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Relationships

430: How to Reach the Unreachable: Lessons Learned from Master Teachers with Jeff Gargas

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Jeff Gargas shares best practices from teaching that every professional can use.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Three links between classroom management and organizational management
  2. How to return to caring when you’re not feeling it
  3. How to reach the unreachabl

About Jeff

Jeff Gargas is the COO and co-founder of the Teach Better Team (Creators of www.teachbetter.com, The Grid Method, and Teach Further). He works with educators to increase student engagement and improve student success.

Prior to co-founding Teach Better, Jeff was the owner of ENI Multimedia, an online marketing firm, where he worked with entrepreneurs and small businesses, assisting them with web design, social media, content marketing, and brand awareness.

Prior to all of this, Jeff was an adjunctive professor at Kent State University and spent 10+ years in the music industry. He has spoken at conferences around the country, and has successfully promoted more than 500 events and launched 7 businesses in a variety of industries.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Jeff Gargas Interview Transcript

Jeff Gargas  
Truly an honor to be on here and I really appreciate it.

Pete Mockaitis  
Oh yeah, well, I’m excited to dig in. And first, I want to hear you share when signing up for this scheduler, that you can “likely cry,” more so within your wife. What’s the story about it?

Jeff Gargas  
I’m a big sucker for romantic comedies, and I’ve always been a hopeless romantic as I describe it, just the way I am. I don’t know. I’m pretty sure I blind my mo, but I’m just a hopeless romantic and my wife’s a tomboy, so I’m more likely to tear up a little bit at a moment. Even if silly, like Adam Sandler romantic comedy, and it shouldn’t be. Too likely, I’ll get there before her for sure. Yeah, like it’s not that uncommon.

Pete Mockaitis  
Oh, that’s funny. That’s funny. I just recently discovered the TV series This Is Us.

Jeff Gargas  
I wanted to get into it. I wanted to get into it because I know what’s going to happen, like my brother and my sister-in-law are watching, my mom is watching, and I’m like, no, I don’t know how to handle that, like, no.

Pete Mockaitis  
It’s like it’s a good thing I waited until I became apparent to watch this show, otherwise… yeah, this is boring but I’m like, “Oh, my god!”

Jeff Gargas  
It’s crazy after you become a parent what other things affect you and you’re like, “Yeah, that shouldn’t. Wow, okay. Wow.” Yeah, it’s crazy.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so you’re also a listener and fan of the How To Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Jeff Gargas
I am. Big fan. Legitimate.

Pete Mockaitis
As opposed to things that publicist say to try to get…

Jeff Gargas  
No, absolutely legitimate fan. No joke. And not because we were doing this, but I was at the gym a couple hours ago, gonna get my workout in. And I was listening to it, with your episode with Michael Hyatt, which was awesome. He’s a big fan of his as well. So yeah, love it, man. Love what you’re doing, totally.

Pete Mockaitis  
Well, I love what you’re doing, you are helping the world teach better. So can you orient us a little bit? So you got a few things going on, what’s up with “Teach better,” and the “grid method,” and “Teach for us?”

Jeff Gargas  
So yeah, the Teach Better team is what we are at things over at teachbetter.com, and we basically work, but we do a lot of stuff with like, our general missions is we work with teachers and school districts to implement best practices, implement district-wide initiatives and other bits and pieces of professional development and training for the teachers.

Essentially, all we try to do is just help teachers be better at what they do. Like, teachers are already doing amazing things in the classrooms, we’re not trying to go in and change what they’re doing. We’re just trying to support them in every way, in any way we possibly can to help them do it.

It all got started with something we call the Grid Method, which is a mastery learning framework that my co-founder Chad Ostrowski, he created in his classroom, basically out of necessity, and you’re struggling to reach his very high-needs population of students and got to the point where he considered quitting, and decided that he either need to go get a job somewhere else, or he needed to figure out how to teach better.

And he luckily stayed in and figured that out. He’s a scientist by trade, so we kind of dissected everything and found best practices that seemed to be, the research showed, would answer his struggles, but couldn’t find a way to put them all together. So we created the system.

And that’s sort of what launched us, as he called me asking about doing an ebook, because I was in the online marketing world at the time. And teachers in his district were asking questions, because basically the students were telling them they didn’t know how to teach anymore, which was fun for him in a lot of ways.

It’s a little target on his back, but also a lot of teachers that were like, “Hey, I want to reach these kids, too.” And then our team will tell you my famous words were, “Dude, we’re not just doing an ebook.” I said, “We have to do something different. You’ve got something here.”

And apparently I was right, because now we try it to schools all over the country, and it’s growing. And we do a lot more than just a good method now and teach for— there’s another model that we have that incorporates classrooms working with community members and mock internships and real life, real purpose situations and all their units, and we do a lot of your just regular base, the best practices and stuff.

I’m one of the co-founders, and I work as our chief operating officer. We’re a small business with a small team, so I really operate also as our chief marketing officer, CFO, HR manager, and just about anything else you can think of. We all wear a lot of hats, but really what I try to do is just work to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to first take care of our team. And then a very, very close second is take care of our partner schools and all those teachers that are changing the world. We’re just trying to what we can help them.

Pete Mockaitis  
And in your work, you say that you have seen many commonalities, connections between some of the teaching better classroom management stuff, and then, you know, nonprofit, government, business organizational management stuff. Can you lay out that link for us?

Jeff Gargas  
Yeah, I think the biggest link, to keep it really simple, is relationships, relationships, relationships, and then environment and culture. So I come from a background in the restaurant industry, managing restaurants, and a wide variety of those also in the entertainment industry for a little while. And I’ve been, pretty much most of my life, ever since I got my first job and was able to get promoted to a shift-level management — I’ve been in management my entire life and the supervisor role.

And now with our team, it’s a little bit different, but so many commonalities there. And then we started to chat, and I started seeing all these connections between like how we needed to build things and run things in our business and the connections they had to the management in the classroom.

And one of the biggest things we saw is like this need for strong foundational relationships and building the right environment, the right culture. So like whether you’re in a classroom, a restaurant, entertainment company, market, firm, insurance agency, whatever it is, you need to build a culture of trust, of positivity, and to build that synergy.

And you need that environment that promotes growth, that promotes passion, that promotes excitement around what you’re trying to do. And in order to do all that, you’ve got to build the relationships first, whether that’s building relationships with your students to understand where they’re at, what they need, and how to reach them, or if it’s working with that new, that new employee, or a struggling employee, and building that.

And from an employee standpoint, if I’m on a team, understanding that I’m also a massive part of building that culture and building that environment, and how I interact with my colleagues, how I interact with my supervisors, and how do I build those relationships that I can understand, how do I do my job the best I can to make my supervisor’s job easier, because that’s going to make my life easier, and so on, so forth. So in my mind, all that comes in on those relationships is the foundation of everything.

Pete Mockaitis  
Okay, so intriguing. Relationships, relationships, relationships. Can you maybe paint a picture for us? So what does it look like for the world class teachers? I guess we’re gonna say relationships, but what does that look like in practice, in terms of what are they doing? What are the key differentiators that these rock stars who are getting huge student learning attainment gains, test scores, improvements rocking out versus the rest of the teachers who are kinda getting by, you know, doing okay. What are the things that they’re doing differently? How are they working their relationships or classroom behaviors in a different way?

Jeff Gargas  
Yeah, man, the relationships are a huge piece of that, because any kind of management system you put in place in your classroom, any kind of new technology, or awesome new innovative type of experience or anything like that, even the lesson plan that you bring in, it’s going to fall apart, if you don’t have the relationships to build on that.

The same thing is, I know the best business plan in the world, but if my team just can’t operate, because there’s no relationship, there’s no culture, there is no environment, it’s not going to work. But I think on top of that, these teachers that we see that are just amazing like that, they just have a refusal to quit, they refuse to quit. We call it the Teach Better Mindset.

It’s this relentless pursuit of better. It’s not perfect, it’s never going to be perfect, it’s just better — better today than you were yesterday, better tomorrow than you were today. That’s what we preach on. And it’s never this, “Hey, we want to change everything you do,” or, “Hey, you got to fix everything,” or, “You’re not good.” It’s, “You can always be better.”

And the champions that we see, these teachers that are doing amazing things, as they always look every day that reflect in their software, and they’re always thinking, “What can I do to be better? How can I reach more kids? It’s never enough until I’m reaching 110% of them.” Right?

So I think the teachers that refuse to accept anything but the best for the students, and who go above and beyond every single day to do whatever it is that they need to do to support those kids. And basically, I mean, if you think about, they’re spending their days just pouring love into other people’s kids.

I mean those are world changers, that they dedicate so much to it. And I think it’s really just that refusal to accept anything, and they’re willing to take risks and put themselves on the line and challenge themselves every single day, every single second of every day to do better and be better for the kids. Those are the ones that are really making those differences.

Pete Mockaitis  
All right, that’s awesome. Maybe could you could share a story in terms of a teacher who’s really just doing that great? So I just sort of get a sense for, build relationships and never quit. What does that look like in practice?

Jeff Gargas  
I can think of a lot of stories, but it’s all slightly general, more general. But like, it’s a teacher that you mentioned that’s already doing pretty well, right? So, you know, I’ll talk about Ray here, she’s on our team, but she’s also a phenomenal teacher, which is why we checked her into working with us.

So Ray, you know, was a good teacher, she was doing well. You know, she did well on her observations, she was reaching most students, they did well, the bell curve looked like it should as the average kid was doing well. And she could have easily skated by and been okay, and just probably had a good career, probably worked her way up to maybe being a principal one day. That was, you know, she was gonna go back and get her license, probably could have, you know, she’s got the personality and charisma to where she could have easily got into an admin position and probably, you know, had a nice career.

But early on, she decided she was not okay with being okay. And she… look, she said, “My kids are engaged, but are they as engaged as they possibly can be? My kids are doing well, but are they doing as well as they absolutely can be. I’m reaching most of my kids, but am I really okay with most of my kids?” And then she wakes up and says, “Man, I hope I hit some of my kids today. Like, that’d be great.”

No, I wake up and I say, “I want to have every single one of my kids grow today.” And I think it was that passion and her and then like, again, that’s where piece of equipment the way she did it. She said, “This isn’t working. I’ve got a lot of great pieces, but I need other pieces.”

Actually developed our Teach Further model. She’s the one who, like that was one of the things that caught our eyes. And she said, “How can I take what I’m doing, these fun activities, and really make sure that I’m not just putting in fluff?” Ray’s biggest thing is “Fluff is not enough.” And by fluff, I mean, it’s really, you know, it’s easier to create a classroom that looks really cool on Instagram, that looks really fun and engaging. But if there’s no purpose underneath it, there’s no connection to what they actually need to learn in the real world application of what they’re learning in your classroom. It’s just fluff. It’s not actually doing much other than just, you know, being fun for Instagram.

And so she said, “How can I do that? How can I make these connections?” And then she started reaching out and calling companies, businesses, saying, “I have this idea. I’m wondering if you’d take this crazy journey with me, and allow my students to operate in a mock internship with your company, and here’s how I’m going to connect it to my math standard, here’s how I’m going to connect it to my ELA standard,” and the way that she started connecting pieces to real world applications, to these seemingly boring math standards and things like that, is phenomenal.

And now, we’ve sent them to build, help teachers all over, connect with major companies and businesses and do some amazing things. But, you know, she’s a great example of that teacher that you were talking about, that rock star teacher that just said, “I could be okay, I can be comfortable, I can get by, but I refuse to do that.”

You flip that, you see it in the corporate world — I saw it when I was managing people in the restaurant industry of kids who came in and out a lot of time. I was in fact in the quick service industry, kids come in a lot of times, the first job, first opportunity, they’ve taken a management position or have a little bit of responsibility.

And you have some that said, “I’ll just do what I need to do, because I’m just here while I’m figuring out what I’m doing my life, because I’m going to college, it’s a part time thing,” and others that looked at and said, “If I’m here, I’m going to be the ‘best here’ I possibly can be. I’m going to learn everything I can, I’m going to pick the brains of the people that are here, and maybe I’ll end up in this place forever and I’ll retire here, or at the very least, I’m going to take it and make sure I get the most out of this experience. So that when I go on to the next part of my journey, my life, I can be the best I can be there.”

I think that’s the same thing when it comes to any industry or in any job you’re in. And it’s this refusal to just settle for being okay. I mean, we spend more than 60% of our lives at our jobs. So if you’re just being okay, that means you’re just being okay, for the majority of your life. I’m not okay with that. But…

Pete Mockaitis  
Okay, so it starts with having a higher standard, a higher bar in terms of, “Okay, we’re going to be the best we possibly can, we refuse to quit.” So once you get that commitment, that fire in play, let’s talk about this relationship stuff. So how does one go about forging great relationships?

Jeff Gargas  
It’s a couple of things. So the biggest thing with me is, I think it’s caring. It’s actually caring, though I have this thing that I talked about a lot, where some people do things because the book tells them to. And by the book, I mean the manual, or the best practice, or the person who says, “This is how you should do your job,” or whatever. And there’s some people that do it because they actually care.

A really simplified answer is in a restaurant, where an elderly couple is at a table, when you go to have a conversation with them. The difference between going there because, well, that’s good customer service, “And our manual says we should focus on customer service,” versus, “I’m going there because just possibly, those are grandparents who haven’t seen their grandson who’s about my age in a long time, and I can give them a little glimpse or reminder of that grandson they haven’t seen for a while. I can have a conversation with them and brighten their day.” Those are very big differences.

In same thing when it comes to building relationships with your employees, with your colleagues, with your with your students. It’s actually caring, and it’s not, “I’m doing this because it’s going to better me and make my life better, even though it will. But it’s focused on how can I help make your day better? How can I actually learn because I actually want to help you?”

And I think in the more and more tactical piece, it’s actually fairly simple. No, we chatter fast, because all the time, we have a thousand conversations about nothing. But truly get to understand that person. Dig down and figure out what they’re actually about, and build that.

You talked about authentic relationships. Authentic relationships isn’t, “Pete likes to be rewarded at work.” It’s, “No, why is Pete like that? What is the actual reason behind that? What what’s going on in Pete’s real life that connects them? Why is recognition at work so valuable to him?”

So that can truly understand what truly drives you. And I think the teachers that truly understand what their students need, and what drives them and each individual student, they’re the ones that reach them, they build those relationships nested and wants to work for them. And I think that’s the biggest piece of that, it’s truly actually caring and then having those conversations to dig down and actually understand those people.

Pete Mockaitis  
Now that’s tricky. When it comes to the “actually caring” part, I’d love to get your take on that: If you if you don’t actually care on a given day, because you’re tired, you’re stressed, you’re overworked, you got so many distractions, whatever your reasons, you know? I’m going to assume you’re not just like an evil, hateful person. But to give a day, you don’t actually care. What do you recommend to get back into that zone?

Jeff Gargas  
So there’s, I guess two parts. One is, my day will be spent figuring out why you don’t care that day, and see if there’s something you can do to fix that. But sometimes, there’re just as a new thing you can do: Would you try to leave it in your car? You can’t, and you just don’t have it in you.

So then, you may still want to practice that, because that’s still important to your and your role, but also to that person. It’s important for them, too, because you still need to understand them. So you still need to dig them. So you may have to practice the fact that, “Today, I got to put on a face and I got to make sure that I’m still digging, I’m still building these relationships, I’m still letting them know that I care.” But you can’t be fake about it.

So if you’re going to come off fake, and they’re going to see through it, that’s going to ruin a lot of the progress you made. So you may have to kind of take a day off, or maybe take not quite as many conversations. It’s not digging up in as deep. But I think the key to that is for now, “Why don’t I care today? How do I fix that?”

It’s one thing to just be down and be like, “Hey, I’m not in the mood for conversations,” that’s understandable. But like, actually not caring? You’re like, “I just don’t care about anybody today.” Like, there’s something else going on there in my mind that needs to be addressed first, and figure out like why am I not feeling this way today.

“And if I’m feeling that way, is it actually going to be harmful if I try to engage with my colleague or with my student or this way, because I’m putting off some negativity?” And so having that self-awareness and reflection on that, I think, is coordinated and figuring out, “Okay, how do I get back onto it tomorrow and I can be authentic again, and get back into doing what I need to do?”

