Sean Patton reveals his warrior mindset to help maximize your potential and performance.
- How to get better at feeling grateful
- The root of every workplace failure–and how to overcome it
- The coaching approach that really works
Sean Patton’s mission is to transform modern leadership into a driver of fulfillment, abundance, and freedom. He applied these principles while growing his own companies and now helps others unlock greatness through Stronger Leaders Stronger Profits, a leadership coaching and consulting company. Sean’s leadership foundation was forged as a US Army Airborne Ranger and Special Forces Green Beret Commander, where he earned the respect of his men and chain of command while operating in hostile and politically sensitive environments.
- Book: The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership: A New Paradigm for Sustainable Success by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman, Kaley Klemp
- Book: The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Douglas Carlton Abrams
- Martial art: Jiu Jitsu
- Concept: Dukkha
- Study: The Harvard Happiness study as discussed by Robert Waldinger
- Tool: Jasper
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Sean, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.
Hey, Pete, I’m excited to be here, man.
Oh, I’m excited to be chatting. Boy, you have such a rich body of experiences that I might classify as hardcore. Is that fair to say, Sean?
Yeah, we can put it in that. We’ll put it in that section of the library if you want.
Army Ranger, Special Force, Green Beret, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion. That’s awesome. First, let’s talk about jiu-jitsu. That’s how Nick connected us, and Nick is quite the jiu-jitsu fan. He raves about it. Tell us, what do you love about it? And how does one get to be a champion?
Well, there’s so many things I love about it. It’s interesting, jiu-jitsu is addictive. I tell people it takes about 90 days. In 90 days, you’re either going to hate it and never come back or you’re going to be in for life. And I think that jiu-jitsu actually fills a role that we don’t get filled in modern society, that’s very natural to us. We’re tribal creatures.
We’re designed to be in a group of like-minded people, with a common set of values, and a common purpose, and elders that teach us things, then we teach the people below us things, and we all believe the same things, we’re all going towards the same sort of mission, and we all have the same mindset. Like, that’s the environment we’re supposed to be in, and that’s obviously very different than the modern world we live in. It’s very individualistic and there’s conflict everywhere.
And so, in jiu-jitsu, everything in life is a filter. Jiu-jitsu is a good filter of people who want to come in and are willing to put themselves through hard things and be uncomfortable because they want to better themselves. And so, now everyone can call us around that, and it really becomes, like, a family and part of your identity. And, ultimately, because it’s so hard, it makes the rest of life easier.
Yes. Well, I do want to talk about hardness. So, tell us, we mission hardcore, that theme, like, yeah, each of those experiences – Army Ranger, Special Force, Green Beret commander, Jiu-Jitsu – sure do involve some discomfort physically and on other domains. Tell us, how do you and your compatriots endure this discomfort and pain regularly?
I think it comes down to mindset and, more specifically, purpose. Like, I was a Special Forces combat diver so my second command was an underwater infiltration team of Green Berets, and I had to be in cold water, like, all the time. It was brutal. And there’s nothing worse in life than having to be wet and cold, and I had to be wet and cold so much.
So, that being said, I’m a complete baby now. I scuba dive. If it’s below 70 degrees, I’m not going in the water. If it’s the Pacific, count me out. I’ll hang on the beach. I’m a baby because there’s no purpose behind it. And when people struggle to, I think, overcome challenges, overcome apathy, overcome any sort of wear or friction it is in their lives, oftentimes it’s because they haven’t created enough value and the purpose and the reason behind it.
You might say, if you take, like, the mother with her kids, like, “Well, she wouldn’t harm a fly. She’s the nicest thing in the world.” Well, what if someone was after your kids? Well, then she’d be this big mama bear, she’d be crazy. So, we all are capable of greatness, we’re all capable of growth, we’re all capable of being these amazing individuals, and it’s just up to us to decide how we want to express that and what matters to us. Like, what’s worth suffering for and what’s not?
Can you tell us a story of you going through an experience, maybe it’s a training, maybe it’s a mission, in which you did have a whole lot of suffering but also a whole lot of purpose, and it worked out for you to persist?
So, when I was in Afghanistan, we’re in the Afghan-Pakistan border, and we had in a bunch of nurses who had flown in to this rural area because, well, there’s no female doctors in Afghanistan because they can’t go to med school, like there are barely even midwives, and so there’s no medical training, and men can’t touch women. So, what that means is women have zero healthcare. There’s no one to serve them.
And so, just coming in and doing sort of routine medical care and treatment can be a huge boost for our mission there for the community. So, we flew them in and did a whole female-women’s seminar, health seminar. And then, as they were flying out, we were in an area that had a group called Haqqani, which Haqqani is like the extreme, the guys who are too extreme for the Taliban they go to Haqqani, and they were in our area, and they didn’t like the fact that we were helping women get healthcare.
