all day long. So, when something pops into somebody’s head, they text their manager, they email their manager, they go look for their manager, they call the manager. When something pops into the manager’s head, they go look for the person or they text them or they email them or they call them. We call that “management by interruption”. The problem is nobody’s at their best when they’re interrupted. And then we see each other on email, we see each other in meetings.

And if you take those four elements – touching base, interrupting, email and meetings – that is what makes managers think they’re managing, because they’re spending a lot of time communicating. It’s just that it’s not very effective communication. It’s not time effective and it’s not effective in terms of getting into the details. So what happens is managers feel like they’re managing, and we call that “managing on autopilot” – touching base, interrupting, email, monitoring, and meetings.

And what happens is, problems hide below the radar, and then every so often a problem blows up and everyone jumps into firefighting mode. And then it’s roll up your sleeves, all hands on deck, and boy, is that time-consuming. It’s a whole lot harder to put out a fire and salvage the wreckage than it is to prevent a fire. So this is what we call the “vicious cycle of under-management” and it’s why so many leaders say, “Well, I’m already talking to my people”, but what they’re not doing is creating a structured dialogue where they spell out expectations, where they make sure people know exactly what’s expected of them, what are you doing, how are you doing it, what steps are you going to follow, show me your plan, they track performance in writing, and troubleshoot, problem-solve, resource-plan, hold people accountable, and provide recognition when people go the extra mile.

That’s what’s not happening in nine out of 10 management relationships. Nine out of 10 managers are not providing a regular structured dialogue, where they make expectations clear, track performance, problem-solve, troubleshoot, resource-plan, and hold people accountable and provide recognition and reward when people go the extra mile. Nine out of 10 management relationships that’s not happening, and that’s what we call “under-management”.

And there are eight business costs – problems occur that never had to occur, problems get out of control that could have been solved easily, resources are squandered, people go in the wrong direction for days, weeks or months without realizing it, low performers hide out and collect paychecks, mediocre performers mistake themselves for high performers, high performers get frustrated and think about leaving, and managers end up doing tasks, responsibilities and projects that should have been delegated to someone else, or sometimes were delegated to someone else; they just come back to the manager. So this is what under-management looks like.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright.

Bruce Tulgan
And it’s the elephant in the room in most workplaces. It’s a problem that hides in plain sight.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, that is quite a picture, thank you. And it’s spooky, and it resonates, and it’s real. And so, well, I guess I’m wondering then, it sounds like you are asserting that if you spent some time upfront engaging in these structured dialogues and having less of the interruption stuff, you would in fact come out ahead, in terms of time turning into great output.

Bruce Tulgan
Yeah, that’s exactly right. So, it’s not that managers don’t spend a lot of time managing already, they just don’t put their management time in the right place, and they don’t use it in a sufficiently effective way. So one way to think about it is think about all the time that people spend firefighting. Remember Smokey the Bear?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Bruce Tulgan
Smokey the Bear used to say, “It’s a whole lot easier to prevent a forest fire than it is to put one out.” And Smokey was one smart bear. And so in many ways, the discipline we teach is managing upfront in advance before anything goes right, wrong, or average. It’s fire prevention. Or if you like Stephen Covey, it’s quadrant to management, it’s putting leadership and management upfront, and making it easier for people to go in the right direction in the first place, so you don’t have to spend a whole bunch of time solving problems that never should have happened.

Pete Mockaitis
So the “important but not urgent” quadrant there.

Bruce Tulgan
Exactly. In many ways, good management is like taking a walk every day and eating your vegetables. It’s simple but it requires discipline and focus, and you’ve got to build those habits.

Pete Mockaitis
So, when you talk about having a structured dialogue, what does that look like in practice? What are some rituals, the equivalent of the taking the walks and eating the vegetables that should just be happening and be sort of like one-on-ones, schedule that recurring times, or how does that look like in practice?

Bruce Tulgan
Yes, so it’s team meetings, but only for what team meetings are good for. And then one-on-one is where all the action is. And the reason for structure… So, look, maybe it’s the same time – Tuesdays at 10:00, maybe it’s everyday at 10:00. Or maybe your schedule’s a moving target so you can’t do it at the same time every day or every week, so that at the end of each conversation, you schedule the next one. But the key is to have structure.

And the reason for structure is so that you, as a leader, know you’re going to have this conversation. And me, as an employee who relies on my leader, as your direct report, I know it’s going to happen too, so that I can prepare and you can prepare. The key to structure is instead of interrupting each other, we keep a running list because we know we’re going to have that meeting. Now, of course, we should be able to talk informally in between one-on-ones. And if the building’s on fire, then we better interrupt each other. But so often we interrupt each other – nobody’s at their best when they’re being interrupted – so often we interrupt each other when we really don’t need to, the building is not on fire.

And it works so much better if you keep a running list, and then before each one-on-one, you prepare. Some leaders and managers, what they do is they have their direct report send them a one-page document before the one-on-one, maybe the day before, with what are your burning issues, maybe status updates on ongoing tasks and responsibilities and projects, burning issues, resource needs, questions, and other matters. And then the key is by preparing, you’re going to make that dialogue so much more effective because you’re preparing. The structure leads to the substance.

And when it comes to the substance and structure, everybody’s different. The dialogue you need to have with one employee may be very different from the dialogue you need to have with another. That’s why one-on-one is where all the action is. Some people, you need to go over their to-do list with them every day. Some people, that would be ridiculous. Some people are self-starting high performers. The reason you meet with them is to make sure that you’re helping them clear obstacles out of their way, or get them the resources they need, or help them navigate interdependency, or maybe you’re trying to get ideas from them because they’re so good.

The conversation you develop with one person will be very different from the conversation you start developing with another person. And so the structure is key, but it might be every day for one person, every other day for another person, every other week for another person. And likewise, the substance will be different depending on what you need from that person, and depending on what that person needs from you.

Pete Mockaitis
I like that a lot, and as one who really doesn’t do well with interruptions. Not that I start screaming or anything, but it’s so true. It’s like, “Where was I?” All that time, reconnecting to what I was doing before the interruption, that really does add up. And so I’m curious then, there’s this time saving occurring with those eight business costs avoided. And so what kind of time investment are we talking about here in terms of daily, or weekly, or one hour, half an hour? What are the rough ranges that you’re seeing?

Bruce Tulgan
Well, it depends on how many direct reports you have. Look, the reality is there are some managers who have unwieldy spans of control. If you have 30 people reporting to you directly with no chain of command, best of luck. Now you’re still better off to have one-on-ones and maybe have a 20-minute one-on-one with each person. That means you could get to three in a day, and that means you get to 15 in a week, that means you could get to all 30 in two weeks. And that still would be better than the random unstructured loosey-goosey ad hoc touching base interrupting and firefighting that most managers are addicted to.