Pete Mockaitis  
And I like the example you brought about with the waiter or waitress in terms of, “Hey, these grandparents may not have seen a really young person in a while. And so this could mean that for them.” So that seems to be a little bit of the formula with regard to “I am putting myself in their shoes and recognizing how the thing I’m doing here can make a world of a difference.”

And for teachers, that’s huge, like, “Hey, what happens here can set the stage for whether learning and growth and development are headed to college or career or interesting fulfillment jobs or, you know, much less pleasant for folks.” So that’s as well as medicine. But I think that some of the other fields I think can require a little bit of thought at times to zero in on who is it that we’re serving, and how is what I’m doing today potentially going to be transformationally amazing for them.

Jeff Gargas  
Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s important to understand who you’re serving, regardless of what industry you’re in, and what kind of engagement can help whatever it is that they’re coming to you for. And I mean, obviously in the hospitality industry, it’s a lot of that communication and being friendly, because you never know what kind of day they’re having. And if you can put a smile on their face, that might be the first time all day.

Same thing in the classroom. It’s like it takes so long to figure out what are those kids coming to school with? What else do they have? You know, what are the other things that they care about emotionally? And you might be the only person in the world that that’s showing them love for the day. That shows you care for them; that’s massive.

The same can be said for your employee or your boss or your colleague, like everyone’s got something going on, right? And you don’t know if the guy in the cubicle next to you or the girl down the hall and in the other office is struggling with something, that just the simple, quick smile, a “Hello, how are you?” an actually authentic “I care, I actually am asking you. I want to know, how are you doing today? What’s going on?”

That can that can make a world of a difference to somebody. And if you have a culture in your small business, big, large business, whatever, that has that, and everyone’s feeling that way, the opportunity for negativity to seep in is far less, which is better beneficial for everybody.

Pete Mockaitis  
You know, I like what you said about the difference a smile can make. It reminds me one time, just a few months ago, I was in church and there was someone who’s just smiling, like completely and thoroughly. It was like, “Wow, that feels really good.” I realized that she was looking at my baby.

Jeff Gargas  
Oh, there you go. That’ll do it, right?

Pete Mockaitis  
I guess that puts you in a good mood. She’s looking adorable, but I was like, “Wow, you know, it’s pretty rare that you actually get to feel a genuine, authentic, full-on smile. Like, I have enjoyed seen you!” I mean babies get it, but we don’t as much.

Jeff Gargas  
Yeah. And you know, the crazy thing is the smile. It’s crazy what a smile does for you. So there’s an author and amazing educator named Adam Welcome. He wrote a book called Kids Deserve It, which is a massive hit and educational, but then he also wrote a book called Run Like a Pirate. In this amazing book, he just picked up with a short, easy read, but it’s phenomenal.

It’s like his story of 2017, he ran a marathon every single month — because Adam’s just intense. But in the book, he talks about, like, one of his tactics for sort of getting through that mental game of running — and I’m a runner, this is why it’s big for me — but it’s to just smile.

And it’s funny, like when I run now, like if I feel like I’m having a hard time getting rid of a mental hurdle, I will smile. But then what’s funny is then I remember the fact that I’m smiling because I had this book said it, which makes me kind of chuckle, and I smile.

I’m telling you, man, it’s like a whole other level, like it just does something to you. Like it’s crazy. So if you can give someone a smile, maybe they give you a smile back. And now you get your authentic smile to yourself. Like it’s going to warm your soul. And I’m a huge fan of that.

We so often as humans just do anything we can to avoid contact, or avoid eye contact, right? Like we look down, we just don’t do anything. I try really hard. And I don’t do it every day, but I try really hard to just smile at people and say hi to as many people as I can, because again, you don’t know what they’re going through. That’s just such an important thing, in my mind.

Pete Mockaitis  
And to point about having a thousand conversations about nothing, in a way, I like the feeling that sentence creates, because it’s sort of like, you could just chill out. It’s like, I’m not intentionally trying to tease out 14 precise takeaways from this discussion.

But yeah, we’re talking about, “Oh, you like pizza? That’s cool. What are your favorite toppings? Oh, yes, sausage is the best,” you know, whatever. And in so doing, you build up a picture. But that being said, could you share what are some of the conversations about nothing that are often quite telling, and they deliver something?

Jeff Gargas  
Yeah, I mean, simple conversations about like, “What did you do this weekend? What are you up to tonight?” and then playing off that at all, like, “Do you do you watch this? Do you watch This Is Us, right? Do you cry during movies? Do you get up? You said you like pizza.” It’s a million different ways.

And you know, with students, a lot of times, it’s, “What did you do this weekend?” And that that opens up another question, noticing something that, maybe they have a graphic T-shirt on, like, “Oh, do you like The Incredible Hulk?” or whatever. Given that, your co-workers can simply just be like, “Maybe they have a shirt on,” you know, depending on the dress code and stuff, but it could be asking them what they do this week, and what are they up to this week, and what do they think about this or that, did they cast a game last night, have they got in that new movie, whatever it might be they have.

You know, just those conversations that just start a conversation about nothing, you give you a chance to just sort of learn a little bit about them, because the way someone tells you about their weekend, or explains what they liked or disliked about a movie, or the team they cheer for, something like that tells you little bits and pieces about that person, you know? You get someone talking.

I’m a Cleveland Browns fan. So you connect with the Cleveland Browns fan, and you connect with another Cleveland Browns fan, that’s a bond that can’t be shook. So those little areas — and a lot of sports teams are like that, like that’s such a connection that you may not know that you have with a colleague or with your boss or whatever — and that simple little connection can change the way you guys communicate forever. Because now there’s that little, like, “Oh, that’s typical Browns, right?” There’s these little inside jokes that automatically form, or you love that show, or, “I’m a huge fan of Friends, the TV show Friends from way back.”

And I had an employee of mind for that for I think five years, he was with us. And he had autism. But he was a credible worker; worked really hard. And he would have moments where he had some struggles, and he got frustrated with what would usually begin, you know, directive, because he’s pretty good at his job. But if we need to direct them, sometimes he took them wrong, he had a lot of stuff in his life that he was dealing with, and people would have to struggle with him.

And when he got into that mode, he was kind of like… you weren’t going to break him. And I would literally just rattle off lines to the episode of Friends, and we would just get going. And it was just this ridiculous, back and forth that no one else understood, because unless they happen to know that one weird episode, but it was just to crack him out of this thing.

And it was a little piece that took me a while to figure out, through just random conversations, where one day… I don’t even remember the actual conversation, but we were talking. I don’t remember the situation with the conversation, we were just talking about… I said something, I came up with a line, that reminded him on an episode, he goes, “Oh, that’s like the time Joey  said blah blah blah,” and we repeated it. And we’re like, “Oh, it’s the connection.” And now I now have my bond with you.

We now have a million inside jokes that we can laugh about. And I now have something that I can pull off to help you get out of a funk if you get into it. And that just, like for me, that made my life managing shifts that he was on so much easier.

Pete Mockaitis  
Well, and I’m curious, as you’re having these conversations about nothing, you’re forming some relationships, you’re learning all kinds of little things. I mean, especially in the context of a teacher with a classroom of I don’t know, 15, 20, 25+ students, how do you keep all that straight direct community particular systems, or tracking, or note keeping?

Jeff Gargas  
Well, you know, we’ve seen teachers do a million other things, and some teachers are just amazing at it. Just really, really good at it. There’s a lot of different types of things of, you know, at the beginning of the year, working with… some teachers do picture things with it, the kids get to share their stories along with pictures, and then the teacher sort of has that on the walls around, in a document or something like that, where they have that sort of resource. But you know, they’re spending every single day with those students

So you’re getting to know what they become, just like your colleagues at work. I mean, if you’re with the same 10, 15 people every day at work for 60% of your life, whether you like it or not, they’re in your life as much as a best friend would be, so you’re able to build that. So, I think, you know, big pieces.

It is much easier if you’re truly caring, I’ll go back to that. Because I don’t have any trouble remembering which one of my friends likes this, or likes that, because they’re my friends. I know though that information because I care about them. And I built it in an authentic way, not because I was supposed to because my job said so.

So it’s tough to remember, “Okay, what’s employee A1’s favorite food?” It’s easier to remember what’s Max’s favorite food, because I’ve built a relationship now, versus “I learned it because I’m supposed to because my job will be easier.” And I think it’s the same thing with teachers, teachers who truly care about their students, like they remember, “That’s Johnny, he has the brothers that do this and the mom that struggles with that,” or the, “He lives with his aunt,” or the “He has this,” and “Now, that’s Sarah, and she has these things.” I think it comes with the actual caring that comes in that situation.

So I think teachers are naturally inclined to be really, really good at that, because their hearts’ there in the first place. They’re trying to do something amazing and reach those kids, but I really think it comes down to actually caring about the people that you’re working with, and people you’re serving, and truly wanting to learn about them.

Pete Mockaitis  
You know, it’s funny, you keep coming back to this caring. And we had an interview with Alden Mills, who was a NAVY seal, and his whole thing was caring. He had a framework: CARE — C-A-R-E, each of the letters has multiple subcomponents that start with a C and A and R and E. So it’s kind of fun little connections here.

Well, so let’s talk about, what are your great phrases that you have for your businesses that help teachers to reach the unreachable? So we’ve talked about some principles that are applicable across students. But if you got a particular employee or student who is noteworthily, seemingly unreachable, what do you do?

Jeff Gargas  
It’s gonna feel like I’m coming back again and again, but it’s the way you understand them, like truly understand the person, to figure out who they are, what drives them, and why they’ve been deemed unreachable. So when it comes to employees, it’s figuring out what are their strengths, what are their struggles, and then working with them to play on those strengths, and focus on those strengths while still trying to build those struggle points, and focus really on what drives them.

You know, one of your colleagues, one of your employees might be driven just by financial gain, like they’re driven by money, and that’s okay. But understand what drives them, versus someone who’s driven by admiration and wants to be looked at as an incredible employee or the best colleague around, whatever it might be.

When it comes to the classroom, it’s finding out what’s driving your students. Are they struggling, or they’re quote unquote, “unreachable” because they come from a really rough home? And their entire life, they’ve been told that they’re there dumb and they fail, and they’re stupid, a knock at school, and no one’s given them a shot because they struggle when they were younger? And now they’re in seventh or eighth grade, and it’s just been the cycle of failure where, you know…

Chad talks a lot about the cycle failures. If you think about a student who goes to school in first grade, like every student goes to the first grade as, “I got my backpack on, and my new shoes, I’m ready to go!” right? “I’m gonna be awesome!” And they go on to try really hard and they get an F, “You failed.” “That’s all right; I’m gonna try again next year.”

Second grade, they go and they’re pumped up. “I’m gonna try really hard to do awesome.” “You failed, you get an F.” “Okay. All right, I’m gonna try really hard next year.”

And again, by the time they hit that fifth, sixth grade, they start doing some quick math in their head, and they’re like, “Huh, you know, if I try really, really hard, I get an F. But if I don’t do anything at all, I also get an F. That’s a lot easier.” Boom, stamped with unreachable. And what happens is, unfortunately, they get kind of written off. And so then, you get this little, like, “Oh, watch out for so and so; he’s unreachable. You’re not going to like him. He’s a trouble. He’s gonna…” whatever.

And the difference is when a teacher chooses to say, “Yeah, I don’t accept that. I’m going to figure out what’s really happened. Why are they struggling?” And in Chad, this is actually, like, I love the asset, because actually, you know the story Chad tells a lot about one of his students, Jesse, who was that kid. He was a kid who was on all those lists that teachers don’t have on the top 10. And it actually ended up where Chad had him at the end of the day, and for a couple weeks, Chad never saw him.

So he thought maybe he moved, because transferring was pretty common in those types of community and stuff. But he asked his colleagues, like, “Where’s Jesse? I haven’t seen him today.” “He was just getting kicked out of class before he gets to yours. He’s getting sent down to school suspension.” Then Chad asked if he could go get him, worked out a deal with his principal and stuff, and actually started going to get him, because he had delta relationship with Jesse.

And you know, “Look, this kid’s just been struggling his whole life. He’s never had anyone tell him that it was worth it,” and he was able to. Long story short is that Chad was able to connect with him, because Chad started to understand that if Jesse had some time to work through things a little bit, and had an opportunity to fail a few times and try again and try again without being told, “I’m dumb,” because a lot of times when students get to a certain point — they get that after that D — their mind goes up, “I’m stupid. I’m not good. I don’t do well at school, I’m not good at school.”

And Chad goes, “Well, if I can give us some time to work on that, and if I’m working my class and management class right way, and I have some time to maybe read aloud to Jesse to help work through these things, I bet he can do better.” And he did he started doing really well, obviously still had some issues here and there and stuff, but end up doing real good.

“I actually am good to be in the class.” And it’s an awesome story that Chad tells that I won’t go into because he’s much better.

But I think it’s the same thing. You know, I think about the employee I was just talking about, it’s a similar thing. Like, when he got on those modes, it was just like, “Well, here he goes again. I can’t, he’s just written off, like you can’t get to him.” And this isn’t to say that I’m anything special or anything, but I was able to find a way to connect with him. To get him out of that. He went from being unreachable to reachable now, and boom, he was doing his job well.

And so, I think that goes for whether it’s an employee, whether it’s your colleague, whatever it is, like, everyone’s got something going on, and it all comes back to this: getting to know that person and truly understanding them and figuring out, “Okay, what drives them?” And then also, what takes them to the spot where they’re quote unquote unreachable? And then what can I do to get them out of that?

You don’t need to be a boss to be the person that gets an employee out of a funk. Sometimes, the best person to do that is a colleague, right? And it’s just like, sometimes it takes another student to do it. But, you know, I think it’s really focusing on understanding that person, and what drives them, and what they need at that time.

Pete Mockaitis  
Okay, well, I’d love to get your take when it comes to to teaching, the actual delivery of learning content, what are some of the key principles that make communication engaging versus kind of lame and boring and not so engaging?

Jeff Gargas  
I think this goes the same as caring over some of the things we say that carries over, both in the classroom and in the world, and all other industries, when it comes to training, teaching, and redirecting all the stuff.

The thing is focusing on the why. So, “Why am I teaching you this content? Why do you need to know that?” And it’s the same “why” as like, “Why do we do this or that in this particular way, in this company?” You can choose to just say, “Because I’m boss, and I said so. Because I’m a teacher, and I said you have to do this, and this is how we’ve always done it.” Or, you can go beyond just barking orders and show them why it needs to be done.

So I talked about Ray earlier, and the Teach Further model. And that’s one of the big things; we’re going beyond just the, “Hey, let’s just do this because the state says we have to hit these standards.” But let’s actually focus on “Why do you need to know this?” Like, why do you need to understand math for the real world? Like, why do you have to understand this concept? Why is understanding history important? Why? Why should you learn coding? Like, what are you going to do with your life? And let’s connect this. “Let me show you how this is connected to real world applications.”

One of the awesome things about the Teach Further model is that a piece of that, at the end of every lesson where wherever unit, where teachers are sending home what we call a “Plan for the Future page,” which is to the parents or stakeholders, whether it is the guardians, it says, “This is what we’ve learned, this is the state-standard hit. This is how we did it. Here’s some of the things that your students showed; that means that maybe they’d be interested in a couple of these fields. And by the way, if they weren’t interested in these fields, here’s the type of education they may need to do after high school.”

We’re doing this at sixth grade levels and fifth grade levels or eighth grade levels. way before they even get to high school, because they need to be understanding that early on, so they can apply all the stuff that they’re learning through the rest of the school into real life things.

And it’s the same thing when you’re in the business world and you’re trying to employees and stuff. It’s like, “I can tell you to just do that, because that’s how you’re supposed to do it, because the rulebook says it,” whereas “I can tell you why the rulebook says why have we determined this, the way of doing this thing or that thing is the best, how does that affect everything else that happens?” Because what I’m essentially doing is saying, “Hey, this is why your job’s important, why your role in this company is important, because if you do this, this is what happens. And it ends up doing this for our customers. If you don’t, here’s how it bottlenecks, it falls down and we don’t get there.”

And so that’s the way that I think takes it from… even the person who goes, “Man, my job says I just do these numbers and whatever.” But it’s like, “If you don’t do those numbers, then x, y, z doesn’t happen. And somewhere down the lot, this ends up happening, that we don’t serve our clients.”

