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577: How to Manage and Engage Remote Teams with Kevin Eikenberry

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Kevin Eikenberry says: "Leadership first, location second."

Kevin Eikenberry discusses the small, but powerful changes leaders must make when managing remote teams.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The foundation of successful remote teams
  2. How to measure your remote team’s productivity
  3. Top tips for facilitating better online communication

About Kevin

Kevin Eikenberry is a world renowned leadership expert, a two-time bestselling author, speaker, consultant, trainer, coach, leader, learner, husband and father. He is the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group, a leadership and learning consulting company that has been helping organizations, teams and individuals reach their potential since 1993.

Kevin also is the creator and content developer of The Remarkable Leadership Learning System, a continual leadership development process focused on developing the 13 competencies of remarkable leaders with virtually delivered content to leaders worldwide. Kevin and his family live in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Resources mentioned in the show:

Kevin Eikenberry Interview Transcript

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

Kevin Eikenberry
It’s awesome. I’m glad to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m glad to have you. And one fun thing we learned about you in stalking you is that you have an antique tractor collection.

Kevin Eikenberry
Well, I have an antique tractor collection. The first question people ask is, “Do you mean like real tractors?” Yes, 13 of them.

Pete Mockaitis
Thirteen real full-size tractors?

Kevin Eikenberry
I also have spread around this office, I have toy tractors of different ages as well.

Pete Mockaitis
So, please, how did this come to be? And what is your fascination with them?

Kevin Eikenberry
Well, I grew up on a farm, and my grandpa u sed to say, “You can take the boy off the farm…” which I largely did, “…but you can’t take the farm out of the boy.” I own the farm I grew up on, started the hobby, if you will, 21 years ago. It became a hobby I shared with my father, and then he passed away unexpectedly and I’ve continued it. It’s a way to connect to my kid-hood, to my adulthood. It’s created a bunch of great memories for me. And, like most things in life, it’s not really about the tractor. It’s about the why underneath it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so do these antique tractors work or is it sort of a mixed bag, more for show?

Kevin Eikenberry
It’s a mixed bag. I have some that people that do this would say are parade quality or show quality. I have others that run, I have a couple that aren’t currently running, but I don’t have any that are like torn apart in 3700 pieces, anything like that.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I, one time, went to a tractor pull, and it was a unique event. So, I grew up in Central Illinois so that’s not so outrageously a thing to do.

Kevin Eikenberry
Completely outrageous, yes.

Pete Mockaitis
But it was interesting to me not knowing much about tractors, how much people got into it, like, “Good pull, buddy. Good pull.” But toward the end, it’s like these tractors didn’t even look like they did farm work. They were more like the sports car tractor.

Kevin Eikenberry
Yeah, exactly. Depending on what kind of tractor pull you went to, they weren’t anywhere close to being an actual tractor. So, my collection ranges from 1939 to 1966, is the range of the tractors.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Well, so I don’t have a poor segue but maybe you’ll give me one. We’re talking about long-distance leadership. And I’d love to know, so you put together this book The Long-Distance Leader. What would you say is the most surprising and fascinating discovery you’ve made while researching and putting it together?

Kevin Eikenberry
So, I think, I don’t think it was the biggest thing I learned during it, but I think one of the biggest things that people can take from it, and, of course, now lots of people are living in this world in a forced way, is that the first rule we mentioned in the book is the idea that it’s leadership first, location second. It’s not that everything changes, but lots of little things change. And, as one of my mentors told me a long time ago, Pete, little hinges swing big doors.

And so, there’s a whole lot of little things we got to get better at, nuances we need to take advantage of and pay attention to that will help us be effective in leading a team when we don’t see them every day.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, when you say leadership first and location second, do you mean in terms of your priority for how you’re allocating your time, attention, resources, and growth? Or, what is the first and the second that you’re getting at?

Kevin Eikenberry
Yeah, there’s some truth to that. There’s some truth to that we need to remember that we’re leaders and be leading. And we’re only leading, by the way, Pete, if people are choosing to follow us, right? So, that’s the first thing I would say. And so, part of the message is don’t get worried or lost in, “Oh, my gosh, I can’t see them. Are they working?” So, don’t get lost or worried about the location, but we must recognize the location, and because of the fact that we’re not in the same place, we have to be more intentional and work harder.

So, in other words, everything we had to do in leading people when they were down the hall, still needs to happen. May need to have more of it but don’t forget what you already knew, transfer those habits to what you need to change and adjust to do it when people aren’t right down the hall.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, in summary then, what would you say is fundamentally the same and unchanged versus, indeed, unique here in the remote world?

Kevin Eikenberry
We’re leading people. They’re all different. They have unique needs, wants, etc., and so we must work harder to understand those things and understand those people so they will still choose to follow. I believe that our job as a leader is to create a sense of commitment and not just try to create compliance. So, to do that at a distance requires us to b e more intentional, more focused, more diligent, because we have to continue to build those relationships.

Some of the things that happen without us even thinking about it at the coffee pot. Someone pops their head into the office, none of that is going to happen when we’re at a distance, so we’ve got to be more intentional and more focused to make those spontaneous things, serendipitous things, happen when they can’t be that way anymore.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so then I’d love to hear your take from lots of experience with working with lots of people. What would you say are the top one to three struggles or surprises or challenges that remote leaders, when they start doing it, go, “Uh-oh,” they’re having a tough time with?

Kevin Eikenberry
They have trouble with figuring out, “How are we going to communicate with each other?” and the frequency of that communication. They have trouble, oftentimes, with trusting their teams, which often manifests itself as micromanagement. And they have a lot of trouble with coaching and holding people accountable often. I would say those are three areas that often show up early.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, then, well, tell us, what are some of the best pra ctices there in terms of addressing each of these?

Kevin Eikenberry
Well, so the first thing, we can’t create clear accountability unless there are clear expectations. And, foundationally, for us as leaders, and I’ll talk to the leaders and to the team members here for a second, okay? So, we need to, as leaders, be setting clear expectations for our folks. Because if they don’t know what’s expected, how can they possibly deliver? And if you’re on the other side, as a team member, out working from home or wherever, and not seeing your boss, your leader, your manager, you need to be making sure that you know what those expectations are.

So, don’t just say, “Well, they haven’t told me.” Instead, say, “I need to understand them so I need to make sure that I’m clear on what they are.” And once we’re working remotely, Pete, the expectations aren’t just about what needs to be done, but also how we’re going to do it, because so many things that sort of just happen, were obvious when we saw each other in the hallways and we could commit in someone’s office, it doesn’t happen anymore, so we’ve got to make sure that expectations are crystal clear in both directions. And if we don’t do that, we can’t get accountability, we can’t really do coaching until we have that set. So, that’s one of them.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’d love to get your take there in terms of arriving at those crystal clear expectations transmitted and received, are there any key questions or approaches you use to ensure that you land there?

Kevin Eikenberry
Step one, as a leader, make sure you’re clear yourself, which often isn’t the case. So, just because you think you know and you roll your eyes because they’re not delivering, you can’t even make it clear to them yet, so you got to get out of your head and written down. So, when I’m coaching leaders, in fact I have a conversation with one of them tomorrow, the challenge was, “Okay, tell me what you really do expect. Don’t just tell me. Write it down then we can talk about it, because until you’ve written it down, it’s not clear enough. Thoughts are fuzzy, words bring clarity.”

Once you’ve got it written down, then you can share it with the other person. So, you can’t make it clear to them until it’s clear to you, and seldom is it clear enough. You are too vague and too high level usually, or too close to a job description and not close enough to clearly what we want. I’m not talking about creating a situation for micromanagement. What I’m talking about is creating a set of boundaries and lanes so people know where they’re headed, why they’re headed there, and how they can succeed when they arrive.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Lovely. So, you write it down, and then you…

Kevin Eikenberry
Then you have a real conversation, which means don’t just go, “Okay, I wrote all this down. Let me email it to you. Any questions?” Don’t do that, first of all. And don’t just say, “Well, let me read all these to you.” Rather, send them, and say, “Hey, I want us to have a conversation, make sure we’re clear on expectations.” And as we’re having this conversation, a lot of people who are listening to us are now maybe 60, 80, 90 days into working remotely for the first time, or leading remotely for the first time, right?

And so, maybe we got by for a while, the honeymoon is over. It’s still okay to have this conversation now, say, “Hey, listen, Pete, I’ve put together some thoughts. I want to make sure we’re on the same page about expectations, so I’m going to send this to you. I want you to review it. It’s meant to be a draft for us to have a conversation about. Then I’d like for us to meet and talk about it. I want to make sure it makes sense to you, it’s clear. Did I leave anything out? Does it leave any questions for you?” etc.

Then when we get on the phone or perhaps on a video call, then I need to start by saying, “So, Pete, what are your questions? What are your thoughts? What’s missing?” Because as the boss, as the leader, there’s a power differential between you and I, right? So, if I do all the talking first, there’s nothing left for you to say.

Pete Mockaitis
Gotcha.

Kevin Eikenberry
So, if I want a conversation, I have to engage you in it first or early. The more I talk first, the less likely you’re going to say anything even if there’s a high level of trust between us, even if you are pretty self-assured and self-confident because just of the unspoken nature of the power differential between us.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. So, there we go with the communication. Let’s talk about the trust next.

Kevin Eikenberry
So, the trust piece is, well, people will say, “Well, if I don’t see them, I don’t know if they’re working.” Well, you don’t know if they’re working anyway, right? Just because they happen to be in their office, and they happen to be typing away on the keyboard, you don’t know if they’re working unless you’re looking over their shoulder, which I surely hope you weren’t doing before.

People get lost in activity versus accomplishment. What we want is to accomplish things, not to be busy. I don’t care if my team members take a time in the middle of the day to go for a walk. I want the team to know it, in case you’re trying to get a hold of them, but I don’t care when they do their work. I want the work to be done successfully. And, especially now, we may need to allow people to be flexible about how they actually get it done, if they’ve got other issues like teaching school while they’re trying to work.

So, the reality is if we can stay, as a leader, focused on accomplishments and not activity, we can let go of all this garbage about, “Well, I don’t know if they’re working or not.” Does it make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Absolutely. And it’s intriguing because before, the phrase “work from home” often just sort of had scare quotes in it because I’m always working from home so for me I really mean it. But it’s like, “Oh, I’m working from home, wink, wink, wink.” And so, it’s intriguing there because some folks really aren’t doing much with the activities, but it sounds like where you’re going with this is if the accountability is clear and the expectations are clear in terms of the output and achievements, then it’s like, whether they’re working 10 hours or one hour, they’ve accomplished all that they were supposed to accomplish.

Kevin Eikenberry
It really shouldn’t matter. If people can get their work done in two hours, then maybe you’re not giving them enough to do, or that you’re not using them to their potential. That’s a different subject than what we’re talking about right here. Now, if you’ve got someone who’s working remotely and they’re on a call center, they need to be customer-facing, or they can’t be away from their desks, that’s a different thing. But for many of us who are working from home, that doesn’t matter whether you do it at 2:00 p.m. or 2:00 a.m. sort of it doesn’t matter. And as a leader, I should let go of that because what I want is I’m investing in this person to get an output that creates a profitable exchange. And so, as long as that’s happening, that’s what I should be focused on.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, I’m with you. And let’s talk about the coaching now.

Kevin Eikenberry
Well, so we kind of went to the coaching first when we talked about expectations. I want to come back to the communication in general. They’re connected, of course, but the communication in general is chances are, once you’re working remotely with folks, you’re going to need to communicate with them more frequently than you were before because you don’t have any of the happenstance, and you probably need to be a little more formal about it, and here’s why.

Like, right now, I’m in our offices, I’m the only one here. I’ve been the only here for 60 some days or however long it’s been now, but when there were a couple of people that were here part of the time, then they could see if I was available, they knew if I had a minute or not. Now, they don’t. They look at my calendar, it looks busy, and so they don’t reach out, not because they don’t want to, maybe not even because they don’t need to. And, in part, in my case, I think it’s because they’re honestly thinking about my time.

However, it ends up a phone call that ends up, “Hey, Kevin, I know you don’t have much time. I’ll make this quick.” And all of the conversations then become very transactional. We get no interaction. We only have transaction. And we, as leaders, got to make sure that doesn’t happen. I’ll get back to how to do that in a second. But what we need to do is schedule those times, and we need to be reaching out to each other, talking about, and this is part of the expectations of how, about how often we’re going to interact and have those one-on-ones. Why? Because, otherwise, they’ll not happen. And more of the times we have to be way more intentional about all this.

And here’s the other part, you got team members who are thinking you don’t trust them. So, we hear all the time, “Well, my boss is just checking up on me.” Well, if we pre-scheduled a rhythm for these conversations then it’s not going to feel like checking up, it’s checking in, because we’ve already decided we’re going to have this conversation. Kevin didn’t call or Zoom you or Slack you because, in this moment, he decided he wanted to figure out what you’re doing. We decided that at 10:00 o’clock on Friday we’re going to chat. Does it make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
All right. That makes sense. And so, then with the coaching portion of that chat, do you coach differently remotely than you do when you’re in person?

Kevin Eikenberry
Well, I would say a couple of things. Number one is whenever possible, use the video cameras because we’ve got more cues from the communication perspective, we have better sense. You and I had that better right now than if we were only on the phone.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right.

Kevin Eikenberry
It’s certainly a lot more than if we were only doing it via typing, right?

Pete Mockaitis
What the audience doesn’t know is that we’re looking at each other.

Kevin Eikenberry
We are looking at each other.

Pete Mockaitis
But that’s not…

Kevin Eikenberry
I’m looking at your bookcase, and you can’t see mine, you can’t see one of the eight in this office because it’s off to the side. But the point is that if we’re going to coach, we need to make it as close to face-to-face as we can, as much as we can. That’s the first thing. The second thing that I would say about the coaching piece is that every time we have a one-on-one, there are opportunities for coaching because coaching isn’t just about, “You’re screwing up and we need to fix it.” Coaching is also about, “You’re doing awesome. And how can we do even awesome-r?” Right?

So, all coaching is, “How do we help people continue to advance in the direction of a desired outcome?” And so, I think that we ought to be, as we create this rhythm, have the opportunity for coaching to not be an event but an ongoing process.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Good deal. Thank you. Well, so you mentioned, you rattled off a number of tools, Zoom, Slack, etc. I’d love it if we could touch that for a moment in terms of you’ve seen a lot of stuff. What do you think are some of the greatest tools available?

Kevin Eikenberry
Well, first of all, it’s always a danger for me to say ones out loud because then people say, “Well, that’s not the one we use.”

Pete Mockaitis
And they’re changing, what people are using.