And so, they had a recoilless rifle, and they tried to shoot down, almost did shoot down this helicopter full of all the nurses. And as soon as that went off, obviously, we have to respond. So, we immediately hit everyone out, and before they could break down their positions and drove out there, they were up on the mountains, we’re at between 8,000 and 10,000 feet above sea level with all our gear on. We ran up to the side of the mountain, and then we get into a firefight around between six and 900 meters. It’s a pretty far engagement but we were under consistent fire.
It was a tough firefight but the weapon they had used to almost shoot down the helicopter, we know we had to destroy. Like, we had to destroy that weapon, that recoilless rifle, because that’s something that can kill one of our tanks, that can take down a helicopter. We couldn’t let them break this thing down and take it back to Pakistan.
And so, we got in this firefight. I remember one of the crazier stories is as we’re shooting and they’re shooting back, and we have these grenades that go in grenade launchers, and we needed to, I needed to get those to the people that could shoot them. So, I’m running up and down the line, grabbing grenades from certain people and giving them to people who can shoot them. And as I’m running, I keep getting in the face with these evergreen trees, like the branches keep smacking me, smacking me in the face.
And I remember thinking, like, “What a time to be a klutz! Like, what a time. Like, come on, Sean, get it together. I know this is crazy. Things went fast. Like, you keep running into trees.” And then when I jumped behind a rock, and bullets were going around, and I realized, as I was next to one of my guys, that that was actually machine guy fire cutting down branches around me, and the branches were falling on top of me as I ran from position to position.
But that being said, we still had to get these grenades to other people, and we had to stay there until we could get air support and drop a bomb, and we couldn’t let them go. So, we were in this thing, the firefight, for four or five hours, and we had to keep them engaged so that they couldn’t withdraw. And, eventually, we were able to call in air support and drop bombs and take care of that.
But that was a mentally and physically exhausting mission that lasted almost a full day, but you get through it because, almost to come back to this, the purpose was so great. That’s the thing about the military. Is the juice worth the squeeze? Well, when it comes to defending a helicopter full of nurses trying to do their job in area where people are trying to stop them, and people trying to kill your friends and your compatriots, then you’re willing to do about anything.
Absolutely. Well, that’s powerful. Thank you. And so then, let’s make it a little bit more mundane, I suppose.
Less hardcore. Down the hardcore.
But in the world of jiu-jitsu, so there’s discomfort there. So, what’s your purpose there that keeps you persisting to the point of becoming a champion?
A few things. One, I was one of the owners of a jiu-jitsu gym and one of the instructors at the time we started up. So, there’s a leadership aspect, a leadership by example aspect that went into play, especially when I was training up for world. And I had this drive, I had gone through a really hard time. My first business had failed. I had gone from Green Beret commander, to having my first business fail and going through a bankruptcy three years later, to finding new partners and standing up, and growing a company.
And when I was specifically training for those tournaments, I feel like I had to get back to being my sort of warrior self, like I needed to prove it to myself, I needed to also set the example that it wasn’t about going out and actually winning, though that was the goal, but it was about showing the other members of the team and creating a culture where we work hard and we put ourselves out there in difficult situations, we put ourselves into stressful situations because we want to be the best, because we want to prove something to ourselves, because we want to do it for our team.
And so, that was a big driver for me during that time frame because, again, it was a hard time from a personal standpoint of my life. And so, I really dedicated all the time and effort, and said, “You don’t control outcome in life.” We don’t control whether we win, whether we lose. All we control is our process and our preparation. And so, I just try to do all those things right and lead by example, and it worked out.
Okay. Beautiful. Well, so, yeah, let’s hear about this Warrior’s Mindset, that’s the name of your book. What’s the mindset and what’s the big message in the book?
Absolutely. So, I went with the Warrior’s Mindset, which is maybe a little, I don’t know, off-putting, it’s a little hardcore. You said hardcore. It’s a little intense for some people but how I define a warrior is a warrior is someone who fights for a noble cause greater than himself, and I don’t mean just physically fight. It’s, like, pursues, persists for a noble cause greater than himself.
And when you define it that way, then it becomes binary, so you either have a noble purpose, a noble cause, something that’s bigger than yourself that you’re working towards, that you’re fighting for, that you believe in, or you don’t. It’s one or the other. And if you don’t, which is if we’re not intentional with our lives and we don’t set purpose, if we don’t get to know ourselves, we’re just going through the motions, and you will consciously and subconsciously make decisions that are based on, “What is going to cause me the least discomfort in the moment?”