There’s an old story, and I can’t remember who told it originally when I heard it, but they’re interviewing a bunch of people in NASA before, like when we’re getting ready to launch to the moon, way back when. And they were talking do a janitor, and they asked, like, “What do you do?” And he said, “I’m working to put a man on the moon.” And he’s understanding that if those halls weren’t clean, if the garbage wasn’t taken care of, if the lounge wasn’t clean, that affects the progress of everyone else, and could potentially interrupt someone who shot to make a breakthrough to figure out how do we get to the moon.

You can break that down. Like every little piece of the organization is so important that if you focus on explaining to your team and everyone and to students the same way, like why is it important that you’re doing what you’re doing the way you’re doing it, we’re learning these things. How does that affect the outcome? How does it positively impact what we’re trying to do? I think that’s how you get there.

Pete Mockaitis  
Well, I really dig that, because you unpacked the explanation of why, on a few dimensions, I think it’s great as one is, you know, historically, this is what we’ve discovered, and how we ended up here. And the formulation of it is the way it is for this reason. And then this is what happens if you do it, and this is what happens if you don’t. So that paints a picture, like “Well, shoot. This is pretty important. Like, I matter.”

Jeff Gargas  
Yeah, and that’s the key, right? I matter, because who’s going to work hard?” Or someone who just thinks they push papers, or think someone who thinks these papers matter. Like that person who thinks the papers matter. If you’re a manager, listener, supervisor, whatever, one of the other little side effects that this does, and you may not like it, but you should, like, it is that if you’re explaining to people why you do things a certain way, it opens up the door for them to recommend other ways.

And sometimes as managers and owners, whatever, we don’t want to hear it. But it’s really important to close your mouth in that and listen, because they may have something you never thought of, because they’re at the ground level. And that’s crucial. And we see it in classrooms, too, where if you’re explaining to the students why do they need to understand that, they’ll come up with other reasons and be like, “Oh, or because x, y, z?” And you’re like, “I didn’t even think of that call. Like, yeah, I’m gonna throw that in mind next time I talk about it.”

But the same thing in a company is like,

“Hey, this is why we do it.” And they’re like, “Oh, that’s great. Why don’t we do it like this?” And you’re like, “Oh, we probably should; let’s change that.” Like, it’s just powerful in so many different levels.

Pete Mockaitis  
That’s good. That’s real nice. Well, so we hit the Grid Method a couple times in terms of little references. But you know, I just can’t help myself. But I hear Grid Method, I’m already visualizing a grid, and I got to know, what does it consist of? And how might it be applied to folks learning and growing and developing in a grownup work context?

Jeff Gargas  
Yeah, so what the Grid Method is, is a framework for utilizing a mastery learning in classrooms. So when I say mastery learning, there’s a lot that can go into that. But in general, it’s a shift from standing in the front of classroom delivering content to all the students all at the same time and expect them to move all at the same time, to shift into mastery learning, which is where students are moving at their own pace, and only moving on as they master the content and master certain pieces of it.

And a lot of organizations already do a similar version of mastery learning, where you’re in a training program, you have to master a certain level of skill or understanding before you can move on to the next. I think the difference is, and the focus is the speed at which.

In education and a lot of businesses, we set a certain time table. We say, “Well, let’s take it two weeks to learn this. And if you don’t learn in two weeks, I guess you’re just not good enough for it.” Or in classrooms, it’s “If you don’t learn these in two weeks, too bad. You fail, we’re moving on,” right? “If you don’t understand two plus two, we’re moving on to two times two, and you’re just never going to get it at all, ever.”

I think the biggest thing is that individuality, because we need to understand that we all, one, learn differently, and two, learn at different speeds. So if you think about— a real great way to break it down is, think about that. You have a couple kids at home, correct?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right.

Jeff Gargas
Okay, so when you were teaching them to walk, maybe you’re doing it right now, you probably did it like most people: you stood him up and then they fell a lot, they called, and they fell, and they started using whatever they can to grab onto your leg or the furniture or whatever. And then eventually, they figured out. Now they run around like crazy, if they’re like my kids.

But what if I told you that the way I do with my kids is, I took my son Jonathan, I said, “All right, man, we’re going to do this. We’re going to practice for two weeks, and then I’m gonna work with you. You’re going to fall and everything like this.” Then in two weeks, I said, “All right, Jonathan, here’s what we’re gonna do. I’m gonna stand there, I’m gonna stand the prescribed 10 feet away from you, and now you need to walk to me.”

And he takes a couple of steps, stumbles, boom, falls. And I said, “Well, sorry, son. You failed in the walking test. I guess we’re going to just not learn how to walk. We’re gonna move on the potty training.” It’s ridiculous, right?

But then when we get into school, and in the business, we say, “Hey, you got two weeks to learn this, or you got a week to learn this. And if you don’t, I guess you’re just not going to get it.” And I always wonder how many potentially amazing employees are we not giving a shot to, because we wrote them off? Because they didn’t get it quick enough?

Same in education, too many students get written off as unreachable, or not smart, not good test takers, not good at math, because we gave them a short amount of time. And we expected them to move at the same speed as everyone else. Well, we all learn differently, how to walk in different speeds — some kids walk a year, some take some three years. I mean, same with talk and same with learning how to ride a bike, learn, and everything like that.

So the framework, and just the mastery learning shift in general is focusing on the individual and actually focus on what they actually need, and when they need it, versus when we think they should have it. And I think that’s the biggest piece we drive that helps drive mastery of the content, whether in a school, business, whatever.

Pete Mockaitis  
That’s good. And so where does the grid come into play?

Jeff Gargas  
So the grid, essentially, so when we work with teachers, one of the first things we do is we help them look at their state standards and what they have to meet, what the state says that they’re supposed to be teaching, and we help them break them down and align them to the essential questions that they need to ask their students, that they need to have their students understand. And then that breaks down into learning opportunities and activity, the actual activities that students are doing in order to master the content, in order to master that.

So then, they take all those learning opportunities, which you can think of like a lesson plan, right? We call them learning opportunities, because a lesson is something you give someone; a learning opportunity is something they have to take. So we purposely use those words, but the grid becomes a learning path for their students to move. It’s the guide, it’s their map, if you will.

And it’s this form, these little squares that have activities in them. And it explains what they need to do, what it needs to get to whatever it is that they’re doing, whether that’s vocabulary words, whether that’s science experiments, whatever it might be, and then what they need to do in order to be checked off for mastery.

So students move through these. And so I go and I do what I need to do in square one, and when I’m ready to be checked, and I feel I’ve mastered that, I check in with the teacher, or there might be a self-assessment or automatic assessment through technology, and I cannot move on to the next square until I’ve mastered that content and I’ve shown my mastery at least an 85% or higher level of mastery. And then I move on.

So the grid, if you can visualize, is just a piece of paper with levels, five different levels of those squares. And as students start from the bottom, they build that foundational level knowledge. As they move up the depth of knowledge that’s required, the level of mastery that’s required grows. So there’s fewer boxes, few activities, because they’re a little more in depth as they move on. And as they move up, and they level up in that grid, they’re getting deeper and deeper into that content and into that concept and into that.

So a grid itself would encompass basically sort of like what you would consider like a unit of study. Some units might require multiple grids, some are just one grid. So it could vary from teacher to teacher how much they want to pack in there.

Pete Mockaitis  
Okay, we talked about, is there something in particular that’s on the x axis and the y axis?

Jeff Gargas  
So yeah, so going up on the side, there’s your levels of depth of knowledge. So your x depends on the lead, those are your learning opportunities, right? Those individual boxes that say “This is what you’re going to do to help practice,” and then show your mastery along the moving upwards is that level. So the knowledge we’re referring to, we built it off of what’s called Webb’s Depth of Knowledge. And there’s levels, and it’s moving up, it’s the level of understanding. So as they move up, those levels are showing the level of understanding they had.

There’s actually four levels and depth in Webb’s; we do five levels, because we put like an independent exploration up top for the students that just excel and blow through it, so that once they master content, they can go have fun with it and learn more about it.

Most standards are written in that 2, 3, sometimes four-range, typically two to three range. So most students are going to end up around that level, but you have students that are moving all at the same or at different paces, based on what they need. And so what this does, then, is allows those students that have just get it and they’re just like — we call them rabbits, that are just really quick — and they just get it, they can move and they can keep learning. They can grow, they don’t have to wait for the student that maybe struggles.

But that student that needs a little more time, that needs a few attempts to try to get it because they just don’t get it, now they have the time to do that. You can spend time with them, either one on one or small groups to assess where they’re at, where they’re struggling, to find other ways to explain it to them. Also, side note, build those relationships really nicely there and stuff, and move on. Because what you’ll find is, most students struggle, because of one or two reasons: either one, they already get it, and they’re bored. And so they just checked out of your class. And a lot of times that leaves the problems.

Do you have, like these extremely gifted students that are really intelligent, but they cause problems? They’re just bored. They’re like, “Why am I learning this? I already know it, I don’t need to do this, this is a waste of my time.” Or you have a student that’s just struggling because, maybe they’ve struggled, they have trouble with reading? So like, just basic, simple vocabulary work is really tough for them. And they’re struggling because they’re getting yanked along, and it’s like, “Oh, you don’t know two plus two? So we’re moving on right now.”

“I’m frustrated because I don’t get it. So now I’m lost forever.” And it’s just been a cycle. So, by folks giving everyone the time they need, you’re hitting that top level, and all the way down to the bottom level of students getting what they need. And they’re allowed to move on when they need to move on, but they can take a little more time, with a little more time. So and then, there’s a lot of pieces that go along with that, on how to manage that and stuff.

And that’s where a lot of our training comes into. It’s like, alright, and how we create a grid. But then also, how does this work in my classroom? Because it can be a little scary to think of 20, 30 students all moving, doing different things at different times. And that’s a big mindset shift for a lot of teachers.

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

Jeff Gargas  
Let’s go.

Pete Mockaitis  
Alright, sure how about a favorite quote? Something you find inspiring?

Jeff Gargas  
It’s “Some people dream of success. Others wake up and work hard at it.” I think that’s true, no matter where you’re at in your life.

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

Jeff Gargas  
So I don’t do a lot of studies up, but there’s one that I have found a while back. I don’t know what, it’s from the University of California, Berkeley. And there’s just a study on happiness, like what is happiness? And the biggest thing that I’ll refer back to every now and then, but really just sort of the summary of it, and the fact that like, happiness isn’t about money or things; it’s about fulfillment. It’s not about what others think, it’s not about Keeping Up With the Joneses, and stuff like that. It’s about what you need, what’s important to you.

And you know, for a long time, I felt like I needed to be like a certain person, at a certain level of success, make a certain amount of money, do certain things, whatever. But all I really needed was to find something that I love doing and that I’m good at, and that I find a purpose. And I think that’s… I just love that about happiness.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Jeff Gargas
The Go Giver, Bob Burg. Is one of my all-time favorite, I love it. I have quotes, you’ve had them on that episode — I gotta dig through that episode. Actually, I have massive final prints of the laws, all over my walls. So…

Pete Mockaitis  
And how about a favorite tool? Something that helps you be awesome at your job.

Jeff Gargas  
I live and die in basecamp, we leave that as our project management, use of self reminders, project management. Our team, we’re all virtual. So that’s massive for us. And then I also use an app on my phone called the Five-Minute Journal. That’s really just a like a morning, sort of gratitude and self awareness. And then an evening reflection, it just sets me up for the day and allows me to reflect everyday. Love it.

Pete Mockaitis  
And a favorite habit?

Jeff Gargas  
Favorite habit, I started running about this past August and just getting back into it, focusing on waking up early and getting a workout, and it’s changed everything.

Pete Mockaitis  
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with those that you’re teaching?

Jeff Gargas  
Yeah, I think so with them and more with the team and stuff I love, is… I don’t know if you know Gary Vaynerhuck, he says… I won’t say it in the way he says it, but if you live for the weekends, your stuff is broken. That’s massive for me, because I just think we live in such a world where there’s so many opportunities to do so many different things that if you’re doing something you hate, like it’s just not worth it. You gotta get out, find something that you love.

And I say the same thing to teachers all the time. I said “If you’re dreading Monday, you should probably not be a teacher anymore.” And I love when I talked to teachers and they’re like, “I am so pumped to be back from spring break, because I get to see my kids again. I get to make an impact.” And I’m like that, too. I am pumped for Mondays, every Monday, like even when it’s stressful.

And it’s crazy. Like we’re a small business, we’re growing, it’s stressful pretty much every day. But I love it and I just think if you’re just dying on Monday already for it to be Friday night, man, like something’s broken, you gotta fix it.

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

Jeff Gargas  
Twitter, I love big on Twitter. I love Twitter. I’m on there all the time. I’m @JeffGargas. I’m on Instagram, too. @_JeffGargas. Or just reach out to us at TeachBetter.com, and you can literally email me at Jeff@teachbetter.com. I love building connections and chat with people and just figuring out if there’s any way that I can help

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

Jeff Gargas  
I think take some time to get really, really self-aware. Get rid of all the nonsense and like the BS and what other people say. Take time and figure out what you love, what you don’t love, what you’re good at. And once you start with really thinking about it, clearing out all that other junk, everybody else’s voices… forget the expectation that people have for you. That criticism, the negativity, all that stuff.

Just focus on like the real you. Be you. When you do that, you have no reason, like, make it up and try and put on a show. It’s just for you, like, what are you awesome at? What do I love doing? Go do that. Figure out how do I play on my strengths? How do I surround myself with people who are awesome at what I’m not, so that I can be awesome at what I need to be?

And just like, what that means going to work for someone joining the team, development team. “Let’s fill your gaps,” whatever it is, like no one can be as awesome at the things you do as you are. So go find out what that is, do it, and just love your life. It’s just not worth not doing that.

Pete Mockaitis  
Awesome. Well, Jeff, this has been a treat. Good luck and all you’re doing and helping folks teach better.

Jeff Gargas  
I appreciate it, Pete. This has been awesome. Thank you.

424: How to Help People Get to the Next Level with Jeremie Kubicek

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Jeremie Kubicek teaches how to multiply your leadership many times over.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Tools for being the best sherpa for your team, like the Support-Challenge Matrix
  2. Pro tips for better supporting and challenging yourself and others
  3. Critical expectations that need to be spelled ou

About Jeremie

Jeremie Kubicek is a thought leader who specializes in transformational leader development. He is CEO of GiANT TV, and Chairman and co-founder of GiANT Worldwide, where he helps people grow through powerful content across the globe. Additionally, Jeremie is the bestselling author of Making Your Leadership Come Alive.Together with Steve Cockram, he is also the author of 5 Voices and 5 Gears.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Jeremie Kubicek Interview Transcript

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

Jeremie Kubicek
So good to be with you, Pete. Thank you for the time.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh well, thank you for the time. I mean, it’s a really big day for you and the book launch process. Tell us what’s going on. You just hit number one in Amazon category, which is cool. Congratulations.

Jeremie Kubicek
Thank you. I know. It’s really fun.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. What have you been up to and what’s the secret to your success here in this book promotion?

Jeremie Kubicek
I’ve done a lot of different books. My background and history, I used to run a lot of leadership businesses. So I was always the background guy for a number of years. So the corner office guy, right? Who did big events, Leadercast, Catalyst. I worked with John Maxwell and Henry Cloud, and those different thought leaders, and so on and so forth.

I’ve been writing my own books for the last, I don’t know, seven to eight years. One, you build the following. But what we’ve done is we basically built a leadership summit. That’s been really interesting. It has actually worked. Where we built a free two-and-a-half-hour event that anyone in the world can use with their teams. Then it has just driven a lot of appreciation, because it’s adding a lot of value to people, more than just a book. This is a thought. Take the thought and work it into your system. So that’s been our research and it has actually played out really nicely.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. So is that sort of like, buy the book and you get the free access to the event or the video?

Jeremie Kubicek
Yes and/or the opposite. Do the event and books come with it. So it’s either way. So a lot of teams are working with that. Then we have a lot of our own consultants, or coaches, or people that want to draw people they can actually put on the event and bring it in for their own networking or what have you. Then the book is basically what the participant gets when they come.

Pete Mockaitis.
That’s cool. Well, clever, clever. I don’t know how many listeners care about book promotions, but I sure do.

