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411: The Seven Mindsets of an Effective Connector with Michelle Tillis Lederman

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Michelle Tillis Lederman says: "Being relationship-based... gets results faster, easier, better."

Michelle Tillis Lederman discusses the benefits of being a connector, the mindsets required to flourish, and how to connect well.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The three reasons people connect with each other
  2. Why to become a better connector even if you don’t think you need to network
  3. Tips for easier relationship maintenance

About Michelle

Michelle Tillis Lederman, one of Forbes Top 25 Networking Experts, is the author of several books including the internationally known, The 11 Laws of Likability, and her latest The Connectors Advantage. Michelle is the founder and CEO of Executive Essentials, which provides customized communications and leadership programs. A former finance executive and NYU Professor, Michelle is a regular in the media appearing on NBC, CBS, Fox, NPR, the Wall Street Journal, NY Times, CNBC, and others. She holds degrees from Lehigh University and Columbia Business School.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Michelle Tillis Lederman Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Michelle, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast for the second time!

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I love the title of your podcast.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. I like your titles as well. I really think that – what is it that the copywriters say? Clear beats clever. It’s like, “Oh, I know what I’m getting here.”

Michelle Tillis Lederman
It’s interesting. I had struggled so much with the title for the new book because I love alliteration, The 11 Laws of Likability, Executive Essentials, that’s my thing. I originally titled the book The Connector’s Club and I got some feedback that it sounded exclusive and it sounded elite. I said that’s really not what I’m trying to project. I want people to realize that being a connector’s accessible. I let go of the alliteration and we landed on The Connector’s Advantage.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now you’ve got my wheels turning in terms of alliteration. It’s like, Connector’s Club beats Connector’s Cabal in terms of being less exclusive.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I tried the Connector’s Core. I was like, “I’ve got to find my alliteration.” But the truth is what I’m talking about is the advantage of being relationship-based in your results, so that’s what you get.

Pete Mockaitis
Fair enough. Fair enough. I definitely want to dig into that, but I also first wanted to hear you’ve been doing some connecting all over the world having visited over 70 countries. I wanted to get your take on is there a country you think more people need to visit because they just don’t even know how cool it is?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
When I first thought about that question, I thought our own country.

Pete Mockaitis
There you go. America.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Yeah, there’s so much – I will tell you, even after I think at the time I had been to 60 plus countries and I went to Yellowstone and I was blown away. It was one of the most incredible places I’ve ever been. It’s right here. We don’t actually visit our own country enough. I think we need to do that more.

But if I was actually answering the question that you were asking, two of the places on my top five list of places I’ve been are Thailand and Africa.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh good.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Africa is kind of broad. There’s just so many places to visit within Africa. I went from South Africa up to Central Africa and I’m going back. I can’t even narrow it down. There’s just so much to see.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s cool. That’s cool. In Thailand, what made it great? I guess I’m thinking that – I haven’t been there, but I’ve looked at it and I was intrigued by just how far a dollar could go and custom made clothing and more.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I did a lot more custom made clothing in Vietnam. That was awesome.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Yeah. I was in Thailand on 9/11 when the towers came down, so how I was kind of taken care of by the people on this remote island. The people are amazing. The food is amazing. They have everything: amazing beaches, the jungle, the wildlife, the city. It just had everything.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, thank you. Duly noted. Suggestion logged. Okay, cool. Now I want to hear about your book, The Connector’s Advantage. What’s sort of the key idea here?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Well, the big idea behind the book is that there are certain ways that connectors think, act, and interact that enables stronger connection. The advantage of being relationship-based is that you get results faster, easier, better. I know it’s not correct grammar, but that’s it. Faster, easier, better.

When we can infuse these mindsets, anybody can infuse these mindsets. That’s what I was saying before about it being accessible to all. There is such a thing as a non-connector, but there’s very few people that are truly non-connectors out there.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Well, that’s what I guess I’m wondering when you say being a connector, being relationship-based, you achieve huge results faster, bigger, stronger, and better, but what would be the alternative, like the alternative perspective of being less relationship-based?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
A lot of times people talk about it as being transactional in your interaction.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, got you.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I always say people are connecting for purpose, connecting for need, connecting for themselves. It is a mindset of valuing the relationship.

Here’s how I equate it in life. When you think back in time to the agricultural age, land was the greatest asset that a person could have. Then the industrial age it was machine. In the information age it was technology. We’re now in the network age. The greatest asset that you can have are your relationships. If you think about them in the company perspective, they’re people.

When we say non-connector, a non-connector is somebody who doesn’t believe in the value of relationships. A non-connector is somebody who is so adverse to socializing and to placing any importance on the people. That’s what I’m saying. It’s very limited.

But there’s an entire spectrum. It’s not you are or you’re not. It’s where do you fall on the spectrum of connection. You could be emerging. You could be responsive. You could be acting, but maybe not quite yet a niche or a super or a global super connector. The truth is, you might not need to be. But the further up the spectrum you go, the easier, faster and better results you come up with.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I hear you. Maybe it’s just far from my experience or personal belief system to imagine being a non-connector. Maybe we’ll calibrate a bit on the spectrum to – because I think I’ve been here before and some listeners have as well.

Let’s say there’s somebody who’s like, “Connecting is good and cool and networking is apparently something I should be doing, but you know, Michelle, I’m not in a sales or recruitment or marketing-type functions and I’m also quite happy with the job that I’ve got going on right now as well as my friends and the people I hang out with. What is the necessity for me to go about doing some good connecting?”

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Well, that’s great and I’m really happy you have all those things in your life.

Pete Mockaitis
The fictitious person is doing good.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I’m so happy for this person who is in that place in their life. That said, we don’t stay stagnant in our life. If you think about all the things that you may want in your life, personal and professional, it impacts both. You might want a new job externally, but you might just want a promotion internally. You are 70% more likely to get a promotion if you have an active mentor relationship.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s quite a stat. Thank you.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Yeah. Maybe you’re not in sales, but part of your job might be to make the customer happy. Referrals make all the difference in how you are perceived within the organization. It’s part of your brand. It’s part of whether or not you get a yes to being on a project that you’re really interested in. Do people want to work with you? It’s also with health and happiness.

There is a statistic. Julianne Holt-Lunstad out of Brigham Young University did research on social isolation. There was an equal mortality impact of social isolation as to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh wow.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Isn’t that crazy?

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hm.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
If you want to be healthier, which we probably all want, we need to be social. We need to be around other people. It’s also happiness. If you want to be happier on the job, close work relationships will boost your productivity, boost your job satisfaction, and actually predict your happiness on the job. It’s really impacting so many different things.

But let’s even take it a step further. You have all these things and you’re happy and you’re happy with your friends, but what about you might want to buy a new house or maybe a storm hit and you need some repair work. Finding those referrals and finding those resources-

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah. It’s so hard to get home renovation professionals that are good.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Right. Faster, easier, better. All I have to do is put a little note out to my network, “I need this kind of doctor,” “I need this kind of resource,” and I have results within an hour. It’s not just one person. I’ll get multiple results. That’s what being a connector can do for you.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, thank you. We have a nice compelling why. Let’s dig into a bit of the how here. In your book you lay out seven connector mindsets. Can you give us a little bit of a walkthrough orientation to each of them?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Sure. I’ll list the seven for you and then we can dive into each one a little bit. But what I want to say is that these mindsets are nonlinear. It’s not like you have to do one then the other. Yes, I write them in a certain order because you have to when you’re reading a book, but they enable each other. You need to think about the ones that you might need to adopt or enhance. There’s some that you probably are doing really well.

The seven mindsets of a connector are that they are open and accepting. They have a clear vision. They believe in abundance. Connectors trust. They’re social and curious—and social and curious is one mindset. They’re conscientious and they have a generous spirit. As somebody who is a connector, does that resonate for you?

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, indeed. It does. I want to dig into a little bit of all of them. All right, open, accepting, clear vision, believe in abundance, trust, social and curious, conscientious and generous spirit.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Oh, good memory.

Pete Mockaitis
No, I totally have your table of contents of your book in front of me. Secrets. Insider secrets of the podcaster. We’ll put these in the show notes or the Gold Nugget. Anyway-

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Did any of those mindsets surprise you or be like, “Oh, that’s not what I thought of before?”

Pete Mockaitis
I would say that I buy them all. I would say, yup, that works for me. Although, I think there’s the potential for misconception on some of them. For example, let’s just start with open and accepting. What does that mean and what does it not mean?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Is that one that was surprising or misconstrued?

Pete Mockaitis
It wasn’t, but I think I’m going to give a little bit of a treatment to each and then delve deeper into a couple.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
You have to tell me because I’m guessing at the two that I think you’ll say for that, so I’m waiting to see if I’m right.

But open and accepting is about not just being open and accepting to other people and to connecting, but to be open and accepting of yourself. One of the things I talk about is to accept ourselves and what I call your unique charms. A unique charm is a quality about yourself that is kind of innate to who you are, but that quality doesn’t always work for you, but you don’t want to change it either.

Pete Mockaitis
I like the way you’ve packaged that because I think I’ve got a number of these and they’ve brought me great joy and great pain over the course of-

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Tell me about one of your unique charms.

Pete Mockaitis
I’ve been told that I talk differently in terms of I guess word choice and pacing, meter, annunciation, pausing. For some people, that’s a little off-putting like, “That’s a little bit weird. Is this guy for real? What’s his story? I don’t know if I feel super comfortable having that person be my boyfriend,” is what I’m thinking about.

Other teams it’s just like, “Oh man, this guy he’s kind of fun and different and unique. I enjoy sort of the energy and the vibe of it’s just sort of fun and different being around him.” As a podcaster I’d say, hey, that’s a differentiator. I’m going to claim that as a unique charm there.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
That is a great example of a unique charm. Mine’s not that different. I’ve had multiple ones, but one of mine is that I can talk a lot, which I’m sure you’ve already picked up on. I was always very uncomfortable with silence. I’ve gotten better at it. But I would just fill it up. If I ever got nervous, I would just talk more and talk faster. Here’s the thing. I can come on too much and I can come on too strong. That’s when it can work against you.

But what we talk about in being self-accepting is not just saying, “Well, this is me. Deal with it.” It’s about saying, “Okay, in this exchange it’s not working for me, so I’m going to flex.” A flex is a momentary, temporary adjustment to enable connection to form with somebody else. It’s not changing who you are, but it’s adapting to enable somebody to see beyond that quirk or that charm.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, I like it. Very good. Okay. We’re being open and accepting of ourselves as well as others. Can you give us an example of what are maybe some barriers or closeness, non-accepting-ness that people can mistakenly engage in?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Okay, so that was that phrasing that I have to now follow non-something.

Pete Mockaitis
I guess the opposite of being open and accepting – closed and non-accepting.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Well, so one of the things that we tend to do as humans, which is totally natural and we should not be hard on ourselves for it is that we quickly form conclusions. Now, this is natural and this is necessary and has been in the past. You had to determine very quickly was somebody friend or foe. Do I need to be ready for fight or flight? But it’s still innate.

We have brains that are constantly taking in information, processing it, and forming conclusions. What I try to have people do is to slow their thinking down. One of the things that I talk about is staying in a place of curiosity versus conclusion.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, yeah.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
And to stay open to being wrong. I think back to business school. You’re put into these cohorts in business school with 60-something other people and you go through your entire first semester in all of your classes with these same 63 people. There was this one woman – now, your listeners can’t see me, but I am about 4 foot 10 and a quarter.

Pete Mockaitis
You’ve got to count every fraction.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I’ve got to go with that quarter. I want to round up to 4’ 11’’, but the driver’s license people wouldn’t let me. There was a woman in the cluster who was, oh God, 5’ 10’’, former model, born with a silver spoon in her mouth, gorgeous, smart, rich. You just wanted to hate her, right?

She never spoke to me. I always felt like she was just looking down her nose at me because she literally was looking down at me because she was towering over me. We went on a spring break trip together and ended up being placed in the same room. I thought, “Oh my God, this is going to be the worst trip ever.”

Turns out she’s really shy. She just didn’t talk to me because she was not an outgoing person and she didn’t know what to say. We were on this trip and I got to know her and we talked. I ended up being a bridesmaid in her wedding.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, there you go.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
That is where part of me started saying, “Oh, you know what? I was too quick to look at certain pieces of information and to draw a conclusion and then look to prove myself right.” That’s what we do. We look to prove ourselves right. To being open and accepting is to stay open to being wrong, to stay in a place of curiosity. I give these four questions in the book to help you stay in that place and to question your first assessment.

Pete Mockaitis
Very good. Well, thank you. That’s well understood and encouraging. It’s like any time you think that someone doesn’t like you, it’s like there could totally be another angle to the story and wouldn’t it be fun to discover what that could end up becoming.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Yeah, and sometimes it’s not about you.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
It’s about them. We’re a little self-centered, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hm. Well, tell us a little bit about the clear vision piece now.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
This is one of the ones I thought you might think could be misconstrued. This is one I often get push back on because people will say, “Well, connectors are really supposed to be outwardly focused and focused on the other person.” I say well, yes, they’re relationship-based. Relationships are bidirectional.

But if connectors are going to get the advantage – results faster, easier, better – they need to know the results they’re looking for. Having a clear vision is about knowing what you want and knowing how to ask for it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
In this chapter, one of the lessons on teaching is how to ask for what you want and to ask in a way that doesn’t put the relationship at risk.

Pete Mockaitis
What are some of your top do’s and don’ts for asking?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Well, there’s different types of asks. I’ll give you one example. My favorite is called the opt-out ask. I tell you when you make an ask, give them the reason to say no. Now, I know that sounds counterintuitive, but if somebody wants to say no, they’re going to find a way to say no. If they’re uncomfortable saying no, now they want to avoid you and that puts the relationship at risk.

If instead you say, “If you have the time,” there’s your excuse, “If your company will allow it,” there’s your excuse, “If,” blank. If whatever reason I can tell you that you can use and it would be okay to say no, then I would love for you to do this. Then they could easily say, “Oh, I am really too busy right now.” Then you can say, “That’s okay,” and you live to get a yes another day.

Pete Mockaitis
I kind of like that. The request I get most often these days is “I want to be on your podcast.”
It would be kind of refreshing and nice if someone gave me that upfront permission, which is “If you think this would absolutely delight your audience, otherwise feel free to delete this immediately.” That would make me feel a little bit better. Yeah.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Well, it’s interesting because as I’ve been doing podcasts, at the end we always have our little conversations and I often say, “Hey, if there’s another show you think I’d be a great fit for, I welcome a recommendation.” That’s very easy for you to be like, “Well, I can’t think of a show that is a great fit.” That’s okay.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Or that pitch person can say and be a little bit more specific about “Here’s why I think it would be a fit if you’re looking for that angle right now.” There’s your excuse, “We’re not focused on that angle right now.” You can see how quickly you can find that little clause to add to give that person permission.

Pete Mockaitis
I think it’s also great because in a way it gives you some permission because if you’re like, “Oh, I’m kind of scared to ask. I don’t know. I don’t want to put them out. I don’t want to be too aggressive or make them uncomfortable.” It’s sort of like if that little bridge lets you get over the hump so that you can make the request that needs to get made, then well, it’s just great for yourself psychologically.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Exactly. We have to get over the hurdle of asking. I forget that you can ask half the time. I’m so accustomed to asking somebody else what they need and trying to be helpful and give and all of that, but I have to remember and we all have to remember that we are allowed to ask as well.