Kevin Eikenberry
And they’re changing, right? So, we’re writing this new book called The Long-Distance Teammate, we had this long conversation, “Do you use those words?” In the last three months, Zoom has become a verb, right? A lot of people have never heard of it until a few months ago. But I would say this, chances are you already have tools that will work just fine. What you need to do is two things. Learn how to use them beyond the 20% you got, and then use the right tool for the right thing.

So, for example, there’s good times to use email and there’s better times to use your instant messaging tool, be it Slack, or Microsoft Teams, or whatever it is. So, the point is it’s not like, “Well, I think Slack is better than Microsoft Teams.” It doesn’t matter. Pick one. Don’t let there be in-squabbling about, “Well, I like this better than that one.” Pick one, set clear expectations as a team about when we’re going to use which tool for which job, and then use them for the right reasons not because it happens to be the one you like.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, could you maybe give us some category of tool, good use for it, and bad use for it?

Kevin Eikenberry
Email is not for a conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Kevin Eikenberry
All of us have been in the third email in, right? That’s not going well. Someone needs to pick up the phone or do something else, right? At some level, as long as you and your team, or you and your organization, have agreements, that’s the most important thing. Have agreements about how you’re going to use which.

But let’s just take your instant messaging tool versus your email. Now I’m talking about how we do it. If it doesn’t need to be responded to in the next hour or two, email is fine. And we’re not expecting people to automatically respond to an email that quickly. We’re a little more so with Slack than with email in our case, our instant messaging tool that we use.

So, shorter, synchronous, instant message. Longer, really needs to be asynchronous or could be asynchronous, email. That’d be one way to look at it. Another thing is if you’ve got multiple tools that you can use to do video, for example. You’ve got a Zoom thing. Like, in our case, because we work with clients all over the world, we’ve got, like name them, we got them all.

But we, as an organization, say that when we’re communicating with each other, it’s either this one or this one, not all of them. One of these two. And for the most part, if we’re having a two-person conversation, excuse me, it’s Zoom. If we’re having a larger team, it happens to be GoToMeeting. That just happens to be how it’s evolved for us. The most important thing is know how to use your tools, know how to use most of their capabilities, and then get agreement with everybody about how you’re going to use them.

Pete Mockaitis
And when you say, you mentioned 20%, like we only know 20% of how to use Zoom or a given tool, what are some sort of features that most people are just leaving on the table? Like, “Did you know you could do this? You can. Maybe start doing that.”

Kevin Eikenberry
Here’s a simple one. If you’re in a meeting room, in a conference room, you’ve got a whiteboard or flipchart and you’re using it, maybe not using it as well as you could but you probably are using it. Pretty much all these tools have that. Are you using it there? Do you know how to use it there? One example. Do you know how to, if you’ve got a Brady Brunch screen with 12 of you, or whatever, and that’s driving you nuts, do you know that you can change it so you only see the active speaker?

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Kevin Eikenberry
There’s two simple examples. We could go a lot further but there’s two simple examples.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so, when you mentioned asynchronous communication, there’s email. One of my favorite tools for asynchronous communication, personally, is Loom with a screen-recording videos that are super zippy. Anything else that maybe is not on most people’s radar but should be?

Kevin Eikenberry
I don’t know that I have. I mean, there are some pretty cool tools, or bunch of them. There are some pretty cool tools that allow you to shoot quick videos that you can then include. I will give you one that you may not know. Did you know that you can send someone a video message in LinkedIn?

Pete Mockaitis 
Oh, yes. I do.

Kevin Eikenberry
At least, as far as I know, you can still only do it with your mobile device. You can’t do it from here, but you can send someone a more personal note. So, that’s probably more for networking, or staying connected with other people, or for sales and marketing roles within your team, there’s an example. I’m always open to finding new stuff, but I’m always concerned when people just keep hopping, “Oh, we got to try this. Oh, we got to try this. Oh, we got to try this.”

Let’s see what we’ve got and what works with it before we start looking because, again, a lot of times we’re not using the capabilities of what we’ve already got, and we create some amount of…especially the larger our team or organization, we create a whole lot of new angst and spinning of wheels by introducing new tools before we use the ones we got.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure. And so, when it comes to knowing how to use them and using them well, part of the game is to just be aware of the features that are in existence when you click different popups and dialogues and submenu items. And I think, beyond that, there’s also how we conduct ourselves as humans when, say, on a Zoom or video call. Can you lay out some best and worst practices that we should be aware of?

Kevin Eikenberry
Before we got there, I want to say one more thing back to where we just were, and that is the way to learn these tools is two things. Watch other people using them well. And, number two, don’t try to figure them out when you’re live. Go into the tool and practice. This sounds so simple but people don’t do it. You’ve all been in a meeting, “Well, how do you do this?” And someone else is trying to tell someone else how to do it. You could’ve taken 10 minutes ahead of time and already figured it out without the stress and the pressure, and wasting everybody else’s time.

So, to your other question now, how do we behave on a Zoom call? Is that kind of the question?

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Well, I mean, I think there are some sort of givens that don’t need to be articulated. But, at the same time, there are other stuff that you’ve probably seen hundreds of times that annoys you like crazy. So, spell is out for us, what should we start and stop doing?

Kevin Eikenberry
Well, the first thing is people need to be focused on what they’re doing, and multitasking is a myth, and we shouldn’t be trying to do it. And so, one of the many reasons I love people having their webcams on is it’s harder for them to multitask. I mean, it’s pretty obvious if they’re looking away or doing something else, right? So, on my team, webcams are on, mute is off. In other words, unless you’ve got ambient noise that doesn’t allow it, or in the past, you’re in an airport, you’ve got a barking dog, the reality is I want your mics open, if at all possible.

Why? Because that helps you stay more attentive and stay more connected, and it helps the meeting be more natural. It’s never going to be quite the same. There’s still the hesitations and the interruptions and all that stuff, but we take a lot of that away, people are talking, “Hey, you need to go off of mute,” and we lose all of our momentum and all of our rhythm.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so true.

Kevin Eikenberry
So, set some clear ground rules as a team about how you’re going to do some of those things, first of all. Next thing is put a background behind you. And you can do all those things if you don’t want people to see where you’re at. You can do all sorts of things to change that. But, more importantly, is set yourself up, if at all possible, so you don’t have light behind you so we can see you.

We don’t need to look like you’re in witness protection, you don’t have to have professional lighting, but you just need to orient yourself so that when you look at yourself, can you see your face just like you want to see everybody else’s. So, those are a couple of simple little things.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, what I love about that mute tip so much is that, one, it’s counterintuitive. I think everyone thinks, “Oh, I should mute it so that I’m not annoying everybody.” And, two, it’s sort of like I think people already have some resistance associated with speaking up. And there’s all this research which suggests that just removing a little bit of friction just can go a long way in driving behavior. And so, if you want more people to participate and have more engaging interactive exchange, well, that mute button is providing just one more little bit of friction to make it less comfy.

Kevin Eikenberry
“Oh, I can’t find the mute button,” blah, blah, blah.

Pete Mockaitis
“I have a thought but it’s not that important and I’m going to have to reach for my mouse to unmute it, so I’m just going to hold it back.”

Kevin Eikenberry
Yeah, like when you say it like that it sounds kind of silly, but the reality is it’s friction.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s true, how we work.

Kevin Eikenberry
It’s friction in the system. So, let me give you a tip around this for the leader and as a member of the team, because even if you’re a leader, you’re in a bunch of meetings that aren’t your meetings, right? So, first, as a leader, you need to, if you want people to engage, we said this earlier on a different topic, if you want the team to engage, you’ve got to engage them early. If you don’t engage them early, the longer you do the talking, the less likely they will engage so you’ve got to engage them early.

And the second thing you need to do, as the leader, is facilitate better, which means more directive in terms of asking for input because, again, there is friction and there’s reasons, “Oh, wait, I’m not sure. I think someone else is going to say something.” That friction exists in the room, but when we get on Zoom or in a video conference setting, it’s enhanced. So, I will say, “So, hey, we haven’t heard anything from the marketing department yet,” or, “How about someone on the West Coast or in Pacific Time?” or

I was teaching a two-hour virtual session earlier today, and I had some people that, for some reasons, had to be on mute. And I said, “Hey, James, I’m going to give you a chan ce to get off mute. But before that, Keith, what do you think?” What I want to do is set him up to succeed in sharing something valuable, and ask questions that they have answers to. Like, “What do you think? What’s been your experience?” those kinds of questions will happen, help.

Now, if I’m on the participant side, it’s not my meeting, recognize that chances are the leader wants you to participate, “Oh, that’s true.” Assuming that’s true, then be a little more proactive, be a little more bold. What might feel like you’re jumping out on a limb, probably isn’t. It’s probably actually helping you be more, what I would call, ethically visible. You’re not trying to grandstand. You’re just trying to contribute. And so, don’t be afraid or, to say that in a positive way, I encourage you to be proactive and share your thoughts when you have them.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. I like that. So, let’s see, I want to make sure I get some tasty morsels that caught my eye in your book. You said, “Leading successfully requires understanding not just what they’re doing but what people are thinking.” How do we pull that off to get that understanding of what people are thinking?

Kevin Eikenberry
Well, we’ve got to have more conversations. Let me go back to one other thing about the conversations we need to have, especially remotely. let’s say, Pete, you and I are having our weekly one-on-one call. The first thing I need to do is not dive into my list. First thing I need to do is start with a little bit, and maybe one minute, maybe three minutes, it depends on the person and the relationship with that person, I want to start with, “So, how is it going? What’s happening?” And, especially during this whole COVID thing, that’s been a super important point. We need to talk about something besides the work first so that we start to create the sense and continue to nurture the relationship, number one.

And the second thing is I encourage all of my team members, and I encourage all of our clients to do the same, if we know we’re having a weekly one-on-one, or whatever the frequency is, I’m always creating a list of things that I can save for that conversation with you, and I’m asking you to be doing the same. So, everyone in my team calls it the Kevin list. So, I always start with, “So, what’s on your Kevin list?” If I go first, we may not get to theirs. If I’ve got something we got to get to, I make sure we get that done. That’s not a problem. But, really, what I’m after here is to get more of their thinking earlier.

So, if I start finding out what they’re wondering about, what their questions are about, I’m getting a better chance to get inside of what’s going on for them, what their worries, concerns, anxieties are. And by really creating conversation, then I have a chance to ask those questions to learn more and to be more observant about those things as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s great. And by having this running list, you also reduce all the other options, they’re all bubbled together.

Kevin Eikenberry
That’s a whole episode right there, Pete, about how we manage our time and the productivity around that. There’s no doubt about it. If we both know that we’re meeting on a regular rhythm, and the rhythm for me with my team members isn’t the same for each person based on who they are and the role that they play and the five or six other things. But if we know that, then if something comes up that goes to the top of the list and we need to talk, of course we talk.

But by having that regular rhythm, there’s a lot of things that it doesn’t have to be, “Oh, by the way, I just thought this as I come down the hall,” and we are both interrupted. You were interrupted and so was I, right? Now we just put that down, we’ll get to it, it’s all good. If it’s really urgent, we’ll talk about it. No problem.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. All right. In chapter nine, you have a golden suggestion for working with others. Did we already get it? Or what is it?

Kevin Eikenberry
not do unto others how you want to be done unto. It’s do unto others how they want. So, in other words, always focus on “What would work for them? How can I communicate it in a way that will work for them not what I would want, but what will work best for them?” So, it’s shifting, it’s still thinking about it’s more empathetic, more outwardly-focused approach.

Pete Mockaitis
And how does one get to that understanding? I imagine you have to ask, you have to discuss your preferences and needs and habits, and how things flow well for another.

Kevin Eikenberry
Hopefully, if you’ve been leading a person for a while, working with someone for a while, you’ve started to figure some of that out. If that question that Pete just asked you, “Oh, I’m glad he asked that question,” then it’s probably time for you to step back and be a little more observant, number one. but you can come out and ask, “Hey, I’ve been doing it this way for a while, Pete. Is that working for you? Would there be a better way than that? Hey, when we had that exchange, I didn’t feel like it went super well. It felt maybe I was misinterpreted. Can we talk about it? I want to make sure what I could’ve done differently or better.”

So, we can do all those kinds of things, of course. We should be asking for feedback, Pete, to help others get better. But there are other tools, too, like whether for you and your organizations, it’s Myers-Briggs, or if it’s DISC, that’s what we happen to use. But some sort of a tool or assessment or model that gives us all a sense of where people are in general is helpful. We don’t want to put people in boxes but those kinds of tools can be helpful too.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And then how do you think about politics in the world of remote leadership?

Kevin Eikenberry
Well, people think, sometimes people think about politics as a negative, right, “Well, I don’t want to play office politics,” or they think, “Well, I’m remote, some people are in the office and I‘m not, so I can’t play those games.” So, I don’t think you want to make that such a negative thing. The human condition is that we make decisions based on who we know and what we know about them. So, I think building relationships and trying to keep our conversations in a positive vein, and not getting into all the gossip stuff, of course, is very helpful. But I wouldn’t cast a pall over the word politics. We can be seen, we can be effective, we can be influential without it being scummy. How about that?

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Thank you.

Kevin Eikenberry
I don’t think I ever said the word scummy on a podcast before, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
We break ground. We’re innovatives over here. Well, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Kevin Eikenberry
No, you’ve asked great questions.

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

Kevin Eikenberry
James, the book of James, chapter 1 verse 2, “Consider it pure joy, brothers and sisters, because…” now I’m going to paraphrase the rest “…because through trials and challenges, we have the chance to grow in the Church.” So, I think especially now, that when there seems to be challenges around us, if we consider it all joy, to say that there’s good that will come, we must look for it. And even in the challenge is opportunities for us to grow.

Pete Mockaitis
And could you give us a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Kevin Eikenberry
Well, I’ll just mention one that was in The Long-Distance Leader and also will be in The Long-Distance Teammate. Bettina Buchel wrote a piece that talks about richness versus scope in communication. The idea is that the richest communication is the face-to-face, nose-to-nose, across the table conversation, right? But that is not much scope, it’s just two people right now, that’s all there is. Scope is something like a mass email. It has a tremendous amount of scope but not much richness. And so, using the idea of richness versus scope and trying to balance those to help us pick which communication tools might help us is a useful model.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And how about a favorite book?

Kevin Eikenberry
Okay. I knew this was coming and it’s an impossible question. I read probably a hundred books a year and so, on one hand, I would say the one I’m reading now, but instead I’ll give you three.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Kevin Eikenberry
And they’re all old, right? The Bible, Think and Grow Rich, and How to Win Friends and Influence People would probably be where I’d go. All of them have had, and continue to have impact on me. They all are examples of timeless principles that we can continue to apply even if context changes.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And how about a favorite tool?