So, look, I say start with an hour a day. If you think you don’t have time to manage people, set aside an hour a day. If you really think you don’t have time, like, “No way,” then set aside 90 minutes a day, because it’s high leverage time. The less time you have, the more important it is to set aside time for guiding, directing, supporting and coaching upfront, in advance while you still have a chance to prevent problems from happening.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good, that’s good. Alright, so then I’m intrigued by the title of your book itself, It’s Okay to Be the Boss. I think some would say, “But of course it’s okay to be the boss. Who thinks it’s not okay to be the boss?” What specifically are you challenging there?

Bruce Tulgan
Well, so many people, they don’t want to be in charge, or they feel like they don’t know how. A lot of people want the status, and the authority, and the prestige, and the rewards. They want the business card, but they don’t want the burdens of being in charge of other people. They don’t want the actual day-to-day work that comes from guiding, directing, and supporting and coaching people. So maybe they want the paycheck, maybe they want the business card, but in fact they resist the interpersonal difficulties that sometimes come with having authority over someone else.

If you have authority in relation to someone else’s career and livelihood, that’s powerful. And I’d say, do not take that power lightly. That is a lot of responsibility and it’s not to be taken lightly. On the other hand, you have to own your responsibility. You’re someone else’s boss. They go home at night after work, and sit at the dinner table and talk about their boss – they’re talking about you. So it’s okay to be the boss, but you’d better be good at it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so I’d like to get your take then – in the realm of what you’re describing, being a little bit more hands-on and planful in these exchanges, what’s the right way to think about the empowerment versus micromanaging elements? It sounds like it’s quite easy to go too far in one direction or another. How do you think about navigating those waters?

Bruce Tulgan
Well, my view is that micromanagement is a big red herring. Micromanagement is the shield people use when they want to be left alone. “You’re micromanaging me.” “Nope, I’m just managing you. Good news we’re also going to pay you. If this were an amusement park, there’d be a line outside the door and somebody would be selling tickets.” And by the way, micromanagement is also the excuse a lot of managers use when they don’t want to do their job of managing. “Oh, I wouldn’t want to be a micromanager.”

But micromanagement is really quite rare. Real micromanagement is too much direction and feedback for this person with this task at this time. How are you going to know how much direction and feedback this person needs with this task at this time if you’re not in regular dialogue? So the way to calibrate is precisely to get in there and start talking about the work with this person until you are engaged in a regular ongoing structured dialogue with every person about his or her tasks, responsibilities and projects. Then how do you know how much direction and feedback this person needs?

And it’s a moving target. Maybe I’ve been doing X, Y and Z projects for a long time, so I know how to do those, I don’t need as much direction on that stuff. But what if I have a brand new responsibility? Well, then I’m going to need a lot more guidance and direction on the new responsibility for a while until I get up to speed on it.

So, I think there’s a lot of false empowerment thinking out there. The way to empower people is to leave them alone. What’s empowering about that? False empowerment is sink or swim, reinvent the wheel, figure it out, do it however you think it should be done, even though it’s probably not up to you. There’s nothing empowering about that. Real empowerment is about setting people up for success. Real empowerment is about making sure people know exactly what’s expected of them, giving them the resources they need, spelling it out, breaking it down so that people know exactly how to succeed.

That’s real empowerment. Real empowerment takes hard work on the part of the manager. And so what I tell leaders is, real empowerment is not so sexy. It’s the boring art of delegation, is real empowerment. It’s spelling out an area of responsibility for someone else, making clear all the guidelines and parameters, establishing good timelines, and following up at regular intervals. That’s how you properly delegate.

Some people think that delegation is giving away responsibility. Delegation is about giving away limited execution authority. So delegation is not like putting your kid up for adoption. Delegation is like hiring a babysitter.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’s a nice metaphor, thank you. I have a baby at home, our first, at the moment. So I’m right with you on that. And so then, I’m curious, you mentioned that we can do this. You can avoid folks kind of hiding out and collecting a paycheck, the stowaways. And so I’m imagining that this would be tremendously effective at surfacing very quickly, “Well, you’re really kind of not doing anything. I’m talking to you every week, and I’ve looked at what it is you’re working on and it ain’t much, and it hasn’t been much week after week. And I’m trying to ask you to do some extra things, you’re not doing those things.” I’m wondering that once you start engaging folks in this way, I think that many workplaces will surface many such people in that boat. Any pro tips for handling that once you’re in the thick of it?

Bruce Tulgan
Yeah, what I always tell managers is… When they ask me, “How long should I tolerate a low performer?”, what I always say to managers is, if you’re not providing regular high structure, high substance guidance, direction, support and coaching, then you don’t even know if you have a low performer working for you. Because if you think you have a low performer and you’re not managing, then the first question you should be asking is, “Is it you or is it me?” Because a lot of problems in the workplace can be avoided or solved relatively easily when managers start practicing the fundamentals.

But if you’re practicing the fundamentals of leadership, if you’re every day, every other day, once a week, spelling out expectations, following up, following up, following up, breaking it down, spelling it out, breaking it down some more – if you’re doing everything you can to set me up for success and to give me the support I need, and when you come back to me say, “Did you do it?” and every time it’s, “Nope, I didn’t do it.” “Well, okay, let’s talk twice a day.” You come back in four hours, “Did you do it?” “Nope.” “Okay, here’s a checklist for the checklist for the checklist.” You come back the next day, “Did you do it?” “Nope.” Well, how long does it take to figure out that I’m really not doing the job?

So managers often say to me, “Oh, the hardest thing is giving negative feedback. Oh, the hardest thing is letting somebody know when they haven’t done as good a job as they think they have.” Well, if you’re bending over backwards and jumping through hoops to help me succeed, all of a sudden, if I’m not doing it, I’m the one who’s uncomfortable, not you.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true.

Bruce Tulgan
All of a sudden, when you come tell me, “Hey, you’re not doing it,” it’s not going to be a surprise to me. We’ve been having these conversations every day. It’s becoming increasingly clear to both of us that gee, I’m just not doing the job.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright. And then any choice words that you encourage managers to deliver under such circumstances?