It’s much easier to ask when you have a mindset of that generous spirit, which I know we’ll get to because even if you haven’t given to the person you’re asking something of, when you know you have that mindset, it gives you permission to put a request out to the universe because you give to the universe. I know that sounds a little bit hoo-ha, but energy is exponential.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Let’s talk about hoo-ha and the universe. Let’s talk about abundance for a second because that could go any number of interpretations. When you say they believe in abundance, what precisely do you mean by that?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Well, when I originally wrote the chapter, I said people come from a place of abundance versus scarcity. Then I just kind of wanted to get rid of the negativity and I just said they believe in abundance. I don’t want people to think that abundance means that you have a Pollyanna attitude and everything is just rose-colored glasses. That’s not what abundance is.

But abundance is the belief and the mindset that there is enough and that what is right now, doesn’t mean that’s how it has to stay.

I always think back to my time in my finance days. Usually they don’t put in my bio that I’m a recovering CPA, but I did spend ten years in the field of finance. When I started, there was only one female partner in the firm. It was a scarce accomplishment for a woman to rise to the top. At that time, women were very competitive with each other because it was you or me. That is a scarce attitude.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. Yeah.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
An abundant attitude would be okay, there might only be one now, but who’s to say there can’t 100 in a few years. It’s open to the possibility of more.

For me, it enabled me to start because, I will tell you, this one’s hard for me. I grew up as a without and it was hard for me to move from that knowing place of protectiveness and defensiveness and scarcity and keep what you have because you might not have it, to a place of “I don’t have competitors. I have a … partners. I have a lot of potential people to collaborate with. But I’ve got nobody to compete with.”

Pete Mockaitis
Right. I think that that’s a nice way to think about in terms of abundance. It’s not that we have to fight for a limited slice of anything because there could just be more of that something.

I keep bringing it back to the podcast because I guess when you have a mic in your face, that’s what you’re thinking of. I think that some would say, “Oh, there’s a finite amount of time that someone can listen to a podcast in the course of their day” and therefore you might think of other podcasters as competitors, but I really don’t.

I think well, if you have enough really good engaging shows out there, you’ll just sort of reallocate time as a listener away from something less compelling maybe in terms of lower quality TV or talk radio or whatever. I’m right with you there. It’s not about competing with others for a finite number of spots, but, especially if you’re getting creative, you can grow the number of spots.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Yeah, or even a finite number of guests. I know a lot of podcasters that have the same guests. I was on one last week and he was saying one of the things about abundance is not to judge yourself or compare yourself to others. It’s to really kind of have your own measures against yourself because as soon as we start doing that to others, then we’re coming from a scarce place.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. When I was thinking about abundance, I was wondering in terms of – I enjoy connecting. I think it’s a lot of fun to build relationships to hang out, chat with people, and become friendlier. I guess where I get hung up a little bit is the extent to which time spent doing that is with opportunity cost potentially at the expense of cranking out deliverables, work product, whatever.

I’m sort of wondering, well, how much is optimal in terms of the allocation of time because in a way, if I’m doing stuff on LinkedIn with folks or at networking event, a cocktail party, etcetera, then I’m not producing a document or podcast episode or whatever.

I guess it’s about that clear vision again, is what is the best amount of time to spend doing the people stuff versus the other stuff because your thesis here is that those connections let you get more done faster, better, but at the same time you are spending less time sort of doing the thing itself.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Totally get it. The struggle is real. It is one of my biggest challenges is finding the time. I have these mindset missions throughout the book so that you can think about how you can incorporate that mindset into your interactions. In this chapter, the mindset mission is about investing time, but there’s also finding time. There’s a lot of time that is underutilized.

I’m all for downtime and I believe in it wholeheartedly. If that’s what you are intending to do with that time, then don’t do anything else. But there are times where it is just underutilized.

For example, lunches. We often are just doing them at our desk. You’re not really being efficient with your work. That’s a great time to actually – once a week, it doesn’t have to be every day – just once a week have a meal with somebody else. It can be right in the building. It can be right in the kitchen area. You don’t have to go out and make it crazy, but just spend a little time with somebody else.

Your commute time is another underutilized time. Your not really downtime, but I’ve shared commutes with people as ways to catch up. I’ve done emails reconnecting with people while I’m commuting. That’s great found time. If you’re a driver, it’s a great time to be on the phone. They can keep you company.

For me, anytime I’m in food coma is a great underutilized time because my brain’s not really functioning after I eat, so might as well schedule a call after lunch every day and just do a catch up until the food digests and I can use my brain again.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s very clever.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Yeah. I always say do the things that you’re doing and invite people to do them with you. I used to do dog walk play dates. I met somebody at the dog park that I ended up hiring on my team. I do the circuit at the gym and I will get in a group with some people to catch up with the moms from school or somebody who is also writing a book or whoever it might be that’s in the gym that day.

You can capitalize on the things that you’re already doing and invite people who might be interested in doing them with you.

Pete Mockaitis
I love it. I love it. Tell me then, what’s the conscientious part about?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I’m so glad you went there because when you were talking about the podcasting and people asking you for things, I’m like oh, you’re going right into the conscientious mindset because connectors do what they say they’re going to do. They follow up. They follow through.

In order to be conscientious and to have that mindset, you need to be very clear on what you’re willing to say yes to and be comfortable saying no and setting boundaries. One of the things I talk about in this chapter is know how to say no and know how to say yes. Yes and no are never just yes or no. There’s ‘yes, if,’ and ‘yes, after’, and ‘yes, when,’ and ‘yes, with,’ and there’s no ‘but.’

Pete Mockaitis
‘Yes, if,’ ‘yes, when,’ yes, after,’ not ‘yes, but.’

Michelle Tillis Lederman
The ‘but’ goes with the ‘no.’

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
The ‘no’ is hard, but we might say, “No, not at this time,” “No, but this,” “No, but somebody else can-.” You might not be able to do something that they’re asking, but here’s something else. It feels a lot better for everybody.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. I think it might be an Austin Powers’ movie where they say “Short answer yes with an ‘if.’ Long answer no with a ‘but,’” which is kind of what I’m thinking about and giggling right now.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Okay, so I don’t know that line, but I’m loving it ….

Pete Mockaitis
I think it’s from an Austin Powers’ movie. We’ll make sure to link to that. That’s very important for the show notes. We’ll cover that. I like that a lot.

I want to hear some of your favorite ways to say no. You sort of offered some alternative resources they can link to or different timings because say no is tricky for some people, so how do you do it well?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
One of the things I do is I give them a way that they can get a yes later. For you, if somebody wants to come on your show and it’s not the right fit right now, you might say, “Well, when you have written a book,” or “When you are focused on this area.” You could give them a when they could get a yes from you.

For me, I get a lot of people asking me to come do talks. I have a pro bono calendar and I’m happy for non-profits and for causes that I think are wonderful to come out and do a talk, but I also try to set boundaries because my husband literally had me put the word ‘no’ on my computer for over a year until the sticky gave out to give myself permission to say no because I was saying yes to everything and then you stretch yourself too thin.

I remind myself that saying no to something is saying yes to something else. Sometimes that saying yes to something is saying yes to yourself or your family or that downtime.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
That was a mindset to become more conscientious of what I was agreeing to. When somebody would ask me to do a free talk and they were like, “Yeah, we have 30 people and it’s an hour from your house during rush hour, but we’ll buy you dinner.”

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I can’t eat when I’m talking anyway. And it wasn’t really about the dinner. It was “No, I can’t do that, but I’ll tell you what. If you can get a couple of organizations together and get me a couple hundred people and if they’ll each buy a book in advance, I will come down.”

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Or something along those lines that say “Here’s how I can say yes to you.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m intrigued. When you say that you’re saying no to something is saying yes to something else. That’s getting me thinking of did you have, as you were learning to say no better, a particular sort of default comparison point in terms of “Hey, if I say no to that, I’m saying yes to this particular other thing,” whether it’s myself or family or a paid speaking engagement or whatnot.

I’m thinking that really strikes me as a means of if you can establish a clear bar in terms of “what am I comparing this to?” Because in a way you’re comparing it to everything, opportunity cost means you can do anything else in the world if you weren’t doing that thing. But did you have these sort of go-to comparison points like “Is this more worthwhile than X?”

Michelle Tillis Lederman
It’s a really good point. I love that. I don’t know if I really did. I think at any given time that I was being asked it was what was on my mind at that moment. But what I was finding was I was being asked to do things that I just didn’t have capacity. In my mind I was leaving myself open for potential and for opportunity. I was also really okay with a day on the couch.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. That’s good. You compare that to that alone and that’s working for you. Okay. Cool.

Well, also when you said conscientious, where I thought you were going to go with that as well is just the notion of the follow-up. It’s so common that the follow-up just never happens. I wanted to get your take on do you have any pro tips for bringing about more consistency if you say, “Oh yeah, I’ll send you the name of that contractor,” or “Oh, I’ll make sure to send you,” whatever.

It seems there’s a lot of verbal promises made that don’t materialize in my experience. What are your tips there?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
We all need our own systems. I’m happy to share mine. That is one of the things that a connector does. They follow through. They do what they say they’re going to do. They do things in a certain way. I talk about how does a connector do things in the book like how do they make an introduction, how do they follow up. Whatever it is that they might do, they do it in a particular way.

For me, I’m often saying those things. I think about the anatomy of a conversation as looking for the next point of contact. If in your mindset, if you’re relationship-based, you’re looking for the reason to stay in touch with somebody. You’re looking for that connection point. I’m always looking for that in that conversation. Once I find it in the conversation, I feel that it’s okay for the conversation to end because I know the relationship can continue.

What I will do is depending on the situation, if I have a card, I will write something on the back of their card. I have a graveyard of business cards in my office. I’m looking at the pile that probably is over a foot tall if I stack them all on top of each other. If that card did not have something written on the back, they probably did not get a follow up because you can’t.

It’s okay that you cannot follow up with every single person, but if you know what the follow up is going to be, it’s much easier to do it. If I don’t have a business card, I will actually take my phone out and I will put it write in my to-do list. I don’t use the tasks. I actually just literally put it as a calendar item, an all-day event. It shows up at the top of my calendar.

I’ll say connect so-and-so to so-and-so or send so-and-so something. Then I don’t have to think about it because my calendar will tell me and I’m a slave to my calendar.

Pete Mockaitis
I like that a lot. OmniFocus is my tool of choice there. It’s beautiful when your mind feels free to not have to remember and hold those things. It’s there and you don’t have to worry. It’s going to get done and you can continue with life. We’re talking tools now, so let’s keep it going.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Yeah, I want to hear more about your tool.

Pete Mockaitis
Sure. Well, Omnifocus. Have you heard of it or seen it in action?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
No.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s a dream. It is software for the Mac and iOS. It’s so nifty in that you can take a task or action and just do everything with it. Some people say, “Whoa, this is overkill,” and it can be.

You can take a task and then you can add it from your phone and it’s just one button, just super quick. Then that’s sort of like the fundamental unit. If you wanted to, you could choose to tag it with the context in which you can do it or assign it to a particular project, give it a due date or a flag or tagging with certain resources or people you need to be with, you may be add the amount of time it needs to take you, you can add an audio recording or a pinned note.

That’s what’s nifty is you have the ability to manipulate it any way that you could conceive of wanting to manipulate it or if you just want to snag it and make sure you didn’t forget it, you could just simply do that too. I like that it has the simplicity and beauty, but it also has the power.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
It does sound a little overwhelming.

Pete Mockaitis
If you just want to hey, here’s my to-do list, here’s 15 things and I’m checking as I do, then that works as well. But I guess, what I dig is how when you put them in by project – I’ll get tons of ideas every day. Then I can sort of bring them into their respective project areas. Then when I am ready to kind of move forward, it’s like, “Let’s get some podcast growth going,” and I can say, “Oh hey, great. Over the last three months, here are the dozens of ideas that I’ve had all right there.” I think that’s pretty cool.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I think it’s all about what you get used to that makes you efficient. You were talking about tools, I love Outlook. For me, it is everything. I color code my calendars, so I have conditional formatting, where if I put the word ‘call’ in an item, it turns out orange, if I put the word ‘meeting’ it turns out blue, so I can visually very easily see how I can plot my day.

I try to do calls on certain days and meetings on certain days. I even have a note for a video so I know whether or not I have to put makeup on if I’m going to be on one of these shows.

I don’t use the task functionality with the flag. I don’t need to add the layers to it. I have my own system of putting everything in the all-day event and then every day I look and if I did it, I get to delete it and I don’t even see it anymore or I move it over.

Then I can also say, okay, follow up with so-and-so, I’ll put in the note “Last contact, certain date,” or I’ll put the text of the email or whatever it might be so that I have the quick way to find the information rather than having to search, “Who is this person I have a call with three months from now? Why do I have a call with them?” It’s all right there and very easy.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s excellent, yes. I think that you’re right. Some people can get sort of zealous about their systems or their tools, like this is the way, but I’d say hey, if you feel like your brain is clear and not oppressed with remembering and you’re not forgetting and embarrassing yourself, then it sounds like you’ve got a workable system. If it’s not the case, well, hey, maybe think about your system.

Maybe it’s Outlook, maybe it’s Omnifocus, maybe it’s the notes app in your phone, but whatever it takes. I want to hear your take on LinkedIn, connecting in LinkedIn.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I love LinkedIn. I actually do a whole chapter on tech tools with a major focus on LinkedIn. If we think about the entirety of the virtual world, there’s so many platforms out there. There are great ways to connect. What I tell people in terms of choosing your platform, for me, my main platform is LinkedIn, is thing about where you already are, where you’d like to be, and where are the people you connect with.

If you are in a very visual field, if your job is in graphics or architecture or design or anything like that, even food, you might want to be in Pinterest or Instagram because they’re very visual. If you are more of a B2C in your work, you might want to be on Facebook because that’s a little bit more of the individual, whereas LinkedIn is B to individual, but it’s also B2B as a business platform.

That’s just kind of a big picture as you think about what platforms to be on because you can’t be on them all. You’ll stretch yourself too thin. If you think about like I don’t have enough time in the day, then really focus on one or two platforms and not on all of them.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Yeah, I know you’re going to put all my social media in the show notes, but I usually do direct people to LinkedIn. That’s the place I’m spending the most time. What my tips are, I have tons of them. Where do you want me to start?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure. I’d say what are most of us doing wrong on LinkedIn?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
The biggest mistake that I don’t think I’m seeing as frequently anymore, but I still see it, the biggest mistake is not having a picture or having a picture that is not kind of a head and shoulders clean shot. Unless what you do is related to what that picture is like if you’re a snowboarder or something like that. It shouldn’t be a glamour shot. It shouldn’t be a motorcycle shot. It shouldn’t be a cartoon of you, unless you’re a cartoonist.

It should really be able to say, “Okay, I can recognize that person if I passed them on the street.” That’s one of the biggest things. The other biggest thing is – sometimes the app is at fault for this – is connecting to somebody without a personalized note.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I don’t mean that note that says, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” Don’t give me that canned message.