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah, I know.

Pete Mockaitis
But I guess what I’m trying to underscore here is, you are in the thick of it and we appreciate you taking the time.

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
So your book here, The 100X Leader? Or do you pronounce it internally in your head? 100 times leader?

Jeremie Kubicek
No. I said 100X. You said that right, yeah. It still means the same thing. Times and Xs. It’s multiplication.

Pete Mockaitis
[…] my consulting days. They always talk about three x-ing the revenue or something?

Jeremie Kubicek
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
That three times-ing or tripling. So what’s the big idea behind this book?

Jeremie Kubicek
The big idea is that in our world system, we don’t have enough of the right kind of leader. We have a lot of leaders, but leadership is not equal. All leaders are not equal. That jargon of leadership, it means too many different things. It’s too generic.

So we basically broke it down and said, “A 100X Leader is someone who’s trending to be a healthy person.” They’re healthy emotionally, physically, mentally, and a kind of more well-rounded person. They’re heading to that direction. They’ve acclimated enough to such a degree that they then can X or multiply themselves.

Most leaders that we find are either 60 negative or 75 plus. So they’re jaded and they show up at work, and they’re living accidentally. Everyone around them kind of gets the life sucked out of them when they’re around these people. Or there’s this 75 plus leader that’s generally healthy and they’ll add value if you come to them and they, “Yeah, yeah. Sure. What do you need? I’ll help you.” But they’re not intentionally looking to take people to the next level.

Pete Mockaitis
60 negative and 75 plus. Can you orient me? Is there ratio, or numerator, or denominator? What’s the number pointing to?

Jeremie Kubicek
Well, it’s an overall. It’s almost like what do you think of that movie? 1 through 10. Your view of the movie and my view of the movie. You might call it 8 and I might give it a 6. So it’s a little subjective. But it’s the construct of going, “Are you healthy? Are you moving in the healthy? So then we break it down in the book.

There’s five circles of influence. There’s self, family, team, organization, and community. So what’s interesting about it is that we find that most leaders haven’t done the hard yards to look at themselves in the mirror and go, “How am I doing in each category?” Because most people think of leadership only in the team construct. We said, “No, no, no. What about self and leading yourself? That is a leadership opportunity. What about your family and leading there? What about in the community?”

So there’s other categories of leadership. I could be useful, for instance, 60%, to myself. Maybe I dominate myself. Maybe I speak over myself negative words. Maybe I subtract some 60 negative in the self-circle. To my family, maybe I’m 70% and plus. So in each category, we’re basically using the idea of 100X that said, “How healthy are you?

Now, we have some tests in the book. We have certain things where you can actually test yourself and rank yourself, and come up with your number and what you think.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Jeremie Kubicek
That’s the general idea of it.

Pete Mockaitis
So you say 60 negative? These are kind of like two things here. It’s a 60 on the 0 to 100 scale and it’s a negative in the health?

Jeremie Kubicek
It’s negative in your influence. So X means multiplication of your influence. How influential are you? Do people want to follow you or do they have to follow you? So the idea is if I’m a 100X Leader. I’m someone that people want to follow, because I’m intentionally multiplying myself. I’m bringing the best that I have to help other people become the best they could be.

That’s what usually breaks down in most of the leaders that we run into, in organizations, are just waking up in the morning. They maybe have gotten beaten down to such a degree, so that anyone that comes in contact with them, they’re multiplication is they’re multiplying negative. They’re not multiplying positive.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So I’m kind of hung up on your figures here, but let me nail this down. Okay. So you’re saying that we take a good look at these five key areas. The self, family, team, organization, and community, and see how you doing 0 to 100 hundred in terms of just kind of what’s the performance level there.

Then we have a negative influence in terms of how other people are picking up on that vibe from you or a positive influence, if it’s a happy vibe. Or a multiplicative influence in the terms of they are now equipped to do all the more. Is that fair?

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. Are you intentionally multiplying your skills, knowledge, and wisdom into those that you’re leading? Or it could be on the other end of the spectrum of dividing. I’m going to give an example. This week, I’m just working with a public company. The executive team, working with the CEO, helping this person understand himself. This person, the CEO, is really, really getting into it and understanding. “Ha! I can’t give what I don’t possess. So am I as a person and as a leader?”

So he’s moving to that direction. I’m giving him tools, which are laced throughout the book to help him become 100% or move in that direction. So his trajectory is good. But then we started looking at his executive team. As I gave him the numbers to play with, he was ranking his own team going, “You know, I think so and so is at a –.”

I’ll just make up names, so that if anyone’s listening. I think Bob is at a 70. I think there’s some things in his life that’s kind of keeping him—I think, Lisa, she might be at a 90. She’s got—But Tom, Tom is really 40. Not only 40. I think he’s divisive. Feels like he is against his own team. He’s against us. He’s accusing us. He is not bought in and he’s not adding any value in the organization.

So that concept of the 100X leader is really the idea of you becoming an intentional person and starting thinking about your own health and your own multiplication. Then we get into the use of the Sherpa, which we’ll get into. But we give metaphors to help people understand the construct of it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I hear you there. So then let’s talk a little bit about the Sherpa. So you’re using this as a metaphor of great leadership and why the Sherpa?

Jeremie Kubicek
Trying to explain this, like I’m doing here, is we basically said what is the metaphor? In Giant, in our company, what we do is we take really complex ideas and make them simple enough. Because we realized that in organizations to spread, it needs to be effective to the 13-year-old. If a 13-year-old will understand it, it will spread inside an organization. If a 13-year-old can’t get it, there’ll be dead ends.

So we create objective common language through visual tools. The metaphor we use was Mount Everest, but specifically the Sherpa on Mount Everest, which is the people group of Mount Everest who were born at 14,000 feet. They basically are helping people get to the next level. They’re synonymous with leading people up the mountain. So the idea is that most leaders think of leadership as like them climbing to the top and the best leadership. I’m like, “Well, that’s part of it. We want you to get acclimated, so you can make it to the peak.”

But the process of leadership is not about you climbing the mountain. It’s actually when you get back from the top, from the summit, and get back into base camp. Three days from now, Pete, I’m going to give you three whiny people. I need you to take these people up the mountain. So you’ve got to be 100%. You have to be acclimated, like a Sherpa is, to take people who may not be as acclimated as you are, and how do you help them get up to the next level?

That is leadership. That is the success of a leader. It’s not how many times you’ve peaked or summited, it’s how many times you’ve helped other people summit.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So then, can you walk us through in practice? How does one pull that off?

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. So to do that, if you’re climbing a mountain, you need tools. If you’re climbing Mount Everest, you need to have rope training. You need to have altitude training. You need to be able to understand crampons, and ice picks, and ladders, and so on and so forth. So we’ve basically created these tools, so that you could be a Sherpa. Our goal is to train people to be Sherpa. Not the real Sherpa, but the figurative Sherpa.

One of those tools is called the Support-Challenge Matrix. The idea of the Support-Challenge Matrix is that, at all times, you understand the people that you’re leading. Do they need more support from you right now or do they need more challenge? Well, it’s important for you to know your own tendencies first. A lot of people that we’ve talked with have – they’re really good at providing challenge, but they’re not very effective in providing significant support. Or they could be the other end. They could be supporters. They bring a lot of support, but they don’t bring enough challenge.

So understanding what your own tendencies are and then understanding how the people that you lead. What do they need? What does support and challenge look like for them? So a Sherpa is always going, “Okay. My job is to fight for the highest possible good of those I lead. Do they know I’m for them? Do they think I’m against them? Or do they think I’m for myself? I’ve got to be for them, for them to really respond to me. What’s their tendency? How do they receive support? How do they receive challenge? Based on their personality, their wiring. Then my job is to see what they need, understand what’s undermining their influence, and help them get to the next level.” So that’s one example of getting people to the next level. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
So you say Support-Challenge Matrix. I’m visualizing a two by two or whether is the visual –

Jeremie Kubicek
Yes. That’s right. So you have 2:2 […]. You’ve got high support. If the X and Y and low support, you have high challenge and low challenge. If you put those two together, then going, “Okay. The best leaders in the world calibrate high support and high challenge.” We’ve called that verb as liberating. So to liberate. It means to provide and create a culture of growth and opportunity.

If you bring high challenge with low support, that’s a dominating tendency. There’s fear-based, manipulation. It’s yelling. So that domination never produces empowerment. It usually always produces compliance. For instance, I lived in Russia for a few years back in the early 90’s and I had watched 70 years of domination. I’ll never forget. I was coming out of my flat and there was another apartment complex next to me, and this guy carries out a speaker, puts it over his head, and slams it to the ground right by the trash.

It was really weird. He came to this like real emotional. Then there was a guy behind him and then another one. I stood there and watched 120 people. I counted. So 120 people came and threw their speaker, and slammed it, and crushed it. I asked the guy. I was like, “Hey, […]. What’s going on here? What is this?” He goes, “This is the listening device from the communists. We’re done. We’re tired of it.” When he told me what it was, it was in each apartment complex, the government had put a listening device. It was a speaker in the kitchen of every apartment. There was music playing 24/7. It was basically a big brother tactic that showed that we are always listening. So they didn’t know if they were not.

Pete Mockaitis
Whoa! It’s playing music and it’s listening. The whole time.

Jeremie Kubicek
That’s right. Well, you didn’t know if they’re listening. Because it was a placebo type. They maybe basically set it up, but people didn’t know. So it was fear-based.

Pete Mockaitis
They were then creating information process, I those old days.

Jeremie Kubicek
I know. That’s what you think. There’s 14 million listening devices and 14 million people. Surely, you can’t listen to all of them. But it didn’t matter. It was the culture of fear and manipulation. So that culture created domination. Well, if you look at the workforce. I’m not saying it is now but back then, if you look at the workforce of the Russians, it was abdicating. It was compliance. It was do enough to not get sent to prison. Do enough to not die. Do enough to keep in the party line. Not empowerment.

So domination, high challenge without high support, produces abdication. Whereas a lot of kids, especially in the Midwest – East Coast is kind of known for that high challenge, less support. In the Midwest, a lot of places are high support and low challenge. So it’s kind of hinting a lot.

Pete Mockaitis
You mean, it’s. Don’t you know?

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. “Hey Pete, how’s it going? Big event next week. Are we ready for it?” Hint, hint, hint. Meaning, I have expectations, but I’m not sharing them. I hope you just kind of get it. Then when you don’t get it, then I come back to you. “You know Pete – You know Janice, she kind of knows what I’m wanting. So I’m going to have Janice –” It feels kind of like condescension or it kind of feels like mistrust. So that high support with low challenge produces a weird entitlement culture.

We just kept watching this in our studies, in our work. I mean, we’ve been working on this for years. Just inside companies going, “No.” These are cultures that are getting produced. Inside a culture, you could have a dominating culture with this team, an abdicating culture over here, a protecting culture over here. All these sub-cultures. We just started watching that. The same thing happens in your personal life. It happens with your kids. I could dominate one of my kids, protect one of my kids, and be an abdicator to one of my kids, all in one day. That’s what we’re trying to get people to be aware of. So that they can start leading themselves.

Pete Mockaitis
I guess I’m thinking of low support and low challenge. Sounds kind of something like you’re checked out. You’re not really saying it’s tentative

Jeremie Kubicek
Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
What’s going on? What do you call those?

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah, abdicators. So the abdicating culture. There are certain brands. Private equity has a perception of dominating culture. The post office has a perception of abdicating cultures. It’s not that they are, it’s just there’s a perception, certain government entities. You get a lot of nonprofits. They have a protecting culture for the high support, low challenge. So what we’re after is to go, “What would it look like if we can break leadership down into bite-sized nuggets and give people some aspiration?

To go, “No, no, no. What would it look like for you to be 100% healthy? And then multiply. Develop people. That’s a liberating culture. That is what 100X leaders do. That’s what we’re trying to do. Break it down, so it’s palatable and applicable, and you can do something with this tomorrow.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’s cool. I guess what resonate for me is thinking about entitlement in terms of I think I can have some of those tendencies with regard to being supportive and not so challenging in the sense of how intensely I articulate, what I expect, and what you’ve given me is unacceptable.

Jeremie Kubicek
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
I kind of hold back a little bit in terms of what I’m really thinking at times. Because I don’t want to be a total jerk face. But hey, that’s my Midwestern influence that’s in there.

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. But see, if you know that about yourself and all of a sudden, you start reflection going, “Ha! I do that work. What about my partner? Spouse? What about my kids? What do they think of me? “Hon, do I that there too?” Then you start noticing it with myself. What’s my tendencies and the way I treat myself? It’s interesting. We spend so many times with people who dominate themselves. That domination to themselves leads to abdication. I mean, so you get in to go, what would it look like to liberate yourself, to support yourself, and to challenge yourself?

So there’s all types of dynamics at play and we start taking leadership and go into this in you in the morrow of a person, and it starts to change the way they think. They become intentional, not accidental.

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you. Well, slow down, Jeremie. I’m sure there’s a lot of art in the details of the implementation of challenging and supporting effectively. I can think of some good ways to challenge and some good ways to support, and some bad ways to challenge and to support. So it’s a whole another two by two, I guess. Watch out for consultants and agency. Could you give us some perspectives in terms of maybe tips, tricks, scripts, counterintuitive tidbits in terms of here’s how you challenge really well or here’s what not to do when you challenge? Here’s how you support really well and what not to do when you support?

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. So a couple of things. One is, you have to understand your own tendencies and patterns first. Because we always – Here’s the tip. Support first before challenge.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Jeremie Kubicek
If people don’t know that you’re for them, they won’t receive your challenge very well. That’s number one. Number two, you need to use objective language, not subjective language. That’s why we’ve created The 100X Leader book because it’s full of visual tools and little axioms that you can use.

For instance, if I said this to you Pete, subjectively, “You know Pete, we’ve been working together for a long time and you’re a good guy, I just need you to step it up. I need you to get to the next level, just from a leadership perspective. So are we clear? Are we good?” Right?

Pete Mockaitis
No, Jeremie. We’re not at all.

Jeremie Kubicek
But do you see where I’m going? A lot of people, that’s what they get versus if I said this, “Hey Pete, we’ve been working together a long time. I still appreciate you. Here’s what I’ve noticed. I’m observing. You know the Support-Challenge Matrix, right?” Then I pull it out and I use that as the buffer. So I’m not the bad guy. The Support-Challenge Matrix is a mirror that’s in the book. It’s right there. You can visualize it.

And I go, “Sometimes, you have a tendency to be up here in the upper left corner. You bring a lot of support to people. They know your forum. But you’re leaving expectations out. Sometimes you turn into Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and you don’t share your expectations. Then you kind of blow up a little bit. Then they feel like you went to domination.” So to be consistent would be at a place I’ve coached you.

So I’d like for you to consistently share your expectations with people. I want you to practice that. Pick so and so. Tell him what you expect. What are you looking for? Now, I’ve given the objective language. You don’t feel like I’m nagging you or giving you challenge. You don’t know what to do with it. I’m challenging you. But I’m providing enough support through objective language. Does that help?

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you. So you’re pinpointing the specific observation there. I guess if we had some more time and experience with each other, you could get even more precise. In terms of, Susie had no idea that you wanted ABC. When in fact, that was very important to you. And you were pretty cheesed off when things didn’t go as planned.

Jeremie Kubicek
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Hey, do you have any additional perspectives in terms of how to support well and challenge well?

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. Here’s another. It’s a small axiom. But we find these axiom stay in people’s minds. I’m a big fan of Harvard. I love academics. I’m a big fan of Stanford and just the different reports. But those reports do not transfer very well. They don’t scale. Because they’re case studies, they’re too complicated. So we give little axioms. Here’s an axiom. “Pete, I want you to learn.” Or let’s just say all the listeners. Everyone listening. “I want you to learn how to call people up, not out.”

Call people up, not out. That means basically that they know that you’re for them. You’re going to basically call them up to who they are. Not call them out on what they did. So an example of that with my kids. It works great with kids. It works great with teammates. My daughter. Real quick story.

She just told me that she wanted to be a leader at the beginning of this year. She’s a junior in high school. “I want to be one of the leaders of our school. I think I can add a lot of value.” I’m like, “Okay. How are you going to do that?” Well, then a week later, some of our best friends call us and they found a video on their nest, a video from their front door, that our daughter had toilet paper dumped.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh man!