Bruce Tulgan
Yeah, that if you’ve been documenting this. As long as you’re documenting that you’re spelling out expectations and you come back, document that my performance is not meeting those expectations, then yeah, the choice words I recommend at that point are, “Hey, we’ve got a problem. And it’s not me, it’s you.” [laugh]

Pete Mockaitis
[laugh] I’m wondering if we should use the same intonation. [laugh]

Bruce Tulgan
Yeah, it’s like when employees come to the manager and say, “Oh, you’re picking on me and you’re favoring Mr. Red.” And what most managers want to say is, “I’m so glad you noticed. The reason I favor Mr. Red is he comes in early, he stays late, he bends over backwards and jumps through hoops. He dots his i’s, he crosses his t’s. The reason I favor Red is he does more work than you.” And if you’re meeting with people and spelling out expectations and tracking performance in writing, it becomes much easier to be authentic and hold people accountable in a meaningful way.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m right with you there. And then I think you mentioned that this has so many implications for so many different parts of the organization, I’m thinking about just performance reviews. And we had a lawyer on the show previously – I believe it was Eliot Wagonheim – who mentioned that performance reviews in court cases for wrongful termination are never brought up by the employer saying, “As you can see, judge and / or jury, there’s a long history of underperformance.” But they are always brought up by the defense, like, “Time and time again, the performance reviews said, ‘Met expectations’.” And I think that is just a super clear, official, institutionalized way that you see this with regard to, is this management really happening on a meaningful basis, or is it not at all.

Bruce Tulgan
Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right. We call that “false fairness”, “false nice guy syndrome”, and “avoidance of conflict”. And what happens is that if you’re not managing people every day, every other day, once a week, guiding, directing, supporting and coaching them, tracking performance in writing, then what happens is the review period comes up and everyone’s got to kind of figure it out. And often people are making reference to work that they’ve never seen directly, or they weren’t supervising directly, or something that was 10 months ago, or people think it’s politics or who you like.

And a lot of times what happens is because of all of these complications, managers do not give real granular feedback, but rather everyone gets a “Meets expectations”. And so it means the paper trail is not helpful, it’s not accurate, it’s not driving performance, and it’s a sledgehammer that has no real management impact. If anything, it has a negative impact.

So, one of the beauties of guiding, directing and supporting people on a more granular basis and providing more structured feedback on an ongoing basis is then when you do get to those performance reviews, it’s much easier to create them, it’s much easier to differentiate between high performers and low performers and people in the middle, and there are a lot fewer surprises. And it’s much easier to align rewards with performance.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. I’m thinking about, I’ve shared… I’ve looked at some people’s reviews before when they’ve opened up to me a little bit. And I guess I’ve had a privileged formative years in work with consulting, because I would see someone’s review and it was so sparse, it was like, “This is barely a page, and you get this annually?” Well, I got a four-page review, it’s single spaced, full of specific instances of my work every three months, at the end of every project in consulting.

And I actually looked forward to the review period because it was like, “Oh, I am learning stuff now. And this is enriching for me and part of value proposition of having taken this job.” And it’s just a shame how so often it’s just a joke. And it does, as you mentioned, cause problems in terms of, I guess, credibility, authority, trust – all that stuff being undermined because the words are often hollow in these documents.

Bruce Tulgan
Yeah, I think that’s absolutely right. And by the way, high performers like to keep score, high performers like to get reviews, high performers want to be evaluated, because they know they’re going the extra mile all the time, they want to get recognition and reward for it. The only people who want to be managed by false empowerment and false fairness, the only people want to be left alone and treated like everyone else are low performers who are hiding out.

So, this sort of hands-off management and false fairness approach caters to low performers. High performers want a manager who knows who they are, knows what they’re doing, is in a position to help them do more better faster, get unnecessary problems out of their way, get rid of low performers who are in their way, and help them get recognition and rewards so they can earn more for themselves and their families.

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect. Bruce, tell me – anything else you really want to make sure to highlight before we shift gears and talk about a few of your favorite things?

Bruce Tulgan
[laugh] No, I think you’ve been very thorough.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh shucks, thank you. Put that in my review, Bruce.

Bruce Tulgan
Yeah, there you go.

Pete Mockaitis
Document it. Then can you start us off with a favorite quote, something that inspires you?

Bruce Tulgan
Well, gee, where shall I begin? I guess the title of one of my favorite books, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith, that’s one of my favorite quotes.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. And how about a favorite study?

Bruce Tulgan
Well, we’re always doing research. So we’re releasing a new white paper in a couple of weeks called Winning the Talent Wars, so I guess that’s my current favorite study.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Any choice insights that you can speak to in a sense or two?

Bruce Tulgan
Yes, the supply and demand curve is totally out of whack. There’s much greater demand for skilled talent, especially in the STEM fields than there is supply, and that’s going to be true for the foreseeable future. And employers who don’t become more nimble in their employment practices and their management practices are going to find themselves engaged in frustrating bidding wars for talent. So you either are going to commit yourself to a bidding war, or you’re going to do the hard work of building a winning culture.

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

Bruce Tulgan
Well, gee, probably my favorite book of all time is The Last Lecture, and that’s just an amazing book. Siddhartha is one of my favorite books. Jonathan Livingston Seagull is one of my favorite books. There’s a few.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good, thank you. And how about a favorite tool?

Bruce Tulgan
A favorite tool? Well, I guess in my own life, probably the tool I use the most are reading glasses and my iPhone. But I think in the management world, the tool that I recommend the most is what we call the “manager’s landscape”. And at the top of the page, you create a horizontal axis with six questions: Who, Why, What, How, Where, and When.

And then in the Who column, you list all of your direct reports and make a few notes about them – A player, B player, C player, that sort of thing. In the Why column, for each person you say, “Here’s why I’m managing this person. Here’s my goal with this person. Here’s what I’m trying to help this person get better at.” In the What column, you put what’s your message for this person right now, or what are your questions for this person right now. In the How column, it’s a trial-and-error thing, but it’s how do you talk to this person. Some people, you ask question; some people, you give orders; some people, it’s a combination of both. And then Where and When – where and when are you going to have these conversations, and how often of course? So that’s what we call the “manager’s landscape”. So that’s a very powerful tool that we recommend.

Pete Mockaitis
Very nice. And how about a favorite habit?

Bruce Tulgan
Well, I think fitness is at the core for me. Take a walk every day and eat your vegetables. But I think in general, human beings are creatures of habit. And the only question is, do you have good habits or bad habits? That’s where you have to make choices. Human beings are creatures of habit. Habits feel good. And the problem is that bad habits feel just as good as good habits. The good news is that if you take the time and discipline to develop good habits, they feel just as good as bad habits, and they make you stronger.

Pete Mockaitis
And tell me, is there a particular nugget, an articulation of your message that really seems to connect and resonate with folks?

Bruce Tulgan
Well, I guess, “The fundamentals are all you need.” “Own your responsibility, own your authority.” “It’s okay to be the boss, be good at it.”