Pete Mockaitis
Uh-huh. You’re saying that it’s partially the app’s fault because sometimes when you push it, you don’t even know that it’s automatically doing that.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Yeah, I try to do it on my desktop a little bit more than on my phone because I find when I try to connect to somebody on my phone, it doesn’t allow me to put that note. What I try to do if that happens is then I will go then send a message, but if they haven’t connected, then – it just is easier if you can send the note from the onset. Sometimes it works on the phone and sometimes it doesn’t, so we’ll tell LinkedIn that.

But I always just tell people to be personal. Why are you reaching out? I actually reached out to somebody today because my chiropractor watched his show and was talking about him. He started talking about him in a way that was kind of like, I do all those things. This is somebody I should know. I reached out to him and said, “My chiropractor likes your show. Sounds like we do a lot of the same things. Would love to connect.”

Pete Mockaitis
Got you.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
That was the note.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. That’s good.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
And it’s got just a little bit of context because otherwise, I don’t know.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
It’s real. They know I’m not like-

Pete Mockaitis
A bot.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Okay, that’s …. That will get somebody’s attention. I also love to look at shared contacts. If you are a second contact with somebody, go look at the shared contacts and then look for that obscure person like, how the heck did they know that person I went to camp with.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Then I’ll say like, “How do you know Jo Shmo? I went to summer camp with him when I was 13 years old.” Then you have that – now we’re kind of going to my first book, which The Law of Likability, that’s that law of similarity and that law association. People like people like them and people like people who they know. It kind of gives you that, “we have this person in common.” It’s not just another contact; it’s somebody I really know and we can start a great conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. Do you think about the keywords at all with regard to what’s in your profile and how you representing yourself and what’s findable?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Yes, but maybe not as much as I should, but yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Any pro tips there?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I do think if you go down to that skill section, that really helps a lot with the SEO and the search-ability. Yeah, people give you those recommendations, but even just having those phrases within your profile will help you come up in the search.

The other thing I would say is, unless there’s a reason not to, then I suggest connecting to more people than less. I don’t have LION. I’m not a LinkedIn open networker, but if I can find a reason – if I don’t think you’re going to spam me or ask me for my hand in marriage, which I’ve had happen a few times. ….

Pete Mockaitis
You’re making an impression, Michelle.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I’ve had these notes where it says, “I know this is not – but I was taken by your smile,” I’m just like, “Oh no, block.” But unless if they’ll be one of those, then you are going to increase your search by being connected to more people because it expands your network and you’re more second in line and you’ll come up in other people’s searches. It helps you to be connected to more people.

Sometimes people are really stringent with it. I used to be a little bit more stringent with it. I really wanted to know who was in my network, but I what I started to realize was if I was willing to receive a request from somebody in my network and ask a request from somebody in my LinkedIn network even if they were weak ties, then I would be willing to say yes to those connections.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. Cool. All right. Well, tell me, any other final tips when it comes to maybe the maintenance of authentic relationships because it can be quite easy to kind of lose touch with folks, especially if you’re connecting with a lot of them. How do you go about the maintenance mode?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
That’s a great question. It’s never too long. That’s the one thing I want people to remember. It is never too long because some people are like, “Well, what’s too long before you can’t really reach out anymore?” There’s no such thing.

You know how many emails I have sent that had a subject line ‘Been too long,’ or ‘Thinking about you,’ or ‘Let’s reconnect,’ and just owning the fact that yeah, you lost touch or yeah, it’s been a while, just really doing those little light touches to just keep in somebody’s mind without getting in their face.

Pete Mockaitis
So that’s your subject line, ‘Been too long.’ Then what’s the rest of the message?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Then I’ll send a note saying, “Hey, you just popped into my head. Wondering what you’ve been up to. Here’s my quick update. Let’s catch up.”

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Two, three sentences. You’re spending less than three minutes on the effort of just putting yourself back into somebody’s mind. Even if they don’t respond, you still put yourself back into the front of their mind.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, and now I’m wondering is it the – if you had to put a number on it, what proportion of those messages get a reply?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I would say the majority of mine do to be honest with you.

Pete Mockaitis
Sure.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I use different formats. Sometimes I’ll use email. This week I actually reached out to somebody on Facebook Messenger because I know that’s where she is. It’s somebody who I know. She’s not a strong relationship, but I also know she’s going through something, so I sent a little note on Facebook Messenger saying, “Hey, I was just thinking about you. Hope-“ somebody in her world is ill and I said, “Hope your friend’s feeling better.” That was it.

She was on at that moment and she instant messaged m
e back and we had a quick three or four back and forth and that was that and she knew I cared. That’s all you’re really trying to do in maintenance is to say, “I care. I’m thinking about you. I want to stay in your world. You’re important enough to me to make an effort.”

Pete Mockaitis
Got it.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
That’s it.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Any final thoughts before we hear about your favorite things?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Oh, I know these favorite things. I don’t know if-

Pete Mockaitis
I don’t know if they’re new. We’ll see. The diligent listener might compare.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I don’t remember all of them, but hopefully I’ll have some good answers for you.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Okay, let me have it. I’m ready.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. How about a favorite quote?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
One of my favorite quotes is actually from a song, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.”

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

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I don’t know if this is a favorite, but I actually recently was just looking a study, so it’s front of mind. It was the Decision to Attend study because I was looking at why do people say yes to go into certain networking conferences or social events and actually networking was one of the top three reasons. I thought it was really interesting.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite book?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
7 Habits of Highly Effective People if we’re doing business books.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
If we’re doing non-business books, I have a whole other list.

Pete Mockaitis
I’ll take one from the other list as well.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Anything Ayn Rand, anything Frank McCourt. What did I read recently? Oh, Ely Oliphant is Perfectly Fine was very good.

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

Michelle Tillis Lederman
We already talked a little bit about Outlook and LinkedIn and those are probably two of my favorites.

Pete Mockaitis
All right and a favorite habit?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I don’t know if I really have habits.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s intriguing right there.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I think I will get into habits but then get out of habits. I’m very inconsistent with structure. I think maybe being unstructured is my habit.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s fascinating.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I don’t know if that’s a good answer.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now I’m wondering are you unstructured at reoccurring times of the day.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
No. Okay, maybe the only habit I can think of is that there’s typically always a jigsaw puzzle on my dining room table. How’s that?

Pete Mockaitis
No kidding. That is interesting. My brother’s amazing at puzzles and somehow I’m not. He’s two to three times faster than I am at putting together puzzles. It’s amazing.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
I love them. I find them meditative.

Pete Mockaitis
It really is soothing in terms of you’ve got nothing else to do and it takes all – at least for me – it takes all my brainpower or the vast majority to continue making progress on a puzzle, so I can’t worry about anything else.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Yeah, I’ve got a monkey brain. It’s always thinking about a million things, but when you’re focused on a puzzle, everything else falls by the wayside, which is why I find it very calming.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget that is really seeming to connect and resonate with folks from the book? Maybe it’s highlighted or retweeted a lot.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Yeah, actually the last line of the book. It’s that networking is something that you do, but a connector is someone that you are.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, yeah. That feels very retweetable, but hopefully you haven’t ruined the book if you spoil the ending there.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
No, no. That’s just kind of the way to land it.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. That was one of my favorite jokes is a non-fiction book and they said, “Oh, tell me how it ends.” Zing. If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Michelle Tillis Lederman
The best place to start is my website, which is Michelle, with two L’s, Tillis, T-I-L-L-I-S, Lederman, L-E-D-E-R-M-A-N.com. From there you can get to my YouTube. I do videos on my blog. You can find all that social media that we were talking about.

But if you want to get the book, go to TheConnectorsAdvantage.com. I’m giving bonuses away even after the pre-order period. I’m going to leave those bonuses up so that you get some extra goodies when you get the book. I’m actually telling people to BOGO with the book, to buy one, gift one and use the book as a means to reconnect with someone.

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

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Pick three. Pick three people. I want you to pick one person that you’ve lost touch with from your childhood, your college days, your last job that you want to reconnect with, one person that is in your existing life that you want to strengthen a relationship with and then one person of your choice. Pick three. Have those people’s names in your mind and then find one way to reach out to them within the next week.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Michelle, it’s been a lot of fun once again. I wish you lots of luck with your book, The Connector’s Advantage, and all your other adventures.

Michelle Tillis Lederman
Thank you for having me. It was so much fun.

407: The Key Behaviors of Inspiring Leaders with Ash Seddeek

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Ash Seddeek says: "Your biggest value is not to share ideas, but actually ask good questions."

Ash Seddeek outlines the key leadership behaviors that inspire teams.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Ten key leadership behaviors that inspire followers
  2. One mistake that quickly kills a team’s creativity
  3. How to manage your bias like a pro

About Ash

Ash develops leadership, executive communications and strategic sales programs. He currently works with Cisco’s innovation startup teams to help them craft compelling value proposition narratives. Ash is also a mentor to entrepreneurs and a communications expert at the American Management Association.

He’s the bestselling author of the books Meaning, Start with a Vision, and The Road to Success.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Ash Seddeek Interview Transcript

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

Ash Seddeek
Thank you very much for having me, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I was intrigued to learn that you were a Fulbright scholar not once but twice. Didn’t know that was actually possible. Could you tell us the tale?

Ash Seddeek
Absolutely. I actually come all the way from Alexandria, Egypt, where in my earlier life I was basically getting trained to become a linguist at the University of Alexandria. By virtue of my work there as a teaching assistant, I applied for a Fulbright scholarship. The first time I came to the US as a participant in a summer program.

Then the second time I actually applied to be an assistant group leader that essentially then sort of leveraging the first-time experience, sort of leading the group that went the second time around. That’s really how it happened as part of my working at the University of Alexandria.

Lo and behold, days go by and here I am actually leveraging a lot of that linguistics training in a lot of the executive coaching that I do with leaders today around leadership communications.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s cool. Excellent. Well, you’ve packaged some of these insights about leadership communications into your book, Meaning. Can you say what’s sort of the main message within this?

Ash Seddeek
The main message behind Meaning was really driven by the experience working at Cisco Corporation, especially at the highlight of the financial crisis in 2008. My job at Cisco at that time was to help understand the messaging that was happening outside Cisco about Cisco and also what the leadership team at Cisco needs to message, especially in Cisco’s largest conference, which is the sales kickoff conference that happens on an annual basis.

I saw John Chambers at that time, he was the CEO at that time, really grappling with how Cisco tried to re-sustain its position as well as also survive that financial crisis that were affecting basically the pockets and the budgets of its own customers.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. Then within that you’ve sort of looked at individual leaders and what they were doing and found some interesting patterns.

Ash Seddeek
Exactly. The one thing that I saw and John and the rest of the executive team at Cisco were doing really well, and of course the technology at Cisco, just amazing how Cisco was making use of its own technology to speak across the 60,000 plus employees at that time.

Essentially helping them understand what was going on and re-clarifying the meaning of why do we continue to do what we’re doing, what sort of sustains our differentiation, and how leaders of all aspects and levels of the company can really help articulate that message all the way to the very last mile, every single employee, whether they are all the way in Cairo, Egypt; Dubai in the Arabian Gulf, or China, or India, or even in the US.

The ability to continue to message to the employees why we’re doing what we’re doing and how do we move from where we are today into the future was very critical task and responsibility that leaders need to have all the time.

I think in my mind, based on the research we’ve done for the book, this whole concept of communicating where we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going is the fundamental task and responsibility in my mind, that the CxOs need to be communicating with their employees in organizations.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m curious, how does that shift if it’s at sort of the manager level?

Ash Seddeek
At the manager level, it becomes really a pivotal moment for the manager to understand that, again, a big part of their role is to help their team understand how the message that we’re hearing from the CEO and the executive team translates into what we do on a daily basis. How do we connect the dots between the piece of a product that we’re working on with the bigger product, with the bigger company, with the aspirations that the customers have?

That’s really where, as you’re saying, the manager’s role is very critical because a lot of the time the employees look up to that manager to explain what did John Chambers say and what does it mean to us.

Again, managers have that communication responsibility so that when I work with leaders and we basically talk about coaching and understanding what is a key pivotal responsibility for them, I mention the fact that they need to develop a signature talk that is really there to serve the purpose of translating that corporate vision and strategy and how it connects to what we do on a daily basis so that these employees have a very clear purpose and an understanding of how their little piece is actually part of that bigger puzzle and bigger vision.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, in your book, Meaning, you identify ten particular leadership behaviors that inspire followers. What are those ten?

Ash Seddeek
These ten behaviors and the way that we’ve collected them is we basically worked with – we interviewed a number of leaders across a number of industries. When we looked at the themes we found that there are five behaviors that are really more about that leader and how that leader interfaces and interacts with his or her environment.

Then the next five, and as I’m going to share with you the full list, the next five are really more about how they interface with everybody around them.

When you look at the top ten behaviors for leaders who really are very good at communicating meaning, we see that the very first behavior is about how they accept the reality that business cycles will inevitably ebb and flow. That’s really what we’ve seen at Cisco, the changes that were happening in the marketplace.

The second one is they definitely need to cultivate the habits of listening and learning. Again, there were some leaders that we spoke with that really demonstrated this really well.

The third one is to cultivate authentic humility in the sense that you really need to come across not as someone that knows it all, but someone who is really willing to listen and understand that this other person that I’m talking to may have a much better idea.

Then number four, being able to clarify and focus on the organization’s mission and values. People want to something that is bigger than themselves to hold into. It is that leader’s ability to focus that way, be able to understand what those values are and communicate them.

Then number five is very interesting because it’s really more about what happens to us when we achieve success. Sometimes we think that’s really where it emanates from. It has to start with us. But number five basically says, get of the way so others can succeed in the sense that you need to give people room. You need to give them space.

Sometimes when a question is asked and that leader likes to give ideas, he or she will jump in and give an answer. In my coaching I basically tell them pause, wait, let people in the room answer that question because that’s when you actually get them to see that they, themselves, can bring a lot of the ideas to the table.

Then the second set of behaviors, as I mentioned, are really more about managing relationships. Number six is about building a solid network of relationships knowing that it is incredibly powerful to be able to pick up the phone and connect the dots among five – six players and then all of the sudden you’re able to staff up an innovation initiative very quickly.

Number seven is about building strategic partnerships. Here we’re really talking more about not just internally but also across the industry. Of course, we see very good examples of that at Cisco and other companies.

Number eight is really more about caring for and rewarding people because if you don’t do the recognition and celebration of what people achieve in the company, again, human need, we understand it from people like Daniel Pink and others, they are looking for that recognition a whole lot more than any dollars you give them.

Then number nine is about over communicating with all stakeholders, especially in times of crisis or change. That’s really where we see companies that stay ahead of the necessary work that needs to happen around communication, especially around the times of change. That’s when you see people really doing well when they communicate and communicate repeatedly.

Then others fail when they assume that the change is not that big and it’s not big of a deal and everybody should just line up. Then they realize for human beings, change is real. You have to talk to them and you have to talk to them repeatedly about the why of the change and how they fit into that picture.

Then the very last behavior we see leader’s ability to build trust and buy in is very critical. When we look at all of these behaviors, that’s how leaders then have what they need in terms of internal skills as well as external networks to communicate meaning as we were saying at the very top of our conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Interesting. Well, thank you for that run down here. I’d like your take on which of these behaviors do you think is the most critical or liberates the most inspiration from folks and why.