It’s going to be a very shortsighted decision-making. It’s going to be about comfort. It’s going to be about apathy. It’s going to be, like, “Well, that feels stressful.” But, again, if you don’t have that purpose behind it, you will turn it down. And I just think that, of those two, having that warrior’s mindset and having a noble purpose, aligns with our genetic purpose and aligns with who we are as human beings, and is the path to fulfillment.
And I think the other way is a path to misery, anxiety, depression, and everything else because you lack that noble purpose. So, that’s why I use the term A Warrior’s Mindset and what I ended up doing was researching and taking my own experiences, research, there’s over 300 citations in this book, everything from neuroscience, psychology, sociology, to history, to whittle down, and say, “How small can I make the framework to achieve that?”
Because it’s one thing to say, “Have a warrior’s mindset. Go fight for a noble cause. Do all these great things,” and then they ask the question, “Awesome. How?” And so, I really set out to create as simple a framework as I could but not miss anything critical to have a system, a framework that you could work through for your own mindset that really maximize your greatness. And so, I came up with a guide called Six Keys to Greatness.
And could you give us some examples of noble purposes that folks can really seem to connect and engage with in their work lives?
Yeah, absolutely. So, I work with a lot of companies as a leadership coach and consultant, and I’m a firm believer in a leadership culture creating fulfillment. And so, I believe in purpose alignment. Managers are worried about financial incentive alignment, which is important. I’m not saying it’s not important but money is a satisfier, it’s not a driver. And if you can get yourself and getting people on your team aligned with, “What is the larger goal of this company?” your company should exist to provide some sort of effect to better people’s lives in the world.
And so, if you can really align that purpose in your work life, you can say, “Well, personally, here’s my beliefs. I think people should, in any industry, have better access to information, and we should support mothers doing home school. And I believe that we shouldn’t censor information to help that growth,” or something like that, as an example.
Well, if that aligns with your values and your purpose, now you can find a reason outside of the transactional paycheck to work every day, and how much better. I believe everyone should – this sounds crazy in some people’s corporate worlds – you should look forward to one-on-ones with your manager, like you should look forward to having performance evaluations and counseling sessions with the people that you work for and people that you work with.
I feel like we spend so much time at work in our work lives, more and more people are, and the pandemic just accelerated this mindset of, “We want purpose in the work we do. We want fulfillment in the work we do.” And I think if you do leadership the right way, I’m a true believer that you can create both fulfillment and profitability. Those things are not mutually exclusive.
Okay. Cool. Could you, while we’re on the topic, give us a few more examples of folks you’ve seen they’ve got a purpose that’s aligning with their work, job, career, purpose, and then fireworks are happening?
Yeah, absolutely. So, I’m trying to think which client example. So, I have one client I’m working with currently who had a successful company, it was a title company, he had 29 employees, doing very well for himself, but there was no passion behind it. He was just going through the motions and didn’t feel like he was living up to his potential, feel like he had sort of plateaued out for himself. And what he really wanted to do was create a vertically integrated real estate company.
And so, we sat down and we looked at, “Well, why do you want to do that?” “Well, I want to have freedom. I’ve got kids that are going to go to college. I want to be able to travel. My wife and I finally can go out and travel on our own, so I want to be able to have freedom of movement. I want to be challenged. I want to grow.”
And he also had this noble purpose of, a firm believer that for most people, especially people, normal middle-class folks that home ownership was a path to financial stability in life, and he really believed that. And so, he wanted to set up a company, everything from property management of rentals to construction, to real estate selling and title work with the idea of getting people who wanted to own a home but didn’t have the credit or do the background to do it, and then setting them up with rental situations that were stable so that they could stay there longer and then help them get to a point where they could buy their first home, and then they could hopefully buy it from him.
So, it was both profit and purpose together, and we came up with that plan slightly over a year ago, and I’m excited to see what he’s doing now. He’s got all four stood up, they’re all bringing in revenue, and he’s already got a team underneath him. And you can just see the drive and the excitement in the work he’s doing because he believes in it and he’s challenging himself.
That’s awesome. All right. Well, working through The Warrior’s Mindset, you’ve got six keys to greatness. Can you lay it on us what are each of the keys? And any pro tips for getting them unlocking stuff for us?
Absolutely. So, the six keys are perspective and gratitude, is number one; internal locus of control is number two; north star purpose is three; self-discipline; perseverance; and leadership. So, I’ll give you the brief overview of each, and it has to start with the perspective of yourself. Do you have this warrior’s mindset or not? Are you trying to maximize your experience of life, maximize your impact on others or not? What are your values? So, what’s your perspective around that?