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

Bruce Tulgan
Well, our website is RainmakerThinking.com, and there’s a whole bunch of free resources at RainmakerThinking.com. Or you can always follow me on Twitter @BruceTulgan, or LinkedIn, or the normal channels.

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

Bruce Tulgan
Well, the first person you have to manage every day is yourself. And that means you’ve got to be honest with yourself about your work habits, you’ve got to be honest with yourself about your personal habits, you’ve got to take care of yourself outside of work so that you bring your best to work. You’ve got to get good at being on time or a little bit early, take notes, use checklists, stay focused. The first person you have to manage every day is yourself, and then the second person you have to manage every day is everybody else.

Pete Mockaitis
Got it. Well, Bruce, thank you. This has been fun, it’s been eye-opening, it’s been intriguing. Please keep doing your good work. And just thanks for taking this time!

Bruce Tulgan
Likewise. Geez, I’m honored to be on your podcast, and thank you so much. Thanks for making it so easy.

288: Managing First-Timers in the Workplace with Chris Deferio

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Coffee shop guru & latte art champion Chris Deferio speaks on leading people who are at their first “real job” and keys to thriving in a chaotic environment.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Best approaches for managing first timers
  2. How to offer feedback so it’s received well
  3. Tips on how to keep sane and focused in a chaotic environment

About Chris

Chris Deferio is the host and producer of the Keys to the Shop podcast. He lives in Louisville, KY with his wife and son and has been in professional coffee service for 17 years. He provides training, consultations, and wisdom to owners, managers, and employees across cafes worldwide. His podcast is dedicated to the success of coffee shops and the professionals that make them work.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Chris’ championship-winning latte art

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Chris Deferio Interview Transcript

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

Chris Deferio
I’m honored to be on your show.  I really love and I’m looking forward to talking about this subject today.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, sure.  Well, I was honored to be on your show, Keys To The Shop.  A good spot, and so, folks, check that out.  But first I want to talk about you being a champion in latte art.  How does that come about, and what does a latte art contest look like in practice?

Chris Deferio
Well, we can define the terms.  Well, I work in coffee.  And in coffee, and specialty coffee in particular, there’s this thing where you steam milk so that the foam is tight enough and flows enough to be able to form ribbons on the surface of beverages, specifically espresso drinks.  And you can see rosettas, what we call leaves, hearts, designs like that – usually symmetrical leaf / heart designs on the tops of coffees.  It’s actually pretty popular; so popular now, weirdly, you’ll see it on International Delight creamers.  They’ll hire a barista to do a heart and they’ll use in their marketing.  So that’s latte art, so milk art, because “latte” is Italian for “milk”.
So, we have competitions for these types of things, of course, because we’ve got to entertain ourselves, and there’s money on the line.  And I won my first one back in 2004 and I ended up winning two times after that, so three times total latte art champion.  And just sounds really funny to say, but the skill involved in it is one of just becoming sort of familiar with what the two liquids do when they meet in the cup, and it’s important.  I don’t want to downplay it too much, because a well-presented coffee is one that you’ll talk to your friends about, which means repeat business.  So it translates into something practical, and it’s fun to do.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I want to know what are the game-changing, winning designs that capture the judges’ hearts?

Chris Deferio

Well, speaking as a judge – I run a competition now with Coffee Fest tradeshows.  And I’ve been a long time judge before; I’m back again leading the Latte Art Competition as a judge, head judge, and there’s a lot of things we look for.  My designs when I won were basically variations on a leaf pattern that involved a lot of layers from the outside of the cup into the middle.  So, just a nice base, and I’m speaking in coffee terms – symmetry is really important, striking contrasts between the brown of the coffee in the white of the milk is also very important.
In the competition we judge on speed and also a general kind of flexible category, depending on the judge, of aesthetic beauty.  So, those are some of the categories we look for.  So there are some game-changing designs out there where people will do multiple different designs in the cup at the same time.  I was one of the people – old guy in coffee – that have pushed some of those designs out there into the industry, and now it’s really just about perfecting.  There’s not a ton of brand new stuff, just variations on classics, as far as I can tell.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, do you have some photos we could see in the show notes?

Chris Deferio

Oh yeah, I’ll send you some of mine and I’ll send you some of the winningest baristas’ examples.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s good.  Well, I’m trying to imagine, because you don’t have a lot of space to work with, and I guess it can’t get too out there, in terms of, this is a portrait of a person who is running on the beach.

Chris Deferio
Oh yeah.  Well, it does in some ways, it does, because people do one of two types of latte art.  You have etching, which uses a tool to draw a design like you’re describing.  You theoretically could do that.  The drink might be cold by the time you’re done, and it might not taste great.  I don’t know what they’re using for drawing, but we do free pour latte art predominantly.  I think that in competition may be the more respected version of latte art. So there are two types of latte art – there’s free pour and there’s etching.  So etching is just using a tool, so you could draw that.  You could draw yourself in a cup of coffee if you really wanted to.  But we do free pour latte art, so there’s no tools involved, just the flow of milk.

Pete Mockaitis

Cool.  So, you are coffee master and professional and you share some of that in your podcast Keys To The Shop.  What’s that all about?

Chris Deferio

Well, Keys To The Shop I’ve had for the last year or so – back in January 2017 – is a podcast that I run collecting best practices essentially from the industry to help people.  My tagline of the show is to give insights and inspiration and tools to people who work in retail, especially coffee retail.  And my audience is built, it is made up of owners, baristas, managers, people who would one day want to own a coffee bar.
And we bring in not only just industry experts to talk about workflow behind the bar, like how to build a drink quickly and well, or conflict resolution and things like that.  We bring in outside experts as well – authors of books dealing with management, or like I said conflict resolution is one.  Tom Henschel of The Look & Sound of Leadership did an episode on the podcast about conflict resolution, which translates into whatever industry you want to, because you’re working with people.  So, the point is, I want to provide a really focused podcast to equip my industry with the tools they need to succeed, and tell the stories of people who have succeeded in the industry as well.

Pete Mockaitis

Very cool.  Alright.  So now when we talk about some of these management issues, one thing we were discussing is that you have lots of experience and see lots of coffee shop owners doing leadership of folks who are at their first job.  Maybe they are interns, maybe they’re in college or they’ve recently graduated.  And so I thought it would be great to really dig into your wisdom on this point.  So maybe you could orient us first of all, how does managing folks in their first job substantially differ from those who have maybe just even one or two or three years under their belt?