Jeremie Kubicek
So all of a sudden –

Pete Mockaitis
Now you have it.

Jeremie Kubicek
All of a sudden, what I wanted to say, I wanted to call her out. My calling out was, “Are you kidding me? What are you thinking? These are our best friends? How could you do this? […] one, it’s toilet paper. It’s not that big a deal. But what I did as I was using her own medicine, they go, “No, no. Call her up.” “Kate, hon, you told me that you wanted to be a leader, like this is who you are. What happened?”

So I allowed herself to call herself out. And I called her up and I gave her an opportunity to go, “Dad, I’m so sorry. That’s not who I want to be. You’re right. I told you this. I get it. It was a mistake. A little bit of peer pressure. Yeah, thanks. I get it.” If I’m always calling people out every time I’m around them, it’s kind of dominating them. I’m challenging them with not much support. If I’m calling them up, I’m giving them a roadmap to get to that level. It’s a simple little axiom.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. It reinforces their identity, such that they can try do some self-service there. So that they may don’t need you to always be the person calling them out. If you are calling them up, the identity is more rooted and become sort of like the thing that does the self-policing.

Jeremie Kubicek
That’s right. Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s a fun axiom. Give us some more please.

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. So when you think of it, we go – Expectations are another one to go. Most people don’t realize that they have expectations. So we created a simple little – It’s on page 123. It’s a little tool and it’s just managing expectations and some expectations scale that go – It should be right in the middle. Realistic. That if you go north, it goes unrealistic, and then it goes to impossible. If you go down, there’s limited and then resigned.

So part of the issue of leadership is that we have expectations that we don’t share and unmet expectations produce bitterness. So if you don’t share expectations, it’s not really fair. A lot of judgment takes place and a lot of subjective, a lot of drama happens because people just aren’t sharing their expectations appropriately.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Jeremie Kubicek
So we basically teach how to do that. The secret to developing others really is really you, getting really clear on your expectations about their development. A quick story on that. We’re just launching something called Giant TV. The idea of it is almost edutainment. It’s like Netflix for leadership. Okay? But it’s not just videos. It’s $9 a month, really inexpensive, but it’s a way for people to engage in development and growth.

Well, our team is very, very young in putting this together. So I just said, “You know what? I’m going to open source this.” One of our tools is called developing others. It’s basically using massless square and some other work on unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious – Just all the way through the process. So I basically said, “Guys, here we go. Giant TV.” When we were developing this last summer, we’re unconsciously incompetent. I am too. We don’t know what we don’t know.

Well, we had all these ideas. Then we started doing them and we quickly got to conscious incompetence. Me sharing expectations, I said, “This is what winning looks like. If we can get 5,000 people on Giant TV, by this next summer, we’ll have won.” That’s the expectation. But I am consciously incompetent. I thought I knew what we were doing. So by me opening and sharing this out loud, it enabled our team to not worry about me.

Me as a leader, I could be a liberating leader, because I was basically showing them. But along the way, one of our guys, Jake. I said, “Jake, do you realize your unconscious incompetence here? Do you see it? And conscious competence looks like this. This is what it means to be successful. So let’s get you there and let’s work out loud to do that.”

So this style of leadership, it gives language to people and it gives visual tools to take away any potential drama or any potential frustration, where I might be frustrated with an employee and then start working around them, and then complaining about them, and ultimately having to let someone go. Instead, we openly talked about where we’re clueless. That’s what a 100X Leader will do.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. I hear you there. So I’m intrigued with the scale of expectations, going from resigned to limited, to realistic, to unrealistic, to impossible. How do you utilize that? So I think, “Hey, what are my expectations?” I just list them out and then I kind of put them on the scale like, “Oh! It turns out that’s an impossible expectation.”

Jeremie Kubicek
Okay. Let’s play. So all the listeners, let’s take three of the most important people in your life and/or your job. Okay. So let’s say maybe there’s a spouse. Okay. My wife, Kelly. That’s one. Let’s pick one of my kids and let’s pick one of my teammates.

Pete Mockaitis
The other kid is like, “Oh!”

Jeremie Kubicek
They’re probably like, “Good! I’m not there.” Then what I’m doing is that I’m looking at that role and I’m looking at the relationship and the responsibilities in those roles.

In fact, let me take my wife out. It’d be even harder. Let’s just start with one of my teammates. I’m going to say Mike. Mike leads our enterprise systems. I have a general expectation of what I think Mike can do and what our business can do. Is it realistic? Well, I’ve talked it out loud. He talks his vision out loud. We see is our vision matched up? It does. Is it realistic? We both feel that it is. We get outside counsel and benchmarking. We’re in the right ballpark. You know what? I think we’re on the same page for the vision. Now, we got to make it happen.

Now in six months, if we’re not meeting the vision or meeting those goals, and he knows they were realistic, then that’s an opportunity to grow. We’ve got to tweak something, work on something. But I’m openly talking about those expectations. So at any time, he knows where I stand. I think that’s the key. Most people don’t know where their boss stands. They get a lot of hints or they get a lot of grunts. But they don’t get a lot of like, “Tell me exactly what you expect to happen.”

Now, some of the expectations by some of us are impossible. Like no one can do that. If you benchmark that, it’s impossible. This is interesting. I find a lot of bosses, a lot of leaders, they think that they’re motivating by putting this massive goal out there. But inside and maybe to a few of their colleagues, they’re saying, “You know what? If they get half of that, I’ll be happy.” But what happens is, it’s actually – It’s not motivational. Because the person is going, “These are impossible. I’m not going to make it. I better start looking for another job.” So they should go.

Pete Mockaitis
on Indeed and LinkedIn.

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. So then it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because this boss is sharing this big goal going, “I’ll be happy with half of it.” The other person is like, “There’s no way we can do. That’s impossible.” Then they check out and go look for someone else.  Then the boss goes, “Yeah. This guy’s not making it. You can’t find good help these days, can you?” That goes on and on and on.

So we’re basically saying, “Look, if you’re a leader, you’re a Sherpa.” Your job is to get the person you’re leading to the next level. Well, that means that they need to know that you’re for them. That you have to fight for their highest good. That you are giving them the right support and challenge based on what they need at the moment. Then you show them what’s undermining their influence and you work together to get to the next level.

I’ve been interviewing Sherpa after Sherpa on Mount Everest. That’s what they do. Basically, it’s not about how many times they’ve climbed the mountain. The Sherpa is fully-acclimated, because they’re born at that level. So they can go up and down, but their job is to get that person to the next level. That’s what a 100X Leader does.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. I really dig that in terms of these tools and axioms, and getting there. It’s cool that you – I respect that you did your homework and you talked to real Sherpas.

Jeremie Kubicek
Oh yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
“Hey, that sounds like a cool metaphor.” We’ll leave it at that.

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. I’ve been interviewing them on base camp and I’ve been talking to climbers, who’ve been climbing at 8,000-meter peaks. They will tell you, “There’s no way I could have done it without Vanuru […] or would no way I could have done it without so and so, the Sherpa. It’s just that that is the idea. So their appreciation for the Sherpa is amazing.

They also go, “Wow! It’s so much different.” For me, thinking about being a Sherpa to another climber. Because those are different skills. I’m convinced of it. In our service, in our free agent world, we’ve not been training people on leading as a Sherpa. We’ve mainly been training people to get to the top. “Okay. Great. You made it to the top. Good for you.” But your job is to take these people up the mountain, not just to get up yourself. So it’s a different dynamic.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. That’s powerful. So I want to hear about when it comes to the expectation. A part of it is just like, “All right. You sit down.” You say, “Here’s mine. What’s yours? You can check it with a third party. You feel good.” We have a handy little five-part categorization for them. In the process, we get them out in the open. Could you maybe catalog or prompt or tease? What are some key expectations that really need to get talked about that often don’t get talked about?

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. If it’s work, it’s going to be around what is success? What does it mean to win? That’s not talked about enough? How do I win? How does our team win? How does the organization win? In our expectations aligned there. But even to take it down to kids? How do we win? What does winning look like to the family dynamic? To your spouse, what does winning look like? To friends. Personally, what does winning look like?

So an example. This is me. Funny. But we have an event we just did in Cancun. It was a marriage retreat for our clients and they bring their spouses to learn our language. It’s really powerful. There are 40 couples. I’m taking my shirt off and I’d lost weight.

Pete Mockaitis
There you go.

Jeremie Kubicek
I’d lost some weight, Pete. But I wasn’t – Let’s just say, I’m not buffed, but I’m definitely better than I was the year before. But I, all of a sudden, look and go, “You know what? I want to have actually some muscles. I want to at least see one or two pack of muscle.”

Not six packs. It’s unrealistic. But is that an impossible goal? Or is it realistic between now and next February? I think it’s realistic. What am I going to do now? What’s my plan? What’s my team?

My point is I had expectations of myself. Historically, I’ve had expectations of myself on weight or health. I’ve not met them and I’ve dominated myself. So I’m listing my expectations by asking what does it mean to win and by when? So there’s a date with that. Well, the same is with people. I just don’t think there’s enough. I think we’re just so accidental when wake up. Most people wake up and just do their thing. They don’t think about this stuff.

So I think, if anything, The 100X Leader book prompts people to be intentional and think about things they’ve never thought about. But it also gives them tools to do something about it right then. You’ll see change happen right then. You don’t have to wait for nine months. You can teach the Support-Challenge Matrix. You know this as well as I do. When you teach something, you learn. So by teaching it to other people, you’ll start learning.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Yeah. I’m loving this. What is success for the individual, for the team, for the organization? Can you share a couple more critical expectations that really need to be spelled out?

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. I’m going to give you an example. I have one guy. He’s gone from about 70%, maybe 60% healthy, and a little bit of a negative to about 90X right now. It’s a journey and a process. I’ve just used the tools to show him what it was like to be on the other side of himself. He realized he had unrealistic expectations from most people in his life. They mainly came out of insecurity. I’m like, “Why do you keep having these? Where is this coming from? He had basically – It goes into the law of self-preservation.

I asked these hard questions. “What are you trying to prove? What are you afraid of losing? What are you trying to hide?” When I asked that question, because I’m a confidant to him, he trusts me. Therefore, unbelievable amount of things started to come out. He’s trying to prove himself to a dad that he doesn’t like. He’s trying to prove himself to an industry, because he feels like his title means that he should produce at a level. He’s got a few things in his life that he was afraid of losing. So he was overcompensating through some arrogance.

Point is, all of that led to unrealistic expectations that got put on his team, because he wanted to be seen as the guy, and in the industry and his family. We’re like, “Do you see how this is affecting you? You’re not healthy and your team is not very healthy. They don’t necessarily want to work for you. They kind of have to work for you. Because they all need jobs and they’re –

It’s not bad enough that they’re looking for jobs, but they just kind of is.” That “aha” about a year ago got him to the place of like, “Hey, I want to get to the next level. What do I need to do?” So we spent nine months working on him. It wasn’t about them. It was him. I got a little letter from them about two weeks ago. The letter came from his senior leadership team and it’s basically like, “What have you done with him? We thought he had cancer or that he was leaving. He’s changed.”

It was transformation because he decided to be intentional and he decided to do something about it. But he really went after his insecurity. I was helping him through this process, figure out how he’d been dominating himself all because of this insecurity and the self-preservation.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s a really intriguing insight that I guess you get from lots of experience, is that real big expectations that are dominating can often be caused by some of the stuff in terms of what are you trying to prove, what are you afraid of losing, and what are you trying to hide? That’s some sophisticated human insight, Jeremie. Can you give me one more before we hear some of your favorite things?

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. So what happened then in that is I helped him understand culture and that leaders define culture. So if he really, really wanted to have a legacy, if you wanted to be someone worth following, then he’s going to have to learn how to get past plus into multiplication. It’s radically affected that. So the metaphor we use there is Greenhouse. A great leader, a healthy leader, is like a good gardener. They’re looking at and their people are like plants. That plant needs water, and sunlight, and soil.

So an employee needs vision, encouragement, and time. So you can’t give what you don’t possess. In essence, what I was trying to do is show, “Look, you have all of these subcultures underneath you and your team. You have to be healthy to produce a greenhouse, a positive greenhouse. Not a toxic greenhouse.” So the positive greenhouse, that’s a liberating culture of empowerment, and growth, and opportunity. But that only means when you’re healthy. So that’s what’s cascading down into the organization.

So for anyone listening, you start with the idea of what’s it like to be on the other side of myself? What’s my tendency for myself? Am I dominating myself? What’s my tendency? What are my patterns? What are the actions? What consequences those lead to that are shaping my reality? If you want to change, then you change with support. Am I providing too low support? Am I providing too much challenge? How do I calibrate that with myself? What about my family? What about my team? And so on and so forth.

That’s holistic, because you think about life today. Today, everyone is holistic. People don’t compartmentalize like they used to do. So life affects us differently because of social media and everything else. So we want, holistically, you to be thinking about being a 100X Leader in every circle of influence. That only happens by being intentional, which then leads to consistency.

Pete Mockaitis
Good stuff, Jeremie. Well now, could you share with us a favorite quote that you find inspiring?

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. The phrase that I’ve used is, ”You can’t give what you don’t possess.” But the positive of that is, you give what you possess. I have a philosophy of give it all away. So giving yourself away for the benefit of others is just kind of a motif or a way that I’ve chosen to live. So that’s the phrase I use. It’s not necessarily an author, said by so and so. But it’s the phrase that is kind of an inspiration for me.

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

Jeremie Kubicek
I love the study – The project, Aristotle, that came from Google recently that talked about teams and team culture. It basically surmised that the best teams in the world have psychological safety, which means, we have the ability to talk about things. It meant to me that support and challenge works. Because if I can challenge appropriately and you’re not going to get your feelings hurt. But if I’ve created a culture where we can both support and challenge, we can get more done. So I just appreciate the research they did.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Thank you. How about a favorite book?

Jeremie Kubicek
Favorite book is a book by Chris Lowney called Heroic Leadership. It’s basically looking at the history of the Jesuits and how in the world in the 1500’s did the Jesuits build the largest organization, which is basically education world and the influence that a bunch of ragtag Jesuits have. It’s unbelievable read. Very inspiring. We based our business off of that book. It has really affected the way that we think about multiplication.

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

Jeremie Kubicek
Well, a favorite tool is going to be the Support-Challenge Matrix. Actually, I probably would say, for me, the liberating others tool is when I’m looking at people, am I fighting for their highest possible good? Do they need more support or challenge right now? What’s undermining their influence and do I have the guts to show them that? To get them to the next level?

I think that’s why people want me to be around them and want us as an organization to be around them. It’s because we have the guts to help them get to the next level. It’s that combination. It’s like this desire to fight and to serve. I just love that tool, that concept.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a great turn of phrase. Do you have the guts to show them? It phrases it such that the challenge is internal. Not “Oh my gosh! How are they going to react?” But rather, “Are you going to rise to this challenge and do what’s right?

Jeremie Kubicek
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s cool.

Jeremie Kubicek
That was it.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite habit?

Jeremie Kubicek
A favorite habit is I have a kind of a normal flow. My habit is shower in the morning. Basically, when I turn the shower on, I go after any negative thought in the shower. It’s like the cleansing. I go, “What is the negative thought or what’s the thought that is not right that I don’t need to trust? So that shower, metaphor and a symbol, is I’m trying to cleanse my mind of the wrong thinking. So that’s my habit. I use the symbol of the shower to do that.

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

Jeremie Kubicek
The best way to do that is if you wanted to go to GiantSpeakers.com. That’s an easy one. Or they can go to Giant.TV. Those would be the easiest places to learn more about us.

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

Jeremie Kubicek
Yeah. The final challenge would be simply explore what life might look like if you are more intentional in every circle of influence. Picture that you have a dimmer switch on your back. At the bottom, it’s accidental. At the top, it’s intentional. What would it look like if you move that lever all the way to the top?

Pete Mockaitis
Jeremie, this has been a treat. Thanks so much for taking the time. I wish you and The 100X Leader, and Giant all the luck in the world.

Jeremie Kubicek
Thanks so much, Pete. Sure. I appreciate it.