And then, hopefully from that, it becomes gratitude. I see gratitude as the eternal fuel source for everything else. Like, if I’m getting frustrated, if I’m feeling confused of my life, from having relationships, whatever that can be that’s going in my life that I’m struggling with mentally, I can always come back to expanding my aperture and show gratitude for, like, how lucky we are, how lucky are we to be in this country, how lucky are we to be at this time.
Like, there’s never been a time in the history of mankind of probably trillions, billions and billions of humans that have ever existed over the last few hundred thousand years, how many have had air conditioning. Like, how many have been in some sort of democracy where they had basic rights and freedoms? How many had a car that can drive them wherever they want to go and talk to people, like we’re talking now, across spans of time, and have information at their fingertips? Like, almost none of them. Basically, none of them.
The life we have, if you really think about it, should fill you with so much gratitude that it can get you over humps and drive you when you’re feeling. So, gratitude is the baseline for everything, I think, and that really takes work. And you can do gratitude journaling, you can do mindset work, you can do meditation. You can do a lot of things. But if someone’s listening to this podcast right now, I guarantee you, you’re in the 10% wealthiest people on the planet. Like, if you’re listening to this podcast, you are.
You are in the top 10%. And let’s embrace and celebrate that, not get apathetic to it, but use it as fuel to achieve our true greatness.
Yes, that is powerful – gratitude, eternal fuel. I’m intrigued. It is true, objectively speaking, we’re super blessed. When you zoom out, I like that notion, the wide aperture. We zoom out in terms of time and place, it is just a fact that we are exceptionally blessed and lucky, and yet it often doesn’t feel that way. And so, I like what you said, we should feel grateful, and it takes work. Can you expand on that? It seems like we humans have a knack for having our expectations rise so fast.
One of my favorite stories here is I remember, once I was coordinating a conference. This was back in college. I was coordinating a conference, and I thought, “You know what, I’m really going to delight.” I had a team of maybe 58, I still remember this. It was on my resume for a long time. I had a team of 58 people on my staff volunteering, my fellow students. And so, I thought, “You know what, I’m going to treat them. I’m going to,” to their surprise, this hadn’t been done in years past, I thought, “Right. We’re doing great, the budget is cool, so I’m going to get everyone a nice little spread of bagels and cream cheeses from Panera one morning.”
And so, I did, and they were thrilled, like, “Oh, this is so cool. Thanks. Awesome. I was hungry, I didn’t know what I was going to do,” and I thought, “Oh, yes.” And so, it felt good to be liked and appreciated, and that it was a hit, a surprise accomplished. And so then, it was a very hectic day, we were taking care of a lot of things.
I was tired, and I was thinking, “Oh, wow, we’ve got a bunch of bagels leftover. Okay, that’s fine. I guess we’ll be all set for tomorrow. Great. I don’t have to do anything because I want to go to bed now. it’s been a crazy long day.” And so, the next day, they said, “So, Pete, are there bagels this morning?” And I said, “Oh, yeah, actually we’ve got a ton leftover. They’re just right over there.” They said, “But they’re not fresh.” And I just loved it.
I was like, “In all the years past, we’ve done this event, there were not bagels. Yesterday was the coolest thing ever. Today we still have those bagels, and they’re almost as good. They’re not, like, two-week old bagels. Like, one day.” I’m no connoisseur, Sean.
You’re no bagel connoisseur?
I’m not too picky with my food but I was like, “Okay, I know one-day old bagels aren’t as great as super fresh bagels, but that’s still not bad.” And so, it was just like one day is all it took from, “This is so grand” to “Aargh, they’re not fresh, and I’m disappointed.” And I think that that is representative of me and many of us in terms of something cool happens, we feel so blessed, so grateful, “Oh, my gosh, this is awesome. I got a big promotion, big jump in income. Cool, cool, cool.”
And it’s like, “Oh, now, what do you know? It’s so hard to make ends meet. How did that happen?” It’s sort of like our lifestyle, or our wants, or perceived needs, expectations grow such that we don’t feel the gratitude associated with, “Oh, wow, what I have is oh-so-abundant.” So, Sean, I want to throw that to you. You said we should feel grateful, and it takes some work. What’s going on with this human nature? And what can we do about it?
Well, Buddhism says that being human is to suffer, and the real suffering comes from, I think you said it, expectation. And so, when there’s an incongruence or a difference between what our life is and what we may want, that wanting is what’s covering, is what’s causing the suffering. It’s not external. It’s inside our own heads.