Kevin Eikenberry
You know, I knew you were going to ask me that question, and I’m going to say, I’m actually going to say LinkedIn, and maybe because, I’ll say it for two reasons, number one is I’ve been fortunate and blessed to have the chance to work with them and have some LinkedIn Learning products, and so I love it from that perspective. But here’s the thing, of all of the social media channels, at least for what I see. There’s a much higher ratio of useful versus noise. And I think maybe people overlook it a little bit.

Pete Mockaitis
I agree. And how about a favorite habit?

Kevin Eikenberry
Reflect. We have a tremendous amount of opportunities to learn from what we have experienced, both what has gone well and what hasn’t, and most of us don’t take near enough time to reflect, not only on what happened, but what to do with it now that it has happened.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And is there a particular nugget that you have shared that really seems to connect and resonate, and gets quoted back to you often?

Kevin Eikenberry
I think I say this a lot, that there’s a big difference between deciding and doing, and the difference is action.

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

Kevin Eikenberry
Well, they could certainly go to LinkedIn. They can go to KevinEikenberry.com. We’ve got a number of websites related to the various books and all that stuff. But if you can remember how to spell my name, you can find us. I hope you do. I hope you let us know how we can help.

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

Kevin Eikenberry
Yeah. When you were a kid, your parents asked you a question every day, and if you’re a parent, you’ve asked this question of your kids regularly, but when was the last time you asked yourself this question, “What did I learn today?”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Kevin, thank you. This has been fun. I wish you lots of luck in all of your long-distance leading.

Kevin Eikenberry
Thank you so much, Pete. It was a pleasure to be with you. Thanks for having me.

573: How to Leverage Your Time by 6000% through Effective Delegation with Bill Truby

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Bill Truby shares the simple trick to getting better results when delegating tasks.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The biggest mistake leaders make when delegating
  2. The most crucial thing you need to delegate
  3. The only four reasons why people fail to follow through

About Bill

Bill brings the background of common-sense learning (being raised on a cattle ranch), a B.A. in Theology, an M.A. in Psychology, the experience of a MFT (Marriage and Family Therapist), and nearly 30 years of business practice to the table.

These multiple perspectives and backgrounds synergize to bring amazingly simple, yet powerful tools to leaders and managers – tools that have been proven over and over for nearly four decades.

Resources mentioned in the show:

Bill Truby Interview Transcript

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

Bill Truby
Well, my pleasure, Pete. I’m thankful to be able to talk with you, and I guess it’s been a while since we’ve began to connect, and now we’re really voice to voice.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I am thankful too because I remember I’ve discovered you in my very first batch of guest recruitment. It was in the For Your Improvement book by the Korn Ferry folks. It had a nice bibliography of folks and books and resources associated with each skill I thought I might focus in on. Yours is one. I looked, I liked it, didn’t work out. But four years later, well, here we are. I’m glad that we both stuck with it.

Bill Truby
Well, I embarrassingly apologize, Pete. There was a lot going on in life back then.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, me too. And I didn’t really follow up much. it was like every, I don’t know, year, “Hey, Bill. I still want you.

Bill Truby
Well, I am thankful too. And, yeah, it’s the way things are meant to be, I suppose.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so we’ve got a lot of fun to get into when it comes to delegation. But I want to hear just a smidge about… you grew up in a cattle ranch in Texas. And my experience with ranches is limited to the Nickelodeon program “Hey Dude” I watched as a child.

Bill Truby
Oh, you poor soul you.

Pete Mockaitis
So, tell us about this.

Bill Truby
Well, I tell you what, I attribute most of who I am and how I am to my cowboy background. And I didn’t grow up in Texas but I have roots in Texas. If you look at a map of Texas, about two hours north of Abilene, you’ll see a little town called Truby, Texas. And there’s a little book written by the Arizona Historical Society about the Trubys and the Coxes. The Trubys were the cattle ranchers, the Coxes were the sheepherders. And if you know about American history, they were at war, when guns ruled the land.

I mean, it was late 1800s and the Trubys and the Coxes were both bull-headed and they were shooting at each other, and the local sheriff finally rounded up the most offending Trubys and the most offending Coxes and put them in jail. And in those days, you couldn’t convict them till the circuit-riding judge came around, which he finally did.

Well, the judge finally said, because cowboys are loyal, and apparently sheep herders are too, and people were lying for their family of support and their family of choice. So, finally, the judge said, “There’s no getting the truth here. You’re free to shoot it out.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, wow.

Bill Truby
Yup. So, everybody left the courthouse. The book talks about it. And Trubys, apparently, were smarter than they looked because they left, and they went to New Mexico, and that’s where my dad was born, and he was raised on a little ranch there and a sod house. And then he moved to northern California where I was born and raised on a cattle ranch in Humboldt County. And I end this little story by telling you that the Texas Historical Society allows you to adopt a small town. So, I adopted Truby, Texas. I have a town.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, there you go.

Bill Truby
But, apparently, Trubys weren’t worth much because it only cost me 25 bucks to…

Pete Mockaitis
Well, what are your responsibilities if you’ve adopted a town, you’re the father? Like, do you have to pay for things?

Bill Truby
Yeah, I have a certificate. That’s it. That’s it. And there’s 24 people that lived there so they had to split that last dollar, Pete. So, that’s the beginning of my heritage, and a lot of things I learned though, Pete. Hard work. Honesty. Integrity. My word is better than a contract.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Excellent. Well, let’s hear your good word when it comes to effective delegation. it’s a universal skill. We need some more, great wisdom, on how to do it well. you’re one of the guys. So, your book has a compelling bullet that says “Effective delegation can leverage our time by 6,000%.” That’s quite a figure. It’s kind of specific. Where do we get it?

Bill Truby
Well, that book, first of all, was written long ago. And one of our claims to fame long ago was the ability to teach people how to delegate effectively, and always get follow through, or if you didn’t, you were able to fix it with one or two times, and it’s powerful. So, our co-author at the time, I’ve written some other books, but I did a co-author at the time, and he did some research on some of our folks that used the tool and multiplied their time that they used to take to fix delegations that just didn’t work well, and did the old math. I don’t know how he did it, but it was a pretty impressive number, but I know intuitively, and I know empirically that over 40 years of doing this is it just proves this tool. It works. It always works.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, I imagine, you know, 6,000%, 60X, I mean, if you’ve got 60 people and you’re delegating well, then that would do it and work out there. So, I want to really dig into a whole lot of the particulars, for what’s the system and how we can utilize it. First off, I think maybe could you frame it up for us? Like, I think we probably all know delegating is handy as opposed to trying to do everything yourself, and yet it seems hard. So, can you share what makes it hard? What’s holding us back? What are some of the mental blocks? Like, why don’t we just do this?

Bill Truby
That is an excellent question, and it’s excellent because it sets the premise. If we don’t delegate, then we have to do it ourselves. The only way that a leader, the only way that a father can leverage his or her effectiveness is by working with people and through people. So, it’s absolutely imperative that we delegate in order to be successful. We are self-limiting by self-doing. If we try to do everything ourselves then we are limited by the capacity that our energy and that our time extends to. That’s it.

So, the only way that you can play a beautiful orchestra is by not playing one instrument but leading and directing the delegation of a variety of instruments who all play the same song.

But your question, “Why don’t we do it?” Well, that’s a multifaceted answer. Some people are just too controlling. They will not let go. Other people are trying to make it perfect and they don’t think anybody else can so it’s a self-esteem issue. There’s a variety of issues, Pete, that cause people to not delegate. But the number one consistent theme that I’ve seen throughout all my years of teaching people to delegate is simply they don’t know how.

They’ll try to duplicate themselves. They’ll try to get people to do things exactly the way they would do it. They try to micromanage. They try to just give them a little, few pieces of information and tell them to go, and they don’t give them all the information. So, our tool has been built to cover every eventuality of delegation, and, thereby, make it successful.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Exciting. Well, so then you got a lot of reps of experience, a lot of clients and students who’ve picked up on this. Could you share with us maybe an inspiring case study of someone who was having some trouble delegating, but then they saw some really cool things happen on the other side just so we can get a taste and feel some inspiration for it?

Bill Truby
Sure. There’s a man named Mike Solano who owns a $14 million hardware billing supply enterprise. He has a rental center, two billing supplies, two hardware stores, etc.

Now, this man worked six to seven days a week, every day spending eight to ten hours a day. He was overwhelmed because he wanted everything to go well, and he was successful. But he was overwhelmed, tired, weary. He was not going to be able to keep up this pace. Now I want to say something right now, Pete, about delegation, and that is delegation is a tool. What you delegate is also very important because you just don’t delegate tasks. You delegate roles. You delegate departments. You delegate businesses.

So, Mike learned this tool. He used it at the core of all of our other processes and teachings and tools that we use to run a business, and this was the core, and now Mike works two to three days a week if he wants to. His delegation process has empowered people. People have a sense of ownership. People have a sense of accomplishment and achievement and they enjoy going to work doing their role, their job, and reaping their results. And he’s allowed them to feel that kind of ownership.

We teach people, we teach leaders, we teach managers that you need to lead accountable people and not hold people accountable. That’s a core concept that we teach always. If you hold people accountable, you’re the one holding the accountability. If you lead accountable people, then they’re the ones holding the accountability. And that’s a whole other subject.

But Mike’s people have learned to be accountable and he doesn’t have to hold them accountable, and this tool is the core of how this process works.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Okay. Well, so then lay it on us. What is this tool, this process? How do we go do it?

Bill Truby
Well, when your listeners go to the delegation flowchart link and download it, they’re going to see what I’m talking about, but it truly is a flowchart, Pete. It starts at the top with what you do and then it flows down the page, and it teaches you what to do at each stage of the delegation process.

And at the very top, there is the point that you need to delegate. Accountability. Notice you’re delegating accountability. You’re not delegating just a task. You’re delegating accountability and you’re including responsibility and authority. Now that’s an important point. Sometimes people try to delegate by giving people a task to do but they don’t give them the authority that’s associated with the responsibility.

And here’s one of the first points. Sometimes the person doesn’t have literal authority. For example, there’s a safety officer in a big company. The safety officer doesn’t hire and fire, but the safety officer is charged with going through the facility and making sure people are doing safe practices and following safe protocols.

So, what happens if Mr. and Mrs. Safety Person says to John or Jane Doe manager, “Hey, you need to stop doing that”? If safety officer doesn’t have authority, that person doesn’t have any teeth in their words. So, how do you give the safety officer authority? You give it to him or her as vicarious authority, no different than air traffic control.

I’m sure you’ve flown a whole lot, Pete. When I listened to the pilots, air traffic control says, “United 73, descend and maintain 10,000.” I have never once heard a pilot say, “You’re not my boss.” And, obviously, they follow the instructions of air traffic control because of two reasons. One, there’s benefit. They’re not going to run into another plane. And, number two, FAA and the United Airline, or Delta Airlines, or whatever company you’re looking at, have given the air traffic controller vicarious authority to give orders to the pilots.

So, what that looks like is John or Jane Doe’s CEO says to the company, “People, Martha or John, this is my safety officer. When he or she is asking you to do something, it’s as if I’m asking you to do it.” So, that’s the first mindset that needs to be delivered in the context of delegation. We’re delegating responsibility and authority.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. So, responsibility, authority, accountability, and so it’s sort of like the whole enchilada. It’s like, “You own it. It’s yours.” And that’s really handy in terms of there’s not a lot of excuses that emerge in that, that’s like, “Well, I just did this because that was what was on the process sheet I was supposed to follow,” as opposed to, “Well, no, you own this sort of domain so, yeah, you’re going to follow the process but you’re also going to kind of exercise some judgment to do what clearly needs to be done to make it work out well.”

Bill Truby
You’re right, Pete. And that’s a very insightful way of putting it. The person who it’s been delegated to feels ownership of that enchilada. But the most important point is that other people know that he or she has that enchilada. If they don’t know, then that person is limited in their ability to carry out the task or the project. So, that’s the first mindset.

Many things that we teach, Pete, have to do with mind shifts. It’s sort of like leading accountable people rather than holding people accountable. That mind shift alone changes a ton of behaviors and beliefs and attitudes. So, that’s the top of the flowchart, delegate accountability, including responsibility and authority.

And at that point, you create what we call a contract of expectations. There’s never an assumption. The person being delegated to never walks away with a question. It’s a two-way communication, and this is where our communication tools come in, but you must create a clear contract of expectations. The core of a contract of expectations, or CoE as we call it, is a, “What? By whom? By When?”

Pete Mockaitis
Who will do what by when?

Bill Truby
Correct.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Bill Truby
Included in that is the purpose and context. Because if I just asked you, Pete, “Go do this,” and you say, “Okay, I’ll do it,” and you have no purpose or context, then you cannot be creative in the obstacles that may come your way. If you know the reason, the why, the purpose and the context where it fits in, then you can be a little bit more creative in your work as you encounter the unknown, which is always the case.

Pete Mockaitis
That is so valuable and really worth, I think, underscoring because a lot of times we don’t know the why behind the request, and we just sort of kind of do it. But I think I’ve been on both sides of things in terms of being the doer of the task and not really knowing, it’s like, “Well, I could go either way but I don’t know. Is this in my thing? So, my instructions are I’m just going to make a note and kind of keep on rolling.”

And then, as a leader, when I have been so wise as to share the purpose and context, to be surprised and delighted with people that I’m managing, say, “Hey, I bumped into this and so I did that.” And I think, “Well, that is perfect. Thank you.” It just feels so good, like I don’t have to say anything, and it came back even better than I had imagined it could have from my just process instructions, so this is really cool.

Bill Truby
Purpose and context has many psychological benefits. It increases ownership. It shows respect. It feels like you belong, that you’re included. But, more importantly, if the percussionist in an orchestra doesn’t know the song, all he can do is play the music. And if you don’t play the music in the context of the song, you might play too loud, you might play too soft. Same with a violin, same with a piccolo, same with a French horn. We must understand the purpose and context of the notes that we’re playing in order to make it effective in the long run.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely.

Bill Truby
So, this is the first thing that happens in the delegation process, it’s preventative. So, there’s this clarity of what, by whom, by when. There’s a purpose and context. If it’s a long project, then you clarify when you want reports, and you always ask the person to do it. You don’t tell. This is about leading accountable people.

Pete, if I said, “Pete, go do this or that,” then you’re just a puppet, you’re just a person that’s doing a job. If I say, “Will you do it?” and you say, “Yes,” now we have a contract and you own it. So, when you don’t do it, if you don’t, I don’t say, “Didn’t I tell you?” I keep the accountability where it belongs. I say, “Pete, didn’t we agree?” And where does that put the accountability? Right on you. Okay, so that’s the first step.

So, we build all of this, it takes a few minutes. Obviously, it could take hours depending on if it’s a large project but there’s clarity, there’s absolute clarity, no assumptions ever. Clarity, clarity. Pristine, clear communication and an agreement. Now, when you do that, one of two things happen. If the person follows through, and if you look at the delegation flowchart, you’ll see on the right side of the page there’s a box that says, “Follow through.” And when a person follows through, then the arrow goes down to what we call a continuous improvement celebration.