422: How to Make Decisions, Solve Problems, and Ask Questions Like a Leader with Carly Fiorina

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Former Chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Carly Fiorina, discusses how to solve problems, make decisions, and connect with other people like a leader.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why to choose a path instead of a plan
  2. Three steps for arriving at the wisest decision
  3. Key prompts to ensure you’ve considered all the angle

About Carly

Carly Fiorina is the former Chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard and a seasoned problem-solver. She started out as a secretary for a 9-person real-estate business and eventually became the first woman ever to lead a Fortune 50 company. Through Carly Fiorina Enterprises and the Unlocking Potential Foundation, Carly and her team strengthen problem-solving and leadership capacity across America. Carly is also a best-selling author. Her titles include Tough Choices and Rising to the Challenge. Her third book Find Your Way releases on April 9th. She and her husband, Frank, have been happily married for 33 years. They reside in northern Virginia near their daughter, son-in-law and two granddaughters.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Carly Fiorina Interview Transcript

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

Carly Fiorina
It’s great to be with you. Thank you, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I discovered that you’ve recently become a podcaster yourself and apparently the backstory involves bumping into an NBA star. Can you tell us the story and what’s going on over at your show called By Example?

Carly Fiorina
Well, yes, it’s funny. I was at a conference for social innovation in Chicago in the summer of 2017. One of the speakers was Baron Davis of NBA fame and UCLA fame. Now I have to immediately say, I’m not a big basketball expert, so, embarrassingly, I didn’t even know who Baron Davis was. But half my staff was like, “Oh my gosh, it’s Baron Davis.”

I listened to him speak and I was captivated by what he had to say. He listened to me speak and apparently liked what he heard. We bump into each other literally in the lobby of the Marriot on a break from this conference. We sit down and he says, “We should do a podcast together.” I said, “Oh Baron, that would be fantastic,” because he was talking a lot about leadership and I talk about leadership.

One thing led to another and Baron Davis was our inaugural guest on the By Example podcast and also brought to us an incredible additional leader named Dino Smiley. The By Example podcast was born in the head of Baron Davis in the lobby of the Chicago Marriott in July of 2017.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Well, I am in Chicago. I’ve been to the Marriott, so I can visualize the scene nicely. That’s cool. And you’re just still chugging along?

Carly Fiorina
Well, what I was hoping to achieve with By Example based on that preliminary conversation was an opportunity to highlight for people real leaders. The reason I love doing this, first of all, I get to talk with fascinating, wonderful people, but also because I think in this day and age we are so confused about what leadership is. We think it’s position and title and fame and celebrity and it’s none of those things.

Yet, we also need more leadership. I wanted to introduce to people not just what leadership is, but who leaders are. Some of them are very famous, like Baron Davis or Colin Powell and some of them people have never heard of like Dino Smiley and yet, famous or not, leadership is always about some fundamental common elements. That’s what we talk about on By Example.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. If leadership is not that, what would you say it is?

Carly Fiorina
Well, I would say that leadership is problem solving. Leadership is changing the order of things for the better, which is always necessary to actually solve a problem. Leadership is about unlocking potential in others in order to change the order of things for the better for the purpose of solving problems.

That requires many things that all of us are capable of executing against as human being. It requires courage and character and collaboration and imagination. Some people who have position and title, lead, many people with no position and title also lead, and too frequently, people with position and title are doing many things, but they’re not leading.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Nice distinctions there. Thank you. Well, I think we could chew on that for a while, but I also want to make sure we talk about your book. Find Your Way, what’s the main message behind it?

Carly Fiorina
Well, the main message behind Find Your Way is that each of us, all of us, are capable of leadership, that finding your way in life is about solving problems that impact you and others that you collaborate with or that you care about.

And that each of us can find our purpose, each of us can practice and become adept at being courageous when we’re frightened to death, having character when it would be easier to do something that is not honest or has integrity, that we actually must collaborate with others in order to accomplish anything, and that seeing possibilities is an essential element in making things better.

That’s one huge message in Find Your Way that finding our way in life requires finding our way to leadership, not the position or the title, but the essence of leadership, which requires us to step up to the problems that surround us.

The other message is that too often people get waylaid because they invest so much in a specific plan or destination or job that they lose the path, they lose their way towards becoming a stronger, better, more effective problem solver and leader and happier on top of all of that.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. Well, could you further distinguish for us the difference between a path and a plan? You say one of the dangers is if you get too invested in the plan, could you elaborate there?

Carly Fiorina
Yeah, so I had a plan. When I graduated from college, my plan was to go to law school, which I did. Surprisingly, to me perhaps, I quickly discovered that I absolutely hated law school. The plan that I had created for my life – which my parents approved of, everyone was excited about this plan – was making me miserable, so I quit. I was definitely off plan.

More than that, I didn’t have a plan. My degree was in medieval history and philosophy, so I didn’t have marketable skills other than I knew how to type and file and answer the phones because I had worked as a temporary secretary in offices while I was going to Stanford and getting my undergraduate degree. I went to work as a secretary in a nine-person real estate firm. Totally off plan.

However, I stayed on path, which was I’m going to do a good job, I’m going to ask a lot of questions, I’m going to collaborate with others, I’m not going to be afraid to try new things, and eventually that landed me in AT&T, a company with a million people. I had no plan there either. I didn’t have an ambition to become a CEO. I was just trying to do a good job, which to me meant solving problems in front of me, which requires collaboration with others.

Some people would look at my life and say, “Wow, she became a CEO and she ran for president. She must have had a plan.” The truth is I never had a plan, but I never deviated from the path.

That is how I have found my way. I hope to share some of that experience and encouragement with people in this book because I think we hear a lot of messages from our culture and our society that you’ve got to have a plan. Further, I think we hear a lot of messages from our culture and those around us that not only do you have to have a plan, but you have to have a plan that everybody approves of.

We spend a lot of time seeking approval. In my case, I went off plan and was highly disapproved of as a result and accomplished more than I ever thought possible. The book is filled with stories of other people who have done the same.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s excellent. I’d love to hear about that sort of emotional process by which you kind of untether yourself from the need for this approval. It seems like – I’ve talked to some folks, it’s almost like they’ve never suffered from that. It’s like, “No, I’ve never cared what anybody wanted, needed, expected of me. I always did my own thing and it was just fine,” and others have struggled with it their whole lives, and others kind of had some epiphany or awakening moments to get liberated.

What do you recommend in terms of the practical tactical? If someone’s like, “I know the expectations of others has a real pull on me, I’d rather it didn’t. What do I do?”

Carly Fiorina
A couple things. First I’ll take it out of the emotional realm for a moment and put it into the practical realm. You have a wonderful podcast about how to be awesome at your job. The people who come to you for advice, while they may say they are untethered from people’s expectations for them, let me just say, all of us are susceptible to criticism.

It is, in fact, why problems fester. Problems fester, let’s just say at work, because the status quo has power. The way things are even if they’re unacceptable stays the way things are principally because when people try and change the way things are, criticism erupts, critics abound. “No, no, no, you can’t do that. No, no, no, we’ve already tried it. Who do you think you are that you can tackle this?”

The truth is all of us are susceptible to criticism and critique, especially if it comes from colleagues, even more if it comes from a boss. People can say we’re totally untethered, but, of course, none of us are.

If you want to solve a problem, if you want to solve a problem, which generally speaking is a requirement for being seen as awesome at your job or getting ahead in your job, you’ve got to bring value and that means solving problems, actually. You have to be willing to accept that challenging the status quo will cause people to criticize you, will cause people to say why they’re invested in the status quo.

I think it just starts with a fundamental recognition that to change the way things are, you have to challenge the way things are. To challenge the way things are, you have to be prepared to accept the criticism that comes with that challenge.

Pete Mockaitis
I’d like to talk about what preparation looks like in practice. I guess part of it is that you’re expecting it, you’re not blindsided by it. It’s like, “Oops, where did that come from,” but you’re sort of thinking of, “Yes, to be expected. Here is that criticism I was counting on. It has arrived.” That’s part of it.

Do you have any other approaches in terms of perspectives or self-talk or how you deal with that? You’ve certainly had your share of criticism. Running for president will bring it out in droves. How do you process it and rise above it?

Carly Fiorina
Well, I would say at a very practical level, even going back to your previous question, I would say people ought to think about three things. The first is look around. The second is ask questions and the third is find allies. If I can expound just for a moment on each of them.

Look around, one of the stories that I tell in Find Your Way is something that I learned when I was 15. I happened to be living in Ghana, West Africa. I was driving around with some friends and there were these huge termite mounds everywhere I looked. I was asking about, “Wow, this is amazing. How do these termites build these things?” Bear with me, this is relevant. Don’t get nervous.

My friend said, “Well, termites, they follow the same path day after day. They move their dirt along the same path for their whole lives.” He said, “It’s funny, but people are a lot like termites.”

What happens to us, I think, is we get very consumed by the day-to-day. We put our heads down and we move our dirt and we do our work. Sometimes it’s really important to pick our heads up and look around. What else is going on around you? Who else is troubled by this same problem perhaps? Look around. See what’s going on around you. See who is going on around you. Don’t be a termite.

Step two, ask questions. Ask a lot of questions of a lot of people, maybe those people you discovered when you picked your head up and looked around. Because when you ask questions as opposed to maybe telling people the answer, which sometimes as bosses we feel like we have to tell people the answer, sometimes the most valuable thing you can do is ask a question instead and listen to someone else’s answer. You’re always going to learn things that you can use.

The final step, find allies. As you ask questions, as you look around you, you will find people with whom you can ally yourself, with whom you can collaborate, people who will step up and defend you when that criticism comes, perhaps protect you from some of that criticism and perhaps join with you so that the group of people who are focused on solving the problem actually is bigger and more powerful than the inevitable group of people who just want to sit around and criticize but actually doesn’t want anything to change.

Pete Mockaitis
And with those allies it’s sort of like – I felt it before in terms of just being able to reconnect from time to time with a group of like-minded folks. It’s like, “Ah.” It’s like refreshing. It’s like we can all say what we really think about this thing here and you’re rejuvenated and able to keep up the good fight afterwards.

Carly Fiorina
Yes, absolutely. And I would add there’s one caution to that. We are all most comfortable with people like ourselves. We are all most comfortable with people who think like we do. If taken to an extreme, what happens is we only talk to the people that we agree with. That’s a very dangerous place to be. You can see that happening in our culture. Everyone’s sort of devolving into tribes. It can happen in a work setting as well.

Finding allies doesn’t mean only talking to people who agree with us 100% of the time. Finding allies may mean I need to work with people who also think that this is a problem that we can solve but who maybe have a very different point of view than I do or an additional perspective to share with me about how to make progress.

Pete Mockaitis
I like it. Thank you. Well, so you talked a little bit about some of the expectations, the criticism, the fear side of things. I want to get your take on when it comes to actually solving the problems or using your brain to make some wise decisions with consistency, what are some of your real go-to principles or tactics or questions that you ask yourself to be making the wisest decision more often than not?

Carly Fiorina
It’s several steps. First is I gather as much information as I can. That means talking to a lot of people. It may mean, depending on the subject, depending on the problem, it may mean meeting a lot, it may mean both.

But gathering information, that’s another way of saying pick your head up and look around. Gather information, facts, perspective, data from a variety of points of view so that you have a full picture. You can’t wing it. Particularly if you’re tackling a tough problem, you can’t go into it thinking you already know the answer.

The second step then after that perspective gathering, information gathering, fact and data gathering, is reflection. Reflection for me is very important to take the time after you’ve asked all the questions, gathered all the data, to really take the time to reflect on what you’ve learned and what you’ve heard. As you know, thinking substantially is not easy. It takes time. You need to give yourself the time and space to have that kind of thought process.

Then the final thing I would say is I get pretty analytic about it. What I mean by that is I tend after that period of gathering information, perspectives and data, followed by real reflection and substantial thinking, then I tend to get pretty analytic and explicit. I write down here’s options, here’s the pros and the cons of those options. I find it very, very helpful to be as analytical as possible and as explicit as possible.

I would say I’ve done this with all kinds of decisions, not just big decisions like a merger or how to run for president, but decisions like the care and treatment for my cancer because I think it’s easy to get mushy in our thinking, in our decision making. The more careful, thoughtful, deliberate, and intentional we can be about our reflection in our decision making, in my experience, the more successful those decisions are.

Pete Mockaitis
I’d love to get your take and some detail on the reflection step. Thinking substantially does require the time and the space. Some decisions are way bigger than others. But I’d love it if you could share, do you have any sort of rules of thumb with regard to how much thinking time, whether it’s in minutes or hours of quiet or sort of days upon which you can sit and wrestle with something that you try to allocate for yourself when making a decision?

Carly Fiorina
It’s such an interesting question. Well, the first thing I would say is honestly it does depend on the decision. There are some decisions that may require days, months of reflection. There are other decisions that require minutes or hours.

However, I would also add that finding the time for introspection and reflection is especially difficult now because everything in our culture, and technology in particular, drives us to hurry up, hurry up, hurry up, hurry up. In fact, we’ve all become accustomed, “Oh my gosh, I sent you a text. You didn’t answer me in the last five minutes.” “I send you an email. We need a decision right now, right now, right now.”

It is true that an imperfect but timely decision is usually better than a perfect but too late decision. This question of how much time is vital. However, in general, I would say hurry up and rush is always the wrong answer. The biggest step I think in finding the time is to give yourself permission to take the time. You don’t have to answer in the next 30 seconds. You don’t have to decide just because somebody else wants a decision from you.

People will have to find their way a little bit. I offer some practical suggestions, but the first and most important step is give yourself permission to take the time to find the time to reflect before you decide.

Pete Mockaitis
I like that. When you talk about being analytic and explicit, you’ve written down the options and the pros and the cons, when you said analytic and I’m thinking about tech. I’m imagining sort of like spreadsheets or criteria or weightings of the criteria and scoring of things. Are there any tools along those lines that you invoke or is it pretty much simply, hey, write down the options and then the pros and cons?

Carly Fiorina
Well, of course, I don’t mean to suggest too number intensive when I say analytic. I use and highlight in the book something called the leadership framework, which is a tool  that I have used over and over and over and over to lay out all of the aspects and the facets of a problem so that I am not missing anything as I think about how to achieve goals. I’ve used it personally. I’ve used it professionally. The leadership framework is one such tool that I talk a great deal about in Find Your Way.

The other thing I would say is another analytic tool is to be explicit about what’s wrong with the current state, whatever it is. What’s wrong with it? Let’s write it down. Let’s get clear about it. This isn’t just for an individual to think about alone in their time of reflection. It also might be extremely useful as you are asking questions of others. Why is this a problem? What could we be doing differently? Then to be equally explicitly about the future state.

The leadership framework and current state, future state analysis are tools that I have used honestly all of my life in every setting. We talk about them in more detail in Find Your Way. But what I would say is don’t let the term analytic scare you. It isn’t necessarily all numbers. In fact, sometimes it isn’t numbers at all.

But it does help to explicitly explore all facets of the situation, which is why the framework helps. It’s also extremely helpful to get very clear about why do we have a problem and why is it a problem and what would we like to be different and better?

Pete Mockaitis
Within the leadership framework that helps you ensure that you’re not missing anything, could you give us a couple of the prompts that are often super helpful in surfacing something that might be missed?

Carly Fiorina
Yeah, so for example, the leadership framework starts with what’s the problem we’re trying to solve, what’s the goal we’re trying to achieve. I know that sounds so fundamental, but you would be surprised how often people get into a room and spend hours, months, years even and they’ve never come to an agreement on what the problem is or what the goal is. Our political process leaps to mind.

But the point is, people can talk past each other forever if they don’t start with “Do we actually agree on the problem? Do we agree on the goal?” That would be an important first prompt.

Another important prompt would be who has to do what, who actually has to do what to make progress? It’s something that sometimes people forget. I’ve been in many, many rooms where people will get all fired up. Let’s say they agree on the problem.

Let’s say people agree on the goal and everybody starts talking and getting excited, and to your earlier observation, like-minded people get together and say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah we all know it has to get done.” Then they rush out of the room. Nowhere has there been an explicit conversation about okay, but who has to do what? Who’s going to do what? Are there people who are not in the room who are going to have to also sign up? That’s another prompt.