Ash Seddeek
I think the one that would really drive a lot of inspiration is having anchors in a value system and a philosophy that this leader or a team of leaders believe in because without having these anchor points in a value system, then we won’t have anything that essentially sort of grounds us.

If we’re facing difficulty and if somebody listening to us is in a very difficult situation, unless they have a value that’s similar to ‘I will rise, no matter what the difficulty is. I have achieved success in the past and I can achieve this success.’ Really holding on to a body of values makes a big, big difference.

That’s why we see HP and a lot of other companies publishing what they call the HP way. It’s the set of values. Apple did the same thing. A lot of leading companies make sure that they have a set of values that they communicate. Sometimes you may need to change them slightly, but you still do it in a way that really shows why we’re doing what we’re doing and how it’s going to help us achieve what we need to achieve.

I think when people see that you believe in something, that you honor it despite the challenges and the difficulties, then highly likely they will trust you more. They will buy more into your message. But if they see you shifting more because of profits and what the market demands all the time, then they will feel like maybe they could do the same thing and they could look for profits and other opportunities somewhere else.

Whereas if you give them something bigger than just the financial aspect, maybe the vision for what the company stands for, the mission. All of those things really give that leader the chance to inspire people, retain them for the long term because they are here not just because of what you give them, but rather what they are able actually to create with you and help accomplish.

Pete Mockaitis
I’d love it if you could maybe make it all the more real when we talk about anchor points in a value system. Could you give us some examples of hey, this company has this value and this is how they see it lived out in practical reality for real?

Because I think what’s interesting about values is that sometimes – well sometimes they’re not lived at all and it’s just sort of lip service. Integrity, like many companies have integrity as a value and then many companies show just how little they have when the scandals hit the headlines.

But I guess, on the flipside, I guess I’m thinking about – when I was working at Bain I thought they did awesome with regard to living their values. For example, one of them they’d call it the openness to the one percent possibility. That one percent possibility is that you’re wrong, that you’re mistaken. Then it was cool how it was okay as someone fresh out of college to correct a manager or partner with a different fact that would be contradictory to what they’re saying in a team meeting.

Or while discussing professional development with a manager like, “Hey, these are my goals.” The manager would say, “Okay, cool. And these are my goals and what I’m working on.” That kind of humility was really cool like “Hey, none of us are perfect. We’re all working on something.”

I’m with you. That liberates some inspiration for me in terms of this place is cool and they mean what they say on this little chart of operating principles and I like that. Could you give us some more examples of particular company has a particular value that shows up in a real way that unlocks inspiration?

Ash Seddeek
I think probably one of the best examples I can remember whenever you’re on one of those Southwest flights and you hear the airhostess making the comments just about when you’re landing. She makes you laugh. When you look at Southwest’s values, you’ll see that one of them is live the Southwest way. Under that banner, they basically say you have to have a servant’s heart and a fun-loving attitude.

You take this value and you make sure every employee in the whole Southwest system applies it. Then you see it showing up when you hear the pilot talking and being very personable and giving you the comfort and the trust that everything is going to be fine or when you hear the air hosts making a funny comment and again making you laugh on the airplane.

I think when the value then influences everyone’s behaviors all the way to the point that it becomes part of what you do on a daily basis, that’s really where it becomes an anchor point that everybody understands that’s our culture here because, of course, those values is what eventually constitutes that whole concept of culture the company has.

If people then start to embody it into actions and words, then you’re actually seeing a living example and not just a set of words that are written on a piece of paper. That’s the example that just comes to mind right away.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s a good one. I’d love to hear some more.

Ash Seddeek
When we look at innovation, for example, which is a big value at Cisco and also the idea that you should never really get religious about technology.

I think Cisco and a lot of other companies, they have figured out that if you get stuck in your ways, it will basically lead to extinction, whereas if you adopt more of an innovative mindset that basically says I need to be able to at times maybe walk away from something that I invested billions of dollars in.

When I was at Cisco, if you remember the flip camera, that was an acquisition that Cisco spent a lot of money on. At some point it was clear it was not the right direction where things were going and they were able to then say, “Stop. Let’s shift.”

I think seeing this in real life despite, again, the cost, then it shows you that it’s better to make that decision now, acknowledging the costs and be able to shift direction and focus on something that the market is looking for, also shows you that value.

And of course, at Cisco, when we were walking around with the employee badge, we actually had that written down on the badge, where make sure you never get religious about technology. What you really should be focusing on is what are the customers looking for and how can you be innovative and self-destructive so you can bring these technologies to market.

That’s another example where you need to look back at that value and make sure that that value is helping enlighten and educate the decision you’re making. Again, when we talk to leaders, one of the best things we could do is to really be comfortable really focusing on the values as something that has long-term application and value for the organization.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Thank you. I’d also be curious, having studied all these things and synthesized and come up with the themes associated with these behaviors, does it now shine a clearer, brighter light on some behaviors that you’re like, “Oh my gosh, this is just terribly wrong,” in terms of are there maybe little things that leaders or professionals at large do frequently that are really just inspiration killers that you’d recommend we stop doing right away?

Ash Seddeek
I would say it’s been interesting for me over the past three years to realize, to your point, that a lot of the time the words you say on a daily basis, the actions you take on a daily basis are also driven by philosophies and points of view that you have, which in some respect, is essentially a set of values that you believe in.

If you think that the only smart one in the room is you because you’ve spent 18 years learning about networking or about fashion or about this or that, then that’s going to block you out from realizing that there are a lot more ideas in the room.

This really emanates from a value where you think, “Well, you know what? I am the source of intelligence.” Sometimes you only make this mistake of thinking that there are many solutions and I’m the only source for them. Understanding that we may have a bias to favor our own thoughts and then make sure that we manage that and be self-aware of it. Then basically say, “You know what? I would love to hear your ideas.”

Then all of the sudden everybody in the room is very much encouraged and inspired by the fact that you’re actually looking up and you’re basically telling them, “I know you guys are smart. I know you have ideas and I want to hear them.” Before you share anything, you want to sort of almost use that question and query process to uncover innovative ideas.

Again, one of the things I do with a lot of leaders is I basically tell them, “Right now your biggest value is not to share ideas, but actually ask good questions.”

Pete Mockaitis
I like that a lot, so you’re asking the questions first before you share your ideas.

Ash Seddeek
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
You mentioned managing your bias. I imagine at times that can be easier said than done. What are some of your favorite pro tips and best practices for pulling that off?

Ash Seddeek
I think one of the tips I would give people is being very transparent and vulnerable at the same time in the sense that you may tell people, “Hey, I have a tendency to overpower my own thought process and think the only way is probably some of the ideas that I’m bringing to the table, so if you see me jumping in say, ‘You know what, Ash? I’m not coming to you for solutions. I really want to show you a number of options that we’ve come up with and then and only then I’d love to get some of your input.’”

Because otherwise they may actually then think their ideas are not worth sharing with him or her and as a result maybe some innovative ideas never really see the light of day.

As much as these leaders share where their blind spots might be in a way that’s not necessarily showing it as a weakness, but rather as a blind spot that they want to be watching out for and they need to have the trust of their team to help them sometimes make sure that that’s not where we’re spending most our time, but rather we’re spending a lot of our time in uncovering as many ideas from across the team.

That’s really where diversity comes in in terms of the diversity thought and idea and innovation and making sure that collectively we’re finding what’s the best for the organization rather than, “Oh it came from this person or that person.”

I think looking at the outcomes that we’re trying to achieve then helps us really tone down where the source of idea is, not to the point that you completely not go back and celebrate where it came from, but once you are driven more by the outcome, it really helps you reduce the reliance on “Oh, he’s the only one that has these ideas,” or “She’s the only one,” but rather, “Let’s take a look at what the whole team can bring to the table.”

Pete Mockaitis
I really like that notion associated with the others bringing in the winning ideas. I just think about how often it’s not fun to be wrong.

Ash Seddeek
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
I feel like it can be wrong in any number of ways like the exact opposite approach that you thought of is the optimal one. Or for me, I find it’s often about I want to go fast, but we should slow down or I want to go slow, but we should speed up. I find it helpful to reflect upon the times that I’ve been dead wrong and it was so helpful that someone slowed me down or sped me up.

I remember one time I was in PayPal. I was making a payment to someone in the Philippines in pesos or PHP. It’s about 50 to 1 is the conversion rate. I accidently did it in dollars. I’m often frustrated when software goes slows. … said, “Oh, did you want to give 4,000 dollars.” It was like, “Oh no. No, I didn’t.”

Then sure enough, I appreciated all of the ways that software, the security, the two-factor authentication, the texting you this or that can really save the day at times for you.

When I want to go fast and I’m frustrated that it’s slowing me down, I find that it is helpful to remember. It’s like hey, it might not feel so great in the moment to have a force speed you up or slow you down or point you in the opposite direction that you wanted to go, but it sure feels better when you get the desired outcome than the outcome you would have got had you had it your way.

Ash Seddeek
Exactly, exactly. Absolutely, absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s handy for me in the humility, just coming up with those reminders. I’d also like to get your take on if there are any other kind of best practices in terms of tips and tricks, phrases or scripts that just really come in handy when folks are trying to live out and implement these ten leadership behaviors.

Ash Seddeek
I think an interesting idea that actually evolved over the past few months is what I’m now calling emotion one and emotion two. Emotion one, essentially most of us, leaders, whatever walk of life we’re in, a lot of the time when something happens, when someone comes to talk to you, you have that emotional reaction in your body.

A lot of the time leaders who are not emotionally intelligent, they will give in to that first emotion. Maybe it’s an emotion of frustration. Maybe it’s an emotion of “Oh my God, I cannot believe they screwed this up again.” Then the response is going to be one that they will not really like eventually.

What I’m basically starting to tell some leaders I work with is I want you to recognize that first emotion because once you recognize it, then you’re going to know it’s a pause moment, where you realize it is not going to be the best basis for what you want to say or do. What I advise them of doing is I advise them to let that first emotion wear off.

Then we come to the second emotion. The second emotion is really more driven by what outcome do we want to achieve eventually because as you said, maybe sometimes I need to realize that a particular activity I need to slow down in order for me to go very quickly in the future. Once you recognize the very first emotion, if you go with that flow of that emotion, you say something that you’re going to regret or do something that, again, you’re going to regret.

I tell leaders to be emotionally present, understand that the first thing that needs to happen is to realize that there’s no way for you to stop that emotion. Just let it go through the system and let it wear off.

Then ask yourself the question, “What is the action, the word that I need to say and do that would actually help us move our cause to the next step? What is it that I could say that would help that person I’m talking to understand that I emphasize with them, that I understand what they have to go through and that I’m willing to talk to them about what conditions for success do we need to create in order to take the next step.”

Pete Mockaitis
I like that a lot.
I think a lot of times for me the emotion one is like I’m hearing something that I think is outrageously wrong, ridiculous, absurd, offensive. I don’t know. I’m reacting strongly to something that I think is outrageous. My go-to phrase is just, “Tell me more.”

Ash Seddeek
I love that. Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Which doesn’t mean, listeners, if I say that to any of you, that means I’m furious. I sometimes just want to know more and I don’t know the perfect follow up question and I just say, “Keep talking about that,” is what I mean. That doesn’t mean I’m enraged.

But I find that it’s helpful for one, it buys you time because they will tell you more and you can breathe a little it as they’re doing so. And two as you learn more about where they’re coming from and their rationale for the idea, like nine times out of ten it’s like, oh, that’s really not so absurd after all.

Ash Seddeek
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
I still disagree, but it’s a plausible alternative to the view I had and now let’s sort of see what’s optimal together from here.

Ash Seddeek
Exactly, exactly. Right on. I love that too because, again, it helps you uncover. Maybe there are details that will change what I’m thinking right now. That’s the interesting part is when you actually uncover further details, then you realize something wrong happened with these guys and that’s why they were acting the way they were acting or they’re under some pressure that I did not understand or they were missing a piece of information.

Having that pause in the system, to your point, looking for more information is a very wise thing to do because, again, as leaders, you’re usually working with very high stakes situations. If you go with emotion one, it may actually mess things up.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Ash, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention about inspiration or being awesome at your job before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Ash Seddeek
Absolutely. I think one of the key nugget I share with people and it’s based on my experience having worked at Deloitte … in San Francisco. But when you develop an outcome-based thought process, it not only inspires you to do really well every single day, but also once you act that way, you also start inspiring other people.

Because a lot of the time if you don’t have that mindset of ‘I am here almost as a management consultant. I am here really to achieve success for my client’ and you start really looking at everyone that works with you as your own client, it helps you detach from the struggles and the challenges and the dynamics of the moment to be someone that is self-composed and is much more result- and success-focused that it just creates an interesting air around you that people want to work with you, people want to be part of any project you work on because you see you have that focus on ‘I am here to help achieve success, not just for me, but for people around me.’ It’s very inspiring.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s funny, Ash. I guess in some ways I’m naïve or idealistic and also a former strategy consultant for Bain, but for me it’s almost like that’s the only way that I just naturally think and operate and breathe and work. Sometimes there’s a bit of a disconnect in terms of realizing where other people are coming from and their priorities.

But I’d love it if you could maybe give us a bit of a flavor for okay, an outcome-based mindset is one way to go and to think, live, operate in the course of doing work. What are some of the main contenders or alternative mindset worldviews that are driving people if not the outcome-based mindset?

Ash Seddeek
I think what happens on the other side of that is you actually get – I call it sucked in – you get sucked into the dynamics of the situation.

Let’s say the other person makes a comment. You don’t like the comment, as we were talking about emotion one. You get sucked in to the dynamics of the conversation. All of the sudden you’ve created an unhappy other person who thinks maybe you are not open to new ideas or you don’t understand what they want or you’re not listening.

They walk away with that impression about you and perception about you and then starts to build up because she’s going to go or he’s going to go walk out to somebody else and say, “Oh, I was just sitting with Ash and I just got a vibe that he just doesn’t want to listen to what we want to do and I don’t think he’s going to really be able to help us.”

All of the sudden, when we don’t focus on that outcome-based thinking and we get into the flow of that conversation, we give into that first emotion, then we create a dynamic that’s not going to be helpful for us. It sort of militates against wanting to be awesome.

If you want to be awesome, then we have to state with that outcome-based where some of the language I use, and again, to your point, Pete, working in management consulting you know that one of the key things you want to say is, as you said, “Tell me more,” “What does the solution look like,” “How can we help you get it done,” “When we’re done what would it look like?”

You can help people articulate what they’re looking or, whereas if you get into the flow and the dynamics of the personalities, then it’s not a good situation. We see a lot of just toxic environments really coming out of a lot of people giving in to those feelings that happen in the spur of the moment without focusing on what the outcome that they’re trying to build is for that person that they’re sitting in front of.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Ash, I’d love it if you could for a moment enter the dark place and articulate what sorts of angry or reactive or what sorts of thoughts and responses internally or verbalized are popping up when folks are in this less optimal mindset when they’re working with folks.