Chris Deferio

Well, I think the way it’s different is that the structure under which they’re used to operating is just alien and different.  l like to think about, if they’ve come from a school environment, where there are things set up for them to go to, there are classes – you’re not really having to think about it, in fact you’re part of a group – there’s not a whole lot of individual attention in most cases.
And so by and large I’d say once you’re behind the bar and a lot depends on you individually, there’s kind of this deer-in-the-headlights.  There’s just so much to take in.  It’s not necessarily unique to them, but I think it’s times 10 with somebody who’s not used to being on display and being the focus of the individual attention that a manager has on them, because that manager is responsible for the owner’s business and the business is on the line.  And they understand that responsibility but don’t necessarily know how to function under that weight.  And so, sometimes it does feel like you’re drinking from a firehose and they can act that way.
So, there’s a lot of things that you need to bear in mind when you’re managing somebody who doesn’t have a lot of employment experience.  Even if they’ve had like a summer job, a job that’s a full-time job, even their first quote-unquote “real” job, is quite different.  And so, how you approach them as a manager has to bear that in mind.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, and I’d love for you to expand a little bit upon, we talk about the deer-in-the-headlights or the overwhelm or the reactions of the new employee.  Could you share a little bit there, in terms of… I imagine some of them are probably jarring and not what you want to see.  So, could you maybe highlight a few of those?  Maybe they’ll be some twinkles of recognition from listeners to say, “Oh, okay, okay.  Maybe I should have a touch more patience with that at first.”

Chris Deferio

Sure.  So, I’d say a good way to recognize this… Or let’s just say a common way to recognize that – you’re dealing with somebody who’s under that kind of situation is that, like I said, deer-in-the-headlights, but in the restaurant industry they call them “pan shakers”, or people who would start cleaning something that doesn’t need to be cleaned; they’re just looking for something to do.
There is just a general lack of awareness, the peripheral awareness.  Even though you’re in a busy cafe, none of it really affects you much.  And it should, and it’s odd that it doesn’t, because there’s so much stimulus going on you don’t know what to focus on.
And so, I think a manager who’s in that situation needs to be able to have a strong hand of guidance on what is it that they should be doing in that moment.  Having a good onboarding process for example is a great way to kind of counteract the confusion and the shock of being in an environment where now we really are relying on you to make this rush of customers work, or this cafe work.

Pete Mockaitis

And so when you say “manager” here, the manager is the person who is the first real job person, kind of working for and reporting to the owner.  Is that how you conceptualize this?

Chris Deferio

Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, got you there.  So indeed, intriguing.  So there’s a whole lot of stimuli, and it seems like folks in that position where they’re unaccustomed to it may just sort of start doing something, even though that something is not at all the right thing.  Any other kind of key symptoms or behaviors you notice?

Chris Deferio

I would say emotional is another one.  In any case where somebody is under that kind of pressure there’s going to be overly emotional responses to things that are just commonplace work-related tasks, that you and I, having been through the ringer maybe for years, or at least some experience, might not take it personally.  But I’d say taking things personally is one of the symptoms that I would see.  It’s like, “Okay, this is…”  They maybe weren’t expecting it.
I know I felt that way when I had my first job, which was in a grocery store just stocking things in freezers and fridges and milk cartons and what not.  The pressure was just so great to perform that you just kind of took everything to heart.  And there’s really no stopping that; it’s almost a rite of passage, I think, when you have your first job.  But where it can go south, I think, is when a manager then takes them taking it personally, personally. [laugh] And then it kind of goes off the rails.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, that is interesting.  So, could you maybe paint a picture there, in terms of an example, where you’ve seen this happen with folks either in some of the shops that you’ve worked with or consulted for, in terms of making it all come together?

Chris Deferio

Well, okay.  So, I would probably just use an example of when I was a trainer and I had some experience in coffee, when we brought on new baristas.  This was actually an example of one of my failures, in that I was so confident – having some experience I just had too strong of a hand in my management.  But the individual was performing the job okay, but not really to my standards as a manager, and I was kind of arrogant at the time anyway.  But tamping is an example of something we do – we press the coffee down into a filter so that it could be extracted.  And I was noticing that the tamping was off or lopsided so that it wouldn’t extract properly.  And I brought it up in a way that maybe in hindsight wasn’t the greatest, but they took it so personally that…

Pete Mockaitis

“You’ve got a problem with my tamping, bro?”

Chris Deferio

“How could you notice that from where you’re standing?”, or… There was a lot of pushback, and I realized what I had done was I stepped on the only security that they had, because they’d just been trained by the manager at that store.  And what I was doing was coming in and essentially removing the only security that they had, without care for what it would do to the rest of what was built on that foundation.

Pete Mockaitis

Now we say “the only security”, you mean like he’s coming from a perspective of, “Tamping is the one thing that I have nailed.”  Is that what you mean?

Chris Deferio

Yeah.  Well, if you call into question parts of what they know to be true, then you might as well be calling into question the entire thing.  So, “If my tamping is off, maybe my milk is off, and if my milk is off, what am I doing here being a barista?  Maybe I was taught wrong.  I’m not ready for this.”  Your mind can kind of go a million miles an hour down the wrong path.  And it all kind of stemmed from a non-empathetic approach to an issue that could have been resolved by some other means that reinforced what they had learned, or added to rather than stripping it away simply to be right.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, intriguing.  So I’d love to hear, in retrospect, how would you address this issue, because you can’t have a sub-optimal temp at the end of the day.  Right, Chris?

Chris Deferio

No, I don’t think you can.  In the moment, I either could have… I think this would have been the best way to do it, is to investigate what kind of training the person had, before assuming what they had first.  So if I had questions for the manager as to how much training the person had, I should have asked.  Instead of addressing it with the individual first, I should have just let it go, because by the time I got there they had probably already been making drinks that way for hours, if not days.  And my stepping in in the middle of making drinks for customers is not going to solve it in their mind.  It might solve my personal need to sort of get my fidgety, “Ooh, you’re not doing that right” out there into her world, but it really didn’t accomplish what I wanted it to long-term.
So, I think having a more patient view of that situation and allowing myself to shoulder the burden of having unresolved tension, rather than just kind of chucking that tension right onto what was happening in the moment, if that makes sense.  I, as a manager or a leader, there’s this tension you would have that you want to see people do something right, but sometimes you have to let them do it wrong a little bit longer in order to wait for the right opportunity to show them in a way that’s effective.  And so it forces you to question, “Do I just want to talk, or do I want to affect change?”

Pete Mockaitis

Intriguing.  So then, what might be some indicators that this is the right time?