Obviously, the type of celebration depends on the extent of the delegation. If I asked you to go get lunch for the team, that’s different than solving world hunger. So, the celebration is congruent with the task. And I don’t know if we want to get into all the details of a celebration at this point but just to earmark the four parts, there’s the party factor because everybody wants to have fun. There’s the recognition and appreciation, people need to be recognized and appreciated. There’s the learning what went well, what didn’t go well. What didn’t go well so you can fix it. What did go well so you can repeat it.

Because if something went well and you don’t know why it happened, you’re not good, you’re lucky. And then you transfer that knowledge to other people in the company, or other friends, somebody else who could benefit. So, that’s the right side of the flowchart, follow through, and then the last thing you do is to have some kind of a celebration, which gives closure and recognition and that motivation to want to be delegated to again.

Now, the left side, is when somebody may not follow through. This delegation process always works but what happens when somebody who doesn’t follow through is that you follow this chart and you’ll fix it typically one time. There’s a circle that goes on. So, if there’s no or limited follow through, there are four reasons. You know, Pete, I’ve never heard anybody talk about this, I’ve never heard anybody write about it, I’ve never heard anybody speak about these four concepts. But there’s only four reasons why someone won’t follow through, only four.

And I’m talking about anybody. Your friend, your neighbor, your spouse, your kid, your employee, your employer. Human beings have four reasons why they won’t follow through. A wise delegator will search for the reason in the order that I’ll give them to you right now. The first is, and they all start with lack of. The first is lack of awareness. They weren’t aware.

Now, typically, we’re communicating when we’re delegating, and humans aren’t the greatest at communicating. And so, if it’s lack of awareness, it’s often some glitch that occurred in the communication process, “Oh, I didn’t know you meant that.” We could use the same word success and you could think of different criteria for success than I do. So, the first is lack of awareness. And you never demand, you always ask questions, “So, what was your understanding of the task?” to see if there was awareness.

If there was awareness, the second reason a person won’t follow through, or can’t follow through, is lack of training. They thought they knew how but they didn’t, “So, did you know how to do this?” The third reason is lack of resources. They didn’t have enough time. They didn’t have enough equipment. They didn’t have enough staff. They didn’t have enough money. Something was lacking that wasn’t prevalent or wasn’t known at the beginning of the delegation process. And the only other reason a person won’t follow through is lack of accountability.

So, lack of awareness, number one; lack of training, number two; lack of resources, number three; and lack of accountability, they’re just not doing it.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, let’s define accountability there in this context. So, is it they don’t feel like or what do you mean specifically by accountability here?

Bill Truby
They just didn’t do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Bill Truby
It’s just the outcome wasn’t there, “You didn’t bring lunch.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I guess, well, call me a stickler as a former strategy consultant about when you lay out, hey, there’s four reasons, I get really excited about a mutually-exclusive collectively-exhaustive categorization set because I’m a dork that way. So, lack of accountability, they just didn’t do it. That almost feels like an everything-else bucket, I guess, in a way, you can maybe subdivide that. Like, there are multiple reasons why they just didn’t do it. They didn’t feel like it. They weren’t motivated, and they don’t care. Yeah, can you unpack the lack of accountability a little more?

Bill Truby
Sure, and I love all those big words you used to identify this set. That was awesome.

Bill Truby
Okay. Remember what we delegated at the beginning of time, at the beginning of this delegation process. We delegated accountability. Well, there’s an obvious finishing of that sentence. The accountability to do blank. So, you and I are climbing a mountain, and I delegate you the holding of the rope to belay me as I climb.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Bill Truby
If you do not adhere to that accountability, you just don’t hold the rope, I don’t really care why because at this point, we’re not talking about the why. We’re simply talking about the outcome. Period. So, if you don’t hold the rope, there’s danger. If your hands hurt, if you’re sad, if you sneeze, if you don’t feel like it, those are all beside the point. When you’re out on the football field, and the ball is thrown to you, it doesn’t matter how you feel, your job is to catch the ball. And if you don’t go up to catch the ball, then you have not been accountable to what you’ve agreed to be accountable about.

So, it’s really not a catchall. It’s specifically focused on the task that was delegated. In some ways, I suppose the four reasons are the why, but they’re all about behavior and resources to do the behavior. They’re not diving into the emotional or psychological or relational reasons.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure. I guess what I’m driving is, what I love about the first thing is lack of awareness, “Oh, okay. well, we’re going to have a clarifying conversation, we’re going to have some more detail, and we’re, okay, good, good, good. We’re all on the same page. Solved.”

Lack of training. “Oh, I’m so sorry. Well, here’s an instructional, a tutorial, a class, a course, whatever. Okay, now you know. Okay, good to go.” Lack of resources, “Oh, shucks, you’re right. We’ve got to free up some things from your plate or get some more people or budget under your purview, so that’s solved.” But how does one solve a lack of accountability?

Bill Truby
This, again, insightful, Pete. That’s fantastic, because if you’ll look at the chart, you’ll notice that the first three items, awareness, training, and resources, are typically one-time things. Once you find that that’s the case, then you provide the fulfillment of what was missing, awareness, training, or resources. And then you re-negotiate the contract, it goes up, you re-negotiate the contract by saying, “Okay, let’s look at the contract of expectations again, and re-enter your delegating process, your process of doing what I’ve delegated you to, given your new resources, or your new training, or your new awareness.” So, that one is a one-time loop. One-time loop.

Now, the lack of accountability, that one is fixed by using a separate tool. Now, first of all, I want to make sure that we understand that lack of accountability is binary, they either did it or they didn’t. And if they didn’t, they agreed to, so the first thing we do is to ask the question, “Didn’t we agree?” Right now, we’re working with a $440 million 2500-person nonprofit dialysis company. That entire company is using this particular process to fix people who are not performing effectively, who are not being accountable.

And, HR, if you call HR, the first thing HR will say is, “Have you asked them if they agreed to the contract of expectations?” So, we keep the accountability where it belongs. And, quite frankly, that’s respectful. If I take your accountability away, and say, “All right. Now I’m just going to demand this, and I’m going to make you do what I’m wanting you to do,” then you’re a slave, you’re not a fellow human being.

So, how you fix a lack of accountability is through this process. Number one, “Didn’t we agree?” and the person says, “Yes.” Then, secondly, “Then what happened?” We don’t ask why, “Then what happened?” We give a chance for a person to give their reasons. Then, third, “Then let’s re-negotiate the process here. Will you do A, B, and C by X, Y, and Z with J, L, and K outcome?” So, you’re basically revisiting the contract as well, but this time the person is simply agreeing again.

Now, let me get a little more practical. Let’s say that you asked somebody to do something, they didn’t do it, they weren’t accountable, so you ask these questions. Then they don’t do it the second time. Now, it’s your wisdom that has to determine how many times you loop. If it’s very, very important, it may be one or two times. If you’re trying to grow something, somebody, maybe it’s 12 times. But you will never ever, you can never ever, and this is the beauty of this tool, you can never ever, ever say, “Oh, well, that’s Johnny.” Because if we do that, everybody around us knows that we broke the contract and we perpetuated Johnny’s behavior, we’ve allowed it to happen to other people, we destroy our own ability to delegate if we break the contract ourselves.

So, whatever your wisdom says, one time, two times, 12 times, there comes a time when you say, “Didn’t we agree?” “Yes.” “Well, what happened?” “Well, A, B, and C.” “Well, let’s agree this time that if you don’t do it, that…” and then you have to default to your discipline process, “…that you’re going to be getting your first verbal warning.” Let’s say it’s a verbal written writ and termination. So, the person says, “Okay.” So, if the person doesn’t follow through, they know before you do, that they’re not following through so they’re managing their own discipline process. So, they come back, “Didn’t we agree?” “Yes.” “Well, then you remember, too, I’m giving you a verbal warning. Let’s agree that if it doesn’t happen again, you’ll be getting your first written warning.”

So, people either step up or step out. And here’s the good news, Pete. Most people step up. We don’t lose good people. They step up. They just needed boundaries, they needed clarifications, kids need boundaries, our employees need boundaries, friends need boundaries. And when we put a boundary in this tool, a person steps up or steps out. And so, that’s what you do when there’s no or limited follow through, you find the reason, fix it one time with the first three, use wisdom to fix it for the fourth reason, the lack of accountability, and then one or two things happens. The person follows through, which happens most of the time, or the person doesn’t, and they’re terminated from the team, they’re demoted, they’re not allowed to be on the team anymore.

And so, the delegating of the task always works. The person who is in the process of being delegated to sometimes might change if they’re not willing to step up.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, this is really stretching my brain in some great ways, so thank you. I guess I’m wondering if, let’s say, they do the work but the results are not as grand as you’d hope. I don’t know, maybe in terms of like the quality, like, “Oh, I asked you to write up this document, and the writing is lackluster.” Or maybe it’s a higher-end result, like, “Hey, you were supposed to run this business division and generate $10 million in gross profit this quarter, and you got 8.” So, I guess, in a way, they do the work but they don’t get the results. How do we play that game?

Bill Truby
Well, two things. One, we must look at the delegator first, because you’ve got to be sure and have a clear contract of expectations at the beginning. So, lackluster of a writing material is a bit fuzzy. So, it’s up to the delegator to be clear and precise in communicating what needs to be done. The $10 million is rather clear and precise. So, the first thing, we’ve got to look at the delegator to make sure that the delegator is clear in his or her communication about the contract of expectations.

And then, secondly, part of the contract of expectations at the beginning, I mentioned just briefly in passing, if it’s a longer timeline, you want to get reports. And so, the $8 million at the end of this stretch of time should not be a surprise. The first benchmark, the first waymark, if the person was not on track, there’s a communication that goes on with the delegator and the delegate as to what’s going on. And one of two things happen. Either the goal begins to be adjusted or it is strengthened by some other resources to allow that goal to be reached.

So, the delegator in both cases, the lackluster in the writing or the diminished return on the 8 million versus 10 million, is involved in the process of guiding and helping along the way. But the key thing is the delegator is not doing it. The delegator is leveraging him or herself by delegating to the person who’s trying to play the violin, “Oh, you’re not playing that note quite right. Here are some techniques that you could use. Go practice those and then come back.”

I will tell you this, that through the delegation process, we do find that some people just are not bad people, nor are they unwilling people, but they don’t have the capacity. It’s up to the leader and manager to understand this over time. I didn’t mention this earlier but I have a master’s degree in psychology, and I was a marriage and family therapist in the early ‘80s for a couple years. And I’ve always needed to know the intent of a person not the behavior of the person.

In fact, my dad taught me that on the farm, he said, “Billy, always know why people are doing things. Don’t just look at what they’re doing.” So, I look at the why when a person isn’t following through, and it could be those four reasons, like I said. But we’ve entered into another little dimension here. If a person doesn’t have willingness or capacity, they won’t do it. In fact, they can’t do it. Even relationships. Relationships can only be successful if both parties have willingness and capacity. And I’m not talking just about a married couple. I’m talking about business and customers. Both sides of the equation, both people, have to have willingness and capacity.

So, in our process of delegating, everything might be going well but then we realize, “This person, no matter how great they are, no matter how talented they are, no matter how willing they are, they just don’t have the capacity,” and that’s where we have to adjust who we’re delegating to.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, Bill, 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?

Bill Truby
The core concept of everything we teach is to be other-centered. I want to just highlight that. That’s embedded in this. It’s clearly seen in leading accountable people. It’s clearly seen in asking the person to agree. It’s clearly seen even in the disciplining process if a person has lack of accountability. But I believe that the most successful businesses, the most successful leader, the most successful delegator will do so in the context of where the other person is coming from, how to communicate to them.

We’ll communicate to a 12-year old differently than we will a 48-year old. We’ll communicate to a person with a different skillset differently than a person who has a limited skillset. So, the delegation process is a tool. It’s like a shovel but you dig differently in sand than you do in clay. So, we exercise our interaction with the other person using the same tool, we exercise it a little differently based on that other person’s needs and wants. And that’s how we make them successful is that we’re always other-centered in our application of this tool.

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

Bill Truby
I suppose my favorite quote in all of my life has come from my dad, and I’ve illuminated it earlier. He always said two things, “Billy, always understand why the person is doing what they’re doing. And that understanding breeds empathy, acceptance, and the ability to lead them.” Then he also said, “Billy, if you can’t do anything about it, it doesn’t exist.”

And what that meant, I grew to learn over time, is that I deal with what I can do and I don’t take your stuff. And that gives respect. And that particular quote has caused boundaries that are freeing. It enables me to not have to run to the rescue. It’s like, if it’s not mine, I’ll care but I won’t carry. I’ll love but I won’t take it back from you. So, that’s a roundabout way of saying my dad gave me those two quotes that I live by, and they are very, very meaningful. They’re very deep in my soul.

He said, “Always know the why, and then you’ll understand the person. And if you can’t do anything about it, it doesn’t exist.”

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

Bill Truby
I love the book Thinking Fast and Slow. Daniel Kahneman wrote it, and it tells you what goes on in your brain, very fast when you encounter something, and then what happens after you think about it. And that research has literally changed my life on how I teach, on how I think, on how I do what I do.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And, tell me, is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate, and people quote back to you often?

Bill Truby
Well, there isn’t necessarily one, but I will tell you this little story. There was a man in one of the large companies, 8500-person company, that had this Christmas party, and this man went as Bill Truby, though nobody knew he was Bill Truby.

And he was dressed in a tie and shirt and overcoat. And people said, “So, who are you?” This was a dress-up affair masquerade-type thing. He said, “I’m Bill Truby.” And they would say, “What do you mean?” And he’d open up his coat, and in there were 3×5 cards that he called Trubyisms. So, apparently, I say things all the time that people remember and, yeah, I don’t think there’s one, Pete. I think that there’s things.

I make them up. I go to a company and I’ll “efficiefy” them, and then people start using that word, “Okay, we’re going to get efficiefied.” “And I’m here to bring you to a state of efficiefication,” so I don’t think I’m stuck on one.

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

Bill Truby
TrubyAchievements.com. And this delegation flowchart can be found there.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Bill, this has been a treat. Thank you for sharing the good word, and good luck in all you delegate.

Bill Truby
Thank you, Pete. I really appreciate you hanging in there for four years so we can meet each other. I do appreciate what you’re doing and I’m glad that I could help support it.

492: Making Meetings Work with J. Elise Keith

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J. Elise Keith says: "Every meeting is an opportunity. Seize it."