Right, dukkha. Exactly, yeah. And we don’t have to go all spiritual on this, but I think that’s part of human nature as you get accustomed to that. I have this story, another story, it’s when I just got back from Iraq, I’ve been gone for 14 months in southwest Baghdad. And I get back, I was young, I was 25, and I was excited I got to go to Starbucks. I was super stoked, like, “Oh, my gosh. I go to Starbucks.”
I get in line, and I’m waiting there, and there’s just two girls in front of me, and they’re having this conversation. Somebody said something about…Oh, no, what it was it was the fall, it was October and they ran out of pumpkin spice.
“I need my PSL, Sean. I totes need it.”
They needed it, and they lost their minds. And one was like, “This is the worst day ever.” And I just had to cover my head and walk out after I’m like, again, objectively, you should feel grateful but they had this expectation and this quality of life. And to kind of go back to our earlier conversation about jiu-jitsu, we’re about just doing hard things, like, it’s easy. To be comfortable in America, like, let’s be honest, is it the perfect place? We have a lot of things we need to change, absolutely.
But to be comfortable? Like, it’s not that hard. You don’t have to do much. And because of all that comfort and the reward, and whether it’s social media, we feed that machine of getting gratification, of getting pleasure without putting in work, and then that becomes an expectation. And that’s a dopamine cycle that is at the root of all addiction. And we get addicted to the easy dopamine and that easy win.
And so, yeah, we have to do that work. And that’s why you have to be intentional about that gratitude. Are you going to be perfect? No. I do it all the time. It’s not, like, I’m walking around floating on a cloud with fairies over my head, and just like rainbows everywhere. Like, that’s not the case. I go through hard times, and everyone does, but it’s doing work so that when you have enough self-awareness to see yourself going down that path, and you can redirect and pull yourself out with intentionality.
And I think that’s really what it comes down to, is living intentionally. Because if you let yourself, again, that’s really the definition of a warrior’s mindset, living with intention toward this bigger goal, as opposed to being reactive to your environment, and just like, “Well, I feel awful, therefore, everything is awful.” Like, does it or do you just feel awful because you wanted your PSL, and now you can’t, and, really, you could get something else and be fine? Like, that’s a matter of perspective but that takes intentionality.
And so, these practices, can you share with us, let’s say, in the moment? Because I’ve done some gratitude journals, and sometimes when I write down the thing that I’m grateful for, it’s like, “Yeah, that really was so amazing, and I feel in my heart a grand sense of gratitude.” And other times, it’s like, “Yup, that was good, and that was good, and that was good,” but I don’t feel much of anything, and I’m just objectively, “Yes, that was a good thing. I am pleased that that occurred,” but my heartfelt gratitude is not ignited. What do I do with that?
Yeah, I know, you’re totally right. And I think it really also comes down to, like, present-ness and sort of being in the now of it, which is part of internal locus of control, which is like an attribution of control, “Is it external or is it internal?” And so, that comes into play here, like saying, “Well, ultimately, how you feel is up to you. It’s inside you. You own this.”
And so, when you are working through that gratitude, if you can be present and not thinking about, “Well, the things I don’t have or where I want to be, or what’s going to happen in 10 minutes,” but, like, “But are you okay right now?” Breath. Slow down. And it sounds super cliché, but you don’t have to do a formal journal. Like, count your blessings. Like, how good is it right now for you compared to how bad it is other places? And I would just say do more research about what’s going on in the world.
If you want to feel lucky, like go read the news for a day, and you’ll be like, “Oh, my God, my life isn’t anything like these.” It’s almost like I hear people talk about they watch trashy reality or something because it makes them feel better about their own lives because it’s so crazy and dramatic. And so, whatever it takes, I don’t know, I guess if it’s “Real Housewives” or if it’s breath work or gratitude journaling, whatever it takes for you to get to that place.
And, again, you’re going to get off-kilter, you’re going to feel bad, and it’s okay to feel bad in the moment, that’s fine. We’re not worried about the acute feelings of, like, sadness and happiness in the moment. We’re worried about the underlying mental state that you’re carrying around.
So, your advice then is if I’m doing a gratitude journal, but, one, if it never does it for me, just maybe try something else. But if I am doing it, and it sometimes works for me, I’m seeking to double down on experiencing the feeling of gratitude. Is that accurate?
Yes, double down on the experiencing gratitude. I’m a meditator. I actually don’t journal. There’s always different techniques, and some things work for some people, some things work for others. For me, meditation has been huge for me in my own mindset shifts and even the transition in the military, and everything.
And a simple gratitude meditation of if you’re really starting to go off the deep end, like sitting down, following your breath, and then just picture in your head things that – your family, or your friends, or the things you have, or the house you have, or the job you have, or the security you have – and reflecting on that, and experiencing that gratitude in the moment, because as soon as we ruminate on the future, that creates anxiety. Why? Because you can’t control the future.