Chris Deferio

I’d say when things are more calm, when people are in a good mood, and when you are not upset.  Because you might be responsible for the bottom line of your company, you have to know yourself well enough to know when you can not sound like a jerk, or be passive-aggressive, or give somebody the feedback, a crap sandwich with the critique and the praise.
There is a bit of self-knowledge that’s needed to know how you sound first of all, and when’s the right time for you to do it calmly.  And then, like I said, when things are calm in the store, when there is a time that talking about technique is brought up, in fact – that’s a way.  Hopefully you have mechanisms or systems of communication in place, where feedback lives, like a one-on-one every week with the manager, or an ongoing training session.  Those are perfect times and require forethought as an operator to say, “You’re going to have these conversations with people, so where do those conversations live?”  They can’t just be invented on the spot; they have to have a place for your peace of mind and the security of the barista.  So, I’d say rather than indicators, maybe just dial back even more and say, “Have I built a system in my shop or my business that allows for a safe space for feedback, both from me to the barista or employee, and from the employee to me, to critique me?”

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, thank you.  Well now, you used the phrase “safe space”, so I am thinking about South Park – that’s the name of the show – where they did this song, “My safe space…”  And I want to touch upon the word “Millennials”.  I guess I am one, but in a previous episode we had Lee Caraher say like 72% of Millennials don’t like the word “Millennial”.  They don’t want to be called a Millennial, because there’s so much baggage and negative associations with it.  So, I’d love it the more that you could be fact-based, experience-based, research-oriented to this.  To what extent is there something real when it comes to the difference in managing Millennials or folks who are fresh out of college?  Are they still Millennials or are they the next one yet?

Chris Deferio

Maybe, and maybe it’s Gen Y, I’m not sure.  Or Gen Y is the same thing.

Pete Mockaitis

So what’s real and what’s just a bunch of stuff that people cook up to sell books or to try to stereotype and sort of offload responsibility?

Chris Deferio

Yeah, it’s a good question because we like to categorize.  Part of the human mind is all about, “This goes in this section of my brain, and this goes in the other.”  And if we need to understand people it’s easier to have a sorting mechanism, and so that’s what these names start to become.  And in no other time in history, especially with the rise of the Internet, do we have as much access to articles that kind of form our thinking towards people before we even meet them or know them in reality.
So, the reality of Millennials, I think, is simply that they are young, and I don’t know that there’s that much of a difference outside of the world they interact with.  They’re not not humans, and they have the same drive for success and love and acceptance and to interact with the world around them.  And they have the same idea that they want to change the world the way that any other generation did.  So, I think Millennials as a group have been given a bad rap by people who don’t want to take responsibility for leading Millennials.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay.

Chris Deferio

Yeah, so on the show I had Bruce Tulgan, who’s the author of a book which I think every manager should read.  The book is called It’s Okay to Be the Boss.  I bought that for all of my managers in the store I worked at, and they all agreed it’s a fantastic book, practical.  The author also works for… His company is called Rainmaker Thinking, and they authored this incredible long-term study on the workplace opinion of Millennials toward management.
And what they found is essentially that Millennials want leadership, they want to be told how to succeed in the workplace, and actually are looking for people to, as the book that Bruce wrote says, to be the boss.  And they say in the book that there is an undermanagement epidemic, not a micromanagement one; in other words people are abdicating their responsibility to be leaders within an organization.
And Millennials I think are, just based on this study and my own experience – like I said, they’re people who want to do a good job.  And when somebody says to you, “I want to come in your company and deliver a ton of value, and what do I do, where do I sign up?”, and they’re eager – if you look on that with distain, there’s a lot of issues there.  You need to be prepared to help that person succeed.  So I view Millennials as eager and will not take lack of clarity for an answer.  So the mystery of just figuring it out on your own – hey, we have Google.  That’s gone.  Figuring it out on your own looks more like YouTube than just hacking away at it.
So yeah, Millennials I think have been given a bad rap and they are young people looking to be led, and then to lead themselves.  They want to make a difference in the world and we have an opportunity in jobs like coffee that are historically transient jobs – they’re not the jobs that they’re going to have for the rest of their lives – to shape people for the career that they actually are going to be spending a lot of time in.  So, managing first-time people, first-time employees, especially young ones, as impressionable as they are – they have a ton of energy and they have a ton of vision to contribute to a company if you’re up for the challenge of continuing to actually work in your company.

Pete Mockaitis

So that doesn’t sound unique at all to Millennials, in terms of if you’re young and inexperienced, “Figure it out” isn’t great leadership, management, guidance, at that sort of stage in a person’s development.  I mean you might say “Figure it out” in a nicer way, which was, “Why don’t you take a rough draft at a plan of attack and we’ll sync up in a day?”  That’s maybe a nicer version of “Figure it out.” [laugh] I’m not 100% abdicating my responsibility for getting to the bottom of this thing, but I would like you to take the first approach there.  Well, cool.  So then, you’ve got some takes on how one manages expectations optimally in the first real job environment.

Chris Deferio

Yeah.  So, managing expectations is a great place to start because as I was just touching on how we as an older generation – myself turning 40 here shortly – have a responsibility to manage ourselves first, so that we can lead others.  And that means if we have expectations of people that are unreasonable and are secretly based on our desire to just not have to do as much as we actually have to, then we need to deal with that so we don’t pass on dysfunction.  In today’s day and age there’s a ton of leadership dysfunction, and leaders in restaurants and coffee bars and politics are under fire.
And so, all eyes are on people who have authority and power, and we need to be able to have some kind of forethought about the people we’re bringing into our organization and stop being surprised by what happens when we bring young people into an organization.  You can’t really be effective as a leader or as a company if you’re constantly just scratching your head and complaining and surprised by something that you knew was going to happen.  So, embrace it, prepare yourself for it, and be the leader that’s necessary for what you’re going to inherit.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, so the managing expectations there – you’re talking about what it’s fair for you to expect of someone who’s newer, younger, inexperienced from the get-go.

Chris Deferio

Yeah.  So, they’re going to make mistakes, no doubt, when you onboard somebody.  In coffee for instance a lot of us have labs, and we have labs for a reason – because we don’t want people experimenting on the customer.  Or we have shadow shifts for instance, where you are on with the manager and they are watching you to make sure that you are performing in the critical areas.
However, you don’t want to rob people of their failures; you don’t want people to only do exactly what you say in every case.  You want to see them spill milk or you want to see them kind of strain to figure something out and not just jump in and not let that muscle develop, because then you will never be truly confident in that person’s “a-ha” moment, because they could fake it.  They could just say, “Oh yeah, I understand now”, but when you’re gone, because they didn’t develop the muscle of understanding through failure, then it’s just going to crumble under the pressure, especially if it’s one of their first jobs, like we were talking about earlier.
So, having a lab for another company might look like just an entry level position within the company, where consequences of failure are not dire – you’re not going to pass it on to your big accounts.  But you have somebody there that can walk them through the process and explain, as failures are made, how to do the job from A to Z.