J. Elise Keith shares what makes meetings succeed vs. fail.

 

 

You’ll Learn:

  1. Signs of an ineffective meeting
  2. How the best organizations approach meetings
  3. When and how to opt out of a meeting

About J. Elise

Elise Keith is the co-founder of online meeting management platform Lucid Meetings. Known as the ‘Meeting Maven,’ Elise offers unprecedented expertise that inspires audiences, proving that meetings shouldn’t be fewer or shorter—but better and more effective. She is the author of Where the Action Is: The Meetings That Make or Break Your Organization, which contains eye-opening strategies companies can use to structure beneficial meetings, create a healthy workplace culture, and propel overall team momentum.

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank You, Sponsors!

J. Elise Keith Interview Transcript

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

J. Elise Keith
I’m glad to be here. Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, well, I’m excited to dig into this. And I want to get your take, you know, often the first question I ask is an icebreaker of sorts, and you’ve seen a lot of icebreakers, I imagine, in your day. Could you share maybe an all-time favorite or least favorite icebreaker and story that goes with it?

J. Elise Keith
Okay. So, I have two for this one. The kind of icebreaker you should use really depends on the kind of meeting you’re having and what’s going on in your culture. So, there’s all kinds of really good icebreakers that are also really different. But one I like to use when I do, like, say, workshop where I’ve got a group and maybe they know each other or maybe they don’t, but you’ve got to get them loosened up a bit, is, “What was your favorite band or artist in high school?”

Pete Mockaitis
That is fun.

J. Elise Keith
It is fun because you get a chance to get a sense of people’s culture and sort of their inner id when you find…I did this with a group of librarians recently, and to hear the number of them that were, you know, deep hardcore punk funs than old-school hillbilly rock was kind of enlightening.

Pete Mockaitis
That is fun. Well, and what was yours?

J. Elise Keith
You know, I was a big Midnight Oil fan in high school which I grew out of, but at the time it seemed appropriately edgy and world-saving and different enough to be special, yeah. How about you?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you know, it’s funny, I didn’t own a lot of CDs, because that’s what we had at the time, but I do remember I think that Blink 182 Dude Ranch was the album I played again and again. And I also went to a number of punk rock shows myself. I remember the band 15 with Jeff Ott was something in vogue with my people and myself. And then, yeah.

J. Elise Keith
See? I mean, like all of a sudden, you know, I like Midnight Oil. My first album was Pour Some Sugar On Me, Def Leppard.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, thank you. Well, I think we’re going to have some extra fun here talking about meetings and so meetings are often such a huge pain point for professionals. So, I’d love it if we could maybe you could start us off by orienting us to kind of the state of meetings today. Like, any hard numbers you have in terms of how much time professional spend in meetings, what proportion of those meetings are effective, how do you even define effective. Kind of where do we stand today?

J. Elise Keith
Yadda, yadda, stats, stats, right? So, in terms of the overall situation with meetings, our most recent and best research shows that there are somewhere north of 65 million meetings per day in the US alone. And a lot of us are not working just in the US, it’s an international economy now so that’s millions and millions and millions of meetings every single day.

Now, it’s a huge number so that’s not necessarily relevant to each of us personally, which brings you to the second question, right, like, “How much time are individuals spending in meetings?” And that’s kind of all over the map depending on where you are in the organization and what0 kind of organization you’re in. It can be somewhere as low as like, say, half an hour or less for some people.

But when you get farther up the chain, when you get into middle management, or C-suite, or VP suites in collaborative organizations, that’s going to be typically somewhere between 60% and 80% of their day they’re going to spend in meetings. It’s a ton of time. It’s a ton of money that we invest in these.

Pete Mockaitis
Right, because every one of those hours has dollars associated with it. All right. So, that’s kind of the time load. And how often are the meetings working? How do we even define working from a numerical perspective?

J. Elise Keith
That’s a really good question, right, because a lot of times the way that, there’s a fair amount of research into whether meetings are effective. And often the way that research is done is people would throw out a survey, lets a Survey Monkey surveys, which are like, “Think of your last five meetings and estimate which percentage of them were effective.” And there you get a number where people who say, “Half of them were effective.”

But when you dig into that research a little bit deeper, you do some actual investigation with the companies and people, talking about the specific meetings they’ve attended, “So, how was your last meeting? Would you rather have that been a giant series of email?” that kind of thing, what you find is that the equation flips. And it turns that folks, by and large, think meetings work a lot better than the alternatives.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, that’s good to know. That’s good news.

J. Elise Keith
The thing about effectiveness is that what is that word even mean, right? And that’s where you get into sort of the more interesting tactics and tools because for a meeting to be effective, you have to be asking yourself, “Well, what is it effective at? Can you use that effectively to do?” And in that case, you’ve got to look at both, “Are the people in the room enjoying it? Do they feel it’s a good use of time? And then, is it producing results for your business?” So, those are the two angles on effectiveness that you can pull together, and then you can start to see, “Okay, now, regardless of what the big stats say, what’s happening in my world here?”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Certainly. And so then, I’d love to get your take then, so what do some of the best in class versus worst in class organizations look like with regard to meeting performance on these dimensions?

J. Elise Keith
So, it’s often easier to start with the worst because that’s probably where a lot of people are. Meeting performance isn’t something that most organizations have taken seriously. And so, what they do is they wing it. Essentially, you leave it to each and every manager and project manager and leader and whatnot to figure out how to meet as they think best for what they’re trying to do.

And that kind of approach sort of assumes that, “You know, everybody’s been in a lot of meetings. They ought to know what they’re doing. Let’s get them in a room. Off they go.” So, that’s what most people are doing and it’s deeply, sadly ineffective most of the time.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And in what ways?

J. Elise Keith
Well, it turns out that meetings are different than conversations, right? And meetings are a skilled activity that you can learn how to run and then design to achieve specific goals. So, there really isn’t any such thing as a generic good meeting. There are really good sales calls, there are really good interviews, there are really good ways to keep a project moving, and each one of those is a different kind of meeting that should be designed to achieve that goal.

So, in the best organizations they do that. They get training for everybody and they design systems. So, they take their meetings and they stop them being habits and they turn them into systems that are designed to achieve the goals that they support.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, now you lay out 16 types of meetings that work and you’ve mentioned a couple there. I guess I’m curious to hear what types of meetings don’t work?

J. Elise Keith
So, the types of meetings that don’t work are the ones that are basically, you know, kitchen soup. Do you ever do that? Do you ever do like a kitchen-sink soup or a casserole where you’ve got a pot and you just kind of throw everything that you own in there before it goes bad, and that’s the soup you’ve got? Which sometimes works great but most of the time it doesn’t.

So, that’s what a lot of folks are doing with their meetings, “I’ve got a time block on Tuesday. We always meet on Tuesday. My whole team shows up and we decide, ‘Hey, what is it we have to talk about today?’”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, there it goes. So, it’s kind of like I’m hearing some telltale signs there. One, it’s recurring and, two, there’s not a plan in advance and, three, there’s multiple people as opposed to like the one-on-one. So, there are some ingredients, I guess, that may have a higher risk perhaps of not working out optimally in the course of having that meeting. So, everything is just sort of like, “All right. Here we all are now. So…” as opposed to a proactive, thoughtful, upfront design of, “What are we hoping to achieve?” and kind of planning from there.

J. Elise Keith
Yeah. So, it’s really about clarity of purpose, right, and what you’re trying to accomplish in the room. And if you walk into the room and you’re not entirely sure what you’re trying to accomplish or why everybody needs to be there, so you’ve invited all of the people because you’re not entirely sure who should be in and who should be out, then you’re likely to waste your time.

And, certainly, even if you do know what you need to accomplish, there are some things that just psychologically we’re not designed to do at the same time. So, let’s take, can we do a couple of examples?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yes.

J. Elise Keith
So, the project status update. It’s a meeting most people loathe, right, but it’s designed to make sure that everybody working on the project knows what’s happening, gets an update about anything that’s changed that they need to know about, and has a chance to raise any concerns, like, “Hey, here’s a red flag. We need to work on this.”

But the underlying psychological thing going on there is you’ve all agreed to do something together and you’re going to make sure that you continue to trust each other and execute on that so that you can keep the work going. You’re doing momentum and energy and trust, right?

In a meeting like that, when we have already made promises in the past and we’re showing up to recommit to those promises and show that we’re good for them, it’s not a great moment to say, do something like, “You know what, let’s just go crazy and think of some wild ideas about what we might do now,” right? Or, “Hey, here’s a great problem. Why don’t we explore all of the different kinds of creative out-of-the-box thinking on how we might tackle this problem?”

The whole point of the project status meeting is to say, “Yes, we’ve defined a box and we’re in that box and we’re moving this box down the road.” When you ask people to step out of the box, right in the middle of that, you’re having them break from one mode of interaction to a completely different mode and you get the worst possible ideas ever because everything people raise is safe, right? And you don’t want safe when you’re doing brainstorming. You don’t want safe when you’re doing problem-solving. You want innovative, you want effective, so you got to break those conversations into distinct conversations.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Certainly. So, you’ve got a clear purpose and a design, and that’s what you’re running with, and you’re not kind of mixing and matching in there. Understood. And so, I’m curious, with the project status update meeting, let’s talk with that example, so people often don’t like it. And so, what are some of the other things that they’re going wrong? Sometimes folks are sort of wildly go off script and enter a different phase. And what are some of the things that are going that also can go awry or indicative of, “Hey, this project status meeting is great”?

J. Elise Keith
So, what you’re looking for in terms of signifiers of great are energy, right? You’re looking for energy, you’re looking for some amount of dynamic, and in the case of a status meeting, which is probably one of the worst meetings to be using as our example, but in the case of that meeting, that energy and that dynamic might come from just keeping it really crisp and short and being very, very respectful of everybody’s time.

But in every case, one of the things that keeps these meetings from being particularly successful is that whoever is in charge of that meeting is probably frantic, they’re probably running from one thing to another with very little time to prepare, and they walk into the room believing that it’s their job to make that a fabulous experience, or an effective experience, or an efficient experience, or whatever it is that they believe for everyone else, and they do all the talking, and they set the agenda. And then they basically demand reports from everyone else. Well, that’s deadly.

It’s like you’ve shown up to the soccer match and you’ve got a sense of what it means to win the game so you get your team together and then you run the ball up and down and tell them what you’re doing. You don’t have anybody else participating, you don’t have everybody else bringing something to the field and helping you get that goal together. So, the best meetings are ones where everybody has got a job to do in that room, and they’re team sports. It’s not the leader’s show.

Pete Mockaitis
So, that’s a good thing to talk about right there. So, if there are folks in the meeting who say nothing, does that suggest that perhaps they ought not to be in the meeting?

J. Elise Keith
It either suggests that they shouldn’t be in the room because meetings are not a spectator sport, right? Or, they need some training, they need some education. So, they need education and the person in charge needs education because if you have people who are in that room who should be contributing and they are not, that’s broken. We don’t hire and have people work on our team so that they can absorb oxygen in the space. They’re there to contribute their perspectives and their ideas and the information they have that we don’t that helps us collectively get to a better result.

Pete Mockaitis
And would your view then be if they are just sort of receiving information that we should use a different format to convey the information?

J. Elise Keith
Absolutely. Absolutely. Now, sometimes that’s not practical, right? Like, sometimes you just can’t count on everybody to have done their homework in advance, so there are practices that companies put in place to help with that. Like, there are ways to get around that that are respectful of the fact that people don’t necessarily have time to proactively prepare. And yet you still don’t want to lead to them like they were in kindergarten because that’s disengaging and a little insulting, frankly.

So, one of the really famous ones is Amazon, in their corporate headquarters. They begin all of their meetings with 10 minutes of silent reading where whatever it is that they’re going to discuss, “Is it a proposal or the financial reports, or whatever it is?” it’s distributed in paper and everybody at the table has 10 minutes to read it through right there.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. You know, I really like that maybe because, you’re right, as opposed to people just trying to fake it and not look dumb and sort of say expansive things, it’s like, “No, just do this right now.”

J. Elise Keith
Let’s just do it, yeah. And it’s also kind of a wonderful way to acknowledge that, like, you need people to come prepared but you don’t control their calendar outside of that meeting, right? So, that prep work is part of the work of the meeting, why not just build that time into the meeting itself?

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. And especially if it’s 10 minutes, because that’s something that can be handy in the sense of you’ve maybe looked a lot of those bits and pieces over time, and, “Oh, here it is collected,” and you’re kind of up-to-speed or on the same page and we’re moving. I’ve actually had a couple of guests before, they’ll ask me, “So, tell me about your audience.” And I’m thinking, “Okay, this means you didn’t read all the things I sent you.”

J. Elise Keith
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
And I was like, “Well, hey, how about this? Let me send you this link and we can just sort of read that quietly for a moment and I’m going to go sort of get a glass of water, and we’ll reconnect?” So, I try to do that as respectfully as possible.

J. Elise Keith
But it’s maddening, right, because you only have so much time.

J. Elise Keith
So, you asked me earlier about both an icebreaker and then about meeting research, right? Like, the stats behind meetings. But when you dig into meetings and you see that what’s going on there is you’re bringing together a complex group of people to talk about work, which, in and of itself, is probably pretty complex too. So, it’s this really dynamic system of things going on, all kinds of things that can go wrong.

So, one of the reasons the icebreaker is such a great tool and why Amazon’s 10 minutes of silent reading is also a great tool is that the first tip to every successful meeting is to help people transition into the room because we’re all – and this is coming out of like the neuroscience and the social psychology research. We’re all dealing with up to like six different levels of distraction in our brain when we walk into that room.

So, our first job is to clear all of that and there’s a technique called clearing that explicitly does that, but you can do it a whole bunch of different ways, and get everybody focused on whatever is going on in that room and not the email they need to still write, or the fact that their kids might call, or their hungry stomachs, or any of those other things. How do you get people into the room? That is the absolute first tip to any successful meeting. And silent reading is one way to do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I love it. So, what are some of the other alternatives and clearing approaches?

J. Elise Keith
Yeah, so clearing approach, and actually several companies use this, is it’s explicit, it is you walk in and everybody takes a moment to say, “Hey, today I’m dealing with this, I’m feeling this way, but I’m ready to put that aside and I’m in.” And everybody else says, “Welcome.”

Pete Mockaitis
In other words, “I’m in.”

J. Elise Keith
Yeah, I’m in. And so, you go around the room and everybody says, “This is what’s going on for me but I’m ready and I’m in.”

Pete Mockaitis
And so, I imagine that could go quickly or not so quickly. Are there some guidelines there?

J. Elise Keith
You know, that’s really up to the team and the culture. So, in some teams they go real fast and they keep it fast and many people pass, right, because their values are about efficiency. In other teams, their values are about community. And this is another tip with meetings. Your meetings are absolutely the best place to design in the values you want to see your culture support and engage, right?