Ash Seddeek
Yeah. I think from my own personal experience, I remember in my early days working at Deloitte, where I went into a client where my mind was thinking, “This company should be a whole lot more advanced than this. They should know a lot of things already. They should have this. They should have that.” I was just getting frustrated with the fact that my own expectations and assumptions about a large organization were not present.

People walked away from the conversation with me saying to my boss, “Well, Ash, was really coming across as very arrogant. We feel he’s really talking down to us.”

As you uncover your perceptions about the situation and what you’re saying, I think the lesson there is figure out first what the other person knows, what their expectations are, validate some of your assumptions before moving to the next step.

That’s what we start to realize then that the most important thing is to really come across as someone who’s there to, as Stephen Covey says, “Seek first to understand than to be understood.” With that in mind, it really sets you up for success. Whereas when you walk in thinking you’re the smartest man/lady coming to the conversation, you’re really blocking out a lot more opportunity than otherwise.

I love what Stephen Covey says. I think that was the biggest lesson there was rather than going in thinking they should have all this stuff in place already, you basically ask the question, “What are the things that we have already so we can build upon and see what else is missing.”

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. Now I’d love to hear some of your favorite things. Could you start by sharing a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Ash Seddeek
The favorite quote that I heard a few weeks ago was, “I did it because I did not know it was impossible.”

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you.

Ash Seddeek
I don’t know what the attribution is, but actually it was a CEO of a startup company. He heard it somewhere. I said that’s just amazing because it allows us to have the freedom to pursue goals and aspirations without getting in mind whether somebody did it before us or not. We just keep going.

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

Ash Seddeek
I think the work that we’ve done for the Meaning book really gave us the chance to speak with leaders in a number of companies. It showed us how even in situations where the business is much smaller, the leadership communication challenges are pretty much the same. Of course, it gets much more compounded in a larger organization.

But the leaders ability to remember that they need to reiterate the reason why we’re doing what we’re doing and where we’re going is very, very important. That was very interesting. Now, I find out that a lot of CEOs, they get so entrenched in the daily grind that they forget that their biggest responsibility is the communication piece. That’s really where the coaching sometimes is very critical.

Also, the board of directors helps them to realize that you need to step out of the business and work on the business. The best part that you could do on the business is to really check on the vision and see if everybody’s heading in the right direction. Then come back and tell them where they need to steer the course so that they can correct any misalignments.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite book?

Ash Seddeek
I would say probably my favorite author is Tom Peters. I love all of his books, especially the Brand You books. I think, again, going back to management consulting, he really gives you a lot of ideas based on having been a consultant before. It gives you that insightful view on things, especially on yourself as the brand.

I love when he says the idea of each one of us looking at ourselves as a professional services organization of one, which, again, means everyone around you is a client. It helps free up your thought process. It helps you to really anchor what you do in your own value system of delivering value to the customer and clients and the team that you are a part of. That is being outcome-focused mindset.

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

Ash Seddeek
A favorite tool for me is definitely LinkedIn I think is an amazing tool in the sense that it gives me a much better level of access and knowledge about people I work with, industries I try to reach out to.

I think there’s a lot more to these social media tools that we have yet to discover in terms of how do we actually put it to use to create value for us and other people. I would say definitely LinkedIn is one of my top tools right now given the fact that I’m running an executive coaching practice and connecting with other coaches, connecting with clients, so really trying to find out what are the top leadership challenges that we need to help our clients with.

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

Ash Seddeek
Okay. Okay. I think a favorite habit is to realize that sustaining your energy is going to stem from the fact that you also take care of yourself and exercise, and make sure that you have time for yourself because with an opportunity for reflection, I have seen comes a lot of dividends. Your brain needs time to rest in order to connect the dots.

Sometimes you get an inspiration based on the fact that you essentially sat down and allowed yourself not to do anything. Maybe you’re enjoying your favorite drink or you’re reading a book, but you’re able to relax and be able to receive some of these ideas.

Because otherwise if you’re just, again, just going through the grind and you don’t give yourself a break, you may actually losing out on amazing opportunities for coming up with breakthroughs that your team may need, yourself might need. I think coupling energy-building activities plus also having downtime is very critical.

In terms of apps, probably I think the calendar app on our phones now makes a big difference in keeping us organized. I also use Evernote. I’m still trying to see if Twitter really is very valuable, but I do use it sometimes.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with your clients or audiences?

Ash Seddeek
I think the best nugget is the idea of being what Tom Peters said around the professional service organization of one. It really helps you to have self-independent thoughts to really take care of what you have to take care of. You never really are giving into being a victim to any situation. You are always feeling like you are in command.

If something has to happen, it has to happen because you started it and it has to start with you. That’s very critical. I think a lot of the time we lose a lot of energy because we’re waiting for somebody else to do something or we think they’re not going to like it or this or this or that. I basically come back and say, “If there’s one action you could do now, what would it be and let’s do it.”

Pete Mockaitis
I dig it. Well, if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Ash Seddeek
I would encourage them to visit ExecutiveGreatness.com. I will actually prepare for them a few downloads at ExecutiveGreatness.com/Pete/ and they find a downloadable on strategic leadership and also a free chapter of the Meaning book as well.

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

Ash Seddeek
I think to really make sure that they have that independent thought and don’t be affected by the environment as much as sort of coming back to their own desire to succeed and say, “If I were to do something today, what is it and let me make it happen.” That’s going to inspire themselves to do more and also inspire others by what they’ve done.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Ash, this has been a whole lot of fun. I wish you all the best with your clients and coaching and leadership inspiration stuff. Keep at it.

Ash Seddeek
Thank you so much, Pete. It’s been a pleasure.

401: Finding, Creating, and Maintaining a Great Work Culture with Brian Fielkow

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Brian Fielkow says: "Don't mold yourself to a culture that doesn't fit. You've got to understand what fits."

CEO Brian Fielkow walks through creating and maintaining a good work culture then reveals how prospective employees can find out if they fit a new workplace’s culture.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why customers pay for culture
  2. Brian’s definition of a healthy work culture
  3. How to discover if you are a cultural fit at the interview stage

About Brian

Brian Fielkow, J.D., is the CEO of Jetco Delivery, a multimillion-dollar Houston-based trucking and logistics company with 200+ employees that was named a “Top Workplace” by the Houston Chronicle, highlighted on the 2015 Inc. 5000 list, and given the Gold Safety Award by the DOW Chemical Company. Brian is also the author of “Driving to Perfection: Achieving Business Excellence by Creating a Vibrant Culture.”

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Brian Fielkow Interview Transcript

Brian Fielkow
She’s well known in Hawaii and she’s starting to make a good name on the mainland. But the song, Island Inside Me, I wrote for my wife for our anniversary.

I just have these lyrics going around in my head, but I’m not a songwriter, I can’t sing, I’m not a musician. I connected with Anuhea. We put this song together sort of as an anniversary gift. It took off. It was a pretty cool experience. I don’t think I’ll have that experience again, but to have that song. Every once in a while I’ll hear it on Sirius-type stations. It’s kind of neat.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, well, could you sing perhaps the refrain or the chorus or a segment for us?

Brian Fielkow
Oh, you don’t want me to sing anything, but I know she’s got it posted. I know it’s available. It’s again, Island Inside Me, but if I sang it, I think we’d lose all of our listeners right now.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, fair enough. We’ll play it safe this time.

Brian Fielkow
Play it safe, yup.

Pete Mockaitis
You have a deep expertise when it comes to culture matters. You have some real hands-on experience instead of only doing research and writing books. Maybe could you orient us a little bit to where you’ve come from and why culture has become an issue that really matters to you so much?

Brian Fielkow
Yeah, I have kind of an interesting career. It’s not one that you could have ever planned coming out of school. I began my career practicing corporate law in Milwaukee. Maybe six or seven years in, I went to go work for my favorite client. They were in the recycling business. It was a wonderful opportunity.

We built that business while I was there for a good six – seven years. We sold it to Waste Management. I worked at Waste for a couple years. Then I bought my current company about 13 – 14 years ago, Trucking and Logistics. I’ve seen large Fortune 500 companies, I’ve seen entrepreneurial companies, everything in between.

It was interesting when I got into recycling coming out of the law business, I noticed that what we were selling were bales of cardboard. A bale of cardboard is a bale of cardboard, but we were commanding a premium. It took me a while to figure out why would anybody pay us more for what’s in the truest sense of the word a commodity.

It didn’t take me long to realize that other people would promise an order of a thousand tons and they’d ship 700. There was so much gamesmanship in the business, but we did what we said. People were paying us a premium for peace of mind. They weren’t really buying our cardboard; they were buying our peace of mind. That was a lesson I got very early on post law.

It kind of woke me up to the fact that every one of our businesses with rare exception to some degree is commoditized. I got really interested in de-commoditizing what we do, not having it to compete as much on price. Yes, the price is important, but if we can get to a situation where a customer appreciates our value proposition more than just the core product or service you’re offering, you can command a higher price.

Over the years I learned that what people are really paying for is your culture, kind of how you do things, what makes you different, that secret ingredient that nobody else can steal.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Your culture is what they’re paying for. It’s how you do things differently, your secret sauce. Is that how you define culture in those ways or do you have a particular definition that you run with?

Brian Fielkow
Yeah, let me give you how I define it. There are books and books on culture and the theory behind it. I’m not a fan of the theory because we’re practitioners and we need to know now. I’m going to keep it real simple and say that in simplest terms, you’ve got the beginning of a healthy culture when you’ve got the right people and the right processes working in harmony.

In a healthy culture, you’ve got the convergence of people and process, that’s what yields consistent and hopefully excellent results for the customer. You could have the right people and no process and every day is a new day. You could have the right process and the wrong people and forget about that. I’ve learned over the years that it’s getting the right people, the right process working in harmony.

It’s also rooting your company in a well-defined set of values. We have so many arrows coming at us in the business world, so many different priorities that sometimes we forget that there’s this adhesive that binds us together.

I can’t tell any business what their values should be, but once you’ve established your values, you’ve got to live by them. You don’t compromise your values. That’s something that your team needs to understand, your customers understand. It’s the adhesive that binds your company together through good times and bad, where priorities, on the other hand, they change by the day. We have customer issues. We’ve got service issues.

But those priorities never, ever compromise our core values, who we are and what’s important to us and what’s important to our team. Once you’ve done that, you’ve got to walk the walk. You’ve got to live and breathe your values. Whether you’re in the C-suite, whether it’s your first day on the job, you’ve got to agree that these are the rules that we’re going to play by.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s interesting you said you cannot tell another company what their values should be. I guess I’m imagining there are some that would generally be a recipe for good things and some that would be a recipe for bad things and a whole lot that it’s sort of – it’s a matter of finding the right fit in terms of the people and the processes and the industry and kind of what is your focus as a business.

Could you give us an example of some values that are unique because I think a lot of organizations will say, hey, integrity of course is a big value. I think sometimes they live it and walk the talk and sometimes they don’t, but it doesn’t really seem so distinctive when you hear that integrity is a value.

But it seems like in your practice, integrity is defined as doing what you said you were going to do when you said you were going to do it really was a differentiator there. Could you give us some examples of different values and how they come to life?

Brian Fielkow
Sure. Let’s talk about integrity for a minute because you’re right. That can sound over used. What company in the world doesn’t say integrity is a core value?

But now look around and if you watch football as much as I do, you’ve seen the Wells Fargo ads, established in 1860-something, reestablished in 2018. Why? Because they had integrity issues that really hurt their reputation, opening up fictitious accounts. It was a pretty big deal. Wells Fargo had to do work to repair its brand because of integrity.

It’s something you take for granted, but then you realize that if you let it slip and don’t focus on it, it could slip intentionally or unintentionally. Something even as simple and common place as integrity, if you as the leader aren’t living it and are kind of looking the other way, one lie will breed a thousand lies.

If I’ve got a problem with a customer, I’m not going to make something up. I’m going to tell the customer what happened and how we’re going to fix it. Even though the customer may be upset, hopefully over time, the customer will respect me more because people can smell a lie a mile away.

If my team sees me behaving in that manner, they’re going to follow my lead. On the other hand, if my team sees me acting with integrity, they’re going to follow my lead. Especially as we’re starting to work with younger and younger employees, people just don’t want to work in a company where the values are adrift. Integrity.

Another great example is respect. Again, people use respect too loosely, in my opinion. When I say respect, what I’m talking about is treating people like human beings first and employees second. That’s the ultimate respect. The ultimate form of disrespect is anonymity, “Hey, you’re number 100. Go do your job. Punch in, punch out,” not knowing a thing about that employee personally.

As my company is growing, I can’t know a thing about all my employees but my managers better. There needs to be something in the culture that makes sure that my managers know their employees like I know my direct reports so that everyone is accounted for and that the ultimate form of respect, like I said, is making sure that people’s overall human needs are met and that nobody, no matter if it’s their first day on the job, feels like all they’re doing is punching a clock and if they didn’t show up, it wouldn’t matter. That’s just a horrible situation to be in.

Respect is a value. Those are some of the things that we do that promote respect regardless of what it is you do because you’re an important member of the team regardless.

Pete Mockaitis
Right, okay. I would love to dig in a little bit in terms of thinking about values when it comes to finding fit with regard to career planning. How do you think about that game—I’d say both in terms of zeroing in on what values matter to you and then assessing whether a company really has it? Because I think a number of cultural pieces in terms of how things are done in a given organization really can vary and vary fine and suit different people differently.

For example, I think that some folks would say, “Oh yeah, we’re all about collaboration and so we’ve got an open office floor plan and we’ve got bays with ten employees in each of them, so they’re always kind of seeing and interacting with folks. We’re always on Slack and doing that.” Then some folks would say, “That would drive me insane. I need my quiet time to really focus and go deep in creating stuff.”

That would be sort of a natural mismatch when it comes to sort of how you prefer to do your thing and how the organization is doing their thing. How do you think about navigating this whole fit and research game?

Brian Fielkow
Such a great question because whenever I see forced fun, I run away. I go in the opposite direction. For me, having a slide in the middle of the office and having all those amenities, that’s all well and good, but that’s not culture. People mistake that kind of stuff for culture. Culture is not campfire fun and games stuff. This is a hardcore business proposition.

If kind of the slide in the office fits your culture and it’s in the context of an overall healthy culture, it’s fine. But if you’re using those bells and whistles to get employees in and then once they come in, they realize you’re in a toxic environment, that doesn’t work.

To me, there’s some subjectivity to it. There’s definitely a component of individual taste. Maybe I prefer a company that’s more formal. Or maybe I prefer a company that’s more casual. Maybe having a social life with my coworkers is important. Maybe I don’t want it at all. Maybe the company is extremely hierarchical, has a well-defined org chart. Maybe the company is more loosely defined.

All that’s okay and none of that is indicative of whether the company has a healthy culture or a poor culture. It’s how the company chooses to operate. It’s its own personality. That’s where you’ve got to find the fit. Again, there’s no right or wrong answer there.

But when you want to talk about how do I find the right culture, regardless of whether it’s hierarchical or loose, whether we’re wearing suits or whether we’re wearing shorts, that’s the key is to dig beyond the surface, dig beyond the slide. It’s not one-size fits all.

I think the best advice I could give somebody is when you’re doing an interview, you definitely – you’re going to speak with the hiring manager. You might speak with human resources. But the real people you want to talk to are prospective peers, prospective coworkers.

