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480: How to Become Ridiculously Likable with Vanessa Van Edwards

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Vanessa Van Edwards says: "The fastest way that you can become more likable is to work on your own ability to like faster and more deeply."

Researcher Vanessa Van Edwards explains what causes people to like one another and how to make great impressions.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Proven ways for making a fantastic first impression
  2. What builds and what kills likability the fastest
  3. Good and bad questions to ask during first meetings

About Vanessa

Vanessa Van Edwards is a behavioral investigator at her human behavior research lab, the Science of People. She is a professional people watcher—speaking, researching and cracking the code of interesting behavior hacks for audiences around the world. She is a columnist for Entrepreneur Magazine and the Huffington Post. Her popular courses on Creative Live and Udemy have over 120,000 enrolled students. She’s been featured on NPR, CNN, Forbes and USA Today, but more importantly, she’s addicted to sour patch kids, airplane coffee and puppies.

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Vanessa Van Edwards Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Vanessa, thanks for joining us on How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Vanessa Van Edwards
Oh, thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig into this conversation. I’ve seen you appear in all sorts of places, so I know you’ve got the goods and a lot of great research behind your insights. But I want to hear about your experiment where you stared up at nothing.

Vanessa Van Edwards
The Look Up experiment. Oh, my goodness. Yeah, I love doing street experiments and I was dying to try this one, which is, you know, a lot of the time I teach about eye contact and I talk about body language. And one of the kind of interesting things about eye contact is we cannot help but look where other people are looking, right? If they’re looking at something that might be interesting, which we like, or it might be threating, which we need to know.

So, I wanted to test it, a very simple experiment. I stood outside on the street and I looked up at nothing and I counted how many people stopped and looked where I was looking while they walked by. And it was almost every single person, unless they were on their phone. In fact, I was looking up and a lovely lady stood next to me for quite a long time. And I’m standing there and she’s standing there, we’re both looking up at nothing, and I wonder, “Who’s going to break first?” And she kind of leans over and she says, “Is he going to jump?”

And I was like, “Oh, my goodness.” And I just laughed, and I said, “Oh, my goodness. I’m so sorry but it’s actually a social experiment. There’s no one up there.” And she had made up this whole story that she thought that she saw a man in a window and that’s where I was looking and, really, it was a great experiment because, one, it told me that, yes, we are absolutely very attuned to where people look, but, second, our brain makes up stories for things we can’t explain.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that is perfect. Thank you. Well, that’s a juicy takeaway and I’m sure you’ve identified many such takeaways. But I’d love to hear what’s perhaps the most surprising and fascinating discovery you’ve made in all your years of investigating people behavior?

Vanessa Van Edwards
Ooh, that’s like asking to pick a favorite child. Hmm, but I only have one child so that’s pretty easy to do for me at this moment. Most surprising or interesting? Probably learning about personality. So, I’ve always been interested, I’ve always been that person who signs up for every personality quiz, “What Harry Potter house are you? What Disney character are you?” I just love personality quizzes.

And I was really interested to find out that there really is only one personality science that’s reliable, and that’s called The Big Five.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing, yes. And so, reliable just in terms of when the same person takes it, it shows up again and again and again the same way.

Vanessa Van Edwards
Yeah, and not only that but also that across genders and culture and races, everyone has the same vibe traits, and that’s pretty surprising because we usually think about culture shaping our personality and it definitely does. But in terms of these five personality traits, we can measure everyone on these same five traits. And that creates kind of a universality which I like. I am always looking for universals. I want to find the things that apply to all of us because if we learn them, they help us in every situation.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, so I want to dig into the particular practicals when it comes captivating folks, you’d put a lot of your efforts in that dimension. And so, why don’t we start with hearing what are the keys for making a fantastic first impression?

Vanessa Van Edwards
Yeah, so first impressions are really important and we kind of know this but we don’t exactly know how it works. And what’s interesting is, for my introverts listening, so there’s actually a common misconception. Introverts often think that their first impression happens the moment they open their mouth. So, an introvert will often go into an event and kind of survey the room, and then once they decide to approach someone and say, “Hi. I’m Vanessa,” that’s their first impression.

But, actually, your first impression happens the moment someone first sees you. And that’s good and bad news. So, it’s bad news because we can’t always hide in a corner until we make our first impression, until we’re ready, it actually happens the moment we walk in. The good news is all you really have to worry about is that grand entrance. Once we make the first impression, it actually stays pretty permanent.