So, at lululemon, they do the clearing, and then they follow the clearing by the vibrations. And that practice is where they go around and they say, “Hey, is there anything you’re hearing that you think we should know about?” And a vibration might be like a rumor that’s going around the office, or something somebody saw in the news, or the weather, or it could be any of these things, whether just like, “Hey, we think the group ought to know about this.” And what they do in their teams is sometimes what comes up in clearing or in the vibrations is a big deal, and that’s what they talk about. And they take the rest of their agenda and they move it to another day.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. And that is really handy because I think a lot of times there’s great information that just never has an opportunity to surface, and it’s like, “Oh, someone else launched a competitive yoga pant on Kickstarter that everyone is raving about.” It’s like, “Oh, I had no idea.”

J. Elise Keith
Right. Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
“That’s so cool and we have a moment for you to share that with us because that could change all kinds of things and maybe we wouldn’t have noticed this for another five months until maybe it’s a lot later for us to respond effectively.”

J. Elise Keith
Yeah. Well, it’s a huge deal. Like, I don’t know if you’ve seen any of the research that Amy Edmondson has done into psychological safety. It’s this bit where we feel like we’re in a group that cares enough about us that it’s safe to take risks. We can tell them things that may or may not fit the dominant narrative, right?

And one of the things that she points out when she explains this to people is that, you know, half of the time, people are afraid to speak out not because they have evidence that something bad would happen, right? There are people who are afraid to speak out in environments where “nobody ever gets fired,” right? So, nothing bad would happen to them, but just nobody does it, they’re not really sure.

So, one of the really important things we can do in our meetings is ask, just make time and space to ask the questions about what people are seeing and what ideas they have so that they know that those are welcome.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Well, so I’m digging this. So, we said, hey, once you’re actually in the meeting, first step, transition into the room, could be some silent reading, could be some clearing, asking about the vibrations, what’s going on.
J. Elise Keith
Could be an icebreaker, all the things, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have a second step?

J. Elise Keith
So, then you need to connect with the goals and the purpose of the meeting, So, purpose is a verb, “We’re here to do this, to make a decision, to have a podcast interview,” whatever our purpose is. And then, at the end, “We’re about to achieve this.” So, those are your desired outcomes, “We’re going to have a decision, a list of next steps, and extra pizza,” whatever those outcomes are.

So, you kind of affirm that upfront and then confirm what your plan is for getting from, “Okay, we’ve gathered for this reason, for this purpose. We’re trying to get out with those outcomes. Here’s the plan for getting between point A to point B.” And most times people express that as an agenda. You don’t necessarily need an agenda but you do need a plan.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And you’re saying earlier that it’s best to perhaps not be the sole person who has that all figured out.

J. Elise Keith
Right. So, as the person in charge, there are multiple roles that you can bring to bear in a meeting. There’s the titular head of whatever that piece of work is, the leader, but you can have other people facilitate. And a facilitator’s job is to design that process part and then be the guardians of that process. You can have people assigned to take notes, you can have people assigned to be the vibes watchers, or the norms enforcers where they’re keeping track of everybody else, all kinds of different ways in which you can get other people involved in making that successful.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, that’s handy. And then what’s the third step?

J. Elise Keith
So, then the final thing you have to do for any meeting to be effective is you have to wrap it up, and that’s five minutes, maybe more, maybe less. At the end of every meeting where you stop and explicitly say, “Okay, let’s make sure we actually know what we did here, what decisions did we make, and what are our actions that we’re going to take away,” Like, who, what, when. “Specifically, this is going to be done by this date by this person.”

And, ideally, you want to do those in writing where everybody can be looking at them and committing that that is, in fact, what they thought the decision was because, way too often, people walk out the room all thinking they made the same decision but five minutes later you’re in another meeting, you’ve completely forgotten, it gets fuzzy. So, you want that in writing and you want to confirm it before you leave.

Pete Mockaitis
So, we’re talking about some form of like projection is present, or we’re visually looking at this wrap-up piece.

J. Elise Keith
Absolutely, yeah. And there are a bunch of ways to do that, there’s a lot of different software platforms you can use that are about taking collaborative notes on meetings in real time. You can do it on a whiteboard. There are a lot of different ways you can do it but you want people to be able to explicitly see that. And by having it be written, not only are you making it easier to get the notes out afterwards, which is a bonus, you’re engaging multiple parts of the brain, right?

We process information differently when we read it versus when we hear it versus when we speak it. So, you put all these things together and, from a geeky perspective, you’re encoding these promises deeper into your team, and that’s critical. And then, the last, last thing I think you should always do before you leave any meeting is to say thank you. Take a moment and express some appreciation.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And so, just say it like with their time for investing themselves, for thinking, for contributing, for not blowing it off. I guess there’s a lot of things in there.

J. Elise Keith
For something fabulous someone did. You can have people thank each other, “I really appreciate Sandy because she brought up that point and I wouldn’t have known about that Kickstarter yoga pants. She has saved our bacon,” right? The appreciation not only show people that you care and respect their time. It’s also a fabulous way to help everybody learn what the group values by being very explicit about what you’re acknowledging.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so in between the second step of connecting with purpose and the third step of the wrap-up, are there some particular practices that ensure that the actual conversations we’re having are effective, that they’re bringing us to where we want to go during the course of the meeting?

J. Elise Keith
Absolutely. There absolutely are. And the challenge is that they’re different depending on the type of meeting you’re in.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Gotcha.

J. Elise Keith
Yeah, which is why when you get into an organization that’s got really, really high meeting performance maturity. Basically, in our research, when we look out across the board, we found a number of practices that organizations establish as they’re putting their system in place from very basic, “We don’t have a system,” to, “We have this system that’s really locked and solid and really helping us drive our business forward.”

And one of those, as you get in there, is that as we’re talking about this, right, there’s the purpose and the outcomes and the different types of meetings and special ways you have to run each one. Well, that’s an awful lot of stuff to learn and have to try and apply in around the rest of what you’re doing. So, what these organizations do is they have standardized ways they do each of the different types of meetings that matter to their business that people are expected to learn, and then iterate and adopt and work with, but they’re not starting from scratch.

So, when you go to Amazon, you don’t just get to just guess how you’re going to start your meeting, right? They have their 10-minute thing. And when you go to an organization that’s practicing open-book management, you don’t guess how you’re going to run your weekly leadership meeting, “It works like this,” and you review the books. So, they have codified practices that shortcut the learning for all of those different things.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, could you maybe give us an example of a meeting type and some practices that are overlooked but make all the difference in the world when you’re having that meeting type?

J. Elise Keith
I think there are a whole series of meetings, we call that the cadence meetings. They’re the meetings about keeping momentum going on a project or keeping the team together where they can build trust, right? And a lot of the practices that are key in those meetings has to do with who speaks, who’s setting the tone, and how rapidly, how frequently you’re doing it.

So, let’s take a look at one-on-ones for example. So, the traditional approach in many companies is that managers know they better have one-on-ones so they schedule them once a month, maybe once every 90 days, something, because they know they have to, and they have the employees come in, and they say, “Okay, let’s look at your  30-, 60-, 90-day goals,” and the employee sort of reports on what they’re doing and they all check the boxes and off they go.

Well, Cisco just did a big study with 15,000 teams on how to run effective one-on-ones. And what they found was very, very specific and it was this. First of all, you’ve got to flip it. So, the manager doesn’t go in and ask the employee to report to them. Instead, the employee says, “Hey, here are my priorities and here’s where I need your help.” So, the employee is driving the agenda, and they used those two questions, that’s the way they start it.

And the second key thing they found is that it has to be at least every week because, otherwise, they’re talking about work that isn’t related to what they’re actually doing on a detailed basis. And the idea that the manager could possibly care about what you’re working on when they only check in on how they can help every 90 days, nobody buys it. So, once a week, employee-driven, and engagement on those teams goes up pretty dramatically.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Understood. So, that’s striking. So, that’s what Cisco does, and then one-on-ones every week with every direct report, that could really add up.

J. Elise Keith
Well, so that’s where they’re looking at team sizes. So, one of the questions people get asked all the time is, “How big can your team be?” And the boundary of the size of a team that you can lead is your capacity for those touchpoints, like, “How many people can you dedicate time to showing them that you care and helping them out every week?” That’s the number of people that you can lead.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Understood. Well, so I guess I’d love to hear then, you talked about norms at one point. What are some of the norms that tend to be helpful across all meeting types?

J. Elise Keith
I think it’s really awesome when a company or an organization finds norms that are meaningful to them and their values, right? So, in some organizations that’s going to be things like every voice is heard, everyone speaks before you speak twice because diversity inclusion and voice is really important to them.

In other organizations, it’s going to be things like, “We start and end on time and the agenda sent out two days in advance,” because efficiency is really their thing. In some groups, something like Chatham House Rules, or Vegas Rules matters a lot, right? Like, what happens in the room stays in the room. My favorite that applies to all meeting types and that I think applies in every organization is a norm around having every meeting be optional.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so nice.

J. Elise Keith
Well, if you think about it, they already are, right? You’re a grownup, you don’t have to go to any meeting. But when you make it explicit, you’re saying that opting out of meetings won’t have “Hey, you’re fired” consequences.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. And I actually want to talk about opting out of meetings. I think that it’s a common occurrence that folks, when they are inviting people to a meeting, they don’t want to be rude, and so they want to include folks, and so there’s a miscommunication that happens often. So, someone invites someone to a meeting, and the recipient thinks, “Oh, they expect me there so I’m going to show up,” and then they think, “Why did I even come here?” So, do you have any preferred scripts or verbiage or master ways to diplomatically decline the meeting?

J. Elise Keith
Well, first of all, you need to know that you deserve to have your time respected. So, it is both respectful for you and for the people doing the inviting to speak up when you think that you can’t contribute well to that room because every person sitting in a meeting that isn’t contributing is dragging down the energy and the potential for everyone else there. So, you are doing a service if you opt out of a meeting that you shouldn’t be in.

And the way that we approach that is we just say, “Hey, I actually am working on some other things that day. I don’t have much to contribute here. I’d be happy to send in any information you need in advance and will look forward to seeing the notes afterwards.” And you just opt out.

Pete Mockaitis
There you have it. I’d also want to get your take on what are some of the best means of accomplishing some meeting goals that are not meetings?

J. Elise Keith
Oh. Well, let’s take brainstorming. Brainstorming is something that we often pull a lot of people into a room for, and we say, “Hey, we’re going to come up with a whole bunch of new ideas for next week’s marketing campaign,” or whatever it’s going to be, tends not to be the most effective way to do it. That’s something that is really well-handled asynchronously, which means you post up the question and you ask everybody to contribute their ideas in advance.

And there are a lot of technologies you can use to do that. And, frankly, you can also have a box in the office where people throw in sticky notes. So, brainstorming, getting that first blush of original ideas out, much better handled outside of the meeting most of the time than it is in. Same thing for anything where they’re digesting large pieces of information, so reading reports, coming up with strategies.

One of the tactics we recommend and that we use ourselves quite a lot is we’ll have a meeting to make sure we all understand a problem. We’ll get together and we’ll say, “Okay. Well, what’s going on here? And what are our options?” and start to get our heads around it. And then we’ll schedule a follow-up meeting within a week to talk about what to do about it so that that time in between where we’re processing it has some bake time.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Well, Elise, I’m curious, are there any sort of final thoughts you have with regard to meetings or overlooked master strategies or tactics that could make a world of difference?

J. Elise Keith
You know, I think the real key is to understand that every meeting that you walk into is an opportunity. That’s the place where your culture becomes real, where the team understands what everyone cares about, and the value that you can bring. It’s the place where you get an opportunity to provide and show care for the people around you, and where you get to be a part of making the decisions that make your business or your organization really successful.

So, once you shift to that mindset and you look at meetings as the opportunity that they are, then you can start to be in a place where you can learn about the different types and the skills that make it so that you can take advantage of that opportunity.

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

J. Elise Keith
So, I have two. I’m not a huge fan of favorites and to key to just one thing because there are so many wonderful things out there. But there are a couple that I put together that work for me, and one is, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” which is from Mary Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day.” I love that.

Like, what is your plan for your one wild and precious life? And then when I look at it from a business perspective and from a personal performance perspective, I pair it with another quote, which is, “Discipline is simply remembering what you really want.”

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

J. Elise Keith
My favorite book, holy moly. How about “Time and the Art of Living” by Robert Grudin?

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. And a favorite tool?

J. Elise Keith
You know, time blocking and scratch paper.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

J. Elise Keith
A favorite habit, hmm. You know, listening to audiobooks while cooking large batches of food.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. And is there a particular nugget you share that you’re known, people quote it back to you and re-tweet it often?

J. Elise Keith
The one that gets re-tweeted the most, beyond the basic stats and things, is that, “You can’t have a meeting of the minds if the minds aren’t in the meeting.”

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

J. Elise Keith
They can visit us on my company’s website which is LucidMeetings.com and on my personal website which is JEliseKeith.com depending on what you’re looking for.

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

J. Elise Keith
You know, we’ve kind of covered it but my challenge to you is this. Every meeting is an opportunity. Seize it. Your challenge is to shed any negative beliefs you’ve got about your meetings and step into those opportunities.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, Elise, thank you for this meeting, and I wish you all the best with all you’re doing in meetings.

J. Elise Keith
Hey, thank you so much.

421: Why Great Leaders Have No Rules with Kevin Kruse

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Kevin Kruse says: "If we think our boss cares about us as individuals as opposed to cogs in a machine, our engagement goes way up."

Author Kevin Kruse offers wise–yet contrarian–pointers  for leaders.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Arguments for closing your Open Door policy
  2. Why to set guardrails instead of rules
  3. How to be likeable without striving for being liked

About Kevin

Kevin Kruse is Founder+CEO of LEADx, the first and only AI-powered executive coach and leadership success platform built with IBM Watson.

A successful entrepreneur, Kevin has won both “Inc 500” awards for fast growth and “Best Place to Work” awards for employee culture. He was previously the founder or co-founder of several companies with successful exits.

Kevin is also a Forbes contributor and a New York Times bestselling author of nine books including Employee Engagement 2.0, Employee Engagement for Everyone and We: How To Increase Performance and Profit Through Full Engagement.

Kevin’s next book, Great Leaders Have No Rules: Contr arian Leadership Principles to Transform Your Team and Business (Crown Publishing) will launch on April 2, 2019.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Kevin Kruse Interview Transcript

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

Kevin Kruse
Well, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to be awesome level, but I’m going to do my best and it’s an honor to meet you and finally here live.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thanks Kevin. Yeah, it’s funny, we were talking before I hit the record button, how we see each other’s logos and faces in all kinds of places and here we are talking live at last.

Kevin Kruse
I like that phrase you said. It could be a song, “logos and faces in all kinds of places.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah, it seems like it has to be country with a slow tempo. You do a lot of things at the opposite of a slow tempo in terms of founding companies and having great exits. I want to hear about your company Leadx, and in particular, you have the first and only AI—as in artificial intelligence robot style—powered executive coach. How does that work?