We do that with pretty much all of our job interviews. Again, it doesn’t matter the level that we’re hiring for. We want to be sure that peers can talk unscripted and what it’s really like to work here. We want to make full disclosure. We want to make full disclosure about our company. We’re proud of it, but we know that just like any other company, we’re not a fit for everybody.  We’d rather know that before we make a hiring decision or before you would agree to join our company.

There’s nothing like a peer-to-peer interview where you can ask questions. “What’s it really like to work here?” The company’s recruiting brochure says X, Y, Z, but six months later is that really what’s happening? Do they have a good-looking recruiting brochure or are they really delivering the goods?

The absolutely best advice I can give is do your homework on the company. Understand what the company is all about. Understand its culture. But peer-to-peer man, that’s really where you’re going to learn what it’s like to work there.

By the way, if that peer-to-peer interview goes well, now you’re new coworkers, they know you before you start. They’ve got a vested interest in integration. They’ve got a vested interest in bringing you in and helping you succeed.

If they say to the hiring manager, “Wow, thumbs up. Let’s bring this person in,” that opens the door and creates a pathway for success in a way that just a traditional interview and “By the way everybody, here’s your new coworker who you’ve never met,” that doesn’t work quite as well.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m curious if that organization – if you’re interviewing an organization and they don’t have the wisdom to … process, do you have any pro tips in terms of how you’d go about proactively having those conversations and some of the key things you’d want to say when you’re in the midst of them to learn what you really need to learn?

Let’s say that I’m interviewing at an organization. They did not give me the benefit of engaging in these conversations peer-to-peer, so it’s a little bit more on me to be proactive in terms of finding these people, having these conversations. How shall I find them and engage them and what should we say when we’re talking?

Brian Fielkow
Well, a lot of companies may not offer the ability to interview a peer. First thing is you just ask. Say, “Hey, could I interview somebody in the department that I’m – can I meet with somebody in the department that I’m interviewing to work in?” A lot of times the companies may say yes, but if they say “No, that’s not our practice. We don’t do that,” okay, let’s respect that.

But I would still ask the hiring manager questions like “What are your company’s values? Give me a feeling for when those values were challenged. How did the company respond?” Just like they’re going to ask you those questions. They’re going to ask you, “Tell me a particularly difficult problem or difficult situation. How did you address it?” You better be prepared to answer that. Well, I think it’s a fair question for employers too is, “Tell me your story.”

If you look at an interview as a two-way street, not just the hiring manager interviewing you, look at it as a conversation. You’ll be able to develop the feel just almost organically in a conversation. If it’s that tight and that rigid and you don’t have that opportunity, the company is telling you something about its personality.

I’m not saying that’s bad. I’m just saying that’s probably not a place I’d want to work. That’s not kind of how we bring employees in. I want an open door, full disclosure. But if companies don’t do that, with social media you can still network and find people who work there and talk to them informally or former employees, talk to them. But you can also have that same conversation with your hiring manager.

I love it when people come in, they’ve done their homework on the company and they challenge me with questions. That tells me that I’m dealing with somebody exceptional, who understands that the interview is a conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I love that point on social media. LinkedIn is so cool with all the filters that you can dig in and search for folks that way.

Brian Fielkow
People used to call LinkedIn the boring version of Facebook or Instagram, but LinkedIn is the encyclopedia for how to network. I use it all the time. It’s such a valuable tool.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. And I really love that question you asked in terms of “Tell me about a time a value was challenged,” because I think a lot of times you’re probably going to get total blank stare response, like “Uh, these are just the words we repeat. I can’t think of any real experiences to share with you right now.” That tells you something right there.

But now you’ve got me curious, Brian can you tell me about a time in your company that you had a core value that got challenged and how did you live it out?

Brian Fielkow
Sure. In 2015 – ’16, we’re in trucking and logistics in Houston. That was a rough time. The energy markets collapsed and business was really challenged. We had to make some very difficult decisions.

In doing so, it wasn’t like memos from the C-suite; we brought our employees into the process. When we had to make the company smaller and downsize, we met with our employees. We treated them with respect. We made sure that everybody knew what we were doing, why we were doing.

What it did is it created sort of a foxhole mentality that we’re not working around our employees. We’ve not sugar coating like, “Oh, everything’s okay. Don’t worry about it.” We brought them in and we fought the war together because we were so transparent and open with them. You’ve got to be prepared to share good news and bad news.

In doing that, for example, safety in our company is a core value. We don’t compromise it. Well, no matter how rough business got, no maintenance got deferred. Every single vehicle was maintained regardless of the company’s financial performance.

I’ve seen other organizations where “Oh, business is bad. Let’s figure out where to cut. Well, we can cut maintenance.” No, if safety is a core value, you don’t cut, you don’t defer maintenance. You keep running your business.

I can use that time when this company was really challenged and really stressed by a rough economy. People in other businesses were losing their jobs left and right in Houston during that time and we just took a very contrarian approach that we’re taking our employees with us. Even though we couldn’t take everybody with us, and we did have to let people go. It was done, like I said, with dignity, with respect and then with complete transparency to the rest of the team.

That’s created kind of I think an unparalleled level of camaraderie as the company has rebounded, recovered, and grown so well in the past couple years.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. Well, could you share some other perspectives when it comes to zeroing in on determining if a culture is a fit for you?

Do you have some extra perspectives and tips when it comes to determining if an opportunity has a good cultural fit for you?

Brian Fielkow
Yeah, I think that you’ve got to be careful not to conform yourself to become somebody that you’re not. Don’t mold yourself to a culture that doesn’t fit. You’ve got to understand what fits.

In our situation, in a healthy culture, you’ve got to have employees who are technically excellent and who are in line with the company’s values. You get yourself in a lot of trouble when you look the other way.

I’ve got a technically excellent employee that’s walking all over everybody else, just a horrible team player. Well, I have to either coach that employee back in to working within our values or they can’t be part of the team no matter how technically good they are.

A lot of times we look the other way when it comes to technically good people even if they’re destroying the morale of the company. As an employer, you’ve got to stand up to that and be sure that you’ve got people who are value aligned and who know what they’re doing.

Well, similarly, for the employees, you can’t really fake it. I’m assuming you got the job because technically you met the criteria, but in a healthy culture, I hope that you’re yourself, that you don’t force anything. In a healthy culture you’ll be challenged.

Hopefully that culture will make you a better employee and a better person and hopefully you’ll do the same. You’ll make the company a better company and you’ll improve your coworkers. But if it doesn’t fit, you’ve got to know it.

I’ve seen too many times where people jump at the money. They jump at the money. “Oh, somebody wants me, I’m going to accept the job,” without asking these questions of “Am I going to be happy?” You may make money and you’ll be miserable. Life is too short.

That’s why interviewing for culture and being aware of culture is just so critically important because we’ve all had maybe in our careers, the Sunday night blues, kind of that horrible feeling that Monday is coming and I’ve got to a place that I really don’t want to go. I’ve had that in my career.

Because I’ve had that in my career and I understand it so well, part of my job is to make sure that we don’t have the Sunday night blues, that people are excited to come to work because they’re treated right, because it’s a place that they know they fit in. But if you don’t fit in the place and it’s not right for you, you’ve got to know when to get off the bus too.

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

Brian Fielkow
I like to always say that at the foundation of the culture is what I call the three T’s: treatment, transparency, and trust. If you’ve got that and if you work at a company – look I’m in the trucking business. I’ve got a lot of people who told me, “Well, geez, I never thought in my life I would get into the trucking business. How did you as a corporate lawyer decide to do it?”

First of all, I love the industry, but it’s an industry that a lot of people might not necessarily just automatically gravitate to. But it almost doesn’t matter what you do as long as you love the job, you love the people. I think treatment, transparency and trust, whether you’re in a medical office, trucking business, law office, doesn’t matter.

Treatment, like I said before, you’re a human being first, an employee second. The ultimate form of poor treatment is anonymity.

Transparency, is just making sure your team is engaged. The best way to engage your team is to explain the why. If you give me a memo and you say, “Brian, just do it,” my personality is going to be to rebel. I’m not going to do it because you told me to do it. But if you say, “Brian, look here’s why we’re doing it. Here’s the why. It’s not a democracy. I’m not asking for your vote. But here’s the why,” I’ll be a lot more inclined to participate. I’ll be a lot more inclined to support. Just make sure you take time to explain the why.

As an employee, if you don’t know why, ask why. If somebody says, “Well, never mind. It’s none of your business, never mind,” that’s a little tip, isn’t it? But the key to an engaged workforce is for everybody to know their mission, know the company’s mission, know their role. Why?

Then finally trust. If there’s no trust, let’s forget about all this. In a company where trust is lacking, where people say one thing and do another, you’re operating on quicksand. You’re never going to have employee satisfaction where there’s a lack of trust among coworkers, lack of trust where leadership doesn’t trust the employees, employees don’t trust leadership.

Treatment, transparency, and trust are the three critical elements that I would look for in any business. I don’t care what the business does, as a sign of a healthy culture.

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

Brian Fielkow
The problem with my favorite quote is it’s too long, but I’m going to just read a little bit of it. It’s Teddy Roosevelt’s quote that we’re all here in the game and there’s people on the sidelines. They’re always going to be throwing stones at you.

It says, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust, sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who actually does strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I love that quote. I just love it because you’ve got people throwing stones at you your whole life. Just forget about those people and go out there and be your best.

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

Brian Fielkow
I’d like to if possible move to a couple books that I’d like to kind of recommend.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Brian Fielkow
My favorite book, if you took all my books away, would be The Advantage by Pat Lencioni. I think that’s the one book that everybody needs to read in college, coming out of college. I go back to that book all the time. It really lays out the basis for healthy organization and your role in the healthy organization. Really, I like anything that Lencioni writes, but The Advantage is my favorite.

Another book that just came out last year that I’m really into is called The Motivation Myth. Because I’m not terribly into – as you probably can guess by now – I’m not into a lot of the motivational, feel-good speakers and those kinds of books.

What The Motivation Myth does is it takes the concept and turns it on its head and says it’s not like you have to have the motivation then you do the job, then you’re successful. The motivation comes from the journey itself.

The book argues that it’s those small steps. It’s the victories. It’s getting knocked down, getting back up. The motivation comes from those incremental successes. The more you have, the harder you work, the more motivation you have. Motivation isn’t like a prerequisite. Instead, motivation is one of the things that comes from doing something you love.

The book also argues that quit trying to be like some of the celebrity CEOs. They did what worked for them. You’ve got to figure out what works for you. Spend less time emulating and spend more time figuring out what your own formula is. I just love that as opposed to just, “Hey, do what I say. Follow my advice and you’ll be successful.” I just don’t buy that. I buy, you figure out your own formula and that’s the key to success.

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

Brian Fielkow
Trying to maintain a semblance of work/life balance. I’m not by any stretch nine to five, but I listen to my body rhythm. I listen to how I work. I’m up at crazy hours of the morning because that’s when I work the best, but unless something is really important, you’re not going to find me here – later in the day, you’re not going to find me here necessarily on a Friday afternoon.

What I’ve learned over the years is that we’ve all kind of grew up in this eight to five world or seven to five or whatever it is, but hopefully as technology evolves and as employers become more and more progressive – this isn’t true for every job obviously. If you’re a doctor or a nurse, you’ve got to be with your patients. But for a lot of jobs, the more you can listen to your body clock and know when you’re productive and kind of know when you’ve got that momentum, the more effective you’ll be.

I could do something in a half hour that would take me five hours if I picked the wrong time and the rhythm isn’t there. Listening to your body, kind of knowing how you work. Some people, as you know, are night owls. Some people, again, like me, are up before the sun. But being able to know that and capture it, I think, is the secret to optimum production and success.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Tell me, is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with your employees and folks who are reading your stuff?

Brian Fielkow
When I’m talking to audiences, I do a lot of keynoting, there’s a couple things. First of all, take your frontlines with you. I use that all the time and it resonates. I don’t like doing keynotes and just kind of closing and leaving. I like to do keynotes and then saying, “All right, what are the takeaways? We’re not here to talk about theory. What are the things that you’ll implement the minute you get back to the office?”

A lot of my keynotes, a lot of my presentation revolves around frontline engagement because I think that as a country, we’ve broken our contract with our frontlines. The more we engage our frontlines, the better. Take your frontlines with you. Bring them in.

In my company our drivers are – we have an elected driver committee that’s part of how we run the company. We’ve got our drivers in management and operational decisions. Take your frontlines with you is very – people use that a lot.

The three T’s. If imitation is the ultimate form of flattery, I’ve heard other speakers use the three T’s, but I think I may have invented that one.

Then there’s 20/60/20, which people quote a lot. This is a story when I was at Waste Management. I got to Waste Management at a time when there was a CEO, a brilliant CEO, Maury Myers, was brought in to turn the company around.

He brought his management team into the room. It was a large room. He had a large team. And was kind of rumored to say this, something like this, “20% of you know where we’re going and you’re with me. You know that we’ve got to make changes. I appreciate that. 60% of you, you’re scared. The ship is changing drastically its course. I’m going to work 24/7 to win you over.

The remaining 20% of you have made up your mind. You don’t like me and you don’t like the direction that we’re going. Here’s the commitment I’m going to make to you. This will be the smoothest transition you’ve ever had out of a company, but make no mistake, you’re out.”

20/60/20 means don’t find yourself in that bottom 20. Figure out how to continue to rise in your company. You’ve either got to align with the company’s direction and values or leave. From an employer’s standpoint, you’re not there to bat a thousand, simply not. Part of your job is to weed out the people who are kind of a drain on your culture, a drain on your performance.

I’ll tell you people in my company will use 20/60/20 a lot. We all know what they mean. The three T’s, 20/60/20, take your frontlines with you really are essential things that I talk about not just when I keynote, but when I run my own company.

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

Brian Fielkow
I would point them at my website, which is BrianFielkow, so B-R-I-A-N-F-I-E-L-K-O-W. com. They can also email me, just Brian—B-R-I-A-N @BrianFielkow.com. I’m easy to get in touch with and glad to kind of continue this conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. Well, Brian, this has been a lot of fun. I wish you all the best in making your culture all the more vibrant and excellent and business growth and all that you’re up to.

Brian Fielkow
Thank you so much for the time. I really enjoyed this conversation.

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

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

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

You’ll Learn:

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

About John

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

Items Mentioned in this Show:

John C. Maxwell Interview Transcript

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
And get there first.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
It’s all you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

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

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

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

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful.

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Only four?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh boy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

John C Maxwell
I love that. I love that.

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Steal it away. Yeah.

John C Maxwell
Oh, I love that.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool.

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’m honored.

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

Pete Mockaitis
Cool.

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

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

John C Maxwell
Okay, thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh cool.

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh right.

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hm.

John C Maxwell
Thank you Pete.

384: Bringing More Joy into Work with Bruce Daisley

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Bruce Daisley says: "We seek so much of our own identity from our jobs."

Vice President  of Twitter Bruce Daisley shares the key differences that make the difference between work delight and drudgery.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Two hacks for restoring your personal equilibrium at work
  2. The benefits of connecting with your colleagues through laughter
  3. Why working more than 40 hours a week is a bad idea

About Bruce

As European Vice-President for Twitter and host of the UK’s number one business podcast Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat he is in the centre of the debate about the way work and communication is evolving.