A third prompt might be, how are we going to know we’re making progress? How are we going to measure success? Is there anything that’s going to tell us we’re actually getting something done or are we just going to go back in and tell ourselves that we feel good about things? What are we going to measure? How are people going to behave? Those are some prompts around the leadership framework.

What is the problem? What is the goal really? Who’s going to have to do what really? How are we going to measure whether we’re actually making any progress really? How do we have to behave with one another and with others to continue to make progress really?

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. I get a kick out of the reallys because they really can spark another important thing when you kind of push beyond sort of the quick answer that satisfies, check the box of there’s been a response to this question, but truly addressing the root of it. I dig that.

Carly Fiorina
The other thing you know people do confuse activity for accomplishment. I think our technology encourages that actually. “Oh my God, I answered 150 emails.” Well, that may not necessarily be accomplishment, although it’s a whole bunch of activity.

One of the reasons to ask the question about really is to help ourselves distinguish between “Am I busy and active or am I actually accomplishing something, having an impact, making a difference, achieving progress?”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now I want to hear a little bit in terms of your rapid career rise. You mentioned that you stuck to the path of trying to solve the problem that was in front of you.

But I’d also love to hear if you had any sort of secret weapons or tactics or approaches that you applied day after day that really can get a lot of credit for how you managed to become the first female CEO of a Fortune 50 company. That’s pretty special. What do you think you were doing differently than many of your peers and colleagues?

Carly Fiorina
Well, I think it comes back to those three things that I said. Looking around. I always look around and see what’s going on, hear what’s going on. It’s so easy to get in a rut. Jobs are pressure-filled. None of us have enough time. We’re all more comfortable with people like ourselves. The discipline, the habit of looking around and seeing what’s going on I think has been hugely important for me.

Asking questions, asking questions. I’ve asked a million questions. I always learn something. Sometimes I learn a lot about myself by asking questions, but I always learn about the situation around me, the people around me. And what I learn helps me make further progress.

The third, finding allies. I try always to build relationships, not break them. I try to always see the good in people, not the bad. Sometimes that’s hard.

I tell the story in the book about my first business meeting with a client was in a strip club. The gentleman who created that situation did not wish me well. It’s why he created a very difficult situation for me. And yet, I came to understand, tried to understand his point of view. Why was he doing that to me? We ultimately became very strong colleagues and allies.

Finding allies takes work. It doesn’t always mean people that are naturally friendly to you or that naturally like you or that naturally agree with you. I always found allies and tried to see the best in people and to leverage the relationships that I built for a common purpose that we all could agree on.

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

Carly Fiorina
Well, I think we’ve covered a lot of ground. I’ve tried to distill all of those life’s lessons into the books, but certainly you’ve asked really penetrating questions. I’ve so enjoyed the conversation thus far.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. Me too. Now could you share with us a favorite quote, something that inspires you?

Carly Fiorina
If I have to pick one, I would pick the one I heard from my mother when I was eight years old, which is “What you are is God’s gift to you. What you make of yourself is your gift to God.” Because, for me, when I first heard that and every time I remind myself of it, it says every one of us is gifted and filled with potential. I believe that based on experience.

It also reminds us that as we are each filled with potential, not all of us get the opportunity or the chance or take the risk to fulfill our potential.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Could you share with us a favorite study or experiment or a piece of research?

Carly Fiorina
I was in church the other day and I will not get this exactly right because the pastor brought forward this piece of research. But it was research about the power of self-talk, you used that phrase earlier, the power of self-talk among professional athletes, the power of self-talk among children.

But what the research essentially said, and again, I won’t get the citation exactly right – kudos to the pastor – but what the research says is that whether we’re 4 or 40, that we each have a tremendous ability to either help ourselves fulfill our potential or, conversely,  talk ourselves below our potential.

We have a tremendous ability to help ourselves become better problem solvers, more awesome at work, better collaborators, better leaders and we also have the power to do the opposite for ourselves.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite book?

Carly Fiorina
I read so much that it depends on what I’ve just read. But one of the books I’ve just incredibly enjoyed recently is actually a science book. But it is called The Fabric of the Cosmos. It’s by a physicist named Brian Greene.

It’s heavy going in some part, but to me it was an incredibly fascinating and inspiring read because not only did I learn a lot about the fabric of the cosmos, but what was most interesting to me was the collaboration of scientists, in this case physicists, over centuries, the importance of courage and taking risks for science as well as problem solving, and the incredible collaboration that’s required.

Einstein is lauded as a singular genius, but in fact, Einstein had to be inspired by many others, he had to build on the work of many others, and he had to collaborate with many others. Believe it or not, The Fabric of the Cosmos to me was not only a fascinating look at physics, but it was also a reminder of all the fundamentals of problem solving and leadership that we’ve been talking about.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Tell me, is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with audiences or readers?

Carly Fiorina
It’s interesting. I think stories always connect with people. I try to talk in stories. Stories, my own story. I think one of the things that connects, whether it’s in my own story or in the story of a woman I met on the rooftop in the slums of New Delhi, who was living in desperate circumstances and no one’s ever heard of, but wow, she was one of the most amazing leaders I have ever witnessed.

I think the aspect of any one of those stories that connects is no one’s life is a smooth trajectory. No one’s life follows a smooth plan. Most people fall off the plan for whatever reason. Most people get thrown off their trajectory. Every life is filled with set back and difficulty, even the lives that look perfect from afar.

It is, I think, relieving to people to know that you can indeed find your way through all of the thicket of issues that each of us encounter in life and that life is not one smooth ascent. It never is.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Well, do you have a final challenge or call to action you’d like to issue to folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Carly Fiorina
Yes. If you’re seeking to be awesome at your job, find people around you that you think are awesome. Don’t get too hung up on how awesome you are yourself. Look for other awesome people and try and leverage what makes them awesome. In the process, I think you’ll become more awesome yourself.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Well, Carly, this has been a lot of fun. I wish you lots of luck with the book and the podcast and all your adventures.

Carly Fiorina
Well, thank you. And the same to you.

414: How Culture Change Really Happens with Gretchen Anderson

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Gretchen Anderson provides research insights on cultural shift from her work at the Katzenbach Center.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The four elements critical to a work culture
  2. The role of the critical few in an organization
  3. How to leverage the behavior you already have for the bette

About Gretchen

Gretchen Anderson is a director at the Katzenbach Center who has been working  with client teams across the globe for over 15 years. Gretchen has a doctorate in literature from Stanford University and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with her two children, Jane and Calvin. Her new book is The Critical Few: Energize Your Company’s Culture by Choosing What Really Matters.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Gretchen Anderson Interview Transcript

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

Gretchen Anderson
Hey, how are you, Pete?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’m doing well. I’m doing well. I think we’re going to have a good time here.

Gretchen Anderson
Great. I’m really looking forward to it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’d love to get your take, first of all, it seems like we’ve got something in common
You and I both listen to podcasts while falling to sleep. I want to hear all about this habit of yours in terms of what are you listening to and how do you do it. What is actually stuck in your ears?

Gretchen Anderson
Yes. For a while I was really into these headphones called SleepPhones. They had a great pajamas for the ears.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh that is nice.

Gretchen Anderson
Which, I loved that name. But then I actually just discovered I could put my iPhone under my pillow and I just let it play.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, okay. That’s great.

Gretchen Anderson
What about you? What do you do?

Pete Mockaitis
I think I’ve got something called CozyPhones, which sounds similar.

Gretchen Anderson
CozyPhones. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
And you’ve got SleepPhones.

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah. I used to listen to strange recordings in the days before podcasts. Then I would get sick of them. But there’s some sort of perfect middle of the Venn diagram of it has to be interesting enough that it distracts me from my own thoughts, but boring enough that it doesn’t keep me awake. Obviously, Pete, Awesome at My Job is never going to be in that category.

Pete Mockaitis
You know just want to say.

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah. But also I like that the voice is familiar. Sometimes I’ll listen to things on linguistics. Topics that are sort of adjacent to mine and that I find interesting, but are not directly relevant or else my mind will still want to pay attention.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, I’m intrigued by the SleepPhones. I’ve been using CozyPhones, which are nice, but they have a cord. I see the SleepPhones are wireless.

Pete Mockaitis
Thanks for the tip. I can get wireless there. I like to also listen to podcasts or Blinkist, which has all you book summaries. They’re a sponsor, thanks Blinkist, of the show. Or sometimes a TED talk, just the audio, because that …. You go, “Oh, okay.” Then once one goes, it’s like okay, that’s about the right amount of time. I’ll be asleep now.

Gretchen Anderson
for me if it has a dot of music, it wakes up like a bolt of lightning. Yeah. Honestly, the production values can’t be too high because I can’t have music.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you for digging into that element. You’ve already educated me with something that could be transformational.

Gretchen Anderson
I’m glad. I’m glad. I’m glad. Everyone will be awesome-r at their job if they get a good night’s sleep.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m right with you on there. Can you orient us a little bit? You’re a director at the Katzenbach Center. You do a lot of work associated with company culture and simplifying that. Can you orient us to what do you do and why does that get you jazzed?

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah, so I run a knowledge center within a large consulting firm. I work within PWC. I run a center with a team that is the firm’s kind of incubation engine on topics around culture and leadership and motivation and performance.

Pete Mockaitis
I like all those things.

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah, it’s really fun. I get to have – we do research, we write, we have articles, we publish this book that we’ll be talking about today, and we get to take this very cross industry, cross-the-globe view. PWC is a very, very large global firm. We get to be part of conversations about how ideas and theories, about how culture works in a business context are happening literally everywhere. It’s really fun.

We get to see what’s kind of universal. What’s the common X-factor that’s going to help both a local green construction firm in Baltimore and a giant global technology firm? What’s going to ring true for leaders at both of those organizations? That’s the really fun part about my job.

Pete Mockaitis
That is interesting, yes. You share some of your learnings in your book, The Critical Few. What’s the main message of the book?

Gretchen Anderson
The main message of the book is that culture, just like your strategy and your operating model, can and should be considered as absolutely a problem and an issue and an opportunity that gets leaders out of bed every day and that that motivational piece of the business if tapped and cultivated can be a source of positive energy for whatever it is that you’re trying to accomplish.

Pete Mockaitis
Positive energy, I like that. Well, could you maybe give us a picture of that in terms of maybe it’s a case study or a story or example of an organization that went from not so energized to wow, this is great.

Gretchen Anderson
we ground the book within a fictional case study about a CEO, who we call Alex. We did this in part because culture is such an intimate topic for so many organizations.

The book is the story of very much a composite of all the companies we have ever worked with. It’s the story of a fictional company, who has a CEO who’s come in that’s kind of a company in retail.

They’ve got a lot of things going for them, but a lot of things are tough. By working with this leader, we’re able to help him understand that working within and through the culture and the motivations that people have, he’s able to get the best out of that business.

Pete Mockaitis
Could you maybe orient us to what’s it look like when it’s not at its best in terms of the energy and the vibe amongst the people in terms of the daily grind versus the happy place toward the end?

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah. I would say the real switch is that people within an organization before they begin kind of an evolution on culture that’s kind of purposeful and kind of critical few-ish in the way that we describe in the book, at the beginning they’re thinking about culture as something that’s standing in the way of getting work done in the way that they want to get work done.

It’s the thing that people throw their hands in the air and say, “It’s the culture. What are we going to do?” or “I would love to get this done,” or “This keeps happening and it seems like it’s the culture.”

It goes from being something that they feel is out of their control and kind of obtrusive and causing kind of drag to at the end of the book, they feel like there are specific things that they recognize what their culture is, they see it’s sort of core traits of who they are, they see how they came to be that way over time and how they’re not going to change them quickly.

They also understand that by being really precise about the behaviors that more people could do more of every day, by being really precise and really descriptive, by motivating and rewarding when people do those few behaviors, they’re able to start seeing them self-reinforce. They’re able to start see them virally spreading.

The book ends with a scene in a retail store, where the CEO and one of his board members literally watch a guy not knowing he’s being observed helping a customer in a way that he wouldn’t before and sort of attaching that to understanding that he’s part of this new shift in the culture and the direction.

Pete Mockaitis
When we say, “Hey, it’s the culture. It’s out of control. It’s a drag,” can you give us some examples of particular issues or complaints that folks would affix to that? “It’s the culture. It’s out of control. It’s a drag. It is what it is.”

Gretchen Anderson
we hear companies talk about this all the time. These are going to be really familiar to you and your listeners. They’re going to be, “We spend too much time in meetings and nothing ever gets done.” They’re going to be things like, “We’re drowning in a situation where decisions can’t be made without consensus.” It could be, “The way that things are drawn on paper, nobody follows those processes. Everybody bends the rules.” It could be all sorts of things.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I’d love to hear then sort of what are the four critical elements that you zero in on?

Gretchen Anderson
if I had to sketch the whole thing out for you, it sort of is the overall message of the book and of our approach is you have to be very comprehensive in how you think about what a culture is, but you also have to be willing to just start by looking at a piece of it and focusing in there.

Culture is a kind of ecosystem that includes how people behave, and how they feel, their emotional energy, their mindsets. It also includes specifically how they behave and show up to work together.
You, however, you can’t influence people’s mental states because they’re private, because I can’t tell when they’re changing. But what you can do is you can be very specific about behavior. We talk about behaviors as a point of entry.

We also say the culture of an organization as it exists today is where you need to start from. If you were to say to me, “I want to build a culture that looks like the culture of this wonderful restaurant down the street,” or “I want to build the culture of that technology company that everybody always talks about,”

I would say, “You know what, Pete? The culture of your organization grew up to be that culture for a reason and it supported the way that business has gotten done to date. Let’s figure out where you start from and then we’ll figure out where you’re trying to get to next.”

To bring it back to those four elements – that’s how we talk about that first element of the theory is this idea that every organization has a critical few traits. if we’ve all got the name of the same business on our business card and we all show up and work here and we’re part of this ecosystem, we’re going to share some family resemblance things in common.

Those might be things like a relationship orientation or they might be things like a focus on metrics or faith in our leader or – they’re a set of characteristics that if you met somebody you’d never met before but they both worked in the same company, you’re going to presume that they share.

And importantly, each one of those traits is going to have ways that they’re supporting you getting work done and ways that they’re hurting the work that you need to get done. There’s this notion that there are critical traits and all of those traits have ways that they’re helping and hurting. You can’t change them quickly, so what you might as well do is figure out how to work within them to get more of what you need.

Pete Mockaitis
Now when you talk about these traits, do you have sort of a master menu, if you will? I guess when you think of culture sometimes we can think about particular continua or dichotomies, like, “Oh, it’s very relationship oriented versus process oriented.”

Gretchen Anderson
Yup.
It’s always a tension because have you ever talked to any organization that is purely one or the other, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Gretchen Anderson
It’s interesting. We started thinking this way about traits seven or eight years ago. At that time we kind of purpose built them every time. We did a lot of interviews and kind of by hypothesis sort of built up what do we think these traits are after every – we’d have a lot of conversations. Then we started to realize some of these traits seem original to a company, but there’s a lot of ones that we kept seeing over time.

We’ve built a survey-based tool to kind of pull those out. That survey-based tool is definitely on kind of a poll of like “Are decisions made in this organization by consensus or are decisions made by single point of accountability?” “Do I feel I’m rewarded only for the financial metrics I deliver or do I feel that there are a broader set of points on which I’m evaluated?”

Very few organizations are going to fall far to the left or fall to the right. There’s definitely like a kind of spectrum quality to where organizations show up.

Pete Mockaitis
I love when you get really specific that way in terms of, hey, decisions can go one way or the other and sort of somewhere along the lines and then they how you get rewarded also. Can you unpack a few more of those dimensions?

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah, sure. We also think about is it very hierarchical or is it very flat. We think about do things follow the org chart or is everything very loose and informal? It’s those kinds of like, where are the pulls?

Another thing that’s really cool that doing this survey over time, I mentioned we do research the Katzenbach Center. We do longitudinally. Every couple of years we run a survey across organizations that mainly have been our clients basically because we have their emails. But 2,000 people in 50 countries responded to our last survey, so we get a pretty global and kind of cross-industry perspective on how people view these kinds of things as well.

We asked some of those questions and then mapped them to the industries that they answered. We’re even being able to start to say these are the kinds of traits that show up in particular industries.