So, the one thing that you really want to focus on when you’re entering into a room is having some kind of purpose or intention. The worst that we can do in our first impression happens by accident a lot. So, let’s say that you’re out at a networking event, you walk into the room, and you’re not sure what you’re going to do first. Should you get a drink? Should you go to the bathroom? You’re carrying your coat and your purse and your briefcase and that coffee that you just got at Starbucks, and you just need a few minutes to kind of calm down for a second. Your first impression has just been made from everyone who’s seen you right as you walk into the room.

So, what I would rather have you do is think about, “Okay, what’s the very first thing you want to do when you walk into a room?” For me, it’s almost always, if I can, trying to get something in my hand. So, that could be a name tag, that could be a pen, that could be the free pamphlet they’re giving out, it could be a drink at the bar. That has a secret affect of making you very purposeful and that also makes you look more confident.

It makes you walk more confidently. It makes your eye contact more focused. It also gives you a kind of purpose when you’re mentally walking in. If you’re a recovering awkward person like me, it’s nice to have a sense of purpose. So, the very first thing you want to do is figure out, “What are you going to do the moment you walk in a room?”

Pete Mockaitis
And so, I am confidently, purposefully acquiring that name tag or that beverage, or placing my items down.

Vanessa Van Edwards
Yeah, exactly. And that seems like a silly thing but, actually, what we are looking for in other people when we’re trying to gauge our first impression, is the very first thing we’re looking at is, “Is someone a threat to me?” So, luckily, in the modern business environment, most of the time people are pretty safe. And one way that you can make sure that people know that you’re safe is actually showing your hands.

So, the more items you’re carrying, the more distracted you are, if you’re still on your phone when you walk into a room, and someone can’t see your hands, it actually is a little bit of a red flag for people in their brain. When we can’t see someone’s hands, it’s as if we can’t see their intention. You know, that cliché about hiding hands, or, “He isn’t showing me his hand.” That actually has a lot of real truth. When we can’t see someone’s hands, we’re just slightly nervous. It’s like you have a hidden intention.

Pete Mockaitis
You can have a weapon. You could be a threat.

Vanessa Van Edwards
Yes, exactly. So, from caveman days, if we couldn’t see someone’s hands, we wonder if they’re carrying a rock or a spear. Are they going to reach out and punch us or are they going to reach out and handshake with us?

So, this other reason why I want you to purposeful is if you are going in ready to take your first item, you’re going to be hands-free, right? You’re not going to still be on your phone. You’re not going to be carrying a bunch of items. Hopefully, you can leave them in the car if you can. That actually helps also people see you as a friend not foe.

And the second thing that people are doing is they’re trying to gauge, “Are you someone who we’d like to get to know?” And we like to get to know people who are purposeful, right? No one likes to have someone who is distracted or wandering. And so, interestingly, even just having something as simple as, “I’m going to get my name tag,” or, “I’m going to get a warm tea because I’m cold,” even those two things give off an air of confidence that’s very easy to get.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Super. So, that’s the first impression side of things. I think perhaps the most captivating piece of your table of contents for “Captivate” was how do we become ridiculously likable?

Vanessa Van Edwards
Yes. So, likability has always fascinated me. And I’m a recovering awkward person but I joke about it in the book and I was always fascinated by the cool kids at school, right? Like, they would walk into the cafeteria and just everyone wanted to look at them and know them. And I always wondered, “What’s going on there? They weren’t necessarily more attractive, or smarter, or even the best athletes. So, I wonder do they have this quality that was kind of a secret magical charisma dust?” That’s kind of what I always wondered.

And then I studied, I come across a study by a researcher named Van Sloan and he actually studied this. He looked at high school students across a variety of high schools looking for patterns of why the popular kids are popular. And I’ll have you guess. I don’t know if you read the study in the book yet. But can you guess what made the most popular kids popular?

Pete Mockaitis
Vanessa, my guess is that they were quite interested in other people, what they were interested in, what they were up to, and they kind of seemed genuinely curious and ask follow-up questions and such.

Vanessa Van Edwards
Ah, Pete, curiosity is a very good guess but, actually, what it was and, by the way, there was a number of variables in this so it could’ve been GPA, it could’ve been athleticism, it could’ve been, first, the athlete, it could’ve been attractiveness. So, what he found was very clearly the students who were the most popular actually liked the most other people.