Daisley has been one of the Evening Standard’s 1,000 Most Influential Londoners for four years and is one of Debrett’s 500 Most Influential People in Britain. Campaign magazine asserted that Daisley is ‘one of the most talented people in media.’

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Bruce Daisley Interview Transcript

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

Bruce Daisley
Well, I’m really flattered to be asked, so thank you so much for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, well, I’m excited to dig in. I believe Dan Cable introduced us and his was one of my favorite podcasts episodes, so there’s a big, big expectation Bruce, that you’re going to bring it.

Bruce Daisley
Thank you. Well, let me try my best.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Well, you have defined yourself as “work culture obsessive,” which is a good turn of a phrase. Your body of work seems to show it. On top of a pretty demanding job, you’ve put out a great podcast, Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat. You’ve got a book coming out. What do you mean by being work culture obsessive?

Bruce Daisley
Yeah, I think the interesting thing for me, I work at Twitter. I’m fortunate enough that when guests used to come to the London Twitter office from all around the world, almost without exception they’d say, “Wow, this is just an incredible office. We love the culture here.”

I had heard that previously. I used to run the UK team for YouTube at Google and all the time people used to either wander past my team or interact with my team. They’d say, “Wow, what a special team.” Unfortunately, I was misdirected into believing that that was down to a magical skill that I had.

I think a couple of years ago I became aware that maybe people at my work weren’t as motivated or as happy as they once were. I became obsessed not with sort of drawing on my own hunches about how culture is created, but more thinking, “I wonder how I could arm myself with evidence.” I think that’s the critical thing I’ve done really. With the passion of trying to work out how to improve work culture, I’ve set about trying to get evidence of how to do it.

In the course of the last couple years on my own podcast I’ve really just pestered and tracked down some of the people who’ve written the most interesting books that I’ve found.

I’ve been fortunate enough I think that when you contact someone who’s written a magical piece of research, something that’s just really fascinating and compelling and they’re not in the promotional time for it, they’re often very willing to talk. I’m so lucky to have got people who have written just some of the most fascinating books and got them to talk to me.

I guess, I’ve got a fascination in how to improve work and being evidence led on how to do that.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool. Very cool. I want to do dig into all sorts of fascinating bits of research. Maybe could you orient us right now? You are a vice president of Twitter for Europe, Middle East, and Africa. What does that mean or what does that entail in terms of your job and what are some of the practices that you’re seeing really make a big impact in terms of bringing about the joy of work?

Bruce Daisley
Yeah. It’s a good question. I think when you do an original job like mine, it goes without saying that I’m fortunate that I’ve got very, very capable people in all of the markets we operate in. I’ve got a formidable person working in Spain. I’ve just got an incredibly talented person working in the UK. My job really is to try and provide sort of bursts of energy for those people.

Someone contacted me today asking for some help with a contractual issue. Effectively, I guess, I’m someone that the leaders in those countries can call upon when they need additional support. I’m like a router really. I sort of direct energy and I direct resources when appropriate and try and stay out of the way when appropriate as well, so an interesting role.

I guess the principle thing I would say in terms of how I’ve learned about the joy of work from those countries, I think the thing that the UK is very similar to the US on is that increasingly more and more workers are sort of eating at our desks.

When you go and explain that to someone in France or someone in Spain, you say, “Guys, it’s really important we start trying to take lunch breaks,” they look at you very confused. They don’t really understand what on earth you’re talking about.

It’s because those cultures have really recognized, historically recognized, the importance of lunch breaks and the importance of the social magic that’s created in those interactions. Unfortunately, it’s the more Anglo-Saxon part of the world that’s economized on those things.

For me, it’s understanding work culture and understanding how to improve work culture as being a real excursion into understanding the different national cultures around the world and what we can learn from them.

Pete Mockaitis
I want to touch on that national piece there because the engagement data on workers in the UK is even worse by a pretty good margin than it is for workers in the US. Do you have a comment on what could be driving that there?

Bruce Daisley
Yeah. To give those figures – I think the engagement figures for US workers I think – all of us, if we looked at these numbers cold we’d say – I think the US engagement is 20-something percent. I can’t remember top of my head. The figure for UK workers is 8%. 8% of British workers feel that they are actively engaged in their job.

The only solace that I can provide to the British is that the lowest in the world is actually the French. According to the Gallup survey, the Gallup workforce survey, 3% of French workers are actively engaged in their job.

Pete Mockaitis
Even with the lunch breaks?

Bruce Daisley
I know. How bad. There’s certainly a global crisis of engagement. We seek so much of our own identity from our jobs. If you look at the evidence, people who do jobs are happier, they live longer, they feel more fulfilled in life, then those who don’t do jobs.

Jobs play a really important part in our self-esteem, but quite often they’re not set up correctly, they’re not focused on us achieving things in the way that we would most like, so we end up becoming slightly disengaged or sometimes very actively disengaged in the jobs that we do.

Pete Mockaitis
Right and I’m curious from your observations across countries, are there particular mindsets or policies? I wondered if it’s a little trickier – my understanding is in some European countries it’s trickier to say fire somebody. I think sometimes it’s trickier to find a job. Is that fair to say as compared to the US?

Bruce Daisley
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
I wonder if that had a role with it with regard to finding fit. It’s a little bit of obstacles there. Do you think it’s a factor or what’s behind it?

Bruce Daisley
Yeah, I think – I wouldn’t necessarily say that those things have a direct impact on how engaged people are in their jobs, so you see – you do see a variance across Europe and you do see – it’s not necessarily that when it’s hire-at-will and fire-at-will that workers are more engaged.

There’s definitely cultural factors that play a part. There’s definitely elements in the job that play a part. Some cultures historically have been more hierarchical. Some national cultures have been more hierarchical.

When you look at workers, one of the key factors in people being engaged in work is the ability to speak up to the boss. It’s sometimes called psychological safety. The ability to put your hand up and say, “I don’t think this is right,” when you see something that appears to me maybe slightly against our expectations. The willingness to speak up to the boss is one of the most powerful indicators of workplace culture.

There are definitely some cultures that are more hierarchical. Some cultures where speaking up to the boss is really frowned upon. Definitely that plays a part. There are significant cultural differences between different countries.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. You unpack some of this in your book, The Joy of Work. What would you say is the main idea or thesis there?

Bruce Daisley
I split it into three parts. The fundamental part for me was when I was setting out on my own process of discovery I was interested in finding evidence about how we could bring some of the work that’s being done by experts into the world of work.

There’s no shortage of psychologists, anthropologists, people who’ve studied neuroscience, who’ve given us indications of better ways to be working. The challenge for me was that a lot of that evidence wasn’t reaching the workplace.

I split the book into three parts. The first part is just to try and restore us to a position of a more balanced equilibrium. I think it’s fair to say that the stats suggest that half of all office workers report feeling burnt out, but that’s also common to nurses, that’s also common teachers. The state of feeling burnt out by our jobs, by feeling exhausted by the amount we’re working is becoming increasingly ubiquitous; half of all of us feel it at any point.

The first part of the book is really just very simple ways to try and restore our equilibrium. I call that section in the book Recharge. Some of the sections there are often really small interventions. I’ll give you one example. One of the most effective things that anyone can do to feel less overwhelmed by their job is to turn notifications off on their phone.

Pete Mockaitis
Just like that.

Bruce Daisley
This is a really strange one. Because when you tell people that this is one of your interventions, they often look at me thinking, “Okay, this book’s going to be really trivial.” But let me give you the evidence on that one.

Half of all people – this was done by someone working at a mobile phone company of all things. He’s working at Telefonica, a European cellphone company. He was trying to get people to turn their notifications off for a week. He couldn’t get enough people to do it. He said, “Okay, if not a week, will you turn your notifications off for a day.”

To just give you an indication of how powerful this is, two years after he did that intervention, half of all the people who made that decision to turn their notifications off, still had them turned off.

Pete Mockaitis
One day.

Bruce Daisley
One day, two years. People when they try this they say, “You know what? I was just able to get a bit of calm back to my life. I was able to not keep checking that email icon that kept popping up. Black Friday offers or whatever it was that was drawing me back there. I was given a bit of head space.” Half of all people who did that still had it turned off.

Consequently, with that in mind, as soon as you realize you can improve work with lots of little hacks, with lots of little changes, then it becomes an exercise in finding what are the other hacks.


One of the other things that I found that was fascinating for creativity. When we look at creativity, there’s many different ways to categorize the brain, but one of the most common systems is that scientists talk about the salience network, the executive attention network and the third one, the one I’ll talk about, is the default network. These three networks sort of operate across the whole of your brain, but they do different functions.

The default network is this fabulous part of the brain which is – it tends to be where we dwell when we’re daydreaming. It’s all where thoughts organize themselves and bounce around, but often when you say to people, “When did that idea come to you?” it’s at a time when the default network is running our brains.

I’ll give you an illustration. Often people say, “Oh, had a good idea while I was in the shower,” “Had a good idea while I was going for a walk.” That’s not uncommon because that’s the time the default network is daydreaming and allowing little thoughts to interact with each other, to bounce off each other.

As soon as you know that, as soon as you know that creativity comes from the default network, you start thinking of what are the ways to activate that? One of the most powerful ways to activate the default network is to go for a walk.

If you’re trying to brainstorm, if you’re trying to get ideas down on a piece of paper, then often we find ourselves stranded in a lifeless sort of pretty dull meeting room often frowning into our laptops, or frowning onto a white board. Actually one of the most powerful things you can do is go for a walk. 81% of people saw an increase in ideas. Their ideas went up two-thirds when they did that. It’s a really powerful thing.

But the default network can be activated in so many different ways. My favorite example of the default network is the guy who wrote The West Wing TV show, he also wrote The Social Network film, a guy called Aaron Sorkin. He stumbled upon this. No one told him this, but he stumbled upon the idea that his best ideas came to him when he was in the shower. As a result of that, he had a shower installed in his office.

In a sort of fabulous interview – he was interviewed I think by Hollywood Reporter and he was asked about his habit for showers. He takes eight showers a day. He takes eight showers a day. He was asked about this. He said, “It’s not that I’m obsessively clean. That’s not why I’m doing it. I’m doing it because the sense of freethinking, the sense of sort of free association I have in the shower just gets me past any road blocking, gets me past any sense that I’m stranded in my thinking.”

For me, as soon as you understand that, you start thinking, right, then when am I allowing my default network to play and to create? The answer quite often is pretty infrequently. We fill our day with meetings, with emails. We’re not giving ourselves time to think and dream.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I love that example in that it’s sort of an extreme action. It’s like, “Hey, I’ve made this observation and it’s really working for me, so we’re going to go all in. Install the shower. Do it eight times a day.” That’s such a cool example.

Bruce Daisley
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
I want to dig into that notifications a bit. Not to get too nitty-gritty, but let’s talk it. Now the key thing about the notifications is simply the beeps and buzzes from our phone or is it everything. Don’t pop up on my phone screen visually. Don’t give me red badges. Is it sort of like all notifications or just the ones that can interrupt you from other stuff?

Bruce Daisley
Yeah, it’s all of them, all of them. But what I will say, Pete, it gives you a real mental availability. My own experience at doing this of all the interventions, there’s 30 interventions in my book, which unfortunately it’s not being published in the US for another 12 months. But there’s 30 interventions in my book and I’ve tried all of them out.

But this one is you have to turn off all notifications. You turn off the number that sits on that email app. You turn off the thing that slides down on your screen. What happens is that I find myself in the morning and I go through that routine that we’ve all become accustomed to, which is you wake up, you check your message apps, you check your social apps.

Then it used to be that I always checked my email and increasingly now I forget to check email. I’ll find myself heading out on my journey to work and then an hour into my journey to work or just as I’m arriving at my office door, I think “Oh, I haven’t checked email.”

To me it’s incredibly liberating because often that sense when you’re checking email but before you get to the office, it either disrupts your morning commute and you find yourself trying to answer something badly at the kitchen table or it sort of creates a sense of sort of claustrophobia that you want to answer it but you don’t have time.

Of all the interventions, as I said, this is the most powerful one. It’s just an illustration I think that we can push back against the demands of work. We often feel helpless in the face of work, but this gives us scope to really push back and try and feel more refreshed, feel more recharged really.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really cool. I like that term claustrophobia in terms of right now it’s sort of got a piece of you in term of your mental attention. It’s there. It’s like, “Oh I want to reply to that. I can’t right now. What will I say? Maybe this.” Now your brain is consumed with that and you’re sort of short changing your opportunity in the default system mode of transportation zoning out to get those creative ideas.

Bruce Daisley
Yeah, absolutely, absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
You said 30 interventions, so I know we won’t have time to hit all 30, but if I may invoke perhaps the 80/20 rule. If 6 of them are yielding 80% of the value, can you give us what are the other half?

Bruce Daisley
The first 12 are all these recharges. Then probably the bit of the book that I found most fascinating when I was researching and it was something that the more I researched it, the more I became addicted and compelled to the science of it was this idea of human sync, this idea of human synchronization. The science of this is remarkable.

If you put a group o as soon as you realize you can improve work with lots of little hacks, with lots of little changes, then it becomes an exercise in finding what are the other hacks. f people who are strangers singing together in a choir, you observe that their endurance, their fortitude goes up. I’ll explain to you how in a second. When you put rowers together and you get them to row in time with each other, their fortitude and their endurance goes up. They become more than the sum of their parts remarkably. It’s choirs, rowers. When you put people together who dance, you see the same.

When I mention the fortitude, that’s one thing that scientists have found. They find it very difficult to measure the endorphin levels in people, but they find it very easy to measure the consequence of those endorphins. What they often do – and it sounds a touch callous – but they inflict pain upon people.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Bruce Daisley
Scientists, they tend to put these armbands around people’s arms, sort of things like what you might have worn or taught a child to swim in. But if you imagine you keep inflating those armbands until it starts creating a bit of pain on the arm of the subject.

What they found was that people who had rowed in time with each other could withstand twice the amount of pain of people who just rowed on their own. People who danced together, withstand more pain than people who’ve not danced together. People-

Pete Mockaitis
Now is this while they’re rowing and while they’re dancing or sort of at a resting state?

Bruce Daisley
Yes. No, so immediately when they stop, they can withstand the pain. It creates this magical thing. It’s really interesting. When we’re thinking about teams, the choir is a perfect example. You put strangers together and you get them to sing together and actually when you look at the evidence afterwards, they often say, “I feel a connection to the person I sung with,” even when that person was a stranger ten minutes before.

It has this remarkable quality. As soon as you understand that there is something about us being in sync with others that seems to develop this sort of fortitude, it seems to develop this connection, then you start thinking okay, are there other ways that we can access this. There are.

One of the most compelling bits of science about sync I’ve seen is scientists took about 4,000 unmarried couples who were living in a distant relationship. They were maybe sort of – one was in the West coast, one was in the East coast.

Pete Mockaitis
These are like romantic relationships?

Bruce Daisley
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
So distance. Okay.