And if we reflect on the past too much, if we ruminate on the past, it creates depression and regret because you can’t change the past. But, luckily for us, neither one of those things are real. The only thing that’s real is the moment. And so, working on your perspective and gratitude, internal locus of control, and doing things that bring you in this moment, my guess is you’re doing pretty good compared to others. That doesn’t mean you have to feel great awful things happen to people.
You should feel emotion. But, again, we’re not worried about, “This thing is happening so I feel bad.” That’s okay. But it’s about living unconsciously and not even being aware that you’re doing it.
That’s good. Thank you. Well, tell us then, your organization Stronger Leaders, Stronger Profits, you do leadership coaching and consulting. We talked, we had a quick overview of the keys, and then a deeper dive into gratitude. Can you share with us, when we look at a whole team or organization level, how do you see things shake out in terms of being the primary drivers of, say, poor versus amazing engagement?
That’s a great question. The two things, the two Cs, if you will, if you had to say, “What’s the quickest win?” or, “What’s the one thing?” If I had to say, “You’ve got a snapshot, two minutes to look over this company, and figure out how are things going,” I would look at two things – communication and counselling.
How are your communication systems? Are they clear? Is it accurately spreading information down? Is there a system to get feedback to come up? When someone gives feedback, do they get a response? Like, how is your communication? And I think looking at that system first, that fixes so much. Most of your listeners, I’m sure, can, when I think about how to be awesome at your job, and when their job is awesome and when it’s not awesome.
When your job is not awesome, or something goes wrong, communication, or a lack thereof, or a misaligned expectation because of communication, communication is either the primary cause or a strong contributor to almost every business failure. There’s very rarely where I say, “Hey, Pete, here’s a task. I need you to finish this project by the end of the week,” and you get to Thursday, and you’re like, “Eh, screw Sean. Like, whatever. Screw that, I don’t really care,” and you just fail on purpose. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but those are pretty easy to identify if that’s happened.
So, if that’s not the case, if you were going to assume good intent, that you’re trying to do the right thing, well, then we must’ve had misaligned expectations. What you thought was done and good is not what I thought was done and good. And so, I do have one sort of framework around effective communication when you want to ask someone to do something, or give someone a task, or whatever, without missing anything. And I call it the Five Bravo.
So, it’s task, what do you want done; purpose, why do you want it done, how does it affect other people; intent, and that’s the how, like if there’s a certain way I want you to do it, is there a resource I’m going to give you, like are you going to have a team to do this, what’s your intent behind it; and then timeline, when do you need this done by, what are your for dates and end state. So, when you’re done, you come back, and you say, “Hey, Sean, I did that report for you. Here it is,” what’s that look like to me, what’s my expectation?
So, if you just go through that task, purpose, intent, timeline, end state, if you just cover all five of those when ask someone to do something or put something in an email, and then the B for bravo is back brief. So, especially if I gave that to you, “What questions do you have?” and I say, “All right. So, Pete, I probably missed something, like that’s a lot of information. What do you have? What did you hear from me?” And then you repeat it back to me.
Seventy percent of the time, you’re going to be missing something, and that may be because you missed it or maybe because I thought I said it because it was in my head but I didn’t actually say it, like all those things happen but it can be cleared up with a simple framework of the Five Bravo. And I’ve had clients take their project request forms between divisions and actually change their forms to be that layout.
Because if you communicate effectively that way, then when someone doesn’t meet expectation, well, the decision is binary. It’s binary. Then you have, which is only one of two things, it’s either they’re not capable of doing this yet, so they need more training, or they have had the training and they’re uncapable, unwilling to perform what you need them to perform, in which case, they need to do a different role and leave the organization. You can start making that determination.
But what happens most often in organizations is there was a fault on poor communication from the person giving or asking that to be done, there was misaligned expectations of what their expectation coming back was, and there’s a blame on the person for not executing the way, and not having the end state that they desired, but it was due to a poor communication.
So, this happens companies, too. If something goes wrong, the first thing I do before is think, “Did I give them the Five Bravo? Did I give them all five?” And if I didn’t, that’s on me. I can’t hold them accountable for that. It’s my responsibility to get better at communicating. But if I did, now I can take action. And so, communication is so important. And the second thing is counselling, which we can talk about in a second if you want.
And so then, I think we know it when a communication failure went down in the moment. How do you assess the overall health of communication in a team or an organization?