So, when they asked them, “How many people do you like?” The most popular kids actually had the highest number of people that they liked. So, what’s interesting about this is that it puts you in control of how likable you are, that if you go into interactions, and typically we would hold our likability. And what I mean by this is we are so afraid that people won’t like us. We’re afraid that they’re going to judge us or they’re not going to accept us for who we are, or that we’re too weird or too awkward, right? I can absolutely speak to this, feel this.

And so, we think, “Okay, I don’t want to like them first just in case they don’t like me.” And, actually, that is the thing that kills our likability the fastest. When we withhold our likability, when we’re assessing for longer than they are, it actually makes us even more unlikable. And so, the greatest way, the fastest way that you can become more likable is actually to work on your own ability to like faster and to like more deeply.

And I was so relieved to hear that because I genuinely am a very curious person, and curious is something you mentioned in your guess. I genuinely assume the best in people. In fact, sometimes I feel that’s burned me in the past. But I realized that carrying that fear, that history with me actually was contributing to a negative spiral, right? The more I withheld my liking, the more afraid I was, the less likable I became.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, how does one work on one’s own capacity to like more and more readily?

Vanessa Van Edwards
So, I think this is an absolutely a mental game. And the great thing about this is you are in control of it, right? You’re not going into a room hoping other people like you. You are actually in control of how you do this.

So, the mental reframe is if you were about to introduce this person on stage, what would you have to find out about them, about how important they are, or how impressive they are, to be able to introduce them? That is a nice kind of mental reframe of asking questions that are searching for good. And this is something that I talk about in my TED Talk about how I think that we have to assume good in people. And when you assume good, all different kinds of amazing things happen.

If you assume that you’re going to like someone, and you’re looking for reasons to like them, you ask completely different questions especially if you like them with a purpose. So, liking them with a purpose means, “If I had to introduce this person on stage, if I had to introduce this person to my boss in a second because they wanted a job working next to me, what would I have to find out about them to say that?” Or, “If I knew I was going to about to spend a month with this person alone on a cruise ship, what would I want to know about them or find out about them to like them so that we have a nice month together?”

That’s a very, very different kind of mindset than, “Is this person is going to be my client? Should I pitch this person? Who is this person?” Right? It’s a very, very different kind of assumption. And I think, actually, our assumptions can help us.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, within that search, are there any sort of go-to questions you found valuable again and again?

Vanessa Van Edwards
Yeah, I actually think, but first, before I answer what works, I would love to answer what I think doesn’t work. So, I have found that the question, “What do you do?” is one of the worst questions for likability, and there’s a couple reasons for this. One is that it immediately engages what I call a social script. So, the moment you ask someone, “What do you do?” it’s like you’re saying to them, “I’m going to stick within the norms, I’m going to stick within the comfort zone, and I’m going to ask a comfortable question.” And, of course, you’ve answered that question a million times before         so your brain immediately clicks on to autopilot and you go into the rote, “Oh, well, I’m an author and I research human behavior blah, blah, blah.”

What I found, if you listen to people when they answer this question, they actually answer it as if they’re apologizing to you or as if they are reading a boring excerpt from their school textbook because they’ve said it so many times that it doesn’t interest them anymore. And the problem is that it begins this cycle of autopilot that goes like this, “So, what do you do?” “Uh-huh. And where are you from?” “Great. Yeah. So, ah, great talking to you. Yeah, I’m going to go get some more wine, and have a good night.” Right? Like, it’s the same over and over and over again.

And so, I would challenge you to go on a “What do you do?” diet of never asking that question again. And the second reason why I don’t like that question is because sometimes people don’t like their answer to that question. If you ask someone “What do you do?” right out front, it means or it implies that you are going to define them by what they do.
And so, what I found is that if people really love what they do, they will find a way to work it into the conversation without you asking. If someone doesn’t mention what they do after 10 to 15 minutes of speaking with them, it means that they not only don’t feel it defines them but they might not even like it. And not knowing that might actually allow you to discover other things about them.

So, when you go in that “What do you do?” diet, I would highly recommend other kinds of questions. So, you can ask a slight variation of that question which is so comfortable, which is, “Working on anything exciting these days?” So, the reason why that one is really nice is, it’s still comfortable, it’s not like too crazy, it’s not like, “What’s your biggest worry?” Like, that can be a little deep. And it allows someone to say, “Oh, you know, I’m learning to garden.”

Or if someone isn’t working, if they don’t have a traditional job, they can say, “Oh, you know, my daughter is starting kindergarten next month.” So, it’s a way of opening up the conversation to let them talk about something positive, and this is something I really truly believe in interacting for good, is that it also assumes good.