Bruce Daisley
That’s right. They tried to understand which of these couples stayed together. What they found was the couples that stayed together over the period of time that they were being observed had one thing in common. It was the ones who phoned each other every day to talk about trivial things.

When we have this human sync, when we take time to get in sync with each other and that often is conversation, but clearly the most magical form is this physical interaction, but we can observe it. The couples who spoke together every day, their relationships were more enduring.

We see lots of examples of this. One of the other bits that you see in this … is that there’s a wonderful researcher who’s looked at a lot of this work, a guy called Robin Dunbar. Robin Dunbar, he looked at animals and he observed that one of the ways that animals get in sync with each other is they do mutual grooming. It’s no longer acceptable Pete, unfortunately for me to stop and pick fleas off of you.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m just thinking I’ve got a great hairbrush, just come on over.

Bruce Daisley
Maybe this is why we see teenage girls do this. We see the endorphin levels rocket through the roof when animals spend time in mutual grooming. However, he said they observed exactly the same behavior when humans laugh together, which is really interesting.

You’ve got this phenomenon of human sync. Chat activates it. Spending time around in synchronized activities with others activates it, but also laughing with others activates it. The consequence of sync is that it tends to make us more bonded with the people we’re working with. It tends to make us have a greater allegiance with the people we’re working with.

Anyone who’s thinking about how to make work better, thinking about how you can build some maybe sort of collective laughter into the working environment is a really important thing.

Of course, strangely a lot of us have stumbled upon that through our own experience. We’ve maybe been in companies where the company meeting at the end of the week, there was always a guy who stood up and made everyone laugh. That place seemed better than this place, but we couldn’t put our finger on why.

I think this for me is a good piece of science that says, as human beings we shouldn’t be ashamed of finding benefit in some of these things like laughter. We shouldn’t be ashamed in feeling more connected to our teammates when we spend time laughing with them.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really cool. That just gets me thinking in terms of how to get that laughter going. I remember one time I was in an office and we had just a little fun event in which everyone – well, you might dig this, former YouTube – everyone was to bring one of their favorite YouTube videos. We just sort of hung out. That’s what we did. There was maybe 20 people. Each person brought a YouTube video they thought was great and we all just laughed together. It was a whole lot of fun.

Bruce Daisley
Well, one of the best books on laughter is by a scientist called Robert Provine. Robert Provine said – it was a really interesting thing – he said even though I think there’s somewhere in the region of 70,000 scientific papers, so peered-reviewed papers into pain, there’s less than 100 scientific reviewed papers into laughter. Scientists often feel it’s a bit frivolous to investigate laughter.

He decided that he was going to do one of the biggest pieces of research into laughter. He pulled together all of everyone else’s research. Here’s what he found.

He found laughter quite often in an office – so I’ve talked there about optimizing an office for laughter – but he said often in an office, laughter is around things that aren’t necessarily the funniest things in the world. We often find ourselves laughing with colleagues at things that wouldn’t necessarily get on their own Netflix special.

But he said in many ways laughter, the way he describes it, is in many ways, laughter is like a human’s bird song. It’s like the sound we make to feel connected to each other.

Actually one of the things that laughter signals – there’s a wonderful bit of science that if you look at how animals play, one thing that dogs do is they often do a thing where they lean forward on their front two legs, sort of very similar to the yoga position, the downward dog.

Scientists who look at that say that that signals that no harm will pass here, that dogs know that if they lean forward on their front two legs, that even if they look like they’re about to bite each other, they know that it’s a signal that things are safe. One scientist said to me that laughter signals the same for humans. We laugh to signal we’re all friends here. This is just – we’re connected with each other.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so good. This is bringing me back to my days at consulting at Bain and one of their best – the best lines in their recruiting materials – I think they’re still using it is “We laugh a lot,” which was true.

Then one of my favorite sort of events we had, they called it the Bain Band in which people would change the lyrics of popular songs to reflect sort of the dorky nuances of the consulting experience, so
Time After Time would be Slide After Slide. It wasn’t super hilarious, but it was your colleagues that you recognized up there being kind of silly on stage. You just sort of laugh a little bit like, “Oh yeah, that’s our life, slide after slide, ha, ha, ha.”

It had such a powerful bonding effect. I remember we would all rush to get with our favorite colleagues and have chairs next to each other. If someone was going to the bar for a drink, nobody wanted to leave their seats, “Oh get me one,” “Oh get me one,” “Oh get me one,” someone’s coming back with seven drinks in their hand somehow. Yeah.

Bruce Daisley
Isn’t it interesting though that so often and especially when times are difficult, so let’s imagine the last few years have been difficult for a lot of businesses, that one of the things that you know there from your own subjective experience backed up by the science that I’ve done is that laughter made you feel connected and made you probably in truth, want to work harder for the people around you.

But when times are hard, we find ourselves saying, “Now is not the time for laughter. Don’t let the bosses see you laughing in the office.” We often have this idea that somehow laughter is frivolous, somehow unnecessary. It’s a distraction from the job rather than it’s forging a link with us and the colleagues we work with that’s going to make us do our best work.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. That is good. Boy, just keep them coming Bruce. Laughter, any other big ones you want to share?

Bruce Daisley
Yeah. For me that was so fascinating because the idea of laughter. But I think probably the one that’s been most talked about in the last few years is the idea of psychological safety. This is the idea, I think I mentioned earlier that the willingness to speak up to the boss. I was really interested.

I met a member of the equivalent of the Navy SEALS, a member of the special forces in the United Kingdom. He told me about their tactic of reaching this. Psychologically safety is this immensely difficult thing to achieve.

When teams feel willingness to speak up to the boss, what you tend to find is it produces a fluidity of discourse. It ensures that you don’t end up in a situation where the whole of the company knows that something’s bad but the bosses are asking them to do it.

If you look back at some of the recent memorable corporate failures, Nokia was famous for it had a culture where people were instructed if they couldn’t be positive, don’t do anything. As a result of that, when they were faced with the iPhone arriving and people starting to question whether their smartphone was good enough, the people who had dissenting voices and maybe wanted to speak up were really clearly told don’t speak up. This is not the time – there’s no value in speaking up.

I think what we’ve learned is the businesses where they can encourage this psychological safety are incredibly powerful. This is when the conversation I had with a member of the elite military came in.

He told me a really simple thing, which was they have a daily debrief. They have a – at the end of every interaction when they’re out in the field, this is the combat field – maybe they’ve just been on a deployment in Afghanistan or in some sort of war-torn part of Iraq or wherever. He said at the end of every day they have a quick standup. They all gather around. He said it should take no more than 10 – 15 minutes. It’s while we’re still in our combat clothes.

He said the way it works is that he describes what happens that day and then he will say what he did wrong or what he felt he could have done better. Then he invites everyone else to discuss what happened that day. The very act of a leader saying, “Here’s what I did wrong,” and demonstrating that they aren’t infallible, that they have got vulnerabilities is an incredibly powerful access point to everyone else doing the same.

Psychological safety is this really elusive quality. You see businesses talk about it increasingly. But I loved his simple access point for that because so often we come out of big meetings and we come out of interactions with – we come of big meetings or client interaction or we come out of a review and firstly we often gather the feedback a week later or we’re send an email round everyone saying, “That went well. Any thoughts?”

Of course you lose specificity in that because you lose the sense of people know that that one answer that one person gave that wasn’t right, you lose specificity. But by taking time afterwards and the leader being the first to step forward and say, “Here’s what I did wrong,” seems to give a really powerful access point to people feeling that they can share the same.

Again, these aren’t – I don’t think these are – they’re not going to be revolutions that are going to be patented by someone. They’re not going to be – on their own, they won’t transform a business. But the thing that was fascinating for me was following the evidence of what other people have done as an access point to improving the jobs that we do.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s fantastic. Particularly when you think about military in which rank is just so clear and you think that you need to be strong and to be a tough leader who’s being entrusted with people’s lives. If they can do it, anyone can do it.

Bruce Daisley
Right. He told me a fascinating thing. He said to me the biggest mistake that anyone makes about the military is thinking that we give orders all day long. He said the decision making is often far more consensual than you think because if we found ourselves just giving instructions that were unwelcome, it would be a failure of leadership.

That was a real revelation to me. We’ve got this idea that soldiers are just given marching orders and told where to go. He said, “No, far from it.” They very much regard themselves as people who are studying and learning from the world of work and wanting to improve upon it. For me it was just a revelation to speak with someone who had that experience.

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

Bruce Daisley
Yeah, look, probably the one thing I will say is that the overwhelming debate right now in the world of work is the amount we work. There’s been certainly a contribution to this discussion this year by Elon Musk. I think he doesn’t make the best poster child for the 120-hour work week.

But Elon Musk has a couple of times this year said he works 120 hours a week and that he feels that nothing good can be accomplished at less than 80 – well, he said 40 hours is not enough to work and he feels that you need to work 80 hours a week to achieve anything.

I think the wonderful thing about that is that there’s no evidence for it at all. In fact, when you actually invite people to make evidence and to gather evidence on these things, you see that either we’re lying to ourselves, that we’re not working 80 hours, we’re – but we’re working 40 hours distributed across a week.

I was chatting to an investment banker today. She was telling me that she used to leave the office at 10 PM every night, maybe 11, sometimes 12. I said to her, “Wow, was it relentless all day?” She said, “No, no, no, no. It was the culture though that you didn’t leave till 10. There were times when we weren’t working especially hard.” She said, “There was a lot of time for downtime and laughter, but the culture was you didn’t work – you didn’t leave till 10 PM.”

Sometimes work is the lie we tell ourselves. We’re not being honest with ourselves. The wonderful thing is the more you look at the evidence – there was some fabulous evidence that I found – that really the most that the human brain can really work and what most of us work with our brains is around 55 hours a week. After that the marginal gains for each hour actually are negative. When we work 70 hours a week, we actually achieve significantly less than when we work 40 hours a week.

As soon as you identify that science, as soon as you realize that that’s the case, you start thinking, “Okay, well, maybe my objective should be to work 40 good hours a week to be energized, but to value my rest as much as my work.” For me that’s the path to enlightenment here.

If we can start thinking rather than doing 70 exhausted hours a week, let’s do 40 good hours a week and that’s a good week’s work. Or less. If people want to work less, then by all means. But I think the more that we can get balanced, it’s going to help us achieve greater creativity.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m right with you there. All right, so now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Bruce Daisley
Yeah. This is a quotation that’s from – they often say, certainly in the UK, they often say that all quotes ultimately are attributed to Winston Churchill. If you say something, people will say, “Yeah, originally that was a Churchill quote.” This similarly, albeit that this is the mantra of the UK team, the cycling team. One of the most – I often don’t use sporting metaphors, but it’s one of the most accomplished transformations over the last 30 years, the medals that the UK cycling team has won.

But their mantra is this, their mantra is “Never stand when you can sit. Never sit when you can lie down.” What they mean by that is effectively, preserve your energy because energy is finite. Use your energy when you’re ready for your most important action. Don’t waste it. Don’t waste it on trivial moments.

For me, as soon as you think about that – there’s a similar quotation about our brains. It was in a book by a guy called Daniel Levitin a couple of years ago, about three years ago. I can almost remember this quote verbatim. He said, “Our brains are configured to make a certain number of decisions every day. Once we each that number, we’re unable to make any more irrespective of how important they are.” Right.

That’s a game changer for me because – the science behind that if anyone wants to look into it is called ego depletion. But as soon as you realize, okay, so me running around and working from seven in the  morning and doing all these things and reading all these papers and doing this then going to this meeting, then answering all these emails, it’s zero sum. You reach a stage in the day where you brain can no longer do any more.

As soon as you realize that then that cycling team mantra becomes really important. “Never stand when you can sit. Never sit when you can lie down.” If we’re going to achieve the most we can achieve in work, it’s not by working longer and harder, it’s by using that finite gunpowder we’re got in our brain for the most important uses of it.

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

Bruce Daisley
Yeah, it changes for me all of the time. I loved – there’s a wonderful book by a professor from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology called Sandy Pentland. He’s called Sandy Pentland. The book is called Social Physics.

He took some badges, sort of like the name badges we might wear around our necks to get into most offices and he turned them into sort of microcomputers. Then he used those badges to start tracking the interactions that happened in offices. I have to tell you, when I read this book, I was blown away by it because it starts telling you the truth about what goes on in offices. Honestly, I sat there like this is like magic.

What he found was emails contribute about 2% of the output to offices. Meetings account for about the same. Most important thing that contributes to what goes on in offices is face-to-face chat, is face-to-face discussion accounts for two-fifths of everything that’s achieved in an office.

Probably, Pete, you’ve witnessed that there’s less chat going on in offices these days. People are busier than ever before. They often put on headphones as a way to cope with an office, an open plan office. People are doing – they’re finding less time for chat. I think for me seeing evidence and he built up the biggest amount of data of face-to-face interactions in offices ever. He was able to track this. It became just – it was eye opening for me what we were able to learn from it.

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

Bruce Daisley
Yeah. That’s a very good question. It’s certainly not – I love Twitter. I work at Twitter, obviously I love it. First and foremost, I used it. Probably the thing that I find has transformed the world of learning more than anything else though is my Audible app. I love Audible. I’m a keen runner. For me listening – sometimes I’m listening to a novel at the moment, which is such a wonderful palette cleanser, but listening to the latest book, for me it’s just a revelation.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Bruce Daisley
I think probably the most important habit that any of us can have is to try and get as much sleep as possible and I try to get seven and a half hours of sleep a night. Normally with good success, but I’m not 100% sure that the sleep is always the highest quality, but that’s what I try to do.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks and they retweet often?

Bruce Daisley
Yeah, the thing for me is that some of the things that I’ve mentioned here to some extent this day in modern work is that we all feel guilty about work. We go home with 40 emails in our inbox. We didn’t get back to that person. We didn’t do this.

For me, the biggest learning that I’ve had this year is that all of the science suggests that creativity is destroyed by stress. As creativity is going to increasingly be the most important asset in our toolbox for managing the world of work, then we need to recognize that stress kills creativity. Focusing on that all the time will help us achieve more in our jobs.

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

Bruce Daisley
Yeah, they can – I always welcome people hitting me up on LinkedIn. I’m very willing for people to connect with me there. I’ve also got social media, so you can find me on Twitter at BruceDaisley or you can search for the podcast which is Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat.

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

Bruce Daisley
Yeah, I would say – the best thing I would say is take another look at the way that you’re working. I found that quite often I felt that I was the exception. We all think we’re the exception. You hear that the most that humans can work is 55 hours and your first response is “Not me. I can work longer than that.” I found when confronted with all this data, I did exactly what everyone else did. I argued with it.

Then I found myself on a Monday night sitting at the kitchen table, emailing at half past nine. I thought to myself, “What have you actually emailed in the last hour?” I hadn’t emailed. I’d reread one email four times. I’d gone and got myself another cup of tea. I changed the music three times. I hadn’t done an hour of work. However, what I’d done is I’d deprived myself of an hour’s rest. I think be honest with yourself about work. Work is the lie we tell ourselves quite often.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. Bruce, thank you so much for sharing this good stuff. It’s a shame that us Yankees have to wait an extra year for your book, but thanks for teasing so much goodies here. I’m really excited to put them into practice.

Bruce Daisley
Pleasure to talk to you Pete. Thank you so much.