Pete Mockaitis

Yes, that’s great.  Don’t rob them of their failures – nice turn of a phrase there.  And so, when you say a “lab”, can you help me visualize?  I’m imagining a lab coat and a white room and…

Chris Deferio

It’s exactly right, that’s what we do.  We actually recreate, so the speak, the coffee bar.  So it’s like a micro coffee bar, and sometimes it’s behind glass and other times it’s just hidden in the back corner.  It’s not usually the prettiest place but it’s got an espresso machine and a brewer, it’s got a couple of tables, and you schedule sessions with baristas when they are new employees, or existing employees that need work on one particular area.  You schedule some time in the lab to work on your tamping, to work on understanding a particular policy.  A lot of meetings are held in labs.
So, a lab for a coffee bar I think is critical, and the equivalent in any organization like where does the training take place, helps kind of anchor the idea, like, “Yeah, I’m here to learn right now in this space.  And we can just bang around in here and nothing is going to happen in the outside world, except I’m going to learn and bring what I learn to that outside world.”

Pete Mockaitis

It’s interesting when you describe the lab, it conjures to mind almost like a movie montage, like there’s music playing and someone is failing repeatedly and spilling it all over themselves.  And then the wise mentor is frustrated but sticks it out until there’s a maestro coming out on the other side.

Chris Deferio

Yeah, this is very much like Rocky.  Ivan Drago versus Rocky lifting logs in a log house.  It’s an approximation.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s great.  Okay, so we talked about not robbing people of their failures, managing the expectations, giving some protection so there’s not dire consequences if things go awry.  I’d like you to also kind of unpack a bit, you’ve got some takes on when it comes to the follow-through.  Not just saying, “Hey, do this”, but what comes after the “Hey, do this”?

Chris Deferio

Yeah.  This is a super hard one, and it is one of the things that erodes trust the most between direct reports and managers, or baristas and managers, however you want to phrase it.  When you tell somebody to do something and they do it – let’s say they do it well.  And nothing happens, except they do it well and they know, but nobody sees it – that is going to demoralize the individual, because nobody is there to see their victories.  I think you get some satisfaction out of it, for sure.
Yeah.  So if you are on the bar and you are not having follow-through from your manager, what that looks like is like you said – just “Do this” via text message.  You get a text message or an email that says to do it this way.  You need to have the presence of the manager there to follow up with you in order to either correct you or praise you, to guide you or affirm you.
And the present leadership is a good phrase for this.  A shop I worked at used the phrase “present leadership”, because often times what we have is a secondary culture form around this abdication of leadership to follow through.  So, for us it happens on closing shifts, when management is home – they try to get themselves on a 9:00 to 5:00 schedule, and then the closing shift is there by themselves.  And what you’ll find is that it’s kind of like a different culture, and they don’t have the kind of contact with the leadership as their counterparts in the morning do.  And the difference is that the people in the morning get the benefit of getting to see the manager every day, so there is a natural built-in opportunity for follow-through.
You can’t really judge an employee’s performance if you haven’t observed their performance in a consistent way.  So when you give them a raise and you tell them they’re doing a good job, but they know that you haven’t actually followed through and seen how they’re doing, if they need help, and been there along the process – they know you don’t know what you’re talking about, and it’s hollow.  And so you erode trust, they don’t trust you when you say “Good job”, because they know you haven’t even seen them do their job.
That’s part of what I mean by “follow-through”.  For managers who really want to be there for their employees, it’s going to take a lot of work upfront, but you build momentum in the future so where you might have to schedule yourself to come in during a time where you normally don’t come in to the store – maybe it’s a closing shift for coffee bar examples – just to make yourself known, to ask how things are going, see if there’s any questions, observe them in action.  Do that for a week or so, two or three times a week.  And that person will get the drift that you are concerned about their progress and you’re building rapport with that individual and following through on the thing that you said they should do or how they should do it, etcetera, if that makes sense.

Pete Mockaitis

It’s interesting.  It sounds like this sounds pretty, I guess, fundamental and just, “But of course leaders should do that.”  And yet at the same time, I think there is a healthy opposition force that would say, “Oh my gosh, Chris, that is just too much work.  Why do I have to do all this handholding?  Come on, we’re grownups here.”

Chris Deferio

Well, yeah.  Grownups who can plan ahead of time, like we said manage your expectations – well, part of the expectation is that you’re going to have to spend some extra time with people who are new.  And I think the thing that really throws people is the minutiae of their job as a manager, because so much of our job in management has to do with reacting to situations and putting out fires.
And if you never really get that under control and don’t have control of your own schedule, keeping on human relationships on top of just ordering these other things for the office and responding to emails from people who may or may not want to buy your coffee or your product – there’s no room left for the people that you hired.  And there’s this weird relief – you come in and they’re doing fine; you’re like, “Oh hey, how are you doing?  How are you doing?  Good?  Are they taking care of you over here?  Great.”  And then you just walk away.
Now you’ve abdicated your responsibility as a leader to the people they’re working with, who have become the sort of surrogate managers for you because you can’t get it together with your schedule.  So it all kind of comes back to the leadership and what you expect from yourself.  It all kind of comes back to leadership having their stuff together, so that they can actually help other people form their careers and their understanding and their skillsets.

Pete Mockaitis

Now that example you used, in terms of, “How are you doing?  Are they taking good care of you?” – that’s an example of abdication.  Can you expand on that?

Chris Deferio

Yeah, so not in all cases, I think, but I see it a lot of times in coffee bars, where you throw people on to a bar and you hope that the most senior barista there will kind of show them the ropes – show them all this stuff about the POS and show them this other thing over here too, and, “By the way, I just remembered, can you show them this?”  Now, that might be delegation if it’s done with clear intent and structure, and always done that way, if that’s purposeful, but often times it’s just Plan B or Plan C when it comes to what the manager maybe ideally wanted or found out that they don’t have enough time to spend to walk this person through the POS system, the register.
So, what I say is advocation I mean naturally when you’re entering into an office or a service industry or whatever it is, the manager is the person you understand to be the source of knowledge, the one who is going to help you understand how things are, at least at first.  But when you never get that and they’re just the person that has you sign your tax forms, and then they just kind of throw you on bar but then show up at your review, it just feels like, “Why are you even here?  My coworker should be reviewing me, because they’re the ones who taught me, corrected me, were there with me during that really crazy rush, where we all burned ourselves.”  There’s rapport, and managers often times miss out on building that rapport, because they unintentionally, I’d say, in most cases, give away their opportunity to build those relationships.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, that’s good.  And I kind of finally want to get your take on when it comes to retail or coffee environment, there are times where you mentioned the rush.  In a realm of crowds and chaos and a whole lot happening real fast, what are some pro tips just for keeping your cool and your sanity and focus about you with all the stimuli?