If you ask someone “Are you working on anything exciting recently?” it asks their brain to search for anything in their life that’s exciting, which is a wonderful experience mentally, right? If you’re thinking about, “Argh, my parking, and the weather, and the food, and this networking event, and got to work on that project. I have so many emails. I have a long to-do list,“ that’s just mental trap after mental trap.

But if someone invites you to talk about anything you’re excited about, that could be a vacation you have coming up, that could be a side hustle, that could be a work project. It’s a much more pleasant mental experience, and, in that way, I feel like it’s giving a gift to the people we’re interacting with.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’m thinking now in advance as I’m headed to the podcast, to the conference, and I’m thinking about there’s lots of times I’ll just be meeting all this people in different contexts. But if you are interacting positively and searching for something good and exciting, well, then there’s all sorts of safe yet also positive openers like, “Oh, what’s the best thing you’ve seen so far? What are you really looking forward to, to go into? Did you hear anything that’s surprising?”

And then we’re all at the event, that’s kind of what’s on our minds, and so they’re going to share, “Oh, yeah, I heard this really cool speaker who mentioned this. I had no idea that that even existed.” And then there we go.

Vanessa Van Edwards
Right. And so, by the way, you just did it exactly, any variation   of that question is exactly what you want to do. So, maybe it’s, “Are you working on anything exciting recently or coming up?” It can also be, “Did you hear anything exciting from the speaker?” It could be, “Hey, do you have any exciting episodes coming up?” It could be, “Is this an exciting season for you?” Whatever. You can do a variation of that for whatever you’re from. The whole point is to ask someone to look for good and that totally changes the dynamic of your interaction and it also helps them give you reasons they are likable.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. Well, so I also want to get your take on you mentioned there are seven universals, you like universals, facial expressions. I’m curious, what are they and how can they help us?

Vanessa Van Edwards
Yeah, this is actually the science that hooked me in the very beginning of my career. So, when I read this research, I was absolutely flabbergasted that it wasn’t taught in schools. I mean, I was like, “How was I not taught this? How does not everyone know this? It’s such applicable, easy science.”

So, the research done by Dr. Paul Ekman, and Dr. Paul Ekman, I don’t know if you’ve seen the show “Lie To Me.” It’s a great show on Netflix if anyone wants to go watch it, which was based on his research. And he is a researcher who discovered that facial expressions are universal. And this was a really big surprise in the research community.

They used to believe that babies, that they learned facial expressions, that a baby was born and looked at his father and mother’s face, and then mirrored it or mimicked it. But, actually, what he found is that congenitally-blind babies, babies who’ve been blind since birth, show the same facial expressions as seeing children at the same time, meaning there’s something innate, there’s something coded in our DNA that causes us to make these faces.

And so, Dr. Ekman discovered seven universal expressions. They are happiness, my favorite of course, sadness, fear, disgust, contempt, anger, and surprise. When I learned this, whenever I teach this, I teach this in our online course, I warn all my students, “This is a blessing and a curse. Once you learn this facial expressions you will never be able to unlearn them, and it’s kind of like someone just switched your television set to HD, high definition. All of a sudden you’re seeing things you never noticed before and those can sometimes be uncomfortable truths.” But I would always rather live in real truth than ignorant bliss.

Pete Mockaitis
And could you contrast for me disgust versus contempt and say what they look like?

Vanessa Van Edwards
Yeah, I mean, it’s a little hard on audio. I have a whole free guide you’re welcome to look at on my website, it’s ScienceOfPeople.com/face, and you can see in video and in action. But you can try this with me as you’re listening. So, you asked for disgust and contempt. Were those the two?

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hmm.

Vanessa Van Edwards
Okay. So, contempt is a one-sided mouth raise. So, if you just raise one side of your mouth, it’s the simplest microexpression. It kind of looks like a smirk. So, if you try that with me, just one-sided mouth raise, you kind of begin to feel a little better then, a little like smug, a little scornful. It’s actually a very negative microexpression. Whereas disgust, think of smelling something bad. So, crinkle your nose up and flash the upper whites of your teeth, so like, “Uggh!” that face you make. So, your lip is pulled up as high as possible. That is the face we make when we’re disgusted by something. And, by the way, it’s not just smelling something bad or tasting something bad, we make that face if we hear something we don’t like too.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And so, then when you have it switched on HD like that, you can suddenly see everyone’s reactions to stuff, even your own stuff, like, “What I’m doing disgusts you.” Or is that with contempt?