So, there are several ways. One, doing a good assessment and coming in and hearing from people how they feel about the communication. Are they heard? Do they have the means to give feedback? Do they understand the why behind what they’re doing? Do they understand where the company is headed and what they do? Is the mission and values and vision communicated all the way to the bottom? Do people know?
You can simply ask, “What’s your role here? What do you do?” They should be able to walk that all the way up to how the company executes its strategic initiatives. And if they can’t, you know there’s a lack of communication. But your question actually brings me to a huge part, which they’re intertwined, is counseling, which is the second thing.
And I see almost no one does this as well as they should, and it’s the number one thing that would improve the culture of any organization and team. And it also facilitates this type of communication, where instead of doing performance evaluations, that’s very transactional, again, that’s management. Like, “You had these tasks. Did you do them or not? How did you do them? Did you do them okay? Where are you at in this?”
That’s fine. I’m not saying not to do that. But if that’s all you do, you’re really setting yourself up for failure, especially in the modern workplace, especially if they’re remote and hybrid workers. If you take a developmental counseling approach, where we meet monthly, quarterly, and we’re talking about we’re not just managing the position but we’re leading the person.
We’re talking to the person, “Personally, what are your goals this quarter? Did you accomplish them? Did I do everything I said I would do to support you? What’s your goals in the future? How can I help you get there? What are your professional goals? What are your team goals? And what are those objectives? And how can I support you do that? And what are you struggling with? And here’s where I see you going? Here’s your career progression.”
Like, that’s a coaching mentality and that leader mentality of creating new human potential by changing the way people think about themselves, the organization and the world, versus management, which is efficiency of a system. And so, when you shift to a leadership culture and you shift to communication and development of human beings, being a core competency of your business, that’ll turn around almost any company.
Okay. And so, in most organizations, are these conversations just not happening very often? Or, what’s the piece that’s lacking?
Yeah, there’s no formal construct to have this type of leader conversations, and so you have some people that are having them, and others that are checking the box. I guess we don’t want to piss off too many people the way they do things, but I see a lot of companies where we’ll go in, and, say, HR sends you a performance eval for your annual performance eval, you fill it out of how you think you did, that gets sent to somewhere or something, and then somebody talks to you about it, and maybe they talk about how that affects your bonus or where you’re looking to go next, and that’s about the end of it, “Do better here. Don’t do this.”
Like, that is such a different mentality than saying, “Hey, Pete, here’s the role, the function you play here. Why are you here? Like, why are you doing this job? Are you money-motivated? Cool, let’s talk about that.” Sometimes you talk to, like, a seller, this actually happened at my wife’s company. She was having some issues with one of her sellers. She’s a senior sales manager. And when she talked to him, yes, he’s money-motivated but this wasn’t his passion. His goal was to open up his own business. And in order to do that, he had figured out that he would need $200,000. Okay.
So, instead of her assuming that he wants to hit goal to make money, to move up in the sales organization, instead of that being the expectation, he was very clear, like, “No, my goal is to actually leave the organization and do my own thing. I see 200K.” “Cool. Well, let’s align your purpose with company purpose. How fast can we get you to 200K? How do I need to support you?” And now that person is motivated, even though they’re doing the same job they were doing before. But before, they hadn’t framed it as, “Let’s get you out of this company as soon as possible and onto the next thing.”
And so, having a formal system to have leadership conversations at a regular interval that is written out, that people are accountable for, is huge. When I was counseled in the military, we do counseling like this in the military, and it’s a big part of the leadership equation, and I can’t tell you, I had hundreds of counseling sessions. I can tell you a handful of specific moments or things that I still remember that’s still impactful.
But I can definitely tell the commanders that took the time out to actually do it and the ones who skipped over it and penciled with it, like cared enough to develop me and have that conversation about how they could support me, and where I wanted to go, and give me honest feedback on that as a human being, not just in, “Here’s your performance metrics and KPIs,” and that human component is really where we get from management to leadership.
And with the way the world is heading with our workforce, people don’t want to just be managed. And it used to be if I had a bad manager at my job, it’s like, “Well, yeah, Bob kind of sucks but I got another job offer, but I got to move the house, and the kids are in soccer, and the change cost is so high.” But with remote hybrid workers now, the only thing that changes if I changed jobs is, “What software do I log in tomorrow?” So, that’s a different set of conditions, work conditions that companies are not adapting to. They’re not realizing that 75% of the reason people leave jobs is because of bad bosses, not bad jobs.
And so, if you get this right, it increases retention, internal hires, employee engagement, all those things. And we’re right back to your company can create fulfillment and profitability together.
Okay. That’s good. So, counseling frequently. Is there a magic frequency – weekly, monthly? What’s the vibe?