We are saying yes, every organization kind of has its individual thumbprint, by taking such a close look at each organization, not against some external framework, but sort of in a very intrinsic take it in its own terms way, but by mapping that over time and looking across a lot of organizations, we’re able to see some trends that don’t mean, “Oh, we’re measuring you against our scorecard.” They’re very much built on the organizations own responses.

Does that make sense? You’re kind of wonky like me, I can tell. You’re asking me very detailed questions.

Pete Mockaitis
Because I think the world culture can be a little fuzzy for some.

Gretchen Anderson
For sure.

Pete Mockaitis
In terms of “It’s the way we do things around here. It’s like the vibe. It’s the feel, Gretchen.” I think the more that we make it all the more precise is like, “What I mean by culture is when you make decisions is it more like or more like that? When people are rewarded is it more for this or more for that?” If you have any more kind of extremes or ends of continua, I’d love to hear them.

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah. Well, so some of the things that we’ve had a chance to see – one thing – and it’s actually come up in a couple of difference sources recently. Let’s talk about that spectrum of how we’re rewarded.

Am I, Gretchen Anderson, rewarded as an individual within my company? Do I feel like it’s just going to be metrics? I’m sorry. Do I feel like it’s just going to be financial metrics or do I feel like there are also going to be sort of how I made the people on my team feel and a sort of broader set of metrics?

We did a regression analysis against the 2,000 respondents. A guy in our network said, “It would be really interesting to take that data, do a regression analysis against how proud I feel to work where I work.” The highest correlation in any of those scores and questions we asked, the highest correlation was “Are my metrics broad?”

I thought that was really nice because I sort of know that intuitively. It feels better to me as an individual to feel as if my whole self – how I mentor people – it feels good to me as an individual to feel as if a broad set of metrics are applied to my performance than just one specific one.

But I really liked that our data – because we didn’t ask, “Do you your metrics make you feel good?” or whatever. We actually just did that correlation. That was really nice.

Then similarly, PWC has done a survey outside of the Katzenbach Center, a survey called Digital IQ. They did an external analysis based on market data of companies that are most innovative in a digital space, like highest digital innovation that they looked at externally rather than by asking them, “Are you digitally innovative?” It was a set of external market criteria. And then found broader performance metrics tended to correlate as well to higher digital innovation.

I thought that was cool. I try to take a point of view on culture. We try, within the Katzenbach Center, to say we’re not saying any kind of culture is all good or all bad and we’re not saying, “Look, here’s our scorecard of good culture. Take the survey. Uh-oh, you only got an eight.” That is not what we’re doing at all. We’re really trying to take every organization on its own terms and encourage them.

This is very much what the book is about. We’re encouraging every organization to look within, figure out what you’re best at, and try to do more of it rather than apply some external measure. But then the nice part is that over time and being very deliberative in this space, we’re able to start to actually say there are some things that we do see and believe really drive the kind of motivation that feels like  everybody wants more of.

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s hear some of those. What are some of the things everyone wants more of?

Gretchen Anderson
What everybody wants is a culture that’s aligned with what the business is trying to do.

We argue the goals should be for if you are trying to do the hard caloric work of evolving your culture, that is about trying to find ways to make sure that individuals working within your company feel there is an alignment between the kind of messages I’m getting and kind of what I’m rewarded for and all of those things feel coherent for me with what I need to do to help this company perform.

In our mind when we’re saying, “You want to work on your culture,” we’re saying that should be your goal.

Pete Mockaitis
Very nice. Then that’s rather thoughtful then in terms of making sure you have that alignment as opposed to for instance, I think let’s say innovation. “Hey, we want to be more innovative. We want to have more ideas. We want to make them happen. But there are sort of behaviors and rewards and bonuses that are tied to never being wrong, for example.”

It’s like, “Oh, well, there you go. I feel kind of disjointed being here and it’s not so fun. Am I supposed to come up with wild ideas, which may or may not work or am I supposed to just sort of do the thing that we all know works, which would not be innovative?”

That’s nifty. Then I’d love to hear then, how do you zero in on particular behaviors and can you give us some examples of behaviors you might zero in on to support something and how you would get those reinforced?

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah, the idea is that those behaviors need to be not chosen at random, but what they need to be is they need to be a bridge between what we understand the culture to be today and where we’re trying to get to.

Let me explain it in the context of I’ve currently been having conversations – a wonderful guy reached out to me, who’s running a green construction firm in Baltimore.

He’s very much talking about “In this world that I’m in, how do I get everybody in my office from the back office staff to the frontline people, to be all more customer-focused, even if they’re not dealing with customers every day?”

We did this really fun workshop with them around given these kind of core traits of who we are, the sort of pride in our business, this sort of attachment to our leader and his vision and these traits of who we are, team oriented, safe and careful—what would customer service behaviors look like that would be grounded in the way we are today, that we all agree would help us kind of outperform our peers in the market on the dimension of customer service, but what might behaviors be?

They talked about like, might a behavior be a dress code, might we have a consistency of style and dress that would mark us as part of this company, that would be appealing? We actually had a wonderful conversation about one of the core traits that had come out in this company was a real organization-wide, autonomy was valued.

We had this amazing conversation about what might a behavior be of we understand how to dress for work that would respect that autonomy trait. We can’t roll something out organization-wide and make it really sound like a heavy new policy without it being tissue rejected by an organization in which people feel like they should be able to make autonomous decisions every day.

Again, none of this is magic, but what I’m trying to sketch and show was that by having these conversations and the ways that we’re grounded and the concepts that we talk about in the book, it kind of framed the right conversations such that they were able to talk about behaviors in a way that felt very realistic and practical and approachable and real.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. So what are they going to do?

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah. What they also decided to do and this is another really core part of the theory is they are going to work with the people in the organization to figure out the right answer. They’re going to work with the people in the organization, we call them the critical few people.

These are the authentic and formal leaders, who have a finger on the pulse of how everybody thinks and behaves there, who sort of intuitively know what the kind of emotional triggers are going to be for people. The leader there has decided to name a couple of those authentic, informal leaders, sort of put the case to them.

Again, I get to go all the way back to this overarching theory that the best that you have in your organization is already inside of it. A lot of times you need to guide an organization to understand that the answer isn’t going to come from something external, but from paying attention to the voices of the people inside.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. As you’re going about doing all of this, are there any particular tips, tricks, do’s, don’ts, key things you find yourself saying frequently as you’re making it happen?

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah, absolutely. A big one is it’s much easier to act your way into new ways of thinking than it is to think your way into new ways of acting. That’s from an author named Jerry Sternin, who wrote a book called The Power of Positive Deviance. We love that quote. This is about a sort of behaviors-first approach to making things happen.

Pete Mockaitis
Now could you give us a couple of examples of behaviors that have just been transformational in terms of you’ve identified this is the thing we’re really going to do and reinforce that just had powerful ripples for organizations?

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah, I could, but I want to pick on that question a little bit because I think innate to this idea is that the things I describe, there isn’t a behavior that is so magical that every organization could pick it up and apply it. It’s an adjustment from “Here’s what we’re doing today and here’s how it could happen better.”

It might be walk the front line and talk to folks every day and listen to what they say or it might be send every meeting invitation being very specific about what the outcomes of the meeting will be. It’s that there’s been energy behind that particular behavior and we’ve kind of agreed that if we commit to it collectively, it’s going to help us get somewhere rather than that there’s a – I wish there was.

If I could change every organization by saying, “There is a behavior and that behavior is hugging.” I would love to say that there is some universal solution or some behavior, but it’s amazing it’s usually the behaviors that organizations come to, it’s very important that they come to that consensus and that they describe those behaviors in language that makes sense to them, but it’s actually kind of hard to pull them out and show why they matter because it’s such an intimate answer.

Pete Mockaitis
I can understand that how for different organizations that, for example, the email meeting requests that are very specific on the outcome.

When you adopt that behavior, some groups would say, “Yes, what a breath of fresh air. That’s what we need so badly because we just meander all over the same place and we waste all this time.” Others would say, “Well duh, that’s how we’ve always done every meeting everywhere, every time, so there’s not a really a change or a gain to be made.”

Others would say, “Why do we need that at all? It’s self-evident. We all know what we’re trying to do here. Just two or three folks get together and we chat about how to bang out the widget better. It’s not that complicated. We don’t really need to do that.” I hear you that different behaviors will be the potent leverage prescription for different organizations.

In terms of how you zero in on what’s the thing for a given organization, it sounds like you identify the traits that you really want and then you talk to the people who are influential and have their finger on the pulse and are emotionally intuitive and with it with folks to see what they’re hearing and what they think would resonate. Are there any other sort of key practices to surface what might the kind of highly leveraged behavior be?

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah, absolutely, but let me make a small correction on what you’re saying. What you do is you leverage not necessarily the traits you really want, but the traits you really have. I know that sounds like such a small distinction, but it really is about you have your aspiration of where you’re trying to get to, but the important part is, you’re trying to ground it in a just where we are today that’s realistic.

Then you understand what we have, you understand what you’re trying to get to, whether that’s customer centricity in my example or in a highly-siloed healthcare organization we were working with recently, we understood that to be collaboration. That was the strategic aspiration that we needed.

But then the really critical thing to do as well is this notion of you choose what you’re going to measure and why. You resist the temptation and the impulse to try to find a comprehensive set of metrics that will measure everything and instead you say,

“When things start to change and feel different around here, where will we actually see that difference and how do we make sure we really pay attention to that and kind of drop a thermometer there such that we’re able to really get beyond people’s natural cynicism that culture can’t change, demonstrate, look, we said upfront there would be this proof point and we have it!” and use that measurement and the reporting of that measurement to be the energy that helps people move forward and move on.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you give us some examples of measures, so for example, collaboration, what kind of numbers might you put on that?

Gretchen Anderson
There actually was a really cool example from our own firm. We did in the Canadian firm within PWC, they did an organizational network analysis.

Everyone sort of took it as a – this sounds correct that we’re constantly asking partners in a professional services firm to collaborate with other partners outside of their business area. That sounds like a good idea.

But they did an organizational network analysis to figure out who sort of had the densest networks and whose networks stretched across – if I’m a partner in financial services, how well connected I am to partners in other parts of the business. They were actually able to correlate revenue per account to partners that had the strongest network relationships outside of their immediate area.

What a beautiful way to kind of specifically encourage a behavior to say “Let’s look at this behavior. Let’s measure how the networks map to this and let’s actually track it to revenue.” When actual business results can be tracked to something that we’re trying to encourage, that’s always really beautiful.

It’s rare and wonderful when you can come up with one kind of very clear metric like that. Usually we say, “Find every point at which – how many people show up for the program? Do we see an increase in engagement scores around particular issues we’re looking for? What are the things that you measure already and where can we see some kind of lift there?”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so it’s nice certainly when you see hey, we want collaboration and we’ve got a nice proof point. Hey, look at this correlation partners who are well-connected with all sorts of different areas are having higher revenue per account, which makes sense because they’re able to recommend cool stuff to their relationships at the accounts. Then what is the behavior that you want folks to do more of when it comes to bringing more collaboration?

Gretchen Anderson
Within that example with the partners, I would probably say, if we want to figure that out I would want to kind of trail the partners who are doing it well.

I would want to trail them and say, “Are you flying to different client’s cities and setting up dinners with partners who you don’t often see even if you’re not on a pursuit together? Are you sitting down every morning and writing ten emails to people in the network?” I think it would look different. We would try to figure out what were people doing that seemed to be most influential and how can we get more people to do more of it.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. Thank you. Anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and talk about some of your favorite things?

Gretchen Anderson
Sure, yeah. I talked a little bit earlier about interesting trends that we saw in our kind of global survey in those results. We had a really from this very, very diverse 2,000 respondents, we had a very interesting thing pop up. Again, it was the sort of thing that we’d known intuitively through many years of working with organizations of different sizes and different maturity levels and industries.

We walk into an organization and we ask the leaders how the culture is and they very often have lots of positive things to say about it. Then when we go further down into the weeds, into middle management, into the frontline, it is definitely a different story and a lot of times kind of that’s where the truth lies. That sounds kind of obvious, but our survey data popped that out so baldly.

When we asked the question, “Do senior leaders have culture as an important topic on their agenda?” if you responded to that in our survey and you identified yourself as a senior leader, you were 71% likely to agree versus only 48% of people who did not identify themselves as being part of the leadership team.

We were like, “Wow, that’s remarkable.” That tendency to use culture more cynically further down in the organization is almost a universal based on our data. We thought that was really cool.

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

Gretchen Anderson
You’ll like this as a podcast host, from the podcast StoryCorps, I really like the quote, “Listening is an act of love.”

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

Gretchen Anderson
I wish I could remember the author right now – but read an article recently in HBR that was about how we like to believe that open office spaces make people behave in ways that are more collaborative. A huge amount of real estate dollars have been spent on that concept kind of in the past 30 years.

But a guy did a study, a HBR professor did a study using people’s Fitbits to track – there was a major change in an office layout and they tracked by Fitbits before and after how much people got up and walked around and talked to their colleagues. The open office space, paradoxically, made people stay at their desks more.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, is that because you can just talk to someone without moving?

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah, or you’re slightly getting so sick of people that you’ve got your headphones I loved that point just in the sense of what we think in a top-down way is going to cause a certain behavior, is not necessarily what’s going to happen. If those leaders had interviewed everybody about what really would drive collaboration, they might not have started with real estate.

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

Gretchen Anderson
I love a book called Everybody Lies. It is about Google search data. It came out this year. It’s basically about how indirect – the ways that people query in Google forms a sort of more accurate record of predictor of how they’ll behave than kind of direct surveys. I’m getting at really, really interested and feel like the next frontier of culture work has to do around how do you measure behavior not by asking people, “Are you going to behave this way?” but really by indirect forms.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, yeah. Can you give us an example of one way we lie?

Gretchen Anderson
The great example from the book was around – it’s a really obvious one – but if you asked people, “Are you going to vote in an election?” versus if you found out how many people queried the location of their polling site. That second query almost entirely correlated to how many people voted in a certain district versus the question the day before, “Are you going to vote?” obviously a lot more aspirational.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Gretchen Anderson
It’s a good one, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Very good. Thank you.

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah. I see that a lot just in talking to leaders about in order to get at culture, you always have to go at it slant. You have to kind of think about what motivates people and what they’re truly going to do.

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

Gretchen Anderson
That’s such a good question. I’m going to say something surprisingly old fashioned. I can’t survive without a notebook next to me at all times.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Gretchen Anderson
I travel with a yoga mat.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh good.

Gretchen Anderson
I won’t get on an airplane without my folding yoga mat in my bag. I think it’s a good sort of self-reinforcing one.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks? You hear them sort of repeating it back to you frequently?

Gretchen Anderson
I think it would probably be about how most leaders wildly overestimate how rational people are.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s resonating with me.

Gretchen Anderson
….

Pete Mockaitis
Rational in the sense of doing what it is in their best interest or doing what is logical or what do you mean by rational?

Gretchen Anderson
Yeah. I’ve taken this very much many years of working with John Katzenbach, the emotional drivers of how an organization behaves are – I’m not going to say more powerful than the rational ones, but so easy to ignore.

And that really understanding the people’s pride in their work, people’s sense of disenchantment when things feel incoherent, people’s motivation to work with someone who makes them feel good about the work that they do. Those are really powerful reservoirs of energy, but that it is much, much easier and tempting for most leaders to really focus on the rational reasons than be utterly baffled why things don’t line up like that.

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

Gretchen Anderson
I would point them to the website for the book. It’s TheCriticalFewBook.com. That will also point them to the Katzenbach Center at PWC. There’s a link through to that. You can also follow me on Twitter. I’m at GBrooksAnderson. You can find our book on Amazon.

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

Gretchen Anderson
I feel like in the many years I’ve been doing this kind of work, I both realized through my own personal experience as well as watching organizations work, I think you need to really pay attention to what gives you the most energy. You need to think about what are the situations in which I feel motivated. Just to find yourself in them more often.

I feel like so many people spend their careers and lives kind of beating themselves up for not feeling that motivation. It’s the quieting down and saying, “What do I feel energy around?” that usually leads you to the question that you and you alone were meant to solve.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely, thank you. Well, Gretchen, this has been fun. Thanks and good luck with all you’re doing there.

Gretchen Anderson
Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure. I really appreciate the time.

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

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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.