Vanessa Van Edwards
Yeah, and I think what’s really important is I like to think of it as like reading between the lines. So, oftentimes, I give a couple of examples in my book of scenes or reality television shows where there’s a scene that plays. And if you just look at the verbal, it seems like everything’s fine. One of my favorite examples, I’m obsessed with “The Bachelorette” – “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette.” I joke with my husband that I watch them for work, that’s how I’m able to get the TV from him, of course. And I play a Bachelor Fantasy League and I always win every year because if you look behind the words, you’ll see the real emotions there.

So, in one of the examples I give is she says, “Yeah, I love that you did that. Everything’s great. That sounds like it’s going to be really fun.” But she actually shows a flash of contempt, she shakes her head, “No,” and then she flashes sadness at him. And, sure enough, he ends up going home. And on the verbal, on the surface, people think, “Oh, yeah, she liked that.” But if you actually know what to look for, you can see he had an opportunity at that moment. He had an opportunity to see those emotions and address them.

So, instead of taking just the words, he could’ve said, “Let me explain more about it. Let me talk to you what I do. Are you okay with that? How are you feeling with that?” He had an opportunity to dig deeper and, possibly, I think, address it and then he maybe could’ve stayed.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, when they’re always saying, “I feel like Vanessa and I have a real connection,” if they really mean that or they don’t mean that, and that’s how you come out on top.

Vanessa Van Edwards
Exactly. Exactly. And it seems like you’ve been watching some “Bachelor.”

Pete Mockaitis
Just a little.

Vanessa Van Edwards
Gotcha. I got you.

Pete Mockaitis
Small doses go a long way for me.

Vanessa Van Edwards
Sure. Sure. Sure. “Sure,” that’s what my husband says to me. My husband says, “I only watch it in the background.” Okay. He’s also grabbing a glass of wine with me on Monday night. So, okay.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, we’re in our final few minutes so I want to hear a couple of your favorite things. Could you give us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Vanessa Van Edwards
Yeah. so, I have a quote that I have on my computer, I read it every day, and it says, “May anyone who comes into contact with me, whether they hear about me, or they see me, or they think about me, experience a benefit and happiness.”

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

Vanessa Van Edwards
Oh, man, I’ll say the book that kind of changed my life was “Why Men Don’t Listen and Why Women Can’t Read Maps.” It’s by Barbara and Allan Pease, a couple. And it was the first self-development book I ever read. It was on my mom’s nightstand when I was a teenager and I looked at it and I wondered why she was reading it, and I kind of snuck the book, read it without her knowing.

And it was the first self-help book I had ever read, and it was the first time I ever realized there were scientific differences between the genders and, therefore, there could be other scientific differences between people. And I remember reading that book and understanding my dad better, understanding my brother better, understanding my crush better, and just feeling so empowered with the knowledge, and it made me get into self-help. It made me want to write a self-help book.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s cool. Thank you. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Vanessa Van Edwards
Oh, with me? Oh, I would love to get in touch. ScienceOfPeople.com is where everything is. We have all my YouTube channel, and my research, and, of course, “Captivate” is wherever books are sold.

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

Vanessa Van Edwards
Yeah, I would say the most important thing you can do is assume the best. And I don’t just mean in others, and that’s great too, assume that people are likable, assume they’re interesting, but also assume the best for yourself. There’s a very, very powerful scientific principle called the expectancy effect, which is that what you expect is more likely to happen. So, if you expect to be good at something, you’re more likely to be good at it. If you expect of something to go well, it’s more likely to then go well.

And so, I know that it’s very common to say, “No expectations. No expectations,” or, even worse, “Going with low expectations so I don’t get disappointed.” And I know that we’re afraid of being disappointed or disliked, but if you assume that you’re going to be liked, and if you assume the best, then that actually sets you up for greater success, and it also sets up this nice idea of sweet anticipation, that sometimes hoping is a great exercise in itself.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Vanessa, thanks so much for sharing this good stuff, and I wish you all the best of luck in all the ways you’re captivating folks.

Vanessa Van Edwards
Thanks so much for having me.

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

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

Pat Flynn discusses how to turn anyone into your superfan.

You’ll Learn:

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

About Pat:

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

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, Sponsor!

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

Pat Flynn Interview Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

Pat Flynn
Perfect.

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
“Back off.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
I’m okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you.

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.