Depending on the position, whether you need to do weekly one-on-ones or not, some positions, I think, you do, some you don’t. Lower-level people generally need more weekly one-on-ones and check-ins and handholding right, like more entry-level folks as oppose to more senior folks don’t need that as much. But I think the magic sauce, what we espouse and we help our clients with, is that we do a written form every quarter that lays out the next three months, and then you adapt off that same form and you meet monthly. So, monthly counseling but you’re filling out a full new form on goals and objectives once every quarter.
Fun. All right. Well, now, could you tell me a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?
My favorite quote is actually by George Bernard Shaw, it’s the unreasonable man quote, and it’s that “The reasonable man sees the world the way it is and adapts himself to it, and the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to him, and, therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
Okay. And a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?
The quintessential one for me, it’s funny, because of all the different research and stuff I looked at is still the Harvard happiness study. An 80-year study that started in the 1930s that tried to determine what are the variables that affect joy and fulfillment in life, and they’re on the second generations. So, they did it with their first subject all the way through their deathbed, then the second generation. And they, recently, just last year, revised their latest findings.
And it’s just clear that it’s not socioeconomic status, it’s not race, sex, any things that really are universally responsible for fulfillment and joy in life, and it’s absolutely the quality of your close relationships. And I think that is a really powerful thing because if you talk about motivators for different people, to get over those hard challenges like we talked about at the beginning of this episode, my nightmare is being in older age and having regret about something in my life, about something I didn’t do, and not having the time or energy to do anything about it.
And there’s actually studies that have been done that show that 70-75% of all seniors live with the regret because they lived the way someone else thought they should, or because of societal norms, or because they thought it was just the right thing to do, and they didn’t go live their life the way they wanted to, and they didn’t maintain the quality close relationships. So, that’s my worst nightmare. That’s what drives me at the end of the day, is I think that when I’m one day laying in my bed, getting ready to close my eyes for the last time, I can look back at my life, and be like, “I freaking did it, and it was awesome.”
Beautiful. And a favorite book?
My favorite book right now is an older book but it’s The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership and I’m really getting more and more into conscious leadership right now, and some of the practices around that, and how I can implement that in my systems. Yeah, so that’s one that I’m a huge proponent of. But before that, I read Life of Joy it’s with the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu who talked about how you create joy in life. I would say those two books in the last year have been two that really hit me hard.
All right. And a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?
Another great question. I know this is the hot topic of the day, but I use a paid service called Jasper for my AI. And it sped up our workflows in so many ways because I’ve been able to come up with my original concept or framework. So, you can put your own original thought in but you can just put in bullet format and it can write you an 80% solution, and it can create captions. So, I’m fully in on using AI, generative AI, in our day-to-day to make our jobs more productive and easier.
All right. And a favorite habit?
My favorite habit is, I’m going to sound so boring though, I’m going to sound boring to say this, but that’s fine, but I am all about my nighttime routine and the same times, going to bed at the same times and waking up at the same times. And so, one thing my wife and I do is, like, she’s even more into the sleep stuff than I am. She’s like Spy Kids, she’s got like a Whoop on one arm and an Apple Watch on the other, she’s like all the bio data she can get.
But we have half our lights in our house set so that at 8:00 p.m. we only have red lights from down all the way to our bedrooms to our bathroom. So, we take away all that light exposure, and that habit, that itself, whether it’s the blue light or whether it’s just a Pavlovian response to the fact of the red light, but as soon as the red lights come on, I get sleepy and I have a great rest. So, I’m really big on my night routine and going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time.
Okay. And is there a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often?
I think one thing I often say is that there’s an obligation of greatness. If I truly believe that, again, we are living at such an amazing time, we’re in this country, we have so much potential to do so much good, to be great. Almost everyone that’s listening, like you have the potential to be great in however you define that in your life, you have greatness inside you, and your potential for that, and the opportunity for it.
But I’m a firm believer that, with the potential for greatness, comes an inherent obligation to achieve it. So, now that’s a chip on your shoulder because, otherwise, that’s the unmet potential is not being grateful for the opportunities you’ve been given.
Okay. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?
So, I’m SeanPattonSpeaks on Instagram. I’m on LinkedIn. Those are my primary social tools. And then our website is StrongerLeadersStrongerProfits.com.
And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?
I think it’s to evaluate inside of their company whether they are managing the position or whether they’re leading the person, and lean into leading the person and leading the person with intentionality. And I think you’ll see some great results not just in the company’s success but in quality of life.
All right. Sean, this has been a treat. I wish you much fun and warrior mindset goodness.
Thanks, Pete. This has been awesome. I appreciate it, man. You do great work here.