Kevin Kruse
Well, thanks for asking on that. My mission is to spark 100 million leaders in the next ten years. That’s a big number. Certainly I can reach some with a podcast, with a book, with speeches or those kinds of things, writing, but not that many.

When I saw what AI was able to do now, especially in the area of mental health and therapy and coaching, I said well, hey, leadership is about behavior change, changing thoughts and identity to change behaviors, let’s apply it.

For two years we’ve been training IBM Watson in all kinds of topics related to how to be a great boss, how to be a great manager, how to be a great leader. We call our coach Amanda. We released Coach Amanda in November of last year. Basically, you download the app on your Android device or smartphone or you log in and Coach Amanda will teach you about management fundamentals.

But she diagnoses your personality. She knows your personality. She’s teaching you management principles, leadership principles, but tailored to your personality. There’s sort of a new mode we just released. You can ask her questions like, “How do I handle an employee who smells badly?” or “Comes in late?” or “How do I communicate with a Myers Briggs INTJ?” You can ask her all kinds of questions.

Then the new mode, which is really cool, it’s like what a human coach does, is Coach Amanda will help you to pick a developmental goal and a deadline like 12 weeks from now. She’ll help you to create an action plan. Every week she’ll check in with you and she’ll buzz you on your phone or send you an email that says, “Hey Pete, your friendly reminder, your goal is,” I’m just making this up, “become a better public speaker by this date.”

Your next activity is watch some TED talks. Did you do it or not?” If you say you did, then she’s going to ask you to jot some lessons learned from that activity. If you say you didn’t, she’s going to ask you to jot some notes about what got in your way.

Pete Mockaitis
She scolds you.

Kevin Kruse
Yeah. Well, what got in the way of you getting to that.

Pete Mockaitis
Why have you been so naughty?

Kevin Kruse
That’s right. That’s right. Shut the power off on the spaceship if you don’t behave. That goes in a coaching journal. She becomes your accountability partner, who also can give you resources. You’re all about action, things to do at work. She will give you every week a new activity to do at work to get better in your goal area.

Pete Mockaitis
That is so wild. I guess I wonder about these things in terms of just how wide a breadth of questions can I ask because I know like Siri there’s some things she can nail, like “Hey, Siri, wake me up at 6 AM.” She’s all over it. But other questions are a little trickier for Siri. If I were to ask Amanda something like boy, let’s see, “How do I-“ okay, let’s just say, “Amanda, I’m trying to figure out which business initiatives should be my top priority right now.” Could she handle that? What happens?

Kevin Kruse
No, she can’t, is the short question. But you’re raising a really important issue with all these devices and these chat bots. The best chat bots out there, Siri, Alexa, Google Home, they’re at an 85% accuracy level. Out of everything that they get asked in any given day, they can get about 85% of that. That’s where it’s sort of maxed out for now.

Now for Coach Amanda, when we first released her two years ago she could get 11%. Then all the wrong answers, you feed it back in. She gets smarter. She was then at 44%. Right now she’s at about 65%. We think that we’ll get to 85% by the end of the year. You need, in general, about 10,000 unique questions for the bot to then kind of know 85% or better. But the thing is, it’s in a given area.

If we saw that you had asked that question of Coach Amanda, we would say, “Okay, she’s teaching people to be better leaders. Is this a leadership question?” We might say, “Eh, evaluating what business to do isn’t our definition of management leadership and she’s just going to say ‘I don’t know. Would you like to hear what kind of things I know about?’”

We talk about training AI to understand humans, the other half is to train humans how to speak to the AI. I’ve got an Alexa device. I noticed a while ago, a few weeks back, the ring was glowing orange. I didn’t know what that was at the time. I said, “Hey Alexa, why are you glowing orange?” She’s like, “I can’t help you with that.” “What does the orange light mean?” “I can’t help you with that.”

I had to Google it and it said “Oh, that’s when you have a notification from Alexa.” Then I said, “Hey, play me my notifications,” and it told me like, “Oh, UPS is going to deliver a package today.” You think it would know this. If I say, “Alexa, play me my messages. Play me my alerts. Why are you orange? Do I have a package?” She cannot answer any of these very similar things.

Alexa trained me. Now when she’s orange, I say “Play my notifications,” and then I’ll get it. But it took me a couple of days before I got that.

That’s with Coach Amanda, most people just don’t wake up and say, “I’ve got a question about management today,” but if you’re a manager at a company that’s used let’s say the DISC personality survey. It’s kind of a popular personality survey. You know everybody’s done that and you know that your boss is high in D, which is dominance or driver.

You would then know that you could ask Coach Amanda before your next meeting like, “Hey, how do I persuade someone who’s high in D,” and then Coach Amanda would answer it. But you wouldn’t just naturally think of that kind of question on your own. It’s sort of a two-way learning.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Okay. Thank you. My curiosity is satisfied. Now I’m curious about your book, Great Leaders Have No Rules. What’s the big idea here?

Kevin Kruse
Well, the big idea is that most of the conventional wisdom around management is wrong. I’ve now had 30 years of being a serial entrepreneur. I crashed and burned my first company because I had no concept of leadership. Then my next couple of companies, they did okay, but it’s because I had outdated ideas of leadership. Better than no ideas, but they were outdated.

It was only when I really rejected the conventional wisdom, thought about how to make things work better from a management leadership perspective for the modern world, that’s when the last couple of companies have really taken off and done well.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. Well, so could you give us an example of an outdated rule or principle or approach to management that is still a common practice that ought to be rejected?

Kevin Kruse
Yeah. Well, let me do the one – it’s the first chapter, which is close your open door policy. Most people – I made that as chapter number one because most people have heard that idea of having an open door policy. Of course, this day and age, Pete, we don’t all have physical doors.

It might be we’re in that open office environment, someone taps us on the shoulder to ask a question or even working alone, but someone messages us on Slack and kind of – it’s some digital form of “Got a minute.” It’s never just a minute.

Now, of course with all these management things, they come from a good place. The idea of the open door policy is it facilitates communication, it’s fast problem solving, it’s a flat organization, everybody can leapfrog each other’s bosses and go right to the top. All sounds good. But in this modern day world, there’s a lot of problems.

First problem, of course, is as the manager who’s’ getting interrupted all day, it’s almost impossible for us to do deep work, to do focused work, to think strategically. But Marshall Goldsmith writes about, it’s also a problem for the person coming through the door for a couple of reasons.

Because if someone’s coming in with unscheduled meetings all day, you’ve got to ask yourself did you hire the wrong person, did you not train them well, or do you have a culture that is not supportive – it’s not a culture of psychological safety. Are they so scared to make a decision, to solve a problem on their own, that they’ve got to run everything by you? Maybe you’ve got a delegation problem or a perfectionism problem. It’s a sign that maybe things aren’t well from their standpoint.

I put a lot of comments from readers in the book. As one person pointed out, they’re like, “I don’t want to talk to my boss if I’m interrupting her and it’s a bad time and she’s stressed out or whatever. I’d rather it be, ‘Hey, let’s schedule 15 minutes or 30 minutes. Here’s the topic, so you know in advance what it’s about.’”

I don’t say close your door completely. The idea is – I say, “Close your door, open your calendar,” meaning set office hours. To each their own. For some people it might be like, “Hey, in the morning if my door’s closed, that’s my deep focused work time. I invite you to focus on your work as well. But in the afternoon if my door is open or not, just tap and come on in because my office hours will be in the afternoon.”

Or maybe it’s, “Hey, Monday and Friday are open door policy days and in the middle of the week it’s all about making stuff. We’re not going to do the open door.” You can figure it out, but the idea is hm, if it’s getting abused, there’s something wrong going on, so how can you set some ground rules and then support your team members in a way where they don’t have to come through as often?

Pete Mockaitis
I’m digging that a lot. When you talked about making stuff versus managing, I think that came from the lean startup world somewhere, the makers’ versus mangers’ schedule. It’s really resonated with me in terms of there are some days where that’s all I need to do is I need to coordinate with a bunch of different people and a bunch of different little things and make sure everyone is equipped, empowered, informed, guided, raring to go and rock and roll.

There are other days where I need to enter deep isolation and creatively give birth to things.

Kevin Kruse
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
And having one-, two-, three-minute interruptions just disrupts everything in terms of I was having a brilliant idea, or it felt brilliant at least, and I was in the throes of writing it up and now where did it go? I don’t even know anymore because I replied to a message along the way.

Kevin Kruse
Yeah, that’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s intriguing. You say that you are making some boundaries, if you will, associated with “Hey, these times are open office hours. These times are not so much.” That almost sounds like a rule. You say great leaders have no rules, how are you thinking about the term ‘rule’ here?

Kevin Kruse
Let me say, the time where rules make sense is if it’s a law. Your company has to have a rule that follows the law or if it’s a safety issue. You don’t want people working on railroad tracks wearing headphones or something like that. If you’re really horrible at hiring, if you’ve hired a bunch of knuckleheads, rules might contain them a little bit.

But the problem with rules that aren’t the kind of required rules is that every time I bump into a rule, it takes away the chance for me to make a decision, for me to make a choice. When that happens, it becomes more your company than my company. Rules get in the way of conversation, rules get in the way of contemplation, and they disengage workers.

Pete, I’ll tell you, I stumbled on this 20 years ago. It’s a story I tell in the book, where I had sold my company. I was 30 years old and as part of the deal they acquired my company. I was going to become a partner, vice president, report to the CEO. He gave me a big speech about he’s not my boss. We’re just partners. We’re going to build the dream together. Each one vote. All this stuff.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m inspired.

Kevin Kruse
Inspired and feel good. I’m engaged. It feels like my company. Then 30 days in, I had sent my first expense report in. The check comes back. I happen to notice that it’s short like four dollars. It’s not a lot of money, but I thought maybe I filled it out wrong or something.

I emailed our CFO, “Hey Don, it’s not a big deal, but did I fill out the form wrong?” He says, “No, we don’t reimburse for Post-it notes.” I emailed back, “Why?” He emailed back, “Wasteful expense.”

A buddy of mine, who had come into the company the same way, vice president, partner, all this stuff, he told me that he was shorted three dollars because while he was traveling on business he had ordered a beer with dinner and they don’t reimburse for beer. They said, “Look, you could have ordered a six-dollar milkshake and we would have paid for it, but we won’t pay for a three-dollar beer.”

This became what was known as the Post-it note wars. You could imagine I was feeling so good and then 30 days in when I’m told I’m not allowed – the rule is no purchases of Post-it notes. That’s it. It was like, “Wasteful expense.” Black and white. It’s a rule. How engaged did I feel? Did it feel like my company or their company? Did I feel like a VP or did I feel like someone with no power at all?

Then here’s the funny thing about it though, Pete. The second half of the story is I went and fought with the CEO. He said, “Kevin,” he said, “I had no idea that this was bothering people.” He said, “I don’t care about Post-it notes. All right, that rule is overturned. You win. Everybody can go buy Post-it notes. But,” he said, “Let me explain.” He said, “I don’t care about Post-it notes. I care about being frugal.”

He said “One of our values,” and it was an official company value, “was growth and profits.” It wasn’t the mission to be profitable, but it was like the air you breathe. You need it to go chase your mission.

He said that he used to walk through the office and see that everyone was buying Post-it notes and they were doodling on them while they were on the phone or in a meeting. They were writing phone messages on them when they could have used any other kind of paper.

He shows me this stack of ripped up squares of paper. He said instead of Post-it notes, he uses all the scrap paper from the printer and stuff, rips it twice and now he’s got these squares on his desk that he uses. He says, “It’s a symbol.” He said, “The no Post-it notes is a symbol of frugality. It’s a reminder about the culture and the value of being frugal, that profits matter and we care about it.”

The funny thing is even though he overrode that rule, I never again bought Post-it notes. It’s because now we had a conversation. We had a relationship. I understood, okay, the value of the organization is frugality and profits. The acceptable norm is rip up little pieces of paper and use those. Don’t be wasteful with Post-it notes and other kinds of things.

It totally changed my view on it even though I then had permission to do it. I wanted to support our values. I wanted to represent our values. Now that I realized it was a symbol, I wanted to have little pieces of ripped up paper on my desk, so the team members would realize I’m being frugal. But none of that would have happened if it had just been the rule.

This is where I get in a lot of trouble, Pete. If people already think it’s crazy. I’ve had several companies over the last 30 years. We’ve never had a dress code. We’ve never had a vacation policy. The employee handbook is always a page and a half long of the required legal stuff.

You do get people making mistakes, the people that will travel and order eight beers instead of one. But, to me, that’s a time for some feedback. That’s a coachable moment. Sometimes you’ve got to coach people out of the organization.

But all of the sudden, you’re not having people bump into a rule and then feeling disempowered, disengaged. It’s, “Oh, I did something that’s out of line with the agreed upon principals, the agreed upon values of our family. I get it and I’m going to be more likely then to conform.”

I think this goes in all areas of our life. People have rules in their marriages that I hear about all the time. I don’t think we should have rules in marriage. Again, I’m saying a rule is like that black and white thing that’s been imposed on you rather than something you’ve thought about and are deciding to do based on values.

I don’t think we should have rules for our teenagers. Me and my sisters had curfews growing up and it was a disaster. It wrecked the family dynamic. I’ve got three teenagers. I’ve never had a curfew. I might just be lucky. They’re model kids and everything.

But it’s not that I’ve ignored the issue of what time you’re coming home, but instead of saying, “The rule is 11 PM,” and at 11:02 we’re now shouting at each other and they’re grounded, it’s more like, “Hey, when are you going to come home tonight?” They say, “Well, I’ve got this really big party and it’s kind of far away.”

I said, “Well, you know I love you so much. I am not going to be able to sleep until you’re home and I have to get up early to take your brother to his basketball game, so what time are we thinking?” It’s a whole other thing that builds relationships, builds culture, and increases compliance.

People can get around rules really easy, but if they’re bought in, they’re less likely to abuse it. Then whether they get home at 10:55 or 11:05, who cares?

Pete Mockaitis
That is interesting because right now it’s sort of like your teenager’s on your side. It’s like he is helping you and the family by getting home on time as opposed to – and maybe even a little early.

Kevin Kruse
Yes, right.

Pete Mockaitis
He’s helping you out even more because you’re able to get some sleep extra versus when it’s just a rule, it’s like, “Well, I’m going to try and get every last second out of it because I can and I don’t feel engaged or bought in or like I’m on the team.” That’s very intriguing how you say rules disengage workers because it deprives them of an opportunity to make a decision, to have some free agency.

It was so interesting as you were talking about the Post-it note story and I heard that, “Hey, frugality is a value here.” I guess my thought is when it comes to values is like, well, the value I find much more empoweringly resonant is that we have rock star employees and we give them the very best tools they need to do their work with excellence.