Chris Deferio

Two things.  One – have workflow already in place.  If you own a bar, if you manage a system where you have to deliver a result, you have to have a workflow.  And that workflow has to actually be taking into account different situations that you could come up against.  For us, let’s say you have a menu of 15 items with four different variations on those items, okay?  So, you’ve got to practice all of the ways that people can alter those drinks, and maybe there’s ways that they’re going to… How is it going to be in the worst scenario and what do we do?  What’s the plan?
Too many people just cross that bridge when they come to it, and if it’s on fire they don’t cross it at all.  The workflow is a critical one.  And that was one of our first episodes actually on the show Keys To The Shop, with my friend Ryan Soeder on mastering workflow.
The other part is managing yourself emotionally.  You need to detach, essentially.  Not in a robotic way, but if you’re working the workflow, if you’re working behind the bar and you have a line out the door and you know you’re doing your best – there’s no reason, logically, to stress out.  You can’t go any faster, and everybody understands that.  And they keep coming every day, so they know.  They see, they have eyes, they understand what’s going on.
And somehow what happens when we forget that – we try to rush the process, we don’t fall into a rhythm.  And when we do that, we don’t do the other thing also – I had a third – is, communication.  Our communication can either come from a place of fear and insecurity, or it can come from a place of, “We’re in this together, we’re doing the best we can and we’re going to lean into the pressure rather than trying to run away from it.”
I’ll give an example.  There are times when I have personally been really stressed out on the register, and when I’m that way what I like to do is… I don’t know how to describe it, but I just kind of smile to myself and I overexaggerate my hospitality as a way of reminding myself what I’m doing here.  I don’t go goofy or anything, but I turn an inward switch.  And I think it’s important for people to figure out, “What’s my approach to the chaotic workplace environment and how will I pull myself away from that, observe it as an outsider, so to speak?  And not become out of control emotionally, but lean into the fact that this is what’s going on and it’s not going to define us.  We’re not going to let the shift run us; we’re going to run the shift.”  That’s a good way to just remember it.

Pete Mockaitis

Lovely.  Well, Chris, tell me – anything else you want to make sure to highlight before we hear about some of your favorite things?

Chris Deferio

Yeah.  I just want to encourage everybody who works with young people and transient employees – it kind of goes hand in hand – that they are training up a future generation of leaders and owners and managers, people who will influence the course of history.  And it sounds really dramatic to say it that way, but every person who you know who you read a biography about who’s inspirational, worked at a deli, worked at a restaurant or a coffee bar at some point.
And maybe not everyone, but they had jobs that were kind of what they might consider menial.  But have had lessons that shaped them in the dish pit, in the mop closet, in a one-on-one with a manager; kind of like your favorite teacher in elementary school.  So our responsibility to actually take up a mantle of leadership and lead young people well in these jobs is really, really critical.  And it’s all about relationships and allowing yourself to be vulnerable, while at the same time being a strong leader that will help shape the next generation.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Chris Deferio

Yeah.  So, I think my favorite quote comes from David Whyte. David Whyte is an English poet and I think the quote is, “You must learn one thing: the world was made to be free in.  Give up all other worlds except the one in which you belong.” So his book, if I could recommend it, is called Crossing the Unknown Sea, and it’s kind of a philosophy on vocation as a way of becoming, a journey into meaning through your work.  And so I really, highly recommend that book.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh great, thank you.  And how about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Chris Deferio

I don’t have a… Okay, tool would be just pen and paper, honestly.  I don’t thrive in digital environments as much as I thought I would, and I do have things.  I love my high-end drawing pens and special graph paper notebooks for organizing my thoughts.  I’m not full into bullet journaling or anything, but I do like to braindump onto paper and organize myself that way.  And sometimes it makes it into my reminders on my phone or something like that, but more often than not I’m trying to write something down.

Pete Mockaitis

Thank you.  And how about a favorite habit?

Chris Deferio

So, I guess a favorite habit of mine, besides coffee, would be – which is a great habit, it’s very healthy for you – I try to get up early.  It’s something I started doing a couple of years ago, actually started to try to adopt a way to kind of embrace the day.  Now I know this is not unique to me, but when I started doing it, it really turned my world upside down that I could actually start my day well by just getting up early and stretching and drinking a lot of water and thinking, including things like morning pages is a huge one, stream-of-consciousness, because I don’t get a lot of time, especially at a coffee bar, to create and to express.  You’re always reacting to outside situations.  So it’s nice to have some space where you can set your trajectory internally, and then embrace the day.

Pete Mockaitis

And tell me, is there a particular nugget that you share that really seems to connect and resonate and get folks quoting yourself back to you?

Chris Deferio

Yeah.  There is something that I used to say in talks and I think I should bring it back, and that is that the customer has been hurt in the past by coffee.  The customer has had some kind of a traumatic experience in a coffee bar and they bring that experience in with them.  So, we have to approach them from a position of owning the stuff that our industry sort of did to them and earn back their trust.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, I’m so intrigued.  I can’t recall an experience of my own.  Are we talking about hot spills, or what do you mean?

Chris Deferio

I mean emotionally, like you go into a specialty coffee shop and often times what you find is maybe the barista is not as welcoming as you thought they should be for the price point of the coffee.  We promise a special experience a lot of times and when somebody walks in, the expectation is set so high by the marketing that the actual reality of the experience is disappointing.  And so, knowing that people are sort of accustomed to dealing with disappointment when it comes to something that’s so hyped as specialty coffee with all these latte art flowery drinks and what not, we kind of have to approach it with some empathy and realize that A) it’s not personal, B) let’s make that up to you; let’s make this the best experience that you could possibly have.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Chris Deferio

Well, I would definitely recommend they go to KeysToTheShop.com, and the podcast the same name on iTunes.  It’s just KeysToTheShop on Instagram and Twitter as well.  And those are the best places.  My email is chris@keystotheshop.com.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Chris Deferio

Be patient with yourself, be patient with others, and take a look at the big picture on a regular basis.  And learn to be happy with the work that you’ve already done and hopeful for the work that you’re going to accomplish.

Pete Mockaitis

Awesome.  Well, Chris, thanks so much for taking this time.  Lots of fun.  I wish you tons of luck in your coffee adventures, and you are a champion in more ways than just latte art!

Chris Deferio

I really appreciate that.  Well, thanks for having me on the show.  It was really fun.