So by golly, Kevin, you get the most fantastic Post-it notes that you can conceive of if they make you feel 2% more creative, engaged, empowered, supported. I want you to have the world’s finest Post-it notes. That’s kind of what gets me more fired up in terms of value, but-

Kevin Kruse
You and I think alike. Right. Because a discussion, a really important one around value.

Pete Mockaitis
But at the same time, when you see that what it means, it’s like, “Oh, okay,” and you can support that, especially I suppose at a higher level of VP. You’re like, “Well, yeah, profit is important and yeah, waste is not cool, so I can get excited about that.”

Kevin Kruse
Not to go too deep just on that one chapter of having no rules, but here’s the thing. Instead of rules, think of guardrails because I’m sure if there’s any chief financial officers out there, they’re like, “Oh, everyone’s going to be wasting on their travel budget,” or whatever. Well, fine, but instead of having a rule that people are going to bump into and circumvent or do stupid things to try to comply with the rule, give guardrails.

It’s like, “Hey, when you’re traveling 100 bucks-ish a night on a hotel is going to be normal and fine. If you’re in a major city, that might be 200. If you’re in the Midwest in a rural town, maybe 60. But spend the money like it’s your own and I just gave you some milestones for not staying at the Ritz Carlton kind of a thing.” Guardrails are okay.

It’s like, okay, I’ve still got some of that – I like what you said – like some free agency, some decision making, some choice. Do I stay at this hotel or that hotel?

Because otherwise the other thing is people will do the wrong thing to stay in the rule. They’ll say, “Well, I can’t stay at the hotel that’s right next to the client office because it’s 10 dollars too much over the rule, so I’ll stay farther away to save the 10 dollars, but now I’ll spend 100 dollars on a rental car.”  They just ended up wasting the expense to stay inside your hotel rule.

Pete Mockaitis
And the time. It’s like if I’ve got to truck it out another 20 – 30 minutes each way-

Kevin Kruse
No matter what that rule is, that’s the thing. They can circumvent it on purpose or just do more harm by trying to stay in it. That’s why they’re so imperfect.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. Yeah, that’s nice. Replacing the rules with guardrails and a value. It’s so funny, I guess no one ever told me when I was an employee to spend the money like it was my own because I was super frugal. They would have benefited. But I was like, “Well, hey, I would never pay for a 280 dollar a night hotel if it were my money, but apparently none of you mind, so I’m going to do that.”

Kevin Kruse
That’s exactly right. As soon as you tell people they have a whatever it is, 50 dollar a day meal budget when they travel, all the expense reports come back at 49 dollars and 79 cents. Everybody is spending up to the rule because they think “Well, that’s like free money. That’s fine. Let’s get that second beer or let’s get the appetizer.” If you just say, “Hey, here’s kind of the normal spending patterns. Please spend our money as if it were your own,” you’ll save money that way.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Kevin Kruse
Absolutely. And move faster. I had Gary on my team just the other day. We’re doing software development. He’s like, “Hey, listen, I need like a backup Android phone to test the-“ I’m like, “Gary, just go buy it.” He’s like, “But I don’t know which phone to buy.” I’m like, “Spend the money as if it’s your own,” and boom conversation’s done. He’s empowered and we’re all good.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, awesome. Well, hey, while we’re on that note, so instead of issuing rules, you have a guiding principal there, spend the money as if it’s your own. That’s just a great sentence that can offer a lot of clarity and empowerment. You’ve got some more?

Kevin Kruse
I don’t know if I’ve got them as pithy as that. But the thing on the rules is kind of overreaching. That’s a big one, but that’s just one example of the many different kind of accepted management things. Here’s the rulebook. Here’s the employee handbook and all that. We talked about open door. It’s time to close the open door.

Another one that is resonating with a lot of people is this idea of being likeable but not liked. Now people don’t view that as normal management wisdom, but often we have this need as especially the younger managers, this was my big fault early on, is that we have this kind of need to be liked and so we’re the poplar boss, the nice boss, people like us.

It’s okay to like to be liked. It’s nice. It feels good to be liked. But if you have that need, that is going to get in the way of you making tough decisions, making tough decisions quickly, giving people feedback that they need to grow and prosper.

If I need Pete to like me and I’m your boss, it’s going to slow me down from giving you the hard feedback that will make you better. The reality is, Pete, you probably don’t need me as a friend; you need me as a leader. You need me as a coach.

This is one of those things where – and it’s the more current wisdom is like, “Hey, flat organizations and we’re all equal,” and all that kind of stuff. I used to tell people that. I would say, “Oh, I’m not your boss. I just have a different role on the team.” That sounds nice. Well, until I’ve got to either lay people off, give them tough feedback, promote someone out of the three people that are qualified. Well, now they know that I’m not just a friend and all the rest.

That’s just sort of another one that’s been resonating with people is don’t be a jerk. You want to be likeable. But don’t necessarily be liked. You want to not be attached to the outcome of whether you’re actually liked or not.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. I think that’s great. If you need to be liked, I think it’s great to make sure you’ve got some people outside of work who like you.

Kevin Kruse
Yeah, that’s right. That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
You’ve got that need being fulfilled successfully and you can do what you need to do inside there. Then when you say being likeable, you’re just sort of talking about just general friendly and respectful ways of being or do you have any particulars there?

Kevin Kruse
Well, yeah. It definitely starts with that. There’s no need to, again – I think I’ve got another chapter that talks about lead with love. The old school wisdom would be purposefully put up barriers between you and your team members. You don’t eat lunch with them. You don’t socialize with them. You don’t talk about your personal life because you must remain objective and you must remain fair. You don’t want your emotions interfering.

Well, that’s too much in the wrong direction. One of the biggest ways that people will feel engaged at work, so engagement is just how we feel – how committed we are to our organization and its goals. 70% of this engagement, how we feel about work, comes from who our boss is. Now if we think our boss cares about us as individuals as opposed to cogs in a machine, our engagement goes way up.

It’s okay to get close to your people. It’s okay for me to ask about your weekend, to know the names of your children and what they’re up to, to know that you’re training for a marathon or something, even to know when you’re struggling at home or you’ve got a parent who’s ill. You don’t want to put up these artificial barriers.

It can be down to these little things, where you’re walking through the hallway of your organization, are you going to keep your head up, make eye contact with everybody, smile and say good morning or are you going to keep your eyes down and hope nobody stops you because you really don’t care. You just want to get back to your desk and get some work done. It’s like be likeable, be sociable, don’t put up these artificial barriers.

Remember when I say lead with love, you don’t have to like someone to love them. That sounds a little weird and it’s weird to talk about loving your team members in this whole Me Too era. I’m not talking about inappropriate love or anything like that. I’m talking about this greater love and compassion for fellow man and woman. It’s about this higher level. The Greeks had a word for it called agape love. It’s like this universal love that you see in all of the major religions.

If I am going to serve my team members, if I’m going to lead my team members, even if I don’t like somebody, I can still hope for the best. I can still care about them. I can still realize if I had lived their life, maybe I would be just like them. That’s where it gets into it. Don’t be a jerk is a good starting point. Then actually connect and care with your people is how you really activate that.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m right with you there. Loving in terms of willing the good of the other as opposed to liking just like, “I enjoy your presence and want to hang out more because it’s fun.”

Kevin Kruse
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
Nice distinction there. I’d love to get your take when you talked about the manager leader walking around and holding their head up, I want to get your input on and a couple of guests have cited this Harvard Business Review study about how the majority of managers are uncomfortable talking with their colleagues for any reason. I just think that is so striking. What’s your take on what’s behind this?

Kevin Kruse
Well, I’m not familiar with that particular study, but similar ones I have come across. There’s a couple of things that are going on. Pete, just recently, last year or two with this AI coach that we’ve been working on, we’ve been going deep into personality theory. Personality is the number one driver of behavior and we’re talking about leadership behaviors.

The interesting thing is, especially in large organizations, managers are supposed to be focusing on results, business results, but also relationships. How do you attract and retain great talent? But that relationship part generally falls to the side. People are profits. People chase the profits. These managers get promoted for getting things done – things, tasks. The more task focused they are, the more they get promoted.

Once you get up to a certain level, you’re really good at the productivity stuff, at tasks, you’re not so good at the people stuff. I think that it doesn’t help when the traditional wisdom is that that is okay. That it’s like hey, don’t get close to your people. That’s where I think people start to get uncomfortable.

This day and age, we know that, again, trust drives engagement. What drives trust? Authenticity. If Pete comes out and says, “Hey, you know what team? Here’s what I’m really good at. Here’s where I’m not really good at. I’m going to tell you when I’ve got the answer. Ask me anything. If I don’t know, I’ll just tell you I don’t know and I’m going to go find out. By the way, here’s the three things I did wrong last year.”

Well, when we hear that from Pete, all of the sudden it’s like, “Oh wow, Pete’s like a relatable person and he’s not going to lie to us. He’s not lying to us. If I mess up, I can go to him and let him know. If I want to try something, it’s not like, ‘Oh, this experiment goes wrong and I’ve derailed my career.’ It’s ‘Oh, we were innovative. It didn’t work out. Now we’re going to try something else.’”

The old school was not taught – I had mentors tell me when I was in my 20s, “Kevin, leadership is acting. Kevin, wear your leadership mask when you arrive in the office.” People would talk about that. Thankfully I think that’s changing, but when you’ve been drilled into that and you’re task focused anyway, you’re not going to be too comfortable talking to people at work.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s powerful. Thank you. Well, Kevin, tell me, anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Kevin Kruse
No, again, you can hear in my voice and I can hear it in yours, Pete, I geek out on leadership. This is a leadership book, but to me, leadership is a superpower because leadership just means influence. When you learn to lead yourself, influence yourself, you can get to health, wealth, happiness. When you learn to lead, influence, your marriage, your children, you have a great family life. When you learn to lead, to influence at work, your career takes off.

That’s why I’m so geeked out about it. Thanks for the opportunity to really have some fun with some of these concepts.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure thing. Absolutely. Good times. Now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Kevin Kruse
Well I like “Life is about making an impact, not an income.”

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

Kevin Kruse
I don’t know if it’s a favorite, but one that stood out from one of my earlier books was this study they did at Princeton showing that taking notes by hand is far superior than writing them on a laptop keyboard or a smartphone. It’s called The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard. That’s the name of that study.

It’s because when we can type, then we tend to just be an automatic recorder of the word of the sounds without processing it. When we have to write them, we have to think about what we’re hearing, quickly analyze it, shorten it, put it down and then it anchors it in our memory.

Pete Mockaitis
That makes a lot of sense. I always prefer to use typing for notes just because I can type so much faster than I can write with a pen, but that’s kind of the idea is because you can write slower, you must do some prioritization.

Kevin Kruse
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
And capture fewer words. That process is powerful. Okay. Thank you. That’s helpful. It’s all connecting for me over here. How about a favorite book?

Kevin Kruse
I’m a huge reader. I probably read more than 50 books a year. A classic favorite is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. It’s a great one. Well, since you’re reading so much, let’s ask. How about a favorite book or two released in the last five years?

Kevin Kruse
Yeah, Daring Greatly from Brene Brown really gets – again, you don’t think of it as a classic business or leadership book, but that helped me to understand issues related to self-worth, external validation, which gets you then to be more authentic. Very practical book from Kim Scott is Radical Candor on how to give feedback. Zero to One is an entrepreneur book about startups and positioning. Peter Thiel. Those are more recent ones.

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

Kevin Kruse
Yeah, I don’t have anything novel or unique. I’m a live for my calendar guy. I just use Google Calendar. Again, I like writing notes by hand. Sometimes I will then transfer them into Evernote. I use a Moleskine notebook or some kind of paper notebook. It’s just classic tools.

Pete Mockaitis
Now I’ve got to ask, when you are taking notes by hand and then get them into Evernote, are you just taking a photo or using a scanner? How do you make that happen smoothly?

Kevin Kruse
Yeah. They have, of course, tools now, including notebooks, where you write in the notebook and it automatically goes into Evernote. Then there’s ones where it’s special paper, you write on it, and then it scans and it does the OCR into Evernote. I don’t do anything that fancy.

What I tend to do is I write notes through – I fill up these books fast. A lot of it is not worthy of sending to Evernote. But if something is worthy of sending to Evernote, I’ll just snap it on my phone, upload it as a photo to Evernote and then I’ll just write a couple of words that I know will match if I’m looking to do a search. That’s just sort of a poor man’s version of getting it into Evernote.

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

Kevin Kruse
It’s great you ask everybody this question. This starts before I get to work, but every morning I start – I’m a big believer in having an attitude of gratitude. I always just try to think of three things that I’m grateful for. Every morning I try to think of something different. Just changes my mindset in an abundance mindset. It destresses me. Maximizes my world view going into work.

Then at work the first thing I do, highly recommend it, is I just consciously think of what is my most important task for the day at hand and I’ll scrawl it on top of my printed calendar for the day, again, by hand just to kind of anchor it there.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks?

Kevin Kruse
Well, the one that is the most controversial is – I wrote a book called 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management and one of the things I found – it wasn’t my idea. I interviewed 300 highly successful people, self-made billionaires, millionaires. None of them used a to-do list. They only worked from their calendar.

The phrase is ‘schedule it, don’t list it.’ If you really want to do something, pause and think what day, what time and for how long are you going to do it. If you’re not willing to do that, then maybe you shouldn’t plan to do it. That changed my world. That was a couple years ago. I don’t use a to-do list anymore.

Every day I get ten emails telling me I’m a stupid, crazy jerk for telling people that. I get ten emails from people who say I’ve changed their life because they learned it.

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

Kevin Kruse
The book Great Leaders Have No Rules available on Amazon.com, all bookstores, wherever they want to buy that. If they want to get free trial and check out Leadx with Coach Amanda, that’s at Leadx.org, O-R-G.

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

Kevin Kruse
Well, in the theme of the book, I would say challenge the rules. Even if you believe you should have rules, challenge them. Make sure you are asking the team members that you’re working with, the higher-ups, quote/unquote, “What is behind this rule?” Again, once I asked about the Post-it note rule, my view of it changed.

I would invite you to do the same thing outside of work. Even if you say, “Kevin’s crazy. My teenagers need a curfew.” Okay, but ask your kids why do they think that curfew’s in place, why is it the time that it is, how do they feel about it. At the very least, even if you keep the curfew, you will have strengthened that relationship and strengthened their commitment to compliance.

Pete Mockaitis
Kevin, this has been a blast. Thanks so much for sharing the good word. Good luck with your book and all your adventures.

Kevin Kruse
Thanks Pete and thanks for you doing your work and spreading the word out there too. You’re helping a lot of people.

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

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Rick Miller says: "Real power is clarity. Real power is confidence."

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.